From Mgr Brian M Dazely
Sir, Recently you published an article (April 13) criticising the Venerable English College in Rome, its staff and former Rector. The article was based on anonymous statements made by former students of the college.
During the period in question I had the honour to be the Rector of the Pontifical Becla College also in Rome. The Venerabile and the Beth enjoyed a strong and healthy working relationship. I greatly appreciated the courtesy of the students and the support of the staff.
To the best of my knowledge the English College was held in high esteem for its academic standards, quality of liturgy, generous hospitality and enthusiasm for drama and football. On one famous occasion the Beda almost triumphed. Alas, it was not to be. On a higher plane men of the Venerabile were to be seen providing music for and assisting at a number of Papal liturgical ceremonies.
There is a need for informed debate on the formation of men for the priesthood. The Holy Father acknowledges this in his letter to the Church Pastores dabo vobis, written in the light of the 1990 Synod of Bishops. The Pope writes about "The phenomenon of priestly vocations arising among people of adult age, after some years of experience of lay life and professional involvement", and states "it is not always possible and often it is not even convenient to invite adults to follow the educative itinerary of the major seminary....what needs to be provided is some kind of specific programme to ensure that such persons receive the spiritual and intellectual formation they require." He adds that this may well include periods spent in the community of the major seminary.
Such a debate requires the good will and knowledge of us all, not least the people of God from whom candidates for the priesthood come and the finance to support them. Those who have been hurt by their experience in the seminary will have an important contribution to make to that debate, as will those of us who feel we owe so much to the seminaries which nurtured our vocation to priesthood.
Yours faithfully, BRIAN M DAZELEY Holy Trinity Church Newark NG24 4AU From Mr John Knightley Sir, I was surprised to see the coverage of the English College in Rome, given the more important issues in the media at the present time.
At the risk of giving greater prominence to a national hall of residence suffering from ennui de fin de siecle, one should try and imagine Rome without an English seminary. Few of the staff that work in the eternal city would be fazed by such a loss to Romanitas.
1 am sure Bess Twiston Davies will be the first to say "as we have heard so we have seen" — she is not alone in her diagnosis of present ills in Rome's last Sixties style Academy.
Yours faithfully, JOHN KNIGHTLEY Bath BA2 4AE From Fr Gregory Knowles Sir, I refer to your recent article "Flower power at the Venerabile". It is tempting to submit a catalogue of the many errors and inaccuracies confidently paraded verbatim or otherwise as fact by Bess Twiston Davies. Perhaps it would suffice to address their questionable context.
The thrust of Miss Twiston Davies's argument is that there has been a deliberate, systematic, and official routing of anything "conservative" and any seminarian associated therewith at the English College.
Whilst I can recognize and still do sympathise with some of the seminary experiences and perspectives described, it must be stated clearly that their reporting has been sharply circumscribed. I often have to point out that such appellations as "conservative", "traditionalist", and "right wing" must not be used as synonyms of "wrong" and "bad", such tolerance having been encouraged and practised by staff at the Venerabile. Yet neither is that same vocabulary entitled to reserve to itself the tenure of perfection.
There are, of course, valid concerns about the formation processes at the Venerabi/e: thanks to sin, perfect relationships are our goal instead of our starting point. Perhaps one fault shared by students and staff alike has been a reluctance to grasp a broader, even holistic, understanding of issues and of the lives of each other. That certain characteristics, as opposed to caricatures, have been persecuted in the quest for an identikit seminarian and end-product priest is quite simply untrue. Nor, for that matter, have there been unwaveringly stereotypical members of formation staff.
On the vexed issues of attire raised by those quoted, the obsession with the cloak of anonymity is neither necessary nor mature. At the risk of exposing my own faults and weaknesses as seminarian, priest, and human being for general comment, I do not seek to disassociate myself from what I want said in public.
Yours sincerely, GREGORY KNOWLES (Venerable English College 1991-1997) Church of St Peter and St Paul, Wakefield WF2 7NR