Pontiff: Priests Need Solid Formation

*The Church today needs priests with a sound human, cultural and spiritual formation, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made that assessment today at an audience with priests, deacons and seminarians of various countries studying at the Capranica College, the seminary of the Diocese of Rome.

Popes Benedict XV and Pius XII received formation at the seminary, which was founded in 1457.

The quality of the clergy depends on the soundness of their formation,” said the Pope in his address to the seminarians.

In addition to studies, seminarians should receive an “integral formation, centered on the spiritual dimension,” whose "pillars are the daily sacrament of the Eucharist and the sacrament of confession."

Benedict XVI said the Church has opted for “a sound human, cultural and spiritual formation, open to the needs proper to times and places.”


At one level the Holy father is saying something no-one could disagree with. The church needs good priests, which means that care has to be taken as to their formation.

However I think there is a deeper issue here. The seminary system was made mandatory at Trent, at a time when the professions were first coming into prominence. A priest was effectively another professional man.

Now we are undergoing another big shift, and the status of the professions is changing. Virtually everyone claims to be a professional these days. It is not clear to me that a professional clergy is any longer appropriate.

I am not sure I understand the point you are making. May I ask you to please explain what you mean by “…a professional clergy is [no] longer appropriate.”?

I’m intrigued by your analysis (and may actually agree). Could you further expound, please?

we need a Spirit-filled clergy, who will utilize their gifts and charisms as in the Early Church.
Priests who are properly formed, intellectually, spiritually, culturally etc.
Priests are called to be other Christs
satan has gained too much ground
we dont need run of the mill, we need true Priests, who embrace their call 100%.

The Pope is right on. Where a Bishop sends his vocations will have a tremendous influence on his Diocese. It is no different than a doctor going to a med school that isn’t very good, and then expecting that doctor to perform brain surgery and not kill the patient. How does one expect a young man to go to a seminary and learn about Catholicism and then go back to the diocese and be a great orthodox priest if he wasn’t taught orthodox Catholicism? Honestly there are only a few Seminarys in the U.S. that are worth sending future priest to. In our diocese future priest spend the first 4 years of study in a seminary that is located in our own diocese. The Bishop wants to make sure that each seminarian is taught orthodox Catholicism from the very begining, so he started his own seminary here in Lincoln. This also allows our semianrians to stay close to home so that parents and other family can visit and so that the semanrian can go home more often. But the main reason was because the Bishop couldn’t trust other seminaries to educated his future priest. After the four years are completed our seminarians then go to only one of two places for their completion of studies. These two semanrians are: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.
and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Our Bishop trust no other seminary’s to educate his future priest. I will also add that we don’t have one disenting priest in our diocese. Everyone of them is in line with the Vatican and the Bishop. You can visit our primary seminary at:


The priesthood is something much more profound and meaningful than a profession. However it has similarities to it - we can talk without absurdity of the medical vocation, for instance.

In the sixteenth century European society underwent a lot of major changes. One of them was that the old division between a military noble class and a peasantry was replaced by a threefold division between great landowners, poor workers, and a middle or professional class of lawyers, doctors, craftsmen, and so on.

The church responded to this by professionalising the priesthood. Instead of a young man assisting the village priest and Mass, and then eventually taking over, seminaries were set up for formal teaching with discipline and examinations.

Now however we are coming to the end of that period. Now so many people describe themselves as professionals that a professional model of priesthood no longer approximates to a priest’s real status. Priest as someone similar to the doctor, not too bad. Priest as someone similar to a call-centre technical support professional, nothing like.

Priests still need to be educated about their role, regardless of the model.

How would you remedy this situation as you see it? Abolish the seminary system and replace it with something different or allow anyone who feels the desire to set up shop as a Priest on his own or something in between?

There needs to be, as I see it some formal training ground for Priests and unless a better model is developed the seminary seems to be that best place, albeit not in the form that some of them currently are.

When we set up the Traditional Catholic school, I’d like to train priests organically. How it would work is that everyone would have the basics of Latin, church history, and scripture, plus the inevitable catechis. Courses in Greek, Hebrew, theology, philosophy, and advanced church history would be available to boys who were academically inclined. Those with ecclesiastical leanings would also be able to be altar servers, and to particiapate in voluntary spiritual activities.

Some of them, one would hope, would have vocations. However in the nature of things, not all.

I would then like some sort of temporary membership of an adult religious society. Men would enter at about eighteen and subscribe for say, five years, with no presumption that there was any intention to stay on beyond the five years. It would be a balanced regime of learning, good works, and devotion. Most members would then leave at about 24 and marry or otherwise pursue secular careers. However some would then be ordained as priests or permanent deacons.

The first part sounds pretty good and in fact mimics what a lot of earlier school curriculums actually were, Catholic and Protestant as well as other religions… I think that would be a great thing.

The second part sounds a lot the military or peace corps or something along those lines. I don’t think that it would work in any large sense.

It is an interseting concept though.

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