I know Michael Rose’s book has been out for about five years now, but I’ve only got around to reading it this week. If you’re not familiar with it, Goodbye Good Men chronicles the corruption, spiritual abuse, heresy and persecution of orthodox seminarians within Catholic seminaries over the last twenty-thirty years.
Much of Rose’s research is anecdotal and one sided. He doesn’t spend much time telling us anything good at all about American seminaries, but then I guess he would argue that he wasn’t writing a balanced report on American seminaries, but an expose of the abuses. Fair enough. If you know what a book is aiming for you know how to judge it best.
I wish I could dismiss Rose as an angry traditionalist with an axe to grind, and that he’s biased and it all ain’t true. But I’m afraid my own experiences with the Catholic Church in England only echoes what Rose writes about the situation in the USA. I know at least three Dioceses in England where the unspoken policy was not to accept any former Anglican priests (either married or celibate) for ordination. The guys were not even interviewed. They didn’t even get their letters answered by the bishop. It was assumed that they were all dangerous conservatives, and therefore unworthy.
Thankfully, many former Anglicans did make it through to Catholic ordination. In fact the majority did. But the ones who were rejected for no good reason are the ones we’re talking about, and they were rejected because of a deliberate and conscious liberal bias and ‘progressive’ agenda.
I worked for seven years with a Catholic charity and every Saturday night I was in a different presbytery. I shared meals with parish priests, bishops, vicar generals, area deans, archbishops, cathedral deans….all of them. I heard them say with pride that they planned for their dioceses to have fewer priests, not more. They planned to have a few priests living together to provide the sacraments for a whole deanery while the parishes were run by ‘lay administrators’. I heard them speak with admiration of the Church in Peru–where they have one priest for an area the size of Delaware (or some such) and how wonderful it was that all the parishes were run by the laity as little ‘faith communities’ led by their lay catechist (who was often a woman).
From the orthodox young men I would meet at places like Youth2000 and Catholic Charismatic Conferences and Faith Conferences and the other new movements I heard how the seminaries were practically empty, and how liberals dominated the faculty with the usual mish mash of New Age spirituality, feminism, sex therapy, psycho babble and modernism of all stripes. They too spoke of the homosexual subculture, the suspicion of those who were orthodox for being ‘rigid’ and the dismissal of traditional devotions such as the rosary and Eucharistic Adoration.
I think the problem with Rose’s book is that, if we’re not careful, we’ll assume that the bad news is the only news. It’s not. There are good people out there and good seminaries and good bishops and good faithful Catholics right through the whole church, but what Rose’s book should do, and what my own experience in the Church reminds me, is that within the Catholic Church there are actually two churches.
One follows the Pope and the Magisterium. It seeks to be changed by the Church, not to change the Church. It considers the Church to be divinely established through the once for all sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world. The other ‘church’ dissents from the Pope and the magisterium whenever posible. It seeks to change the Church, not be changed by her. It considers the church to be a human construct and the result of historical accidents. They believe the Church is there to change the world, but not necessarily to save the world.
This is the reality, and it is all well and good pretending that we can all work together and that unity is all that matters and that we mustn’t be ‘divisive’. However, that is lily livered talk. The fact is, these two ‘churches’ are diametrically opposed. Their philosophical and theological foundations are so radically different as to be irreconcilable. As one traditional bishop said after an attempt at dialog with a progressive, “It was like trying to play tennis on two adjacent courts.”
Let’s be honest. Progressives have, for a long time, been absolutely clear that faithful Catholics are the enemy. They’ve been very transparent in their contempt for us, and have been proactive in their persecution. While still striving to retain charity and the spirit of reconciliation, we must also see clearly who the enemy is, and willingly engage in the conflict.
It’s hard to fight. It’s especially hard when the enemy is a fifth column within your own community. But when the enemy is within, that’s when the battle becomes most important.
If we must fight, then we must never do so with bitterness, dirty tricks, cynicism or hatred. Instead we battle with the prayerful, cheerful, buoyance of the cavalier. We must don our armor, sharpen our sword and, like Cyrano deBergerac, step into battle with wit, intelligence and confidence. Like the mouse Reepicheep we do so with honor, valour and not a little awareness of our own ridiculousness.
UPDATE: Here is an item on the report on the most recent visitation to American seminaries. There is still much work to be done.