The problems with seminaries

Aug 4, 2016 | 4 comments

“Is it possible that the seminary is not the place for priestly formation? Diarmaid Martin, speaking on the radio, suggested that it is not, that those who wish to be priests should be assigned to a parish on an apprenticeship basis with built-in periods for theological study?”

“I believe that the negative influence of clericalism will never be eradicated while priesthood is confined to male celibates. So the question of women in ministry has to be faced and openly discussed.”

“the Irish church needs to initiate a process of discussion at all levels to discern what type of ministry is best suited for the Church of the future.”

“After a period of discussion at all levels, and when clear direction emerges, the leaders of the Irish church will need to face down those in the Vatican who are trying to hold back the necessary developments.”

Tony Flannery

Visit Irish Independent website to read article
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  1. Martin Murray

    For me this article highlights two major credibility issues the Catholic Church faces today, namely the exclusion of women from the ministry of priesthood and priestly formation in general. If we can now take this opportunity to address these core issues through serious discussion and action, the church could once again be a dynamic source of spiritual hope for individuals and society as it continues its journey into the 21st century.

  2. soconaill

    Is there not at least one other linked issue, Martin – that of actuating our ‘mere’ Baptism, beginning with discernment of the calling of every Christian, the basic role and mode of life to which Jesus is calling ALL of us?

    I ask this because of what I see as the abysmal ‘formation’ of our clergy (in general) for their task of conveying to the rest of us what Jesus quite explicitly called us to – more joyous and more abundant lives.

    I recall asking a diocesan priest friend: “How do priests generally measure the effectiveness of their ministry?” After a few moments of thought he replied:

    “Bums on seats I suppose!”

    We oldsters can all remember how that measure was maximised pre-Vatican II (and even later). The Lenten retreat was purpose-designed to do two things: to convince us of our own turpitude (predominantly just for being sexual) and to provide the celibately-delivered cure, priestly absolution. We were thus placed on the never-ending and always failing purity-perfection treadmill – so caught up in our own weekly need for personal purification that we had no inkling of the central experience of the Christian tradition: the realisation that we had always been – and would always be – eternally beloved of God.

    Still today people can be gifted with that realisation (e.g. in a well-managed Cursillo) but find absolutely no reflection of it in the pro-forma parish liturgy.

    A few weeks ago I heard a priest telling his congregation that the 72 sent out by Jesus to spread the good news MUST have been priests – for that was what we all now needed, MORE PRIESTS to do the same.

    It is not too strong, I believe, to characterise the typical priestly formation as an annexation of the duty and privilege of every Christian by virtue of Baptism: to offer a joyous faith to others by virtue of his / her own joyous faith.

    No wonder that we the Baptised were so seldom observant of the far greater pain of those ostracised and imprisoned by that perfectionist system.

  3. Mary Vallely

    There is such downright dishonesty deep within the RCC. Thinking back to the cover-ups involving Micheal Ledwith, the former President of Maynooth, and the disgraceful way Fr Gerry McGinnity was treated for raising the allegations against him, it seems to be a continual culture of cover- up and hypocrisy. (Child abuse the most egregrious of cover ups, of course.) The Church needs to face up to the reality of sexuality, hetero, homo and of transgender issues (have you heard Pope Francis’s latest statement?!)and have an honest and open discussion. Celibacy works for those who are gifted with this charism but it doesn’t work for all and it is cruel to impose it and not expect many to break this promise. Women, of course, have been treated appallingly and I don’t know why most of us still cling on but we do and we will in the hope that slowly, things will change. Stories need to be told, not just told,but HEARD and mulled and prayer over… Now, this sounds like a rant and it is but I feel it is justified. We need to face up to reality!!!
    The present system of priestly formation is no longer effective nor no longer healthy (if it ever was). I have huge admiration for priests and religious who have done tremendous work and lived lives of integrity and who must be hurting at all these rumours and allegations but let’s be honest and allow inclusive discussion and debate about all these issues.

  4. Martin Murray

    Couldn’t agree more Sean. I have always felt that the the the emphasis and exaggeration of the clerical/lay dichotomy is at best unhelpful and that seminary training seems to be geared towards inflating it at every opportunity.

    If I’m reading you right, I think what you are saying is that by focusing too much on the clerical priesthood we tend to neglect or overlook the priesthood of all believers. Thats probably true and the fact that Catholic laity are active in service globally in so many ways does tend to be overlooked. However clerical priesthood is very much the public face of Catholicism and for this reason we cannot ignore it. This is not meant as a denigration of the good men who currently serve as priests and do a selfless job that I myself couldn’t do. Its just that along with everything else in the church, priesthood too must be open to change, renewal and reform. As lay people and full members of the church, we must have a say in what shape that must take in the future. Priests should not see us as troublemakers or as disloyal for saying so. We are involved.

    And well said Mary. Not a rant. Just honest words, spoken with conviction and concern.


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