.- As the much-talked-about national seminary visitation process gets underway, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, head of the military Archdiocese and overseer of the visitations recently criticized those who seek to reduce them to the issue of homosexuality alone--something he called “a serious error.” In a statement released Friday by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archbishop said that, “The Visitation is an assessment of institutions and not of individuals, to see whether our seminaries and houses of formation are doing the work they were established to do -- to train men to be Catholic priests who accurately and fully convey the Church’s teachings to their people and who live out their life-long priestly commitments, especially with regard to celibacy.”
A team of Vatican and USCCB appointed representatives are currently visiting U.S. seminaries and houses of formation in what is likely to be a multi-year process.
While homosexuality is certainly one of the issues to be looked at, the Archbishop said that “It is an extremely serious error for the media or any segment of the public to reduce the Visitation to only one issue.”
“The Visitation”, he said, “is meant to look at the life of each institution as a whole to see whether it is helping to form men who, from a human, intellectual, and spiritual point of view, will be faithful to their commitments as Catholic priests and worthy leaders of the communities for which they will eventually be responsible.”
An ambiguity, he said, about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and even “whether some homosexual activity could be compatible with celibacy” is not compatible with helping men to develop a mature commitment to living out celibacy every day for the rest of their lives.”
Likewise, Archbishop O’Brien mentioned the Vatican document which many say could be released soon, regarding seminary admission of homosexual candidates.
He pointed out that, “Such a document has been said to be in preparation for several years as a policy directive for the whole Church. Connecting the possible release of this document to either the Visitation or the sex abuse crisis in the United States in 2002 ignores these facts.”
Commenting also on media reports of the Archbishop’s own words regarding candidates “who have engaged in homosexual activity or who have strong homosexual inclinations” not being admitted to the priesthood, he said: “I was reflecting my personal opinion and offering a prudential practice based on twelve years experience as rector (president) of two U.S. seminaries.”
“As Visitation Coordinator,” he said, “I do not speak in an official capacity for either the Holy See or the USCCB on this matter.”