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Extensive Reforms Already Underway at US Seminaries

The 2018 Theodore McCarrick scandal underscored the need for deep reform of Church institutions, but many important changes had already been underway — some even before the 2002 sex-abuse scandal, according to the rectors of several U.S. seminaries.

“People have no idea how many changes have occurred in seminaries and how high the quality is in so many diocesan seminaries today,” said Father Carter Griffin, the rector at St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One of the biggest changes affects men before they even enter the seminary. Gone are the days when a simple letter of recommendation from a pastor could get a young man into seminary, Father Griffin said.

Instead, dioceses undertake a “fuller and deeper” look into the background of prospective seminarians, requiring background checks, psychological screening, and a range of references from teachers, employers, priests and others.

“All of them are doing it better than they were in the past,” Father Griffin said. “You can’t say they’re doing it all equally well, and so I think that’s where the difference lies. But without a doubt I would say that even the weakest diocese today is doing better than the average ones 40 years ago.”

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