the concept of the priesthood

The first topic listed in the Instrumentum is the concept of the priesthood. The first question listed is:

Is the doctrine on the priesthood presented by the seminary solidly based on the Church’s Magisterium? Do the faculty and seminarians accept this teaching? In particular, are the most significant documents on the priesthood known to the faculty members and seminarians? Is there a specific course on the priesthood?

This is a million-dollar question.

My experience in the seminary was that the Church’s teaching about the priesthood was not openly challenged, but begrudgingly accepted, among some of the faculty. I can’t recall any statements openly in defiance of this teaching. Nor could I say that the Church’s teaching was really neglected. The rector of our seminary gave a weekly rector’s conference that almost always was drawn directly from John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis. Yet I would still say that the seminary’s approach to this element of formation needed serious attention, for several reasons.

In my next post, I will look at some key things the Program for Priestly Formation has to say about the concept of the priesthood. Then I’ll be able to examine the formation I received against this standard in a more specific way.

4 thoughts on “the concept of the priesthood

  1. Todd,The <>Instrumentum Laboris<> does in fact reference <>Optatam Totius<> in its list of documents being used as part of the visitation.It’s a great document, one I studied in a summer formation program with the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Companions of Christ<>.

  2. Clayton, you’ve mentioned other post-conciliar documents. But have you taken a serious look at Optatam Totius? I did an in-depth look at that document last Fall on my blog.It was my understanding that the eleven aspects were not exhaustive of seminary training. I’d hope it wasn’t, for liturgical formation is obviously left out: teaching seminarians to be preachers and presiders.

  3. David,Thanks for your comments.I agree with you, John Paul II had it right when he called for a fourfold renewal of formation — human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. The problem in my seminary seemed to be that the program tended to exercise some muscles more than others, and the result was an unbalanced formation experience.As regards the depression, I am only an expert on my own experience. As I said in the comments box of another post, there were multiple factors involved. But I gather that it has been a problem in seminaries for years, based on an essay written back in 1969 by Fr. Henri Nouwen called “Depression in the Seminary” (in a collection of works called <>< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Intimacy<><>. I was surprised by how germane his words seemed to be, to the extent that I forwarded a copy to the vice rector of the Saint Paul Seminary during my first leave of absence. More on that in another post.

  4. Clayton,Very helpful and of supreme interest to me. I am trying to follow what I believe to be a vocational call to help in the formation of seminarians (theologically primarily). I currently work for one of the visitors. It is clear that much more is needed than just solid theological formation. I saw that you highligted the various areas of evaluation in the instrumentum in a previous post and the evaluation of your seminary seems to track with what I understand of others.Too many recent experiences in which theologically solid priests have experienced debilitating depression (some having to leave their assignments for full time treatment) is further evidence (though anecdotal) that even the theologically solid seminaries need work.Of course there are many factors of which I am unaware in all of these situations, including preexisting propensities for depression. However, it seems to me an inordinant percentage of those I know. In each case, one observation that stuck out with me prior to any of these events occurring was the apparent lack of a deep prayer life and a deep practical commitment to their priesthood in terms of service. I have always thought that the human and spiritual formation at the seminaries, with which I am familiar, appears to be seriously wanting (again, even where the theological formation is solid).Pastores Dabo Vobis is emphatic about the integrated formation of seminarians. With the pressures on the smaller numbers of priests we have; if they are not solidly formed in all aspects I am afraid we are going to see more and more burn out and emotional/psychological pathologies of otherwise good priests. This will be due in large part to poor overall formation.Your thoughts? I look forward to the rest of your series.

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