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%).