Why must I dance with the devil in order to serve God?

I’ll be frank:

I was raised to love God and His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I’m a millennial so I didn’t receive the best catechesis growing up but both my parents had a simple, strong faith. When I got older I started watching EWTN and listening to Catholic Radio. I fell even deeper in love with the Church and decided I had a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

But ever since I entered religious/priestly formation I have had to violate my conscience a number of times. I was told not to be so rigid when I pointed out liturgical abuses. In novitiate the priests had a huge occupation with everything new-age. We used the enneagram and talked about “panentheism.” At my seminary we are allowed to talk about the evils of capitalism and the death penalty, but not abortion, homosexuality, or relativism. Many times my classes feel like a systematic dismantling of anything the Catholic Church has timelessly taught.

Often times I don’t know why I’m still in religious/priestly formation. I think I would have left a long time ago if I weren’t so sure God was calling me to the priesthood.

Is this normal? Does anyone else think this is a weird experience to have when studying for the priesthood? Is it okay that I feel frustrated and demoralized from all of this?

I hope it’s okay for me to post all of this. I know I’m probably close to violating #19 of the “banned topics” list but I hope it’s okay since I’m not mentioning any seminary or religious order by name.

It seems like one of the best times for the devil to attack you. I don’t claim that those around you are all wrong, but the devil will seed doubts where he can.

I don’t think the doubts and frustrations are unnormal, and I’m sure you know that many saints persevered through very dark doubts themselves.

What type of panentheism do they talk about? Do they forget that God is distinct from the universe? Certainly there are ways that all things that exist have a participation in God of some sort, but not to the degree that creation is God, of course.

I digress. It’s an excellent time for the devil to attack you. Consider if you still feel called, and if you do, persevere and be open to what may be good in what others say. Don’t necessarily let everything define you, but be charitable.

Sorry if that doesn’t help. I feel weird offering advice to someone who mat very well become a priest.

Every single young man I’ve known who has entered the seminary has had this exact experience. The old “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” maxim is most appropriate for seminary life. I (probably correctly) assume that you are studying for diocesan priesthood. It might be a good idea to look into some different orders that would fit you better.

Great post.

To the OP, how do you mean, that some topics are banned? Do you mean in classes or something, or do you mean when just chatting with others casually? Do you know why these topics are not allowed?

What about the subjects you are allowed to talk about - are people favouring such topics or speaking against them? Again, do you know why these are allowed?

Do you have a spiritual advisor with whom you can discuss these concerns?

I would expect that if you were going around pointing out abuses and other mistakes, you might be told not to be so rigid as a way of building humility and obedience, even if what you are saying is right.

I know of some excellent new priests that have come out of the seminary in the past few years.

I don’t doubt what you shared, it makes me aware that a whole lot more needs to be done for all seminaries to be teaching what is truly Catholic.

May the Lord lead you where He wants you to be on your spiritual journey!


The part about panentheism is especially worrying. In my layman’s opinion the other things flow from it. I mean, if you have a mistaken idea about the very being of God, anything is up for debate. Sorry you have to go through that.

And the enneagram. Ugh. :ouch:

Maybe it is a test. Maybe they want the seminarians to speak up for themselves. It is difficult to know without seeing and hearing for ourselves.

It doesn’t make sense that they would teach these errors to see if the seminarians will point them out.
They are in the seminary to get good solid formation.

It’s also a lesson that those forming for the priesthood, especially, in dioceses, have to pick up on, and well.

That lesson is on how to be a politician.

You may find this a cynical opinion, but of you are to be a priest, especially a diocesan priest, you have to know how to play the political game. With your parishioners, with your bishop, with the parish council, with government characters, with the media.

The seminary is practice for this, and sorry, but you will not be the catalyst of change. You might be when you’re a priest, but for now, it’s about knowing the cards you hold, and sometimes, toeing the party line for your own academic survival might not necessarily be the worst course of action.

One must realize that even in the Catholic Church, from the Holy See, to Vatican City, to the remotest parish, politics is alive and well. The earlier you learn to master that game, the better it would be for you. Because like it or not, you play it, or be trampled by it underfoot.

Even the Lord himself advised us to be as cunning as serpents when necessary.

It’s pretty much the same when training for any career that involves being a manager or a leader of people.

The guy who goes around pointing out this mistake and that mistake in a black-and-white way is not going to be a leader long. People, and other managers, don’t like this. They don’t respond to it.

But the guy who inspires people to do what is right and correct in a way that makes them want to do this and even feel like they arrived at the decision themselves, will go far…very far.

I thought the saying was:

It is okay to bring faith into politics but not politics into faith.

God likes us to be formed through the keeping of purer intentions.

If prospective priests start taking short-cuts and forming themselves in less than true ways at the beginning then they might well continue to follow such skewered paths of the same vein later on.

No one is asking them to. All we’re saying is that when you enter formation, you enter a political game that will last you the rest of your life.

Of course they shouldn’t take short cuts or form themselves in less than pure ways. Good for them that they retain faithfulness to the Church and her teachings.

That does not mean they cannot be shrewd. They should be, especially since a lot of formators are shrewd themselves, and sadly enough, some of them are less than orthodox. Politics includes knowing your place in the pecking order, and sometimes, this means holding your tongue if it means having to survive long enough to get ordained and then get into a position wherein one can wield the good influence.

A seminarian is not in that position. It’s power play, and as much as one wants to view the Church in an idealistic light, that is not the case. Politics is a very real game in the Catholic Church, like it or not, and if you want to be able to effect good, real change, sometimes, you need to play the game to get to that point. This sometimes means keeping your mouth shut even if what you have to say is good, simply because you do not have the power to say it, or, because those you need to say it to have more power over you than you have over them. Or, put another way, you can’t hurt them, but they can hurt you.

Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Politics should not play a role in the life of faith. But the fact is, it does. So you depending on what you want to accomplish, you can play it, or avoid it. But it’s there, and one way or another, one will have to deal with it. And the earlier our seminarian realizes this truth, the better equipped he will be to survive to ordination.

If certain people are thinking politically, one needs to rely on God and put them in the right, or, not be around those particular people at all. Simple as that.

There have been many saints who entered seminary I expect and I doubt they had much patience if any for idle talk.

You have to find the other seminarians who know that all of this is wrong. There might only be a few. Unfortunately, the true Catholic faith, true orthodoxy, is still persecuted in many places. Seminarians have to have an underground network to support each other and build encouragement.
If that’s not possible, there are other religious orders to try. The Fathers of Mercy is a very good one, for example.

because, the devil would love nothing more than to infiltrate God’s church and take it down from the inside out.

perhaps this is the reason you are called to the priesthood in the first place, we need well-formed priest, in spite of poor formation in seminary.

porthos is right, many people are trying to playa political game within the church with their own agenda, no, it’s not right, but we do have to deal with it. Sadly, many parishioners are being led astray with less than orthodox teaching.

keep on striving, you will get through it.

I don’t know what to advise, so I’ll pray for you.

“Often times I don’t know why I’m still in religious/priestly formation. I think I would have left a long time ago if I weren’t so sure God was calling me to the priesthood.” clipped from the OP.

I hope you can find some way to “get through” this formation because you are just the kind of man we need to be a priest.

I will pray for you.


Has it crossed anyone’s mind that maybe the op feels this way because God doesn’t endorse these things and his conscience is telling him as much?:shrug:

Ah! I already feel guilty for posting this. I wanted to vent my frustrations to people who might understand, but now I feel like I’m just airing my family’s dirty laundry. Forgive me!

But you deserve some sort of response from me.

@ Wesrock: Yes, I often think of these as trials from the devil trying to keep me from becoming a priest. Or they could just be signs I’m not called after all… But I really appreciate your advice. Thanks.

@ 1neophyte: Thanks for the input. It’s good to know I’m not totally alone in this experience. I’m actually studying for religious priesthood, so I don’t mingle with the diocesan seminarians much.

@ friardchips: It’s complicated, I guess. It’s not that certain topics are banned or not. I guess I could summarize it as: the faculty are very liberal/progressive and I am (and other seminarians are) conservative/traditional.
I’ve considered that they may just be testing us to see if we will speak up for ourselves, but I agree with Dorothy that it doesn’t make sense for them to do that.

@ Tis Bearself: Finding a good spiritual advisor for guidance is the most frustrating part of it. I have a spiritual director but I don’t always think he understands me. I’ve thought of the humility and obedience part before, and I get what you’re saying about leadership. Nobody likes the nit-picky guy who always points out mistakes. I don’t do that anymore. But then I worry that my silence is tacit approval of error. I feel cowardly for not speaking up more. At the same time, I don’t want conflict. 

@ Dorothy: It sounds like you live in a place with a good seminary. I know not all seminaries are equal. This is something that does make me more optimistic.

@ StudentMI: Yeah, that’s how I feel: Ugh.

@ porthos11: I definitely get what you are saying about the politics. This is one of the most disillusioning parts of the whole thing. It makes me mad that I have to “play the game.” Is it ethical to deceive my superiors just so I can be ordained and potentially (but there’s no guarantee) get into a position where I can change the system for the better? Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Why should I have to dance with the devil to serve God?

@ reggieM: I like your advice to find other seminarians who are like me. I actually do know some who feel the same way I do but I don’t spend much time with them. I’ve often thought we should form some orthodox seminarian support group.

That’s all that’s on the forum for now. I’m sure there will be more posts by the time I post this.

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