Catholic vs. Protestant Seminaries


#1

How comparable are Catholic and Lutheran seminaries in terms of content, rigor, and academics? Is the time to complete the “curriculum” longer in Catholic seminaries? Regarding academics, do they teach more content? Do protestant seminaries get much into the fathers or history? Which, if either, gets into more detail? I just wondered because I hear of protestants such as Lutherans entering seminaries to become ministers and I was naturally interested in what kind of base of knowledge they would probably come out with.

-LT


#2

I think that the Catholic process takes longer, but I do not get the impression that it is very rigorous. Certainly the Catholic priests I have met compare unfavorably (on the whole–obviously there are some extremely learned Catholic priests) to Lutheran, Anglican, or Reformed clergy (Methodists would be more of a toss-up, and of course many other Protestant traditions have very poor formation) in terms of intellectual and spiritual depth. In particular, I’ve come to the conclusion that they must teach priests how to preach badly–no one could possibly preach that badly from pure natural talent. Sorry to be so harsh, but you asked!

There is a Lutheran seminary (Missouri Synod) near me in Indiana, and they take four years, with the third year (if I remember rightly) spent in a parish as a “vicar.” I’m not sure what else is part of the process (judging from the Episcopalian and Methodist processes which I know better, I would assume that the process from initial call to ordination takes much longer than four years). They definitely emphasize church history and the study of the Church Fathers (they’re on the high-church end of Lutheranism), besides the study of Scripture in the original languages and a thorough formation in Lutheran theology. I’m quite impressed with what I’ve seen of the place.

I’m sure there are some great seminaries in Catholicism and there are certainly many holy and learned priests. But I’m no longer impressed by Catholic lists of all the things priests have to study and how long the process takes. It appears to be a fairly mechanical process that people can go through without learning much–at least to judge from some of the results.

Edwin


#3

Well the impression I get is that while sometimes a protestant minister may be able to quote scripture at you more quickly, the Catholic priest will almost always have the upper-hand when you’re looking for a deep, spiritual and complete understanding of what it is they’ve learned. I can tell you having come from a protestant background that I’ve got a LOT more from Catholic priests than I ever got from any of our ministers.


#4

What denomination did you come from? “Protestant” can mean a lot of things–I specified three Protestant traditions (it is no accident that they are the three oldest, unless you count the Anabaptists).

I wish I had had your positive experience with Catholic priests. I have sometimes, of course, and I was probably unfortunate in my experiences in NC.

Edwin


#5

I think that really depends on the person. My minister has all sorts of degrees and he challenges us weekly and I have gotten more out of him then I have out of the priests I have heard. It is all subjective.


#6

Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainliners, and worldly Conservatives usually go through the same people for accreditation. ATS is the big organization for that. In terms of rigor, I would imagine there are similiar standards.
It depends on your perspective doesn’t it? I believe that seminaries are where good Christian men go to learn that the Bible was not written by who it says it was, how to “Greek” the Bible to make it say what you want it to say, and to learn how the gospel of Christ is really all about “social justice”.
I have heard enough mainliners talk, cannot bring myself to calling it preaching, to believe they most have at least 15 hours in “anecdotal stories that do not involve mentioning the Bible”. I also believe that charismatic seminaries have at least a 6 hour requirement in “asking for money in a way that makes it seem like that is what Christianity is all about”. I could be wrong on all this though, I would have to look through a catalog to be sure.


#7

Yes, I should have specified… I came from the United Church… it’s a funny one because they can be so completely different from church to church… but it really didn’t suit. And none of the churches I went to were any better, just different.

[quote=ALLFORHIM]think that really depends on the person. My minister has all sorts of degrees and he challenges us weekly and I have gotten more out of him then I have out of the priests I have heard. It is all subjective.
[/quote]

Well it’s completely true in my case. I have attended mass and heard homilies at, at least three different catholic parishes in my area, and I have spoken to at least seven different catholic priests about various issues and questions and every single experience I had with them was much more useful, spiritual and fulfilling than any experience I’ve ever had with any protestant ministers. Just telling you how it’s happened.


#8

It also depends on the school itself, be it catholic or protestant. Among us protestants you can go to a “bible college” which basically teaches only the demoninational theology and rarely gets into any depth at all on anything like biblical languages, history, systematic theology, etc., Whereas, if one goes to a Seminary either protestant or catholic, they are looking at those topics indepth. I have even encountered one or two year bible schools which in my opinion are not even on the level of a Jewish sabbath school.


#9

I believe you:thumbsup:


#10

Catholic seminarians face a rigorous and varied education in theology, philosophy, history, liturgy, etc. of, from a minimum of around eight years (diocesan or some orders like Holy Cross) to around sixteen years (For like, the Jesuits).


#11

This has been very enlightening so far - thank you! I grant this is a very subjective comparison and answers would vary widely depending on individuals and denominations. If I can add a couple particulars, perhaps it would crystallize things further. In mainline protestant seminaries, do they address topics Catholics key on such as of redemptive suffering, spirituality, and the role of the mystical body (as opposed to mere “Jesus and me” thinking)? In other words, do Protestant and Catholic seminarians absorb the same amount of knowledge, but emerge as “experts” in different things?

Also, a key question: considering the key areas of disagreement (real presence, sola scriptura, authority, sacraments…) how can both Protestants and Catholics go through such rigorous training, and yet still not agree on such matters? For instance, how can a Lutheran seminarian, who undoubtedly has intensively studied the Fathers, still not accept the Catholic evidence there?

LT


#12

#13

I’ve met many intelligent well educated priests,mostly Jesuits. Their level of education and intelligence did not, unfortunately ,correlate with their piety or their adherence to the teachings of the Church. It is wonderful to have a priest who is well educated. I’d rather have a Holy,pious one that leads by his example of following Christ than one who can use his intellect to pull people astray. We all know who they are. They head academic departments in Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc. They are all wonderfully trained and clever as a serpent. I sent one of these priests a subscription of First Things edited by one of my heroes Fr. Neuhaus. A year later he had not read a single issue. He didn’t even like the topics because they were too conservative for a Jesuit of his type. A lot of Jesuits hate Neuhaus and First Things. That magazine is showing how reason and faith are compatible. I have been impressed by the many evangelical authors that contribute to the magazine as well as the Catholic ones.


#14

Depends on the Seminary.


#15

Let me tell you:

If you go to Mass for the homily, you’re going for the wrong Reason.


#16

Minor point: It would be fair to distinguish between seminary programs in and of themselves and priestly formation programs as a whole. I live very close to a Catholic seminary that I could attend as a lay man without aspiration or ordination, but my experience would be drastically different from a seminarian living there and in formation.

Now “Protestant” covers a whole number of groups, so I can’t say exactly how comparable they would be. Likely “First Antioch Bible College” Concordia Lutheral, Nashotah Seminary & Yale Divinity would all be very different.

Really, to see what is going on in different places, why not visit their websites?


#17

And they would ask the same question, don’t you think?

I honestly don’t know. You mean they read the fathers writings from 1400 years before the reformation and wonder why Catholics don’t accept the evidence of Protestantism there?:confused:

LT
[/quote]


#18

I assure you that LCMS Lutherans have no use for “Jesus and me” thinking! At least traditionally they didn’t. Some segments of the denomination are moving in that direction, I believe.

Also, a key question: considering the key areas of disagreement (real presence, sola scriptura, authority, sacraments…) how can both Protestants and Catholics go through such rigorous training, and yet still not agree on such matters? For instance, how can a Lutheran seminarian, who undoubtedly has intensively studied the Fathers, still not accept the Catholic evidence there?

Perhaps because that evidence is not as conclusive as you think?

This is not an attack on Catholicism. Historical evidence is rarely conclusive, because it’s extremely complex and can be read in a number of different ways. Witness the Catholic poster who claimed in another thread that St. Justin Martyr taught transubstantiation. I can’t for the life of me see that he did this.

Edwin


#19

Unfortunately, I find this spot on as regards my home parish. I love my deacons dearly, but I’ve found that they cannot really preach at all. I really do wonder sometimes. However, I’ve found the Dominicans I’ve been interacting with to be very good. It seems to make sense that in a religious order the quality of preaching would be higher-- but we really need it in our parishes too.

-Rob


#20

The Dominicans (OP) aren’t called the “Order of Preachers” for nothing! :slight_smile:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.