Saturday, 30 April 2016


Seminaries and sex abuse

By Bryan Cones

The sex abuse crisis should teach us that it takes more than a seminary to raise a priest.
In the spring of my first year of college, I wrote my bishop and told him I wanted to be a priest in our East Tennessee diocese. Four months later I was in the seminary—at a Benedictine monastery on the far side of Missouri, a good 13-hour drive from the Catholics among whom I had experienced a call to serve.
On the way, I stopped for the night at a small high school seminary just across the Mississippi River, where my bishop had been rector. There I met some nice priests and learned about one of the few remaining seminaries for high school students, once common stops on the way to ordination.
I didn’t know it then, but the visit was my first contact with the clergy sex abuse crisis. Within 10 years I learned that two of the priests I had met were perpetrators; one was carrying on an abusive relationship with a student I would meet when I arrived at seminary. The third priest claimed on national television to have been abused by my bishop, who was one of the few in the United States to resign as a result of the scandal.
As the latest chapter of the sex abuse catastrophe is being written across Europe, I remain struck by how early in my clerical training I was “involved.” My time in seminary left an indelible mark on me, much of it for good. Yet it occurs to me that it is the way we prepare priests—rather than celibacy, homosexuality, or any other of the “causes” ascribed to the crisis—that is a major part of the problem.

In effect, a Roman Catholic priest is made in a way similar to a U.S. Marine. Candidates are sent away to “basic training” for an extended time, share an intense experience in a strict hierarchical system, and are encouraged to form bonds of brotherhood in that system, in fact, to draw their identity from it. Precious few non-priests are involved in the day-to-day formation of seminarians, and personal contact with parishioners, especially women, is limited and infrequent.
One result of such formation is a certain loyalty to the priestly institution, such that priests identify first with their brothers rather than with those they are ordained to serve. (I still detect that tendency in myself though I was never ordained.) One product of such group loyalty has been a systemic failure among priests and bishops to report clerical child sexual abuse, some cases of which are so monstrous they should be labelled rape and torture.
To sex abuse one could add the less sensational problems of food and substance abuse and other sexual and financial misconduct among priests, which only ever seem to be detected when a particular case spirals completely out of control and ends up on the front page. It is rare indeed for a priest to report a brother who is faltering to higher authorities, often out of fear that “scandal” will result. Those who do, I have been told, find their concerns are rarely acted upon.
If clerical culture itself is at least part of the problem lying beneath the sex abuse crisis, then an obvious remedy must begin where that culture is created. Priestly formation must of course foster a common identity among the ordained, but a pastor must also identify with the people he will serve.
Sending candidates hundreds of miles from their local churches for training does not foster that connection. Neither does it make sense to leave the formation of future pastors almost solely to other priests. Seminarians need the guidance and Christian witness of laypeople every bit as much as they need good ordained role models. Perhaps if families with children had been a daily part of seminary formation in the past, victims of sex abuse would have found a fairer and more generous hearing when they first spoke out.
Today’s seminary system was created as a response to the Reformation and was meant to educate a clerical corps that could hold the line against Protestantism. Now that system is part of a problem so serious that it is undermining not only the moral authority of the Catholic hierarchy all the way to the pope but the Catholic proclamation of the gospel itself.
That proclamation is finally the only mission of the church; the priesthood, as well as the institutions that form its members, must empower that mission, not cripple it. The residential seminary system is hardly part of the deposit of faith, and there are other ways to prepare clergy. Priestly training should create pastors to shepherd God’s people, not a clerical system that fails the weakest of those in its care.

Seminaries are not only hotbeds of promiscuous gay sex but are also the factories that are creating a whole new host of young, right wing, clerical club and vestment loving young priests.
I used to think that when all the old clerical "illegitimates" died off - and went to hell or heaven - the Church would become a better Church.
I was so wrong!
The young priests coming out today are little right wing clerical clones who see themselves on a pedestal and see the laity as an inferior class of Catholic.
They are interested in lace albs and surplices, Latin liturgies, big thick Roman collars, expensive cassocks and incense. 

They are mainly gay and also sexually promiscuous. 
They seems to have no spirituality or prayer life and busy themselves creating complex liturgies, arranging flowers, and hosting classical music recitals.  

Today's priests should be trained while living and working in parishes - preferably in areas where people are struggling in various ways. They can attend lectures from there and they can have retreats and a spiritual year to develop their faith and spirituality.

A GOOD PRIEST is a servant of God and a practical servant of people - not a member of an exclusive CLERICAL CLUB. 


  1. How very true, Pat. I shudder at some of the priggish and prissy little madams mincing around Maynooth and Rome at present. God help the people if any of these queens make it through.

    Any young fella who wants to swaddle himself in silk and lace couldn't be right in the head. A good day's work would kill not a few of them. It is very worrying indeed for the future.

    I also wonder how qualified those in formation in seminaries really are, who are presiding over this tragi-comic pantomime?

    A couple of years ago, the entire staff of the Irish College in Rome was cleared out because they had no qualifications in formation. How skilled are the boyos in charge of Maynooth and St Malachy's to oversee the proper spiritual and human development of seminarians?

    Observing some of these students from a distance, they appear maladjusted and effeminate - pompous little fusspots - preening themselves for a future life of privilege.

    They are in for a rude awakening, for they will get their arses kicked by what is left of a laity who are increasingly intolerant of haughty pansies, who think they are players in a big gay costume drama being enacted in the House of Habsburg!

  2. Pat,
    I agree largely with what you have said with regard to seminary formation, and the type of cleric being "produced".
    Two things that strike me :
    Firstly, a lot of problematic issues arise from the way that the Church views Priesthood. ie The humanity of Priests is seen as 'a weakness' to be overcome by prayer, intellectual formation etc. The human needs of Priests should play a much greater part in their formation. When Priests are taught to 'live in their heads', then big problems are almost inevitable.
    Secondly, Priests especially Diocesan secular clergy, must be facilitated in seminary to encounter "real people", whom they will be called to minister to, in future parish life. If the seminarians find they cannot, or do not wish to get involved in the messiness of human lives, then perhaps they may come to realize this vocation is not for them.Surely, this would be better for all parties, than ordaining men to the Presbyterate, who cannot minister effectively to their parishioners, and may even want to actively avoid meeting them.(Such cases I assure you, do exist) A lot of heartache could be spared for all concerned.

    Priest of Down & Connor.

    1. I think that one problem is men becoming priests to satisfy their own desire - rather than becoming priests to serve.

      There is a huge difference between having a fantasy about becoming a priest - and having a vocation to be a priest.

      Indeed some become priests thinking that in doing so they will be solving their own needs and desires. They do not realise that becoming a real priest is actually embracing a new "burden" - ie: taking up the cross everyday and following Him.

  3. Pat,
    I agree with your thoughts. Guys who think the Priesthood is a place to hide from real life, and their own personal issues, will in time "hit a wall".
    Addiction is often a way struggling clergy attempt to bury personal issues, but sadly the "sticking plaster approach" never works.
    Some years ago, I was ministering in a neighbouring parish to a PP who refused to answer the door to anyone when his secretary was absent, and who spent most of his waking hours listening to music. Clearly this man had "issues", but he died before they were addressed; a sad situation that was allowed to fester.
    His situation was not unique in D & C.
    Many Catholics abandon their faith because we their shepherds lack basic human skills, including manners.

    Priest of Down & Connor.

    1. When I was in St Peter's Cathedral one of my fellow curates, Joe McGurnaghan (RIP) listened to classical music everyday (except on his day off :-) ) from 10 am to midnight.

      Another fellow curate played golf 5 days a week.

      Of the 5 of us at the time I was the only one doing a full day's work (and many nights).

      I think its probably worse now!

  4. As a staff nurse who is gay, on a psychiatric ward, some years ago I saw the RC chaplain (a married former Anglican priest) bring a group of seminarians round the wards. When they left, my colleagues all clapped me on the back and congratulated me that my luck was in and I could consider I'd pulled.
    That is how non-churchgoers see seminarians.

  5. Pat,
    Perhaps the Priests in St Peter's needed the Classical music and Golf to help them 'unwind' after stressful pastoral work ?


  6. I despair of the type of priest being ordained today. As someone ordained over 20 years ago and now in my early fifties, I think we are headed for a major disaster in the Church. These younger guys are not pastorally minded in any sense of the word. Yes, linen and lace, bells and smells, is the order of the day! In Maynooth today there is a policy among the seminarians known as 'Shadow Formation' whereby a priest ordained in recent years 'befriends' a student in Maynooth and shapes and moulds him into the orthodox priest that they all are. I can only imagine what type of shaping & moulding is going on!!!!!! I know of one seminarian who switched, last summer, from a diocese because he said it didn't do liturgy properly, and he joined another diocese where he is being 'shadow formed' by one of the recently ordained, very conservative priests there. It's a relationship that is unhealthy but seems to be accepted by those in authority, both in Maynooth and in that diocese. These young priests barely tolerate us older ,more liberal priests. Some of my colleagues laugh when I mention all this to them but it's not a laughing matter. In a few years these young guys will be in the majority in the Irish Church and then we will be well and truly screwed!!!!!!

    1. God be with the days when "Particular Friendships" were a cause of expulsion from the seminary.

      It seems that they are being encouraged now.

      It seems that there is almost a policy to homosexualise the priesthood - which often means heterosexual guys are being driven out !!!

    2. I was thinking of the old idea of particular friendships as I was reading this, but more along the lines that if it had been stuck to, it would also have prevented paedophile rings forming?

  7. As one guy said 'homosexuality used to be illegal. Then they legalised it. I'm getting out of here before they make it compulsory.

  8. There would appear to be some sort of homosexual vestal cult being created - of nancy boys - seminarians and junior priests - guys who have no interest in ministry and who might as well join a theatre troupe.

    They are interested only in dressing themselves up in fancy vestments and imposing rigid and pharisaical strictures on everyone but themselves.

    They haven't really been called by God - they are responding to their own "felt needs" and indulging their fetishes.

    It is appalling and the consequences for the local Church, in Down and Connor and other dioceses, will be disastrous. Because once you ordain these guys, you can't un-ordain them. You are stuck with them.

    There are a couple of fine young men in seminary at present but there are some others who should be sent back home to mammy. They are accidents waiting to happen and, like quite a few clerics already ordained and some of them quite senior, these new recruits will become liabilities.

    People will suffer on account of them and they will be impossible to deal with. They will be as useful as tits on a bull.

    They will spend their time polishing their brass candle sticks and golden chalices, ironing their lace negligees and silk accoutrements. They will hide in sacristies and hole themselves up in their little cocoons of isolated luxuries.

    They won't bother their pansy little arses with the needs of the People of God. For they have come - not to serve - but to be served.

    A young man - heterosexual or homosexual - who lacks balance, discipline, empathy for others, common sense, compassion, who is overweening and rigid with others, who pampers and indulges himself, who inhabits the Middle Ages and not the 21st century, SHOULD BE SENT HOME FROM THE SEMINARY!

    For God's sake, Noel Treanor, waken up!

    An "old" priest, D&C.

  9. It's so sad how the catholic church has all this evil and shame of perverted priests!!! it's all celibacy!! it was brought in just for is a ruin man made rule,,,very hypocritical!!!!! our dear pope francis should go back to its' original roots of...optional celibacy!! our first christian priests were our disciples..and most of them were married...including saint peter!! maybe these perverted priests go mad..for they can not sustain their natural sexual's no wonder all this evil came into the catholic church ever since centuries ago...brought in...this strange mandatory is a straight jacket....priests are not robots...they are humans!! God from the begining has blest the union of man and woman to go forth and myltiply...if a man or a woman who thinks they can control their sexual drive...can join a monestary...but let me are lots of dirty skeletons in a monestary as well....with optional celibacy...a priest can choose whether to remain celibate or be a married priest. for centuries...forbidding priests from marrying is denyig them of their human rights...this abuse should be stopped,,,,now!!! it's about time!!! if the anglican priests are doing a heck of a good job handling their ministry to God and their family lives...then so can the latin priests!!! amen!!! thank you and blessings!!!!!