Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wearing the colourful cardigan

When I was 'doing time' studying in a diocesan seminary there was a saying amongst those who were overtly 'sound'. Some of the seminarians were described as 'wearing the colourful cardigan'. This meant that they were basically orthodox but had decided that it was best to appear liberal and not incur the wrath of the modernist gerentocracy. This was in the days, by the way, when black trousers and a white shirt were tantamount to requesting automatic dismissal at the behest of the rather caustic members of the faculty. A reason would be found to diagnose 'immaturity'. A seminarian with 'problems' over the ordination of women (always expressed as one day in the future) would be probed for every kind of psycho sexual malaise to discover why he had issues with women. Worst of all the annual peer review was a time of absolute misery- pay back time in effect. The point is I worry whether 'wearing the colourful cardigan' actually did greater harm to these fragile creatures in the long term as far as priestly character goes. More than once the charade of being liberal slowly slipped into reality.

Now I have a minor miracle on my hands. Two young men I know have been accepted for training and they are both traditionalists and have made no bones about it. I suspect it could have only happened under the current Holy Father. But I have a gnawing suspicion that a form of 'lip service' is being paid on the part of some seminary and diocesan authorities. They are quite happy to show on the returns to Rome that they have seminarians in preparation for the traditional rites but what happens after the returns are dispatched and the appropriate boxes are ticked in some dusty office? Both of these guys know their catechism well enough to know theological nonsense when they see it but are they ready for the social pressures that seem endemic still in the seminary system?  Can they survive the drinking culture that pervades many places? Will they be subject to malign psychological pressures exerted by semi trained practioners of Rogerian Realities. Will they really have to define themselves by their Myer Brigg's Indicator type?

Here's the challenge to us 'traddies'. How do we support these guys who have decided to try the difficult path of negotiating the largely rocky ground in post conciliar seminaries? I don't begrudge the support given to those noble pkaces that have provided us with good and holy men in unhappier times but perhaps, just perhaps, it's time to find a subtle way of providing for those of our soldiers preparing for what is still an uncertain battle.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Throwing blame

The last month has been a bit of a nightmare. At the outset you will not be surprised that I agree with Gerard Warner (see here) that the Church could well do with a clean out of the episcopate. It's a bit like Abram and God debating over whether good men could be found in the cities of the plain. You see there are the good men and a greater percentage of them than the minimum that was necessary to save Sodom. The eyes are on Ireland at the moment but remember it was not that long ago that it was the turn of the United States. Germany and Austria look next.

Throughout all this very sad business (and here I disagree with Warner) there's been a tendency to lay the blame at the state of the Church in the last forty years. Could I suggest that the problem goes slightly deeper and longer into our recent history. A subtle searching of The Times on line reveals that the scandals of today certainly happened in the past and were reported. They tend to get missed because they are often reported under the baptismal name of the accused (if he was a religious) or some other sort of legal device was being used to protect the innocent. In at least one case (in 1945) there is the implication that the judiciary had been 'got at' by ecclesiastical authorities. The judge had to answer questions and this was reported. Anecdotally, in some countries, a more direct approach was taken. The men of the village grabbed the 'problem' from his presbytery and, taking him to some secluded place, gave him a good thrashing. If he was prepared to walk himself back to the village, bloodied and bruised, and show his face again to the knowing faithful no more was said.
I was lucky enough to have had a good academic foundation in philosophy and psychology so I could distinguish between what was Catholic and what was not in seminary teaching. I had to go to America to actually hear specific lectures on priestly celibacy and it's practical application. Simple safe guards were presented alongside spiritual exercises and tools. But that's all recent history.
I've visited men in prison formed in the 1940s and 1950s. One priest that I lived with for many years, a product of the 1960s and 1970s, is now serving a lengthy prison term. The quality of English seminary education of the earlier part of the century effectively collapsed after the Second World War. The numbers were too great and education seems to have been reduced to ticking the right boxes on the multiple guess examinations. Getting men into the parishes was a priority and short cuts were taken to get them there. The philosophical basis of the faith was just not there in many men. These men became the next generation of seminary professors.
As the psychologists and sociologists stormed the seminaries they had a tabula rasa to work with. Men who just did not have the tools to realize the nonsense that was being taught. Consequently God given libidos were set adrift on the choppy seas of relativism and self important satisfaction. Scratching the itch became the cure all for all problems but this was only possible because of a neglect in formation that stretched back some time- and the warning signs were already there well before Vatican II commenced or as a friend of mine says 'That little transitory unpleasantness that we had to put up with.'