Bravo and Axios!

Bravo and Axios!

I think His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill is absolutely correct in his recent report presented before an assembly of rectors of Russian Orthodox theological schools. Among other things he says:

We constantly speak about obedience in our theological schools. But does not this mask a desire to obtain totally obedient and intimidated individuals incapable of speaking up before authorities under any circumstances? Do we not, along with obedience, inoculate them to act like toadies and cow-towing hypocrites? Can such a person be a spiritually unimpeded and a responsible pastor, a true leader of their flock? We both know too well that often, behind a noble external facade, there lurks hypocrisy, pretense and cynicism. I am now reading some of your reports asking about canonical procedures for coping with certain clerics. I also read correspondence from the laity. I sometimes wonder what kind of priests some of these people are… I read all this with a heavy heart. Somewhere and somehow these priests received their formation. They didn’t drop from the heavens. The majority of these are seminary graduates; some even finished an academy. We both know what hypocrisy and cynicism can be found in Church circles.

We must prepare and educate neither slaves nor rebels, but free and, at the same time, responsible people. Freedom does not mean a lack of discipline. Freedom must primarily be an internal freedom, a freedom in Christ. We must be convinced that all restrictions and burdens placed by sacred ministers are accepted by them consciously and voluntarily. This recognition of the voluntary acceptance of the burden of the Cross must be a characteristic of every priest since, the taking up of the Cross is inherent in the very desire to be a priest.

Discipline must first of all be self-discipline, and obedience to the hierarchy must not be motivated by fear but by a firm and conscious adherence to tradition as a preservation of the Divinely established structure of the Church. This canonical discipline and obedience is not something dreamed up by the present hierarchy. This is a principle from the Lord Himself. It lies in the foundation of Church life and every priest must understand this clearly. Every seminarian must understand this before his ordination, that he is entering upon a path of obedience.

What is needed in not only our priests but also our laity is not slavishly obedience but emotionally and spiritually maturity. I agree with the comment left on AOI (#2), it’s quite sad that something so fundamental needs to be said at all. And yet, it needs to be said and said again.

Too many men are attracted to ordination with the thought that the cassock will allow them to side step the normal stages of adult development. But ordination isn’t magic and the cassock’s only cloth. Having been involved with both clergy misconduct cases and working with parishes in transition, it has become increasingly clear to me that most of the pastoral problems we see in both parishes and the clergy aren’t the fruit of malice. Rather it seems for many of the priest who get into trouble of one sort or another the problem is that they simply don’t have the resources (psychological, social and spiritual) needed to respond to the normal challenges that they will face in a healthy parish. And even if a man does, he is often not equipped to deal with extraordinary pastoral challenges.

For their candidates for holy orders, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago looks for men who have (1) accurate self-knowledge and wholesome self-acceptance in Christ, (2) the ability to give themselves over appropriately to others in Christian love and service, and (3) the ability to establish collaborative, working relationship as a peer with other professionals. I don’t know how well they hold to these standards but they do seem to me to be pretty good minimal standards that need to be in place BEFORE a man is ordained much less assigned to a parish.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Bravo and Axios!, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
  • s-p

    “Ordination is not magic and a cassock is cloth. ” Excellent. The priesthood does not make issues disappear and a man can only hide behind a collar for so long, the priesthood is a magnifying glass for faults and weaknesses.

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  • Chrys

    Ordination may indeed supply what is lacking, but it seems to me that it is primarily an acknowledgment before God and a blessing of what has already been given. It is magical thinking indeed to expect spiritual leadership from anyone who had not shown it beforehand. It seems to me that fostering such leadership requires a number of decisions: from making it a priority when selecting or accepting candidates, to focusing on it during formation, and the supporting it after ordination. Given how much other concerns can intrude at each of these points, it may rather be a wonder that we have as many spiritual leaders as we do.

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  • Enigma_bg53

    Excellent, just excellent. St Paul gives us to uderstand that for a person to be a presbyter/elder/bishop – ‘they must be….’ and goes on listing the things of their personhood. This does, as Chrys speaks of too, presume a quality and quanity of character and graces before, yes before, they should be considered for ordination. this is also the case, as you, Father, have mentioned regarding other sorts of leadership in and out of the Church. Sad to observe, both in and out of the Church most leadership positions are filled with the least mature, who have never been part of any leadership team, yet want the job (in business it’s most often those that have been picked for the least dollar amount, and who have the least experience, since they are easier to command.) Indeed, Patriarch Kyrill: Axios!

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