Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Catholic Circular Firing Squad, V. 3.0: Wherein Your Humble Blogger throws a spittle-flecked nutty—UPDATED

For those of you who missed it: Yesterday, Rorate Coeli, a traditionalist-oriented blog with which I’ve had issues before, broke a story screaming that Bishop Michael F. Olson, the newly-installed young bishop of Fort Worth (my home diocese), had rescinded Fisher More College’s permission to celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (aka the Tridentine Latin Mass, Mass of Paul V, or Vetus Ordo).

As RC presented the matter, the rescission was a thunderbolt from a clear blue sky. They printed a letter which Bp. Olson had sent to Michael King, FMC’s president, corralled a source called the Canon Law Centre to opine against Bp. Olson’s actions, then spent the rest of the news speculating how it could fit in with Pope Francis’ plan to abrogate Summorum Pontificum and destroy the Latin Mass forever. (Yeah, it’s that bad.)

Well, I followed the story all afternoon and evening yesterday, and all morning today (3/4/2014). You can read everything I learned on The Impractical Catholic; suffice it to say that RC didn’t check their facts or do any really serious inquiry into matters at Fisher More; they simply ran with a “bishop bashes TLM” story because it fit their “Francis Hates the Latin Mass” frame.

However, the Fisher More administration, particularly in the person of Pres. King, allegedly has begun to stray into schismatic territory, coming within an ace of sedevacantism. No less a person than Dr. Taylor Marshall, former chancellor and philosophy professor at Fisher More, also accuses King et al. of fiduciary mismanagement. It now appears someone at Fisher More — perhaps King? — played RC to make the bishop look bad and (perhaps) create traditionalist pressure to reverse himself.


Since then, the traditionalists with the most good sense have mostly ceased their grumblings. But despite Dr. Marshall’s assurances that Bp. Olson supports the traditionalist Fraternal Society of St. Peter and “has nothing against” the Latin Mass, that hasn’t stopped Steve Skojec of Rorate from writing an article that essentially says, “Well, maybe there’s a couple small issues at FMC, but that’s not the point — the bishop is repressing traditionalists!” RC refuses to admit that there was any misrepresentation on their part or on the part of their FMC source, and continues to attack both Bp. Olson and Pope Francis as threats to the Latin Mass.

(Nota bene: Pope Francis has already shot down a request to cancel or strongly limit Summorum Pontificum. In fact, last May he told Italian bishops on an ad limina visit that they should “treasure tradition and create the necessary conditions so that tradition might be able to live alongside innovation.” Apparently Francis takes seriously the line about the householder who “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” [Matthew 13:52]. If you don’t get it, let me say it again: Pope Francis is not a threat to the Latin Mass!)

Nor has it stopped other traditionalists like Simon J. Dodd at Motu Proprio from playing “armchair canonist” and questioning Bp. Olson’s right to forbid the EF at Fisher More; others, while conceding the right, question his wisdom in doing so. (I’ll give Dodd this much: he cites his sources.) Patrick Archbold, who’s not a traditionalist per se but who’s very sympathetic to their cause, has drafted a letter to Bp. Olson pretty much respectfully requesting that he explain himself to us, despite a priest who commented on a previous post that His Excellency may be morally bound to say very little.

On the other hand, The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named has ripped into “combox inquisitors” for having the bumptious temerity to question the actions of a successor to the apostles … and for once I find myself thinking that he went a bit overboard. We’re bound to obey the bishops’ lawful orders, but we’re not forbidden to question their wisdom in giving them. Sorry, Mark, we’re not mindless sheep, no matter what atheists and agnostics may nastily claim.

Thus spake the ineffable Father Z: “Liberals work together. Conservatives/trads don’t. They fight over small differences rather than unite in an overarching endeavor. That is why we almost never win.”

Whenever there’s Catholic infighting like this, I like to explain to my non-Catholic friends that it’s been like this ever since St. Paul lit into St. Peter for not eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). I come from an Irish family, so loving and fighting have never been irreconcilable opposites to me.

But enough is enough. We’re wasting way too much time and good will fighting with each other when we should be convincing our fallen-away Catholic and separated Protestant brothers and sisters to resist, halt and reverse the encroachment of the “culture of death”.

Moreover, much of that wasted time is spent on matters which, if we believe what we say we believe, shouldn’t be issues at all. You either believe that the Holy Church is protected from doctrinal error by virtue of her guidance by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 16:13) or you don’t. Or, to put it more bluntly, you either trust the Church’s teaching magisterium or you don’t; you either trust the Pope as Successor to Peter and Vicarius Christi or you don’t; you either accept the authority of the bishops as apostolic successors or you don’t. There’s another name for people who fall on the “don’t” side of these issues: Protestant. Think about it.

Now to some individual points:


  • The liturgy is a discipline, not a doctrine. I’ve already shown that Pope Francis has no intention to restrict or do away with the Latin Mass, but if he decided, in his role as supreme teacher of the Faith, that it were necessary for the good of the faithful to do away with it, it would be within his competence to do so. I don’t say it would be wise; I think it would be a damned shame and unnecessary … but I would have to accept it.
  • Dignitatis Humanae isn’t going to go away. No citation of Syllabus of Errors, no references to Ss. Pius X and Robert Bellarmine, will change that. Accept it, and try “thinking with the Church” to understand what the Church means by it, instead of kicking against the goad.
  • Break out of the “remnant” mentality and try to make converts to the Latin Mass. The Vetus Ordo has a lot more people who are sympathetic to it and even interested in attending it than you probably realize. But you’ll notice that the people who actually bring new people into Latin Masses are the ones who treat the Novus Ordo, and those who attend NO Masses, with charity and respect.
  • Bishops deserve just as much charity and benefit of the doubt as do laypersons. This whole mess came about because the people at Rorate Coeli and the blogs which blindly reprinted their post made (and continue to make) no effort to understand the issue from Bp. Olson’s perspective, as well as because of their uncharitable and unfounded belief that Pope Francis has it in for the Latin Mass. Because bishops partake of the human condition, it’s likely we’ll have some fools and knaves wearing the purple in the future as we’ve had in the past; that doesn’t give us the right to automatically presume any given bishop an idiot or a scoundrel.
  • Finally, it’s not all about you. I say pretty much the same thing to people who still gripe about the recent changes to the OF Mass. Like the mustard bush in Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:30-32; cf. Matthew 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19), the Church is constantly growing and changing, and it’s been entrusted to the bishops to prune, graft and shape as necessary. As St. Ignatius of Antioch said, almost at the very beginning, “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8). Bishops will occasionally make mistakes, and here and there one will go off the reservation. Nevertheless, if it seems like the Church isn’t going the way you think it should go, you should consider the possibility that you, not the Church, are on the wrong path.


I apologize for the length of this rant. It’s just that I’m sick and tired of a tiny minority of Catholics — who do not represent all traditionalists or all orthodox Catholics — crying, “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” over some minor disciplinary action when Catholics across the globe are suffering real persecution, literally dying for the Faith, and when the Church in America is in imminent danger of political persecution by the “culture of death”. I’m sick of the “magisterium of me” sapping our political and cultural strength by blowing up the Catholic blogosphere every time the pope suffers a communication blip or some poor bishop happens to blow his nose in a direction someone doesn’t like, no matter what he’s done to defend the Faith — or, in this case, no matter if he’s even had time to warm the seat of his episcopal chair.

I’m sick and tired of the “Catholic circular firing squad”. Let’s stop bickering and get to work converting the new pagans.

Update: March 6, 2014 3:55 PM CST
Scott Eric Alt has an excellent piece deliberately comparing certain extremists within traditionalism to "King James Only-ists" among Evangelicals. Here I reproduce a snippet:

No one ought to have been stunned when it turned out that Fisher More Col­lege has had a prob­lem with Latin Mass Only­ists. A ban on the Latin Mass always has Only­ists lurk­ing behind. The Catholic form of Only­ism says that Vat­i­can II and the Novus Ordo are invalid, and those who accept them infe­rior Catholics, even mod­ernists. ...
Last year, when Pope Fran­cis cur­tailed the usus antiquior for the Fran­cis­can Fri­ars of the Immac­u­late, it was because the FFI (see here and here) had been plagued by a fac­tion of Only­ists who were sup­press­ing the Novus Ordo. To do that is against the norms of Uni­ver­sae Eccle­siae 19. The same pope who allowed broader cel­e­bra­tion of the Latin Mass also for­bade Only­ism among those who say it and attend it. If you are an Only­ist, you have no right to the Latin Mass.

Let's look at Universae Ecclesiae 19:

19. The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.

Testimony from people who were actually at Fisher More College testify that Michael King and others have denied the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass, and allied themselves with the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, who also deny the validity of the Novus Ordo and of Vatican II. (See my post on this matter on The Impractical Catholic.) This is largely why many parents had already pulled students out of Fisher More College before the meeting between Bp. Olson and King, and why FMC will likely shut its doors after the spring semester.

Comments traditionalist David Palm on a Facebook thread:

... [O]ur "attachment" to the TLM as a family runs so far that we plan our vacations around being able to assist at that form of the Mass on Sunday. But I have been incredibly disappointed in the traditionalist movement after Summorum Pontificum, broadly speaking. It was time to stop shooting and to build something great and beautiful instead. But some people apparently just can't take yes for an answer and don't want to live anywhere but the fever swamp [bold type mine.—ASL].

Exactly. As I replied to "Bridgeport Guy" below, the FFI and Fisher More situations do not support the "Francis Hates the TLM" trope, no matter how many examples of Catholic universities running The Vagina Monologues you care to cite. It's time to stop the "despised elite" mentality of the Latin Mass Onlyists.