deeply impressed

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 31, 2006

The visitors have said they came away from the visits "deeply impressed by what is going on at the seminaries," Archbishop O'Brien said.

That's the punch-line of the CNS story on the near-completion of the visitation of U.S. seminaries. The U.S. bishop who coordinated the visitation believes his mission was accomplished:

"Bottom line, I think this visitation was most successful," Archbishop O'Brien said in a talk to the 2006 Catholic Media Convocation in Nashville. A former head of two seminaries, he was coordinator of the visitations for the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminary formation.

So, you thought the abuse crisis itself, or the diocesan bankruptcies consequent thereon, or the arrest of seminary staff for unnatural vice, or the widespread clerical defiance of Church teaching, indicate that a purge is called for? Well you're wrong.

"The hype to begin with led some to believe this was going to be a crusade ... to weed out immorality," Archbishop O'Brien said. "That's not what it was about."

Instead, he said, the objective of the visitations was to determine if seminarians were being prepared properly to live a chaste and celibate life.

"I think the phobias that went around quickly dissipated" as the visits continued, he said.

Lots of diplomatic equivocation here; O'Brien left his emergency exits open. The "phobias" mentioned might belong to those afraid that heads would roll, or those afraid that heads wouldn't roll, or both. I think we all know which group feels -- or is meant to feel -- relief. Not to put too fine a point on it, your Uncle Di's phobias haven't dissipated.

It doesn't look good, but the story isn't entirely finished yet. On the one hand, Archbishop O'Brien is not the kind of man to tell the media, "The visitors were appalled at what they found," even if it happened to be the case. On the other hand, O'Brien's is not the judgment that ultimately matters; the will to reform needs to be felt by the Holy See if anything is going to change. "We have to be careful not to be fooled by surface cordiality," former seminary rector Donald Cozzens told the NCR last January. "The jury is still out."

Though Cozzens fears what most of us hope for, and vice-versa, his caution applies equilaterally. If the visitors took a good hard look behind the scenes, and if they communicated what they found to Rome, and if Rome wants the stables cleaned even more than it wants genial relations with bishops, genial relations with religious orders, and genial relations with the media -- then and only then might we see some action. I think it's Cozzens who will end up with the visitation he was hoping for rather than the visitation he feared, but I'd be happy to be wrong, again.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jun. 01, 2006 11:13 AM ET USA

    Indeed, Quadratus and Fr. Coleman... When the Holy See begins to "clean the stables" of bishops & seminary rectors, then, and only then will we truly begin to see a more fervent orthodoxy. The Holy Father and the Congregation for Bishops are the only ones who can clean the bishops' stables. For now, however, only a few dioceses have bishops who lead with holy boldness as Successors to the Apostles (eg: Lincoln, Omaha, Madison, St. Louis, Chicago, Newark, Denver, Charlotte, Charleston...)

  • Posted by: Quadratus - May. 31, 2006 1:39 PM ET USA

    Father, I am not so sure some bishops are “good but weak”, there are some that are so out there in the left field that we can suspect they are intentionally and maliciously perverting the Church. Yes there are many good bishops, good pastors but there are also some that I do not hesitate to say are bordering on evil. They may see themselves as “progressive” and “tolerant”, but they are fools deceived by Satan. As long as homosexuals run seminaries and are allowed in, the problem will continue.

  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 11:54 AM ET USA

    Anyone who’s served in the U.S. military, or worked as a federal civil servant, knows these two rules of personnel management: 1) Based on current rules and regulations, we can do anything we want to do. 2) Based on current rules and regulations, we can’t be forced to do something we don’t want to do. Keep in mind, also, this rule of hierarchy self-preservation: Senior leadership is not allowed to find fault with the system under which they were promoted.

  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 11:37 AM ET USA Dr. Pangloss, wherefore art thou?

  • Posted by: Fr. Walter - May. 31, 2006 11:31 AM ET USA

    Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to visit a number of seminaries, and things are better than they were 20 to 25 years ago. However, things were so bad then, that even a small improvement will appear dramatic. Most bishops are good, but very weak men. The problem is that if they did say, "Things are bad here and this is the dramatic action that needs to be taken to correct it," people would ask, "How did the bishops allow this to happen in the first place?" So...

  • Posted by: Charles134 - May. 31, 2006 9:34 AM ET USA

    Here's an actual non-sarcastic comment from me: What's the difference between romanitas and the sin of lying? I mean, the house is on fire and people keep telling us how great things are. BXVI not as much, but JPII and so many bishops said things about the state of the liturgy, especially, and the state of the Church in general that are just so clearly NOT SO. The virtue of hope became optimism and has degenerated into systematic lying. If you must sin, sin boldly, I guess.

  • Posted by: Clorox - May. 31, 2006 9:17 AM ET USA

    First rule of contemporary hierarchical spirituality: Expect nothing and you'll never be disappointed.

  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 8:35 AM ET USA

    You can spot them a mile away. People who limp. Something is not right in the architecture or wiring of their body and they just can't walk right. They are out of balance and the whole world can see it. How many bishops in the world today have "balance?" How many bishops are pious and charitable lions willing to fight and suffer for the salvation of souls? St. Pius X was one. He crushed (for a while) the modernists, yet had great concern for them as individuals.