Thursday, April 07, 2005

Clinton on Pope JPII's Mixed Legacy

See original article

"En route to Rome, Clinton told reporters the pope “centralized authority in the papacy again and enforced a very conservative theological doctrine. There will be debates about that. The number of Catholics increased by 250 million on his watch. But the numbers of priests didn't. He's like all of us - he may have a mixed legacy.”

I wonder if Clinton realizes that the growth in the number of priests is most affected from below not above. Parish priests inspire young men and the bishop's set up a process whereby these young men are prepared and made priests. Look at Bishop Carlson, now of Saginaw, and other bishops who have ordained many men in small diocese. See Detroit Times

According to the Dodge Study on the ordained class of 2004, 70%-75% percent of the men ordained had been altar boys and 70%-80% of the men said that a priest initiated the discussion regarding becoming a priest. see pdf of report

This also ignores the many men who have approached diocese in the past but lacked the will to play by certain rules in order to become priests, as Michael Rose points out in his NY Times Best Seller Goodbye Good Men.

Add to that the general confusion after the Second Vatican Council and the ongoing debates in the church over the identity of the Priest before and after the Council. I remember when I first told my parish priest that I wanted to become a priest he told me that I should become a counselor instead. He told me I would be helping people more. He left the priesthood within a month of that conversation. Most of the parish priests I had as a child left the priesthood in the 70's.

What John Paul II did was reverse the identity crisis that he referred to in his first encyclical letter Redempto Hominis

"... in spite of the various internal weaknesses that affected her in the postconciliar period. ...At times this awareness has proved stronger than the various critical attitudes attacking ab intra, internally, the Church, her institutions and structures, and ecclesiastics and their activities. This growing criticism was certainly due to various causes and we are furthermore sure that it was not always without sincere love for the Church. Undoubtedly one of the tendencies it displayed was to overcome what has been called triumphalism, about which there was frequent discussion during the Council. While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is "humble in heart"13, the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one's own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner."

Through is strong example and voluminous writings he taught us to be firm in our faith and our fidelity to the tradition of the church without the triumphalism of those who look at the church in an us vs. them mentality.

Who knows how many priests there would be without him. But we are sure that Our Lord, "would not leave us orphans," and still "the harvest is many but the laborers are few." We must "pray to the Lord of the Harvest" to send generous souls to be priests and religious. For the Lord is doing the planting, we just have to harvest.

No comments: