Seminarians in Vietnam are forced to take courses on how to obey and protect the Communist party at a time of growing criticism towards the current system, State media report.

On April 6, the newspaper Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity), voice of the so-called Vietnam’s Father Front, reports that “191 seminarians of St. Quy Major Seminary in Can Tho province have started in a pilot program on national security policies which is expected to last up to May 8”.

“These seminarians will learn about the viewpoints, outlooks and policies of the Communist party and the State on how national security is built, and on Party’s religious policies” said the mouthpiece of a powerful “patriotic” organization affiliated with the Communist Party. In more details, these priestly candidates who are trained in one of the largest seminaries in Vietnam will "study responsibilities of Catholic clergy to prevent and breakup any attempts of hostile forces to overthrow the government through riots and social upheavals or through ‘peaceful evolution’” - a term exclusively used by Vietnamese leadership and State media which many view as the reflection of their fear that closer ties to the West might unleash forces of political liberalization that the ruling communist party can no longer control.

In recent years, Vietnam government has slowly relaxed its restrictions on the number of seminarians. Since 2005, St. Joseph Major Seminary in Hanoi has been able to recruit annually instead of every three or two years. St. Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon, reopened in 1986 after being closed for 11 years, has shared the same “privilege” since 2007. Latest statistical figures in 2009 showed that the number of major seminarians studying at the six major seminaries of the country had jumped from 1,580 in 2002 to 2,186 in 2009.

However, the government keeps close eyes on the priestly formation program; and has repeatedly rudely interfered in all aspects of the training process.

For decades, seminarians in Vietnam have been forced to learn Marxist-Leninism as a mandatory subject. Before being ordained as a Catholic priest, certain civil requirements must be met first, including qualifications on Marxist Philosophy and the History of Vietnam Communist Party. A tough requirement of a politically background clearance is still a must. The state also interferes arbitrarily with the process of priest appointments.

In wake of Vietnam government's attempts to force Catholic clergy to enthusiastically obey and protect the regime, Catholics in Vietnam are heeding Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun's warnings published on AsiaNews on April 1.

The article titled “Card. Zen’s anger over Fr. Heyndrickx and Propaganda Fide’s ‘dialogue at all costs’” was translated into Vietnamese and posted on most Catholic Websites of dioceses and other ecclesiastical organizations.

It has become increasingly obvious that Vietnam has slavishly copied China’s religious policies. The Church in Vietnam, therefore, has faced many similar challenges as those in China. Typically, the atheist government often “rudely slams the door in the face of their all-too-gentle interlocutors” rejecting any channels of dialogue with ecclesiastics of the country, except through the medium of those in the Vietnam Committee for Catholic Solidarity who are often willing to – as in the words of the former bishop of Hong Kong- “renounce the principles of our faith and our basic ecclesiastical discipline” just to please Hanoi Government.