Tomorrow begins the special Priestly Year called by Pope Benedict XVI, and as, for most of the faithful, the primary relationship with the Church comes through her priests, it is crucial they be able to provide us with dogmatic guidance and constancy of teaching from the heart of the Church, and that has not always been the case, especially over the past several decades.
In this article from Chiesa, an introduction to a recent speech by the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Loius Bruges, sets the tone.
“Archbishop Bruguès, 66, a Dominican, was bishop of Angers until 2007. In addition to being secretary of the congregation for Catholic education, he is vice president of the pontifical work for ecclesiastical vocations and a member of the commission for the formation of candidates for the priesthood. He is also an academic at the St. Thomas Aquinas pontifical academy.
“His speech to seminary rectors doesn't use any curial language at all. It is unusually frank. In no uncertain terms, it describes and denounces the failures following the council, in Europe in particular, including the astonishing ignorance on elementary points of doctrine that is found today in young men entering the seminary.
“This ignorance is so significant that one of the remedies recommended by Archbishop Bruguès is the dedication of an entire year at the seminary to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“The Catechism "ad parochos" was another of the milestones of the Tridentine reform. Four centuries later, we're there again.
“Here is the speech of the secretary of the congregation for Catholic education to the rectors of the pontifical seminaries, published by "L'Osservatore Romano" on June 3, 2009:
“Formation for the priesthood, between secularism and models of the Church
“by Jean-Louis Bruguès
“It is always risky to explain a social situation on the basis of a single interpretation. Nonetheless, some keys open more doors than others do. I have long been convinced of the fact that secularization has become a key word for thinking about our societies today, but also about our Church.
“Secularization represents a historical process that is very old, having emerged in France in the middle of the 18th century before spreading to all modern societies. Nevertheless, the secularization of society varies greatly from one country to another.
“In France and Belgium, for example, it tends to prohibit signs of religious membership in public, and to push faith back into the private sphere. The same tendency can be seen, but with much less strength, in Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. In the United States, however, secularization harmonizes easily with the public expression of religious convictions: we saw this also during the last presidential election.
“Over the past decade, an extremely interesting discussion has emerged among the specialists. Until it began, it seemed that it had to be taken for granted that European-style secularization constituted the rule and model, while the American kind constituted the exception. Now, however, there are many - Jürgen Habermas, for example - who think that the opposite is true, and that the religions will play a new social role in postmodern Europe as well.”