Formation and Life of the Clergy
We glean from Patriarch Maximos’ memoranda to the Central Commission (1962) and from the “Comments of the Holy Synod on the Schemas of the Council” (1963) a few thoughts on the subject of the formation of future priests. They refer to the schema “De sacrorum alumnis formandis.”
I. Concerning the “Apostolic” Visitation of Seminaries
Provision is made for a periodic apostolic visitation of the seminaries. It is also said that this visitation is requested by several Fathers of the forthcoming council. We believe that the Fathers who have asked for such a visitation do not constitute the majority. Besides, more than once the Fathers of the forthcoming council have expressed the desire to see the central administration advance in the direction of a progressive decentralization. As a matter of fact, the present centralization is excessive, burdens the Holy See of Rome with too many minor cares, and involves a considerable number of other serious disadvantages for the Church. It is not fitting at the moment when the council is preparing to initiate the movement of decentralization to introduce in the discipline of the Church a periodic apostolic visitation of the seminaries. This visitation does not appear to us to be at all appropriate. It can even cause serious conflicts between the ordinary of the place and the apostolic visitors. It can also reduce the mutual trust between the bishop and the directors of his seminary, as well as diminish the bishop’s sense of his total responsibility for his seminary. Apart from a few advantages, the periodic visitation of seminaries involves a great number of disadvantages, and we therefore believe that it is not opportune. Besides, there is nothing to prevent the Holy See of Rome from ordering an extraordinary visitation, if the need arises.
II. The Teaching of the Popes
By way of introduction, there is a stress on how much the Roman pontiffs have elucidated the need for holiness in priests. On this subject we should like to make a general comment which applies to almost all the schemas proposed to date to the Central Commission. It would seem that the authors of these schemas know, in addition to the Holy Scripture, only the encyclicals of the recent popes, and above all those of Pope Pius XII. Beyond doubt, the encyclicals of the popes are very important documents of the Church’s magisterium. We also understand that the writings of the most recent popes, assembled in convenient collections, provide citations that are easy to reproduce, thanks to the detailed indexes that have been carefully provided. However, it is not fitting that the council have such limited horizons.
After Holy Scripture, the texts that should be cited most often are those of the ancient ecclesiastical tradition, in which the Fathers of the East occupy a place of the first rank. Besides, the popes do not constitute the only voices of the ecclesiastical magisterium. The bishops of the entire world, the councils, the authors who are approved and truly competent on these matters should also be cited. The schemas give the invincible impression that in the Catholic Church of the present day only the Popes of Rome count for anything. This way of doing things, apart from the fact that it is false and savors of flattery, does not facilitate the acceptance and comprehension of the texts of the council by our separated brethren.
III. Education for Celibacy.
It is strongly urged that seminarians be educated in the practice of ecclesiastical celibacy “quo Ecclesiae ritus latini sacerdotes statum virginitatis christianae assumentes, integra animae et corporis deditione Domino interserviunt …” (by which the priests of the Latin Rite Church, taking on the state of Christian virginity, serve the Lord with complete dedication of soul and body…)
The expression is inexact, for in the Eastern Church as well there are priests who vow their celibacy to God. In the Eastern Churches they are even by far in the majority. Celibacy is not an exclusive glory of the Latin Church. The difference between the Latin church and the Eastern Churches is that in the former celibacy is obligatory, whereas in the Eastern churches it is optional, but recommended and held in special honor.
IV. Latin and Greek.
Greek remains the source language not only of the Byzantines but also of all the Easterners, and was used in the Western Church as well during the earliest times. Moreover, we propose to add the following:
“In the seminaries of the Eastern rites, a place of choice will be reserved for the study of their own liturgical languages, as much for the sake of a better celebration of the liturgical services as for a greater appreciation, for the benefit of the universal Church, of the patrimony bequeathed by the Fathers and the ecclesiastical writers in that language.”