The Williamson Affair
Part IV
7 June 2009
Back to: (Part I) (Part II) (Part III)

When I began investigating the post conciliar changes in the Church, I was still attending the new mass on Sundays.  There was no Tridentine rite being said locally, and despite growing concerns, I could not quite make the break.  Then on Good Friday of 1978 an ice storm hit our area, causing power outages and severe flooding, and providing an excuse to stay home on Easter.  This would prove a milestone in my quest for orthodoxy, since I never returned as a communicant to the Novus Ordo.  I did attend a wedding or two, but the jocular manner of the priest conducting the one I attended that summer, plus the music, which was introduced by an organ medley from Fiddler on the Roof, only served to reinforce my decision.  While sympathizing with the bride and groom, it was all I could do not to stomp out in protest.


Not being married with children in a parochial school, or other such local ties, made it easier for me to leave, and also to travel hundreds of miles to an independent chapel for the old Mass; and to a convention held in Chicago by the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement (ORCM), a group of priests headed by Father Francis Fenton who said the traditional Mass in locations throughout the country.


Early in 1979 I spoke at length after Mass with one of these, Fr. Victor Mroz, who had trained for the priesthood in Poland during the Nazi occupation, when his order was severely restricted.  As a seminarian, he had literally had to go underground, i.e. to the basement, after dark in order to study.  The spiritual director who had encouraged him was none other than the saintly Maximilian Kolbe, who would later give his life for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz.  When, having trouble with Latin, the young Mroz had wondered about his vocation, Fr. Kolbe said emphatically, pointing a finger, “You be a priest!”


I was impressed.


Having escaped to this country after the war, Fr. Mroz later found himself fleeing the post-conciliar establishment.  Without notifying his superiors, he moved into a cousin’s apartment one night, never to return to the Novus Ordo.  He had acted surreptitiously so as not to be targeted by hostile clerics and spirited off in a medicated state to some old folks’ home.  So he told me.  Apparently he had profited from his wartime experience.  At the same time, he retained a deep respect for his fellow Poles and said he had at first regarded Karol Wojtyla's election with optimism which had, however, dissipated by the time of our conversation.


August of 1979 saw me journeying to Kansas for a “pilgrimage” hosted by the SSPX at the site of the former Jesuit college of St. Mary’s.  There I was most pleased to meet, among others, Michael Davies (pronounced “Day-vis”), British convert and author of Cranmer’s Godly Order, and to show him my newspaper story, which he liked.  Hearing the talks and conversing with a variety of clergy and laity gave me new insights into the challenges facing Catholics like us and the many options open to us.  Generally speaking, an air of optimism seemed to pervade, along with rumors that Archbishop Lefebvre or like-minded clerics would be meeting soon with Vatican officials in order to make the case for tradition and thereby set things aright.  A man who sat across from me at a dinner said he hoped the pope would establish a separate rite for Tridentine Catholics that could co-exist with the current regime.


While that wasn’t about to happen very soon, other things did.  Within a few weeks I found myself on the teaching staff of a brand new grade and high school opening at the former college site.  Heading the operation, which included the renovation of old buildings with names like “Canisius” and “Suarez,” was Fr. Hector Bolduc, an SSPX priest in his 40s.  The influx of burgeoning families to populate the school, and to help staff it, plus a wealth of single young adults to assist in the project, was somewhat chaotic, but invigorating.  The ensuing year brought a host of challenges, personal and social, logistic and administrative, and, last but not least, religious and theological.


Take the matter of the Mass, which had prompted so many dedicated Catholics to pull up stakes and move to Kansas.  While we all agreed the old rite was superior to the new, was the latter invalid?  Was its claim to effect the Eucharistic sacrifice a fiction?  Apparently Michael Davies thought not.  Once at the pilgrimage I had seen him standing alone at the back of a hall, seemingly deep in thought.  When I approached, he looked up and voiced to me his concerns over the fact that the current controversy had split Catholics into factions.  Was there no way to reconcile them?  Could so many friends and relatives attending the Novus Ordo be all wrong?  Could we honestly say the new rite was of no value whatsoever?  Why not, he proposed, admit that, if said reverently by a priest, the new liturgy could still be valid?


What did I think?


Taken aback, I said nothing.  As yet I had not considered the matter in those terms, though the question would lie dormant in my mind and resurface later.  During the school year at St. Mary’s we would confront still another problem in the person of a young French priest, one Father Philippe Guépin, who stayed at the college awhile, ostensibly because he needed a rest.  Speaking little English, he stayed quiet at first, though his expertise at singing Gregorian chant thrilled us at High Mass on Easter.  Soon, though, he began communicating more, often with an interpreter, and even gave us teachers a glimpse into French history.  During the revolution, he said, his ancestors had had to hide in the woods just to baptize a child, since practicing their faith was illegal.  Never having heard this sort of thing in all my years of Catholic or public schooling, I was intrigued.  We had learned about aristocrats being persecuted by revolutionaries, but not Catholics, not solely for their faith.  Dickens didn’t show this in A Tale of Two Cities, did he?


Once at a gathering of teachers and staff, Father Guépin produced a picture of Montini, and indicated with words and gestures that the late so-called pope had publicly espoused heresy.  Of course I took mental notes.  The incident tended to support rumors we had heard that Père Guépin was in trouble with the SSPX because he had refused to accept the recent occupants of the papacy as valid, that he was on leave in order to ponder his plight.


As it turned out, the story was true.  Moreover, despite the American sojourn, the disagreements with his superiors did not resolve, and he left the Society.


Meanwhile, at St. Mary’s nothing so controversial was discussed overtly, certainly not in the presence of students.  When one of the mothers started spreading the word about the last days, the coming Anti-Christ, divine chastisement, and the “three days of darkness”, much of which was new to me, she was told by those in charge to keep it to herself.  None of this was deemed fit for student ears, and I for one understood, given the scary nature of such prophecies.  Even scarier was the notion that they might refer to our times.  How could any child or teenager look forward to preparing for such a bleak future?


I had to wonder.


In contrast, our outlook at the school tended to be optimistic, indeed jubilant, as we prepared that spring for a visit to our campus by Archbishop Lebebvre himself.  Having a musical background, I was chosen to direct the student body in the singing of two French hymns in his honor.  This proved a challenging, though not insurmountable task, and in the end we prevailed.  For the performance a chorus of young voices rose with a triumphant refrain: “Au ciel, au ciel, au ciel!  In heaven, heaven, heaven!”


With another pilgrimage in August, however, a new round of visitors to St. Mary’s brought still other considerations.  In a discussion with Fr. Robert McKenna of the ORCM, for instance, he pointed out something I had not previously contemplated.  It should become increasingly clear, he said, that the problems facing us ultimately involved the papacy.  Given the hierarchical nature of the Church, all questions of validity, of legitimacy, lead to Rome, the pope being the ultimate source of authority for the Church here on earth.


This posed problems for those who objected to the New Mass, since Paul VI, a supposed pope, had promulgated it.  Any criticism could be construed as a challenge to his authority –– and that of John Paul II as well.  In their defense, traditionalists would cite Quo Primum, the bull by Pius V which establishes the Tridentine rite as the “Mass of the ages,” i.e., for all time.  According to Pius V, no priest could be censored for saying it — not ever.  The question remained, nevertheless, of whether the Novus Ordo itself was truly valid or a not-so-pious fraud, –– and how the truth regarding it might in turn color our view of the conciliar popes.


In his remarks to me at the pilgrimage, Michael Davies had seemed to circumvent the issue, but in his new book Pope Paul’s New Mass, published later that year, he is more direct, exposing the new liturgy for what it really is: part of a revolutionary agenda with devastating impact: empty pews, deserted parishes; priests and nuns leaving in droves.  Within the space of a decade, the banal new rite, with its attendant abuses, clownish or otherwise, had taken its toll.  No Attila the Hun could have done more.  Without a doubt the cult of man had replaced that of God, especially in the English form of the liturgy.  To illustrate, Davies cites a liturgical “expert”, Father Joseph Gelineau, S. J., who writes: 

If the formulae change the rite is changed. . .  Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can.  Let them compare it with the Mass that we now have.  Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different.  To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. . . .  This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. . .  It has been destroyed.

Davies’ strongest jabs at the Novus Ordo are aimed at its English translation, particularly for the consecration of the wine.  Despite what apologists for the new rite claim, he notes, “pro multis” simply does not translate into “for all.”  Furthermore, if we examine closely the Addendum to Chapter XV of Pope Paul’s New Mass, which shows in print Cranmer’s rite of consecration side by side with the English version of Paul VI’s, we find that the 16th century reviser used the words “for many”!  In this respect, his Protestant version is more true to the traditional form than is the Novus Ordo!


Significantly, while providing the evidence, Davies does not flaunt it.  By not actually discussing the matter in detail, he makes it easy for the reader to miss the appropriate words in the Addendum, as I myself did at first.  Indeed, I caught the discrepancy in translation only last year, while attending a musical event in an Episcopal Church.  Examining a hymnal found there in my pew, I noticed their older Communion service, unlike those in the Novus Ordo, incorporates the phrase “for many” as opposed to “for all.”  Had it always been like this?  A subsequent trip to the public library led to the discovery that yes, Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer uses “for many” in its Communion service.  Turning finally to Davies’ book, I found it there as well.


Why does our author not discuss this key phrase?  Why is it stuck in the Addendum with no comment?  Is he afraid of calling attention to the fact, and in the process making Paul VI and his henchmen look worse than Cranmer and crew?  Indeed, too often at such a crucial point Davies seems to waver in his attack on the Novus Ordo.  Is it because he is confused in his loyalties, and thereby unduly influenced by the clerical “experts” he cites?  To be sure, we must not discount them.  Professor J.P.M. van der Ploeg, O.P., a theologian and authority on Semitic languages, for instance, considers the English “mistranslation” to be “deplorable,” but will still not concede that it casts “doubt upon the validity of the consecration.”  Needless to say, he also considers the Novus Ordo in Latin to be a true mass.


Davies agrees with him to a point, insisting it is “absolutely certain” that the Latin version of the consecration for both bread and wine, in the new rite is valid.  Moreover, where “for all men” is used in the English form he is “virtually certain there is a valid consecration, particularly in view of the assurance given by a theologian of Father van der Ploeg’s eminence.”  So are we to conclude then that he agrees with van der Ploeg that the English rite is valid?  No, not totally.  He explains: were he a priest, he would “not feel able” to use the new formula, “as I would consider myself guilty of probabilism –– virtual certainty is not absolute certainty.”


(Whew!  No wonder we lay folk get confused, watching him twist and turn like that.  Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler not to plug van der Ploeg at all?)


Another reason to reject “for all” in the consecration of the wine comes from no less an authority than the Catechism of the Council of Trent, published under the aegis of Pope St. Pius V.  In Pope Paul’s New Mass, Davies alludes to the source in but a single sentence which circumvents the issue.  The reader who wants to know more is referred to a page in Cranmer’s Godly Order, where the Catechism is quoted briefly.  How it all relates to the new rite, however, is not discussed.  The reader is left hanging — but why?  Does Davis consider the implications too obvious, too uncompromising, too hard-hitting?


Let’s examine the source ourselves.  In reference to the liturgical use of “for you and for many” in the consecration of the wine, the Catechism notes how the words are taken from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, “joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God.”  It says further: 

They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion.  For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race.  When therefore (our Lord) said: For you, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking.  When He added, And for many, he wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.


With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. . .

Note that the words ”for many” did not materialize out of thin air, but come, rather, straight from the gospels of Mark and Luke.  Nowhere in the pertinent passages is “for all” to be found.  Wow!  Do you suppose that is why Archbishop Cranmer kept “for many” in his Communion Service?  Protestant that he was, he had to be biblical, even if it meant using part of the old form.  Here, at least, he didn’t alter key words from scripture.  How ironic!  In this regard, the Novus Ordo is less Catholic than his version, and most modern Catholics don’t even know it!


Moreover, the Catechism states clearly why “for all” is not, and should not be, used.  Yet Paul VI, by endorsing the new rite violated the provision, indeed, reversed it.  The excuse generally given to us moderns is that Aramaic, the language spoken by Jews in Christ’s day, did not have a word for “many,” but according to Davies that is simply not true.


Though what should we expect, with a Freemason in charge?


That’s right, Davies cites evidence that Annibale Bugnini, the so-called “Great Architect of the Revolution,” belonged to the powerful brotherhood that is known to oppose the Catholic Church.  By April of 1976 Tito Casini, prominent Italian writer, was saying so publicly.  Davies also tells about a “Roman priest of the very highest reputation” who had in his possession “evidence which he considered proved Msgr. Bugnini to be a Freemason.”  Paul VI was given this “with the warning that if action were not taken at once” the writer would be bound in conscience to make the matter public.  Msgr. Bugnini was then ousted —packed off to Iran, in fact –– and his entire congregation dissolved.


Through a common friend, Davies asked this same priest if he could publish details of the evidence, but received a reply saying no, the evidence would have to remain “top secret”.  The fact that Bugnini had been immediately dismissed from his post told the priest that the “arguments” he had forwarded to the pope were “more than convincing.”


Davies concludes that while he does not have proof Bugnini was in fact a Freemason, he has established that “documentation purporting to prove that he was a Mason was placed into the hands of the Pope, who then dismissed the Archbishop and banished him to Iran.”  While it is “theoretically possible” that “this was pure coincidence,” and Pope Paul had already decided to dismiss the Archbishop and dissolve his congregation for some other reason, Davies thinks “this is stretching coincidence a little too far.”


Agreed.  The problem is however, that Bugnini’s ousting did not occur until January, 1976, by which time he and his underlings had already done their job.  For Bugnini had headed the Consilium that formulated the new rites for the Mass and for ordination, both of which, not surprisingly, are fraught with similar problems.  Davies addressed that of the ordinations with The Order of Melchisedech, published in 1979.  And guess who wrote the Forward.  Yep, Father van der Ploeg, whose assessment of this rite, promulgated in June of 1968, echoes his conclusion about the New Mass.  Where possible, he even uses identical words.  Thus he “deplores” certain features of the new rite, but insists there can be no doubt about its validity.  Following suit, Davies, in his “Author’s Introduction” to the book, says that the new rite, while not invalid, does lend itself to an “ambiguous interpretation.”


Aha!  Let us take note that “ambiguity” was also the key to the wily Cranmer’s method of transforming the Catholic liturgy in England.  As Davies’ book Cranmer’s Godly Order explains so well, the archbishop introduced new rites for the Eucharist and Holy Orders that could be interpreted one way by Catholics, another by Protestants.  Change came incrementally, over a period of years, in the 16th century as it would in the 20th.  One of the transitional forms instituted by Cranmer was in fact called “An Ingenious Essay in Ambiguity,” a label which doubles as a chapter heading in Davies’ book.


Significantly, in The Order of Melchisedech Davies also alludes to “certain parallels between the new Catholic rite of ordination and that of Cranmer” as described in Cranmer’s Godly Order.  He says the “new Catholic rite of ordination can only be understood if the passages omitted” from the old rite are compared with those Cranmer eliminated in order to replace “sacrificing priests” with mere ministers.  Hint, hint.  Paul VI’s new rite eliminated every prayer “which stated specifically the essential role of a priest as a man ordained to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the living and dead,” Davies notes.  In most cases these were “the precise prayers removed by the Protestant Reformers.”  The parallels are only too obvious.  Back in 1896, however, in Apostolicae Curae, Leo XIII pronounced Anglican orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void.”  So what should we conclude about Paul VI’s new rite?


Isn’t there a problem here?


Yes, Davies admits that “Anglican apologists will have no difficulty in pointing out that the arguments used by Pope Leo XIII against the Anglican rite can now be applied to the new Catholic rite.”  He does not mention here the “for many” vs. “for all” controversy, but surely they could bring that up too — in their favor.  So what do we conclude?  If those Anglicans have a point should we simply ignore them?  Or should we not be honest and consistent in evaluating the various changes, painful as this might prove to be?  No, Davies will not go that far.  Despite evidence to the contrary, he, echoing as usual his mentor van der Ploeg, insists that, no matter what, the Catholic rite, while ambiguous, is still valid.  Period.


 Why oh why won’t he wise up and pull the plug on van der Ploeg?


Unfortunately, in coming to this conclusion Davies seems to contradict not only the historical evidence from the 16th century, but also the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentium Ordinis promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1947!  Hey, that ain’t so long ago!  In this the pre-Conciliar pope specified what precisely was essential for Holy Orders, taking into consideration not just the forms used by the Roman Church but also those for the various Eastern rites.  But did Paul VI appreciate this scholarly effort?  Did he abide by it?  No, he proceeded to challenge its authority by promulgating his own new rite, one which did not satisfy the requirements for validity set by Pius.  Why Paul did so he did not bother to say.


So whom should we trust, Pius XII or Paul VI?  Isn’t there an inconsistency here — a contradiction?  If so, how does Davis resolve the problem?  The answer is he doesn’t.  To be sure, elsewhere in his Introduction he does provide a hint or two, but no real solution.  Thus he writes: 

The new rite for ordaining a priest does indeed include the matter and form specified by Pope Pius XII but this is not the case in the new rite of Episcopal ordination.  The form specified by Pope Pius XII has been discarded and a new one introduced.  In their official Liturgical Newsletter for November 1977, the American Bishops note with satisfaction that this new form corresponds with that in the proposed new Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopalian Church.  A coincidence?

Hardly.  But, knowing this, how can he dismiss such deceit so blithely, especially considering the radical changes made to the form for Episcopal consecration?  Apparently Archbishop Lefebvre, whom Davies elsewhere praises to the hilt, did not.  In his essay Absolutely Null and Utterly Void, Father Anthony Cekada, a former priest with the SSPX, tells how he approached the archbishop about the matter while he was a seminarian at Econe in 1977.  Specifically, he asked whether his “conservative friends” from his former seminary could “work with the Society after ordination.”


In reply, Lefebvre said yes, however, given the recent changes in the ordination rite, they would first have to be conditionally re-ordained.  Because one word in the new form in the rite for priestly ordination had been changed, Lefebvre considered it doubtful.  The new form for Episcopal consecration, however, was so completely different, he considered this to be definitely “invalid.”


The archbishop himself used only the old rite in ordaining his priests.  As indicated, he also conditionally re-ordained any priests joining the SSPX who had been ordained in the new rite.  Or so he did until sometime in the early 1980’s, when apparently he reneged on the issue.  According to a letter of protest sent to Lefebvre by nine American priests of the Society in March of 1983, he had accepted the services of two applicants who refused the conditional re-ordination.  To the others it was obvious that this violated the mission of the SSPX, which was to provide only valid sacraments.  Now, “under the aegis of the Society,” they wrote, “doubtful Masses are being offered, doubtful absolutions are being given and dying people are being anointed with an ‘Extreme Unction’ that may be invalid and of no more value than the anointing with oil done by a Protestant minister.”


Truly this was a “source of scandal.”


Nor was that all.  The young priests’ letter went on to enumerate such concerns as the recognition by the SSPX of the phony annulments being churned out by conciliar authorities.  Couples wed for 20 years with a bunch of kids were having their marriage dissolved.  (Poor Henry VIII!  Think of all he went through!  Today he would have no problem getting rid of Catherine.)  If one of the “annulled” pair wanted to remarry, a traditional priest naturally hesitated at performing the nuptials, but here again the Society bigwigs balked at denying the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo — and ultimately the Conciliar popes.  Obviously the SSPX did not want to challenge the status quo, i.e. the dictates of the Roman hierarchy.


Inevitably such a policy led to compromise, such as that with the liturgical changes made under John XXIII.  In their 1983 letter, the writers relate how SSPX priests in the U.S. had always used the Missal of their founder, Pope Pius X.  More recently, however, the leadership at Econe had been promoting the “liturgical reforms” of John XXIII.  As they put it, “an attempt has been made to force all the priests and seminarians” in this country to accept these “on the grounds of uniformity and loyalty to the Society.”  One newly ordained priest, in fact, was told either to start using the Missal of John XXIII, or leave.


These changes to the liturgy, they assert, were mere “temporary steps in preparation for Vatican II.”  For them to use that Missal and rubrics would put them and their parishioners in a path leading to a gradual acceptance of the New Mass.  As for the specific changes mandated by Pope John, one of the writers, Father Daniel Dolan, lists them elsewhere, in an article published in 1983.  Most significant was the insertion of St. Joseph’s name into the Canon.  While this may sound fine to the uninformed, it represented a radical move, for no one else calling himself a Catholic, not even a pope, since at least the time of Gregory the Great, had dared touch the sacred Canon.  Protestants had mutilated it, of course, but certainly no one claiming to be head of the Roman Church had done so.  Moreover, as Dolan points out, the man in charge of making the changes under Pope Roncalli was none other than Annibale Bugnini, future architect of the Novus Ordo!  Dolan also says “Archbishop Lefebvre himself, based on his personal experience,” thought it “highly probable” that Bugnini was a Mason!


While Dolan seems at first to blame Bugnini for the changes in liturgy more than he does the big boss, he goes on to say the latter, i.e. John XXIII, was “long suspected of Modernism, as he himself personally told Archbishop Lefebvre.”  Wow!  Yet, in public, at least, Lefebvre would not contest the legitimacy of him or of the other Conciliar popes!  Nor would the archbishop’s apologist Michael Davies, who, of course, also had the goods on Bugnini.  Though Davies insists his case against the so-called reform is not based upon any of this other evidence, that “the objective defects of the reform remain unaffected whether or not the Archbishop has ever been a Freemason.”


 Ultimately, as Davies makes clear, Bugnini was not the one responsible for any of the changes, including the full-fledged Novus Ordo.  For the latter, Paul VI was, since he promulgated it.  Writing about the new rite for ordinations in The Order of Melchisedech, Davies says: 

 The most impressive argument for the validity of the new rite is based on the contention that the Holy Ghost would not permit the supreme authority in the Church to promulgate an invalid sacramental rite.  It is claimed that no matter what the intentions of those who actually devised the rite, once it had been accepted by the Pope and promulgated with his authority it must, ipso facto, be valid.

There we have it, the crux of the problem, which is one of authority.  Davies can criticize the new rites to the hilt.  He can call them defective or deplorable –– but never invalid, because that would incriminate the promulgator, and like Lefebvre, he can not bring himself to contest the claims of the man occupying the papal throne.  Thus his contradictions, which amount to a kind of swing dance, to and fro, round about the subject at hand.  So too with Lefebvre and the SSPX, whose criticism of the Novus Ordo went just so far.  While resisting it, they insist their priests recognize the legitimacy of its head, and accept, in addition to phony annulments, the liturgical innovations of John XXIII.  They compromise, in other words.  When some of the younger priests object in writing, logically or not, it is interpreted as an assault on a higher authority, ultimately that of the Vatican.  And, despite the ambiguity of the SSPX position, one thing is clear: the protestors, lacking any trace of authority on their own, were totally out of line.


So they had to go.


Ironically the replacement for Rev. Donald Sanborn as head of the SSPX seminary in the United States was — yes, Richard Williamson, the Cambridge grad sent from abroad to handle those unruly Yanks!  The same man who has been depicted recently in the media as some kind of loose cannon was actually one of those who adhered strictly to the rules set by higher-ups at Econe.  While most, if not all, of the priests who were expelled from the Society ended up embracing some form of sedevacantism, Williamson, like the rest of the SSPX, presumably still regards the Conciliar popes as legitimate.  In the case of Benedict XVI, the problems of validity discussed in this essay are especially apropos, because he, unlike his predecessors, was “consecrated” a bishop under the new rite.  If this is invalid, so is his papal office, because the Bishop of Rome must first of all be a bishop!


Meanwhile, Lefebvre continued to vacillate.  In his article “Logical Chickens Coming Home to Roost,” Sanborn reports that in 1988 the archbishop signed a Protocol saying that he accepted Vatican II in “the light of tradition” and also recognized John Paul II as Christ’s Vicar.  He even agreed to let a New Mass be said at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet, the SSPX church in Paris.  The following day, however, Lefebvre “repudiated the Protocol.”  Furthermore, he soon revealed the contents of an official letter written the previous year in which he had “described John Paul II as an Antichrist.”!


Subsequently he went on to consecrate bishops according to the old rite — without the mandate of the bad guy whom the SSPX still recognized as pope!  How their leader reconciled all this mentally is not clear.  To his dying day, he did not recognize the validity of the “excommunications” that were incurred ipso facto by himself, Bishop Castro-Meyer of Brazil and the four new bishops.  So the question now is, what would Lefebvre think about the younger four having theirs “removed” by a “Pope,” who, according to former SSPX criteria, is not even a valid bishop?


Is this simply paradoxical? Or does it signify much more: the farcical betrayal of a legacy?


As for this writer and family, all the compromise and contradiction finally got to us years ago.  After leaving Kansas in 1981 we continued to frequent an SSPX chapel until the early 90’s, when the sight of John Paul II’s picture newly installed in the vestibule prompted us to turn elsewhere.  How could they justify his ecumenical antics at Assisi, or in India, where he let a woman daub a pagan mark on his forehead?  Or in New Guinea, where he sat at “Mass” with a group of clerics while a bare-breasted woman in native garb read the Epistle?  While deploring these publicly, the Society still called him the Vicar of Christ!  So was he or was he not to be obeyed?  While we as laymen had no authority to put the Polish actor on trial, it was also true that in judgments affecting us personally, we had to use common sense.


Surely he had to be an imposter!


As abuses mounted so did the excuses, taking their toll.  The official SSPX line we continued to get via newsletters from Bishop Williamson, who, rather than name names, tended to blame the situation on what I would call “isms:” modernism, liberalism, ecumenism, feminism, and Americanism.  As we saw it, however, such abstractions could not possibly be the main problem.  Demonic entities, yes, were no doubt attacking the Church, but “isms” in themselves could not.  Nor did we see signs of a high-minded hierarchy engaged in honest debate over the issues, or the ideas, much less the “isms,” for the benefit of a worldwide audience.  It had to be, rather, a matter of covert deception, of devious men conniving and infiltrating the pinnacles of power.  Yes, the rot coalesced at the top, where the virtue of obedience was used to silence those below.  Feeling helpless, all we underlings could do was watch helplessly.  As one of us observed, it was like being forced to witness a gang of thugs beat our Mother to death while we could do nothing.


Except to watch and pray.

(Part V)

Copyright by Judith M. Gordon 2009