Wherein Fr. Z reacts to a seminarian’s “cri de coeur”

I have written quite a few times here that – in this time of erosion and reversal in the Church – young priests and seminarians will increasingly be exposed to the sort of thing we older guys had to endure in the bad old days of the 80’s and 90’s.  Having grown up in relative sanity will they have the wherewithal to deal with the ascendency of the New catholic Red Guards in those places where lib bishops control the seminaries?  It’s a concern.

Today, however, we have the greater threat of the rapidly expanding demographic sinkhole opening up under the Church into which the generation of seasoned-senior Catholics will disappear due to age and the subsequent generations of the un-contracepted and un-aborted indifferent immanentists will follow, no longer interested in keeping up the illusion of even cultural, familial Catholicism.   The demographic sinkhole is gaping in an accelerated rate under the influence of the demonically-accursed Chinese virus, the Wuhan Devil.

I firmly believe that, in time, the groups that remain, because of their strong, hard-identity Catholicism, will find each other and form something dynamic.  Traditionalists and charismatics and converts.  There will be frictions.  That’s okay.

Meanwhile, young men who are in seminaries are starting – in some places, at least, to experience the grinder of the a-spiritual, virtue-signal laden, ideology-driven humanistic rubbish that is in ascendance in this time of Francis, his papalotrous New catholic Red Guards, COVID, and globalism.

I read a piece at The American Conservative by Rod Dreher. He relates an anonymized letter from a seminarian who is being crushed in a seminary which is going full out crazy.  It is a real cri de coeur.  It echoes many of my worries which I expressed at the top, about the return of the bad old days.

A few quotes:

In the Church, truth and falsehood, good and evil have been replaced by liberal and conservative. I live in fear of being branded with the scarlet letter “C”. I have to weigh every word and action, and measure out the amount of hostility I attract to myself. All the while we hear constant rhetoric about diversity, inclusivity, and dialogue. They are the intolerant tolerant ones. All are welcome, but some are more welcome than others.

I feel like I am being gaslit by the psychologizing of religion. The implication is that sexual deviancy is caused by sexual repression. Those who advocate for obeying the commandments are blamed for people disobeying the commandments.


I feel like chastity is discouraged in my formation program. We aren’t allowed to talk about sexual morality anymore. I don’t trust the men around me. The sexual scandals of the future are going to become much worse than the sexual scandals of the past. I used to believe the Church as restoring herself after a dark period, but I no longer have that hope.
I am currently in seminary, and I don’t want to represent the Church publicly. I’m sitting through courses on the sacraments of initiation, and I don’t want to welcome people into the Church. I wanted to be Catholic, and I was naive enough to believe the Church would support me. I wouldn’t recommend the Church to anyone. If you hope to believe and practice the Catholic faith, you will be beaten down by the Church.
After recent weeks, of news about Pope Francis endorsing civil unions for gay couples, of
seminary professors regularly contradicting the doctrines of the faith, of great dejection about the moral corruption of the Church occasioned by the McCarrick Report, and of listening to priests repeating ad nauseum talking points from the liberal Catholic media, one evening something switched in my mind, in a different way: I have to leave.


We have been so abused by the Church, sexually of course, but also spiritually, morally, liturgically, psychologically, etc. I’ve learned to survive by keeping my head down and my mouth shut. My heart is filled with resentment. I just wanted to be Catholic, but I am not welcome in the Church. The Church is not what she should be, and I hate what she is. My heart is filled with bitterness, and I don’t want to live like this anymore.


I get it.

On my first day of seminary in these USA, they made us name tulip bulbs and then plant them while the worship team chanted a mantra including “the bringer of light”.    Most of the priest members of the “Growth in Life and Ministry” team, quit the priesthood.  Members of the faculty died of AIDs. The vice-rector priest (who threw me out) shacked up with a female member of the faculty after “presiding” at the invalid “wedding” of David Haas and female faculty member.   We were forbidden to use the word “priest”.  A statue of Our Lady of Fatima got one of my classmates dismissed for an “excessive Marian devotion”.  The history teacher was one of most incompetent people I’ve ever met.  Homosexuality was rife in the rooms.  They literally destroyed the spectacular chapel before our eyes, with jackhammers, reversed it’s entire orientation, and painted in colors more suitable to a bordello.   In homiletics, the idiot teacher (who shacked up with the vice rector)  wanted the men the crawl around on the floor and meow.  When we objected to the absolutely unchewable, unswallowable “bread” they made for Eucharist, we were told but one of the theological brain-trusts that “the longer you chew, the more of a sacrament it is”.  That was confusing because we were also told that “the sacrament takes place when you look into the eyes of the one who gifts it”.   And, “when the ordained minister says the words of institution over bread and wine, no real change takes place: it becomes a symbol of the unity of the community gathered there in that moment.”

I could go on.  And on.

And then came priesthood.

I could go on.

So, my first reaction to this young man’s struggles in seminary is.  “Yup!”

It is also, “Yut!”, as in Marine “Yut!”

Seminary is rather like extended OCS or military academy.  We conservative and traditional older priests are the survivors of 80’s and 90’s seminaries. We were in the academy of the enemy.  If you can make it through, you will have been toughened by the experience and will have learned exactly how the enemy thinks, what there program is.  Thus, the enemy trains their own destruction.

Does it take a toll?   Of course it does.  Does it leave scars?  Damn right it does.

No one promised us at baptism that life in the Church was going to be easy.  This world has its fell Prince, who hates us and the Church and who works relentlessly against her, from without and from within by his agents.

It should not be a surprise to any Catholic that there is chaos in the Church from time to time.  It stands to reason that things will get rocky.  This is a WAR, after all!   War is messy.  It is not a surprise that the attack will be fiercest on clergy and in seminaries.  OF COURSE that’s where the Devil will attack the hardest!

However, you are a member of the Church Militant, and, therefore, you … YOU… are NOT exempt from “military service” in the Church.  You have your own role to play in this spiritual war.  You fulfill your duty according to Religion by offering worship to God and by living your vocation properly.

If there is a priestly vocation at stake, then everything and anything must be endured.  You must be alert, deft, agile, smart, cautious and resolved.  You must improvise, adapt and overcome.

Suffering?  Good.  The priest is also victim.  Get used to it, buttercup. That’s going to be your life.

You are not a priest yet, but you are CONFIRMED!   ACTIVATE YOUR CONFIRMATION!

And, remember, you are not alone.  There are a lot of us out here who are pulling for you and are ready to help.

Overall, God knew you from before the creation of the cosmos.  He called you into existence at THIS time and in THESE circumstances because you have a part to play in the hic et nunc.  God will give you all the graces you need because WE are His Team.   You are a member of the team he put on Earth right now.

The harder the times, the greater the grace, the higher the honor, the deeper the gratitude, the firmer the resolve, the hotter the desire.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Cri de Coeur, Hard-Identity Catholicism, New catholic Red Guards, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Spinmamma says:

    Nothing but tears, gratitude, and prayers for our faithful priests and seminarians who endure such spiritual, esthetic, and emotional torture to serve us and Our Lord. May God comfort and strengthen them. And may this seminarian read your post.

  2. CanukFrank says:

    That letter is absolutely heartbreaking and left me stunned. I naively thought the soft-headed products (many of whom I still hear when I am unable to attend a TLM) of the 80’s and 90’s were on the way out.

    Your words, Fr.Z, are just what I needed to snap me out of my momentary despair. Stay true to the Faith, maintain my practices and glory in the difficulties my vocation & situation presents to me.

    This is indeed an exciting time to be alive, to be here and to be given the myriad of opportunities a despairing ‘culture’ presents to us.

  3. HFL says:

    Does anyone have any insights into whether this problem exists in the seminaries of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King? If traditional formation seminaries are also having these problems, the Church is truly in for a long dark night.

    [ALL seminaries have their problems, things to improve, but nothing along these lines.]

  4. WhiteHawk800 says:

    Thank you, Father! I am a seminarian myself, and though I am blessed to be a student at an relatively conservative seminary, we seminarians all need a good reminder of our duty now and again. Things are dark, but “lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.” Pray for me, Father, and for my classmates, that we can fight the good fight and remain always faithful to our call as Christian men and milites Christi!

  5. Jacob says:

    I hope Rod’s seminarian correspondent finds and reads your post, Father.

  6. Clinton R. says:

    Despair not, seminarians. We, the faithful, love you and pray for you. I can only imagine what you have to endure; as Father says, the Enemy hates priests especially and would like nothing more than to rid the world of them. However, the Lord is for you. May He bless you and strengthen you and May The Virgin Mary pray for you. May St. Joseph pray for you. May St. Michael and all the angels in Heaven pray for you. May Ss. Charles Borromeo and Gabriel Possenti pray especially for the seminarians. +JMJ+

  7. IaninEngland says:

    I shall make a point of praying for “Rod Dreher’s seminarian” and for all seminarians.
    There’s a rule of thumb: If you’re being attacked, you know you’re doing the right thing. Besides, “I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me.” (Ps. 3:5)
    Please, seminarians, rely on God’s grace. Fight on, because Jesus has already won victory in about 33 AD. But! “Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple” (harmless) “as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

  8. ProfKwasniewski says:

    I sympathize greatly with what the seminarian is saying. These things are very much on people’s minds these days.

    I think this recent article could be helpful for those who are struggling with being Catholic today:

  9. TRW says:

    The madness of those days was so clearly evidenced by the tearing down of altars. Replacing beautiful Gregorian chant with folk music can only be the result of a genuine antipathy for reverence and religious sentiment.

    Of all the stupid tropes that seem to have survived from those days, two of the most pernicious are the following:
    1. No one “understood” the “old mass” when it was in Latin.
    2. Back then, no one appreciated the “universal call to holiness “.
    I don’t know why these two claims in particular are the most irksome for me. Probably because they are stated so frequently and so casually, as if they’re gospel truth. I have faith that things will get better. Not easier, but better.

  10. Michael says:

    Oh the many stories from my days in the seminary…….just in the past few years alone.

    I made it through and am now ordained, thanks be to God! Persevere men. The Church NEEDS you!

  11. Perhaps the time has come for a traditional seminary run by a traditional order with the specific mission of accepting seminarians fleeing liberal seminaries and bishops. I know that quitting a seminary isn’t easy without getting tarred with a negative brush, but it might be easier if such seminarians knew they had a place (or places) to go within the Church. Right now I firmly believe that the liberals don’t stand a chance of propping up the left “lung” of the Roman Church much longer; the sort of folks who would be there are simply going to stop going to Church altogether. What bishops remain will have to turn to the traditionalist orders or close their dying churches. Many will prefer to give up and close, but if the traditionalists are waiting, they’ll be hard to resist– or they can simply offer to purchase the dying parishes outright from the dying dioceses.

    I agree with the writer, and this is something I’ve said for a long time– they just have to get out. Even if they can survive the liberals and get ordained, it will only be more pretending and not doing the things that need to be done because they are trying to stay under the radar. They may as well get out before they lose their sanity. But it’s time that someone gave them somewhere to go other than to an Eastern Orthodox or SSPX seminary, assuming that they could get accepted there, or even just giving up altogether.

    I am even wondering if the territorial diocesan model will survive this century. Before instantaneous global communication, that model made sense, but perhaps a more competitive model of non-territorial dioceses might make more sense. A little healthy competition right now would mean a seismic shift in the balance of power in the Church. It’s happening anyway as people like me look more to reliable non-territorial prelates such as Cardinal Burke for guidance than whoever my territorial bishop might be. In a non-territorial model, seminarians would probably seek out the traditional orders even more and the heterodox seminaries would die out and heterodox dioceses would become titular sees for the heterodox bishops.

  12. Charivari Rob says:

    If he is finding that he doesn’t want to publicly represent the Church, that he doesn’t want to welcome people into the Church… maybe becoming a Priest is not a good life path for him at the moment.

  13. kat says:

    What distresses me is that this seminarian sounds ready to leave the Church, not just the seminary. I hope someone helps him find the Truth.
    Also, no one can give what they do not have themselves. If he sticks it out and suffers for the good of the Church, he may not have the knowledge and foundation needed, nor know the Faith well enough to pass it on.

    The Church needs well-formed priests. He can and will still get sufferings in a better seminary, but he will have better knowledge and hopefully a stronger Faith.

    Prayers for him and others like him.

  14. Kristyn says:

    We have had a few young men in our parish leave SHMS in Detroit after a couple years. They do not talk about why. I am told this is one of the better seminaries in the U.S., so I really can’t (or shouldn’t) speculate. But as a mother of four sons (12, 14, 16, and 20) I worry how I would react if one of them felt called to priesthood. In the past I would have been thrilled and thankful. But I know too much now. (Per the military comparison, I doubt that military training includes indoctrinating soldiers in the notion that our country is a joke and not worth preserving. That is what these poor seminaries are doing to the Church, whether they mean to or not.)

    [And… not every man who enters seminary has a vocation to the priesthood. Some figure out that they don’t and they leave. That’s not just okay, that’s good.]

  15. rbbadger says:

    If the seminarian reads this blog and I hope that he does, my strongest advice to him would be to try and find a solidly orthodox priest with whom he can fully confide outside of the seminary. If I only could have relied on the priests in the seminary for counsel and support, I probably would not have made it to ordination. I think it is crucial that he have sources of support outside of the seminary community.

  16. Gaetano says:

    I lived through this in the 90’s. It was very ugly.

    It is true that no seminary is perfect. But it is also true that you ought not stay in a pathological environment that can cause lasting harm.

    It is profoundly difficult to walk away from a thing you spent years discerning. The young man also had a right to “truth in advertising” about what the seminary was.

    The fact is that diocesan staff know which seminaries are good or bad. One candidly admitted that “you can tell as soon as you walk in the door.” Why they admit the bad news nes to continue is a mystery.

    My advice would be for him to leave and take a year to live & work with normal people. Then apply to a better diocese or religious order.

  17. mysticalrose says:

    Pretending can really take a toll, though. It is difficult to constantly hide all of your traditional tendencies and one begins to wonder if doing so comprimises one’s integrity.

  18. Kristyn says:

    This is true, Father. Thank you.

  19. JesuCorSanctissimum says:

    I concur with the mother above. I have several sons as well. If one of them thinks he’s called to the priesthood, I could only, in conscience, direct him to a TLM seminary. It’s heart-breaking. I no longer trust the post-conciliar NO formation of priests. Two millennia of wisdom and strength was punted to make way for sexual and social justice nonsense. I have seen and heard enough. We’re not on a journey (what I constantly hear from my NO priest); we’re in a pitched battle. We need soldier priests on the front lines. Quality men should receive quality training.

  20. robtbrown says:

    HFL says:

    Does anyone have any insights into whether this problem exists in the seminaries of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King? If traditional formation seminaries are also having these problems, the Church is truly in for a long dark night.

    The consequences of a seminary or religious house being dedicated to Latin liturgy are considerable, just as they also are for abandoning it. Latin liturgy is the concrete foundation for the transcendent culture that must be present in any good seminary or religious house.

  21. robtbrown says:

    rbbadger says:

    If the seminarian reads this blog and I hope that he does, my strongest advice to him would be to try and find a solidly orthodox priest with whom he can fully confide outside of the seminary. If I only could have relied on the priests in the seminary for counsel and support, I probably would not have made it to ordination. I think it is crucial that he have sources of support outside of the seminary community.

    I’m not so sure that a priest outside the seminary (or religious house) is sufficient. Finding one within the seminary (or rh) can be very helpful.

  22. norancor says:

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion that Father might quash, but I would suggest the seminarian plan a graceful exit strategy, doing everything possible to thank everyone involved in leadership, and discern out. There will be a time when you will see something or be asked to participate in something, and in that moment you will: 1) oppose it or say something and they will assassinate your vocation and poison your canonical file for life, or 2) you will stay silent and they will use it to silence or compromise you, again for life.

    This sort of apostasy should not be cooperated with in any way whatsoever. Let the dead bury their dead.

  23. Percusio says:

    My only understanding of this problem which makes sense and is positive, is the depth of the darkness of the challenge of faith as occurs after the night of the senses. I would imagine with all that is going on in the Church for orthodox priests, that seminarians who are encountering challenges in their faith should expect that after ordination, these heart-wrenching challenges will not go away, especially for the one who truly loves their neighbor for the sake of God. While man may be a social being, their “friend” will have to be the only one to whom they can go to, our Lord. Provided they last, and they should if they are in the stage where it seems that God and their faith no longer seem, and I mean “seem”, present in their life, they shall come out with what is better than whatever these “seminaries” have for formation. They will have God as their formation director and the formation will be the fire of purification, easy to talk about and romanticize about, but so dark and lonely when you actually have to got through it. Yet, there is the obvious privation which will be present after this unless one is enlightened more directly by God, and that is the lack of the knowledge of the faith in order to teach it more precisely and simply, which normally would be the duty of the seminary. I don’t know what anyone can offer to someone who is so devastated in this stage of their spiritual life, but it obviously is a formation which will prepare them for what is ahead.
    P.S. This is not an acceptance of the present state of seminaries nor am I saying that such seminarians must stay in these “seminaries”, but often their hands are tied, almost literally, to these seminaries.

  24. MrsBridge says:

    I’m putting this out there for what it’s worth.

    The seminarian has “bitterness in his heart” and “resentment in his heart.” He “doesn’t want to live like this.” Later in the full text, he considers becoming homeless. He uses the word “depression.”

    Sometimes people in this state of mind turn to drugs and alcohol. That gives temporary relief and doesn’t seem like a problem. But it can, in turn, makes the bitterness, resentment, and depression worse. I would suggest that the seminarian consider his own physical and mental habits and see where he might be going off track, independent of the external circumstances.

    In my early adulthood I experienced deep feelings of being depressed, lost, and desperate in my search for God. One thing led to another and, eventually, through Catholic friends and a Catholic priest, to my recognition of my alcoholism. Abstinence helped but the depression and sense of being lost continued for two or three more years. A second Catholic priest pointed me to AA. There I found the “community” I had wanted to find in the church — not a bunch of druggies but a large group of spiritually conscious normal everyday people working to build a conscious relationship with God and, oh by the way, drop those resentments in order to stay alive.

    Say what you will … some of these desperate seminarians have bottles of hard booze in their closets, as I did. It was impossible for me to get close to God, or to discover His will for me, when my brain was fogged up. It was impossible to find my way on will-power alone. The second seminarian in Rod Dreher’s article talks about God leading us into strange places as a “harsh mercy.” As we say in the rooms, “Let go and let God.” And then there is the old favorite, “Come, follow ME.”

  25. Pingback: PopeWatch: Seminaries – The American Catholic

  26. mbutton says:

    Fr. Z how do we as lay people identify these dens of iniquity and pressure their rectors for change?

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