Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why People Enter the IVE - Part II

This is the second part of a two post series.  For part one go here.

In our previous post we explained how the IVE fills up about two-thirds of its seminary and novitiate with men who, because of personal issues, circumstance, and impediments, could not have been accepted into any other US seminaries. We discussed how these seminarians are with the IVE in large part because they have nowhere else to go and that many shouldn't be in a seminary at all.  We also outlined how putting these men in formation puts both the candidates and the community at risk.  

In this section we'll discuss the remainder of those joining the IVE - men who could probably get accepted into other seminaries - and we'll go over the reasons they consider and ultimately join the Institute.  If you are considering the IVE for any of the reasons we outline below, please be careful.  We are sympathetic to your concerns, but this is a case where the "cure" is likely worse than the disease.   Please exercise a patient, prayerful discernment with a good qualified spiritual director and discuss these issues below with him. 

Men looking to avoid modernist issues and gay subcultures

Many good men who are trying to properly discern a vocation in today's American Catholic Church are looking for a seminary and/or order that will give them some traditional formation and teaching, avoiding any modernist & heretical ideas and especially devoid of any gay subculture.  

By all accounts, avoiding gay subcultures in seminaries is probably much easier now than it used to be, but finding good, sound, traditional instruction in the classroom might still take some effort.  In the process of this search, some men will run across the IVE and think they may have found a viable option.  

Of course, there are other good legitimate orders out there that don't have any problems with a gay subculture or modernism, but these orders will have admission requirements and application processes.  The IVE, meanwhile, will let nearly everyone in with no paperwork required (see here.)  So when legitimate orders are asking for more info and trying to schedule interviews, the IVE are saying "yes, you can come right now, you shouldn't wait". (See more on how the IVE handle 'discernment' here.)  In this situation it's very easy to take the path of least resistance, call it "the will of God", and choose the Institute without finishing out the application process and discerning with these other orders.  

Some of these men that are entering the IVE are entering a seminary/order for the first time.  A few others are men who were previously at diocesan seminaries and may have had issues with modernism, gay subculture, or a lack of spirituality.  What these men have in common is that they are choosing the IVE not for what it is, but for what it isn't.  They are choosing it because it isn't heterical, isn't modernist, isn't gay.  There's usually nothing unique about the IVE that draws them, rather, they are just looking to avoid issues elsewhere.

Men with "St Paul Moments", drawn to spirituality

The second group (which overlaps with the first) are guys whose first contact with 'traditional' spirituality is with the IVE.  

There is a dearth of spirituality in today's church, especially at the diocesan level.  Many men discerning with a diocese or attending a diocesan seminary will have 'spirituality' presented to them as kumbaya therapy sessions:  Guru-types peddling 60's pscyho-babble, charismatic lay people wanting to pray over the audience, acoustical guitar sessions and folk singing.  These are referred to as "pizza-ministry", more centered around group-sharing and pizza than around Christ, silent prayer, and traditional Catholic worship.  

If this is what you are used to then your first experience with the IVE might seem like a spiritual epiphany.  IVE retreats might not always be well-run, but they generally involve a chapel, silence, and talks centered around the writings of St Ignatius.  However distorted these retreats are by the IVE, they will seem a welcome respite from the group-therapy offered by the pizza-ministry crowd. 

Men placed in this more traditional retreat environment often become immediately drawn and spiritually inspired and the IVE use that inspiration as an opportunity to recruit the retreat attendees.  These are what many call "St Paul moments" where one is inspired, on a "spiritual high", and quickly (ie. imprudently) makes a decision to join.  (Though we'll note that St Paul was not in reality so hasty: after his vision he went first to the desert and then waited three years before finally presenting himself to St Peter.)  

Men recruited during retreats or visits

It's important to recognize what these retreats really are.  The IVE seem very generous to have invited you and put on the retreat - often for free - but the reality is these retreats are like the free vacations offered by time-share companies.  You do get a free vacation, but you also get a sales pitch.  Just like the time-shares have you sit through high-pressure sales presentation each day, the IVE will absolutely use this opportunity to recruit.  We've posted on this before (see here), where - rather than respect explicit rules from St Ignatius not to push the discerner one way or the other - they will pressure attendees in this manner, both by the make-up of the retreat and during 1:1 confession and "spiritual direction."  

For some these retreats are traumatic.  Since they heavily focus on sin and they induce a heavy feeling of guilt.  For others, the silence in the chapel - possibly the most silent prayer they've ever had - puts them on a spiritual high.  We are aware of situations where the IVE have taken advantage of men and women in both situations to push the attendee towards vocation to the institute on the attendee - and this can't be said enough - in explicit violation of the rules laid down by St Ignatius. 

 Once people have made the decision to join, the IVE will make it very easy to enter, but some do reconsider.  In the latter cases, the IVE make it difficult for them to back out.  Their priests, especially superiors, are very practiced at dealing with persons who have come down from their spiritual high and wish to reconsider their decisions.  

They will distort the rules of St Ignatius ("you are in desolation and can't make a decision", "you already discerned this, you can re-discern it", etc.)  They will blame any doubts on the devil.  They will accuse you of not having the courage to serve God.  They'll even tell you it is a special Grace and your salvation could depend on entering.  

As we cover on our discernment page here, the IVE will never help you to actually discern whether you have a vocation or whether the IVE is right for you because almost none of them discerned these things themselves.  Instead they will encourage and sometimes pressure you to join because that's how they were treated and all they've known while at the Institute.

Offering these "retreats" is a regular tactic they use on guys coming from a diocesan seminary and/or guys with a close family or friend connection to the IVE or SSVM.  They continually invite them for a "retreat" and when the candidate finally relents, he'll often find out he is the only one attending.  

Just like the Legion of Christ before them, the IVE are only successful with this because your average diocese offers little in the way of organized spiritual formation.  Yet these sects are not the answer.   These groups are doing this only because it works as a hook to lure people in.  They aren't doing it because it's representative of who they are and what they live.  As we cover here, proper spiritual formation is not what you will get if you enter.

Guys with connections to the IVE or SSVM

The last characteristic of this group, as we allude to above, is that they often have connections to the IVE or SSVM.   Maybe it's a friend from school who joined the SSVM.  Maybe it's a sister or cousin that joined.  Sometimes it's even a brother.  

If you've ever been part of the Institute, you know the hospitality shown to an 'eligible' candidate.  Want to write a letter to your old protestant buddy with a girlfriend?  Sorry, there's no time for that.  Want to have coffee with your married brother who's in town?  Hmm, maybe better to have him visit at a group meal.   But bring up an eligible candidate like a little brother or a friend who is a seminarian somewhere else? Yes of course! Call him!  Email him! Tell him about the retreat, invite him to come stay, go have lunch with him!

It's doesn't take much convincing for those inside to reach out to these "eligible candidates" either.  Besides the fact that they are the only ones they can get quality time with, seminarians & sisters are constantly told how theirs is the "most meritorious" vocation and how their salvation could depend on them being there.  If they believe their superiors and if they really love their friends and siblings, wouldn't they want to give them the opportunity to be saved as well? 

These connections are encouraged and are used to bring eligible candidates in for retreats or to any of the many trips and events scheduled throughout the year.  Not everyone who gets invited to the European pilgrimage or WYD gets the hard sell, but there are always some that do. 

Guys that enjoy the elitism

Finally, you'll run across a small set of guys that just like the elitism the IVE offer.  If you are having a vocation conversation, it doesn't take long before you'll hear the IVE priest or even seminarian bad-mouthing diocesan seminaries or other orders.  The IVE truly believe their institute is the highest calling and they are going to tell you that.  

Some guys will know better, but the IVE have been doing this a long time.  They know that a lot of guys question the liberalism at other places and could be persuaded by this line of argument.  They also know that others like the idea of feeling "elite" and "special."  And let's face it:  if there is a guy mature and educated enough to be turned off by this behavior then the IVE don't really want him anyway.  They know he'd never stay and he might even end up reporting them to a Bishop.  

These men that go for the "elitism" - often against the advice of their spiritual directors - often end up being the "true believers."  They'll lecture kids on "perpetual discernment" at youth retreats.  They'll write papers as seminarians that pass judgement on the narcissm of other priests (while practicing the worst kind of clericalism themselves.)  The elitism was what drew them in and they'll continue to focus on the things they think makes them special. 

Nobody joins for the right reasons

In the end the guys that might actually have a shot at getting into a normal seminary and join the IVE instead will usually join for some combination of the above reasons.  If there's something they want or are interested in that's not covered above - no problem.  The IVE will tell them whatever they want to hear:  Contemplative branch?  We got that.  Graduate studies?  We got that.  Just enter, we have all that stuff you might want.

You see, these people don't join the IVE on account of any positive characteristics it might have.  They don't join the IVE for it's charism, because the IVE doesn't have one.  They don't join the IVE for its unique approach to spirituality, because the IVE doesn't have one.  Any positives the IVE have aren't particular to them: they are just the general positives of Catholicism that the IVE has adopted.  The good things the IVE offer to you via their carefully crafted image on websites and at events (Mass, adoration, cassocks, orthodoxy, retreats) are really just good things from catholicism that should be in any order or diocese, etc. 

Unfortunately, people are joining the IVE for negative reasons: because they aren't liberal, don't have obvious homosexual stuff going on, don't have obvious liturgical abuses, don't have any funny clerical dress.  

Don't fall into the trap

There are many people who want to believe in the Institute.  Yet they have confused the IVE with the image that the IVE falsely portrays.  

The Church has real problems right now.  The abuse scandal has frightened many.  Diocesan seminaries are not teaching what they should.  Many priests refuse to wear clericals.  There is little reverence for the Eucharist or teachings of the Church.  The list goes on.

As a result, people who want to pursue a religious or priestly vocation don't know where to go. The IVE (like the Legion of Christ before them) have taken advantage of this crisis. Many listen to what the IVE says, see the pictures of cassocked, smiling members and want to believe in this, want to be part of helping to rebuild the Church.  

The IVE promote themselves as the answer to all of these problems, but we assure you, they are not.  Take a look around this site, visit the IVE yourselves and you'll see we are telling you the truth. 

You can properly discern your vocation and get good formation for the priesthood.  There are good orders out there and good bishops, but like all good things, they will take some time and investment to discern and enter - but they (and God's will for your vocation) are worth it.