Monday, June 10, 2002

Some thoughts about the 1961 document on seminary formation.

This document, which was supposed to be binding (and was never abrogated), was never enforced. Everyone knows that it prohibits homosexuals from being ordained. But among the other things that will disqualify a seminarian is that he "shows himself certainly unable to observe religious and priestly chastity, either because of frequent sins against chastity or because of a sexual bent of mind or excessive weakness of will, is not to be admitted to the minor seminary and, much less, to the novitiate or to profession." So those who screw around are not to be admitted, and those who are obsessed with sex are not admitted either.

Also, "any candidate who has a habit of solitary sins and who has not given well-founded hope that he can break this habit within a period of time to be determined prudently, is not to be admitted to the novitiate. Nor can a candidate be admitted to first profession or to renewal of vows unless he has really amended his ways." So those men with a habit of masturbation cannot be ordained.

Ok, stop and think about this. Men who are obsessed with sex, who can't keep it in their pants, or who cannot conquer habits of masturbation are not to be ordained. Ask yourself: how many men do you know who can pass these tests? You can look up statistics on these various behaviors yourself, since I don't want to link to the "self-love is good" websites that give out the statistics. But the percentage of men who engage in the "solitary sin" is very high.

My question: do we have any men left who can be ordained? Or rather, have we allowed the pool of potential vocations to be drastically reduced by our over-sexualized society? Try an experiment: flip channels once around the dial and see if it is possible to do it without coming across some borderline pornographic image. Try listening to a top-40 radio station for twenty minutes without hearing obscene lyrics. If you are a man, try driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on a summer day without having distracting thoughts about the women walking by.

We live in a world that presents sexual pleasure as the highest good. It is in the air we breathe. The question is, in such an environment, is it possible not to have a vocations shortage? The men who can navigate the minefield of modern culture without developing some sort of unchaste habits are probably quite rare. It is no wonder we don't have lots of vocations, and that we have lots of priests who are unable to live chastely: why should we expect them to be able to do what so many of us cannot do?

What can we do? I think that it is vital for those of us with children to guard their chastity. I think a good first step (we will see if I can do it) is to get rid of the television. Boys especially should be kept on a short leash. I don't think, for example, that boys ought to have their own rooms, since it is a breeding ground for unchaste behavior. Girls should be encouraged to dress modestly on account of boys' weakness, and should have drummed into their heads that having sex with boys won't make the boys love them. Change will be slow, but the vocation shortage can be conquered if we have a renewal of holiness. Part of that renewal of holiness is a renewal of chastity as a virtue, since without it we won't have a pool of candidates to be ordained.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us!

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