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Oscott seminary rejects ‘gay subculture’ claims

St Mary's College, Oscott (Getty)

A leading English seminary has rejected allegations that it failed to address a “gay subculture”.

Last week, Fr David Marsden, a former formation tutor at St Maty’s College, Oscott, wrote an open letter to the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland, in which he claimed that he had been “fired from the college for striving to uphold the Church’s teaching on homosexuality”.

Vatican directives, most recently in 2005, have said that the Church “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”

Bishops have interpreted the phrase “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” with various degrees of strictness, but Fr Marsden said the directive was clearly being contravened. He alleged that Oscott will accept candidates for the priesthood, and put them forward for ordination, as long as “a candidate is not ‘acting out’ his homosexual tendencies at the moment or behaving in an inappropriately ‘camp’ way”.

The letter, published by the website Church Militant, alleges that the seminary authorities are aware of the problems but do nothing, partly because certain bishops support a lax interpretation of the directive.

In a statement, Oscott College said Fr Marsden’s letter “offers a distorted and false picture of life and formation at St Mary’s College”.

The statement added: “The way of life, and the programme of formation at Oscott seminary, are faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

“The Archbishop of Birmingham, The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, and the seminary trustees, have full confidence in the Rector and his staff.”

Canon David Oakley, Oscott’s rector, told the Tablet: “Fr Marsden was asked to step down from the formation team for a number of reasons. As some of these are subject to legal review I am unable to comment at the moment.”