Sunday 22 April 2018

Priests can become 'little monsters', warns Francis

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Nicole Winfield Vatican City

Pope Francis has warned that priests can become "little monsters" if not properly trained as seminarians, saying their time studying must be used to mould their hearts as well as their minds.

Francis, pictured right, also warned against accepting men for the priesthood who may have been implicated in sexual abuse or other problems, saying the protection of the Catholic faithful was most important.

The Pontiff made the comments on November 29, during a closed-door meeting of 120 superiors of religious orders who gathered at the Vatican for their regular assembly.

Yesterday, the Jesuit journal 'La Civilta Cattolica' provided a report of the three-hour, informal question and answer session. The Vatican never provided a transcript of the meeting.

The magazine, which interviewed Francis last year, quoted the first Jesuit pope as telling the superiors he wants them to "wake up the world" with their work, particularly with the poor.

"Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas," he said.


Francis, who headed the Jesuits' novice training programme in his native Argentina in the 1970s, also warned the superiors of some of the failings of seminary training, or "formation".

Giving an example he spoke of when would-be priests merely "grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told 'Good, you have finished formation'.

"This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils," Francis was quoted as saying.

He has frequently ctiricised clericalism before, which refers to a certain cronyism and careerism among the men of the cloth.

The training of priests, he said, must be a "work of art, not a police action".

"We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters.

"And then these little monsters mould the people of God. This really gives me goosebumps," he was quoted saying.

Francis has spoken on several occasions about life in religious orders -- the good and the bad -- and hasn't shied from offering his experiences when speaking with nuns and priests.

The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio was only 36 when he was made superior of the Jesuits in Argentina in 1973, during a particularly turbulent time for the order in general and Argentina in particular.

In his remarks to the superiors, Francis flagged as a risk the "huge problem" of accepting into the seminary someone who has already been asked to leave another religious institute, and cited Pope Benedict XVI's tough line on priests who commit sexual abuse.

"I am not speaking about people who recognise that they are sinners: we are all sinners, but we are all not corrupt. Sinners are accepted, but not people who are corrupt," Francis said.

He told the superiors that conflicts within religious communities were inevitable but that problems between religious orders and bishops in dioceses where orders operate must be worked out.

Irish Independent

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