Former Jesuit (for reference, Pope Francis was a Jesuit) who left the order and the Church/religion. Been secular about a year and half now.

Edit: I hoped I would only have to answer this once, but it keeps coming up. It is true that I was not actually a monk, since the Jesuits are not a cloistered order. If any Benedictines are out there reading this, I apologize if I offended you. But I did not imagine that a lot of people would be familiar with the term "vowed religious." And honestly, it's the word even most Jesuits probably end up resorting to when politely trying to explain to a stranger what a Jesuit is.

Edit 2: Have to get ready for work now, but happy to answer more questions later tonight

Edit 3: Regarding proof, I provided it confidentially to the mods, which is an option they allow for. The proof I provided them was a photo of the letter of dismissal that I signed. There's a lot of identifying information in it (not just of me, but of my former superior), and to be honest, it's not really that interesting. Just a formal document

Edit 4: Wow, didn’t realize there’d be this much interest. (Though some of y’all coming out of the woodwork.) I’ll try to get to every (genuine) question.

Edit 5: To anyone out there who is an abuse survivor. I am so, so sorry. I am furious with you and heartbroken for you. I hope with all my heart you find peace and healing. I will probably not be much help, but if you need to message me, you can. Even just to vent

Comments: 2773 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

dankine1164 karma

Why'd you leave?

particularuniversal2504 karma

Wasn’t really one single reason, there were a bunch. Political, cultural, personal, intellectual. But a major breaking point was that at the time I was studying philosophy (with permission from the order), and I was studying Kant, Hegel, Marx, Neitzsche. Really hard to maintain it if you take any of those guys seriously.

Also learning about Church history (and I’m not talking about the crusades, like even the past couple hundred years)

EAS893782 karma

Really hard to maintain it if you take any of those guys seriously.

Idk about that. You can certainly take an idea seriously and understand the logical foundation that can lead someone to think a particular way while still coming to a different conclusion yourself.

particularuniversal1034 karma

In some cases that’s true. But there are times/thoughts/arguments where you have to make a decision. For example, it is Catholic dogma that the existence of God can be known by human reason, whereas Kant argues at length (to me, convincingly) that human reason is capable of no such thing. They can’t both be right. That’s just one example.

Edit: a word

mongoosefist1120 karma

What do you miss the most since you left the church?

particularuniversal2611 karma

Honestly, this might sound shallow, but financial and vocational security. Having great health insurance, not paying rent, free food and booze, and always guaranteed a job. When I decided to leave, the few non-religious friends I had at the time were like, “What are you doing? This is an amazing deal!”

It was, but it came with a price

Edit: a word

Daddy_0103706 karma

What was that price?

particularuniversal2265 karma

Vow of obedience. And chastity. (Jesuit poverty doesn’t really count.) And living your whole life representing an institution you’re not sure at the end of the day is really defensible. Your life really isn’t your own. And, like, you get reminded of that in so many words on a regular basis

Bekiala389 karma

I thought you all had four vows as opposed to the typical 3. I was with the Cistercians for awhile. They had vows of obedience, change of ways and stability.

What were your vows? All I can remember is you all had something to do with the pope.

particularuniversal757 karma

Yes, most Jesuits eventually do take a 4th vow of loyalty to the pope. There’s a difference between first vows and final vows. I had taken first vows (poverty, chastity, obedience), which in the Jesuits are perpetual (I had to write a letter to Rome to get dismissed from them). But eventually, after ordination and time in ministry, you get invited to take final vows, and final vows may or may not include the 4th vow (it’s up to the bigwigs whether they offer it to you or not, and it’s very secretive; no one is supposed to know who has it or doesn’t. But most guys have it).

You have to be in the order for about 15+ years to make it to final vows

particularuniversal239 karma

Cistercians— that’s hard core

Aww_Uglyduckling114 karma

Free booze as in communion wine? Was their always a stocked fridge?

particularuniversal480 karma

No I mean free booze as in every community has a liquor cabinet and, yes, a fully stocked fridge. Toward the end when I knew I was one my way out, my favorite part of daily mass was looking forward to a nice Dewars after

WeededDragon1322 karma

TIL monks get lit

easyxtarget181 karma

Well they don't fuck so they have to have something.

particularuniversal377 karma

You don’t know how true that is

Greystoke1337930 karma

What do you do for a living now?

particularuniversal1467 karma

I’m a server and actively looking for jobs in publishing. You know anybody?

Orangebird499 karma

The publishing field is notoriously hard to break into. The people I know who have jobs in publishing are either unpaid slush readers or low-level editors working in presses associated with their university press, and higher level editors have been in their positions for years, even decades.

Are you looking for publishing or are you looking for writing jobs? They overlap, but writing is producing content whereas publishing is the business of getting that content out into the world (to grossly oversimplify).

particularuniversal428 karma

Yeah I’ve applied to more Editorial Assistant jobs than I can count. I do also enjoy writing, have thought about trying to find some freelance writing work

SeniorDiggusBickus701 karma

Maybe a little personal but did you ever struggle with the vow of celibacy? I feel like that goes against the very fabric of being human and had to be a bitch to subdue

particularuniversal878 karma

Yeah, for sure I did. And some guys who seemed to have a higher sex drive than me struggled with it a LOT. I felt/feel bad for them

TenaciousCurls520 karma

I go to a Catholic school called Seton Hall in NJ We’ve got a couple of monks on campus (long grey robes) and I see them playing soccer in them, and ultimate frisbee. Are you constantly wearing the robes, and if so how long did it take for your body to adjust to wearing them all the time?

particularuniversal606 karma

Jesuits used to wear black robes with a sash up until Vatican II (early 60s), but then they went back to wearing street clothes. At formal occasions you had to wear the Roman collar, otherwise whatever

Mr_Shad0w516 karma

Did you guys ever have a West Side Story-style snap-and-dance battle with the Franciscans?

particularuniversal417 karma

Haha would have been fun. There was definitely a bit of a rivalry, but it was all in fun

Melloninjoy441 karma

How was it readapting to secular life?

particularuniversal942 karma

Fun and challenging at the same time. Everything seemed new, like I was doing it for the first time. Even little things, like buying sheets. And although I have lived in the world before, it was my first time really being a secular person, because I’d always been intensely religious before. So figuring that out was fun too.

Of course, it’s lonely. Definitely that. And then pretty quick you realize you need to look for a job and start paying rent and oh yeah, health insurance. So bittersweet, I’d say

randombits383 karma

Sounds like getting out of prison after a long stretch.

particularuniversal399 karma

Haha maybe a little. Definitely felt like a whole different kind of life

Kelathar401 karma

Do you still believe in God?

particularuniversal779 karma

Oddly, I do, though I have no real reason or arguments as to why. It seems to just kind of be in me. But I don’t practice anymore; I don’t go to mass or pray and would consider myself non-religious

mikeywicky370 karma

What will you take with you from that experience?

particularuniversal581 karma

I grew a lot. I don’t regret leaving, but I’m grateful I did it. Made me a better person. Had experiences I never would have otherwise. Went to new places. Met some great people. (Some real assholes, too, but since I’m not in it anymore, now I only talk to the ones I liked)

marvinwaitforit355 karma

Did everyone in your order/community seem to be genuine? Or was anyone obviously lying about their faith?

particularuniversal1041 karma

Most guys seemed pretty genuine. Some guys (though in the Jesuits, not all that many, but you’d find this a lot more in other sectors of Catholicism) were so rigid and austere in their faith that you were like, what are you hiding from? And there were a couple who, on rare moments or when we’d been drinking heavily, were open about their doubts. I admired them

Edit: a couple words

armbone284 karma

Could you describe your day to day? Did you have any stand out experiences?

particularuniversal725 karma

Day to day varied depending on what stage of “formation” you were in, and what your ministry/assignment was. When I left, I had been granted permission to start graduate studies in philosophy. So I took classes and wrote papers like a regular student. But then also you were expected to go to daily mass (theoretically 7 days/week) and be at community dinner as often as possible. Mass was held in the community chapel every day except Sunday, so you just had to walk downstairs or across the hall to get there. And you were expected to pray for about an hour a day on your own.

A couple standout experiences, both from the novitiate (two-year boot camp before taking vows). I spent two Saturdays at a Church in McAllen, TX, which is a major arrival point for the people coming up from Central America seeking asylum. This parish had at the time at least been given special permission by ICE to help people. So like, ICE would literally drop these people off at the parish after they had processed them. Many arrived wearing ankle bracelets. Anyway, they gave them food, toiletries, and a place to rest. Since these people were seeking asylum, they all had a court date, and most had someone in the US they knew to stay with until then. So the volunteers would also inform people about their court dates and their rights and where to catch the bus.

Well, my first day there I remember meeting Anthony. He was 15 and from El Salvador. He’d come up with his mom. He told me they had hopped trains, and had frequently had to duck and hide. His back hurt. I still think of him often. Anthony, I hope you’re ok.

Another interesting (and far less serious in a humanitarian sense) time was when they sent us out with a one-way bus ticket and $35 cash and said, don’t come back for a month. That one was actually kinda fun...

b3bblebrox250 karma

I want to hear more about the month on $35. How did you do it?

particularuniversal992 karma

The most interesting part was when I made it to Maine. I was trying to make it to Acadia but didn’t have much money left and was spending the night in Portland. Wanted to sleep outside by the water, found a place that I thought would be out of view of cops, but it was still late April and by 10:00 it was too cold. So I walked back to the men’s shelter (I’d learned it’s location previously just in case), and fortunately they still had room.

Next day took the bus to Bangor and then got out at the bus station and had to figure out what to do next. Station attendant said he thought maybe there was a shuttle then a ferry, but he wasn’t sure. I spotted a middle aged couple in the parking lot packing up their car. They looked outdoorsy and cool. I walked up to them and asked if they knew how to get to Acadia. They paused for a minute and looked at each other, and then she looked back at me and said, “We live there. We’ll give you a ride.”

There was more than enough time on the way down to explain what I was doing (Jesuit Novice on “pilgrimage,” as they called this experience). Turns out R and J had just moved into their new home from D.C., and needed a lot of work done around the place. We agreed that, in return for working around their place, I would stay with them and be able to explore Acadia. And it turned out the first thing they wanted done was to get the invasive Norway maples out of their yard. So R taught me how to use a chainsaw, and I spent half of each day as a Maine woodsman cutting down trees. Then I got on a bike and rode around the park and hiked.

Edit: a few words

theshaeman233 karma

Is Pope Francis no longer a Jesuit?

particularuniversal404 karma

Not technically, no. He stopped being one the moment he became a bishop. Anyone who is in a religious order is released from their vows if they are ordained a bishop. (Though I think he probably still is a Jesuit in his heart)

Edit: a word

akersmacker97 karma

I understood him to be a 'Black Pope', meaning one of the Jesuit tradition. Could you please explain this? Thank you!

particularuniversal216 karma

"Black Pope" was an old term used to refer to the superior general (worldwide superior) of the Jesuits, back in the day when they used to wear black robes. So that term didn't apply to the actual pope

MrFurrypants218 karma

What was the internal party line when it came to allegations of impropriety?

particularuniversal440 karma

I’m guessing you mean sexual impropriety? Well, you would be removed from ministry for starters. Then it would depend on whether there were legal allegations (I.e., was it a minor or did you just have an affair?). If it was with a consenting adult, then you would probably be out of public ministry for a while and so some serious retreat time and probably therapy. Eventually you might be returned to ministry.

These days, the Jesuits have cleaned up their act and do cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

BunkytheClown194 karma

Were you in the order long enough to learn that Jesuits aren't monks?

particularuniversal459 karma

Haha, I figured I’d take some heat for that. I know, but I put it in the title because I figured the distinction between “monk” and “vowed religious” would be lost on most people

WhipsandPetals187 karma

What were the boring and ridiculous things that you won't miss?

particularuniversal466 karma

“Faith Sharing.” These were these mandatory peer accountability groups where you had to meet with other guys to talk about your struggles and your relationship with God. God, was it awful.

Any kind of mandatory community meeting. And fuck am I glad I never have to attend another chastity workshop. (Yup, we had those)

SilentG33158 karma

Have you been dating at all since you left the church?

particularuniversal408 karma

Not a whole lot, not as much as I’d like. Still trying to feel comfortable in my own skin first as a secular person, and also trying to get things in order financially/vocationally, etc

And fuck, it’s intimidating. But it’s on the agenda

Macehands139 karma

Do you ever second guess your decision?

That was a big commitment.

particularuniversal288 karma

Thanks for asking. No, I haven’t regretted leaving once. I also don’t regret having joined

vagabonddiesel138 karma

Excorcisms - are they actually a thing? And if so, would you mind sharing your viewpoints and experiences with them?

particularuniversal343 karma

They are a thing, they’re very rarely done though. Every diocese has one trained exorcist, and his identity is usually not supposed to be known. They only resort to exorcism in very rare extreme cases, when they’ve supposedly exhausted all other options.

Personally, I do not believe demons exist

Glaic120 karma

Out of all types of monks, which is your favourite? And if there any form of rivalry? Like do the Jesuits make fun of the Gregorians?

particularuniversal242 karma

There is kind of a rivalry, these days mostly friendly. (In the past it wasn’t always so). I like the Jesuits for their commitment (at least in theory) to study and learning. I like the Franciscans because they actually live the vow of poverty

Guns_57111 karma

Went to Catholic HS. Our class valedictorian had gone to Catholic school his whole life and shared with me his view that "The Catholic Church is the biggest business in the world." What are your thoughts on this, especially considering the funding of religious orders like Jesuits and Capuchins?

particularuniversal179 karma

Yeah the Church is definitely wealthy. In my city they are one of the largest property owners. And the Jesuits definitely have money. And the leadership of the order (at least in North America) thinks in very practical terms, and there’s a lot of HR/corporate lingo

Edit: a word

KyleReese35107 karma

I went to Catholic grade school & high school and was a practicing Catholic until about 10-15 years ago,

I am fully aware of how many Catholics drink but what your views on drug use? Would you get in trouble if you got caught smoking pot? What about if you got hurt & required opiate painkillers but continued taking them even if you didn't need them & got addicted. Is there punishment for addiction (outside of alcoholism)?

particularuniversal261 karma

So one time a young Jesuit— it was a friend of mine, guys, honestly— may or may not have smoked up with a friend of a brother who had just taken vows that day at his celebration party. The guy felt so bad he went to his superior the next day and confessed it all. And his superior said: “Was that a wise decision?”


“Are you going to do it again?”


End of conversation.

There are addiction treatment centers for men and women who are in religious orders. The prevalence of alcoholism among priests and vowed religious is high. Drug use less so, but the scenario you describe is one I could see happening, sadly. I think they would be sent to the treatment center and likely treated compassionately.

BustaMove27104 karma

I assume by leaving that you broke the vows you had taken — what’s the religious consequence of this? Do you have to get some special dispensation to participate in church activities like divorced people?

particularuniversal231 karma

No religious consequences. Once you go through the discernment process with your superior and are sure you want to leave, you write a letter to the superior general of the Jesuits in Rome requesting dismissal, and he writes a letter back dismissing you from vows. It’s not like divorce because taking religious vows isn’t a sacrament

But I am no longer practicing

sp8erman104 karma

Sounds like an extremely structured lifestyle. Are you finding yourself lost without it or happier with the freedom?

particularuniversal156 karma

Happier with freedom

unarmed_walrus103 karma

What proportion of clergy do you think are (presumably closeted) gay?

particularuniversal247 karma

In the Jesuits, it is ok for guys to be “out” at least among fellow brothers. To be out publicly, you have to get permission from the order. In my time, two guys did get permission to publicly come out (in print), and it was a big deal

In my experience I would say the ratio of gay to straight guys in the Jesuits was probably higher than in the population at large, but not gonna hazard a percentage

Forever_Abomination93 karma

I hope two questions are ok. First; what made you want to join and how old were you when you joined? Second; you mentioned in another comment that you were given $35 and told not to return for a month, what did you do?

particularuniversal160 karma

I was old enough. I had been extremely religious my entire life in a very conservative way (brought up that way). I went back to grad school and gradually started to change my way of thinking. Then the Jesuits were appealing because they had a reputation, at least, of being something of an intellectual/progressive order.

During that time I wandered around, explores new places, hitchhiked a little and got rides with strangers, and met a lot of really generous people. It was a great experience

FrMark88 karma

I wanted to become a Jesuit when I was younger. My uncle told me "Don't become a Jesuit; you'll lose your faith." Years later, now a former Catholic and no longer hip to JC, I understand what he meant. I got to a point where I'd learned enough/went so far down the theology rabbithole that I couldn't logically assent to a belief in exclusive monotheism anymore.

Do you think this is common among Jesuits? Like did you meet a lot of other Jesuits who you knew, or at least suspected, had stopped believing but stuck around anyways because, aside from the celibacy, it's a pretty cushy life?

particularuniversal73 karma

Man, I don't know if I should say this. This might be revealing too much. But when I was a novice, a Jesuit who was soon to be ordained told me (referring to the various stages of Jesuit formation leading to ordination), "In the novitiate, you lose your piety. In First Studies, you lose your mind. In Regency, you lose your respect for the Society. In Theology, you lose your faith. Then they ordain you."

Edit: fixed words

ledezbian83 karma

Did you leave and still believe in God or did you go full atheist?

particularuniversal107 karma

Not full atheist, but not practicing either

RoHbTC77 karma

Do you find it hard? I lived 22 years with the understanding that God loves me unconditionally. After I couldn't really believe that anymore I've had problems dealing with hard times. Now when things go bad I feel so alone.

particularuniversal125 karma

In some ways it’s hard, sure. But I much more enjoy the feeling that I have freedom over my life and can come to my own conclusions about things honestly and without fear. And the loneliness makes me value genuine human relationships that much more

Carl_Clegg70 karma

How and when did you discover Reddit?

particularuniversal126 karma

I don’t remember how, actually. But it was probably almost two years ago. I joined right around the time I was making up my mind to leave

particularuniversal280 karma

And no, it wasn’t Reddit’s fault

SoulExecution64 karma

Thoughts on the religion itself aside, what are your views on the existence of a higher being after time spent with the Jesuits? Did it make you question the existence of one, or make you more certain than ever there's something out there?

Also, how is your family coping with your change? My mom had a very rough time when I renounced Catholicism and organized religion as a whole, I can only imagine it was a shock for your folks?

particularuniversal111 karma

My parents did not mind my leaving the Jesuits. We still kind of dance around the “are you going to church question” every time we talk. They haven’t straight out asked me, but I think they suspect I’m not

RedditMayne63 karma

Do you believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God or the inspired Word God? Also do you believe that the version that exists now to be “faithful” to the meaning of the original texts?

particularuniversal210 karma

Not really any of the above. I think it’s really great literature (especially the Old Testament) and is highly worth reading. But it is a collection of myths, stories, songs and poems, letters, etc that were collected—and heavily edited— over centuries. Which to me, doesn’t diminish it at all but actually makes it better. In a way, I think now I can actually for the first time give the Bible the respect it’s due.

ancientrelics60 karma

When you left and became secular did you lose any friends, or did any of your friends think of you differently??

particularuniversal129 karma

At the time, honestly, most of my friends were fellow brothers. I had some friends at school, but only a handful even knew I was a Jesuit. Most people were surprisingly kind, even if they didn’t know much about it.

It was a lot harder with my former brothers, but I think for most of them it did not come out of nowhere. One of them had a pretty hard time with it and didn’t really speak to me for a while, but we do talk occasionally now. The nice part is that now I only have to talk to the ones that I liked!

DexterAndre54 karma

To the people who see monks as this mysterious, almost mythical creature, what do you want to tell them?

particularuniversal153 karma

Hmmm. I mean, they drink beer, they watch Netflix, they follow sports teams. At least Jesuits do. They definitely have personalities, some of them larger than life. They have anxieties and struggles. They still find women (or men, depending on their orientation) attractive. Sometimes they develop crushes.

But it is a weird life. In many ways, really austere (even the Jesuits, comparatively speaking). So does an odd life attract an odd (or at least intense) sort of person? Idk

S2piddd38 karma

Did you ever think "this really can't be true" or "this is just wrong" ?

particularuniversal43 karma

Yes, both

earthmamaley31 karma

My question is- how are you doing?

particularuniversal36 karma

Thank you for asking! Hanging in there

amennen27 karma

Why are there monks? The Catholic church supports them, right? What does the church get from the monks, or accomplish through the monks? What do they do? Sorry if the question seems a little pointed; I don't mean any offense to your former life, I'm just trying to understand what it even is.

particularuniversal41 karma

The Church just teaches that some people are called in a special way to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer and service. Not all monks and nuns do the same things. There are many different orders. Some are more “contemplative,” like Benedictines and Trappists, others are “active,” I.e., involved in ministry to people. But in each case they will live together in community and do a lot of praying

rpprdud26 karma

Thoughts on all the pedophilia?

particularuniversal78 karma

I mean, it’s sickening, obviously. Heartbreaking. Was one of the reasons I left. Every time I hear a new news story about it, I feel sad, but also feel a little relief to think, “Isn’t my responsibility anymore.”

I’m not sure I have an answer. Some people do argue that the percentage of pedophilic priests isn’t higher than that of the general population. I haven’t done the research and can’t speak to that. Of course, one factor is that (at least back in the day), priests had trusted access to a lot more children than the average person.

And sure, celibacy might be an issue. I did know many guys who I think dealt with their sexuality in mostly pretty healthy ways, but of course the priesthood/religious life can also be attractive to people who just want to hide from their own issues. These days, the religious orders are better about weeding those people out, though it’s not foolproof. And I have serious doubts about whether the regular diocesan seminaries do a good job catching the troubled ones

Edit: a word

adorablesexypants23 karma

You say your study of philosophy helped your decision to leave.

Do you still believe in God according to what you learned, did you modify your beliefs, or have you become an atheist?

If the latter of the options, is there anything you miss about being religious?

particularuniversal49 karma

I would say I’m non religious, not really an atheist, but I also don’t tend to think that God makes much of a difference. I don’t think the existence of God can be proven or disproven by human reason

The_Captain_Jules14 karma

Do you think that there’s a discrepancy between the belief system of Catholicism and the institution of the church? And if so, would you say that it’s important for people to recognize that difference?

particularuniversal55 karma

One of the frustrating things about Catholicism is that that discrepancy is built right into the faith structure. That is, it’s openly admitted that the institution is full of sinful men who do terrible things, and yet at the same time that institution is still supposed to be the door to salvation. I forget who it was, but some theologian once said something like, “A thousand scandals but never a doubt.” Meaning, the Church can fuck up like crazy every day forever, but I still won’t doubt that it’s the thing that gets you saved.

That kind of reasoning feels like spiritual self-flagellation to me

Daddy_01037 karma

Will you be editing your post to include proof?

particularuniversal20 karma

I provided confidential proof to the mods, which is one option for posting. They told me they would note that

NCTrumpFan6 karma

How hard is it to maintain a law of chastity? How do you keep from masturbating? (I'm struggling with it.)

particularuniversal30 karma

You’re assuming Jesuits do keep from masturbating. I’m not sure I’d make that assumption.

Good luck, bud

SingingintheLane1 karma

I had a pretty heavy reversion back to the faith, and I hear stories about people who were hardened atheists to avid Protestants (like Scott Hahn) who come to accept the faith as Truth. Since you were engrossed in it and left, you must either see something beyond what those people see or you’re not seeing something, I don’t know which it is.

So why leave, existentially speaking? What was your reason for devoting your life to this and then what changed?

particularuniversal8 karma

I am familiar with Scott Hann and folks like him. Not sure how honestly you want me to speak. I don’t want to argue someone else out of their faith.