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Dirty Tablecloth

FOR THE RECORD: One for the “you just can’t make the stuff up” file.

Editors Note: For those who have not seen this post on Pew Sitter, please allow me to have the honor…

This post appeared on the Views from the Choir Loft blog.  The title of the post is: Pastoral Difficulties with Recently Ordained Priests. The original post can be viewed here.

And you dear reader will never guess what the “difficulties” entail. So please read the post when you have a minute, but allow me to provide the relevant quotes below. (emphasis added)

Difficulty #1

His fourth encouragement is to “seek out the lost sheep.” I agree wholeheartedly with this encouragement, but it seems like preaching to the choir. Seeking out those who have drifted or disaffected, from my observations, is one of the great passions among recently ordained priests today. The desire to reach out to those on the margins is precisely what fuels our desire to preach hard truths, to reject relativism in all its forms, and to reestablish a sense of corporate Catholic identity. Again, I agree with this encouragement, but I would rank this among the strengths of most young priests, rather than their weaknesses.  

Yes, you read that right.

Difficulty #2

DIOCESAN OFFICIAL #3 starts by referencing the perceived liturgical “rigidity” of young priests. I appreciate his perspective, which acknowledges that this perception is quickened by the “laxity” of preceding generations. Following rubrics is not “rigidity”; it is doing what the Church asks of us. Ignoring rubrics is not “creativity”; it is disregard for what the Church asks of us. (Yes, I appreciate the irony that such a black-and-white appraisal appears “rigid,” but I stick to what I’ve written.)

And I am sure you dear reader also appreciate the irony. 🙂

Difficulty #3

The third official also references clericalism in the context of various liturgical issues. I have addressed this matter thoroughly in a previous post, explaining why I don’t believe obedience to liturgical law is in any fashion a symptom of clericalism. As for pastoral formation, there is probably not a seminary to be found that doesn’t offer a better pastoral formation program now than they did decades ago, so this cannot be the culprit of whatever issues might be observed among the recently ordained.

Ouch! I can feel the pain as I write the Ouch!

And this is just the appetizer. Ready for the entrée? Here it comes:

Difficulties the young priest has with the dinosaurs older priests:


First, let me speak about the impact of the sexual abuse crisis on us. I entered the seminary in 2003, one year after the Church in America was forever changed by unrelenting reports in The Boston Globe of deviant crimes by priests & shameful cover-up by bishops. I had classmates who were studying for the Archdiocese of Boston, so the crushing news never seemed distant. Then, in 2005, the first of two scathing grand jury reports was published, detailing the horrors of priestly abuse in my own Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The second was published in February 2011, three months before I was ordained a priest. On top of that, a massive number of my priest role models were among those accused or removed for having gone astray.

Yes indeed. When you let the filth into the Church, you get a filthy Church. And that is why Benedict had to go. It’s high time someone noticed this. Speaking of Benedict? It gets better….

Summorum Pontificum

Second, I think it is difficult for earlier generations of priests to appreciate what it was like to be in the seminary at the time Summorum Pontificum was released. The most senior priests alive today remember celebrating Mass before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The vast majority of our priests, however, have no lived experience of celebrating that Order of Mass. Many don’t even have memories of attending it. For most priests in ministry today, what we now called the “Extraordinary Form” is still basically regarded as the “indult Mass,” the weird penchant of an isolated few conservative wackjobs. But the recently ordained and those in formation now were mostly raised without the same hang-ups that former generations have about the “Tridentine Mass.” Thus, there is often a greater openness to the gift Pope Benedict has given us through Summorum Pontificum.

Hang-ups. Excellent word, and very popular at the time.  How fitting.

And now for the desert. Ready?

When I entered the seminary in 2003, seminarians would have been fearful to mention the word “fiddleback,” and to attend an “indult Mass” would have been to take a perilous risk. These things would have been considered major “formation issues.” By the time I was ordained, however, we had celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the high altar in the seminary chapel. These were strange times.

Going through seminary formation at a time when there are two legitimate forms of the Roman Rite is a very new thing. Why wouldn’t a seminarian today want to be able to celebrate both forms, if not out of personal interest, at least out of professional competency? In today’s Church, a seminarian who doesn’t have an interest in learning both forms of the Mass is a bit like a fellow who dreams of becoming a parking valet but who refuses to learn to drive a standard transmission.

Here is where I would slightly part company with the young reverend. I can’t for the life of me image why any priest would want to celebrate a “banal” product with the central prayer that was written on the back of an envelope over a bottle or two of Borolo in an Italian trattoria late one night by a couple of former protestants so as not to miss an editors deadline. (see here)

Hey, but it could be just me.

On an aside, this is why the Franciscans of the Immaculate must be crushed.