lNew deal for seminarians
From ALAN McELWAIN in Rome
ASTRONGER preparation for the celibate life is among sweeping reforms for seminaries laid down in a document released this week by the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education.
The document, 15,000 words in Latin, sent ID bishops throughout the world. says the Latin Rite Church has given itself the rule of choosing for its priesthood only those men who are willing freely to embrace celibacy "for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven."
An educational programme which would instruct seminaries in sex and help them to rise above personal relationships is recommended. The document advises seminarians to avoid individual relationships, "especially if lengthy and private, with persons of the opposite sex. Instead, "let them try to show a love open to all and therefore chaste." They are asked to accept celibacy as a "special gift of God," but the Vatican document says that without proper sex education they cannot truly and freely make up their minds on the question. "Let the young men be gradually invited and led to experience human, brotherly, personal love, self-sacrificing, according to the example of Christ—love for all and everyone, but especially the poor, the under-privileged and their equals. In this way. they will overcome the loneliness of their hearts."
At a Press conference, Cardinal Gabriel Garrone, Prefect of the Catholic Education Congregation, warned against a tendency by Catholics to feel they must have a priest "at any cost, even at a cheap price." This, he said, was felt by some Catholics in places like Latin America.
This comes at a time when the number of priestly vocations has dropped by 20,000 in only three years—from 167,000 in 1964 to 147,000 in 1967. The ratio of diocesan priests dropped to one priest for every 2338 Catholics, In 1968, there were 1,437 Catholics for every priest compared with 1,379 in 1965. In that three-year period, the world's Catholic population increased by 13,800,000, but the number of priests increased by only 639.
Now, the Vatican seems to be working on the theory that while there may be fewer priests in the future, or at any rate, the immediate future, they will be better disciplined and, less likely to defect. The Catholic education, document says that, educationally, candidates for the priesthood should at least be up to university entrance requirements. It also calls for more control by the seminarians themselves over their training and cur-, riculum and suggests that they be given a form of "on-thejob" training while they are still studying.
Some people believed, that the day of the seminary was over, Cardinal Garrone said, when pointing out that the document insists upon the retention of both minor and major seminaries. "To push this belief to its logical conclusion," he said, "would mean that with the disappearance of seminaries would corm the disappearance of seminarians and therefore of priests."
In junior seminaries, the document recommends, special emphasis should be laid on creating favourable conditions for the development of priestly vocations and promoting a thoroughly Christian training. An atmosphere of confidence, similar to that of a family, should be created. There should also be an appropriate integration of the seminary into diocesan life.
There should be contacts with the students' families, openness and sensibility towards the world's problems, in the
spirit of the apostolate. Above all, students should have full liberty in the choice of the vocation.
"The senior seminaries, conceived as true communities of young people, inspired by an identical ideal, must offer candidates for priesthood, in the first phase of their training, the conditions necessary for the thorough examination of their vocation," the document says.
The seminary's purpose being chiefly pastoral, all efforts of the teachers, and of the students themselves, need to be coordinated in a way that will permit the candidates to become persons fully aware of the purpose for which they have been called, mature with a full sense of responsibility, endowed with the spiritual and intellectual qualities necessary for a fruitful exercise of the pastoral ministry.
The need for an adequate professional and pedagogical training for teachers as well as the taught is emphasised.
To facilitate the giving of a personal character to training, the sub-division of the seminary into small communities, apart from the active participation of the young men in various sectors of seminary life, may be authorised in certain cases.
Also, for the same reason a gradual relaxation of diciplinarian rules is suggested, proportionate to the students' progress towards the acquisition of a sense of responsibility.
The document says the pastoral outlook on which it is based is the genuine principle of harmonious unity between the various aspects of training. Discipline, as well as piety and study, must contribute towards training "true pastors of souls."
Cardinal Garrone stressed that the document was from beginning to end a joint achievement of the bishops and the Education Congregation. "As far removed as it could possibly be from a text cornposed behind closed doors. in the Congregation's offices."
By a unanimous vote, passed in the 1967 Synod, the bishops had formally requested the Congregation to take the initiative. Episcopal conferences there then sent a draft, composed with the help of international experts.
The text was then revised in the light of the bishops' observations. This revised text was worked over by delegates from all the interested episcopal conferences. during a study weekend the Congregation convened
The resulting text was sent to the episcopal conferences and the replies were taken into account for amending the text. which was then submitted to the Congregation's plenary assembly, made up of about 30 cardinals and bishops from all over the world. Finally, the document was put before Pope Paul, who approved its promulgation.
The document, Cardinal Garrone said, stated principles and listed a range of possibilities, but did not decide their concrete application. This was left to local authorities.
"In the end, the text will be what the episcopal conferences. and other authorities, make of it", Cardinal Garrone said. "The serious thought which so many of these conferences have dedicated to it, and the welcome it has already been given by the bishops, give ground for hope. But it can rely, more than on all else, on the fact that it was conceived, and achieved, in cornplete fidelity to God's will and to the demands of the council. We have the right to hope that that which God has begun, He will bring to fulfilment".
In many seminaries, since the Ecumenical Council, students have protested against the inadequacy of their training and the difficulty of obtaining proper dialogue with their superiors.
Superiors have replied that it was difficult for them to go ahead with reforms until the Education Congregation gave them its guidelines. Now they have them.
Editorial Comment-PA Catholic barrister elected a Bencher MR. STANISLAUS SEUFFERT, Q.C., who was chairman of the Catholic Prisoners' Aid Society from 1938-60, has been elected to the Bench of the Middle Temple.
Mr. Seuffert, who is 70, was born in Johannesburg and educated by the Marist Brothers there and then at Stonyhurst. He was called to the Bar in 1925.
He became first chairman of the Guild of Catholic Artists Cr, 1929, and from 1935-58 he was honorary treasurer and Good Counsel. A former Mayor of Fulham, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in .1955 and a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory in 1962.