The Williamson Affair
Part III
19 March 2009
Back to: (Part I) (Part II)


During all the turmoil, do not think that Bishop Fellay sat idly by without attempting to control the situation.  On the contrary: he did what he could.  Even before the controversial program aired, he wrote to Swedish TV saying that whereas the interview of Williamson was supposed to cover only religious issues, he knew their man had sneaked in a question “concerning historical matters.”  Since a bishop can only speak with authority on “questions of faith and morals,” in dealing with secular issues, “he is personally responsible for his own private opinions,” Fellay informed them.


Subsequently, on January 27, he distanced himself yet further from the mess by stating in print that Bishop Williamson’s “remarks in no manner represent the views of our Fraternity.  Therefore I prohibit Bishop Williamson until further notice from speaking in public on political or historic questions.”  In other words, even though the historical topic does not really fall into his domain, he is still telling the delinquent to shut up.  What else could he do, with all those Jews, politicians and Novus Ordo Catholics — even bishops and cardinals –– at his throat?  Naturally, in the process, he also asked “forgiveness of the Sovereign Pontiff and of all people of good will for the dramatic consequences of such an act.”


Told to “correct this nonsense,” Williamson obeyed — well, sort of.  He wrote a letter to the Vatican apologizing for any harm his statements had caused.  As might be expected, however, because he did not in any way undo, i.e., deny his denial, this did not do the trick.  Jewish leaders demanded more of Rome, lest the affair be construed in context as “putting the Vatican’s imprimatur on Holocaust denial.”  That is how the vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada put it in a letter to the National Post.


The upshot was a Vatican decree, issued on February 4, proclaiming Williamson’s positions on the “Shoah” to be “absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father.”  It mentions how Benedict, in referring to said Shoah in January, “reconfirmed his indisputable solidarity with our brothers who received the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.”


In contrast, it seems that, unlike the Jews, neither the SSPX nor the four bishops enjoy any such “indisputable solidarity” with the Holy See.  Despite the lifting of the excommunications, they lack any canonical status in the Catholic Church.  So the decree affirms.  For any future recognition of the SSPX, “a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.”  As for Williamson, “in order to claim admission to Episcopal functions in the church,” he “must distance himself in absolutely unequivocal and public fashion from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were not known by the Holy Father when the excommunication was lifted.”


Already Fellay had managed to have Williamson fired from his job as rector of the SSPX seminary in Argentina –– on January 31, to be exact.  According to a report by Die Judische, the Simon Wiesenthal center “lauded the removal.”  Nor was that all.  While commending the SSPX for removing “articles that charged the Jewish people with deicide,” the center also “strongly urged that all remaining anti-Semitic rhetoric and references be immediately expunged from their teachings and websites.”


Are they the new thought police or what?


All in all, Jewish spokesmen seemed pleased by the latest developments.  According to the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi David Rosen, international director of international affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said, “This is what we were asking for.”  Specifically, he said, “We asked for and received an unequivocal repudiation of Williamson’s odious opinions and all such forms of anti-Semitism.  This, together with the clear reiteration that the Society of St. Pius X will only be allowed back into the Church when they abide by the positions of Vatican II, is most reassuring.”


Note how he likes to dictate terms to Rome.


The Chief Rabbinate in Israel agreed to resume talks with the Vatican — on whose terms, though?  According to Reuters, world Jewish leaders meeting with Vatican officials on February 9 asserted that denying the Holocaust was “not an opinion but a crime.”  Bold words, true, but they called the shots.  Apparently Rome is easier on Jews these days than on Catholics.  All the elder brethren have to do is shout “Shoah” and they are in “indisputable solidarity,” while Catholics are made to jump through all sorts of hoops — whoops!  We stand corrected.  Some do have an easy go, namely politicos like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi who win votes by being Catholic in name mostly (we dare not say “only” lest we be accused of slander).


Surely the ultimate in chutzpah has to be the letter written January 29 by 47 “Catholic” Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives that “pressed Pope Benedict XVI to fully repudiate the views of a Holocaust-denying bishop.”  So reports JTA-Jewish & Israel News for February 19.  Those “Catholic” lawmakers are quoted as telling the pope: “We do not question your reasons for revoking the excommunication of Bishop Williamson or your right to do so, but we fail to understand why the revocation was not accompanied by an emphatic public rejection of his denial of the Holocaust.”


In his own critique, Catholic League president Bill Donohue says the letter smacks of hypocrisy, since the majority of the signatories, including their leader Rep. Rosa De Lauro, have a “100 per cent NARAL score.”  That means they vote according to the dictates of the radical pro-abortion group.  While demanding the pope take an “unequivocal position” regarding Williamson, so that “it is clear where the Church stands,” none of these politicos do that when it comes to abortion.  Apparently for them, professing a belief in THE (Jewish only) Holocaust of World War II is more important than opposing the killing of unborn babies, though the number of the latter exceeds the highest estimates of the former by nearly a factor of 10.


Furthermore it is going on HERE and NOW.


No one denies that.  But do members of the “Catholic” hierarchy really care?  When, despite her pro-abortion record, Nancy Pelosi and spouse met privately with Benedict in February, she, as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, did reportedly get some kind of papal lecture on pro-life morality.  If this has affected her in any way, however, no one would know.  Besides, how could she let on, i.e. let her religious beliefs in any way interfere with politics, given the total separation of Church and State?  Only the Holocaust transcends that divide.  No, His Holiness would never dare rebuke her publicly, much less take steps to excommunicate her or those like her.  For all intents and purposes, she is still in full “communion” with the Conciliar Church — unlike Bishop Williamson.


She has not denied the Holocaust!


Let us add that, in his critique, Bill Donohue also emphasized the point about Williamson still not being “in communion”.  (Has he not read the Bishop Tissier interview?).  The 47 lawmakers erred, Donohue said, in condemning Benedict’s “decision to reinstate Bishop Williamson to communion in the Catholic Church.”  The fact is, the pope had merely lifted the excommunications, a kind of first step.  “In order for the bishops to be fully reinstated they would have to express their fidelity to the teachings of the Church, as well as the norms of Vatican II,” Donohue said.


Note how he stresses the importance of Vatican II, because herein lies the rub.  For many out there, the acceptance of the latter is crucial — almost definitive.  Significantly the JTA also takes this stance, though they err big time in how they do it.  “Williamson,” they report, “was excommunicated in 1988 by the late Pope John Paul II for defying the teachings of the 1965 Second Vatican Council, which removed from the Jewish people the guilt of deicide.”  Wait a minute!  As we know, Williamson was not “excommunicated” for defying the Council, but, rather, for being made a bishop.  This error typifies the way the facts of the matter have been twisted by the ignorant for the ignorant.  Or should we say, rather: by the devious for the gullible?  Either way, the results are the same — or pretty much so.


Given the complexities of the subject, we will try, for the reader’s benefit to encapsulate some of the history.  Back in the late 1960’s, when the impact of Vatican II was beginning to hit home, lay folk like us were told not to worry.  True, the Church was opening up to the modern world, but the innovations were purely cosmetic, because nothing essential would change.  It couldn’t, because the Church of today was the same as ever.  Doctrine could develop, i.e. be clarified through time, but it would never contradict itself, causing the Church to self destruct.


That simply would not happen!


At the time what struck the man (or woman) in the pew first and foremost were the changes in the Mass.  These were gradual: first they eliminated the prayers after Mass, then the second Confiteor, the Last Gospel, and the prayers at the foot of the altar, while certain other prayers, the Our Father, the epistle and gospel were said in English.  Expunged from the Offertory were allusions to the divine sacrifice, i.e. the “unspotted host” and “chalice of salvation.”  Instead the priest spoke of offering bread “which earth has given and human hands have made.”  On Sundays, the wine, the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands,” would be carried in cruets by layfolk who pranced up the center aisle to the altar — er…table.


A new communal, this-worldly approach was reflected in the way the priest faced the congregation rather than the altar; and in the updated version of key prayers.  For the “Nicene Creed,” or “Credo,” which begins, “I believe,” priest and congregation now prayed, “We believe”. In the old “Confiteor,” the individual confessed to “almighty God, to Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).


In contrast, those praying the new rite confessed to “almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned, etc…”  Note how the string of saints has given way to fellow worshippers.  (This is a radical move, since Catholics never used to confess to the community!  Does this not smack of Communism?)  Next, priest and congregation ask for prayers from “blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters.”  Here, with the exception of Christ’s mother, the names of specific saints and angels found in the old “Confiteor” have been compressed into a generic reference.  There is also an added communal touch: members of the congregation are asked to pray for each other.


Is the Mystical Body of Christ being secularized … or communized?


Significantly the words for the Consecration of the wine were also changed dramatically.  Praying over it, the priest formerly said: “For this is the chalice of my blood of the new and eternal testament, the Mystery of Faith: which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.”  The new formula in English goes: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.  It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven.  Do this in memory of me.”  Note that the “for many” of the old formula has become “for all.”  This was, and remains, a point of serious contention for traditionalists.  And the hierarchy says nothing essential has changed!  Their defense for this is that in old Aramaic the same word was used to denote both “all” and “many,” but who in his right mind can believe that?


To be sure, this was no mere translation.  None of it was — I concluded this sometime in 1969, after the final form of the Novus Ordo appeared.  For too long I had kept trying to read along in my Missal until finally, finding it useless, I put it aside.  No matter what they said, the liturgy had become something entirely new, something empty and banal, like the folksy figure of the priest facing us, and the guitar tunes invading the sanctuary.  Out went the old Latin hymns and Gregorian Chant, going the way of the Communion rail and Friday abstinence from meat.  In their place came cacophony — and chaos.


Only later in the 70’s, however, by first discovering and reading much of the new literature being published on the subject, and then asking questions, did I finally begin to grasp what was happening.  Not surprisingly, many of those who wrote books about it were British converts like Michael Davies and Hugh Ross Williamson, who, before making the big switch to Catholicism, had delved into their own Protestant pasts.  This meant studying the history, of which American Catholics are largely ignorant, despite the fact that so many of their forebears lived through it.  Few know, for instance, how Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury under young Edward VI, forced a Protestant liturgy upon the people of England, largely without their knowledge or consent.


Traditionally, the Catholic Mass, which had in England survived Henry VIII’s rift with Rome, is regarded as the unbloody renewal of Christ’s death on the cross.  On the altar, the Divine Victim offers Himself to the Father, through the priest, for the sins of men, and becomes present substantially under the appearances of bread and wine.  The same sacrifice of Calvary is thus renewed, its merits applied to souls in the here and now in the form of sanctifying grace.  By praying along and receiving Communion with devotion, Catholics can participate in the divine life.


Luther, Calvin and other so-called “reformers,” however, denied the existence of sanctifying grace.  In their opinion, souls were saved by faith in Christ, but not really cleansed, or made holy.  Furthermore, for them the sacrifice of Calvary was totally a thing of the past, and any celebration thereof a mere remembrance.  The Catholic rite of sacrificial renewal is described by them as being an “abomination”, practiced by a “false blasphemous cult”: a thing to be got rid of.  Because it had been in Britain for well over a thousand years, predating the arrival of Anglo-Saxons or Normans, however, they had to proceed gradually.  Most people don’t like revolutions, and that’s what they aimed for.


That’s also what drove Archbishop Cranmer.  Following the lead of the continental “reformers,” he aimed to purge the “popish mass” of its sacrificial aspect.  So he destroyed altars throughout the realm and replaced these with wooden tables, since, as he observed, altars are for sacrifices and tables for meals.  In place of the Holy Sacrifice, he wanted a Lord’s Supper.  To accomplish this revolutionary feat, he gutted the central part of the Mass known as the Canon, which had been pretty much set in stone by 375 A.D.  Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) had altered but a few words.  Otherwise no one dared touch it — until the 16th century.  Like other Protestants, Cranmer said he was returning the liturgy to the pristine state it had enjoyed prior to being subjected to “medieval distortions.”  Or so he claimed.  Needless to say, he would not admit that the Canon had stayed intact.


To be sure, Cranmer still called his liturgy a “sacrifice,” but in the human sense of people offering their minds and bodies to God in a “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”  There was no Divine Victim being offered here and now; and no Real Presence.  Christ’s sacrifice being a thing of the past, believers could but remember it.  As it was put in his new Book of Common Prayer: “The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.”


The key to Cranmer’s method was ambiguity.  Changes to the liturgy came in stages, and the first new prayer book published in 1549 was not overtly heretical.  In his book Cranmer’s Godly Order, Michael Davies, quoting a Protestant scholar, notes: “It was, as an Anglican scholar puts it, ‘an ingenious essay in ambiguity,’ purposely worded in such a manner that the more conservative could place their own construction upon it and reconcile their consciences to using it, which the Reformers would interpret it in their own sense and would recognise it as an instrument for furthering the next stage of the religious revolution.”


Nevertheless it caused a ruckus.  In his booklet “The Modern Mass,” Hugh Ross Williamson, a former Anglican cleric, tells how, after the interim liturgy was imposed, a body of Devonshire men forced their parish priest to return to the old Latin Mass.  Soon thereafter a peoples’ army marched on Exeter, demanding their age-old practices be restored in full.  To disperse them, Cranmer resorted to an army of foreign mercenaries.  According to Hilaire Belloc, 4,000 were “shot or ridden down or hanged” before the men of Devon succumbed.


Such action drove the resistance underground, with clerics literally hiding in “priest holes.”  If caught saying the old Mass, they and their associates would be tried for treason.  This was possible because by making himself a “pope” of sorts, Henry VIII had joined Church to State more tightly than ever.  His power increased proportionately.  (Contrary to popular belief, the “divine right of kings” idea is completely and only Protestant.)  Consequently, in Cranmer’s England, any opposition to the new rite was dubbed treason.  If convicted, a recalcitrant priest, or layman could be hanged, drawn and quartered –– simply for upholding the faith of his forefathers.


So who, pray tell, were the real rebels: the Protestant monarchs, their clerics, and their elite defenders, who, like the Cecils and the Cromwells, had enriched themselves by confiscating church lands; or the poor souls of whatever rank who merely wished to worship as their ancestors had for eons?  Regardless, in this case it was a matter of might makes right.  With the revolution coming from the top, what real choice is there?  Cardinal Gasquet writes: “Terror was everywhere struck into the minds of the people by the sights of the executions, fixed for market days, of priests dangling from the steeples of their parish churches, and of the heads of laymen set up in the high places of the towns.”


Since it takes a valid priest to say a valid Mass it should come as no surprise that Cranmer also produced a New Ordinal, containing an updated form to ordain priests that was based on a German Lutheran rite.  The target was the priesthood itself.  As with the Communion Service, all mention of the real presence and of sacrifice in the traditional sense were cut out.  Thus Michael Davies in his book quotes Fr. Francis Woodcock, S. J., as saying: “Cranmer did his work so well that his Ordinal stands in its historic context as an ordinal mutilated with a definite purpose, that of excluding a sacrificing priesthood from the reformed Church of England.  And in excluding sacrificial priesthood he excluded the very essential and primary function of priesthood from the reformed Church of England, and hence, in the judgment of the Catholic Church, Anglican ministers today are not real priests.”


Pope Leo XIII is the one who pronounced this once and for all in 1896, with his Bull Aposolicae Curae, which declares Anglican orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void.”


The parallels to the liturgical changes of the 16th century, and those of the 20th should be obvious to anyone who studies the texts.  Back in 1979, while researching the subject, I interviewed Lutheran and Episcopal pastors in my hometown and sat in on their services, only to discover that, yes, it was true: parts of their new liturgies were identical to the “Catholic” Novus Ordo!  These could even be found printed in new booklets for Sunday service.  All three churches used the same up-to-date translations for prayers like the Credo, or Creed, and a common lectionary.


Lay members of all three churches took bread and wine up to the table in front for the communion service, and gave their fellow worshippers a “sign of peace,” typically a hug or handshake.  After hearing similar accounts of the Last Supper, they all proclaimed: “Christ has died, Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”  Corny as it sounds, some, believe it or not, loved it.  A local Episcopal “Dean” whom I interviewed, a High Anglican type, told me how our Catholic bishop had recently attended a funeral “mass” in his (Episcopal) cathedral.  Afterwards, this bishop had run up to exclaim to the Dean how “glorious” it had been, that he had sung along to every word of the service!


The Dean actually said the Novus Ordo once for the wedding of a former parishioner who had just converted to her fiancé’s faith of Catholicism.  The Catholic priest who was originally to marry them at the Episcopal cathedral had to back out when he couldn’t secure his bishop’s permission.  So the Dean got his bishops’ approval and was assisted at the Catholic rite by the Catholic priest.


He told me the designers of the new rite did a “super job” in firming up the theology of the mass in order to clarify its true meaning.  There is a “soft pedaling” of the sacrificial idea, because people used to get the false impression that in each mass Christ was being “recrucified” all over again!


(Oh really?  No Catholic I know ever suggested such a thing!)


Since Vatican II, the Dean had seen a “growing together” of Anglicans and Catholics, so that their respective rites were now “almost identical.”  In his opinion, “silly medieval ideas” like transubstantiation were less crucial today.  Indeed, Catholics and Anglicans were coming to realize they’ve always shared the same basic beliefs but have given these a different “emphasis.”  He noted how Jesuit writer Gregory Baum had called Vatican II “the Anglicanization of the Roman Catholic Church.”  These words, the pastor admitted, “won our hearts.”


I’ll just bet they did!


But he wasn’t alone in his thinking. The Lutheran pastor I interviewed said that with Vatican II Catholics began talking about the same issues Luther had brought up centuries earlier, resulting in changes consistent with his beliefs.  In his view “both church bodies really believe the same thing” about the Eucharist, as Catholics put “less and less emphasis on transubstantiation.”  Gone too are the old offertory prayers wherein the priest offered a “spotless Host” to God to atone for sins.  Since there is no specific mention of a divine, as opposed to human, sacrifice, the Lutheran pastor could find “nothing theologically objectionable in the new offertory prayers.”


The same could be said of the Eucharistic prayers now in use.  Of the four, only one incorporates most of the ancient canon, and the English translation of what remains is quite loose.  The priest used to offer “the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the all-perfect Victim; the holy Bread of life eternal and the Chalice of unending salvation.”  Now in English, it’s simply “this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.”


No wonder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre called the new mass a “Protestant conception.”


After months of research, my written story finally emerged.  This featured, in addition to local testimony, quotes from authorities like the Ven. Bernard Pawley, Archdeacon of Canterbury, who said the Novus Ordo had in many places “outstripped the liturgy of Cranmer” in modernity.  It “now resembles the Anglican liturgy very closely.”  Then there was Dr. Woodhams, rector the American Episcopal Church in Rome, who said his own liturgy was virtually identical to the new Catholic one –– and understandably, since “experts of both communions worked it out together.”


Designers of the Novus Ordo mass did indeed include six Protestant advisers, from the Lutheran church, Church of England, World Council of Churches and the Protestant Community of Taize.  Prior to heading the project, the so-called “Catholic” Rev. Annibale Bugnini had been removed from a position in Rome by Pope Pius XII because of unorthodox views. Now deceased, among traditionalists and others he is said to have been a Freemason.


Also in my feature I quoted the well known critique of the Novus Ordo made by Cardinal Ottaviani in a letter to Paul VI in 1969.  Calling the new rite a “grave break with tradition,” the Cardinal included an analysis made by a group of theologians who said it teems with “manifest errors” against the Catholic faith and emphasizes the “supper” and the “memorial” aspects instead of the unbloody renewal of Calvary.  The nature of the offering has been changed, they said, and in context transubstantiation is implicitly denied.


Not that the papal recipient of the letter was about to be swayed by such insight.  No, he was too committed to his new way of doing things.  As Michael Davies comments, “…the New Mass and Pope Paul’s credibility were inextricably bound up.  There was no question of his conceding any deficiencies” in it.  Thus, in a response to Ottaviani, Paul wrote, “…the Mass of the new rite is and remains the Mass as it always was — in some of its aspects even more clearly so than before.  The unity between the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrifice of the Cross, and the re-presentation of both in the Mass is inviolably affirmed and celebrated in the new rite as it was in the old.”


Such arguments apparently convinced most ordinary priests.  One I talked to, for instance, being wary of the changes, refused to let “lay ministers” read from the lectern, and encouraged his parishioners to kneel for communion, rather take it the new way, i.e. in the hand while standing.  While deploring excesses, however, he accepted the new rite as valid because of who had promulgated it: he could not believe a pope could err.  Ironically, it would not be a conservative like him but a “progressive liturgical expert” like Joseph Gelineau, S. J., who spoke to the contrary.  In my story I quoted the latter as calling the new rite “a different liturgy of the mass.  This needs to be said without ambiguity; the Roman rite as we know it no longer exists.  It has been destroyed.”


While the Catholic clerics I interviewed did not go this far, they did tend to agree that the new rite represented a shift in emphasis.  As one priest said, it lacks the constant mention, or “hammering home” of sacrifice found in the old Mass.  Unfortunately, he also said the Tridentine form promulgated by Pius V in 1570 at the behest of the Council of Trent, represented “reactionary interests” prevailing at that time.  In other words, the pope emphasized everything the Protestants denied, and overdid it!  In the process the Eucharistic banquet was obscured.  Now, after four centuries, the priest concluded, those pushing the new rite simply aim to set things aright by clarifying this aspect.


Whereas not bold, or savvy enough at the time to argue with this youngish priest, I can now say that he was in effect putting the cart before the horse.  The Tridentine Rite was nothing new, simply the codification of pre-existing rites.  The Protestants were reacting to these, not Pius to them.  The pope was not making up new rituals, simply clarifying the situation amidst the confusion that had erupted during the so-called Reformation.  His Mass was, and continues to be, the target of Protestant (and, more recently, Novus Ordo) duplicity, not the other way around.


Only one priest I interviewed, an aging Polish pastor of a parish on the wrong side of town had taken the liberty of adjusting the liturgy to suit his conscience.  His own privately printed missalette featured translations of the old forms of the Mass prayers: the Creed, the Confiteor, etc.  For the consecration of the wine he used “for many” not “for all.”  He also spoke the words silently in the old style, hunched over with his back to the congregation, so that for all I knew he could have been speaking Latin.  He used no lay ministers.  Nor was any “sign of peace” given.


My own experienced pastor of a more well-to-do parish was far too cagy to say anything incriminating to the likes of me.  Having known my family, he granted me an interview, but remained the most reticent of all.  He mainly said that “transubstantiation” is still Catholic doctrine.  Period.  That’s all I got from him.  Not so another young priest stationed at the cathedral downtown who had studied abroad.  The idea of the “substance” of bread and wine changing into Christ’s body and blood, while the “accidents” remain the same was fine for medievals, he said.  Modern people, however, find it hard to think in those terms.  Indeed, in his experience, hardly anyone in Northern Europe believes in that doctrine anymore, he said.


In a religion class for adults, this same fledgling scholar presented the theory of “transignification” according to which Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is symbolic, not substantial.  Because Pope Paul VI still upheld transubstantiation, Catholics were still theoretically bound by it, but he thought it possible that within 40 years the pope would accept a new term.  After all, he said, the Mass had begun as a commemorative meal — a communal thing with Jewish roots that only gradually gained a Christian emphasis.  Then, with a breakdown in community, the Mass became removed from the people, and the meal symbolism was lost.  The result was a “semi-magical” rite characterized by an “exaggerated reverence” for the Eucharist.


A filmstrip shown to the class depicted barbarians huddling in a huge cathedral before a distant, ever-receding altar.  Down through the roof floated the figure of Christ, as a voice explained they thought Christ came at the moment of consecration — though he was actually already in their midst.  How so?  Because, according to this philosophy, Christ’s presence is actually in the assembly.  The group is the true “body of Christ.”


Yet another Lutheran pastor I interviewed seemed to agree with this scenario.  He was glad to see the new mass involving more lay participation, and thought that by becoming removed from the people, the Mass had evolved into the kind of sacrifice to which Luther objected.  Protestants, after all, claim their liturgies were restored to a “primitive” purity and simplicity.  Though we have to ask whether guitar masses are really all that “primitive”?  Or are they really more up-to-date and with-it than any Tridentine Mass?


Yet another priest I spoke with was greatly disturbed by the changes, but thinking a true pope was responsible, felt he could do nothing about it.  Out of respect for his private agony, I did not quote him in my story.  As it was, I could not have predicted the reaction the story got when it was sold to the local newspaper, and appeared prominently one Sunday in August of 1979.  Several priests wrote letters to the editor in protest, saying I had not told them any story would be published — which was true, since I had not known it would sell.  At the time I was not employed by the paper, though I still had contacts.  Everybody I talked to knew I was writing a story, however.


The main trouble, I fear, was the Catholic clerics could not bear to see the truth of the matter set down in black and white.  All those contradictions, all the propaganda, were too much to bear.  This was especially so of the bishop, who hammered me in his next column in the local Catholic paper.  Under the heading “Don’t Be Confused,” he cautioned readers to beware of “secular publications” which often give a brief news account of “some profound subject.”  Thus the “strange and curious article” about the “New Mass” that had appeared recently in the local newspaper.  Of the quotations by ministers and priests of different faiths, many were “vehemently denied by those quoted,” he continued.  “Confusion resulted.”


I wonder why. . .


To set his flock aright, he proceeded to quote Paul VI extensively on the doctrine of transubstantiation, adding nothing of that pontiff’s beliefs that could be construed in any way liberal or unorthodox.  According to this bishop, nothing was rotten in the State of Denmark — or the Vatican, rather.  Everything was fine and dandy.  No doubt it’s a good thing he could not fast forward a few years and see his death from a heart attack at the age of 60; and know the fate of his successor, a notorious homosexual who, after being forced to resign in a cloud of infamy, was still allowed to assist at the consecration of his replacement — and that the reception following this ceremony would take place in the local Masonic Temple!  (So reports Michael Chapman in Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, the Roman Catholic Faithful newsletter for winter 2001 - 2002).


As noted by the bishop, the priest who had criticized the “reactionary” Pius V in my presence had also complained about me in an angry letter to the editor.  After I met with him privately and we discussed a few things, however, we seemed to come to an understanding.  Not everybody disagreed with my story.  The Polish pastor actually offered me a job teaching in his parish grade school, but after attending a pilgrimage held by the SSPX in Kansas, I decided to go their way instead.  I left my hometown never to return, except to visit family.  I only regret not following up on some of those confused and unhappy priests.  The younger one mentioned here, for instance, who had reacted so strongly to my story, died a few years later in his mid forties, I heard.  He apparently was a starry-eyed convert from Anglicanism who never quite adjusted to the brave new world of the Novus Ordo.


Last but not least, my own former pastor, the tight-lipped one, while continuing to head the largest parish in the diocese, never did, to his dying day, earn the title “monsignor.”  All his predecessors had.  Considering what was going on in the diocese, however, this was undoubtedly to his credit.  He probably felt fortunate to have hung on at his post as he did.


It’s all very sad. . .heartbreaking, in fact…

(Part IV)

Copyright by Judith M. Gordon 2009