Friday, May 25, 2018

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) Sent a Letter to Cardinal Tobin and the USCCB to Ask for a Major Overhaul of Their Programs for Priestly Formation, Future Church Supports this Campaign and Asks Catholics to Contact Cardinal Tobin and Committee to Express Concerns

My Response: I highly recommend reading the entire article on priestly formation and the reforms recommended as a step forward toward a more pastoral, non-clerical priestly ministry in the institutional church. 
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests focuses on our oneness with the community of the baptized. We are non-clerical, egalitarian justice seekers creating a new paradigm of mutual partnership in ministry. We  welcome all, as spiritual equals, who gather with us  in our inclusive, grassroots communities to celebrate sacraments. Our preparation program is custom designed for a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,,

In January 2018, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests issued a letter to Cardinal Joseph Tobin and the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations urging them to reform the current program for seminary formation.
They wrote, “a new Program of Priestly Formation needs more than minimal editing….It needs in-depth revision.”
The AUSCP recommended review of five major areas.  Chief among them is the inadequate formation of candidates in Vatican II’s pastoral vision and values. 
According to the AUSCP, “the implementation of the program of priestly formation has resulted in many priests in the last several generations of priests who see Vatican II as little more than an historical footnote rather than the guiding vision for our Church in the modern world.”
Further, AUSCP is concerned that some recently ordained clergy “see Vatican II as a distortive moment in the Church’s pilgrimage through time,” believing they must correct the “damage done” by Vatican II’s implementation.
AUSCP argues that the current program for forming priests is no longer effective in light of today’s demands for the Gospel.  The dramatic rise of the “nones”, the alienation of Catholics, and the paucity of persons drawn to the priesthood all argue for a “formation program that is pastoral in the spirit of Vatican II” and one that is effective for our times.  In devising a new program, the AUSCP calls on the Committee to “consult deeply and broadly with laity who are affected by the priests our seminaries educate… and whose input essential.”
FutureChurch shares AUSCP’s concern about the state of priestly formation and supports these efforts for reform.  In February 2015, the Center for Applied Research reported that younger cohorts of priests are increasingly less inclined to welcome lay men and women as co-workers than their Vatican II counterparts.  It is clear that current formation programs do not prepare priests for a church where women and laity have a growing role in the life, ministry, and governance of the Church - a troubling trend that does not bode well for the future life of the Church and the Gospel mission.
FutureChurch urges all Catholics to share their concerns about current priestly formation standards with Cardinal Tobin and the members of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Share your concerns about priestly formation to Cardinal Tobin.  
Print and mail your letter to:
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.SS.R.
ATTN: Rev. Ralph O’Donnell
USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
3211 Fourth Street N.E.
Washington D.C.  20017

CONCLUSION of Association of U.S. Catholic Priests Recommendations for Reform of Seminary Formation Programs: 
Our observations, concerns, and recommendations regarding the above five key facets of formation for priesthood in the Catholic Church in the United States persuade us that the next edition of the Program of Priestly Formation requires significant revision of the current model of “seminary” formation. The current seminary model was established nearly 500 years ago. Times have changed, and continue to change at an ever-faster pace. We are convinced that the what, whither, and how of priestly formation need to be reconceived.

Forming missionary disciple priests who can effectively provide the desired “new evangelization” needed to build a “civilization of love” requires priests adequately prepared to serve today’s people in the United States. They are living in a secular culture that offers an abundance of religious and spiritual options. The dramatic rise of “nones” among us, the disaffiliation of huge numbers of our own “baptized and raised Catholic” people, and the continuing paucity of persons drawn to service as priests—all these factors and others argue that the current model for the formation of priests is no longer effectively serving God’s People in our country. We need a formation program that is pastoral in the spirit of Vatican II to meet the needs of our time and place. We pray that our bishops will exercise the charism of their office to achieve these goals.

We observe that almost all high school seminaries have closed. By the end of the 1970s high school seminary administrators considered a success rate to be 10% of incoming freshmen graduating as seniors four years later and continuing into a college seminary. Eventually they realized that most ordained me had not attended a high school seminary at all.
We think that it is not supportable for a person who has recently attained puberty to start on a formation track aiming toward a celibate profession. Indeed it may be contradictory to healthy psychosexual development. We recommend that any resources spent on high school seminaries be channeled toward diocesan and other Catholic high school systems in order to present all church ministries as a credible career choice and vocation. We recommend that the new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation not even mention or make reference to high school seminaries.


[1] In effect, the pastoral dimension becomes the application to real life of abstract theological statements, biblical texts, and canon law. The current Program of Priestly Formation is overly focused on spiritual, philosophical and theological abstractions rather than on facilitating candidates’ experience of living pastoral service faithfully. The current Program also seems to ignore literature, art, music, and science, which can expand horizons, as they relate to pastoral service. Candidates need to expand their horizon to embrace all of humanity.
[2] Vatican II was intentional in putting “ministry” in front of “life” in the title of its document on Priestly Ministry and Life (Presbyterorum ordinis). Our current edition of the Program of Priestly Formation overly emphasizes intellectual and, even more narrowly, academic formation. The program is filled with class hours and hours connected to study for those classes. The very outline of the year is typically academic, e.g. two semesters (or several quarters), the usual academic year vacations and time off during semesters, a long summer vacation, and so on. The shape is academic, not pastoral as in what goes on in a parish. Likewise, the focus is on getting academic degrees (according to the standards of the Association of Theological Schools and the various regional accrediting agencies), e.g. M.Div., M.A., and now even S.T.B., S.T.L.) These academic accrediting agencies utilize faculty from similar institutions for accrediting review and renewal. In effect candidates for priesthood are being trained to be theologians rather than “pastors.” Likewise, a life in pastoral service bears little or no resemblance to the academic year either in terms of content or rhythm. If a formation program focused on a pastoral orientation it would also call up lay people from ministerial settings to be part of a review of a program.
[3] PPF5 notes that various “visitations” of U.S. seminaries in 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1995 “played an important role in shaping the fourth edition… and entered into the fifth edition” of the PPF and are seen as “a basis for future visitations.” Such past visitations make it important that the attitude of this new edition should be different—realistic, but positive and visionary, pastoral, servant-oriented, non-clerical, and most importantly, reflective of Vatican II. More attention needs to be given to how to implement PPF5 #26’s call for greater emphasis on the radicalism of the gospel at work in [the candidates’] lives.” Such witness needs to be pastoral in terms of focus, dispositions, and work. (Cf. Optatam Totius ##19-21)
[4] Many theologates in the United States currently provide a pastoral year midway between a four-year theological program. This not what is recommended by Ratio Fundamentalis (2016). The latter puts a full-year of pastoral formation at the end of (four-to-six years of) theological preparation as the appropriate time to apply what has been learned. It should also be noted that the Ratio Fundamentalis (2016) restricts the time allotted to any pastoral ministry during the previous academic years so that it doesn’t interfere with academic and spiritual formation. It is our opinion that, if our next edition of the Program of Priestly Formation follows this approach, it will diminish even more shaping candidates pastorally.
[5] Both the Ratio Fundamentalis (2016) and the Program of Priestly Formation (5th edition) seem to misunderstand the relationship between pastoral and theological. We encourage that the new edition would incorporate an understanding of these issues so as to foster a truly pastoral approach to priestly formation. Pastoral deals with being (a disciple), living (the gospel beatitudes), and doing (what is right and good, loving and holy). It deals with personal (individual and communal) and concrete experience in the real world. It also deals with the ministries (by whom, how, when, where, and why) that support, foster, and celebrate the mystery of living out of the Divine revealed by Jesus Christ. On the other hand, theological refers to a second order discipline that defines, orders and relates/connects the meanings of different personal and concrete experiences of faith by means of various abstractions drawn from appropriate patterns of intelligibility, systematically and/or historically. It functions in an abstract, conceptual and impersonal world. In this sense, the Jesus of the gospels is not a theologian. Likewise, one does not need to be a theologian to live the Christian life. Likewise, one does not need to be a theologian to engage in pastoral service, to be a priest. To engage in genuine and fruitful pastoral service as a priest one needs to be a person of deep experience of being, living, and doing in the faith of Jesus Christ, to be a person who readily recognizes the legitimate diversity in the ways of being, living, and doing, and to be a person who has learned how to communicate and elicit these gifts with and from others.
[6] Each diocese needs to prepare an outline of formation opportunities, appropriate to its own situation, that will involve all priests over the long term. There is no end to ongoing formation. We recommend that two weeks a year should be required. Likewise, priests of different ages need to gather together in these ongoing formational and educational opportunities. Attention needs to be given to utilizing DVDs and internet opportunities (e.g. having a speaker in one city meet with a group of priests in another by utilizing Zoom or other ways).
[7] In this context the current PPF5 places unrealistic expectations and responsibility on seminary administration to alone adequately assist candidates in discerning the psychosexual maturity and readiness for a life-long celibate life. 

No comments: