Pope Francis: Be Careful Who You Admit to Seminary

At an audience with participants of a conference sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican II decrees on the Ministry and Life of Priests and on Priestly Training, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff on preparation for priestly ministry.

The pope said that one must think twice when a young man “is too confident, rigid, and fundamentalist,” for “there are mentally ill boys who seek strong structures that can protect them.” He also said that “it is not normal for a priest to be often sad, nervous, or of a hard character; it is not good, and does no good, neither for the priest nor for his people.”

“A good priest is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history – with its treasures and wounds – and has learned to make peace with it, gaining a profound serenity, characteristic of a disciple of the Lord,” Francis said. “Human formation is therefore needed for priests, so they may learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.

Francis also reminded bishops that the decree on residence is still in force: “If you don’t feel like staying in your diocese you should resign,” Francis said, referring to bishops who travel too much and are not close enough to their flock.

Source: Vatican Insider.


    1. @Jeffrey Maurer:
      I think not, since belonging to the College of Cardinals “enrolls” one as an adviser to the pope in a variety of ways, as needed, and at his request.
      When the Council of 9 finish their meetings, the members return home to their dioceses, as well as their additional ministry on behalf of the universal Church.

  1. The most moving part of the speech for me was this: After saying “God never refuses,” the Pope spoke about what a confessor should (and should NOT) do in those cases where he cannot give absolution:

    There are priests who say: “No, this I can not absolve, go away.” This is not the way. If you can not give absolution, explain and say, “God loves you so much, God loves you. To get to God, there are so many ways. I cannot give you absolution, I give you the blessing. But come back, always come back here, that whenever you come back I’ll give the blessing as a sign that God loves you.”

    His full speech here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2015/november/documents/papa-francesco_20151120_formazione-sacerdoti.html

    How I wish every confession would end with these words: “God loves you, God loves you so much,” together with “Go in peace.”

    1. @Elisabeth Ahn:
      Your link is to the Italian version of this speech. However, when I checked the English language section of Vatican website, I note that this speech is only available in Italian at this time.

      1. @Charles Day:

        Of course. But surely you see the irony of someone who traveled halfway across the world to become the diocesan bishop of a foreign city, and is so exceedingly busy traveling that he has to permanently delegate diocesan responsibilities to someone else, telling other bishops to stay put or quit. Especially since Francis likes to minimize his role as pope and refer to himself more simply as the Bishop of Rome.

      2. @Jonathan Ziegler:

        You really don’t seem to get why Pope Francis calls himself the Bishop of Rome, and what that means and does not mean. Perhaps this — from the Pope’s press conference during the flight back to Rome from Rio — might help you understand better:

        Question: Ever since 13 March, you have presented yourself as the Bishop of Rome, with great, very great insistence. So, we would like to understand the deep significance of this insistence, whether perhaps, rather than collegiality, we are perhaps speaking about ecumenism, perhaps of your being the primus inter pares of the Church? Thank you.

        Pope Francis: Yes, in this, we must not go beyond what is said. The Pope is a bishop, the Bishop of Rome, and because he is the Bishop of Rome he is the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ. There are other titles, but the first title is “Bishop of Rome” and everything follows from that. To say, to think that this means being primus inter pares, no, that does not follow. It is simply the Pope’s first title: Bishop of Rome. But there are others too … I think you said something about ecumenism. I think this actually helps ecumenism. But only this …

        That Francis often calls himself simply as the Bishop of Rome does not mean he is minimizing his role as Pope. Quite the contrary actually. I rather think Francis takes his role and responsibilities of being the Pope, and his “supreme, full, immediate, and universal power” over the whole, universal Church as such more seriously than either John Paul II who really did spend more (if not all his) time traveling around the world, or Benedict XVI who, to my eyes, appeared to have spent more time pursuing his own reading and writing interests than dealing with the many, varied demands placed upon him as the Bishop of Rome.

  2. The caveat: I am a layman and know only the rough outline of the seminary process. Perhaps the greatest test for a seminarian or transitional deacon is the willingness to assent to the liturgical guidelines of their pastor. This requires a great maturity which might be the deciding factor for sacerdotal ordination. If the pastor says that every Mass must contain the ‘C’ litany form of the confession and EP II (options traditionalists often dislike), then a transitional deacon must obey and participate despite any personal objections. Maybe a deacon can find a bit of time during the week to serve the EF. However, a cleric’s time is not his own. His pastor might require the constant participation of a seminarian preparing for ordination in the administrative and liturgical life of the parish.

    Should a priest after a while find that he cannot abide by parish or diocesan standards, perhaps he could join a traditionalist institute. However, a bishop should be upset to invest time and money in a young priest, only to have him leave the diocese after a few years.

    This said, I do not think that an interest in the EF or traditionalist worship is necessarily an impediment to priestly ordination iff a seminarian is shown to be obedient as acolyte-subdeacon and in his transitional diaconal year.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo:
      I’m only seeing this now, a bit later than your original post. The “problem” I see in your scenario is not so much with the seminarian/transitional deacon/parish priest. The problem, especially in a parish setting, is with the pastor.
      I have lived with too many pastors who think that title makes them something special. Truth is, they are the same as every other priest, they have simply been called to another – an additional – role on behalf of a local community. That role or title, unfortunately, does not endow them with special powers, abilities or interests. Sadly, not every (many? most?) pastors care about the quality of the liturgy. Racing through what’s in the book is quite sufficient.
      “Get them in, get them out.” While my seminary training was not exemplary, it did encourage and allow the opportunity – no, the responsibility – to “speak up” for what is good and right and important, and nothing is more-so than the prayerful celebration of the Church’s (not the pastor’s) prayer.
      Sadly, there are many “clever” seminarians in the system… who know that if they want to get ordained, they have to play by the rules… for a while.
      After the oil dries, however, their true colors emerge… and they do what they – and not (necessarily) the Church, or even the pastor, want.

  3. Maybe if priests could be persuaded during their formation that they are no ordained only to be clerics and liturgical performers, but also (primarily) to minister to their people ……….

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