Despite the fact that his diocese is desperately short of vocations, Bishop Genn of Münster recently declared: “I can decidedly say I don’t care for pre-conciliar types of clerics, and also I will not consecrate them.”
This is not an uncommon attitude, and it is not limited to Germany. I have heard stories from the English seminary, St. Cuthbert’s College at Ushaw, now closed for lack of custom, that superiors were so concerned to root out conservatively-minded candidates for the priesthood that they would watch how they held their hands during Mass. If they folded them prayerfully, this went on the record as a mark against them. Seminarians would meet to say the Rosary in each others’ rooms, in secret, for fear this subversive activity would get them into trouble, and hide theology books by Joseph Ratzinger.
This attitude seems to go beyond a simple matter of theological disagreement. Signs of conservatism are regarded as akin to signs of leprosy, and indeed, it is not uncommon to hear theological conservatism or traditionalism compared to mental illness. It should be said that this attitude is much less bad, at least in the English-speaking world, than it was a generation ago, but it has not gone away, and it is striking that a German bishop should embrace it so openly.
While I lack any special information about Bishop Genn, I think I can shed light on the phenomenon as a whole. The language commonly used about young conservatives and traditionalists – “rigid,” “conformists,” “authoritarian,” “clericalist” – are related to trends in psychiatry which were influential in the decades after the Second World War. Here is a typical description of the “authoritarian personality” published in 1970 (Peter Kelvin, The Bases of Social Behaviour):
Read it all there.
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