.- The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB) has announced that a Vatican delegation will begin an Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries and houses of formation around the country, seeking to ensure proper training of high-caliber candidates for priestly and religious life. The Holy Sees’ Congregation for Catholic Education, along with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is organizing the effort, which will assess some 229 schools of theology, college-level seminaries, houses of formation, and academic institutions that form future priests.
Archbishop of Military Services, Edwin O’Brien, who is heading the visitation process, said he is “confident that this Apostolic Visitation will assist us in promoting the highest standards of formation necessary to bring forth qualified men for priestly ordination.”
The USCCB noted that the two-fold objective for the visits will be to, first, “examine the criteria for admission of candidates and the programs of human formation and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully live chastely for the Kingdom;” and second, “to examine other aspects of priestly formation in the United States.”
“Particular attention”, they said, “will be reserved for the intellectual formation of seminarians, to examine fidelity to the Magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology, in the light of Veritatis Splendor (the 1993 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II, ‘The Splendor of the Truth’).”
Monsignor Maniscalco, a spokesman for the USCCB committee on priestly formation, reiterated that the group will be looking at the intellectual and spiritual formation programs--especially in the field of moral theology--which will best help in preparing qualified, young men for the priesthood.
He told CNA that, while he believes that the nation's seminaries are doing a good job, as "with anything, we can always improve."
The Congregation, he added, will be looking at the criteria of formation programs which "help young men be faithful to the commitments of priesthood;" commitments, he said, which "can be very challenging."
The visits will be conducted by 117 bishops and seminary personnel appointed by the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The group plans to have completed the process by the end of the 2005-2006 academic year. The Apostolic Visitation is the first such effort to take place in U.S. seminaries and formation houses since the 1980’s.