Friday, July 17, 2009

An Important Talk (IV)

In the last part of his talk to the Rectors of the Pontifical Seminaries Mgr Brugues has something to say about the selection of candidates to the priesthood. He notes that there have grwn up two different lines of interpretation of the Second Vatican Council which he characterises as 'composition' (accommodation) and 'contestation'.
By 'composition' the bishop is referring to an adaptation of the Gospel to the interests of the world: "The first leads us to observe that secularisation includes values with a strong Christian influence, like equality, freedom, solidarity, responsibility, and that it should be possible to come to terms with this current and identify areas of co-operation". The danger, however, is that of playing "the card of adaptation and co-operation with secularised society, at the cost of finding themselves forced to take a critical distance from this or that aspect of Catholic doctrine or morality". He says it is not hard to find examples of this and cites Catholic educational establishments as a particular battleground.
According to the bishop this current adaption to the world "emerged mainly during the period following the Council; it provided the ideological framework for the interpretations of Vatican II that were imposed at the end of the 196-'s and the following decade". An alternative emerged however in the 1980's "above all - but not exclusively - under the influence of John Paul II". According to this model of "contestation" there is a greater wariness in our approach to secular society and an awareness of the need to keep one's distance by recognising that, particularly in the ethical field, conflict will arise and become increasingly pronounced. According to this model factors such as the confession of the faith, identity and the importance of evangelisation dominate.
This can create problems for the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood although in reality they reflect wider tentions within the Church: "The current of 'composition' has aged, but its proponents still hold key positions within the Church. The current of the alternative model has become much stronger but has not yet become dominant. This would explain the tensions at the moment in many of the Churches on our continent". Applying this to priesthood he says: "Candidates of the first tendency have become increasingly rare, to the great displeasure of the priests of the older generations. The candidates of the second tendency have now become more numerous than the others...". And so he poses the crunch question: "How can harmony be fostered between educators, who often belong to the first current, and the young people who identify with the second? Will the educators continue to cling to criteria of admission and selection that date back to their own time, but no longer correspond to the aspirations of the young?"
Frustratingly he doesn't offer an answer. However, by taking the problem out of the usual 'liberal versus conservative' rhetoric and situating it within a wider ecclesial model of the efficacy of the Church's prophetic role within society, he perhaps gives us an indication of how we need to look again at the 'signs of the times' and take seriously the lived experience of the young.

4 comments:

C said...

I thought you might like this link to an inspiring vocations video

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate vocations video

Joe said...

I have sometimes wondered whether priests adopting the attitude broadly covered by the term "composition" are perhaps, though they have a calling to ordained priesthood, actually still living an ecclesial existence that is at heart a lay existence. This can, perhaps, be seen clearly in some priests who advocate in the field of Justice and Peace, a field in which lay people should really be the leaders - but I wonder whether it is a thought that would extend to the context discussed in your post?

Fr Stephen said...

C - thanks for that video. Fr Stefano Mancelli FI once had lunch with me in this parish. I am very pleased to see the congregation flourish.

Fr Stephen said...

Joe - I agree that it is best for priests to stick to looking after the ministry that has been entrusted to them and that this must include helping the lay faithful recognise their responsibility to bring about a transformation of the secular world. However, I think the bishop is saying more because he is effectively warning us against an attitude of oppenness to the world that leads us to adopt its values at the expense of our Christian faith.