by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
The Catholic Church had a tradition regarding priestly formation which endured from the time of the Apostles until the Council of Trent. Whereupon, there was instituted the form of formation we know today, of Seminaries in the major dioceses and priest formed in Seminaries.
But before the Council of Trent, that was not how priests were chosen and formed.
And a return to the ancient traditional system would have advantages combating the infiltration of the priesthood by sodomites and pedophiles.
For in ancient times, a priest became a priest through a long community monitory system.
First, before Vatican II, Orders were not limited to Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
No, they included, all the minor orders: porters, exorcists, acolytes, lectors, subdeacons as well as the major orders, deacons, priests and bishops. Although subdeacons were classified with major orders.
Catholic men who were faithful and piously attended the Divine Liturgy on a regular basis were invited to join the minor orders.
That is the key word. And in each step of promotion it was by invitation only. There was no right to be promoted, and a candidate could be stopped for any length of years at any grade in Orders, if he failed to get the acknowledgement of his superiors or peers.
Also, the place of formation was the parish and the local churches. NOT some distant institution separated from the laity.
The practice led to men chosen for their virtue and constancy of honorable comportment. Since members of the minor orders worked side by side with married and celibate men until they were 30 years of age, there was a long process of observing their character, before they were ordained as priests.
There were also long intervals required for holding each munus. A man served as a deacon until he was 30 years of age, at least. Saint Bonaventure, for example was ordained at 32. That means most men were in minor orders for 16 or more years, twice the amount of time many are as seminarians today.
The medieval system broke down only because of the Black Death, which decimated the clergy of Europe. As a result many candidates were rushed to formation leading to a system which no longer promoted men with caution. By the 15th century, it was not infrequent for men in orders to be involved in horrible scandals.
Observations from an Anthropologist
The lack of patience and faith on the part of Bishops, in regard to the promotion of vocations, is, yes, at the root cause of most of the problems in priestly formation today. But the Church cannot afford to ignore that a different context for the promotion of vocations and a greater participation of the faithful and parishes and local churches in selecting and promoting candidates as was done for the first 15 centuries of Church history does have its advantages.
As an anthropologist — I hold a B. A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida, 1986 — I have had occasion to reflect on the formation of the clergy through the last 40 years of my vocation, having attended formation programs in minor seminary, major seminary, monasteries and 3 pontifical institutes at Rome. So, reflecting on what I was witness too and all the problems I have seen with the modern system of formation, I would make these observations, why the ancient system was better.
First, because in parishes families knew one another and thus could point out to the pastor or Bishop men who should be invited to assume minor orders. They could also warn the pastor or Bishop of scandalous behavior. The candidate would have to show himself at all times and in all situations a man of virtue and faith.
Second, because in the ancient system, Pastors, accordingly, had too emphasize catechesis over homilies in the Sunday sermons to make sure all the men were inspired to a life of virtue. — The modern practice which continually discourages this on the unproven claim that teaching the scriptures raw, rather than explaining the Cathechism well — and I speak of the Roman Cathecism — has had undeniable and disastrous results. And indeed it is not too obvious that a hierarchy which does not feel obligated to believe in the Cathechism is the same one which does not want it preached, not even to have good vocations.
The other advantages over the modern system are also obvious. At the present, “vocations” can be recruited at bars, night clubs, saunas and other unseemly places by corrupt and degenerate priests and bishops. If a Bishop wants a seminarian for vicious reasons, there is no one who can stop him, even when it is obvious that the seminarian is a dissolute or wicked man.
The Church today needs a system where any member of the faithful and especially the men of the parish can in an institutionalized manner be heard regarding the suitability of a man for promotion to orders. The laity need to be encouraged to promote men of worthy character. The Church needs minor orders restored to institutionalize a system which encourages vocations and makes it normal for a young man to go from active participation in his parish to being seen as a vocation. And the Church needs the help of a formation process which schools men in the liturgy by requiring the men of the parish to serve with their priest at the Altar at every Mass, Baptism, Marriage, as well as accompany him vising the homes for blessings, last rites etc..
In suchwise it will become impossible for the Gay Mafia to continue to promote their candidates and the Church can have once again a generation of sound chaste men to serve at the Altar of God.
My Recommendations from a veteran of formation programs
I began my vocational discernment, as they call it today, when I was in high school, more than 40 years ago, and since I have never been a very social person, the vast majority of men, whose names I know, were fellow seminarians, friars or priests and deacons. I have seen dysfunctional systems everywhere, and because I am not a priest, I have the freedom to speak out about what has and is going wrong.
But here I want to talk about fixing the problem, since the problems are well known in the inner circles of the clergy.
And so, in the mean time, I would urge pastors to restore as much as this medieval formation process as possible in their parishes, a thing which they can do on their own authority in a limited manner.
First, they should explain to the men of their parish in the principle Masses of each year, that in Christ all men are called to dedicate themselves to the salvation of the world. They are not like women, who in Mary already perfectly fulfilled their duties at the Altar of Calvary. They are like the Apostles who fled leaving only Saint John to serve that August Sacrifice. And since all men, married or not, can serve in the roles of porter, acolyte, and lector, all men should have the devotion and loyalty to Christ to make themselves available to serve.
Second, pastors should preach about the dignity of serving Christ at His Altar, and the duty of the Faithful to point out to him men of faith, of all ages 16+, to be invited to this august ministry. He should give them regular classes in the Faith and the liturgy, and establish schedules of service, being as inviting as possible. And he should teach all who serve at Mass to be men of prayer, devotion, self discipline and attentive to the worship of God, not being seen by men. This is not an extra-curricular activity of a parish priest. For it not only redounds to but is the essential means for promoting the salvation of all souls entrusted to him in his parish territory. He cannot succeed on his own, he needs to form an “army” of collaborators.
Third, and most fundamental in this reform is restoring the recognition of the presence of the Divine Father in the lives of all Catholics, especially at Mass. This requires not only a catechetical emphasis on God the Father in all things, but also the restoration of the image of the Eternal Father in the altitude and apex of the Sanctuary, to which all return by facing Him when they pray to Him. It makes no sense and is destructive of respect for all fathers, that a priest with the faithful face some other direction, when praying to the Eternal Father. In this way, the men of the parish will realize that they are not on a stage to please men, but are standing before their eternal and divine Archetype of all manhood and fatherhood, when they participate in the worship of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit led by their priest. In this way, the entire and most profound truth of our Holy Religion, of the Redemption of Mankind and of the restoration of the Human Family will become most clear and easily grasped.
Fourth, and finally, a promoting of the right kind of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, of the kind that does not make men effeminate but teaches them that sonship to the Virgin means that they should excel in sonship to the Eternal Father, a thing which means sharing in the Cross of Christ and worshipping the Father with the Crucified, alongside their priests at daily mass. That is where Our Lady wants men. She does not want men who cling to the aprons of their mothers, as She never had such a Son.