The chilling effect is on

A seminarian writes on his website:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Due to a new seminary policy, I will no longer be able to maintain the blog.
posted by [name withheld] at 12:10 PM

Interesting. Some new policy imposes burdens on the public writings of seminarians. I wonder if it has anything to do with the long-awaited seminary visitation, starting Real Soon Now.
Hey, somebody get your hands on that policy and send me a copy so I can post it here.


  1. I doubt the policy has anything to do with the visitation. The Instrumentum Laboris for the visitation says nothing about seminarians’ internet use other than that it should be moderate.

  2. In a lot of respects, the policy might not be such a bad thing. And I say this as a (nearly adjunct) seminarian blogger.
    The nature of the seminary is such that we’re here mostly to work on ourselves, internally, so that we’re able to more fully discern our vocation to the priesthood or elsewhere. We’re really not in a position to pontificate or express opinions on this or that, as many bloggers do. In a lot of respects, I’ve found that seminary is all about listening. You can imagine how hard this is for one who, prior to entry, was planning on a career in academics; internal reflection takes a backseat to the external every day of the week. But I’m here to work on me, and this is why postings to my own blog have been sparse.
    That having been said, the blogger in question was – for my money – the finest seminarian writer around St. Blogs, and I never saw him write anything that wasn’t level-headed and reflective.
    As far as I know, it has nothing to do with the upcoming visitation. I’ve heard nothing myself, and I guarantee that I would.
    The thinking behind the new policy might not be understood by my brother seminarian directly, but at least we can always learn something about humility.

  3. The thinking behind the new policy might not be understood by my brother seminarian directly, but at least we can always learn something about humility.
    The rationale given in the seminary policy made sense, so it was not difficult to accept, though even if I had disagreed it would have remained a matter for obedience.

  4. There are some good rationales for limiting students’ Internet use. For one thing, if a sem were posting on some blog several times a day, it would not be a good use of his time, given that study and spiritual life are more important than most of the topics on the ‘net.
    On the other hand, I don’t like the timing. A policy that limits sems’ free speech right now reinforces the rumor that seminaries are going out of their way to cover up problems when the Great Visitation is about to begin. A couple of bloggers even came up with a wry name for this campaign: “Hide the Dorothys”.
    But first things first: NW, would you state what the policy is? Also, has it been delivered in writing? I have a particular dislike for unwritten policies.

  5. Internet use only really becomes an issue around here when people are abusing it and therefore neglecting other duties. Many of us use computers often, but it doesn’t infringe upon our daily responsibilities.
    In fact, keeping up with my blogroll daily helps me stay focused, since much of what I read is thought provoking and aids my own reflection.
    I understand your hesitation regarding the timing, but I don’t know that there’s much to worry over at this point. Our rector (a very good rector, by the way) has said that we can be frank and honest with our visitors. And since everyone is to be interviewed, the seminary can’t do much to hide anyone.

  6. We have a photocopy of a fax of the Instrumentum Laboris. There is nothing shocking in it. Internet use is simply included in a list of things to look for, along with moderate use of the television and other forms of entertainment. I doubt very highly (!) that the seminary I attend is trying to cover anything up, especially with regard to blogs — out of the whole house I think there were only three guys who had blogs, and none of them were publishing objectionable material (though I may be betraying a bias about my own). At any rate, I do not have the time to transcribe to the computer the IL… I’m sure it will be put online eventually. The speculation about the Apostolic Visitation seems to be getting a bit out of proportion, especially the heinous headlines like “Hide the Dorothies”.
    PS – We were also told (like Josh – who attends a different seminary) that we would each be interviewed (individually) by the Visitors and that we should be entirely honest with them. The IL indicates that “All Visitors will be bound by strict confidentiality – sub secreto pontificio” – not something that is taken lightly!

  7. Hi, NW.
    To clarify: the Instrumentum is probably on the net somewhere already, but that’s not what I’m asking for.
    What “new seminary policy” led you to put your blog on ice?

  8. I am familiar with this young man’s weblog and I am not too sure if he was made to stop because of any pre-existing policy. He was divulging some pretty questionable things on his blog (and on other blogs)….
    [I have edited out the rest of the comment because it constituted anonymous and unsupported detraction. –RC]

  9. In the meantime, Gislebertus, the seminarian has sent me the text of the policy by e-mail; it forbids students from writing weblogs.
    The policy statement asserts that the seminarian is not a private individual, but de facto represents the seminary and the diocese. That’s quite true, but by itself it doesn’t quite justify the ban.
    I think the unstated logical progression goes this way:
    (a) what seminarians write reflects on the seminary;
    (b) we want to protect the seminary’s image from some adverse appearance;
    (c) however, we don’t want to bother reviewing seminarians’ blog writings, either in advance or after publication;
    (d) therefore, for our convenience, we will forbid students from writing a weblog.

  10. As a recent graduate of the seminary you are talking about, I know the semniary would not change it’s policy because of an upcomming seminary visitation. As I recall, the semnarian made his statement shortly after returning to the seminary for the new year. It is quite possible that the seminary decided to add a new rule to their “blue book.” At the end of each year, the seminary reviews the rules and regulations and add new ones. Every year their were changes made by the administration and the faculty. I find nothing suspicious about the new rule. Moreover, when I was at that seminary, the rector said we could not publish in any form or medium and we could not be interviewed without the rector’s, bishop’s, or vocation director’s permission.
    As a good and faithful seminarian, he obediently accepted the rector’s wishes. That is a good thing.

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