The old structure within a diocese almost invariably ensured that the cream floated to the top.
The cleverest, wisest, most charismatic or empathic, the most talented, the best preachers or pastors or spiritual directors/confessors - even on the rare occasion the holiest of priests would manage to reach the top jobs/positions within a diocese - most of us have been graced with encountering the type of priest I'm referring to.
Now even if some of them weren't the best among pastoral priests ; they were assuredly the most capable or effective administrators, good chairmen or team leaders - and rarely were there any who had not experienced and obtained a deep level of understanding regarding the human condition and the spiritual necessities for societies and the individual.
because the priests were highly active and very much about the Lord's business it was more often than not quite easy to determine a cleric's capabilities and talents.
the Holy Spirit made the job of a Bishop a great deal easier by pushing the more capable and responsible priests to the fore.
Frequently a bishop would be fully aware that he could both rely on his clergy and could be assured that anyone he placed in a diocesan position of responsibility/authority was already tried and tested by time and had proved their worth on many occasions beforehand . It was more than likely that a person he had 'chosen' for a position would become his or another bishop's successor; and he could be proud of both his choice and have few qualms about the future in that cleric's hands.
Then came Vatican II.
Now there were already significant embryonic factors within the clerical and episcopal make-up:
a] The efficacy of priestly formation was being compromised by increasingly poor,irrelevant or out-of-date/overly zeitgeist training in seminaries; and the limiting of the considerations of the duties and responsibilities of Holy Orders - usually the source of this was the poor example of priests and the overlying ethos of the seminaries regarding priesthood [too many educators in pastoral ministry had little experience of being pastoral ministers!]
b] The increasing duties, responsibilities and demands upon the priest within the parish led to six significant consequences/types of clergy:
i] the Hero - the priest who seized the helm of responsibility in the storm to prevent all around them sinking - assuming an authority and duty merely by being the right person at the right time who saw the problem and acted upon it.
ii] the Envious - those antagonistic to the hero-type - there may be a vast array of reasons/causes/motivations behind their positions ; but nevertheless the predominant result is their begrudging the hero's position - how they act on that envy also manifests itself in varied forms - hostility, indifference, diammetrically opposing positions regarding doctrine or praxis, procedural antipathy, reticence to assist or even direct action against the 'hero'.
iii] the Tin Pot Dictator - the Master of his own Domain - not much more needs to be said as we have all encountered and experience such a type - it may be a virtuous and benign dictatorship or one that has compromised its authenticity and supped with the Prince of this World; but nevertheless they are still dictatorships and the priest has jeopardised spiritual authority by confusing it with the secular and temporal.
iv] the Reactionary - what are they opposing ? good grief ! it could be anything - the Pope, the bishop, certain clergy, Church teaching on sexuality or contraception or divorce or celibacy, liturgical practice, aspects of church dogma, it could be politically motivated or over-encultured with the spirit of the age [we've all suffered the hippy priests, the corporate downsizing thatcherite priests, the blairite spin/procedural committee priests...all too sad!]
v] the Counter-Revolutionary Uber-Traditionalist - could be some belligerent irish canon unwilling to change anything and stopping time somewhere mid 1928, ditto an almost anglo-catholic brideshead-type who revels in the bells, smells, frippery ; or the youngster outraged at the pragmatism/situationist ethics/abject relativism/sacrilegious liturgies/banale indolences of the reactionary clerics; and counteract with an overpietistic or overlegalistic pseudo-conservatism verging on sedevacantism. [yes this is surprisingly not a new phenomena or a product of the outrages in the late sixties and seventies- the tridentinista were already gathering forces in the forties/fifties being fully aware that there was going to be trouble ahead]
vi] the Recluse - the priest who ran away and hid from any controversy, who either swayed in the wind and agreed with everyone, or dissociated himself from the prevailing situation and got on with his own job in his own quiet way.
c] Systemic Ignorance of Fundamental Theology among the Clergy - this is the deficit of the teaching of the underlying 'why' that I referred to in the previous posting ; and led to the massive ruptures regarding doctrine/morality/liturgy/clerical praxis/ecclesiology among the clergy - let's be truthful - what we had was a schism - the only problem was that both left and right, liberal and traditionalist, were so inadequately trained and educated in all the subjects they purported to be experts on, that their ignorance prevailed, incompetence ensued; and many millions of catholics were deeply hurt in the process.
d] The Crisis in Faith - it was on its way - academia and intellectual realms and alleged 'colleges of excellence' were adopting every new fad or ideology or innovative philosophical/political/socio-cultural/anthropological process - chaos reigned.
pragmatism, relativism, demeaning post-hegelian political ideologies, behaviourism, nihilism , linguistic and logical positivism and many more ideologies all had pervasive contaminating influences ; and the ignorant ill-educated clerics and theologians became corrupted by these prevailing forces...
The results ? Well please refer to my first posting regarding anxiety and despondency.
e] The Crisis in identity [more later, but basically I'm referring to the loss of an authentic notion of a Unique Real Ordained Priesthood in contrast to 'vocational pastoral ministries']
f] The Crisis regarding the Love of God and consequently the reality of both Love and God. [ref. first posting]
g] Existential Angst and the authenticity of anything the cleric professes/represents/adheres to ; in the light of d,e & f.
Now One person in 1958 was more aware of the clerical situation than any other - Cardinal Ottaviani [indeed every member of the Vatican General Council] was inundated with reports/assessments/new writings on the impending crises regarding doctrine, morality, the liturgy and most especially the clergy:
So much so that when John XXIII announced the actuation of a Second Vatican Council one voice was heard echoing through St Peter's:
'E Pazz!!' [He's mad!!!]
to the cardinal it was like detecting a gas leak and lighting a match to see where it was coming from....
We must concede that many necessary reforms and considerations simply had to be addressed or redressed - but what happened at Vatican II and the reprehensible post-conciliar committees was a systemic fiasco of the first order....
One of its benefits was that indeed, all the sins/poisons that had previously only lurked in the mud - now hatched out !!!
The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of catholics - they were left abandoned to the wolves...Holy Mother Church ruptured and millions of victims were left in its wake...
a price worth paying ?
I'm sorry, but I believe the price was too high; but I trust in God and his Divine Providence - I am certain that God did not leave us orphans ; that ultimately there MUST be a reason as to why this happened and why God allowed it to happen....
could it possibly be that had we remained the way we were we may have altered into some monolithic autarchy ? or could the world have finally confronted us head on and destroyed us all in its wake ?
I don't know , all I am sure of is that it was God's will ; and it is now a wake up call to action for every devout and orthodox sinful catholic...
maybe this was a baptism of fire in preparation for the terrible adversities ahead ?
I do not know - but I do know the affect it has had on the church at a Diocesan level - and in the choice of clerics - which is what I'll address in my next posting.
[to be continued]