Thursday, June 7, 2018

Let's You And Him Fight!

With some frequency, probably because I've become a frequent subject on Mr Chadwick's blog, someone e-mails me about a new post there taking me to task for whatever. It's come to remind me of one of the games discussed in Eric Berne's 1964 pop-psychology classic Games People Play, "Let's you and him fight", which he handily acronymizes LYAHF. I frequently answer that I'm flattered that he takes me so seriously -- I'd hate to try to estimate how many words he's written responding to this blog.

My regular correspondent referred me to the post I linked just above:

Not sure what his beef is, and his commenters are mostly obvious whack jobs, but his recent posts on priestly formation, contra Bruce, are not completely irrelevant. The pre-Vatican II model, where the seminary was a sort of monastery with no access to the outside world was not particularly good preparation for parish ministry, IMHO. Conversations I have had with men who attended in those days---not embittered ex-Catholics, by any means---and books I have read, some of whose authors probably would fit that description, describe cloistered, authoritarian regimes of unquestioning obedience where deviants got ordained while sensible men got out.

Things are obviously better now, but it is by no means a smooth, well-oiled machine cranking out a consistent product. Msgr Steenson taught at the seminary in Houston. Now Mrs Kramer is going to be Associate Director of Pastoral Formation. It's relevant to point out that men have been ordained for the OCSP with very sketchy credentials. The Canadian VF has no accredited divinity degree of any kind and didn't even do the on-lime course given to the first wave of ordinands. But it is not necessary to idealise the Catholic seminary to make this point.

I simply can't speak for pre-Vatican II, since I was in my mid teens when it happened and still a Presbyterian. It isn't my intent to idealize any part of Catholicism. My wife and I went through RCIA at a shrinking parish run by a shrinking order, and we eventually felt a responsibility to find something better, which we did only a few miles farther away. So far starters, I have empirical evidence that the products of priestly formation are not uniform, and I'm not claiming they are.

However, I have two reactions to my correspondent's comments. One is that Ven Fulton Sheen's formation and earlier career took place pre-Vatican II, and the evidence from his public discourse is that he studied in Paris, traveled extensively, and had wide experience of the secular world. His origins in the Peoria, IL area were humble, but it appears that his abilities were recognized and he was promoted in this supposed dark age. Also during this dark age, the Catholic Church had much greater influence on Hollywood -- how is it good that so much of Post-Vatican II media is essentially pornographic and getting worse by the week?

I would also say that the John Jay College study of child sex abuse in the Church traces most of it to post-1960s, which is to say post-Vatican II social attitudes. I think it's a mistake to try to move the crisis back to the 1950s and earlier, when the extensive public records available on the web, for instance here, trace the vast majority of instances to priests ordained post Vatican II. I won't try to say Vatican II was a cause of the social attitudes that led to the problem, but we are in fact talking about a distinctly different social environment.

On the other hand, our parish has the archdiocesan vocations director in residence at the rectory, and he takes regular masses and confessions there. He is an outstanding priest. Our parish has a seminarian ordained in the archdiocese more years than not, so something about it is encouraging vocations. Our archdiocese just ordained nine new priests this past Saturday, of which one was from our parish. All I can say is that, if my correspondent has spoken with people who didn't have a good experience in seminary, I see counterexamples myself, often more than once a week. Is this supposed to be disqualifying?

Let's go briefly to the case of Mr Chadwick. At the end of a not entirely coherent apologia pro vita sua, he says,

As an experienced priest and a man of nearly 60, I look back at it all. Perhaps I should not have become a priest, but I did, and I have a Bishop who expects much from me. You don’t put your hand to the plough and look back! Such is often the state of those priests whom Bruce might despise but who are men of quality in their own way, seeking to fulfil God’s will, and being “given a break” by those responsible for clergy selection and training.
This verges on word salad. He recounts an experience in Catholic seminary leading to ordination as a Catholic deacon (as best I can make out, I'll be happy to be corrected), but at some point, based on overall conclusions people have drawn from various accounts he's written, he left the Catholic diaconate and in fact left the Catholic Church. I don't believe he was ever ordained a Catholic priest, and it isn't clear if he was ever formally laicized. Exactly what denomination ordained him he doesn't say, but in later years he has been associated with the TAC and is now with the ACC. However, his implication is that he's a "priest" irrespective of denomination, which isn't a Catholic position. The "Bishop" he refers to is in a comic-opera "continuing" sect.

In fact, a good Catholic who is properly laicized is expected not to identify himself subsequently as a "priest" in any other denomination. So at this point, a good Catholic, which, having gone to RCIA and been received, I naturally try to be, should not be taking Mr Chadwick's claims of being a priest very seriously, and in fact, prudence would suggest this situation be taken as something of a red flag. I recognize that Mr Chadwick would prefer I not do this and not espouse this view, but there we are, and perhaps this is near the root of his beef.

So I am granting my correspondent's point, and indeed Mr Chadwick's point, that not all vocations are equal. But if Catholics have the opportunity, it seems to me they should be seeking out the best catechesis, preaching, and confessors they can find. If some priests are less good, this means others are better, after all. That some priests without authentic vocations have been ordained in error, as they always have, doesn't take away from this. And some, having been laicized, should not be pretending to be priests at all.

That, of course, is not my problem. It does seem to be Mr Chadwick's problem.

UPDATE: Still curious about the exact what, where, when and how of Mr Chadwick's canonical status, I knew I had this somewhere, and a past e-mail from my regular correspondent sets things straight:

Chadwick is in delict of schism on several counts. He converted to Catholicism as a young man and later became a "continuing" Anglican; this would incur the delict of schism even in a layperson. In the interval he became involved with the SSPX and later with some group associated with Bp Ngo Dinh Thuc under whose auspices he was ordained and later styled himself Monsignor. The details escape me but his orders are valid enough that his subsequent "attempted" marriage would also incur canonical penalty. When he met Hepworth he had become disenchanted with the sedevacantist Catholic group and was a one man denomination with a chapel in his garage. Hepworth invited him into the TAC, for whatever reason.