Can a person become a priest when they have a well controlled mental illness?


#1

I want to be a priest, but I just got turned down right off the bat for the religious priesthood because of my illness. It’s some severe stuff, but honestly with medication and patching myself up over the years the people I meet wouldn’t have the faintest clue without being told. Problem is, the illnesses impact my emotions and ability to deal with social stress. Not severely, but honestly I think I’m screwed regardless.

:banghead: :banghead: :banghead:


#2

If you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, you should have a spiritual advisor to assist you. Call your parish priest and ask if he is available or if he could recommend someone. Each religious community and diocese will have their own requirements; it might take some time to find a good fit or God may be calling you somewhere else.


#3

I often wonder about this too, WoundedIcon. :frowning: Retreat-masters are well-pleased to talk about God using those who are most broken for the greatest tasks, but that’s somewhat difficult if the Church legalistically denies people based on psychological exams. Those are required to be taken if you want to become a brother, deacon, priest, or really anything. It’s sad, given that Ezechiel most likely had manic-depressive disorder, but was called by God to become a great saint. :confused:


#4

[quote="GloriousOrder, post:3, topic:252030"]
I often wonder about this too, WoundedIcon. :( Retreat-masters are well-pleased to talk about God using those who are most broken for the greatest tasks, but that's somewhat difficult if the Church legalistically denies people based on psychological exams. Those are required to be taken if you want to become a brother, deacon, priest, or really anything. It's sad, given that Ezechiel most likely had manic-depressive disorder, but was called by God to become a great saint. :confused:

[/quote]

Well, sad thing is... if I just say what I have it sounds WAY worse than its impact on my life. If an exam more-so examines how I am rather than what it seems like I could be then I probably could make it through.


#5

[quote="WoundedIcon, post:1, topic:252030"]
Problem is, the illnesses impact my emotions and ability to deal with social stress.

[/quote]

A priest has to deal with a lot of social stress.

[quote="GloriousOrder, post:3, topic:252030"]
Retreat-masters are well-pleased to talk about God using those who are most broken for the greatest tasks, but that's somewhat difficult if the Church legalistically denies people based on psychological exams.

[/quote]

Not long ago, a priest in Springfield, MA, Fr. Paul, took his own life. He was only 42, a late vocation. People said he was a wonderful priest, so caring, always there for people. But there had to have been something very wrong. Fr. Paul had to have been suffering terribly. His parish is suffering terribly at his loss.

Venerable Solanus Casey's brother Maurice had psychological problems with his vocation. He suffered very much, but Solanus could not help him as he could help others who came to him for help.

Psychological testing is for your own good and the good of others.


#6

Everyone who seeks application to preparation for the priesthood
is governed by the same Canon Laws. One requirement is that of
having sufficiently good physical and mental health. As in all matters,
each individual is admitted or denied based on factors as an individual.


#7

I was severely bullied in high school, so I sometimes have an irrational fear of being harassed by strangers who don't understand me. However, I'm kind of being misunderstood in this situation and I'm not flopping around like an epileptic so I'd say I'm good to go. But unless they test me or actually give me a chance, if I were to just state my diagnoses they'd probably shut down on me and give me das boot.

I have Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and PTSD. See, your alarm bells probably just went off and HARD.

However, I have NO mood swings, NO hallucinations, and NO delusions due to me being on meds that work with NO side effects. I don't retreat into a shell, have flashbacks, or spaz the hell out except on rare occasion. I have gained such a great understanding of my interior life, and such a level of watchfulness, that I can stop myself from getting emotional. My biggest issue is getting somewhat anxious and scared that people are judging me, but right now these are minor flaws that are actually dying a swift death with every day of faith, prayer, and communion that passes. Most of the time I am calm, cool, collected, and even sometimes contemplative.

Most people with my diagnoses do not make it this far in recovery, and the problem is I'm going to be lumped in with that norm.


#8

[quote="WoundedIcon, post:7, topic:252030"]
I was severely bullied in high school, so I sometimes have an irrational fear of being harassed by strangers who don't understand me. However, I'm kind of being misunderstood in this situation and I'm not flopping around like an epileptic so I'd say I'm good to go. But unless they test me or actually give me a chance, if I were to just state my diagnoses they'd probably shut down on me and give me das boot.

I have Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and PTSD. See, your alarm bells probably just went off and HARD.

However, I have NO mood swings, NO hallucinations, and NO delusions due to me being on meds that work with NO side effects. I don't retreat into a shell, have flashbacks, or spaz the hell out except on rare occasion. I have gained such a great understanding of my interior life, and such a level of watchfulness, that I can stop myself from getting emotional. My biggest issue is getting somewhat anxious and scared that people are judging me, but right now these are minor flaws that are actually dying a swift death with every day of faith, prayer, and communion that passes. Most of the time I am calm, cool, collected, and even sometimes contemplative.

Most people with my diagnoses do not make it this far in recovery, and the problem is I'm going to be lumped in with that norm.

[/quote]

My response remains the same.
Each is assessed as an individual.


#9

Maybe I should just admit it... I'm afraid of being married. I'm afraid of only working a job, a job I hate and feel is a waste of my talents, for the sake of being a provider. A provider for what will probably be a bunch of mentally ill children. I'm afraid no one will be with me unless I go to school for said job to make money like a good little miserable hamster on a wheel, a hamster who'd rather be dedicated to entirely to God so as to be free to serve full throttle. At the age of 22, in a ratty old steel mill town, I have about as much hope of meeting someone as mad for God as I am - and who is even my age - as pigs in a farm have the chance to not become bacon. Young people hate the Lord, and they hate where I live. I'm afraid of settling, for less in a woman, in work, in faith, in life altogether.


#10

I mean, it's not that I don't have a positive desire FOR the priesthood. I want to serve, I want to help, I want to be as immersed in the life of the Church as I can be. It's not all a "running from" there's a "running to" as well.

But if I'm not accepted as a potential priest then I feel like I'll be banging my head into a wall for a while.

I have no idea what to do...


#11

You've done amazingly well. Don't give up.

They say that God has a plan for each of us.

Hold on to that thought and pray for Him to lead you.

There are many ways to serve God.

He believes in you.


#12

Many people share your fears, especially when they’ve suffered as you have. The future can look scary. Sometimes we can see only darkness in our futures, but God doesn’t see us that way.

Remember that quote from Jeremiah: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

It sounds as though you’re at a transition point in your life. Talk to a priest. It’s the only way to get some guidance into YOUR vocation.

And not all young people hate the Lord. Watch some of World Youth Day if you need some hope.


#13

Wounded Icon, I know your pain and frustration, the things you see and would like to see, as well as the roads you have traveled on in this short journey of yours. I understand that you have a well controlled mental illness and that is good. Mine was well controlled also when I was not much older than you. I don’t think your illness is what is holding you back from your goal, but, rather, what is holding you back is something else you just named in this thread. “Hate” “afraid” are words you use with grounded authority, for you have learned them in your journey of life.

My only advice is to not see your peer job, or proposed peer job with mentally ill people, as a waste of time. Many of these people are totally dependent on God; they are the poor in spirit, in many cases. I know you can find God through them and in relationship with them. If he leads you on to a ministry with them, so be it–as ordained priest or in whatever capacity.


#14

[quote="Michael19682, post:13, topic:252030"]
Wounded Icon, I know your pain and frustration, the things you see and would like to see, as well as the roads you have traveled on in this short journey of yours. I understand that you have a well controlled mental illness and that is good. Mine was well controlled also when I was not much older than you. I don't think your illness is what is holding you back from your goal, but, rather, what is holding you back is something else you just named in this thread. "Hate" "afraid" are words you use with grounded authority, for you have learned them in your journey of life.

My only advice is to not see your peer job, or proposed peer job with mentally ill people, as a waste of time. Many of these people are totally dependent on God; they are the poor in spirit, in many cases. I know you can find God through them and in relationship with them. If he leads you on to a ministry with them, so be it--as ordained priest or in whatever capacity.

[/quote]

Hold on a sec. The children I was talking about were my own future children. I don't want to father a bunch of miserable lunatics. Don't want to look at my baby and wonder whether he or she will kill herself at 15. Do them a favor and don't have them, etc.


#15

[quote="WoundedIcon, post:14, topic:252030"]
Hold on a sec. The children I was talking about were my own future children. I don't want to father a bunch of miserable lunatics. Don't want to look at my baby and wonder whether he or she will kill herself at 15. Do them a favor and don't have them, etc.

[/quote]

OK. But if you can survive, so can they. Besides, treatment gets better over time, and if these supposed children are forewarned of an illness they will fare much better.


#16

[quote="GloriousOrder, post:3, topic:252030"]
I often wonder about this too, WoundedIcon. :( Retreat-masters are well-pleased to talk about God using those who are most broken for the greatest tasks, but that's somewhat difficult if the Church legalistically denies people based on psychological exams. Those are required to be taken if you want to become a brother, deacon, priest, or really anything. It's sad, given that Ezechiel most likely had manic-depressive disorder, but was called by God to become a great saint. :confused:

[/quote]

Yet it is the Church that determines if a call is present. If the Church does not call one to ordination or vows then there is no calling.

We may feel a call but it is the Church who does the actual calling.

It is up to a bishop or religious superior to set the criteria for entrance. We may not like it, we may disagree, but no one has a right to ordination or religious vows.


#17

[quote="WoundedIcon, post:9, topic:252030"]
Maybe I should just admit it... I'm afraid of being married. I'm afraid of only working a job, a job I hate and feel is a waste of my talents, for the sake of being a provider. A provider for what will probably be a bunch of mentally ill children. I'm afraid no one will be with me unless I go to school for said job to make money like a good little miserable hamster on a wheel, a hamster who'd rather be dedicated to entirely to God so as to be free to serve full throttle. At the age of 22, in a ratty old steel mill town, I have about as much hope of meeting someone as mad for God as I am - and who is even my age - as pigs in a farm have the chance to not become bacon. Young people hate the Lord, and they hate where I live. I'm afraid of settling, for less in a woman, in work, in faith, in life altogether.

[/quote]

Do you have a spiritual director?


#18

[quote="WoundedIcon, post:14, topic:252030"]
I don't want to father a bunch of miserable lunatics. Don't want to look at my baby and wonder whether he or she will kill herself at 15. Do them a favor and don't have them, etc.

[/quote]

In calling your future children "miserable lunatics" you are calling yourself that and everyone else with a mental illness.

People with mental illnesses may be miserable, but their suffering has value! In Christ, suffering has value.

Saying that people are miserable lunatics is not to see people as God sees them, sees you, sees all of us.

Pope Benedict XVI said that everyone is willed, loved and necessary. That means you!

And if God were to give you the gift of special children, they would also be willed, love and necessary to God and to His plan of salvation.

I suggest that you check out the information on the website of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability about Mental Illness.

ncpd.org/ministries-programs/specific/mentalillness

Read "Welcome and Valued."

I would also recommend the book Surviving Depression, A Catholic Approach by Sr. Kathryn Hermes from Pauline Books. (ISBN 0-8198-7077-3)

amazon.com/Surviving-Depression-Catholic-Kathryn-Hermes/dp/0819870773

This book is for anyone suffering from a mental illness. It contains Sr. Kathryn's own story and many other people's stories, including stories of the saints. She has many suggestions for prayer too.

Wounded Icon, you may be wounded, but so was Christ.


#19

Lovely post. Thank you.


#20

This is not an all or nothing proposition. You can choose a celibate life whether or not you are permitted to enter a religious life. You can also choose a life of serving and helping others either inside or outside of the priesthood.

I know two men who are unmarried and have had difficult pasts including mental illness, and one is recovering from substance abuse. Both have built rewarding lives of service which are not focused on material goods. In many ways, their lives mirror the priesthood in that they live on very little, put others first, are prayerful, live in accordance with their faith and live the words the pray. One runs halfway houses for men in transition from various hardship circumstances. The other started a food pantry and meal program for the poor, and also visits prison inmates.

As a priest, you should consider what type of work you would most be drawn to within that vocation. Then if you are not permitted to be a priest, consider how you could still do that same work as a lay person. You would not be permitted to grant the sacraments, but for example, if you were looking forward to counseling people, to teaching, to helping the poor, etc., all of those roles are available to the laity as well.


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