Priestly formation should focus as much on relationships and areas around sexuality as it does on the intellectual, spiritual and pastoral aspects of priesthood, child protection expert Fr Hans Zollner SJ says. Source: Australian Catholics.
Catholic Professional Standards Limited held the first session of its online Seminary Formation and Safeguarding Seminar last Friday in Melbourne, which included a keynote address from Fr Zollner for seminarians and others involved in forming people for religious life.
The Head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Fr Zollner spoke of a recent study on priestly formation by Sr Anna Mary Thumma, which highlighted how both those in formation, and those doing formation, believe there is inadequate focus on the human aspects of priestly life.
“My own experience tells me that we really focus much in formation on questions of faith and theology – and this is certainly one key area – but we focus much less on relational, emotional and other issues that also need to be addressed,” he said.
He asked formators to consider how many priests leave the priesthood because of crises of faith or theology-related issues, as compared to those who leave because of issues around human relationships and sexuality.
“I’m a university professor, so I have nothing against intellectual formation. But when we look into the real needs and the real challenges that priests live up to, my question is whether pastoral, spiritual and the human formation needs much more attention given to them,” he said.
One of the issues is that priests in formation may not trust formators enough to come forward to them about their anxieties and problems in these areas because they’re worried about being sent away.
“They try to go underwater from the day of their entrance in seminary and they dive through for five or eight or whatever years, trying to be as calm and trying to not to show any signs of disturbance or trouble or questions,” Fr Zollner said. “The fear is that they will be thrown out of the seminary, so they become what I would call “submarines”.
Similarly, bishops and formators might themselves be hesitant to initiate these conversations for fear of losing people from the priesthood, he said.
Safeguarding seminar highlights the need for more holistic formation (By Michael McVeigh, Australian Catholics)