QUAERITUR: Seminary monitors seminarians’ email, surfing. Wherein Fr. Z administers tough love.

In the USA huge strides have been taken back toward sanity in the Catholic Church’s seminaries. The “biological solution” is having its way with the liberals and modernists who have dominated chanceries and seminaries for decades. Though some hang on and can still do a lot of harm out of spite as they spin down to their end, their time is effectively over in the USA.

This is not the case everywhere, however. There are some places where modernism still dominates most aspects of Church life, even with a strong dose of left-wing politics, even Marxism. This is still the case in Italy, for example.

Great steps back toward sanity have been taken, but we are not out of the trenches yet. Even after the formal end of WWII there was the problem of mopping up the partisans and die-hards.

We have been in a war. It takes a long time for wars to end.

From a reader:

Dear and Reverend Father,

If you wish to publish any of this email on your blog, please remove all references to the diocese (and perhaps even to [COUNTRY] if you think it is right).

An hour or so ago a friend spoke to a seminarian here in [PLACE]. Unlike many Seminaries in the rest of … and the rest of the world, the one here is full of traditionalists and is flourishing. The seminarian told my friend that ALL their internet access is logged and their incoming and outgoing emails are read. Those who have visited “traditionalist” sites have been warned that their chances of being ordained to the Priesthood are in jeopardy.

Our [bishop] likes to “keep in” with the trendies, although he’s not a trendy himself, deep down; however, the [important staff member] of the Seminary is a sworn enemy of the TLM and has publicly stated that the Holy Father “got it wrong” when he published Summorum Pontificum. The [bishop] sent his resignation letter to Rome, but he has been kept on for another two years. Even if he goes, the Priests with real power are those like the [staff member], in a Diocese where – it is said – something like 90% of the Priests are communists and they do everything they possibly can to stop the faithful going to the TLM.

What can be done? Leaving aside the fact that spying on people’s email is technically illegal in [country], [It might not be if you are using the seminary’s internet.] reporting the Bishop to the police would probably be the fastest way to leave the Seminary. Who should they report this to in Rome, and how should they go about it?

Thanking you in advance, dear and Reverend Father, for any help and advice you may be able to give,

Here is my tough love advice… and I’ll use “you”, because the men this is intended for will read it.

  • Keep your mouths shut.
  • Avoid using the seminary’s internet to look at anything other than neutral or liberal sites.
  • Cough up the dough to get a separate “dongle” for data for your laptops.
  • If several of you must pool resources to do that, do that, and then – discreetly – do the samizdat thing.
  • Use your hand-helds or phones for surfing good Catholic sites.
  • If you can’t find a way around their logging, or you can’t afford the data in that country (I know it is expensive), then either give up traditional sites when surfing or give up the internet completely!

Go silent and go deep.

Get ordained.

Back in the dark days of the 80’s when in my seminary to have a statue of Our Lady of Fatima or to say the rosary in public meant expulsion, I came up with the Six Rules of Seminary Survival. Where you are they may still pertain:

Rarely affirm.
Never deny.
Seldom make distinctions.
Smile a lot.
Say very little.
Never wear black.

In my day, it was as if we were officers-in-training, but in the military academy of the enemy.  That seems like the situation there.

This is what you must do: learn what these modernist oppressors have to teach, parrot it back to them, and read good books on your own, with a flashlight and shades drawn if necessary.

And if you have to give up the internet, then for the love of God and His Holy Church give it up.

Get ordained.

Your day will come.

There will be time after ordination to learn the TLM and build up that dimension of the formation they are – contrary to the Church’s law – cheating you out of.

For the sake of that day, be quiet and make sacrifices of your desire to surf around as you will.

If you have to, you can – believe me – hang by your thumbs until your hands are anointed.

Do not, by fighting or reacting suddenly, give those… aging-hippy modernists anything to beat you with.

Once you are ordained, with a joyful smile and in charity destroy their life’s work.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. digdigby says:

    Love that last sentence.

  2. benedetta says:

    I will pray for these seminarians.

  3. M. K. says:

    Father Z,

    Could you elaborate a bit more on the first three rules (“Rarely affirm,” “Never deny,” “Seldom make distinctions”). I understand what you’re driving at with the other rules, but it would be helpful to know the bounds of affirmation and denial and what kinds of distinctions would best be avoided.

  4. jbas says:

    In my day, we imagined we were in a Communist block country (rather than the USA), which made things more interesting and bearable. But year after year of this sort of crap does take its toll. When devout seminarians emerge from theologically and morally bankrupt seminaries, there is a danger they will be bitter towards wayward priests and laymen, and do all the right things for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way, leading to battles with the Parish Priest or the Pastoral Council.
    I don’t know what they could have done, but I often wished faithful laymen had been more interested in what was going on in the seminaries.

  5. M.K. When you do those things you are perceived as combative, or “not open to the program” of formation. The “seldom affirm” doesn’t mean “don’t be affirming of others”, but rather, preserve your sanity by not affirming aloud the stupid things they make you do and heresy they try to shove down your defenseless throat. Say as little as you can.

  6. Fr. Z I am shocked that your seminary was like that. [I could go on and on and on…]

    You would know seminaries better than I . I don’t know what Irish seminaries were like when I was studying (ordained 1999 after 11 years of formation) because apart from the courses we took in Milltown Institute and All Hallows College (both of them liberal enough) our formation was in-house. So we were expected to say the rosary, assist at Benediction etc. That meant that while among the students ahead of and behind me there was a mix of ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ we all had a fairly orthodox spiritual formation. The older friars had a big influence there. That said none would be TLM traditionalists. Many of the students from those years are gone and those who are left are on the conservative (i.e. orthodox side).

    My own rule for surviving liberal teachers (it was easier for me of course) was to say nothing, read what they didn’t want me to read and ignore as much as I could of what they did want me to read. When I told my provincial that a few years ago he laughed.

  7. jbas says:

    Rarely affirm you love Tradition in conversations (when the seminary authorities do not).
    Never deny you love Tradition in conversations (for the sake of integrity).
    Seldom make distinctions between Tradition and Modernism in conversations (which will get you sent to a psychologist or home).

  8. jbas says:

    Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap,
    An Irish priest of my diocese says he never heard anyone called “liberal” or “conservative” in the 1980’s Irish seminary he attended. It was only when he came to the USA that he heard these terms applied within the Church. I’ve heard a priest from Nigeria say something similar about his time in the seminary in southern Nigeria (1980’s). I’m not sure what to make of this, however.

  9. Ralph says:

    “I don’t know what they could have done, but I often wished faithful laymen had been more interested in what was going on in the seminaries.”

    Father, what would you have us do? I am a layman with three young sons. If any were to have a vocation to the priesthood, I would be afraid of what they might have to endure. I am happy to do whatever you think would be helpful to bring about change.

    [Put on your big boy underwear and let your sons go out and man up. We all know what this world is like. Game on.]

  10. gkeuter says:

    I will increase my prayer for seminarians. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

  11. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Lemme hear the choir say AMEN!!! [Amen!]

  12. SonofMonica says:

    “Father, what would you have us do? I am a layman with three young sons. If any were to have a vocation to the priesthood, I would be afraid of what they might have to endure. I am happy to do whatever you think would be helpful to bring about change.”

    I echo this question, Father.

  13. cresci says:

    Seminarian, get a VPN connection for your laptop or whatever wifi/cabled device. It’s encrypted, and sites visited, untraceable from the middle of the network. And cheap (US$ 5-10/month).

  14. Charivari Rob says:

    “What can be done? Leaving aside the fact that spying on people’s email is technically illegal in [country], [It might not be if you are using the seminary’s internet.]”

    “Avoid using the seminary’s internet to look at anything other than liberal sites”

    I second Father Z. on this (depending on the exact law in the given place).

    It is not unusual for universities and the like to have some sort of “community standards” in their internet use policy. Neither is it unusual for workplaces to have a formal IT policy restricting internet use to approved work-related purposes and a general workplace policy of “no expectation of privacy”.

  15. chantgirl says:

    I am so appreciative of the seminarians who have quietly suffered and made it through the seminary to serve us. It must be tempting as a young man with a vocation to flee to a diocese with a more traditional Bishop where you will receive training from like-minded men, but please remember that every people in every diocese need good priests! Thanks to those of you who keep quiet and get ordained for that sake of the souls who need your service!

  16. chantgirl says:

    Ach, typos. Mea culpa. On another note, I look forward to the day when some of these younger guys will get their own parishes. It would be so nice to have the TLM in regular parishes that are close, and not just one or two places in a city. Right now some bishops are only allowing TLMs at specially designated parishes, where all of the “crazies” who like old-fashioned stuff are exiled. We have two such “nuthouses” in my city, and sometimes it feels like we are cut off from the wider diocese. I look forward to the day when regular parishes will make room for those who love the TLM and chant.

  17. ContraMundum says:

    I’m unable to avoid the internet (I have to use it for work, too), but I think it would be healthy for these men to simply read books, preferably books written more than 100 years ago. If Chesterton gets them into the same trouble as traditionalist web sites, read Shakespeare, Josephus, and Philo of Alexandria. Pick up a few CDs of the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen; there are some good performances, and she was orthodox, but liberals might see this as “embracing your feminine side” or some such nonsense. It might not hurt to take up something like Japanese history as a hobby; it never hurts to learn, and you can get some interesting insights into human nature that way. (For example, the story of The 47 Ronin illustrates what happens when societies don’t ever have “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”; they demand a head for a tooth and a village for an eye.)

  18. mrsmontoya says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for your insight regarding being in the enemy’s camp. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and work for the Church. It feels very much like that at times.

  19. Sword40 says:


  20. mamajen says:

    Wow, I had absolutely no idea. What these “teachers” are doing is beyond the pale. But, I completely agree–if these GOOD seminarians get kicked out or quit, the problem is perpetuated. God bless all of you who are trudging forward under these circumstances. I’m sure the reward will be great.

  21. Clinton R. says:

    How sad that seminarians have to hide their desire to be faithful Catholics. And the priests and bishops that hate the TLM and Summorum Pontificum, what unprofitable servants! They desire to serve the world rather than to serve God and His Church. I greatly admire the men who suffered in liberal seminaries and stayed true to the Church. May Our Lord bless the faithful men in the seminaries and may the day come soon when traditional Catholicism is the rule and not the exception. +JMJ+

  22. Ralph says:


    Could one of these traditional young men “transfer” between seminaries to a more traditional one, or is that simply out of the question?

  23. lh says:

    Those modernists used those tactics to get in. Now turn the tables on them. Stick with it, get ordained, the Church need good priests. Praying for seminarians and priests.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    There’s nothing illegal about this if the seminary is providing the internet access. Many businesses have standards and screening devices on their systems. If you get caught doing certain things, you can be fired, ie. porn, gambling, drug activity, day trading, talking to competitors without the authority to do so, etc etc.

    I suppose a person could always go around the internet service by using a completely different type of service, 3G or something of the like, if you are willing to spring for the cost and keep the evidence quiet. Know that nothing you put on the internet or get from the internet is really private. It only seems that way.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Ralph, there’s a bit of a stigma attached to moving from seminary to seminary, as I understand it. It makes it look as though unsatisfactory candidates are shopping around, not like this is always what it is, but sometimes it is.

    Better to look wisely BEFORE you ever enter a seminary. It’s not like what goes on is a secret. They may think it is, but it’s not. You can ask around.

  26. ContraMundum says: I’m unable to avoid the internet (I have to use it for work, too), but I think it would be healthy for these men to simply read books, preferably books written more than 100 years ago. If Chesterton gets them into the same trouble as traditionalist web sites, read Shakespeare, Josephus, and Philo of Alexandria. Pick up a few CDs of the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen; there are some good performances, and she was orthodox, but liberals might see this as “embracing your feminine side” or some such nonsense.

    I agree with this. For my spiritual reading, I choose mostly what I call antedeluvian works, i.e., works that predate the flood of modernist nonsense that has inundated us in the last 50 years or so. I also agree with the music of Hildegard, but I would NOT extend that recommendation to reading her Scivias unless you can read it in the original Latin or in some non-bastardized translation into a language other than English. Somebody without a feminist/modernist agenda needs to translate Hildegard into English!

  27. My only advice as a former seminarian: zip it, conform, and zip it…There are ways around the internet…get your own network.

  28. Kevin B. says:

    I failed to follow Father Z’s advice and now I am ex-seminarian. My advice to all men currently in the seminary is to put yourself into the mindset of Principle Skinner from “The Simpsons” after he (temporarily) lost his job: “I have no opinion on anything. The only thing I can say is nothing is better than anything else and everyone is the best at everything.”

  29. boko fittleworth says:

    I was kicked out of a novitiate 12 years ago. The advice I would give is to make friends with at least some of the guys who be voting on you. No religion or politics. Sports and regional loyalties are great areas to find common ground. Talk Red Sox with the Boston guys or Yankees with the New Yorkers. It’s not enough to have no enemies. You need allies. Then, when some stupid manufactured controversy comes up, they’ll defend one of their own.

    If that doesn’t work, there’s always law school.

    Boko Fittleworth, JD

  30. boko fittleworth says:

    Looks like the former seminarians are all logging in at work. Don’t you guys have brackets to fill out? NB: Syracuse’s Melo is out.

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    The Reverend Campbell’s advice to David Balfour seems apropos: “Be souple, Davie, be souple!”
    Have experienced this in academia — the trick is (as Dick told the Apostate Bishop in The Great Divorce) to write the essays that get the good marks, give the answers that get approval, without losing your belief that they are objectively wrong (is this a permissible mental reservation? Hope so, otherwise I better hie me to the confessional.)

  32. Son of Trypho says:

    It is ironic that Fr Z’s policies are exactly the same policies that the modernist priests used during the reign of Pius XII to get ordained.

  33. 1987 says:

    One of the best posts I have ever read. Let’s pray for the poor seminarians.

  34. James Joseph says:

    I absolutely love that last line!

    You know… I never even got through the door.

  35. tealady24 says:

    Courage! If ever Jesus needed a helper in cleaning out that temple . . .

  36. tealady24: If our Lord ever made a whip of cords (cf John 2:15) and put it into my hand, I’d put my back into it.

    But that will never happen and it is better that way.

    I had better get back to the batting cage again.

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    Son of Trypho,

    Only if you don’t believe in objective truth.

    But the children of the world are more prudent than the children of light.

  38. letchitsa1 says:

    A friend of mine who is an orthodox Catholic once made the argument that he read heterodox points of view so he could better defend against them. I suppose the same could apply, at least in theory, in reverse if for some reason the need arose. That said, however, it is probably better to forgo the internet.

  39. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    There are very good reasons for monitoring seminarian internet use and blocking access to many sites, some of which have been mentioned (gambling, porn, etc.), and, although I cannot say for sure, I expect every seminary and house of formation does such monitoring.

    And I would expect that any attempt to get around these blocking systems would probably be seen as justifying expulsion. We are now paying the price of the scandals by much increased vigilance in areas like the internet. I would urge seminarians not to put themselves at risk by circumventing the security systems.

    Now, at the risk of going down the rabbit hole . . .

    “Somebody without a feminist/modernist agenda needs to translate Hildegard into English!”

    It has already been done. See the Paulist Press edition of the Schivias, translated by Mother Columba Hart, O.S.B., of Regina Laudis Monastery.

  40. Phil_NL says:

    Hearing this, I always wonder why those leftist seminaries continue to receive seminarians – of course there are also lefties studying for the priesthood, but those truely fitting that picture are few and far between, at least nowadays. For those who don’t fit that bill, it should be possible to – somewhat – get an idea of the lay of the land prior to entering.

    And still seminarians enter. Is that because there’s still an extreme reluctance, or perhaps bureaucratic impediment, to seek out different seminaries, in another country perhaps? Surely costs and language can be hurdles, but yearly tens if not hunderd of thousands of university students follow courses or entire degrees abroad. If the catholic seminary system had even a tenth of that flexibility, the leftists ones would, bar a few exceptions, all be dead.

    So, can someone enlighten me, what is exactly the nature of the problem when one decides that one has a vocation, but sees the local seminary as an impossibility and therefore wants to enroll in a different seminary?

    (of course, it’s harder once you’re in already, your file will naturally follow you. But at the point of entry, very little would be known about you.)

  41. AvantiBev says:

    PRAYER REQUEST: while praying for faithful, traditionalists among our seminarians, please pray for me and my fellow actors/entertainment professionals who must remain as underground as the partigiani in WWII Italy. There ARE conservative, patriotic, rational, tradition loving actors but you probably don’t know we exist. In L.A. there is a group that must meet in more anonymity than A.A. Here in Chi town I know 2 actors I can speak with openly and one good natured Lefty actress who ENJOYS debating with me without any nasty reprecussions. SO PLEASE KEEP US IN YOUR PRAYERS. From actors ranks have come great presidents and popes. :-)

  42. Gaetano says:

    Familiarize yourself with the symptoms & treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Living for years in a stressful environment where you must be hypervigilant can take its toll. That goes double when you are psych-bombed with phrases like “rigid” and accused of not being “pastoral” enough. [This is a good point. I’m still twitchy.]

  43. Biedrik says:

    Some seminaries are indeed tragic. It always saddens me to read about some of these articles. Though I would like to shine a little bit of light into this conversation. There are indeed orthodox seminaries in America which serve multiple dioceses, thus spreading their goodness around. I myself attend one such seminary, which faithfully sticks to Church teaching. We’re hardly the only one around, so there is great hope for the seminaries yet. Ours also monitors our internet usage (though not email) to make sure that we are not looking at pornographic material, so at least such tactics are being morally in some places.

  44. heway says:

    @AvantiBev – I will pray for you and your fellow actors. As a nurse for 50 years, I never had any liberal vs trad problems, but I can imagine what it must be like. Unlike the seminarian who can ‘man up’, you are simply trying to make a living. My son is in a similar predicament with fellow workers and friends who are of a different set of values.
    I am stunned by the assertion of 90% of diocesan priests being’communist ! Is this diocese in the USA?
    My most liberal of friends (probably members of ‘Act Up’) are the ones who introduced me to Hildegarde of Bingen and her works and music -soon to be another woman Doctor of Church.

  45. Kerry says:

    “Destroy their life’s work”. Oorah!! Rounds down range, fire for effect!!

  46. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Father what a horrifying description. But, sadly I am not surprised. Your suggestions make sense.

    Gaetano, You beat me to mentioning Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’m pretty sure this disorder is rampant among our clergy, including some very old clergy and religious who we may consider wildly cranky and liberal.

    One suggestion I think Father could have mentioned is to keep trusted friends and/or family close. You need emotional support and love. Yes, knowing whom to trust is a critical problem, but find a way.

    The root cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is high stress, usually over a period of time, without any sense of support or help. A balanced person [do these really exist? LOL] can go through similar periods of stress and recover, relying on steady emotional foundations. Its not just traumatized Vets from broken families, who faced horrifying war situations and an ungrateful nation that suffer PTSD. It can be abused or bullied children, spouses, co-workers, students, the unjustly accused, anybody. When someone suffers trauma without emotional support and who believes they are isolated and cannot be helped, you have a potential victim of PTSD. The scenario is exacerbated in people with a narcissistic [the true medical disorder] parent or any kind of broken family [alcoholics, criminals, bullies, incessant fighting] – in other words anyone who grows up in a regularly unstable, loveless, frightening environment.

    The antidote for PTSD is learning exceptional gratitude, not focusing on the negatives or the suffering, and forgiveness. You must learn to forgive. Learning how to make personal connections and making loving, supportive friends are also crucial in the healing.

    May God be with you good men, and give you strength. You are in my prayers.

  47. NoTambourines says:

    This is so sad to read. I’ve been wanting to read Goodbye, Good Men, but I was kind of under the impression that this sort of thing is slowly fading into the past. What gives me that impression is that my parish seems to function as a training parish for first-year priests, and then they go on to be pastors elsewhere in the diocese. All of our new priests have been very orthodox, very reverent, and a couple have decidedly emphasized tradition.

    Maybe my diocese has one of the seminaries that isn’t a few cans short of a six pack (or a few antiphons short of Vespers). But the thought that any man has to go through what’s being described above (not the “what”of the monitoring, but the apparent “why”) is tragic.

    What if a man is truly called to the priesthood and gets blackballed by politics? That is a heartbreaking prospect to consider.

  48. A seminarian really shouldn’t be using unfiltered Internet– too much spiritually dangerous material is too easily available, some of it can appear unexpectedly, and the stakes are just too high. As Fr. Z suggested, better to give up Internet if necessary, and as others suggested, start reading good Catholic books. Jesus sent the 72 disciples two by two for good reason. If a seminarian must look at unfiltered Internet, he should not do it alone, but with a strong, trustworthy partner as backup.

    I don’t know if I would have made it through a heterodox seminary. In public school, I had a slightly nutty music teacher in eight grade who needed to teach us the difference between sacred music and secular music. She insisted on using “Jesus Christ Superstar” as her example when she taught, and she insisted that it was “sacred” music. I disagreed. She further insisted on using it on her test. Even though I knew I would get the question wrong, I identified it as “secular” music on the test. I probably would not even have been admitted to a seminary twenty years ago; I would have flunked the first test. But at least I have some scraps of integrity left to my name.

    I echo Fr. Z’s advice, as Bob Elliott used to say, “Hang by your thumbs.” We need at least some good men to clear the hurdles in the seminary so that we have good bishops and priests some day. That is the paradox of the situation; when the enemy is in control, it can be almost impossible to gain power without sacrificing one’s integrity; it can be a gut-wrenching choice. I guess if one is bland-looking enough and keeps a low profile, one won’t be asked too many questions and just might be able to pull it off.

  49. Stephen D says:

    Traditionalist ‘subversives’! I love it! I love it! Turning the tables on the ‘liberals’ by using their own weapons. More on subversion in the seminary, please Father. It sounds as though you are the expert.

  50. rcg says:

    Absolutely sound advice. I have attended resistance training schools for people who might be captured, imprisoned or tortured, etc. This is perfectly in line with that training. As far as being twitchy: when you see a fellow prisoner, smile, even if only with your eyes. It is, like a photo, worth a thousand words and can recharge your soul.

  51. Thank you, Fr. Augustine! In SPND, A.

  52. And, in the words of my dearly departed spiritual director, when things are totally bazaar and liberal, “Never let them know that YOU know.” In other words, play stupid and be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.

  53. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    Although St. John Eudes has written that Catholics get the priests that they deserve and although the contracepting laity are denying the Church of potential seminarians, God is most merciful to us. I am a 71-year old cradle Catholic who has endured much from the hands of the clergy since Vatican II, even though the Council was not the cause–only a false “spirit” was.
    I and other faithful papists felt like we were a remnant in a citadel being assaulted by an army of dissenters. One glimmer of hope came one evening when I was sitting in a Newman Center reading the excellent, book How To Keep Your Balance In The Modern Church, when I overheard some young men discussing their seminary experience. They mentioned that they had discovered the true teaching of the Catholic Church outside of the classroom, and they commented on its evident truth and beauty. I finally spoke with them and encouraged them to keep pursuing the truth.
    Finally, another incident occurred at the same Newman Center at a later date that gave us papists great hope. A papist Dominican, Father Michael Sherwin, was stationed at the Newman Center, and he sponsored a series of lectures by papist Catholics. I attended a lecture by Dr. Janet Smith, and I was most gratified and encouraged to see four young diocesan priests in attendance. At intermission I spoke with some other papist layfolk; they were as happy as I was. Our diocese finally had some papist priests. I might add that these four priests are still working in my diocese and have continued to be adherents to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church.

  54. Cincinnati Priest says:

    As a priest who survived much of the great season of silliness in Cincinnati’s seminary (it is now vastly improved in orthodoxy BTW), I can vouch for Fr. Z’s advice.

    It was so bad in my day that we seminarians had a phrase for it: “swimming underwater” (i.e. still making spiritual progress and clinging to orthodoxy, but doing it in an invisible way).

    There is a problem that of course there is a natural for a seminarian to be zealous and want to speak up to defend orthodoxy. But in certain environments, that is too risky.

    I often received the very sage advice that Fr. Z. is giving while in seminary — and was often too impetuous to follow it. (Many scars to prove it. Fortunately, they heal after a few years!)

    Best advice for any young men in this situation: stay quiet in seminary, but do make good friends with orthodox priests “on the outside” to support you spiritually. Worked for me. It is usually easy to find out who they are. They are the ones who are very supportive of seminarians.

    If you have opportunity to get into his study, you can tell at a glance whether or not a priest is orthodox by what books he has on his shelves. I could usually appraise a priest’s orthodoxy within about 10 seconds of glancing around.

  55. Rich says:

    This is an exceptional post whose words of wisdom may be applied to many social situations in which different interests exist.

  56. NancyP says:

    As a layperson who is very tired of watching good and faithful priests and seminarians get thrown under the bus for speaking out, I applaud Father Z. for offering sane survival tips. Dear priests and seminarians, you are not alone, ever! We are praying for you because we need you. Do not despair. Go along to get along and you will come into the fullness of your priestly inheritance.

    To our dear seminarians: Military members’ emails and web surfing habits are monitored in just this way (every command has a person or persons who do this – can you imagine having this job?), so you are not alone in the world. (Sadly, sometimes they get caught doing some very foolish things…please don’t go there!) Perhaps you could consider offering up this cross for those serving in the military, especially those Catholic military members who only see a priest every 2 months or so. It is a huge cross for them…being in a war zone and lacking access to the sacraments is an enormous trial and sacrifice, one which many nonmilitary people don’t even realize they make.

    And…you military members and families who read Father Z.’s blog every day…do consider offering up your deployment trials, worries about orders, separation from extended families, etc. for our priests and seminarians, especially those who feel called to the chaplaincy. It is very, very difficult for a diocesan priest to obtain permission to become a military chaplain, but we need every priest-chaplain our bishops will release to this very important service. (Civilians are encouraged to pray for these important intentions, too!)

  57. Kathleen10 says:

    Huh, very interesting comments here.

    I have many, many times felt what an alien might feel, landing on a new planet, trying hard to figure out what’s going on among the natives. I see the basic dilemma, abstract and fuzzy…we have Bishops and Priests who I now always suspected but now gather, fall into their political camps (I can’t help but see the analogy to politics as a good one!). But the who, the where, and now the yearning to know HOW MUCH, is very captivating to me. It seems others have also wondered, so, I’m not alone. The clergy and it’s workings are mysterious, elusive, undefinable, and not being an expert, just a sinner trying to get into heaven, it is blasted hard to figure out why things are as they are! I can never understand it, haven’t been able to although it has been stumping me for YEARS. Why is there not more availability of the Latin Mass? Why all these “liberal” statements and leanings of the Bishops? Why, when our culture is being shredded and faith is waning, atheism booming, are we not seeing an energized clergy, using the always attractive truth about Christianity in general and Jesus and His Mother in particular, to promote the reason for faith? Why no emphasis on the Saints? Why all the promotion of open borders, immigration rights, healthcare rights, and little discussion of being pro-life? Traditional marriage? Gay rights not being discussed? All these “whys” and “why nots”? None of it makes sense, except in the context of what Fr. Z is sharing. I want to know! I really do! Our seminaries ought not be houses of communism and liberalism, which has all but killed our church! Is this even hyperbole anymore? I don’t know, but I do know I find this topic very important, and more understanding of this whole topic would hopefully cause my brain to stop itching like a little bear cub.

    As far as PTSD, I am a sufferer. It’s no barrel of monkeys. Life stress set me up for employment stress, and employment stress is awful. Ah, what a world. Most of us long for a little quiet and peace. It’s so hard to find. The situation described in the seminary is very much like many work situations are today, given our competitive work environments and generalized insecurities of the modern man, and certainly, woman. But for the typical employee, there is no “arrival”, no graduation date to dream of. It’s quite depressing! I am not yet understanding how that can work for a seminarian, but if it is the case (and Fr. Z knows I’m sure), then it’s a better situation than many employees find themselves in, so it has an end.
    My challenge would be keeping my mouth shut when I disagreed. There are times when the pressure from words unsaid feel like they will blow your teeth out! But thank God, if there are strong and disciplined men who can do it. May God bless them, and support them.

    More information and discussion of this topic. It is very helpful for me to try to understand what exactly has been “going on” in seminaries and IS going on! This is a very relevant topic. Not that we as laity can do much about it, but they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  58. Jucken says:

    This is wrong on so many levels. If all that matters is getting ordained [No. That’s a shallow reading of what this is about.] even if that involves being submissive to the excommunicated (since Marxism renders automatic excommunication), then why not going to a schismatic or sedevacantist seminary? There you would at least (probably) get a (almost) proper formation.

    Not only ordaining a canonically unfit candidate to the priesthood is a mortal sin, but accepting ordination knowingly that you are unfit is a mortal sin too, as well as making use of those orders. [You are making a rash judgment that the candidates are unfit or in the state of sin.]

    If we want to beat the Devil then we must stop using the same deceitful ways he does!

  59. JesusFreak84 says:

    I may be of use on the tech end of this… TOR (The Onion Router) is great for getting your traffic around eyes that would abuse it. I2P is, too, (probably better, all things considered,) but the learning curve is closer to running into a brick wall. OpenDNS is attempting to implement a form of encryption in the “phone book look-up” request that would make it harder for the rector to spy, but would allow the seminarians themselves to block various categories (pr0nz, adware, gambling, whatever it is,) so they would not be without any accountability (esp. if they have a trusted friend log in periodically to check the logs…) That’s here: https://www.opendns.com/technology/dnscrypt/ (But it’s not fully there yet oustide of Unix-land (OSX, Linux, etc.)

    File all this away for the day when Fr. Z’s blog is labeled as “hate speech” and ISPs start trying to block it…

  60. Mrs. Bear says:

    I do believe we have seminaries out there that can be detrimental to the spiritual life of the seminarians along with the psychological ramification. They must be strong enough to fight the good fight but do it hidden. There are people praying for you!!
    When I was dating my husband – he said the saving grace at his seminary was his spiritual director. That seminary is still not favoured by many bishops – they send them elsewhere. My husband then went to a great seminary in the US and left as he felt the call was not there.
    After he left I met him and encouraged him to attend the local seminary in our area that was just slowly changing course – to finish off his M.Div. Still issues at that time but now it is becoming a bation of orthodoxy!!
    I also see the danger of Chanceries and parish offices that still have too much of a liberal influence on what any priest loyal to the Magisterium can and cannot do in a parish. Look at the poor priest in Washington. You become a priest to save souls and you are vilified.
    We have crappy retreat centres, we have liberals (lay, religious or priests) who are invited to speak to congregations and very little is said by the bishop, we have liturgist with degrees and musicians who still strangle the Liturgy . When we have lay people receiving little diplomas in Lay ministry from these liberal “Catholic” organizations and chanceries – we get more and more confrontations from these people with orthodox priests “who just don’t know ” and don’t accept that lay people know Vatican II better than them. There is a power struggle within parishes.
    We need to get back to catechesis from the pulpit and priests need to be firm.
    Hide now in that seminary as the real battleground is yet to come.
    (also don’t cut your hair too short- very telling sign of orthodox seminarians. My husband rode up in his motorcycle & walked in with his biker jacket and chaps on)

  61. Mrs. Bear says:

    I forgot to say that in the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Cardinal has implemented no electronic devices at all – to spiritually prepare for the priesthood.

  62. Di says:

    This is so sad my heart aches for you. You know what they say God never said it would be easy HE just said it would be Worth IT
    I will keep you, who wrote this to Father Z in my prayers and all priests good and bad. I will remember you all at Adoration this week, I pray it helps.
    God Bless
    Si vis pacem, para bellum!
    “Sacra Crux, Mihi Lux; non Draco Mihi Dux……
    May the Holy Cross be my Light; may the Dragon never be My Guide!”.

  63. Jael says:

    Following Fr. Z’s rules is how I achieved my M.S. in Education (after an absence from the field for many years). I learned (too late) that education has morphed into indoctrination, with no thinking allowed, so I have filed the diploma away with my teaching license and moved on to other things; I don’t have the stomach to be a tool of the social revolutionaries. Along with seminarians and actors, please pray for underground orthodox public school teachers and writers of children’s books.

  64. moon1234 says:

    As a network administrator I can tell you with 100% certainty that almost any encrytped connection can be decrypted in REALTIME if anytype of key exchange occurs over a firewall the company/seminary is using. This coupled with websense and a few other corporate monitoring programs makes it very easy to monitor any communication.

    The ONLY way to guarantee a secure remote connection is to predistribute the keys. This is why banks give usb keys to their business customers. The keys rotate on a time based system and the key is predistributed to the customer. When the customer communicates with the bank there is no exchange of keys, like with SSL and most VPN connections, the encrypted communication starts that way and it can not be decrypted without the valid keys.

    A smartphone of data plan from a cellular company is the only way to avoid snooping corporate eyes. I would vote for no internet at all while at seminary. Use it at the public library if need be or get a coffee at starbucks, etc.

    I have a question though that always perplexes me. WHY do men choose seminaries like this? Especially when this is like prepping for marraige. Most people research a university to death before they spend any money. Is is not similar for seminary? Why not choose a traditional seminary like ICRSS, FSSP, St. John Cantius, etc.? One is not bound to a seminary if he can not tolerate it there is he? Can you not choose to switch seminaries to a traditional order?

  65. John Nolan says:

    If traditionalist seminarians have managed to pass the psychological testing now mandatory for candidates, and presumably designed to weed out those such as themselves, then keeping their heads down shouldn’t be too much of a problem. NB During WW II the Royal Navy used psychological screening for officer selection and as a result turned away good young men. This partly explains why the Senior Service ended the war inferior in most areas to the USN.

  66. Eriugena says:

    I don’t know what they could have done, but I often wished faithful laymen had been more interested in what was going on in the seminaries.

    The advice given regarding internet surfing on a non-seminary connexion was particularly useful to THIS group of lay folk. I imagine sacrificing the internet is the most likely option, but providing material help to OUR local seimnarians seems a good idea in these difficult times. In the current economic climate it might seem hard, but there’s always someone in a worse situation. I know for a fact that in our seminary the holy men are FORBIDDEN from borrowing anything published pre-1965 from the library, so we could get around that quite easily. Veni sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium et tui amoris in eis ignem accende!

    PS You can tell where I’m from by the username. Ireland WASN’T like that in the 1980s…

  67. Tom Esteban says:

    I’m only an ignorant layman, Reverend Father, but I think this is awful advice for this poor seminarian. Could you imagine yourself going back to the seminary now? You indicate it was a really tough time; imagine going back there and having a priest tell you to just suck it up amidst the modernism and the protesantism. All the while, traditional seminaries are flourishing and you know for a fact that the education you are receiving as a priest is compromised and absolutely nothing near what you are meant to be doing. To stick through it when you are forced to is one thing, and your advice makes a lot of sense if this seminarian and others like him have no other choices. Fortunately, though, they do have a choice. They have the choice of the FSSP, of the Institute, and of a handful of other traditional places to go to.

    Life isn’t always like Hollywood; where you work through the tough times and come out one day as the Rector of the seminary who institutes new changes and revolutionizes the diocese and becomes the celebrated hero and the face of the traditional movement despite all the hardships. What seems more likely to happen is a slow rot of the soul, loss of faith, loss of vocation, compromising with the certainties of traditional authentic Catholicism and finally, perhaps the worst, still going through with it and coming out at the other end a disillusioned priest with no idea what to think or do. Even if you make it out with your faith, intellect and good-will intact and properly ordered, what are you able to do then? Immediately get yourself moved to a 3-person parish for 20 years for daring to teach real, authentic Catholicism? It’s a dangerous position to be in. It just makes no sense to me to tell these guys to just sit through 5-7 years of modernism, quasi-protestantism and being deceitful to not only their spiritual directors and those who will be teaching them and forming them, but also being deceitful to their own hearts and minds (and, ultimately, to God).

    You know better than I do, Father. I just hope and pray that your plan of action works. It hasn’t for the past 40 years, but perhaps it may work now.

  68. Phil_NL says:

    “WHY do men choose seminaries like this?” – my thoughts exactly, as indicated in my own comment yesterday. I think it would do a wealth of good for all our understanding if the question could be answered.

    Surely, advise to seminarians finding themselves in an awful situation is most welcome. But advise to avoid those kind of seminaries at all is perhaps much, much more needed – and more beneficial in the long term. Even a seminary will close if they lack for students; making sure the entrants pick a proper seminary may speed up the reform of the system tremendously.

  69. Allan S. says:

    Mrs. Bear, what do you know of the current state of affaires at Toronto’s seminary, St. Augistine’s? I’m asking on behalf of my son….

  70. Cincinnati Priest says:

    @Moon1234 & Phil_NL:

    For diocesan priests, they do not typically choose the seminary they attend. The diocese they are studying for typically funds all or most of their seminary education, the ordinary (bishop) chooses where to send his men for priestly formation. In a diocese with its own seminary, they are typically sent to that one. In a diocese without its own seminary, they are typically given a choice of two or three options from a list of those the bishop thinks will be best suited for their formation.

    Remember, most men enter major seminary *after* college education. Because seminary is a full time commitment (and then some) they are not usually able to pay the cost of that formation. Also, it is not like “going to grad school.” It is, in some ways, like going into the military (the service — except the service is the service of the Church). You don’t choose where you go to boot camp :-)

    It is not a “free market” system. Nor should it be. Diocesan seminarians are preparing to serve and to show respect and obedience to their bishop, who tries best to serve the spiritual needs of his people and his priest sons.

    The potential problem comes in when a bishop does not show sufficient oversight to the quality of the seminary to which he is sending his men. As always, please pray for your bishops, that they make wise and prudent decisions.

  71. Augustin57 says:

    The seminarian(s) can sign up for a free 2GB cloud drive from Dropbox.com, or any other number of providers. Then, he/they can store whatever they want online, outside of their local PC, and even share files, if they like by using the same cloud drive.

  72. Warren says:

    The story brings to mind the struggle in our Diocese during the 1980s and 90s. Young men left our diocese to go to a neighbouring diocese because the marxist (… the appellation, while intentionally pejorative, is an entirely apt one) and his cronies in charge, i.e., irreligious feminists and embezzlers as it turns out, openly opposed anything “popish” and anyone perceived as a threat to their little corner of liberalism and heterodoxy. Only with a change in leadership, after literally decades of turning away good men, has the situation begun to turn around.

    Sometimes we just have to hunker down and pray and pray… the Prayer to Saint Michael, a few maledictory/imprecatory psalms, etc. Now the heretics are on the run. There are still a few holdouts (hangovers) – our interim chaplain for one (… we are praying for his conversion). If our once radical, goofy diocese can change – we even have an EF Mass! Just one parish once a week, but hey, a monumental sign of change – then any place can change. It only takes one saint to turn a parish around!

    Two solid bishops have gently re-oriented the diocese. Several orthodox young men are now in formation, drawn to service by the example of a faithful priest at the cathedral. Praise God for his witness!

  73. pfreddys says:

    Fr. Z,
    I’ll never understand why your advise in cases like this is simply to have the seminarian find a good seminary. [Because seminarians are not just guys going to a trade school. Frankly, it might be better if that were the set up, but it isn’t. Seminarians go where the bishop tells them to go. Once the bishops tells a man, “You are going to St. Ugthred-in-the-Wood Seminary, the man can go, or not go. There are some seminaries open to men who aren’t sponsored by a bishop. But these are guys going to school at a seminary. When a bishop picks them up, they do what the bishop says.]
    I understand in your own case you went to a horrible seminary and you turned out fine; but think about how much better and how much more you would have learned if you went to a good seminary. Also why would you have seminarians put their souls at risk by the constant bombardment of heresy, and why would you have them support such a seminary by their attendance?
    Respectfully, Paul

  74. Charles E Flynn says:

    That last sentence could be the Great Commission of 2012.

  75. Phil: “And still seminarians enter [these progressive seminaries]. Is that because there’s still an extreme reluctance, or perhaps bureaucratic impediment, to seek out different seminaries, in another country perhaps?”

    Moon: “I have a question though that always perplexes me. WHY do men choose seminaries like this?”

    As Cincinnati Priest points out–but more briefly–most major seminarians do not personally choose their seminary. It is chosen for them by their bishop.

    So these less than fully faithful seminaries are kept open by bishops who send their seminarians to them. And I personally suspect that most bishops know what they’re getting for their money.

  76. Supertradmum says:

    I know seminarians who have been afraid of looking at my blog and Father Z’s because their accounts are monitored if they are using seminary computers. Here is a letter I wrote several months ago, after talking with my traditional sem friends, who are under terrible stress.

  77. Supertradmum says:

    PS Seminarians, as Henry Edwards states, do not choose their own seminary. If they are called to the diocesan or secular priesthood, there are no options, as the diocese, that is the bishop, decides where the young men go. At the graduate level in the States, there is some wiggle room, depending on academic excellence; one could be sent to Rome to the North American College.

    The FSSP and the Institute are orders, not seculars, and they are technically missionary orders, which can send the priests anywhere in the world. For young men who are called to the domestic front, as I like to call it, being a diocesan priest is the only option. One must suffer under and with the diocese one is either born into, or moves to when older. The situation in America is much worse than in England, for example, where there is more tolerance and less “agenda” holders from the liberal past. However, in Ireland, the situation is worse than in the States, and traditional young men must really keep a low profile. I know one trad young man who suffers in silence. His day will come,”God willing”, as they say here.

  78. irishgirl says:

    Excellent advice from Father Z, and also from you, Supertradmum!

  79. tominrichmond says:

    What’s missed a bit in this discussion is the fact that a man who goes through this kind of deformed “formation” is not going to be a properly formed priest. If self-study were enough to qualify a man for orders, why bother with the six years of philosophy and theology studies?

    I sympathize with the situation, having had college friends do just this, assuring me that they would not be changed in their orthodox beliefs and practices, but would become the new wave of change makers. It hasn’t really worked out that way. While they are personally orthodox and pious men, they universally have given in to stuff they know is wrong, such as communion in the hand, use of women in the sanctuary, communion under both kinds, whacky concelebration where a priest can’t control what the chief “presider” does…

    I think a young man should think long and hard about enduring a 6-10 year ordeal like this, just to come out on the other end having had little if any actual formation according to the mind of the Church. The point isn’t just to get your passport stamped and get ordination… the point is, what kind of priest will you be and are you being just with those whom you will serve by knowing receiving a sub-standard/non-existent formation?

  80. tominrichmond says:

    “knowingly receiving”

  81. Supertradmum says:

    tominrichmond, and when your children do not have priests to give their children the sacraments, would you say the same thing? In my home diocese, in 10 years, there will be fifteen priests for 100,000 Catholics.

  82. albizzi says:

    That is apalling if one thinks that this is only the emerged tip of the iceberg.
    The leftist infiltrations began in the early sixties (sad to say, encouraged by the then reigning popes) and many among the ordained priests have climbed the hierarchy’s steps and could make to the Church irreparable damages hundred times those a simple parish priest could.
    When some obedient faithfuls exposed the scandals, they were slandered as “plot theorists”.
    These men are nothing but Satan’s agents. They will not succeed in the Church’s destruction because the “Gates of Hell will not prevail”, but how many souls did and will they drag to Hell?

    [You may have missed an important point. The time of the lefties is rapidly coming to an end. In the USA the situation is VASTLY improved over the last few years.]

  83. LisaP. says:

    Is it not possible, when a young man feels called to the priesthood, for him to move into a diocese where he knows the seminary will not present this challenge?

  84. LisaP. says:

    I’ve known people in many walks of life that fly under the radar in the hopes of making changes from the inside as the opportunity presents itself.

    In some cases, it is unavoidable (e.g. Soviet Russia — outwardly conform or you’re gone).

    But I’d be cautious about embarking with this strategy unless you absolutely have to (which only each person can judge). I have yet to know anyone who can live right but look conforming without eventually being “found out” — simply having more than one child can “out” you in some communities. At some point, most of my friends who have tried this game have found they have to make a decision to either buy in or opt out. At this point, they have a lot to lose by opting out.

    An example is the vaccine cell line problem — how many folks have given their kids the rubella vaccine because the act of vaccinating is so far removed from the act of abortion that culpability is diminished (so says the bishops, after all) and refusing the vaccine and telling their doctor why is “radical” and would get them on the radar? Yet if all those who had a problem with this protested openly, the free market system would certainly make the Japanese untainted rubella vaccine available in the U.S.

    From my experience, I would strongly suggest that anyone in any field who goes the “keep your head down and your mouth shut” route go into it with a timeline in mind and boundaries in place. Know ahead of time what you are and aren’t willing to do, and how long you are willing to do it. It’s easy to keep quiet until the revolution comes, then with everyone so quiet, the revolution never comes.

    Of course, this blog is itself an argument that keeping low profile then going high profile can do great good.

  85. Supertradmum says:


    This is very frowned upon and unless the young man has become independent, such as working in another diocese at a job, for example, it is hardly possible. Young men must have references which show they have lived in a place and established themselves in a parish. In addition, as many as 22 dioceses may send their young men to the same seminary. I shall not mention any names, but seminaries are scarce and the bishops who do not look into the training well enough, or who are somewhat liberal or anti-Latin Mass themselves, may send their young men to such a seminary. In addition, a rector or president of a seminary can change the atmosphere overnight of a solid seminary to one which is less so. Because I worked in a seminary and because many seminarians have read this blog and mine over the years, I know about such persecution of the more traditional ones. In addition, if a young man has been asked to leave for any reason, there is hardly any chance for him being accepted elsewhere. I happen to know personally, however, that the seminaries in the States have taken young men rejected in Mexico, for example, for reasons which have nothing to do with traditional values or the traditional Mass. The Visitation did little to change things. And, homosexuals are still being allowed to enter some seminaries. This is not hearsay. I have personal experience of this happening and I had homosexual youths in my classes. as late as 2009-2010. When I tried to discuss this with the powers that were, I was basically told to shut up and put up.

  86. Ben Trovato says:

    What can we do?

    One thing we (and several other local families) did was spiritually adopt a seminarian each. We contacted them, told them the idea, and asked who would be interested. Then we adopted one each. We prayed for them every day, we visited them, we invited them to our houses for meals. We prayed more for them.

    Eventually, we went to ‘our’ seminarian’s ordination, and he is now a firm family friend – and a fine young priest.

    He says our prayers (and his knowing we were saying them) were extremely valuable to him during his time at seminary.

    By the way, read Michael S. Rose’s Goodbye, Good Men, if you want to get an insight into this problem in depth.

  87. LisaP. says:


    That’s a shame. Ordination is so entirely essential to the Church, and therefore to the world, how has the path been allowed to fall into such shreds? This is very disheartening.

  88. HeatherPA says:

    One assurance is that the Bishop is retiring, and Our dear Holy Father is well aware of the housecleaning that he needs to do regarding Bishops- that much is clear with his appointments. I pray for these poor seminarians and the Bishops. This sounds exactly like it was written by someone from my current diocese…
    Don’t these priests and Bishops realize the warning in Malachi? Don’t they recall that they will have to stand before the Lord and give a full accounting? Wow!

  89. Supertradmum says:

    LisaP, Things are improving slowly but surely and are much better than in the eighties. However, there is still dust in the corners and under the bed.

  90. Phil_NL says:

    Cincinnati Priest, Henry Edwards , thanks.

    I must say, however, that I find myself still amazed. It may be that the choice of the bishop is unavoidable, and so may be the office of the bishop, but the man holding that office differs from place to place. Especially in countries where seminarians tend to be admitted after a secular college education, there should be quite a bit of wiggle room regarding which diocese – and therefore which bishop – would qualify. at least, I don’t suppose the average seminarian would be forcibly returned to the diocese of his birth – nowadays many don’t have a connection with that anyway.
    For example, those in – to name a place where most of the news is still bad – California could move to Kansas first; e.g. transfer college, or take a job and live there for a while. Something that can probably be fitted in the period it takes to discern a vocation, that’s rarely done in a day or week. It does probably require preparation at a much earlier stage (as the top question would be ‘should I be a priest?’ rather than ‘where will I be trained, should I have a vocation’ in those days), but again, given the enormous level of grief and stress, isn’t it time to start pointing this out to prospective seminarians early?

    Granted, it may lead to a lot of young catholic man emigrating to the Frejus-Toulon region and learning French, but so be it.

  91. Phil, certainly there are those who have successfully explored options like the ones you suggest. On the other hand, some of the very finest young men aspire not only to be priests and to serve Church and Faith generally, but specifically to serve in their home diocese where they hope to do the most good, and which may well need it (and them as priests) the most. Thus, taking your example–and not thinking of specific dioceses in either state–a young man in California might think his home state needs faithful young priests a lot more than Kansas does. He might even say … What would still another TLM celebrant do in Kansas, as opposed to my own California diocese where there’s such a crying need for orthodox young priests.

    Thence, to serve their own diocesan bishop who may need their service the most, they must work with him from the inception of their vocation. For a variety of reasons, not necessarily ulterior ones (perhaps mundane financial considerations), this may entail attending a seminary that might not be the most optimal choice if only doctrine and theology were involved.

  92. Supertradmum says:

    Phil_NL, I personally know some sems who have chosen to stay in rabidly liberal dioceses and these young men are traditional. They want to change the local church and will do so, once they are priests. If enough young men make this type of decision, we shall see the change.

  93. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    These seminarians – and others facing oppression because they stand for Truth – would be well-advised to read “With God in Russia” by Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J. (1904-1984), who spent 23 years in Soviet prisons and slave labor camps. See http://www.ciszek.org/About_Ciszek.html

  94. Ed the Roman says:

    If non-flaky men won’t go to flaky diocesan seminaries, those dioceses will get only flaky priests until they have a bishop with the will and ability to de-flake the seminary.

    That’s a horrible fate for a diocese. Just sayin’.

  95. Phil_NL says:

    @Supertradmum, Henry Edwards,

    Well, all the more kudos to those who knowingly confront the storm; they’re brave men indeed. However, I have the idea that many may have had little idea of the lay of the land beforehand, and would be in for some very unpleasant suprises along the way. Also, bravery may not be enough to make it through till ordination, if the horror-stories above are any indication – not everyone can stand the stress and emerge healthy in body and soul.

    I still think there’s something to be said to be more brutally honest to seminarians, and encourage those likely to be victims of dodgy formation to explore other options. The local bishop may need them most, but perhaps the local bishop will not sort out the seminary till he runs out of priests. (granted, it may be me, I just can’t imagine having geographical ties that would be stronger than spiritual ones, so I’d let the local bishop be responisble for his own sad seminary and move on. Last but not least, I thought it was common practice not to give a priest a parish too close to where he grew up?)

    And on the whole, I think we’d be better off – as a global Church – to see a clear difference between what works and what doesn’t. And the bishop who does have a succesful seminary with lots of vocations is also more likely to be noticed and perhaps given the job to right things elsewhere.

  96. dnicoll says:

    Raing for these guys. They have such an important mission. I am on RICA and our parish priest looked at me as if I had grown another head when I asked about Latin Mass (and that was just in OF!) Also horrified at Fr Z’s seminary. The Rosary is what finally brought me into the Church, and Our Lady of Fatima stands gloriously next to my crucifix at home. I love them both.

  97. everett says:

    I’m in agreement with Ed the Roman. I’ve encountered something similar where young men have said that they’re looking to enter an order because they don’t want to have to deal with the flaky diocese they’re from. My response is that if all the good men leave, all the diocese will ever get are the flaky ones. Change can happen from the top-down or from the bottom-up. I’m very fortunate that our diocese has just made the decision to start sending their men to Denver for formation, which should bear much fruit in coming years, but you have to work with what you’re given.

  98. Mrs. Bear says:

    Allan S.,
    We know young men who are attending St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. SOLID formation from what we have seen and what we have been told. Many bishops outside of Toronto seem to prefer to have their seminarians go there rather than to another seminary in Ontario.
    Depending on their educational background -they first attend the 3 year? program of Philosophy at the Oratory (St. Philip Neri Seminary in Toronto) prior to attending St. Augustine’s. (I believe they do not have electronics as well) Cardinal Collins has slowly been sending off his younger priests for further studies in Rome so there looks to be a genuine move to teach inhouse rather than through TST (Toronto School of Theology).
    We do have one of the best teaching Cardinals so it says something that he is looking at the improvement of the Seminary through education.
    I would recommend you and your son speak with the Fr. Han Soo Park the vocation director for the archdiocese. Very good priest.
    Tell them Teresa & Dennis from Orangeville sent you. :)

  99. irishsmile says:

    Many seminarians are forced to submarine in the seminaries as they suffer through many hetrodox classes just to be ordained. After ordination, they live in fear of being accused of not being pastoral enough or even boundaries violations…. or jay-walking… literally any accusation can result in their faculties being lifted. Homilies against abortion and/ or homosexual activities attract the attention of many poorly catechized Catholics/liberal Catholics in the pews who then write telephone or write letters of complaint to the diocese. It happens! As the mother of a priest, I beg you, if you have a good priest write letters to the bishop to balance the negative attacks (and give the good priest a copy for his file). We’ve lost too many good seminarians and too many good priests; we need to be pro-active.

  100. Bea says:

    Ed the Roman, you’re so right.
    It’s hard to go and be “undercover” Seminarians have to be men of steel to overcome a “flaky” environment, and if only flaky seminarians go, we will continue with flakey priests.
    My son wanted to go SJ and was advised by a Holy SJ priest (there still are some out there) that he would have to take his own oxygen tank.
    He chose a TLM seminary instead.
    A friend of another son wanted to be a priest from his high school years. He was outspoken in his defense of the Church. The priest who took him to the mother house (Carmelites) for a visit told him “Don’t you know I have the power over you” (of whether or not he could go in) Needless to say he did not go in and we are short one zealous devoted priest.
    Great thread Fr. Z , I too, love your closing sentence.
    These are times of great heroic suffering in silence. Silent as stones, we must remain, but these very “stones” will shout. God’s Truth cannot be silenced, but at times must go “underground”
    and “whisper” to one another in order to keep the Faith.
    I always say the Leonine prayers after the NO Mass for all present and future priests for God’s protection of Holy Mother Church. Prayers are all we can fall back on right now , Prayers and fasting. I’m not too good at fasting, I must admit.

  101. albizzi says:

    Fr Z.: “[You may have missed an important point. The time of the lefties is rapidly coming to an end. In the USA the situation is VASTLY improved over the last few years.]”

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,
    I hope you are right. In Europe the crypto communist modernist clerics still are holding steadily the helm.
    The end of my comment (“the Gates of Hell etc…”) clearly shows that I still keep hope.

  102. Hieronymus in Canada says:

    Allan S–
    Echoing Mrs. Bear–St. Augustine’s isn’t bad, all things considered–and St. Philip’s is great (though I am perhaps biased as an alumnus and through having sent former students in that direction). If you are a Canadian, you can’t do much better than that, though my diocese (Pembroke) has switched to a very nice mixture of St. Philip’s, St. Augustine’s, and Rome.

    In the end, one is to a great degree putting one’s soul in the hands of the one in charge of forming one for the priesthood and then overseeing one’s exercise of the priesthood. Where one is likely to be sent says a great deal about the path to sanctity that one is likely to have to walk. I do think it best for some people to pass up some cups–but good spiritual direction is likely the best way to sort that out.

  103. Jucken says:

    You fell in contradiction, father.

    “There will be time after ordination to learn the TLM and build up that dimension of the formation they are – contrary to the Church’s law – cheating you out of.”

    That is, you acknowledged yourself this is contrary to the Law of the Church.

    Candidates are unfit if they don’t know proper Latin, Philosophy, Theology and Liturgy (especially the TLM).


  104. Bea says:

    Candidates are unfit if they are TOO Catholic

  105. mysticalrose says:

    Incidentally, should one find oneself in a graduate school program of theology that is as hostile as this poor seminarian’s seminary, THE SAME RULES APPLY! Just get the degree, get the job, and promptly introduce your students to the fullness of the Catholic faith (which, of course, you learned on the side, because you were denied any formal treatment of what the Church actually teaches).

  106. oldcanon2257 says:

    I think one of the Church Fathers said something to the effect that, “If you have not fed him, you have killed him.” Those enemies-within at seminaries run by modernists are attempting to corrupt our future priests by depriving them of the spiritual foods necessary for the proper priestly formation they truly deserve.

  107. To those who fear that a candidate for the priesthood may be unfit after receiving an inadequate education in a bad seminary, I suggest that one can work on his own to correct the deficiencies. I basically did that on my own when I was much younger and realized that my 1970’s religious education was mostly vapid apart from one great teacher I had in sixth grade (may God grant him eternal salvation). As a late teenager, I started watching EWTN, I got myself an adult catechism, and I started filling in the huge gaps that a sanity check told me needed filling. Later, I found Catholic Online and some really orthodox Catholics there to be a huge help in rectifying what was still lacking. It took a while, but it helped. At some point, one has to take responsibility for what is wrong. So much is available today to one who really wants to learn. I also should add that while education is a great asset to a priest, I am sure that many of our greatest priest-saints did not have the education that a priest is expected to have today. Look at the apostles– mere fishermen. God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit will give the pious and dedicated priest the right words to say at the right moments– He has promised us that in Scripture. But they must be ordained first.

  108. papaefidelis says:

    Father Z. : Your “Six Rules of Seminary Survival” are prudent and spot-on. If I had been informed of them back in the day (1988-1992) and had the good sense to understand them, I might be a priest today. I lacked prudence and had the naive misconception that the other seminarians did what they did and said what they said out of ignorance of ecclesiastical laws, etc. Never underestimate “the enemy” nor the lust for power. Nonetheless, now that I am a widower and have several decades of experience with “the enemy”, perhaps I may one day be able to put the Six Rules to good use. Only He knows.

    Domine, demonstra mihi viam Tuam ut instrumentum gratiae ac salutis animis fiam secundum voluntatem sanctam Tuam. Amen.

  109. Cephas218 says:

    Some have suggested that it would be wrong to give the answers looked for.

    I’d say in formation, you are tested on what you’re taught, not on the truth. So, to affirm something that’s obviously wrong is really the right answer when responding to someone who has taught that error. If you give back in the same context as you were led to, without ascribing to it yourself, then you will pass the test. If you insist on revealing the errors of others, you will get dumped like anyone who’s too full of himself to listen. It sounds like this is what Fr. Z is saying, and has done. For that, KUDOS, FZ!

  110. Jitpring says:

    Dear M.K.,

    Fr. Z has adapted this from St. Aquinas:

    “Rarely affirm, seldom deny, always distinguish.”

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  112. Martin17773 says:

    “In my day, it was as if we were officers-in-training, but in the military academy of the enemy.”

    My experience too, I didn’t make it. Their theological training was with female uniting church biblical ‘scholars’ who denied the miraculous – but worse, didn’t know they held a philosophy. The Master of Studies/Prior didn’t understand philosophy either, and wrote confusedly about miracles – he is a save-the-sand-dunes type. The religious order asked me to leave a few months later. Wish I’d had Fr Z advice then. You don’t imagine it could be possible, my ‘cunning as serpents, gentle as doves’ theology wasn’t well formed. ‘ “Destroy their life’s work” “get ordained” Godspeed.

  113. pfreddys says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for that clarification above. It makes perfect sense now. Come to think of it, if a man was completely free to choose his own seminary probably 95% of the liberal ones would not have lasted past the 1970s.

  114. adamitis says:

    Father Z / All,

    My son is discerning his vocation. I understand that the Bishop chooses the seminary but what seminaries are considered Orthodox? Also what religious orders are considered orthodox?

    Thank you.

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