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 CNS Story:

VISITATION-COLLEGE Jun-15-2012 (700 words) xxxi

Irish archbishops tell Vatican report on Rome seminary contained errors

By Michael Kelly
Catholic News Service

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Four Irish archbishops said they told the Vatican that a report on an apostolic visitation to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome contained factual errors.

The archbishops told The Irish Times newspaper that an initial report on the visitation, given to them by the Vatican, "contained some serious errors of fact, including named individuals. Attentive to the importance of applying due process, and respecting the rights of those named in this initial report, the trustees made a detailed and considered response to the Holy See."

The Irish Times reported that the archbishops' response to the Vatican said the visitation report "would appear to prioritize its own view of orthodoxy, priestly identity, separation and devotion" and its "harsh judgments on staff members" were "unsupported by evidence."

A spokesman for the Irish bishops told Catholic News Service June 15 there would be no further comment from the archbishops, who were attending the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

The January 2011 visitation to the Irish College was led by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, part of the church's response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Irish church. As part of the months-long visitation, the Vatican also appointed apostolic visitors to Ireland's four archdioceses and religious orders, and Cardinal Dolan also led visits to seminaries in Ireland.

The Irish Times reported June 15 that it had obtained a copy of Cardinal Dolan's report, which allegedly criticized "the atmosphere, structure, staffing and guiding philosophy" of the Rome-based Irish seminary.

Cardinal Dolan refused to comment on the veracity of the claims, insisting that the apostolic visitation process was confidential.

"While obviously others do not consider themselves bound by the promised confidentiality -- so necessary and understandable to assure a fair and honest gathering of information (and) requested by the Apostolic See -- I certainly do," Cardinal Dolan told The Irish Times.

The newspaper claims that the unpublished visitation report, which was presented to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome, called for "substantial reform" at the college.

The four archbishops -- Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin; Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam; and Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel -- were the college's trustees. They allegedly were criticized in the report as seeming to be "disengaged from college governance, with meetings, minutes, agenda and direct supervision irregular. ... The general rule of governance is 'Let's keep doing what we have been for the last 35 years,'" according to The Irish Times.

The newspaper claims the report said that staffers were "critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the magisterium, piety or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features."

The Irish bishops' conference announced in May that three of the four formation staff in the college would be replaced. Only the rector, Msgr. Ciaran O'Carroll, who has only been in place for about a year, would remain.

Cardinal Dolan's report allegedly said "the college suffers from the reputation of being 'gay friendly,' however unjust such a reputation might be."

He said he was "eager to underline that he did not find any evidence of rampant immorality or a homosexual subculture, and that the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle."

"Likewise, he is convinced that the staff in no way condones such conduct," the newspaper reported.

On March 20, the Vatican released an eight-page summary of the findings and recommendations of the apostolic visitation to four Irish archdioceses, religious institutes and seminaries, in Ireland and in Rome.

The Vatican summary said aspects of seminary life that still require improvement included: formation "rooted in authentic priestly identity" to prepare men for a life of celibacy; better governance of seminaries by bishops; "more consistent admission criteria" and a more thorough examination of a candidate's suitability for the priesthood; and child protection education as a part of seminarians' academic studies.

Cardinal Dolan was assisted in the visitation report by Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, then-archbishop of Baltimore, and Msgr. Francis Kelly, who runs Casa Santa Maria at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Cardinals Dolan and O'Brien are former rectors of the North American College.


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