Friday, 16 January 2009

The elephant in the room: heresy

A lot of the fuss about South Brisbane has related to its liturgical practices.

There are good reasons for this, given the problem of invalid baptisms there.

But let's face it, the underlying, real issue there and elsewhere is heresy.

Heresy is far more dangerous than liturgical abuses (which are often the symptom rather than the disease) such as not bothering to wear vestments, particularly when the person holding erroneous views is a priest, since by virtue of his position teaches and judges others and can thus lead others to perdition.

Visitation of US Seminaries

So it is alarming then, to read in the just released report of visitations to US seminaries in 2006, which points to continuing significant problems in the spiritual, moral and intellectual formation of seminarians.

There are some positives in the report, and it does find that progress that has been made. But it also notes that:
  • even in the best seminaries there can be professors who show reservations about magisterial teaching, particularly in the area of moral theology;
  • Latin and patristics are significant gaps in the curriculum of most seminaries - gaps that clearly make it harder for erroneous teaching to be countered by reading the original documents;
  • most don't say Lauds or Vespers in common, or even have a Mass on the weekends;
  • some seminaries remain hostile to traditional devotions; others never expose their students to them, or leave their practice to the individual seminarian.
Although I know one or two seminaries in Australia have a reasonably good reputation, I doubt that the overall situation in Australia is very different to the US (at least based on some of the comments by quasi-seminarian and dark mutterings from others!).

But turning out orthodox priests surely has to be pretty high up the priority list give the link between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, the risk to the flock, and the difficulty in removing problematic priests later on (as demonstrated not least by the South Brisbane affair).

The report is certainly worth a careful read.


Joshua said...

Having studied at each of the Catholic theology faculties in Melbourne, I would say that there is plenty of evidence of dissent at every one except (surprise, surprise) the J.P. II Institute.

I remember with wry humour the lecture in Pentateuch class on the Marxist interpretation of the history of the Israelites' conquest of Canaan (you really couldn't make this stuff up, honestly).

Then there was Sr Barbie, let's call her, who taught in class that you can't get ANY moral norms out of the Scriptures (she must've missed those ten whaddaya-call'ems)...

I could go on and on.

Joshua said...

Now I've read the report - surely there exists a like report for Australia? (I recall such a Visitation being undertaken within the last decade.) Is it, however, a secret here? I would be surprised if it were as sanguine as the American report!

Son of Trypho said...

I remember with wry humour the lecture in Pentateuch class on the Marxist interpretation of the history of the Israelites' conquest of Canaan (you really couldn't make this stuff up, honestly).

Joshua - was it "solid" Marxist interpretation (something like DeSteCroix's work on Athens) or the average pseudo-academic gibberish?

(Not that I agree with Marxist interpretations of history, however some of the work done by some of the better academics inclined towards that analysis is with some merit IMHO).

Son of Trypho said...

Further, I don't want to be harsh Terra, but I recall reading a document dated to 1979 which talked about the failures of moral theology, teaching, and immorality in US seminaries (in relation to the US sex-abuse scandals). I'm troubled that many of the same issues are still problematic 25+ years later. What has gone wrong that has caused such significant problems in the US (and broader Church)?