* * *
Ideas to be clarified: The seminary is a place where vocations to the priesthood are discerned, discovered, nurtured and fortified (in this order). This is the aim of both the college (philosophical studies) as well as the theological seminaries (theological studies), although we may think that in the former, more emphasis is placed on the first two, while in the latter, on the last two, but without separating all of them.
Effectively, young men (most of whom have just finished high school) feel an inclination or a certain attraction to the priesthood or religious life, which usually is a first sign of priestly vocation, though not an exclusive one. (I know of some vocation history of priests who, at first, felt repulsion at the idea of entering the seminary, but ended up being ordained). Moved by such attraction, they decide to enter the seminary with the aim of discerning more clearly what the Lord wants of them. In the seminary, they receive a formation apt to this objective: to discern and nurture their vocations to the priesthood.
I always understand this experience as something comparable to that phase in romantic relationships that we call physical attraction and courtship. Young men who are inclined more to married life (in contrast to the example above) find gorgeous girls and propose plans to court them, with an analogous objective: to discern (if this is real love) and to nurture it (if it is true love) in order to bring it to completion in marriage.
* * *
In a word, seminary formation and romantic relationships are both preparations to two different but correlated life vocations: priesthood and married life. Correlated, I said, because thanks to the parents, we have priests. And thanks to priests, we have sacramentally married couple. If seminarians inclined to priesthood prepare themselves in the seminary for their future priestly ministry, young men inclined to married life prepare themselves through courtship and romantic relationships, for their future married life.
In both preparations, two requirements are essential in order to achieve the goal of each: commitment and sincerity. Those who decide to enter the seminary to discern and nurture their priestly vocations commit themselves to such a goal and responsibility by being sincere to themselves (to their decision), to God (Who they believe calls them) and to others (their bishops, formators, parents, benefactors and friends). The same commitment and sincerity are required in a romantic relationship. Once the girl perceives that the guy is insincere and is not committed to the relationship, a break-up would surely ensue (unless both are only up to a mere fling).
Now the questions: What if the young lad who is inclined to the priestly vocation is the same young man who is courting a girl? In other words, is it admissible for a seminarian to court a girl and, consequently, maintain a romantic relationship with her? Is it possible to be committed genuinely to the attainment of the goals of priestly formation and, at the same time, be committed honestly to the goals of courtship and romantic relationships?
* * *
If you are keen enough, you’d notice that in the first question, I employ the term admissible while in the second, possible. The answers to both are obvious. It is NOT ADMISSIBLE that a seminarian should court and maintain a romantic relationship with a girl simply because it is NOT POSSIBLE to be committed and sincere to both goals – those of the priesthood and those of the romantic relationships. In other words, a seminarian could not be committed and sincere to both his priestly formation and his girlfriend. As simple as that!
Partly, this explains my answer to the question at the outset. Not without reason the seminary prohibits that seminarians should have a girlfriend. It is not merely an arbitrary prohibition. It is something that is based on the order of things, on clear ideas and principles.
My letter sender mentioned some objections like: “Bawal bang magmahal ang isang seminarista?”, “Having a girlfriend is also formative for a seminarian” or “When a seminarian says ‘I love you’ to a girl, is he courting her?” I’m afraid we need to wait for other occasions to reflect on these questions.