Priests furious at inspection into ‘gay-friendly’ Irish college
16 June 2012
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Papal Legate, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a reception to mark the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
By Colm Kelpie
Saturday June 16 2012
A GROUP representing more than 800 priests last night reacted with anger to a highly critical Vatican inspection of the Irish College in Rome.
The report, by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has called for substantial reform at the institution which educates students for the priesthood.
It expressed concern about the staffing, as well as the atmosphere and philosophy of the college.
Cardinal Dolan found that the college “suffers from the reputation of being gay friendly, however unjust such a reputation might be”.
The report criticises Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops — the trustees of the college — and alleges that staff were critical of any emphasis on the teaching authority of the church.
The archbishops issued a statement saying they were presented with an initial Vatican report which contained “some serious errors of fact”. They refused to elaborate.
However, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) last night said the report had “effectively destroyed” the reputation of the four priests involved with the college.
“It is unacceptable that a report to the Pope, on a sensitive issue, should be conducted in such an incompetent fashion,” the group said. “No court of law would treat people in such a way.”
The report was carried out by Cardinal Dolan as part of the apostolic visitation into some dioceses, seminaries and religious institutions last year.
It criticised the four archbishops — Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary and Archbishop Dermot Clifford.
It is alleged that they were disengaged from college governance, with irregular meetings, minutes and agenda.
Last night, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore welcomed the Papal Legate Cardinal Mark Ouellet, Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin to a reception in Dublin Castle — but there was no comment on the report. The report also reportedly recommended a change in the staff.
The ACP called on the bishops “to publicly repudiate this report in the strongest possible terms and to support the priests”.
“Cardinal Dolan’s report not only undermines the reputation of priests who have not been given a right of reply, it also undermines the credibility of the whole visitation process,” the ACP said.
“It would appear that, in undertaking this particular visitation, conclusions were effectively drawn beforehand and then evidence to support them was actively sought.”
The Archdiocese of New York said Cardinal Dolan was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, a Galway Redemptorist priest who was silenced by the Vatican earlier this year because of his criticisms of the Catholic Church in relation to their response to clerical sex abuse in Ireland is to return to public ministry in his native county next week.
Fr Tony Flannery (64), of the Redemptorist Monastery in Esker, near Athenry in Co Galway, will receive his order’s annual Novena on Tuesday.
– Colm Kelpie
Cardinal offered 19 ‘positive observations’ of college
16 June 2012
APOSTOLIC VISITATION: CARDINAL TIMOTHY Dolan concludes his somewhat bruising 17-page report on the Irish College in Rome with unexpected warmth.
Speaking of himself in the third person, as he did throughout, he said “the apostolic visitor left the college filled with affection and admiration for the students, and, notwithstanding his criticisms, appreciation for the sincerity and hard work of the staff”, who he had just recommended be changed.
He also said he was “warmly welcomed by the rector . . . his staff, seminarians, and student priests. The visitor enjoyed his stay and appreciated the hospitality of this community”.
He outlined 19 “positive observations” about the college. These included an atmosphere that was “warm, inviting, hospitable”, and a physical environment that was “comfortable, while not opulent”.
In general, the seminarians were “sincere”, “earnest in their desire to be priests after the heart of Christ” and took their academic work seriously. The four staff were “visible, available, and engaged . . . ” while the presence of student priests was “of some benefit in their example”.
Liturgical and devotional life was “impressive”, as was “the use of cassock and surplice by the liturgical ministers, and by the men admitted to candidacy during the visitor’s stay”. The rector was “very generous” in his “realistic acceptance of his multiple duties both in the seminary and the wider community”.
The “hosting of Irish cultural events and frequent visitors” there was “valuable in preparing men for a life of priestly service and engagement in Ireland”.
He found “the rector and vice rector’s financial stewardship to be sound”. Seminarians attendance at classes and liturgies were “high and consistent”, while their ability in Italian was “very impressive”. Another positive was “the staff’s knowledge of, and insight into, the student’s perspective.”
With something of a flourish, he described the college as “a revered and venerated institution for Ireland, dating back to 1628”. Its impact “on the church in Ireland is prodigious, not only in forming generations of faithful priests, but also in serving as a centre of Irish hospitality, culture, and pastoral activity in the Eternal City”.
Irish Archbishops slam Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s report on Rome Irish college
Cleric accused New York cardinal who also investigated “gay friendly” reputation of college
15 June 2012
By PATRICK COUNIHAN, IrishCentral Staff Writer
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been attacked by four Irish archbishops for a misleading report which had led to major changes at the Irish College in Rome.
The Irish Times reports that the four archbishops are heavily critical of Cardinal Dolan’s role in a visitation and review of the College ordered by the Pope.
The four archbishops, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh; the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin; the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, and the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr Dermot Clifford, were sent a copy of the visitation report by the Vatican.
They say Cardinal Dolan’s report, which has resulted in the college hierarchy being sent back to Ireland and may see it close down, is riddled with errors.
Under orders from Pope Benedict, Cardinal Dolan led a root and branch review of all structures and processes at the famous Irish seminary in the Vatican.
His report expressed concern about ‘the atmosphere, structure, staffing and guiding philosophy of the Irish College in Rome’.
But now four of Ireland’s leading clerics have hit out at the report.
In a statement to the Irish Times, they said: “As part of the process involved in the visitation to the Irish College, Rome, the trustees were given an initial report by the Holy See.
“This initial report contained some serious errors of fact, including named individuals. Attentive to the importance of applying due process, and respecting the rights of those named in this initial report, the trustees made a detailed and considered response to the Holy See.”
Cardinal Dolan was still an Archbishop when he led the apostolic visitation to the Irish College in Rome last year.
He was assisted in the visitation report by the then Archbishop of Baltimore in the US and now Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Msgr Francis Kelly of the Northern American College in Rome and others.
The Irish Times reports that it has seen a copy of the unpublished visitation report which was presented to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.
The report calls for ‘substantial reform’ at the college.
The four Irish archbishops, the college’s trustees, were criticised in Cardinal Dolan’s report as ‘seeming to be disengaged from college governance, with meetings, minutes, agenda and direct supervision irregular. The general rule of governance is ‘Let’s keep doing what we have been for the last 35 years’.
In response, the Irish archbishops told the Irish Times that they made a ‘detailed and considered response’ to the Holy See.
The Irish College was founded in 1628 and educates students for the priesthood. It is also a popular wedding venue for Irish couples who wish to get married in Rome.
The visitation report said: “A disturbingly significant number of seminarians gave a negative assessment of the atmosphere of the house.
“Staff were critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the magisterium, piety or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features.”
The Dolan report recommended a change in the staff.
It also stated: “The apostolic visitor noted, and heard from students, an ‘anti-ecclesial bias’ in theological formation.”
Cardinal Dolan’s report also said: “The college suffers from the reputation of being ‘gay friendly’, however unjust such a reputation might be.
“I am eager to underline that I did not find any evidence of rampant immorality or a homosexual subculture, and that the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle.
“Likewise, we are convinced that the staff in no way condones such conduct.”
The report concludes: “If the college is to prepare men as leaders for the renewal of the church in Ireland, which the Holy Father is confident will come, the staff of the college must inspire trust and its programme of formation must engender a vibrant fidelity to Jesus and the teaching and tradition of His church with the fostering of a durable interior life, and a humble, confident sense of priestly identity and mission.
“Such is now lacking.”
Cardinal Dolan said he left the college: “Filled with affection and admiration for the students and, notwithstanding his criticisms, appreciation for the sincerity and hard work of the staff.”
A draft response prepared for the four Irish archbishops, seen by the Irish Times, said ‘a deep prejudice appears to have coloured the visitation and from the outset and it led to the hostile tone and content of the report’.
It said: “The visitation report would appear to prioritise its own view of orthodoxy, priestly identity, separation and devotion and its harsh judgments on staff members were unsupported by evidence.”
The paper says it is not clear how much of the draft response was included in the document the archbishops sent to the Holy See taking issue with the visitation report.
Since the report it has been confirmed that all four priests who were staff at the Irish College seminary in January 2011 are being replaced. Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal O’Brien received red hats last February.
Asked by The Irish Times to comment on questions arising from his visitation report, Cardinal Dolan responded: “While obviously others do not consider themselves bound by the promised confidentiality – so necessary and understandable to assure a fair and honest gathering of information [and] requested by the Apostolic See – I certainly do.”
The paper says he was therefore “unable to comment upon the report, other than to stand by the diligence of the six visitors and the accuracy of the data we found – both of positive and challenging nature – and presented to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.”
Irish college suffers from unjust ‘gay’ reputation’, says prelate
15 June 2012
The Apostolic Visitor concluded that the Irish College in Rome had acquired an undeserved reputation of “softness” on homosexuality at the college and that recent incidents “build on allegations from years past”
CARDINAL TIMOTHY Dolan’s report on the Irish College in Rome has found that “the college suffers from the reputation of being ‘gay friendly’, however unjust such a reputation might be.” It said that “a recent series (four by the Apostolic Visitor’s count) of homosexually directed improprieties have been reported at the college.”
The Apostolic Visitor “carefully examined each episode with the aggrieved student and the rector. Knowledge of these episodes, as well as of some others from the past, is widespread among the seminarians, and the priests and bishops back in Ireland, giving an unfortunate and undeserved reputation of ‘softness’ on homosexuality at the College.”
It said that “recent episodes (of the last year-and-a-half) build on allegations from years past” which were reported to the visitation team by a named priest who investigated them at the request of Cardinal Seán Brady and the college rector.
It continued that “some past students – none of whom are now at the college – admitted to the priest who investigated the matter at the time “that they had frequented ‘gay bars’. A former rector from decades ago is now unwelcome at the College as a result of allegations of impropriety.”
For “the sake of thoroughness” the report detailed four cases reported at the college since September 2009. Three concerned non-Irish students with the fourth involved two Irish seminarians. In all four cases the seminarians are named in the cardinal’s report.
In one case a seminarian accused another of improper touching but it was found the accuser had a history of fabricating stories. In a second case a non-Irish deacon at the college reported “a sense of discomfort” over attempts “by a student priest . . . to get close to him”. The rector intervened and the matter ended there.
A third case concerned an Italian seminarian with “an unfortunate reputation as a flamboyant homosexual, with some students reporting outrageous remarks of sexual attraction for other seminarians”. On investigation it was found this seminarian may have been “a victim of unjust gossip”.
An undertaking was given by the rector to the cardinal, however, that the matter would be investigated further.
The remaining case concerned an Irish seminarian (named) who reported to his bishop in Ireland during the summer of 2010 that he was “very troubled by undue attention and improper advances by another seminarian (named)”.
The accused seminarian was dismissed and his accuser “has now returned to continue his formation”, the cardinal’s report noted.
The cardinal went on to state in the report that he was “eager to underline that he did not find any evidence of rampant immorality, or a homosexual subculture, and that the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle, and upset by the undeserved perception that the college now tolerates deviant behaviour. Likewise, he is convinced that the staff in no way condones such conduct.”
However, his report went on to say that “the staff did seem slow and uncertain in their response to these recent episodes, and a few seminarians who reported the inappropriate behaviour felt that they were treated with suspicion.
“The climate of the house suffers when the students see the offending man remaining too long in the community or, in the cases when the offender is dismissed, hear that the perpetrator ‘might return’ or is still in formation for the priesthood, or lay ecclesial ministry, elsewhere.”
The cardinal recommended “that once a reported offence is determined with moral certainty . . . the offender must be dismissed, even if the reporting victim is opposed”.
Such a victim should be told of this and be “assured that the dismissed seminarian is no longer in formation elsewhere.”
He also recommended that a “clear protocol on these matters” be developed and “published in the seminary manual, encouraging seminarians to report such incidents immediately to the rector . . . ”
Cardinal critical of clerical attire
15 June 2012
GRADUATE PRIESTS: CARDINAL TIMOTHY Dolan’s report was scathing about priest graduates at the Irish College and seminarians’ dress.
It stated that “some of the graduate priests are less than positive examples of priestly life, and are not attentive to even the minimum demands made upon them”.
They needed “a clear rule of life . . . The lack of vigilance and continued formation over these new priests is of concern”.
They were “not yet ready for the liberty given to a graduate priest. They, too, need to be bound by the clear expectations of the seminary”.
It was recommended that “increased attention and supervision be given these newly ordained priests”.
Where the dress of seminarians at the Irish College was concerned, the report found it “borders on the sloppy and excessively informal, and clerical attire seems rare”.
It recommended “a clear dress code be part of the rule of life, that formal attire (jacket and tie for those not yet near diaconate; jacket and clerical collar for those in candidacy and the deacons, on special occasions) be clear, and the laudable practice of cassock and surplice at Sunday Mass, for liturgical ministers, and at special liturgies, be maintained”.
His report also recommended that a practice, whereby “prior to the community Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle, then restored at the conclusion of Mass”, be stopped. It was “a source of understandable confusion to the students”.
There was “no confessional in the chapel, or elsewhere . . . ” The cardinal recommended that “a confessional be erected, preferably in or near the chapel; and that an outside confessor be appointed to hear confessions at a set period at least once a week”.
Apostolic visitation: Quotes from Cardinal Dolan’s report
The Irish Times
Friday, June 15, 2012
“The trustees of the college – the four archbishops of Ireland, the actual owners – seem disengaged from college governance, with meetings, minutes, agenda, and direct supervision irregular.”
“Some of the graduate priests are less than positive examples of priestly life and are not attentive to even the minimum demands made upon them.”
“The dress of the students borders on the sloppy and excessively informal . . . ”
“The apostolic visitor noted, and heard from students, an ‘anti- ecclesial bias’ in theological formation.”
“The staff is critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the magisterium, piety or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features.”
“The college suffers from the reputation of being ‘gay friendly’, however unjust such a reputation might be.”
“The apostolic visitor is eager to underline that he did not find any evidence of rampant immorality or a homosexual subculture, and that the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle . . .
“Likewise, he is convinced that the staff in no way condones such conduct.”
All four priests at college opted to leave
15 June 2012
DEPARTURES: ALL FOUR OF the seminary staff who were at the Irish College in Rome when the visitation team, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, arrived there in January 2011 have left or are on their way out.
This is in line with the recommendation in Cardinal Dolan’s report “that there needs to be a change in the staff” at the college.
He noted that one priest had already let it be known he was leaving and commented in the report: “This is good.”
It said the presumption was that this priest’s successor should not be either of the two men expected to fill he post. “Neither of these men should be appointed,” he said.
Of another priest at the college, he said: “He is seen by a majority of students as embodying the values and attitudes that have created mistrust in the community. He, too, should move on.”
He said a third priest “appears to be overworked, unprepared”. His report concluded of the three priests referred to so far that they showed “an exaggerated deference to the notion that the seminarians themselves are their own formators”.
It seemed they had interpreted the Pope John Paul II document on the formation of priests, Pastores Dabo Vobis, “in such a way that their role becomes too passive and non-direct”, the cardinal said.
In his report, Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said said of a fourth priest on the staff that “while widely admired by the seminarians, [he] seems reluctant to address the unique identity of the priest”.
He continued: “He also seems to rely exclusively on sacred scripture, with rarely if ever references to the fathers, the saints, the classics of ascetical theology, or documents of the magisterium.”
However, the report recommended that this priest continue in his role but that “he seeks some further education in his field . . . ” This fourth priest, however, requested that he, too, be allowed leave the college.
It means that none of the staff at the Irish College when Cardinal Dolan and his apostolic visitation team arrived there in January 2011 decided to remain in their positions after the subsequent report to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.