Vatican: Future Priests Need More Than Prayer Life

Offers Guide for Psychological Evaluation of Candidates

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A priest should not just have a solid spiritual life, but also psychological and affective maturity, Vatican officials reiterated today.



This affirmation was among the main points at a press conference in the Vatican for the presentation of "Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood," from the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, prefect and secretary of that dicastery, presented the report with consultor and psychologist, Father Carlo Bresciani.

Cardinal Grocholewski went over the basic ideas of the document: the role of psychologists in aiding vocational discernment; the Church's responsibility to also discern, evaluating the candidate's suitability for the priestly ministry; the bishop as the first representative of Christ in priestly formation; and the role of formators in an adequate preparation for the priesthood.

Archbishop Bruguès continued by noting how the Church in the last 30 years has seen a greater need to evaluate the psychological profiles of candidates to the priesthood. The document released today is part of the answer to that need, he explained.

The text went through various phases of preparation, a first draft having already been presented in 2002 by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

This lapse has served to progressively develop the document, the prelate said, "making more explicit the specificity of the vocation to the priesthood, gift and mystery incomparable with psychological methods."

But regarding psychological assistance for candidates to the priesthood, he said there are two erroneous extremes: that of the psychologist or psychiatrist taking the place of a spiritual director, and that of formators thinking help from psychologists is not necessary for the vocational maturity of aspirants to the priesthood.

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Father Bresciani spoke of priestly formation, emphasizing that "the first protagonist in formation is the candidate himself."

"The Church," he added, "is always concerned with giving candidates to the priestly ministry formators who are prepared to deeply understand their human personalities."

In any case, the priest-psychologist noted, "many more or less pathological psychic ineptitudes manifest themselves only after priestly formation" but discovering them on time "permits avoiding much drama."

Still, not just any psychologist can be of help, he affirmed.

"It is obvious that a psychologist who is closed to the transcendent, who denies the significance of chastity or is closed to certain values that are proper to the Church, cannot assist in the maturing of a vocation toward the consecration of one's life to ministry," he said. "The psychologist should have a theoretical understanding and an approach for taking the transcendent dimension of the person with his dynamism and qualities that should mature in the person."