Sunday, August 11, 2013

IVE Formation Problems Part II - The Spiritual

This is part two of a four part series.  Part 1 is here.  Parts three and four will follow in the coming months.  
We have warned you that it is probably not a good idea to enter the IVE - at least not until its institutional problems are resolved - assuming they can be.  

At the center of these problems is the process of formation cultivated by Fr Buela and now institutionalized into the IVE culture and all its houses of formation.   It's from this dysfunction in formation that we see the two main fruits of the IVE - the recruitment without proper discernment or concern for the candidate and the diaspora of young IVE priests leaving soon after ordination.

This is the second in a series of posts where we'll highlight the many issues you'll encounter during formation with the IVE (issues, that of course, the IVE doesn't tell you about.)  We are focusing one post each on the 4 pillars of formation laid out by John Paul II in his exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis:  the Intellectual, Spiritual, Pastoral, and Human pillars of formation.

In the first post we covered deficiencies in Intellectual pillar of formation at IVE seminaries - a formation which, judging by their website, the IVE are very proud of.  In this subsequent post we'll cover the second pillar of formation, that of the Spiritual - an area they are equally boastful of:

Self-sacrifice?  Yes, in more ways than you probably can imagine.  Intense prayer life?  Well, as we covered in part I of this series - and in many other posts on this site - the IVE like to say one thing and do another.  Whether this is purposeful or out of ignorance is not our place to say, but it is our place to make you aware of it so you can make an informed decision and give informed consent when entering the IVE and submitting to its superiors. 

No Spiritual Charism

There are several problems in this area. The first and most apparent is that this is a religious community without any true charism.  If one looks at the Orders who have stood the test of time, the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Salesians etc., they all had a charism given to them by God.  They each had a clear mission.  Jesuits are to be educators.  Dominicans are to be Preachers.  Franciscans are to preach the cross of Christ through poverty, penance, and preaching.  Carmelites are to live lives of penance and be contemplatives.  Salesians evangelize the poor and abandoned - especially the youth.  The success of all of these religious orders, and the struggles and failures many have had as of late, are relative to how faithful they are to their charism.

When an order strays from the mission it was given by God, one shouldn't be surprised when problems begin to arise. This is why these Orders were strongest while their founders were still alive or after a reformer came along.  The founder would have kept them true to their mission and the reformer working to return them to it.  One has only to look at the history of Religious Orders to see the importance of a charism and the necessity of sticking to it.

In practice, the IVE does not have a defined charism.  They do not have a particular mission.  They did not start with a charism.  Their current "Evangelization of the Culture" is so broad it's effectively meaningless in word and deed.  If they are asked what their charism is they'll give various answers ranging from, “We are orthodox and joyful,” to “We are about the New Evangelization,” or “We embrace love of the Cross.”  None of these are true charisms.  They are only broad generalizations without any true path for accomplishment.  "Orthodox and Joyful" is not distinct to a group.  The New Evangelization - what does that mean to them?  Everyone claims to be about the new evangelization.  Love of the Cross - that is not particular to them either.

A Grab-Bag Spirituality

Because they have no charism they have no guiding principle or direction.  They simply take what they like from many other Saints and Orders.  This can be a good idea when done prudently and it is what diocesan priests do.  Unfortunately, the IVE do not do this prudently.  Their founder pieced together many disparate, often conflicting practices with no framework to make sense of them and no way to integrate them.  

Some practices do not work with others and certain practices isolated from their original structure are not efficacious.  Practices of certain saints and religious orders often work very well in their system, but if removed from that environment and placed in another - in combination with things they were not intended for - they are ineffective at best and potentially harmful.  To use an example from nature, a shark is the one of the top predators in the ocean.  It moves quickly and has little to fear.  Yet if you put that same shark in a lake or on land it will die.  Not all things can be isolated from their intended environments without problems.

For example, in the IVE, during their Spiritual Exercises, which they consider a staple of  their spiritual formation and discernment, they have people following Ignatian Rules while simultaneously reading St. John of the Cross.  Each of these is great on its own but they are not intended to be mixed.  They teach contrary approaches to prayer.  The exercises are based on imaginative prayer, using your sensory imagination, while St. John of the Cross states one should never do this.  They both have spiritualities that work but they are based on different forms of prayer.

Using one form of prayer with another spirituality will not allow one to accomplish what  the saint originally intended.  The Institute is trying to build a spirituality by isolating practices and combining them with others they weren't intended for and do not work with.  Imagine if someone tried to build a car using an engine from a jet ski, a tractor tire, a tire from a bicycle and the steering mechanism from an airplane.  All of these things are good if used in the way there were intended in the environment intended.  Yet trying to use each of them without their supporting structures - and then combining them with equally isolated practices - leads to disaster.

A Search For Justifications?

In some cases this mish-mash appears the result of innocent, if misplaced zeal - yet in other cases the Institute seems to have searched quite extensively, often relying on obscure texts from (sometimes very obscure) religious figures to justify some of their practices.  

Take their approach to obedience, for example.  Like the Legion of Christ before them, the IVE claim that their religious vow of obedience is modeled after obedience as St Ignatius prescribed it for the Jesuits - especially their "obedience of judgment", also referred to as "obedience of the intellect."  They would tell you as much if the subject was brought up in conversation.  

Yet they don't quote St Ignatius in the relevant section of their constitution at all - probably because he would not support their view.  Instead they string together various quotes with zero context.  Quotes from religious figures - sometimes very obscure religious figures - all from different orders, with different charisms, thus with different intentions in their words.  Then from this they preach and practice what is essentially a blind obedience to superiors - much like the Legion of Christ did.  This is but one example.  There are many others.

We cannot know their motives for creating such a chaotic, disorganized spirituality, but we can think of a few explanations that make sense.  Either it is born out of ignorance and misplaced zeal or it comes from attempting to justify pre-determined courses of action - though we imagine it could also be a combination of the two.

These aspects of the IVE call to mind the words of Pope Francis when he said:
They tell young people: “Do this, do that.” So a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old boy or girl gets excited and they push them forward with rigid directives [...]  This type of rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons.
Problems from Formators to Forums

There are other practical problems with their spiritual formation.  One is that they do not teach correct priestly spirituality.  For instance, there is a clericalism there which, prior to our experience with them, we could not have believed.  They act and demand that they are to be served rather than to serve.  They quite literally treat men in formation and all the sisters as servants, waiters, gophers, personal drivers, etc. - to the extent that even special food and drink is reserved exclusively for the priests at every meal.  

Division of labor and fostering a spirit of humility and service is one thing - instead they foster the idea that with ordination comes graduation into a realm of entitlement.  They  hypocritically, yet openly flaunt their vow of poverty which states they should "choose the worst."  Rather than provide an example to those in their care, the IVE priests lord it over those in formation.  This is a huge problem.

From the clericalism it's a logical extension to their blurring and disappearing of the line between internal & external forum - so much so that - even though it's a basic tenant of formation and is covered by canon law - the concept of "internal & external forum" is never even discussed by the IVE with those in formation.  You'll only learn about it if you have experience with another order or seminary.  We've written in detail on how the IVE disregard internal/external forum and the relevant sections of canon law under "Sign #13" here. 

Danger in Spiritual Direction

These violations of canon law and internal/external forum are just the beginning of the problems you face with IVE spiritual direction.  By being limited to IVE spiritual directors, you are effectively limited to deficient directors.  The saints saw great danger in this.  To quote Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the greatest Catholic Thomists of the 20th Century and academic advisor to a Karol Wojtyl:  
St. Francis de Sales says on the subject of a director: "He must be a man of charity, learning, and prudence; if any one of these three qualities be wanting in him, there is danger." St. Teresa expresses the same opinion.
The clericalism, the lack of concern for candidates, and your own eventual experience will make it clear the IVE is institutionally deficient in charity and prudence.  We've also clearly outlined in the first part of this series how anyone formed by the IVE will be deficient in learning.  Spiritual direction from an IVE priest - as we could personally testify - is dangerous. 

Further, while St Francis de Sales could only imagine one out of ten thousand as a capable spiritual director, nearly every IVE priest is saddled by his superiors with this grave responsibility.  The number of older, learned, and qualified spiritual directors in the area is quite plentiful given the many orders and seminaries in the DC / Catholic University area.  Yet you won't have the option of choosing one of these experienced directors.  IVE seminarians are stuck choosing from the few local IVE priests, many who are less than a few years removed from ordination and - lacking in all three key characteristics outlined as necessary by Garrigou-Lagrange, St Francis de Sales and St Teresa of Avila above - this is dangerous. 

To make matters worse, your IVE director will likely only be interested in you in so far as your vocation to the Institute.  Even if you leave on good terms (which is not always easy to do) and want to continue with your spiritual direction you'll find your spiritual director will quickly be too busy for you - cutting you off from spiritual direction in a time of great spiritual need.  

A Check the Box Off Approach to Prayer

Like their "spirituality" and "charism", even prayer follows a check the box off approach at the institute.  On an individual level, there is very little time available for personal prayer because of the crowded, arbitrary schedule.  In fact, even the most liberal seminaries give more time for quiet, personal prayer than one will receive with the IVE. 

Scheduled prayer is offered with no time for preparation before and no peace after.  Interior silence is further made difficult since you don't have ANY time alone.  Carving out time for individual prayer is impacted since each day is fully scheduled (and though schedules aren't followed, you are subject to the whim of the superior and need to ask permission for any exception - "keep the schedule and the schedule will keep you" is not the rule with the IVE.)  

They often boast that they are so quiet in prayer and so loud elsewhere - well, that's true:

For about 45 minutes of the adoration there will be silence and usually that's the only silence you'll get all day.  

In the US seminary your Holy Hour is crammed between the excessive business of the day on one side and the noisiness of the dinner table on the other.  This is contrary to the instruction of the Spiritual Doctors of the Church.  St Francis de Sales explicitly cautions about going from Holy Hour to a lot of noise - yet the IVE brag about this very practice on their website.

At the seminary in Segni, Italy it's even worse.  Adoration is frequently reduced in duration or cut altogether in favor of work or travel - even though the constitutions and spirituality clearly call for a minimum of one hour mental prayer a day (Though we really shouldn't be surprised when the IVE violate their constitutions.)

For many, the time in adoration is little more than a chance to catch up on sleep or to cry in silence (crying will be a daily occurrence among the sisters and quite frequent among the men as well - tears of joy or contrition we are sure.)  Only one priest will show up for adoration at the seminary.  All of the others are off relaxing or doing work.  The Novice master and parish priests where the novitiate adoration is held almost never show up either.  The same could be said for evening and night prayer.

Busy-Work Trumps Prayer-Life

When in conflict, work takes priority over one's spiritual life.  Your prayer life can therefore be severely restricted based on your "office" or work responsibilities.  If you are on cooking or service duty this greatly affects your prayer life on that day.  If you are cooking you have to leave Mass right after receiving Holy Communion to go and get everyone's breakfast ready and in the evening, while everyone else is in adoration, you are stuck in the kitchen preparing dinner.  (To make it worse, you have to prepare two meals, one for priests and another for seminarians.)  In theory you could get one hour before the Blessed Sacrament at some other time during the day, but in practice this is very difficult to manage due to the overloaded schedule, the lack of personal freedom, and the general disorganization (one could say an almost institutional distaste for applying organization or prudence to any undertaking.)  And there are many offices worse than being a cook.

Regardless of your individual responsibilities, you'll still find yourself working quite often on Sundays and Holy Days - we are not talking about pastoral work, but unnecessary manual labor which could be done any other day.  This is a direct violation of the 3rd Commandment.  If that seems harsh, imagine washing floors or scrubbing toilets on Christmas or Easter Sunday - your superiors telling you it's not really work if you remain joyful while doing it.  

They do this because they want to keep those in formation busy at all times - can't give you too much time to think, after all - even going so far as to order their seminarians to violate God's law.  This sense of busy-ness and activism is harmful to the spiritual life and is warned against by all Spiritual Doctors.

And Much More

Even though a 4th vow of slavery to Our Lady is taken there is no clear sign of extra devotion to Our Lady.  Daily rosary is on the schedule in the USA, but in Italy it's left up to the seminarian's discretion and prior to making the total act of consecration to Our Lady there is no structured preparation.

Though the Institute claims to be orthodox it is frowned on for anyone to receive Holy Communion keeling or for anyone to wear a roman collar. 

And if you entered you'd find many more examples where prayer and spiritual life take a back-seat to the arbitrary practices at the Institute.  

Just So You Know

We don't write this to question the spiritual devotion of the Institute's current seminarians or priests.  We write this so you can be sufficiently forewarned and informed where they were not.  

If you already have a solid foundation for your spiritual and prayer life and are hoping for it to grow then you may be best served looking elsewhere.