Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


“Believe What You Read, Teach What You Believe, Practice What You Teach”

July 3rd, 2013, Promulgated by Dominick Anthony Zarcone

“Believe What You Read, Teach What You Believe, Practice What You Teach”

I heard those words repeated seven times by Bishop Emeritus Matthew Clark on Saturday, June 1, during the deacon ordination Mass at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. Seven men also heard those words, as Bishop Clark looked each one in the eye and handed him a Book of Gospels as part of the ordination rite. The seven were prepared and formed for ministry by the Deacon Formation program at St. Bernard’s.

As Director of Deacon Formation, I presented the candidates to Bishop Clark and asked him to ordain them to the responsibility of the diaconate. As part of the ritual, the Bishop asked me a pointed question, “Do you know them to be worthy?”

My response, also part of the rite, was equally pointed: “After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that they have been found worthy.”

I could confidently and honestly affirm this truth, due to the excellent training I know they have received. St. Bernard’s offers a four-year formation program for men studying to be permanent deacons in the Diocese of Rochester. The program includes courses in scripture, theology and pastoral studies, spiritual and formational experiences, and field education.

Each deacon candidate completing St. Bernard’s formation program earns a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, or an equivalent Certificate in Graduate Studies. They are worthy for ordination because they are well prepared at St. Bernard’s for the ministry to which they have been called.

Reflections by Deacon John Brasley
Director of Deacon Personnel and Formation
St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry


A Reflection by a former St. Bernard’s student…..

Deacon John Brasley, director of Deacon Personnel and Formation ritually declared 7 men worthy to be ordained to the diaconate for the wrong reasons.

Perhaps each of the men were worthy to be ordained to official and public ministry in the Church.  But not merely because of St. Bernard’s training, courses and formation!

Personally, I would have been more convinced of their worthiness (and have been more encouraged) if their director Brasley had wrote something specific about each’s faith in Christ the Lord, about each’s dedication to live and teach the treasures of Sacred Tradition and about each’s love for  and dedication to serve God’s Holy People for the sake of our salvation.


19 Responses to ““Believe What You Read, Teach What You Believe, Practice What You Teach””

  1. avatar gaudium says:

    Of course, their formation also consists of spiritual direction and summer field ed assignments. If one of the formators (professors etc) is also a spiritual director or confessor, he would abstain from voting when the scrutinies committee meets to recommend whether or not the individual would move to the next step of formation or to ordination.

    The steps are; Aspirant, Candidate, Lector, Acolyte, Deacon

  2. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    In part, Brasley wrote, “I testify that they have been found worthy…..
    due to the excellent training…. They are worthy for ordination because
    they are well prepared at St. Bernard’s…..”

    No matter how many times I reread these reflections
    written by the Director of Deacon Personnel and Formation,
    I arrive at the same conclusion:

    It’s because Deacon Brasley believes that the formation
    program at St. Bernard’s is worthy to train men for the
    diaconate, anyone who completes that training is now
    worthy to be ordained.

    With all due respect to this deacon director, I think a healthy
    dose of George Weigel’s book, ” Evangelical Catholicism
    Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church” will do him,
    his formation program and the diaconal candidates much good.

  3. avatar gaudium says:

    I am reading Weigel’s book right now (recommended by my pastor) and it is wonderful. Thanks for your synopsis on this blog.

    My sense is that, among my fellow deacons, there are men who cover the spectrum of thought. I would also say that deacons who have only been formed by St. Bernard’s would be lacking. I have met quite a few who were well read and spiritually mature prior to formation and who will generally commit themselves to a program of life long formation, spiritual development, and education. A general yet unscientific observation would be that those who were well formed prior to entry at St. Bernard’s are able to keep themselves unspoiled by St. Bernard’s and those who enter as a progressive become hardened in that outlook.

  4. avatar DanielKane says:

    A vertex to base reform of the DoR will necessarily begin with either a through housecleaning at St. Bearnard’s or abandoning it for diaconate/higher level catechist formation. An educational institution should no have alumni divided between those who “inhaled” and those who did not. An educational institution should have a “brand” typically associated with excellence. This place has no real brand and Deacon Gaudium confirms my own observations. On should hardly lay low and get by to vocationally persevere in a formation environment.

  5. avatar gaudium says:

    Daniel Kane says: “An educational institution should not have alumni divided between those who “inhaled” and those who did not.”


    Depending on who the new bishop is, I would not be surprised to see some hasty “retirements,” especially at St. Bernard’s

  6. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Thanks Gaudium and DanielKane for your most apt comments.

    Allow me to share some of my diaconal formation and
    St. Bernard’s story.

    After realizing my grievous mistake, I stopped
    writing and disseminating anti-Catholic articles.

    Once reconciled with the Lord and the Church
    sacramentally, God’s gifts to me were named
    and called forth for service . Four years later I
    submitted an application to the Diocesan
    Permanent Diaconate Discernment and Formation Program.

    Accepted in April 1989 for the deacon class of
    1993, I persevered with the help of God for the
    four years. Canonical Impediments kept me from
    Ordination. I was awarded a Master of Theology
    Degree and encouraged to continue serving as a

    St. Bernard’s and the Diocese seemed to over
    emphasize the temporal to the detriment of a
    healthy eternal perspective. It was all social
    ministry. Mine seemed to be the lone voice
    emphasizing the Name of Jesus and evangelization
    for the glory of God, conversion and incorporation
    into the Church for the salvation of souls.

    If anyone else was heralding that message and
    emphasizing the primary service of love, I simply
    didn’t hear it.

    Loved and respected by both classmates and
    professors I left St. Bernard’s regretting “what
    I inhaled but should not have.”

    I wish them well from a distance and never
    encourage anyone to study there without
    supplementing their academic and spiritual
    pursuits with solid , faithfully Catholic resources
    and resource people. The list of good
    teaching apostolates is growing longer and
    I always look for opportunities to share that list.

    Gaudium and DanielKane are brothers
    with kindred spirits…… We are not alone, CF.

    Deo Gratias, we are not alone!

  7. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Can you imagine people from the institute going to parishes and teaching the majesterial truths concerning contraception, homosexuality, premarital sex, etc? Unfortunately the institute was used in parishes to forment heresy. It needs a full house cleaning.

  8. avatar Jim says:

    I, like Dominic, also studied at St. Bernard’s School of theology, back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I earned a Master’s Degree in Theology. Dominic is right in that much of the teaching there was very “politically correct.” (ex. our term papers were rejected if we use masculine pronouns…we had to be “inclusive”) That’s probably because about 70 to 80% of the classes were populated by laywomen. Many of the courses centered around social justice issues. There were a few good courses. For example, I felt that Fr. McKenna did a really good job in teaching a Canon Law class. But as Dominick has stated, there was very little solid Catholic doctrine taught there. In many courses we were taught “fluff” in place of good magisterial teaching. I did a “pro-life” presentation on abortion in one moral theology class, and the professor, and several of the women felt very uncomfortable, because I used a small, plastic fetus, to show the size of the infant in the womb, that was in danger of the procedure. I also remember that one of the priest professors, who will remain nameless, taught us that “St. Paul’s conversion probably never happened in the way that we read it”…more specifically, Saul never saw the bright light, fell off of his horse, and heard Jesus speaking to him! I remember being tempted to walk out of his classroom that day. In short, I’m not sure what’s being taught there now, but I sure hope the deacons are receiving better theological instruction there than I did, almost twenty five years ago.

  9. avatar y2kscotty says:

    By the way, the Acts of the Apostles does not mention that Saul was riding on a horse.

  10. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Regarding the Acts narrative, you are correct, y2kscotty. But let’s not miss the larger point that Jim is making.

    Hi, Jim, if I am not mistaken, we first met each other in class at SBI; then we caught up with each other a number of years later at the Irenaeus Study Center where we studied the Scriptures from the heart of the Church. Your faith and devotion have always been inspiring. Thank you, Jim, for being a beloved Catholic brother in Christ.

    Back to Saint Bernards’s 1989-1993….
    That same nameless priest/professor (whom I remember fondly for kindness manifested in his buying books for me I could not afford) declared in class that references to the Church Fathers would not help us in Scripture study. How interesting given the fact that DEI VERBUM, 23 {in Chapter VI SACRED SCRIPTURE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH} reads in part, “she also encourages the study of the holy Fathers of both East and West and of sacred liturgies”. The Church encouraged me to utilize Eastern and Western Church Fathers as well as public liturgies to interpret the Bible yet a SBI prof. discouraged the same.

    There were a number of similar examples in Bernard’s scripture study.

    I recall the Acts narrative regarding Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus being emphasized as a ‘calling’ and not a ‘conversion’….and I mean emphasized, radically so. It took a while to figure out the apparent obsession with insisting Saul received a call instead of being converted (when the narratives in Acts depict a “both-and”, not an either or). Perhaps, Saint Bernard’s cannot conscience ‘conversion’. Perhaps it is seen as offensive to inter-faith dialogue or seen as harming ecumenism.

    Consider the insistence, moreover, that the Hebrew Scriptures (read Old Testament) have nothing to do with of Jesus of Nazareth and make no prophetic utterances about the Christian Christ of faith. Oops, again perhaps offensive to inter-religious relations.

    Come on. How can it be that these Saint Bernard’s professors disregard and make no strong references to DEI VERBUM, THE DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON DIVINE REVELATION unless it suits their purposes.

    My beloved SBI classmates, both men and women, seemed to be relatively unfamiliar with the Bible. They were impressed and influenced by the purely scientific approach to exegesis and the demythologizing methodology. UGH!

    I don’t recall professors or course material emphasizing anything remotely close to the following Second Vatican Council exhortation: “But,…., no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.” DV,12

    I got no such emphasis. There was a lot of quoting this and that modern Scripture Scholar, but little reference to official positions. No wonder a good hearted Deacon graduate of Saint Bernard’s told our inner city teens that the Old Testament has nothing to say about Jesus, Jesus is not in the Old Testament.

    How long do you think it took me to take the beloved Deacon brother aside and show him Luke 24: 25-27, 44-47?

    Lastly, I believe that we can draw a conclusion about Scripture appreciation. Those who hold a ‘low view’ of the Bible, cynically questioning inspiration and inerrancy rather than holding to Church teaching, will also be dissenting ecclesial, moral and dogmatic teachings. When we read and interpret the Scriptures from the heart of the Church, we will gladly receive all of Sacred Tradition with profound gratitude.


  11. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    And yet this institution was given a place of honor in the Diocese of Syracuse by our current Apostolic Adminisrator

  12. avatar Jim says:

    Thanks, Dominic, yes….it’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other….I think recently at Our Lady of Victory/St. Joseph’s. You, too, are a beloved Brother in Christ. Your description of your “tenure” at St. Bernard’s brings back some not so fond memories. You are very accurate in describing the teaching material and methods used at St. Bernard’s back then. I was hoping that things may have changed for the better since the 1990’s, but I tend to doubt that. It’s even scarier to think that our deacons are still receiving their theological training there. I do know some very good deacons, but am hoping that, as you said, the courses at SBI would include more accurate biblical teaching, and less quoting from modern scripture scholars!…… y2kscotty: It is 134 miles from Jerusalem to Damascus, so maybe Saul drove his Ferrari! His walk would be like starting from Rochester and traveling to the Rome/Verona area just east of Utica. Possibly he was on foot(?)…customary in those days. He probably used a four legged creature of some sort to get there. If not a horse than something else. But you are right….it’s not mentioned in the account. Sorry for the inaccuracy.

  13. avatar Jim says:

    Sorry y2kscotty: Rome/Verona is just west of Utica, not east…my bad..

  14. avatar annonymouse says:

    Gaudium – if I recall correctly, you yourself are a deacon. If so, your last statement stands as a sad and scathing indictment of our diocese’s theological education. I have no reason to doubt that what you say is true. You would know. My question is this – how many of those “well-formed” candidates who enter St. Bernard’s are able to withstand the agenda and survive? And oughtn’t the Faithful look on any St. Bernard’s graduates with at least some suspicion?

  15. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Annonymouse, after reading your comment
    addressed to Gaudium I am distressed and sighing

    Are you putting a brother on the spot?
    And what is this suspicion spirit?

    A dozen years ago, a deacon mounted the
    pulpit to preach. Within seconds God showed
    me how dark my heart had become. The man
    preached Christ and his church’s truth .

    How dare me to suspiciously pre-judge a brother
    in Christ?. Besides, if God can use an ass to speak
    his Word, how dare me pre-judge one of his

    How many indeed!

  16. avatar christian says:

    I agree with the sentiments in the article posted by Dominick Anthony Zarcone. Let’s put St. Bernard’s aside for a moment. To affirm that someone is worthy due to the training they received is comparable to stating that Dr. Josef Mengele was a worthy physician because he received his doctorate of medicine at Frankfurt University and his doctorate of anthropology at Munich University.
    Worthy should encompass “something specific about each’s faith in Christ the Lord, about each’s dedication to live and teach the treasures of Sacred Tradition and about each’s love for and dedication to serve God’s Holy People for the sake of our salvation.” I challenge Deacon Brasley’s words “After inquiry among the Christian people…”in regard to worthiness of ordination, when I know for a fact, there were protests from Christian people via letters and phone calls, to stop the ordination of one candidate to the diaconate. It appears to be all “window dressing.”
    Dominick, I think you are one man who should be ordained to the diaconate.

  17. avatar annonymouse says:

    DAZ – my sincere apologies – I did not communicate well, since I did not in any way mean to criticize or otherwise pre-judge gaudium. That’s not your fault, that’s mine. I have nothing but respect for gaudium and his commitment to the Church and Christ’s people.

    My questions pertain to St. Bernards – if indeed those well-formed candidates “are able to keep themselves unspoiled by St. Bernards and those who enter as a progressive become hardened in that outlook” I wished to know whether there are well-formed candidates who are unable to make it through the program due to the progressive agenda such candidates encounter there. And yes, I suppose I oughtn’t have the suspicious spirit evidenced in my last question – I should trust that even those that survive St. Bernards progressive education are “worthy” of my trust and respect.

    On the question of what it is that makes a man “worthy” of ordination – I presume that there is an evaluation of “worthiness” (if anyone is ever truly “worthy”) prior to admission, and that the program of formation confirms (or not) that evaluation.

    Christian – apparently the wording of the ordination rite “after inquiry among the Christian people” doesn’t mean “all the Christian people” and they didn’t read the postings on this site prior to the ordination last month. And I second Christian’s call that Dominick is a man who should be ordained.

  18. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    From my conversations with a deacon who graduated from St. Bernards, it’s unfortunately like a game. You enter well formed. You simply regurgitate all the nonsense taught and then get your degree. Some can do that. FOr others, it’s a dificult thing to accomplish

  19. avatar christian says:

    The point I was making when I referred to Josef Mengele, was individual character comes in to play with an individual’s worthiness and propensity to live out their stated mission, not mere academics. One would hope those who are truly in line with the high degree of calling would be weeded out during training. However, there are those with a dissident and alternate agenda who manage to sneak through. It is more difficult these days, to stop questionable people from graduating from a particular school of education and training due to human secularism and the ever-looming threat of litigation.
    One can receive excellent training at a particular education of learning, but how that graduate applies his learning and carries out his mission is up to the individual.

    As far as St.Bernard’s goes, I have had personal dealings with one particular feminist who headed up education there. I have also encountered an individual who had difficulty there with priestly formation because he would not give in to their views and brand of ultra feminist liberalism. The woman who had ultra feminist views – created havoc at a parish I was at years ago, when she continued to make major changes in liturgy which went against proper theoogy and church teaching (and the Bible). She also went overboard changing wording to old established hymns as well as more modern texts. The parishioners were up in arm! This same way of thinking has caused losses to the ordained vocations from men who would have been wonderful priests and deacons.
    So I do not have an excellent opinion of St. Bernard’s.

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