I. STATEMENT OF THE
know there is a problem. It has existed a long time ago. Many realized
it only recently but cannot seem to pinpoint it. Bishop W. Gregory, in
an address (entitled "Trusting in the Spirit's Wisdom") to the
35th Annual National Convention, National Conference of Diocesan
Vocation Directors, described it in general as a generation of Catholics
who are less familiar with the Church, her traditions and with the
Catholic Church as a religion. Hilaire Belloc, famed Catholic historian
and apologist, in his book, Essays of a Catholic (p. 3),
described the present generation of Christians as "pagans."
The problem is
not only in seminaries but a crisis in the Church, in that Catholic life
is no longer based on solid tradition but on experimentation and the
embracing of novelties.
monasteries, reflect the state of the spiritual life of the Church, and
so the two problems are interrelated. And the Schuth's report,
describing seminarians as unable to make good judgments and decisions
and illogical in their thinking, could reflect the state of those
In a 1988 study
commissioned by the Vatican, Bishop Marshall of Burlington (Adoremus
Bulletin, Vol. V, No.6, Sept. 1999) decried the low number of
vocations and poor seminary training. Poorly trained priests cannot
produce good faithful.
Vobis calls it a "grave crisis." And a survey by "Centro di
Orientamento" described priests ordained between 1984-1990 as "in a
risky situation." It adds: "They showed lack of motivation, serious
dissatisfaction, closing in on themselves, refusal of help, re-thinking
their vocation or at least having doubts, problems of affectivity,
spiritual regression." (Centro di Orientammento per la formazione e
l'animazione della communita' L' Osservatore Romano, 1996, pp
Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education described the "grave
situation in Catholic seminaries as caused by the rupture between
Scriptures and Tradition" (Living Tradition no. 68, Jan. 1997).
This is the closest to pinpointing the problem. Pope Paul VI had warned
us of this in 1960 and 1970. Cardinal Ratzinger warned us of this in
1980 and 1990. But the warning had for the most part fallen on deaf
Schuth observed, 10 years after her first research on seminaries, that
"all attempts (to reform seminaries) seem to meet serious problems."
though disagreeing on the problem and cause of the problem, are agreed
that the answer and solution is in an intense spiritual life. But no
document had presented a specific methodology. P. Gianola, in the Synod,
described it as "poverty of concrete methods" on how to live the
spiritual life (Sfide alla formazione dei consecrati dopo il Sinodo
`90 in Orientamenti Pedagogici). Everyone seems to still hold
to the idea that spirituality in the seminary means morning prayers,
masses, confessions, refectory readings, spiritual directions… which is
missing the point.
Katarina Schuth first made her research of 38 out of 42 theologates, she
entitled it "Reason for Hope". Ten years later on, when she made a
follow-up study, 7 seminaries had closed, and she seems to be losing
For both the Church and seminaries, it is to be
said that in the early Church Christians knew the way and the address.
Somewhere along the way, they lost their way but knew the address. But
now we do not even know the address.
that, whatever is the problem, the solution is a sound program of
spirituality in the formation program of seminaries that is hoped to
trickle down to the faithful. We can say the same for religious houses.
The Need to Keep the Problem in Mind.
To appreciate a renewal program, which is
the proposed solution, we must keep the problem in mind. If we forget
the problem even for a moment, we will not appreciate the solution, thus
ending up executing the program haphazardly or disregarding it totally.
When a patient forgets he is sick, he does not take his medicine
next topic is not a criticism of seminaries. Doctors do not criticize
their patients. They examine to see what's wrong. Then they prescribe
the medicine. This paper is meant to do the same thing. We are examining
and analyzing the facts, that we may prescribe the right spiritual