Almanac

Viewpoint - September 25, 2013

Guest opinion: Change of course at St. Patrick's Seminary

by Henry Organ

There is a quiet religious counter-revolution unfolding amidst bucolic St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park. Its conception can be traced to October 2012, when The Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone was installed as archbishop of San Francisco.

The Most Rev. Cordileone had been bishop of the Diocese of Oakland for a relatively short span of three years. The Oakland Diocese is less prestigious in the Catholic Church nationally and internationally than San Francisco, even though San Francisco has fewer parishioners. What the Archdiocese of San Francisco has, most importantly, and the Diocese of Oakland does not, is a seminary and university.

The primary purpose of the seminary and university is "... the initial and ongoing formation of Roman Catholic priests in a contemporary multicultural world, especially for dioceses within the Western United States and the Pacific Rim."

This formation is "... carried out according to the Church's magisterial teaching, under the direction of the Archbishop of San Francisco, ..." according to St. Patrick's website. The seminary and university, therefore, is of strategic and ideological importance, as its graduates and alumni go out to parishes and schools in this vast geographical area to teach and preach the word, as they have been taught.

The multiplying impact of the seminary and university is enormous and longitudinal. The archbishop of San Francisco, the Most Rev. Cordileone, is the chancellor of the seminary/university and chair of its board of directors. His appointment to San Francisco was visionary on the archbishop's part, but troubling to this writer.

The revolution of which I write is "Vatican II," an ecumenical council convened in Rome in 1962 by Pope John XXII, and closed in 1965 by Pope Paul VI. Vatican II sought to modernize the church, and was welcomed by progressive Catholics. Vatican II was met with strong opposition, however, by traditionalists; this opposition exists at this very moment. Yes, the Catholic Church has its own "tea party," and "altar-right" faction.

The changes occurring at St Patrick's Seminary and University are a reflection of this faction. The president and rector is being replaced by another priest, effective Oct. 1; other changes in key positions have taken place there since Archbishop Cordileone took office less than a year ago. (These changes will likely result in a radical change to the right of the faculty and the theology taught seminarians.)

The changes are also occurring at a time when Pope Francis is urging the clergy to be more compassionate, less judgmental, less obsessed with gay rights and abortion.

It was as if Pope Francis was speaking directly to Archbishop Cordileone, who shepherded California's Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative. There is a counter-revolution to Vatican II at pastoral St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park. I pray that it will fail.

Henry Organ lives in Menlo Park. He was a member of the Mid-Peninsula Catholic Interracial Council until it dissolved.

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