"Amazingly, the clergy sex abuse scandal did not deter men from answering God's call…"

Patheos is hosting something new this month: an intriguing online symposium on seminaries, and our crack editor Elizabeth Scalia has established a special page for Catholics.

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.

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6 responses to “"Amazingly, the clergy sex abuse scandal did not deter men from answering God's call…"”

  1. As a professor at a Catholic seminary, I concur that the young men studying for the priesthood today are not deterred by the news to which they’ve been exposed for the last ten years and more. They know this is a hard time for the Church in general. They also know that Christ promised His Church that He would be with it until the end of time.

    As a layman, I am tremendously honored to be part of a priest’s formation. St. Vincent De Paul said, “There is no greater work than the formation of good priests.” As Dorothy Day told a priest relative of mine, we need priests. My experience is that we’ve got some good men coming down the line, ready to serve God and God’s People. Their commitment inspires me to want to be a better person.

    So let’s pray for all the men in discernment, whether in the seminary or outside. (And I ask that you add a prayer for those who teach them.) They need it. And we need them too.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised to read this suggestion in the article:

    “One solution is to consider broadening seminary formation going into the New Evangelization to make it truly ecclesial, that is, not ‘done’ just at the seminary but also back in the diocese and parish, and to include a wider number of people and resources.”

    In impoverished Brazil, I believe, Dom Hélder Câmara attempted to create community-based seminary formation in the wake of Vatican II. From what I have read about it, I understand that the difference involved not simply the location of formation but the content of it. The “theology of the hoe” in which the candidates were immersed was short on historical controversies but long on modern human needs. Unfortunately, this approach was soon rejected by those who preferred to see our priests formed in a more traditional clerical culture. It was that culture, of course, that gave us our scandals here in the United States.

  3. “In impoverished Brazil, I believe, Dom Hélder Câmara attempted to create community-based seminary formation in the wake of Vatican II”

    It was a BIG faliure, most of the seminarian left after few years. Thx God that the new bishops stop it.

  4. The seminaries with the greatest success over the past 10 years are those who build around solid Catholic teaching in every respect. They attract those who hear the call and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to something that is unlike any other vocation and in many ways is counter to the world culture. Many of the incoming priests first heard the call in the presence of the Eucharist in private adoration. I am inspired by the Dominicanc novices in our parish. Last year we had 20 and this year 16 more. They spend their first year as novices in our parish and we get the joy of meeting them and hearing their vocational story. They are not wanting a watered down Catholic Church, but one that is wrapped around all that is wonderful about solid Catholic teaching.

    Our diocese Seminary here is also see strong growth under solid leadership and has been massively renewed from the failing seminary of only a few years ago where some involved in the acceptance process would allow only those who agreed on dissent being seen as acceptable. Many who had heard the call were turned off by what they found in daily life. Now we have some of Dominicans teaching courses in the seminary and the Archbishop has placed its growth as his number one priority.

  5. Forever, these priests will be looked at with a suspicious eye. People no longer have any respect for Catholic priests.

    As more of the truth is available online, teenagers will really get the picture of the horrible psychological damage these pedophile priests caused, and they will also get the picture of how evil bishops were in moving known offenders.

    Mostly, the way that victims are treated is counter-Christian, and priests are the ones teaching the older generation that ignoring or intimidating victims is the proper Catholic recourse. The younger generation has a deeper heart, and will see that this treatment is not What Jesus Would Do.

  6. “People no longer have any respect for Catholic priests.”

    I don’t know what people you are talking about in that rather blanket statement. I know plenty of people including myself who have great respect for priests.

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