by Michael H. Brown

Last week I began reading a new book, Goodbye, Good Men, about the situation in Catholic seminaries. For years we have heard the stories: of conservative candidates who are turned away by liberal seminary "screeners," of New Age infiltration, of widespread homosexuality. I am closely related to one man who left a seminary so he didn't "lose" his faith, as he put it, and we hear time to time from others who were disallowed from piety, true holiness, and such things as saying the Rosary while undergoing their formation and education (in one East Coast seminary students had to hide in a basement room while reciting it!).

This we have known, but to see so much of it put in one package, with page after page of allegation, is still intensely disturbing, and while we usually stay away from "muckraking" within the Church (despite my own background as an investigative journalist, and despite the temptation of such huge, unmoving targets) -- and while we are wary of those who traverse too far to the right, in such a way as to lack charity (for we are all called to pray for sinners, not condemn them) -- this book is for the most part a dispassionate and well-researched recitation of facts that make one thing clear: many of our seminaries are in desperate shape, worse than most imagine, and if they are not tended to immediately they will fail to produce any worthy pastors. 

Are there good seminaries? Yes. And there is much hope. Seminaries that promote solid devotion are beginning to expand -- and in some cases are bursting at the seams. Moreover, the scandal should not taint our view of the majority of priests, who are so good and dedicated. 

But a crisis there is. Consider these facts (brought to light by author Michael S. Rose):

-- One prospective priest was allegedly propositioned by the president of a school of theology in California who later became acting secretary of formation for Jesuits worldwide. The attitude of the Jesuits was to "affirm the gay life," charged one student.

-- At another California seminary, the academic dean was arrested for soliciting sex with minors over the internet and distributing pornographic literature.

-- At still others, whether an applicant believes in female priests is a crucial screening question -- with those who don't favor female priests finding their vocations flatly rejected in certain instances.

-- Across the nation, seminarians are barraged with psychobabble, often ordered to consult with a psychologist when their views are too "rigid" (read: orthodox). At one seminary in Cincinnati, the admission committee based its decisions on the evaluations of a psychologist  who was the Worshipful Master of Mt. Washington Masonic Lodge 642 and also a member of the Rosicrucians, an occult society! (Unsurprisingly, he rejected more candidates than he recommended.)

-- In New Orleans, candidates for the seminary were reduced to having to act effeminate in order to get past screening. One was told to speak with a lisp. "The issue was never one of my suitability for ordination," noted Joseph Kellenyi, a former seminarian at the Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. "Rather it was that the gay clique had been given veto power over who got ordained." 

-- Homosexuals often practiced openly and even frequented "gay" bars during their years at the seminary. At some schools, a third or more seemed to have this proclivity. Heterosexuals who don't accept it are again labeled as inflexible -- and their vocations endangered. In line for Communion, one student testified that he saw other touching each other suggestively. (I'm not sure we need the details.)

And then there is the education. Many of our young priests are taught that the Real Presence is a myth; that Christ never intended to establish the Eucharist; that St. Augustine invented the idea of original sin; and that in general the sacraments are antiquated. 

Denied in many of our seminaries are fundamental doctrines. Those who follow the Pope are considered abnormal. Indeed, as Rose points out, John Paul II would be considered "inflexible" and would probably be rejected by many screening committees in the U. S., if he was a current candidate. Daily Mass is unknown to many seminarians while visits to psychologists are strictly mandated. "They appear to be teaching at Catholic seminaries primarily to train seminarians not to be priests," laments the author.

Incredibly, teachers are often not only opposed to Rome but to the very precepts of Catholicism. One woman "opened her first class with a complaint about women's role in the Church and an admonition that the men were 'wasting their time' studying to be priests, when they should become social workers or psychologists instead."

A couple more snippets:

-- During courses in sexual education seminarians are forced to view hardcore pornography despite their protests, and sometimes themselves encouraged to experiment.

-- Crystals, enneagrams, and other gnostic techniques (read: New Age) are offered in the name of "openness."

-- Seminarians are inundated with the works of dissidents such as Father Richard McBrien, Hans Kung, and Charles Curran.

"My formation class is headed by two people," explained one student, "a discontented priest and a liberal nun who both support homosexuality and abortion issues, along with stem cell research."

This litany goes on -- and on. It's nearly too much to read. We know a lot of this already. But there are those who will want to see it spelled out, and it's a book that should be read by every bishop in North America and the Vatican hierarchy. If what has been delineated already isn't enough, perhaps sincere Church elders will take note of one case at a notorious seminary in Baltimore where a priest who wanted to get rid of superstitions about the Eucharist blew on the paten after Communion and scattered fingernail-size pieces of the Eucharist as sort of a defiant demonstration.

This is how our priests are trained

Fortunately, there is good news. There is a silver lining. As I said, seminaries in a conservative setting are doing well. Consider that the archdiocese of Omaha -- one of the nation's most orthodox -- ordained 56 priests from 1991 to 1998. That's in a population of just 215,000 Catholics -- while in the same period the much more liberal diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, ordained a total of four. Or take Peoria, Illinois, where a population of just 230,000 Catholics in a conservative diocese ordained nine priests a year in that period, while in 2001 the Milwaukee archdiocese, with three times the population, ordained two.

We believe the Church will not only survive, but will come out of this stronger than ever. We believe what is going on now, what started in Boston, what was even the topic of a talk this week between the Pope and President Bush, is a purification. We also believe we have to be careful that the current exposure doesn't lead to persecution. We have already seen indications of false charges against priests, and no matter what they have done, they don't need our opprobrium. They need our prayer.

But for now, we must face unpleasant facts.

They're summarized by said Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss of Omaha: "It seems to me that the vocations 'crisis' is precipitated by people who want to change the Church's agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates to the magisterial teachings of the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these ministries." 

And that's the bottom line: there is a conspiracy afoot, it's the root of much that has happened since the Sixties, and its architect is Satan.

[Goodbye, Good Men is available here]

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[see also: Pope alluded to 'demon' in light of scandals]

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