WASHINGTON (August 19, 2005)—The Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries and houses of formation by the Congregation for Catholic Education of the Holy See will begin in late September. Also involved in the Visitation is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The announcement was made by the Most Reverend Edwin F. O'Brien, Archbishop of Military Services, who is the Coordinator of the Visitation.
The Visitation will include schools of theology as well as college-level seminaries, houses of formation, and academic institutions that form future priests -- both secular clergy and members of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. There are 229 such institutions. However, those with very small student populations, as of the upcoming academic year, may not be visited.
Teams of three or four – more for larger institutions and fewer for small ones -- made up of bishops and seminary-related personnel, including members of men's religious institutes, will conduct the visits. One hundred and seventeen (117) visitors have been selected by the Congregation for Catholic Education, after consultation with the Committee on Priestly Formation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM). The Congregation for Catholic Education will also designate the institutions to which each visitor is assigned.
Each team will submit its report to the Congregation for Catholic Education. Once there has been a distillation of the data received from these reports, the Congregation will be in a position to make its overall evaluation available to the bishops and religious superiors of the United States.
Resource persons, including deacons, religious and lay people, will participate in the Visitation process. They will be appointed by the Coordinator and participate in visits to the larger institutions.
The plan is to complete most of the Visitation by the end of the 2005-2006 academic year.
In describing the Visitation, Archbishop O'Brien said, "I am confident that this Apostolic Visitation will assist us in promoting the highest standards of formation necessary to bring forth qualified men for priestly ordination."
The Congregation has indicated the following objectives for the Visitation: 1) To examine the criteria for admission of candidates and the programs of human formation and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully live chastely for the Kingdom; 2) To examine other aspects of priestly formation in the United States. Particular attention will be reserved for the intellectual formation of seminarians, to examine fidelity to the Magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology, in the light of Veritatis Splendor (the 1993 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II, "The Splendor of the Truth").
In their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted in June, 2002, the U.S. Bishops pledged their "complete cooperation with the Apostolic Visitation of our diocesan/eparchial seminaries and religious houses of formation recommended in the Interdicasterial Meeting with the Cardinals of the United States and the Conference Officers in April 2002."
A previous Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries and houses of formation was conducted in the 1980s.