On the education of seminarians

In the first place We urge that the literary and scientific education of future priests be at least not inferior to that of laymen who take similar courses of study. In this way, not only will the seriousness of the intellectual training be assured but the choice of subjects also will be facilitated. Seminarians will feel themselves freer in the choice of their vocation and there will be warded off the danger that, through lack of sufficient cultural preparation which can assure a position in the world, one or the other student may feel himself in some way driven to take a path that is not his by following the reasoning of the unfaithful steward: “To dig I am not able, to beg I am ashamed”. If, then, it should happen that some student about whom good hopes were formed for his entering the Church should leave the seminary, this would not be a source of preoccupation, because later on the young man who succeeds in finding his path, would not be able to forget the benefits received in the seminary and by his activity would be able to make a notable contribution to the work of the Catholic laity.

In the intellectual training of young seminarians — although other studies especially those relating to social questions, so necessary today, should not be overlooked — the greatest importance must be given to philosophical and theological teaching “according to the method of the Angelic Doctor” brought up to date and adapted to meet modern errors. Study of these subjects is of maximum importance and usefulness both for the priest himself and for the people. The masters of the spiritual life state that the study of the sacred sciences, provided they be imparted in the right way and according to correct systems, is a most efficacious help in preserving and nourishing the spirit of faith, checking the passions, and maintaining the soul united to God. It must be added that the priest who is the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” must labor mightily for the defense of the Faith by preaching the Gospel and confuting the doctrinal errors opposed to it which are disseminated today among the people by every possible means. But these errors cannot be efficaciously fought if the unassailable principles of Catholic philosophy and theology are not thoroughly known.

In this connection, it is not out of place to recall that the method of teaching which has long been in use in Catholic schools is of particular efficacy in giving clear concepts and showing how doctrines entrusted as sacred deposit to the Church, teacher of Christians, are organically connected and clear. Today, there are not lacking those who, departing from the teachings of the Church and overlooking clarity and precision of ideas, not only depart from the correct method of our schools but open the way to errors and confusion, as sad experience shows.

In order to prevent wavering and uncertainty where ecclesiastical studies are concerned, We, strongly exhort you, venerable brethren, to watch carefully that the precise rules laid down by this Apostolic See for such studies be faithfully received and translated into action. – from Menti Nostrae (1950)