U.S. Seminaries: Condition Stabilized
Perhaps you saw the headline earlier this year: “Vatican reports most U.S. seminaries are generally healthy.” If you missed it, you’re not the only one. The results of the long-awaited “apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries” were released by the Vatican way back on December 15, 2008 — but news of the report didn’t begin filtering out in the American press until mid-January when the U.S. bishops posted a response to the report by Boston’s Sean Cardinal O’Malley. Given the scant attention paid to the report in the media, it is likely that this tidbit passed many by. Even those reports that attempted to sum up the 20-page document on the moral and intellectual life of U.S. seminaries seemed to gloss over the most noteworthy aspects of the findings, instead opting for a sanitized “all is well” synopsis. It is instructive to note that the U.S. bishops themselves seemed none too keen on drawing attention to the Vatican report. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) didn’t even bother to send out a press release; the report itself, though available, is buried deep in the USCCB website.
So, what did the report actually say, and why aren’t the U.S. bishops promoting it?
A little bit of background first. In his book Goodbye, Good Men, published a full seven years ago, NOR Associate Editor Michael S. Rose concretely and vividly described how certain vocations directors and seminaries screen out or persecute manly orthodox men while homosexuals and dissenters are welcomed and proceed to ordination. The book was researched and written in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the clerical sex-abuse scandals of 2002. Rose was one step ahead of a situation that caught most of the Catholic world by surprise. Given the history of out-in-the-open and flagrant homosexuality at certain seminaries discussed by Rose, Goodbye, Good Men went a long way in explaining how we could have had so many moral degenerates in the priesthood in recent decades. Not only did the book make The New York Times bestseller list, it was reportedly widely read in and around Rome. While it is difficult to trace the influence of any particular book, Goodbye, Good Men did, without a doubt, introduce into the mainstream the terms “lavender mafia” and “pink palace.”
A few short months after the book’s release, Pope John Paul II held a Vatican summit with all the U.S. cardinals. One result of that surprise emergency meeting was a call for another Vatican investigation of U.S. seminaries: “A new and serious Apostolic Visitation of seminaries and other institutes of formation must be made without delay, with particular emphasis on the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality, and the need for a deeper study of the criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.” (A previous systematic on-site investigation of seminaries ordered by the Pope in 1981 was generally regarded as a whitewash, having been delegated to certain unreliable U.S. bishops with the expectation that they would effectively investigate themselves.)
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