“I used to be against married priests… until I had children. I wish we had more priests who knew what parenting is like.”
“Married priests in the Roman Church would be a disaster!”
“More of a disaster than the priests of the last century? Worse than all the pederasts?”
Seminaries have failed. That’s all there is to it. Go to a church staffed by most priests from Econe, Winona. or Denton Nebraska and you will likely meet a naive and innocent young man who gets all his theology from a manual. He knows nothing of Patrisics or history, thinks the height of ministry is giving a forty minute sermon at a Low Mass (about such relevant topics like the “great” Cornelius a Lapidae… you know, because the homeschooling mother with her five children is so interested in that), and is ill-prepared to deal with people and their everyday problems. His idea of confession advice to a young man struggling with lust is to tell him, “Save yourself to be the bride of Christ. Just say ‘Blood of Christ wash over me’ every time, it works like a cookbook!” (No it doesn’t, and only bad cooks use cookbooks for anything more than a reference). The church-ladies surround him to curry his favor and soon he is in their grasp. Soon, they have become the masters of the church.
Seminaries not run by traditionalists fare little better. Perhaps the pink palaces talked of in Goodbye, Good Men are less prevalent than they used to be, but there is still a dearth of knowledge being imparted to these gentle young men. Perhaps that is the problem? Perhaps young men being plucked from the grind of reality to be indoctrinated for a few years is not the model for priestly formation?
The seminaries were built in the Counter-Reformation so priests wold be better trained and disciplined to combat heresy. Ideally, priests would be better prepared due to their formation. Clearly, this has not been the case. How many priests have we met who spout heresy from the pulpit? How many traditionalist priests lack basic interpersonal and communication skills? The seminary has become an isolated bubble that increases the distance between the faithful and the priest. Too often the priest is the fool while the layman is more practical. The layman can come up with a solution to a problem while the pastor nervously and impotently twitches.
And we have the gall to complain about a lack of vocations.
Much prayer and action will be needed for this situation to be reversed. In the meantime, the best I can put forward is a new model for the priesthood: “The Council of Deacons”.
One of the positive changes to come from the 1960’s was the revival of the Diaconate as something more than a stepping-stone to priesthood. One can argue about the quality of the formation, but the concept was good. Furthermore, married deacons eliminates the “either-or” conundrum a young man faces with regards to marriage or orders. I propose we use this to our advantage.
First, there must be an effort to grow the diaconate in both quality and quantity. Efforts must be made to reach out to young and old men to inspire them to serve God and his church. Helping at the liturgy, giving communion to those who need it, preaching, and decentralizing the pressure faced by the priests, are all things that they will need to be taught to do at least serviceably. If a church of a couple thousand can pool fifty deacons from varying walks of life, what need have we of altar girls? Would we be able to complain (as Podles did) of women driving the men away from church?
Second, we could use this to select priests. Priests who are local, priests who understand the congregation, priests who have ministered to them for years. Upon the death of a priest the deacons could meet to pick his successor from among their ranks (like a tribal moot to pick a new chieftain). If there is a conflict, they can pick several candidates if they wish (who says the priesthood cannot grow?). The results would then be submitted to the bishop who would either confirm or reject their choice. The result would be a priest that is not Rome’s priest or the bishop’s priest, but OUR priest.
Keep in mind, I am aware of this idea’s limitations. It would a nightmare to implement if one church decided to take this bold step forward. Also, some bad priests will ALWAYS slip through the cracks and there will be corruption at times. It is already that way with the current system. That is human nature. The present hope is to turn around our current problems and have a better system, not a perfect one. We can’t have a perfect one. Not here.
St John Chrysostom, Patron Saint of Preachers, help us in this our need!
Note: I have met some good priests in the SSPX and FSSP in my time, most of them from continental Europe. There was one particular SSPX priest who could silence the church with his sermons against the cowardice of lazy fathers or the false piety of churchladies. Last I heard, he is still going strong teaching in a boy’s school. Would that more traditionalist priests opted for masculinity instead of limp-wristed effete Baroque piety!