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Highlights from the week online

The Church needs better seminaries
To tackle the sexual abuse crisis, the Church must reform its seminaries, argued Fr Thomas Berg in the Washington Post.

Fr Berg, vice-rector at St Joseph’s seminary in Yonkers, New York, said the current system was “highly inadequate” and that seminaries had “often failed miserably in preparing men for ministry, and many still fall far short of the goal of forming happy, healthy, holy priests”.

He said seminary formators considered 2018 a “watershed moment” to “insist on long-overdue adjustments”, given “heightened concern” about the wellbeing of seminarians following the McCarrick affair and other scandals.

Currently, Fr Berg argued, the programme is “heavily academic” and takes place in “cavernous” institutions that “easily foster isolation”.

He suggested that an “overemphasis on academics must yield to a sharper focus on forming candidates who are emotionally mature”, with a “well-integrated personality and spirituality”.

Bishops, Fr Berg added, should “slow down the rush to ordination”. Candidates should be at least 22 years old and formation should take eight years ­– starting with a year “detoxing from the culture and social media” and developing “self-knowledge, prayer and a secure masculine identity” and ending with a year of intensive pastoral work.

Not only that: the 70 American seminaries should be cut to 15 or 20, allowing the best formators to be pooled, and seminaries should be inspected, he said, by a “blue-ribbon panel of seasoned seminary formators” ­– and be closed if they are failing.

Mothers with PhDs issue memo to Macron
The French president Emmanuel Macron sparked a Twitter backlash after suggesting that no educated woman would choose to have a large family. “Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,” he said.

In response, hundreds of mothers posted pictures of their large families with the hashtag #PostcardsForMacron. The trend was started by Dr Catherine Pakaluk, who has a PhD from Harvard and “eight children by choice”. Some of the responses were listed by Catholic News Agency. One Twitter user, Samuel Gregg, posted a picture of Elizabeth Anscombe, “one of the greatest 20th century philosophers”, who had seven children.

An exorcist responds to witches’ curse
News that witches have put a curse on the Supreme Court’s newest judge, Brett Kavanaugh, has caused alarm among exorcists.

The “hexing” event, which took place at an occult bookshop in Brooklyn, was directed at “all rapists and the patriarchy which emboldens, rewards and protects them”. (Kavanaugh denies that he assaulted a woman in high school.)

Fr Gary Thomas, an exorcist who offered a Mass for Kavanaugh on the same day, told that it was a “heinous act” – an attempt to “direct evil to have a permanently adverse effect” on the judge. Satanists, he said, were becoming “more confident that the general public will be more accepting of the demonic.”


✣ Barcelona’s Sagrada Família basilica has finally got a building permit ­– more than 100 years too late. The church, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, has been under construction since 1882 – illegally, city authorities allege.

The basilica has agreed to pay €36 million (£32 million) over 10 years to settle the dispute. Its board denied wrongdoing, saying it did obtain a permit in 1885 from the town of Sant Martí de Provençals. Officials in Barcelona argued that a new permit was required when the town was absorbed into the city a few years later.

The church is already a Unesco world heritage site despite being unfinished. It is due for completion in 2026.

✣ Bishop John Arnold of Salford has urged Catholics to move to a more plant-based diet. The bishop was responding to a study in the journal Nature which found that, to help avoid dangerous climate change, people should eat much less meat. The study argued that those in Western countries need to eat nine-tenths less meat and five times more beans and pulses. Bishop Arnold said: “It shows we cannot ignore the need to move to more plant-based diets if we are going to meet emissions targets.”

I pray every day for Pope Francis – more than I have ever done for the other popes
Archbishop Viganò’s letter in response to Cardinal Ouellet

It will be hard to vote. We need regular meetings
Cardinal Burke says cardinals do not know each other well enough ahead of the next conclave
The Australian

Jesus did not lower the requirements of his call
Cardinal Sarah
Youth synod address

Be prudent!
Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk’s advice to Rome on married priests

Statistic of the week


Proportion of Irish people who said Pope Francis did enough to tackle abuse on his visit
Source: Queen’s Belfast University