A Brief Intro is in order for clarification’s sake: Please read it in it’s entirety!!
I was a seminarian years ago at this seminary very briefly so I speak from experience. I agree with them theologically, liturgically and canonically. This critique is mainly administrative in nature, so don’t misunderstand. Below is correspondence with a friend I knew in the seminary. We still talk occasionally. He is no longer there.
I have removed all circumstantial information to protect the identities of myself and others who would rather not be mentioned. I still think these clergy do good work and will continue to support them, so don’t think this is a “stay as far away from them as possible” sort of blog post.
Bp. Sanborn does great work, yet he’s not perfect and criticism is necessary to avoid the “clergy worship” that existed before Vatican II, where the faithful blindly (in good faith, no doubt), followed their priests no matter what. The Faith comes before men, no matter their cassock color, of whether they have one.
There are two letters below, they are emails to two different seminarians from MHTS. The first is from me to a fellow seminarian with a very difficult family situation who was struggling with whether to leave or not. He ultimately did. This is NOT the same seminarian who wrote the original letter, you will find below this first one. He ultimately left as well, after I did.
On the notion that this is a public form of unnecessary detraction or calumny: nothing in this letter is untrue, although most is not good. That being said, the idea that young men, who should be focused on school or work and not wasting time on frivolous goose chases, deserve to be told the truth by those who know, regardless of how this may be perceived to come across.
Many of these problems mentioned in the letter below may have been fixed at the seminary and may no longer apply. Yet the principle remains: what was going on at the time was not right. If anyone knows for a fact that things are different, feel free to comment or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. God Bless, Tony.
PS: I do not endorse the views of the CMRI necessarily, neither does my friend below.
From: *Tony* <email>
Date: More than Three years ago (between 2014-2017)
To: *seminarian’s name redacted* <email>
Dear *seminarian’s name*,
Hi, how are you doing, how is seminary going, how’s your family? Hope all is well.
I haven’t contacted you lately as I have been pondering what to tell you as regards why I left the seminary. In charity, I am forwarding you a letter from a seminarian who left bishop Sanborn’s seminary within the last few years. This letter and its contents are to be kept confidential, for reputations sake of myself and the author.
The way I view the seminary is expressed in this letter, even though I am not the author. Make sure you understand: I absolutely and emphatically, through my own experience of Bp. Sanborn and his seminary, agree completely with the views expressed of the seminary in this letter.
At first glance it might seem a bit harsh. I can’t help that and frankly don’t care. It’s the plain truth. If you are honest with yourself you will VERY seriously consider what is said here, and agree, however reluctantly due to the consequences, that it is the truth.
The conclusion I came to is that I do not believe it is possible to become a good priest through the seminary of Bp. Sanborn. The letter outlines the reasons and concludes to the same.
You are trying to become a priest, but a good holy priest. I commend you for admitting Sedevacantism and all it’s unfortunate consequences, even though your family situation is self-admittingly getting worse by the day. Keep the faith. But I tell you as a friend that you cannot remain at this seminary and become a good priest. The evidence is clear.
Don’t despair, there’s other seminaries, and you should desire to die a bad layman rather than a bad priest, if these were your only choices.
Finally, before the letter: to anyone who holds up Bishop Sanborn as the ultimate authority and answer to everything, anathema to anything else, I say WHERE IS HIS AUTHORITY!?!? He is a bishop with no jurisdiction and why if he says something is this way, show me the proof that the church in the name of the pope had given him the ability to govern.
His word is as good as any other Sede bishop. I don’t mean to discredit or in anyway to negate what he does. It’s simply a fact that I don’t have to listen to him anymore than any other Sede bishop. So don’t you make the same mistake others make of ‘worshiping’ Bp. Sanborn.
So don’t think he is the end all things. It’s a dangerous mentality to hold clergy up this way and the reason the Vatican II nightmare happened in the first place. The faith first, then the sacraments, then the clergy. Don’t ‘worship’ any particular cleric or clerics, it’s super unhealthy and naive.
Anyway, take what is here seriously and consider finishing the academic year and maybe leaving and joining another seminary. That’s what I plan on doing in a few years.
On a personal note, even though we didn’t get along at the seminary all the time as I’ve admitted and apologized for, the fact that I am sending this to you should prove to you that I’m trying to help you so you don’t ruin your life. I think you’d make a good priest if trained right, but not at the seminary in Florida.
Without further ado, here’s the letter. Send me a response and we can communicate about it back and forth so we can understand each other. Read the whole thing carefully and think about it before rashly reacting. When reading Think about nothing but your soul, not your parents reaction, or the embarrassment or this or that. Just be objective. Hope to hear from you soon. God bless, Tony
Subject: Re: seminary in Florida
The first points are the main reasons as to why I left the seminary, then follows day to day examples of life in the seminary which I also took into consideration. MHTS = Most Holy Trinity Seminary, Florida.
Main reasons –
We need good priests and not simply priests. I don’t believe it is possible to become a good priest from MHTS.
There is only the bare minimum of consideration for the spiritual formation of the seminarian.
I struggle to think what actually is done for the spiritual formation at MHTS.
They are concentrated only on the intellectual side of the priesthood to the exclusion of formation of the spiritual life. At this time in the history of the Church, this is fatal as we need priests who are truly in union with God. My opinion is that now more than ever, we need, yes, priests who are intelligent, but their union with God is more important. They certainly do not hold this opinion at MHTS.
A major major major problem, of major size, really major of major proportions (!) is the philosophy ‘lessons’. It must be accepted that good philosophy equals good theology. Philosophy is the most important subject in a seminarian’s formation. It is more important than theology. As a certain priest whom I know who left the SSPX many years ago after they ordained him and is now in Bp. Sanborn’s group, says, one of the opportunities to be taken from the post V2 nightmare is to start again with good philosophy. The major problem with the philosophy at MHTS is that the seminarians are just not understanding it which of course opens up the question as to whether they really understand the theology thereafter. I should say at this point that I don’t expect everything to be perfect and we can’t expect all seminarians, all of the time to understand everything, especially as philosophy can be quite abstract and difficult to grasp right away, immediately. I understand this.
However, I don’t think that the bishop really cares as to whether the seminarians actually understand the philosophy. He just wants them to get the best results in the exams. There is a kind of obsession with getting A grade results. However, the philosophy teacher (the then) Father Selway (and the bishop) actually said to us in one of the lessons “we don’t expect you to actually understand anything, we just want you to write something in the exam.”
It is possible to spend 7 years there and get A B grades but not actually understand the material!
The atmosphere in the seminary is very cold. There is no community life. Every seminarian and priest is alone and has no sense of community living. This is contrary to all previous secular and religious priestly and religious (Order) formation in the Church.
There is a general rule (and the bishop himself said it to me) that as long as you have a strong will, everything else will sort itself out. This is also Father Schmidberger’s opinion regarding priestly formation. The triumph of the will over spiritual perfection and intellectual formation.
I am sure that the bishop has no intention of ordaining many of the men who he accepts, but he accepts most who apply. I am sure he says yes to the applicants because he wants a seminary and a seminary needs seminarians. A machine needs oil to function and the seminarians are just oil. He has ordained very few men since he began the seminary some 25 years ago in Michigan. He would say he is strict because too many fools have been ordained since the foundation of the SSPX. This may well be true but he has no regard for the person who he accepts but whom he uses simply as a worker at his seminary.
There is a wholly unchristian attitude to seminarians who leave MHTS. Basically if they go, then they are no good as people. At Christmas a seminarian was expelled (in my opinion this was the right thing as he had self-admitted character problems and he broke the rule on too many occasions) but he was expelled at 9pm on Monday and they bought a flight for him to his home city which left Tampa at 1pm the following day. He could have been allowed to stay a bit longer – no one knew what had happened. There was no scandal.
The same was done to another seminarian at Easter and he was just immature. Nothing essentially wrong with him.
I think the bishop is a perfectionist but a perfectionist to the extreme. Everything is done ‘by the book’ which sounds good and correct but it is just unrealistic. They order hosts from Belgium because he thinks they are the best but at least one set of hosts has to be thrown away each month as they are broken from the long postage journey and nobody does anything about it. They throw away hosts – whole trash can full of them, and the trash can is big! because apparently someone, somewhere, some-when wrote in a book that hosts should not be used after a short period of time.
Other reasons –
*No regard for money donated to the seminary by the faithful
*Food is wasted every day
*Wine bottles are opened and then thrown away with wine in them because the wine goes bad
*They weigh the food during lent – must NOT weigh more or less than 8 ounces
*The food for the three cats has to be weighed
*Legalism is rife!
*Seminarians can go on the internet every day, all day, any-when
*Nothing is said to seminarians who don’t go to prime/mass
I think the priests and US seminarians have inherited the worst of the British and the worst of the German character traits of America’s history – British puritanism and German legalism.
I think bishop Sanborn is of the opinion that if you are not 100% conform to him and his opinions then you are wrong and bad – the CMRI for example.
I told a priest I know (same one mentioned above) that I am glad not to be going back. It is a shame, but I would rather die a bad layman than as a bad priest. I can’t and won’t recommend MHTS to anyone and will try my best to prevent anyone going there if I ever come into contact with someone who wants to apply to MHTS.
I get the impression the CMRI is more balanced, their priests seem to have more understanding and charity.
Having said all of that, the food is good at MHTS!