Much has been made of Pope Francis’ remarks on liturgy to Rome’s diocesan clergy. But I found it more interesting his comments on “retread” seminarians:
(Pope Francis) then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted “traditionalist” seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because “they presented themselves very well, very devout.” They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have “psychological and moral problems.”
It is not a practice, but it “happens often” in these environments, the Pope stressed, and to ordain these types of seminarians is like placing a “mortgage on the Church.” The underlying problem is that some bishops are sometimes overwhelmed by “the need for new priests in the diocese.” Therefore, an adequate discernment among candidates is not made, among whom some can hide certain “imbalances” that are then manifested in liturgies. In fact, the Congregation of Bishops – the Pontiff went on to say – had to intervene with three bishops on three of these cases, although they didn’t occur in Italy.
It happens here in the US, too. I served in one diocese where the bishop could not be dissuaded from taking out such mortgages, in one case when the deal had been turned down by two other bishops.
Mortgage is about right. Immature but manipulative guys learn how to groom bishops, and while some traditional-leaning prelates may indeed be “saints” (I would agree with the personal holiness of my former bishop, Robert Finn) they also set themselves up as prime targets in naïveté for someone looking for an easy, sheltered life. Some clergy may indeed appear holy and saintly on the outside, but such things can mask more serious flaws. Bishops cannot function without a well-developed ability for discernment. The problem with the Congregation of Bishops under Pope Benedict and the later years of JP2 is not that they promoted too many conservative bishops. But that they gave us too many bad conservative bishops.
How much is the reform2 movement compromised? I have no idea about that. I think a lack of openness is a problem for musicians and artists. It’s a big problem in the spiritual life. I’ve mentioned several times here I think a hermeneutic of continuity is a danger to continuing conversion, and the essence of moving forward with the Lord. Continuity is a pastoral practice–not at all the same as a value in the mystical life.
Could a prospective seminarian have one bad experience in one diocese? Sure. That could happen. But it should raise a flag of concern. Seminarians are being asked to change their lives. Their contact with bishops, spiritual directors, vocation folk, and seminary rectors is not a mutual relationship of growth.