Friday, September 12, 2008

"No room at the inn for Mother Teresa"?

As the provocative title for this article in today's edition of The Age suggests, a connection has always been understood to exist between sainthood and madness. They called St Francis "God's Fool", and, at least to his family, he certainly appeared to be mentally unhinged.

The article, coming from Dublin, is about the now universal practice of putting prospective seminary students and religious novices through rigourous psychological screening. (This is of particular interest to your correspondent, who will begin the next stage in his process toward ordination as a deacon by undergoing the requisite 6 hours of interviews with a psychologist.) The article reports that while there are extremely good reasons for carrying out this screening process, one negative effect is that it contributes to the reduction of the number of actual priests and religious finally entering the system. When this is added to the fact that many religious orders (and indeed some seminaries) are no longer taking young people straight from school, well...

I am assured by the local vocations team that the chappy they have doing their psychological screening is top notch. Furthermore, the Seminary here in Melbourne does take school leavers. But I have heard from others in other dioceses with very low enrollments at their seminaries, that one of the reasons is precisely a screening process that requires near perfect specimens of the psychologically well adjusted homo sapiens.

So the article asks the obvious question: Would Mother Teresa have been accepted by the Lorretto Sisters if they had employed the same screening process in 1928 as they do now? The answer is simply: no. She was too young for a start, and had they known anything of her other propensities (eg. of kissing lepers and such Franciscan nonsense) they certainly wouldn't have let her in.

As an applicant myself, I must say I am very curious to see what the process will be like. So, in part I am looking forward to it, but in part I am dreading it. Dreading it, because I know myself to be at least as mad as the next bloke or blokette.

On top of which, there is the old saying that you don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps...

12 Comments:

At Friday, September 12, 2008 5:06:00 pm , Anonymous Innocent III said...

I find this reliance on psychological testing for the priesthood disturbing as there are several issues that appear not to have been resolved in relation to it.

Firstly one must wonder if secular medicine understands what it takes to be a good priest or religious. It seems to me rather like using a test designed for cow's milk and using it to ascertain the quality of goat's milk. The two are so entirely different that the test would be worthless.

Secondly it presupposes that psychology is capable of determining what is normal - a contention that I believe is highly debatable. Exactly what then is being tested for?

All of this places a great deal on the shoulders of the psychologist. Does he understand the needs of the faith? The needs of the church? Does he indeed understand faith at all? If he is using secular concepts to evaluate a candidate then he could be doing great harm to the church.

All in all I think this is another example of the medicalisation of life - the belief that even the world of the soul must be susceptible to scientific analysis. I think it is time these tests were scrapped and that evaluation be done by those who are more open to the role of faith in life.

 
At Saturday, September 13, 2008 11:39:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, the role of faith in life does not include not being able to keep your cassock buttoned around the altar boys, not being able to otherwise make a living than through someone else's support, not be able to handle the demands of secular living, or shall I say the miserable condition of Man, and many other things which the present system seems to routinely not detect.

But OMG, first Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, now Innocent III. Perhaps they will be at least as able to determine fitness for clerical life as you were determining fitness to be HRE and other kings and potentates.

BTW -- now that you're feeling so much better, how about a revised De sacro altaris mysterio for the novus ordo? Vatican II was no Lateran IV, eh?

Oh and hey, didn't you escape any kind of process altogether, being elected pope first, then ordained priest and bishop (not to mention bishop of Rome) after, like about six weeks?

Ah, Rome.

 
At Saturday, September 13, 2008 12:54:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

David, the problem with psychological testing is all the assumptions they base their methods of analysis on, which as Innocent III said are highly dubious at best.

Well, the role of faith in life does not include not being able to keep your cassock buttoned around the altar boys

PE, you are slandering good men with your foul comment, because as you know full well, the Church does not teach that we should be committing mortal sins and most priests do not abuse children.

I hope David deletes your disgusting comments. Indeed, you are so profoundly uninterested in having a civilised discussion, I wonder David hasn't just banned you permanently.

 
At Saturday, September 13, 2008 12:57:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

It's okay, David, normal, sane people often wonder if we may be mad. You have nothing to worry about.

 
At Saturday, September 13, 2008 2:34:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, as I did not say and do not say the Church teaches we should be committing mortal sins, and did not say and do not say most priests abuse children, I'm a little hard put to find your objection. Oh well, when it comes to conciliar "Catholicism", logic is the first casualty. Followed by Catholicism itself.

In case you missed it, the "Church's" inability to weed such men out from the ministry and to address it when discovered has been in all the media, not to mention the courts, a lot lately, and seems to have caught the attention of a nice old German guy in Rome.

I might add, among the number of lives destroyed by this are people I know -- and had I said Yes rather than No when propositioned, would include myself.

I might further add, that I hold such scandals as in no way a reason to leave the Roman or any other church, all of them, including mine, full of sinners, including me.

 
At Saturday, September 13, 2008 11:49:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I hope David deletes your disgusting comments. Indeed, you are so profoundly uninterested in having a civilised discussion, I wonder David hasn't just banned you permanently.

Remember what I said about being a little mad, Louise?

And PE, what do you know about how the Lutheran Church in the US "screens" its candidates? Or is this just a problem for the Catholic priesthood?

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 1:39:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

I don't know anything about the screening procedures the LCMS uses for candidates for the Office of Holy Ministry, except that there are some.

If Pastor Weedon or one of our other pastors is reading, he can fill you in much better than I can.

As to the screening procedures used by other US church bodies using the word "Lutheran" in their names -- no doubt you are laughing now -- I don't know, except to say I don't care either.

No, this is by no means a problem for just the Catholic priesthood. Serious problems, sexual or otherwise, turn up across the board. I think the RC clergy gets more attention when they are sexual because of the peculiarity of celibacy.

Actually, one month after I was extended the right hand of fellowship in the evangelical Lutheran church (but not in my present synod) the pastor was removed by the synod from the parish and the ministry for reasons undisclosed. So I am not unacquainted with scandal in Lutheran church bodies.

I am reasonably certain the reason for the action was not his having extended me the right hand of fellowship though.

(This last was a joke -- dance, as Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, might put it.)

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 3:05:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Of course when married Protestant clergy commit sexual sins it's a two-fer -- one against the victims and the other against their spouses who too are caught up in the unsavory situation.

Just a few years ago a Lutheran pastor employed by the University of Chicago was caught with kiddie porn on his office computer. Very embarrassing for all concerned.

My husband is a retired police officer and my sister has her Master's in Social Work. They've seen plenty of abberations among the married.

It's the usual course for PE to slam the Catholic priesthood and then follow-up with "No, this is by no means a problem for just the Catholic priesthood." Notice he did not append that to his original statement "the role of faith in life does not include not being able to keep your cassock buttoned around the altar boys,"

I'd love to see some statistics about all the married American and European men who hop over to Asia because they have access to little boys and girls there.

PE, your posts here are getting sorrier and sorrier.

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 5:00:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

The original statement, contra evaluation by medically or psychologically trained personnel, was: I think it is time these tests were scrapped and that evaluation be done by those who are more open to the role of faith in life.

My comment was, the role of faith in life does not include not being able to keep your cassock buttoned around the altar boys.

No more, no less.

If this is taken as a slam against the Catholic priesthood, I am sorry that your worship of the god Rome has clouded your ability to read English prose.

I do not think, most recently someone I know and at one time tried to help with other problems who is a married father of three arrested in a porn sting, I need to be lectured about aberrations among the married.

I said nothing about the married, clergy or otherwise, I said nothing about the Catholic priesthood per se, what I said meant the things being evaluated are not part of the life of faith anyway, and one no more needs to be a spiritual director to evaluate them than one needs to be a spritual director to diagnose influenza in a priest.

And then, rational discourse being as rare as it is in a "Catholic" context, I "followed up" what I said to specifically state that I neither see this problem as universal among the Catholic priesthood nor at all confined to it.

Of what possible relevance is it, in a discussion of psychological evaluation of canditates for the Roman priesthood, to bring up the sexual sins of the married or of non-Roman clergy, which are neither denied nor at issue here?

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 5:05:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

And too, I did not say the sexual problems within the Catholic clergy are caused by celibacy, I said they get more attention because of it.

Read the black, not the white.

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 8:08:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

"Sorrier and sorrier" just about sums it up, Christine.

 
At Sunday, September 14, 2008 9:10:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, then, how about this for some vitriolic anti-Catholicism:

The Catholic Church's efforts to address not only the headline-making problem of paedophilia but the less headline-making depressive side-effects possible in a celibate life, from psychological testing to the present pope's head-on dealing with victims of clerical abuse to phasing out accepting people at an age when they cannot possibly understand what it is they are about to accept, is entirely praiseworthy.

 

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