The Real Scandal is
Being Given by Father Devillers
Thomas A. Droleskey
Father Arnaud Devillers, the liberal Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, is said to be angry over how "scandal" has been "spread" by the dissemination of a news story in the official archdiocesan newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, The Catholic Anchor, concerning Father Andrew Szymakowski, who was ordained to the priesthood to serve in the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in May of 2004. The news story, pasted below in its entirety, described Father Szymakowski as a member of the Fraternity, going into some length to discuss the nature of an institute of apostolic life, quoting Father Symakowski on the characteristics of such an institute. There was no indication in the article that Father Szymakowski was seeking formal incardination as a priest in the Archdiocese of Anchorage or that he had disaffiliated formally from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, which saw an explosion take place within its ranks in 1999 when sixteen French priests said that they were willing to offer the Novus Ordo Missae if called upon to do so by local bishops. Following a spate of postings about Father Szymakwoski's case in the last few days, however, Father Devillers has said that Father Szymakowski is no longer a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.
Significant questions are raised by this head-spinning turn of events. Before addressing those questions, it is useful to post once again the entire news story that appeared in The Catholic Anchor:
Archbishop Roger Schwietz has assigned Father Andrew Szymakowski to Eagle River’s St. Andrew Parish, where he will serve as parochial vicar. The one-year appointment began Aug. 1.
The priest, a 32-year-old German who has been living in the United States for 10 years, is specially trained to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, the Latin liturgy that was used throughout the church before Vatican II. But in his current assignment he is authorized, for now at least, to celebrate only the "Novus Ordo" Mass that local Catholics experience each weekend.
Father Szymakowski is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an institute of apostolic life dedicated to preserving the Latin Mass in a way approved by the Vatican.
Apostolic life institutes are not religious orders like the Jesuits or Dominicans, although member priests take vows of obedience and chastity, according to Father Szymakowski.
For the past nine months, Father Szymakowski has been living at the House of Discernment, a residence at St. Patrick Parish in Anchorage for men considering the priesthood.
From there he has worked in a variety of ministries, trying to discern whether God is calling him to serve here, he said. He has been filling in for pastors at parishes in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley, assisting as a chaplain at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, and celebrating Mass at the Blessed Sacrament Monastery in Anchorage.
Father Szymakowski said he and Archbishop Schwietz have been discussing the possibility of establishing a regular Tridentine Mass here. They both see the need for the traditional liturgy, especially in light of the fact that a schismatic group offers an unauthorized Latin Mass in Anchorage on a regular basis, Father Szymakowski said.
Offering an approved Latin Mass would provide an opportunity to "bring the schismatic people back into communion with the church," he said.
The priest studied the Tridentine liturgy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and served as a transitional deacon at a parish in Post Falls, Idaho, where both the Latin and "Novus Ordo" rites are celebrated.
"The variety of rites show the richness of the church’s liturgy and spirituality throughout the ages, and we shouldn’t lose that," he said.
During his year in Post Falls, Father Szymakowski met Michael and Stacie Lyden and their family. The Lydens attended St. George Parish there and came to appreciate the Latin Mass. When the Lydens moved to Wasilla, they stayed in touch with Father Szymakowski and encouraged him to seek an assignment here after he was ordained a priest in May 2004.
He did, and Archbishop Schwietz invited him up for a trial period that began in December.
Father Szymakowski was born in Poland but fled with his family during the turmoil of the early 1980s, when the communist government was struggling to suppress the Solidarity movement. He lived with his brother, mother and father, a nuclear physicist, for a year in Florida before the family moved to Germany.
There he served the obligatory year in the army and observed the country’s reunification in 1989 firsthand.
The "moral laxity" he observed as a German soldier and the political tensions he had witnessed growing up were factors in his decision to become a priest, he said. It was an army chaplain, a Catholic priest, who suggested he explore the priesthood.
Father Szymakowski started theological studies in Austria and completed a bachelor’s in philosophy at Wadhams Hall Seminary-College in Ogdensburg, N.Y. From there he enrolled at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, which specializes in training priests in the Tridentine rite.
Michael Lyden of Wasilla said Father Szymakowski is an outgoing, straightforward priest. He knows what he believes and isn’t afraid to preach about such controversial topics as contraception and masturbation, Lyden said.
And, although the young priest "loves the Latin Mass," he is comfortable with both rites, unlike some traditionalists who bad-mouth the "Novus Ordo," Lyden said.
A few pertinent questions are raised by the news that emerged yesterday, August 22, 2005, that Father Szymakowski was no longer a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. The secretary to the Fraternity's North American District Superior, Father George Gabet, informed me that Father Gabet would be unable to answer questions until his return to the office on Friday, August 26, 2005. The secretary referred me to Father James Jackson, FSSP, the Rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, to answer questions on this topic, something that surprised Father Jackson (with whom I was in seminary briefly in the Fall of 1981 at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland) when I placed a call to him this morning, August 23, 2005.
Here are the salient points of my conversation with Father James Jackson:
1) Father Szymakowski never had a formal assignment from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter prior to his departure for Alaska in December of 2004. That is, he was ordained in May of 2004 but was never assigned to a parish thereafter.
2) A priest who leaves an religious community (or a diocese) to seek incardination elsewhere remains a member of the community to which he has been attached until he begins the formal process of incardination. Father Jackson explained that he remained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, during his first several years of working with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in the early 1990s prior to his formal incardination into the Fraternity. Father Szymakowski, Father Jackson explained, thus remained a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter while he was "discerning" his priestly life from December of 2004 to August of 2005 even though it was his desire to leave it.
3) Father Jackson did not know when Father Szymakowski's formal separation from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter took place. Father Jackson was, as noted before, unaware that he would be called upon to answer questions on this subject.
4) Father Jackson, who had not read the story in The Catholic Anchor, said that he could not explain why the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage would refer to Father Szymakowski as a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter or why the story had gone into an explanation as the nature of an institute of apostolic life. He said that any newspaper story about himself in the early 1990s that listed him as a priest of the Diocese of Wichita would be correct but misleading because of his daily work with the Fraternity.
5) I asked Father Jackson if Father Szymakowski was authorized to represent the Fraternity to Archbishop Roger Schweitz to attempt to secure an "approved" venue for the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass under the unjust and illicit terms of the 1984 and 1988 "indults." Father Jackson said that he was unaware of any authorization given to Father Szymakowski in this regard.
6) Father Jackson rejected the contention that Father Szymakowski's abandonment, perhaps temporary, of the Traditional Latin Mass to offer the "normative" Mass (Father Jackson's phrase), reflected negatively on his training at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, noting that there have been priests ordained by the Society of Saint Pius X who have left Tradition to offer the Novus Ordo Missae exclusively, some doing so soon after ordination. A source in the Society of Saint Pius X has confirmed that there have been some priests who have indeed left to offer the Novus Ordo Missae exclusively, something, it should be pointed out, that they would never be permitted as members of the Society of Saint Pius X. No priest of the Society of Saint Pius X would be permitted to offer one Novus Ordo Missae and remain within its ranks.
7) I told Father Jackson that it is indeed troubling that Father Devillers would let any of his priests offer the Novus Ordo Missae, reminding him of the steadfast courage of Father Harry Marchosky, who has always maintained his canonical standing as a priest of the Diocese of Quebec City, Canada, while refusing even once to offer the Novus Ordo Missae.
Father Devillers would like to protest that "scandal" was being spread by those who posted and commented upon The Catholic Anchor story. How is this so? Is Father Devillers implying that The Catholic Anchor, the official archdiocesan newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, is a unreliable, disreputable source of news? Is he saying that the reporters of The Catholic Anchor got their facts wrong and did not ask Father Szymakowski the correct questions? Would he have us believe that there is nothing in his own sorry tenure as the non-elected Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter that would make the story reported by The Catholic Anchor to be in the least plausible?
Au contraire, Father Devillers. Parishioners at Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, with direct, first-hand knowledge of the matter, informed me as recently as July 26, 2005, that Father Dennis Duvelius, FSSP, offers the Novus Ordo Missae on occasion for the Missionary Sisters of Charity in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. This information was confirmed this morning, August 23, 2005, in a telephone conversation with Monsignor Joseph F. Schaedel, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Pastor of Holy Rosary Church. Monsignor Schaedel said that Father Duvelius, who is so sophisticated that he exercises the "option" in the 1962 Missale Romanum of omitting the Prayers after Low Mass, does indeed offer the Novus Ordo Missae once a week for the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Indianapolis.
Father Duvelius does this without your knowledge or approval, Father Devillers? Are you, Father Devillers, going to contend that Father Duvelius, who is prone to using the pulpit to attack The Remnant, is not a member in good standing of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter? Please, do not insult the intelligence of Catholics who understand the inherent harm of the Novus Ordo Missae and who want to see the Traditional Mass of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church restored as normative without any unjust or illicit preconditions. Over and above the infamous "sixteen" in France (some of whom, it is reported, have left the Fraternity to offer the Novus Ordo Missae on a regular basis under diocesan auspices), Father Devillers, you have a priest, Father Duvelius, right here in the United States who is offering the Novus Ordo Missae, once a week. This alone made the story in The Catholic Anchor eminently credible. It is you, Father Devillers, who have caused scandal to Tradition by permitting even one of your priests to offer a Mass that the man who ordained you to the priesthood, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, understood was a rejection of the patrimony of the Faith and thus to be resisted as a matter of his duty to Our Lord Himself.
Father Szymakowski's decision to offer the Novus Ordo Missae is tragic. Perhaps one of the factors that contributed to it was his having served as a transitional deacon in a dual function parish, Saint George's in Post Falls, Idaho. More than one priest in the Fraternity has told me personally over the years how they hate having to offer Mass where the Novus Ordo Missae is offered. Fraternity priests in such situations must remain silent as the Hosts they have consecrated are distributed to the faithful in the hand in Novus Ordo Masses and strewn about on the floor and trampled underfoot. They must remain silent as immodestly dressed parishioners, both men and women, present themselves for Holy Communion. And, importantly, they must remain silent about the very Mass that they know is detrimental to the Faith (and this is true both in dual function parishes and in most instances in chapels administered entirely by the Fraternity). Although each priest must examine his own conscience on these matters, there have been priests ordained for Fraternity who have left it not to offer the Novus Ordo Missae but to embrace Tradition without compromise and without any hint of acceptance of the unjust and illicit conditions that fly in the face of the perpetually binding force of Quo Primum. Indeed, Father Duvelius's predecessor at Holy Rosary Church, Father Paul Petko, did just that some years ago now.
Father Devillers knows that he serves as Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter on borrowed time. The General Chapter meeting of the Fraternity, scheduled to take place in 2006, is likely to result in his ouster, that is, if the priests of the Fraternity are permitted to actually vote this time around. He has juridic power until that General Chapter meeting, to be sure. What a pity that he uses his position to act indignant in the face of a news report in The Catholic Anchor that indeed took its plausibility from his own proven willingness to embrace the entire ethos of the Novus Ordo Missae and conciliarism.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius V, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us.
Saint Philip Benizi, pray for us.
Saint Bartholomew, pray for us.
Saint Dymphna, pray for us.