Volume 3, Chapter
Mgr. Lefebvre often claim that he would serve the Church more effectively
by working within the official structures. The following article
proves that such a suggestion could only come from those who refuse
to accept the reality of conciliar Catholicism. Father Kenneth Baker,
S.J., Editor of The Homiletic and Pastoral Review, has stated
that the article which follows provoked a greater reaction than
anything else he has ever published. It is the cri de coeur of
a parish priest who is loyal to the Pope, and who shows that in
certain (probably most) American dioceses today he will be subjected
to persecution and eventually forced to resign to live out his life
without exercising his priestly ministry. The reaction to the article
showed that this situation prevails throughout the United States.
It is also typical of most countries throughout the West. The author
of the article stresses that hs is not a "Lefebvrist,"
but the very fact of being orthodox shows that, where contemporary
bishops are concerned, he might just as well be. It is unfortunate
that he considers resignation and living out his life without exercising
his ministry the only option open to him. The "papist priest"
might have remembered that the salvation of souls is the supreme
law, even if this means working for this end outside the official
diocesan structures, as St. Athanasius did. Could any true Catholic
who reads this article truly fault Mgr. Lefebvre for going into
the dioceses of the Modernist bishops which it describes in order
to sustain the faith of the persecuted remnant of orthodox believers?
"The Plight of a Papist Priest"
a Parish Priest
Homiletic and Pastoral Review - December 1981
a Catholic regarded a partisan of the Pope-used disparagingly.
The tag was
minted in post-Reformation England. The division it betokens was
spawned by Henry VIII's lustful demand for an annulment. Two powers
were joined in conflict: King v. Pope; State v. Church; temporal
v. spiritual. We all know, at least schematically, the historical
drama resulting in the abject capitulation of the English bishops
to the royal power which was, in contrast to Rome, uncomfortably
proximate and potent. In 1534 the formal Act of Supremacy was issued:
"Be it enacted by the authority of the present parliament that
the King, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of
this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme
head on earth of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia."
In 1535 this was understood as a formal renunciation of the
Pope. Henry then demanded of the clergy that they fully submit to
the Act of Supremacy.
passed, as did the sovereigns, with a brief Catholic restoration
sandwiched between. Bishops, priests, religious and laity, sooner
or later, with some modicum of remorse, abandoned the papal communion.
There were, however, some splendid exceptions, lone stars in the
night sky all the more brilliant against darkness: Fisher, More,
Franciscan and Carthusian martyrs, some abbots, and many simple
faithful, peasants and gentlemen alike, in the wake of the Pilgrimage
of Grace, Margaret Pole. These obstinate few, then, along with their
disgraceful successors, constituted the disgraced cohort df the
our review of the Anglicana Ecclesia, the phenomenon provokes
serious meditation, if not the sense of deja vu, in these
days when the disarming code word "The American Church"
is evolving in some quarters into a semantics of schism.
years ago there was much talk of "polarization" on the
American Catholic scene. Even back then some reflective observers
sensed that it was more than that. Those were the heady days of
the newly-hatched NFPC1
and the fledgling National Catholic Reporter. A spirit of
alienation from. Rome wafted through clergy, religious, academe
and an elitist "mature" laity. Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.,
wrote prophetically about the "A" and "B" strains
in religious communities and left no doubt that a true division
in faith was entailed. Now, in the dawning eighties, the complex
evolution of the revolution is neatly defined and well advanced.
The basic documented facts, however resented, are abundantly manifested
in Msgr. George A. Kelly's Battle for the American Church. Through
these long years, subjected to a paced but relentless driftshock
syndrome, the Church at large has become desensitized to what is
an unholy amalgam of authentic reform with schismatic rebellion.
to which this has been developed is neatly limned out in Raymond
Brown's 1981 NCEA convention address. In essence, he suggests that
it is now lawful for divided Catholics to recite the same words
of the Creed with different meanings. He sees two basic camps:
one, rigid and literalist, is the "rightist"; the other,
liberated and laid-back, is the "centrist." Now .a Catholic
instinct should suggest that the "centrist" position must
somehow be that of the Pope, foundation rock of the Church. Not
so! The Pope, who clearly shows he takes the Creed as the literal,
divinely revealed truth, not subject to on-going reinterpretation,
undivided by a false pluralism, has slipped to the right of true
"center," which is, of course, the hallowed turf of exegete
Brown and his co-religionists. What Brown's revealing speech calls
"rightist" and "centrist," this article will
call "papist" and "Modernist." Harsher terms.
But any careful reading of Pascendi and Lamentabili, alongside
the positions of Brown centrists, will establish our identification
of centrist with Modernist.
is written with six U.S. dioceses in mind. What is described here,
in a very abridged way, is typical in one or the other. These dioceses
are the only ones of speak. How many others are in similar straits?
Cursory reading and occasional conversations with priests and laity
suggest that there may be many more. At the outset, it must be stressed
that what is said here is not uttered in bitterness, but in sadness;
not in despair, but in ultimate urgency. Here are facts, from
personal experience in most cases; given these facts, we need more
guidance from the Holy See, the only source on earth to whom we
papist priests can turn. To whom else can we go?
For all practical
purposes these "control dioceses," as we henceforth refer
to them, are dominated by theological Modernism. I would judge at
least two of the Ordinaries are themselves willingly Modernist.
The true leanings of the other four are harder to discern. Suffice
it to say that they have appointed Modernists to all or most of
the key positions; they have voiced public praise and support for
these officials; they have never-at least publicly-attempted to
correct their errors. Are they, then, "neutral" victims?
Or are they perhaps unwillingly paralyzed by a clerical coup
In these "control
dioceses" at least three-eighths of the clergy stand
in a posture of radical alienation from the papacy. Whatever other
issues there may be, papal authority is the cutting edge. About
one half of the clergy comprise the swing area: a vast, mushy no-man's-land
where the priests will flip-flop wherever and whenever convenience
dictates. At present this means conforming to the radical Modernist
leadership. For some of these men, a nostalgia for Rome surfaces
now and then but is quickly submerged. Theirs is the tired refrain:
"But this is what the bishop wants, and we took a vow of obedience
to our bishop." Here one might well flash back to the nascent
one-eighth of the priests teach and act in full accord with the
Pope. These openly promote and defend papal teaching among their
people and in their schools. They are proud of their despised allegiance
to the Holy Father in a time of contestation. They do not look forfights,
but they do not dodge issues when raised. They are not Lefebvrists.
They are, like the Pope, in harmony with Vatican 11 and all it entails
when authentically interpreted.
are as Liberal as the Pope; they are as conservative as the Pope.
These, then, are the "papist priests."
In his diocesan
context the papist priest is a pariah, the butt of obloquy, of condescending
pity, barred from any positions of influence, quarantined to small
enclaves, usually isolated rural places where he can do least "damage."
For all that, it must be emphasized that what we call here the "papist
priest" is, in any healthy Catholic diocese, just another
priest in good standing.
get some grasp of the jeopardy in which he exists, let us, sketchily,
survey some conditions in the control dioceses in which Modernism
has all but smothered Roman Catholicism. In all six, the Priests'
Senate is affiliated with the NFPC. It is true that in recent years
a few have worked out compromises which allow "conscientious
objectors" to withhold that portion of the dues which are allocated
to NFPC. But in these dioceses the animus of the Priests' Senate
has been dominantly that of NFPC. Now the history of this dissident
organization is open for all to see: it is simply anti-papal, and
whenever any bishops attempt an exercise of authority in union with
the Pope, the rebellion is extended to them. Each Senate has its
committees and sub-committees. The Senators are almost entirely
NFPC enthusiasts, with a few token "semipapists," usually
retired priests, allowed in to refute claims of exclusivism. Among
the manifold commissions are: "ministry to priests," "continuing
education,' "justice and peace," etc. These front groups
are Senate-appointed and stacked with NFPC types. Hence, invited
outside speakers, the itinerant gurus for priestly indoctrination,
are consistently dissidents, more or less openly anti-papal. Priests
are urged, at times ordered, to attend these harangues, at which
the bishop sits listening to sundry heresies only to rise at the
end to thank and praise the heretic. There are also permanent, on-going
structures for intensive "reeducation" of the clergy,
e.g., Vincent Dwyer's Genesis II.
most sensitive diocesan offices are in the hands of Modernists.
They are, as was boasted publicly a decade ago, "in lock-tight
control" of the religious education establishment. All the
staff must be in harmony with the director's philosophy. Any papist
catechetical books, aids, lectures,
etc., are rigidly excluded, in some cases by a list of "disallowed"
materials. Only Modernist texts are endorsed. Thus has the Index
been revived-to destroy the Faith! Diocesan education conventions
are brainwashing spectaculars whose rosters of speakers and topics
are completely predictable.
commission is also headed and staffed with desacralizing change-agents.
With gradualism over the years, liturgical abuses were grafted into
regular worship, and, with rationalizing doubletalk, into pontifical
services as well. There can be no doubt of the malice involved if
one would attend the official lecture circuits on baptism, reconciliation,
etc. At these regional meetings the assertions are vintage Modernism.
It is noteworthy that the Religious Education Department and the
Liturgical Commission work in tandem to exert pressure on pastors
in matters such as First Confession (delayed to later grades), and
insistence on Communion in the hand for small children. These official
objectives are attained subtly. Often word is passed to the nuns
who take the matter out of the pastor's hands. In fact, on many
fronts, the role of the teaching sisters is that of commandos. Catechesis,
liturgy in all its aspects can, in effect, be legislated by the
nuns who know well how to reduce the pastor to impotence. In these
dioceses the veiled threat of the sisters pulling out of the parish
school had only to be realized in a few instances before every pastor
learned that what sister wants, sister gets. (I would quickly add
that there are some noble exceptions and I have been blessed in
this way.) Where there are no nuns, religious education coordinators
perform the ministry of the barricades. Furthermore, most of these
control dioceses insist that all religion teachers, including volunteer
CCD2 teachers, receive
certification by attending party line courses sponsored by the diocese.
At this late stage of the takeover there is no adversary relationship
in most parishes, except for those few remaining bastions where
the pastor is a papist.
press is firmly in the progressive camp: columnists (McBrien, Greeley,
Boster, Curran, et al) features such as "Know Your Faith";
and even the diurnal flow of news is filtered through NC whose slant
is showing. That Rome knows the problem has been brought home by
the remarkable message of Archbishop Pio Laghi to the American episcopal
publishers. The parishes are under enormous pressure to take "full
papist priest has the choice to disobey his bishop or feed poison
to his flock.
Family Life Office also bears the mark of Cain. From these busy,
busy people there is nary a word about abortion, no support of pro-life
activities, not the meekest hint of a prophetic critique of Planned
Parenthood. On the contrary, their official marriage preparation
courses are infected with the immoral theology of Kosnick &
Co. Again the papist priest cannot in good conscience send his young
couples to these required courses.
The use of
diocesan structures: pastoral council, deanery councils, parish
councils, boards of education at all levels, parish committees (liturgy;
especially), as well as the ominous enforcement arm, the personnel
board-all these are polypodal tenacles ever sucking, sapping, squeezing
and throttling the non-conformists, who must, in turn, extract huge
sums from the parishioners to feed the monster.
To add to the
dismay, we realize that the seminaries utilized by our dioceses,
some belonging to the diocese itself, are now hot beds, seminaria,
of Modernism. We send bright-eyed idealist, Catholic youth, into
these dens of revolution only to have them come back on vacations
and, rarely, for ordination, as programmed anti-papal unCatholic
activists. The few ordained thus build up the youthful base of dissidence
far beyond the wildest dreams of the 60's. The only salvation for
seminary candidates, unless they can master the art of dissembling,
is for the pastor to dissuade them from going. (In the control diocese
there is no chance for a candidate to be sent to the few well known
orthodox seminaries.) Most of us then urge the young men to postpone
entrance, hoping for eventual reconstruction of the system. Here
is a peak of priestly suffering: dissuading a candidate from the
seminary in order to save his soul!
is a new ball game. There is a general collapse of discipline and
doctrine in the six dioceses. Each parish is a brave new world,
teeming with its own flora and fauna. Tot capita, guot sententix.
Cujus Regio, ejus religio. Even we papists are honestly confounded
by the claims and counter-claims of what Rome has or has not allowed.
Ukases emanating from diocesan or national sources give all the
pretense of bearing Vatican authority. An egregious example: just
what is Rome's will concerning the use of the Cup at weekend Masses?4
has transposed this nightmare into a wide-awake scream in the dark
focuses on the activities *ribunals. For years, we papists have
suspected that something was rotten with their praxis. We were constantly
assured that all was beyond reproach, that the soaring numbers of
annulments were due to new norms, expanded staffs, greater efficiency,
etc. Meanwhile, in our (typically) small country parishes there
were disproportionate volumes of annulments. Folks at the bars began
to gossip and make bitter accusatory jokes. They knew people on
the next farm who had been married for years and had five children
and suddenly they were "rendered asunder." We pastors
closed our eyes, swallowed hard, told God that we couldn't overrule
the bishop's own experts and we married the new annullees to new
spouses who were often enough annullees
themselves. Thank God, we were not privy to the grounds, much less
to the acts. But then came cracks of thunder: Pope John Paul II
in November 1979 spoke of "divortio sub alio nomine tecto"
in reference to unqualified annulments. The full storm broke
loose publicly at the fall 1980 Synod on the Family. Cardinal Felici
told us what we had long suspected and the Holy Father seconded
the complaint in equally firm if less inflammatory terms. It was
this crisis more than anything else that drove me to write this
article and suggested its title. Once more the papists may be constrained
to stand up for the Pope on the matter of annulment-this time by
the hundreds of thousands. Poor Henry! Why the fuss in 1534? It
is now imperative to pose hard, excruciating questions that
cannot be left unanswered. There is now sufficient doubt about U.S.
annulments that pastors cannot drift along without a final decision.
It is the opinion of this writer that the annulment debacle has
for a decade rooted and institutionalized the potentials and dynamics
of an American schism. How can thousands of these cases, affecting
new families, and affecting all who are related to them, be reversed?
How do you annul an annulment? On the other hand, how can the Church
close her eyes to what are invalid unions, for that is precisely
what has been suggested by the Roman comments.
papist priests find ourselves, by the grace of God, entrenched here
and there in these arenas of apocalyptic anarchy. Usually we are
in the "boon-docks," small rural communities. It has become
nearly impossible to serve larger parishes except where two papists
have contrived to be assigned together and have been in place for
some time. Also these priests must have found good religious, who
still staff the schools and allow them to satisfy their "scruples."
Once a parish has been converted to the "new Church" it
becomes interdict to papists. I have seen a brilliant, devout, vigorous
priest attempt to assume control of a Modernist parish. Within six
months he had been ground to powder by the parish council and the
nuns. He left for the hinterlands, broken and disillusioned. In
our foxholes we must compromise as far as we can, for, we are well
aware, there are few places left to take us in. These "priest
holes," to allude again to the past, are far from hermetically
sealed. Our people are very mobile. They often visit Modernist parishes
as they travel or attend weddings and funerals. Their children bring
their stories to school on Monday mornings. "Father, guess
what they do in that other church!" Do we tell innocent children
that the other priests are disobedient? The confusion mounts as
go by. Less stable parishioners apply pressures for outdoor polka
masses, for scandalously secularized weddings, for intercommunion,
for general absolution, etc.
dioceses the papist priest has no chance of being called to effective
positions. This is the least of his personal problems, though it
dooms the whole dioceses to a regime totally alienated from the
Holy See. What is pathetic, however, is that, given the current
practice of prior consultation, there is never a chance that a papist
will be voted on for episcopal candidacy by Modernist priests and
religious. Recent appointments, e.g., Archbishop Szako of Detroit,
offer some hope that this barrier can be bypassed. It is exasperating
to think that loyalty to the Pope has become a diriment impediment
to the episcopacy in some dioceses. If Rome seeks methods to restore
the Church, surely the clearest way seems to be the appointment
of (dare we call them "papist"?) bishops who are truly
Roman Catholic. No disorder discussed here can be corrected unless
the bishop is sound and courageous. Even the seminaries,
the crucial next priority, cannot be reconstituted without heroic
good shepherds. Heroic, because they will have to purge the present
faculties and begin all over again. Words of exhortation from Rome
will not effect changes so long as the present bishops are in place
in the control dioceses. There is simply no way to reform seminaries,
religious education offices, marriage tribunals, the diocesan press,
liturgical and other abuses, until tough, papally-oriented bishops
are in position. Such a bishop would immediately rally the pusillus
grex of papists and soon the gelatinous gray area would slither
over to him. The losses will be heavy and the battles bloody. But
what is the alternative? To betray the Church? To abandon souls?
To play the hireling?
has been unnecessary to rehearse the now copious documentation on
the state of the Church. The horror stories hardly generate a chill
anymore. One thing is certain in the six control dioceses considered
here: the priests with full allegiance to the Pope are a despised
minority and the faith of most of their fellow priests, and yes,
God help us, the faith of their bishops, is simply and plainly not
basic question is what do we papist priests do when we experience
a direct conflict between the authority of the Holy Father and the
authority of our local bishop? What are we to do when the bishop,
directly or indirectly through his officials, orders us to disregard
(and in fact disobey) repeated and insistent papal directives? Do
we obey the bishop or the Pope? To state the question seems to answer
it, but to know the answer in theory is not to solve it in practice.
We need guidance from the highest authority since problems such
as time of First Confession, general absolution, inter-communion,
to name only a few common conflicts, are well known to Rome but
the bishops have been permitted to remain in authority, to all appearances
in full communion. We appreciate that remedial action takes time,
but meanwhile we need moral direction for our consciences and pragmatically
clear pastoral guidance. The questions become specific: Must we
attend lectures given by heretics when the bishop so insists? Should
we feel justified in concelebrating with priests who openly deny
essentials of the Faith, including the doctrine of the Real Presence,
or when glaring abuses take place and we seem to endorse them by
our participation? Very specifically, if we have been directed by
the diocese to pour the left over Precious Blood down the sacrarium,
should we do so in peaceful conscience? When priests, notoriously
radical in doctrine and in liturgical discipline, come to our parishes,
let us say for weddings or funerals, what should be our response?
Are we to continue to suspend judgment, stifle our fears, and routinely
cooperate with our tribunals in areas of suspect annulments? Is
it tolerable that the now public disagreement between Rome and the
U.S. canonists simply drifts for years without a resolution? What
should be our stance in regard to the people committed to our pastoral
care? Must we remain silent forever about the errors and abuses
which inundate them? Dare we risk causing scandal by warning our
faithful people about this spiritual poison when they know that
specific priests and perhaps the bishop himself are prescribing
it? We have been prudential for years; is this a virtue or a vice?
a long litany more, are momentous, historical questions. They are
of utmost urgency. If they are not answered soon, or if remedy is
not otherwise given by corrective action, the papist priest will
have no recourse but to meekly and silently retire and live his
life (be it years or decades) without public exercise of his public
ministry. And why? Simply because in these sorry times he must,
in conscience, remain loyal to the Vicar of Christ. He demands the
right to believe what the Pope teaches and freely to obey his directives.
In Washington, D.C., October 7, 1979, in his address at Catholic
University, Pope John Paul reminded the bishops of the "greatest
right" of the faithful: to receive the Catholic doctrine purely
and entirely. In April of 1980 he issued Inaestimabile donum,
in which he added to this "bill of rights of the faithful"
the "right to a true liturgy, which means the liturgy desired
and laid down by the Church..." Surely faithful priests, a
fortiori, since they are pastors of the flock, must have these
same rights: the right to openly profess and teach and defend the
Faith as it is taught by the Pope; the right to adhere to the liturgical
laws authorized by Rome; the right to defend the Holy Eucharist
from profanation; the right to keep inviolate the Profession of
Faith and the Oath Against Modernism, which we solemnly swore on
the eve of our ordination. Were we not imbued with a sense of deference
and reverence towards ecclesiastical office, we would be tempted
to call for a "priests' liberation movement" to demand
these rights, without which we cannot survive.
National Federation of Priests' Councils.
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
The parish priest is compelled to purchase one copy of the diocesan
newspaper for every family in his parish, even if the parishioners
do not purchase them or he feels in conscience unable to put them
on sale, and destroys them (which is by no means unusual)
In 1978 the American bishops voted to defy Rome and permit Communion
under both kinds at Sunday Masses. In 1984 the Vatican surrendered
to this act of defiance and authorized the practice in America.
Full documentation concerning this rebellion is available in The
Angelus Press pamphlet, "Communion Under Both Kinds."
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109