Benedict XVI to Cong for Clergy: priesthood without discontinuity

His Holiness Pope Benedict addressed the Plenary Meeting of the Congregation for Clergy.

One might expect a Pope to speak about the importance of priests to such a Congregation, but his remarks to the Congregation today stressed priesthood and priestly ministry in a way that reminded me sharply of both his great solicitude for priests in in the Church in the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and the concern he openly expressed in his recent Letter to bishops for the priests of the SSPX.

Here are a couple paragraphs in my rapid translation from the Italian.  My emphases.

A grasp of the radical social changes of the last decades must move our better ecclesial energies to take care for the formation of candidates for ministry.  In particular, it must stimulate constant solicitude of Pastors toward their first collaborators, either cultivating truly paternal human relations, or concerning themselves with their continuing formation, above all in the matter of doctrine.  The mission has its roots in a special way in a good formation, developed in communion with the uninterrupted ecclesial Tradition, without breaks or temptations to discontinuity.  In such a sense, it is important to foster in priests, above all in younger generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, interpreted in the light of the whole doctrinal train of of the Church.  There appears to be an urgent need for the recovery of that awareness which drives priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both for their judgment of faith, and for their personal virtue, and also for their dress (abito), in ambients of culture and of charity, which have ever been at the heart of the mission of the Church.

As a Church and as priests we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and Christ, crucifed and risen, King of time and history, in the happy certainty that such a truth coincides with the deepest desires of man’s heart.  In the ministry of the incarnation of the Word, in that fact that God became man like us, there is situated both the content and the method of the Christian message.  The mission has here its true driving core: namely, in Jesus Christ.  The centrality of Christ brings with itself the proper evaluation of the priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, nor, much less, the mission of the same Church.  In this sense it is necessary to be vigilant that "new structures" or pastoral organizations are not considered for a time which one must "do without" ordained ministry, starting from the erroneous interpretation of a right promotion of the laity, for in such a case presuppositions would be advanced for the further dilution of the priestly ministry and the eventual presumed "solutions" would come dramatically to coincide with the real causes of the present challenges bound up with ministry.

 

Notice that "further" dilution, not just "dilution".

Very interesting. 

The Holy Father is making making himself clearer in the last week or so.

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25 Responses to Benedict XVI to Cong for Clergy: priesthood without discontinuity

  1. Sadly many progressivistas think that increased lay involvement will stem the decline in vocations. It would probably only accelerate it IMHO. Why would a man give up a good career and a family to undertake a role which confers few privileges not already open to the laity?

  2. Bob K. says:

    Doesn’t any of this good information ever get on the front page of the USCCB website Father. Doesn’t that disturb you a little?!. None of this news ever gets posted on diocesan websites either. Or do they only post what they, not the Pope, wants you to hear. Will every priest in the US ever know that it’s the Year of Priests.

  3. Deacon Augustine says:

    “In this sense it is necessary to be vigilant that “new structures” or pastoral organizations are not considered for a time which one must “do without” ordained ministry, starting from the erroneous interpretation of a right promotion of the laity,…”

    I hope he sends this personally to all the English bishops who have been saying that the lack of priestly vocations is a “gift from the Holy Spirit who wants to see us become laity-led Church!” (Dropping of the definite article being their hip way of “doing theology”)

  4. RichR says:

    People generally appreciate strong father figures – both in the family and in the Church. If a man is well-formed in his doctrine, he has a clear sense of his purpose as a priest. In the Church today, people need to be ready and willing to give up their “ministries” that are infringing on priestly roles. Too often, it is the laity that is forcing the priest to perpetuate these “ministries” because the people don’t want to let go of their new clericalized roles.

  5. mrsmontoya says:

    Deacon Augustine: Not only in England. You expressed the point I was going to raise about some parts of the US – here in the metropolitan Northern California area.

  6. …The message hasn’t been received here in LA, we get more lay coordinator people.

  7. John Enright says:

    All in all, this is a positive statement.

  8. Luigi says:

    “In such a sense, it is important to foster in priests, above all in younger generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, interpreted in the light of the whole doctrinal train of of the Church.”

    Many priests and bishops have limited command of the conciliar texts, and I’m not referring to the legitimate questions that remain concerning proper interpretation and implementation. Many of them haven’t truly explored them in the light of Tradition. Others have an agenda driven view of them. The Holy Father’s exhortation will not be realized apart from a deliberate effort to drive the process, and even then it will be rebuffed by many.

    This process has to start in seminary, and from there it needs to lead to the same process in faith formation programs in the parish that help the laity explore the Council documents by the light of Tradition. This will bring about, IMO, a great increase in vocations.

    JPII repeatedly encouraged the laity to explore the conciliar documents directly. How many parishes and dioceses are actively assisting in this effort? Next to none. At best they promote vapid programs that purport to be in some way reflective of the Council.

    I’ve spoken with many bishops, priests, and educators about inviting the faithful into the Council documents. Some of the things I’ve heard are nothing less than shocking. “The Council documents are beyond the average Catholic’s grasp. The Council Fathers say one thing in one document and another thing in another. Most Catholics are not steeped enough in their faith to read the Council documents….” All direct quotes from those charged with catechesis.

    I honestly believe that part of the decrease in priestly vocations is directly related to the simple fact that human beings do not give their lives for ill defined causes. Did Jesus stop calling men to the priesthood? Of course not. The Church, its mission, the mission and ministry of the priest, etc… has been ill defined in the post-conciliar period. No wonder fewer men are stepping forward to answer the call.

  9. Merriweather says:

    Hopefully, this will mean an end to “communion in the hand”…a major “dilution of the priestly ministry” if there ever was one.

    I say, restore to the priest, what is rightfully his—the *exclusive* privilege of being able to “touch God”.

  10. Joseph Mary says:

    The Holy Father is well aware of what is going on. And his strong exhortations will touch the hearts of some but there are plenty of hard hearts that not only will not heed him but will not bring his words and exhortations to light for others.

    Yes, there is some continued laity running of parishes and there are also, sad to say, priests that do not mind. Just as there are Sunday Mass only Catholics, there are also Sunday Mass priests and I know some.

  11. Tom says:

    My local parish has a priestless service on Tuesdays (Father’s Day off). It is far better attended than any of the weekday
    masses.

    It’s an unfortunate opportunity for the women to show one another that they don’t need priests.

    And the whole thing is totally unnecessary because there at at least six parishes within five miles where they could go to MASS and two of them start at the same time as this parish.

  12. steve says:

    pray 4 priests

  13. All of this goes back to the via moderna and ultimately the rejection of the Fatherhood of God. The rejection of the ordained icons of God’s Fatherhood is just step in the process of ecclesial deterioration and the prevailing of the gates of hell against the Church.

    Once priests recover their true identities as spiritual fathers, we will be better able to address the challenges the via moderna represents to society at large. The lived ideal is a far better argument in its favor than simply reiterating doctrine. People should experience virtuous fathering through our priests in order to convince them that such a role is essential to the Church’s common life. The doctrine needs to be brought to life!

  14. Jeannie says:

    “People should experience virtuous fathering through our priests in order to convince them that such a role is essential to the Church’s common life.”

    Absolutely true, but unless people experience the virtuous leadership of fathers within the family, the analogous role of priest within the community will be largely unappreciated.

  15. Well said, Jeannie. I believe this is one of the reasons why St. Paul was clear to St. Timothy that a clear indicator of a vocation to either sacerdotal or diaconal ministry was how a man served his own family as a father. This would reveal whether he would be a worthy minister in the household of faith. Earthly fatherhood, either as a father or a son, definitely prepares the way for spiritual fatherhood.

  16. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    “In such a sense, it is important to foster in priests, above all in younger generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, interpreted in the light of the whole doctrinal train of of the Church.”

    Brilliant! Out in the open. Perhaps also a coded message that the Pope has given up on the “older generations”. What a brilliant week between this and the Holy Father’s letter, and more sure to come on his voyage to Africa.

  17. Glen says:

    It is a joy to see leadership from the Vatican. Our priests are to be cherished, not diminished. The laity may have a role, but it isn’t pretending to be clergy. Please Holy Father, close that window and blow the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ out of our Church.

  18. Tom in NY says:

    In most situations, priests in the USA need six years of formation. In this way, we can still combine “ratio” and “fides” in a way that non-graduate pastors (of any creed)can’t. It is not necessary that clerics have daily duties in the “enterprise” side of the parish. Nor need Father X carry alone his education duty to the faithful.
    It d o e s mean that Father X will need to emphasize his spiritual side to the faithful. Vianney and Padre Pio spent over twelve hours a day in confession. Now that’s kenosis.

  19. Maureen says:

    Christ, “King of time and history”. Beautiful!

    (That’d be a great title for a history blog or podcast, btw, although it’d be hard to do justice to such a name….)

    Re: diocesan websites

    Depends on the diocese, doesn’t it? My archdiocese hasn’t been the promptest or most willing with such things, but it’s gotten better within the last couple years.

    Re: “giving up”

    Nonsense. The Pope is both ordering how things should be in the future, and hinting heavily at how gull grown priests adn bishops should be studying up. If people choose not to take a hint, it’s not as if he’s going to send out the Swiss Guard Ninja Elite Death Squad; but it’s a pretty heavy hint at what is expected.

  20. Maureen says:

    Besides, if all the cool kids are studying V2 documents in the light of age-old tradition and doctrine, the priests and bishops who don’t study up will be left out. There are a lot of bishops motivated in part by this sort of thing, I suspect; it’s human nature to want to be able to join in the discussion with the discussion, even if you are as “progressivist” as the Sixties’ long shadow.

  21. Daniel says:

    Dear Father,
    I would be so pleased if you would comment on the horrible scandal that has come out in the Vatican Newspaper– the opinion written by the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in which he appears to defend the abortion that occurred in Brazil.

    Your guidance and comments in this matter would be very beneficial, as this does not seem to be getting any Catholic news coverage. What is going on in the Vatican?

    Thank you.

  22. irishgirl says:

    Strong and wise words from our Holy Papa and shepherd…now, if the flock would only listen to him….

  23. Jayna says:

    “There appears to be an urgent need for the recovery of that awareness which drives priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both for their judgment of faith, and for their personal virtue, and also for their dress (abito), in ambients of culture and of charity, which have ever been at the heart of the mission of the Church.”

    He hit the nail on the head with that one. I have no idea where any of my priests stand on doctrinal issues (social justice, yes, but theology – not a clue). Every time I’ve been in confession and have asked what the Church’s position on whether or not something is truly sinful, I have always been asked whether or not I personally think it’s sinful. And liturgy, really, I have no idea. It is more or less controlled by our lay liturgist and music director, and I don’t think our pastor really puts forth any effort to have a say. I’ve been told he’s “into all that High Church stuff,” but you wouldn’t know it from Mass, conversation with him, or from the way he dresses. Love him though I do, he very much hides his role as a priest (both literally by never wearing his collar, and figuratively by not revealing any of his opinions on Church teachings).

  24. Fr. Deacon Daniel has clearly articulated the problem – “rejection of the Fatherhood of God.” We see this in all the media and entertainment for decades now, where fathers are either absent or bumbling idiots, or easily manipulated by clever 10 year old kids. Then there is the feminist (as opposed to feminine) influence where patriarchy is evil and “God needs to be re-imaged” as ‘Mother.’ God already gave us a Mother – the Blessed Virgin Mary. This has made it into the sanctuary as well, with armies of female EMOHC’s, even at daily Mass with 20 faithful present. I say let the fathers practice their role, at the expense of a few more minutes of distribution of Holy Communion by those ordained (which includes Deacons). I suspect great consternation will be expressed by some on this last comment of mine. Let the priest father provide for his spiritual children, and the women can fulfill their role as mother (spiritual or physical as the case may be).

  25. TerryC says:

    I’m afraid that there is a whole generation of priests, just as there is a whole generation of adult Catholics, who are ill-formed in the faith. These men, many of whom learned the most ill conceived and untruthful things during their time at seminary, have never been forced by their bishop to grow into the priest they could be.
    I believe the real answer is remedial education. These men who were not taught the proper things during their formation must be required by their bishops to do the work they did not do then. And the bishops must be required to take these steps by the Holy See, or many will not.
    I believe in my heart that most of these men want to be good priests. They want to go where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church, they just don’t know where that is, because of the failure of their teachers many years ago.