The Collar

The Collar

I’ve been contacted by Jonathan Englert, author of the new book “The Collar”, which follows five men through one-year of Catholic seminary. The book also has a web site, where he explains why he wrote it:

When I began The Collar almost five years ago, the priesthood was suffering from a chronically negative portrayal in the press, and the situation is worse now. I knew from personal experience that most priests’ lives weren’t negative at all, and were very different from the public perception. Moreover, as a convert to Catholicism I was astounded at how little Catholics and non-Catholics know about the priesthood.

They didn’t know that divorced men could become priests, or they assumed that priests take a vow of poverty (they don’t). Priests were seen at a distance instead of as living, breathing human beings with needs, flaws, and strengths – people who face trials, people like the rest of us. Their calling to become priests was almost unintelligible. The Collar challenges this perception by immersing the reader in the life of a seminary when this calling is being constantly tested, poked, and prodded.

I may pick up the book. I know a few seminarians today as well as priests, both new and old. What’s fascinating is how much of their stories about formation are alike. The seminaries have gotten a bad rap in recent years and while I don’t think that the current apostolic visitation is an automatic cure for what ails them—a report is just a report unless what’s in it represents reality and until someone acts on it—the state of our seminaries is of vital importance to the Church.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • They didn’t know that divorced men could become priests

    They can?  Does the marriage have to be annuled first?  Does this mean that some priests may have children?

  • It’s not really that complicated. 

    A deacon can’t get a divorce after being ordained a deacon, just like he can’t marry after ordination.  Neither c an priests after they’re ordained. 

    Priests who are divorced men BEFORE they are ordained need an anulment to show the marriage never existed.  That’s all.

  • When there are children from a marriage that has subsequently been annuled, how does the priest provide for child support on a priest’s salary?

    Does a true calling to the priesthood discovered after marriage constitute grounds for annulment?

  • Wow, this is depressing. So the purpose of this book is to…. encourage divorced men to become priests?

    And the title- The Collar? Is it just me or does anyone else thing immediately of a spike studded dog collar?

    I think I’ll pass on this one in favor of something by the Cure of Ars on the priesthood.

    I knew that men who had children were being ordained (anyone remember the story about the mother taking the religious order to court to increase child support?) but now we are ordaining men who have failed at marriage and that makes them attractive candidates for the priesthood how?

  • I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say the purpose of the book is to encourage divorced men to become priests. Divorced men (presumably with annulments) have become priests.

    The book is not advocacy, at least according to what I’ve seen so far; it is simply chronicling what the author sees.

    Perhaps before you pass judgment on something you know nothing about, you might stop and take a few minutes to investigate. You could start by reading excerpts that are on that web site.

    Reading about the Cure of Ars is excellent, but it won’t tell you anything about what’s going on in priestly formation today. I would think that would be an important concern for all Catholics.

  • I was thinking that we would do well to understand the motivations of all the different men who enter seminary for whatever reason, whether heterodox or orthodox, liberal or conservative. Not all the men profiled are like the one blind seminarian.

    Apparently, you only want to hear about seminarians who fit a particular mold. I’d like to know what’s really going in seminaries.

  • That excerpt, linked by Mary Alexander, would not persuade me to read the book; but I can see how it would persuade a certain sort of Catholic.

    The thinking of this seminarian would come under serious criticism by an orthodox Catholic were it not for the blindness handicap, but how do you criticize a blind man who is trying?  Certainly this particular seminarian would draw a writer to the unique character study he provides.  Is there an orthodox seminarian in the book for balance?

    If this excerpt is an example of the mindset of many of our seminarians, it is disappointing to say the least.

  • The question is do you only read material that presents only views with which you agree or do you read which presents views with which you may disagree in order to understand those opposing viewpoints, in order to be able to form an informed opinion, in order to have a fuller understanding of the world around you and the issues we all face?

    If case 1 were true I’d never read another newspaper again. Heck, I’d probably never read another blog again… including my husbands because I don’t always agree with him!

    It seems this book is not arguing for anything, but rather it’s purpose is informative. Rather like a documentary, it intends to provide an insede view, a slice of life, a peek into a world to which most of us are outsiders.

    The book follows five seminarians for a year… I don’t see how you can possibly argue that this is necessarily a representative sample. It could be, but it could also be a skewed sample. I simply don’t have enough information to make that call so I refuse to leap to conclusions.

  • Ok, Melanie, fair point.  I read stuff I disagree with constantly in order to learn how the Gnostics think. 

    I guess the reason I’d be turned off by that excerpt is that it seems to present the viewpoint of another dissenter; and unless I would be doing research on dissenting seminarians, I wouldn’t have any interest in it.  But then, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t pick up a book on orthodox seminarians either simply because there are only so many hours for reading in a given day, and there are other topics I find more interesting.

  • Seminarian Ron:

    “Church was more about making the world a better place than it was about preparing one’s soul for any afterlife.”

    “For many Catholics, he thought, going to Mass was kind of like zipping up their flies just something someone had told them they had to do.”

    “Ron believed the Church needed radical reform. Women should be ordained, priestly celibacy overturned and everyone- not just baptized Catholics able to receive the Eucharist.”

    Now you have to admit- these statements go way beyond a course of disagreement. They are openly dissenting opinions that are in error and made in blatant disobedience. And Ron is not a teenager rebelling against his parents’ faith, he is an adult who has just entered his second seminary.

    Why in the world would I spend $25.95 to buy this book? A book by an author who describes himself thus: “I am a reporter by training and a humanist by inclination.”

    Will reading this book increase my faith in God, the Church, and the priesthood? No in fact it will do just the opposite. That is the goal of this book.

    Melanie you refuse to “leap to conclusions” about this book because you admit you don’t have enough information. Well then is there enough information to promote this book? It’s not a matter of refusing to read something I disagree with but refusing to enrich people who have an agenda to harm the Church by promoting modernist evil. In fact why not purchase a copy of The Da Vinci Code so that people can “inform their opinions” and “read something they disagree with”?

  • You’re missing the point, once again. These men represent the current state of seminaries and seminarians. If you want to understand it, then you can read the book.

    If I want to learn about cancer, I read a book about people who have cancer. Now I can read only books with inspiring stories about people who have survived cancer and that’s fine. But if I want an accurate picture of the state of cancer treatment, then I also have to read about those for whom treatment doesn’t succeed because in the real world some people die from cancer.

    If you don’t want to read this type of book then don’t read it. Nobody asked you to bellyache about it here.

  • No, I’m not missing the point. I am making a point that you do not want to acknowledge or concede.

    I am not saying don’t read a book about cancer- I’m saying don’t read a book about how fetal stem cells will cure cancer because the it could jeopardize someone’s faith and the state of their soul.

    This may be an interesting book to read. But to promote it? Seems risky and perhaps unwise.

  • Except nobody’s saying this guy is right. You are assuming that this book is promoting this seminarian’s viewpoint as the correct one.

    And there are some people who will read the book about the claims about fetal stem cells curing cancer, not because they want to be convinced, but because they want to understand how to refute the error accurately.