Laity and older clergy who grew into their faith and life’s vocation in the wake of Vatican II know in their bones that something in the seminary formation of clergy went awry in recent decades, but we don’t know what. How, we ask, could post-Vatican II seminaries form priests with a pre-Vatican II mindset and send them forth to minister to people living in today’s church and world? ‘Tiz a puzzlement!’

Katarina Schuth, O.F.S., is Professor for the Social Scientific Study of Religion at St. Paul Seminary in the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Seminary formation has been her sociological focus for decades. Her 2016 publication on the question is the title of this review. It’s as sure a guide out of our puzzlement as one can find.

Through seven brief, detailed, and insightful chapters, Schuth takes her reader from the effects of Vatican II on the Present State of Seminaries to New Directions for the Future. She reports and analyzes seminary organization and personnel, seminary and lay students preparing for ministry, and their programs of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. Then she draws conclusions.

Numerous factors have contributed to the current situation in which many recently ordained priests, most born after 1965 who never experienced the pre-Vatican II Church, come out with a determination to minister in a pre-Vatican II way. Some emerge complete with cassock, biretta, fiddle-back vestments, capes, preference for Latin and the novus ordo(Tridentine) liturgy, and, most importantly, a clerical mindset. In my recent meetings with priests across the country I heard laments about this reality everywhere. One deacon seminarian had made known that, once ordained, his number one priority and that of his classmates would be the elimination of girl servers. Happily, his bishop terminated his path to priesthood.

Among the factors contributing to this situation was familial, social, moral, and ecclesial unrest in the decades following Vatican II, the decline in seminary recruits, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the centralizing governance of the Church during the long pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and their concerns for doctrinal orthodoxy and tight discipline. Schuth reports that Immediately following Vatican II most seminary rectors held advanced degrees in theological disciplines. Today most hold degrees in canon law. Somehow a ‘reform of the reform of Vatican II’ mindset took hold not only of the Vatican but of most U.S. bishops, of rectors, and of faculty in the declining number of surviving seminaries. The pastoral surge of care for God’s people by servant-leaders generated by Vatican II was gradually but effectively reversed in favor of hierarchically disciplined shepherds holding the line on Roman orthodoxy and reducing the participation of the laity in the life of the Church, even in the liturgy.

Schuth professionally and diplomatically traces this trajectory. She concludes by articulating new directions for the future with the help of essays by other authors addressing respectively the Spirituality of Ecclesial Leadership (Ronald Rolheiser), Generational Differences (Thomas Walters), Human Formation (Lean M. Hutton), Trends in Scripture Study and Preaching Preparation in Seminaries (Barbara E. Reid), and the future of seminary formation in terms of Pope Francis’ accent on Encounter and accompaniment (Peter Vaccari).

For me, one of Schuth’s most disconcerting insights is the support of a clerical mentality among seminarians due to the separation of candidates for ordination from lay students preparing for lay ministry. Both follow much the same course of studies creating a lay expectation of being co-workers and partners in ministry. But this is not the expectation of clerics. They see themselves as men set apart in a hierarchy whose task is strictly to uphold orthodoxy and discipline. Their challenge is to undo the perceived damage done by Vatican II priests. Schuth accents the need for collaboration between these two groups on an individual and local parish level, but if her insight is right, the current pattern of training will cause great hurt and could be disastrous for the vitality of parish life and the effectiveness of ministry to God’s people.  Serious adjustments in seminary formation are needed, soon. [681]