John Ryan, "Study of Social Problems in the Seminary," CEA, 1908


Seminarians, Ca. 1924-1925
Courtesy of ACUA

Father Ryan saw a clear role for the Church in fostering social reform. Although he focused much of his attention on legislation, he believed that clergy must be knowledgeable of social problems facing their flocks and be ready to help them fight for change.

In this speech, he urges seminaries to prepare their students to deal with the challenges of the day, so that they might truly work for the salvation of souls. At this time, many priests counseled their parishioners to patience and meekness in the face of social injustice.


"Study of Social Problems in the Seminary" from the Proceedings of the Catholic Educational Association, 1908


As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • Fr. Ryan states that "the future of the Western world belongs to democracy." What role does he believe the church must play in the development of this democracy?
  • According to Fr. Ryan, why are American clerics not sufficiently prepared to deal with the social issues facing their people? What does he suggest should be done to remedy this situation?
  • How does Ryan compare the role of the Church with regard to social issues in other countries as compared to its role in America? Do you find this a useful comparison? Why or why not?