A confluence of two news bits in my box today. First, Rita Ferrone relates a charming experience of a seminary openings its doors to the praying Church.
Bill deHaas reminds us that the curia and their associates have thrown cold water (if not actual babies) on this idea here. His analysis of the seminary investigation of ’08:
It really is an amazing study and document – the bias and negativity against religious order seminaries is glaring and, then, after citing numerous areas of deficiencies, it ends by saying: “at least in diocesan seminaries”– because of the appointment of “wise and faithful rectors” – – they are, in general, healthy.
And I was immediately reminded of a Tablet piece by Robert Mickens that Jimmy Mac deposited in my email inbox today:
The heads of the Roman Curia were somewhat shocked to experience (some plain talk from Pope Francis) on 21 December at their annual pre-Christmas gathering with him.
(H)e very respectfully – yet unequivocally – took the Curia to task for gossiping and sometimes even lording it over Catholics (even bishops) around the world.
Quoting the Holy Father:
We rightfully insist on the importance of conscientious objection, but perhaps we too need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately is that of gossip.
When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity. When the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs-house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.
Conscientious objection when it comes to gossip: this is about right. Likewise the lack of professionalism. Adolescents shipped off to seminary, closed schools of course, movin’ on up to the far east (Rome) side, and just passing growing up, passing go, and all that.
Why consider the seminary visitation of 2005-06 gossip? Teams were sent in to every seminary looking at accreditation and curriculum and interviewing faculty, seminarians, and administration. Say what you will about Cardinal O’Brien, but IMNSHO he has been the most sober and least corrupt American cardinal of the last quarter century. Putting him in charge was a sign that the whitewashed seminary visitations of the ’80s and ’90s would not be repeated. Far from being gossip, his is probably the most objective report on US seminaries currently available. My biggest beef about it is that the reports were heavily redacted for public consumption. I suppose concern for the reputation of seminary faculties and administrations kept the individual seminary evaluations out of the limelight.
Of course, word on the street is that every seminary in the US was found unsatisfactory in at least one area of formation, which is why we find lots of seminaries making changes to their programs the past half dozen years.
There were a few lay students attending some of my seminary classes in my time. They were plenty smart enough and were good students, but they suffered from the lack of philosophy courses and Church history and most transferred elsewhere to pick up their theology degrees. The missing preparatory courses did handicap them in the study of dogmatic and moral theology.