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April 19, 2005

For the Good of Souls

by Thomas A. Droleskey

[Author's note: A version of this article appeared in the April 15, 2005, issue of The Remnant. Each of my articles on theological and liturgical matters goes through a vetting process, thus resulting in multiple drafts before publication. For example, the text of my analysis of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal in G.I.R.M. Warfare, which is about to enter its second edition, was vetted by several priests as I was writing it between March of 2001 and August of 2002. The text in the first edition of the book was also reviewed prior to publication, although several things that I had thought had been eliminated found their way into print, necessitating yet another review to make sure that the second edition is absolutely clean.

[Well, "For the Good of Souls" underwent five different drafts and the comments of a number of people before the final draft was prepared and sent to The Remnant for publication. This final draft, however, was not the one published in the newspaper. An earlier draft appeared. That earlier draft contained a sentence or two that could be read to imply that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre desired to give the bishops he consecrated in 1988 "jurisdiction" over all traditional Catholics, something I know that he specifically did not intend to communicate at all in order to demonstrate that he was not establishing the structure of a counter-church. I was simply pointing out that the late Archbishop desired the men he consecrated as a result of the State of Emergency he deemed to exist to serve the sacramental needs of those traditional Catholics who assisted at chapels not administered by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X. Priests who serve "independent chapels" (that are not adherents to the sedevcantist theory] are dependent upon the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X for the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation; they are not, however, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Society.

[To remove any doubt on this matter, I have obtained permission from Mr. Michael Matt, the publisher-editor of The Remnant, who is in Rome at present to cover the Papal Conclave along with Christopher Ferrara, to post the draft that should have been published in the newspaper.

[Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Garden Grove, California, is an oasis of the Catholic Faith. Over 800 souls, most of whom know nothing about Tradition save for the fact that they know that they must flee from the diocesan structure to save their own souls and those of their family members, assist at Holy Mass there on Sundays. Far from being a threat to the integrity of the Catholic Faith, Father Patrick Perez, who is assisted at present by Fathers Lawrence C. Smith and Paul Sretenovic, Our Lady Help of Christians is helping to provide the safe haven of Tradition for souls who have been theologically and liturgically abused and battered by their shepherds in the past. If a State of Emergency exists, as Archbishop Lefebvre contended, it exists worldwide. If the Society of Saint Pius X is not indeed a counter church then it is the case that priests outside of the Society who want to provide the sort of parish life found within a diocesan parish but who are not called to the religious life can exercise their rights under Quo Primum to offer the Traditional Latin Mass without episcopal approval. That is the principal point of "For the Good of Souls," whose final, corrected version is hereby printed below.

[Let us continue to pray for the needs of the cardinal-electors now meeting in solemn conclave.]

The continuing “discussion” in these pages on the matter of “independent” priests is not going to be resolved in a dialectical manner, which is why this particular commentary is not going to be a specific rebuttal to anything that has been published recently. I have reviewed six different articles (“Our Efforts to Restore Tradition Must be Founded in Truth,” “The Time to Flee is Now,” “The Time to Act is Now,” “With the Courage of the English Martyrs,” “Intimidation by Misinformation,” and “Do Not Lay Hands On a Man Rashly”) that were published in The Remnant last year, some of which were reprinted in G.I.R.M. Warfare. Each of these articles dealt with the unjust and illicit nature of the “conditions” imposed by the Holy See upon what the late Michael Davies called the baptismal birthright of Latin Rite Catholics, the Traditional Latin Mass. There is little that can be added in yet another commentary that would not be redundant of what has been written previously.

As the flood of words produced by those of us who write for various publication can fade rather quickly, this particular commentary seeks to make a few simple points not previously made and to reiterate others that have been made repeatedly. Ultimately, though, each person has to make his own judgment as to what is best for the sanctification and salvation of souls in this time of genuine emergency in the true Church founded by Our Lord upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope.

First, the justification for the existence of a State of Emergency has been provided by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and many exemplary theologians within the Society of Saint Pius X. The Society has produced marvelous apologetics tracts to discuss various matters, including that of Supplied Jurisdiction for the administration of the Sacrament of Penance in these extraordinary circumstances. One either accepts these justifications or rejects them. I, for one, have come to realize, much, much later than I should have, that Archbishop Lefebvre was very careful to cleave closely to the law and that he was never given a fair hearing by the Holy See in the matter of his continuing to offer the Traditional Latin Mass and in the matter of the episcopal consecrations of June 1988. These apologetics materials can be found at the Society’s website and are available from Angelus Press. Other priests, such as Father Paul Kramer, have also written well-reasoned statements in defense of the existence of a State of Emergency that necessitates the taking of extraordinary measures on the part of priests to sanctify and thus to save souls at this time.
Second, it was the intention of Archbishop Lefebvre to provide validly consecrated bishops to serve all traditional Catholics, not just those who heard Mass at chapels administered by the Society of Saint Pius X. His Excellency was very well aware that there were traditional priests who had defended the fullness of the Faith outside of the Society whose flocks were in need of episcopal care. Then Father Fernando Areas Rifan of the Society of Saint John Mary Vianney in Campos, Brazil, can be see in a photograph taken as Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated the bishops in June of 1988. Bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X have administered the Sacrament of Confirmation in various chapels administered by validly ordained priests who are not sedevacantists. Thus, these “independent” chapels receive the sacramental benefits that are bestowed upon them by the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X.

Third, the Society of Saint Pius X was founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, a consecrated religious of the Holy Ghost Fathers, as a society of common life for priests. Not every priest is called to such a life. There are priests who desire to provide the stability of their fatherly presence to a particular flock, especially in these times of crisis and confusion. I am old enough to remember the days when diocesan priests stayed in one assignment for two decades or more before becoming pastors and spending another two or three decades in a particular pastorate.

For example, one of the parish priests at Saint Aloysius Church in Great Neck, New York, the late Monsignor James Collins, was assigned to Saint Aloysius from the time of his ordination in 1939 to the time he became the secretary in 1962 to the first auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the late Bishop Vincent Baldwin, who had been pastor of Saint Aloysius before his own episcopal consecration. Monsignor Collins was appointed pastor of Saint Dominic’s Church in Oyster Bay, New York, where he served from 1964 to 1987. He had a two year assignment at Saint Ann’s Church in Garden City, New York, when he served as Bishop Baldwin’s secretary. He died as Pastor Emeritus at Saint Dominic’s in 2002, meaning that he offered Mass in one parish for nearly thirty-eight years. As one priest in an Ecclesia Dei community told me last year, “You should serve in one place for a few years. After that, though, you should be sent to an assignment and then get a plot,” burial plot, that is, folks.

There are validly ordained priests who understand that they have the absolute right under Quo Primum to offer the Immemorial Mass of Tradition without any episcopal approval and who desire to do so in one particular place, providing the lost sheep of Christ’s true Church a safe haven in the storms that beset the Barque of Peter at present. These priests are not renegades. They pray for the Pope in the Canon of the Mass and in the Second or Third Collects on days where such prayers can be offered. They have not escaped the Cross. Indeed, they are browbeaten mercilessly as “schismatics” and worse. They are content, however, to suffer the loss of their reputations and to endure the barbs of other traditional Catholics in order to offer the souls for whom Our Lord shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross the fullness of the Catholic Faith without compromise. These priests are doing nothing unique in the history of the Church. They are following the examples of many others, including the English Martyrs.

Fourth, Father Paul Kramer has noted quite correctly that Quo Primum was merely a statement in law of the actual fact of the matter, that the Immemorial Mass of Tradition is the Mass of the Roman Rite and that it can never be abrogated and that no priest needs any permission to offer it.

Fifth, the concession that the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass can be limited by the Holy See and/or diocesan bishops is false and is no basis for the restoration of Tradition and thus the fullness of the Catholic Faith without any hint of the errors of conciliarism.

Sixth, the Novus Ordo Missae is harmful to the Faith and renders unto God a form of worship that is Protestantized. Many scholars have offered thoughtful and protracted analyses of the inherent harm of the Novus Ordo Missae and how it is important for Catholics to flee from it entirely once and for all. The Novus Ordo Missae is so fungible and its offering varies so widely from one moment to the next that it conveys not the immutability of God and His truths but uncertainty and ambiguity, the very opposites of what a liturgical rite is supposed to produce in the life of the Church and thus in the souls of the faithful.

Seventh, while priests who refuse to offer the Novus Ordo Missae and accept the unjust canonical penalties imposed upon them without offering the Traditional Latin Mass to the faithful are indeed offering up their suffering in silence for the good of the Church, how can it be, though, that the faithful must be expected to subject themselves to the novelties in the Novus Ordo Missae that these priests have decided that they themselves can no longer accept in their priestly lives? Are not the faithful entitled to the fullness of the sacramental life of the Church? Do they not need their shepherds to offer them the fullness of the Faith without compromise? A bit of elaboration is necessary on this point.

The state of confusion in the Church is just enormous. Although there are some very wonderful priests who serve in the Ecclesia Dei communities erected since 1988, men who have priestly zeal for souls and who spend themselves tirelessly in behalf of the flocks entrusted to their pastoral care unto eternity, there are others who refuse to administer the sacraments according to the Traditional rites to anyone but those who are strictly within their boundaries. Which would you rather have? The Sacrament of Extreme Unction or the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick or, in the words of Father Patrick Perez, a “pastoral visit” by Sister Daisy? The Church has taught from time immemorial that any validly ordained priest can administer the sacraments to a person who is in danger of death. Sedevacantists can administer the sacraments in such situations. Priests who have left the active ministry and who have married without being laicized can administer the sacraments in emergencies. The paralysis caused by a desire not to run afoul of the bishops who have lost the Faith and have made war upon the Church’s authentic patrimony is harmful to souls. A priest who cares about souls is going to put the administration of the sacraments in the Traditional rites ahead of the unjust demands of revolutionaries who hate the Faith and who want to eradicate all resistance to their utopian schemes. And it must be remembered that none of our words and not one of our publications (The Remnant, Catholic Family News, The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture, Christ or Chaos, et al.) is more important than just one offering of the infinitely perfect prayer that is the Mass of all ages.

Eighth, the discussion of “obedience” to the Holy See is a complete red herring. Unjust commands never compel obedience. Indeed, they demand resistance. The Most Reverend Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, has said publicly that a Vatican archbishop has told him that the Church needs the Society where it is at present. This is not an isolated view at all. It is one that takes into cognizance the simple fact that all manner of genuine schismatics and heretics (the Orthodox, the Anglicans, the Lutherans) and unbelievers (Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Hindus, animists) are accorded great dignity and respect by the Holy See while Traditional Catholics who are simply maintaining the Faith, albeit outside of the diocesan structures in canonically irregular situations in this State of Emergency, as it is has been taught fort twenty centuries must be castigated as the most dangerous people on earth. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Furthermore, many bishops worldwide, including some in the Vatican itself, have rewarded the disobedience of dissenters and heretics over and over and over again in the past forty years. Look at the situation in the so-called People’s Republic of China. The Red Chinese government created a rump church, the Chinese Patriotic Association, to do its bidding for it in the 1950s. This rump church accepts the government’s population “control” policies (which included forced abortion, one child per family, sterilization) without protest. The bishops of this rump church are validly ordained. What has the Vatican done in recent years as bishops and priests of the underground Church in Red China have been arrested and tortured and killed? It has made overtures of rapprochement with the schismatic Chinese Patriotic Association. Roger Cardinal Etchegary recently praised the state of things in Red China, providing a eerie echo of the praise offered by Secretary of Agriculture (and later Vice President of the United States) Henry Wallace of Joseph Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the late 1930s. Come on, the “right kind” of disobedience is actually rewarded by the Holy See.

Ninth, the good of souls requires priests to defend the fullness of the Faith without compromise. The errors of ecumenism and religious liberty, each of which is enshrined in the very fabric and ethos of the Novus Ordo Missae, as the sterile substitutes for the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ, are poisonous to souls. Although the faithful do not need harangues on the errors of the past forty years on a constant basis, they do need to be served by priests who are willing to speak about them when the occasion necessitates without being intimidated by the fear of running afoul of the ecclesiastical authorities who indeed hold power but who wield it to the detriment of souls.

I have written extensively of my own journey from baby steps in the direction of “indult” Masses in the 1980s to my embrace of Tradition without compromise. My recognition of the service rendered to souls by the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X and those “independent” priests who are validly ordained and not sedevacantists was late in coming, to be sure. While I have sought out the safe haven provided by such priests as Father Patrick Perez (ordained by Alfons Cardinal Stickler for the Institute of Christ the King) and Father Lawrence C. Smith (ordained by Bishop William Franklin of the Diocese of Davenport) and Father Paul Sretenovic (ordained by Archbishop John Myers), there is no escaping the Cross even for a layman. The Cross is everywhere in the life of a Catholic. It must be embraced with love, offering It at all times as a consecrated slave of Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

Part of the cross of staking out a position that we are in a State of Emergency and that we must seek out the Mass of Tradition in the circumstances described above is the loss of friends, both priest and in the laity. Mind you, no cross we endure is the equal of what one of our least venial sins caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity on the wood of the Holy Cross. I know that my own sins deserve far worse punishment than I have received thus far in this vale of tears. However, I do want to point out that embracing the unconditional right of all Catholics to the Traditional Latin Mass without episcopal approval carries quite a human cost. Those of us who have lost friends are not heartless monsters who say simply, “Oh, well. Too bad. They don’t see it. I do. Tough.” While we know that the souls of the just will be reconciled one to another on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead, at which time the intentions of all hearts and the circumstances of all lives will be laid bare for all to see, it is nevertheless humanly painful to lose friends and to have them refer to you in the most vitriolic terms. Those of us who have come to understand the correctness of the position taken by Archbishop Lefebvre (and by many other courageous priests and laymen) are not one whit better than anybody else. We condemn no one who sees things differently. However, it should be understood by our critics that we are willing to pay a high price for what we know to be true and for how we believe that Our Lord wants us to defend His Holy Church in these extraordinary times.

Moreover, those of us who depend entirely upon the generosity of our fellow Catholics to support our apostolic endeavors lose financial benefactors when crossing the threshold into the land that many brand as “schismatic,” “disloyal,” and “disobedient.” Contrary to what some have contended, there is nothing to gain financially (indeed, there is much to lose and has in fact been lost) when coming to the realization that the Catholic Faith is under attack by enemies of Christ in shepherds’ clothing and that such enemies are owed no obedience whatsoever. None of us who is dependent upon the generosity of our fellow Catholics is entitled to donations from any particular person. Generosity is a freely bestowed and unmerited gift that imposes no obligation upon its giver. It can be withdrawn with impunity at will without explanation or elaboration. Granted. Our critics, though, cannot claim with a straight face that we “are in this for the money” when the actual fact of the matter is that many of us have known full well that we will lose friends and benefactors and places that will accept and/or link to our articles and commentaries, and that we will lose invitations to speak at “prestigious” conferences and events.

An embrace of the pastoral leadership provided by the bishops and priests of the Society of Saint Pius X and by priests such as those at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Garden Grove, California, does not mean that I am deaf, dumb, or blind to the work being done for souls by priests in the Ecclesia Dei communities. It does not meant that I am dismissive of those diocesan priests who have tried to do their best in these difficult times within the diocesan structures. It does not mean that I do not recognize the suffering of those priests who have accepted, as noted before, unjust canonical penalties in silence for their refusing to offer the Novus Ordo Missae. As a sheep of Christ’s true Sheepfold that is the Catholic Church, I will, though, continue to implore our priests to leave the diocesan structures and offer us what is our due, the Traditional Latin Mass and the fullness of the Catholic Faith that is best expressed and protected therein. I will continue to ask priests the following questions: How much longer are you willing to offend God by continuing to offer the Novus Ordo? How many sacrileges and novelties that you are personally responsible for (Communion in the hand, the distribution of Holy Communion by lay extraordinary ministers, applause during Mass, a table instead of an altar, profane music, prayers that less fully communicate the truths of the Faith, the proliferation of lay people in the sanctuary during the Mass, Mass facing the people) are you willing to commit in the name of obedience to the unjust edicts of wolves in shepherds’ clothing while offending the majesty of God Himself?

My own continued prayer is that some pope [and this was written just days before the death of Pope John Paul II] will actually consecrate Russia to Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, thus ending the spread of the errors of Russia in the world and in the Church herself. An era of peace will reign in the Church and the world. Our disputes and disagreements will fade into the past. We will all be Traditional Catholics in regular canonical situations without any taint of the errors of the recent past. Let us continue to pray for that happy and glorious day as we work in the meantime as our consciences dictate that we must to protect ourselves and our families from all that is injurious to the Faith at present and thus harmful to the good of souls, which is, after all, the first law of the Church.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us.

Sister Lucia, pray for us.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, pray for us.

A Brief Postscript

Calumny is a terrible sin. Sadly, there are some priests and at least one nun in a traditional Catholic community who continue to spread the vicious calumny that Fathers Patrick Perez and Lawrence Smith are sedevacantists. According to a woman who spoke to a consecrated religious of traditional community, this consecrated religious person said to her, "Well, I have heard that they are sedevacantists." The precepts of the Eighth Commandment teach us that "I have heard" is an insufficient basis upon which to state definitively that a person with whom one has not spoken, as the dictates of the Eighth Commandment require, holds a particular position. It is no defense for one to state that one has spoken to someone who "knows" something to be true. One does not know something to be true about another person unless one speaks to that person directly or sees something in print written by that person or printed as a direct quotation from that person.

I have addressed this matter in articles in The Remnant and in the interviews that have run in Catholic Family News and on this website. Fathers Perez and Smith prayed for Pope John Paul II in the Canon of the Mass while he was alive. Father Paul Sretenovic will be doing this very morning what Father Perez announced a few weeks ago would be done at Our Lady Help of Christians on those days where it is liturgically permitted to do so until a new pope is elected: offer a Votive Mass for the Election of a Pope. Anyone who is spreading this calumny had better seek to correct the record with each and every person with whom he or she has spoken. Petty jealousies based on a belief that one can only preserve the Traditional Latin Mass in one community or in one situation (that a particular traditional community is alone the true Church outside of which there exists no traditional movement and outside of which no priest may legitimately serve souls) are not justification to commit the grave sin of calumny and thus place into jeopardy the reputations of men who are giving their all to make the Immemorial Mass of Tradition available to the sheep of Christ's true flock.



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