Catholic Diocese closing its Christ The King Seminary, deeming it unsustainable

Feb 4, 2020

The Diocese of Buffalo is shutting down Christ the King Seminary at the end of its current academic year.

The decision was made by its Board of Trustees and Members of the Corporation and announced in a formal statement which included a video message from Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who has led the diocese as its apostolic administrator since December. 

Christ The King Seminary will close in May.
Credit Michael Mroziak / WBFO News

"The fact is, the Board of Trustees has concluded that it is no longer feasible to continue the operations of the seminary, given persistent operating deficits which total in excess of $500,000 on average annuallyas well as other factors that include declining enrollment, the need to make signifcant capital improvement to the facilities, the need for diocesan subsidies that are no longer sustainable, and the requirements imposed by the accreditation process that will necessitate further investments in the programs of the seminary," Scharfenberger said in the video.

Enrollment, according to a diocesan statement, is around 10 percent of capacity.

Twenty-six seminarians are currently enrolled, including 15 from the Diocese of Buffalo. Of those 15 candidates for priesthood, two are scheduled to graduate at the end of this academic year. The others will be forced to find a new location to continue their studies.

In the meantime, Bishop Scharfenberger says he is forming a steering committee to explore how the Diocese of Buffalo may resume training and formation of future priests.

"We face a situation that requires us now to think imaginatively," he said.

Christ the King Seminary was the focal point of protests last year, amid accusations of sexual misconduct by clergy on campus. Father Joseph Gatto, who had led the seminary as its president-rector since 2014, was placed on administrative leave. Accusers including former seminarians claimed Gatto and other leadership allowed a culture of private sexual activity.

Three other priests who served as instructors at the seminary were also removed after seminarians accused them of engaging in sexually inappropriate dialogue at a social gathering.