Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unfit for ministry?


The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. - 1598, CCC
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The recent disgrace of a famous priest who has now been declared by his religious superior as 'unfit for ministry' had me thinking about how some men may have been approved for Holy Orders, despite the fact they may have given certain warning signs they could be 'unfit'.  That idea developed as I considered the stories circulated by that particular priest of how psychologists who initially screened him before ordination advised against his being accepted, believing he was mentally unfit or unsuitable.  Nevertheless the recent convert was admitted to orders despite those warnings and he, along with his superior at the time, seemed to believe the negative report was due to the his religious conservatism and fidelity to Church teaching.
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Likewise, a local priest who eventually committed suicide after accusations of sexual molesting young boys and murdering his accusers, was reportedly early on given a negative report concerning his suitability for ordination.  His superiors waved him through however.
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"Pray for the suicides." - Fr. Zosima
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Recently a young, well liked priest, innocent of any wrong doing, committed suicide and was found dead in a rectory closet.  At his funeral he was eulogized with great compassion, revealing how the poor man suffered from bullying all of his life, which may have contributed to his life long struggle with depression.  As most people know, depression is a mental illness, although it is more often than not successfully managed with medication.  It is worth noting however, some of these medications carry warnings that side effects may include thoughts of suicide and lead to suicide.  Gratefully, the young priest was given a Catholic funeral with dignity and honors, mourned by all who knew him.
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I have no issue with the last priest mentioned whatsoever - I don't know anything about him other than what I read.  Instead, my concern is that some candidates for ordination, whose psychological health may be in question, get through to ordination.  I realize that diocesan and seminary superiors weigh each candidate's credentials and suitability carefully, and sometimes in good faith allow special dispensations, confident in the mystery of grace and the action of the Holy Spirit to heal and sustain and support such men in their vocation.  But can they be mistaken?  Are there false vocations?  Are there some men ordained priest forever who maybe should not have been?  To be sure their ordination is valid and indelible - but what if they were unfit for ministry in the first place - before ordination?
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Impediments and irregularities.
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Can men with clinical depression be ordained?  It seems to me this question poses a similar dilemma with that of men with deep seated homosexual inclination being barred from ordination.  In Canon Law there are certain irregularities and impediments which can and do disqualify a candidate for Holy Orders.
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Canon 1041 - The following persons are irregular for the reception of orders:
 1. one who suffers from any form of insanity, or from other psychological infirmity, because of which he is, after experts have been consulted, judged incapable of properly fulfilling the ministry.
 5. one who ... has attempted suicide.
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Impediments and irregularities can be dispensed by the Holy See of course.  Irregularities are impediments regarded as perpetual, while simple impediments are not.  I'm not sure what that means legally however.  Yet these matters raise questions regarding the discernment process as to who can be admitted to Holy Orders.  Officially, men with deep seated homosexual tendencies are to be barred from orders, yet as we know, there are those who continue to be ordained.  Even though ordination is valid are there 'false vocations'?  (Would this apply to men with mental disorders as well?)
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"They see the Church as a noncompetitive, friendly world where they may enjoy high status and be protected at the same time." - van den aardweg
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I'm not sure if the following works in well with this post, nevertheless it is an interesting commentary on the subject of admitting homosexuals to ordination I came across in the writings of Dr. Van Den Aardweg, in his book The Battle For Normality.  It may or may not be helpful to my topic here:
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"Why are so many Protestant and Catholic homosexuals, male and female alike, interested in theology, and why do they not infrequently want to be ministers or priests?  Part of the answer lies in their infantile need for sympathy and contact.  They view church professions as soft and sentimentally caring and imagined themselves in them as being honored and revered, elevated above common human beings.  They see the Church as a noncompetitive, friendly world where they may enjoy high status and be protected at the same time.  For male homosexuals, there is the additional incentive of a rather closed men's community where they need not prove themselves as men." (Hello!)
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[...]
"These interests stem for the most part then from an infantile, self centered imagination and have precious little to do with the objective contents of Christian belief.  What some homosexuals see as their calling to the priesthood is an attraction to an emotionally rewarding, though self-centered way of life.  These are self imagined or 'false' vocations.  Needles to say these ministers and priests are inclined to preach a soft, humanistic reinvention of traditional beliefs, especially of moral principals, and a distorted concept of 'love'.  Moreover, they tend to create a homosexual subculture within their churches.  There they undoubtedly pose a suitable threat for the orthodoxy and undermine church unity by their habit of forming subversive coteries that do not feel responsible to the official church community (the reader may recall the homosexual complex of 'not belonging'.)  Otherwise, they lack the balance and strength of character necessary for giving fatherly advice." - Battle For Normalcy
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"Otherwise, they lack the balance and strength of character necessary for giving fatherly advice."  Could this 'impediment' apply to candidates who may be otherwise psychologically unfit as well?  Just thinking out loud here.
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Art: Source - no further information.

40 comments:

  1. Terry, dumb question, but typical of my line of questioning:

    RE St. John's quote - just how much renunciation is enough? Can't it be a spiritual trap for some people? Are we all called to wallow in ashes and sleep on rocks? Or is it simply that we need to renounce those things contrary to the Gospel and God will let us know what and when we need to detach from other things?

    I'm haunted by Saints who simply left their families, yet they exist in droves - including the Apostles. St. Bernard had a brother who was newly married and left his young bride to live his brother's way of life. There's St. Nicholas of Flue who went to become a hermit in the wilderness. St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote about how he wishes he had never gotten married and lost his virginity.

    I just get the feeling sometimes that having or wanting a family, a wife, or anything, or being happy and thankful for what God has given us - that that's not enough renunciation.

    Every time I read a non-religious book, play a video game, or enjoy something, I feel like I must be doing wrong.

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  2. Even scarier than that - aren't all of us, even those of us who aren't wealthy - aren't we all the "rich" that Christ admonished? I mean, sometimes I feel like I can easily find my way into hell 'cause I've never had to worry about going hungry or a place to sleep - and I come from a "poor" background.

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  3. Austringer5:23 PM

    Mercury,

    Methinks you are worrying too much. Remember that it is the love of money, not money itself, that is the problem. Obviously affluence has its particular dangers (secularization, materialism, disordered self-reliance, etc), but it's hardly a sin to have been born into a generally wealthy society where few have to really worry about finding food and shelter.

    As for the renunciation of friends and family: some are called to that level, some are not.

    Saints aren't infallible. If a particular saint gives you anxiety or concern when you read about him or her, stop reading about that saint. There are plenty of saints that one can admire and learn from, so don't spend time on the ones that fuel your anxiety.

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  4. Anonymous5:24 PM

    Mercury,

    You always seem to be tortured by the same thoughts regardless of the topic. Did you ever think of getting a good spiritual director/ and or Catholic psychologist to help you get some balance in your thoughts and life? Just a thought...

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  5. I do have a good spiritual director, and I am in the process of also finding a solidly orthodox Catholic therapist as well. I suffer from OCD, that much is known to me, so it only makes sense that such a condition can be used to cause myself spiritual harm.

    Thanks for your concern. Austringer, thank you also.

    Terry, I'm sorry I made this about me.

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  6. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Mercury,

    You will be in my prayers that the Lord of life fills your heart and soul with peace, and you find a good therapist to help with that. God bless.

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  7. Re: Van Den Aardweg:

    "Entgegen der Meinung f├╝hrender Fachleute- und Organisationen ist Aardweg seit Beginn seiner Arbeit in den 1960ern der Meinung, dass homosexuelle Menschen an „neurotischem Selbstmitleid“ leiden und das homosexuelle Empfinden Ausdruck dieses in der Kindheit verwurzelten Selbstmitleids sei."

    "Contrary to the opinions of leading experts and organizations, Aardweg, since the beginning of his work in the 1960s, believes that gay people suffer from "neurotic self-pity" and the gay sensibility of this expression is rooted in childhood, self-pity."

    But, I guess he says what y'all like to hear. ;)

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  8. not much of a difference, but since I do this for a living (translation, not gay commentary):

    "and that the perception of oneself as homoesexual is an expression of this self-pity, rooted in childhood"

    Anyway, God only knows who the "leading experts and organisations" are. After all, many of these experts and organisations also claim that masturbation is healthy, or that sexual experimentation should be encouraged.

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  9. Some also dare to say that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the cretins. :)

    We know better.

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  10. Oh! Oh! "Gay commentary as a living."

    Terry, I see dollar signs in your future. You could be the Gay Larry King of the Twin Cities! :-p

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  11. Thom - Mercury does translations for a living.

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  12. I understood that.

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  13. Haha. Gay commentary for a living. Aren't there enough of those on TV already?

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  14. We're in the age of New Media, silly. The Pope said so!

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  15. Mercury - John of the Cross is often misunderstood - but I'm only using it to demonstrate what it must have been like for Kateri to leave her tribe to embrace Catholicism, comparing her renunciation and the opposition she endured to what it takes for some men and women to renounce homosexual behavior and often times the social lifestyle which accompanies it.

    Ordinary Christian life in the world is enough renunciation for most people - getting up and going to work, integrating and balancing work and pleasure, keeping the commandments, and so on. John of the Cross sounds severe - but everything he writes should be understood in accord with one's state in life. I know you have a spiritual director so you are good to go.

    So don't read John of the Cross. ;) And don't listen to me. Thanks for translating for us.

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  16. Thom is being a smart ass tonight. He needs a drink.

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  17. I never drink on-air!

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  18. Oh! Oh! Thom - that Larry King remark is ageism!

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  19. Ageism? Certainly not! Don't you have a collection of thousands of wives, err, ties?

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  20. I can imitate Craig Fergusson imitating Larry King.

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  21. Craig Ferguson is a genius. I love the puppets.

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  22. The painting is "The Last Judgment" by Pavel Ryzhenko (2007). "A cathedral in Siberia" is as close as I can get for a location.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled debate.

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  23. michael r.7:18 PM

    "Me thinks you are worrying too much." Me thinks he is worrying WAY too much. I appreciate the thoughts expressed in the post, which I have long shared. I have known too many diocesan priests and priest candidates, and religious priests, to know that mistakes are made. Fortunately, I believe that the good solid priests far out weigh the bad, and we have to escape all of the second guessing, which is really just a type of scrupulosity, or perhaps a type of mental illness.....:) Let's not make it harder to find good holy men for candidacy to Holy Orders. We also need to avoid spiritual pride, which is what I am very closely skirting here. Thanks to that young priest who heard my confession a few weeks ago in the hospital for raising the issue of pride. I actually asked him to elaborate, because I was so dense. Hopefully I'm now seeing where I am in need of guidance in this particular area. I can't wait to go back to confession. Hopefully that will be possible in the next two days. Prayers for all+

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  24. Well, what is scrupulosity but a form of pride?

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  25. Good posts this week, Ter!

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  26. Fr. Richard8:19 PM

    Terry,

    A very interesting post. As a priest I have to say this is a tricky question since the psychological sciences have not been used well by the Church's authorities in the last 50 years. I hope it is getting better. Many of a more orthodox persuasion inherently distrust the psychologists used to "screen" potential seminarians- there were many abuses in this regard- see the book "Goodbye Good Men"; however there are times when legitimately guys got into seminary who should not have: unblanced orthodox guys, and liberal guys who had no inteniton of upholding Church teaching, these were often of a homosexual inclination- but you can't brush with too broad a stroke- since not all of the problems were homosexual in nature. Just a few thoughts from a padre out in the parish fields....

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  27. Fr. Richard8:21 PM

    And some of the the mentally ill got in to seminary as well and some were ordained- I could tell stories from seminary, but won't to protect the innocent- smile.

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  28. As far as the homosexual priest thing...

    when I was in high school in the early 80's I knew a couple of male classmates who were gay--closeted, but most everyone knew..both of them said they were goign to go into the priesthood as their folsk were pesteringthem to get married and of course they didn't have the slightest interest in girls...

    But becoming a priest would make their parents SO PROUD...and they dont' have to worry about getting married....I don't know how they handled the gay thing..I'm sure they kept the gay thing to themselves, and I'm not sure if the question was even asked back in the early 80's..

    Sara

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  29. mrs. Rudd - thanks for finding the info on the art!

    Hi Cath! Thanks!

    Thanks everyone for the all your good comments, I am so tired tonight I can't move my fingers to type personal reponses.

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  30. My B-I-L was a seminarian some 14-15 years ago (he's now an awesome pastor priest!), and one time when he was visiting, I overheard him tell my husband that there were a significant number of gay seminarians. I remember being surprised to hear that, and coming from him made it all the more heartbreaking (as he didn't and still doesn't have a gossipy/chatty bone in his body). He didn't touch on those mentally ill; I'm almost afraid to ask.

    Anyway, good post as usual, Terry. I've added it to a new Facebook we put together called "Crying for Corapi," [in part] for those that are still stunned and are praying and begging JC to come back, yet "the dog" doesn't seem to be answering them ...

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  31. Talking of Corapi, I've been listening to some of his old stuff on youtube (old stuff? I mean his sermons, or were they talks or were they spoken bestsellers?).I think John Corapi is a great actor, truly up there with Richard Burton ( I mean imagine him with an educated Welsh accent?). I 'feel' totally convinced by listening to whatever role he chooses to play. I could almost recommend him to himself!
    Now I don't have a clue if he genuinely means each word he speaks, how can I, I can't read hearts?

    I don't know if I will ever be able to trust my perception of him again though. Ever. To be convinced, would be to hear he has gone into the desert (priestly speaking) and remained there. He has surely had enough public accolade, both negative and positive for a whole lifetime. Maybe fifty lifetimes.
    Mary wears combat boots, so he says. Well, that's quite a vision to behold, but then again, so is he, at the moment. He says his Ministry is/was mainly talking. How about saying the rosary out loud from dawn to dusk? For all his audiences that were, are and might be? That way he wouldn't have to lay down and die, he could kneel down and pray.


    What?

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  32. Actually, I am going to post my comment above as a post on my own blog as it sums up my overall view of the Corapi situation as it is happening inside my head, so far. Then fans, I mean folks, we (I, they, us,) are going to draw a line under it. Although if anybody wants me to say anything else, I will, at a fifty per-cent reduced comment rate. I've forgotten how much Terry pays me to post my thoughts here. Enough to open a small bar in the combox selling non-alcoholic beveradges that's for sure. Just need to think of a name....................

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  33. Anonymous4:52 AM

    "Why are so many Protestant and Catholic homosexuals, male and female alike, interested in theology, and why do they not infrequently want to be ministers or priests? Part of the answer lies in their infantile need for sympathy and contact."

    Ouch!

    All too true unfortunately...

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  34. A Random Friar10:02 AM

    Just a note: the side effect of an increase of suicidal thought or planning out in a depressed individual comes about because the patient would be *too depressed* to really have the mental energy to think on suicide. Anti-depressants may lift the patient just enough out of his depression to give him the energy he was lacking beforehand. Ironic and sad.

    This is why, if you or someone you know, is going on antidepressants, make sure his close friends or family, or at least one other trusted person, knows this, and can be on the lookout.

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  35. gette9:20 PM

    "Are there some men ordained priest forever who maybe should not have been? To be sure their ordination is valid and indelible - but what if they were unfit for ministry in the first place - before ordination."


    This comment of yours brings up a question I never considered before: Can ordinations be "anulled" as marriages can be?

    Do you know?

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  36. No they can't Gette... it's forever.

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  37. ... why not? Really ... marriage is forever ... but sometime marriage were not valid ...

    just wondering too

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  38. DING! Ding! Ding! Get your Catechism out!

    Marriage is until death do you part - then when one of you dies you are free to marry your attorney if you like.

    There are three sacraments which impart a character: baptism, confirmation, holy orders.

    Listen up:

    The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders imprint an indelible seal (or character) on the soul which may never be effaced.

    "The character which these Sacraments imprint in the soul is a spiritual mark which remains forever." (Baltimore Catechism)

    RCIA can be done better, or redone however. ;)

    That's all.

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  39. Sorry - I forgot to add - marriage is a contract that may be entered into invalidly and thereby annulled. A character or seal is not imparted as in ordination.

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