Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seminary Report Accurate, Encouraging and Reprimanding

Catholic World News (now with released this item today (see below). It is encouraging to know things are getting better in many seminaries but discouraging to know that there are still some brazen dissenters teaching their heterodoxy to future priests. As survivors of minor and major seminaries (1976-1988 high school, college and major theology), my classmates and I can vouch that significant improvements have been made but much more work needs to be done. The most encouraging news is the presence of Archbishop O'Brien. Former rector of Saint Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie (Archdiocese of New York) and former Archbishop for the Military, he is currently the Archbishop of Baltimore and most likely to elevated to the red hat once his predecessor turns 80. O'Brien is a no-nonsense, practical, orthodox, and decisive man which the Church in America needs to clean out some of the dens of iniquity pretending to be houses of formation.

The first seminary visitation was a farce and accomplished nothing. Then the clergy sex scandals changed everything. While the actual number of pedophile (attracted to pre-pubescent boys or girls) priests was very small, the more disturbing revelation was the larger instances of ephebophile (attracted to post-pubescent and adolescent boys or girls) clergy. As the age of victims gets closer to legal adulthood, there are some who dangerously back-off and conspicuously keep silent since the issue of homosexual clergy then becomes evident. Immoral behavior and activity in the seminary was and is inevitably connected and associated with the simultaneous presence of liturgical abuses and theological dissent being taught and proliferated. Bad morality is bred and encouraged by bad liturgy and bad theology. LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI, LEX AGENDI. Hence, conversely, when you have faithful faculty teaching orthodox Magisterial doctrine to seminarians in a place where reverent, valid, licit and edifying sacred worship is present, then the moral activity of the students is exemplary. In these places, like Mount Saint Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, you have an outstanding Rector (Msgr. Rohlfs) and a superb faculty who not only teach orthodox theology, but they also celebrate dignified and proper liturgies in the chapel which reaffirm what is taught in the classroom. When someone does evidence a moral problem, he is given the direction and discipline needed and if not corrected, dismissed. CONSISTENCY is what is needed. When seminarians see their professors being loyal, faithful and obedient to the rubrics of the Missal, the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then they too, will be drawn to follow the right path and God willing become good priests themselves oneday.

Jan. 15, 2009 ( - A Vatican investigation into American seminarians, undertaken in a response to the sex-abuse scandal, has given the institutions a passing grade but taken note of many difficulties.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has quietly posted on its web site the final report of the apostolic visitation of seminaries in the United States. Dated December 15, the report, issued by the prefect and secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, offers a generally positive assessment of US seminaries but notes numerous problems. The apostolic visitation stemmed from an extraordinary April 2002 meeting between Roman curial prefects and cardinals and other leaders of the American hierarchy. Issued at the height of the clerical abuse scandal, the meeting’s final communique called for “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.” The visitation’s final report observes that “an Apostolic Visitation is a blunt instrument but by no means an infallible one,” providing only a brief snapshot of life in US seminaries. Intended to assist US bishops and major superiors in fulfilling their responsibilities related to seminaries, the report chronicles developments from 2002 to 2005, when the visitations, coordinated by Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, began. Visitations were conducted in 2005 and 2006. The report then issued conclusions in several areas. While concluding that “in the great majority of diocesan seminaries, the doctrine on the priesthood is well taught,” the report nonetheless noted in some seminaries, students have an “insufficient grasp” of Catholic teaching and the distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the hierarchal priesthood is blurred. Some religious institutes speak primarily of “ministry” rather than the priesthood in a “mistaken attempt” not to offend opponents of Catholic teaching on women’s ordination. While praising bishops and major superiors for being “interested in and supportive of” seminaries, the report urged each bishop to make the seminary “the object of his most intense and assiduous pastoral care.” Although the majority of seminary rectors are “good and holy men,” not all are leaders who are “comfortable making difficult decisions.“ Rectors need to spend more time at the seminary, while frequent personnel changes among seminary faculty need to end. Praising “most diocesan seminaries” for the unity of their faculty with the Magisterium,
the report nonetheless noted the presence of some faculty members who dissent from magisterial teaching; such dissenters are “out of kilter with the rest of the faculty and with the seminarians themselves.”

“Quite often,” the visitors found faculty who mocked magisterial teaching without “speaking openly against Church teaching.”

“More widespread dissent” exists in other places, “particularly in institutes run by religious,” and in these places, “there can be no possibility of a unity in direction.” Dissenting superiors and faculty members, the report observed diplomatically, need to be removed. The report also observed that the formation of laity “really ought to take place elsewhere” than at a seminary, which exists for the formation of candidates to the priesthood. If lay formation must take place there, laity should not “routinely be admitted” to certain areas.

Praising the criteria of admission of seminary candidates, the report nonetheless found grave deficiencies in seminary formation before the four years of theology formation. “Almost nowhere” has a propadeutic year before the two years of philosophical formation been implemented. While most college seminaries-- in which students receive philosophical formation-- are “good,” seminarians, before the four years of theology formation, are at times not formed with adequate oversight and are even not looked upon fully as seminarians. The report urged bishops to take a greater role in the acceptance or rejection of priestly formation candidates and noted that in some institutes, “lack of vocations has caused a lowering of standards,” with “possible wretched consequences.” The report took special note of moral problems, primarily associated with homosexual behavior, in some US seminaries. While the situation has improved because of “better superiors (especially rectors),” there are “still some places-- usually centers of formation for religious-- where “ambiguity vis-à-vis homosexuality persists," the document said. Commenting on the report, the Congregation for Catholic Education urges American Church leaders to pay special attention to the 2005 document from the same dicastery on criteria for admission to seminaries-- a document which states homosexual men are not appropriate candidates for priestly training. The report on the Apostolic Visitation does not take into account the public statements from several American seminary officials who, in response to the 2005 directive, announced that they would continue to accept candidates with homosexual inclinations.

The report also noted many seminaries’ “laxity of discipline” over students’ off-campus activities-- a problem avoided by Neocatechumenal Way seminaries. In some seminaries, “formation advisers” and psychologists delve into seminarians’ spiritual lives, while ascetic rules are lacking. The heart of seminary formation, the report continued, is prayer.
“In the diocesan seminaries, the liturgical norms are generally obeyed, but this is not always the case” in religious institutes. Despite this general fidelity, some of the report‘s strongest criticisms come in the area of spiritual formation. “Regrettably, very few seminaries fix periods of time for prayer,” and “some seminaries” need to do more to introduce students to classical Catholic spirituality. The report exhorted seminaries to celebrate Mass, Lauds, and Vespers every day, including on weekends. “A great many seminaries” need to introduce seminarians to the Rosary, novenas, litanies, and Stations of the Cross-- otherwise, the seminarians “will be unprepared for ministry in the Church, which greatly treasures these practices.” The report also noted faculty members who criticize the discipline of clerical celibacy. While praising the intellectual formation seminaries offer in philosophy and theology-- with some seminaries being “truly remarkable”-- the report condemned the practice of sending students to community colleges for their philosophy classes. Criticizing widespread weaknesses in the study of Mariology, patristics, and Latin, the report noted that “even in the best seminaries,” some faculty members dissent from Catholic teaching on moral theology and the ordination of women. Dissent is widespread at some seminaries, “particularly in some schools of theology run by religious.” Offering strong general praise for seminaries’ pastoral formation programs, the report noted that in some places, bishops ordain men against the advice of rectors, while in “a few places,” the evaluation process was suspect-- with the non-ordained, and even non-Catholics, voting whether candidates should be ordained.Such practices are to cease.”

The report’s generally positive conclusion noted that seminary formation has gradually improved since the 1990s-- “at least in diocesan seminaries”-- because of the appointment of “wise and faithful” rectors. The bottom line, according to the Apostolic Visitation: “The diocesan seminaries are, in general, healthy.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Have Teenage Sons or Students?

7 Things Teenage Boys Most Need

Interview With Spiritual Director of Adolescents

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 13, 2009 ( Being the parent of an adolescent boy is legendary for its difficulty. But according to one priest who acts as a spiritual director and confessor for high school boys, just keeping in mind seven points can make for a better relationship with adolescent sons.

Legionary of Christ Father Michael Sliney suggests the following seven necessities for parents of adolescent boys:

1. Clear guidelines with reasonable consequences from a unified front; cutting slack but also holding boys accountable for their actions.

2. Reasonable explanations for the criteria, guidelines and decisions made by parents.

3. Avoiding hyper-analysis of boys' emotions and states of mind: avoiding "taking their temperature" too often.

4. Unconditional love with an emphasis on character and effort more than outcome: Encourage boys to live up to
their potential while having reasonable expectations. To love them regardless of whether they make it into Harvard or become a star quarterback.

5. Authenticity, faith and fidelity should be reflected in parent's lifestyles.

6. Qualities of a dad: Manliness, temperance, making significant time for family, putting aside work, and being a reliable source of guidance.

7. Qualities of a mom: Emotional stability, selflessness, loving service and extreme patience.

Convivial Condolences

Father Raymond de Souza preached the funeral homily today for Father Richard John Neuhaus. Immaculate Conception Church on East 14th Street, Manhattan, was PACKED to maximum capacity. Literally, standing room only. I estimated at least 75 or more priests and four bishops, including Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore, concelebrated the funeral Mass with a congregation of young and old alike.

Fr. Raymond classified Fr. Neuhaus as a CONVIVIAL cleric, noting that in true William F. Buckley style, the former Lutheran theologian - now Catholic priest and scholar, was a true wordsmith. He used and properly so, such verbiage as CONVIVIUM, WINSOME and EGREGIOUS.

He was convivial because he truly found great joy and consolation in being a Priest. He enjoyed the truth, discussing, debating and defending it. He enjoyed life and the good things in life always employing those indispensible moral virtues of temperance and prudence. Whether a good meal, a good drink, a good cigar or a good conversation, Father Neuhaus enjoyed these not for epicurian or selfish reasons, but because as the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas taught so well, the human will is oriented to the Good and therefore, whatever is good we desire and should pursue, but always realizing there is a HIERARCHY of goods. Prudence guides us to exercise some restraint (temperance) in our pursuit of legitimate goods knowing that often we must curtail, constrain or even be willing to sacrifice them for HIGHER GOODS, such
as the salvation of our souls and the souls of others, as well. Jesus was not a workaholic nor was He a hedonist. Our Divine Lord enjoyed the company and good meals provided by Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Unlike His cousin Saint John the Baptist who dined on wild locusts and honey,
Jesus ate and drank with sinners, publicans, prostitutes and tax collectors. Good, clean FUN is not only morally permissable it is sometimes necessary for the person.

Father de Souza's sermon was one of the finest I have ever heard and it was the most apropos. He began where most priests and deacons woefully and adversely omit: "we pray for the merciful judgment of Almighty on God on the immortal soul of Father Neuhaus for any sins he committed in life; for speedy purification of his soul; and for divine reward for all his goodness and acts of charity while he sojourned here on earth."

WOW! Actually praying for the soul of the deceased AND admitting the possibility, nay, the probability that we are all indeed SINNERS in need of mercy and forgiveness. Then the zinger: praying for expedient purgation. All this in 2009, no less. All too often, Catholic funerals have become miniature canonizations of the deceased. While it is NOT the proper time and place to identify and elaborate the sins, weaknesses and mistaskes culpably committed by the recently departed, nevertheless, I have been to many funerals of clergy and laity alike where the tone, text and presumption are that the dead person is already in heaven enjoying the Beatific Vision.

Too many funeral homilies omit any reference to Purgatory and simply make a statement of fact that the decedant is now in Paradise. Aside from the Roman Pontiff when he infallibly declares a person to be a Saint, no one else on earth can make such proclamations. How sad that many Catholics see no need to pray for the dead nor to even have Masses offered for the departed souls of their loved ones since Father or Deacon Joe said at the funeral, "we are assured that he/she is now with the Lord in heaven." Except for the funerals of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul the Great, I personally would have reservations denying anyone else the need and the opportunity (and in fact the gift) of Purgatory to wash away all attachments to sin a person accumulated in life.

Today, preachers mention how 'nice' the deceased person was. He or she may and probably was VERY NICE. Niceness is not salvific, however. Sometimes, we even hear that the dead person did many good deeeds in life and that they could truthfully be regarded as a GOOD person. Goodness is not enough. Even moral goodness is not enough to enter the Pearly Gates. HOLINESS (sanctity) is what Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition tell us is necessary for heaven. Sanctifying Grace justifes and redeems us and Actual Grace empowers us to DO holy deeds and to LIVE holy lives. When was the last time you heard the funeral homilist say with conviction that the person was truly a HOLY and DEVOUT Christian? An exemplary and PRACTICING Catholic? Instead, we are given a litany of anecdotes establishing that the deceased was basically a NICE guy and certainly no terrorist.

Obituaries are just as bad. "Wilma enjoyed crocheting and needle-point and was an active member of her monthly garden club ... Fred was an avid fisherman, loved golf and bowling and had a great sense of humor." While these statements may in fact be 100% accurate and true, SO WHAT? Since when do our hobbies get us into heaven? What happened to praising someone for their FIDELITY to their religion and to their marriage and family commitments? What about letting the outside world know that Ethel was a daily communicant and active member of her parish? What about letting others know that despite many years of physical pain, suffering, obstacles and harsh inconveniences, this person PERSEVERED and never lost faith? Better to be encouraged by that instead of wasting print space about who was a Penn State fan in life.

Father de Souza quoted the late Father Neuhaus who often remarked that "we were born to die," meaning that the reward of living a good and holy life in conformity to the Will of God is obtained in the next life after we die. Particular Judgment occurs at the moment of death and we are as culpable for our sins of omission as we are for of our wilful acts of disobedience.

Neuhaus never missed an opportunity to speak the truth. He loved the truth and discussed it with clarity and in charity. He was a great gift and asset to the Catholic Church in America and will be dearly missed.

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