In a candid moment, Pope Francis expresses his fear of neurotic, overly pious, fundamentalist priests.
Speaking at a conference on training for the priesthood on Friday, Pope Francis said he is instinctively suspicious of overly pious candidates. Francis said:
I will tell you sincerely, I’m scared of rigid priests. I keep away from them. They bite!
AFP reports Francis resorted to humour to make a serious point: some people that are drawn to a clerical career are fundamentally unstable — and they inevitably create problems for the church if they are not weeded out.
If you are sick, if you are neurotic, go and see a doctor, spiritual or physical. The doctor will give you pills. But, please, don’t let the faithful pay for neurotic priests.
Francis told his audience that as well as assessing the spiritual state of candidates, seminaries should also seek to judge their physical and psychological condition:
There are often young men who are psychologically unstable without knowing it and who look for strong structures to support them. For some it is the police or the army but for others it is the clergy.
Francis warned that such disorders inevitably resurface at a later date:
When a youngster is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I don’t feel confident (about him). Behind it there is something he himself does not understand. Keep your eyes open!
Given the history and teachings of the Catholic Church it should come as no surprise that some Catholic priests are scary and neurotic. And Francis is right to point out that unstable people are often drawn to careers in the clergy. The clerical sex abuse scandal is just one indicator of the deep and profound sickness that festers in the Catholic Church.
What is a surprise is the fact that the 78-year-old pontiff has the good sense to be suspicious and fearful of neurotic, overly pious, fundamentalist priests.
Bottom line: While the Catholic Church is a decadent, debauched, and morally bankrupt institution, sometimes it is hard not to like Pope Francis.