Don’t be shocked.
I may actually agree with some points in the following article from the ultra-lefty NCR by the liberal Richard McBrien, dissident priest employed by Notre Dame to teach, mirabile dictu, theology.
Don’t be alarmed. Broken clocks are also right once in a while.
But … wait… the things I agree with below were not actually McBrien’s ideas at all!
My emphases and comments.
Alternate thoughts for this Year for Priests
by Richard McBrien
on Sep. 14, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI declared this a Year for Priests, beginning on June 19, the feast of the Sacred Heart, and ending next June with an international gathering of priests in Rome. The pope named St. Jean Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, as universal patron of priests to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.
As part of the year-long observance there will be an international priests’ retreat in Ars, France, sponsored by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, from September 27 to October 3, and a symposium on the "faithfulness" of priests at The Catholic University of America Oct. 6-7.
Undoubtedly, [here we go…] the pious thing for most priests to do is to get fully into the spirit of this Year for Priests and for lay people to renew their appreciation for the good work that so many priests have done and continue to do in the life of the church. [Remember: For McBrien, "pious" and "piety" are tantamount to dirty words. Remember how McBrien denigrated piety and devotion in his attack on Eucharistic Adoration.]
But there is a more realistic dimension to this Year for Priests, [So, let’s get this straight. Pope Benedict designates the parameters of the Year for Priests and its official celebrations but McBrien has better ideas.] and it is one that never sees the light of day in most of the diocesan papers in the United States and Canada because bishops will not permit any discordant opinions to be expressed. [Two things. I think it is not an exaggeration to suggest that most of the nation’s diocesan papers for the last few decades have entirely open to "discordant opinions", particularly with those out of harmony with the Church’s teachings. Second, now that a new generation of bishops are cleaning up their diocesan newspapers, discordant Catholics are whining about unfair treatment.]
One such voice, that of a priest ordained almost 40 years, has expressed the views of fellow priests — not all, perhaps not even most, but definitely many.
Apart from this week’s column, his views and theirs have heretofore not been heard, much less taken into serious account by the Vatican or by many bishops in this "Year for Priests."
My priest-correspondent [unidentified. Perhaps McBrien himself? Nah….] has identified 10 issues that priests need help in facing — help that will not be forthcoming at symposia on the "faithfulness" of priests, nor at international retreats in France.
1. The shortage of diocesan priests cannot be addressed by band-aid solutions, like inviting priests from foreign countries to engage in sacramental ministry in dioceses with sharply declining numbers of domestic vocations. There needs to be a public discussion, involving priests themselves, concerning obligatory celibacy and its pastoral ramifications. [Uh huh … that has worked for Anglicans and Protestants of all stripes. But there is something to this: greater energy must be applied to future vocations. Funny how, where the bishop is solid and traditional liturgy thrives, where catechism is good and where priests take this issue serious, there are many vocations. Strange, no?]
2. Many priests do not perceive themselves to be close collaborators with their bishops, as Vatican II envisioned them to be (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 7). Too few bishops reach out to their priests to ask for their honest opinions about anything that seriously affects the life of the church and the priesthood. [I am pretty sure many priests have this same opinion. The "close collaborator" of the bishop has been pretty much a myth for a long time. But then, I ask, now that the body of bishops is shifting, now that it reflects the "John Paul II priests" and bishops, now that the biological solution is shifting the liberals of past decades into the background, … I wonder if that will change? I have found that liberals, dissidents, are far far more autocratic, cold and remote than more traditionally minded Catholic bishops. The more conservative new bishops I have met and heard about in the last few years have presented themselves as warm and cordial. Liberals prefer to dwell in light inaccessible. They issue orders from on high with little regard for the opinion of priests in the field. The same goes for pastors in regard to their assistants. Is that unfair? Inaccurate? Perhaps priests might chime in with their own views on this. Priests… since this is about bishops and priests…]
3. Many diocesan priests still feel betrayed by their bishops with the passage in 2002 of the Dallas Charter. Priests who have been accused by anyone of any sexual impropriety whatever with minors have been summarily removed from the active ministry. At the same time, no bishop, other than one cardinal-archbishop, has been forced to resign because of his mishandling of the sexual-abuse scandal. [Again, I think this is an accurate statement. Priests I know were outraged and demoralized when they realized that the bishops, at Dallas, exempted themselves from the norms they applied to priests and deacons. I still hear priests talk about this very point.]
4. There is a growing rift between so-called "Vatican II priests" and so-called "John Paul II priests," which is painfully evident in some dioceses when priests gather for the Eucharist at retreats and other diocesan events. [It is interesting to find on one side younger priests together with those priests, now much older, who were active for sometime before the Council and then, on the other hand, those who were formed especially during the late 60’s through around the late 80’s.]
5. There is a concomitant return to clericalism in the priesthood, involving not only a fascination with cassocks and birettas and a preference for antiquated vestments and devotions, [Remember: McBrien thinks that Eucharistic Adoration is an antiquated devotion which does harm to people. And he has been teaching for a very long time at Notre Dame. Think about that.] but also a negative, censorious tone to preaching and a cavalier dismissal of consultative structures that are supposed to be in place in every parish. [This whole thing smacks of sour grapes and narrowness. First, note the censorious tone the writer himself uses. I will counter that no traditionally minded or conservative priest comes anywhere close to the sneering, domineering clericalism of the liberal. Consider, for example, the corrosive clericalism, the condescension shown toward lay people especially by liturgical progressivists: by abdicating their own clerical role and improperly handing it over to lay people, they are effectively saying to lay people that laity are not of their own good enough. They have to do things priests do in order to be involved or participate actively etc. They strip lay people of their own dignity. Furthermore, I know a lot of young priests who are indeed fascinated by cassocks and birettas. Wearing a cassock in church or around the parish is hardly odd. Birettas are perfectly acceptable. Very few of priests I know, however, are interested in these externals in an unhealthy way. And they change as they get older. But consider that these things and nearly their entire liturgical and theological heritage was robbed from them by liberal seminary faculties – men like McBrien – and progressivist pastors and bishops. If young priests are interested in these things, and liberals don’t like it, then liberals have also themselves to blame. Moreover, the young priests I know, far from being uninterested in "consultative structures" are deeply grateful that they have such help! Because of the destruction of priestly vocations inflicted for decades by liberals, these priests now are over worked and need the help. I think the writer is talking about "consultative" structures which are really "congregationalist" structures, which would tell the priest what to do and keep him in the role of magic man for sacraments, smiling a lot, affirming whatever doctrinal and moral aberrations people might slide into because of the attacks of the world, the flesh and the Devil.]
6. At the same time, the Vatican and the bishops have failed to address concerns raised by the disproportionate number of gays in seminaries and the priesthood, including also the hierarchy. It is the elephant in the living room, as pointed out almost 10 years ago in Fr. Donald Cozzens’s The Changing Face of the Priesthood. Yet how many priests’ retreats and clergy conferences have used that book as a basis for discussion? [In fairness, I have not read Cozzens’s book, and so cannot comment. But I don’t think it is fair to say that the Vatican and bishops have failed to address the problem of openly or actively homosexual priests. First, and no one can deny this, though the Dallas norms had their flaws, cracking down on pedophiles was also a way of dealing with homosexuality. Second, the Holy See has in recent years made it pretty clear that men with homosexual tendencies don’t belong in seminary programs. Did the writer forget the 2005 document, “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders"? Review it HERE.]
7. There has been a substantial attrition of Catholics — women, gays and lesbians, divorced people, critics of official teachings on sexuality and reproduction — from active membership in the church, to the point where fully one-tenth of the U.S. population now consists of ex-Catholics. What is being done about it? [I suppose we are simply waving goodbye. If people don’t like the teaching of the Church and won’t accept it, what are we supposed to do? Change the teaching? Soften the teaching? People have always left because of hard teachings. It has ever been so. However, from another point of view… I believe that as a shrinking Church examines her ways and goals and revitalizes her own identity, eventually how she works will be more and more coherent with what she teaches. Perhaps that will persuade some of those mentioned above not to abandon the one Church the LORD established. Perhaps they will rather change their ways and form their consciences properly. Remember: if all those people left, they left during the time of the ascendancy of liberals, not conservatives! If the writer thinks they are just leaving now, when a few more conservative bishops and priests have come on the scene, then he is delusional.]
8. Resigned priests are treated like traitors. To be sure, some bishops welcome them back at clergy reunions, but others boycott such gatherings as a sign of their contempt. [This is a little too broad. I think the writer really means that priests who left active ministry for one reason or another, with or without a dispensation, should simply be "reactivated" and allowed to function as priests again. That is one point of view and it is up to the hierarchy to figure that out. My guess here is, however, that if this isn’t McBrien’s own list, then it is the list of a priest who left active ministry. That is why he is cagey about the identity of this priest.]
9. Appointments to the hierarchy since the pontificate of Paul VI have been of a certain type. [Hear the disapproval?] Those who do not fit the official profile are excluded from consideration or are harassed by Vatican officials if they are already bishops. ["harassed"? As in… "Your Excellency, this dicastery is in receipt of correspondence from members of the faithful within the bounds of the diocese entrusted to Your Excellency’s care. The correspondence includes many documentary proofs of the claims made therein. Concerns have been sent, together with proofs, about wide-spread liturgical abuses, poor catechetical practices, heresy taught in the diocesan seminary and in the theology department of the local Catholic university, sudden and unfounded removal of priests from mandates, and statements of questionable orthodoxy made by Your Excellency’s diocesan newspaper. Please note that that aforementioned list is not to be considered exhaustive. In light of these documents, Your Excellency, it is considered opportune that Your Excellency might, in a congruent period, present Your Excellency’s Reverend … Person, in the offices of this dicastery so that we may explain to Your Excellency the situation." That sort of harassment? Liberals often consider the presentation of facts, documents, and the Church’s laws to be harassment.]
10. So many senior priests say to their friends, "I can’t wait for retirement." Why this sense of discouragement over the present state of the Church, bordering sometimes on hopelessness? [Oddly, the priests who tend to stay in the saddle and keep working are those who side with those younger, more conservative young priests. They are elderly priests who aren’t lugging around the baggage of post-Conciliar formation. It is precisely the liberals, the aging liberals, who want to retire quickly.]
Alternate thoughts for this "Year for Priests."
So… my thoughts alternating with those alternate thoughts.
I don’t know… maybe I am wrong here… but…
I have the impression that McBrien isn’t happy as a priest.
He trashed Eucharist Adoration and all the people who venerate the Blessed Sacrament.
Now he trashes the Year for Priests… and by implication those who have embraced this special Year.
It must be very difficult, despite his present position, to watch everything he has worked towards for decades crumbling and slipping between his fingers.
Once so revered, so powerful….
He is now less and less relevant to… well.. any discussion.
It must be very hard.