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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fr. Paul Nicholson: “+Marcel Didn’t Care About the Holy Mass”

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Back on February 27 I wrote an article entitled, “The Curious Case of Fr. Paul Nicholson.” In that article I explained, in detail, why certain rash accusations of Fr. Nicholson regarding the SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre were factually incorrect. Such accusations included the following:

The SSPX is in schism.

SSPX priests are incapable of forgiving sins.

The Church considers Archbishop Lefebvre damned for all eternity.

Archbishop Lefebvre created his own alternative Church.

I explained why each of these assertions is demonstrably false by citing various credible sources and relaying well-known factual information easily discoverable through simple Internet searches. Since that date, Fr. Paul has not substantively responded to any of the previous article’s demonstrations of why each of these points is false. Instead, not only has he continued to repeat some of these accusations, he has now moved to on to new, equally absurd accusations.

The most preposterous of these new accusations is that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was former Apostolic Delegate for West Africa, Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, and appointed by Blessed Pope John XXIII a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Second Vatican Council, “didn’t care about the Holy Mass.”

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As his apparent “proof”, Fr. Nicholson cites to a blogpost by an anonymous blogger named “Bornacatholic.” Upon visiting the link, Bornacatholic’s erudite and scholarly wisdom on this topic can quickly be seen in this following gem of a quote:

…[Archbishop Lefebvre’s] original seminarians at Econe confess he didn't really give a sh*t about Liturgy and they were told just to follow Lefebvre's whims when it came to celebrating Mass which, for him, was a mixture of things he liked and it excluded elements he didn't like.

Bornacatholic’s “proof“ of this claim is an article from a now sedevacantist bishop who was expelled from the SSPX (hardly an unbiased source). Nevertheless, to his credit, not once did the sedevacantist bishop in his article make the reckless and audacious claim that Archbishop Lefebvre “didn’t care about the Holy Mass.” No, Fr. Nicholson himself apparently arrived at this conclusion. This after deciding that the profanity laced opinion of an anonymous blogger on the matter was credible. Credible enough to publicly malign the reputation of a man Pope Benedict XVI himself called “venerated.”

This is especially unfortunate, as Archbishop Lefebvre cared so deeply and absolutely for the Traditional Catholic Mass that he was suspended a divins for it. As the Archbishop himself states:

Let us now come to the suspension a divinis laid on me on July 22, 1976. It followed the ordinations of June 29 at Ecône; for three months we had been receiving from Rome reproofs, supplications, orders and threats to persuade us to cease our activity and not to proceed to the priestly ordinations. Over the last few days beforehand there was no end to the messages and deputations, and what were they saying? Six times they asked me to re-establish normal relations with the Holy See by accepting the new rite and celebrating it myself.  They went to the length of sending a Monsignor who offered to concelebrate with me and they put a new missal in my hand with the promise that, if I said the Mass of Paul VI on June 29 in front of all the people who had come to pray for the new priests, everything would thenceforth be smoothed out between Rome and myself.

This means that they were not prohibiting me from performing these ordinations, but they wanted it done according to the new liturgy. It was clear from that moment that the whole drama between Rome and Ecône was being played around the problem of the Mass, and it still is today.

Anyone who has a shadow of a doubt about the Archbishop’s love for, devotion to, and understanding of the Holy Mass need only read “The Mass of All Time”, a collection of the Archbishop's writings on the subject, available from Angelus Press. The book was endorsed by Dom Alcuin Reid, a man with quite a bit more liturgical credibility than “Bornacatholic”.

But Fr. Nicholson did not stop there. A poster on Twitter reminded Fr. Nicholson that it was because of Archbishop Lefebvre that he could both say the Latin Mass and be obedient to his bishop. Fr. Nicholson showed his appreciation for Archbishop Lefebvre’s preservation of the Mass as follows:

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So much for being grateful…

Later, on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation and anniversary of the great Archbishop’s death, Fr. Nicholson again could not refrain from commenting about him. To his credit, Fr. Nicholson, perhaps suffering pangs of conscience for previously considering him “damned for all eternity,”  did include some nice words about the Archbishop. Fr. Nicholson titled his blog post, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, Loaded With Opprobium, Have Mercy on the Soul of Archbishop Lefebvre.” In it, Fr. Nicholson said, “[Archbishop Lefebvre] deserves our prayers, not an informal canonization; he died excommunicated … only Our Lord can sort that out.” Thus, Fr. Nicholson apparently did a 180 from his previous position that the Church considers those who die excommunicated to be in Hell for all eternity. If this is the case, then Fr. Nicholson should, in justice, correct that egregious statement which still appears in his previous blog post.

As for Fr. Nicholson's charity, it ended with the fourth paragraph. From that point, Fr. Nicholson moved on from maligning the SSPX founder’s love for the Mass, to questioning the SSPX Superior General’s integrity. As pointed out in my previous article, Bishop Fellay recalled the following words of  Benedict XVI when the two met for the first time in 2005.

His Holiness twice referred to Archbishop Lefebvre—first as the “venerated Archbishop Lefebvre” and, later in the conversation, as “Archbishop Lefebvre, this great man of the universal Church.” 

The above quote is actually Remnant columnist Brian McCall relaying the words of Bishop Fellay at the 2010 Angelus Press Conference, which McCall attended. The audio recording of Bishop Fellay's speech at that conference is available from Angelus Press. I own it, and I can assure you Bishop Fellay says exactly what Brian McCall attributes to him. This, however, is not good enough for Fr. Nicholson:

…what is truly unfair (and that is a very polite word for it) is the attempt to place in the mouth of Benedict XVI a statement that seems to be an exoneration.  They claim that Benedict XVI said in a private audience (August 28, 2005) to Bishop Fellay, the present day leader of the Society of St. Pius X: "Archbishop Lefebvre, this great man of the universal Church".

If you do not know Bishop Fellay, let me say this: he has said other things that are pure exaggerations.

I have never seen any official transcript of this audience, issued from the Press Office of the Holy See to back up his claim … it is entirely based upon the word of a bishop who has 'NO legitimate ministry, and NO canonical identity in the Church'.

Thus, Fr. Nicholson, who constantly admonishes us to always assume the best regarding our often imprecise and exaggerating Pontiff, takes a hermeneutic of suspicion when it comes to Bishop Fellay. As an example of Bishop Fellay’s supposed “pure exaggerations” Fr. Nicholson strangely cites an interview, which does not seem to contain any exaggerations. Even stranger, Fr. Nicholson assumes that transcripts are kept for private audiences with the pope, and that they are broadcast to the world from the Press Office of the Holy See.

Yet, beyond this, the strangest implication is that Bishop Fellay cannot be trusted because he is a bishop who has “NO legitimate ministry, and NO canonical identity in the Church.” Therefore, by Fr. Nicholson’s own logic, the word of any Protestant or non-Christian cannot be trusted. If Fr. Nicholson truly believes this to be the case, then he has a duty to inform Pope Francis that his ecumenical movement is pointless and he should pack up shop.

All of this silly logic aside, the fact is that Bishop Fellay has publicly recalled these statements from Benedict XVI at least as early as 2010. In the almost four years since there has been no repudiation of these statements by Benedict XVI or the Holy See. Thus they stand as the uncontroverted public words of a Catholic bishop. Out of basic Christian respect, unless Fr. Nicholson has some evidence otherwise, he should refrain from publicly questioning the integrity of Bishop Fellay.

Nevertheless, even if Benedict XVI himself confirmed that Bishop Fellay was correct, Fr. Nicholson has another explanation prepared:

…even if it is proven that Benedict XVI did indeed say what is claimed, it must be argued that for the sake of diplomacy, he said something nice.  

Thus Fr. Nicholson would have us believe the absurdity that a man as intelligent as Benedict XVI could not think of a way to say “something nice” about Archbishop Lefebvre without praising him as “venerated” or calling him a “great man of the universal Church.”

Then, besides shamelessly repeating the falsehood that the SSPX is in schism, a claim I refuted with citations in my previous article, Fr. Nicholson sinks even lower by comparing Traditionalists to Medjugorje advocates:

The adherents of this schism and their sympathizers are very much like the advocates of the unapproved visionaries of Medjegorje.  Throughout the pontificate of John Paul II, they claimed the Holy Father gave signals of approval and encouragement in private audiences to the alleged visions.  Pope Benedict stated later that all such claims were pure 'inventions'.

This is all the more ironic since a reader wrote the following and asked that it be posted as a comment to my last article:

Here are two links that readers may find interesting:

The Ave Maria Centre of Peace (at which Father Paul is a speaker) is one of those charismatic groups and an avid promoter of Medjugorje, organizing regular pilgrimages to this place in defiance of the local ordinaries. Rather hypocritical, I would say to take out the big stick to beat the SSPX while addressing a disobedient promoter of bogus apparitions and messages.

In conclusion, one of the most telling statements in Fr. Nicholson’s latest post is the following:

[Archbishop Lefebvre’s] spiritual descendants have attempted today to tell his story through a documentary.  I have not seen it, and have no interest in seeing it.

Thus, sadly, this priest of the “new evangelization” who is constantly maligning the reputation of Archbishop Lefebvre out of ignorance, has no desire to actually educate himself on the facts of the Archbishop’s life before doing more damage.

For those of you who do desire facts over disinformation however, the documentary of Archbishop Lefebvre’s life, including interviews of many clerics in “full Communion,” is a must see. I’ve provided the trailer below:

Last modified on Saturday, April 12, 2014