Observations at the Seminary

I recently took a few classes at the seminary of the local Catholic diocese through the university which I attend. This experience was quite unique, so it seems worthwhile for me to share some of my observations.

Let’s start with a bit of background information. The area in which the seminary is located has a higher percentage of both blacks and Catholics compared to other northern American cities. As for the diocese itself, it is considered to be “conservative.” However, this label does not mean that it is particularly right-wing or traditional. The most liberal parishes I’ve ever had the displeasure of setting foot in are in the diocese. Still, it is not a place where the bishop is endorsing gay “marriage” or spouting liberation theology. Luckily, there are a few Tridentine (Latin) Masses offered.

Perhaps the most apt description of the diocese would be neo-Catholic, a term that is often used by traditional Catholics. As the name implies, it is tied to neoconservatism. In theory, neo-Catholics are orthodox as they follow Church doctrine, but they also enjoy the sweeping changes made at the Second Vatican Council. Sure, they may believe in transubstantiation, but they’re glad that the Mass is no longer in Latin, that there are no more communion rails, that you can receive the Eucharist in the hand, etc. It is a rejection of most tradition in favor of the “New Church” put into place by Vatican II and the modern popes. The great hero and epitome of neo-Catholicism is the so-called Pope Saint John Paul (II) the Great, kisser of Qurans and material heretic; again, theoretically orthodox (he was against the ordination of women and contraception), but a slap in the face to anyone who knows what Catholicism was before the sixties.

But, I digress. My interaction with the seminary and seminarians was on a purely educational level. I had little to no experience with their spiritual, administrative, or daily duties beyond what I heard in the classroom, so I do not have the complete picture.

The main instructors included a woman and an older priest. It was interesting that they had a woman, and a lay woman at that, teaching men who are preparing for the priesthood. The Church has always had a place for women, but this role is not one that a woman should have considering that they do not, and will never, have any direct experience with priestly formation. Thankfully, she was extremely intelligent and one of the most traditionally minded people there, which partially redeems the situation. The priest was neo-Catholic through and through. He had grown up with the effeminate and liberal Catholicism of the late twentieth century and retained certain aspects of it. He liked to be inclusive, which meant having open dialogue with heretics who wanted female priests and the implementation of liberation theology. He disliked Latin, saw no problem with many traditions falling by the wayside, sometimes called traditionalists “Pharisees,” liked to give homilies on sports and pop culture (based on what I heard), and so on. The less said, the better.

The seminarians were almost all of European stock; unsurprising given the current lack of Latinos in the north. Many were fresh out of high school and realized that the seminary offers a place for stability, structure, and shelter. However, the ones in this group seemed the least interested in actually becoming priests and just went to the seminary since they didn’t fit in anywhere else or had no other attachments. Others were raised in large Catholic families and were the sons expected to become priests, so they followed their families’ wishes. No doubt most of them will be ordained and become typical neo-Catholic priests. The most interesting, and smallest group was composed of older men who had already graduated from college or dropped out part of the way through. This shows a strong religious conviction and true desire to be a servant of God. They were generally the most intelligent, interested, and conservative of the bunch. Of all, this kind inspires the most hope for the future, but there are few of them and they are in the hands of neo-Catholics. The seminary does not foster any sort of traditionalist sentiment. For example, the seminarians do not wear cassocks. The priests there hardly wear cassocks. Their talent will probably be wasted.

A few weeks into my study at the seminary and I realized how odd it was for me to be there. There were a handful of us outsiders from the university, including women. This would never have been allowed before the recent reforms. Seminaries before then were often run like monasteries with seminarians having little contact with anyone outside, even family members. Yet, it was too late for me back out and the classes there were much better than anything else that was offered.

One of the first things that struck me was praying before class, occasionally in Latin. While expected, it is something that is often not seen in the modern world. The actual classwork and lectures centered around Catholic figures and thought. Doctrine was explained and supported with various texts, different historical views were presented and evaluated, and problems and heresies were covered and refuted; a nice change from the usual poz and liberalism. But, Pope Francis, John Paul II, and their ilk were hailed as great champions. The seminary utilized what I will call the “hermeneutic of pseudo-orthodoxy” to explain away all the errors and heresies that modernism brings along with it. This is common for neo-Catholics. To them, Francis is only misquoted and misinterpreted; it is never his own fault that what he says borders on heresy. Neo-Catholics don’t see the contradiction in defending doctrine with the words of Church fathers, such as Aquinas and Augustine, while stripping away everything that is not the bare essentials just to get along with the liberals and have a Protestantized Mass. They would rather sit on the fence and take the “moderate” position because choosing a side means making enemies and holding strong convictions, which takes work and effort. They do not understand how dire the state of the Church is.

Lastly, the political views of quite literally everyone there were neoconservative. The amount of anti-Trump signalling was absolutely obnoxious. There were a number who said that they would rather have Bernie Sanders. Think about that. People who call themselves Catholic support a pro-abortion socialist over someone who is basically a liberal from a few decades ago. Why they all felt the need to talk about politics, I will never know. The funniest part was one individual who said practically every single neocon line as they came out. First, he was a militant Rubio supporter since he was a great Catholic candidate who opposed abortion. Then, it was Cruz all the way because he supported the constitution, and definitely not because Rubio had dropped out. With Trump winning, he started to look at third party libertarian candidates. There was no way that he would vote for some bigoted “fringe candidate,” who was so “fringe” that he dominated the primaries. This alone demonstrates how right-wing most Catholics are. I heard no one say that all the candidates were liberals and that democracy was a sham or anything even close to that.

It is quite clear that some great Catholic revival is not going to happen anytime soon. There are a few extremely traditional seminaries out there, but the average one is likely the same, or worse, than this one. Good is not good enough. Neo-Catholicism is not good enough. Some people say it’s just a matter of time until the current Pontiff and his cabal of liberal cardinals die and then we will see a wave of traditionalism. I’m not convinced. The priests and seminarians I encountered, and those like them, are the future bishops and cardinals. Now that the liberals have seized power, they will continue to promote only those who either support them or will not challenge them. Even if the masses are pushed further to the right, change can only come from those at the top of the hierarchy. Unless some formal schism happens, the crisis will continue.

NOTE: My intention with this article was not to show how much holier and better I am than those at the seminary. I have no doubt that probably everyone there is much more spiritual than I am and that they take their faith seriously. They simply don’t know better. Rather, I wished to show that the future is not so bright when we have seminaries that are producing priests who will only maintain the status quo.

Testis Gratus

Catholic, reactionary, traditionalist — "Ego vox clamantis in deserto: dirigite viam Domini"

11 thoughts on “Observations at the Seminary

  1. Let me try to provide a slightly different perspective on the neo-con Catholics than the author. I think they might be entirely necessary to prevent the total collapse of the Church in North America and Western Europe. Even if this is not so, they should be cut some slack. Many trad-leaning converts (a category I basically fall into myself)–particularly those who are young men– tend to think that the things that attracted them to the church (tradition, the Latin Mass, etc.) are the only things that could attract anyone to the church. Most people in any society are simply not that radical. They are not willing to make such a great leap from what’s considered normal. This isn’t a character flaw, but just how people are. Simply believing Catholic orthodoxy while accepting the goals of Vatican II is huge step from both modern secularism and the really liberal elements in the church. Anyone who would want a huge shift towards traditionalism must be honest with themselves that this would lead to a much smaller church.

    We pretty much had a traditionalist Pope a few years ago, Benedict XVI (see what he wrote upon Michael Davies’ death). Yet he stopped short of causing a complete schism with the liberals. Unity is important for the Church, and partisanship should be avoided as much as possible without tolerating outright heretics. Pope Francis, for all his huge flaws, seems to understand this, as seen in his reaching out to the SSPX.

    1. The reason people are not that “radical” is because of how liberalism has taken over everything. They don’t know of anything other than the malaise in which they reside. The only way to get the Church back on the right track is to be extreme relative to modernity. Men like Fulton Sheen and Pius X were huge figures in the early twentieth century because they were both staunch supporters of tradition and enemies of liberalism. People will be drawn to the truth; you just have to show it to them.

      Benedict was much too timid with his approach in my opinion. Who cares if the Church is small? The goal is to save souls, which can only be accomplished with pure Truth. Wishy-washy feel good Catholicism doesn’t help anybody, as it is often one step away from heresy.

      I’ve seen a theory that Francis is reaching out to the SSPX because he seems them as fellow revolutionaries. In any case, I doubt he is doing it for unity’s sake, or if he is, it’s in the false name of ecumenism. It’s much more likely that he’s (ie his handlers) throwing traditionalists a bone or something like that.

  2. *cough* Orthodoxy *cough*

    On a serious note however, a good and needed observation and analysis. You’re absolutely correct in saying that most of these seminarians don’t know any better. They could have been brought up in the Catholic faith, but the worldview that is supposed to be imprinted on all young Catholics (and Orthodox for that matter) is tarnished the second a public school education, the mass media, or what have you sets up a parallel, competing worldview. Since the Cathedral reigns 24/7 as opposed to an average of 1 hour a week, it’s not surprising that even faithful Catholics in their 20s and 30s maintain a liberal worldview, merely spiced and dressed up with a Catholic shell.

    It’s different when you’re one of those older students you mentioned or a convert, as you must actively take a hold of your faith and life. These people have a much easier time seeing things the way they should be and/or appreciating Church tradition and history.

    1. Given what I know of theology and history, I could never convert to Orthodoxy. I’ll go down with the ship if it comes to that. Perhaps if Catholicism completely collapses and is eradicated from the world, Orthodoxy could stand as the true Church of Christ. But, that is a big if.

  3. But seriously, this is a great piece. While not being Catholic myself, it still rings quite true to me. In my own experiences I’ve found these JP2 worshipping NeoCons to be almost as great a threat as the Clown Mass SJW types. While usually nice people, their ideology is, at bottom Liberalism. At the end of the day I feel like their religious devotion just turns into a Jesus flavored quest for the American dream.

  4. I enter seminary soon, God willing, if I live; I know the men involved and the school – women would not be permitted, it runs more along monastic lines, etc. The Magisterial doctrine of the Church is upheld. One has to go to people who cleave to the Faith. A Catholic renaissance may come, but it will come from Catholics; people who support the US Constitution and tolerate laywomen instructing clerics in a seminary, are out of touch (to say the least) with the Catholic Faith.

    This is precisely the problem with the “Neocatholic” approach; the “hermeneutic of continuity” soothes consciences into believing that clearly condemned heresies can now be “conservative” theological opinions! Obviously, continuity is key to the interpretation of the Church’s doctrine. But the point, is that past ages did not speak of the “hermeneutic of continuity” because there was no extraordinary difficulty in reading the Councils of Florence or Trent, or the bulls of the Pontiffs, in light of Tradition.

    Obviously JPII is not even theoretically orthodox; he is a man who, in any other age, would have been lucky to escape with his life after the outrages and acts of apostasy, which he often flaunted with a smirk. Obviously, the Bill of Rights is a prime document of the heresy of Liberalism, condemned by the Church …so that championing candidates who “support the Constitution” is equally as heretical as championing candidates who support a woman’s “right to choose.”

    Neo-Catholics ignore, to their peril, the defined and certain doctrine of the Church, that all heretics – material and formal – are out of the Church automatically and without any official sentence being passed upon them. Church history is full of examples where the faithful acted upon this and were praised (and canonized!) for doing so; indeed, it is morally obligatory to separate from manifest heretics. At this point, for neo-Catholics to be unaware of the traditional teaching is not really excusable; the ignorance is culpable. The real reason folk avoid this doctrine and its ramifications, is human respect (or, in some cases, weak faith; they can’t believe God would allow an wholesale apostasy, even though Scripture and Tradition and approved, private revelations all clearly say that it was certain to happen, sooner or later).

    So, why would God rescue the Church from a crisis, when those in the crisis do not want to be rescued from it? They use novel, illicit and even invalid rites, they hold “fortnights for religious freedom”(!), they offer obedience to manifest, public heretics, all of which God already forbade us from doing. Yet they regard this all as very conservative! Freedom from addiction begins with putting the crack-pipe down, for starters! But neo-Catholics, like “cuckservatives,” want to put an end to the latest and greatest manifestations of Liberalism, while keeping as much Liberalism as is comfortable for the current year. They would be embarrassed to be mistaken for reactionary extremists who don’t believe in Democracy and Human Rights in the first place!

    This is the trial God has given our times. In an age where everyone is expected to “tolerate” and to be soft and “respectable,” the people willingly hand themselves over into the passive-aggressive power of their overlords, in both secular and sacred affairs. They bind themselves with the incoherence of Liberalism, “politely” ceding rights to the errors of others, and apologizing for what little of the sugar-coated truth they retain. In the case of Neo-Catholics, they even do this in precisely the one case where the Church teaches that subjects are morally obliged to disobey, and are even permitted to judge, their superiors: heresy. Until the thirst for orthodoxy and the liberty of the Sons of God surpasses the desire to be respectable persons who accommodate error’s Rights on Liberal grounds, the crisis will not end.

    1. Great comment, everything here is spot on.

      >Religious freedom
      Sometimes I’m tempted to start nailing the Syllabus of Errors to the doors of local parishes. It would be great for the reaction alone.

      Neo-Catholicism is quite a tragic. They truly believe they follow the faith of Christ, yet their attitude and beliefs are causing the Church to fall into greater ruin and decay. These are the fruits of liberalism. The devil must be very pleased. All we can do is hope that God will be merciful to all who have to live through these wicked times.

      May God bless you on your path to the priesthood.

  5. I think one of the most tragic aspects of Neo-Catholicism is the way many of its proponents use the words of popes like John Paul II to promote errors. I recently had a very long discussion with a friend of mine about capital punishment and it took a barrage of quotes to convince him of the Church’s traditional position because he views John Paul II as one of the greatest men in history (comparing him to the likes of St Peter even). He simply could not understand how John Paul II could have been wrong on the issue and he, my friend, thought John Paul II must have had a good reason to overturn the Church’s traditional stance on the issue.

    I yearn for better times when sane views prevailed in society and things had not fallen totally into the abyss. Yet God created us in these times for a reason and I believe it is our duty to fight for the Truth no matter what. We may succeed or we may fail but we should go on nonetheless:

    “We should give thanks to God for having granted us the struggle, and not ask, in addition to the grace of combat, the grace of triumph, for in His infinite goodness He reserves for those who fight well in His cause a reward greater than victory”–Juan Donoso Cortes

    1. JPII is their Reagan. I’ve met a priest who practically worshipped the man. It is nauseating.

      Indeed, our presence is no accident. God has His purpose for us, even if we fail. The same old cliche always comes to mind for me: Expect the worst, but hope for the best.

      1. Agreed. Personally, I believe a restoration will occur but even lost causes have a certain beauty. Spengler admired that Roman soldier at Pompeii who, in response to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, did not give up his post.

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