VATICAN CITY (CNS): A seminarian who has continuing difficulties with chastity should not be considered an appropriate candidate for priestly ordination, Pope John Paul II said.
Spiritual directors and other seminary officials cannot assume that such problems will be resolved as formation continues, the Pope said in a March 15 message to the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican office that deals with matters related to the Sacrament of Confession.
While “it is very true that the Lord can instantly transform a sinner into a saint as he did with Saul on the road to Damascus”, the Pope said, that is not “the normal way of providence”.
“The Sacrament of Penance is the leading instrument for vocational discernment,” he told officials of the Apostolic Penitentiary, priests who hear confessions in the major basilicas of Rome, and priests and seminarians completing a course offered by the office.
“In order to continue toward the goal of priesthood, it is necessary in fact to have a mature and solid virtue, which would guarantee as far as possible in human terms a well-founded prospect of perseverance in the future,” he said.
The Pope’s remarks came as several US dioceses were dealing with revelations of past sexual abuse by priests, a problem the Pope has said causes “great suffering and spiritual harm to the victims” and is “very damaging in the life of the Church”.