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September 24, 2005

Comments

Victor Morton

Hmmm ... how long before this generates 300+ comments?

Jim

Amy,

Extremely well done. A great piece of writing with a great take on the facts. The whole subject of how the seminaries have fallen down on their duty to screen out problem priests-to-be deserves more examination.

Veronica

Great article, as always. Congratulations! Hope you get published in the NYT more often... that paper could do fine with a little more objetivity towards the Church in general, instead of the radical anti-clericalism it shows most of the time.

Sincerely,
Glad to Be Surprised

Joan

ITA with Jim -- an excellent job all around, Amy, and with such a small amount of room to work in! I'm sure you are presenting aspects of the seminary visits that never would have occurred to the general public. Since it's unlikely that a media "regular" would be able or willing to discuss the seminary visits as a positive things, your piece is really performing a wonderful service.

Anne-Marie

What Joan said.

I hope you got paid for this, Amy.

penitens

Excellent job in giving a broader perspective in a short space.

One humble quibble: I wish you could have included these 9 words (or their equivalent):

There are excellent seminarians who become wonderful priests, however...

amy

I did have a sentence much like that, penitens. It got cut. Along with a lot of other sentences...Ah, well.

Todd

Bravo! Encore, encore!

Bob

Excellent! Too often a Catholic response to events like this in the MSM would sound defensive or holier-than-thou, but you tell the truth and disabuse the misinformed without apology or arrogance. Very, very cool.

Angus Dwyer

Huzzah!

scotch meg

Now when can we get you into the Boston Globe? Although you'd have to post it for me to know, since I refuse to buy and usually don't read the thing...

Aristotle A. Esguerra

Excellent, especially given the constraints. Thank you for writing this - and thanks also to the person at the Times who decided to call you.

Christopher Fotos

Congrats, and I hope it's just the first of more to come there. Also congrats for not being locked behind that stupid New York Times Select paywall.

Paul Pfaffenberger

Well done! Thanks

amy

Christopher -

I know - I thought that all editorial would be behind the firewall, so I didn't think anyone would be able to read it, anyway. I guess on Sunday, they just have more stuff in that "Week in Review section" so they set some of it free...

Mary Kay

Way to go!

Good points, concisely made.

Ya done good.

PMC

Nicely done!

Bernardo

That's a pretty great 600 words. I'm gonna buy a hard copy tomorrow to see how it looks on the Gray Lady's printed page.

Pam

Your column was perfect! I hope the seminary reviews are done well. It is nice to see a published opinion of those of us in the pews with a love for the Church and an impatience for some well needed seminary and clergy cleansing. AMEN!

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Cool! Congratulations!

Christopher Blosser

Excellent article -- very well put.

Ron Belgau

Great article. I can only imagine how it felt to get that call from the Times! And I think you did a great job of condensing it down into an intelligible 600 word piece.

One quibble (but having been forced to distill a difficult point into a brief article myself, I understand you didn't have the space to make the point I would have liked to have seen):

The same goes for the presence in seminaries of gay subcultures that draw their identity from secular values rather than the Catholic moral vision. Why is it considered unfair to expect priests and seminarians to live by the values of the institution they serve? Others may call it a purge, but I call it truth in advertising.

At issue in the proposed ban on same-sex attracted seminarians is not whether or not seminarians live by the values of the institution they serve. I fully agree that same-sex attracted seminarians who "draw their identity from secular values rather than the Catholic moral vision" or who violate their commitment to chastity should be removed from the seminary.

At issue, however, is the fate of seminarians who, to paraphrase the words of the rite of ordination to the diaconate, believe the Church's teaching on sexual morality, teach what they believe, and live what they teach--who have successfully resisted the temptation to violate that teaching. Should such men be barred, solely because of their sexual orientation?

I have a friend who is in the seminary. I expect he'll be a great priest. But when he was in his teens and early twenties, he was sexually active a couple of women. He now sees the error of his ways, has repented, and is zealous for promoting chastity. Should this disqualify him? Of course not: such a standard would have disqualified St. Augustine.

But when I hear him rant about how homosexually attracted men have no place in the seminary, even if they are chaste, I cannot help but wonder how qualified he is to cast the first stone.

I do not think it is unfair for priests to be expected to live by the values of the institution they serve. But the ban is more complicated than that. It accepts one class of men who have committed and repented of mortal sin; it excludes another class even if they have successfully resisted a particular temptation all of their life. Is there a prudential justification for it? Perhaps. But there is more than mere truth in advertising at work.

You are quite right to point out that the visitation deals with many issues not related to homosexuality, and that there are many pressing needs for seminary reform that do not touch on the sexual attractions of seminarians.

But I doubt it is controversial, even at the New York Times, to think that seminaries have good reason to crack down on (for example) seminarians who are driving under the influence.

The focus on the question on homosexuality stems in part, of course, from the degree to which the secular ethos of the gay rights movement permeates society. But I also think that it stems from the perception that there is an injustice here, even judged by the Church's own teaching as articulated over the last several decades:

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life. -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," October 1, 1986.

Is the perception that the ban represents a change in the way the Church sees men and women with same-sex attraction accurate? Or is it a fair prudential judgment to remove those with same-sex attractions from the seminaries? I do not know, and I am not privy to nearly as much information about the situation as those who have made this decision.

I accept, of course, the Church's authority to make this kind of determination, and I will abide by it and encourage others to do so. But at a gut level, I cannot see the removal of chaste seminarians with same-sex attraction as nothing more than "truth in advertising."

I apologize for taking up so much comment space on what is a minor point in the article. I am very happy for you that you have had this opportunity and wish you many future opportunities like it.

- Ron

penitens

Amy, I'm not surprised about the Times editing out good stuff about the Church.

Anna

Loved it, and may your book that got mentioned at the bottom sell many, many copies today.

Tim F.

Awesome! Congratulations!

al

you know, if the issue of "abstinent, but still ssa" is as innocuous, and accidental to a vocation as is claimed--then you would think there would be a bunch of "abstinent, but still ssa" voices on the other side, defending the ban. After all, if this is just a prudential matter, wouldn't it seem likely that even within the grouping, they'rd be divergences of opinion?

I mean its clearly withing the Vatican's perview to do this--to hand down a "discipline" regarding the reception of the sacrament. If they banned alchoholics, don't you think theyr'd be a plurality of "reformed alchoholics" coming down on both sides of the issue, one side probably prompted by a belief that Rome deserves deference and loyality. . . . Interesting that's not the case here. . ..

Richard

Hello Amy,

What actually made it past the editor's pen is a great essay. It is hard to disagree with any of it. I feel strange saying this, but kudos to the Times for reaching out to you - a person that, quite frankly, is usually off their radar screens.

As for what Mr. Belgau said above, I hear what he's saying, and it hits nicely on the debate we've been having here in the last few days. I think most of us are not prepared to kick out every priest with a shred of SSA. Probably the majority of us have known priests who might qualify, often that we didn't know about, and many of them are solid priests. OTOH I think most of us are aware of the fact that there is, undeniably, some kind of nexus here between a gay subculture in the Church and these kinds of behaviors. Throw in clericalism at its worst in the prelacy (and THAT problem has been with us many centuries) and you have a recipe for disaster.

But your larger point helps bring all this together: it's all part of a larger challenge facing the priesthood that must (like the Catholic population they serve in turn) inevitably draw from and operate in an often hostile, sex-drenched, materialistic secular culture. Seminaries have to do a far better job of not just screening but forming their priests across the board. And it's obvious that however much most have improved recently, they still aren't meeting that challenge. The current visitation may yet, we hope, address far more than just SSA. Your essay brings that hope (and necessity) out.

And in all that, the question of SSA in seminarians is merely one of the more vivid branches in a most vexing briar patch.

Grant

Amy,

You made my e-mail from the NYT with Today's Headlines; good job!

amy

Ron:

There's a 300+ thread below dealing with that question. I didn't bring it up, not just because of space constraint, but because I've not read that document, nor have any of the many others who have commented on it. We don't know what it says.

KH

Rock on, girl. I'll made sure to leave that page open in front of my lib NY friends.

HA

I feel strange saying this, but kudos to the Times for reaching out to you - a person that, quite frankly, is usually off their radar screens.

True, but Andrew Sullivan isn't, and anyone he labels as the voice of Catholic conservatives will be duly noted as such. However it happened, it was a very good choice on their part.

Ray in MN

You're becoming a media darling, Amy.

I was lying in bed this a.m., listening to Relevant Radio and they had something on called Catholic Bookmarks which is far better than their live programming.

They were interviewing John Powers (who wrote long ago "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?") who has some books being re-published by Loyola Press and your name came up a couple of times. Apparently they interviewed you a couple of weeks ago (being a taped program, it amy have been six months ago, as far as I know).

Powers had great things to say about Loyola Press and the "Classics" series and the way they treat authors, "unlike some other publishers" he didn't care to mention by name.

The interviewer said, tongue in cheek, that all of your other other authors in the Classics series were dead, so Powers is the first one that they could get to interview.

Congrats on the NYT breakthrough; now we need a battalion of writers to line up behind you to get our stories as a part of "All the News That's Fit to Print."

Ron Belgau

There's a 300+ thread below dealing with that question. I didn't bring it up, not just because of space constraint, but because I've not read that document, nor have any of the many others who have commented on it. We don't know what it says.

Yes, I've read it. And I thought what you had to say at the top of that thread was great.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that the disease--"gay" priests, bishops, seminary rectors, and seminarians who "draw their identity from secular values rather than the Catholic moral vision" has got to be dealt with. Any policy aimed at excluding them from the seminary and priesthood would certainly be simple "truth in advertising" from my point of view.

My only concern is that, while neither of us have seen the document, the "purge" as it has been described by leaks from the Vatican and comments by Abp. O'Brien seems to focus on orientation, rather than either moral vision or actions. It is the fact that (at least based on what we know so far, with the caveat that we do not yet have any official word), the cure does not seem matched to the disease that makes the "truth in advertising" line not strike me as a fair characterization of the situation.

But again, as a writer myself, I understand the difficulty of accurately characterizing a complex issue in a few words, and I understand your purpose in focusing on other aspects of the story.

Other than this caveat, I think this is a great article and something you should be very proud of. You've taken a very complex issue and boiled it down very, very effectively.

And in my judgment, your comments on this blog, both about homosexuality and on the issue of the seminary visitation, have been among the best in the Catholic world. You have been a voice of reason in an often acrimonious fight, and I thank you for that, and hope this is only the first of many opportunities to explain the Church and its teaching to a broader national audience.

- Ron

A.

I have to respectfully disagree with your piece in today's Times. It is overly simplistic in analysis and doesn't even get at the problem no less the solution. The "visitation" is a moot point since the decision to ban homosexuals from ordination has already been made. And the whole matter is window dressing by the hierarchy, who are scape-goating gay priests to avoid once again taking responsibility for their own share in the sex abuse scandal.
Any clinician will tell you that the majority of child abusers are heterosexuals. The priests who have offended in the past are men who never matured psycho-sexually. Since most of them went through the seminary prior to the so-called period of liberalism in the 70's and 80's when homosexuality was more openly discussed, the repression of their sexuality, which they were forced to accept in their seminary training, probably contributed to their pathology. Cracking down on seminaries and seminarians in like manner today will only produce the next generation of child abusers. Seminarians need be able to discuss openly their sexuality and to learn how to become whole and integrated mature men. As long as the requirement of celibacy stands, it is imperative that seminarians be given every opportunity to understand what healthy sexuality entails.
I thought it was curious that in your listing of the recent sins of seminarians you failed to mention those of the hierarchy, especially Bishop O'Brien in Arizona, who had to resign because he killed a man in a hit-and-run accident. What about all the gay bishops and cardinal there are already in the church? Isn't it curious that the proposed document banning the ordination of homosexuals mentions only priests and deacons? What about ordaining gay bishops? Will that continue? I hope you see what is going on in this witch hunt.
I don't disagree that there is a problem in seminary education in this country, but it isn't brought about by the presence of gay seminarians. The education of Roman Catholic seminarians is worse today than it has ever been. They are fed the party line on church doctrine and are not encouraged to think for themselves, or to engage critically the theological and moral issues of our day. Seminary faculties were already purged of their most talented and creative minds under John Paul II. There is no one teaching in an American Roman Catholic seminary today, who has not been vetted and scrutinized, so what will examining the respective faculties for their orthodoxy yield?
I agree that the people in the pews deserve good priests, but the reform of seminaries according to the norms of the visitation won't produce them. We need bright, intelligent, priests, who can think for themselves. We need mature individuals, who have faced complex moral issues in their lives and have resolved them without relying on stock catechism answers. We need priests who are servants and not masters ambitioning a climb up the hierarchical ladder.
Under the papacy of John Paul II there was a concerted effort from Rome to restore the triumphalist priesthood of the past. The thinking was if they didn't present the priesthood as a vocation that was better than that of the laity, then no one would want to be a priest. You can imagien the kind of people that policy attracted to the priesthood. There was also a tendency to accept seminarians, who otherwise would not have been accepted, except in a time of few vocations. Consequently, many people in the pews are more intelligent and better educated than their priests.
More repression in seminaries will not produce the kind of priests the church needs. So while you welcome the visitation and believe it is going to produce a seminary environment that will train better priests in the future, I don't.

mack

So what will fix it, A? Anonymous bleatings on a blog? Have some courage.

Pro Ecclesia

Amy,

nice piece overall. Agree with all of your points but one-I thought the dig at minor seminaries was gratuitous. The problem comes when you force a 13 yr old to go to minor seminary or somehow coerce him to stay...as I'm sure happened in the past. But the fact is that a lot of our older priests and bishops were products of minor seminary and they turned out fine.

Anyone who went to Catholic high school in the last 30 years knows that it is just as easy to get laid or smoke pot or drink there as it is in a public school. Not exactly a favorable environment for a vocation. And most young men who admitted they were thinking of priesthood would probably be ridiculed anyway. Sorry--kids are kids, everywhere, and our society at large ridicules priesthood (the NYT is the #1 offender, btw). Is it any wonder that a lot of today's priestly vocations were home schooled?

So I think there is something to be said for creating an all-boys HS where young men thinking about the priesthood can pray, study and allow their vocations to grow, all the while being able to make a MATURE and FREE decision to go on to the major seminary when they are old enough to do so.

As of now, it's not being done anywhere, but I think it could work somewhere, even if it means finding a midway point between what minor sems were in the 50s and the modern Catholic HS today.

Comments appreciated.

In Christ,

Pro

Marie

So I think there is something to be said for creating an all-boys HS where young men thinking about the priesthood can pray, study and allow their vocations to grow, all the while being able to make a MATURE and FREE decision to go on to the major seminary when they are old enough to do so."

My sons attend an all-boys Catholic school where ALL students are encouraged to pray, study, and allow their vocations -- whatever they turn out to be -- to grow. Daily Mass is offered but not required, and priests are available for confessions at any time. I'm not convinced that a student seriously considering the priesthood would be better served by being sent off to a minor seminary.

HA

"who are scape-goating gay priests to avoid once again taking responsibility for their own share in the sex abuse scandal.

Any clinician will tell you that the majority of child abusers are heterosexuals...

There have already been repeated apologies issued and steps taken in order to deal with hierarchical contributions to the scandal. Whether such efforts are sufficient is another matter, but this is neither the first (nor hopefully the last) step to be taken in the wake of the scandal. Furthermore, the issue of active homosexuality in the seminaries, and numerous calls to do something about it, predates the scandal. To characterize the visitation as a scapegoating of gays is therefore tendentious.

As for the statement about child abusers in general, the priestly rape scandal is in fact quite anomalous regarding the distribution of its victims. In the thread Amy mentioned above, this was discussed already:

According to the Jay Study, summarized here, "most were boys aged 11 to 14, representing more than 40 percent of the victims. This goes against the trend in the general U.S. society where the main problem is men abusing girls."

Subsequent reports have left open the issue as to whether this is because the priests were homosexual, or simply because their access to girls was more limited, but your above statement, as it stands, is highly misleading.

In any case, I suspect this is all a digression from the rest of the posts in this thread -- perhaps moving the discussion to the earlier and abovementioned thread would be more appropriate.

Tom Kelty

Being a cradle catholic born in 1930, I am thoroughly saturated with all that I learned and practiced through dedicated nuns and friars for 12 years. So it is hard for me to put into words what I see beginning as the church starts its third millenium. There seems to be in America especially, a slow drift a very conflicted new relationship between the ordained and the non-ordained ministry. We are already seeing how aging priests are extending themselves and we are getting more info on the declining number of candidates for ordination and the suspect quality of their motives and preparation. Our faith has survived many persecutions and crises over the ages. Christ promised that in the very beginning. But one may wonder what form our Eucharistic Community will embrace after the last few of the ordained celebrants go to their final reward. We will continue to be a Eucharistic Community. Who will the celebrants be?

Tom Kelty

How could I forget to congratulate you Amy on making the top of the Op/Ed page on a Sunday in the august NY Times?

A.

Mr. Kelty's thoughtful post gets to the heart of the problem. There can be no Church wihtout the celebration of the sacraments. If gay seminarians are not ordained, the shortage of priests will only get worse. Look at how the Church of Boston has suffered under parish closings, something which is happening in dioceses across this country. Investigating seminaries as proposed will not increase vocations. It may have the opposite effect.

My own preference for a solution is to reform the entire institution of the priesthood, where celibacy would be optional, yet in some way preserved as a traditonal charism. Ordaining married men and women, in additon to those called to celibacy, would resolve many of the problems we face today in the Church. And it would insure its future.

Mr. Kelty's final question is the right one.

Nance

Congratulations. If I had a ten-spot for every time I dropped your name to the ed-page people in Fort Wayne, saying, "You know, she's a fresh voice, well respected and local -- you might invite her to contribute something"...well, I'd be commenting from Pier 66, Barbados.

And of course, I'm betting no one ever invited you to write a word.

Bet that'll change. Sigh. I'm ALWAYS ahead of the curve.

Mike

Amy-

Very nice piece.

Also glad to hear about how easy it was to work with the editor.

Any chance of you posting your first draft, before it got whittled down?

Mike

Donna

Regarding Mr. Kelty's final question: the place the celebrants appear to be coming from now are the seminaries located in orthodox dioceses. Is it just a concidence that Denver's seminaries are attracting more young men than L.A.'s?

The slams against JPII by A. totally ignore, of course, the tremendous love and devotion many young people had for the late Pope. A 20-something co-worker of mine burst into tears when I told her JPII had died. I do not recall being terrifically saddened by the news that Pope Paul had passed on when I was a teenager. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was reading about a couple of young priests here in Wisconsin who found their vocations after going to WYD. Who knows how many others felt the same, or at the very least, were inspired to live more deeply Christian lives because of JPII.

I suspect what worries A. is not lack of priestly vocations, but the fact that the ones who are entering the priesthood now don't meet his "spirit of VII" qualifications, i.e., they're not little Richard McBriens. May I suggest the ECUSA? The "herd of independent minds" will be glad to see you - especially since they seem to have our problem in reverse - the ECUSA clergy will probably soon outnumber the laity at the rate they're going.

From Amy's piece (nice job, BTW!):

When you read through the set of questions to be asked of all seminary administrators, faculty and students - the Instrumentum Laboris - you find that there is exactly one question on that issue: "Is there evidence of homosexuality?"

Along with the resurrection of warnings against "particular friendships," that makes two sentences in a document that is 11 pages long and covers a lot of territory: What are the seminary's standards for admission? Is the seminary's spiritual life vibrant and rooted in Catholic tradition? Are seminarians capable of intellectual dialogue with contemporary society?

A., please tell us which of those questions you find so unpalatable and reactionary.
Asking seminarians about their sexual inclinations? Yes, not asking them about their sexual inclinations worked so well. I happen to be one of those who think a man with SSA can be a good and faithful priest. A man who makes his gayness the center of his identity - a man who would, unavoidably, leave much "evidence of homosexuality" around, does not.

Remember "You can not serve 2 masters?" Well, if you're a guy who makes Mr. Happy your master, Jesus pretty much falls by the wayside. That's as true of straight men as it is of gay ones.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the notion that the Church is mean and repressiive because it actually expects its' seminarians to believe in and follow *gasp* the teachings of the Catholic Church.

kathleen reilly

A., thank you for a thoughtful post. I don't understand the vitriol directed at you, especially when it mis-states what you actually said.
This new rule against "chaste homosexuals" is clearly window dressing. It is unenforceable: if many practicing homosexuals have difficulty coming out of the closet, what possible motivation does a priest candidate have to do so? He will keep his desires to himself and try to squelch them. The new rule is also redundant: priest candidates already take a vow of celibacy. Are we to infer this was meaningless before?
It is simplistic and naive to think this new policy will have any effect whatsoever, let alone a positive effect.
After 2002, I can only conclude that the quality and number of priest candidates will always be lacking, unless and until we make the priesthood an option for married men. I am skeptical about risking the future of the catholic church on a small population of home-schooled orthodox catholic boys who have a radically different upbringing and educational experience from their own parishioners. If there is a lack in vocations now, perhaps that accurately indicates there is a problem with the institutional church. To assume otherwise is to belittle the importance of the sacraments to the catholic population at large. There is a reason all those folk-singing, shorts-wearing, sign-of-peace-giving heathens show up in the pews on Sunday, and it is not to impress orthodox converts.

joe Giardina

Great piece !!!

Donna

If there is a lack in vocations now, perhaps that accurately indicates there is a problem with the institutional church.

There certainly has been, and that is exactly what this seminary visitation is intended to address. You just prefer your own solutions.

I agree with George Weigel: the crisis in the Church is a crisis of fidelity. The answer is greater fidelity, not "oh, the rules are too hard, let's ditch them."

I am a cradle Catholic, BTW, not a convert. My education, with the exception of grad school, was entirely Catholic. In all those years, I somehow missed out on the sight of Catholics (and I include myself) who were knocking themselves out trying to follow all those impossible rules . The experience I had at confession a few weeks ago was more typical. The priest was quick to tell me that he didn't believe in everything the Vatican said. (Why he felt free to share that bit of information with me, I don't know. I hadn't asked him.) My "penance" was "to do something nice for myself, like listen to music."

Ah, yes, the cozy, non-challenging world of Catholicism Lite, where our little selves are always "affirmed" and told we're just lovely the way we are.

I feel no vitriol towards A. Exasperation, yes, but not vitriol.

mack

kathleen:

We don't know if there is such a rule against chaste homosexuals. All of that is coming from 3rd hand reporting.

Donna

it is not to impress orthodox converts.

I must say, though, I am extremely impressed with orthodox converts, both on-line and in real life. They are Catholic because they believe in the Church's teachings, not because their great-grandfather got off the boat from Cork or Naples. They bring a seriousness and devotion to Catholicism that this cradle Catholic admires greatly. And in many cases, they fled the sinking ships of mainline Protestantism - and now they see Catholics who dearly want to emulate the sinking ships. I think we would do well to heed their warnings.

Marie

"After 2002, I can only conclude that the quality and number of priest candidates will always be lacking, unless and until we make the priesthood an option for married men. I am skeptical about risking the future of the catholic church on a small population of home-schooled orthodox catholic boys who have a radically different upbringing and educational experience from their own parishioners."

I don't know about your area, but none of the recently ordained priests in our diocese was home-schooled. Indeed, the trend seems to be slightly older men who have worked or served in the military between graduating from college and entering the seminary. Two young men from our parish were ordained last summer, and there are three more parishioners in the seminary. The one thing that most seem to have in common, however, is that they come from relatively large families.
It seems to me that a good-sized parish should be able to produce at least one seminarian every decade or so, and, if it can't, then the priests and parishioners at that parish should take a good long look at themselves to figure out why.

Dave Hartline

I included Amy's NY Times Op Ed piece in today's Catholicreport.org I called her a Catholic blogger extraordinare, which I truly meant. I have no doubt that in time Amy will be mentioned, quoted and interviewed alongside the likes of the George Weigel's of the world. She's already probably one of the most famous Fort Waynians. The town's other famous residents escape me right now but it's location in "hoops" country leads me to believe that if no one else famous has come out of the city, there surely has to have been a famous basketball player or two. However, now Amy's leading the fast break!

A.

I think this is the kind of discussion that needs to continue and on a much larger scale within the Church. I welcome it. To respond to Donna, there are no particular questions in the seminary investigation that bother me more than any others. It is the process that is flawed, and I don't think you understood what I wrote about that.

Also, I don't know for sure, but I would hazard a guess that if you asked any bishop today whether he headed an "orthodox diocese" he would respond that he certainly did, so I find your distinction tabout where the good priests are coming from to be a bit curious. Most of the bishops in place now were appointed by John Paul II. Did he appoint some unorthodox ones? Roman Catholic seminaries in all dioceses are quite orthodox as they are. As I said, that re-alignment happened over the last 25 years. I just don't see the need to go looking for unorthodox seminaries, and I venture to say they won't find any. Can you name one? Hence, the window dressing.

It is true that I find recently ordained priests and current seminarians to be very rigid, but that is true of young people in general today. I also find that seminarians are not very bright in general, and that they are certainly not well educated. They know very little about the hostory of the Church and the tradition they claim to uphold. Rather than theology they were taught catechism in the seminary, so they really cannot handle critical question in theology or complex moral issues. I believe that is a pastoral liability, and the faithful suffer form it as a whole.

Finally, as for the spirit of VII, I think under John Paul II and under Benedict XVI, as far as I know, VII was and is still in place and has not been repealed. To quote Justice Roberts it is settled law in the Church. So I don't understand the meaning of your swipe at me that I may follow VII. What else does a faithful Catholic have to follow today? Are you by any chance Tridentine?

A.

I think this is the kind of discussion that needs to continue and on a much larger scale within the Church. I welcome it. To respond to Donna, there are no particular questions in the seminary investigation that bother me more than any others. It is the process that is flawed, and I don't think you understood what I wrote about that.

Also, I don't know for sure, but I would hazard a guess that if you asked any bishop today whether he headed an "orthodox diocese" he would respond that he certainly did, so I find your distinction tabout where the good priests are coming from to be a bit curious. Most of the bishops in place now were appointed by John Paul II. Did he appoint some unorthodox ones? Roman Catholic seminaries in all dioceses are quite orthodox as they are. As I said, that re-alignment happened over the last 25 years. I just don't see the need to go looking for unorthodox seminaries, and I venture to say they won't find any. Can you name one? Hence, the window dressing.

It is true that I find recently ordained priests and current seminarians to be very rigid, but that is true of young people in general today. I also find that seminarians are not very bright in general, and that they are certainly not well educated. They know very little about the hostory of the Church and the tradition they claim to uphold. Rather than theology they were taught catechism in the seminary, so they really cannot handle critical question in theology or complex moral issues. I believe that is a pastoral liability, and the faithful suffer form it as a whole.

Finally, as for the spirit of VII, I think under John Paul II and under Benedict XVI, as far as I know, VII was and is still in place and has not been repealed. To quote Justice Roberts it is settled law in the Church. So I don't understand the meaning of your swipe at me that I may follow VII. What else does a faithful Catholic have to follow today? Are you by any chance Tridentine?

Marie

"It is true that I find recently ordained priests and current seminarians to be very rigid, but that is true of young people in general today. I also find that seminarians are not very bright in general, and that they are certainly not well educated. They know very little about the hostory of the Church and the tradition they claim to uphold."

Perhaps our own well-educated parish simply attracts well-educated priests, but my experience is precisely the opposite of yours. I find the under-45 priests to be far better educated -- both generally and theologically -- than the sorry spectacle of "feel-good" guitar-strumming priests I knew as a child in the 1970s. Many of our seminarians hold graduate degrees in diverse fields such as aerospace engineering, physics, and philosophy, and can speak more than one language. (Indeed, they are required to learn Spanish during their training.) And as for following the "spirit" of Vatican II, most have actually read the relevant documents, as well as the catechism and the encylicals of Pope John Paul II.

Donna

I have nothing against VII - it's the load of nonsense that goes under the name of "the spirit of Vatican II" that I have trouble with.

I've been to exactly one Tridentine Mass in my adult life.

It is true that I find recently ordained priests and current seminarians to be very rigid, but that is true of young people in general today.

Ah, those young people today,...,nothing like we were! Well, that's true. I certainly would have never contemplated traveling to Cologne and camping out in a park, just to see the Pope when I was a teenager. I saved such devotion for the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

I also find that seminarians are not very bright in general, and that they are certainly not well educated. They know very little about the hostory of the Church and the tradition they claim to uphold.

Can I ask where you get your knowledge of seminarians? You're making some pretty sweeping, not to mention insulting generalizations there.

I grew up with "spirit of Vatican II" clergy in the '70's, which is why almost everything I know about the Church is a result of my reading as an adult, not what I learned in parochial school. Those marvelously bright, learned progressive types were too busy taking us to see "Godspell" and having us make banners to actually teach us anything about our faith. At university, I got plenty of Hans Kung and very little Aquinas and St. John of the Cross.

As I said on my very first post on this blog, I am upset about that. I feel that those so-called paragons of intellect cheated my generation out of their birthright as Catholics because they were too busy showing how cool and hip and enlightened they were and jumping on the newest theological or liturgical fad.

HA

Most of the bishops in place now were appointed by John Paul II. Did he appoint some unorthodox ones?

Unorthodox is a loaded term, but if it helps, Cardinal Mahony is rarely regarded as "very rigid", as you put it, and he was made a cardinal by John Paul II. Numerous bishops of comparable rigidity also received their appointments via the same source. The notion that the late pope only appointed very rigid types is something even his very rigid admirers would find risible.

Eileen R

After 2002, I can only conclude that the quality and number of priest candidates will always be lacking, unless and until we make the priesthood an option for married men. I am skeptical about risking the future of the catholic church on a small population of home-schooled orthodox catholic boys who have a radically different upbringing and educational experience from their own parishioners

I don't know if it needs to be pointed out that most seminarians aren't homeschoolers, but maybe it's worth pointing out that homeschoolers really don't have a radically different connection to the culture than any faithful Catholic on average. Being faithfully Catholic is going to mean *different*, but I know tons of nice Catholic families who homeschool (I was homeschool for a few years myself, went to a Catholic school, a public school and a private school), and they really vary. There doesn't seem to be any pattern of how engaged/disengaged the family is in the general culture vis a vis homeschooling. I suspect that's because there are a lot of different reasons to homeschool. The stereotype of homeschooling to avoid sin in the schools is probably less common that people who homeschool because they want their kids to be able to read, write, and do 'rithmetic.

Anyway, by the time you're 18, even if you're living in your commune somewhere, you usually get a secondary education, and engage further with the world.

Donna

In the 9/15/05 Milwaukee Catholic Herald, there are a couple of stories about young men here who are studying for the priesthood. One was an accountant,one was a law student and another (one of those inspired by JPII) was an engineering student doing graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. Now, those are only 3 seminarians (I don't pretend to have an intimate knowledge of the I.Q. levels of the nation's seminarians), but they don't sound like knuckle-dragging illiterates to me.

Fr. Jim Tucker, who runs the "Dappled Things" looks, to my middle-aged eyes, like a youngster. And I don't always agree with him, but I certainly would not call him "rigid" or "ill-educated." The young priests of St. Blog's parish (and the young traditionalists over at "Holy Whapping") strike me as a pretty bright, well-informed bunch.

I suspect A., that for you, "intelligent" and "well-informed" means "agrees with my progressive views." Who's being the rigid one here?

Eileen R

Donna, your experiences square with mine. It was sheer agony to listen to Fr. Groovy the ex-Jesuit's sermons on Sundays while taking *secular* courses on late Antiquity and the Middle Ages at university. I kept wanting to scream as Fr. Groovy made up history wholesale, mostly to illustrate how those people back in the Dark Ages before Vatican II weren't as HAPPY! and JOYFUL! as us.

Eileen R

I must quickly add that Fr. Groovy is in his sixties, fills in at a parish, and means no harm, despite his eccentricities. He's *not*, thank goodness, doing the campus ministry. That's handled by these wonderful Basilian fathers who are in their forties mostly and well educated.

Donna

It was sheer agony to listen to Fr. Groovy the ex-Jesuit's sermons on Sundays

Tell me about it, Eileen! It was also terribly embarrassing - like seeing your formerly dignified grandmother dancing on a tabletop in a leopard mini-skirt.

I remember being told by a Jesuit not to "take the Resurrection too literally." I distinctly recall thinking, "Geez, if he doesn't take it too literally, what's the point of that collar around his neck? What's the point of listening to anything he says?"

The man had "critically thought" himself out of the whole reason for his vocation.

Fr. Phil Bloom

Well done, Amy!

I do agree, however, with Pro that the dig about high school seminaries was gratuitous. Although I entered the seminary after high school, I never saw evidence that we fared better (or worse) than those who went to the seminary at age 13. And some of the guys who in recent years entered after years of "experience in the world" turned out to be a disappointment. There are deeper issues involved in all this.

Dave Hartline

Donna & Eileen:

Do you ever notice that the Father Groovy's of the world aren't really liked by the youth. They see right through the "car salesman" "can't we all get along" speech. Many of these young people's friends have no faith and their lives are a mess. The last thing they want to be is like that. When the Father Groovy's of the world say "it's all good." Many of the religious youth just answer, "yeah right." It doesn't mean that Father Groovy is a bad guy, but these kids want some meat and potatoes in their faith, not sprouts.

The youth want to believe in something. My years in Catholic education have taught me that. Incidentally, my parish has a 29 year old priest who is very likeable but very blunt in his message to everyone, youth included. Most people in the parish, liberal and conservative have the utmost respect for him. I know I can't say the same for the Father Groovy's of the world.

Donna you mentioned Pink Floyd. It seems Father Groovy and the schmoozy record executive in Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar" might be one in the. "Come on in here boys have a cigar you're going to go far....oh by the way which one's pink?"

Lawrence King

Ron Belgau wrote:

My only concern is that, while neither of us have seen the document, the "purge" as it has been described by leaks from the Vatican and comments by Abp. O'Brien seems to focus on orientation, rather than either moral vision or actions.

Ron, I agree that most of the "leaks" seem to point that way.

On the other hand, the blueprint for the visitation asks: "Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary?"

Now, I don't think this refers to men with SSA, or homosexual orientation. Outside of the Catholic intelligentsia, 99% of the world does not use the word "homosexual" for a chaste man, nor the word "homosexuality" for the state of being subject to SSA. Rather, these words are understood as referring to sexual activity.

The line on the questionnaire seems to use the latter meaning. After all, you couldn't ask "is there evidence for the temptation of theft in the seminary?" As long as it's a temptation or attraction, it is present in an individual, not in the seminary. Only an activity can be present in the seminary.

Of course, the actual phrasing of the final document may clarify this point.

Lawrence King

Donna wrote:

I grew up with "spirit of Vatican II" clergy in the '70's, which is why almost everything I know about the Church is a result of my reading as an adult, not what I learned in parochial school. Those marvelously bright, learned progressive types were too busy taking us to see "Godspell" and having us make banners to actually teach us anything about our faith.

Donna, your Catholic education in the 1970's was totally different than mine.

My teachers never had us make banners or listen to "Godspell." We made dioramas out of felt, and listened to "Jesus Christ Superstar".

See what happens when you assume your experience was universal?

*grin*

Whitcomb

Before we canonize the new crop of priests who are 40 and younger as invariably better educated and catechized than their predecessors, I would suggest a closer reading of the record.

Just a couple examples:

The Rev. John Jenkins, new president of Notre Dame, a mere lad as Vatican II unfolded, holds undergraduate and master's degrees from Notre Dame; two graduate degrees from Oxford; and a degree from the Jesuit School of Theology.

The former head of Girls and Boys Town, the Rev. Val Peter--a parish priest during Vatican II--earned his doctorate in theology in Rome.

The credentials of these men, of course, are greater than the typical parish priest. But let's get serious--there are priests in their 60s and 70s who are nothing special, and they have colleagues of the same age who are brilliant and compassionate priests.

There are so-called orthodox priests today in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are nothing to write home about, and others of their age who are simply wonderful.

fredrica

AMY: "I did have a line in that NYTimes piece about good priests doing valiant ministry. But it's one of the several lines that got cut."

That's odd, don't you think, that they had room for the seminarians' night on the town in all its details but couldn't find room for 10 words or so, 2 of which were "valiant ministry".
Did you ask him why? Did you consider withdrawing your piece if you couldn't note the positive truth as well as the negative truth?

amy

Actually fredrica, that cut had not been made in the final pass by me. There were about 6 or 7 more lines - maybe 75 words or so, that were cut in the final edit, that I never saw.

Anna

A.

I noticed that you commented that the current crop of seminarians don't seem to be very well educated.

Part of the problem could be the current school system. In two different areas, chemistry and theology, I have compared textbooks from current to past or recent past. I was shocked in the dumbing down of the material, in the chemistry book. And we are talking about same text, same authors, just two or three editions later.

The time difference was larger in the theology comparison, but still very troublesome.

A friend, a historian, made the same observation in her field.

Donna

There are so-called orthodox priests today in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are nothing to write home about, and others of their age who are simply wonderful.

Of course, Whitcomb. And there are wonderful priests over age 50. That's been true of every generation of priests since the Apostles trod the earth, I would imagine. It was not my intention to answer A.'s sweeping generalizations with sweeping generalizations of my own!

And, while we would all like all of our priests to be holy, chaste, kind and brilliant, it's the first 3 characteristics that are the essentials. Indeed, brilliance can be a snare - it can convince you that you can be your own magesterium.

TSO

The money line: "Truth in advertising." Amen.

Julia

The current pastor at my church used to be a high school English or history teacher. The new assistant was an aeronautical engineer. Both went to seminary late in life.

The last assistant was educated at the North American College in Rome.

The minor seminary here was closed some time ago. One of its alumni is Cdl George.

Seamus

600 words was way too little. Having the piece stop there made me feel like I'd just had the first five bites of a meal at a great restaurant, only to have the waiter snatch the plate out from underneath me and say "no more; you're done." They should have allowed at least 1800.

Tom Kelty

Back in the 40s, I was an eighteen year old eager to join the Submarine Service. Among the many hurdles I had to survive was an Interview with a Psychologist. He was large and spoke loudly. He asked two questions. Do you like girls? Do you wet the bed? If you gave the right answers, you were in.
I cite this experience because the Instrumentum Laboris seems rather crude and primitive for the purposes intended. We all have many miles to go before we can begin to understand the gift of sexuality. Any hetero male or female can fall from grace at any moment and often do. Why don't we ban them?The real issue for all of us continues to be that the Bishops who shuffled perverts from church to church have not been disciplined. Truth and Justice are not being served. We have to rely on the Civil Courts and Sensus Fidelium in the outrage of those in the pews to lead us. The Bishops are sleeping or hiding.

Donie

Marie: (Indeed, they are required to learn Spanish during their training.)

And why is that? I hope it's not coming at the expense of their Latin

Marie

And why is that? I hope it's not coming at the expense of their Latin"

We have a rapidly expanding Hispanic population in this diocese, and very few (so far) Latino priests to serve them. Besides, once you know Latin, Spanish is a piece of cake. Right? (Or so say my sons' Latin teachers.)

Eileen R

Spanish is a piece of cake, no matter what. One of the easiest and most sensible languages in the world. Everything is pronounced as written, and the rules don't keep changing on you.

Therese

600 words...seems to me that you did not waste a one. Good job!

SiliconValleySteve

Great job Amy,

Of course there are many things you would want to add but I dare say that there is not a word to regret.

Here's hoping that the NYT will give you a chance to share some of the words not included on another occasion.

kathleen reilly

in the unlikely event you are still reading, Donna, would you rather have a married man celebrate the eucharist or a viewer of child porn/child molester/child rapist (choose any of the above) do so? Have you ever seriously pondered the question? I'm asking with all sincerity, not to be obnoxious. Please don't give the stock 'IT'S NOT AN EITHER/OR QUESTION' retort, because soon it could be an "all-or-nothing" question (sacraments or no sacraments).
No one is more irritated by a watered-down liturgy than me -- I am as crotchety as they come. I'd be way happier with a "bells and smells" mass and a married celebrant than what we have now -- ostensibly celibate men hiding behind felt banners and guitars. Isn't it interesting that all your complaints about your 1970's catholic experience stem from precisely that watered-down liturgical experience -- the fact that Father Schmooze was celibate (let's assume he was .. we'll never know otherwise) didn't make it all better, did it?
It's unfair, and erroneous, to assume A., or myself, are "progressive types" who really dig folk masses so therefore are views about priest celibacy can be dismissed. I don't like mediocrity in the church period, so I think we would be better off with both the MASS IN B MINOR and a greater pool of priest candidates to choose from.

A.

I have been reading through several threads on this blog and I am amazed at the amount of anger and hatred expressed by people, who harbor deep resentment that the Church changed after Vatican II. Comments about Richard McBrien and Hans Kung posted today are viscious. Do these people really matter that much today. After 25 years of John Paul II and now Benedcit XVI, it seems that those who label themselves "orthodaox" are still not satisfied. I doubt that they ever will be. I find it scandalous to read comments here about priests in the '70's, and in the other places on this site about McBrien and Kung. Does the Gospel play a role in orthodoxy? Does Paul's reminder in 1 Corinthians that love is greater than faith and hope have any place in an orthodox Church, or it doctrinal purity narrowly construed the only truly Catholic value? How can you have a reasonable discussion of ideas that matter when your motives are always suspect?

Marie

"in the unlikely event you are still reading, Donna, would you rather have a married man celebrate the eucharist or a viewer of child porn/child molester/child rapist (choose any of the above) do so? Have you ever seriously pondered the question? I'm asking with all sincerity, not to be obnoxious. Please don't give the stock 'IT'S NOT AN EITHER/OR QUESTION' retort, because soon it could be an "all-or-nothing" question (sacraments or no sacraments)."

I really don't understand all of this gloom and doom about the future of the Church. Do you HONESTLY believe that we will be forced to choose our priests from either married men or sexually deviant criminals? If you're asking with all sincerity, then you must not know any normal, well-balanced seminarians or young priests (or older priests, for that matter).

amy

A:

Do you know what's disturbing to me?

People who come a sniff at the comments on a blog, and don't themselves have the cojones to leave either a real name or email.

Don't expect to be taken seriously here unless you can do one or the other.

A.

it is not really a matter of doom and gloom as much as one of simple statistics. More priests die and retire each year than are ordained to replace them. The vocations are simply not there, and it is not likely that there will be enough priests in the future if the present policy is maintained. In earlier posts examples of some of today's seminarians were offered. But statistically, perhaps upward to 60% of them may be gay, which means that under the policy prohibiting them from ordination, perhaps one in three may actually get ordained. (The idea that there are no gay seminarians in the so-called "orthodox" seminaries is fallacious.) Bishops are already implementing the policy of the future in closing churches. When sacraments are no longer offered where will Catholics go?

Persoanlly, I believe the Holy Spirit is control of the future of the Church and is actually remaking it through attrition. Pope Benedict hopes to re-Christianize Europe. Anyone who has lived in Europe knows, as he does, that this is a lost cause. Let's face it. If John Paul II could not re-Christianize Europe, including his native Poland, how can Benedict hope to accomplish that monumental task?

This is not a message of gloom and doom, but one of profound hope. I believe the Holy Spirit was firmly behind his election to bring the Church to the point where it has to be remade and revitalized with an even more radical turn towards the future than we saw in Vatican II. I am very hopeful that the institution of priesthood will eventually be reformed to include not only gays and straights but married man and women as well. It will take some time, but, what the heck, the Church has been around for more than 2000 years.

A.

Amy:

With all due respect, that it immaterial. The ideas are more important. Givne the hatred I have seen on this blog I would just as soon not have my email inundated with hate mail.\

A.

amy

It's my blog, and it's not immaterial to me. Hint.

A.

Amy:

You are right about that, as you host the blog. I apologize if I have offended you and I hope you believe me when I say that was never my intention. I have not been "sniffing around" and I thought I was engaging in meaningful exchange.

You have a devoted and faithful following; I would not take that away from you.

I have actually enjoyed the conversation and have learned a few things. I have been trying to understand the divisions in the Church, which I find regrettable. Conversing here has given me some insights and understanding, for which I am grateful. I am a sincere believer; a Roman Catholic, and I do not see myself as a malicious person.

Apparently, my anonymity is a problem. Rest assured that I hold no official capacity or office. I am just an ordinary person. I respect the opinions I have read here and would never use them in a hurtful way. I respect confidentiality above all else. As this is clearly a problem, Hint. I don't have to participate any further.

Please alow me to express my thanks to all who have been thoughtful enough to read what I wrote, and who took time to repsond it it. Yes, Donna, thsat includes you. I don't expect us to agree, but the conversation sure was fun.

All the best to you, Amy, and to the others who have posted here.

A.

amy

A:

I didn't say "sniffing around" - I said "sniff at" which means to come and declare all those who comment here obviously inferior to one's own opinion and clearly in need of education.

Marie

"In earlier posts examples of some of today's seminarians were offered. But statistically, perhaps upward to 60% of them may be gay,"

Perhaps. Hardly likely, statistically speaking and all. But that number does explain the gloom and doom you paint.
Personally, I refuse to believe that "the vocations are simply not there." They are. I've seen plenty of them, just in our little parish.

A.

Amy:

If that is the impression I have given, then I really do need to apologize to all of you good souls. How can someone who makes so many typos think he is superior to others, who can type so much better?

Marie:

Congratulations on the success of your parish in generating vocations. Maybe you can share the recipe.

A.

Donna

A., as I said earlier, I don't feel any venom towards you - I don't even know you, we were just having a discussion on a blog, for God's sake. I do not send hateful emails to people I disagree with online. If all I wanted was my own opinions, I wouldn't go online at all - I'd just sit in my living room and talk to myself.

Kathleen, I think Marie summed my opinion nicely:

Do you HONESTLY believe that we will be forced to choose our priests from either married men or sexually deviant criminals? If you're asking with all sincerity, then you must not know any normal, well-balanced seminarians or young priests (or older priests, for that matter).

Donna

One last thing, kathleen, since when is marriage some sort of safeguard against or magic cure for perversion and kiddie porn? Men who have fantasies about gay sex or sex with children are not cured by wedding bands on their ring fingers.

kathleen reilly

Donna, I never said marriage was a safeguard against perversion. Simply this -- the pool of priest candidates would be far larger if the prospect of priesthood weren't so limiting for young people.

anecdote: I grew up catholic, my husband grew up catholic, between the 2 of us we know precisely ONE of our peers, out of hundreds of catholic friends/acquaintances, who decided to be a priest. My husband knew him. He was, shall we say, not well liked. (not "unpopular" ... genuinely disliked). I'm sure he has a good soul, etc. Let's put it this way, he didn't show a talent for pastoral leadership in catholic school. Whereas other people did. He is a priest. they aren't. why?

Eileen R

A.
After 25 years of John Paul II and now Benedcit XVI, it seems that those who label themselves "orthodaox" are still not satisfied. I doubt that they ever will be.

*dies of laughter* I'm twenty-two, A. So I've only had 22 years of super-orthodoxy.

Seriously, I know there's hatred expressed in St. Blog's sometimes, but sometimes people are just annoyed/amused at people like Kung and McBrien. Those two names are bound to bring up snickers among the Catholics of my generation I know.

I think you take disagreement and parody a little too hardly. Looking at your posts here, don't tell me you don't disagree vividly with other people sometimes?

Marie

"I grew up catholic, my husband grew up catholic, between the 2 of us we know precisely ONE of our peers, out of hundreds of catholic friends/acquaintances, who decided to be a priest. My husband knew him. He was, shall we say, not well liked. (not "unpopular" ... genuinely disliked). I'm sure he has a good soul, etc. Let's put it this way, he didn't show a talent for pastoral leadership in catholic school. Whereas other people did. He is a priest. they aren't. why?"

Because Christ called him and not the others? Or because Christ called some of the others, too, but, like the rich young man, they weren't willing to sell what they had and follow our Lord? Because one's talents in "pastoral leadership" are not always perfectly developed as a schoolchild? (Look at Peter and Paul -- wonder how many popularity contests they would have won as boys.)

TSO

You're nobody till the Grey Lady loves you!

(Well, not true, but I couldn't resist the line.)

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