Holy Orders & Unholy Disorders

October 2003

Given all the controversy about our seminaries, we approached Fr. Robert Johansen’s “What’s Wrong With Our Seminaries? An Insider Speaks Out” in Crisis magazine (May) with considerable interest. What qualifies Johansen as an “insider” is never made clear, other than he attended seminary. Of course, there are some 45,000 priests in the U.S., so they’d all be “insiders” too. Yes, we know Crisis likes to appeal to our instinct for the sensational and the secretive (e.g., see Janel Easton’s letter in this issue), but to call Johansen an “insider” is really devaluing the currency of an insider.

Nonetheless, Johansen says a lot of good things. He says, “The first requirement of any seminary is that it must be orthodox….” He says seminary classes must demand “intellectual rigor.” He denounces proportionalism and consequentialism in moral theology. He expresses skepticism about the heavy reliance on the historical-critical method in biblical studies. He says seminaries must celebrate the liturgy “with reverence,” and must give more emphasis to spirituality.


But suddenly the tone changes when it comes to homosexuality in the seminaries. Yes, Johansen admits that the priestly sex scandals have “led many to conclude that the real problem is homosexuality within the priesthood. This conclusion has occasioned calls for barring homosexuals from ordination and admission to the seminary.” He acknowledges that “It appears that Rome is also leaning in this direction: In a September [2002] address to the bishops of Brazil, the pope called for the exclusion from Holy Orders of men having ‘obvious signs of affective deviations,’ meaning homosexual orientation. Furthermore, in December [2002], Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevez, then-prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, wrote that ‘a person who is homosexual or has homosexual tendencies is not…suitable to receive the sacrament of sacred orders.’ Many Rome-watchers believe the Holy See will soon issue a directive confirming that position.”

But Johansen pooh-poohs any such directive, saying it would only have “strictly symbolic value” because it is not really needed. Alas, it seems that most Vatican directives, when they hit American shores, have “strictly symbolic value” — i.e., are not enforced because bishops think they’re not needed.

Why is such a directive not needed? Because, says Johansen, “The perception of most seminary rectors, faculty, and students is that there’s no longer a widespread homosexual subculture in our seminaries (at least in most of them). The efforts at cleaning up this problem…began more than a decade ago and have largely been successful.” So on what basis does Johansen make this grandiose claim about “the perception of most seminary rectors, faculty, and students?”

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

New Oxford Notes: October 2003

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Certainly, we don’t need flaky wusses in the priesthood. But those wusses didn't turn up spontaneously. For the problem is not at the door of the seminary, but on the way there: in parishes and schools, places where vocations are supposed to awaken and mature. For healthy young males it has become virtually impossible to find in the Church appropriate places. Not the Vatican Council, but the feminist rage, homomania and other features of the orgy of political correctness have poisoned the spiritual climate, especially for men. That’s the core of the problem: the church impotent, as Leon Poddles calls it – or should we say: the castrated fatherhood in the Church? There are no more fathers. Good Bye, Good Men – or should we say: Good Bye, Wise Men? Adolescents have nowhere to turn to. Their youth has been stolen. The best turn away from the Church. Posted by: Elias
October 11, 2006 11:07 AM EDT
Amen to what Elias wrote.

Also is it just me or did anyone elso notice that a lot of bad things happened as a result of the 2nd Ecumenical Council?
The strickness in the church, that we all relied on became a thing of the past when latin was dumped and the alter was turned around.
What was pope John the 23rd thinking?
Posted by: ddiehldoug
October 11, 2006 09:33 PM EDT
Add a comment