You may not have heard about the new initiatives that are being employed by the Irish Catholic Church to explore the motivations-for-a-vocation of seminarians. It’s of special note considering the current reputation of the Irish Church and that fact that 2009 was the best year for vocations in Ireland for a decade – 36 men became seminarians. The new measures have been interpreted as strategies to ‘weed out’ paedophiles…before they join the priesthood. I read about them, first on an American website, and when I looked for any reports of these new plans in the British media, I found none. Perhaps the new initiatives aren’t mastermind, but they are in tune with a serious motivation to only ordain men who have purity of intention.
So the crucial dichotomy exists, why does The Times fail to even mention efforts made by the Church in Ireland to improve the monitoring of those entering the priesthood? A motif of the London Times is revealing details of Irish religious brothers who abused children, and then slating Pope Benedict. Holistic reporting? Fair? I think not.
Getting back to the new developments. This week, for the first time, a questionnaire (by e-mail) was sent to all of last year’s seminary entrants. Spearheading these changes in the ‘vetting process’ of seminarians is Fr. Patrick Rushe, National Director of Diocesan Vocations.Fr. Rushe said the questionnaire, "will probe motivations, backgrounds, pastimes, interests, routines, and experiences. We will ask about praying, whether they were part of religious groups or prayer groups before they joined the seminary." Hence, more emphasis on a candidate’s personal prayer life and piety, which can only be a good thing. While the questionnaire has been interpreted as a paedophile screening device, Fr Rushe says, "It's not fair to say it's directly designed with the abuse in mind. There's probably some connection but it's more against the backdrop of the reports we're doing it - to find out their attitudes and motivations in answering the call." Fr. Rushe hopes that this questionnaire will sent out annually. Trained psychologists will conduct exhaustively thorough psychological profiles. Fr. Rushe states ‘sexuality is part of the profile.’ Following this, each candidate for the priesthood will have an interview with the bishop, after a successful interview, the candidate must present themselves to the Irish police or ‘Gaudaí’ for systematic scrutiny.
My concern for this is that there seems to be a mix of secular modern psychological, with clearer fact-finding on the candidate’s praying habits. I believe the psychological assessment to be very important. Still, secular psychology does not always hold dear an individual’s relationship with ‘institutional religion’. And it is interesting that the candidate goes to the psychologist before their interview with the bishop. Am I just being cynical or is there an attitude of ‘after the psychologist, the apostles will proceed’? Should it not be the other way round? I have read that the system was approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference in 2006, but cannot at this time of writing find exact notes from this conference.Fr. Paddy Rushe who is implementing these changes to the lives of seminarians, is from a practising Catholic family where the recitation of the Rosary and participating in parish missions was a staple feature of his up-bringing. Fr. Rushe comes from the sort of background that Pope Benedict extolled as being the societal seedbed of vocations.
A profile of Fr. Rushe is available at this link to The Irish Catholic. Not that The Irish Catholic is that consistently virtuous – a columnist at The Irish Catholic in another article rubbished Fr. Rushe because Fr. Rushe exhorted the faithful to pray for vocations.
Websites where I first learned about the new measure:
Link with particulars concerning the 36 applicants for the priesthood (2009)
The Times have a monotone moan about Pope Benedict’s letter.
The Times reporting on the new initiatives? We’re still waiting.