A Reply to the Discouraged Seminarian: There Are 6,000 Reasons to Remain Catholic

CP&S comment. On May 19th we published a disturbing testimony from 1Peter5 by an unnamed seminarian who was about to leave the seminary due to his total disillusionment with the current state of the Church. Finding no point anymore in his vocation to become a priest when the modernist formation he had been receiving denied all the fundamental bulwarks of our Catholic Faith, he sees the Barque of Peter as sinking fast on a downward spiral. He even asks, “Is there any reason why I should remain Catholic?”

We now publish an excellent and very sagacious response from Dr Peter Kwasniewski to the serious questions and issues the troubled seminarian brings up.

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, Duccio di Buoninsegna, ARSH 1308, Museum of the Duomo, Siena

I was deeply moved by the article that appeared at this site, entitled “Seminarian: ‘Is There Any Reason Why I Should Remain Catholic?’” What follows is my affirmative reply. I’m under no illusions that my answer will be comprehensive or convincing to everyone, but what it has going for it is the sincerity of a person who has himself been wounded by members of the hierarchy, who has been denied speaking platforms on account of upholding the traditional Faith, and who has also stared into the abyss of corruption and apostasy that mark the Church on earth in our times—and yet who believes, finds reasons to believe, and, indeed, finds reasons for hope.

Even if we take the most conservative estimate, dodging the “saint factory” that revved up in the 1980s under John Paul II, the Catholic Church venerates at least 6,000 saints officially recognized as such (some would say over twice that many, depending on how you tabulate them). Each one of these saints is a masterpiece of God’s grace triumphing in the frailty and fracturedness of fallen human nature. Each one is a bright light in the encircling gloom. Each one tells us what the Christian is called to be and can, in fact, become by fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Each one gives the lie to fatalism, nihilism, and cynicism. And each one is an unanswerable argument for the truth of the Catholic Faith.

Decades ago, Joseph Ratzinger made the following observation:

The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. (The Ratzinger Report, 129)

One could perhaps amplify this by saying there is a threefold apologia: the saints, the civilization produced by Catholicism, and the inner cogency and coherence of traditional Catholic theology, which displays a monumental solidity and a profound consistency.

If someone were to ask me “Why be a Catholic?,” I would reply: The saints—the Apostles like Peter, John, and Paul; the martyrs from Lawrence and Stephen down to Maximilian Kolbe and Franz Jägerstätter; confessors like Athanasius the Great and Basil the Great; religious like Benedict, Francis, Dominic, John of the Cross, Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Thérèse of Lisieux; priests like St. John Vianney and St. Peter Julian Eymard; missionaries like St. Francis Xavier, St. Edmund Campion, St. Isaac Jogues, and Father Damien of Molokai; kings and queens, simple porters and lay brothers; the list goes on and on and on—and I barely know a fraction of my heavenly family, whom I can’t wait to meet in person (please God!), but with whom I am already bound by a mystical communion in Christ our Head. He, of course, is the reason for the greatness of these heroes of faith and charity who adorn His Mystical Body: He is their Model and Maker. If they are so wonderful, what must He be like? And He has given Himself to us already in the Most Holy Eucharist under the veils of bread and wine, so that He may prepare us to see Him with face unveiled in the Kingdom of heaven.

If someone were to ask me “Why be a Catholic?,” I would reply: The glorious civilization the Catholic Church inspired and built—the culture of fine arts and sciences that has no equal, let alone rival, anywhere in human history, because divine revelation illuminates and fuels human endeavor. It attracted and motivated the highest flights of genius as well as the most extensive philanthropy; it made a home for epiphanies of beauty that reach up to eternity and infinity, lifting us above our earthbound vision and daily doldrums. The music, the architecture, the painting, the poetry—Gregorian chant, Palestrina and Byrd, Haydn and Bruckner; Romanesque basilicas and Gothic cathedrals; Giotto, Fra Angelico, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Bernini, van Eyck; Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Manzoni, Hopkins, Chesterton, Waugh… once again, the list could go on practically for ever. From the holy mountain of Christ rushes down a torrent of delights and insights, consolations and provocations—all bearing witness to the splendor of the Incarnation that dazzles the human spirit, and sustains it sacramentally.

If someone were to ask me “Why be a Catholic?,” I would reply: The theology of the Church in its apostolic, patristic, and scholastic plenitude, a grand oak tree birthed from a tiny acorn, showing in its mighty trunk and vast crown the power of the principles at root. As John Henry Newman saw and described so well in writing the work that accompanied his entry into the Roman Church, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, the truth unfolds in strength and stability across the ages of faith. Whether we take up the formidable Summa theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas with its seried ranks of syllogisms or simply consult any standard catechism from the Counter-Reformation down to the eve of the Second Vatican Council, we will find one and the same Catholic Faith, always confessing the Holy and Undivided Trinity, the perfect humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, the virginal maternity of Mary, the veneration of the saints, the life of grace, virtues, prayer, worship, and sacraments, the promise of eternal life in the bliss of the beatific vision. There is no deviation, no distortion, no dereliction in the Faith of the Church; it is there, it is knowable, it is livable, it is lovable. When we know it, we can live it; as we live it, we come to love it, to treasure it; we would no more choose to live without it than we would choose to live without sanity of mind or health of body.

The transcendentals are inseparable, but one may predominate in this or that subject. The glorious company of the saints show forth the Good; the great artists, architects, musicians, and writers show forth the Beautiful; the theologians show forth the Truth. Together they bear witness to the Father (“no one is good but God alone”), the Son (“image [eikon] of the invisible God”), and the Holy Ghost (“He will guide you into all the truth”) (Mk 10:18, Col 1:15, Jn 16:13). I am reminded of the proverb: “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccles 4:12).

The article to which I am responding suffers from one fatal logical error that runs from start to finish: the anonymous seminarian allows the enemy to dictate the terms of the entire debate. He lets the postconciliar distortion of Catholicism set the agenda for the discussion, and that is why he is disgusted and has no way of escape: he gave himself for a decade to what he can now see is a lie, but he does not seem to see that the existence of a falsehood implies the corresponding existence of the truth, since error is parasitical upon truth, as evil is upon the good. The lie he hates and thrashes against is not Catholicism, but neo-Catholicism or Modernism (as he obliquely recognizes when he says the only punishable crime nowadays is adhering to tradition). For example, he writes:

I could not tell you one teaching of the Catholic faith that isn’t always changing. I don’t think we’ve even begun to acknowledge the extent to which modernism has undermined the foundations of the faith. The Church is crumbling into quicksand, and we are scolded ad nauseam that the Church still has to change more with the times.

But what’s going in reality is this (modifications in italics):

I could not tell you one teaching of the Catholic faith that today’s Modernists in the Church aren’t saying must always be changing. I don’t think we’ve even begun to acknowledge the extent to which modernism has attempted to undermine the foundations of the faith, even though we know it can never do so, since God’s truth is indestructible, and the consistent teaching of the Church on any major issue is easily accessible. The human element of the Church (certainly not those in a state of grace or the saints in glory) is crumbling into quicksand, and we are scolded ad nauseam by the progressives and liberals that the Church still has to change more with the times, even though this view was condemned again and again by Church authority. 

One could do this kind of “fisking” on every sentence. To let the modernists in the hierarchy of the Church define the meaning of being Catholic would be the equivalent of letting the Jacobins of the Revolution define the meaning of being French, or the Democrats of 2021 define the meaning of being American. The wolves in sheep’s clothing of today warp the teaching of Catholicism by means of an “official theology” that has and can have no magisterial standing, although it wishes it could. How do we know that it has no standing? For one simple reason: the Faith cannot contradict itself: as St. Vincent of Lérins classically expressed it, growth over time in the understanding of religion does not mean mutation or substantial change. Catholicism is a religion of faith and reason, where the one never contradicts the other.

I feel for this seminarian. He has been put through the machinery of neo-Catholicism, and it’s shredded him to a pulp. His article is the anguished cry of a man who has been spiritually abused by the “Squishy Church,” with all its pomps and works—a simulacrum of Catholicism that no longer tries to hide but openly parades its perversity. The seminarian recognizes that the modernist reinvention of Catholicism in the ascendent after the Council leads to a dead end: the traditional reasons given for being Catholic are no longer accepted by the modernists themselves, who have virtually expelled themselves from the Church. The Church of Christ has been occupied by impostors, by modernists who are not believers. They wear the clothes, they hold the offices, but they do not hold the Faith, and do not pass it on. The seminaries of these impostors are mind-bendingly manipulative as they try to suck out the spirit of right judgment and the love of tradition.

What I see sorely missing in this article—though again, my heart bleeds for this victim of a bloodsucking bureaucratic monster—is an awareness that there is any alternative, but there is, and, like Christ, it is the same yesterday, today, forever: traditional Catholicism. Regardless of what the churchmen who occupy ecclesial posts may do or say, the Catholic Faith is still believed, practiced, lived, across the world in places where the authentic Roman liturgy, trustworthy catechisms, true devotion to Our Lady and the saints, and a love for Catholic culture are still to be found. They do exist, here, there, across the map like sprinkled drops of holy water from a cosmic aspergillum, in greater numbers than one might think possible in a time of such decadence. Whether it be a dedicated priest in an out-of-the-way rural refuge or a parish run by a religious order in a million-peopled metropolis, such circles, or dare I say cenacles, of faithful Catholics will never disappear. If fifty years of relentless hostility and lack of support have not been able to crush traditional-loving Catholics, who, though a minority, are more numerous, well-informed, and committed today than at any time since the Council, nothing will crush them in the future. Divine Providence will not permit it, because the true Faith must last until the end of time. The Faith is alive, and in a humble way, thriving: but you will seldom find such evidence of supernatural life in the mainstream parishes, chanceries, and seminaries.

As readers can see, I agree with the author’s dark portrait of the situation, but diverge when it comes to the crucial decision that must be made: Do I stay at the foot of the Cross with St. John and Our Lady and persevere to the promised resurrection, no matter how bleak things appear, or do I walk away shaking my head because the Messiah wasn’t what we were expecting Him to be, and His mission looks like it’s all over? Surely, that ragtag coetus of disciples is a pathetic sight—nothing great can be expected from them. The former, with the eyes of faith and reason, sees what must be so, waits, works, and does not waver; the latter, closing those eyes, sees what the Enemy would have him see, and thus gives up, stops working, and falls away.

Speaking of Our Lady… there’s a glimmer of faith at the end of the seminarian’s cri de coeur where he turns to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Stella Maris, the star that guides the desperate sailor in the stom back to the safety of the port. Outside of Jesus Christ, there is darkness and shipwreck. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

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4 Responses to A Reply to the Discouraged Seminarian: There Are 6,000 Reasons to Remain Catholic

  1. Reblogged via lawrencemorra.com Zero Lift-Off
    Would not post standard reblog so back to old school.
    Aside from all else I’ve said and could or would say now that can be in tandem to the fine insights within this latest CP&S heartfelt encouragement to stay the distance via Traditional Catholicism; is this one other amazing accounting of a miracle that happened bringing an atheist full circle to devote himself to Catholicism.

    That article was “Fatima Vision of Hell helped Atheist, Salvador Dalí, return to God” which involves our Blessed Mother which this young seminarian obviously has great affinity and love for. So here I discovered in review of several of my most recent postings the pure and obvious reason for this young man to stay the distance and be a priest of a traditional order!

    And I must quote: “Salvador Dali is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20thcentury and the most famous Surrealist. At the height of his popularity in 1960, he was commissioned by The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima to paint the Vision of Hell, as Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco experienced during the July 13, 1917, apparition at Fatima. The idea for the painting came from a Protestant who, having read about the vision from Sister Lucia’s memoirs, converted to Catholicism and entered the seminary. The thought was that Dali could reach young people and unbelievers far more effectively with this message than any sermon on Sunday morning or story about saints. This commission would change Dali’s life and work, and lead him from his avowed atheism back to his Catholic roots.” Posted on May 17, 2021 by Catholicism Pure & Simple

    To me this is all so beautiful and an example of divine intervention or as I refer to these things a connecting of dots in our lives that God helps us
    to see. This is a tremendous inspiration or why the Catholic Church and it goes totally hand in hand with what I said in my response recently to this seminarian. “A virtuous young man who chose a most beautiful vocation that is in peril now because the whole world is! The world needs you and many more like you to stand ready for Christ and do the will of our Father in heaven. I believe He inspired you in the first place so the battles are many and severe; but now is the time to face all adversity in order to grow that virtue and faith that’s in you.” https://lawrencemorra.com/2021/05/19/seminarian-is-there-any-reason-why-i-should-remain-catholic/
    I went on to say; “We have that same Church that Jesus proclaimed to Peter ordaining him and that Church to continue; against even hell itself can’t ever defeat it!

    We must not throw out the baby with the dirty bath water ever! So too our Church has been attacked, contaminated and stained with filth and sin, even blasphemy over many years; doing much harm and even self-destruction from within by evil cohorts!”

    So now from what was stated here in this latest article which I quote; “The article to which I am responding suffers from one fatal logical error that runs from start to finish: the anonymous seminarian allows the enemy to dictate the terms of the entire debate. He lets the postconciliar distortion of Catholicism set the agenda for the discussion, and that is why he is disgusted and has no way of escape: he gave himself for a decade to what he can now see is a lie, but he does not seem to see that the existence of a falsehood implies the corresponding existence of the truth, since error is parasitical upon truth, as evil is upon the good. The lie he hates and thrashes against is not Catholicism, but neo-Catholicism or Modernism (as he obliquely recognizes when he says the only punishable crime nowadays is adhering to tradition). For example, he writes:

    I could not tell you one teaching of the Catholic faith that isn’t always changing. I don’t think we’ve even begun to acknowledge the extent to which modernism has undermined the foundations of the faith. The Church is crumbling into quicksand, and we are scolded ad nauseam that the Church still has to change more with the times.

    The wolves in sheep’s clothing of today warp the teaching of Catholicism by means of an “official theology” that has and can have no magisterial standing, although it wishes it could.

    The Church of Christ has been occupied by impostors, by modernists who are not believers. They wear the clothes, they hold the offices, but they do not hold the Faith, and do not pass it on. The seminaries of these impostors are mind-bendingly manipulative as they try to suck out the spirit of right judgment and the love of tradition.

    Regardless of what the churchmen who occupy ecclesial posts may do or say, the Catholic Faith is still believed, practiced, lived, across the world in places where the authentic Roman liturgy, trustworthy catechisms, true devotion to Our Lady and the saints, and a love for Catholic culture are still to be found.

    If fifty years of relentless hostility and lack of support have not been able to crush traditional-loving Catholics, who, though a minority, are more numerous, well-informed, and committed today than at any time since the Council, nothing will crush them in the future. Divine Providence will not permit it, because the true Faith must last until the end of time. The Faith is alive, and in a humble way, thriving: but you will seldom find such evidence of supernatural life in the mainstream parishes, chanceries, and seminaries.”

    Not to be mean but does this sound like a time to turn tail and run? Not to me it doesn’t; as a matter of fact it gives me all the more impetus to meet the challenge head on and seek God’s guidance to fight the good fight! The Catholic Church is like the Crown Jewel or Holy Grail to the Devil which he must destroy in order to get back at God; thus all the horrendous evil and attacks from within to accomplish that. This world has never been easy or a happy forever place where all goes smoothly and we know why! The enemy has raised havoc and hell itself upon this place that is Fallen from Grace! Jesus Christ is the Light of all existence which will bring home all the good within this world. You have done an excellent job up until now so don’t blow it by giving up or in to this wickedness that seeks your defeat like it does of any of us! We have to be the soldiers for Christ defending the faith and Church along with doing what the Holy Spirit directs us to do one day at a time, just like Saint Mother Teresa said and did her whole life of serving the Church and needy! Your disillusionment is understandable but not necessary or acceptable to God! Don’t allow these devils and imposters who have infiltrated this great Church of God’s just like they have infested the US Government the One Nation under God to deter you from the mission! I hate that these despots have done this to my Church and Nation but I will not run away or give up! For me it’s a fight to the finish and Jesus Christ wins always!

    I recently was responding to another blog site and it touched on this whole idea of holding on to the mission and not losing faith especially when the battle heats up or is intensifying!

    “…our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fighting’s, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforted those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;…” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6

    Apostle Paul mentions Titus for good reason.
    “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother:…” 2 Corinthians 2:13

    “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 1:4

    To me this same doubt and struggle today was occurring even back them with all the challenges and suffering going on in the world around them back in that time of Christ on Earth and now it’s more imperative to meet the challenges with determination and face all adversity with Christ Jesus leading our way!

    Let me close with the rest of what I had said in the other blog posting.

    This is an excellent explanation about being an encourager and what Titus was accomplishing for God’s will. It does come down to being a good example for others so that what good exudes from our heart of hearts through Jesus Christ will rub off on others. If more people would be brave and selfless like you mentioned and do this then many things would improve dramatically! But in this fast paced materialistic narcissistic hurry and get what I can for me kind of world; sadly this message is being suppressed and even lost to the mob mentality and sheer indifference or apathy!

    You certainly are an encourager coming out with this excellent statement and projection of your own heart into the world of near chaos to say I’m doing different than the “fray” and will be a “ray of hope;” a beacon that sends out the right message like a lighthouse guiding the weary on the tossed sea in their ships; helping them to make it to their destination and back home!
    God bless you and yours.

    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Reply to the Discouraged Seminarian: There Are 6,000 Reasons to Remain Catholic | Just a Girl Lost 2

  3. Wonderful and inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Maggie Kuhn says:

    Reblogged this on SmilingCoffeeCup and commented:
    This is what the Catholic church needs to hear in this time of utter turmoil.

    Like

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