Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pope: Seminaries Must teach the Extraordinary Form

Holy Smoke

by Damian Thompson

Damian ThompsonBad news for England’s ludicrously overstaffed Catholic seminaries, one of which employs 37 staff for 32 students. The Pope wants them to teach trainee priests how to say the traditional Latin Mass. They won’t like that!

The Latin Missal
The Pope wants trainee priests to be able to read the Latin Missal

England’s seminaries are all pretty much in the same mould: Left-leaning, liturgically trendy, politically correct, therapy-obsessed and terrified of a younger generation of conservative Catholics. Most of them would rather teach Unitarian circle-dancing than the Tridentine Mass. But they may not have much choice.

The pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, unimpressed by certain bishops’ sour response to the liberation of the Latin Mass, realises that there is a shortage of priests who know how to celebrate the complicated ancient liturgy. Since demand for it is rising, seminaries will need to address this problem.

In America, some bishops have anticipated this situation. Two seminaries in Pennsylvania – St Vincent, Latrobe, and St Charles Borromeo, Philadelphia – have just announced that they will be teaching the “extraordinary form”, as it is now known.

There are four seminaries in England and to say that they are not bursting at the seams is putting it mildly. I reckon there are not many more than 100 English seminarians in all of them combined. Yet the bishops cannot reach agreement on which, if any, to close.

The seminaries, you see, employ a whole army of hand-wringing, Tablet-reading types whose job it is to mould trainee priests in their own image. The really good boys will be sent to plum parishes, then shuffled around the diocesan curia a bit until they return to the seminaries as lecturers; then, if they are really, really good, they are made an auxiliary bishop.

(None of which, of course, is supposed to cast aspersions on the academic standards at these institutions. Why, at one seminary, there are no fewer than three – three! – people with doctorates on the teaching staff of around 30.)

Anyway, teaching seminarians to follow the rubrics of the Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII doesn’t fit into this picture at all. Just think of the shrieks of horror if the Holy Father puts his foot down. I can’t wait.

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