Yet bishops and religious superiors continue to send priests to Rome to study, to work in the Vatican, to teach in a pontifical university, to work at the headquarters of some Catholic institution, and for myriad other reasons. A few become lifers, while most put in a few years and then move on to something else.
Granted, there’s a strong case that some of those priests could be better utilized somewhere else. Nonetheless, experience over the years suggests there are at least three basic reasons why a bit of Roman seasoning often has a positive effect on priests, perhaps especially Americans.
First, it imparts global perspective. Rome is the crossroads of the Catholic world par excellence, where an average day might involve spending time with a talented lay academic from Slovakia, a visiting priest from Nigeria and a lay professional from Bolivia, all of whom have stories to tell about how the faith plays out back home.
It’s a rolling education in the realities of a global Church, which is especially valuable for Americans, for whom the lack of a strong sense of the universal church tends to be our Achille’s heel. Americans tend to assume our experiences are those of the world, our priorities are everyone else’s, and our solutions should work everywhere.