Irish theologians put under the Vatican microscope

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While the public face of the Apostolic Visitation of the Church in Ireland has shown the determination of the visitators to listen to those who have been abused by priests or Religious and to demonstrate the Church’s remorse, there has been another aspect that has been unreported, reports The Tablet.

Part of the team’s remit has been to investigate seminaries and institutes of theology, and this task has been entrusted to the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. The Irish College in Rome and Ireland’s national seminary, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, have come under particularly close scrutiny.

I was able to obtain part of the visitation’s working document or instrumentum laboris that relates to the seminaries. This sets out the intention to “cover all aspects of priestly formation”, noting that “special attention will be given to the criteria for admission of candidates, and the programmes for human and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully live in chastity for the Kingdom.

Furthermore, attention will be reserved for the intellectual formation of seminarians, to examine its fidelity to the Magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology” (Instrumentum laboris [IL], 1, 3).

While it is clear that Archbishop Dolan (pictured) is simply following the guidance given in the working document, this part of the visitation appears to have caused some concern to staff involved and members of the wider theological community in Ireland, particularly in the field of moral theology.

Although the college authorities would not comment on any aspect of the visitation, it is widely reported in the small Irish theological world that lecturers in moral theology, and only in this discipline, were asked to provide copies of their lecture notes, including PowerPoint presentations. This raises several questions, not least that of the trust that should exist here.

The visitation appeared determined to seek out any scent of “the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality” (IL 6.8) but most particularly any traces of “contemporary subjectivism and in particular … moral relativism” (IL 7.2) in the taught syllabus.

FULL STORY Focus on Ireland - Rome's wider remit (The Tablet)