On the previous two pages we highlighted the Institute of the Incarnate Word's (IVE) dysfunctional and dishonest approach to discernment and recruitment and we gave a detailed account of the IVE's troubled history.  Those two issues are very important, however, they are by no means the only items that should concern you.

Here we will cover items that should be objectively problematic to all readers and especially important to those thinking about joining the IVE.  We'll start with an overview, then list major issues, and as we have time we'll write individual posts on these issues and provide links.   Click here for all our posts tagged "formation."


As we'll go into below, IVE's formation is a dysfunctional, imprudent, mess.  They let in all sorts of people who should never be in a seminary.  Their formation is very poor and does not provide these men with an intellectual or spiritual formation.  As a result, around 80% leave during formation, often wounded.  Of the remaining men, many are not only unprepared, but entire unfit for the role.  These men wreak abuse and scandal at their parishes.  Eventually - the ultimate testimony to the IVE Potemkin village - upwards of 40% of the IVE priests leave.

The IVE will let in nearly everyone who wants to join regardless of spiritual, physical, or mental fitness (see here.)  Undocumented immigrants make up a majority of the men joining and the institute takes money from these novices - in some cases their entire bank account - within the first two months of entering the novitiate (see here.)  Many of them are, for all intensive purposes, trapped, without recourse.  

They will put cassocks on novices without performing a background check or psychological exam and send them out into the community door to door.  They will spy on mail, email, and phone calls without informing you or the party you are communicating with beforehand.  Access to outside friends and family will be closely controlled. 

Despite the institute actively advertising its Thomism and its "intense prayer life", your academic formation will be extremely poor (read more here) and your spiritual formation will be rife with problems up to and including violations of canon law (read more here.)

The fruits of all this dysfunction are an exodus of wounded members during formation and a very high attrition rate for seminarians and IVE ordained priests.  We estimate the attrition rate for priests to be from 40% to over 50%.  


We've posted before about who the Institute of the Incarnate Word puts in charge of vocations.

The sisters will have girls under temporary vows in leadership positions ranging from house superior to National Vocations Director.  

The men are hardly any better.  They take newly ordained priests in their 20's, fresh from Argentina and appoint them as novice master in charge of both vocations and "formation" of the novices - despite the fact that older, more experienced priests are available.   The novice master is then given numerous other responsibilities, including spiritual direction of the majority of the female novices - despite the fact that they will have had no real experience at spiritual direction - so that they are so busy they are almost never at the novitiate.


This lack of attention continues with the IVE's admissions process - or, as we've already mentioned, the lack thereof  - and it should shock anyone who thinks the Church needs to keep a closer eye on who it lets into seminaries.

This is relevant to formation because people with severe psychological problems, histories of abuse, and even criminal records will be allowed to enter without any paperwork, background checks, or psychological exams.   Even if you do not have any of these issues, it means the people you are around 24/7 might.  They will be living together with you in close quarters in a high stress environment (the IVE novitiate is not a peaceful environment) with almost zero supervision from the novice master - because he is never there.

These novices will be then be given cassocks, clerical collars, and access to the local parish and the community without any psychological exams.  The half that are in the country legally and speak English will have the usual background check run by the diocese for teaching CCD and will teach at the local parish.  The rest that are in the country illegally will be sent door to door in the community,  unsupervised, wearing cassocks and clerical collars like priests, with no psych exams or background checks!!!  

This is hard to believe after the Church scandals in the last decade, but it is unfortunately the case.  Negligent is an understatement.


The Institute will read paper and electronic mail, listen to phone calls, monitor internet access, and - with few exceptions - closely control your interaction with visiting friends and family.  Some will even be directed by superiors to spy on their fellow novices and seminarians, reporting back on both word and deed (this happens in both male and female branches.)

They do not permit you to have or use your own email address.  You must use a shared email address and all emails sent/received are read - without notice to or permission from sender or recipient - and the superior will decide if emails are delivered - not all are.

The situation with paper mail is similar.  There are cases where many personal letters have not been sent, but have been kept by the superior without notice.  Incoming paper letters will often be opened and read in violation of federal law and, again, without notice or permission.  Letters to Americans men are generally not open, but the superiors take more liberties with the Hispanic novices and seminarians.

Phone calls will ocassionally be listened to as well.  Access to family will be controlled, especially private time alone with them, which can be very limited for certain sisters.  It can be very difficult to visit one on one with friends.  For the most part, friends are no longer "friends", but "apostolates."

They also go well beyond simply restricting internet access and blocking inappropriate sites (which would be normal in a religious house.)  Instead they give individual logins for the internet so they can monitor and track every single web site that each person visits.

This creates a situation where you have no opportunity to confidentially discuss valid concerns when they come up and no opportunity to discretely reach out for help or 3rd party advice.  Many who enter don't think much prior to doing so and don't discern at all because they are told they do not need to by the IVE.  Then, when they enter, they are essentially cut-off from any opportunity to do so since all their spiritual direction, classes, instruction, and interaction will be exclusively with IVE priests and seminarians.

This level of monitoring will last for at least 5 years during which all your correspondence and all the information you have access to will be closely controlled and monitored as described above.  None of this is an exaggeration or speculation.

They do not tell you any of this prior to entering.  They will admit to sharing email addresses and if you ask carefully they might hint that some the email is read.  They probably won't admit to anything else, for obvious reasons.  Even while there these aren't practices that are disclosed, instead you learn about them over time through experience.

It's one thing for a religious house to place restrictions on things like phone calls, internet access, emails, mail, visitors, etc.  This is normal in a religious house.  In fact, many cloistered nuns have even more severe restrictions on the outside world.  The difference is that the practice in these other communities is generally common knowledge and is disclosed beforehand.

What the IVE does is very different.  They don't disclose these practices beforehand and they don't discuss them when there.  Superiors listen in on and read private communications without notice to either party.  They hold back correspondence letting a sender assume the recipient has received it, when that is not the case.  This is not ethical or normal behavior by any standard and the fact that it is not disclosed - that one only learns about it through it's practice - is deceptive.  


The majority of the IVE seminarians are illegal immigrants.  The IVE is to our knowledge the only seminary in the US that accepts illegal immigrants.  Most US seminaries encourage young men to return to their country of legal residence to pursue a vocation since it would be a violation of US federal law to allow them to enter and study.

The undocumented immigrants will be told early on during the novitiate that they need to ask their "benefactors" for $400 to pay for their cassocks.  Later they are told they have to give away their money to either the Institute, friends, or family and they can't have any money any more. (Note that what is said in English to Americans is sometimes a bit different than what is said in Spanish to the illegals.)  The result is that only two months after entering, the illegals have given all their money - in some cases their entire, albeit modest, savings - to the institute.

This puts these young men - many who enter without thinking or discerning much at all because they are told not to by the IVE - in a vary precarious position.  If they arrive and feel they have made a mistake they have very little recourse.  Since they are monitored constantly it makes it difficult to ask help from whatever limited family they have in the US and given their legal status, they will probably be hesitant to reach out to public services.  Giving away what little money they have takes away any means to leave should they desire to do so.   

To summarize, undocumented immigrants - many who enter without thinking or discerning much at all because they are told not to by the IVE - will arrive, be told to give their money away, and essentially be trapped.


We know from personal experience that a large number of IVE priests leave the institute.   Some leave to dioceses while others leave the priesthood altogether.  As we point out below, we calculate the attrition rate to be over 40% which is extremely high for such a new and ostensibly orthodox order.  This is a tender subject and we only point it out to show that there are serious and grave consequences resulting from the Institute's flawed formation process.  The group's errors which we discuss on this site are not victimless mistakes.

Let us explain how we arrive at the attrition number above.  The IVE for the past several years has claimed a number of around 350 priests.  We believe this originally referred to the number ordained, not the number that are still in the order.   If you look at their number of parishes (96), multiply that by 2, and add in a few for the seminaries and two for their "monastery" and you arrive at around 200 active priests.  200 out of 350 means 57% stay, 43% leave.  Since the "350" figure has been used for a while old and since they are ordaining new priests every year the actual number of priests ordained should have grown, meaning the real attrition rate even higher then the 43% we estimate. (Yet, given these facts it is strange they are adamant about the "350" number.)

If our numbers are even close to correct, then the attrition rate is very, very troubling.   This isn't a question of "discerning out."  These are ordained priests who have taken perpetual vows - which, as the IVE will tell you, are much more important than the "simple" promises of a diocesan priest.   This is also after 8 years of their formation.  The attrition seems most prevalent from the Argentineans, but some US priests have left as well, including the very first IVE priest ordained in the US.   


Non-acolytes expose and repose the Eucharist for adoration even when a priest is available.  They don't allow members to kneel for communion.   On recruiting trips they like to have masses outdoors without the required permission from the Bishops. These endanger the Eucharist for novelty sake.

And much more to add as time permits...