Sex & the Seminaries


Later this year, the Vatican is expected to begin an apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries. The visitation comes in the wake of the clergy sexual-abuse scandal, a scandal some in the Vatican attribute to the alleged lack of discipline or worse in our seminaries.

What can we expect from the visitation? Most likely, to borrow a military term, we will see an exercise in command and control. Certainly, the examiners will want to ensure that seminaries are teaching what the Vatican understands to be appropriate and necessary for the formation of priests. Gatekeeper concerns are also likely to be high on the agenda, particularly admission policies and whether they are strict enough to screen out those who are unsuited for ministry.

Another concern will be how seminaries approach moral issues-particularly those of a sexual nature-and whether, in presenting church teaching, too much of an emphasis is placed on pastoral rather than doctrinal considerations. A number of conservatives have charged that in the recent past an atmosphere of moral laxity crept into seminaries and into seminary curricula, which in turn created a climate of sexual permissiveness. These critics also complain that candidates for the priesthood with conservative theological views are not being admitted and retained while candidates who are homosexual are. This has led, so the charge goes, to the establishment of gay subcultures that...

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About the Author

The Reverend Donald Cozzens teaches religious studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflection on the Priest’s Crisis of Soul (Liturgical Press) and Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church (Liturgical Press).