Irish College staff in Rome given no right of reply
OPINION:There is not a court in the world where a case based on such ‘evidence’ would even be heard
WHAT IS most striking about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s visitation report on the Irish College in Rome is its ferocity towards staff at the seminary.
Its core conviction is that the college had an “anti-ecclesial bias” when it came to the theological formation of students. In other words, it was not orthodox enough for the cardinal or his team. There seemed to be a “tilt” there towards “theologians somewhat ambiguous on church teaching,” it said.
His report noted, for instance, that one lay lecturer at the college favoured a text which asserted that “the renewal of Vatican II has been clawed back . . . theologians have been made to suffer”.
He also found that “a disturbingly significant number of seminarians gave a negative assessment of the atmosphere at the house”. It was clear “the staff and students are dramatically divided in their approach to the church and the priesthood”, he reported.
How does he know this? Seminarians said so. As corroboration he quoted one seminarian, who said: “The house is tense and dysfunctional. The seminarians want to be priests as the church teaches. The staff work from approaches more characteristic of the 60s and 70s. Therefore, the level of trust between seminarian and staff is destroyed.”
The cardinal reported: “Such comments were, unfortunately, common among the students.” He continued: “The staff is critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the Magisterium, piety, or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features.” How does he know this? The students told him.
It allowed him conclude “substantial reform is needed at the Pontifical Irish College”.
And the staff? There is no record in his report of any instance where he discussed any of the seminarians’ criticisms with any of the four college staff. Nor is there one indication that he offered any of these men an opportunity to answer their student critics.
The consequences have been clear. Where the criticised college staff are concerned it has been a case of “off with their heads”. Dolan approved of just one staying on, terms and conditions applying, but this man too is heading home, at his own request.
The parallel between how Dolan and his team prepared their report on the priests at the Irish College and how those other Irish priests recently censured by the Vatican were dealt with would be uncanny in any other institution. Sadly, it has become all too familiar where the Catholic Church is concerned.
Where else today would unnamed accusers be so entertained as are those who bring criticisms of priests to the Vatican where they will be listened to earnestly if not eagerly?
Where else would you get away with censuring a person without them being allowed any opportunity to offer a defence?
Where else would such student-assisted evisceration of staff, as at the Irish College, and the meting out of punishment without a hearing, as there, be tolerated or even considered tolerable?
On top of this, there is the utter lack of any sort of consideration or respect for these men who have devoted their lives to the church.
Cardinal Dolan noted in his report that one of the priests criticised by seminarians had been planning to leave the college anyhow. “This is good,” he said. Years of loyal service dismissed in a spare, if pithy, three words.