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Saturday, August 24, 2019

UNITE THE CLANS: A Word on the FSSP

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pendergraft and martinFrs. Jimmy Martin, SJ, and Gregory Pendergraft, FSSP

There hasn’t been a lot of good news in my archdiocese lately—not for years, in fact. In the face of the massive legal costs relating to clergy sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in 2015.

Last year, our Archdiocese earned the sad distinction of having brokered the largest bankruptcy settlement of its kind between Church leaders and abuse victims, involving some 450 victims and a $210,290,724 settlement.

Not a proud moment for any Catholic, and certainly mortifying for Minnesotans aware of the fact that the traditional Catholic pre-conciliar Church literally carved their capital city out of the wilderness.

So one would think the Archdiocese would be eager to report on some good news, for a change. But is there any to report?

Well, how about this? A few years ago, a couple of young priests were invited into our Archdiocese. They were assigned to a local parish church that was on its last legs. Mass attendance was down, the building was in disrepair, and the aging congregation was so small that there was talk of shuttering the place.  

Within a few months of their arrival, however, these two priests had the Church of All Saints back up and running again, with three Masses on Sunday mornings and a congregation so thriving that it quickly became not unusual at all to find standing room only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.

All SaintsSevers guild at All Saints

The priests established a men’s club, a women’s guild, several choirs (including a children’s choir), a huge brigade of altar servers, and a thriving home-school co-op that brings families into the inner-city neighborhood from all around the state.

nuns at All SaintsEarlier this year, a handful of young nuns were assigned to All Saints, and they’re now preparing to start catechism classes this fall for a hundred children or more.

One of the big decisions the pastor is mulling over just now is whether or not to add a 5 PM Sunday Mass to the schedule, just to help meet the growing demand.

By every conceivable indicator, in other words, the Church of All Saints is booming, as the homilists manfully compete with a cacophony of crying babies at the rear of the church every Sunday. 

At a time when churches are closing their doors and so many ‘Catholic Christian” communities are trying desperately to attract young people just to stay alive—there’s All Saints, with vocations to the priesthood and religious life, plenty of marriages, and more congregants than spaces in the pews.

So, what’s going on here?

Well, it may have something to do with the liturgy.  Every Mass at All Saints—every day—is celebrated in Latin. All Saints is a Traditional Latin Mass parish.

Everything about the place is different, even the way the people dress. The young priests wear cassocks every day, and the nuns, going about their daily routines in the traditional habit, remind neighbors of better days in the Catholic Church. The ladies wear dresses and chapel veils to Mass, while the gentlemen tend to wear jackets and ties.

Real old-world stuff. And if a packed-out church every Sunday tells us anything at all, it’s this: There’s a Catholic revival going on in Minneapolis right now.

The church is served by the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter, whose invitation to come here, by the way, was facilitated by a diocesan priest, Father John Echert, whose traditional Mass parishes in St. Paul are still thriving. (Father Echert invited Father John Berg, FSSP Superior General, to speak to his parishioners and to encourage them to formally request the Archdiocese to invite the FSSP in and to set up shop across town in Minneapolis).   

all saints in minneapolisAll Saints in Minneapolis, before and after its traditional renovation

The plan worked. Today, even the buildings have been restored. Within the first few years, the sanctuary underwent a total renovation, with the help of some of the finest artisans in the area. The first thing restored, of course, was the Communion rail.  And this past summer, bulldozers took down the old dilapidated school building so that work could begin on a new parish center.

Did I mention that All Saints is booming?

So, what’s to criticize?

Well, some of the Novus people didn’t appreciate the disappearance of the New Mass from All Saints. But that couldn’t be helped, since the FSSP priests simply do not know how to say the New Mass.

And critics from the traditional Catholic side of the aisle argue that All Saints is booming only at the expense of the local Society of Saint Pius X chapel. But this is demonstrably untrue. The SSPX chapel is doing just fine. They too are expanding; they're building a new school and don’t seem to have enough pews for faithful.

By the way, when I go into All Saints, I see a church filled with unfamiliar faces—young families I’ve never met. They’re not the old guard with whom I grew up, but rather refugees from the Novus Ordo—hundreds of them, learning the old Faith, the old Mass, the old Traditions, and grateful to God for a new and thriving spiritual home.

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Well, argue a few traditionalist critics still working with 25-year-old talking points, the priests of the FSSP don’t condemn the Second Vatican Council from the pulpit every Sunday.

That may be so, but I can tell you what they do condemn—Modernism, laxity, indifference, sin, despair and presumption. They preach the Gospel, stress virtue, warn against the new orientation of the Church and the threat of pagan culture. They preach on the necessity of becoming saints, fidelity to doctrine, the indissolubility of marriage, the celibate priesthood, conversion, the Eucharist, the Four Last Things, the Kingship of Christ, the problem with NFP and the importance of home-schooling.  

mike pulle quote 2

You see what I’m getting at? I hope so, because I’m not going to spell it out in a public forum. We need to take care of these guys and, as I see it, our insisting that they put their heads on the chopping block just to prove their ‘trad cred’ to you and me is profoundly myopic.  The point is this: There’s more than one way to undermine a revolution.

Which reminds me of an old joke my friend and mentor, Michael Davies, used to tell, in the proper brogue, of course: An old Irish priest was spending too much time blasting the English from the pulpit. His bishop got word of it, called him into the chancery office, and ordered him to stop. The priest agreed. So, next Sunday he was preaching on Judas’s betrayal of Christ.  “The Lord told His apostles that one of them would betray Him that night. Peter said: ‘Is it I, Lord?’ And Jesus said ‘no, Peter, tisn’t.’ Jesus looked at Judas, and the one who would betray Him said: “Blimey! Ya don’t mean me, do ya Governor?”

Again, there’s more than one way to ‘say it like it is’.

But the FSSP priests don’t say that Vatican II is a false and heretical Council!  True, and neither did Archbishop Lefebvre, who was at the Council and actually signed the documents of Vatican II. Remember? And neither did Michael Davies, who pointed out that Vatican II—the brainchild of Modernist revolutionaries—was planted thick with theological timebombs but also went to great lengths to avoid outright heretical declarations that would have scuttled the entire evil enterprise.  

mike pull quote

By the way, the Society of St. Pius X doesn’t declare Vatican II a ‘false and heretical council,’ either.  But this is no defense of the Council on their part.  It’s just a statement of the Modernist reality. In fact, the SSPX rightly points out that their priests accept far more of Vatican II—that which is orthodox and reiterates the defined teachings of the Church that all Catholics MUST ACCEPT ON PAIN OF MORTAL SIN—than do the vast majority of Novus priests, so enamored as they are with novelty and the spirit of Vatican II.  (Think about that for a moment. It’s a devastating argument against the current occupants of the Vatican.)

Yes, okay. Fine!  But the FSSP does not condemn Pope Francis on a daily basis.

Again, true enough. But neither did Edmund Campion run around publicly condemning the tyrant and heretics of his day.  Instead, he chose to dress as a layman—a jeweler—and to call himself ‘Mr. Edmunds’ so that he could avoid arrest and carry on with the important work of preserving the old Faith in Elizabethan England. He wasn’t a coward. He was a strategist, who would eventually be starved, beaten, disemboweled and drawn and quartered for his fidelity the old Faith.  

It’s called strategy. Maybe you’ve seen pictures. You know, Father Miguel Pro undercover, dressed in suit and tie, as he waged holy war in defense of the old Faith during the Cristero uprising. Dressed in disguise, was Father Pro afraid to ‘say it like it is’? Please!

Father Miguel Pro 1Fr. Pro received permission from his superiors to go incognito and to carry out his ministry undercover. He was known to dress as a policeman, chauffeur, garage mechanic, farm laborer, and playboy.

There’s more than one way to get the job done, friends, and the job right now is to preserve the old Faith at all costs. ‘Sayin it like it is’ in times like these is sometimes just a really stupid thing to do! It’d be like Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg shouting condemnations of the psycho Nazis as he walked into the Wolf’s Lair with a bomb under his arm, preparing to assassinate Hitler. Not a good time for Claus to ‘say it like it is.’  

Let’s not shoot ourselves (or the few good priests left) in the head by calling for recklessness when prudence and strategy are obviously working so well to save souls and to attach so many young people to the cause of Traditional Catholic restoration.

Yes, well, the FSSP priests don’t like the SSPX and vice versa.  Maybe that’s true in some cases, but so what!  The Dominicans and the Franciscans didn’t always get along, either. About the only thing on which some of them agreed was a mutual dislike of the Jesuits, which reminds me of another old joke:

A Franciscan and a Dominican were arguing over which of their spiritualities is more pleasing to God. They couldn’t agree, and so they decided to ask God. They wrote the question down and left it on the altar. Next morning, they found God’s answer in the form of a golden tablet on which were inscribed these words: “My sons: Both of your orders are supremely pleasing to Me, each in its own way. Trouble yourselves with this no longer.” Signed - “God, S.J.”

So, there are precedents. We’re all human…even priests.

Bottom line: When I was at Mass last Sunday at the local FSSP parish, I saw dozens of little children kneeling at the consecration, striking their breasts at the elevation, receiving Holy Communion on the tongue in the company of their mothers and fathers and rafts of siblings.

It reminded me of the little Japanese children I’d seen at the SSPX chapel in Tokyo the month before—kneeling at the consecration, striking their breasts at the elevation, receiving Holy Communion on the tongue in the company of their mothers and fathers and rafts of siblings.  

japanese girl

These little ones have been blessed by God with good and faithful priests. They will never forget what they have seen and what they have heard. They are the future. And maybe they don’t need to hear a sermon every Sunday about the myriad problems of a disaster named Francis. Maybe they just need the priest, the Mass and the old Faith.  After all, there’s plenty of time for all of us to discuss The Disaster after Mass.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Unite the clans! For God’s sake and the sake of those children facing the real possibility of the eradication of the old Faith from the face of the earth— unite the clans!

CIC priest ad for website

To learn more about how this works and how it’s happening already (without false compromise), register for the Catholic Identity Conference.  Good things are happening, despite important differences of opinion on approach and strategy.   A worldwide Catholic counterrevolution is forming. The traditional Catholic priesthood has survived.  God is good, Christ is still King, and the Revolution is in chaos. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

And now, as promised earlier this week, a talk from a FSSP priest at last year’s CIC.  The next time you’re tempted to run down the FSSP priests as "sell outs" who “embrace Vatican II” and have “no problem with the New Mass”—please, for God’s sake, remember this courageous priest... and pray for him:

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Read 15296 times Last modified on Saturday, August 24, 2019
Michael J. Matt | Editor

Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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