Integrating Formative Roles

– Tim Costello

1                An educative task

The research of Rulla, Ridick and Imoda has always been directed towards a practical educational task, especially the preparation of educators capable of offering an in-depth formation for future priests and religious. Franco Imoda’s work Human Development. Psychology and Mystery shares a similar purpose: «The aim of this book is not to solve all problems, or to provide an exhaustive manual of psychological, philosophical or theological anthropology (…) it aims rather to invite critical thought and to forge a better definition of the educative task as it relates to the process of human development».[1]

To define the educative task and to propose pedagogical principles is one thing. To apply these principles to concrete situations is quite another. In response to directions set by the Second Vatican Council, the Gregorian University developed programs specifically oriented towards the preparation of seminary and religious formators. The Institute of Psychology, established in 1971, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Formation of Seminary Educators, established in 1996, offer a systematic and intensive preparation for the educators – «formators» – of future generations of priests, religious, and consecrated lay persons.

The experience of teaching in these programs and offering personal accompaniment to their participants makes a strong impact. The extraordinary diversity of situations from which the participants come and to which they will return as formators makes a striking impression: a diocesan seminary in Mexico, a novitiate in Korea, a monastic community in India, a seminary with 900 students in Nigeria, a training program for the Focolare Movement in Italy, a small formation house for clerical religious in Australia.

The wide diversity of institutional situations and cultural contexts within which these future formators will work raises many practical questions. The educative and formative theory formulated by the authors mentioned above has been applied to an extraordinarily wide range of situations. The theory has been verified not only by the processes of scientific validation but also by the light it has brought to specific questions regarding religious and priestly formation in many parts of the world during a period of nearly forty years. This chapter addresses one question of contemporary interest, viz. the integration of different educative roles within the process of seminary and religious formation.

2                The Church desires an integrated formation

2.1            The formation ideal

Building on foundations established by the Second Vatican Council and developed in the post-conciliar period, Pope John Paul II has formulated a comprehensive vision of priestly and religious formation. This vision is set forth especially in two apostolic exhortations which are the fruit of two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. The first document Pastores dabo vobis (1992) gives a detailed presentation of priestly formation in all its aspects; the goal, the constitutive components, the setting, the persons involved and their respective responsibilities. The second document Vita consecrata (1996) locates the consecrated life within the mystery of Trinitarian love. The document then identifies the formative processes necessary to prepare candidates to live the evangelical counsels as a sign of ecclesial communion and as a manifestation of God’s love in the world.

The approach to priestly and religious formation in these documents is dynamic, integrative, and holistic. First, formation is dynamic because its essential framework is relational and developmental. Every vocation is rooted in a relationship between God and the individual who is called by God. The dynamic of «call and response» requires an anthropology which explains not only the desire to respond to God’s call but also the obstacles and difficulties human beings frequently experience as they seek to live out their religious ideals. Secondly, formation is integrative. The Holy Father identifies four components of formation – human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral – and discusses each in detail. These components have given rise to new formative roles (formator, therapist, counselor, academic adviser, pastoral supervisor) or new orientations to traditional roles (rector, novice master, spiritual director, confessor, and teacher). Those responsible must coordinate their respective roles through an explicit orientation towards «the specific finality which alone justifies the existence of the seminary […] the formation of future priests, pastors of the church».[2] The failure to recognize the need to take active and explicit measures to bring about this coordination inevitably results in formation programs that are compartmentalized, lacking in cohesion, and poorly integrated. Thirdly, formation is holistic because its aim is to touch «the whole person, in every aspect of the personality, in behavior and intentions».[3] Furthermore, the processes of initial and ongoing formation are closely linked as parts of the same journey of faith whose single aim is to bring candidates, professed religious and ordained priests to live their vocation from a profoundly interior motivation and personal conviction.

One of the important contributions made by Pope John Paul II has been to incorporate more systematically into the Church’s anthropology of vocation and formation certain developmental perspectives drawn from the human sciences. This leads to a consequent reflection on the kind of preparation needed for the educators who will be responsible for translating these formation ideals into institutional structures and pedagogical methods. The Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators published by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1993 confirms the need for educators capable of helping candidates to resolve spiritual and human difficulties at a profound level. These educators and formators «should be sufficiently prepared as not to be deceived or to deceive regarding a presumed consistency and maturity of the student. For this, “common sense” is not enough. An attentive and refined examination from a good knowledge of the human sciences is necessary in order to go beyond appearances and the superficial level of motivations and behavior, and to help the seminarian know himself in depth, to accept himself with serenity, and to correct himself and to mature, starting from the real and not illusory roots».[4]

2.2            A problem of roles and boundaries

The ecclesial documents on formation often present paradigm situations in which institutional roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated. The documents already cited, for example, identify within the major seminary the following roles: the bishop, the rector, the vice-rector, the spiritual director, the seminary educators (formators), the professors, the coordinator of pastoral activities, the prefect of studies, the librarian, and the business manager.[5]

In real life, however, bishops and major superiors have to balance the resources required for formation with other pastoral needs. This often results in compromise solutions where the ideals proposed by the ecclesial documents cannot be realistically achieved. After returning to their dioceses, religious provinces, or ecclesial movements, those who have trained as formators are not uncommonly asked to assume multiple roles and diverse responsibilities within the formation structure. For example, the same person may be asked to assume the roles of teacher and spiritual director, religious superior and pastoral supervisor, spiritual director and bursar, therapist and teacher, rector and provincial councillor, and so on.

Combining roles may be a common-sense response to the problem of limited resources, but it also raises important questions about confusion of responsibilities and possible abuse of power. Can the teacher who must evaluate a student’s academic progress also be spiritual director to the same person? Can a spiritual director, after a period of time has elapsed, accept a role in external forum decisions about a former client? Can a therapist and client live together in the same community? Is it appropriate for a formator (therapist, spiritual director, or teacher) to develop a friendship relationship with a person who is a student or client? What is the relationship between spiritual direction and psychological therapy, and the other instruments of human formation? Why stress the importance of boundaries when the desired goal is to integrate the different elements of formation?

Questions such as these will be less evident in large institutional settings with adequate resources, numerous personnel, formal policies and procedures, and clear lines of responsibility. But the reality in many parts of the Church, especially where vocations are numerous and resources are limited, is rather different – and questions such as these are very real. Beyond the many specific questions, there is one fundamental question which serves to draw forth some helpful principles in determining possible responses to the many concrete situations that arise. The fundamental question is this: when formators are asked to assume multiple roles and diverse responsibilities within the formation structure does this represent a creative response to the reality of limited resources, or does it create a dangerous confusion which is counter-productive to the goals of religious and priestly formation and perhaps even harmful to the good of individuals?

3                Fences, relationships, and boundaries

3.1            Good fences make good neighbors

A well-known American proverb states that «good fences make good neighbors».[6] Like many expressions of folk wisdom, including the biblical parables, the proverb is built more on ambiguity and paradox than on philosophical logic. Yet it captures an important insight into human beings and their complex and sometimes contradictory ways of relating with each other.

A great deal can be at stake when building fences and walls. Is the purpose of a wall to keep someone in or to keep someone out? The proverb means one thing when applied to the physical fences that set boundaries between individuals in rural settings; it takes on a more dramatic meaning when applied to walls and fences between states, whether those boundaries are physical (Kashmir, East Jerusalem, Berlin, the Great Wall of China) or political (policies regulating the movement of immigrants, refugees, and workers).[7]

So what is the meaning of the saying «good fences make good neighbors»? Like all proverbial wisdom the saying is open to diverse interpretations and applicable to different situations. Commentaries on Frost’s poem, for example, refer variously to boundaries, barriers, tradition, individuality, community, property rights, communication between neighbors, and so on. As an expression of psychological wisdom, the proverb can have two possible applications. First, with reference to personal relationships the proverb could be applied to the personal boundaries that mark out the line between where we cease and others begin. The development of healthy ego boundaries, as part of the overall process of human development, produces a sense of personal identity which allows us to describe and define our relationships with others and with the external world in general. Secondly, with reference to professional relationships the proverb could refer to the fiduciary trust that governs the therapist’s way of relating to the client who comes for treatment. Setting and maintaining proper boundaries, for which the therapist rather than the client holds responsibility, is integral to the healing process and therefore constitutes a serious and sacred duty.[8] In both of these examples, then, we could say that «good psychological fences make good neighbors».

If this proverb sheds light on the nature of psychological and professional boundaries, it also raises as many questions as it seems to answer. When and why do good fences make good neighbors? When and why should fences be built? When and why should we take down walls and boundaries? Then, there are some further questions which relate more specifically to the formative processes. What kinds of boundaries are needed to preserve the integrity of each of the components of formation? Should one person assume multiple formative roles? What are appropriate relational boundaries between formator and students? How should overlapping roles – for example, between spiritual direction and pastoral supervision – be managed? To better pursue questions such as these we need to move beyond the world of folklore and proverbial wisdom and consider concepts taken from the psychological literature.

3.2            The nature of professional relationships

In the course of many centuries society has developed structures for responding to the basic needs of people. Certain professions such as medicine, law, religion, teaching, and psychotherapy have been designated to protect and preserve our minds, our bodies, our souls, and our relationships with each other. The fundamental importance of these basic human needs is reflected in the privileged status that society bestows upon professionals, which allows them the authority and respect needed to act for the common welfare.

Doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, and counselors deal with deeply personal matters concerning people’s lives. Mental health professionals, for example, provide a therapeutic context within which their clients make themselves vulnerable as a means of resolving inner conflicts and difficulties relating to their psychological functioning. The client’s trust, and consequent vulnerability, is protected by law and by ethical codes of practice. Even though payment is normally expected, the relationship between professional and client is more than an ordinary business deal between two parties. The professional relationship is based on a covenant of «fiduciary trust» which is «a special relationship in which one person accepts the trust and confidence of another to act in the latter’s best interest. The parties do not deal on equal terms. The fiduciary must act with the utmost good faith and solely for the benefit of the dependent party. The client becomes dependent on the trustworthiness of the fiduciary and becomes vulnerable in the sense that he is less likely to question what the professional person does».[9]

The fiduciary relationship shapes the interaction between the «expert» professional and the «vulnerable» client. It is based on the implicit understanding that the professional person accepts responsibility for the welfare of the client, places the client’s interests before his own, avoids any action harmful to the client, respects the client’s privacy, avoids conflicts of interest, and will work within the context of a clear set of ethical («hallowed») principles.

There are some significant differences between personal and professional relationships. A personal relationship, between two friends, for example, has no purpose beyond itself, serves the needs of both parties, and creates an environment in which both parties can share common interests, pastimes, and beliefs. This is a relationship between equals, based on personal trust, with boundaries that are implicit, informal, and somewhat vague. By contrast, a professional relationship between doctor and patient, for example, has a clear and explicit purpose directed primarily towards the needs and welfare of the patient. A mutual sharing of interests and opinions is irrelevant to the goals of the relationship which, furthermore, is unequal in power and status. The fiduciary trust of the professional relationship requires boundaries that are explicit, formal, and clear.

The ministry of forming future priests and religious places the formator in a position of trust analogous to that of the professional. This means that seminary and religious formators have a professional responsibility towards their candidates and students. If the term «fiduciary trust” does not appear as such in ecclesial documents, the concept with all its consequences is clearly present. Thus: «the task of formation of candidates for the priesthood requires not only a certain special preparation of those to whom this work is entrusted, one that is professional, pedagogical, spiritual, human and theological, but also a spirit of communion and cooperating together to carry out the program […] For this ministry, priests of exemplary life should be chosen, men with a number of qualities: human and spiritual maturity, pastoral experience, professional competence, stability in their own vocation, a capacity to work with others, serious preparation in those human sciences (especially psychology) which relate to their office, a knowledge of how to work in groups».[10]

Among the responsibilities of the professional person – whether doctor, lawyer, teacher, psychologist, or seminary educator – are two tasks which are particularly relevant to the present discussion: setting appropriate boundaries, and avoiding conflicts of interest.

3.3            Setting appropriate boundaries

The concept of psychological boundaries has its origins in the psychodynamic theories of attachment and detachment which seek to explain the developmental process of individuation. Individuation takes place through a complex set of relationships, beginning with the unique bond between mother and child, and continuing within the family. This corresponds to the first parameter of human development, the self confronted by the other, which creates a life-long tension since «to become oneself as person means […] becoming individual, alone and unrepeatable, but at the same time means inserting oneself progressively in a world of relationships».[11] One of the valuable contributions of Franco Imoda is to place this aspect of the developmental process within the context of the human «mystery».

Each person learns about boundaries largely from the experience of living within a family. According to S. Minuchin the maintenance of balanced psychological boundaries within the family structure, particularly between parents and children, is crucial to healthy functioning.[12] Boundaries are like a «membrane» that surrounds each individual and each subsystem in the family. Like the membrane around a cell, boundaries need to be firm enough to ensure the integrity of the cell and yet permeable enough to allow communication between cells.[13] Healthy boundaries define family roles, acknowledge differences in the developmental stages of family members, and enable parents to meet their adult needs in the marital relationship rather than through their children.

Family boundaries can be distorted in different ways and to different degrees, though usually unconsciously. At one extreme is the enmeshed family which has difficulty providing sufficient personal privacy to family members thus blocking the development of autonomy and individuality. Parents tend to be over-involved and overprotective of their children, with greater priory given to family life and togetherness than to individual interests or relationships outside the family. Members of the enmeshed family tend to be emotionally fused, undifferentiated and dependent. At the other extreme is the disengaged family which fails to develop a sense of intimacy and communication. Parents tend to be detached, emotionally distant, and consumed by personal interests or psychological survival. Relationships within the family are tense, and often characterized by lack of protection, support, and concern. A feature common to both enmeshed and disengaged families is the presence of unhealthy or pathological boundaries. The diffuse boundaries of the enmeshed family, arising from exaggerated patterns of attachment, produce confusion about roles and responsibilities within the family. The rigid boundaries of the disengaged family, rooted in exaggerated forms of detachment, hinder healthy patterns of communication and affective expression.

One of the features of healthy family functioning is the presence of appropriate or clear boundaries. This provides a helpful analogy for understanding one aspect of professional roles and relationships within the formative process. Whereas the boundaries within family life operate for the most part spontaneously and unconsciously, the boundaries which define the interaction between professional and client must be conscious and purposeful. To illustrate: the successful achievement of therapeutic goals requires an environment within which the process of change and healing can take place. This has been likened to a «holding environment» in which the client can suspend temporarily his normal critical faculties as a means of identifying and working through unconscious conflicts. Therapeutic environments, however, do not occur spontaneously; they must be formed, maintained, and protected by the therapist as part of his fiduciary responsibility to the client.

Setting proper boundaries is central to the healing, educative, and formative task. What precisely constitutes a «proper» boundary will vary according to the nature of the professional relationship. The boundaries appropriate to the confessor are different from those of the teacher, the doctor, or the seminary educator. The boundaries necessary for psychotherapy are stricter and less flexible than those needed for teaching. Freud formulated some specific guidelines for setting boundaries in the therapeutic relationship, advice that still forms the basis for present-day views about the proper conduct of other professional relationships. These are the principles of informed consent, non-exploitation of the client, therapist neutrality, avoidance of dual agency, relative anonymity of the therapist, payment of coherent fees.[14]

Are these fixed and invariable principles always to be followed, or guidelines which usefully raise relevant questions and areas of potential concern? R.S. Epstein believes that «the role of keeping boundaries is best seen as a working paradigm, like navigating a boat by compass. Although it is impossible to be pointed in exactly the correct direction at all times, by continually observing changes in heading, one can steer the boat back onto the proper course».[15] This can be useful advice, also, for dealing with some of the specific questions raised earlier about boundaries within the formation process.

3.4            Multiple role relationships and conflicts of interest

The question of multiple role relationships has received much attention within professional circles partly because of wide public and media interest in cases of sexual involvement between professionals and their patients, clients, or students. The extensive literature, stimulated by the ethical committees of many professional bodies, has focused on a number of related issues including: the ethical aspects of multiple relationships, the priority of the client’s welfare and interests, and the impact of multiple role relationships on professional boundaries.

Multiple role relationships (also called dual or overlapping) occur when those who have a professional relationship with a client enter into another kind of role or relationship with the same person. These roles may be concurrent as, for example, when a teacher goes on vacation with a pupil, or consecutive as, for example, when a spiritual director employs a former client to be his secretary. Other examples of dual, multiple or overlapping relationships are: entering into business relationships with clients, delivering professional services to family members, entering into professional relationships with employees, socializing with clients or students, accepting friends as clients, accepting or offering gifts, asking favors from clients, conducting therapy outside a professional setting.[16] More relevant to the present discussion are the dual role relationships created by combining the responsibilities of teacher and counselor, therapist and supervisor, spiritual director and teacher, formator and friend, community superior and therapist, and so on.

There is a wide diversity of opinion among psychologists about the ethics of multiple role relationships. Some adopt a strict position emphasizing the potential problems inherent in assuming multiple roles: impaired objectivity, errors of judgment, possible conflicts of interest, the danger of client exploitation, and boundary blurring. Studies show that psychologists and counselors can be exceptionally skilful at rationalizing their own unprofessional behavior.[17] A common antecedent to sexual misconduct especially on the part of male therapists is a pattern of increasing self-disclosure of personal information. Other writers take a more critical stance towards current ethical codes which are based on the assumption that dual relationships are always wrong. The emphasis on professional distance tends to exaggerate issues of power, to favor an objectification of the therapeutic relationship, and to create a vertical hierarchy in the relationship. These writers claim that sometimes the maintenance of therapeutic distance is neither possible nor beneficial, especially in small, rural, or special interest communities. If client welfare remains primary, there may be circumstances when the therapeutic relationship can also provide opportunities for role modeling.[18]

Multiple role relationships are unethical, not per se, but when they could reasonably be expected to impair the objectivity, competence, or effectiveness of the professional in his dealings with the client. In this respect, it is helpful to distinguish between crossing and violating boundaries. Boundary crossing occurs when the professional changes his role or relationship consciously and purposely to benefit the client. Boundary violation, which is not confined to sexual relationships, is an exploitation of the client in order to benefit the therapist and is always a serious breach of the therapeutic contract.[19]

The complexity of the issues and diversity of perspectives means that the debate about dual and multiple relationships is far from settled. On certain matters, however, there exists a recognized degree of consensus. First, certain kinds of multiple role relationship should always be avoided and can never be justified. Thus, for examples: sexual intimacy, entering into business deals, and any situation that could compromise client confidentiality. Secondly, multiple role relationships cannot always be avoided nor is every multiple relationship necessarily harmful to the client’s interests. In the teacher-pupil relationship, for example, which does not involve the same emotional intensity as the therapy relationship, socializing on a casual basis should not be automatically excluded even though the teacher should do so with prudence and caution.

4                Integrating human and spiritual formation

4.1            Returning to the original question

The starting point of this discussion was a practical question about combining different formative roles in one person because of the limited resources available for initial formation within dioceses, religious congregations, and ecclesial movements. Is this a creative solution to the demands of reality? Could this be a way of realizing the desirable goal of an integrated formation which the ecclesial documents propose? Or does this create confusion for formators and candidates, the blurring of boundaries, and undermine the goals of formation?

The discussion of fences, boundaries, conflicts of interest, and professional relationships has introduced ideas and concepts from a broader ethical discussion. These concepts may help to bring clarity to some of the concrete questions about an integrated formation, the boundaries between the different components of formation, and the conditions under which different formative roles may be assumed by the same person.

4.2            Integration upon what basis?

The goals of priestly and religious formation are best realized in formation programs that are dynamic, integrative, and holistic in character. For pedagogical reasons, the ecclesial documents have identified four constitutive components: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. The challenge for educators and formators is to bring about a harmonious integration of these components – the framework within which formation takes place – in order to promote the holistic growth, human and spiritual, of the candidates.

This harmony will be brought about especially by relating the components of formation, each role, each formative activity, and each institutional structure to the fundamental goals of seminary or religious formation. What are these goals? The goal and purpose of the seminary has been clearly stated by Pope John Paul II: «More than a place, a material space, [the seminary] should be a spiritual place, a way of life, an atmosphere that fosters and ensures a process of formation so that the person who is called to the priesthood by God may become with the sacrament of orders a living image of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church».[20] Similarly, for the consecrated life, «the primary purpose of religious formation is to help candidates to the religious life and young professed, first, to discover, then, to deepen and assimilate that in which religious identity consists».[21]

For both seminary and novitiate, therefore, the essential aim to which every aspect of the formation program must be directed is the profound inner transformation of the candidate who is called to be a transparent image of the priestly and evangelical values revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

4.3            Tasks of the formator

The first task of formators is to immerse themselves deeply in the mind and heart of the Church since the training of future priests and religious is a ministry undertaken in the name of the Church. In the processes of selection and formation the candidate places his vocational future in the hands of the formators. Candidates have a right, based on the bond of fiduciary trust, to know that religious superiors and formators will faithfully implement the Church’s vision, laws, and formation procedures. Bishops and superiors have a serious responsibility to ensure that future formators are given the systematic preparation, required by the Church, necessary to undertake this ministry.

The second task of formators is to operationalize the goals of priestly and religious formation, that is, to devise pedagogical, formative and, if necessary, therapeutic strategies capable of helping the candidate to internalize the core values of his vocational calling. These educational strategies must be capable of addressing both the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the candidate’s life if they are to attain the desired goal. An integrated and holistic formation «presupposes that the students will be at the same time formed as men, as Christians, and as priests. Therefore, plans for priestly formation should have three aims, answering the need to form personalities which are integrally human, Christian, and priestly».[22]

The third task of formators is to coordinate three basic formative activities which are common to each of the components of formation, though with different emphases, methods, and modalities. These basic formative activities are proposing, understanding, and internalizing the core vocational values of priesthood or the consecrated life.

Proposing core vocational values presupposes a common understanding among the educators and formators about what these ideals are. While theological discussion and personal opinion have their place, ultimately the values from which the Christian, religious, and priestly vocation derive their meaning are objective and normative. These values, in other words, are neither created nor determined by man but are proposed for our free acceptance in the obedience of faith.[23] The formator will use a range of pedagogical methods to propose vocational ideals to the candidates: liturgy, retreats and spiritual exercises, teaching systematic themes, talks, community celebrations, and especially the personal witness of the formators.

Understanding what has been proposed requires a personalized response which takes into account the capacities of each individual. Concerns have been expressed over many years regarding the limited and sometimes deficient faith knowledge of those entering seminaries and novitiates.[24] An accurate and ongoing assessment of the candidate’s understanding will help the formator choose the most suitable pedagogical and formative methods, which might include: propaedeutic studies, guided reading, written assignments, questions and answers, class presentations, careful selection of visiting speakers, and encouraging the candidate to bring the material to personal prayer and reflection.

Internalizing the values which have been proposed and understood is the third formative activity. These human and revealed values will transform a person’s life only to the extent that they have been personally assimilated and internalized. Experienced formators, spiritual directors, and teachers testify almost universally that this is the most difficult, delicate and elusive phase of the formation process. The testimony of seminary educators finds scientific confirmation in the theory and research of Rulla, Ridick and Imoda who also propose a formative instrument – vocational growth sessions – as a means of helping candidates address the resistances and blocks which are rooted in the unconscious dimension of human life and which can limit the person’s capacity to live fully his vocation.

4.4            Instruments for human and spiritual formation

For each of the components of formation – human, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral – the seminary educator must find instruments and devise interventions capable of advancing the overall goals of the formation program. Such interventions, properly used, can make a powerful contribution to the integrated and holistic growth of the candidate. The coordinated use of pedagogical instruments requires a good understanding of why, how, and when each should be used and by whom. Formators must actively set in place the appropriate boundaries, demanded by any professional relationship, which are needed to make these pedagogical and therapeutic instruments efficacious. The absence of such boundaries tends to reduce formation to an endless series of uncoordinated experiences, haphazard interventions, or the use of blunt instruments for unclear reasons. This brings about confusion, disappointment, and frustration for formators, candidates, and major superiors.

Spiritual direction, vocational growth sessions, and pastoral supervision are three pedagogical instruments oriented largely though not exclusively towards the spiritual, human, and pastoral formation of candidates. Difficulties sometimes occur because these instruments, while having their own character and integrity, are also characterized by overlapping areas of interest. This, in turn, can lead to boundaries between formators that are blurred or rigid, thus creating confusion and conflict in the student. The coordinated and integrated use of such instruments for the benefit of the candidate may be assisted by a brief comparative analysis of each along a variety of dimensions: the specific focus, the goal, the raw material, and the instruments.[25]

a. Spiritual direction. The specific focus of spiritual direction is the candidate especially in his relationship with God. The goal is to help the person develop this relationship, to attain a deeper union with God, to follow Christ more consistently, to grow in charity, and to deepen the life of virtue. The raw material of spiritual direction is religious experience which embraces «feeling, mood, thought, desire, hope, will, bodily gestures and attitudes, activity, and direction of one’s life».[26] The instruments are prayer, sacraments, catechesis, and the discernment of spirits.

b. Vocational growth sessions. The specific focus of vocational growth sessions is the candidate in his desire to understand and overcome the inner conflicts that block his capacity to live fully his human and vocational ideals. The goal is to increase the person’s degree of inner freedom and therefore the capacity to internalize his objective vocational values. The raw material of vocational growth sessions is thoughts, feelings, desires, relationships, memories of past experiences, underlying needs and defensive conflicts as they are experienced in daily life. The instruments are the structured interview, projective tests, the therapeutic alliance, controlled regression, interpretation of transferences, and the optimal frustration of those inner forces which are contrary to the person’s ideals.

c. Pastoral supervision. The specific focus of pastoral supervision is the priest, religious, or seminarian in relationship to his ministry or work. The goal is to develop greater levels of professional competence, to grow in personal confidence, to increase effectiveness in pastoral ministry, to become more aware of unhelpful patterns of relating, and to make oneself accountable. The raw material of pastoral supervision is drawn from events relating to the workplace and pastoral ministry, relationships with authority figures and colleagues, and particular interventions with clients. The instruments are the pastoral journal, the pastoral log, case studies, the verbatim, role play, and written reflections.

5                Conclusion

At the end of the discussion, the question of combining formative roles remains a matter that must be decided according to concrete circumstances but in the light of the wisdom enshrined in established principles. First, certain formation roles should never be combined, such as rector and spiritual director, confessor and therapist, major superior and formator. There exists an inherent conflict of responsibilities in each of these combinations which makes it impossible for one person to fulfill both roles at the same time. Second, combining formation roles solely on the grounds of pragmatic need runs the risk of compromising the integrity and the goals of the formation process. The random accumulation of roles and responsibilities in one educator is likely to create distorted boundaries leading to negative results – disengaged or enmeshed modes of relating – for both formator and candidates. Third, insisting on a strict demarcation between every formative role suggests an exaggerated, even rigid, adherence to theoretical principle without acknowledging that the different formation roles have diverse characteristics. The characteristics specific to each role can be illuminated by identifying goal, focus, raw material and instruments proper to each. Such an analysis indicates that roles within the formation process are not necessarily always in dialectical tension with each other and, given proper safeguards, certain roles could be combined with others in the one educator.

The question of the proper ordering of formative roles arises from the Church’s desire to provide candidates for the priesthood and religious life with a formation that unifies rather than compartmentalizes their lives around the person, the teaching, and the ideals of Jesus Christ. This has encouraged many efforts, particularly following the Second Vatican Council, to develop educational programs that are based on an anthropology which embraces the human as well as the spiritual dimensions of human experience.

A parallel interest can also be detected in recent decades within the field of mental health both in Europe and in North America. An increasing number of mental health professionals are acknowledging the significance of spirituality and religious faith, and are seeking appropriate ways to address clients’ spiritual concerns within psychotherapy. The impetus for this concern, ironically, is the growing recognition that «integralist” forms of religious faith, whether Muslim or Christian, simply cannot be ignored. The first national convention of the Italian Association of Catholic Psychologists and Psychiatrists (AIPPC) was held at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome on 4/5 March 2000.[27] Against the background of rigid historical boundaries that have separated the human sciences from religion, the purpose of the gathering was to promote a critical dialogue between psychiatry, psychology and theology. The present discussion is an example of the fruit that arises from such a dialogue, based on an interdisciplinary vision, and which brings diverse perspectives to the complexity of the pedagogical task.

 

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Kameguchi K., «Chaotic states of generational boundaries in contemporary Japanese families», in Cusinato M. (ed.), Research on family resources and needs across the world, Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milano 1996, 235-242.

Koocher G.P. – Keith-Spiegel P., Ethics in psychology. Professional standards and cases, Oxford UP, New York – Oxford 1998.

Mieder W., «Good fences make good neighbors. History and significance of an ambiguous proverb». The twenty-first Katherine Briggs memorial lecture, November 2002; http://www.looksmarthowto.com/p/articles/mi_m2386/is_2_114 (accessed 29.10.2005).

Minuchin S., Families and family therapy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 1974.

Schank J. et al., «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», in O’Donohue W. – Ferguson K. (eds.) Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists, Sage Publications, London 2003, 181-193.

Sperry L., Spirituality in clinical practice. Incorporating the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy and counseling, Brunner-Routledge, Philadelphia 2001.



[1] F. Imoda, Human development. Psychology and mystery, Peeters, Leuven 1998, 5.

[2] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 61.

[3] John Paul II, Vita consecrata 65.

[4] Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators 57.

[5] Cf. John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 65-69; Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators 43-47.

[6] The proverb became famous by its inclusion in Robert Frost’s poem «The mending wall» (1914).

[7] Cf. W. Mieder, «Good fences make good neighbors. History and significance of an ambiguous proverb». The twenty-first Katherine Briggs memorial lecture, November 2002; http://www.looksmarthowto.com/p/articles/mi_m2386/is_2_114 (accessed 29.10.2005).

[8] Cf. R.S. Epstein, Keeping boundaries. Maintaining safety and integrity in the psychotherapeutic process, American Psychiatric Press, Washington DC 1994, 17-20.

[9] S. Feldman-Summers, «Sexual contact in fiduciary relationships», in Gabbard G.O. (ed.), Sexual exploitation in professional relationships, American Psychiatric Association, Washington DC 1989, 193-210.

[10] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 66.

[11] Imoda, Human development, 190.

[12] Cf. S. Minuchin, Families and family therapy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 1974, 53-56.

[13] Cf. K. Kameguchi, «Chaotic states of generational boundaries in contemporary Japanese families», in M. Cusinato (ed.), Research on family resources and needs across the world, Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milano 1996, 235-242.

[14] Cf. Epstein, Keeping boundaries, 23-24.

[15] Epstein, Keeping boundaries, 28.

[16] Cf. G.P. Koocher – P. Keith-Spiegel, Ethics in psychology. Professional standards and cases, Oxford UP, New York – Oxford 1998, 177-189.

[17] Cf. Koocher – Keith-Spiegel, Ethics in psychology, 172-174; J. Schank et al., «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», in W. O’Donohue – K. Ferguson (eds.) Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists, Sage Publications, London 2003, 181-193.

[18] Cf. G. Corey – B. Herlihy, «Dual/multiple relationships. Towards a consensus of thinking», in The Hatherleigh guide to ethics in therapy, Hatherleigh Press, New York 1997, 183-194; Schank, «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», 184.

[19] Cf. T.G. Gutheil – G.O. Gabbard, «The concept of boundaries in clinical practice», in American Journal of Psychiatry (1993)150, 188-196.

[20] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 42.

[21] Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Directives on formation in religious institutes 6.

[22] Congregation for Catholic Education, A guide to formation in priestly celibacy 17.

[23] Cf. T. Costello, Forming a priestly identity, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma 2002, 235-236.

[24] Cf. Costello, Forming a priestly identity, 237-239.

[25] Cf. L. Sperry, Spirituality in clinical practice. Incorporating the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy and counseling, Brunner-Routledge, Philadelphia 2001; W. Attard, «Forming helping relationships. A comparative overview of four distinct yet related frameworks», in Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia Spring 1998, 5-8.

[26] W.A. Barry – W.J. Connolly, The practice of spiritual direction, Seabury Press, New York 1982, 41.

[27] Cf. T. Cantelmi – P. Laselva – S. Paluzzi, Psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo (MI) 2004, 141-144; T. Cantelmi – S. Paluzzi – E. Luparia (edd.), Gli dei morti sono diventati malattie. Psichiatria, psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione Romana di Cultura, Roma 2002.

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