Interview with the Secretary of the
Congregation for Catholic education
A "brief, incisive and very
clear" text on the formation of candidates for the priesthood is being
considered for publication at the end of the Year for Priests. The
project is being examined by the Congregation for Catholic Education.
With this in view, the Dicastery is planning to announce in the coming
months the convocation of the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission
which deals with the formation of candidates for sacred orders.
This information comes from
Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès,
OP, Secretary of the Dicastery, who in a recent interview with
L'Osservatore Romano stressed the centrality of educational work in
the mission of the Church, in light of the Year for Priests. The
following is a translation of the interview, which was given in Italian.
In "Caritas in Veritate" Benedict XVI invites the
faithful to promote ever broader access to education for all peoples. In
what way does this challenge the Congregation?
We can first make three
observations. The first: the Pope includes education within the
principle of solidarity. In his Encyclical Benedict XVI recalls
the important principles of the social doctrine of the Church:
subsidiarity and solidarity. Education, therefore, is a question of
solidarity among the diverse sectors and generations of a society. The
second point is that education presupposes instruction, that is,
knowledge to be passed on. The Pope has returned on various occasions to
this conception of knowledge. For example, in n. 30, he says: "Charity
does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires" it.
Without knowledge charity
is ineffective. It is not only a question of good feelings. It is also
necessary to transform things through knowledge.
The third observation is
that we Christians believe in a complete formation of the person. The
Pope speaks of an integral formation, which implies a global vision of
the person in his different dimensions.
In the light of these
points our Dicastery is doubly encouraged: first of all to make the most
of knowledge and culture. In the various institutions that depend on the
Congregation, we are developing what I would call a culture of
excellence. In this regard we find encouragement in the Encyclical.
Secondly, we place the
emphasis on the integral formation of the person, and in particular on
the spiritual dimension which risks being overlooked in a secularized
In his Message to the G8 Summit in L'Aquila the Pope
spoke of the importance of education, stressing that it is an
indispensable condition for the functioning of democracy, for the fight
against corruption and for the exercise of political and social rights.
What contribution can the Church make in this regard?
Our Congregation is responsible for 1,200 Catholic
universities across the world, for 2,700 seminaries
the majority of those in existence
and for 250,000 Catholic schools.
The Congregation for the
Evangelization of Peoples in turn is responsible for Africa and Asia. It
is clear from this that institutes constitute a possibility for the
Church, although not everyone seems convinced of it. They are the
natural contexts in which the Church participates in the elaboration of
a specific country's culture. There is no better way of fitting into a
country's culture than through school and university. Schools and
universities therefore represent a possibility to both the Church and
society because we place this great pedagogical effort that we have been
making for centuries at the service of the human community.
What are the Church's goals?
There are two aims.
The first is recalled in the Letter inaugurating the Year for Priests:
to restore to priests the joy of their priesthood and to help them
rediscover a clearer identity than that which is seen in various
countries of the world. It seems that in certain cultural contexts the
features of men and women religious stand out more clearly than those of
the diocesan priest. This is a magnificent opportunity to discover anew
the traits of the priest and how much we need him.
For this reason, the second
objective is to rediscover the priest's place in the Christian
community. Thus this pastoral Year is not only for priests but also for
the entire Christian community, the entire Church.
This dual dimension
challenges the Congregation since it is responsible for the formation of
seminarians. We must make seminarians understand the message: "You have
been chosen, it is an honour, be glad to be priests". I would like to
say that the seminary is a school that inculcates happiness in being
priests. This is the first dimension. And the second is that the
formation offered at seminaries should be the very best possible.
When we receive Bishops on
their ad limina visits, our Prefect always likes to tell them:
"Do not hesitate to put your best priests at the service of the
formation of seminarians, it is worth it".
The Year for Priests is an
opportunity to review the seminary formation of candidates to the
priesthood. What specific projects have you planned?
There will be special activities for the Year. Our
Prefect, as President of the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission for
Admission to Sacred Orders, is intending to convoke the Commission this
very year. Its purpose will be to examine the possibility, at the end of
this Year for Priests, of publishing a short, clear and incisive text on
the formation of candidates to the priesthood.
The Pope has recently invited us to overcome the dualism
that exists between the sacramental and ontological and the functional
and social conceptions of the priesthood. How can these two dimensions
In my opinion situations in the Church can differ
widely. In some countries it is the social dimension in particular that
is heavily emphasized, the social role of priests: I have seen this in
Africa, in Latin America and in Korea. In these places the priest plays
a role not only in the heart of the community but also in society,
whereas in the heavily secularized societies the social role of the
priest has become visibly less important.
Perhaps the exception is Italy, where I find that in
spite of the secularized society, the Church has managed to remain
popular and to stay very present in social and political life. So I
would say that these two aspects necessarily give rise to tension and
that this tension is beneficial.
It is normal that the priest should play a social role
since he is a pastor: he is in charge of a part, a portion of the People
of God, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed.
In this capacity, therefore, he has social visibility.
He is also a mediator between Heaven and earth: he manifests Christ, he
acts in persona Christi. Therefore I consider it essential that
this tension be preserved everywhere, since it is beneficial for the
priest and for the Christian people. For this reason it is first of all
necessary that the community of the faithful feel responsible for the
priest who is in charge of it.
When I was Bishop of Angers and I appointed a parish
priest, I would introduce him to the faithful: "I entrust him to you".
The priest must be supported by a community of the faithful. Secondly,
every priest must be sustained by the community of his fellow priests.
We must insist on the fraternal dimension of the presbyterium.
Too many priests suffer from loneliness, hence risk
neglecting one or other of these aspects. A priest is a friend, a
brother, in the midst of a great family represented by the
presbyterium. Then with regard to the Congregation there is a third
way: the seminary. It is here that one learns, theologically, to balance
the two aspects of the priesthood.
Do you feel the need to review the system of education
in formation houses?
A good formation is one that can be adapted to the
development and changes of society. I repeat what I have already said on
other occasions: it is true that young people are different from us; yet
we must accept them generously. Generosity is essential in accepting the
new generations, as is discernment: these two things go together. It is
a question of discerning in them what we should encourage and what we
should correct. I have noticed that a large number of the young men who
present themselves at the formation houses in countries such as Italy,
Spain, France, Germany and the United States of America, have a sound
professional training, sometimes even high level academic
qualifications, but lack a general culture and above all a Christian
This is why I hope that seminarians will be given a
propedeutic year at the beginning of their formation, and that formation
itself will be adapted to the characteristics of the new generations.
Then it is right to prevent the dispersion of academic disciplines and,
instead, to have a synthetic view of theology, stressing in addition the
role of philosophy and, in particular, metaphysics as a preliminary
preparation for theology.
According to the instructions of the 2008 document,
"Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of
Candidates for the Priesthood", what are the cases in which there may be
recourse to professional psychologists?
The answer is simple: when
necessary. In our document we desired to react to two exaggerations. The
first consists in saying that everyone must submit to an examination by
psychological experts; and the second, in saying that psychology and
psychologists are not to be trusted.
This ecclesial document,
which is not the first to speak of psychology, uses very positive tones
in this regard. The Church is sometimes blamed for showing a certain
distance, even suspicion, with regard to psychology. This is not true.
The proof is found in the document, where it says that, when necessary,
there should be recourse to specialists.
What does "when necessary"
mean? It means, as may be read in the document, when "it can help the
candidate overcome those psychological wounds... that are not yet healed
and that cause disturbances. These wounds, unknown to the candidate in
their real effects, are often erroneously attributed by him to causes
outside himself, thus depriving him of the possibility of facing them