4 June 2023


 The late Fr Jerome Bertram recounts, concerning the now defunct seminary at Wonersh, that "The buildings had been greatly expanded in 1962, for the then bishop of Southark [Cyril Cowderoy] was sure that the forthconing General Council would trigger such a vast increase in priestly vocations that double the capacity would be needed. All those extra priests would then fan out over the diocese to serve the enormously increased congregations of eager converts that would come flooding into the church as soon as the longed-for reforms had begun to take effect.".

Six decades later, 3 July 2021, Wonersh was closed down. The latest intake of seminarians had numbered, er, nil.

PF and his cronies still talk about the need to implement Vatican II. But, as generation has followed generation, the English bishops have closed seminaries. They are neither fools nor fantasists. They do not repetitively explain that it's all just a matter of time: "we must keep the empty seminaries ticking over until the inevitable Vatican II tsunami of new seminarians come along ... we know we shall soon need these buildings ..."

The English bishops are not fools or fantasists. They can detect a busted flush when it comes clearly enough into view. There was never a 'Vatican II effect' and sixty years after the Council, however much Popes keep on about it, the bishops have no illusions: their dwindling congregations can no longer support the empty echoing corridors of unused seminaries. Keeping their fingers crossed that, any day now, the miracle will happen, is no longerr treated as an option.

Every time the bishops have closed a seminary, that action has in fact been a massive, public admission, before God and before the World, that the Vatican II miracle did not happen and it is not now expected that it will happen.

So what has become, in the Church life of our time, of "Vatican II"?

It has metamorphosed into a mantra. Implement Vatican II means Smash Tradition.

In our time, the question has become sharper and nastier because, unlike his predecessors, PF has a shrill and violent hatred of Tradition.

We have seen this in his attitude to the Holy Spirit. His professed conviction has been that the Holy Spirit will manifest himself suddenly, unexpectedly, and in unexpected forms. We must be open to this. 

But when something unexpected does show itself, PF just doesn't want to know. The interest of younger generations in Tradition, not least in liturgical Tradition, drives him into uncontrollable fury. 

Does anybody know if the Trustees of the Franciscans of the Immaculate have yet been bullied into surrendering their property and assets?

What's the latest news on that property in Sloane Square?

But PF is still a happy man, sending out cartloads of Roches with instructions to boldly smash where nobody has smashed before.



Russell Snow said...

We have the same urges in orthodoxy and this is a potent warning to resist the calls to abandon our tradition. We are seeing a lot of converts seeking out traditional forms. I know because I'm one of them.

P. O'Brien said...

And when you smash traditional ways of doing things, you seriously disorient people, confusing them and making them rootless. And in response they seek out something for security and stability -- which explains why good Catholics for decades now have been chasing apparition after apparition and getting involved with cultish movements, the so-called "Movements of the Spirit", such as the Neo-Catechumenal Way, Opus Dei, the Focolare Movement, Communion and Liberation, etc., etc.

Kathleen1031 said...

That's a good point, P, people do chase after apparitions and new things, because their foundation has been taken away, belief in Christ, and Him crucified.
We are a church of believers being led by unbelievers. What could go wrong. They aren't content to be merely unbelievers who just go through the motions, as they did for so long, they have been animated into action by the Grandmaster, the destroyer.
It feels now as if we are all propping up a corpse. With God all things are possible, and it would need to be of God, to alter the path they have put the church on.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

Tradition has a way of coming back...a reference on Twitter to an event which you have mentioned more than once:


Eric said...

This is in no way a 'Pope Francis problem'. The 'smash tradition' mentality is endemic from top to bottom in the clergy and, Summorum Pontificum and Ecclesia Dei aside, it was there just as much of it during the papacy of JPII and the papacy of he who quit on us, God rest his soul. It was also there during the papacies of Pius XII and Pius X each of whom smashed traditions that were in excess of a thousand years old during their time. Pius XII when he rewrote Jerome's Psalter according to his own insipid taste and then proceeded to both annihilate the liturgical calendar and to change the order of the day that is supposed to begin at eventide as it had going back into the Semitic Middle East to a time so far back that even the hills don't remember it, and Pius X when he abandoned the Roman Ordo of the Psalms that had been in existence since before the time of Mahomet and opened the floodgates for everything that came after.

Sue Sims said...

I'm currently staying with my oldest son, who lives and works in the Irish Republic and has just bought a house there. This morning I drove down to St Peter's College, where Fr O'Donohue FSSP was singing Mass in the college chapel. Googling the College later, I discovered that the enormous and impressive buildings (A.W.Pugin, natch) were built in the 1840s as a seminary. One isn't surprised that the seminary was closed in 1999, the ten remaining students dispersed to other seminaries, and the buildings converted to a boys' secondary school. More fruits of Vatican II...

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Eric

Do you, perchance, mean "the papacy of him who quit on us"? In English "of" is normally followed by the oblique case, 'him', not the nominative, 'he'.

Ceile De said...

On behalf of Eric "and I" ...... it's the "who" that confuses, every time!

Bill Murphy said...

Yes, the wonderful effect of Vatican II. Did not Ushaw put up a new block in the 1960s in eager anticipation of the uncontrollable flood of new vocations? They were allegedly going to put up yet another block late in the 1960s (they had 380 acres), but the existing 400 spaces were more than enough. By 2002 there 38 seminarians. A 90% vacancy rate was still apparently tolerable. The plug was finally pulled in 2010 when they were down to 26.

North of the Border, there was the new adventurous Brutalist glory of St Peter's Seminary in Cardross. It failed to get hordes of new vocations in. It couldn't even keep the old fashioned Scottish rain out. It is now one of the newest ruins in Britain.

Are Oscott and Allen Hall far from closure? Maybe they are still hanging on for that Francis Effect that was advertised in 2013.

Eric said...

Thank you Father. I was uncertain about the grammar there. I appreciate the correction.

And my only point bringing that sad story up is twofold: what Pope Benedict XVI did on February 11, 2013 was as much, if not more, of an assault on tradition as (than) anything Francis has done. We live in an age where fathers abandon their children with such absurd regularity that it has become shockingly commonplace, and that did not help. And second, if one is not, for whatever reason, impressed with the papacy of Francis then there is really only one person to blame for that now isn't there?

John Patrick said...

@Eric, at least "him who quit on us" before he quit gave us Summorum Pontificum, Anglicanorum Coetibus, and at least a better translation of the English Mass liturgy. Imagine the situation Tradition would be in today if we did not have these key reforms.

I do agree however that this is more that just PF and his cabal at work. It is endemic among priests of a certain generation. I recall one incident of an elderly visiting priest, annoyed by the use of Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei at our Novus Ordo mass, shouting "Vatican 2! Vatican 2!" at our poor music director after mass. He subsequently departed for greener pastures and as a result We now have the usual banal compositions.

I suspect that visiting priest had never read the part of Sacrosanctum Concilium that states the Latin Language should have price of place.

El Codo said...

Oscott is doing very well, much better than Allen Hall which seems to be propped up by Neo Cats. When I was at the College fairly recently, there was a strong morale and plenty of good men. Excellent, Catholic teaching md worship taking the Via Media.

Prayerful said...

St Peter's Seminary in Cardross is an urbex paradise of sorts in its rural location. It and quite a few seminaries, churches and monasteries were from the 50s onwards built in a harsh, aggressive style or were given harsh looking chapels or blocks in that style. So many are ruins now or nearly empty and teetering on ruin. V2, the Liturgical Movement as it was from the 30s onwards, all those trends have proven to be utterly disastrous and should be thrown in the bin. Sadly a bit more time will need to pass, more time than we have, before the unrealistic men in the Vatican and their acolytes are no longer among us, or at least not decisionmakers.

Colin Spinks said...

Perhaps those of us with more traditional liturgical tastes might take to carrying around copies of the relevant paragraphs of “Vatican Ii”, ie those suggesting as normative (I) the Latin tongue, (ii) Ad Orientem celebration (iii) Gregorian chant (iv) the Roman Canon. This way eruptions such as those mentioned above might be countered with a polite “Ah yes, I have a copy in my pocket, let’s see what it says, shall we Father?”

Robin Davies said...

I cannot remember the name of the semimary, in the north of England I think, which denied the Latin Mass Society the use of their facilities on the grounds that they were training clergy for the future not the past. I do remember that they have since closed down.

Zephyrinus said...

In response to Bill Murphy's pithy and erudite Comment (see, above), I am minded to recall the statement given to me, whilst staying at Ushaw in early-2011, by an elderly Priest.

The Priest had been a Seminarian at Ushaw in the early-1960s, during which time Mass was Celebrated in Saint Cuthbert's magnificent, ornate, Puginesque, Chapel on a daily basis and attended by over FOUR HUNDRED Seminarians and Priests.

In early-2011, the FOUR remaining Seminarians were permitted to attend the Celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass in the “President's Office”, surrounded by buckets, mops, and photo-copiers because Saint Cuthbert's magnificent Chapel (see, above) was judged “too big”.

Then the Seminary closed down due to no Seminarians.

Wonderful thing Vatican II.

Carol said...

The case of Ushaw seminary is heartbreaking for anyone who appreciates Catholic Tradition. After its glorious 400-year history which witnessed hundreds of ordinations and the death of 158 priest martyrs (who had secretly slipped back to England in Elizabethan times to minister to the beleaguered Catholic population), Ushaw met an inglorious end – at the hands of today’s Catholics.

It is now a tourist attraction, hosting a medley of secular activities e.g. start-up businesses, art exhibitions, music and theatre events, marriages and civil partnerships, wedding receptions, drinks parties and food festivals. A seminary trying to finance itself without students is as preposterous as a hospital trying to do the same without patients – think Yes Minister and the Compassionate Society!

Then the other northern seminary (Upholland) closed its doors after all the senior seminarians trooped off to Ushaw, only to join them in the same fate. Yet the Vatican II optimism is unquenchable. Upholland’s new Director, who inaugurated the Northern Upholland Institute as a centre for adult Christian education in place of the failed seminary, stated in “The Furrow” in 2014:

“We are living in very exciting times. Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, is proving an inspiration not just to Roman Catholics but people of other faiths throughout the world. Cardinal Vincent Nichols (who was the second Director of the Upholland Northern Institute) and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, are developing a shared ecumenical leadership which is beginning to impact on everyday life in the UK and beyond”.

As for St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross (an example of Le Corbusier’s Brutalist architecture), it opened in 1966 buoyed up by the wave of optimism launched by Vatican II’s promise of a “New Springtime” for the Church, and closed 14 years later for lack of sufficient vocations. After it was left derelict for decades, it was in such a state of ruins that the Archdiocese of Glasgow described it as an “albatross around its neck” because it could neither sell it, nor give it away for free, nor demolish it.

The demise of these and other seminaries is generally regarded with indifference by most people, and even welcomed by some as the end of a bygone era of vigorous defence of the Catholic Faith.

Bill Murphy said...

My comment on the survival prospects of Oscott and Allen Hall was promoted by:

1. The dire most recent vocations and ordination stats for England and Wales. Maybe there are 20 to 30 new entrants to the surviving major seminaries. There are hardly enough seminarians to support four institutions, if you include the Venerable English College and the Beda in Rome. But obviously no one wants to close another seminary immediately after Wonnersh.

The propaedeutic seminary in Valladolid in Spain has a tiny student body, as its course lasts only one year. You can barely justify its existence, even with numbers padded out by students from Sweden, Ireland and Canada. But it may have a large endowment to keep it going. And every episcopal document on priestly formation in England and Wales declares how essential it is. Even if the bishops don't send most of their seminarians there.


2. Father David Marsden's open letter on the gay cliques and chaotic moral teaching at Oscott.


3. The most recent enrollment list I have seen for Oscott, which showed barely 50 students throughout all 6 years. If they are charging dioceses £30K a year per student, that is an annual income of £1.5M. Expenditure is £3.3M a year. The number of staff almost equals the number of students. Result, as Mr Micawber observed, misery.
Total misery may be deferred by Oscott's large endowment fund, but probably cannot be avoided for long. Maybe there has been a very recent upsurge in enrolment, perhaps boosted by the closure of Winnersh. Will it last? Anyone care to correct my maths?