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Shriveled Is Good

A full-page ad in America magazine (Feb. 17, 2003) caught our eye. One reason it stood out was its striking resemblance to our own hallmark ads. The ad has a black-and-white drawing with lots of text, and a snappy headline in large boldface type. The headline of this ad is “Small is Good.”

The ad is for the American College of Louvain (ACBpseminary in the Flemish part of Belgium, run by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the oldest national seminary for Americans, founded in 1857. The ad states: “When it comes to business, bigger is usually better. When it comes to Church, does the same principle apply? Many lay-people, parish priests and bishops know otherwise. Often enough, their most vibrant parishes are their small parishes…the ones where everyone knows everyone, where a familial spirit presides, where the sacramental communion celebrated every Sunday supports a real communion among the parishioners” (ellipses and italics in originab~ Read that last clause again, and you’ll see that it’s being asserted in a round about way that sacramental Communion is not real. Recall, please, our New Oxford Note “Hocus-Pocus Catholicism?” (Feb.), where we noted how the Rector of ACL, Fr. Kevin Codd, suggested that the Lord is present in sacramental Communion in a “natural” way, not a supernatural way, thereby denying the reality of Transubstantiation.

The ACL ad continues: “For almost ten years, our seminary has been a small one…and frankly we like it this way” (ellipses in originab~ Really now? Ten years earlier your seminary was larger. Now it’s small. This is progress? This ad reeks of being a projection of ACL’s insecurity about its size and potency.

So just how small is ACL? The ad doesn’t say. Why not? Why leave it to the reader’s imagination? Well then, how big would a big seminary be? Big seminaries in the U.S. have around 300 to 400 seminarians.

Then a “small” seminary would have how many students? Most savvy people would probably agree that any seminary with about 50 students would be small.

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