25 June 2010

Pastor in Valle Adurni ...

Pastor in Valle Adurni is invariably an excellent read. I commend his piece on the lack of any proper priestly formation among a very significant number of Anglican clergy.

It is not just that so many modern clergy do not know what you might call the 'Catholicky' bits of priesthood. The problem is that middle-of-the-road clergy do not generally know middle-of-the-road Anglicanism; and 'low' clergy do not know 'low' Anglicanism.The late Bishop John Richards, when he became in retirement an assistant priest (in the Devon group in which he then imperiously summoned me to join him) was horrified, as he got to know some of the local clergy, by the degree of their ignorance. "He doesn't even know the Bible!", he would cry, in tones of incomprehension. And it is true. The far-off days when the Anglican clergy knew the Bible but the problem was that some of them didn't have any understanding of the Catholic context in which it should be understood and used, are but a happy memory. Incidentally, the same is true of Methodist clergy (and the relevance of this is that on these Ministerial Training Courses, Anglican and Protestant clergy are commonly trained together). Bishop John and I had some formal discussions with a couple of local Methodist clergy; the problem was not that they and we disagreed, but the degree of their ignorance. Gone the blissful days when a Protestant minister knew the text of his Bible so intimately that he could 'win' arguments against 'Catholics' who didn't. Needless to say, an important factor here is that the virus of Modern Biblical Criticism has filleted out of the mentality of modern Protestants any sense of the normativeness of Scripture. A folk memory that the Reformation was about the Bible, combined with the new assurance that the Bible has no authority, has left such people quite bankrupt. Come to think of it, that's (quite literally) a diabolical con, isn't it? Well done, Screwtape.

And I could, if I went easy on the question of confidentiality, provide evidence that, sadly, you can't be sure it's much better among 'Catholic' Anglicans.

Money, of course, is the problem. The C of E can now afford neither to train clergy nor to pay full-time clergy. Ergo ...

I make no judgements on the clergy of the TAC, who have had to struggle for Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy in a martyr-like situation and with no resources. But in an English Anglican context, my view is that clergy with an NSM origin may not be adequately qualified to be licensed to preach and to hear confessions and to run a Catholic parish. This does not mean that they could not be 'ordained' as massing-priests, and then given a proper training while helping to service ordinariate communities and even to supply within RC parishes. I feel that we need radical thinking in the situation confronting us.

16 comments:

Joshua said...

I remember being very surprised to learn that the local Anglican vicar - if only St Oswald's, just down my street, were joining the Ordinariates, not sinking into low-church oblivion under such well-meaning but uncatholic incumbents - had had only two years' training! It scandalized me.

And the Anglican bishop of Tasmania now ordains local or country clergy, who are basically the local grocer or housewife with a fancy to preach and do the holy communion...

Even today, for all their faults, Catholic seminaries require seven years' training for prospective priests; and I recall from my mother telling me that Presbyterian ministers used to be formidably well-educated; what has happened to the old rigor?

So far as I know here in Australia, the Lutheran pastors tend still to be well-educated, but that is the exception.

Jacob Hicks said...

Joshua, no CofE clergy receive more than three years' training. (And three years is only for those under 30 who haven't got a theology degree.)

Joshua said...

! You astonish me.

How on earth can a man learn all he ought for such a ministry in so short a time?

stjudeschurch said...

It's not really fair to say no CofE clergy receive more than three years training. Theology graduates do two more years at theol coll which makes five. A not insignificant number do further degrees after ordination.

Jacob Hicks said...

I was only including time at theological college. Some have read for degrees beforehand and some will do further study afterwards.

In fact, it's now Initial Ministerial Education (IME), with years 1-3 being at college and 4-7 replacing C(ontinuing)ME (the former 'POTty training').

stjudeschurch said...

So that's seven years.

Jesse said...

For what it's worth, I'd say that a tendency in recent decades to discourage young vocations is partly to blame. A young man sensing a call to the priesthood was (and is) regularly told to wait five years, get some "real world experience", and then see. The result is that he does an unrelated degree, starts a career and a family, and then, when he looks more plausible to a DDO, is only offered two years of training, quite possibly on a non-residential course (depending on circumstances).

davidforster said...

Your suggestion of ordaining "massing priests" is interesting. I remember, some 20 years ago, an aged priest - then in his 90s - telling me that when he's been a young man in Ireland there had often been priests ordained who had not done the full training, who were then packed off to seminary to study Logic and the rest. Why? Perhaps the emergency of the First World War had something to do with it.

Fr William said...

Has the CofE ever provided more than three years of pre-ordination training? I'd be interested to know if it did, as I'm certainly not aware of it. And yet a maximum of three years was, once, sufficient to produce a clergy that was, in general, notably well educated theologically.

Which leads me to suppose that the problem is not so much the length of training in itself as what one does with that time. If the CofE really can't afford to make residential training the normal preparation for ordination, it could at least make its correspondence-plus-residential-weekends courses a lot more rigorous, dropping all the touchy-feely PC stuff that Pastor in Valle so rightly mocks and concentrating instead on a proper, substantive theological education. As it is, the non-residential courses tend to assume that formation will occur in a curate's title parish; some training incumbents are indeed excellent and take their responsibilities very seriously, but others provide next to no input, regarding their curates as simply an extra pair of hands rather than someone still in the process of being shaped into the finished product. The result is that, too often, clergy emerge from serving their title not only with huge gaps in their theological education and priestly formation, but (what is much worse) not even aware that the gaps exist.

Fr William said...

Picking up on Jesse's point: one of the side-effects of people coming into ordained ministry later in life, often after having had high-powered jobs, is that they find it very hard to adjust to being treated as a junior underling by an incumbent who may actually be younger, and in general terms less experienced, than they are. (Equally, of course, the incumbent may feel highly insecure in such a situation.) If the proper input has not been made in pre-ordination training, it may be too late by the time they get to their title parish – the psychological dynamic there between incumbent and curate may form an impossible barrier.

Joshua said...

Regarding the Irish priests mentioned above, the case described is that of the "sacerdos simplex", who is ordained, and able to say Mass, but not given faculties to preach nor hear confessions: this was once commonly done in Ireland - why? to provide impecunious seminarians with an income (from Mass stipends) sufficient to pay for their board, lodging and further training at seminary.

This was especially common in the penal times, when Irish priests had to be ordained clandestinely and sent to the Continent to finish their training.

There *is* something to be said for ordaining first, and finishing studies off later; the young "simple priest" says his Mass and Breviary, living a holy life as the canons direct; and in due course finishes his studies, and then only is permitted to preach and shrive, since those functions require much knowledge of theology.

Joshua said...

The Orthodox parallel is instructive: until standards of clerical formation were improved, the parish clergy, especially in rural parts, were essentially celebrants of the liturgy, only; they certainly didn't hear confessions - that was the role of monastic clergy, as was that of being a spiritual adviser (the "starets" or elder) - and didn't even preach, it being no doubt rightly felt that attending the All-Night Vigil plus Divine Liturgy provided quite enough dogmatic instruction already.

Indeed, the parish clergy, being married, formed a distinct clerical caste, since their sons customarily became priests and/or deacons in their turn.

Fr William said...

"The C of E can now afford neither to train clergy nor to pay full-time clergy."

Any doubt as to the latter contention should be dispelled by a quick look at this week's clergy posts advertised on the website of Jezebel's Trumpet. Part-time chaplaincies; house-for-duty posts; a priest-in-charge post at a half stipend; and (hooray!) one full stipend post – Canon Chancellor at Blackburn Cathedral. In other words, not a single post in parish ministry for which the CofE is willing or able to stump up a full stipend. Is this a foreshadowing of things to come – or an accurate reflection of present reality?

Jacob Hicks said...

stjudeschurch, The CofE "seven years" simply isn't comparable to the Catholic Church's seven years for its ordinands. 2 years doing a degree, one year learning how to plan Sunday School classes followed by four years in a parish going to occasional sessions where you reflect on your sins with the aid of a pebble or two simply doesn't count as "seven years training".

Figulus said...

It's astonishing to me that RC clergy can receive 7 years of training and still be as ignorant as they often are.

Joshua said...

Rem acu tetigisti!