Church will quiz seminarians on 'motivation' to join priesthood
THE Catholic Church is to undertake a further check on seminarians to establish their motivation for joining the priesthood, the Irish Independent has learned.
In spite of the publication of the Ryan report early last year, 2009 saw the highest number of vocations for more than a decade as 36 men started to train for the priesthood.
Now a questionnaire is being sent to all of last year's seminary entrants via email this week.
The church last night insisted the move was not designed to weed out paedophiles following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports, but to probe the "spiritual motivations" of those seeking to join the priesthood.
"This is a challenging time for the church and it's amazing that, in the midst of all this challenge and hostility, people are still coming forward. It's worth finding out why," director of vocations Fr Paddy Rushe said.
"Certainly, the recent scandals have piqued the interest in terms of wanting to get a better idea of what the motivations are to bring a guy forward -- particularly at times like this.
"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."
There was no suggestion any of the new seminarians had engaged in wrongdoing or were likely to do so in the future.
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".
And he stressed that there had been "a very rigorous process in place for years".
Applicants for the priesthood have to give their full history in terms of addresses, he said, along with character, work and personal references. The candidate then has a medical screening and full check-up.
After that, they come to an organised psychological evaluation carried out by trained psychologists. This is performed in the context of suitability for the priesthood in general terms, but "sexuality is part of the profile", Father Rushe said.
Next there is an interview with the bishop and if the candidate is provisionally accepted they are then scrutinised by the garda vetting unit.
This system was approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference in 2006.
Fr Rushe said it will be reviewed in the coming months and will be looked at in the context of the abuse scandal as well as other issues. "I don't know if it will be changed. We'll have to get together and see," he said.
He added that he hoped the questionnaire -- carried out in conjunction with the church's research and development department -- would be issued annually.
Maeve Lewis, Director of child abuse support group One in Four, said she could not comment directly on a questionnaire she had not seen. But she stressed it was more important than ever to ensure seminarians were "psychologically, spiritually and emotionally mature".