Vatican issues new document on using psychology to improve formation of seminarians


The Congregation for Catholic Education has issued a new document whose purpose is to ensure that adequate discernment and formation is used in recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

According to Father Carlo Bresciani, a psychologist and adviser to the Congregation, the documented presented on Thursday by the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, follows up on the contributions made by the 1974 document, “Educational Orientations for formation in priestly celibacy,” which recognized that “errors in the discernment of vocations are not rare, and too many psychiatric ineptitudes, more or less pathological, only show up after priestly ordination.”  “Discerning them in time will help avoid such dramas,” it said.

The new document, titled, “Orientations for the use of the psychological competencies in the admission and formation of candidates to the priesthood” was discussed by Fr. Bresciani and other contributors at a press conference this morning.

Father Bresciani synthesized the five fundamental points of the new document as follows:

The protection of the personal privacy and good name of the candidate; the need to carry out therapy during the initial discernment phase and before the person enters seminary or  a house of formation if it is determined to be necessary; religious or seminary superiors should only have access to the results of the psychological review if the candidate has consented in writing, and for the sole purpose of improved discernment and formation; it is also possible that the spiritual director ask, but never impose, that the candidate undergo a psychological review, in order to proceed with greater confidence in the process of discernment and spiritual direction; and lastly, that the condition for readmitting a candidate to the seminary who has undergone therapy is that he provide information about the treatment to his new formation directors, who must verify his psychological condition obtaining the proper information with the written consent of the candidate.

Father Bresciani noted that the new directives were not meant to suggest that priestly formation should be entrusted to psychologists, but that the Church values what “human sciences and psychology in particular, can contribute to the preparation of priests with humanly balanced personalities.”

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