17 August 2011

Fr. Christopher Smith recounts his seminary days:
I had just entered the seminary when Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, came out. I had an English copy expressed to me and brought it with me into the chapel as my spiritual reading during our daily community Holy Hour. One of the older men knelt next to me as I was engrossed in Ratzinger’s chapter on Rite and whispered, “Do you want to get kicked out of the seminary? Change the book cover now.” All of my attempts to not publicise the fact that I actually knew the Old Latin Mass had apparently been blown out of the water by this defiant act of wanton schism. Suddenly seminarians began to knock on my door and counsel me how to survive the seminary, and so I exchanged Ignatius Press’ book cover for one entitled “The Pastoral Letters of Paul VI.”
So in my seminary experience I encountered two phenomena: a lack of knowledge and a positive hatred of one form of the Church’s liturgy. Since then, we have had Ratzinger elected Pope, as well as Summorum pontificum and Universae ecclesiae. The nature of the game has changed, even if there are some who are unwilling to admit it.
Yes, and thank God.

I am well aware of criticisms of Michael Rose's explosive Goodbye, Good Men, some of them from conservative circles (although Rose has adequately rebutted such criticisms), but one thing each review agrees on is that such seminary abuses were egregious and rampant. Modern church-goers are often shocked to discover that orthodox seminarians were, if not outright persecuted, at least treated as outcasts by largely pro-gay faculty and student bodies; they are even more surprised to find out that complaints made to the local bishop often went ignored.

The aftermath of such revelations included the punishment of two faithful and orthodox priests, well known to us: EWTN's Fr. John Trigilio, and Fr. Bryce Sibley of the now-defunct A Saintly Salmagundi. A chapter of Rose's book was devoted to describing the anti-orthodox, anti-heterosexual animus displayed by some faculty, students, and, yes, clergy that Fr. Trigilio had to endure for twelve long seminary years. The chapter itself started out with the quotation, "If you wore a cassock, you were a reactionary 'daughter of Trent.' If you wore women's underwear, they'd make you seminarian of the year."

This rankled the higher-ups, and payback was swift. Bishop Trautman of Erie, PA was so angered by the statement that he suspended Fr. Trigilio's priestly faculties in his diocese.

Fr. Sibley, who did no more than publicly confirm the pro-homosexual atmosphere at the American College of Louvain (the USCCB-run college in Belgium), received a six-month suspension from the local bishop after the rector at Louvain complained.

Crisis weighed in by running an article questioning Michael Rose's journalistic integrity; the article cast doubt on Louvain's allegedly pro-gay environment by quoting from former students and priests who claimed that "there was nothing like that going on." Rose responded by citing the "astounding naïvete" of those at the conservative Crisis Magazine. (That naïvete, I've noticed, isn't confined to one organization; I've seen it exhibited in well-intentioned practicing Catholics who will give bishops the benefit of the doubt in great heaping doses while writing off complaints made by laity and priests.)

Rose's account, the evidence bears out, is the more reliable. In 2009, the aptly named Fr. de Cock received his doctoral degree at Louvain with the completion of a dissertation on homosexual love, titled "Touched by Love: An Attempt at a Theological Anthropology of the Body and Homosexuality." As we all know, one doesn't receive a doctorate unless the faculty approve, and Louvain clearly had no problem with Fr. de Cock's thesis. The College has since closed its doors, unable to compete with the robust and orthodox Pontifical North American College in Rome.

R.I.P. You won't be missed.

Fortunately, the worst seems to be over, and the Vatican issued (thanks in part to Rose's very necessary exposé) an instruction, under Pope Benedict, that no man with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should be allowed into seminary. Since its issuance, the Vatican claims there is less evidence of homosexual behavior in seminaries:
Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality – again, usually homosexual behavior – continues to show up,” according to the report. “However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately.”
One hopes. Considering that previous evaluations of American seminaries were largely a sham--insiders claim orthodox books and cassock-wearing clergy suddenly appeared when the bishop made his visitation, then promptly vanished once he left--it's too soon to start celebrating. The very fact that one large archdiocese--that of Miami--was only recently exposed as a hotbed of gay activity must give us pause. Of course, that oft-seen naïvete reared its head when the usual suspects--well-intentioned, mainstream professional Catholics--immediately called the exposé into doubt, claiming the author of the article has an axe to grind, that the situation can't be as bad as he claims, etc. Christifidelis, however, the lay Catholic group exposing the corruption, has no axe to grind--and the published documents from its report are telling (and graphic).

What to do? Continue what one has always done: pray, hope, and love (remembering always that love requires truth). It would be a mistake to give way to discouragement, because that's to acknowledge that the enemy has won. One soldiers on--cheerfully, if possible, and if not, temperately.