Commentary

Goodbye! Good Men

by Michael S. Rose

reviewed by Jim Fritz

The actual title of this book is Goodbye! Good Men, How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two Generations of Vocations From the Priesthood, and it pretty well sums up the status of the seminaries in the United States. While the rest of the world has had a 73.1 percent increase in the number of seminarians since 1978, the United States has had a decrease of 21.5 percent (July/August 2002 Laywitness magazine). Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha advanced the thesis in 1995 that this vocation crisis in America is: “artificial and contrived.” Michael Rose’s Goodbye! Good Men is an investigation into this thesis. The approach that Rose used was to interview numerous seminarians, priests, faculty members, and vocation directors. His approach was not scientific (it was not meant to be) so he opened the door to those that wish to find fault with his results. His book has been widely read by Catholic laity and clergy alike and reviewed by almost all Catholic publications as well as The Defender. As expected, the very liberal press tended to shoot the messenger rather than take an objective look at what Rose has documented.

Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), although admitting Rose’s expose is one of the most talked about Catholic books in the nation, published an unsigned denunciation of his book on 7/14/02 and refused to print a rebuttal from Michael Rose. The OSV article had a number of gross factual errors in their attempt to discredit Mr. Rose. One can only assume that OSV’s philosophies coincide with those of the seminary faculty members that have been the cause of decreases in vocations. So much for our opinion of OSV!

In contrast, Father Benedict Groeschell in his new book From Scandal to Hope, favorably recommends Goodbye! Good Men as contributing to a better understanding of the roots of the present sex abuse scandals. It even appears that Father Groeschell corroborates the factual basis of the book by writing, ”I know for a fact that much of what Rose says is true, and that good, orthodox, chaste seminarians were discriminated against in some seminaries.”

Rose’s evidence varies from secondhand stories repeated by priests and seminarians to reports from priests who have willing gone on record with their names and personal first hand accounts. He also has accounts of seminarians and priests who remain anonymous for fear of retribution. While the nature of the evidence varies (and some of it can be refuted) there is plenty with which one could go to court. This is most obvious with the recent crisis in the Church caused by the cover-up of sexual abuse by the same clerical hierarchy that have done nothing about the seminary abuses. Unfortunately, they are still not doing anything about these seminaries.

Rose’s book contains much anecdotal evidence about how, in some seminaries, orthodox men are silently removed from the seminaries by dissenting faculty members through the use of intimidation and psychological abuse. Those seminarians that accept Church teaching on human sexuality, married priests, and female priests are labeled as ‘rigid’ and ‘sexually immature’ and not permitted to advance into the priesthood. Those espousing a love of the Rosary, the Eucharist, and the Pope were often ridiculed. Unorthodox faculty members referred many orthodox seminarians to mental health professionals that not only lacked teaching in the Catholic faith, but often directly opposed it. In addressing this issue, the Catholic Medical Association made recommendations that the mental health professionals should, as far as possible, share the same cultural background as the devout, faithful, mature candidates they are to evaluate. In many seminaries this recommendation is ignored. In fact, the Pope would be rejected by some of these evaluators as being too ‘rigid’ and ‘intolerant.’

Another problem addressed by Rose is the “Gay Subculture” that permeates many seminaries such as St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore that has the nickname of the “Pink Palace.” Father Cozzens in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, warns of the growing gay subculture in the seminaries and the priesthood becoming a “gay profession.” Fr. Cozzens states the “straight men in a predominantly gay environment commonly experience chronic destabilization.” Compounding the challenge of studying, praying and living alongside gay seminarians, he adds, are seminary facilities that include a disproportionate number of homosexually oriented persons. The heterosexual seminarian has little choice but to leave, but he often finds himself blackballed and unable to enter another seminary.

One has to admit that the evidence and anecdotal stories that Rose provides in his book can be depressing to read. It leads one to wonder how all of this could be occurring. Rose has a chapter titled Heads in the Sand that describes how this has happened and even though complaints about doctrinal error, liturgical abuse and even misconduct are now so common as to be routine, little has changed. These seminaries are run by the same bishops that brought us the sexual abuse scandal in the United States. When the seminaries were investigated by a Vatican team the abusive seminaries put on a big show. As an example, papal encyclicals suddenly appeared as if the seminarians were being taught from them and they suddenly started having the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It reminded one seminarian of the Red Cross visiting the Nazis prison camps.

However, all is not depressing! Since the 1990s we are seeing a new breed of priests who know that Holy Mother Church still knows best. The aging so-called ‘progressives’ are finally losing out. The new generation of priests are not interested in their dated ideas and agendas such as ‘protestantizing the Church’. Rose sees more and more genuine reform in the Church, a shift away from the experimental “spirit of Vatican ll” to a practical regrounding of Catholic faith and culture. Certain pockets of the U.S. are beginning to see an increase in vocations to the priesthood and a healthy number of ordinations each year. The newest vocations in fact are often products of new or revitalized Catholic colleges such as Ave Maria, Christendom, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Thomas Aquinas College. They often come from counter-culture families that home-schooled or that are involved in the orthodox movements that place an emphasis on the dynamic faithfulness of the lay vocation. Father John Hardon’s “survival of the fittest” theory explains why orthodox dioceses have a disproportionately higher number of vocations and priests than others. It is a natural and logical process.

Rose names seminaries as well as seminarians, priests and faculty members. He conducted over 150 personal interviews, used quotes from textbooks, class notes, syllabi, and tapes of class presentations used in the seminary classes. An ample amount of relevant information from previously published sources was also referenced in his book. About one-third of the interviewees are now ordained priests. They are men who sincerely care about the well being of the seminaries. Other interviewees served at one time as seminary professors or vocation directors.

Michael Rose did an excellent job of proving Archbishop Eldon Curtiss correct when he wrote that, “It seems to me that the vocations ‘crisis’ is precipitated by people who want to change the Church’s agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teachings of the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these ministries.” This is the crux of Goodbye! Good Men.

 

 

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