The NYTimes on the seminary visitation, focusing, of course, on the homosexuality issue.
The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, a former seminary rector who set off a controversy five years ago when he published a book asserting that "the priesthood is or is becoming a gay profession," said in an interview yesterday that many in the church had come to accept his observation.
But he said he was concerned that the seminary review would lead the church to ask celibate faculty members and seminarians to withdraw.
"That would be a major mistake from my perspective," said Father Cozzens, who teaches in the religious studies department at John Carroll University in Cleveland. "First, I think it's unfair if not unjust for committed gay seminarians and faculty who are leading chaste lives. And secondly, I don't know how you can really enforce that."
A 12-page document with instructions for the review is now being distributed to seminarians and faculty members. It asks whether the doctrine on the priesthood presented by the seminary is "solidly based on the church's Magisterium," or teaching, and whether teachers and seminarians "accept this teaching." Among the other questions are these:
¶"Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary faculty members who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the church or whose conduct does not provide good example to future priests?"
¶"Is the seminary free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality?"
¶"Do the seminarians or faculty members have concerns about the moral life of those living in the institution? (This question must be answered)."
¶"Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? (This question must be answered)."
The questionnaire also asks whether faculty members "watch out for signs of particular friendships."
The Rev. Thomas Baima, provost of the largest seminary in the United States, St. Mary of the Lake, in Chicago, where the Vatican is sending nine interviewers, said such questions were no surprise.
"The reason we're having an apostolic visitation now is precisely in the aftermath of the clerical sexual-abuse scandal," Father Baima said. "Issues about screening our candidates, about formation for celibacy, about how we teach moral theology are going to get more attention than how we teach church history."
Open comments? Close comments...hmmmm.
Well, we'll open them, but try not to rehash the same converations that we've had for four years on this.
Outsiders to the system really don't understand what the last 30 years in seminary formation have been like. In the reaction against the former system, which was perceived as producing powder kegs of all orientations, ready to explode, seminaries became very open places, and it wasn't just about homosexuals. Along with a friend, I visited DC in the late 70's - among other things, a friend of hers was a student at TC, and we knew some Paulists. Out in Dupont Circle one night, we saw a couple of seminarians - can't remember which ones or from where - with their girlfriends. In many seminaries, dating was at the very least not discouraged. Concerns about celibacy, expressed by men themselves, were met with either a dismissal, that somehow time/ordination/spiritual life would take care of things, or to just not worry about it. There was such confusion, and it wasn't just simple licentiousness or (as the meme goes) being told that celibacy wasn't going to be mandatory for very long anyway (I don't know if that was really articulated after JPII's election..I doubt it). After the huge exodus of the 60's and early 70's, the panic started to set in, and, contrary to what you might think, seminaries put a premium on healthy heterosexual men, and did anything they could to retain them, including dismissing their own concerns about their ability to lead a celibate life and, in the end, their vocation.
Combine that with theological confusion, with the abandonment of structure..and you have big problems, which are about far more than a homosexual subculture.
As the American Church gets healthier, the seminaries get healthier, and vice-versa. The question of who is a good candidate - who has an authentic vocation - continues to be difficult, though. I agree that those who embrace a "gay" identity as defined by American culture should not be admitted to seminary, because most of the time, that self-definition is formed more by American culture than by Church teaching. Andrew Sullivan, for example, is complaining long and loud about this, but the truth is that, judging from his previous writings, Sullivan doesn't have any problem with, for example, sexual promiscuity, obsessions and fetishes as lived out in the gay subculture, sees all of that beyond the pale of possible judgment, and for all of his hopes for the positive impact of gay families (which I believe is sincere), has absolutely no connection with the ways that Catholic tradition has conceptualized and thought about sexuality. You're laughing because you're saying "Of course," but I'm making the point because there's a veneer of tradition that some would like to try to pretend exists: that the self-identified, political gay position is capable of simply espousing gay marriage, for example, or the morality of love-inspired homosexual acts, and at the same time retaining the rest of traditional Catholic morality underneath it all.
I say...that position can't and, isn't really interested. So for that reason, sure, the self-identified political gay man shouldn't be in seminary.
But should the man who struggles with same-sex attraction and seeks to live chastely, who buys the whole package of Catholic moral teaching, be put into that category? Absolutely not. To me, that's insane, and truth be told, it's not that difficult to tell the difference. And if you think that your list of favorite, orthodox priests through the ages doesn't include at least one who's struggled with same-sex attraction, you're mistaken, and I'll bet you real money. Not that we can prove it, of course.
You want your manly, virile bombastically hetero priests? Here's the news flash: Hasn't always been so. My personal opinion is simply that the enormous exodus of mostly hetereosexual priests in the 1960's and 70's simply made the presence of the others more pronounced, therefore putting a self-fulfilling prophecy into motion - turning that around, and balancing out the ranks is going to take a long time, and, in this culture in which a man doesn't have to be ordained to study theology, to serve, to engage in pastoral ministry, in which the vocation of marriage is celebrated...that's difficult. Most of us know scads of men who had a year or two in seminary, but who left because they fell in love, because they decided that their real vocation was family life, etc. You can try to be all ethereal about "vocation" and "call" if you like, but the truth is, sixty years ago, more of those men would have stayed in seminary, just like sixty years ago, half the women I know, now active in Church life, would probably have been religious - yours truly, included. Culture matters.
So my point? Seminary visitation is sorely needed for a host of reasons, and here's hoping and praying this one goes well. Men who self-define as "gay" according to American cultural norms? They have no place in seminary, and nor do any men who buy into American cultural sexual norms. There's also no place in seminary for those who are obviously overcompensating - the Daughters of Trent, as they were called, who are tightly wound and ready to spring under their cassocks. Duh. But beyond that - there's a whole lot of gray, and good men discerning. But if a seminary environment is rooted in solid formation in Catholic teaching, if the support system of the hierarchy is oriented that way, then the self-selection becomes a little more frequent.