Secr. for Catholic Education to rectors of Pontifical Seminaries: straight talk

Check out my friend Fr. Ray Blake’s look at an address made by Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, the Secretary for Catholic Education to rectors of Pontifical Seminaries.

Excerpt from the address:

Will the educators continue to cling to criteria of admission and selection that date back to their own time, but no longer correspond to the aspirations of the young? I was told the story of a French seminary in which adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament had been banned for a good twenty years or so, because it was seen as too devotional: the new seminarians had to struggle for a number of years to have it reinstated, while some of the professors preferred to resign in the face of something that they judged as a "return to the past"; by giving in to the requests of the younger men, they had the impression that they were renouncing what they had fought for their entire lives.


This same dynamic is clearly active outside seminaries as well.  There is strong harmony between younger clergy and much older men and far less with that middle, but now aging group which was formed in the tumultuous years during and after Vatican II.

It is very common that requests, or even interest, in the traditional forms of liturgy come across as challenges to the very identity and life’s work of many priests and bishops who were formed in those times of discontinuity.

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  1. Father Nicholas Schumm says:

    Thank God for the witness and example of Pope John Paul II who helped to “resurrect” Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration! I even remember him calling for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in as many parishes as possible. Let us continue to pray for all rectors, seminaries and their faculties.

  2. Fr. Charles says:

    This has very much been in my experience in religious life. Though our directors were generally very good in their care of souls, they sometimes tried to form us in a distorted relationship to tradition and to the Church at large. For example, attempts were made to make us look down upon daily Mass, and we were consistently forbidden to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in an approved translation.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Fr. Charles: we were consistently forbidden to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in an approved translation.

    You mean they insisted you pray the LOH in Latin?

  4. a catechist says:

    while some of the professors preferred to resign

    Short of conversion of heart, I think that’s the best possible outcome. And who replaced them, I wonder? Far better that our seminarians be formed by those who love Our Lord in the Eucharist, ordained and lay, than priests who do not.

  5. The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome has had Eucharistic Adoration for the seminarians, faculty & friars for the past 8 years each day of classes from 8AM-6:15PM. This has been a huge gift to all of us who study there.

    Archbishop Burke was recently there for the annual Eucharistic Procession.

    The L’Osservatore Romano wrote a story recently:

  6. Rellis says:

    The first thought to this “middle cancer” generation is, “uh-oh, I guess we’re going to have another 20 years of bad bishops.”

    However, there’s another dynamic many younger priests have told me about.

    The heterodox/squish Baby Boomers tend to retire at their first available opportunity. Their lukewarmness and tired ways aren’t exactly inspiring decade upon decade–even to them.

    That means the last of the “Spirit of the Council” formed priests should be out of the system by 2040. Meanwhile, there are scores of young men to take their place getting ordained every year.

    I’m told that in the Diocese of Fall River, a young man can expect to be a pastor seven years after ordination. Seven years! Within a decade or so, that entire diocese will be filled with badass, 35 year-old pastors who do Eucharistic Adoration and Latin as a matter of course.

  7. LCB says:

    The Abp. is brave to speak out on this matter. The true bastion of liberal power is in their seminary teaching positions, where they have worked tirelessly to dismantle the Church for decades.

    I know a man that was dismissed from a certain major US seminary when he was ‘caught’ praying the Rosary in the late 90s. It was his second offense. He had been warned that those pre-Vatican II superstitions were unwelcome. A new psych evaluation was called for, and they naturally reached the conclusion that he should be dismissed “for psychological reasons” because he was “psychologically unfit for the priesthood.”

    When I last spoke to him about it, he told me several of his seminary classmates (now ordained) had kept in touch with him, and in a sense “thanked” him, because they learned the tremendous importance of absolutely hiding all hints of orthodoxy while in that seminary, lest they be next on the chopping block.

  8. supertradmom says:

    The seminary where my son is does not have adoration at all, as it is considered “not the ordinary means of Eucharistic worship”. This same seminary does not have the TLM either. Those making decisions seem much more liberal-minded then the students, who have no say in more traditional liturgical practices. Many of the students hide their orthodox tendencies and those who do not sometimes are considered “trouble-makers”. I pray daily that this changes. And, I ask for prayers from all who read this that this atmosphere changes.

  9. Patrick says:

    I don’t think the wait will be that long. In my experience (of course, this could just be my luck) nearly all the priests ordained in the last 20 years are quite good. The one’s who are really anti-anything-traditional are all products of the seminary from 50’s and 60’s. It seems in many dioceses now there are armies of good, holy young men studying for the priesthood. The changes will be drastic over the next 10 years.

  10. PNP, OP says:

    This sort of thing happens in religious formation as well. Using unauthorized or explicitly disapproved translations of the Office. Discouraging devotions. Prohibiting the wearing of the habit for anything but liturgical celebrations. Discouraging brothers from taking religious names at profession. Discouraging the use of “Brother” and “Father” when addressing one another. It’s not uncommon in my own Order to see friars wearing the habit without a rosary. The reasons for not doing so are Legion. My fav: “Dominic didn’t wear a rosary!” Oh yea? Well, he didn’t carry around an iPhone either, but I see you have the latest version, brother. :-) Fortunately, this sort of non-sense is on the wane. Dominican provinces that want to survive have been quick to read the great big bolded letters written on the wall of incoming vocations: WE WANT REAL CATHOLICISM NOT 70’s PROTESTANTISM! Though we’ve had our moments of “Spirit of Vatican Two” goofiness, the Order has largely stayed well within the middle of the extremes. Some provinces (my own included) still use the discredited ICEL translations of the Psalms for Office. But we are working on an English translation of the OP Office and it doesn’t seem right to spend a lot of money on breviaries only to replace them with the new OP translations. The younger friars in the U.S. are very solid theologically and liturgically as a group. We’ve had conscientious vocation directors who have made sure that the incoming novices want to be Dominicans. And their dedication to this goal is paying off. Fr. Philip, OP

  11. Mike Morrow says:

    Fr. Z writes: “There is strong harmony between younger clergy and much older men and far less with that middle, but now aging group which was formed in the tumultuous years during and after Vatican II.”

    The heavy infestation of virulent Annibale the Cannibale Bug-nini types that poisoned the post-Vatican II Church became especially dominant after almost any person who really cared about 1500 years of Church tradition left the Church by the hundreds of millions rather than watch the wreck after 1965. Tradition-minded clergy and laity were driven away, and in fact couldn’t get away fast enough from the monster that transmogrified out of the ill-starred hijacked council of John XXIII. This left, with few exceptions, only those clergy and laity who either strongly supported radical change (“Catholic” academics), or really couldn’t care in the least one way or the other (just about everyone else who stayed).

    We who appreciate Church tradition didn’t cease to exist after 1965. We just couldn’t keep company with the aggressive architects of and apothetic acquiesers to “newchurch.” We are the people who are missing from “that middle, but now aging group” that you cite. We left.

  12. mike hurcum says:

    There are, without a shadow of doubt too many Vatican 2 priests in the Church today. They will not change, after all by their standards and their contra spirit of Vatican 2, correct

  13. Fr. Charles says:

    Henry Edwards: If only that were the case! We were made to use an English “translation” which–among other problems–leveled all gender distinctions, and even replaced poor Aaron with Miriam at the end of psalm 77.

    Fr. Philip: Our experience is similar, my mendicant brother. Dominic and Francis, pray for us in this struggle!

  14. Hidden One says:

    Now here’s an Archbishop I like.

  15. Alex says:

    I am gald to report that my seminary encourages Eucharistic Adoration and has a mandatory Holy Hour ( okay its like 45 minutes but on the right track) with Benedcition.

  16. Fr Smith says:

    When I entered the Roman Seminary in 2000, we had Mass ad orientem, tabernacle on the altar, lots of Latin still, the cassock a good amount of the time, but when Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy came out, I had to hide it behind a false cover of the Encyclicals of Paul VI. There was a small contingent of seminarians who lived on the edge, though, because of their traditional beliefs. When I left in 2005, Mass was facing the people in an empty nave, the tabernacle had been shunted off to the side and a throne erected in its place, guitars replaced the Latin, and the cassock virtually expunged, all the while the number of seminarians who were truly traditional had grown. The same schizophrenia has grown. Oh, and by the way, when I entered we were a community of over 200. Now, in 2009, they are barely 100. One hopes that Pope Benedict would see that his own diocesan seminary inculcate his own ideas. It would be nice!!!!!

  17. Kenjiro Shoda says:

    “Though we’ve had our moments of “Spirit of Vatican Two” goofiness, the Order has largely stayed well within the middle of
    the extremes.”

    One of your “moments” was the term as Master General of the infamous Timothy Radcliffe. What’s I’ve read about him, is shocking.
    What a liberal nutjob….in the mold of a Rembert Weakland etc.

  18. fred says:

    I lived through the horrors of the seminary in the 1970s. In a large diocese, we started with 55 men in my class, and several years later, after the 1960s-1970s era priests were done “forming” us, the seminary closed for lack of vocations. A strong Catholic culture was obliterated by the “spirit of Vatican II.” We have a lot of work to do, with the help of the Holy Spirit

  19. Mitchell NY says:

    Sad to read that in the year 2000 there was still Latin, Cassocks, etc. in the seminary, and that by 2005 they abandoned it all..That means that Priestly formation is still being torn to shreds in some places..Makes you wonder…

  20. TJM says:

    Fr. Smith, how are things going in your new parish? Tom

  21. Mary Kay says:

    Mike, not everyone left. There have been orthodox priests ordained in the intervening years, apparently no thanks to the seminaries, but thanks to the handful of orders and institutes that supported orthodoxy.

  22. Sad to read that in the year 2000 there was still Latin, Cassocks, etc. in the seminary, and that by 2005 they abandoned it all..That means that Priestly formation is still being torn to shreds in some places

    And, knowing (I believe) the seminary referred to, this was the Pope’s own diocesan seminary in Rome, during the last 4 years of Pope John Paul II. It would be interesting to know what’s happened during the past 4 years under Pope Benedict.

  23. Cricket says:

    Just want to throw out a question for anyone who happens to pass by. I have a dear friend, a VERY devout, traditionally-minded young man who’s about to enter a somewhat heterodox diocesan seminary in his home country. It’s not his only option, but for his own peculiar reasons he seems to prefer this to a religious order. My question is, do you think it’s possible for him to retain the integrity of his vocation in an environment where his views on traditional liturgical practices will be trampled upon? How can I continue to support his vocation under these circumstances? He’s clearly going through a difficult time. Appreciate any advice you may have!

  24. Mark says:

    I wish the Pope would just come out and say something like this instead of always talking “through” people to be politic. The Pope does not have to remain “neutral” on such issues! I dont know where that impression has come from in recent years.

    Also, you’d think that stronger language is called for. If this man really believes what he says, then he is leaving the sheep to wolves as their pastors. Taking a “wait until they die off” approach thus seems extremely negligent.

  25. PNP, OP says:

    Cricket, yes, it’s possible for him to maintain his integrity. It will be difficult though. One big, if he’s to survive: tell the profs what they want to hear. I know, I know, it sounds dishonest, but if he expresses orthodox or conservative views in his papers or class discussion, he will suddenly develop a bad case of “Formationitis.” This particular disease occurs when a seminarian actually thinks and behaves like a real Catholic. He is quickly diagnosed as a pariah and shunted back to his diocese. Can’t have him infecting the other students! I was something of a thorn in my own school, but I was also 35 years old and held a doctorate in literature. Twenty-two year-olds right out of college have no defense, or very little defense. Assuming that he is otherwise mentally and spiritually healthy, all he needs to do is tell the profs and formators what they want to hear; use his orthodox resources to create “shadow bibliographies;” and keep his mouth shut. I once advocated speaking out, but I did so as someone well protected by his Order. Diocesans don’t have this luxury. Though the days of being booted for wearing a collar are long gone, there are still dinosaurs stumbling around looking to boot their more orthodox replacements. Fr. Philip, OP

  26. PNP, OP says:

    I forgot to mention…Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès is a Dominican!

  27. Sal says:

    “but when Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy came out, I had to hide it behind a false cover of the Encyclicals of Paul VI.”

    I know this isn’t funny, but I had to laugh. Imagine,
    something written by Joseph Ratzinger being
    considered almost as “indecent” literature by
    seminary rectors.

  28. Argon says:

    Sounds like the prescription for survival in a liberal-infested seminary is to follow the three rules of golf: “keep your head down, keep your damn head down, keep your G@# damn head down!”

  29. problem says:

    I can vouch for the Ratzinger problem. When I was at a conservative seminary on the east coast. A number of the professors were big fans or Ratzinger’s positions on doctrine but not his positions on liturgy. It was very strange.

  30. Hidden One says:

    A number of commenters HERE are big fans of our German’s Shepherd’s theology but not his positions on liturgy. I need only refer to Fr. Z’s so-recent post on clapping.

  31. Alex says:

    Cricket, I agree with Fr Phillip, went I entered the diocesean seminary many good ( ie traditional and orthodox) priests told me to “dance to the music” pray hard and if need be supplement my reading. Your friend can survive he just has to work hard and put himself, everyday, in the hands of Our Lord and Lady.

  32. LCB says:

    Hidden One,

    I didnt see a lot of folks disagreeing with Papa Benedict’s position on clapping? So I’m rather unsure what you reference.

    Clapping for the sacraments, for God’s achievement, is acceptable and infact called for in some rubrics (ordination comes to mind).

  33. LCB says:

    A very witty priest I know has given this bit of advice to young men headed to certain seminaries.

    “So you want to be a priest? To offer the Sacrifice?
    “Yes, of course father”
    “And, what was done to Jesus on his journey to the altar of the cross?”
    “They beat him, and punished him”
    “And what did he do, to make sure they didn’t kill him before he got to His altar?”
    “Well, he was silent the entire time.”
    “Good! Now remember that for the next 4 years. Keep your mouth shut, do as your told, and you’ll make it to the altar too.

  34. Chris says:

    I can attest to the problems at a certain pontifical college experienced by a relation that is a seminarian. Problems like being reprimanded for kneeling while receiving the Eucharist, receiving on the tongue, etc.

  35. Jayna says:

    “It is very common that requests, or even interest, in the traditional forms of liturgy come across as challenges to the very identity and life’s work of many priests and bishops who were formed in those times of discontinuity.”

    Ain’t that the truth. Unfortunately all three of the priests in my parish are of that generation, so none of them are keen to change anything in the parish. Though what’s interesting is that it’s the lay staff members who are even more obstinate in the face of change, perhaps because they think that they’ll lose all the power they wield if the priests, and the pastor in particular, were to exert their authority. I’ll give us this, though, we have Adoration every day of the the week but Sunday.

    We have a seminarian coming to intern at our parish from the NAC this summer, I’ll be interested to speak with him about the goings-on over there.

  36. Mark says:

    “A very witty priest I know has given this bit of advice to young men headed to certain seminaries…”

    I think it’s different. There frankly may be a moral obligation to speak out when, you know, heresy is being taught, etc. Much more a “money changers in the temple” situation than a Calvary situation, I’d think.

    “Keep your head down” is what got us into this mess in the first place. My advice would be to find somewhere else and vote with your feet, or for the good seminarians (most of them at this point?) to stage some sort of active protest or resistance.

    Seminarian get kicked out for praying the rosary?!? Where were his brother seminarians to all get together and have a rosary sit-in at the chapel until such madness was taken care of? When did Catholics become so quietist about such things??? Adoration banned? Get some trad priest to come in and set it up in the middle of the night and then everyone sit-in until it is made a permanent fixture. If they try to come in and dismantle it, link arms and defend Him.

    Bad liturgies? Rent vans (on Sundays at least) and take everyone over to a TLM and be deliberately absent.

    There is a shortage. They can’t kick out ALL the seminarians. If they all were involved, they’d HAVE to cave, or risk being out of a job themselves.

    And it’s true that almost all seminarians today are orthodox and traditional-sympathetic (well, I dont know about the hispanics, actually, I suspect that’s where we may still be getting a few “social justice” progressive types). The only thing most places stopping some sort of collective action on the seminarians’ part is a defeatist, “keep your head down” model of cowardice and false obedience. Resistance is needed.

  37. Fr S says:

    Sal, when I entered the seminary as a naive pup, I brought with me a picture of Pius XII in tiara given to me in college. One day when I heard that one of the superiors was going though our rooms, checking for contraband liturgical items, I sprinted through the seminary to switch out Pius XII for Paul VI just in time for a one-hour monologue on the merits of Montini on the liturgy. The same superior was then made rector of a minor seminary in Puglia where a hundred-odd kids still wore cassock and biretta and said their prayers in Latin – in 2002. I heard it’s closing soon. More evidence of the new springtime, I guess! One seminarian was forced to go on pastoral year THREE times after the Rector caught him with an Italian version of the breviary which was not the green economy edition, but was black like the Latin edition, his offense being that he was obviously saying the breviary in Latin (when he wasn’t!). He is now teaching paleography at a pontifical university as a layman. I can actually laugh about it all now, but it was crazy while it was happening. Oh, and a fun story for Corpus Christi: the seminarians were forced once to do a Eucharistic procession down the beach in Rimini with a nun who danced with the monstrance before she put a microphone in front of the monstrance so that we could hear Jesus speak something to us. Aaaah, Msgr Brugues is a wonderful man, but he doesn’t know the half of it!

  38. Mark says:

    My God, Fr S,

    Forget rosary sit-ins…why arent the seminarians (strong young men!) not taking such rectors and stringing them up out of windows? Again, if most of the seminarians participated…there’s really nothing they could do. Where does this reluctance to act come from? Methinks it is sadly inherent in the institutional/authoritarian structures. It’s a problem.

  39. Fr S says:

    It’s hard for anyone who has lived outside of today’s seminary system to even understand how crazy it is even in the best of places for men who share the same ideas as many here do. The reality is that most men want to be cooperative and obedient, and having a rosary sit-in or the like will result in a whole series of constant psychological pressure where men either cave in to the brainwashing or are smoked out in a thousand different ways. The pressure is subtle, but very real. The modernist crew have a very real desire for self-preservation, and don’t underestimate the lengths they will go to, to see that their revolution will not die. If you want to be a diocesan priest, there is little you can do but say, “Yes, Father”, bear the unbearable for years and hope to make a difference later on. The sad thing is that navigating the waters of parishioners and parish staff who have swallowed the bitter pill is even more difficult at times than the seminary. And none of us comes out unscathed at having to live like that for so long. My advice: The seminary is like a cold shower, to be gotten in and out of as fast as possible.

  40. Mark says:

    I suppose. But imagine if there were even one bishop who would encourage seminarians to act that way and would say, “If you get driven out because of it, you have a place in my diocese”. I mean, what if all the seminarians just said to their bishop, “We’re all going to drop out if you dont replace this rector”…the bishop NEEDS more priests. He’d be forced to act.

    I’d also like to say that the pressure also goes both ways, unfortunately. I have friends in traditionalist seminaries…and there is apparently just as much psychological pressure, albeit with a different emphasis. Even those sticking with it inform me that they get a very weird vibe from the whole set-up that I have also noticed when visiting them, that it can be hard to interact naturally with people in a setting that seems to encourage stilted, artificial, bureaucratic interaction with people.

    I think there needs to be a frank discussion in the Church about the negative effects of institutionalization…

  41. Mary Kay says:

    Fr S, two comments from your post: some of the experience related here is indeed hard to believe (dismissed from seminary for saying the rosary?!), so it’s a good thing we have a full year focused on praying for priests. Your other comment is one that bears much repeating: no one comes out of that unscathed.

  42. LCB says:


    These individuals created the vocations crisis intentionally. If you think they have a problem emptying a seminary, you would be mistaken.

    Picking a fight in the seminary won’t solve anything for seminarians. There is a time for confrontation, and that time is not when you’re a seminarian. A seminarian’s recourse is to their Bishop and Vocations director, not via. direct action.

  43. Mark says:

    “These individuals created the vocations crisis intentionally. If you think they have a problem emptying a seminary, you would be mistaken.”

    THEY might have no problem. The bishop might.

    “Picking a fight in the seminary won’t solve anything for seminarians.”

    For an individual, no. With a sizeable enough group…well, I have to just think Oh Ye Of Little Faith.

    But, of course, if everyone takes that attitude, no one is going to try it. So, self-fulfilling prophecy?

  44. Patrick says:

    Dear Mark,

    You obviously have not spent the better part of your youth under the pastoral care of Archbishop ********. Sadly, he was much the bishop that the people of an anonymous city in the upper-Midwest deserved.

    Protests and sit-ins are useless before the Dragon, considering that he invented them.

    Yes, I understand the burning rancor about having to wait so many years of “formation” while the devil tempts you every which way. Even so, the battle is far from over. Consider the “extra mile” an extra year to fight against Satan’s desire to destroy the Faith, and be prepared for a hard, long slog until…2080 at best? Sure the worst within is over, but now we must all faithfully preach the Gospel.

    While you are at it, please pray for me in my discerment. There are so many orders, so little time….

  45. Terri says:

    Sit in discussions aside I was struck by the harmony between the two generations bracketing the middle generations. I know no seminarians, I am not clergy, “just” a wife and mother…but I (30) have more in common and can have a more meaningful theological discussion with my grandmother (83) than with my mother, who is still not quite sure why I want to have more children and don’t “see my doctor”… Clearly, the liturgy affects the world we live in, it affects the people who attend it and also how they relate to each other…

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