Turbulent Times at Maryvale

Dr. Petroc Willey

Like many it seems, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news that Dr. Petroc Willey, acting director of Maryvale since the departure due to ill health of Mgr. Paul Watson, has tendered his resignation.

There is a lot of publicity and talk surrounding the news, it has even been picked up by the Telegraph. Damian Thompson voices the concerns of many people when he asks "What's going on?"

What is it that makes someone so talented, someone who has dedicated so much of his life to Catholic education, resign from his position?

Maryvale is very dear to my heart. It is an extraordinary place which provides educational opportunities, through its distance learning programme, that allows for a level of education many would otherwise struggle to attain. It is also thoroughly Catholic, joyfully spreading the faith in a faithful, intellectual way.

Now you would think this is an excellent thing that should be embraced and encouraged, and you would be right. What is shocking, and has shocked me since I studied there, is the number of clergy who hate Maryvale—I use the word not lightly!

There are many who do not want educated laity, who loathe orthodoxy, who do not want the truths of the faith disseminated. If you are puzzled reading this, join the club. Since I started studying at Maryvale I have constantly wondered what do these people actually want? Since completing my degree I have worked with some of them. What they seem to want is kudos and power. They want to not be challenged. They want relativism, the destruction of everything Catholic, the increasingly impotence of our schools to evangelise.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that I have any kind of inside track here, I don't, and even if I did, I would not want to spread rumours or gossip. But I do know that Maryvale constantly faces an uphill struggle and that it needs our support, prayers and money to survive. The best way to support it financially is to make sure it is known about, and to make sure there are people going on courses there.

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? I know from business that lack of leadership and vision is only damaging.

Yesterday, this letter was sent from the new Acting Director to all students of Maryvale:
Dear Students, 
Yesterday Dr Petroc Willey, the Acting Director of the Maryvale Institute, wrote to the students of the Institute to say that for personal reasons he would soon be leaving Maryvale, and that a number of other staff have made a similar decision. TheTrustees of Maryvale have issued a statement thanking Petroc for the contribution that he has made to its work over many years, and respecting the personal reasons that have led to his resignation. 
The Trustees have asked me to take over the position of Acting Director of Maryvale. Since September I have been a member of the full-time staff of Maryvale, with particular responsibility for parish and family catechesis, and I have met a number of you who have attended the residential weekends and study days over that time. 
I realise that many of you will be surprised and saddened by Petroc’s decision to resign from Maryvale, and I am writing to you now to reassure you that the future of the Institute remains secure and that the continuation of your studies will not be jeopardised by his departure, or that of any other member of staff. All future study days, weekends and others events will take place as already arranged. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact either myself or your Course Director. 
With best wishes and blessings for your studies, and I look forward to meeting you in due course. 
Yours sincerely,
Fr. Edward Clare
From this it would seem that there has been some difference of opinion between the diocese and the staff. This is human, but I can't say it doesn't disappoint me that we can't all work on the same side and find a better way of coping with our differences, whilst being respectful to all sides. Especially if we are part of one mission: to make God known and loved. As the Institute motto states; Audite insulae—hear o islands. Christ Himself tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mt 12:25). Scandal is bad, and this is causing scandal, because as much as we try to smooth it over, there has been a fundamental breakdown in management.

It would be nice to hear from Archbishop Longley, or someone from his office sooner rather than later. What needs to be clarified is the status of the Institute and the security of student's endeavours and the institute's commitments to students (which I have been told explicitly will be met). What the diocesan vision for the Institute is and why this breakdown was unavoidable. This is not complicated or difficult, it just needs doing.

As a businessman, I would consider that the situation would be that the Institute is largely funded by the diocese. The Charity Commission website demonstrates that their expenditure currents outstrips income considerably. OFTSED presents a less than favourable ITE report from 2011. It's not hard to draw conclusions.

Put simply from a business perspective, if the Institute is a drain on diocesan funds, should the diocese not have the main say on what the asset does? Should we be surprised if the arch-diocese has stepped in and given Maryvale a more local mission?

This is the important thing to stress: it is business as usual at Maryvale; all commitments will be met. It is a busy time of the year there, preparing for graduation.

If you want an institute of theological excellence, you need to support it. You need to support it in your parishes and make the reach and capability known.

The Chapel at Maryvale


  1. (Sorry about the awkward grammar in what follows as I want to try to keep anonymity)

    Why is it that this issue seems to be a feature of Maryvale, and a common factor in those who call themselves 'orthodox': to run away when things get 'personally' tough, arguing they were 'not being fed'?

    I know of a brilliant and outstanding Maryvale-trained catechist, too.

    Modernist priest arrives at their parish: they jump ship and abandon everyone in their charge to the Modernism of the priest, whilst they were probably the only person who understood and grasped the real problem. In all likelihood the parish will now sink into a 'Spirit of Vatican II' parish. The 'orthodox' priest who was moved, had no choice. They did.

    However, from the outside, it looks like they never once thought of those who were the less able catechists under their charge who they often referred to as 'wonderful'. All they did was argue (rationalise) that the priest is absolutely essential to good catechesis. (In other words, Clericalism is the correct mode of the Church.)

    This is Narcissism, and I think this is an example of exactly what Pope Francis means by the term.

    In fact, I think it's actually a form of Protestantism. Congregation-shopping. Staying only where you hear what you want to hear and where you're personally, 'being fed', like the Traddie 'commuters' who travel miles to worship at the shrine of Tim Finigan and others, rather than bring life to their own home parish. Do they not believe in grace? Do they not believe the Prayer to St Michael 'works'?

    Ironically then, the 'traditionalism' and 'orthodoxy' of these 'individuals' vote with their feet - thereby reject the full nature of the Church - and reduce her to congregationalism which stresses the importance of being an exclusive clique of like-minds (Puritanism).

  2. 1Tim3:15 - How you been able to 'bring life' to your own parish in the face of overwhelming opposition from PP and congregation? You make a fair point, but even Jesus warned of casting pearls before swine. We have to pick our battles. There are deep divisions in the Catholic Church, even liberals will sometimes travel long distances to worship at a like-minded parish.

    Nevertheless, in the context of Maryvale, the departures do not appear to be fully justified.


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