The Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
—C. S. Lewis from The Abolition of Man.

 (This article originally appeared in the May 2006 print edition of HPR.)

This is an article that I wrote during my years of seminary formation, but I was advised to wait to have it published until after my priestly ordination.  With the bishop’s seminary visitation on the way, it seemed like a good time to resurrect it from my files.  It deals with a touchy subject, that will offend many involved in the work of seminary formation, but with the current atmosphere of scandals, and talk of a more thorough screening process for seminarians, I believe it is a topic that must be dealt with.  Sioux Falls is a rural farming diocese that is having great success in vocations with both numbers and quality.  In the past, a consistent complaint or difficulty our new seminarians have had in adjusting to seminary life is the issue of effeminacy.  The fact of the matter is that they are not used to, and are uncomfortable with, living in an environment that is often effeminate.  I remember when one of our seminarians from a farm family was embarrassed to say that he would not want his brother to visit his dorm because of the way the men acted on his floor.  While not, perhaps, stating it in the most precise manner it was understood by all when he said that many seminarians on his floor, “acted like a bunch of women.”

St. Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance.  It is from the Latin mollities, which literally means “softness.”  Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy.  It involves being inordinately passive or receptive.  What St. Thomas means by persevering is when “a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance or difficulties and toils.”  An “effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrows caused by lack of pleasures, yielding as it were to a weak motion.”  Thomas states that this effeminacy is caused in two ways.  First, by custom, where a man is accustomed to enjoy pleasures and it is, therefore, more difficult for him to endure the lack of them.  Second, by natural disposition, less persevering through frailty of temperament, and this is where Thomas compares men with women, and also mentions the homosexual act of sodomy, and the receiver in this act as being effeminate or like a woman.  The vice of delicacy for Thomas considers those who cannot endure toils, or anything that diminishes pleasure, and thus delicacy is a kind of effeminacy.  Thomas quotes from Deuteronomy 28:56, “The tender and delicate woman, that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for softness.”  It may be true that some cultural prejudices are being revealed here with this comparison because a vice is a vice, whether it is found in a man or a woman, but it is also true that some vices are more perverse or disordered when found specifically in men or women.  Effeminacy is more pronounced in a man than a woman because women are more susceptible to this vice.  Just as the vice of drunkenness is more pronounced or perverse when found in a woman than a man.

I have five sisters, and all are feminine, but I would describe none of them as effeminate or soft.  They are women; yet, they do not exhibit this particular vice.  So, it must be understood, I am not putting down women or speaking on homosexuality, (though effeminacy is often a sign of this sexual disorder) but rather on acting in an inappropriate manner that is often prevalent in seminaries.

When I was giving a retreat to some of Mother Teresa’s sisters in Washington, D.C.,  I briefly mentioned  this vice, and after the conference, the regional superior asked if I could give a more thorough conference on the matter.  I told her that this type of softness was certainly not something that I observed with the Missionaries of Charity, but she insisted on the topic.  I decided to use the example of St. Teresa of Avilla who when she went about with her reforms she immediately began to address this type of softness.  The Carmelites had become a soft group of social elites who would sit around and gossip in the parlor.  She told her sisters we need to be “con pantoloni” (with pants).  Many modern religious have taken a completely literal translation to these words, but she meant that they needed to roll up their sleeves, and get to work.  They could not be soft, delicate Southern belles but feminine women able to finish a job.  St. Teresa of Avila, observing the group of virgins around her stated:

What shall I do with them?  Ah, I shall employ them to destroy heresy, to bring forth Doctors of the Church, to make reparation for sins, to convert souls.  They will be solid walls, armed ramparts.  They will be living fountains of light and faith…

There is nothing soft about such a call.

St. Thomas also speaks on modesty concerning the outward movements of the body.  Here, he quotes Saint Ambrose in stating that, “Beauty of conduct consists in becoming behavior towards others, according to their sex and person.”  Thomas states that, “Outward movements are a sign of the inward disposition” and quotes Ecclesiastics 19:29-30, “You can tell a person by his appearance … the way a person dresses, the way he laughs, the way he walks, tell you what he is.”  St. Ambrose adds that, “The habit of mind is seen in the gesture of the body,” and that “the body’s movement is an index of the soul.”  Ambrose goes on to say, “Let nature guide the movement: if nature fail in any respect, surely effort will supply the defect.”  This effort is lacking in most seminary formation.  Such things should be noticed and discussed by seminary faculty in both external and internal formation, as they can often be signs of deeper issues.

St. Thomas, moreover, asserts the truth that it is often from our outward movements that other men form their judgment about us.  Thomas encourages us to study our outward movements so that if they are inordinate in any way, they may be corrected.  Such things need to be addressed in formation because they have a definite effect on our ability to be, and to bring, Christ to others.  Does the seminary deal with a seminarian that sways when he walks, who has limp wrists, who acts like a drama queen, or who lisps?  It must.  This is not about a witch hunt, but about being honest enough to admit that such external behavior affects our ability to share Christ.  I knew a seminarian that spoke in a very effeminate manner, and to his credit he recognized this impediment to his future preaching the Gospel, and on his own sought help from a speech instructor.  However, the seminary did not see this glaring problem, nor move this man to get assistance.  That is the problem.

When we are at the altar, or preaching the Gospel, we are Jesus Christ, and must do our best to image him to our people. Anything we do that takes people’s attention away from this reality must be addressed.  Over dramatic movements, purposeful lisps, swayingin short, effeminate behavior removes attention from Christ and his word, and puts it on the priest.  This is not just distracting to other men, but I know my sisters will roll their eyes when the Liberace-like priest celebrates himself while celebrating the Mass.

St. Thomas also speaks on modesty of outward apparel.  Moderation, of course, is the rule; and here he warns that the lack of moderation may arise from an inordinate attachment to clothes, with the result being that a man sometimes takes too much pleasure in them. In describing a friend as a “man’s man,” G. K. Chesterton said it best when he stated, “He was not in any case a dandy; but insofar as he did dress well, he was totally indifferent to how other men who were his friends might dress, which is another mark of purely masculine companionship.”  The three guiding virtues in dress are humility, contentment, and simplicity.  Here, one must always consider the appropriateness of a situation, and the personal motivation behind wearing certain apparel.  This is not a new problem, as St. John Chrysostom addressed it in the fourth century in his writing on The Learning of Temperance, when he speaks of the folly of over-adorning oneself with jewels. He states:

I, for my part, expect that in the process of time, the young men among us will wear even women’s shoes, and not be ashamed.  And what is more grievous; men’s fathers seeing these things are not much displeased, but do even account it an indifferent manner. Do you want me to add what is still more grievous; that these things are done even when there are many poor?” … “What can be worse than this unseemliness, this absurdity?  For, this marks a soul, in the first place effeminate, then unfeeling cruel, then curious and idly busy.

Chrysostom goes on to say:

You may indeed laugh at hearing this, but I am inclined to weep for these men’s madness and their earnest care about these matters, for in truth, they would rather stain their body with mud than those pieces of leather.

Now, I would hope that no one in seminary formation is going around in women’s shoes, but the general point is to watch our attachment to such things.  Is it in line with being a man?  With being a priest of Jesus Christ?  I remember in my first year of seminary how I was shocked when I came across a first year priest in the seminary who was wearing a gold ankle bracelet, and matching gold earring.  These are not proper adornments for a priest or a seminarian, and this should be seen as a formation issue.

In the book, The Church Impotent, Leon Podles asks why men in the Christian West are so little interested in religion, and that men who are interested often do not follow the general pattern of masculinity. Fr. Tom Forrest, a priest active in international evangelization, points out that only 25 percent of the participants in Catholic gatherings he has attended are men.  The fact is that women dominate daily Masses, church staff and volunteers, and church groups.  Why are we not attracting men when the Orthodox seem to have a balance, and Islam and Judaism have predominately male membership?  The author goes on to state that something seems to be creating a barrier between Western Christianity and men.

Podles observes:

Because Christianity is now seen as a part of the sphere of life proper to women rather than to men, it sometimes attracts men whose masculinity is somewhat doubtful.  By this I do not mean homosexuals, although a certain type of homosexual is included.  Rather, religion is seen as a safe field, a refuge from the challenges of life and, therefore, attracts men who are fearful of making the break with the secure world dominated by women.  These are men who have problems following the path of masculinity.

I am not a psychologist, and I cannot speak on an over-attachment to the feminine, but there is a truth that masculinity, as a needed virtue in the seminary, is something that is generally ignored in formation.  This may be one of the problems with why the church has a difficult time attracting men to Mass, and serving the Church.

What is it that draws soft or effeminate men to the seminary, and why is this not dealt with in formation?  Podles offers the prior explanation for the former question, but the latter can only be understood if it is admitted that there are many bishops, faculty, and priests, who suffer under this vice and are, therefore, unwilling or unable to recognize it, or address it.  All seminaries are not equal: some relish in their softness, others have select faculty that will privately admit to the problem, but for fear of offending colleagues and bishops, refuse to speak out on it.  In my years of seminary formation, the most controversial conference was given by my former Bishop, Robert Carlson, on the vice of effeminacy. Some faculty and students were offendedthe truth always stingsand felt my bishop either somehow lacked compassion, or was mean-spirited in discussing such an issue.  This must end, and as with all problems, its solution begins only with admitting its existence, and the reality that many seminaries breed an effeminate culture.

In a study by Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox, involving a masculinity-femininity test, Catholic seminarians scored at a point far less masculine than any other male group of their age. Right next to them, though, were the Protestant male seminarians, which the authors of the study stated ruled out celibacy, or sexual deviance, as a cause for connection to this lack of masculinity.  It also must be pointed out that this is not particular to the Catholic faith, but to all of the western Christian faiths.  As the study commented:  “Some liberal Presbyterian or Methodist congregations are practically bereft of men.”

In a parish, it will be helpful if you can talk on sports in order to relate to men.  If you have an easier time, or even prefer interacting with women to the exclusion of men, this will cause problems in your parish, and affect your ministry to men.  I remember a seminarian from my dorm who, even though he was not athletically gifted, used to go out and practice basketball and softball with one of his classmates. He did this not so much for the exercise, but because he felt it would help him minister to the kids in the grade schools and high schools where he would serve as a priest.  This man recognized the importance of sports in our culture, and the fact that it could be used to draw the young, especially boys, to the Church, and to Christ.

The question, then, is what can be done in helping form and ordain more manly priests?  First, seminaries and bishops must recognize effeminacy as a formation issue.  In choosing faculty to teach and form our future priests, the question must be asked: Does the candidate exhibit manly or effeminate qualities?  Also, bishops need to realize that just because a priest requests an assignment, this does not automatically make him the right man for the job. This is especially true if the priest desires to work in liturgy, campus ministry, teaching, or seminary work where a manly model of priesthood is most needed and, unfortunately, often most often missing.  Bishops need to take an active role in knowing and forming their priestly candidates.  It is, perhaps, not only his most important decision, but also the decision for which he will be held most accountable.  Bishop Carlson is one of the few, if not only, bishops in our country who has every seminarian live at least a summer in his residence.  He knows the men he will ordain.  He recounts a story of a seminarian he inherited who had already been through five years of formation, and was extremely effeminate.  In working with this seminarian, he asked him about his sexual orientation.  The seminarian responded he did not know.  At that time, he was two years away from being ordained, and neither the rector, nor seminary faculty, saw this as a problem.  This is the problem.

We need to consider Mt. 19:11-12 when the church discerns whether the seminarian actually has a priestly vocation:

Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted.  Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

This third and last category is the only one, true call to celibacy, and the priesthood.  Hebrews 5:4 reminds us that, “No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”  Bishops, rectors, and seminary faculty must use these scriptures verses as guides in truly discerning if Jesus Christ is calling this seminarian to the priesthood.  The number’s game, and pressure to fill parishes, cannot be used as the standard in making such decisions. This is one of the reasons why we are in the mess we are today. Certainly, it is not always an easy decision, but it must always be asked if this seminarian has an alternative motive to the priesthood, other than God’s call.  Also, necessarily, there must be men who are not blinded by similar vices to be able to see and makes this decision.

We need to take this time of scandal as an opportunity to take a good hard look at how our seminaries and vocation offices are run and staffed.  As a seminarian, I could not have said such things publicly without jeopardizing the review all seminarians must receive from the faculty staff to move onto ordination.  I am now a priest, and a vocations director, and so I have a duty to raise such concerns in the hope that such things will be addressed in forming priests for the third millennium who most fully image the source of priesthood: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr. James Mason About Fr. James Mason

Father Mason is a priest from the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., on loan to the Archdiocese of St. Louis with the permission of his bishop, the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, to serve as Rector and President of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary effective July 1, 2015. Father currently serves as the Dean of Students and Director of Spiritual Formation at the seminary. He was ordained in 2001, and has served as a pastor, Director of Vocations, Vice-Chancellor, and Medical Moral Advisor for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, as well as serving as Director of Broom Tree Retreat Center. Father Mason joined the staff of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in August 2014. Father Mason attended the North American College and received his STB from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas – Angelicum, Rome. He received his JD from the University of Minnesota Law School. Prior to entering the seminary, Father Mason was the Director of Catholic Charities, legal counsel, and lobbyist for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, and worked as a prosecutor in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Father Mason has traveled the world, giving many retreats for priests and for the Missionaries of Charity. He directs a 30 day Silent Ignatian Retreat at Broom Tree Retreat Center and has also taught a course on the Spirituality of the Diocesan Priesthood at the Institute of Priestly Formation (IPF) Summer Program.

Comments

  1. Fr. Mason, thank you for this article. It is part of a needed critique, I believe, of the modern Church. A concern that I have – related to this one of effeminacy among seminarians and priests – is effeminacy in the Liturgy, in the vestments, vessels, altar linens, candle holders, etc. The levels and layers of lace, of ornate decoration, of baroque extravagance – in my humble opinion – are so distant from the crucially important meaning of the Liturgy as to obscure and not enhance it. What decoration does God seek? Is it not truth in the heart?

    Isa 66:1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
    Isa 66:2  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

    All of our external excesses, together with the highly choreographed and formal movements and gestures of the Liturgy, can be – I fear – attractive hiding places for effeminate souls seeking to “celebrate self” as you wrote: “I know my sisters will roll their eyes when the Liberace-like priest celebrates himself while celebrating the Mass.”

    As a man, I long for simplicity in the Liturgy. I wish the organ flourishes and virtuosity would stop – I would much prefer precious silence and time for prayer. I wish the vestments were humble brown monastic habits; I wish the congregation dressed simply and modestly; I wish the homilists could cry out with real tears of sorrow for our sins, and of joy at the glory of God in His Word and in His Sacrament. I wish the Liturgy were not so…. theatrical.

    • What you wish for is the traditional Latin mass.

      • Can you be more explicit, Byzcat, about exactly how the tLM would or does provide what I expressed in my post? “Feminized” expressions in the Liturgy that I described in my post can be found, in my experience, in both the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form. So what do you mean to say?

      • The Traditional Latin Mass is feminized. Should a priest really enjoy having an alter boy (or anyone, for that matter) lift up their garments during consecration???? That is queer, in the literal sense of the term.

        Secondly, the TLM involves a ton of movement of the young alter boys – like ants on an ant farm – that is very distracting and feminine.

        The argument that the TLM is masculine is unfounded, and it is based on subjective scrupulousness.

    • Whats even worse than the “colorful” liturgy IMHO as a Protestant turned Catholic is the “watered down” homilies that seem to be the rule and not the exception within the parishes i attend…………the soft effeminate watered down homilies during times of ISIS, Gay marriage, abortion etc are pathetic…………..PRIESTS WITHOUT CHESTS!!!!

      • I agree with you, John: a consistent pattern of homilies lacking in substance is a much more grave problem than excess in the externals of the liturgy. The two are related, I think. Poverty within can often lead to masks of extravagance and excess without. The Lord pointed out to the Pharisees,
        Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.
        Mt 23:26 You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
        Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
        Mt 23:28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

        God sees the heart.

      • Peter Knox says:

        I wish it weren’t so, John. Gifted, manly and pious speakers in the diaconate would be a blessing for the Church at this time.

    • So, beautiful vestments, precious and ornate sacred vessels, dignified observance of traditional catholic ceremony are all signs of the effeminate, and should be eliminated from the liturgical patrimony of the Latin church? Have you ever attended the Divine liturgy in the Orthodox Church or an Eastern Rite Catholic Liturgy? You want a more “masculine” expression of the sacred liturgy? Get rid of the girl “altar boys,” women extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, women readers, women greeters, and women commentators for starters. You want a simple liturgy? Why don’t you try a Quaker meeting House or a Congregational Sunday service. Your liberal agenda is quite clear, and the subject matter of this thread seems to be an opportunity for you to promote it.

    • Keith Marino says:

      As a man I long for heaven in the Holy Mass. There is a difference between “effeminate” liturgy and one that is beautiful and rich in theological symbolism. The Holy Mass is a participation in and a reflection of the glorious liturgy of Heaven as is seen in the book of revelation. There is certainly nothing unmanly about a Mass that reflects the splendor of heaven. There may be, at times, some of what you refer to as “baroque extravagance” but desiring to remove all the outer beauty and splendor of the liturgical rites is not the answer to such exravagances. The Church understands this and this is why there are all the varied and beatiful rites that have existed throughout history ranging from the simple, yet diginfied and beautiful, traditional monastic rites (even their low/quiet masses) to the most solemn traditional pontifical Mass. Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat! Pax Christi.

    • I enjoyed reading this article very much, however one shouldn’t be too critical about the type of man a priest may be, as right now it is difficult to find anyone that wants to be a priest, most especially one that can speak English well. Personally, I’ve been through a little of seminary life and in that short time often wondered how those who were so critical of me as a novice could be so demanding, given their own propensity to haven been so inadequate themselves. I entered the seminary briefly, after having served some time in the army. I mistakenly thought that if I could bear a drill sergeant yelling and screaming at me for the smallest of mistakes I could certainly handle some feminine perfectionist. I was certainly wrong. Anyway, I try to give the priest I meet and listen to at mass a lot of leeway, it shouldn’t matter if they are boring, drama queen – ish or in love with themselves, they are the head celebrant of the Eucharist, and if that is all they do, then it is more than enough.

  2. This prob a great article. I have no idea whether the author’s observations are relevant to seminaries today. But I do know something about “Southern belles” & I got a good laugh out of his reference to them as soft, delicate & unable to finish a job. He obviously doesn’t know many southern women :-)

  3. Excellent article. I was in religious life for 8 years as a religious brother within an apostolate of care for the elderly and infirm men. When I entered I did notice a very small number of effeminate men. And of course the question of homosexuality was always in the air.The one or two that were more pronounced in feminine movements eventually left or were asked to leave.
    In discerning my vocation I felt moved toward priesthood and entered my former diocese. My last year of college I finished in a non seminary college. During that time I met with my classmates now and then who were at a minor seminary. I was really shocked when I stayed a weekend at their place. Many effeminate students with and without lisps and effeminate movements. I really thought the place was a breeding ground for future homosexuals. I was so shocked that I was going to leave but my formation director talked me out of that and after that year I spent at a regular 4 year Catholic College I moved on to major seminary.
    It was in major seminary that I too was thinking in line with your article. While effeminacy wasn’t in the extreme as in that college seminary there were a several as well as a few priests. My classmates while only seven some though not effeminate in actions or speech there were certain phrases used that started to become a headache but did not cause any problem. I remember many times saying to myself why do some act so girly. Never received a good answer until now. I think a course on your topic both in minor and major seminaries is seriously needed especially as you say that the majority of ministry these future priests will be involved in will be toward and among women in the Church. I was ordained a Deacon and served a year in a parish in a rectory with 4 priests( won’t see that today unless they are retired) but decided that rectory life was not for me so I decided to leave. Mt. 19:11-12 and Hebrews 5:4 are excellent sources for dialogue.

    • Effeminacy is not the same thing as homosexuality, nor does being hypermacho (an attribute of the Holy Virgin in Greek) mean one is heterosexual.

  4. Ted Heywood says:

    Great article!
    Puts me in mind of a book from about 15 years ago addressing the same problem — ‘Goodbye Good Men’. The ‘feminization’ of so many of the Church’s processes and training mirrored(s) the feminization of society in general. ‘Acting like a man’ is actively being stamped out in all areas of today’s society. Things as simple as not keeping score, avoiding winners and losers, not assigning responsibility, encouraging crying as a response to disappointment, the rise of the ‘wimp’, ‘Pajama Boy’ in 2012 Democratic ads, etc. etc.
    Years ago I had to move where we sat in church because of the way that mothers encouraged the kissing, hugging, and caressing of themselves by their young boys and the fathers totally ignored it. I used to say that, based on the characteristics of their husbands, these mothers would never have married their own sons.
    ‘Men without chests’, indeed.

  5. Andromeda Mary Regina says:

    Thank you for sharing this excellent write up. I am encouraged by it and by the fact that you are now responsible priestly formation. Deo gratias!

  6. Tom McGuire says:

    Personal experience is important, but in an article like this I would have appreciate some hard data to support or refute the basic premise of the article. One thing that did strike me. You were advised not to publish your article until ordained for fear of reprisal. Is this not the deeper problem? When we examine the response of Bishops to the sex abuse scandal, are we not observing the same defensive ways that protect the “the male club”? Perhaps, the whole formation system of priests needs to be transformed to be more open and grounded in spirituality of compassion that flows from contemplation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  7. Gladys H. Mariani says:

    Wow! Never thought I would see this! For the last 20 years, I have been wondering about the effeminate appearance of many priests and of men who are active in parish affairs, especially liturgical music directors. I never dared discuss it with anyone except my mother and one of my best friends. Thank-you! It has been an eye-opener!

  8. Ted Heywood says:

    Tom McGuire — What is ..”the male club?” Is the inference that females should be included in the club?

  9. gabriel says:

    I wonder if our television sitcoms promote this model of behavior among the youth of our time.

  10. Excellent article.
    Unfortunately, for the most part, too too many priests I meet today are not models of manhood, have wimpy handshakes, and seem incapable of “standing” against (preaching against) the culture of death.
    This is a very serious concern.
    Thanks for raising it.

  11. Vincent Capuano, S.J. says:

    Spot on. But you are too timid. Not only is softness a problem but sodomy is a problem. The current management of dioceses and orders do not want to change it. I would like to see what would happen if an order or a diocese in the U.S. would flat out say they are not going to accept men who have the unnatural vice. I think they would have a vocations boom. I have seen that in other countries.

    • A Henneberry says:

      There are some cardinals & bishops who are not effeminate, but should be kicked to the moon because of their secret homo preferences. They are wicked, spiritually dead and intimidating. Please pray.

  12. Paul Leddy says:

    Finally, someone has come out and said it.
    Thanks for writing this.

    • This calls to mind the very theatrical Fulton Sheen who swept into our living rooms with a flourish of his beautiful magenta sash and cape (?). His flashing dark eyes and outstanding good looks gained him the attention that allowed him to bring religion to prime time. We would never miss his show. But, what was his story.

      • Bishop Sheen was afraid to say that there is no salvation outside the Church. The frills of the dress match that cowardice.

      • Catharine says:

        Bishop Fulton Sheed was movie-star handsome and very theatrical, but in no way could he be stated to be effeminate, or even close to it. He stood up for our Catholic faith, apologized about it to no one, and never, ever backed down.
        Please do not muddy the waters–you are missing the entire point of this excellent article, which is that our seminaries, and the Catholic priesthood, have been seriously infected with sexual deviancy and with some not-so-well-adjusted-emotionally types, who perhaps have chosen the seminary as a way of getting out of having to deal with their personal problems.

    • Unfortunately, he changed with the culture change that accompanied Vatican 2. He was still better than most, but softened up very much up. There’s a book by a Canadian (something-Roche) called The “Catholic Revolution”. It’s from Vatican 2 times and about it and he (Roche) loved all the experimental deviancies of the time. He has a whole article on Archbishop Sheen. .

  13. Ted Heywood says:

    Women Priests —– Really! … No future ‘telling’ necessary.
    Sort of brings into question any credibility your comments on Church Teachings, moral issues, etc. you might have had.

  14. Thank you so much for this article — it raises several points I wish I had time to discuss more fully. We have in our parish two priests — and only two, the third left over a year ago “for vocational discernment” and hasn’t been heard from, at least by us in the pews, since then — and both have that problem of effeminate self-projection. Although I don’t think for a minute they are actively homosexual, and they are theologically orthodox, the effeminacy is disquieting. I can’t help wondering if it got to the third priest, because he wasn’t that way at all. But there is also the fact that he (the third priest) was badly treated because he had once refused Communion to a public sinner at Mass and the bishop had it in for him. Some years ago our diocese’s vocations director was dismissed because he refused to admit a man with a homosexual background to formation. If you’re thinking it’s the bishop, as well as the seminary instructors, that sets the tone for the diocese — yes, I am thinking that too. But even with a bishop like we had at the time, you didn’t dare publish this until you were ordained … which tells me it’s everywhere!

  15. Todd Phillipe says:

    Fr Mason mentions the concerns of his then-bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls about the issue of priestly manliness. The first time I met Carlson, about 20 years ago, we had a brief but intense conversation about my chosen profession, forestry. He expressed his wish that seminarians could be mentored in outdoor / hunting and fishing / wildlife or forestry activities, and how that would help contribute to their overall formation and specifically their ability to relate to the men in the pews. Jesus himself was a carpenter who hung out with fishermen and did a lot of hiking. Seems like Carlson was on to something. So is Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, my current bishop, as he engages his seminarians with fishing, golf and Harley riding. Spot on for priestly formation and a way to round out our future priests’ formative years.

    • Will Nier says:

      I doubt that fishing, hunting and Harley riding will completely answer the problem. It may have some effect on some effeminacy but not touch the issue of homosexuality. Some of the people I knew did not act effeminate but were gay. And you would never know that two priests I know are gay.

      • Thank you for shining a spotlight on this problem, Father. My husband IS an active Catholic, but he always complains about how he feels uncomfortable around most priests, because they don’t “act like guys.” From their saccharine, sentimental homilies to their hobbies (for many of them, being an “outdoorsman” means planting flowers in the rectory garden), many of them seem to have far more in common with the ladies of the parish, and are completely out of touch with the men and the youth.

        Whenever anything breaks in the rectory, or any minor home repair needs to be performed, our 30-something priest has to ask men of the parish to come do it for him. He’s totally helpless. When a bad storm knocked down a few trees on the church property last year, several men– ELDERLY men, too– did all the work chopping them up and hauling away the debris. Some of the men even joke that they hope Father never gets a parish assignment in a rough neighborhood, because he’d be an “easy target for thugs” if he dared to walk down the street alone at night. I hate to admit it, but they’re probably right.

  16. I am tired of hearing of sports as the way to relate to men. Part of the problem is the juvenile sports culture that men are stuck in. Not to mention the current highly sexualized atmosphere currently surrounding professional sports. There are a lot of flakey, commitment-phobic men who love sports. I know so many men who won’t get involved or volunteer at our parish because they are “too busy” but yet they find time to watch and attend sports events regularly. What does that say to their sons? It says there are some things more important than religion – like enjoying yourself. Actions speak louder than words. I am so proud of my husband who besides working a full-time job, also is involved in our community and parish. He is definitely the religious leader of our home, and has a good, strong relationship with our children. They look to him for advice and guidance (as well as a good joke). He’s not the least interested in sports, but he is not effeminate. Our sons have not played sports, but we encourage them to master their bodies in other ways: caring for farm animals, chopping wood, learning to hunt and fish, hiking, learning the skills needed to maintain property, and a lot of chores. We also encourage the development of their minds by excellent reading (even poetry!) and discussion. We make sure they learn to play musical instruments, and learn to sing, so they don’t become Philistines. They definitely don’t play video games, or spend their days on computers or phones. They can’t relate to the typical American male, but they have a rich life. A man doesn’t need to play sports to become manly (history bears this out).

    • Wonderful Kate. You and your husband are blessed. In so few words you have said so much. You and your husband ought to write a book, a short one. Great wisdom. I would like to quote you in some of things we publish on our website. I would just say anonymous. ??? Can we do that?

    • I agree with Kate, as the culture continues to spiral downward, sports culture is profiling immoral and homosexual athletes with greater accolades apart from athletic performance. Most professional athletes immoral activities are widely ignored by the general public while they are celebrated as examples of masculinity. This is disordered. Organizations such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Focus Varsity are working towards using athetics as a means to evangelization, but it appears that this is not going to cross the new boundaries placed by popular culture as religious liberties are threatened and dismantled. Sports culture is part of the problem and not the solution. Mason’s point is more fitting 30 years ago.

    • Good point Kate! Sports okay, but in moderation please!! Glad to hear how you’re raising your boys!

  17. A very necessary and overall useful post, but a few observations, if I may.

    1. I enjoy outdoor activities, especially hiking and camping, but organized sports bore me beyond my ability to describe. Recreation in moderation is all very well, but the time, attention and money devoted to spectator sports by most American males is, to be blunt, scandalous, a neglect of duty and poor stewardship of their time and resources. An interest in sports that extends to the obsessive is evidence of arrested development and unmanliness every bit as much as effeminacy.

    2. If you want a masculine clergy, promote Romanitas, especially in the liturgy, and within the liturgy, promote the Extraordinary form in both Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. The Ordinary form is inherently feminized, and as typically encountered in America, even more so. The traditional Latin liturgy is structured, logical, orderly, hierarchical, uniform, unspontaneous, well-endowed with silence, and utterly unconcerned with gratuitous display. Yes, it is a bit remote and not easily approached, but that too is a manly trait. Those who call for stripped, impoverished liturgies are advocating an unmanly niggardliness towards God, not to mention a very unmanly lack of interest in gear.

    • I understand your point Romulus. But sports have been supported by several Popes, including Pius XII. Don Bosco used sports to bolster discipline. Nothing wrong with that, I hope. Saint Paul uses the sports analogy. The deification of sports in our time is another thing. I agree with you. Sitting in front of a TV all weekend is not a manly thing to do, quite the opposite, as you well note.

  18. Patrick Barlow says:

    A couple of tangential points:

    1) In 1990 I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the USAF. On the way home I stopped at a Radio Shack to buy some batteries. The clerk was delighted to tell me about his exploits in the Air Force of 1970. This included many tips on barracks life, where to score drugs at Wheeler AB (in Libya) and many other “hints” that were completely irrelevant to military life in 1990. Although Fr Mason is certainly not guilty of this, when many of the faithful think of seminaries, they think of the seminaries of the early 70’s. The seminary of 1975 has almost nothing in common with seminary life in 2005, and certainly not in 2015. As an example of the difference, in 2006 our Rector reprimanded the seminarians for too many cat-calls and lewd comments when the cheerleaders were on the screen during college/NFL games. And yes I mean female cheerleaders. The only seminarian I thought might be homosexual is now married with 3 kids.

    2) I believe it is critical for every seminarian to have the ability to connect with men in his parish assignment. For some, this is at the gym. For others, it might be at the volunteer fire department, or hunting. If nothing else, spending time at a restaurant can be fruitful. I have a friend who brought 15 people back/into the Church by spending a couple of nights a week at a local pizzeria. Women will take care of themselves. A parish priest must have the ability to engage with men outside of the Church.

    3) Today, a seminarian would be better off learning Madden 16 to engage with school kids as opposed to actual sports

  19. JP2 Priest says:

    This is a great article. Effeminacy among priests is a very dangerous problem. If effeminate men are allowed to become priests and bishops, they form a clique of effeminacy. In spite of all their dainty ways, they become extremely vicious when they see manhood in the priesthood. For them, manhood is considered a psychological problem and a formation issue. They also have no problem lying in order to bring down a manly priest. Effeminate, vicious, mendacious.

    I have seen first-hand that effeminate priests have a vicious hatred toward the Catechism, the Extraordinary Form, the Oath of Fidelity, JP2 and B16.

    Thank you for your article. Hopefully everyone in formation reads it.

  20. OK. I am a convert. I have brought my wife and adult children to the Catholic faith. That isn’t easy coming from an anti-Catholic Protestant past with a Protestant degree in theology and missionary experience and being from a line of Protestant ministers. I came to the faith after a life of studying the Scriptures and reading the Fathers and the documents of the faith and it is obvious that the Catholic faith is the only true faith if you just are honest about it.

    Then I came to the modern US Catholic Church and what I see simply doesn’t gibe for the most part with what I’ve read and what I know about the faith that existed in history. I am pretty much disgusted and embarrassed. Notice I did not say I doubt. I am disgusted. That’s different. In the Middle Ages it seems, Priests that erred seemed to err with women. Every faithful and loyal husband I know including myself can at least relate to that temptation. When was the last time we heard of a Priest getting caught with a woman? My Dad was a conservative Methodist minister and a man. Yeah, a real, honest, man. He taught me to serve and to love women but not to be a f##. He kicked my butt when I needed it. He guided me. He taught me to love and to fight if need be and to speak the truth and to put God first. So did my Mom. This guy who wrote this article I do not know but he is OK. He isn’t afraid to address an issue that is obvious to the rest of us. Father, you are a good egg.

    Thank God for the FSSP Chapel I can escape to as often as possible. Thank God for my African Priest who wasn’t afraid to get dirty. God save the Church and Father, thank you for being a “guy” and noticing the 900 pound gorilla in the living room that everybody else thinks only exists in the zoo.

  21. Triumphguy says:

    I attended a major seminary for 4 years and was shocked by the anti-intellectual attitude and the rampant displays of effeminacy displayed by some of the diocesan students. while they didn’t wear women’s shoes, they did wear bunny slippers to class, and would dance down the hallways arm in arm doing the can-can with their bunny slippers.

    Where are the modern priests who run a boxing club in the parish?

  22. Interesting that we think sports or other “manly” occupations would help form masculine men. My father is very masculine and is not a hunter or outdoorsmen or a sports fan. He is a mechanic, an engineer, an intellectual. So is Pope Benedict. Pretty sad that little Joseph Ratzinger would get pigeon holed as a fem, bullied to think he were gay if he lived in present day America.
    You hinted to the point, but your point should capitalize on the fact that real men finish things, have passions and follow through on missions. I see a lot, and mean A LOT of men that are really boys, because they are obsessed with hunting or sports instead of thinking of the family at home. I understand the feminine man shtick is a problem, but so is anesthetizing oneself is so called manly hobbies. As a woman I admire my dad who doesn’t bully people by shooting off his mouth with his opinions, but finds the right time to teach and gently lead. Servant leadership.

  23. While I agree with the basic premise of this article for me it raises a question which I have in general not found to be sufficiently answered. What is the true nature of masculinity. What does it mean to be a faithful man of Christ without having to use sterotypes like sports and outdoors stuff in your answer or merely exclude the acceptability of a typicaly more feminine hobby such as baking . In short beyond cultural cliches, which often just encourage sex obsessed roid heads, what is Catholic masculinity?

  24. Daniel Grimm says:

    As a psychotherapist, I appreciate your courage and the depth of your theological research on this important topic, and your prudence in waiting til you were ordained to publish.

    Effeminacy is a grievous disability for a man trying to live a celibate vocation. The hardships are many–but a culture of strong brotherly support and courage in facing a tough job can make it joyful. As long as priests seem sad and withdrawn, few young men will be drawn to imitate them.

  25. Why is a lisp effeminate? Do only “soft” people, or women lisp?

    The “problem” with this article is its Donald Trump-style theology/morality. This article’s “arguments” are based on nothing more than stereotypes of homosexuality, despite the apparent disclaimer that the article is not about homosexuality. It’s sole purpose is to tap into feelings of disgust and anger, not logic. Whatever the religious arguments are against homosexuality and for a certain definition of masculinity, this article fails to forward them in any way.

    If people have closed minds and hearts based on a priest’s naturally occurring physical characteristics that “interfere” with teaching the message of the Gospel, there is a far greater problem with the receiver than the teacher. If a priest’s, or another man’s, “swaying” his hips is “distracting,” it should be a reminder for the person to move past their own narrow externalistic view of the world and get to know the person rather than judging them by something that may be, and likely is, out of their control. Instead the author suggests making the effeminate priest sit at the back of the bus so as to avoid provoking the prejudices of the close-minded (and closed-hearted) parishioners without empathy or humility.

    The author recommends addressing these issues in “formation”. So, basically, having young, developing priests practice hiding or changing purely physical things about themselves to blend in better. Inculcating shame, secrecy, and dishonesty into the priesthood – good idea? In other words, uniqueness is not appreciated, conformity to a male, heterosexual stereotype is necessary. God didn’t make you with a lisp or limp wrists, it was a result of original sin – an always convenient tautology.

    Finally, a seminarian who doesn’t know his sexuality – oh what a problem. . . because? Apparently, even under a vow of celibacy, it matters with whom you ‘would’ sleep. Who are you to judge men who earnestly seek a vocation and likely have a greater and heavier cross to bear than you, and to whom you respond with self-righteous ravings about how real men should act. Real men act with courage. You waited to publish this article until you were out of seminary, ordained, and “safe” from reprisals – how is that a demonstration of manly courage? Where was your faith that God would protect your “righteous” message, and your courage to suffer the slings and arrows if He didn’t. The “soft” men you criticize don’t have the luxury of fighting for their vocations from a safe place.

    • Keith Marino says:

      Shame,

      You say, “Finally, a seminarian who doesn’t know his sexuality – oh what a problem. . . because?Apparently, even under a vow of celibacy, it matters with whom you ‘would’ sleep.”

      Answer: Yes is does matter. A man who discerns that God may be calling him to be a priest, an Alter Christus, must be a man who finds marriage to a woman and biological fatherhood to be desirous. He must be a man who voluntarily sacrifices a good, marriage and children, for a greater good, the holy priesthood. He gives up a physical spouse to make the Church his bride. He gives up biological children to become the father of many spiritual children. In other words, he must, as a priest, be both fatherly and husbandly. He must find both the priesthood and marriage to be desirous so he can authentically teach the great good of both sacraments lived out in a holy manner.

  26. What is truly sick is that a priest would write this kind of article. You speak not only of vice but of something that is naturally part of personality. No two people are the same. Some will be more “effeminate” than others. Your sources for your opinion are not Scripture or Apostolic teaching; rather, bias, uncomfortableness, a bit of homophobia, and traditional and backwards notions have infiltrated your thoughts.

    Keep bringing the reasons for people not wanting to be Catholic.

    • are we happy with the results of today’s Church? Growth, excellent pastoral services, PROPER catechesis?.. People are leaving in droves because they can’t handle the truth..They seem to want a Joel Olsteen “feel good Jesus”..get their fix for the day…Glad my pastor has a backbone and not a wishbone.

  27. Bill Russsell says:

    Some of our newer traditionalist movements claim to be reforming much of the decadence in modernist seminaries. However, I have been more than a little surprised at how some of these younger “traditionalist” seminarians and priests are obviously effeminate, and preoccupied with the outward accoutrements of the baroque rituals and vestments. More aesthetics than ascetics. Conservative Catholics are willing to ignore this so long as they can have the Extraordinary Use, which I prefer myself. But this only sows the seeds of future scandals – and very much parallels the homosexualization of the High Anglican ritualists, before the general collapse of Anglicanism itself.

  28. Yes, so true Father. My brother dropped out of Seton Hall Divinity School in the late 60s because of effeminates. I was in a “conservative” seminary (also studied at the Angelicum, Father — for a year in 1974) and there were effeminates in that seminary. I remember some Italians whistling at them because they walked the walk. I was clueless. I had my own sins, far worse, but of the opposite type. In any event, seminaries were infiltrated in my time, no question. I wanted to be a Capuchin. When I went to one of their houses to take a psychological exam, written, multiple-choice, I refused after reading the Freudian questions. I mean sick questions like “Would you wear pink underwear”. I kid you not. I refused to check any boxes and was rejected because, as the vocation director informed me, the order is looking for “stable” religious. I was unstable because I agreed to take the test then changed my mind. Padre Pio must be turning in his grave.. Things are probably better now.

  29. A very interesting and important article. I must say I am pleased that its author is in a position to actually enact some of the actions that are suggested in seminary formation. I would also agree with Chris that being effeminate is not the only problem that some adult men in the United States have that needs to be addressed in formation. The lack of maturity, what was once called the Peter Pan syndrome, also effects many young men in America. This is also a problem. It is one reason that so many young men in certain parts of the country are choosing not to marry. They do not forgo marriage out of spiritual discernment or in response to Providence, but because they are incapable of the kinds of giving sacrifice that is the core of all relationships built on true love, as are both Christian marriage and priestly or religious celibacy.
    I belong to a very good parish where I work with teens. Often we find more young males at our events than females. I put that down to the very strong representation of men in ministry there. Not just fathers, but also young men, both still single and just married, and older men whose sons and daughters have progressed beyond the teen years.
    So one thing that seminarians should be exposed to is the concept that men in the parish should be expect to be as involved in parish life as their wives, daughters and female friends. At all stages of life. This is very important for the spiritual formation of boys and young men. Father can’t make it happen by himself. But he can easily create an atmosphere where it won’t happen. And he can deliberately seek to bring such men into ministry at the parish.

  30. THANK YOU.

    Effeminacy is the elephant in the living room. All are afraid to broach the issue, and yet it is the very thing that drives away hoards of solid young men who are called to the priesthood but simply (understandably) cannot handle the effeminacy of his surroundings that pursuing the priesthood places him amidst. It also is what drives away hoards of unchurched men from returning to the Sacraments, for they (understandably, again) want absolutely nothing to do with the effeminate local parish/pastor.

    Lest anyone be concerned this is a merely human observation, here is what Jesus said to the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta in an approved private revelation of the 20th century:

    “My daughter, the bitternesses that creatures give Me are such that I cannot contain them; this is why I wanted to share them with you. In these times everything is effeminate; priests themselves seem to have lost the masculine characteristic and acquired the feminine characteristic. So, only rarely can a masculine priest be found; the rest – all effeminate. Ah, in what a deplorable state poor humanity is!”

  31. “why men in the Christian West are so little interested in religion, and that men who are interested often do not follow the general pattern of masculinity.”
    I think Ann Barnhardt stated the reason well:

    “Western men stopped going to Mass because heterosexual men naturally and rightly find faggotry to be utterly repulsive and repellant, and want nothing to do with it, and the priesthood was consciously infiltrated and populated with sodomite men and men who were conditioned to act like sodomites, after WWII.”

    http://www.barnhardt.biz/2015/04/12/why-men-stopped-going-to-mass/

  32. James in Perth says:

    A great article with many insightful comments. From my own experience, all of these comments are valid. I would simply add my belief that the greatest missionaries will be men in the image of Jesus — and that this would exclude effeminate men but certainly not sensitive, caring men. I hope that some or all of the suggestions in this article are implemented in the seminaries and in priestly formation. We need more men in the pews who appeal to others with their strength in body and spirit.

  33. St Olaf remembered says:

    Fr Mason, thank you for your articulate, dispassionate and courageous article. Effeminacy among priests causes great scandal among my non Catholic friends. Everything they “think” they know about the Church is confirmed by seeing one effeminate priest. The devilish thing is, there is absolutely no way to refute it — unlike other objections to the Church, it cannot be addressed by using reason, an appeal to natural law, or Catholic teaching. It is what it is. Unless the Church courageously addresses this — as you have done — God help us all.

  34. atasssina says:

    Fr., I was a seminarian during the 70s and 80s in Southern California. I was 18 and confused by what i saw. This vice was present and there was a promiscuity problem with both men/men and men/women. i did not want to understand at the time. I saw but did not analyze what I saw. I was too confused and afraid. I didn’t want to know because I wanted to become a priest and not a rebeller against the status quo. Later on my fears were confirmed. We need manly priests.

  35. Great article!!!! Great courage! It is off putting to have an effeminant priest. Makes you wonder….

  36. Newly Ordained Priest says:

    I recently completed six years of seminary training and was ordained a priest. Going into seminary in my mid-20’s, I was a bit concerned about this issue, whether there would be a dominant effeminate or possibly gay culture there. However this never ended up being a major issue at either of the two places in which I studied. Yes, there were some seminarians who could fit this criteria, but it was not a large percentage or the dominant culture of the seminary. I have noticed it among some faculty and middle aged priests more so than those of my generation and have heard plenty of stories from past years about other people’s seminary formation in the past. I think manly and orthodox seminarians are much more now the norm than they were in previous decades. Being effeminate does not necessarily make one a bad priest or seminarian but I agree with the author that it can be a distraction in ministry and should be treated in formation along with the many other issues that a person may have to work on.

  37. Catharine says:

    Thank you for this very excellent article. I think you should go all the way and say, the reason there are so many sexually deviant seminarians and priests is because for upwards of 55 years now, the seminaries have been actively recruiting and selecting them, and rejecting very many normal males. I recall watching a documentary on PBS a few years ago about the sex abuse scandal–the now-adult victim did a thorough investigation of the 1960 graduating class from his abuser’s seminary in Massachusetts. He showed a class photograph with the priests who had been convicted of chid sex abuse and/or had left the priesthood due to child sexual abuse–well over 10% of the class!
    One of the received truths of our age, unfortunately promoted by Cardinal Francis George of all people, in that infamous report, is that homosexuals are not child sex abusers. Nonsense! The “gay” movement has always had a large wing which is into “intergenerational” sex, i.e., adult males with minor males. NAMBLA was founded in part by sexually active, child sexually abusing Catholic priests, in fact, one of their mottos is “sex by 8 or it’s too late!”
    Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, about 10-15 years ago, a very highly regarded priest reported in the Chicago Sun-Times that when he was in seminary in the late 1960’s and very early 1970’s, his priest-professors at Mundelein Seminary would regularly recruit seminarians to sleep with visiting professors who were needless to say Catholic priests in good standing. He was careful to say no one was ever forced to do this, but that if you did not go along to get along, you would definitely pay the price.
    A few years after that article came out, the priests at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago started announcing from the pulpit during Sunday Mass that Mundelein Seminary had now been “cleaned up” and it now safe to allow your sons to go there. It is a crying shame that no one can talk about this.
    The Church has consistently taught, and Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed, that while persons suffering from same-sex attraction are to be shown every consideration, they are in no way to be admitted to ministry. Unfortunately, the received wisdom is that it is somehow un-Christian to talk about this sort of thing. I say it is most un-Christian to pretend the problem does not exist, as it permits the problem to grow and fester completely unchecked.

    • Well said about it being un-Christian to pretend the problem does not exist and it is disloyal to our King, Jesus.
      Before these scandals were exposed, I learned about them in the Lord’s conversations with Debra of Australia so I was not unprepared nor did I believe that the scandals were unsubstantiated. Our Lady has also indicated that some accused priests were innocent – satan’s revenge, I would say.

      What I find truly incredible is that some would put up with these conditions in seminaries simply to become priests themselves. I am persuaded that many left for these reasons. My primitive self rises when I hear of these things – I would like to pulverize anybody who suggested anything so disgusting to me. I would be hard put to restrain myself. May God help me!

  38. The article starts off by talking about “effeminacy” as a kind of softness and lack of resoluteness, but later on it turns out that “effeminacy” means things like swaying your hips and lisping. Is there really a connection between moral weakness and acting in a stereotypically “queenly” manner? Certainly there are plenty of guys who come across as masculine in their outward manner (very non-limp wrists, if you know what I mean) but who can’t stick to projects and follow through on commitments. And some guys with “gay” mannerisms can be pretty tough about achieving goals–think of the skater Brian Boitano, who acts pretty “gay” and is in fact homosexual, but who obviously has a lot of discipline, given that he won a gold medal. So I think there are at least two issues here that need to be disentangled.

    • I think that what you are leading to here is the need to have morally strong Christians, unafraid of offending anyone by telling them of God’s Love for them, and unafraid to actually adhere to and practice what Christ taught.

  39. My junior year of college I walked into a vocation director’s office and told him that I wanted to be a priest. But, I said that I did not want to attend a seminary with a gay culture. It was hard for me to bring up the issue. He politely told me that he didn’t think that I would be a good fit at that time. Sounds like he saved me a lot of misery.

  40. Catharine says:

    Father Mason, I think the larger problem (this very excellent article treats only one part of it) is that being a Catholic priest, at least in the Latin Church, requires a vow of perpetual celibacy. In several parts of the Bible are statements the effect that if you are contemplating taking a solemn, sacred oath or vow, to examine your own conscience carefully first. If after due examination of conscience and soul-searching, you do not in all good faith believe you are going to be able to live up to the sacred vow, then do not take it, and it will not be held agains you at your particular judgmnet. If, however, you do take the sacred vow, then you had better live up to it, or else be expected to face the consequences at your particular judgment.
    In the final analysis, if you take a sacred vow of perpetual celibacy, it means that you are vowing to never engage in voluntary sexual activity with another person for the rest of your life. Period. This means, men, women, adolescents, children, whatever.
    When one’s eternal salvation (as versus final damnation) is at stake, in the final analysis, it is really not going to matter whether one sinned with an adult female, an adult male, or whatever. Fornication, adultery, homosexual activity, child molestation–each of these constitutes a mortal sin and will land you in hell if you die unrepentant.
    We need to return to a culture where if you say something and profess to mean it, that you in fact are true to your word. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, the norm seems to be trending more and more to a constant, nonstop self-indulgence in every matter whatsoever.

  41. Msgr. Charles Pope says:

    Well written. Thank You!

  42. The manly cultivation of Christian virtues ought to be an all-around top priority during seminary life, as the author suggests.

    I highly recommend that every diocesan and religious seminarian read thoroughly, at least one time, the spiritual masterpiece of Fr. Alphonsus Rogriguez, originally published in Spanish in 1609, translated into English directly from the Spanish by Fr. Joseph Rickaby in 1929. The entire text is freely accessible via the Internet Archive:

    Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues
    https://archive.org/details/PPCV-Manresa
    https://archive.org/download/PPCV-Manresa/PPCV-Manresa.pdf

    A fruitful half-hour of mental prayer can be made from the material on almost every page in this neglected classic.

  43. Seminarian says:

    As a man currently in religious formation in the United States for four years, I say this article speaks nothing but the truth as I have likewise experienced it.

    • Don’t weaken! May God give you courage and perseverance. My prayers are with you. God bless.

  44. This is a true story about a Cardinal who went to a party and met a woman classmate. She was very devoted to helping the nuns but she wore the fashion of the day for active women. The Cardinal said to her “when are you going to stop wearing a tie?” She said to him, “when you stop wearing a dress!” He went away without further comment.
    Maybe the fellows need to rethink their attire just as the women religious had to update their habits to help bring Christ to the modern world.

    • Amen to that, sister.

      • What do men in the middle east wear. Do they wear dresses?

      • I am from the east and have a different perspective about religion than westerners. If people in the West get off their high horse they will notice that clergy dress in generally similar to the attire that was worn by the founders or a certain period of time. Buddhist, Hindus and all major religion from the east including Christianity do this. Christianity is from the east and the clergy dress in something similar to what men wear in the middle east even today. Their attire identifies them as clergy.

  45. Coddled since childhood, adored by the aunts, never really in the world – today’s average American-born seminarian is missing the fatherly/manly qualification. I’d rather have half the priests we now have than to keep getting a diet of effeminate ones.

  46. Patrick C Fitzsimons says:

    This is an excellent article by Fr. Mason which touches on one of the most troubling aspects of priesthood in the modern world. I have been a priest for fourteen years and I came through the formation system of the 1990s, where the effeminate gay culture was systemic, and to challenge it in anyway could end the seminary career of a good orthodox seminarian. I, and many others, survived the system by playing by the rules and keeping our heads down below the radar only to encounter its effects on Diocesan structures among bishops and priests. In my experience, there is a large gay culture that functions in the Catholic Church of the United States which expresses itself in the preaching of the popular culture, rather than what the Church holds true in faith and morals. When I was ordained, I took an oath, as all priests do, to be faithful to the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church. I take this oath very seriously because, by virtue of my role as a priest and teacher, I am responsible for the souls of those whom I minister to. This effeminate gay culture within the Church is putting many souls at-risk, and needs to be taken seriously as a danger to the Church, and be addressed. Thanks again for this timely article.

  47. Robert Dean Jr says:

    Very good article, with an accurate premise. Having attended a seminary for many years and keeping tabs on seminaries, Fr. Mason is spot on. I am a clutz as a mechanic, along with inherited lack of athletic ability; but even in the 78-86 when I attended, recognized a need to give a firm handshake, among other manly attributes. At the same time, the same weakness not addressed leaves our good priests and deacons with a feminine mindset that unintentionally lets good Catholic men avoid proper challenge to be Godly men. For instance, in the men’s group, while the thanks is needed and appreciated, we tend to leave it at a few charitable works of mercy as being the pinnacle of our Catholic faith. Especially in this day and age, men as a rule still react to proper expression of emotions as anathema; and, in part because of effeminancy in attitude and atmosphere of liturgy and parish life overall, often confusing their spiritual role of leader, husband and father with avoiding emotions all together. In other words the improper, inadequate expression of faith they see being projected is used as an excuse not to grow spiritually intro warriors for the Lord with the appropriate use of manly emotions and passions–thus avoiding an active prayer life, growth in actually reading Sacred Scripture, Catechism and the wealth the Church as to provide, confusing the “good ole boy” syndrome as being all they need to get by. Either that or they leave all together.
    There are many positive signs. In our area we have programs such as Alpha, Cursillo being revived, and other moves. However, we are still in the mindset of not actually truly addressing the male ego and it’s needs.. Until we recognize how inadequately we are addressing the male ego, in particular with areas such as the role of man a spiritual leader, (including finally seriously addressing a long term issue of the male role in contraception), we have to ask ourselves if we are ultimately promoting an atmosphere of maintenance.
    Would that we could break free of the often confused “peace and justice” mentality and equip our men to pursue true Catholic spirit of social justice, starting with our families. Would that we can break free of the effeminate rendering of Isaiah 2.4, “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and there spears into pruning hooks”. Would that we could balance the truth of the peace of the Lord Jesus God becoming man expressed in the passage with the reality we are in this world, while not of it, for St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6.11-12: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Would that we can say today is a day and age for men as expressed in Joel 3.9-10: “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up, Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am a warrior.”

    • The male role in contraception and abortion are HUGE and largely unaddressed issues! Wimps and bastards are procreating and running away like a bunch of over-estrogenised sissies; most of the rest are contracepting and sitting back and letting the women deal with it. This is the real MAMMOTH in the room! This brings SHAME on men and weakens society in general.

      What happened to self-control?

  48. I appreciate your courage in putting a name to something that is slowly eating away at the power of true manhood, that along with strong womanhood, can redeem our broken world. I would like to make known that Bishop Carlson is not the only one taking steps to get to know his dioceses seminarians well. Bishop Choby, the bishop of the diocese of Nashville is the vocations director and accepts each of them into the seminary personally and has the opportunity to develop a relationship with each one. And his efforts have paid off, last year was a record year around the country for priestly ordinations and many people in the parishes with the newly ordained priests are very impressed. What you prescribe in a Bishop’s presence among seminarians is making a difference in Nashville.

  49. Bill McCutcheon says:

    Excellent article. Long overdue.
    Thank you!
    (A former seminarian)

  50. rev dan hesko says:

    Bravo Father, you hit the nail right on the head.

  51. Magdalene says:

    Yes, having experienced a gay priest I will tell you that many left the Church. I moved away.

    • Then those who left didn’t love our Lord enough or at all. Using judgements against anyone, let alone a priest, is scandalous and not sufficient reason to leave a church or move away. It’s between us and God. It has nothing to do with our judgment of others perceived “bad” behavior(s). A priest, whether effeminate, masculine, gay or straight, is still God’s child. For all those who judge others, you will also be judged accordingly. Therefore, practice a truly authentic relationship with the Lord by loving everyone, incl., effeminate or gay priests. Shame on many Catholics.

  52. What a great article, and I thank you. At the foundation of the issue is the call to celibacy, which Fr. does address. I know a few middle aged priests who have rebelled against the effeminacy, perhaps subconsciously, and become attached to flirting with and, in some cases, seducing women in distressing circumstances. This too, is a huge problem, but one that I hope we will see cycle out of the ministerial priesthood relatively soon, due to better formation and discernment. In any case, the understanding of our sexuality is misunderstood by nearly everyone in our world and our culture. To know how to love, authentically, is surely something we will be taught, in his Mercy.

  53. Cradle Catholic says:

    In my lifetime, I have seen gay bishops and priests. i agree with the person who said the problem is also about the vow of celibacy. I feel priests should be allowed to marry. The priesthood, because of this enforced celibacy, is attracting the wrong kind of men. We have three married deacons in my parish who are all married with children and grandchildren. They are wonderful men and would make wonderful priests. This celibacy in the Latin rite is a man-made rule. I have also found that priests seem very immature compared to a lay man of the same age. There is nothing like having a wife and family to make a man mature right quick. I hope this celibacy rule will be changed in the years to come. I think we will have a better quality of priests.

    • I strongly disagree with you, CC. In the days to come there will be more priests who live authentically celibate lives because we all will have a better understanding of the gift of our sexuality. Married priests are not the answer; it is not a case of either/or. Ordained priests have received the graces necessary to live chastely and celibately, just as married people have received the graces necessary to life faithfully, fruitfully and chastely in their vocation. It is not a matter of enforced celibacy attracting the “wrong kind of men”, but of the men who are called to the priesthood to call on those graces to live the vocation they have received and which has the ability to make them, not only fulfilled and happy, but holy. For your history review, I suggest Cardinal Stickler’s, The Case for Celibacy: It’s Historical Development and Theological Foundations. You will see there that once men were called to the priesthood in the first (few) centuries Church, they did not live with their wives as husband and wife, but forsake their natural marital relations for Christ and his Church, as did deacons. Please, the supposed call for a married priesthood as the norm is only a diversion, a ruse, and actually gives into this weakness the article has sought to reveal and confirm for us. Just because weaker men are unhappy with their call now, and we, the laity, want them to “feel better”, does not call us to give weight to this specious argument. We are all called to a life of sacrifice for Christ, and a significant portion of the gift of priesthood rests on his total sacrifice for the sake of Christ’s bride, the Church.

    • fruborgdy says:

      I disagree. You confuse celibacy with chastity. Celibacy means to not marry. Many men don’t have a problem vowing to not marry. :-) But vowing to chastity of mind and body is quite different. These effeminate seminarians are not practicing celibacy before or after ordination. I knew a young church pastor who was very effeminate and lived a homosexual lifestyle in an open secret. He had his own apartment in the boystown area of Chicago and refused to live in the parish rectory. In his office were not only theological tomes but also new age. He was very sarcastic about the Church. I always felt like he thought he was pulling a fast one. He had a job of high respect in the community, adoring parishioners and he could still have his pleasurable lifestyle living in the heart of the gay community. This was in the mid-80s. When the scandals began I wasn’t surprised at all. Dare I say that when Pope Benedict brought back the glitzier vestments of the papacy past it came across to me as effeminate compared to St John Paul II or Pope Francis. Hasn’t the Youth Movement of the past 28 yrs had an impact on more masculine vocations?

  54. Paul Becke says:

    What is particularly sad about this, is that in England, at least, Catholic priests are normally seen as more macho than their Protestants counterparts. I read some years ago that in the prisons being a Catholic carries a certain ‘cachet’! Well, proportionally we are over-represented in our prison populations, it’s true; which I put down largely to the burden placed on them by the legalistically self-righteous, triumphalist, clericalist types.

  55. Paul Becke says:

    At least in my day, C of E vicars were seen by working-class folk as privately educated, middle-class types who spoke in kind of unctuous tones, and were mostly associated with tea-parties comprising mostly elderly ladies from a similar background.

    Probably a gross slander but that was the perception. If someone swore, one of his pals he was talking to, might turn his head and say: ‘Evening vicar’ to an imaginary clergyman, as if he were a maiden aunt.

  56. In the 80’s I took a class at our Seminary with the Seminarians….the stories heard were horrible. I often talked with some of the Seminarians in my classes. One, a lawyer, left the seminary because of what was going on…..homosexuals acting out. We had seminarians to our home for dinner….could I tell you stories…..and these men were ordained, the Bishop was informed, and they are now Priests and continue to have boyfriends…so….what can I say….this was 25 years ago…and it continues.

  57. As I begin my seventh decade on this planet one reality is paramount. The American people do not like to be told the truth if it affects their mindset negatively. Fr. Mason has honestly addressed a topic that is taboo in an age of political correctness gone amok. A couple of points. Everyday in this nation 3,000+ babies die before they are ever given their first breath. Have you ever heard the “Prayers of the Faithful” state it that way? No, we pray for the born and the unborn. Much more politically correct. Several commenters have spoken of “the oath”. Whether it be celibacy or an oath before God in marriage, they are not to be broken. How many divorces happen everyday? And the fact that gay priests are driving men out of the US Catholic Church. What man wants to confess, face to face, with a effeminate homosexual? The recommendation by one of the earlier commenters is the best of all…..purchase and read “Goodbye, Good Men” by Michael S. Rose. Although out of print, you can find it through Amazon. But then, my fellow Americans, it is the truth.

  58. Would have large Vilnius Image of Divine Mercy , in every room of the seminarians ,
    for The Spirit of The Father, to flow in to form the future fathers and heal father wounds ,
    by every moment being taken up to His Heart , so that the mission of The Lord, to reveal to us The Father gets done faithfully .
    The more effeminate images of The Lord and of St.John need to be replaced – the latter as the youngest and who thus related to The Lord as more like a son , a beloved son , being depicted as the Son of Thunder !
    The Church as a whole as The Bride , The Lord as Bridegroom for The Church, rest as children –
    for those who need such a focus , to thus do away with too much identifying with The Bride theme .

    The Stations of The Cross devotion, even daily – seeing The Lord, taking in the sorrows and wounds of our hearts , in the one ness of The Father love – Our Lady of Kibeho had advised the Seven Sorrows Rosary , which is very much related, as a cure for personality issues , which are rather intractable otherwise .
    Learning Hebrew and the psalms , esp. ones with deliverance themes of spiritual warfare might be good aid .
    And devotion to The Immaculate Heart , to do away with any deep seated envy or resentments and spirit of competition with women ,hatred or fear towards life , may be from same in one’s own parents , asking for mercy and deliverance from such familial agents , by the holy love of the parents of Blessed Mother, celebrated in The Immaculate Conception , asking for that love to pour into our own hearts from the moment of our own conception , often praising The Father for same – hope The Spirit can do marvels in many lives of those who want to serve our Lord and The Church , from the awareness of the truth of the sacredness and preciousness of the lives of each !
    ‘ Praise the Lord my soul ‘ – may that be the motto of the brothers and sisters and each of us too !

  59. Forgotten vice? Vatican II turned the seminaries into sorority houses! Everyone knows that. You know, “Goodbye, Good Men,” “The Rite of Sodomy.” We know what Satan and his minions did to our Church. Forgotten vice, pshaw…

  60. Thank you, Father, for this excellent article, which is spot on. I attended a seminary in the early 1980s. There were many fine men, but also, unfortunately, this subculture which you describe. One of my close friends, in describing those who were obviously effeminate, called them “feminarians.” It was very interesting how guys responded to the attention of other guys. We would often get togther in Chapel, the Library, the weight room, or to critique each other’s spiritual writing. The time spent created a bond and strengthened us in our journey. However, some of the guys I spent time with were those who could be described as effeminate. They responded differently to these experiences. There was “flirting.” I was propositioned. I had advances made toward me. It did not end as they had hoped. Upon seeing my response, they would panic, plead with me that they were “just kidding,” or they would just resign from the seminary. I am pleased to say that the administration was open to legitimate reports. They investigated and took appropriate action. Unfortunately, some of them probably just moved to another Diocese and started over. We need authentic, manly priests. Those who are, are like beacons. Thank you again, Father, for this article! Thank you, Heavenly Father, for providing this, your Priest, with the fortitude to write this. AMDG!!

  61. http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/the-question-every-pro-lifer-needs-to-ask-themselves.html

    The above article helps to crystalise the theme of salvation , many who carry the error in the needed foundation , that our capacity to love is related to our own recognition of the sacredness and worth, from belonging to our Father ( and The Lord’s warning words, on how one can belong to
    the father below as well . )
    LIving in a fallen world , if The Lord has allowed priests with fallen traits that reflect same in the wider world ,that too can be seen even as an aspect of mercy at on level , as in God’s promise of how all things work for good for those who love God ( not to condone serious issues which thankfully The Church is already dealing with .)
    ‘ Pray for us sinners ‘ – we ask our Mother and She slowly works in the depth of the hearts of us all, including those that come into our lives who too need to take in more of the truth of the preciousness and sacredness of each , from belonging to The Father .
    Forgiving the occasions in others when they fall short , praying with them / for them , brings forgiveness , at levels that God alone knows , of debts from may be receiving communion , without love and reverence , for all occasions we too have not recognized and acted on the dignity of ourselves or others , including esp. the dignity of every priest in The Lord , which when honored , is our reverence and gratitude for The Lord .
    Such aspects then can helps us to bring forth fruit , such as couples extending similar mercy and sense of sacredness to each other, parents and children and so on which might help to eradicate many other ailments of our times that tears up families !

  62. As a woman, I do not think boys have enough masculine leaders in their lives. They need a strong Father presence that is a holy Catholic man, one who leads the family in prayer and going to Mass. Many times this is handed off to the mother, and it should not be. Boys should play manly sports with men as coaches. Boys need to be rough and tumble… The feminists ” society” that has attained such great heights in our society is ruining young men….. Boys need strong men in leadership to understand what it is to be a man!

  63. Mary Alvidrez says:

    We are all children of God. We owe it to Him to pray for our priests. They represent Jesus Christ. They administer the sacraments to us, which flood us, and our families with an infinite amount of graces. They change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, an awesomeness no one can replicate. Jesus Christ is there standing next to them while they are saying mass. He is blessing us and filling us with an over abundance of graces. The priest is leading us to our eternal home. His actions and words are so powerful and do so much for our souls. I could go on and on. We need to take a closer look at our priests, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand their true role in bringing Christ to us. Perhaps those who are blind, deaf, in a coma, those who are too sick to attend mass, or come to church to pray, paralyzed, suffer severe mental/physical disabilities, or the caregivers of the sick, see, hear, and understand the presence of Christ in our priests.

  64. G. McCaffrey says:

    Fr. Jim outstanding article and one I know you live and standby. There is a lot to be discussed pertaining to the truths you so eloquently stated, but on my part brevity is the more potent delivery.

    1.) men worlwide are physically, mentally and physiologically weaker then men from a century ago. This is well documented from the basis of our food consumption (ie. soy beans a base filler for many food products has a high concentration of estrogen) to our laziness which begets cowardice!

    2.) Priests sole purpose is to SERVE God by SERVING the people with integrity, humility and prudence. This personified is a priest who teaches not only in his homilies but also perpetually lives his faith with others 24/7 all the while abhoring clericalism!

    3.) Cardinals/ Bishops sole purpose is to SERVE God by SERVING the people and SERVING the priests; thus the higher one climbs the church elite the lesser his status should become as a SERVANT TO THE SERVANTS. Not so well observed among the princes of the church. So we must emphatically state the obvious to utter annoyance as Jesus did so propheticaly… “Peter do you LOVE me?”.
    We all know the follow thru on this one.

    4.) We must love each other in our current existence, all the while praying and inviting each other into a deeper relationship with the Holy Trinity and a deeper reality of our calling here in this world… To serve and help each other pursue our ultimate goal of ETERNAL LIFE… TOGETHER!

    case in point is the eulogy of Andy Worhol. (Find it, Read it!)

  65. fruborgdy says:

    Thank you Father for speaking a tough truth. My prayer is also for HOLY priests. If a man struggles with effeminacy but Christ is his all and all can still be effective in ministry. A priest friend told me 30 yrs ago that seminary was difficult because of effeminate homosexuals. My friend is a manly type and said some effeminate seminarians tried to recruit him as a boyfriend because of his masculinity. It was disturbing. The effeminate seminarians received “better” church politics assignments upon ordination. But my friend has a powerful ministry as a missioner in a US border city. An effeminate priest or unholy one couldn’t work in those tough conditions- physically and spiritually arduous.

  66. Paul Becke says:

    What resonated very powerfully, Father, was that, seemingly almost pulling your hair out – I believe you twice mentioned that, even greater than the problem of the effeminate lads, were the superiors who had countenanced their novitiate. That’s the spigot, isn’t it? As for an ear-ring in each ear…!

  67. One lesson from the scandals of the Legionnairs which resulted also from the extreme isolation of the students might be , how to involve the families more
    into seminary life , by having them come and experience seminary life with their sons , at frequent enough intervals , extending the involvement even to extended families, friends and families ; unsure if the current model is from long past days when transportation issues and such excluded their involvement at deeper levels .
    Such a focus with the intent to incorporate Family healing themes can possibly make a good difference – true , it is an evolving area that is not without controversies even though the good in same possibly outweighing the negatives and could benefit from further involvement , may be with the families of the seminarians themselves .
    The related deliverance ministry could help families to possibly offer more support in ways that matter ;
    their days at the seminary , attending even a few classes , prayer life of course and side line ministry such as mission to the homeless or nursing homes in the area while visiting , distributing may be St.Benedict medals, deliverance prayers around troubled areas – all would help them and when they return home, the home communities at large .
    One good trait in many of those who have given over their life to The Lord seems to be, how they have a deeper interest in the spiritual as well as temporal aspects of the lives of the family , in the right order .
    Ways to augment same might help the overall health of both at larger levels !

  68. I know men whose masculinity is not at all doubtful who are very interested in religion and the Catholic Church. Of course they will not find too many parishioners who think as they do.So i think Leon Podles is not correct in saying that men who come to church are ‘odd’
    Also people seem to forget that in homosexual and lesbian “relationships” one of the pair is the “man” and the other is the “woman”.So a gay person can be very macho looking!
    We are all called to grow into the manhood of Christ!

  69. Brendan Marshall says:

    Great article, Father.
    This is the elephant in the room of the sex abuse scandal and this is where the solution to it truly lies; in the seminaries. A population cohort comprising 1-2% of the general population was responsible for over 80% of the abuse cases. That says it all.

    All the hand-wringing and hot air about “zero tolerance” is nothing more than after-the-fact damage control and posturing for the secular screamers . Those who are truly serious about getting to grips with this problem know that those who act “like a bunch of women” have no business being ordained and should be shown the door. As the Church has repeatedly counseled, those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies are not to be admitted to the priesthood.

    Their presence in ordained ministry is an indictment of spiritual directors, seminary rectors and bishops. The real solution to the sex abuse issue lies in rigorous vetting of those who present themselves for ordination.

  70. Great article. It is a subject that needs to be discussed, but it seems no one in the Church wants to. The feminization of the Church has destroyed its credibility and its strength. Not only are the priests feminized, but the liturgy and the theology is being feminized. The liturgy has become just empty words and responses. They emptied it of any theological and spiritual depth. There is no longer any expectation of fasting or abstaining even during lent. No effort is even expected, so how can you expect to attract or produce men?

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  1. […] on my Head Truth and Tolerance: Why the Church Can’t Change Her Teaching – Fulton J. Sheen The Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation – Fr. James Mason, Homiletic & Pas Rev Essential Excerpts f/Obergefell v Hodges: […]

  2. […] Louis has a new seminary rector, Fr. James Mason. A while ago he wrote this piece about “The Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation,” which the Chief forwarded to me, remembering a post of mine on Facebook in which I […]

  3. […] following comes from a July 27 Homiletic and Pastoral Review Magazine article by Father James […]

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