Thursday, July 04, 2024

"Digital detox": Seminary restricts internet time

The seminary of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis in the USA has drastically restricted the online time of seminarians in the preparatory propaedeutic year. 

According to a recent decision by the seminary management, seminarians will not have their own computers during their first year of preparation for the priesthood and are only allowed to use their smartphones for four hours on Saturdays, writes the US magazine "America" in an article on the current state of priestly training in the USA. 

There are several reasons for this period of "digital detox", i.e. abstaining from the internet and social media, according to "America", citing the head of the seminary, Paul Hoesing. If the young men spent less time on the internet, they would have more time to learn how to interact with people, for example in the neighbourhood of the seminary, and have conversations. 

"These men develop a social acumen that we haven't seen in previous groups because this 'digital detox' makes them humanly and personally available in a special way," explains the priest trainer.

In addition, abstinence from the internet is intended to prevent the seminarians from being influenced by traditionalist websites and influencers. 

According to Joshua Rodrigue, who heads the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, this is about the danger of a "parallel" or "shadow education" of the young men, which the seminary management must constantly keep an eye on. 

The seminarians used to read relevant blogs, but currently YouTube videos by sedevacantists such as Taylor Marshall or the controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson are more popular, the magazine quotes Rodrigue as saying. 

The aim of the seminary is to sensitise candidates for the priesthood to different approaches to ecclesiastical and theological issues. Many, however, have a desire for clarity and a firm hold on church doctrine.

Dealing responsibly with pornography

The "digital detox" is also intended to enable a more responsible approach to pornography

Many US seminarians have problems with their porn consumption and there are addictions, "America" quotes psychologist Maribel Rodriguez Laguna, an expert in the psychological support and therapy of theology students. 

Rodriguez also sees a problem in the fact that many seminarians in the USA come from upper middle class families. Through their "snowplough education", their parents have tried to pave a path to success for the young men that is as problem-free as possible and have removed many obstacles from their path in life. 

"We have young men here who sometimes don't know a lot of practical things, like how to budget responsibly, save money, do laundry, make the bed."

The US bishops published revised rules for priestly training in 2022, which came into force in 2023. 

The "digital detox" in many seminaries during the newly introduced propaedeutic year is one of the innovations. 

The adapted statutes were made necessary by the implementation of the "Ratio fundamentalis", the general rules for priestly training published by the Vatican in 2016. 

They must be implemented in the local churches.