The governance of the seminary is another topic to be addressed in the current apostolic visitation. Among the particular questions asked in the Instrumentum Laboris, four seem especially significant from my seminary experience:
- How does the Bishop/Major Superior exercise effectively his authority over the seminary?
- Is there a spirit of harmony and ecclesial communion among the formation faculty members? Do they show a sincere sentire cum Ecclesia? Do they give a good example of priestly living?
- Is there an appropriate demarcation of the seminary area and program, so that it is clearly an institution set apart for the formation of candidates to the priesthood?
- Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary faculty members who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the Church or whose conduct does not provide good example to future priests?
In this post, I’m only going to talk about the first question — about the bishop’s authority over the seminary. I assume that this issue has more or less been taken care of with the recent appointment of a new rector of Saint Paul Seminary. But things were a bit dicey back when I was there. Of course, I was never a member of the faculty, so my perspective has always been an outsider’s view. But the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of a classmate of mine from the seminary led me to believe that the relation between the faculty and the Archbishop has been a challenging one. Here is how I remember my classmate describing the proceedings: in his third year of formation, Saint Paul Seminary did not recommend him for continuance; archbishop did recommend him for continuance; the seminary refused; the archbishop sent him to a seminary in Florida to complete studies; things were going well there until he was suddenly called to rector’s office for more of same difficulties; Bishop Robert Carlson invited him to study for Sioux Falls, and he was subsequently ordained for that diocese.
The idea of the faculty of a seminary refusing a bishop’s request is amazing to me. Again, I don’t imagine such a situation would arise anymore. But some of the faculty members who were not fond of this seminarian — for reasons that seemed to me quite unjust — remain on staff. One does not: the professor of moral theology at the time has since left the seminary and the priesthood, and now teaches at the College of Saint Catherine.