Category: St. Mary’s News

The McCarrick Report: a call to reform Catholic priest selection | COMMENTARY

By PHILLIP J. BROWN | FOR THE BALTIMORE SUN | NOV 18, 2020 AT 11:29 AM

In this Nov. 10, 2003 file photo, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., center, joins fellow clergy in prayer at the end of the opening session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Washington. McCarrick – who was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 – served as head of Catholic dioceses in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, and in Washington. A report released by the Vatican on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, found that three decades of bishops, cardinals and popes dismissed or downplayed reports of McCarrick’s misconduct with young men. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The McCarrick Report investigating sexual abuse by disgraced former Washington, D.C., cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, released this month by the Vatican, catalogs facts that cannot be ignored, denied or explained away. The harm inflicted by Mr. McCarrick over decades is a source of deep remorse and shame for the Catholic Church. Like most, I am bewildered that he was able to advance in the ranks while preying on victims even while serious accusations about him were known or credibly rumored.

Before priesthood, I served as assistant attorney general for Pardons, Parole and Probation in North Dakota. I reviewed the files of every inmate in the corrections system, which included every kind of sex crime. Later I served as guardian ad litem for the juvenile court, representing the interests of children, including those who had been sexually abused. As a priest and canon lawyer, I have been deeply involved in cases of clerical sexual abuse of children and young people. I have had a life-long commitment to the welfare and well-being of children and young adults — that they be protected from sexual predators especially. That life experience has informed my work as a canonist and now as a seminary official.

The greatest value of the McCarrick Report will be what we learn from it to ensure that nothing like this is able to happen again.

We know so much more than ever before about how to cultivate human maturity, psychological and emotional well-being, and the qualities necessary to be a well-integrated, virtuous person. We need to be guided by scientific data and well-articulated criteria in judging whether a man is suitable to be ordained a priest, given the tremendous responsibility to care for others and everything else this vocation entails. There can be no room for wishful thinking or a misguided trust that sacramental grace will compensate for deficits in the human qualities needed to be a good pastor; no one should ever again simply ordain a man and hope for the best.

There must be a willingness to exclude anyone who does not fulfill objective criteria of maturity, self-possession, self-control, self-discipline and goodwill toward all others; to exclude anyone who presents any identifiable risk of the capacity to do harm to others. A “pastoral heart” full of good intentions is not enough; there must be a demonstrated capacity to behave in every circumstance as a good pastor and to function as a mature, psycho-sexually healthy person. The criteria have to be applied rigorously. Everyone must agree that “looking the other way,” waiting for someone else to make the hard calls, claiming “plausible deniability,” or naive credulity — all features of the institutional culture revealed in the McCarrick Report — are wholly unacceptable.

Seminaries must shed the veneer of being sacred enclaves that non-clerics are just not able, or qualified, to understand or critique — clerics forming future clerics with no input from others. Laypersons, and especially women, must be an integral part of seminary faculties with prominent roles in the formation and evaluation process. They bring an essential perspective to the closed clerical world with its inevitable blind spots that led to tragedies like the depredations of Theodore McCarrick.

Seminary officials have often had good instincts about suitability without the technical knowledge and other tools we have today for making sound judgments (sophisticated psychological evaluations, holistic developmental models based on sound science, etc.). Those in positions of authority and officials who serve them need to listen to the people charged with the responsibility of formation and evaluation and follow their recommendations, regardless of pressures to get men ordained and get them into service — service that has too often been marred, if not contradicted, by human immaturity and a lack of virtue in men who should never have been ordained in the first place.

Better to lose one priest than gain even one more victim of a morally depraved cleric. And those in authority have to want to know and be willing to turn those away who, however well-intentioned, are ill-suited to the rigors of ministry and a lifetime of service. That is what the seminary I serve is committed to. All schools of formation must be committed to these standards. Future failure is not an option. “Many are called, but few are chosen” must be a constant reminder for all those who dare to pursue the Catholic priesthood.

Rev. Phillip J. Brown (brownpj@stmarys.edu) is president-rector of Saint Mary’s Seminary & University, the United States’ first and oldest Catholic seminary, in Baltimore, Maryland.

The article can be found here in the Baltimore Sun.

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Inaugural Episode of the “McGivney Series”

The nation’s first Roman Catholic seminary launched a new virtual discussion series on Thursday, November 12, 2020 to highlight the timeless pastoral qualities of St. Mary’s Seminary and University alumnus and founder of the Knights of Columbus Venerable Michael J. McGivney – who was beatified on October 31, 2020 in New Haven, Connecticut. Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney this past May, clearing the way for his beatification which is the final step before canonization.

This first segment of the “The McGivney Series,” aimed at exploring the essential qualifications and qualities of effective priestly ministry in the 21st century, and included a panel discussion featuring Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, Mr. Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and moderator, the Reverend Phillip J. Brown, P.S.S., President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary & University.

During his lifetime, Fr. McGivney demonstrated uncommon pastoral zeal, Christ-like humility, care and compassion for others, and an uncompromising commitment to the largely immigrant community he served as a parish priest in New Haven, CT, exemplifying the kind of priestly formation that the Sulpician tradition makes possible and which he received at St. Mary’s during the four years he attended as a member of the Class of 1877.

“Though serving in the nineteenth century, Father McGivney demonstrated the same essential qualities needed for effective priestly ministry in the 21st century: faithfulness, Christ-like humility, zeal for the well-being, and especially the spiritual welfare of his parishioners and others, in particular those who are most vulnerable, and dedicated service,” said Fr. Phillip Brown, P.S.S. “We take great pride in Fr. McGivney’s acknowledgement that his years of formation at St. Mary’s in the Sulpician tradition served as a defining influence in nurturing his vocation and in his life-long commitment to serve others as a parish priest.”

The focus of his first segment of the McGivney Series was “Who Was Michael McGivney and What Does He Have to Say to Us Today?”  

 

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Lector & Acolyte / Candidacy 2020

Most Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, celebrated the Rite of Institution to the Ministries of Lector & Acolyte and the Rite of Candidacy on October 27, 2020. The Lector & Acolyte Ministries were originally scheduled for March 2020 but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Nine men received the Ministry of Lector, seven men received the ministry of Acolyte, and nine men received the Rite of Candidacy. The ceremony was recorded and live-streamed since we were not able to have any guests due to COVID protocols. The Mass can be viewed here.

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St. Mary’s Alumni Day 2020

Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly (SMSU 1970) presided at Mass and Rev. Edward Griswold (SMSU 1972) was the homilist. Fr. Griswold was also awarded the Robert F. Leavitt Award in Pastoral Leadership. Because of COVID restrictions all events were live-streamed.

The live stream can be viewed here.

The Homily can be read  here ALUMNI DAY Homily.

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Welcome New Seminarians!

Fr. Phillip Brown, P.S.S., President-Rector, the Faculty and St. Mary’s Seminary & University Seminarians welcomed 30 men to formation at America’s first Roman Catholic Seminary on August 21st.  This year’s incoming class is the largest in over a decade. The Introduction to Seminary Life program concluded with a retreat for the entire community and Opening Covenant Liturgy, which was celebrated by Most Rev. William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore.   

The Mass was live-streamed and can be here.

View the gallery:

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Blessing of New Seminarian Life Wing

Fr. Phillip Brown, P.S.S. blessed the new seminarian life wing on Monday, August 31st.  Fr. Brown thanked the team from EwingCole Architects and Lewis Contractors who completed the project this summer in time for the return of all the seminarians.   The Blessing was videoed and can be seen here:

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Rev. Robert F. Leavitt Awarded First Place

St. Mary’s Seminary & University is pleased to announce that Rev. Robert F. Leavitt, France-Merrick University Professor of Systematic Theology, has been awarded First Place in the category of theology for books published in 2019 by the Association of Catholic Publishers for  The Truth Will Make You Free: The New Evangelization for a Secular Age  (Liturgical Press). As many of you know Fr. Leavitt was President-Rector of St. Mary’s for 28 years prior to his retirement in 2008. St. Mary’s is extremely proud of Fr. Leavitt receiving First Place for this significant and influential contribution to the literature on The New Evangelization in the context of modern secular societies.

Please see the full announcement here:

https://www.catholicpublishers.org/2020-publishing-award-winners#Theology

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25th Anniversary of Ecumenical Encyclical, Ut Unum Sint

St. Mary’s Seminary & University has long embraced Pope St. John Paul’s commitment to ecumenism and celebrates the 25th anniversary of his encyclical – Ut Unum Sint. For over a half century, St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute has been a center of theological education, dialogue, deeper understanding and reconciliation among all Christians, in dedication to Jesus’ hope and prayer, “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…” (Jn 17:21)

USCCB Chairman for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs on 25th Anniversary of Encyclical on Catholic Church’s Commitment to Ecumenism   May 25, 2020

WASHINGTON – On the anniversary of the encyclical. . . on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has issued the following statement:
 
“May 25, 2020, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. . . .This anniversary should serve as a reminder that the way of ecumenism is the way of the Church (7), and that all Catholics are called to espouse a strong commitment to building Christian unity.
 
“Pope St. John Paul II, who worked tirelessly to build ecumenical relationships, described the impulse of working for unity between Christians as ‘a duty of Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love’ (8). We rejoice that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to advance this singular mission between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. We celebrate numerous theological convergences that have been discovered in ecumenical dialogues over the course of the past twenty-five years as we seek to grow closer together.
 
“Pope St. John Paul II concluded this encyclical with a profound insight from St. Cyprian’s Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: ‘God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. For God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (102). In a time of pandemic, people seek refuge and unity in their faith community. May this anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s call for Christian unity serve as a unique pastoral opportunity to build bridges by continuing to reach out with love to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May He heal our wounds of division and help us grow closer in unity, especially in this moment, by witnessing together to the peace of Christ that our world needs so very much.”
 

 
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Pope John Paul II, Saint John Paul II, ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, encyclical, Christian unity, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis.
 
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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

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Remembering Fr. John Kemper

Very Rev. John C. Kemper, P.S.S.
Retired Provincial Superior
United States Province of the Society of St. Sulpice
7/29/57- 5/21/20
 
St. Mary’s Seminary & University community joins with the Sulpcian community in mourning the death of Fr. John Kemper.  Fr. Kemper struggled valiantly against esophageal cancer, diagnosed eighteen months ago and which unfortunately quickly metastasized. Through his strong spirit, determination and love for the work he was doing and the excellent medical care he received, Fr. Kemper lived much longer than originally expected, a testament to his strong will and positive attitude. Let us all pray for the peaceful repose of Fr. Kemper’s soul and for his family.

Requiescat in pace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

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