An unwanted rigidity has been introduced into some seminaries


A rigidity has been re- established in some seminaries which is “not related to situational discernment” according to Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

He made the comment in an interview in L’Osservatore Romano about a new version of the Vatican’s document on priestly formation, “The Gift of Priestly Vocation / Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis“, which was released last Wednesday.

“To be a good priest, in addition to having passed all the exams, a demonstrated human, spiritual and pastoral maturation is necessary,” he said.

In the interview Stella identified 3 key words, humanity spirituality and discernment

He said he could not sufficiently insist upon the need that seminarians be accompanied through a growth process which will, in the end, help them become “persons who are humanly balanced, serene and stable.”

“Only in this way will it be possible to have priests with friendly traits, who are authentic, loyal, interiorly free, affectively stable, capable of weaving together peaceful interpersonal relationships and living the evangelical counsels without rigidity, hypocrisy or loopholes.”

Stella insisted that the priest is not “a man of action, a leader, religious organiser, or a functionary of the sacred.”

“Instead he is a disciple passionately in love with the Lord, whose life and whose ministry are founded on this intimate relationship with God and upon his configuration to Christ the Good Shepherd.”

He said it is only by cultivating his spiritual life with discipline and expressly dedicated time that the “old sacral and bureaucratic views of ministry can be surpassed.”

“So that we may have priests passionately motivated by the Gospel, capable of ‘feeling with the Church’ and being, like Jesus, compassionate and merciful ‘Samaritans.'”

Stella said he is noticing a lack of discernment in the formation of priests.

“We are risking, in fact, becoming accustomed to ‘black and white’ and to that which is legal,” he said. ” We are quite closed, by and large, to discernment”

“One thing is clear, today in a certain quantity of seminaries, a rigidity has been re- established which is not related to situational discernment.”

The issue of homosexuality and the priesthood.
The media  coverage to what The Gift of Priestly Vocation have generally confined their coverage to what the document says about homosexuality.

In many case they have collapsed a nuanced approach to bald statement that homosexuals cannot become priests.

The Gift of the Priestly Vocation quotes from the Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2005 instruction on the matter, in saying that “the Church … cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

It distinguishes such cases from those in which homosexual tendencies “were only the expression of a transitory problem” and states that “it must be remembered that, in a relationship of sincere dialogue and mutual trust, the seminarian is obliged to reveal to his formators … doubts or difficulties he should have in this regard.”

In 2005 Timothy Dolan, former rector of the North American College in Rome and now the Archbishop of New York  told Catholic News Service that a gay man who exhibits none of the criteria opposed by the Vatican document and feels he may have a priestly vocation “shouldn’t be discouraged” from becoming a seminarian.

Since the 2005 many seminaries and programmes of formation in religious orders have interpreted its language to exclude only candidates incapable of celibacy or deeply committed to gay-rights activism, as opposed to a blanket ban on all gay candidates.

The document appears to provide a sound basis for this interpretation:

“The candidate to the ordained ministry, therefore, must reach affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood towards the Church community that will be entrusted to him”

Just as the 2005 document was approved by Benedict XVI, the one released this week was approved by Pope Francis.

However, in neither case were the documents signed by the Pope, but by the heads of the Vatican department behind it.


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