Priestly Formation: Back to the Future?


Clearly, the ongoing flood of scandals involving seminarians and priests calls into question the type of formation taking place (or not taking place) in contemporary seminaries.  The above “A Day in the Life of a Seminarian” offers a glimpse into the training of priests in a “traditional” Catholic seminary.  But note –  prior to Vatican II, the word “traditional” was not used to describe – as now  – a specific group of Catholics.  ALL Catholics were taught to hold fast to both Tradition and Sacred Scripture, which bear equal weight within the Church.

We are reliably informed, as if it’s not obvious, that these days the sort of disciplined seminary life shown in the above video is not the norm in diocesan seminaries.  They seem to be run more like a hostel for young single men, who may come and go as they please, eat out with friends (male and female) and generally live as an independent, single man. 

Surely then, one key ingredient in the ending of the current scandal-ridden priesthood is a return to the sort of disciplined, spiritual, rigorously academic and thoroughly Catholic formation which the students in the above video are enjoying. 

Critics will argue that such a restrictive regime won’t attract modern young men – what do you think?  

19 responses

  1. I also think seminaries need to be stricter, but I wonder if the regime on the video is a little bit too strict. There didn’t seem to be much free time and if you’re not into sports activities, not a lot of fun for you!

    Some tweaking might be necessary but in general terms, I do definitely agree that seminary training is woefully inadequate and that something along the lines of the video seminary is long overdue.

    • Lily,

      Petrus is right, although I hate to admit it – that seminary is not too strict. I suspect if a students wants to settle down for a recreational hour with a good book, that would be allowed. As long as they’re not pubbing and clubbing, I’m not going to push my luck and ask them to ban my other Great Hate = sport (sorry, lads… If I were First Minister, Prime Minister or Minister of Sport, I’d ban football for starters ….) Then when they sack me from the Ministry of Sport, I’d sue the Government for unjust discrimination in the workplace, that is, for allowing footballs to be kicked around…

      It’s the way I tell ’em…

  2. Here’s the website welcome from the new President/Rector of our local Seminary:

    (If I remember correctly, the message from the previous Rector emphasized “community,” and featured pix of seminarians doing various activities together, including sports, tending the garden, cleaning, etc.)

    I thought that starting out with “openness to Christ” was a bit self-centered – all about me and my openness, if you will – but Father gets a little deeper further on. Still no mention of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, however.

  3. It would be a good start if seminaries returned to studying the works of St Thomas Aquinas for a start and then maybe the encyclicals of Pope St Pius X . At least then our priests would have a sound Catholic foundation.

  4. One would have presumed years ago that a Boy or Young Man would enter Seminary as a complete vocation and call from God and his One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To serve and be a Servant of Jesus Christ. I personally would have no problem with the above Video had I Son who wanted to become a Priest. I most certainly would have a problem with him entering a so called Modern Seminary with all the Decatant stories coming out of them .
    ED on another note has anyone heard or not heard should maybe the word of Archbishop Vigano

    • I’ve not heard anything about Archbishop Vigano recently. All my Vatican contacts have gone to ground this past ten years 😀

      Don’t worry, FOOF – as soon as we have an update to post, you’ll be the first to know!

  5. I once read that part of the problem in modern seminary formation was that dogmatic theology had been replaced by systematic theology – which, if I understand it correctly, is not specific to any Christian denomination. Can any of you learned bloggers explicate, elucidate, expound, construe, or otherwise confuse me on this subject?

    • RCA Victor,

      Systematic theology is taking topics or aspects of theology and putting them together. So, we now have Departments of Christology in colleges, and Degrees in Divinity etc. “Theologians ” specialise in different “branches” of theology within Christianity (or whatever religion they choose to “study”) and thus, you want to know something about “divinity” – ask Mr X or if you want to know something about whether Christ was fully human or partly divine, ask Mr Y who studied “Christology” …

      If your chosen branch is “ecclesiology” you learn definition(s) of Church, how the early Church members thought of the Church, blah blah but unless you choose dogmatic theology, where you will study the Church as revealed by God through various Councils and writings of the Fathers etc, you are really into the realm of Protestant theories about the Church. You won’t find those courses pushing the New Testament Petrine verses!

      Of course, some Protestant groups might have their own version of dogmatic theology but those will mostly be confined to interpretations of Scripture.

      If this is clear as mud, sorry, Not only am I typing at top speed, but I’m still laughing at the parishioner this morning who, when I said my blood was boiling at something or other (probably children being taught LGBT “rights” in all Scottish schools so that Nicola Sturgeon can claim a World Fist) he replied that his blood was also boiling and in fact, boiled so much these days that he thought he was probably to blame for climate change! 😀

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