Back in the day… forbidden books and seminarians

A good story from Stella Borealis, a blog which focuses on matters churchy in my native place and surrounding territories.

This tells the tale of one of the most amazing used book stores I know and a certain (present Archbishop of St. Louis):

Archbishop Carlson Saved Loome Theological Booksellers in Stillwater (long ago) .

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson once saved Loome Theological Booksellers [the world’s largest used book store dealing in books on religious subjects and theology] from the "out with the old, in with the new" spirit of Vatican II hardliners in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

Before he was Archbishop of St. Louis, before he was Bishop of Saginaw, before he was Bishop of Sioux Falls, and before he was the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis, he was the Chancellor for the Archdiocese. Before Loome Theological Booksellers was the largest theological bookstore in the world, it was not. The following story was recounted to me by Dr. Loome just last week (some embellishments of suspense and style were added by me – but most of the story is true).

In those dark days Dr. Loome received a tip from a certain Dr. Briel at the University of St. Thomas that an edict had gone out from the chancery that seminarians were not to patronize Loome Theological Booksellers. St. John Vianney seminary was told that Loome Theological Booksellers was "out of bounds" because it sold "retrograde, conservative" books. It was then that they started coming at night, the seminarians that is. After hours the Loome family (who lived in the bookstore at the time or rather the bookstore was part of their house) would hear furtive knocks on their door and open the door a crack to let in the disobedient seminarians. The seminarians seemed to know that the books in Loome Theological Booksellers were necessary for their education. [I can solemnly attest that those were very bad days for seminarians of any true Catholic faith.  There were many casualties and expulsions for offenses such as "having a driving need to know the truth" or having such dangerous religous objects as a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in one’s room.  Seminarians had to pretty much sneak out to gather on Tuesday evenings at St. Agnes rectory, sometimes referred to in code.  But I digress.]

Although the furtive visits were exciting for Dr. Loome and his wife Karen they decided that the damage to the store’s reputation by this edict needed to be addressed. Dr. Loome soon made the call to the chancery and who happened to answer the phone, but our hero, Chancellor Carlson himself! Dr. Loome asked him why the edict had been issued against his bookstore. Chancellor Carlson paused . . . and said as delicately as he could, "no such edict has been issued". As Dr. Loome struggled to understand his meaning, Carlson further explained that no such edict had been issued by him and therefore no such edict had effect. Later, Dr. Loome learned that the Assistant Chancellor had been the one to issue the edict.

Chancellor Carlson, recognizing the great good of Loome Theological Booksellers, came up with a plan to save the bookstore’s reputation. He asked Dr. Loome, "Has your business been blessed yet?"  [Shopkeepers, are you paying attention?] Dr. Loome began to smile and said, "No it has not". Chancellor Carlson then made plans to bless Loome Theological Booksellers and invited the local diocesan newspaper to the event. In no time at all the reputation of Loome Theological Booksellers was rightly corrected and seminarians soon could come in plain clothes during the day. That’s how Carlson saved Loome Theological Booksellers and thwarted the schemes of the "out with the old, in with the new" spirit of Vatican II hardliners.

Back in the day I must have paid Loome’s rent several times over and some of my acqusitions are still near to hand and used with frequency today.

Back in the day, back in the day … those were bad days for Catholic seminarians …

UPDATE 4 July 1630 GMT:

In a comment, below, the present rector of St. John Vianney Seminary, Fr. Wm. Baer, chimes in.  Be sure to read his comment.

 

 

Back in the day… forbidden books and seminarians
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86 Responses to Back in the day… forbidden books and seminarians

  1. Tim Ferguson says:

    It causes me some joy now to look back and realize how far we’ve come. I remember those furtive visits to Loome’s, sneaking out of SJV on Tuesday nights to go to St. Agnes, gathering furtively in the crypt chapel at St. Thomas for Mass with Fr. Welzbacher in the mother tongue, or Msgr. Lavin early in the morning. I have fond memories of feeling safe and free to converse, inquire, learn with giants like Msgr. Schuler, Fr. Dolan, Msgr. DuLac, Fr. Kubat.

    Though our dark days were nowhere near the times of the martyrs, the days were indeed dark. I still pray for those who caused them to be so dark – some of whom were operating with, I’m sure, the best of intentions. I also pray for those who’s faith was challenged or even lost by the depredations of that time.

  2. Fr Gregoire Fluet says:

    How well I remember those days. And how many of us benefitted from Dr Loome and his wonderful store (said as I look upon my multi-volume Fliche & Martin Histoire de l’Eglise)

  3. There is a movie script in here somewhere. Any budding film-writers out there?

  4. Jack says:

    Thanks for the link to Loomes Fr, this hopefully future seminarian thanks you from the bottom of his heart :)

  5. Thank you for sharing this story as well as your own experiences, Father Z. They will never be able to deny this era occurred as it has been written down for ourselves and for posterity.

  6. JMK says:

    Loomes is such a great store, though not one I can afford to go to often. Last year when I was looking for a copy of Mass of the Roman Rite by Joseph Jungman, Loomes was the only place that I could find the book.
    I must say that I go to SJV and have never once been to Loomes without a full car.

  7. JD, Esq. says:

    A big huzzah also goes out to Don Briel, whose efforts on behalf of the Faith at St. Thomas and in the Twin Cities archdiocese will be richly rewarded by our Heavenly Father.

    DJB, you’re the man!

    Huzzah!

  8. Rellis says:

    Just sad. It seems like the long night has ended, and dawn is turning into morning. The new priests and vocations are a fruit of this awesome return to Catholicism.

    You’ve got to admit it’s getting better; it’s getting better all the time.

  9. Gloria says:

    Those bad old days still exist for visitors to a local parish library. If the pastor goes through the donated books box and finds “conservative” or “traditional” materials he throws them out. The lady in charge of the libary, if she gets to the box first, surreptitiously finds a place for them – in the back of the room – on the “controversial books” shelf, and hopes that he doesn’t find them. This is the pastor who told a parishioner to get out of his house when offered the book, “Dominus Est,” by Bishop Schneider. There are still many others like him, sad to say. They need our prayers.

  10. Mark says:

    Yes, I must say, thank goodness today is today.

    Because, honestly, I suspect this sort of nonsense wasnt just Post-Vatican-II. Oh, the liberal spin to it was, but before I think the seminaries were just as repressive (they just enforced conservatism instead of liberalism). It was the Institutionalized nature of the beast, and the rigid psycho-social structures previously used to enforce orthodox were just as easy, it turned out, to use to enforce any other ideology that came to control the mechanisms of power.

    So I think we should all be glad that we live today, when liberalism and repression in general are leaving our seminaries, and orthodoxy is free to flourish as something deeply held internally, not something rigidly enforced externally.

    But, a warning, I fear certain more traditional Catholics and seminaries…may be romanticizing the strict institutionalism of the past, and I have been quite disturbed at how some still seem to tend towards enforced conformism, secrecy, hazing-like re-socialization, and a bizarre homogeneity of personality, an awkward atmosphere.

    Let us not go back to a model that obviously led to its own collapse.

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    Mark, there was a difference between the seminaries of the post-Vatican II period and those of the pre-conciliar time. Msgr. Schuler summed it up well once, while relating a story: a young man he had known in the seminary (I’m not certain if it was a classmate, or a student when he taught there) was kicked out of the seminary for wearing khaki pants. The rules clearly stated that seminaries were to wear black pants under their cassocks. This seminarian had taken a pair of khaki pants, dipped the ends in black dye, and wore them under his cassock – not because of poverty, but simply to “break the rules.” He was discovered, and kicked out.

    At the time Schuler told the story, he said that it was a foolish thing on all accounts – foolish for the guy to break the rules that way, and foolish to consider the wrong pants to be a vocation-ending offense. The difference, however, was that the young man in the story knew the rules, which were spelled out and drilled into his head. They were rules governing actions, which one could obey or disobey.

    In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the rules governing actions were minimized – we could, pretty much, come and go as we pleased, wear what we pleased (except for cassocks, clerics or even black pants on too many subsequent occasions). Yet, as the rules governing actions were diminished, the rules governing thoughts were increased, and were not spelled out. No one told us that praying the rosary in a group was forbidden, but guys who gathered for the rosary in the evening were told that they had a “formation issue.” It was not written down anywhere that we couldn’t go to St. Agnes on Tuesday nights, but I was personally disciplined for “dragging guys” there (despite the fact that I didn’t own a car and couldn’t drag anyone if I wanted to).

    Sure, there were many deficiencies to the enforced uniformity of the old system. But at least the guys back then knew when they were breaking the rules.

  12. RBrown says:

    Mark,

    There’s a huge difference between nixing books by Garrigou LaGrange or Dom Marmion and the works of Teilhard de Chardin.

    And if you think anti-Catholicism is dead in seminaries, then you’re wrong. A few years ago I had a German friend who was called in to the rector’s office at the Germanicum because he had been seen reading something by St Thomas in the cafeteria at the Gregoriana.

    You seem to have romanticized the present situation.

  13. Oh how I remember 1964/65, those golden years. For a young man who had, during his teenage years, received an annual subscription to “Worship Magazine” for Christmas and who always searched didligently the pamphlet rack at the back of the church for anything published by “The Liturgical Press”, those were heady days indeed!

    Then the bottom dropped out!

    The vandalism started! The days of floppy joe vestments struck along with loose leaf altar missals to accomodate the constant changes.

    Two or three years before the the Novus Ordo came along I realized that things were not going as i expected they would. A talk with the new curate assured me that I was concentating too much on the externals. I wasn’t fast enough in those days to point out to him that in his great rush to get rid of all the old vestments and frontals he was hardly in a position to accuse me of concentrating too much on the externals.

    Of course he eventually got married. It seemed like they all did.

    But in general there was little sympathy and plenty of ridicule for people like me. In later years I felt somewhat vindicated to learn that Jungman had spent his last years saying the Old Mass in the chapel of a castle in Germany and Louis Bouyer, who a few years before had complained that the Roman Liturgy was a mummified corpse now bitterly complained that with the Reformed Mass the corpse had rapidly begun to decay. And so we marched on our long trek though the wilderness.

    “Forty years long was I grieved with that generation and said: It is a people who err in their hearts for thehy have not known my ways..”

  14. Jack says:

    Called into the rector’s office for reading the Angelic Doctor? If seminaries like that still exist I’m might have to hide my copy of the Summa under the matress :)

  15. Odysseus says:

    I wonder how many vocations and, as a result, how many souls were lost on account of this madness. Pray God the situation is really improving. But I am afraid that having been born just before Vatican II, I may never live to see the fruits of the “reform of the reform. Will I ever know what it was like to live a truly orthodox and Catholic faith?

  16. jcl says:

    Is there any need to worry about this now for an incoming seminarian at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota?

  17. wsxyz says:

    That is a great story Tim.

    If the rules say that you wear black pants or get kicked out, then you surely must be ejected for wearing khaki. Not because khaki is evil, but because you, knowing the law and the consequence, choose to break the law.

    As for Mark, he seems to be the local anarcho-socialist. He seems to be the sort of person who might support the Green party. I won’t claim it’s impossible to be both anarcho-socialist and also an orthodox Catholic, but it is a strange combination.

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    Has anyone recently heard of a seminarian being disciplined for something like reading far-out progressive publications, being into new-age nonsense, insufficient reverence at Mass, etc?

    Whatever the merits of the street, I wonder why it doesn’t go both ways.

  19. don Jeffry says:

    I was in SJV with Tim and I used to go to Loome’s with Fr. Mark Merkel. I used to lay down on the floor because the books were stacked up on the floor… no shelves yet either upstairs or down. If you were there when the shipments came in, you could get a signed copy of books by the author. I once got a Jacques Maritain copy of Humanisme Intégral and one by Etienne Gilson. I am still lugging (with pleasure though) my books throughout the world! Thanks Dr. & Karen Loome! Although many years have passed, you have a special place in my heart. And yes, I still have your thesis: Liberal Catholicism, Reform Catholicism, Modernism. Very best, don Jeffry Moore

  20. I don’t think that Mark is entirely wrong in his observations. When I was young I greatly admired the great power structures of the Church. Of course I was on the “right side”.

    But in the mid to late 60’s the sides changed and I found that the sword swings both ways.

    I have since come to believe that the use and abuse of power is one of the great unsolved problems of the Catholic Church. This problem has shown itself at it’s worst in the clerical scandals but there are hosts of lesser examples going right down to the crotchety priest in the confessional and it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to suspect that a clerical caste systom can oppress the priests themselves. It can get lonely on a pedestal.

    I’m really not sure what the answer to this problem is. Surely
    discipline must be part of the formation of a good priest but superiors in the seminary (and, for that matter the bishops) must show by their own lives what a truly devout priest is. Life on a pedestal becomes intolerable without holiness and bitterness and laxity soon result.

    Perhaps another consideration is a more educated laity and yes, the Internet. The people on this blog are by no means lacking in their respect for the priesthood but if priests and bishops step out of line we are not afraid to hold their feet to the fire.

    And I think that’s not a bad thing.

  21. Larry says:

    I have a 1930ish Missale Romanum and 1890ish Graduale Romanum that were sold by a midwestern seminary in the 1990’s for like 50cents an inch. Stack em’up and move’em out! The seminarians had to sneek into the church to pray to Rosary with an old monk who still believed in such things. Adoration might get you a trip to the psycholigist and a letter to your bishop and not in praise! Things are changing; but, the matter won’t be cleansed until most of the priests from that era either wake up or die. Sad.

  22. Mark says:

    “As for Mark, he seems to be the local anarcho-socialist.”

    Hardly. I am really a medievalist and support monarchism.

    But that doesnt mean supporting what, for a long time, was clearly a 1950’s “Pleasantville” conformism and institutionalizationism within the clergy.

    “At the time Schuler told the story, he said that it was a foolish thing on all accounts – foolish for the guy to break the rules that way, and foolish to consider the wrong pants to be a vocation-ending offense. The difference, however, was that the young man in the story knew the rules, which were spelled out and drilled into his head. They were rules governing actions, which one could obey or disobey.”

    A foolish thing on all accounts indeed! And “he knew the rules” hardly justifies it. Such things trivialize the very idea of holy obedience and the same dynamics lead to the sort of cover-ups and “not my responsibility” complacency seen in the sexual abuse crisis.

    “In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the rules governing actions were minimized – we could, pretty much, come and go as we pleased, wear what we pleased (except for cassocks, clerics or even black pants on too many subsequent occasions).”

    Which is, of course, no better. Prescriptive institutionalization and Proscriptive institutionalization can be just two sides of the same coin, which was my point.

    Proscriptive is a much healthier tactic psychologically when used for the right end, however. Tell people what ISNT allowed, and assume they are free to do anything else. It is this tactic that in the good seminaries today are used to ensure orthodoxy without repression.

    Of course, you have be proscribing the right thing. If you are proscribing orthodoxy, like they were in those decades, that is bad. But positively PREscribing orthodoxy and other (trivial, but suffocating) conformism (like in the 50’s) is a much more dangerous model than simply PROscribing heresy and scandalous deviancy (much better).

    This is even reflected in how the Church, before Vatican II (or even, perhaps, before Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception in a “positive” manner)…anathemized the opposing heresy, rather than positively prescribing the doctrine. It is the “apophatic” approach.

    You misinterpret me. I am all for authority and obedience, but I do definitely believe the “default” assumption should be individual liberty except where things are specifically forbidden for the common good, the burden of proof should generally be on the forbidding. “Dont wear blue-jeans under your cassock if the cuffs will show” is one thing…”You MUST where black pants under your cassock” is another.

    “Sure, there were many deficiencies to the enforced uniformity of the old system. But at least the guys back then knew when they were breaking the rules.”

    Yes, “at least”. That doesnt mean the rules werent still unnecessarily rigid and arbitrary seeming. I say arbitrary “seeming” because there was, of course, nothing arbitrary about it. It is a well known psycho-sociological fact that enforcing rigid conformism with shame like that is great at deconstructing the individual and re-socializing them into blind loyalty and institutional docility.

  23. Ray from MN says:

    jcl: “Is there any need to worry about this now for an incoming seminarian at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota?”

    I have heard that effective this coming Fall, it will be required that all of the SPS seminarians be suited up in black and Roman Collar.

    I’m not sure what is happening at the SJV college seminary (the largest in the U.S.), but I will be meeting up with Father Bill Baer, the Rector, in a couple of weeks and that question will be on the agenda.

  24. WSXYZ said: “I won’t claim it’s impossible to be both anarcho-socialist and also an orthodox Catholic,…\”

    Perhaps, but if the Green party in Canada is any example I don\’t think you can be an anarcho-socialist and also a member of the Green Party. Financially they seem to be rather conaservative.

  25. RBrown says:

    Has anyone recently heard of a seminarian being disciplined for something like reading far-out progressive publications, being into new-age nonsense, insufficient reverence at Mass, etc?
    Comment by Henry Edwards

    I would say rebuked rather than disciplined.

    He was good guy, normal, about 6’4″, with a Master’s in Latin. The Germanicum didn’t really recommend him for orders. He looked around for a while, then said he was finished. He’s now married and working for the Bundestag–a few years ago I had lunch with him in the Bundestag (then in Bonn) cafeteria.

  26. Mark says:

    “it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to suspect that a clerical caste systom can oppress the priests themselves. It can get lonely on a pedestal.”

    In any system where spick-and-span conformism requires people to not be spontaneous or authentic. It is no wonder that the American 1950’s turned into the American 1960’s.

    I once read a book on the sociology of shame that said something like, “In some rigidly conformist groups, the threat of public censure is the primary mechanism for maintaining social norms. But if the group and endures, as more and more members of society are judged, ostracized, and shamed…there is a growing subculture of alienated, disaffected, and angry members with the potential to defy the dominant group and act revolutionary.” And even people who outwardly conform may feel absolutely stifled, suffocated, and isolated, and do nothing to stop the revolution when it comes because they are secretly breathing a sigh of relief.

    According to what I’ve heard from many priests alive at the time, this is in many ways what happened. I’ve heard horror stories from monks about how the lay brothers used to be absolutely treated like dirt by the monks, with an utterly enforced division, almost contempt, that was meant to exalt the glory of the priesthood, but which ended up merely inculcating a lot of arrogance on the part of the clerics (the lowest clerical novice was higher than the most senior brother), and leading to a lot of internalized inferiority among the brothers.

    I think a lot of people forget that the priesthood or religious life isnt a “day job” for these men that they can suffer through but then go home and “loosen their belt” and unwind with families. They are members of a Total Institution sociologically speaking, and one needs to be very careful about that.

  27. Mark says:

    “Surely discipline must be part of the formation of a good priest”

    Discipline is one thing. SELF-discipline, SELF-control, interpersonal ACCOUNTABILITY and support, having structure, etc…are all very important indeed.

    That is very different than institutional re-socialization. Shame, fear, guilt, and rewarding conformist “good boy” self-images…are very imperfect motives indeed.

    Seminarians are adult men who are there freely trying to serve God. They shouldnt be treated like children, or prisoners, or conscripted soldiers. Heck, I dont even think that model is good for children, prisoners, or soldiers. Let alone priests.

  28. wsxyz says:

    I once read a book on the sociology of shame that said something like

    Your main problem then is that you believe books like this.

    When a radical liberal writes a book on that topic, he is going to promote his radical liberal agenda, in which the traditional forms of human society, which successfully maintained public order and morals, even in non-Christian societies, for thousands of years are rejected out of hand.

    Look at Asian cultures, even without Christian societies, God’s fundamental moral order was retained for thousands of years by means of socially enforced conformity. Now that these societies have been infected with Western liberalism, their cultures are collapsing before their very eyes and reforming into something that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago. Sexual immorality, divorce and abortion are rampant, teenagers kick old people down the stairs, every perversion and sin imaginable is embraced as “diversity”.

    This has been caused by people who talk like you.

  29. Well, perhaps a bit off the topic, but thank you for the listing of the website. It looks like a good place to patronize [Loome’s bookstore is certainly on topic.]

  30. Mark says:

    I disagree.

    Societies only explode when there is a powder-keg beneath the surface. Of course, releasing a spark is irresponsible in such a case, they need to be defused gradually. But it’s your mindset which lays the powder-keg in the first place.

    But I’m glad to have you on the record supporting “socially enforced conformity”.

  31. Maureen says:

    No, that’s not all that far from the truth. If the guy in charge of the seminarians had just given the guy a speaking look, or even made a pointed joke about how his black pants were clearly ready to be thrown out since they’d almost completely faded to tan, so you should stop wearing them — oh, and you’re going to volunteer to peel potatoes, aren’t you? — the whole thing would have been dealt with, and the dress code reinforced at the same time. It’s kinda stupid of somebody to play tricks like that, but if you make too big a deal of it, they don’t learn that it’s them who was being stupid.

    If you have too many rules enforced too rigidly, people learn to despise rules altogether. If you enforce them according to how important they are, but always enforce them in some way, people don’t rebel or kowtow so easily and automatically. And if you’re trying to form priests, you’d think you’d be trying to form men with initiative, ready to take on responsible positions of leadership, and zealous to get out there, serve God, and help save souls.

    Re: Loome’s — I would love to go there someday.

  32. wsxyz says:

    Societies only explode when there is a powder-keg beneath the surface.

    Who said anything about an explosion? There is no explosion, there is disintegration. The social order of thousands of years has disintegrated because western liberalism has been imported lock, stock, and barrel.

    But I’m glad to have you on the record supporting “socially enforced conformity”.

    And why wouldn’t I? Every Catholic should support socially enforced conformity. Ideally every person would seek to do good out of their own free will, but we know that not all persons will do so. For those who do not choose to seek holiness, socially enforced conformity is an ideal means to keep them from infecting society and their fellow men with their sinful behaviors. The alternative is punitively enforced conformity, which is far less desirable.

    Of course, the society in which we live is so far gone that we can only dream of living in a culture where people feel the need to refrain from living out their perversions in public.

  33. Mark says:

    “If you have too many rules enforced too rigidly, people learn to despise rules altogether. If you enforce them according to how important they are, but always enforce them in some way, people don’t rebel or kowtow so easily and automatically.”

    Exactly. And neutral issues you dont need rules about in the first place as if that somehow bolsters the important ones through a “fence around the law” sorta thing.

    If the bottom of the khaki pants showed and looked crappy, then of course something should have been done eventually, especially if the defiance was for defiance’s sake (though not understandable with such a pointless rule). But if the dyed cuffs took care of the problem, if the khaki part was totally unseen…then it should have been brushed off as a non-issue like you describe.

    The law exists for man, not man for the law.

    When I hear things like seminaries reading through the seminarians’ mail and stuff like that…one cant help but be disturbed.

  34. Mark says:

    “Of course, the society in which we live is so far gone that we can only dream of living in a culture where people feel the need to refrain from living out their perversions in public.”

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, though it might take awhile. All that dirty laundry was ALWAYS going on beneath the surface, dont fool yourself. Asking everyone to wink and nudge and pretend it doesnt exist because it makes you uncomfortable, is hardly a permanent solution. But that’s exactly the attitude that led to the sexual abuse being covered up and even, one might say, the sexual abuse in the first place, priests being expected to present a sexless affect to the world.

  35. Mark says:

    “Every Catholic should support socially enforced conformity. Ideally every person would seek to do good out of their own free will, but we know that not all persons will do so. For those who do not choose to seek holiness, socially enforced conformity is an ideal means to keep them from infecting society and their fellow men with their sinful behaviors.”

    Morality is one thing, rules for rules’ sake is another.

    I still dont totally agree with you, but I understand what you mean. I think it was Plato who said something to the effect that it was very hard to be a good man in a bad community. I totally believe, in opposition to radical individualism, that we are social beings and that what society holds to be good or bad will effect how a person lives much more than personally internalized guilt (though free will can still ultimately triumph over that).

    However, I think my dichotomy of prescriptive vs proscriptive attitudes apply too. Telling people that they should NOT be promiscuous is one thing. Telling people that they SHOULD have 2.5 children, a house in the suburbs, wear a suit, have a certain haircut, and certain bland homogenous demeanor…is another.

    Especially when that conformism has nothing to do with morality. Because the socially enforced conformism you romanticize never just stops at encouraging morality. It extends to all sorts of other “keeping up appearances” trivial externals that have nothing to do with morality. Like black vs khaki pants, or tying down left-handed children and forcing them (under threat of ruler-beating) to write with the right.

    It is also, I think, a question of rewarding the good vs punishing the bad. You contrast “punitively enforced” conformity with “socially enforced” but the socially enforced is a form of punishment-based behavior modification because it is based around socially (albeit not physically) punishing the bad more than simply rewarding the good. It creates taboos rather than values. Hence, I think, why the Church is often conceived of as an institution of “thou shalt nots” rather than of positive virtues.

    And, like I said, immorality is always going on beneath the surface anyway. The social conformism has a rather low success rate. It doesnt so much stop the behavior, it just drives it underground and creates compartmentalized personalities who, rather than not doing the thing, simply hide it; but then are left with feelings of shame and guilt that obviously werent powerful enough to stop them, but which were enough to create internally conflicted sociopaths in the process…

    And, of course, there is immense pressure to simply not talk about it all in such situations, which prevents people who want help from getting it and causes cover-ups and an atmosphere of paranoid secrecy.

  36. wsxyz says:

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, though it might take awhile. All that dirty laundry was ALWAYS going on beneath the surface

    Some “dirty laundry” was going on beneath the surface, true. But no one would deny that because there will always be sin.

    However you are fundamentally wrong. For “sunlight” to “disinfect” there has to be shame, and one of the main thrusts of liberal effort has been to erase the concept of shame. You yourself, infected with liberal ideology, are contemptuous of the positive effects of shame. Without shame, the evil is celebrated openly and spreads widely. Those who object are derided as “rigid”, “judgmental”, “inhuman”, “backwards”, “uncompassionate”, “fascist”, “unpastoral”, “backwards”, etc. etc.

    As all creation has been corrupted by original sin, and one of the primary attributes of fallen man is his concupiscence, human beings cannot be trusted to do the right thing by themselves and require assistance. In the past, one of the primary sources of assistance in adhering to the moral order in all human societies was social opprobrium.

    Anyone who would deny the value of this assistance is certainly a liberal.

  37. wsxyz says:

    Well Mark, I’ve got to go and can’t continue. Let it suffice for me to congratulate you for your firm hold on your French Revolutionary values.

  38. Mark says:

    Hardly.

    The irony of the French Revolution and modern liberalism today is that the same tactics are used as you are romanticizing. It is just that they are being used to enforce liberalism and, ironically, “tolerance”.

    But they are still pushing all that using the same techniques you advocate. Those who oppose abortion, the homosexualist agenda, religious freedom…they attempt to shame, and frighteningly it’s working. Even good people who in their hearts deep down know it isnt right, dont want to receive the stigma of “intolerance” or “prejudice”.

    People support liberal democracy, nationalism, sexual immorality…NOT so much because of their own inherent proneness towards license, but because it is what society tells them is right and just and “cool” right now.

    You see greed, lust, slovenliness, alcoholism, and contempt for authority BECAUSE of peer pressure, because young males are told that’s what it means to “be a man” and they CONFORM to that.

    They can not-so-cleverly cover it all up in the guise of “individualism” all they want, but many intelligent people have noted the irony that it isnt, that our modern “rebels” are just a type of conformism as much as has been used at any time in history.

    The only difference is that they’re just conforming to a new ideology, a new socially enforced morality; a sort of utilitarian one that makes pleasure and happiness the highest goods, and which also happens to be the one that makes those in power, those who control the media and structures of power and social influence (admittedly more diffuse and nebulous in a democracy)…the most money.

    Just like with the seminary rectors forbidding traditional books and shaming rosary-use…the same institutionalist tactics are being used, just with a liberal ideology. So you’re critique is misplaced. Conformism is still the problem, now more than ever, in fact. They didnt get rid of an social controls or enforced conformism, they just changed the object.

  39. Mark says:

    In other words, there is still just as much (if not more) pressure than ever to be “mainstream”…they’ve just changed what constitutes “mainstream”.

    Hegemonic normativity is still thoroughly embedded in the structures of society, it’s just that they are now using those same psycho-social dynamics to enforce a different (liberal) ideology.

    A wider external diversity has been accepted (and thus, in a certain sense, trivialized and neutered) for the sake of an ever narrowing homogeneity of underlying personality and philosophy (if you can still call them that, it’s more like a non-personality and non-philosophy).

  40. Mark09 says:

    jcl, St. Paul is relatively safe now as far as hunting down orthodox seminarians goes. However, tact and prudence will always be in order. It is a place in transition.

  41. Tim from St. Agnes says:

    and the name of the “assistant chancellor” is?

  42. Mark, thank you for your postings.
    Like how you think, keep up doing; and walking the walk.

    PS
    I think Sr. Joan from the NCR was one of my four Latin teachers in Catholic high school. (she gave me a 96 on the Latin 4; New York state exam)

  43. Mark says:

    “Mark, thank you for your postings.
    Like how you think, keep up doing; and walking the walk.”

    Thank you for the kind comment.

    I just dont see how anyone can support the type of attitudes that led to left-handed children having their left hands tied down, etc.

    There was a repressive conformist attitude like that in Catholic seminaries for some time. But it was not the ideal. In fact, it was inspired by Jansenist rigorism (and directly opposed to true Catholic probabilism), and as such I think was more endemic in Anglo-American and Gallican seminaries than it was in, say, Italian, who have always been more laid back and not so uptight (and rightly so).

    The paradigm needed to change and, thank God, I think it finally is. Rather than seminarians and monks having to assume, essentially, that everything was forbidden unless they specifically got permission or a command…I think we are seeing (hopefully) a growth the paradigm that things can be assumed to be allowed if they arent expressly forbidden, and there should be a good rational reason for forbidding them. It is forbidding something which should have the burden of proof, not doing something. If something is neutral, it should get the benefit of the doubt.

    The world where seminarians werent allowed to leave campus during their free time and where monks have to ask to go to the bathroom…is a twisted one indeed.

  44. Jack says:

    Mark

    Do you think that Bowling should be allowed in seminary halls? I ask becasue they almost threw Achbp Fulton Sheen out for that :)

  45. Mark says:

    Lol! Is there any particular reason to forbid bowling? Was it breaking things, or waking people up, or causing gambling? If not, it should be assumed to be allowed. But I suspect the reasons it was forbidden involved merely a vague sense that it was “too spontaneous,” “too informal,” or simply because it wasnt specifically provided for in the schedule by those in control, and what wasnt specifically prescribed was viewed with suspicion.

    Things in the past were ludicrous. You can see why all sorts of priests rebelled and became liberal (but, invariably, like all revolutionaries, just used the same repressive tactics they themselves had been socialized with to enforce it).

  46. Agnes says:

    That’s it. I’ve been reading this thread diligently but this is where I draw the line. For shame. Bowling is anathema! Go run a marathon or eat chinese or rock climb or smoke cigars – do something worthy!

    But just get trained to give us decent Sacraments, ok?

    :-)

  47. magdalene says:

    Yes, but many priests made it through to ordination who did not sneak out to learn the truth but had the terrible formations. That occured all over and we are reaping what was sowed then. That is a very sad thing indeed.

  48. Matthew W. I. Dunn says:

    Back in the day, back in the day … those were bad days for Catholic seminarians …

    Of course they were . . . because the Modernists thought they had won. One of the GREATEST blessings of Vatican II in my opinion: It allowed a space for some of the preconciliar heretics to feel safe enough to finally pull the mask off a little. Some just threw it away.

    Those poor, liberal theologians of today, rueing over how they had “such hopes” after the Council . . . and . . . now :( I chuckle inwardly. Thank you, Holy Spirit!

  49. Jack says:

    Matthew

    Allowing the modernists to show their true colours also resulted in the Econe affair from which we are still recovering, as well as a whole generation of the faithful with a weak faith formation becoming easy targets for anti-catholic protestants.

  50. Edward Martin says:

    As a relatively new convert I would like to thank all the priests and laity (some of whom appear to have posted here)who suffered social martyrdom in their struggle to keep the liturgy alive. God Bless you.

  51. Hidden One says:

    I’d like to second Edward, as a recent convert myself.

  52. Mark says:

    “Allowing the modernists to show their true colours also resulted in the Econe affair from which we are still recovering, as well as a whole generation of the faithful with a weak faith formation becoming easy targets for anti-catholic protestants.”

    Yes, it’s tough, but the physician cannot heal what he cannot see. Keeping up appearances while all this festered under the surface wasnt a solution either.

  53. WSXYZ: I believe that socially enforced conformity was a characteristic of the cultural revolution in China. Certainly there need to be rules but unless they are freely accepted and intelligently respected as well as lovingly obeyed (I refer to love for God, not necessarily the particular rule) the discipline will be of no value.

    I was in two different Catholic high schools in pre Vatican II times. I saw in one an approach that was akin to yours and in the other an approach that was more akin to Mark’s.

    The one closer to Mark’s views produced a large number of graduates who went onto the seminary. Almost none of them remained in the seminary but our teachers were priests. The fact that these guys tried the seminary at all showed the respect that they had for the priests who taught us.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  54. Mark says:

    “Yes, but many priests made it through to ordination who did not sneak out to learn the truth but had the terrible formations.”

    Which raises another question: how ignorant/naive were these men when they entered seminary???

    I mean, most of us here, if we entered seminary…could tell the difference between heresy and orthodoxy. The kinds of laymen today who go into seminary…usually know the faith quite well BEFORE they even consider entering.

    Were these men back then going off to become priests totally impressionable and not really educated about the Truth themselves?

    That doesnt really sound like a very informed or rightly-motivated decision.

    And yet, we know that was a sociological reality. Many Catholic boys, for “family reasons,” and such, went off to seminary without really knowing the Faith or what they were getting into. They just knew (for whatever reason…) that they didnt want to get married.

    But it doesnt sound like they were all that informed or enthusiastic about the idea of the faith as such, if they were so absorbant of all the nonsense.

    Of course, some were different. But the ones who drank the kool-aid, must have been fishy to begin with. And that’s the product of the church atmosphere they grew up in BEFORE they caused the visible problems.

  55. catholicman says:

    I heard from seminarians at SJV in St. Paul that they are required to wear cassocks for Sunday Mass beginning next year.

  56. From what I understand, everyone, St. John Vianney Seminary is a very good place to be these days. It has had a real reform and revoluation. The St. Paul Seminary has improved enormously as well.

  57. Mark, Religion was more thoougly taught in the schools in those days so those who went in weren’t going in out of ignorance. As for naievete, those were different times. Most teenagers then would be conxsidered naive by today’s standards, even those in non-religious schools.

    Also, these numbers were, as I remember quite exceptional and family pressure wan’t really a factor any more by then.

    As for the times, it was on the cusp of Vatican II, 1962/63. That would have been a factor. The great exodus from the seminaries began not too long after and some were part of that.

    My point was that at the first high school the teachers were lay brothers and the atmosphere was oppressive and, at times, sadistic and there didn’t seem to be all these guys trying for the priesthood or, for that matter, the Brotherhood in that school.

    In the second school the teachers were priests. There was disciploine to be sure but we always felt that the priests would go the extra mile for us. We were able to realte to them and they to us.

    I remember one incident where a student did something which left the principle (a priest) with no recourse but to expel him. He did so but then spent the next few weeks helping the guy get a job.

    Nobody doubted that the student had gone too far and that expulsion was inevitable but that the principle would then try to help him get a job was noticed and respected by the other students.

    I believe I’m essentially, agreeing with your points.

  58. Mark says:

    I’m sorry, I wasnt talking specifically about the young men you mentioned.

    I meant the ones who entered 10-20 years earlier than them. The ones who were already priests when the changes happened, the ones who pushed for the changes to happen in the first place.

    What could have induced such men, who entered when things still seemed so externally orthodox and discipline…to enter the priesthood if they later went so bad?

    I sort of doubt the “conspiracy theory” about “infiltration”. I doubt all these young men from the 40’s and 50’s thought “I’m going to enter the priesthood and be discreet all through seminary then come out teaching modernism!” Because the thing about modernists is…if they arent already in the clergy already, they dont generally see a need to enter (being, as they are, anti-clerical).

    That transformation surely was something that happened after somehow, in the seminaries, internal to the clergy (not something imposed “from outside”).

    But the fact that it could happen at all also indicates that werent going in saying, “I’m going into the priesthood to be traditional and reinforce orthodoxy” either, like many young men today. There must have been an ambivalence about intent to start with, and a naivitee, that allowed them to be so pliable, so corruptible, so manipulatible.

    “Bad formation” theologically cant corrupt someone who already knows and firmly believes the Truth. “Bad formation” doesnt turn a traditionalist into a modernist.

  59. Mark says:

    “That transformation surely was something that happened after somehow, in the seminaries, internal to the clergy (not something imposed “from outside”).”

    My point in saying this is that a lot of the “infiltration” conspiracy theorists hold such a ridiculous position because there is no other way in their closed-system mentally…to explain how the whole collapse could have happened.

    If it was orthodox at one point, and there was this rigid discipline which they romanticize and claim was this great protector of orthodoxy…how could things have changed, and so quickly and dramatically? How did a crack appear in that system that at the same time they claim is the best system for preserving orthodoxy? How did that system fail so spectacularly? If one generation was orthodox and they enforced that on the next, how could the modernism have erupted unless people were “sneaking in” secretly?

    They cant imagine that the modernistic defiance may have been an ironic RESULT of the rigid discipline and repression designed to stop it.

    That without any need for an “external” injection of heresy, it may have gradually simmered beneath the surface for many generations among those disaffected (some might even say “victimized”) by psychologically traumatic formation (albeit, perfectly “disciplined” and “orthodox” formation)…until at one point a certain critical mass or tipping-point of disaffected men was reached in the clergy. We know that corruption of the Renaissance was probably directly responsible for the Protestant Reformation.

    When there’s a powder keg, and all it needs is a spark. Vatican II provided it. Not, in fact, by being revolutionary, but exactly because it wasnt. According to a well-known theory, revolutions dont happen when things are bad, so much, but rather when there is a promise of things getting better, rising expectations, that are then disappointed. When the changes werent as radical as they expected, they decided to MAKE them radical by force.

    It’s one reason I’m watching these SSPX talks very closely. There is a rising expectation among trads and trad-leaning neocons in the Church over things being restored. But if “brick by brick” goes too slow, or the momentum is lost, or this pope dies and the next doesnt share his feelings on the liturgy…etc…that too is a recipe for (counter-)revolution.

    We live in very interesting times. [You are trying to dominate the combox.]

  60. Jack says:

    The one thing I still can’t understand is how reading St Thomas or having a stature of Our Lady of Fatima would be considred grounds for expulsion ? Assuming these were Catholic Seminaries you’d have thought they would want pious seminarians, if this was the case then i’m not supprised the SSPX still have linguring suspicions about us.

  61. John R says:

    Mark, I totally concur with your statements. I think, thankfully, today most of the younger orthodox priests and likewise younger parents with new families (like myself)would also agree with your general points. The younger generation knows that Ultra-Montanism was its own worst enemy. Personally, knowing that God permits evil to bring about greater good, I would consider Vatican II as a \”necessary evil\” which brought us out of this \”1950\’s\” Catholicism. Today\’s Traditionalists, including many in the SSPX, are not replicas of that bygone era. Besides sociological realties, even more striking is that the Liturgical Reality is different and much improved (i.e. more High Masses and people responding/singing in Latin).

    John

  62. Patrick says:

    Mark,

    Some very good points here. I think it is worth recognizing that much was bad in seminary formation well before Vatican II. Perhaps it was the “conformism” or perhaps a subtle modernism. But we know something was rotten. All we have to do is look at things went really off track from approximately the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s. And who were the priests then? I know at the parishes I attended they were all men in their mid 40’s to mid 60’s.

    That means your pastor of 1978 – the one who really was doing some wacky things – he was probably ordained in the late 50’s. He went to seminary in the mid 50’s hey-day. Now how on earth did he go from being a “latin mass saying orthodox” priest into a “wacky” priest? The fact is that he had poor formation.

    I have met several seminarians from SJV and a few from other dioceses and traditional orders. They are all completely solid, strong young men. In the next 10 years there will be a flood of wonderful priests from around the country. We are truly blessed.

  63. RBrown says:

    Mark,

    I tend to agree with you on the Counter Reformation Church, which, even in the best days, was religion by the numbers.

    The structure in seminaries and religious orders, however, was not structure for its own sake. After the Council of Trent the Church adopted a military model for priestly formation–most think the Jesuits were the source. This produced a highly mobile priesthood that could respond quickly. The philosophy of formation was to break down the person, then rebuild him. Agere contra writ large.

    All formation–and for that matter, Catholic life–was considered a corollary of Obedience. Priests and religious tended to be programmed rather than formed. The manualism taught in seminaries tended to produce priests who knew the answers without understanding the questions.

    One other point: In Benedictine monasticism, no matter how strict, the emphasis ALWAYS is on prescription rather than proscription. This is because the life is centered on the liturgy. The demands of the weekly psalm cycle brings the monk back into the church every few hours.

  64. How heartening that the “bad old days” are over in American seminaries. I look
    forward to the time when the bad old days are over in American Catholic theological
    departments.

  65. Everyday Catholic says:

    Father Z, is there some way to prevent one commentor from taking over the comments? After the first few comments by Mark, I had to slide over any that addressed “Mark,” or were signed by “Mark.” One would think this was Mark’s personal blog.

  66. People get enthusiastic.

  67. Agnes says:

    catholicman – Clerical dress will take them a certain distance. I have an old priest friend who was ordained in the late 60’s and comes visiting once a year. He’s not to show up at the house without his clerics because I want the boys to see his good example. He concelebrated Saturday evening Mass at St. Agnes, all spiffed up in a fiddleback. He said it was a tremendous spiritual boost – the whole visit, overall. But I think priests dressing and vesting like priests helps them preserve a recognition (not only for others but also self-recognition) of their sacred character – similarly for religious and, in this case, men discerning the call to be “set apart”. Glad for the cassocks. Way to go, SJV.

  68. Fr. William Baer says:

    [EVERYONE: Be sure to read this….]

    As Rector of Saint John Vianney College Seminary, I have been reading these comments on seminary formation with great interest.

    There are many admirable qualities in today’s college seminarians: a nearly universal fidelity to the Church in every respect (and this is largely a credit to their families and pastors, as they do not arrive at the seminary needing to be convinced about this, but already convinced); a sincere desire to grow in holiness, in truth, and in the life of prayer as taught by the Church and her saints; a fervor to bring others to Christ through evangelization and apologetics and, especially, through the graces of the Church’s Sacraments. I am very proud of these remarkable young men; we who hope for a continued renewal of Christ’s Priesthood have a sound basis for such hope.

    There are two principal challenges in the early stages of forming such men today, both of which concern the influences of contemporary youth culture in the U.S.

    First, today’s young seminarians have grown up in a world without coherence, [Amen.] a world without edges and corners and connecting tendons, an unstable world. They have lived with a daily routine that is fast-paced and ever-shifting, with enormous amounts of information thrown at them, and no one taking the time to explain how it all fits together. Thus the need for a sound program of Philosophy to form their bright-but-unformed minds. Thus the need for a daily Holy Hour, not only to offer adoration to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but to retire from the freneticism of typical college life for a few moments of silence, of prayer, of consecration to God. And the “daily” aspect of this is no small matter. Today’s seminarians arrive with the best of intentions regarding prayer, but most of them have not, in fact, been praying in any sort of consistent way. No surprise: if they don’t eat their meals at the same time for two days in a row, why should we think that they pray at the same time for two days in a row? [!] Many of us who argue back and forth about how much structure is appropriate in today’s seminaries are woefully out of touch with the underlying principle of disorder that permeates American youth culture. And it’s getting worse. (I chuckle as I hear our 21-year old Seniors comment about the newly arriving Freshmen: “Whoa, Father, these new guys are gonna need a lot more formation than we did when we first got here!”) Could too much structure lead to unhealthy results that reflect problems of an earlier era? Certainly. But I’m not seeing such disorders among most of the actual seminarians who are coming through formation today, and I honestly don’t think that this rigid Scylla is what most threatens them today; it’s the swirling Charybdis of a disordered youth culture that threatens to swallow them. [Well said and good image.]

    If the first challenge involves a lack of shape, the second challenge concerns a lack of tempo. Simply put, today’s young people have never experienced anything that takes a long time. [A characteristic of our age is the decreasing attention span.] They expect to figure out whether to become a priest within a few weeks of joining the seminary. And why not? Google provides them with information in a matter of seconds; why can’t the Lord keep up with that pace? As countless saints have noted, the important things in life take a long time for most of us: conversion, the breaking of habits, the interior life of prayer. In the call to holiness, “real change is slow change.” The same is true with the cultivation and discernment of a vocation, and today’s seminaries have the task of slowing our seminarians down, of setting their expectations at a realistic level regarding the normal life of divine grace at work in their souls. This is not easy, and today’s seminarians are probably more easily frustrated than those in times past with regard to their own stubborn sins and their seemingly slow spiritual progress.

    When I first arrived at Saint John Vianney as Rector ten years ago, I noticed that some very fine candidates were dropping out within a year of joining, not because they had “met a girl” or had become disillusioned with a possible priestly calling, but because they had “met” their true spiritual condition in prayer and spiritual direction and were disillusioned with their struggle for holiness. These men lacked a spiritual and a moral maturity that was substantial enough for them to do the heavy lifting of vocational discernment. I told them, “Slow down! God is so very patient with you. Take the time to know Him, to love Him, to obey Him, and then you will be able to ask Him, ‘How shall I follow You, Lord?'”

    Again, I wish to honor our seminarians for their remarkable, even heroic, dedication to Christ and the Church. Most of us have never had to face the challenges in living the Catholic Faith that they have endured by the ripe old age of 18 or 20. [A good point.] Let’s keep praying for them, and let us offer them the best possible formation, through the intercession of Holy Mary, Mother of Priests and Seminarians, and Saint John Mary Vianney, Universal Patron of Priests.

  69. Fr. Jim says:

    I met 2 SJV seminarians in Italy. They were wandering about a church looking for a Mass. I was just getting ready to start. Very nice young men. I think our quality level is going up.

  70. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Baer,

    Thanks so much for your contribution to this post – and your great contributions to my alma mater. Reading what you write about the young men entering the seminary and the care you are taking with their formation makes me proud to be an alumnus – prouder than I’ve been of that fact for many years. I’ll recommit myself to offering my prayers in support both of the men discerning there and the priests guiding them on their discernment (perhaps there should be some sort of guild of SJV alumni holding the seminarians up in regular prayer…).

  71. Mark said: “I meant the ones who entered 10-20 years earlier than them. The ones who were already priests when the changes happened, the ones who pushed for the changes to happen in the first place…”

    Mark, I think you may haver a point as far as it goes, especially in the case of those who subsequently left and got married.

    But they were largely numbered among those who had but recently been ordained. Older priests snd most bishops accepted the changes much as one would accept a tsunami. Some resisted. Most just went along with it with that same listlessness that one sees in the celebration of most of the OF Masses today and some eagerly persued it with a blind an insensitive enthusiasm.

    This would imply that there was no long term problems in the seminaries that brought this on.

    Cergtainly in the shorter term, change was in the air and professors of liturgics no doubt encouraged it.

    I remember, as the changes were coming on stream, hearing of a seminary professor here in Toronto telling his class before they were ordained subdeacons that they need have no fear making the promise of celibacy because mandatory celibacy would likely be abolished. I don’t know how serious he was.

    But all that said, there had always been the greater problem of a system which produced the nasty old Monsignors in their parish synecures who famously bullyied there people from the pulpit and in the confessional. There were also problems of clerical alcoholism and there was that implacable wall of clerical triumphalism which still exists although, it seems, to a lesser degree and for reasons which would require a separate post.

  72. Mark says:

    I dont want any further contribution to be interpreted as “dominating” but if someone addresses a point to me, and there is no good private messaging system here, I feel I owe them an answer:

    “In Benedictine monasticism, no matter how strict, the emphasis ALWAYS is on prescription rather than proscription. This is because the life is centered on the liturgy. The demands of the weekly psalm cycle brings the monk back into the church every few hours.”

    This may be a bit confusing, but I actually believe that could be interpreted PROscriptively also, and in fact ideally would be.

    That is to say, rather than seeing it as “You WILL attend liturgy” think of it as “You must NOT MISS liturgy”.

    That may seem tautological, but the difference is the assumption of what is the “default”.

    The prescriptive interpretation sees the “default” for the monk as being free to do nothing except what is specifically commanded or prescribed in the schedule.

    The proscriptive sees the “default” as liberty except when something suspends that liberty (ie, for example, when they are required not to miss an event).

    You should be able to assume being allowed to do anything [moral] EXCEPT when an obligation limits that liberty…as opposed to the attitude that you can basically do nothing UNLESS an obligation specifically tells you to do it.

    “But all that said, there had always been the greater problem of a system which produced the nasty old Monsignors in their parish synecures who famously bullyied there people from the pulpit and in the confessional.”

    Yes, that’s what I was talking about. Could THAT culture have caused the resentment and liberalism in the priests who caused the changes?

  73. Anthony says:

    As a recent grad of St. John Vianney (07) and a current student at the St. Paul Seminary (God-willing ’11) I am thankful to the staff at both seminaries. The college seminary has prepared me for the theologate in many ways: discipline to study and prayer, taking the initiative for time for prayer, retreat, study, recreation etc. and a healthy attitude about celibacy, liturgy, fraternity, etc. The major seminary has and is preparing me for ministry to the Church and Fr. Z is right, over the past few years there has been a shift in the faculty who are dedicated to passing on the authentic teaching of the Church.

    There are many great resources in the Twin Cities, Loome bookseller being one of them. I have found many treasures in my trips to Stillwater and it is a place that I will frequent anytime I am in the vicinity.

  74. Agnes says:

    Thank you, Fr. Baer, for taking the time to post. God bless your efforts and all those in sem. I believe the Church is spiraling upward, maybe by her bootstraps, but sure enough!

  75. RBrown says:

    Mark,

    First, you distinguish between prescription and proscription. Then, in reply to my comment, you shift, saying that your own distinction is merely nominal. And so I think your interpretation of the Benedictine life is incorrect: The Rule of Benedict is definitely prescriptive on the obligation to liturgy.

    The reason is that the sine qua non of the Benedictine life is not the heroic performance of individual acts of penance. It is the regularity of community liturgy, which is established according to the natural hours of the day.

    The Rule refers to the liturgy as the Opus Dei. The famous line from the Rule Ch 43, seen in the apse at Sant’ Anselmo, says it all: Nihil operi dei praeponatur (let nothing be preferred to the work of God). The Rule prescribes the weekly Psalter–which psalms are to be said at which hours on which days. That defines a Benedictine monk just as hitting a golf ball defines a golfer.

    I recommend that you visit Clear Creek.

  76. jaykay says:

    “Most of us have never had to face the challenges in living the Catholic Faith that they have endured by the ripe old age of 18 or 20.”

    Absolutely. I’m 48, and had the benefit of a childhood in a traditional Catholic household complete with Grandmother teaching me the rosary and hymns when I was still 3 or 4 years old, and then schooling provided almost completely by religious and priests.

    Just over 30 years later an upbringing like this, which would have been regarded as entirely normal then, not traditional, is now so much the exception that it almost feels like a dream, “a foreign country” as in that famous quote. And most of us of my age threw it all away as we got older through the 80s and 90s, because it wasn’t seen to be in keeping with the spirit of the age.

    That there ARE faithful young seminarians emerging from among the rubble is to me nothing short of a miracle. My careless generation seems mostly to have given in to the spirit of conformity but I, for one, am so grateful to those younger men (and women) now coming forward, and of course to those of the older generation who did not give in and have nurtured them and will continue to do so. God bless you all in this Year of Priests.

  77. Mark says:

    I do not say my description is merely nominal.

    Benedictine life considered objectively…can be interpreted either way. But there can be a vast difference in the two ways of subjective attitude toward it.

    One way (what I was calling “prescriptive”) views the monk’s life as a blank slate, punctuated by periods of commanded activity. Everything is assumed to be forbidden unless specifically commanded or provided for.

    The other (“proscriptive”) would view a monk’s life as a slate of free activities, punctuated by periods of limits on that liberty (ie, the times when they are required to be somewhere or do something, in other words, to NOT BE anywhere or do anything else).

    It is a question of the default assumption. The fact that the Rule and their horarium lays out a schedule objectively could be interpreted either way: either as a base-line of nothingness that occasionally INcludes activity, or a baseline of free activity that occasionally EXcludes all but one activity.

    In practice equivalent when it comes to their schedule, but the difference in attitude cannot be overstated.

    You may misunderstand. I think we actually agree. You seem to be talking about defining holiness and religiosity as positive acts instead of as a negative “giving up”. Which I totally agree with.

    But the way I am describing it, concentration on positive acts would go with the proscription, not the prescription. Because with prescription, the baseline is “giving up” everything EXCEPT that which is specifically prescribed. Whereas with the proscription, free activity is assumed UNLESS specifically limited. The former, the prescriptive, is dangerous because it tends towards the “passive resignation” of Quietism. The prescriptive, to me, means the “re-programming” model that you describe, the advocates of which, carrying some of their sentiments to their logical conclusion, would seem to think ideal a situation where monks were like robots who just stood still and did nothing except when a specific command came down for them to obey. Except when there nothing-default was interrupted by a command. As opposed to those (who I am calling proscriptive) who see people as free to do that which is not forbidden, unless their free-activity-default is limited by a command.

    If you merely think the two terms should be flip-flopped…then this is merely semantic. I could see the argument that what I am calling “prescriptive” based on the nature of commands could be called “proscriptive” based on the default, and vice versa.

  78. RBrown says:

    Thanks to Fr Baer for his comments.

    I find it telling, however, that he doesn’t mention liturgy as an important factor in formation. This is NOT a criticism of him but rather an indication of the present situation.

    Latin produces an initial sense of the transcendent, not as referring to the supernatural but to something natural that is above time and place (cf Veterum Sapientia). This is one of the themes in St Bonaventure’s Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum.

  79. Fr. William Baer says:

    RBrown is very correct in his comments about the crucial role of Latin in the seminarians’ formation regarding Sacred Liturgy and the transcendent. Our Saint John Vianney seminarians study Latin, they are taught from the Church’s authoritative texts regarding the Sacred Liturgy, and they are trained in Latin chant by the remarkable (and remarkably humble) Mr. Paul LeVoir, longtime leader of the Saint Agnes Chant Schola here in Saint Paul. Indeed,they are gaining not only a sense of of the transcendent in Sacred Liturgy, but a lifelong conviction about it.

  80. RBrown says:

    It is a question of the default assumption. The fact that the Rule and their horarium lays out a schedule objectively could be interpreted either way: either as a base-line of nothingness that occasionally INcludes activity, or a baseline of free activity that occasionally EXcludes all but one activity.
    Comment by Mark

    Default Assumption cannot be applied in this case. The reason is that the prescription of a monk to Divine Office is a consequence of freedom, not a lack of it. It is the essence of Benedictine monasticism that the monastic life frees someone for Divine Office.

    I recommend Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

  81. RBrown says:

    RBrown is very correct in his comments about the crucial role of Latin in the seminarians’ formation regarding Sacred Liturgy and the transcendent. Our Saint John Vianney seminarians study Latin, they are taught from the Church’s authoritative texts regarding the Sacred Liturgy, and they are trained in Latin chant by the remarkable (and remarkably humble) Mr. Paul LeVoir, longtime leader of the Saint Agnes Chant Schola here in Saint Paul. Indeed,they are gaining not only a sense of of the transcendent in Sacred Liturgy, but a lifelong conviction about it.
    Comment by Fr. William Baer

    Good to hear. I hope that by the time they’re ordained, there will have been a reunion of Latinitas and Romanitas, so their love of Latin is not frustrated.

    I had friends in Rome who were lovers of and proficient in Latin. After ordination they returned to the anti-Latin attitudes of parish life. Sadly, they were laicized.

  82. Matthew says:

    Amen and thank you to Father Baer for his extraordinarily insightful comments!

    Perhaps if I had been able to receive such formation when I was at the Saint Paul Seminary I might be a priest today.

  83. Matthew says:

    I was once a seminarian at St. John Vianney – I left because I did not support the program, feeling that they rely far too heavily on human formation to the exclusion of pastoral formation, spiritual formation, and intellectual formation. I could cite examples to support each of these claims.

    And, as a supportor of the Tridentine Latin Mass, I felt that my spirituality was never welcomed there. While the charismatics would have an open “praise and worship” session often, seminarians who attended the Tridentine Mass at a local parish were looked down upon. Emails were sent by seminarians to other seminarians and/or priests to express “concern” at this. And, I felt that the seminary’s schedule was so overloaded with activities that no one had the opportunity to develop true spiritual formation. Seminarians visit the chapel twice a day – when they are required to be there. Few seminarians would ever visit the chapel when they were not required to be there. Required Events are everything to the seminary. It doesn’t matter if you go and not pay attention – the only thing that mattered was that you were physically there. And that is something I did not support.

    But, while I was in the seminary, I did visit Loomes Theological Books and do wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a fantastic oasis.

  84. AlphaOmega says:

    I to am a seminarian of St. John Vianney. But I wholeheartilty disagree with Matthew’s comments. While I believe that the seminary might emphasis human formation, there are several means to grow in the other three pillars. Each seminarian has an apostolate in which they learn pastoral skills. Academics while not always stressed are obviously important when over half of the graduating class graduates with honors. And spiritual formation, I mean come on. Daily Holy Hour, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours. Spiritual direction twice a month (more if needed), along with confessions available everyday. Men there are frequently practicing other forms such as personal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosaries, Chaplets of Divine Mercy, Novenas, etc.

    And the seminary is not hostile to traditional spirituality. Rather it is hostile to deciet, slander and gossip which Holy Mother Church is also against as stated very strongly in the Roman Cathecism. While the seminary dosen’t offer the “Traditional Latin Mass” it encourages seminarians to visit Churches like St. Agnes & St. Augustine and Fr. Baer has often stated that all should respect the Extraordinary Form and even encouraged guys to attend one.

  85. Time to close the combox.

    I am very glad to hear of the good progress in the reforming of seminaries all over the USA, especially in my native place.

    This is a very good sign and we owe a dept of gratitude to the men who have made it happen.