In Search of a New Generation of Seminarians

Sherry Anne Weddel’s comments on an alleged new generation of seminarians suspicious of their trad elders in seminary drew a lot of comment. I asked Sherry if she could tell me more about this. Is it really happening? Here is her reply to me. – awr

My limited information is from formators in different seminaries. I am hearing that these young seminarians are put off by the aura of narrow, angry, bitterness exuded by some of their “elder” brother seminarians. Which is not to say that these youngest seminarians would please all of your readers. My sense is that their idea of “the middle” is closer to JPII than to Fr. Z but it is definitely to the right of many Pray Tell commenters. What they are looking for is positive, hopeful, loving orthodoxy – not bitter, perpetually suspicious traditionalism. They accept both forms of the liturgy as normative but would never insist upon the Extraordinary Form alone and they are primarily pastorally and evangelically motivated rather than ideologically motivated.

20 comments

  1. >>positive, loving orthodoxy
    >>EF and OF equally valid
    >>OF as normative
    >>pastoral and evangelical
    >>more conservative than PrayTell
    >>more liberal than Fr. Z

    Oh my gosh! Seminarians who agree with the Church.

  2. Yes, Adam, the EF and OF are equally valid; but that is not the question. The EF, quite naturally, that is, it is preconciliar (!), has an ecclesiology, sacramental theology, and pneumatology that needed to be reconnected to the sources. ‘Equal’ is not to be found in Summorum Pontificum or the accompanying letter of the Holy Father. Article I establishes the Ordinary Form as ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ and the Extraordinary form as ‘extraordinary.’

    1. @Paul Ford – comment #2:

      “equal” is not to be found, but neither is “unequal” to be found.

      SP says that both forms express “eiusdem ‘Legis orandi’ Ecclesiae“. This after earlier noting that “the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith” and emphasizing the importance of maintaining that connection. To argue that the EF is then somehow defficient in “ecclesiology, sacramental theology, and pneumatology” seems difficult to reconcile with the motu proprio.

      I am amused by the idea of Fr. Zuhlsdorf representing “bitter, perpetually suspicious traditionalism.” as the parallelism suggests. That’s not the Fr. Zuhlsdorf I’ve met and worked with.

      There is, I think, a false contrast in “They accept both forms of the liturgy as normative but would never insist upon the Extraordinary Form alone and they are primarily pastorally and evangelically motivated rather than ideologically motivated.” Those who insist on the EF alone in my experience do so because they believe (not that I neccesarily endorse this view) that it is the best way to achieve pastoral and eveangelical goals.

  3. My comment about JPII and Fr. Z were simply trying to establish where these young men might fall on the spectrum. They would fall closer in spirit to JPII, I think. I never said that Fr. Z is a “bitter, perpetually suspicious traditionalist”. In general, he is not but you cannot always say that about the people drawn to his comboxes. Some of these youngest seminarians find those kind of discussions off-putting.

    The central key is “loving, creative, orthodoxy vs. bitter and perpetually suspicious”.

    I’ve never heard them say anything about the the two forms being “equal” – just normative, valid, to be accepted.

    Of course, it is very early days yet. It has been my experience (which is limited, of course) that seminaries around the country do vary considerably in their atmosphere and community tone. There are seminaries where the focus is genuinely pastoral and evangelical, not ideological. But obviously that’s not true everywhere.

    1. @Sherry Weddell – comment #5:
      It’s still not clear to me what about the “traditionalist” position makes it any more ideological than the non-traditionalist position. Couldn’t they both be oriented towards being pastoral and evanglical and just have different opinions about how to go about it?

      1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #6:
        Maybe it’s the “ist” on “traditionalist” that marks it as ideological and distinguishes it from those who simply love and value the Catholic tradition. I myself would never claim that traditionalists have a monopoly on ideology.

  4. May I be as bold as to suggest that the moto proprio reflects a failure to receive Vatican II and its implementation, where the among the reasons put forth for the the reform of the liturgy was that the texts of the Ordinary of the EF, as we now call it, were ecclesiologically, sacramentally and pneumatologically deemed deficient. The contribution of Robert J Daly on ‘Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology’ in Bulman and Parralla (ed) “From Trent to Vatican II” (Oxford UP, 2006) should be required reading for all who advocate the EF. Actually, I’d recommend the whole book as background reading for why Vatican II was necessary.
    One further point, it has been demonstrated in a significant number of academic studies that in the post Vatican II era, both John Paul II, and even more the Roman Curia, have produced documents that raise questions regarding their correct reception of the teaching of the Council. Just because a Curial document offers a particular interpretation of Vatican II doesn’t guarantee that interpretation reflects an adequate or correct reception of the Council’s teaching.

    1. @Brendan Kelleher svd – comment #8:
      As John Paul II was one of the Council Fathers, I would say that would put him in a far better position to properly interpret and implement the Council than someone who was not.

    2. @Brendan Kelleher svd – comment #8:
      “Just because a Curial document offers a particular interpretation of Vatican II doesn’t guarantee that interpretation reflects an adequate or correct reception of the Council’s teaching.”
      The same could be said about anyone here as well as any academic author, don’t you think? My own view is that based on the nature of the different docs. (constitutions vs. declarations vs. decrees) there are parts of V2 that demand assent and other parts that do not. The sweeping generalizations we see in some docs. demand very little but the specific directives we see in others challenge us toward something more. I also think that it is up to the bishops to interpret the council and to point to the areas that demand assent. Point being that it appears that the bishops together with the Holy Father believe that one can be a good V2 RC when using the EF exclusively and when celebrating the OF completely in the vernacular. Best practice might even be to employ the EF together with the OF in the same church, chapel or monastery to facilitate the full expression of the Roman rite. The discussions with the Lefebvrists seem to suggest that there is and can continue to be a certain diversity of opinion re. the council’s teaching within the Church no doubt because we are a big family.

  5. Mr. Dalby – your logic would suggest that Lefevbre and the SSPX bishops who attended VII are also in “far better position to properly interpret and implement the Council than someone who was not”

    Really?

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #13:
      I’m guessing Bill was talking about the bishops who illegally ordained four additional bishops for the SSPX: Lefebvre himself, as well as Antonio de Castro Mayer. Both were at Vatican II — and both signed Dignitatis Humanae, but maybe that’s a matter for another discussion.

  6. Bill deHaas : Mr. Dalby – your logic would suggest that Lefevbre and the SSPX bishops who attended VII are also in “far better position to properly interpret and implement the Council than someone who was not” Really?

    A point elegantly made, Bill. Lefebvre was in a good position to interpret the Council but failed to do so.

    I would draw the distinction that Karol Wojtyła was chosen by other Council Fathers to promulgate and teach the Council as they had understood it; they didn’t choose Lefebvre.

  7. I’m more curious as to whether there is a “new generation” of priests, rather than seminarians. There is a lot that happens, a lot that is said, and a lot that is done during seminary that does not survive two years after seminary. There is also a lot that does survive, but you don’t know which is which until after the fact. “When I’m ordained, I will never . . . ” or “. . . I will always . . . ” are sentences spoken by seminarians that bring smiles of amusement to the faces of many faculty members.

    Look instead at priests who have been ordained for three years, and compare them with those ordained for 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, etc. That’s when you’ll see whether there is a new generation emerging.

  8. For a good analysis of the different generations of priests and seminarians based on hard data, see SAME CALL DIFFERENT MEN
    by Mary Gautier and Paul Peri available from the NFPC. There are certainly significant differences among the 4 generations of priests (pre-Vatican, post-Vatican, JPII, and millennial) due to a variety of factors, but perhaps the differences are not as sharp or as unbridgeable as some might think with some open, honest communication and lots of good will.

  9. This is really a very interesting observation. I am half-way through seminary, perhaps in the middle of these two alleged generations. There is perhaps some truth in the observation, but I still think that the youngest of seminarians are the most likely to be interested in the EF. However, Ms. Weddel may be on to something here, but not for the reason she thinks. If the youngest of seminarians seem less bitter, it is, I think, precisely because of the normification of the EF following Summorum Pontificum. That is, we have a “new generation” (which is really too blunt a distinction for a group less then ten years apart in age) that has not known much of the bitter rancor that older seminarians have experienced with regards to the EF. The younger men have never known the EF in its pre-Summorum Pontificum context and don’t understand why there needs to be such conflict about this. But that doesn’t mean they own fewer cassocks or birettas or less lace. To put a broad characterization on it: the “older generation” has a minority of men who want the EF who are somewhat (or extremely, however you interpret the situation) embittered by conflicts regarding it with formators and bishops. The “younger generation” is on the whole much more friendly to the EF, but doesn’t understand the embitteredness of its promoters in the “older generation.” And there are, I think, two important lessons in this: the first is the power of Summorum Pontificum in drawing the EF into the ordinary life of the church (yes, I realize I said “ordinary”) to eliminate this bitterness, rather than by attempting to isolate the EF and its adherents. The second is a broader lesson about the greater appeal of love than bitterness, a lesson not only for seminarians but for everyone.

    However, I do want to take one last shot to say that the idea that there are any seminarians, let alone a large cohort, who intend to impose the EF on unwilling parishioners is a significant exaggeration. But perhaps Ms. Weddel means something else by…

  10. I would agree that those seminarians she mentions are the norm. I definitely knew some of the others in seminary, but by-and-large, the new generation is good.

    What is really needed is good human formation, since many seminarians come from broken homes and varied family lives, as are most of their peers in society.

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