Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The 1960s Los Angeles Seminary Crisis

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The 1960s Los Angeles Seminary Crisis

Article excerpt

The study of seminary education is one of the most neglected subfields in the whole underdeveloped area of American Catholic historiography."* 1 So noted Philip Gleason of the University of Notre Dame about thirty years ago. There has been some improvement since then, with the publication of various seminary histories.2 A less-reported history took place in the Los Angeles Archdiocese between Cardinal James Francis McIntyre (1886-1979) and the priests of the Congregation of the Mission (or the Vincentian Fathers), referred to by the Vincentians as the Los Angeles Seminary Crisis. This episode has been treated briefly in some works. ' As of this writing, the papers in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles remain closed on the matter, but the opening of the James Fischer C.M. Provincial Papers affords some exploration of the question. Fischer (1916-2005), the Vincentian Provincial of the era, had to contend with much of the crisis.* * 3 4

McIntyre (see figure 1) is a central figure in this story. Pope Pius XII transferred McIntyre to Los Angeles after the death of Archbishop John Cantwell (1874-1947), doubtless on the recommendation of Cardinal Francis J. Spellman of New York (1889-1967). To this day, McIntyre remains a controversial figure in the history of Southern California Catholicism. In 1997, Msgr. Francis J. Weber's two-volume biography of McIntyre appeared.5 Historian Kevin Starr favorably reviewed the work in the Los Angeles Times, calling it a "locomotive of a biography." Starr wrote, "At long last, a much vilified Roman Catholic prelate of the 20th Century . . . can now have his day in court." Shortly after Starr's review appeared, several individuals wrote to the Times, in part to denounce Weber's book (and Starr's review of it), but they all used their letters to attack McIntyre.6 "It was McIntyre's misfortune to be an old man, although more or less a vigorous one, when the winds of change whistled through the Church," wrote author John Gregory Dunne. "What he did not think broke, he did not want fixed." Putting it more delicately, Jeffrey M. Burns wrote that McIntyre's philosophy was "a deep-seated resistance to change in any form. He believed in a well-ordered rational universe that was governed by an unchanging natural law." Accordingly, when McIntyre became aware of changes in the St. Louis seminaries, he was concerned enough to tell San Francisco Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken (1902-83) that if changes being made in seminary policy were "the policy of the [Vincentian] community," the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would "have to look for another faculty, for we would not be willing to conform to these changes."'

McIntyre's controversial tenure in Los Angeles coincided with years of innovation and growth in the seminaries. Accordingly, he expanded and revised the Los Angeles seminaries. The original minor seminary-the Los Angeles College-became a high school, and McIntyre built a new minor seminary: Our Lady Queen of the Angels, which opened in 1954 (next to the San Fernando Mission).8 Plans emerged to build a new college, adjacent to the graduate-level theological seminary in Camarillo. The college was incorporated in 1961, and William Kenneally, C.M. (1911-77), was appointed rector of the college and theologate-positions he held simultaneously. Construction of the new college, also named St. John's, began in 1961. The firm of Albert C. Martin & Associates won the contract. A chapel dedicated to St. James was located on the campus, and "[a]n international jury of outstanding architects judged the college among the 10 best designed structures erected in Southern California from 1960 to 1963." It was dedicated on June 25, 1966-McIntyre's eightieth birthday and the forty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Cardinals Spellman and Jose Garibi y Rivera (1889-1973) of Guadalajara joined McIntyre for the dedication ceremonies.9

The years of seminary expansion also saw a generational shift. …

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