UK seminaries: the seminarians are making the difference

I found a very engaging post at Damian Thompson’s place Holy Smoke:

Let’s have a glance with my emphases and comments.

The fight against Futurechurch: seminarians
Posted By: Damian Thompson at Oct 10, 2008 at 14:38:45

Do you know what makes liberal Catholic clergy wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night? It’s not the return of the Tridentine Mass. It’s not the fact that Ratzinger is Pope. It’s not their rapidly dwindling congregations.

Gallery Photo
Seminarians are taking over the world

What terrifies the old trendies is a new generation of conservative seminarians, who are gradually turning into a new generation of conservative priests – just as the supply of liberals is drying up.  [This is certainly the case in the USA as well.  The seminary I was in the US was a hell-hole of heresy and sheer dopiness.  But then the student body began to shift.  The faculty simply couldn’t throw that many guys out, and word was getting back to bishops about how bad things were there.  Slowly but surely the student body changed the seminary, and eventually the bishop made some changes as well, good ones.  Now that seminary is for the most part sound.  The aging hippies now openly lament the loss of their 60’s dreams and mutter gloomy warnings about how "conserrrrrvativvvve" the seminarians now are.]

Until very recently, seminaries managed to screen out the more orthodox candidates. "Psychologically immature" was the code for "obedient to the Magisterium", and so effective was the process that dozens of vocations were successfully squashed. In the 1980s and 90s, English seminaries were run by a grey-shirted Magic Circle politburo, assisted (not to say bullied) by frightful middle-aged women whose liturgical preferences were only just the right side of Wicca[LOL!  Well put.  But I must say that they weren’t to the right of Wicca where I was.  At our place there were invocations of the "earth mother goddess", "Sophia", and the "Bringer of Light" – all blended with tacky silliness.]

One or two conservatives slipped through the net, by hiding copies of Fortescue under their beds and slipping each other photographs of fiddleback chasubles that they could admire in private. In public, however, they were careful to wear the seminary uniform of jeans and CND T-shirt, and even to swallow the Bitter Pill without gagging.  [The "Bitter Pill" is the lefty UK weekly "The Tablet".]

But times are changing. Dreary Leftist seminary rectors have retired or became Magic Circle bishops, the Wiccan "pastoral advisers" have fallen out of favour, and conservative candidates for the seminary have started presenting themselves faster than they can be turned down. "It’s a bit like the Somme – no sooner have you wiped out one wave of infantry than another appears," says my source.  [LOL!]

Futurechurch is losing this battle. Some Magic Circle rectors are ready to run up the white flag. I could mention a couple of English seminaries where orthodox doctrine is taught pretty rigorously. That’s in sharp contrast to the situation 20 years ago. (As one London priest told me this week, "I came away from seminary knowing only two things – that St Augustine of Hippo and St Augustine of Canterbury were different people, and that Julian of Norwich was a woman.")

The other day, I saw a photograph of seminarians and staff at Allen Hall, Westminster. I reckon you could tell just by looking at them that the students were more conservative than their teachers. [YES] The same is true of the Venerable English College in Rome, where – perhaps because it is a breeding ground for bishops – the Magic Circle is clinging on to power. "Students still have to don a false beard if they slip out to attend a Tridentine Mass," I’m told. [I think rubber nose and glasses might work better.]

Some of the really Left-wing dioceses have adopted a disgraceful tactic: rather than put forward conservative candidates for ordination, they’ve stopped looking for future priests completely. Hence all this guff about "lay empowerment": the lay people being empowered are all "made men" (if I can use such a sexist term) in the mafia of the mediocre.

But don’t despair. Conservative seminarians are getting ordained, and in a few years’ time the dioceses will run out of goody-goody Tabletistas on whom to bestow plum parishes. And then, who knows? A conservative bishop? Stranger things have happened.

Just what are the odds these days on His Hermenuticalness being named the next Archbishop of Westminster?  Are odds still being offered?

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28 Responses to UK seminaries: the seminarians are making the difference

  1. RichR says:

    If H.Herm. gets chosen as Abp. of Westminster, I’ll buy your bonsai a twin.

  2. Un Mexicano Tradicional says:

    My own experience of Seminary mirrors what I am sure others went through. Managing to finish
    the Minor Seminary, I interviewed for the Major Seminary, but encountered many obstacles
    that my brother seminarians who were of a particular liturgical bend did not have. When
    asking about learning Latin, I eventually had to learn what little I could on my own. Even
    there were priests who were trained in Latin, and taught it before, you could not loose
    a Latin word from their lips. Learning Latin, and certainly trying to learn of our patrimony
    in the form of the Traditional Mass was verboten. Our vocations director at the time was
    a good man for the most part, but would not but in a good word for you if some one on the screening committe
    determined that one was not “keeping up with the Church in the Modern age.”

    I would have like to have learned if I could further discern my vocation through the process,
    but any hope of at least having the opportunity to do so was squashed by the
    screening committee, not by voting and saying I was unfit, but by reports of “immaturity,
    and perhaps unable to work with women.” That report went to the Vocations Director, and
    despite his knowing me and my family for several years beforehand, he did not challenge it. and
    I was not recommend to continue on to the Major Seminary.

    I pray that my children have a vocation to the religious life, and thank the Lord that now
    we can look at Traditional orders through such venues as the Internet. My vocation
    was killed, I pray that perhaps my children will look to orders such as the Royal
    Heart of Jesus, the Institute of Christ the King, or the FSSP.

  3. opey124 says:

    Well, mark our diocese as one of the “lay empowered” ones. We have so few in the seminaries for here that it isn’t even funny. There may be 5 if that. And they just don’t get it. Just to tell you what kind of diocese we have, our paper runs Fr. McBrien. So there you have it. We have no Latin mass because they don’t need that “stuff”.

    Way to go UK! We are praying for you!

  4. Richard says:

    His Hermenuticalness is at 16:1 on PaddyPower.com – Nichols still favourite.

  5. Pistor says:

    that bit about the seminarians slipping each other pictures of fiddlebacks created the brief image in my mind of them doing it as though they were teen aged boys looking at the centerfold of a girlie mag, gave me quite a chuckle…. but what a thrilling article and what a cause for hope…. Many thanks Damian, and thanks Fr. Z for the re-post.

  6. jaykay says:

    I was in Westminster Cathedral in London today at 3pm and the queue for confession was at least 2 dozen people long, with others joining. There were about another 2 dozen in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. 2 priests whom I passed in the aisles at different times were in soutanes. I don’t think you would have got that 20 years ago. It IS changing. Sperate in Domino…

  7. Mac McLernon says:

    Heheheheheh… I still haven’t found a comment to beat the one you made some time ago… If His Hermeneuticalness is made Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the words “Mene, mene, tekel and parsin” will appear on ecclesiastical dining room walls all over the country…
    ;-)

  8. Chris says:

    what are the odds these days on His Hermenuticalness being named the next Archbishop of Westminster? Are odds still being offered?
    If he is I’ll eat my biretta (which I don’t have). God preserve us!

  9. Andy says:

    “The seminary I was in the US was a hell-hole of heresy and sheer dopiness.” Nice… This is beyond belief!

    “But don’t dispair…”

    Unfortunately, the situation is Belgium is quite different. No conservative seminarians here. There are only two seminaries left with only two dozen seminarians. My diocese has only one seminarian. Or better had one. He left after just one week. So, not bad for one of the most “Catholic” countries in the world. (I am being sarcastic.)

    Tomorrow, the last Sunday Mass will be read in my parish. Next Sunday, after a thousand years, there will be no Sunday Mass in our parish.

  10. Cory says:

    Once we have more priests who are faithful to the Magisterium (I don’t prefer “conservative” as it implies a political bent), then we will see the Church re-assert herself in the public realm. What is particularly damaging to the Church is that secularism has infiltrated her with secular agents, i.e priests who are not faithful to the Magisterium. Once we rid ourselves of these agents, then springtime will come.

  11. Derek James says:

    I met some English seminarians from Rome, such excellent young men. I don’t know what the formula is but I hope they don’t change it. I wrote the Rector to compliment him on their Orthodoxy, their love of Tradition, and their fidelity to the Church.
    So strange not to get a reply.

  12. Mark W says:

    ” I wrote the Rector to compliment him on their Orthodoxy, their love of Tradition, and their fidelity to the Church.”

    I hope you didn’t name names.

  13. Aine says:

    “Tomorrow, the last Sunday Mass will be read in my parish. Next Sunday, after a thousand years, there will be no Sunday Mass in our parish.”

    Andy, I’m so sorry and will pray for the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium. I’ve read that Catholic Churches are occupied by Muslim immigrants and that Cardinal Godfried Danneels approves. Is this true?
    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1051
    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1053

  14. Aine says:

    “Seminarians are taking over the world.”

    I love our new seminarians and young priests. It was a traditional young priest who brought me back to the faith.

    God bless them.

  15. David Osterloh says:

    I used to think that our local seminary, the Society of the Precious Blood, or CPPS, now known as the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Saint Charles Seminary, who supply most of the priests for our area, were fairly conservative, come to find out our just last Priest retired in part because “I’m not going to relearn Latin, it is just easier to retire than go back to THAT” and now our new pastor informed me that the church is now horizontal rather than vertical, and there is absolutely no need or reason for the TLM, it is just a passing faze and that people will soon realize that the novis ordo is far superior, one previous Pastor even went so far as to try to suppress a annual pilgrimage march from our church to the the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, http://www.mariasteincenter.org/pages/mschistory3.html led by the Knights of Saint John, a one half mile walk, in conjunction with our community festival, claimed that they were out of date and not appropriate, he even went so far as to call the Bishop and complain, thankfully didn’t work, so much for conservative, in our current Priest defense he does minster to 5 small rural parishes all with in a 8 mile radius with one assistant priest, and does a good job http://www.grandlake.net/lctc/index.html , lists some of the parishes in the area, if you are going through the area please stop in Father Z, would love to show off the area

  16. David Osterloh says:

    wanted to include a link to Saint Charles Seminary http://www.st-charles-cpps.org/ now used as a retirement center for the Priests and lay people, tells you a lot about the future of the CPPS and they are doing better that the Sisters of the Precious Blood and that is really sad

  17. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m new here, who is His Hermenuticalness?

  18. Maureen says:

    He’s an English priest blogger, and other people call him that because his blog’s named the Hermeneutic of Continuity.

    The archbishop candidacy is thus a running joke, but not necessarily a bad idea for all that. ;)

  19. Virgil says:

    I echo Cory’s note about better vocabulary.

    “Conservative” doesn’t cut it, because these seminarians are as politically diverse as the rest of us. It also implies that the Magic Circle folks are “Liberal.” Politically, maybe so, but they are quite stubborn and set in their ways: cranky as any conservative.

    “Faithful to the Magesterium” also rubs me wrong. Not because these guys aren’t faithful. They are, generally. It implies that the aging hippies and spiritual directrices are not faithful.

    I honestly prefer a Church where there is room for both temperments, because both are faithful, and neither should be political.

    Hence, I like to say “Traditional” and “Progressive.” Both are positive words, which would be agreeable to those described. Both reflect fidelity.

  20. Nick says:

    GREAT article from Damian, I was afraid his writing/blogging was going into a slump for a while there.

    The funny thing was that I thought His Hermeneuticalness was a blog, not a real bishop, I guess you learn something new each day.

    p.s. I liked the anti-spam word: 070707 (MP issue date)

  21. terry says:

    “At our place there were invocations of the “earth mother goddess”, “Sophia”, and the “Bringer of Light” – all blended with tacky silliness.”

    Is this a joke, or are you being serious, father ? If the latter, no wonder there have been major problems.

  22. Andy says:

    Dear Aine,

    Thank you for your prayer.

    What you wrote is true. Although it is more a political phenomenon than a religious one. Some liberal priest worked with liberal and socialists politicians to stage these mediatized actions. Since we have a new Catholic prime minister, the “urgency” of the problem is loosing momentum. In other words, the government is trying to prevent this kind of staged “political” actions. The faithful generally do not support these actions, because these actions do not solve any real problems.

  23. Terry: “At our place there were invocations of the “earth mother goddess”, “Sophia”, and the “Bringer of Light” – all blended with tacky silliness.”

    Is this a joke, or are you being serious, father ? If the latter, no wonder there have been major problems.</b

    I interpreted him as being dead serious and, furthermore, assume that his seminary was hardly the worst in the 1980’s. I am both amazed and grateful when I think of some of the fine priests who survived such hell-hole seminaries with their Catholic faith intact (though, unfortunately, I know of more who did not). I recall one telling of a seminary liturgy course taught from a slim paperback written by a Methodist layman by a bitter ex-nun who constantly told them that they were fools if they thought anything would really happen to them at their ordination.

  24. Chris says:

    The trouble with such trends is they tend to be spotted when they are already past their peak. The current crop of students starting off in semianries in the Uk, many of whom I have met, seem less conservative/traditional/… than their immediate predecessors who have recently been ordained. Of course only time will tell if this is true and, critically, how many of them make it through and then remain faithful priests.

  25. Flabellum says:

    The newest seminarians appear to have a little breadth to them and can cope with anything from a charismatic prayer group to five cope vespers, whilst eschewing the tacky silliness of an ‘Indian Spirit Prayer’ recently endured at a deanery meeting.

  26. Craigmaddie says:

    At our place there were invocations of the “earth mother goddess”, “Sophia”, and the “Bringer of Light” – all blended with tacky silliness.

    Seriously, Father, don’t you think that they tried to impose de facto another religion on you at seminary? I think it is true to say that what these people have tried to do is frankly evil. I can’t think of another word for it.

  27. Craigmaddie: Yes. It was for all intents and purposes a different religion.

  28. Jordanes says:

    Virgil said: “Faithful to the Magesterium” also rubs me wrong. Not because these guys aren’t faithful. They are, generally. It implies that the aging hippies and spiritual directrices are not faithful.

    Which, of course, is very probably true of most if not all of them.