Talk about a club that’s hard to get into.
Whew. The priesthood. Yes, that club that is dying even faster than daily newspaper subscribers.
The priesthood, and the rigorous psychological gauntlet one has to survive to get in, was the subject of an astonishing front-page story in The New York Times on Monday. The story, written by Paul Vitello, focused on the screening of seminarians in the wake of the long-running priest sexual-abuse scandal.
And let it be noted that the enhanced interrogation techniques for prospective priests came about as a result of the sexual-abuse scandal of 10 or more years ago. With the issue re-heating this year in Europe and the U.S., the interviews probably will become even more intrusive, if that’s possible.
You can’t get in the priesthood if you’re gay. You used to be able to but no more. And you can’t get in if you’re heterosexual and you’re sexually active. You can get in, however, if you’re straight, provided that you are “capable of abstaining from genital activity” and you have a good strategy “for managing sexual desire.”
Here are some of the questions that candidates for the priesthood have to answer:
– When was the last time you had sex? (The preferred answer is three years, at least.)
– What kind of sexual experiences have you had?
– Do you like pornography?
– Do you like children?
– Do you like children more than you like people your own age?
Those are just the general questions. The story goes on to say that most candidates for the priesthood are likely to be asked about “masturbation fantasies, consumption of alcohol, relationships with parents and the causes of romantic breakups.”
Msgr. Steven Rosetti, a psychologist at Catholic University who has screened seminarians, was quoted as saying, “We are looking for two basic qualities: the absence of pathology and the presence of health.”
Well, I’m just not sure what answers to the above questions would be considered healthful, in the church’s view. For example, if a prospective priest were to say that he had not had sex in five years, I guess he would get a check mark (good) from the interviewer. But if he was being interviewed for just about any other job and the interviewer cold ask that question, what kind of margin notes do you think the interviewer would make? Maybe…”Yikes!” or “Weirdo!”
And suppose you were to say that, no, you don’t like children. How would the priesthood police rate that answer? Good?
It looks to me like the questions form a maze from which there is no reasonable way out. Or, as Harvard Divinity School professor Mark D. Jordan observed in The Times’ article, “A criterion like this may not ensure that you are getting the best candidates. Though it might get you people who lie or who are so confused they do not really know who they are.”
Ah, the perfect priest!
God, help the Catholic Church. Please.