Excerpt on Vatican's Findings on US Seminaries
Published: Jan 15, 2009
Jan. 15, 2009 (CWNews.com) - 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 2008 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 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.”
15-January-2009 -- Catholic World News Brief
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