Aparecida 324-325: Demands of Community Life, Inculturation

The Aparecida bishops acknowledge that living as part of a faith community is demanding. I don’t know that seminaries are the best place to accomplish the laundry list below.

I’ve bullet-pointed the list of expectations of bishops of their clergy. I daresay that lay ministers might also use this list to check their own quality of service to the Church.

324. It must be confirmed that the candidates are able to take on the demands of community life, which entails

  • dialogue,
  • capacity for service,
  • humility,
  • appreciation for the charisms of others,
  • willingness to let oneself be challenged by others,
  • obedience to the bishop,
  • and openness to growing in missionary communion with priests, deacons, religious, and laity, serving unity in diversity.

The Church needs priests and religious who never cease being aware that they are disciples in communion.


325. Young people from poor families or indigenous groups require an inculturated formation, that is, they must receive adequate theological and spiritual training for their future ministry, without thereby losing their roots, and so that they may accordingly be evangelizers close to their peoples and cultures.(Cf. EAm 40; RM 54; PDV 32; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory n. 15)

Hmm. I think people who live in major metropolitan centers may also need an inculturated formation. We might think less of modern culture, but the interface between people and western culture is a substantial need, if we are to take seriously the situation with the nones.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Mile-High … Marriage?

See the source imageFrom what I hear in pastoral ministry circles, the term “convalidation” is heading out the door. I’m sure there’s a reason. It’s likely a good one.

Much cooing over Pope Francis doing something to regularize/recognize/bless a civil marriage between two Catholics on that plane last week. As usual, the canon lawyers are among the loudest objectors

I cannot tell whether the ‘wedding’ that the pope put together for an unsuspecting couple satisfies Church requirements on marriage, and several other laws impacting the liceity of marriage seem simply to have been disregarded in the event.

Wedding? To begin with, marriage is a human act, even if it takes place between two Catholics. The quotes around wedding don’t really advance any sort of argument. As the media reported the event, there was hand-holding, ring-blessing, and some words and handwriting from the Holy Father. If a couple has been married seven-plus years and has established a home, children, and all, I think the presumption is that they are married. The wedding is in the past. Quotes not needed. Naturally, if said Catholic couple has never had a rite in a church then their sacramental standing within Church law is unrecognized. But I think Pope Francis acknowledges that something is there. At least when a Catholic wants to “get out” of a civil marriage, there is paperwork to accomplish.

The news report I saw mentioned holding hands and blessing of rings. That’s not quite everything in the Rite of Matrimony. A couple needs to exchange vows. Believe it or not, rings and hand-holding are optional. So when canonist Ed Peters complains …

… several canons impacting the liceity of weddings were apparently ignored here …

… I’m not so sure, despite his list.

On fb, I objected to the tone of this …

If I have to say it, I will: I hope Podest and Ciuffardi are married and that they live happily ever after …

I wrote there that not only does he have to say it, he has to mean it. Otherwise, a front porch beckons per Luke 15:28-32. The couple, despite being Catholic, are indeed married. The sacramental nature of the union is what is up for debate. But a civil marriage is, last time I looked, a significant commitment in most human cultures.

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Aparecida 323: Seminary Curriculum

Some words on academic training in seminaries:

323. At the same time, the seminary must offer a serious and deep intellectual formation in the field of philosophy, the human sciences, and especially in theology and missiology, so that the future priest learns to proclaim the faith in all its integrity, faithful to the magisterium of the Church, with critical attention, alert to the cultural context of our time and the major currents of thought and behavior that he will have to evangelize. Likewise, the study of the Word of God must be strengthened in the academic curriculum in the various fields of formation, striving to assure that the Divine Word is not reduced to something merely notional, but that it is really spirit and life that enlightens and nourishes all existence. Therefore, each seminary must have a sufficient number of well prepared professors.(Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis, nn. 32 and 36-37)

We can observe that the bishops were first concerned with the overall formation of priests-to-be. But these academic concerns blend nicely with what we’ve read in the sections previous to this one.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 322: Healthy Freedom

322. In the entire formation process, the seminary environment and the formation pedagogy must foster a climate of healthy freedom and of personal responsibility, and avoid creating artificial environments or imposed paths. The candidate’s option for the priestly life and ministry must mature and be supported by true and authentic, free and personal motivations. That is the aim of discipline in houses of formation.

Unfortunately, the discipline directed at young people can often be clumsy, callous, and an expression of the immaturity of those in power.

This piece is quite good:

Pastoral experiences, discerned and accompanied in the formation process, are extremely important for corroborating the authenticity of the motivations in the candidate and helping him to assume the ministry as a true and generous service in which what I am and what I do, consecrated person and ministry, are inseparable realities.

First thing: a candidate for ordination belongs in ministry of some sort. I’m not sure it doesn’t need to be a continuous part of a person’s formation. Being able to reflect upon, pray with, and discuss in direction such experiences are vital to understanding and discerning interior motivations as well.

I would be cautious about too close a tie between “what I am” and “what I do,” lest we form people who cannot separate their stature as a saved disciple from the service they provide to others. At times in our lives, we may need to step back from elements of ministry. That doesn’t decrease how God might affirm us. Ministers are something more than cogs in an NGO.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Pope Francis’ Accusation

See the source imageEven Cardinal O’Malley is visibly perturbed at an off-the-cuff, seemingly angry remark by the Holy Father. This one, regarding a controversial bishop:

The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?

The backstory on concern over Bishop Juan Barros is here. This was getting attention almost three years ago in the US press here.

Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org:

He has just turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?

No, the barn door has opened. The clock won’t be turning back anytime soon. What this does damage is the role of the Church as a partner in reform, contrition, and renewal. Victims, survivors, and allies will go to lawyers, journalists, politicians, and others who will hear them. Does the Church want to be part of the discussion when the dust settles and terms are imposed from the outside? Surely nobody wants to see ugly, sinful, and embarrassing stories played out in courts, legislatures, and in the press.

All that said, my sense is that Bishop Barros’ consideration is a disappointment no matter how you slice it. The man likely possesses skills you see in bishops: administration, preaching, being personable. He leads a very small diocese. Tally up 22 parishes, 44 priests, and a bit more than 100,000 Catholics in an area between the size of Delaware and Connecticut, and it’s no bling assignment. Even so, every bishop has ample responsibilities that he doesn’t need an anvil hung around his neck from the get-go. No favors are being done for his in this appointment or in his continuation in his post.

The man has been around, though. Ordained for the diocese of the nation’s capital, eleven years later, an auxiliary while still in his thirties. Small see bishop for four years, then eleven as bishop of the military. Osorno is his third assignment as an ordinary and fifth since ordination.

One might think that even in small sees, extra-special care would be taken as lists of candidates for bishop are drawn up. I’ve known many, many good parish priests over the years who would seem to be good candidates to sit in the cathedra. Are we really so short of demonstrably holy and capable candidates? Or are they often saying no to the papal nuncio?

To be sure, popes have befriended and supported questionable characters in the past. Pope Francis may yet have more. His successors in office certainly will. I did a bit of digging on Bishop Barros–maybe he had a major hand at Aparecida or something. If so, those news items are inn Spanish or pretty well-hidden to the casual internet search. So count me baffled and disappointed.


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Aparecida 321: Formation Toward Maturity

The Aparecida bishops aim to ordain a mature person:

321. Special attention must be devoted to the process of human formation toward maturity, so that the vocation to the ministerial priesthood of the candidates becomes in each of them a stable and definitive life project, in the midst of a culture that exalts the disposable and the provisional.

So, countercultural. But not sheltered in the sense of ignorance or running away from one’s emotions:

The same is true of education for affectivity and sexual maturity. Such maturity should lead to understanding better the gospel meaning of consecrated celibacy as a value that configures one to Jesus Christ, and hence as a state of love, fruit of the precious gift of divine grace, according to the example of the nuptial self-giving of the Son of God; to receiving it as such with firm decision, with magnanimity and wholeheartedly; and to living it with serenity and faithful perseverance, with proper ascesis on a personal and community journey, as surrender to God and to others with a full and undivided heart.(Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis 16; Optatam Totius 4; Pastores Dabo Vobis 50; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests; n.5; Congregation for Catholic Education, A Guide to Formation in Priestly Celibacy, n. 31, Rome 1974.)

In other words, one can’t give up what one has never had.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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William Lombardy

jan2018clfcs.jpgWhen I became an active tournament player in the 70s, I was certainly aware of the priest/grandmaster Bill Lombardy. He served as Bobby Fischer’s second (chief assistant) for the first half of the 1972 world championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland. He was also a top international competitor in his own right. His early career on the international scene included two notable accomplishments: a perfect record as World Junior Champion (11-0) in 1957, and top performer for the winning US Student Team in 1960 (besting the Soviets in a totally unexpected upset).

On the brink of a fruitful (if underpaid) chess career–including a coveted spot on the path to World Champion in a 1962 qualifying event–instead he packed off to seminary for the Archdiocese of New York and ordination in 1967.

Compared to Bobby Fischer, he wasn’t the leading light of his chess generation. Maybe #2 wasn’t quite as burnished in his view. Or his call to service in the Church was stronger for a time. Who knows? Chess journalists generally don’t cover and comment deeply on spiritual journeys. Interesting that the Russians described him as wearing a “priest’s outfit” when he was assisting Bobby Fischer in Iceland.

There is a good feature on him here. I also found the biographical material in this month’s issue of Chess Life to be both illuminating and sad.  I also found coverage at the NCReg.

Bill Lombardy wanted to continue both a chess career and a priestly ministry. It seems strange to my ears that he thought he could be a representative of the Church among chess players and as a competitor. His bishop summoned him to a meeting and insisted he take a pastoral assignment. That was Cardinal Terrence Cooke. I can only imagine what Lombardy’s first bishop, Cardinal Spellman would have said to the notion of a chess-playing ambassador/priest.

Lombardy left ministry in the late 70s. The peaks of his chess career were behind him. In the US, a new generation of young turks butted heads with émigré Soviet grandmasters. In his personal life, marriage, a son, a divorce, and a life that generally spiraled into poverty and old age.

There’s a meme, not always accurate, not always inaccurate, about chessplayers (andother types of competitors) whose lives just spiral out of control. Is there an answer to that? But for the grace of God …

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