In this series, I have been addressing certain aspects of the scandals that the Church has suffered over the past 70 years. Having addressed some of the causes of the scandals and certain questions about the priesthood, I would like now to look at the renewal that we are seeing in priestly formation. This is good news since much of the scandal that has so hurt the Church had its beginnings in deficient seminary formation.
If one were to go to school to be a pilot or accountant, the preparation would emphasize the technical skills needed for such occupations. If one were studying to be a teacher, there would be emphasis on the ability to interact with students and best foster their growth. For priests, to live the calling to love God and to serve His people in persona Christi, a formation is required that seeks to address the man’s growth in all aspects of his life.
While the formation of the clergy in the early Church took the form of an apprenticeship, it grew to include more education at the monasteries and cathedral schools in the Middle Ages. Then, at the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, the Church called for seminary houses where men would be instructed especially in philosophy and theology in order to serve well as priests. Many such seminaries were built in our country as the Catholic population grew rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Second Vatican Council, in “Optatam Totius (Decree on Priestly Training),” stated that “the whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd” (4).
This was further developed by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II as they called for synods on the priesthood. It was after one of these synods that St. John Paul II gave the Church his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis (I will give you Shepherds)” in 1992, which set the course for the renewal and purification of our approach in forming future priests. Herein, the Holy Father outlined in detail the four pillars of formation for the priesthood.
Read more at Catholic Sun.