Kicking things off is Rev. W. Shawn McKnight, who takes a look at some of the challenges the Church in America is facing:
One is to maintain a basic emphasis on formation of good, solid, healthy, prayerful priests. The horrible reality of the clergy sex abuse scandal taught the church that failure to screen and properly form candidates for the priesthood can lead to disastrous results (see the Causes and Context study conducted by John Jay).
Amazingly, the clergy sex abuse scandal did not deter men from answering God’s call to the priesthood. Though the scandal broke in the media in 2002, the combined number of ordinations to the priesthood for dioceses and religious orders has steadily increased over the past 10 years since then. The nadir of ordination numbers was in the late 90′s. Since then there has been a growing number of college (undergraduate) and theology (graduate) seminarians, which bodes well.
A second challenge is that of the shrinking number of resources for seminaries. As the number of seminarians has increased (and with them an increase in tuition dollars), there has been a decrease in financial resources available from dioceses to pay for the bumper crop of seminarians. Even more challenging is the lack of an adequate number of priest-faculty to fulfill the demands of a healthy program of spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human formation. Many competent laity, religious and permanent deacons have been brought into the seminary system and serve on a number of different levels, but there still are positions that can be filled only by priests. For in the Catholic seminary system, formation for the priesthood is more than academic. Mentoring and modeling by a critical mass of priests is necessary for the seminary to work well. The need for priest/faculty competes with a bishop’s need for parish priests. Many bishops find it difficult to send a priest for further studies, let alone to serve on a seminary faculty afterwards.
See the link for more. I’m sure that those who have studied in Catholic seminaries — or those who care about how our priests are being formed — will find this compelling and important reading.