The time has come for the laity to demand a thorough reform of St. Patrick’s Seminary
“If a man has the power to do good, it is sinful in him to leave it undone”. This short line from the Epistle of Saint James is a stark reminder of the duty of every Christian believer to do what is right. Why then, we may ask, are our bishops not taking an active role in bringing about a sorely-needed reform of our national seminary, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth?
Seminary has been enveloped by controversy for many years
Last May, this paper carried an article which alerted readers to the fact that out of a class of ten seminarians, for no less than sixty per cent of them it was recommended that they take “time out” from formation. One of the primary reasons given in these dubious reports was that they were “theologically rigid” – in other words, they were not willing to compromise their Catholic faith. Some of these seminarians were criticised openly in these reports because they chose to kneel – as is the universal norm of the Church – during the consecration of the Mass. This same article drew readers’ attention to the damaging heterodox theology being taught by certain members of the faculty – for example, there have been outright denials of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, a questioning of the divinity of Jesus Christ (by suggesting that Christ might have sinned), and the notion that salvation is merely “living well”.
Another newspaper, The Irish Catholic, drew attention to the same situation. It highlighted the fact that the Apostolic Visitation ordered by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, which included a visitation of Maynooth seminary, has had little practical effect. The article, which claimed that certain bishops had intervened to ensure that three out of the six “theologically rigid” seminarians be allowed to return to seminary, also drew attention to the fact that controversy surrounding the programme of priestly formation in Maynooth seminary is nothing new. It mentioned the claims made a few years ago that a number of seminarians who wished to kneel at Mass were suspended from seminary. This is a crucial point: the issues raised last summer were not isolated. Neither are the charges relating to heterodox theology a new development. The plain fact is that the seminary has been enveloped by controversy for many years. To use the familiar phrase, there is no smoke without fire.
One of the controversies which has persisted for many years is that of the existence of a homosexual sub-culture among
some seminarians. Again, this is not news. However, this newspaper understands that this sub-culture is still very much active. As a matter of fact, it has come to light that in recent weeks a seminarian was suspended from seminary for uncovering the existence of homosexual behaviour. This is unfathomable – the one who spoke up was punished, while those engaging in behaviour which the Church regards as objectively sinful remain in formation for the Catholic priesthood. It is common knowledge among current seminarians that one seminarian (who is no longer in formation) last year boasted that his formation in the seminary helped him to discover his “true self” (i.e. as a homosexual). Having helped this man to discover his “true self”, this same seminarian was invited to continue his formation the following year. Is it any wonder that there was no uproar from the seminary authorities last year when the campus was saturated with posters advocating a “yes” vote in the marriage referendum?
Naturally, following the controversy which arose last summer in particular, the President of St. Patrick’s College, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, dismissed the claims being made about seminary formation. Writing in The Irish Catholic, he rubbished claims that seminarians would be targeted for being too conservative. Why then, one might ask, was it considered acceptable or even important to note in a number of end-of-year reports that certain students knelt at Mass? Quoting David Quinn, Monsignor Connolly wrote, “David Quinn is right to remind us that ‘Catholic theology cannot stray on the fundamentals from the teachings of the Magisterium’. Neither for that matter should a priest or seminarian so stray”. Why then are seminarians reporting year after year that they are being taught much theology which has indeed strayed from the teachings of the Magisterium? Indeed, in some instances it has more than merely “strayed” – judging on what has been reported over the years, much teaching can only be described as outright heresy. Again, there is no smoke without fire.
Faithful have the right to demand action from bishops
A sincere Catholic cannot but be outraged by the controversy surrounding Maynooth. They cannot but be outraged that men are being formed for the Catholic priesthood in such an environment. They cannot but be outraged when they consider how those who are charged with forming men in the likeness of the Supreme Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ, can actively and knowingly jeopardise or even destroy the vocations of those men whom He has called and chosen. Our seminarians deserve better – they deserve a Catholic formation which is in full agreement with the mind of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, you, the faithful, deserve better – especially since you are the ones who pray for, and financially support, the formation of our future priests.
Sadly, despite your many fervent prayers for vocations to the priesthood, many men are not answering the call – one of the reasons given by many is that they cannot enter Maynooth seminary while it remains in its present state. As faithful Catholics you have a right to have your concerns listened to by your bishops – in many cases the cries of their own seminarians have been ignored. Perhaps they will listen to you. Indeed, there is something very, very wrong when those who expose wrong doing are expelled while the offenders are allowed to continue as if nothing happened. This cries out to Heaven for vengeance and surely no person of good will can ignore such a dreadful situation, we have a duty to act.
I therefore urge you, dear faithful readers, to make your voice heard on this matter. The Code of Canon Law tells us that the faithful have a right and even a duty to make their concerns known to their pastors for the good of the Church (Can.212). Indeed, it is surely now time for those priests who have, by the grace of God, survived the trials of Maynooth seminary to make their voices heard. Please consider contacting the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, stating your concerns about our national seminary, and asking him, as President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to initiate a serious discussion on the state of affairs in the seminary when the bishops’ conference next meets in Maynooth on June 7, 8, and 9. You have the power to do good – do not leave it undone.
In the first instance we invite readers to express their concerns in writing to the Primate of All Ireland at the address below:
Most Rev’d Eamon Martin,
Archbishop of Armagh,
Armagh, BT61 7QY.
Telephone: +44 (0) 28 3752 2045