What’s Going On At Maryvale?

What’s Going On At Maryvale?

What's Going On At Maryvale?

The acting director of a leading Catholic college has announced he is stepping down and said that other staff have also “made a similar decision”.

Dr Petroc Willey, of the Maryvale Institute based in Birmingham, (Ed: pictured above with Pope Francis) wrote to students this morning explaining that he will be leaving his job for personal reasons.

In his letter to students, Dr Willey, who is also a consultor of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation, wrote: “I am writing to let you know that for personal reasons I will soon be leaving Maryvale. A number of other staff here have also made a similar decision.”

Click on the picture to read the Catholic Herald report in full and note that, unusually, the comments facility has been switched off. So, this seems to be a case, not only of “what’s going on at Maryvale?” but “what’s going on at Maryvale that the Editor of the Catholic Herald doesn’t want us to know?”

Googling around brought up some speculation, including the possibility (remote in my view) that Dr Petroc Willey was just a tad too “traditional” for the likes of the powers-that-be: having worked alongside Dr Willey at Maryvale some years ago, I seriously doubt that. However, as we all know, even a touch of orthodoxy is discouraged these days, so could it be that – minimal though it is, in reality – Maryvale’s reputation for orthodoxy is about to be extinguished altogether?

Comments (36)

  • Josephine

    “I am writing to let you know that for personal reasons I will soon be leaving Maryvale. A number of other staff here have also made a similar decision.”

    Only for the “number of other staff” I’d have thought this was something in his personal life. If others are also leaving, it could be a rift with management over something, but I’m very sceptical about it being for reasons to do with orthodoxy, let alone “traditionalism”. Maryvale has managed to tread a comfortable line, keeping in with the hierarchy and being promoted by them, so it’s probably more to do with some other aspect of management of the Institute, pay and conditions or whatever, IMHO.

    October 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm
    • Lily

      I am also sceptical about this being anything to do with orthodoxy. I’ve never been a student there but I’ve met some of them, fellow parishioner for one, and they were not models of orthodoxy by any stretch of the imagination.

      Another thing, if it was to do with orthodoxy being suppressed you’d think Dr Willey would speak out. Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do, to expose it?

      October 30, 2013 at 8:10 pm
  • Brendan Bradley
    October 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm
  • editor

    Brendan Bradley,

    Apologies – I went into your comment to correct a minor typo and somehow it’s disappeared. My sincere apologies. Please re-post – it will go straight up now that I’d approved this first comment. And I promise to leave it alone!

    October 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm
  • catholicconvert1

    ‘However, as we all know, even a touch of orthodoxy is discouraged these days’. If I went to a NO seminary, or attempted to be accepted as a Seminarian, and they found out I was a TLM devotee, prayed the Rosary twice daily and read pre-Vatican II encyclicals, would I be looked upon with suspicion?

    October 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm
    • editor

      “Looked upon with suspicion”, Catholic Convert? You’d probably be sent to a psychiatrist for assessment – either that or dismissed!

      And no, I’m NOT kidding. Other seminarians have told me they had to keep their heads down and I’ve heard stories of those who made it through, not having an easy time in their parish. What a time to be a Catholic, eh? Especially a convert. Still, we mustn’t “obsess”…

      October 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm
      • catholicconvert1

        In a way that surprises me, Editor, because I had read in the National Catholic Register that Benedict XVI caused a ‘boom’ in vocations, primarily in the USA, because he allowed traditional devotions such as the Rosary and the TLM. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/benedicts-men-u.s.-vocations-strengthen-during-his-eight-year-papacy

        As for your second paragraph, I’m gobsmacked. How are those Priests going on now? Do they say the TLM? When you say they didn’t/don’t have an easy time in the parish, is that because of the Bishop or liberal parishioners?

        October 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm
  • Nicky

    You just need to look at the way Petroc W is clasping Pope Francis’s hand and his friendly posture towards him, to know that orthodoxy isn’t likely to be the issue. Nobody who admires Pope Francis can possibly be a worrier about orthodoxy.

    October 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm
    • Nicky

      Obviously, I am referring to the photo at the top of the page, when I say “Petroc is clasping Pope Francis’s hand” etc. Should have made that clear in my comment at 8.14pm.

      October 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm
      • Petrus


        Not sure how much we should read into the picture. I’m not a huge fan of Pope Francis, but I’d be on my knees in the presence of the Sovereign Pontiff! I’d then tell him what he needed to do!

        I agree – this whole business with Maryvale is very strange.

        October 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm
      • editor


        “I’d be on my knees in the presence of the Sovereign Pontiff! ”

        It ain’t necessarily so…

        I remember on my first visit to Rome with our then Miss McMoneypenny (we paid our own way, panic not!) and we – to our amazement – found ourselves within a few inches of the Pope (John Paul II) when he did his rounds in the popemobile. I said at the time (and I meant it) that if I’d realised we would be so close to him, I’d have brought a banner to hold up with a very clear message to the effect that it was about time he acted like a Pope and, among other things, gave us at least one good bishop in Scotland.

        Doubt if any printer could have fitted it all on a banner anyway, so just as well …

        October 31, 2013 at 8:37 am
      • Petrus


        If I had been there, and there had been such a banner, I would have helped you hold it up! Provided my expenses were paid by CT!

        My point was that I would show my reverence for the office first before taking the man to task (oh I can hear our critics howl “how dare he”)!

        October 31, 2013 at 8:40 am
      • editor

        Well, click here to watch someone who is not in the least in awe of Pope Francis or his high office….

        Notice how this little boy refuses to allow the security man to remove him from the stage. Maybe there’s a message in there for those of us who are increasingly horrified at the utterances of this Pope – we’d hardly get away with sitting on the papal chair on standing beside the pontiff as he gives his homilies. But, “unless you become as little children” springs to mind on watching the antics of the little (unnamed) boy.

        Maybe some of us (not you, Petrus!) are too fixed on “high office” and less committed to speaking plainly about the way “high office” these days is being abused in the interests of diplomacy and other such worldly considerations.

        Enjoy the video clip – it certainly made me smile!

        October 31, 2013 at 11:32 am
      • Petrus


        You have a high office…am I overawed by you?

        October 31, 2013 at 11:53 am
      • editor

        You jolly well better be overawed by me. I took that as a given… Now you’ve got me wondering!

        October 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm
      • Nicky


        I take your point, but Dr Willey is supposed to be a highly informed Catholic, an academic etc. The picture suggests he is genuinely a friend of the Pope’s. He’s not just being polite, showing due respect. He’s clasping his hand and looking full of admiration. That’s not the body language of a man about to “tell him what he needed to do” in your words.

        October 31, 2013 at 11:56 pm
  • catholicconvert1

    I know that I shouldn’t be discussing this here, but, as you know I’m fairly traditionally minded. Therefore, when I come to be confirmed by the Bishop, how do I address him, and also should I kiss his ring and genuflect? Is that what you’d do, not only for tradition’s sake, but also to send a message?

    October 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm
    • Maura


      I found this on Fr Z about genuflecting to a bishop. He wrote it before the excommunications were lifted which is why he sideswipes the SSPX bishops.

      On correct forms of address to bishops it is “My Lord” for the bishop of a diocese, not sure about auxiliaries, “Your Grace” for an archbishop and “Your Eminence” for a cardinal.

      I’ve never seen anybody kiss the bishop’s ring or genuflect or bow in any parish I’ve been in so I guess that’s died out now. In your position I would ask my PP before the Confirmation as it could be awkward all round if you do something that nobody else does or even knows about. You might spoil the day for everyone, yourself included, by “sending a message” like that – and the message may pass over the heads of the majority anyway.

      October 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm
  • inquisitor234

    Fr Z is Modernist

    October 31, 2013 at 12:52 am
    • editor

      Fr Z sure is a Modernist – still, I suppose he can be trusted on the correct forms of address for a bishop.

      I have to admit, however, that I have always (pre and post Vatican II) disliked these forms of address and the bowing, kissing ring etc. I go along with it when expected, but I really do not like it. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m a closet Modernist although those given to excesses of deference will definitely write me off as such now, if they haven’t already done so.

      See if I care… 🙂

      October 31, 2013 at 8:33 am
      • Augustine

        And yet many of these acts are indulgenced, I believe,

        October 31, 2013 at 11:39 am
      • Margaret Mary


        I never heard that before. What’s your opinion about kneeling, kissing bishop’s rings etc? I’m not sure I would feel comfortable although I don’t meet that many bishops so it’s not something I have to think about.

        October 31, 2013 at 11:45 am
      • editor


        That’s a new one on me. So new that I decided to check quickly with our old friend, the Catholic Encyclopaedia where I found this:

        “Custom prescribes that a layman or a cleric of inferior grade on being presented to a bishop should kiss his hand, that is to say his episcopal ring, but it is a popular misapprehension to suppose that any indulgence is attached to the act.”


        October 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm
      • pewcatholic

        I’m assuming that all this genuflection protocol happens in church as part of the liturgy. What about when you first meet the bishop during the bunfight in the church hall afterwards? Genuflecting and ring-kissing is tricky with a cup of tea in your hand. However, many of us pew catholics in the east have this situation coming up. Advice?

        October 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm
      • editor

        Pew Catholic,

        My advice to anyone meeting Archbishop Cushley over a cup of tea is to inform him of this website and blog where he will find all the evidence he needs of a crisis in his archdiocese and beyond. And that after quoting his Catholic Herald interview and saying “you cannot be serious!”

        October 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm
      • Daniel

        I came to this blog thinking it might have more information about what’s going on at Maryvale. Statements like “Fr Z is a modernist” are just so ridiculous that, unfortunately, it makes me question the reliability of anything else that might be written here.

        October 31, 2013 at 2:04 pm
      • editor


        If you are of the opinion that Fr Z is NOT a modernist, then let’s hear it. As someone who has been blocked from his blog for merely pointing out that when he supports Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion he is contradicting article 8 of the 1997 Instruction on the Laity (which forbade their use even in a packed church) I hold to the view that he is a modernist. Feel free to prove me wrong. Unlike Fr Z’s blog, this one is not moderated after the first comment is approved. And you can disagree with me (or any of us here) without fear of being permanently excluded from our midst.

        As for finding out more about the Maryvale situation – well, it seems to be shrouded in mystery. Nobody is saying anything. The Catholic Herald (another censored blog) didn’t allow any comments at all, under their report. That is very unusual, if not a first.

        At least here, what little we know is out there in the open. Well, that’s not quite true. I have been given information in the past about Maryvale that does not make for edifying reading, information which may or may not be linked to these resignations. Time will tell. I’m sure the truth will out in the end.

        Suffice to say, I have never been of the view that Maryvale is a wonderfully orthodox institution. Even during my own short stint there, they were promoting the Alpha course. Orthodox? Really?

        I would only add that were it, in fact, to be the case that some Maryvale out & out modernist is in some way undermining the authentic teaching of doctrine and morals in the Institute, then, far from resigning Dr Petroc Willey and colleagues should be publicising the fact far and wide.

        Given his access to the media, including EWTN, I would have thought that would be an obvious thing to do, assuming all other efforts at reconciliation – without betraying the Faith – had failed.

        So, I doubt it it’s anything to do with orthodoxy vs tradition. More to do with either work issues or personal lives.

        October 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm
  • Petrus

    I always kiss a biahop’s ring – even Modernist bishops. I don’t always bend the knee right enough. When I met Bishop De Galeretta (SSPX) I genuflected and kissed his ring.

    I don’t like Pope Francis discouraging people from kissing his ring. It’s another attempt by him to downplay the papacy.

    I watched that video that editor posted and found it quite endearing. Although I have to ask where the boy’s parents where? I’d be mortified if one of my children plopped themselves down on the papal throne!

    I was a bit taken aback to see how the pope has aged in the last few months. I thought he looked awful.

    October 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm
    • editor


      “I don’t like Pope Francis discouraging people from kissing his ring. It’s another attempt by him to downplay the papacy.”

      If that were his only “failing” we wouldn’t have a problem.

      When we were presented to an SSPX bishop (forget which one, but not Bishop Fellay) I, too, kissed his ring. But only because it was expected of me. I don’t like it. I never have liked it. I never will like it. But then, as we’re all agreed, I’m a very bad girl! If wanting to/enjoying kissing bishops’ rings is a sign of holiness, then count me out!

      October 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm
      • Petrus


        I don’t think it’s a sign of holiness. Probably just down to personal taste (not as in the sense of taste – I wonder if bishops’ rings come in different flavours?).

        October 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm
      • editor

        Phew! That’s a relief Petrus. For a minute there, I thought I wasn’t holy after all… 🙂

        October 31, 2013 at 9:57 pm
  • 3littleshepherds

    On several occasions I was in the same buildings as some SSPX Bishops. I understood that you only have to kiss their ring once during the day, but the whole thought made me nervous. It gave me stage fright or something. I avoided the Bishops, ducking into hallways, or going from room to room. But that’s just me, I’m not against kissing Bishop’s rings if someone else has to do it.
    Do priests kiss rings? I’d really love to see Fr. Z kiss Bishop Fellay’s ring!

    October 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm
    • editor


      “I’d really love to see Fr. Z kiss Bishop Fellay’s ring!”

      Now, that’s a sight I’d love to see myself, as well!

      October 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm
  • Josephine

    This blogger thinks it’s a rift of some sort between the Maryvale staff and the diocese.

    October 31, 2013 at 5:06 pm
    • editor

      Could be. There has always been an uneasy relationship between the archdiocese (especially education) and the Institute. At least that was the case in my time there.

      October 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm
    • editor


      I’ve now read your link and note that it is written by a former student and graduate of Maryvale. He writes this:

      “The lack of an announcement about a replacement to Mgr. Paul has left me feeling uneasy over the last few months, just as the lack of forthcoming bishops to fill our vacant sees makes me nervous. Do we lack suitable candidates? Or is there a conflict of vision that is resulting in internal conflict?”

      There, in three sentences, do we see a major part of the problem: when Archbishop Cushley said there is no crisis in Edinburgh, he was reflecting the ignorance of many people – a majority perhaps – in the Church today who actually do not realise that there is a crisis. I mean, to ask if we (in the UK) lack suitable candidates to fill the episcopal vacancies, is like asking if we lack trustworthy bankers.

      To amend slightly what I’ve said elsewhere, while I do not believe there is any major battle for orthodoxy going on at Maryvale (certainly not being waged by Petroc) I do know from personal experience that the diocesan “Catholic educators” struggle to tolerate even minimal orthodoxy, so who knows.

      October 31, 2013 at 10:06 pm

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