Spain: Vocations Collapse Since the Council

Source: FSSPX News

St. Philip Neri Seminary in Baeza, closed in 1969

The Religión Confidencial website has published an in-depth analysis of the status of the seminaries in Spain. The decline of vocations to the priesthood seems inevitable. Faced with this very worrying situation, the Spanish Episcopal Conference has decided not to provide all the data for the last five years.

A Lack of Transparency

Religion Confidencial’s analysis highlights growing concern over the lack of transparency following the decision by the Episcopal Commission for Clergy and Seminaries not to publish annual data broken down by diocese on seminarians in Spain.

This practice was interrupted after the 2018/2019 academic year, which raised concerns in several ecclesial sectors who see it as a step backwards in terms of transparency and a possible concealment of vocational crises in certain dioceses.

Despite its reluctance to publish detailed data, the Episcopal Conference continues to update some data on dioceses on its website, although with some inconsistencies and without previous details by diocese.

A Strong Downward Trend Since the 1960s

The number of seminarians in Spain has seen a considerable decline since the 1960s. At that time, Spain had more than 7,000 seminarians. Ten years later, that number had dropped to 1,500. A drop of almost 80%. After rising above 2,000 between 1985 and 1990, the trend once again started to fall below 1,000 last year.

If we consider the distribution of seminarians by diocese, here again the situation is alarming: in 2023, 6 dioceses had no seminarians. In addition, 8 dioceses had only one seminarian for the 2022/2023 academic year. Thus, 14 of the 69 Spanish dioceses had between 0 and 1 seminarian last year.

At the other end of the spectrum, 14 dioceses had more than 20 seminarians, the best-equipped seminary being that of Madrid with 119 seminarians. In the capital, the drop in the number of seminarians appears catastrophic.

The drop in the number of ordinations obviously follows this drop in the number of seminarians, and for the past two years there have been fewer than 100 diocesan seminarians ordained in the Iberian Peninsula – excluding priests ordained in a religious society. Thus there were only 97 priests ordained in 2022 and 79 in 2023.

This worrying dynamic has led to the closure of a certain number of seminaries: the number is difficult to specify, because the names have recently changed, from being called a seminary tp house of formation. Regardless, Religion Confidencial’s investigation counted 21 seminaries currently closed in Spain.

Rome Imposes a Unification of Seminaries

With such a reality before our eyes, one can understand the recent Roman intervention for which the bishops were summoned to the Vatican. Pope Francis imposed a unification process for the seminaries. It does not seem necessary to impose it, because reality requires the rethinking of the map of seminaries and houses of formation.

In this country with a gloriously Catholic past, progressivism has wreaked profound havoc which now leaves the Church almost bloodless.