.- A Vatican committee began its nine-month evaluation process of the 229 seminaries in the United States. Its first stop Monday was at Aquinas Institute of Theology on the campus of St. Louis University.
The evaluations were called in response to the national sexual abuse scandal among clergy that broke three years ago.
The five-member committee includes a seminary professor, campus chaplain, parish pastor and director of religious studies. It is led by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Philadelphia.During the committee’s four-day stay in St. Louis, its members will follow a questionnaire that the Vatican prepared with each of the 25 seminarians, as well as recently ordained graduates, faculty and staff, reported the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.
One of the questions reportedly asks about evidence of homosexuality in the seminary.
At a press conference Monday, seminary rector Fr. Charles Bouchard supported the nationwide evaluation project. Seminaries had made several changes over the past 25 years that needed to be evaluated, he said reported the Post Dispatch. Those changes include a rigorous psychological evaluation, yearlong internship at a parish in another city for outside evaluation and regular assessments during study.
At Aquinas, Fr. Bouchard said admission personnel have tried to determine whether the seminary applicants have the capability to live a celibate life.
The committee will submit a report to the Vatican on each seminary at the end of spring, after which, the Vatican will supply a written evaluation to each bishop or seminary rector.