Catholic World News

In discussion with Jesuits, Pope speaks on ‘rigid’ seminarians, corrupt politicians

November 25, 2016

Pope Francis lamented the decline of idealism in politics, and the “rigidity” that he finds in many seminarians, in an exchange with participants in the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

The Pope’s dialogue with the Jesuits took place on October 24. The full transcript was posted this week by the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, in Spanish, Italian, and English versions.

During the lengthy discussion, Pope Francis said that was concerned about the legalistic approach to morality that he encounters in seminary students. “The whole moral sphere was restricted to ‘yes you can,’ ‘you cannot,’ ‘up to here yes but not here,’” he said. He likened this approach to the “decadent scholasticism” which, he said, was widespread in seminary training prior to Vatican II.

This approach, the Pontiff observed, is quite unlike the process of discernment emphasized in the Jesuit tradition. He said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to the application of moral principles to real-life situations, rather than the re-statement of abstract rules. He added that his own apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, puts primary emphasis on pastoral applications rather than general rules.

In seminary training, the Pope continued, students should be exposed to “academic study, contact with real life..., prayer and personal community discernment.” He added: “When one of those things is missing, I start to worry.”

In a discussion of the world’s political scene, the Pope remarked on the absence of “those great politicians who were able to spend themselves seriously for their ideals.” He said that the world now suffers from a tendency toward centralized power, and a “standardizing and destructive globalization destroys the indigenous cultures that in fact should be recovered.”

More specifically, the Pontiff observed with concern that in many countries around the world, entrenched leaders have sought to change the national constitutions in order to allow themselves longer terms in power. He said that “a country cannot grow if it does not respect the legal principles which that country itself has put in place to ensure future governability.”

Later in the exchange, in a discussion of encouraging new vocations to the priesthood and religious life, Pope Francis said: “Not promoting vocations is an ecclesial tubal ligation,” even a form of “suicide.”

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  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Nov. 26, 2016 5:37 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis should be concerned about self-serving decadent discernment. Lying to ourselves is the one thing humanity does best, but Francis has never indicated that he believes there are any moral absolutes other than his believing that it is immoral to believe that there are moral absolutes. In his constant prideful haste to prove his superiority, he never discerns his incoherence.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 26, 2016 10:43 AM ET USA

    "Rigidity" or "proselytism" can mean a range of things: from apostolic zeal of the Saints, like Saint Paul, to kookiness of followers of Jim Jones who ended up in a mass murder-suicide.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 26, 2016 8:02 AM ET USA

    Just having read the dialogue, I must say that the Pope's answers were among the most condescending I have ever read uttered by a pope. I suppose that when one is surrounded by his circle of friends, he can fully "let his hair down" and say what he really thinks. The early Church was adept at _adapting_ profane festival days and institutions for purposes of greater evangelization. This pope would lower the Church to incorporate mundane philosophies and methods under the guise of a fanciful unity

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Nov. 26, 2016 7:27 AM ET USA

    In the Pope's favorite dominical pericope, Jesus prevents a woman from being stoned to death for fornication. Then he says she is forgiven, and then "Go and no more sinning." That's the best pastoral story, but it does not say what she said was ok or "gray area." When we sin, we hurt others, we hurt the community, and we injure ourselves. That's pretty black/white.

  • Posted by: Travelling - Nov. 26, 2016 2:12 AM ET USA

    Perhaps the HF has mistakenly tried to do this- to write a generic document which covers specific cases. And that's document is Amoris Laetitia.

  • Posted by: Travelling - Nov. 26, 2016 2:11 AM ET USA

    A couple of observations. I do not concur with the HF that the Catechism is applied morality rather than abstract rules. I understand and see from reading it that it is indeed the latter. That is its purpose. I am not sure that it is possible to write a document which answers questions about the application of these rules, that seems to me to be in a different sphere and one which requires wisdom, discernment and careful judgment applied in each individual situation.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Nov. 25, 2016 11:47 PM ET USA

    On the one hand the Pope dislikes a"standizing and destructive globalization" that impacts indigenous cultures yet supports the standardizing and globalization through the United Nations for climate control. But that only impacts all us rich guys who must be taxed by UN. Wish I knew where he is coming from.

  • Posted by: MatJohn - Nov. 25, 2016 7:53 PM ET USA

    "Not promoting vocations is a form of suicide." Just make sure you reject any candidate who subscribes to Catholic moral teaching. How did that work out when post Vatican II seminary screeners did just that? Scandal. Ten Commandments? Too rigid. Adultery? Irregular situations. Evangelization? Just be nice. Proselytism? Evil. Spin it whatever way the Jesuit tradition currently embraces- the Catholic Church is in free fall.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Nov. 25, 2016 3:28 PM ET USA

    I lament the bad experiences of this Pope, and the resulting anti-"rigidity" rigity that apparently has taken hold of him. I am thankful to God for the "rigid" adherence to Church teaching demonstrated by many of our younger priests and seminarians, despite their having to resist the insults and sabotage placed on them by many of the (thankfully) dying remnants of those in the hierarchy working hard to conform the Church to the world, rather than the other way around.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Nov. 25, 2016 1:54 PM ET USA

    The Pope constantly brings up "ridgity."Is this projection on the part of the Pope as something he is dealing with? The constant refrain that there are no black and white issues, because in the particular everything is fluid open to discerning a land of equivocation.Isn't that a rigid calculus? Reality takes in both black and white and the need for prudential judgments base on an objective order and not simply the mental world of the subject.Some matters are open to discussion;some are settled.