I wanted to call attention to a little piece of news that snuck past us in recent weeks.
Which is that, last month, the Vatican put out a report on its apostolic visits to 229 U.S. seminaries, chiefly to ferret out how some of these institutions of learning have become such centers of gay men that they’re called “pink palaces” and how other seminaries have been a little light when it comes to good doctrine. What? You’ve not heard a report was released? That is because the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not post a press release about it in early January when the news came out. Instead, they posted the letter from Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and the report itself on the “Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations” page of usccb.org. I could not find it by clicking about, so I finally got it through a word search here.
Essentially, the 20-page Vatican document, dated Dec. 15, spelled a few weaknesses that need to be corrected. They include teaching on the doctrine of the priesthood (page 5), a reminder to seminary rectors to not travel outside the seminary so much (page 6), faculty members who are contemptuous of church teaching (page 7), concerns about the lowering of standards for seminarians due to the vocations crisis (page 10), cases of homosexuality “here and there” (page 11) along with “ambiguity” about it and, on the same page, an observation that in “not a few seminaries,” educators have not a clue as to what seminarians do when they are off campus.
On page 14, seminaries are urged to have their students make confession more than once a month and do more “traditional acts of piety” such as the Rosary, litanies, stations of the cross and so on. Page 16 mourns how few seminarians have Latin instruction and points out there are quite a few instances of dissent from traditional church teaching in seminaries. The report concludes several pages later by saying the presence of problem faculty members was not news to most seminary rectors.
It’s all interesting reading if you’re into such things. I just wish the USCCB had worked a little harder at publicizing the report, especially since it had been conducted in response to the sexual abuse crisis among clergy. The visits, by the way, were conducted by 117 investigators from September 2005 to May 2006.
- Julia Duin, religion editor