Being a traditional seminarian in a fairly liberal and inculturated seminary


I am a 19 year old first year seminarian of European descent who lives in Africa. I have strong traditional leanings towards the sacred Liturgy ( I have an attraction towards the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) and the Holy Priesthood. I am also quite conservative when it comes to issues like women’s ordination, married clergy etc. Lately I’ve started to feel a bit uneasy in the seminary because of my traditional leanings and views. I’m hoping that you could give me some advice.

I get the impression from the formators in the seminary that they dislike the EF and other traditional elements of the faith. They are also under the impression that I am a bit of a traditionalist/conservative. During our Liturgy classes over the past few months we were told about those dark old days of the Tridentine Mass where the laity was totally alienated, could not understand what was going in the mass, how they had no active participation, how it was all about the priest and how Vatican II was this enlightening event which brought the Church out of those bad old days. That’s the sort of mentality I pick up about the Traditional Mass. Also, during this past week with the first reading being from Galatians in which St Paul criticises those who are too obsessed with following the law and how they are too concerned with the externals. Father connected to this in his homily by referring to an article he read which wrote about those ‘alarming’ trends of those new young seminarians in Europe being increasingly conservative. Father said that they were the ones who were too concerned about having Latin and lace rather than toward their actual faith. I felt uncomfortable with this because Father seemed to be implying that my faith and traditionalism is nothing but a superficial show of meaningless outward externals. But that’s not true I like the traditional Mass and other things because they are spiritually edifying for me. I also feel uncomfortable with the Liturgy in the seminary because it is heavily inculturated with liturgical dance and all (not that I’m saying that inculturation is wrong, just that it doesn’t suite me and it is not edifying for me)

We also get told about the wrongness of not allowing women to be ordained and that we should use inclusive language. Thats why I’m a bit weary about explicitly stating my views on these issues for fear that I will be looked down upon.

I’ve been considering traditional priestly institutes such as the FSSP. But the problem is, they are not in my region, it would be difficult to leave home and go to an international seminary because my family depend a lot on me for emotional support (my mom depends on me for support because she has difficulties with my dad and she has huge stress at work) and because of financial constraints. Now what should I do? Should I pursue what’s best and edifying for me or should I stay where I am, bear with it and not be selfish.

God bless

Hi Crux Fidelis,

Unfortunately, the situation you describe regarding the attitude toward the EF at your seminary is an all-too-common situation.

I’ll offer prayers for you, in hope that your problem will be sorted out. St. Alphonsus may be a good intercessor in this regard, since he, too, had family problems which caused difficulties for him in becoming a priest. He had to overcome many hurdles, but he was able to do it. He was very dependent on prayer.

Have you contacted the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad, Germany? They may be able to offer advice. Young men from all over the world attend the seminary there.

If this is accurate, then that’s certainly an extreme exageration that approaches prejudice on the part of the teacher, which unnecessarily leads to potential hostility and rivalry within the Church. You can be assured that if a single theologian at Vatican II ever said such a thing then he would have been quickly removed: that was and is outside the mainstream thinking, to put it gently. Nothing in Vatican II can be used to substantiate these broad-sweeping and simply statements you have provided- which I hope are fair and faithful to your teacher(s) views.

The old liturgical practices are of course completely Catholic and perfectly legitimate when practiced in unity with the mind of the Church, and with her blessing.

Father does make important points, however, that are also perfectly legitimate and should be considered carefully and thoughtfully: everything in the Latin liturgy is richly symbolical, and the externals are meant to convey those realities, which are ultimately more important than the externals themselves. On the other/opposite end of the spectrum there are many who are obsessed with the externals and elevate them to a be-all-to-end-all status that takes away, or at least distracts, from the substance or, as it were, core realities of the Faith, which are of course usually by nature invisible, being grace(s). Perhaps your teacher has been exposed to some of the worst literature or attitudes and consequently has reacted against it and painted everyone with the same brush; however, you might aptly remind him that this was the number 1 fault levied against the Roman Curia in the 1950’s and 60’s, that people were being indiscriminately ruined without having opportunity to explain themselves: i.e., they were staunchly and faithfully Catholic but had their careers and reputations ruined because of how someone interpreted something they said or wrote.

Using the Latin liturgy as a sort of devotion is absolutely and perfectly in keeping with the Spirit of Vatican II in regards to the liturgy and its ultimate objectives, especially today, because those who do so now are generally educated in that liturgy and understand it. They know how to actively participate in it and draw-out all its riches. It’s largely and almost exactly its voluntary nature that makes it all the more useful for the faithful in developing and strengthening their Faith.

This all, of course, is but my opinion and advice, but I would stick-it out and be patient and try to draw all you can from your experience: knowing and understanding both sides of the coin can be of enormous help for you and even the Church overall.

Unfortunately there is no way to prove this statement.

I have to say that I feel sorry for Crux Fidelis and the situation he finds himself in but we must keep in mind that we only have his report and it seems that there is a lot of supposition on his part.

We do not and can not know the whole story here.

Only advice I can offer is that if you feel that drawn to the EF maybe you should look into religious institutes that have their own seminaries and celebrate the EF.

Crux Fidelis, I am going to add you to my daily prayers. I know a few priests that had a difficult time in the seminary as well.

God bless you!

Probably the most alarming thing is being told that not ordaining women is wrong. If this is true–and this is not supposition, either it is done or it is not–then this seems quite bad to me.

There are too many “I feel” “I sense” “I get the impression” comments in this description. It is best for you to find out exactly what is being taught and identify your professor’s opinions from the atual curriculum.

That said, I am more concerned with the issues you describe as to why it would be difficult for you to leave your hom country and local seminary. If your mother/parents need your physical or emotional support and you need their financial support, perhaps being in seminary is not the best course of action for you now.

I highly recommend that you meet with your formation director and the diocesean vocations director to talk both about the program at your seminary and your options if you discern that seminary is not the best place for you right now.

I sympathize with your dilemma. Are you able to find a spiritual director who, even if he doesn’t have identical opinions and tastes as you do, at least understands the issues better than the people you describe seem to?

It may be your discomfort is a part of a call to another part of the Church. On the other hand perhaps you are called to stay where you are and be the salt of the earth.

The advice I have heard in this situation is just put your head down and graduate from the seminary. Then you can be the sort of priest would would like to be, serving your people. Hopefully, this isn’t the sort of seminary that would expell someone who expresses conservative beliefs, as has happened at some liberal seminaries.

I wll pray for you… I will be applying to a Seminary, hopefully soon. I can offer two words of consolation:

  1. Find a traditional minded Seminary and go there

  2. Tough it out till You are ordained, then, in accordance with the Bishop, be a traditional minded Priest.

Hope this helps!!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to survive this seminary while keeping your faith intact. If you survive, you’ll become a priest and help make things better in the Church.

The Marxists running that seminary will die off. Leftists in the Church will contracept, abort, homosexualize and euthanize themselves out of existence, so faithful Catholics have an edge here, demographics wise. They will continue the next generation of faithful Catholics, and totally undo the doctrinal winter we are enduring.

Indeed. I would also add, that it if I read correctly the seminary is in Africa. I think with respect to the EF there may be cultural factors at play and an association with the EF and Latin with colonization which may be partly responsible for hostility towards the EF.

I’d be more concerned with a lax of orthodoxy rather than a lack of appreciation for the EF though. Surely there must be some orthodox men in that seminary that the OP can talk to?

I very strongly suggest that you do whatever you need to do to leave your current seminary and join a seminary dedicated to the Latin Mass.

Otherwise, you will find yourself moving from fairly liberal to liberal to progressive to radical to completely reactionary to there is no way THIS is Catholic after you are ordained.

The train only goes in one direction in the Church. Left and Lefter.

Join one of the Traditional groups.

As others have said, if you can manage to stick it out you will have tested your faith and found it true. Also, it would be great prep for what you will find in most parishes.

That being said, if you can find a traditional seminary to which you can transfer, that would be the first option. Your formation will be better. Staying where you are, while it will build the depth of conviction will pollute your education for which you will have to spend innumerable hours unlearning and retraining yourself to overcome. As well, the spiritual direction in a more traditional school will better form you for your call.


You’ve got a real problem. Stay there as long as you can tolerate it but keep quiet since you know the lay of the land, don’t make waves. But don’t give up your ideals either. You know of course the current Mass in the vernacular is the preferred form in most Rites, certainly in the Roman Rite. In fact I prefer it. But I understand your preference for the old form. Bide your time. If you make it through to ordination you may get a chance to transfer Rites or at least to celebrate the Extraordinary Form. I understand that any priest can celebrate it without permission ( not certain about that) - provided of course that it doesn’t put you crosswise with your Bishop. You will always have to accept the decisions of your Bishop.

Best of Luck :thumbsup:

On this we agree.

The purpose of the Seminary is to form you in the faith, and to discern if you have a calling by God, and or a Holy Order. A liberal seminary will waste your time, and money, teaching nonsense, and rebellious attitudes. You will be missing out on serious formation. A good seminary will challenge you, stretch you, and give you tremedous wisdom. Seek the Lord’s guidance on where you should go. Ask him to open the doors, overcome the obsticles, and lead you to the right place. I will pray for you!

bring these concerns to your bishop if you have a good bishop I’m sure he would love to talk to you about this. Also trust your bishop in what he tells you to do, even if you disagree with what he says he is still your shepherd and when you become a priest if God so calls you and the Church affirms that call, you will have obedience to your bishop. You must remember that the formation process isn’t for you alone. Its not only up to you it is up to the Church as a whole and you. There could be a good reason your bishop wants you to go to this seminary. Also discern whether God is calling you to be here, as always. Don’t keep these in the dark from your formators your spiritual directors you rector or your bishop. If you handle this situation as an adult it will shine on you in the end.

But again trust the formation process you are in.

One last thing if they preach heresy like allowing women’s ordination talk to your bishop Immediately and tell them this seminary is teaching us HERESY. We don’t want the future leaders of our Church, especially in Europe where a respark of the Church is needed.

Another thing about the incultrizaiton, you need to pick and choose your battles at times. There are some things at my seminary I’m not a huge fan of, some things in the liturgy that I wish would change but they are small things, and don’t invalidate the mass and maybe not even make it illicit. If the liturgical dance thing is a legitimate incultrizaiton. If you are in Africa it is a legit inculterization (sorry about my spelling)

Again I can’t emphsises this enough bring all of this to your spiritual director, and find a spiritual director who you trust and who you get along with even in the most liberal of seminaries you can probably find a good one. Or if worse comes to worse talk to a priest back in your own diocese, who you trust. These men have alot more wisdom then you do and can give you insights that will help you make your decision. Don’t try and do this all yourself, trust in God and trust the people who God has put in your life who are there to form you into the person you are called to be.

I disagree just because a seiminary is “liberal” doesn’t mean its going to be a waste of time. The seminaries main purpose is to form men into leaders of the Church, form men into people who will become shepherds of the flock of the Lord. Seminary develops 4 essential pillars. First the human pillar, this includes how do you interact with people how do you care for yourself do you eat healthy do you groom yourself like an adult. How do you handle conflicts in your life and so on and so forth. Second the Spiritual Pillar, this is your relationship with God it is a very important pillar and without this pillar all the other pillars will fall (that’s actually the case with all 4). Third is the Academic Pillar, this is your education aspect of seminary, learning things about the faith, learning what the church teaches, learning basic skills to help in running a parish, and help forming the flock. I think you get this point. Lastly the Pastoral Pillar, this is learning the skills needed to be a pastor. This is actually a big one and may be the most important I have to go back and read up on some documents.

but just because a seminary is liberal doesn’t mean that the seminary isn’t going to produce good fruits. For example lets say a seminary is liberal, doesn’t like the EF, focuses to much on mission and social justice but forgets the aspects of dignity of the Human Person, or just doesn’t focus on it. So the Academic pillar may be lacking, but the Human pillar may be strong, this could be a very close nit community it has its disagreements with the liberal stuff but that doesn’t tear away the bounds built in that seminary. The Liturgy may not be real traditional but the spirituality of the seminary is great, maybe they have a deep understanding of ignatious spirituality and that maybe forms these seminarians prayer life better then other seminaries. Their pastoral because of the focus on Cahtolic Social Teaching is one of the best in their region, the priest they produce out of the seminary are some of the best pastors of parishes you will see in the region.

Just because a semianry is “liberal” doesn’t mean its going to be a waste of time. Being a priest is more then just being a minister of the sacraments. While it isn’t good that a seminary may be teaching “liberal” things. This doesn’t make this seminary pointless and a waste of time. EVERY seminary has its issues, you can’t judge the fruitfulness of a seminary based on their issues you should base it on the quality of the persons they produce, even if they discern out.

I don’t think my seminary has the best academics in the world, I don’t our seminary is the best place to form the spiritual life some things are lacking. I think our pastoral formation has some issues and needs to be worked on. But I think the human aspect of our formation is one of the best in the country, and because of that and because none of the other pillars are so horrible that it makes the seminary bad we produce GREAT priests.

Seminary formation has many aspects to it and just because one may be bad doesn’t mean the seminary as a whole is bad.

One thing to keep in mind. The seminarian seldom gets to pick the seminary he will go to.

Most dioceses will be affiliated with one seminary if they do not have their own. If a seminarian is lucky his diocese may be affiliated with more than one but that does not mean he gets to choose.

The diocese that a man is in formation with will go where the diocese sends him.

The EF is not the focus of any diocesan seminary that I am aware of because after all the man is going there to learn to serve the diocese.

It is a fact that the over all majority of Catholics attend the OF Mass so the seminary teaches that.

It would be nice if the seminaries could add classes for the EF but with all that a seminarian has to learn academically and all the spiritual formation that must receive there is not much time left for that.

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