Rorate Caeli

In France, the lowest number of Seminarians since the Revolution

Not Vatican II, we mean the French Revolution. Besides the collapse in "ordinary" seminarians, the number of Traditional seminarians in France is not increasing anymore.

From Paix Liturgique:

The French Episcopal Conference has just released the results of an "Inquiry on the situation of candidates to the presbyterial ministry on November 15, 2011". It was carried on by the [Conference's] Commission for Ordained Ministries and Lay Faithful in Ecclesial Mission.


Last year, the decline in the number of candidates to the priesthood had been of 3% (732 on November 15, 2010, compared to 756 on November 15, 2009). Once again, the Commission for Ordained Ministries notes a similar decline of 3% (710 on November 15, 2011).

Let us recall, in order to evaluate the data throughout a longer period, that the number of French seminarians was of 4,536 in 1966, at the end of the Council. of 1,297 in 1975, during the explosive years of the liturgical reform; of 1,203 in 1996,during the John Paul II years; of 784 in 2005, after the election of Benedict XVI; and now of 710. A collapse of almost 85% may also be observed since Vatican II, which nothing - or almost! - seems capable of least, as long as a spirit not favorable to priestly renewal is dominant in parishes.

It may thus be ascertained ... that the number of 710, as globally indicative of the vocations that are effectively destined to the dioceses, is the lowest level ever registered since the Revolution.


[On traditional vocations:]

The results of our inquiry based on our criteria are the following:

- The SSPX has 49 French seminarians (48 in Écône, 1 in Winona), which is exactly the same number of last year, these Frenchmen representing a constant proportion, in the past several years, of one third of the candidates to the priesthood of the entire SSPX (150), (this seems related to the fact that the apostolate of the Society of Saint Pius X has been very stable in France for the past ten years, and thus that the number of related faithful is not on the increase currently);

- the "official" French Traditionalists number 91 seminarians, instead of 95 in the last year, a number that is practically stable. (Also there this stability is explained by the fact that the number of parishes or celebrations entrusted to priests of Ecclesia Dei communities increases only very, very slowly, making their priestly apostolate difficult);



- as a result that the numbers of "ordinary" seminatians collapses and that those of the "extraordinary" ones remain stable, the proportion continues to increasingly grow in favor of the "extraordinary" ones (a little over 16% [of the total] compared to a little less than 84%);

- however, in absolute numbers, there is stability, after constant growth in the preceding years (the French candidates for the priesthood for the Tridentine rite were 120 in 2005, 130 in 2007, 136 in 2008, 140 in 2009, 144 in 2010, 140 in 2011) - which is proportional to the very slow growth in the number of "extraordinary" celebrations;

- ... over 15% of this country´s seminarians are "generated" by at most 5% of all practicing Catholics - those who have access to the Traditional liturgy every Sunday. ... Let us repeat it: over 15% of this country's seminarians are "engendered" by less than 5% of practicing Catholics. This exceptional vocational breeding ground (which is exceptional not in itself, but relatively to a situation of collapse) could be considerably more relevant if a number of conditions were present. There is no space to examine them here, but they may be summarized thus: the "supply" of Traditional celebrations must correspond to the "demand" for it. Because if there are no more than 5% of practicing [Catholics] live their faith according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, at least one third of the faithful wish they were able to have the traditional liturgy in their parishes, the results of our surveys regularly indicate.

Today, the Holy See made available some numbers included in the new Annuario Pontificio, including the following:

The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan or religious seminaries has increased constantly in the course of the past five years. As a whole, it has increased 4%, from 114,439 in 2005 to 118,990 in 2010. In decline in Europe (-10.4%) and in America (-1,1% [including North and South America]), the major seminarians increase in Africa (+14.2%), in Asia (+13.0%), and in Oceania (+12.3%).


  1. "the presbyterial ministry"


  2. I know... The words were chosen by the French Episcopal Conference...

  3. Francis6:13 PM

    NC said "The words were chosen by the French Episcopal Conference..."

    No surprise. Then they wonder why vocations in France, and the French (novus ordo) Church overall
    are in shambles. St. Joan, pray for the French Church.

  4. the boy6:31 PM

    Well on the positive side, it means traditionalism will overtake novus ordo-ism all the sooner. (So long as the traditionalist numbers do not in fact decline)

  5. "Well on the positive side, it means traditionalism will overtake novus ordo-ism all the sooner."

    Will Islam in France overtake them all?

  6. These very revealing numbers are not quite as bad as they appear if you factor out demographic factors. Thus, the late 60s would have been the height of the French baby boomer movement into seminaries whereas this effect would have lessened by 1975, and then the low birth rate thereafter obviously significantly affected the subsequent decades. Of course, the demographic precipice itself begs for explanation along spiritual and cultural lines. However, something clearly momentous happened, oh, around 1968 :-)

  7. Gregorian Mass8:56 PM

    Seminary and the Priesthood would be helped greatly by the implementation of Veterum Sapientia which requires the Priesthood to be brought back to its' foundations including the Traditional formation structures. In order to appeal to likely candidates it is the mystery, tradition, and history of the Church and her long ago past that often will draw the men with the deep, profound calling to serve Christ. The wishy washy image that is now presented appeals more to those who wish to be therapists in a parish. The beauty of Traditional formaltion and the isolation and disciplines that come with it draw people into a world devoted to Christ. Being too much like the outside, secular world is simply not appealing to too many young these days. It is harking back to tradition and times past that peak ones curiosity and the environment conducive to a solid formation. Often, the way the Priesthood is imagined by people outside the clerical state is equal to that of simply another profession or job interview. The mystery of an ancient formation is gone or at least lacking so sorely.

  8. Supporting the cause "restore communion on the tongue only" ( would certainly help to alleviate this situation... as long as every lay person is allowed to touch the Holy Eucharist,there will be no strong movement towards the traditional priesthood. It's a shame that only 4339 people (Cardinal Burke among others) have signed this petition so far. The Feast of St. Joseph is the closing date.

  9. Mr. Woltze,

    There was a boom in France following Liberation, which would explain the large number of 20-year-olds in the mid-1960s, but the decrease in births from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, when the 20-year-olds of the 1970s were born, was very mild in the country (from 870 thousand births to around 805 thousand births, still much higher than at any moment between 1922 and 1945). The 1965-1975 post-Conciliar collapse was absolutely disproportionate to those mild numbers.

    And France still remains the most fertile country in the European mainland, with around 800 thousand yearly births, on average, since that time... (Yes, we are aware that many of those babies are not the children of even nominal Catholics.)

  10. Pater, O.S.B.11:17 PM


    Perhaps if the petition did not require a fee to sign it would have gotten more signatures. There was no indication that my signature had been accepted before I was directed to a page asking for money. Bad move.

  11. MJ, your comment was rejected. When this happens, do not insist. If you have a problem with the numbers, contact Paix Liturgique in the linked website - thanks!

  12. Matthew Rose12:22 AM

    Pater, O.S.B.:

    The page requesting money is misleading and it should have been made clearer that a donation to the service is NOT necessary; however, that is simply a necessary evil of using a free webhost for a petition - the hosting website requests money. Your signature has already gone through by the time you arrive at that page, however.

  13. Anonymous12:51 AM

    First, should actually start having kids. It's almost unheard of to get a priest out of one or two children. They usually come from large families.

    Two, stop referring to an Alter Christus as a presbyter. How is that something that a real man desires to be?

  14. This is what happens when people hate children and practice abortion, contraception and other self-centered lifestyles. Not only the lack of Religion but also the degeneration of the family adds to these awful statistics.

    In reality, the fatiful Catholics, according to these stats are actually doing their part. God bless each one and their seminarians.


  15. Peterman3:39 AM

    I traveled all over Catholic France with my French wife last year. The Faith is not dead in France it is merely asleep. Communism and the "ideals" of the enlightenment sprang into the world from France and she indeed will have to pay dearly for this and for abandoning her Catholic Faith. It has been said that during the revolution, the Eldest Daughter left the Sacred Heart with much excitement and joy but she will be dragged very painfully back into the Sacred Heart.

  16. Brian5:21 AM

    Liberals, who disparage celebacy, almost universally discourage their sons from entering into the celebate priesthood.

  17. Pater, O.S.B.10:32 AM

    Dear Matthew Rose,

    Thank you for the clarification. It might help to increase signatures if the website that linked to the petition mentioned this. I shall write them myself.

  18. GQ Rep11:42 AM

    Having been in Italy and France immediatly after the Christmas holidays (and Greece as well, but which has a very small Catholic population) I can attest to the complete collapse of the Catholic Church in both countries with regards to seminarians and well as for nuns.
    I visited at least twenty monasteries etc and Churches in Italy, and an equal number in France during my few days off from photo shoots during my stay of close to two months.
    In Italy, we visited a dozen monasteries in Florence, Italy...all but two were down to a handful of monks or nuns. One cloister of Dominican nuns was built in the 17th century to house 100+ nuns. Up until the years immediatly after Vatican II, some of the sisters and neighbors said that even in 1967-68 there were still close to 70 sisters in residence.
    They slightly modified their habit in 1975 (showing the hair rather than the traditional Dominican wimple and collar), and since then have declined to their present 19 aged sisters. We visited a Franciscan church called Ognisanti (All Saints), which had, before Vatican II a compliment of 35 Franciscans (though the monastery next to the Church was likewise built in the 1500's to house many more). Today, there are only 6 friars! All but 1 was at least 65.
    Many, many small Orders of sisters in Italy that people have never heard of have gone extinct, or are on the point of it...with dozens of empty convents and Churches.
    One or two have been taken over by the so called "new movements" or religious communities, which is not necessarilly a good thing at all.
    In France, it is far worse. There are hundreds of abandoned convents, monasteries, and Churches. The one and only Camaldolese monastery of nuns in France has 2 elderly nuns, from Poland. The monastery will probably close.
    Two ancient and venerable Carthusian monasteries (one of monks, 1 of nuns) have closed within the last 10 years. But there is a Carthusian monastery of monks which is affiliated to the SSPX which has a community approaching 30.
    While this report paints a portrait of traditional communities not growing, it is largely because the established Church autorities are not allowing them to grow....not because there is a lack of support. The French bishops and very many priests are doing all they can to halt Catholic traditionalism. They are not really achieving their aim, but they are trying hard to destroy it. But it;s backfiring on them, and the people are turning against the "ordinary form". Mass attendance is below 5% in France.
    I visited a community of very aged habitless Poor Clare nuns, which before Vatican II had over 50 in community. Today there are 7. This monastery is set to close later in 2012, ending 600 years of life!
    To be fair, I also visited three Benedictine cloisters of nuns, 2 according to Catholic tradition and 1 which wears the traditional habit but follows the "ordinary form". All three are flourishing.

    You can kiss good-by the trappist monks in France....every one of their abbies has gone liberal with the Ordinary form and it's bizarre experiments, and every one of the monasteries with the odd exception of Sept-fons (althbough their growth has stopped too), are down to small remnants of monks with a median age approaching 80! Within 10 years, all 30 Trappist houses in France will probably be gone (monks and nuns).

    Guests(retreatants etc), are not permitted at Carthusian houses, unless you're entering. So I didn't visit one...but heard that La Grande Chartreuse is hanging on with about 32 monks...down from close to 60 before Vatican II.

    This report from France paints a fairly accurate picture of the diisaster since Vatican II..very much the same in the USA.

    Pray that this Pope allows for a complete return of the SSPX without conditions, and a mandate to re-introduce the Tridentine Latin Mass in all parishes and religious houses. Otherwise, the Church everywhere is dead.

  19. With only 2% of French Catholics going to mass on any given Sunday is it surprising a) that their sons aren't entering the seminary and b) that there isn't a need for more priests?

  20. Sequentia2:30 PM

    Most of the seminarians and religious I've known in traditional orders were raised with the Novus Ordo and only discovered the EF as adults. Could the same be true in France? If so, it would mean the EF was attracting priests in higher numbers, but not necessarily producing them at the same rate. I think it's important to realize this, since it says a lot about how the traditional liturgy actually factors into these vocations.

  21. Francis2:43 PM

    After reading GQ Rep's very informative, and very sad post it really puts the whole Vatican II disaster in proper perspective. Italy and France were the halmark of Catholic Europe for centuries. This disaster in the Catholic Church started and continues to implode from the top down (the modernist and liberal bishops, priests etc) and will only be fixed in my opinion from the bottom up (Ie traditional Catholic laity and priests. As GQ stated the modernist bishops in France, and elsewhere have tried to destroy any semblance of Catholic orthodoxy and tradition, especialy the TLM, with only mimimal success. The positive in all of this is that the people who created this mess(ie the 1960's hippie, liberals, relativists and indifferentists) at Vatican II and afterwards are dying off, literally along with their ideology. Pope Benedict XVI has the power to truly transform the Barque of Peter back to tradition and orthodoxy.

  22. We have witnessed during the past few decades the monumental collapse of the Latin (well...vernacular) Church.

    Popes, Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious have viewed statistics akin to those presented in this thread.

    On the one hand, we have posters who insist that only the return to Latin Church Tradition (from Liturgy to spirituality) will reverse the monumental decline of the Latin (well...vernacular) Church.

    On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI and Latin (vernacular) Church bishops (except Bishop Rifan and the SSPX bishops) remain committed to the Novus Ordo and, if you will, the "new orientation".

    That is where we stand.

    As Popes and bishops govern the Church, I expect the following:

    The Latin (vernacular) Church's collapse will continue as long as the Novus Ordo and "new orientation" remain in place.

    I am sorry to say that there isn't any reason to believe that the Catholic Faith is on the verge of revivial when we consider the following declaration from Pope Benedict XVI:

    “ large parts of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame that has nothing to feed on”.

    Again, that is the Holy Father's stark assessment of the state of the Catholic Faith.

    Wow! Bleak!


  23. Peterman4:59 PM

    If anyone is not familiar with Marie Julie Jahenny, her visions have been translated into a book downloadable free here:

    This makes for excellent Sunday reading. She saw and detailed this collapse of the faith in France so many years ago.

  24. GQ Rep:

    One glaring light in the darkened state of Abbeys of France, of course, is Abbaye Notre Dame de Fontgombault, which has over hundred monks and has spawned three religious houses in France: Randol Abbey, (1971), Triors Abbey (1984) and Gaussan Priory (1994), and Clear Creek Abbey in the United States (1999) [but if you visit their guesthouse beware of their baby killer lambs!]

    All are flourishing, with younger Monks, because they are devoted to Tradition...

  25. On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI and Latin (vernacular) Church bishops (except Bishop Rifan and the SSPX bishops) remain committed to the Novus Ordo and, if you will, the "new orientation".

    ...the following declaration from Pope Benedict XVI:

    “ large parts of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame that has nothing to feed on”.

    The problem is that while everyone in the Church is aware of the horrible situation we're in, not everyone agrees that the reforms and novelties have brought on our horrible situation.

    The Pope certainly doesn't believe the New Mass itself is the problem. Almost all the bishops agree with him.

    We continue to have Communion in the hand, meatless Fridays are gone except during Lent.

    Our top churchmen prayer and worship with non-Catholics, even inside mosques and synagogues.

    The use of altar girls is common practice in most dioceses. Laity control the sanctuaries. Priests face the people throughout Mass.

    I could go on, but what's the point?

    The reforms and novelties that are destroying the faith are in place and approved by Rome. And that's that.

  26. Also, please consider donating to Clear Creek (or buying their beautiful chant CDs) so they may complete their beautiful, "1,000-year", abbatial church.

  27. GQ Rep10:30 PM

    "Pope Benedict XVI has the power to truly transform the Barque of Peter back to tradition and orthodoxy."

    Yes, but he won't. He is afraid. And he really isn't a traditionalist anyway. This past weekend, he hosted in the Vatican and in Rome the so-called "Archbishop" of Canturbury, of the Protestant ANGLICANS.
    They had a joint ecumenical prayer service and vespers at the Camaldolese monastery of San Gregorio al Cielio (spelling may be off), in Rome. It is a very ancient church and monastery staffed since the 16th century by the Camaldolese monks. They are an Order which, unfortunatly despite it's cloistered/contemplative heritage has abandoned all Catholic traditiuon and created bizarre liturgical deviations both in their monasteries in Italy, and around the world. They have about 5 monks at San Gregorio, which is laughable because before Vatican II there were nearly 30 very traditional monks. Their whole Order (monks and nuns) have gone liberal and almost dissident....except in Poland where remnant traditional communities (2 of monks, 2 of nuns) stlll exist.
    World wide, the Camaldolese are broken into 2 branches. The original branch (dating from the 11th century founded by St. Romulaud), has now less than 100 members world-wide (thanks to their liberalism in liturgy, their fanatical ecumenism and devotion to inter-religious dialog principly with Hindus and Buddhists, as well as Protestants).

    The Other branch, founded in the 16th century, has less than 50 members but is much more conservative.

    Take a guess which branch probably won't survive for much longer. One branch is fairly stable but not exactly flourishing, the other aged and dying off rapidly. Can you guess which one?

  28. "Pope Benedict XVI has the power to truly transform the Barque of Peter back to tradition and orthodoxy."

    Yes, but he won't. He is afraid.

    Afraid of what?


  29. Gratias7:27 AM

    Thank you GQ Rep for your very informative report on the state of monasteries and convents in France and Italy.

    I do hope that rather than closing down these dying monasteries, our Church will give them to traditional orders to grow and keep our Faith. The SSPX, if it joins, could put these facilities to excellent use, as would the FSSP and ICK.

    There are thousands of Churches closing right now. It is inconceivable that our bishops cannot find it in their hearts to dedicate a few of them to the Traditional Latin Mass. Fortunately for us, Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae are now the Law of the Church. It would be very difficult for a future Pope or our vainglorious Cardinals and Bishops to reverse the license given to us by the wisdom of Benedict XVI.

    We will have to fight the Modernists and Progressives at every step of the way. And the Truth shall make Us Free.

    Why keep the monasteries and convents, one might ask. For the same reason we must keep the Latin Mass: in order to keep the Catholic Church Holy.

  30. My bishop told me yesterday, for the second time, he sees no pastoral purpose on having the TLM in my parish. The situation here (Brazil) is not as bad as in Europe but they will forbid the TLM till we get as low as Europe, that is, till is too late to make a difference.

  31. Gregorian Mass12:12 AM

    GQ's post brings the facts ont he ground home...What Bishops, Cardinals, and even the recent Popes do not seem to understand what really appeals to young people. And I do not mean 18 year ols, but younger, 12, 14 or so. It is Traditions, pomp, mystery etc. This is the allure that draws their interest initially. Then their vocation grows. Beauty and magesty appeals to the young. It captures them at a t yound age. Why do you think Disney and Cinderella are so successful generation after generation. It is the fantastical. That is the image that the Church has cast aside in favor of "modern" things. That is why it gets tired real fast. The old Renassiance or Medevial image is what captures the imagination. From there it grows. Only a true return to all that heritage and mystery will stir the imagination until the voice of Christ calls as it had done for centuries. IF that entails the Tridentine Mass and its' trappings then maybe it is just time to admit it and get on with things. Obviously the New "format" they have used since Vat II does not work.


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