Sir, I am a seminarian completing my fourth year at the English College, Rome. I am a convert from Anglicanism and, before arriving in seminary, I had a career as a City lawyer. I have never been described as "wishy-washy."
I want, however, to take exception with your coverage of this College over the past eight months or so, especially with the recent article by Bess Twiston Davies (April 13).
The tone of this coverage has been gossipy and consistently negative. More disturbingly, the content does not reflect the current reality
of College life. Rather than talk to past students anonymously, I would welcome the opportunity to show Miss Twiston Davies the present reality.
We can readily admit that things may not have been done perfectly in the past. However, any new seminarian arriving at the College in the past couple of years would not recognise the institution you purport to describe. We have an excellent new Rector and ViceRector, and with the appointment of Mgr Tony Philpot from September, can look forward to having one of the finest English preachers and retreat givers as our Spiritual Director, Just to take two examples you Cite. There are a number of seminarians who have no problems in wearing clerical dress after candidacy as required by the Holy Father in his diocese. This does not present a problem in the College. Again, over the Easter Triduum, many of us will participate, some reading and singing, in the papal liturgies — with the blessing and encouragement of the College.
I am concerned that your negative approach could discourage priestly vocations at a time when they are desperately needed. I would like to assure anyone who may have such a vocation that the only criteria important in this College are a willingness to conform oneself to Christ and a desire to serve the Catholic faithful back home.
Yours faithfully, MARK VICKERS Venerabile Collegio Inglese Front Mr Antony P Pine/tin
Sir, As a convert from the Church of England seven years ago, I rejoiced to be joining the Catholic mainstream. It quickly became evident, though, that being mainstream Catholic in England means swimming against the tide. At least the C of E had an open dialogue between the liberal establishment, Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals. The Catholic Church in England is suffocating under a blanket of grey (or is it floral) liberalism
which tolerates no criticism, and an attitude which says of Roman norms, "these don't apply in England."
The English College as described in your article present a particularly sickening picture. The article stated what priests and seminarians have told me about life in that corner of Rome which is forever England.
Latin, for example. I know priests who, as seminarians, had to conceal their interest in Latin, despite the fact that Canon Law states of seminaries that "The Charter of Priestly Formation is to provide that the students... are well
versed in Latin" (Can 249). Only
in England would one hear a visiting priest announce with glee that he had never said Mass in Latin and didn't know how.
Or traditional devotion. Seminarians no doubt have to say the rosary secretly, despite the fact that Canon 246 states that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the rosary, mental prayer and other exercises of piety are to be fostered, so that the students may acquire the spirit of prayer and be strengthened in their vocation. Only in England does one meet Catholics who do not own a rosary or have any idea how to pray it.
And clerical dress. Mgr Toffolo reminds us that "at the end of the day priesthood is not about clerical dress." How profound! But the liberals are the ones obsessed with the subject. I cannot believe that today's seminarians give up lucrative and responsible jobs to play at dressing up. It is evident seminarians — except for the English, whose teachers prevent them — wear clerical dress as required in the Diocese of Rome at the Holy Father's request.
Only in England would one see the official photograph of the Bishops' Conference with one bishop in a black suit and the rest in woolly pullovers. Even in trendy France they dress as bishops.
There is one positive outcome of Mgr Toffolo's era, though. If seminarians can emerge from six years of being watched, suspected and punished for any signs of Rornanitasand survive they are worthy successors of the men trained at the Venerabile te evade Capture for as long as possible before dying for their faith. Let us pray that some of these admiiable young priests survive to become English Bishops before we end up, once again, completely out of touch with Rome.
Yours faithfully, ANTHONY P. PINCHIN Blackfiriars OXFORD From Mrs Josephine Way Sir, It is devoutly to be hoped that the past students of the Vener
abile interviewed in Bess Twiston Davies' article are no more than a minority of malcontents. Describing the staff as "flower power" and "control freaks" is a gross and offensive caricature.
The Romanitas they seek to acquire is of dubious value in the average British parish ... what happened to the principle of incul turation?
Loyalty to Church teaching on sexual morality will divide them from their flock, most of whom find Humanae Vitae to be at °aids with their lived experience. From what they say here, which may well not be the whole story, their priority seems to be polishing their souls
rather than the welfare of the people they are called to serve.
If we are not to lose a whole generation of younger Catholics, it is to be hoped that the view of Mgr Toffolo will prevail.
Yours faithfully, JOSEPHINE WAY Catholics for a Changing Church,
From Mrs Daphne McLeod .
Sir, Thank you for printing Bess Twiston Davies' article on the problems in the English College in Rome.
Once again she has alerted Catholics to a very serious threat which. unless it is corrected, will cause great harm to the Church, especially the Church in this country. We are all called to sanctity, so seminaries used to concentrate on the prayerful and spiritual formation of their students, trying to ensure that parishes get holy priests who will offer the Sacrifice of the Mass with great reverence and dispense the Sacraments with care and dignity, because this is the best way to inspire lay-people to holiness.
Strangely. some of the students seem to understand this much better than their superiors. Even understanding Church teaching and knowing the Scriptures, important as they are to priests, should come after forming a close personal relationship with Christ. Organising educational councils etc — which the former Rector of the College, Mgi Toffolu. cites belong down the list.
Perhaps SLininE.1 y Reottn.s should Keep their eyes Lin St John Viauncv. the Cure of Ai,. rairoti Saint of priests, whose holiness led so many people to Heaven, though I doubt if he could have organised a parish dance. They must also remember that Catholic priests are there to channel Truth and Grace to the people of God through the Mass and the Sacraments first, even before mixing with them in fellowship.
Yours faithfully, DAPHNE McLEOD Pro Ecclesia et Pont ifice