The death of two Chicago seminarians last week--both of whom were passengers in a car accident in which the driver’s blood alcohol level was double the legal limit--has raised new concerns about formation programs for potential priests and issues surrounding alcohol use.
Matthew Molnar and Jared Cheek, both seminarians for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, died last week when the car they were riding in crashed on the grounds of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake, going a reported 70 mph.
CNA has learned that Mundelein has sent a letter to Catholic seminaries around the country urging discussion about drinking in the nation‘s seminaries and what sort of character they ought to be looking for in priestly candidates.
The local sheriff’s office said that Robert Spaulding, 27, the driver of the car, faces a special class 2 aggravated DUI, punishable by 6-28 years in prison.
Both Spaulding, and the car’s registered owner, 36-year old Mark Rowlands, who was also in the car, have been suspended from the seminary. They were studying for dioceses in Wyoming and Ohio, respectively.
According to reports, Rowlands, a former Ohio police officer, was also arrested for carrying a gun, bullets and sheriff’s badges in the glove box of the car. Police are charging him with impersonating a police officer.
Archbishop Joseph Nauman of Kansas City commented after the accident that, Molnar and Cheek’s deaths "are a great loss for the archdiocese, and they will be deeply felt by the entire archdiocesan family…They were both wonderful and exuberant missionaries of Christ’s love, and representative of the high quality of young men we have studying for the priesthood of the archdiocese."
Molnar’s mother told the Chicago Tribune that he had gone to nearby Emil’s Pizza and Sports bar earlier in the evening but had lent his car to two friends who wanted to leave earlier in the evening.
He and Cheek, who he had known from Kansas, ended up in the ill-fated back seat of Rowland’s car.
"I feel sorry for the driver because he has to live with this all of his life," Pam Molnar told the Tribune. "Everybody makes choices. Sometimes their choices aren't the right choices."