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(LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis made headlines last week when he complained about priests not receiving a “humanistic formation.” 

“We need normal seminarians, with their problems, who play soccer, and who don’t go to the neighborhoods to dogmatize,” he told staffers for the Spain-based Catholic newspaper Nueva Vida.

“I don’t like rigidity because it is a bad symptom of the inner life.” 

Francis didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “rigidity.” Nor did he provide a specific example of who in the Church is guilty of unduly “dogmatizing” others. That shouldn’t be surprising though. Evasiveness is a hallmark of all liberals.

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Francis proceeded to warn that seminaries should not be “ideological kitchens.” Rather, they need to “train pastors” who are not “trapped in a theology manual, unable to get into trouble and make theology move forward.”

After having listened to these petulant outbursts for 10 years now, it’s not hard to figure out whom Francis has in mind, despite his refusal to name names. He’s referring, of course, to you and me, to those who steadfastly remain loyal to the deposit of faith and who oppose his sinister efforts to undermine the Church’s traditional teachings and liturgy.

Francis’ animus, simply put, is directed at those who take seriously Proverbs 22:28: “Pass not beyond the ancient bounds which thy fathers have set.” 

Francis is flat out wrong when it comes to ‘rigid’ seminarians  

Two questions now emerge. One, are Francis’ remarks a fair description of what is actually taking place in the Church? Two, what sort of training should seminarians receive?

As an attendee of the Latin Mass, I’m unaware of any traditional-minded seminary that bans young men from at least some recreation, soccer included. Nor do I know any that would qualify as an “ideological kitchen,” whatever that means.  

All the young men I’ve met who are enrolled in the SSPX, FSSP, and other houses of formation are entirely “normal” and receive a standard course of study. They all want to serve God faithfully by giving their lives to prayer and sacrifice.  

While left-wing theologians may swoon over Francis’ haughty and cartoonish characterization, his words are quite devoid of any real substance. Was St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, naively “trapped in a theology manual” when he was a student or when he wrote the Summa Theologica? Was St. Patrick of Ireland acting “rigid” when he “dogmatized” inhabitants of the Emerald Isle with objective truth?

No doubt papal apologists will say that all Francis was “trying to get at” is that priests can’t be so obsessed with doctrine that they forget they are dealing with real people in real time who need real pastoral care.  

Sure, but that forgets the ugly truth that since 2013 Francis has waged a relentless war on those doctrines. See Amoris Laetitia, footnote 351 for the most obvious example of that. 

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Francis’ chastising of those who oppose moving theology “forward” is just a nice way to express his wholesale disgust for Catholics who refuse to muddy the waters of sin with him. To use an analogy: He wants to spread gray paint all over a canvas where previously there was only black and white, and he’s attacking those who are trying to prevent him from doing so.

Ultimately, Francis wants priests who are overly emotional social workers that will affirm laity in their sins. Father James Martin is the prototypical Francis priest. This stands in opposition to traditional clergy who are guided by fortitude and who rely on unchanging doctrine to help sinners overcome their wicked behaviors.

St. Alphonsus would not support Francis’ views on seminarians  

St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorist Order in the 1730s. He is believed to be one of the best-selling spiritual authors of all time due to the vast number of translations, editions, and reprintings his publications have gone through. His book The Dignity and Duties of The Priest explains in great detail how priests should be formed.

“Withdraw from worldly conversations and amusements … think of nothing but prayer and frequenting the sacraments, and be nowhere but at home and in church,” he writes. “One day of amusement, a word from a friend … suffices to bring to nought all our resolutions of retiring from the world.”

He goes on: “All is folly: feasts, theaters, parties of pleasure, amusements – these are the goods of this world, but goods which are filled with the bitterness of gall and with sharp thorns.”

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“Keep perfectly recollected, detaching ourselves from everything of this world,” he adds. “We ought during this time to think of nothing but prayer, and frequenting the sacraments. … Let him who will not do so, but contracts himself with pastimes, be persuaded that he will without doubt lose his vocation.” 

St. Alphonsus concedes, however, that seminarians need not always speak on serious topics. “Laugh, amuse yourself, speak even on entertaining subjects,” he notes, “but preserve recollection, by interiorly making occasional acts of the love of God, or petitions for His graces.” 

I could go on, as I just wrote a book on the teachings of St. Alphonsus that is set to come out later this month, but the point should be obvious: Francis’ advice for training seminarians stands in marked contrast to the wisdom of St. Alphonsus. My tip for rectors of seminaries across the world? Listen to him and not to Francis if you want real priests who will follow in the footsteps of Christ.

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Stephen Kokx is a journalist for LifeSiteNews. He previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago under the late Francis Cardinal George. A former community college instructor, Stephen has written and spoken extensively about Catholic social teaching and politics. His essays have appeared in a variety of outlets, including Catholic Family NewsCatholicVote, and Alpha News.