College president denies Maynooth seminary to close

Thu, Mar 24, 2011, 00:00

THE PRESIDENT of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Msgr Hugh Connolly, yesterday denied media speculation the college may shortly be closed.

Responding to a report in this week’s Irish Catholic which claims that the Vatican’s apostolic visitors will recommend that all Irish seminarians be moved to the pontifical Irish College in Rome, Msgr Connolly said: “There are 72 men studying for the priesthood in Maynooth, making us the largest seminary on these islands and one of the largest in Europe. Media reports today about the possible closure of the seminary are without foundations.

“Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth is a vibrant centre of seminary formation and theological research.”

He went on to say that Maynooth “is confident of its contribution to the future of the church in Ireland”, while adding that the recent apostolic visitation called for by Pope Benedict XVI had been a “positive and affirming experience for the whole college community”.

Irishmen have prepared for the priesthood at Maynooth since 1795.

The Irish Catholic had suggested the possible closure would be prompted by “concerns about falling academic standards”. In particular, it claimed that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who led the apostolic visitation, was concerned about the orthodoxy of the theology being taught at Maynooth.

In future, the Irish Catholic claimed, all Irish seminarians will be moved to a “reformed and restructured” Irish College in Rome which would reduce its intake of non-Irish students to make room for the Maynooth seminarians.

Commentators point out that such a move would not be entirely without precedent since the Catholic Church in Scotland has closed seminaries in Glasgow and in Salamanca, Spain, obliging all Scottish seminarians to study at the pontifical Scottish College in Rome.

Vatican sources, while acknowledging that the Holy See has been concerned about Maynooth for some time now, suggested the transfer of all seminarians to Rome seemed an “unlikely” recommendation. Were Irish students to do all their preparation for the priesthood outside of Ireland, they would risk losing touch with the Irish church in which they would later be called to ministry.

The apostolic visitors are expected to file their recommendations to Pope Benedict sometime in the coming months.