Having the best credentials won’t necessarily make you holy

Having the best credentials in the world for becoming a priest or a prelate does not ensure he is the best man for  the office.

In fact, if I had to choose between someone who has a God-given, supernatural faithor someone with a top notch education at the best Catholic universities without that faith, I would chose the former.  Having all the head-knowledge in the world cannot give someone a living faith, nor is it necessarily a sign of virtue and character.

Ideally, one should not have to choose.   A good, solid education and faith formation coupled with moral, psychological and Holy-Spirit inspired spiritual integrity are what we need in  priests and bishops.

In addition to being surrendered to God’s will, a priest must be a man who could have been (or is) a good husband and father, not someone asexual and oriented towards books or things, or other men, hoping to use the priesthood as a hedge against acting on those inclinations or worse, as a cover for leading a double life.

I have met some very simple, uneducated people who have great wisdom.  I have met pastors on the Protestant side with very little formal education who exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit and operate in supernatural gifts that can only come from God.  In fact, it was a simple, charismatic pastor who, through his teaching, and spiritual gifts imparted by the Spirit through his ministry, played a major role in my faith journey in preparing me to become Catholic—-because all true wisdom from God always tends towards unity and communion in Christ, in sharing that one mind that was in Christ Jesus.

The Catholic priests I know in the Ordinariate have that dual combination of holiness and theological depth, even if the education in every instance was not a typical seminary formation in the Anglican or Catholic sense.

As our former bishop once said to me, “Where would we send them?”  He meant that as an indictment of the state of Anglican formation, especially for those who had a Catholic understanding of sacraments.

The recent revelations about Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop-emeritus of Washington, also reminded me formation in Catholic seminaries has not always been so great either, even though it’s my understanding  things have improved a lot in North America since the 1980s and 90s.

The McCarrick revelations reminded me of Michael Rose’s 2002 book  Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church  and its stories about how orthodox, masculine candidates  were either pre-screened as unsuitable (too rigid!) for the seminary, or were forced out later by pressure from a lavender mafia.

Part of the journey into the Catholic Church for our former clergy included a detailed description of their spiritual journeys.  It was the authenticity and willingness to suffer for the faith that were convincing for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith of the caliber of men desirous of becoming Catholic priests, even if not all of them had the requisite degrees.

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