CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN
The cardinal’s report on his visitation to the Irish College, sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, has been leaked to The Irish Times, and has provoked some strong reactions in Ireland
GERARD O’CONNELL( Taken from Vatican Insider)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s harshly critical report to the Vatican after his visitation of the Irish College in Rome, at the pope’s instruction, in January 2011 has provoked negative reaction in Ireland, not only from the country’s four archbishops but also from the Association of Irish Priests.
In his report, the cardinal expressed serious concern about “the atmosphere, structure, staffing and guiding philosophy” of the college, called for “substantial reform” at the college, and came down so hard on the four members of staff there that all have either left the college or are about to do so.
Much to Cardinal Dolan’s annoyance the unpublished report which he sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education was leaked to The Irish Times. Its Religious Affairs correspondent, Patsy McGarry, gave it extensive coverage in the paper’s June 15 and June 16 editions.
Dolan, a former rector of the North American College, Rome (NAC), led the Visitation to the Irish College, January 2011, accompanied by the then Archbishop of Baltimore (now cardinal) Edwin O’Brien, also a former seminary rector at the NAC and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, and Monsignor Francis Kelly, head of the NAC’s post-graduate house of studies in Rome.
The Irish College, founded in 1628, has a distinguished history and made an important contribution to Irish Catholicism. At the time of Dolan’s visit it was home to 63 priest and students for the priesthood, but only 24 were from Ireland. The others came some 20 countries, including Russia, Poland, the Ukraine, Thailand, China, New Zealand, Kenya, Peru, Brazil and Haiti. Moreover, at the time of the visitation, the rector Monsignor Liam Bergin told me that none of the priests that graduated from the college in the previous 25 years had ever been accused of abuse of children, but one had died as a martyr in Iraq recently.
In his 17-page report, Cardinal Dolan said it was clear that “the staff and students are dramatically divided in their approach to the church and the priesthood.” He found an “anti-ecclesial bias” in the college when it came to the theological formation of students, with a leaning towards theologians who are “somewhat ambiguous on Church teaching”.
Based on meetings with the students, he reported that “a disturbingly significant number of seminarians gave a negative assessment of the atmosphere of the house.” As corroborating evidence, he quoted one seminarian who said: “The house is tense and dysfunctional. The seminarians want to be priests as the church teaches. The staff works from approaches more characteristic of the 60s and 70s. Therefore, the level of trust between seminarian and staff is destroyed.”
Again based on what students said, the cardinal reported: “The staff is critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the Magisterium, piety, or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features.”
According to The Irish Times, however, there is no evidence in the report that the cardinal, who is known to be a champion of ‘affirmative orthodoxy”, ever confronted the staff with such criticisms. Instead, he recommended a change of staff.
The Cardinal criticized the way the seminarians dress, saying: “it borders on the sloppy and excessively informal.” He recommended that “a clear dress code be part of the rule of life”, with jacket and tie for those not yet near diaconate; jacket and clerical collar for those in candidacy and the deacons, on special occasions.
He criticized “some” of the graduate priests for being “less that positive examples of priestly life”, and said they “are not yet ready for the liberty given to a graduate priests” and “need a rule of life.”
He reported that “the College suffers from the reputation of being ‘gay friendly’” but said “the staff in no way condones such conduct”, and actually concluded that he “did not find any evidence of rampant immorality or a homosexual subculture”. Indeed, he said, “the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle”.
The Irish Times noted that while the homosexuality question was discussed in the report, the important question of child protection “merits just two three-line paragraphs.”
Last but not least, the cardinal criticized the four Irish archbishops who are the college trustees –Cardinal Brady (Armagh) and Archbishops Martin (Dublin), Neary (Tuam) and Clifford (Cashel), for “seeming to be disengaged from college governance”, and only carrying out irregular supervision.
At the same time, as the Irish Times reported June 16, the cardinal had 19 positive observations to make. He described the college atmosphere as “warm, inviting, hospitable”, and the physical environment as “comfortable but not opulent”. In general, he said, the seminarians were “sincere”, “earnest in their desire to be priests after the heart of Christ” and took their academic work seriously. The four staff were “visible, available, and engaged”, and the Liturgical and devotional life was “impressive”.
The Vatican gave a copy of Dolan’s report to the four Irish archbishops before it finalized the findings. It seems they were “heavily critical” of it and, in a statement to the Irish Times, said: “This initial report contained some serious errors of fact, including named individuals. Attentive to the importance of applying due process, and respecting the rights of those named in this initial report, the trustees made a detailed and considered response to the Holy See.”
Not surprisingly, the Dolan Report has not gone down well in Ireland. While the archbishops have been measured in their public criticism, the Association of Irish Priests, which represents 800 of the island’s 3,400 priests, harshly criticized its “methodology and conclusions”, and denounced it for having “effectively destroyed the reputations of priests, who have given lifelong service to the Irish Catholic Church, without giving them a right of reply to the allegations made against them”.