Archd. BOSTON – @bostoncatholic – Seminary and Cathedral

Have you seen that there is now an investigation of St. John’s Seminary in Boston.  Card. O’Malley announced that the rector is now on sabbatical now and he appointed a task group to examine “issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination.”

Meanwhile, I saw THIS about the Cathedral of Boston.

Alas, I think there is backward looking, 80’s thinking in the design. They could have done the job right and restored the sanctuary to what it was intended to look like by the people who built it, so long ago. Instead, there is a ridiculous table little provision for a Communion rail, which will have to be restored when more traditional Catholics are the only one’s still going to Mass in the future. Demographics are shifting and they are looking backwards, not forwards.

I hope they haven’t been looking “backwards” at the seminary. If anyone will conduct a good investigation, it will probably be O’Malley, since he has enormous reputation to lose. However, I also ask: Do bishops know what is going on in their seminaries… if they still have one? If not, why not?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Clerical Sexual Abuse, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, You must be joking! and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Dismas says:

    I am still trying to figure out how the bizarre sculpture hanging in Milwaukee’s cathedral is a Crucifix.

  2. hilltop says:

    Why do so many people have high expectations for “Cardinal Sean”? He’s been archbishop of a long-polluted archdiocese for a long time now. There really has not been a steady supply of leadership or reform from him, no great news of turnaround, no liturgical renewal, parishes are still closing, churches wreckovated into condos, a catholic population that casts a slim shadow of its former self, “catholic” Boston College, a history of spawning horrible auxilary bishops exported to ruin nearby dioceses, and now troubles at the seminary. Suprise, suprise.
    As for the Cathedral renovation: it will be most unfortunate. Many will conclude it was better to have done nothing than what they are now about to do. But then architecture and the arts have always been good windows into the state of the cultures that made them…

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    In assorted order…

    Link to the Cardinal’s full statement:

    The task group will “…oversee an inquiry into the allegations made this week, the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination.”

    With regard to the investigation, I think any framing of expectation of a good job by Cardinal Sean as “defending his reputation” or the like is misplaced. Like him or not, agree with him or not – he is dutiful and diligent.

    It is in great part due to him that we still have a seminary. When he came to Boston ~15 years ago, some people were advising him to close the seminary – that it wasn’t needed, seminarians could be educated “someplace else”, etc… Fortunately, he (and others) disagreed.

    As for the Cathedral… I suppose I’d start by asking if you’ve ever been in it, Father.

    The first time I was ever inside was the early 2000s. Some phase had gone through upstairs – pews out, booths or something being disassembled – frankly the nave gave me the impression of being a dump. Downstairs had a couple of phone-booth-sized toilets at the bottom of a narrow, rickety flight of stairs (which put them, bad as it was, two ahead of Saint Patrick’s in NYC), two accessible restrooms near the elevator, the crypt/chapel area, and some spaces of miscellaneous levels of usefulness. I’m not sure but I think that upstairs mess was already in the rear-view (or on its way out) when Cardinal Sean arrived.

    Since then, the upstairs church has add all of its pews. The downstairs has had a lot of work – modern restrooms for a reasonable number of people, gathering space, the very nice downstairs chapel…
    I haven’t been in since this most recent work started (Cathedral, at least upstairs, has been closed – large-Mass events like chrism Mass & ordinations & high holy days have been spread among the bigger parish churches of the archdiocese). It’s a little hard to tell for sure from a couple of glances at a rendering in a video, but I think the new flooring will be an improvement over the new carpeting, a more-visible baptismal font, and whatever stone/granite/marble/? altar & ambo replacing the current wooden ones. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good, right? It doesn’t preclude the chance of doing something with high altar or rail at some later date.

  4. LeeGilbert says:

    Fr. Z, you write, “Do bishops know what is going on in their seminaries… if they still have one? If not, why not?”

    I also, a layman, would very much like to know what is going on in our seminaries, especially St. Mary’s in Baltimore, and particularly whether it still has a bar..

    There is one aspect to this ongoing, never ending debacle which I have never heard discussed. To anyone who reads through the files of predatory, homosexual priests now posted online on many diocesan websites, as I have, there is one fact that begins to dawn on one after a while. Admittedly, I have only thoroughly read through five of them for they make very discouraging reading, but in every case alcohol played a very large part in these events. The priest had some young man over. They spent the evening drinking and seduction ensued. My guess is that that– or something very much like it–is the template for virtually the entire scandal.

    It was the case for my brother who went off to St. Mary’s in Baltimore in 1969. An upperclassman seminarian got him drunk and abused him that autumn. Our father had died that summer, and I think Art must have been very vulnerable emotionally. And so we had the scene at the end of that academic year that while the upperclassman was being ordained deacon my brother was rocking back and forth in a fourth story window of his dorm on the verge of suicide. The only thing that prevented him was the thought of how it would affect our mother. That was in 1970. He lived the marvelous lifestyle for another 23 years and died of AIDS in 1993, after a deathbed conversion.

    At any rate, I have never heard the alcohol/scandal relationship mentioned, but it seems to me it cries out for thorough-going research.

    Now, if the research bears out my thesis, what should be the response on the part of the episcopate, the presbyterate? Should it be primarily official statements (of which I have had a bellyful, your Excellencies), “Called to Protect” indoctrination and training for teachers, ministers, etc, or the little signs that one finds on the grounds of monasteries and seminaries to the effect that children should accompany their parents at all times? For what are we protecting our children from but priests!!?? All of this business I find completely maddening as bureaucratic, faux solutions to a very fundamental and blatant problem or constellation of problems. Frankly, I am not sure that the basic, fundamental problem is alcoholism, drinking or homosexual tendencies in some percentage of priests, but it does seem very likely that research would show that drinking on the part of priests with homosexual tendencies does lower their inhibitions and opens the way to mayhem, or at least that it was the common denominator in virtually all incidents.

    Now in light of that fact, if it is a fact as I think, what then ought to be the response on the part of the Church? Well, for one thing, I doubt very much that Belloc’s cheery little ditty ought to have currency in a seminary or rectory anymore: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. ‘Benedicamus Domino!'” Enough is enough. Let us put it aside for a few centuries while we do penance for the sins of inebriated priests and bishops.

    At the time of my brother’s unhappy sojourn, St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore had a bar, presumably so that future priests would learn how to handle their liquor. It is not very difficult to imagine what the saints would think of that arrangement, and in any case it seems not to have had the desired effect.

    Regarding Belloc’s paen to good red wine, I get it. We are not Puritans. Surely we have established that. At this point, though, we have to establish in the public mind that we are not perverts. It should only take decades and possibly centuries.. That is the reality of the situation.

    And how might our bishops and priests do that? I can think of few things more to the point both in terms of penance, or preventing future incidents, or in terms of recovering our standing in the public eye than by taking the pledge en masse and by making it known to the world at large. Yes, your brother fell, not you, but who will do penance if not you, priest of Jesus Christ, or you His bishop? And who will lead us laity in penitence away from our typically all too sybaritic lives except repentant, abstemious clergy?

    Les autres c’est enfer, says Sarte, but the doctrine of the Mystical Body implicates us all. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” If one is disgraced, we are all disgraced, and deservedly, very deservedly. It is not only hierarchy at fault. We are out of grace, for we as a people have given up the many disciplines that bought down graces from Heaven for both priest and people. It is time for a complete about-face, for de-mitigation, for ratcheting up our spirit of self-sacrifice. Taking the pledge would be a step in the right direction, a baby step.

  5. TNCath says:

    I’m afraid these latest scandals are going to end up taking up a lot more of the respective time and money of Cardinal O’Malley (if he survives the scandals) and the Archdiocese of Boston. That said, I’ve never been a fan of the Cathedral in Boston and am not holding my breath for the powers that are to do anything impressive. The liturgical sense there, dating back to Cardinal Cushing and before, have been at best cloddish and awkward, and im not particularly optimistic that this will change anytime soon.

  6. teomatteo says:

    Maybe cardinal o’malley’s reputation is over estimated. Why is he ‘investigating’ his seminary now? Did he help protect Law? They have created all these questions and suspicions. What evil.

  7. Kerry says:

    TN Catholic, “Be not afraid!”.

  8. Of course there could be more to it, but the situation described in the Boston seminary does not sound at all like the sort of scandalous situations that once prevailed in many seminaries. That is to say, it doesn’t sound like a climate of sexual immorality is being cultivated or tolerated. Even in the best environment, at some point there will be immoral behavior; what we hope for is that it is dealt with swiftly. The articles linked described seminarians who behaved immorally and were removed; that’s the right thing.

    About the drinking. Alcohol abuse is going to happen with priests; and I think a lot of people are more forgiving of that, provided action is taken. Of course, I’m speaking only of dependence on alcohol, not using alcohol as a tool for other grave sins.

    I cannot agree with LeeGilbert’s suggestion that seminaries not have a “bar”; of course, a bar is a somewhat suggestive term. If we call it a “seminarian lounge” or “club room” or “game room,” is that acceptable? If there is no bar, but there is beer or wine or liquor at various points, what about that?

    If the new rule is that no seminarian, deacon or priest will be allowed to consume alcohol, that is one thing; but LeeGilbert doesn’t propose that, I think; I think the proposal is not to have any room or facility in the seminary where alcohol is routinely served. Will seminarians and priests who live at the seminary be allowed to drink elsewhere? Will they be allowed to have alcohol in their rooms, for example?

    I think a better approach would be to make sure any “bar” is primarily about fellowship, not booze. Nothing wrong with booze, provided it isn’t the main thing; this is true for all of us. Maybe a better rule than saying, no drinking in the bar at the seminary, would rather be a rule, that all (or, strictly speaking, nearly all) drinking must happen there. That makes it public and in the midst of the community, rather than in private or off the grounds. And with that, cultivate expectations that excessive drinking will not be encouraged or overlooked. Someone can have a bad day; but a succession of “bad days” will be dealt with.

    People who have not lived in an all-male environment may not appreciate this, but having a bunch of men living and socializing together is not the problem. That’s healthy. That is fraternity lived out. That friendship and iron sharpening iron can foster virtue very powerfully; and also combat vice. That’s because so many vices are about filling a void created by lack of true human connections; and a remedy is to fill those voids precisely with the true human encounters for which we are made. Thus, what can be so very unhealthy in a seminary setting is not when many of the men are together, but when they go off by themselves, either all alone, or else in cliques and so forth.

  9. Dismas says:

    @LeeGilbert – Sexual abuse is very frequently a ritualized event. The predator is almost always a former victim, replaying the traumas received upon new victims. As such, the pervert that may have sodomized the one who may have sodomized “Uncle Ted” when he was young, may have made his victims drunk before forcing himself upon them. The ritual of boozing and molesting inevitably self-perpetuates generationally.

    Further, let us consider that drunkenness is a sin of grave matter. Nothing opens one up to evil quite as much as being outside of the state of grace.

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    Hear, hear Lee Gilbert. There should be no pressure among Catholics to socialize with alcohol. Total abstinence from alcohol should always be an honorable choice. It seems prudent, generally speaking, alcohol consumption should be in the context of a meal. This helps keep it in good order. Alcohol consumption as a recreation in itself that socializing is organized around seems to get people in trouble. I have spoken sternly to a priest who had a little too much and was starting to lose his better judgment and flirt with a woman. Most people don’t dare to be assertive, but a priest should never give someone else a need to protect him from himself. He should consider the sacredness of his clear intellect and rightly functioning will, and avoid having even a little bit too much.

  11. DJAR says:

    Charivari Rob says: “With regard to the investigation, I think any framing of expectation of a good job by Cardinal Sean as ‘defending his reputation’ or the like is misplaced. Like him or not, agree with him or not – he is dutiful and diligent.”

    An example of the cardinal’s diligence can be found here:

    And here:

    James Martin, SJ??Verified account? @JamesMartinSJ
    Follow @JamesMartinSJ

    Building Bridges in Boston. Some of the many wonderful people who came to the St. Anthony Shrine last night to talk about LGBT Catholics, at an event sponsored by the Franciscans and Paulists. Pax et bonum to all who came! @ShrineBoston @paulistboston

    Examples of the cardinal’s dutiful diligence could be multiplied.

  12. David says:

    Regarding the cathedral, I agree entirely with Chiavari Rob. Its present state is fairly dismal, and I see these changes as an overall improvement that does not preclude further improvements later.

    Regarding the seminary, I likewise agree with Chiavari Rob and Fr Fox. The Cardinal’s response seems to me entirely appropriate.

    I have not always agreed with Cardinal O’Malley, but I find nothing to criticize in either of these matters.

  13. hwriggles4 says:

    Rector changes happen through time – nothing new. The seminary in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul is getting a new rector this fall, and I remember when Bishop Olson became the Fort Worth bishop – a new rector, an order priest, was appointed as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving.

    I do think the seminary system (college division and theology division) has gotten better since the 70s and 80s. I am glad I wasn’t a seminarian after I graduated high school (mid to late 1980s) since there was quite a bit of dissent and shenanigans happening at certain places.

    Seriously, I have heard little news on the investigation that began in the Memphis diocese – Archbishop Hebda and another bishop were sent there to investigate some concerns there. I would like to hear their findings.

    My memory tells me too that Sean Cardinal O’Malley also sold the Bishops Mansion in Boston, and moved to a rectory. Archbishop Chaput did the same in Philadelphia, and moved into an apartment on the ground of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Both bishops did this as cost saving measures.

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