A traditional Catholic organization in Spokane, Washington is charged with "Schism." What's the story here?
ONE FINE DAY, you, a traditional Catholic, open your mail and discover a pamphlet which contains some shocking news: The priest who says the traditional Mass in your local Mass center each Sunday -- he seems so zealous, so traditional -- has been mixed up with an organization whose history is filled with the worst sort of scandals. You read the charges against the organization, and you are appalled that your local priest could have had anything to do with it:
First, communion with schism and heresy. The organization allowed schismatic "Old Catholic" bishops from a sect with married clergy to participate actively in its ordination ceremonies; these schismatics actually imposed hands on the heads of ordinands and were allowed to be present in the sanctuary. The organization also assigned other "Old Catholic" schismatics to say Mass regularly in one of its chapels. A follower of the Rev. Leonard Feeney -- excommunicated under Pius XII --likewise said public Mass under the organization's auspices, not just once, but for years.
Second, there is ample evidence of scandalous conduct by the organization's priests. One of its high officials fled abroad to avoid being charged with assault and battery. The second highest-ranking priest in the organization publicly converted to Protestantism and got married. Another priest attempted to assassinate John Paul II.
Third, this supposedly traditional organization has been in communion with the Novus Ordo. Its priests have been allowed to say the Novus Ordo regularly in parishes on Sundays. The organization allowed its altars to be used for celebrating the Novus Ordo. Seminarians in the organization have been denied Holy Orders because they refused to assist at or receive communion at the Novus Ordo. The supposedly "traditional" bishop who headed the organization ordained a priest for it --using the Novus Ordo ordination rite. On another occasion this prelate, vested in cope and miter, publicly assisted in the sanctuary at a Novus Ordo funeral Mass, where, standing in front of the table, he presided over the absolution ceremony.
The writer who levels these shocking charges says the conclusion is clear: the organization in question cannot possibly be Catholic. It has been in communion with schism, heresy and the Novus Ordo. Its past is filled with disgraceful scandal. All those involved with the organization, therefore, should be considered non-Catholics and refused the sacraments, until they abjure their errors and are formally reconciled with the Catholic Church. Till then, laymen should avoid like the plague any priest who has ever been associated with this sect.
The writer then provides a list of priests. Each has been "tainted" by associating with this sect. The names look awfully familiar: Fathers Daniel Dolan, Donald Sanborn, Joseph Collins, Eugene Berry and Anthony Cekada.
But then the list of tainted clergy gets longer still: Fathers Clarence Kelly, William Jenkins, Thomas Zapp, Martin Skierka, Thomas Mroczka, Denis McMahon, Daniel Ahern -- and eventually runs to about three hundred priests. What is the supposed "sect' that all these priests have belonged to or been in communion with? A certain organization headquartered in Spokane, Washington, perhaps? A group affiliated with a "Thuc bishop"? The pamphlet provides you with the organization's name: the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
My purpose in mentioning these unfortunate events is not to launch an attack on the Society of St. Pius X or the late Archbishop. Far from it. The Society corrected these problems, tried to repair the scandals and avoided repeating such errors in judgement. Indeed, its efforts in this regard deserve nothing but praise.
Why bring up such unpleasant things, then? To illustrate a larger point about traditional Catholic organizations and clergy in general: It is a relatively easy matter to cast the first stone at just about anyone on the traditional scene. You dredge up a few of the grosser blunders your target has committed; you paint each one (even if it's been corrected) as clear evidence of involvement with heresy, schism, scandal or the Conciliar Church; you say your target couldn't possibly be considered a Catholic, therefore; and you top it off by denying the sacraments to anyone who has been connected with him.
But while it's easy to cast the first stone, it's also a bit dangerous for the thrower himself. He can open himself to charges of hypocrisy and pharisaism if (as is frequently the case), he applies one standard to condemn as non-Catholic the actions of others, but applies quite another when it comes to similar actions of his own.
Nowhere is this hypocrisy and pharisaism more evident these days than in the attitude of certain traditional clergy towards the Mount St. Michael group, an organization of traditional Catholic clergy and laity headquartered in Spokane, Washington. Chief among those throwing stones at this target these days is the Society of St. Pius V, a group of traditional priests headquartered in Oyster Bay Cove, New York.
The Fathers of the Society would be well-advised to keep quiet and mind their own business. Earlier this year, the Rev. Joseph Collins, a former member of the Society, wrote a lengthy and excellent critique of the Society's charges against Mount St. Michael. (1) Citing example after example, Father Collins amply demonstrated how the Fathers have been involved in the same sort of things for which they condemn Mount St. Michael. (2)
Here we cite only one: According to the good Fathers the Mount St. Michael group is permanently tainted as non-Catholic because it can be linked several decades ago with "Old Catholic" schismatics. Laymen, naturally, are unsettled when they hear this. Then we learn that the Society of St. Pius X, to which all the St. Pius V Fathers once belonged, allowed two "Old Catholic" bishops -- chicken farmers from Arkansas, if you please -- to function regularly as priests in the Society's church at St. Mary's, Kansas in the late 1970's. Needless to say, the clergymen now casting stones at Mount St. Michael did not feel themselves bound to deny Archbishop Lefebvre the use of their altars and denigrate him as non-Catholic until he rectified the situation.
Examples could be multiplied. Suffice it to say that what the St. Pius V Fathers deem schismatic, scandalous, non-Catholic, indefensible and dubiously valid for Mount St. Michael, they consider Catholic, praiseworthy, necessary, justifiable and valid for themselves.
To accompany patently hypocritical accusations, the Fathers fabricated a fittingly fictitious offense: being "in communion with" Mount St. Michael. Describing how this "crime" is supposedly committed is a bit confusing, but bear with me: A layman receives Communion from a St. Michael's priest. The layman comes to my Mass and I give him Communion. I'm instantly "tainted." You then come to my Mass and receive Communion from me. You're then "tainted" too. You go to Mass at a Society of St. Pius V chapel, and the priest finds out you've received Communion from me. He tells you therefore that he will refuse you Communion unless you agree never to receive the sacraments from me again. Or -- and one Society priest recently did this to a traditional Franciscan nun who had taught in his school for years --Father asks you questions at the communion rail, and publicly withholds the Eucharist from you if you don't answer to his satisfaction.
Now there's one tiny problem with this supposed crime of "in communion with' -- it doesn't exist in church law.
Of course, the law specifically forbids active participation in non-Catholic services -- but the Church's penal law says nowhere that Catholics who participate in a schismatic non-Catholic service instantly become "schismatics" themselves.
Even if we were to accept the Society's reckless charge that the Mount St. Michael group is "schismatic," nothing in the law of the Church justifies the Society's refusal of the sacraments to laymen who go to a Mass where members of the St. Michael's group are also allowed to receive Communion. In canon law, crimes, guilt and penalties come into play only if certain strict conditions are met. They are not passed along like contagious viruses that jump from person to person at the altar or communion rail.
This fictitious crime of "in communion with" allows the Society of St. Pius V to target whole groups of traditional Catholics -- clergy, religious and laymen -- as schismatic, scandalous and non-Catholic. The crimes and penalties the Society alleges against one member of a target group the Society blithely attributes to all members -- and the requirements of the Church's law are thus cast out to make way for the perverse principle of guilt by association.
Ironically, the Society by its own principles is already "in communion with" Mount St. Michael anyway. One Society priest, the Rev. Thomas Zapp, offers Mass in Tacoma, Washington in order to help the Rev. Mario Blanco. Father Blanco is "in communion with" Bishop Robert McKenna OP, who in turn has ordained priests for Mount St. Michael. The Society, therefore, is "in communion with" Mount St. Michael, via Fr. Zapp, Fr. Blanco, and Bp. McKenna. Likewise, the Society is "in communion with" Mount St. Michael via the Rev. Daniel Ahem, a Society priest who, while he will not give Communion to members of the St. Michael's group themselves, will nevertheless give Communion to members of chapels where other priests do. Please note: I am merely applying the Society's principle. If the conclusion is absurd, it is because the principle is absurd. But absurd though it be, when it is used by the Society to deny Catholics the sacraments, it is no laughing matter at all.
Hypocritical accusations and the fabrication of a non-existent crime ("in communion with") are not the only characteristics of the Society's campaign. The root charge -- that those associated with Mount St. Michael are "schismatics" -- simply does not hold up on close examination.
Please understand from the outset that I am no cheerleader for Mount St. Michael. There is much in its history I consider scandalous, grossly imprudent and objectively wrong. The same could be said of the Society of St. Pius X, the Society of St. Pius V, and many other traditional organizations.
Past scandal, imprudence and wrong-doing, however, can be corrected and overcome -- the Creed, last time I checked, still professes faith in the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, the leaders of the Mount St. Michael group have taken some admirable steps in this regard. Laymen who have been associated with the group, moreover, come to my Mass in Columbus. I know them well. There is nothing "non-Catholic" about them. They are zealous, devout, traditional Catholics.
Be that as it may, I do not intend to give a blanket seal of approval to any one organization -- experience has taught me the folly of that. I am an independent priest and I intend to remain so. What I propose to do here is merely answer the one and only question which goes to the heart of the matter:
Can one characterize the Mount St. Michael group as "schismatic"? In light of the pertinent facts and the only standard which counts -- the law of the Church -- the answer is a resounding "no."
To demonstrate this, I will: (I) Briefly recount the group's origins. (II) Examine its recent history. (III) Provide some general comments on crimes and punishments in the Church's law. (IV)
Reproduce the definition of "schismatic" which appears in canon law and show that the Mount St. Michael group does not fall under this definition. (V) Deal with certain issues raised against the group, and show that none of them is proof of "schism."
I. ORIGINS OF THE GROUP
THE ST. MICHAEL group was founded by Francis Schuckardt, a lay-man who gained considerable prominence in the 1960's for his eloquence in promoting the Fatima Message. In 1967, Schuckardt and about a half-dozen young supporters of the Fatima Message banded together as the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI) with the idea of living the religious life as traditional Catholic nuns and brothers. Schuckardt's magnetic personality and reputation in the Fatima movement made him a natural leader for this group. The project at first enjoyed the approval of the Most Rev. Sylvester Treinen, the Catholic Bishop of Boise, Idaho.
Schuckardt, however, was among the first in this country to reject as non-Catholic all the changes in faith and worship introduced in the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Naturally this led to problems with Bishop Treinen. The group soon conduded that the chaplain the bishop had appointed for them was a modernist, and began looking elsewhere for clergy to serve them.
The long search bore little fruit. But some retired priests were persuaded to help out, among them the Rev. Burton Fraser, an elderly Jesuit from Colorado who refused to say the New Mass. He became the CMRI's spiritual advisor.
In 1971, of course, no Catholic bishop would ordain priests for a religious order which rejected both Vatican II and the New Mass. At this point in the story we encounter one Daniel Q. Brown. Brown, a Catholic layman with traditional inclinations, had gotten himself ordained a "priest" and consecrated a "bishop" by an Old Catholic prelate. ("Old Catholic" is a generic term for a number of schismatic sects originating in the 17th and 19th centuries. Each one of these groups claims it has validly-consecrated bishops. I employ the skeptical quotation marks around the words "bishop" and "priest" only because Holy Orders received in some Old Catholic bodies may not be valid.) Brown's conclusions on the post-Vatican II Church turned out to be identical to Schuckardt's.
Father Fraser believed that the situation in the Church was extreme and that there were no Catholic bishops to whom one could go for the traditional sacraments. (This was in 1970 when Archbishop Lefebvre was a virtual unknown who was in the process of attempting to secure Paul VI's blessing for his newly-founded Society of St. Pius X.) Father Fraser concluded that the moral principle of epikeia -- in the face of unforeseen circumstances, favorably interpreting the mind of the Church as law-giver in such a way as to permit an action which the law would forbid under normal circumstances -- could be invoked to allow one to receive Holy Orders from Brown. His conclusions were deemed sufficient by members of the group to warrant the actions which would follow.
Brown repented of his schismatic acts, renounced his ties with the Old Catholics, made a public abjuration, went to confession, and received absolution from a traditional priest. In October and November 1971, Francis Schuckardt was ordained a "priest' and consecrated a "bishop" by Brown. Schuckardt's religious order, the CMRI, set up headquarters in Idaho. It would later move its center of operations to a former Jesuit seminary, Mount St. Michael, in Spokane, Washington.
Schuckardt's emphasis on Marian piety and the traditional Latin Mass drew to the movement over the years thousands of laymen dissatisfied with the modernism of the Conciliar Church. Many young people, as well, joined the two religious orders Schuckardt had established. Schuckardt organized dozens of Fatima groups throughout the country for traditional Catholics who supported his cause. Here we give credit where credit is due. On the central issues -- the New Mass, for instance, and the defection en masse of the hierarchy from Catholic teaching -- the members of the St. Michael's group were right. They also preserved intact all those traditions and practices which are now a part of the religious and devotional life of every traditional Catholic chapel in the world. This they did, please note, at a time when most of us -- even those who are now the group's most vocal opponents -- were still going to the Novus Ordo and urging "conservative" interpretations of the disastrous Vatican II changes.
At the same time, however, Catholics who turned to Schuckardt in their quest to preserve their faith also unwittingly became entangled in something which started to show all the signs of a classic personality cult. Schuckardt's word was law, and he introduced many devotional and penitential practices which were bizarre and extreme. To isolate followers, the reading of literature produced by other traditional Catholic groups was forbidden, even to priests. Many were left completely in the dark about the actual source of Schuckardt's episcopal consecration. (3) All traditional clergy outside Schuckardt's orbit were depicted as having compromised with the Conciliar Church; the laity, naturally, were forbidden to approach outside priests for the sacraments. Followers were also sometimes subjected to disorienting techniques associated with cults and mind-control.
Most people, of course, have no idea of how a Catholic bishop of the old school really conducted himself. Since Schuckardt's followers had no standard of comparison, it is manifestly unjust to reproach them for mistaking his cult-like control for the spirit of the Church.
Not surprisingly, Schuckardt ordained only six priests -- a large body of clergy, of course, would have constituted a threat to his control. Nevertheless, some of them eventually began to have second thoughts. Schuckardt sent two derics to a nearby college to take a course on cults -- he hoped they would gather enough information to refute the press's charge that the St. Michael's group was a cult. The opposite occurred. Both came away convinced that Schuckardt was in the process of turning the operation into a full-fledged cult.
Soon after his consecration by Brown, Schuckardt turned himself into a remote and mysterious figure, isolated from the day-to-day life of the religious communities he founded. He generally issued his orders and directions in writing or by phone, rather than in person. Other than giving an annual retreat, Schuckardt left the spiritual formation of the nuns and brothers to others. While he kept quarters at Mount St. Michael, he would normally visit there only on major feast days. From the beginning, he lived in houses apart from the religious community itself.
Even though their contacts with Schuckardt were limited, some of the priests, brothers and nuns in the community concluded that his behavior was becoming increasingly strange and erratic.
In 1984 a series of stories in the secular press accused Schuckardt of drug abuse and gross personal immorality, (4) charges which shocked the Mount St. Michael community. In June 1984 three priests confronted him with the accusations. After delays in addressing the issue, Schuckardt fled with a small number of religious and lay people.
II. RECENT HISTORY
IN AUTUMN OF 1984 the priests sought out a bishop to ordain for the CMRI. Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X were out of the question, particularly since the Archbishop at that time was seeking to work out a compromise with the Conciliar Church. They settled on one of the Thuc bishops (5) George J. Musey, and conducted extensive discussions with him.
On 23 April 1985 before Bishop Musey, the remaining three priests publicly took the Abjuration of Error and Profession of Faith ad cautelam --in case through their previous actions they had incurred any ecclesiastical censures. Bishop Musey then re-ordained them conditionally. (This was a prudent step. While the Church before Vatican II usually regarded ordinations stemming from Old Catholic bodies as valid, she also looked at each particular case.)
The priests announced their intention to turn the group into a normal traditional Catholic organization. They uprooted the cult-like practices Schuckardt introduced, and appear to have rectified past mistakes and exaggerations.
Since then, various Thuc bishops have ordained priests for the group. As of this writing, the religious order headquartered at Mount St. Michael, the CMRI, has 14 priests, a number of brothers and seminarians, and about 65 sisters. They operate chapels throughout the United States, and in Mexico, Canada and New Zealand. Several thousand lay people assist at the traditional Mass at these chapels.
As with any other traditional Catholic organization, it is unjust to continue to condemn this group for past deviations which have been acknowledged, rectified and atoned for. In 1980 I wrote an 11-page artide on the history of the European Old Catholic movement and the pseudo-appartitions in Necedah, Wisconsin. (6) Despite the efforts of some to misrepresent my article as an exhaustive, eternal and near-infallible condemnation of Mount St. Michael in particular, the only discussion of the group occurred in passing in a footnote. Since 1980, however, Schuckardt has departed, the group's leaders took an abjuration, and much additional information has come to light. One should have the good grace to acknowledge these facts and their consequences. To do otherwise is both intellectually dishonest and morally wrong.
In August 1991 I visited Mount St. Michael to attend a meeting of independent traditional priests, an event presided over by Father Leonard Giardina, a traditional Benedictine monk from Culman, AL. During the course of my stay, I spoke at great length with about 10 CMRI priests.
I encountered absolutely nothing to support the charge that these men are schismatics or non-Catholic. There is nothing "weird" about them or their community life. The atmosphere is utterly normal and identical to that of any Catholic religious house -- I speak from experience, having lived in or visited countless religious houses throughout the 25 or so years of my ecclesiastical career.
All the priests seem to have received a good theological and religious formation. They talk and act like real Catholic priests. The older Fathers seem especially knowledgeable when it comes to matters of theology and church law. They are completely open when you discuss the group's past with them. But understandably, I suppose, they're weary of being continually condemned for past problems, especially since they didn't create the problems in the first place, and later made every effort to correct them.
III. CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
IN A PREVIOUS pamphlet, (7) I pointed out that one of the major causes of divisions among traditional Catholics is the tendency certain traditional clergy have to accuse fellow traditional Catholics of "crimes" and proceed to read them out of the Church. I also noted that the only fruit this has produced is endless conflict in traditional organizations, chapels and families.
At the root of this tendency is an incredible arrogance. The clergy who indulge in this "ministry of condemnation" lack any jurisdiction from church law to bind the consciences of others. Yet they merrily go their way playing prosecutor, judge, jury and hangman for the targets of their choice.
Such priests are able to get away with this only because the average traditional Catholic is unaware that church law intentionally makes it very difficult to accuse any Catholic of having willfully and through his own actions departed from the one, true Church.
If a decree from lawful authority (a papal bull, say) declares that a named individual is outside the Church, it is obvious, of course, that the person is then a "non-Catholic." But other than that, to whom may the term "non-Catholic" be applied? To four classes of persons: says the canonist Rev. Cornelius Damen CSSR: (1) the non-baptized, (2) heretics, (3) schismatics, and (4) apostates. (8)
Traditional dergy occupied with the ministry of condemnation freely and frequently hurl the charge "heretic" and "schismatic" at other targets in the traditional movement. A layman, hearing these frightening terms, takes the condemnations at face value, and figures there must be something to them.
He shouldn't. Almost without exception, priest-accusers are merely slinging inflammatory invectives. When you compare what these men allege against a target with what church law really defines as "heresy" or "schism," you discover very quickly, as Southerners say, that "the ol' boys are just woofin'."
The woofing would be bad enough. But the ministers of condemnation never content themselves merely with that. They go on to say that their target of choice has incurred an ecclesiastical penalty (excommunication is a favorite) and that he's put himself outside the Church. Denial of the sacraments then follows.
The whole process is a fraud from beginning to end.
First, church law defines very precisely what a heretic is and what a schismatic is. No clergyman, unless he's gloriously reigning as Christ's Vicar, has the right to go beyond the precise meanings of those definitions. If any of the conditions church law lays down for being a heretic or a schismatic are not met, you are simply not a heretic or a schismatic.
Second, to incur the penalty for a grave crime like heresy or schism, a number of other conditions must all be present (an external act, a completed offense, mortal sin and obstinacy -- the latter not as it is commonly understood, but as the law defines it). (9) In matters where punishments are involved, more-over, a more benign interpretation (i.e., in your favor) must be followed. If there's a doubt of fact -- whether you've committed a given crime, say -- the penalty cannot be imposed, since, as one canonist notes, "it would be inhuman to do so." (10)
IV. CHURCH LAW AND SCHISMATICS
AWARE THEREFORE that church law delineates very specifically the nature of particular crimes, and that penalties aren't incurred if there is a doubt that the specified crime was committed, we turn to the case at hand.
Commenting on the third paragraph of the Society of St. Pius V's January 1991 condemnation of Mount St. Michael, (11) Father Collins rightly observes: "To be noted here is the repeated use of the terms 'sect' and 'schismatic.' ... By this point the simple-minded reader has seen these terms eleven times, and is able to repeat them in his sleep. The technique is a common one among the great demagogues of history." (12)
The reader of the January Bulletin, Father Collins might also have added, will search in vain through the entire text of the denunciation for a definition of the terms "schism" and "schismatic."
A similar reluctance to define terms is apparent in a Society priest's recent public letter to parents at his school in Cincinnati. Before going on to announce that he will refuse the sacraments to parents and children who disagree with the Society's position, the author of the letter simply characterizes Mount St. Michael as "schismatic." (13) He, too, neglects to define the term.
Now all this is quite interesting. Here you have two priests. One plowed through mountains of canon law commentaries to write the Constitutions of the Daughters of Mary. The other taught theology and canon law at a traditional Catholic seminary. Both repeatedly condemn Mount St. Michael and the several thousand people associated with it as "schismatics." Neither priest defines the term. Why? The answer is obvious: Both priests know very well that the Code of Canon Law gives a precise and extremely restricted definition for the term "schismatic." And they also know that if they try to stretch that definition in any way and apply it to Mount St. Michael, someone will blow the whistle. The charge on which they base all their bitter diatribes will then collapse.
You don't become a schismatic, you see, by belonging to a group that has skeletons in its closet, used hierarchical titles for its officials, thought it was the Church's only hope, approached former Old Catholics for episcopal consecration, had a corrupt leader, or was guilty of any one of the thousand-and-one other stale accusations one may care to dredge up from Mount St. Michael's past. None of it is "schism."
You become a schismatic if and only if you obstinately rebel against a pope's lawful authority, or refuse ecclesiastical communion with Catholics subject to him.
Here is the definition of "schismatic" as it appears in the Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law: "If someone, after receiving baptism and retaining the name 'Christian,' pertinaciously.., refuses to be subject to the Roman Pontiff, or refuses to communicate with the members of the Church who are subject to him, he is a schismatic." (14)
That's all there is to it. It only remains to ask a few simple questions to see whether this definition applies to the facts on the Mount St. Michael group:
(1) Did the members of this group receive baptism and retain the name Christian? Yes. (2) Did the members of this group "pertinaciously refuse to be subject to the Roman Pontiff"? No. (15) From the beginning through the present, the group's leaders and members have insisted time and again that they are nothing other than Roman Catholics who want to preserve the faith in face of the terrible destruction wrought by the Second Vatican Council. (16) (3) Did the members of this group "refuse to communicate [be in communion] with the members of the Church subject to the Roman Pontiff"? No again. Like the Society of St. Pius V and other traditional organizations, however, the Mount St. Michael group insists that members receive only the traditional sacraments -- not out of rebellion against the Holy See, of course, but out of fear of sacrilege.
Commenting on the Canon's definition, moreover, the canonist Father Charles Augustine noted the following: "The Holy Office very properly decided that separation from the See of Peter meant a split in the unity and apostolicity of the Church and setting up another Church in place of the one founded by Christ." (17) Whatever the St. Michael's group can be accused of, it is most certainly not that.
The St. Pius V Fathers have published at least 9 public statements condemning Mount St. Michael. (18) Despite that, they have not produced one scintilla of evidence demonstrating that either the St. Michael's group as a whole or its individual members are guilty of what the Church defines as "schism."
The evidence, I submit, doesn't exist. And since that's the case, the law of the Roman Catholic Church does not deem the St. Michael's group "schismatics." Neither, therefore, should anyone.
Since the Society's key charge against these devout people is no longer tenable, the rest of its case disappears into thin and extremely hot air.
V. MISCELLANEOUS CHARGES
ABSENT ANY CREDIBLE justification in canon law for calling Mount St. Michael "schismatic," the Society of St. Pius V has attempted to sustain the charge by alleging that other supposed misdeeds will do the trick.
I have reread all the Society's statements on the issue. It may be helpful here to pull together what appear to be the Society's main arguments, and offer a comment or two on each.
A. The Mount St. Michael group started out as a schismatic Old Catholic sect and continues to be such because of Schuckardt's consecration by Brown.
As we noted above, throughout this group's history members insisted over and over that they never left the Church, that they were never Old Catholics, and that they were only Catholics who wanted to preserve their faith and the Mass after Vatican II.
As for the consecration by Brown, the group was told by a priest who said the old Mass that the action was justified by the moral principle of epikeia. It is epikeia, please note, that the Rev. Clarence Kelly has used to justify his own astounding position that the Daughters of Mary in Round Top, New York are a "canonically established" religious congregation. In the same article where Father Kelly invoked epikeia to defend his own actions, he also included a lengthy digression condemning Schuckardt and Mount St. Michael. (19)
Before consecrating Schuckardt, in any case, Brown abjured and repudiated the Old Catholics. (20)
Even if Brown had not abjured, receiving orders from him, while irregular, would not have automatically rendered Schuckardt schismatic -- nor would it have automatically rendered schismatic those who subsequently followed Schuckardt. Suspension or excommunication is the automatic penalty the law imposes for receiving the priesthood or episcopate irregularly. (By "irregular" we mean without the Church's official authorization -- the case with all the priests and bishops Archbishop Lefebvre ordained since 1975.) Such a cleric becomes a schismatic only when the Church issues an official decree against him declaring him by name to be such. Even then, the penalty in the decree does not automatically fall on his followers. They must either be excommunicated by name or with the general phrase ac sequaces -- and his followers. No such decree -- certainly none that any traditional Catholic would recognize -- was issued.
Schuckardt, it should also be noted in passing, always operated independently of Brown, and Brown never visited any of Schuckardt's institutions.
B. The Mount St. Michael group was/is still schismatic because it was referred to as the "Tridentine Latin Rite Latin Church."
"Tridentine Latin Rite Church" (TLRC) is the name which the St. Pius V Fathers repeatedly use to refer to the Mount St. Michael group. Like leftists who make a point of referring to anyone else as "fascists," the good Fathers know how to use a pithy label against their targets -- despite the fact that the St. Michael's group eschewed the use of the name.
The name is a variant of a one cooked up by Brown, who believed the Holy See was vacant and who said he was preserving the Church's doctrines as they were in the time of Pius XII. Brown explained in a letter: "In order to distinguish ourselves from Churches [sic] using other rites or Masses, we call ourselves tentatively, 'The Tridentine Rite Catholic Church." (21)
Schuckardt used "Tridentine Latin Rite Church" as the civil/legal title when he incorporated with the state authorities. In most states, you can't use "Roman Catholic Church" in a corporation's title unless you get the written permission of the local bishop.
Separation from the Novus Ordo, rather than separation from the one true Church, is what really lay behind the name.
One of the older priests told me he himself never remembers using the name except in corporate papers. It was the local diocesan newspaper, rather than members of the group itself, which appears to have been responsible for popularizing the name "Tridentine Latin Rite Church" as the way outsiders referred to the group.
Using a pompous, inappropriate or even foolish name for your traditional organization, however, does not make you "schismatic" under the law of the Catholic Church. All you're really guilty of is using sloppy language.
C. The Mount St. Michael group was/is still schismatic because Pope St.Pius X in 1911 solemnly excommunicated Arnold Harris Matthew, and it was to a series of bishops deriving from Matthew that Brown, who consecrated Schuckardt, traced his own consecration.
I am well aware of the story of Arnold Harris Matthew, his excommunication for schism, and the various Old Catholic groups which trace their lineage from him. As I mentioned above, I researched the topic extensively and wrote a lengthy article on it in 1980. I consider myself a bit of an expert on Matthew. To be sure, Matthew was a schismatic, and his punishment was well-deserved.
That one of Brown's remote episcopal predecessors was excommunicated by St. Pius X, however, does not transform the Mount St. Michael group into "schismatics."
First, Schuckardt's followers, based on Father Fraser's advice, believed that Brown's renunciation of the Old Catholics was sufficient to cure any problems. Second, St. Pius X's decree declared that one specified act (the illicit consecration Matthew performed) was a crime. He then punished as schismatics and excommunicates those who were involved in that one act: Matthew, Beale and Howarth, and all who lent aid, counsel or consent "to this nefarious crime."
The punishment St. Pius X meted out was inflicted only on the individuals specified in the decree. The pontiff did not say that all bishops who would in the future trace their lineage to Matthew would incur the same punishment. Nor did he say that any laymen who would in the future would associate with such bishops would incur the same punishment.
You cannot pretend that the punishment inflicted on specified individuals for one specific act applies eighty years later to people who were not named specifically in the decree and who had nothing whatsoever to do with the specific criminal act.
Matthew's penalty was not like some infection which the St. Michael's people could "catch" via Daniel Q. Brown.
Why? Because, as the canonist Father Eduardo Regatillo says: "It is not allowed to transfer a punishment from one person to another person, or from one case to another, even though an equal or more serious reason be present. Here, an argument from an equal case (a pari) or from a stronger case (a fortiori) does not apply. Punishments do not go beyond an individual case. " (22)
D. The Mount St. Michael group is schismatic because the abjuration their leaders took in 1985 was (1) insincere, and (2) received by someone who had no power to receive it.
The appropriate adjectives to describe the foregoing assertion are arrogant, presumptuous and absurd.
First, the assertion is predicated on the assumption that members of the group fall within the category of "schismatics." That, as we've seen, is false.
Second, while the group and its leaders maintained that they always remained Catholics, the leaders took the prudent step of making an abjuration in case they incurred any censures. As we've seen above, if there is a doubt about whether you've actually committed a crime, you're not subject to the accompanying censure and you really don't have to be absolved. But it is permissible to absolve someone conditionally. This is clear from the formula for absolution from excommunication in The Roman Ritual. When there is doubt that the censure has been incurred, the Ritual specifies that the priest employ the phrase "I absolve you from the bond of excommunication which you have perhaps incurred". (23)
Third, the St. Pius V Fathers did not receive the abjuration. They had nothing to do with it. The Fathers don't have the right or the power to run a "sincerity check" on all abjurations in the U.S. and then declare several thousand Catholics "unreconciled schismatics" if they don't merit the Society Sincerity Stamp. Let the Fathers leave mind-reading to the Amazing Kreskin.
Fourth, Bishop Musey had just as much power to receive an abjuration as any other traditional clergyman does. Even if one doubts his episcopal consecration, one must face the fact that he was a diocesan priest ordained before Vatican II. As such, no other pretensions he had (24) take away the supplied jurisdiction he enjoys -- just like any other priest -- to receive an abjuration.
E. The Mount St. Michael group was/is still schismatic because its Superior will not answer every question Father Kelly decides to ask him.
Alas, I am not making this up. In the Fall of 1989, the head of the Society of St. Pius V, Father Kelly, published an article in The Roman Catholic attacking Mount St. Michael as an "Old Catholic sect."
About five months later, Father Kelly wrote to Mount St. Michael saying he was "asked by a number of people to make an assessment of your group." (25) (Condemn first, assess later...) He enclosed a series of questions about the 23 April 1985 abjuration.
The Superior of the CMRI Fathers, the Rev. Tarcisius Pivarunas, replied. Having noted that Father Kelly had already condemned the group and denounced the acts of the Thuc bishops as illicit and invalid, he asked why he should bother to answer such questions. (26)
Father Kelly replied by giving his arguments against the Thuc consecrations. As for his questions to Father Pivarunas, Father Kelly said he wanted to get the facts from the horse's mouth. "If you are sincere" Father Kelly added, "I cannot understand your reluctance to answer my questions. I conclude that if you are interested in shedding the light on the truth, you will answer them. If you have something to hide, you will not." (27)
Father Pivarunas, oblivious to the Great Truth that sincerity is founded solely on a Catholic's willingness to answer Father Kelly's questions, replied that, had Father Kelly really been interested in the truth, he would have written to Mount St. Michael before condemning it.
Father Pivarunas went on to say: "Father, from the many things I have heard and read about you and your manner of control, I find a striking parallel between you and Francis Schuckardt...For there to be stability, especially in these times, there [have] to be checks and balances on everyone, including Father Kelly." (28)
Refusing to answer Father Kelly's questions, and in the process comparing him to Francis Schuckardt, of course, is an offense which must be dealt with severely. Eight days later, therefore, Father Kelly started circulating a new letter of condemnation. (29)
The moral, I guess, is: don't refuse to answer Father Kelly's questions and don't compare his methods to those of Francis Schuckardt, or schism will overtake you. You can't say you weren't warned...
Not one of the Society's accusations catalogued above demonstrates that the members of the Mount St. Michael group fall within the Church's definition of "schismatics."
Even if those who attack St. Michael's could somehow magically expand the Church's definition of schism in order to include association with Brown, the title "Tridentine Rite Latin Church," episcopal lineage from Matthew, or the abjuration received by Bishop Musey, they still would not be able to make the charge stick. Why?
You don't become a real schismatic unless you know that what you're going to do is gravely wrong, and you decide to do it anyway. Just as mortal sin is not imputable to someone who lacks full knowledge and full consent, so too the crime of schism and the penalties it brings.
The history of the Mount St. Michael group -- like any other traditional organization -- is littered with missteps, misdeeds and mistakes, all of them (insofar as we can tell) honest. If a priest therefore would still attempt to condemn them as "schismatics," let him first consider the words of Father Cappello, the pre-eminent canonist of Pius XII's reign:
"Wherefore, whatever excuses from serious guilt, for example, ignorance or good faith, excuses likewise from the crime of schism, and consequently from the censure." (30)
TO SUM UP: Church law defines a "schismatic" as one who pertinaciously refuses to be subject to the Roman Pontiff or refuses to be in communion with the members of the Church who are subject to him.
Mount St. Michael as an institution and the thousands of people associated with it, whatever else they may be criticized for in the past, are simply not guilty of this. Hence, they cannot be called "schismatics."
It is time, therefore, for the clergy who have conducted bitter and divisive campaigns against Mount St. Michael to drop their phony charges of "schism," their fictitious crime of "in communion with," their punishments for innocent souls who only want the sacraments.
But if neither church law nor common decency can deter them from their bitter course, let them then look to the dust of their own pasts, there to find writ large the same sins they see in others. And let them at least then imitate other men like them long ago, who stole away in silence, hearing the Voice which said: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
MILWAUKEE 11 AUGUST 1991
THE REV. ANTHONY CEKADA 11144 READING ROAD CINCINNATI OH 45241
Notes and References
1. Joseph IV. Collins, pamphlet "A Critical Analysis of the January, 1991 The Bulletin Originating from Eight Pood Place, Oyster Bay Cove NY 11771," (Jacksonville FL: St. Michael the Archangel Church 1991), 10 pages.
2. I also wrote a one-page circular pointing out how the Society's positions are contradicted by its members own actions. See: Anthony Cekada, pamphlet "Measure for Measure," (Milwaukee: St. Hugh of Lincoln Church 1990).
3. Lay people involved for many years with St. Michael's have told me that the first time they heard of "Old Catholics" was when they read my 1990 pamphlet, "A Question of Authority."
4. While the case was highly publicized in the West at the time, there is no point in repeating all the details.
5. As I have noted elsewhere, the episcopal consecrations performed by Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo-dinh-Thuc are valid. A full study of the issue is in preparation.
6.Anthony Cekada, "A Warning on the Old Catholics: False Bishops, False Churches," (Oyster Bay Cove NY: The Roman Catholic 1980).
7. Anthony Cekada, pamphlet "A Question of Authority," (Milwaukee: St. Hugh of Lincoln Church, June 1990).
8. "Non-Catholics," in Francisco Cardinal Robeti, compiler, Dictionary of Moral Theology, tr. from the 2nd Italian edition of 1957 by Henry J. Yannone, (Westminster MD: Newman Press 1962), 825.
9. Heribert Jone OFMCap, Moral Theology, (Westminster MD: Newman Press 1962), 291.
10. Eduardo F. Regatillo SJ, Theologiae Moralis Summa, (Madrid: BAC 1954), 3:1027.
11. Clarence Kelly, The Bulletin, (Oyster Bay Cove NY: Society of St. Pius V, January 1991).
12. "A Critical Analysis...," 4.
13. William W. Jenkins to Parents and Friends, Letter 6 August 1991.
14. Canon 1325.2. Where the three dots appear, the canon also gives the definitions for "heretic" and "apostate," before passing on to the definition of "schismatic."
15. I suppose that most members of the group hold the opinion that the Apostolic See is vacant. (So do the Society of St. Pius V, Traditional Catholics of America and other traditional organizations.) But since this theory is merely an application of the teachings of the great Counter-Reformation theologians (St. Robert Bellarmine, Cajetan, Suarez, etc.) and since mere doubt about an individual pope's personal claim to the office does not fall under the censure anyway (See F.X. Wernz SJ and P. Vidal SJ, Jus Canonicum, [Rome: Gregorian University 1937], 8:398), it hardly constitutes "refusal to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
16. See, for example, the statement issued by their current Superior: Tarcisius Pivarunas CMRI, pamphlet "Just for the Record," (Spokane: Mount St. Michael 1990).
17. P. Charles Augustine OSB, ACommentary on the New (1917) Code of Canon Law, 2nd edition, (St. Louis: Herder, 1923), 6:335.
18. One magazine article, two bulletins, and six public letters
19. The article appeared in The Roman Catholic in Fall 1989.
20. It does no good twenty years after the fact, moreover, to pose phony questions like: "What if Brown's abjuration wasn't really sincere? (Dead men tell no tales of course, and they certainly don't take phone calls from Oyster Bay.) To be culpable in any way, Schuckardt and his followers, obviously, would have to have known about it at the time.
21. Daniel Q. Brown to Francis Schuckardt, Letter 10 July 1971.
22. Theologiae Moralis Summa, 3:1027.
23. Rituale Romanum, (New York: Benziger 1953), Supplementum, 19.
24. Bishop Musey had the foolish notion that he had jurisdiction to set up a "diocese." But foolish notions on jurisdiction abound in the traditional movement and foolish notions do not constitute "schism." We have already mentioned Father Kelly's claim that he himself enjoyed jurisdiction to set up the Daughters of Mary as "canonically established."
25. Clarence Kelly to To Whom It May Concern, Letter 19 February 1990.
26. Tarcisius Pivarunas CMRI to Clarence Kelly, Letter 20 March 1990.
27. Clarence Kelly to Tarcisius Pivarunas CMRI, Letter 28 March 1990.
28. Tarcisius Pivarunas CMRI to Clarence Kelly, Letter 13 May 1990.
29. Clarence Kelly to Daniel Dolan, Letter 21 May 1990. It was not really intended as a private letter to Father Dolan. It was a condemnation of St. Michael's written for future publication.
30. Felix M. Cappello SJ, Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Censuris, (Rome: Marietti 1950), 193.