Monday, June 30, 2008

Malfeasance, abuse, victimhood - and the rocky relations between Rome and the SSPX

By Brian Kopp

"And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God."
-- James 1: 19-20


When the priestly sexual abuse crisis broke in 2002, one of the underreported aspects of the story was the way the Church had persecuted and silenced those who came forward with reports of abuse. In the 1960's, 1970's, and even into the 1980's, the local diocese would often counter sue the parents of the victim to intimidate them into silence. Even in those cases in which the victim reached an out of court settlement, there was always a gag order. Victims could never discuss their cases in public, so abusers went unnoticed and undisciplined. Those who coddled and shuffled the abusers did so with impunity and rarely if ever paid a price for their collusion in the abuse.

I first met a victim of priestly abuse in a mental institution. The individual had attempted suicide after a motor vehicle accident resulted in a repeat DUI charge, and he was facing jail time. He had led a self-destructive lifestyle of alcohol and drug abuse and homosexuality. Decades later, as his life fell apart following the DUI, he finally told his mother about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of a visiting priest in the parish church, and later at the priest's home.

She was put in touch with me via a mutual friend, and I talked extensively with her and her son about his case and his life before and after the abuse. He had been a normal teenager and altar boy prior to the multiple episodes of abuse. He had had a steady girlfriend. His mother could never understand why he changed so much in his mid teens. The priest had plied him with drugs and alcohol prior to abusing him. He never recovered from those repeated episodes of abuse. Looking into his eyes and hearing his story was horrifying. He had no reason to make it up, nothing to gain. He told a matter-of-fact tale of abuse and subsequent debauchery, and his eyes were cold and empty. He was broken and without faith.

I sat with his mother through a meeting with the local leaders involved. They seemed incredibly kind, generous, and eminently pastoral during that meeting. Over the coming months and years, his mother told me they failed to keep their word on any of the promises they had made in that meeting. It was all turned over to the lawyers and the insurance companies, it eventually went to court, and all pretenses of being "pastoral" went out the window.


In all the recent discussions about the SSPX and negotiations with Rome, there has been a truly frightening level of vitriol from both SSPX critics and SSPX supporters. The former can be found in the posts and comment boxes of Catholic forums, blogs and websites all over the internet. The latter is limited to a small handful of outlets, most notably Angelqueen.

It is hard to understand the level of anger and outright hatred expressed towards the leaders and supporters of the SSPX -- unless one spends a fair amount of time reading the more extreme rantings of some of the leaders and supporters of the SSPX. It is also hard for any Catholics on the outside of the debate to understand the level of anger and outright hatred expressed by some of the leaders and supporters of the SSPX towards Rome -- unless one comes to grasp the fact that most SSPX defenders have been liturgically and spiritually molested by the post-conciliar Church itself, and told to shut up about it, for forty years now.

AngelQueen forum itself began as a refuge for members of a conservative political forum,, who had been banned or censored for unapologetically expressing orthodox and/or traditional Catholic views. (I was one of the "founding members" of Angelqueen and served a long time as a moderator, and have always been a prolific contributor.) Though its founder is an attendee at an SSPX chapel, Angelqueen was not then and is not now an "SSPX forum," though that has become the majority viewpoint.

One of the most anti-Catholic, vitriolic, and hateful posters on the FreeRepublic forum went by the screen name "Chancellor Palpatine." His level of invective was simply inexplicable. No Catholic discussion on FreeRepublic was left unmolested by his poisoned keyboard. Eventually someone figured out that he was a plaintiff in a priestly molestation case down south. Afterwards, it was easy to understand the source of his rage. But an explanation is not an excuse; I often pointed out to him that being a victim did not confer upon him the right to verbally victimize others.

Victims of abuse often get over the abuse and get on with relatively normal, productive lives. They also, quite often, become bitter, angry and even hate-filled over the injustices done to them. Victims are quite often very unpleasant individuals to deal with on a personal basis. They can be terminally narcissistic, and they often turn their status as a victim into a cudgel with which to attack anyone perceived in any way to be associated with their abuser.

I count many friends among the members of AngelQueen, and I truly admire the contributions the SSPX has made to restoring traditional Catholicism. But after Bishop Fellay mischaracterized this Pope as a "perfect liberal" I knew I had to dissociate myself from their forum. The victim mentality, and the anger and vitriol that goes with it, runs rampant. Even John Grasmeier, the owner, has been posting cynical and sarcastic editorials that go way beyond the pale; abuse seems to be one of those gifts that keep on giving.


Many of the decent Catholics who have sought sanity, safety and refuge within the SSPX did so because of the sheer lunacy, and often heresy and apostacy, that accompanied the reforms enacted in the name of Vatican II. They were victims of the liturgical abuse that universally accompanied the reforms. They were victims of a new theology so far removed from everything they knew and loved as to be seen as a "new religion" altogether. And they were spiritual victims of the same priests whose personal lives were so intrinsically disordered they could not possibly pass on the Catholic Faith whole and intact. For every altar boy that a homosexual priest molested, entire parishes were robbed of Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxis. For every bishop who looked the other way, entire dioceses went astray.

The Church has yet to deal justly with those within the hierarchy who coddled the homosexual molesters and advanced their careers, let alone address the true homosexual nature of the abuse crisis. The Church has yet to admit the wholesale and almost universal victimization of the entire laity in the post-Vatican II era. The Faith was diluted and orthodox theology was eclipsed. The liturgy was gutted, and the people left bereft of the consolation and succor that came from traditional pious practices.

If those within the SSPX do not trust Rome to fix the problems, they are not wholly to blame, and they do not deserve much of the scorn heaped upon them of late. If they are still angry, it is often just anger. The Church has not apologized to the millions of scandalized Catholics. The scandal was not due to "pedophilia," it was due to the widespread malfeasance of its religious, priests, and hierarchy.

Just Anger

There is such a thing as just anger. Victims rightfully experience just anger, and search for justice. Abuse victims were denied justice and therefore sought it in lawsuits. The SSPX is searching for justice and restoration of that which was lost and/or stolen from the Church, and use the court of public opinion to plead their case.

Those who have been scandalized and/or victimized must constantly reflect on their motives. Only the Saints' motives were pure. Even the SSPX can harbor mixed motives.

We all must recall James 1: 19-20:

"And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God."
-- James 1: 19-20

The time for words of anger, even just anger, are past. The acts of Archbishop Lefebvre, up till the consecrations of 1988, were those of a just man attempting against all odds to preserve traditional Catholicism. The final arbitration of what happened in 1988 is still to be seen; it could be resolved overnight with the stroke of a pen.

But the anger -- just anger -- is going to have to be put away now, so that the greatest number of souls can be saved. The culture of victimhood must be rooted out. The Pope does need the SSPX, and the SSPX must realize now that they are nothing without the universal Church. The Church will move forward in its role of saving souls with or without the SSPX. If one must choose between allegiance to Pope Benedict XVI and allegiance to the bishops of the SSPX, there can be only one choice. It is no more "papaolatry" to muster behind this embattled Pope than it is Fallay-olotry or Williamson-olotry to support SSPX bishops.

The Church does not subsist in the SSPX, and the SSPX bishops do not now and will never have the charisms of the Papacy. This is not 1975, nor is it 1988. This is 2008, and this Pope has done what no "perfectly liberal" bishop would ever do: he has freed the Traditional Latin Mass and admitted it was never abrogated. This Pope of 2008 is not the theology student of the 1950's, nor the Fr. Ratzinger of VII, nor even the Cardinal Ratzinger of Pope John Paul II's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He loved Pope John Paul II, but he is not beholden to nor petrified by the false sense of collegiality that marked his predecessor's pontificate. He is truly a courageous man who is trying to restore the Faith, and in the process (in my opinion) do reparation for the spiritual malfeasance of the post-conciliar era. He is a man of the VII council, so he will never pose the issue in those terms, but his actions belie that he sees the shipwreck that 40 years of experimentation caused.

The post-Summorum Ponstificum age

Twenty years is long enough. Yes, the SSPX leaders, priests, and supporters have suffered. Yes, they've been victimized. Yes, their anger was often just anger.

But the time for that is over:

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child."1 Corinthians 13:11

The SSPX is no longer the child of the 1970's or the 1980's; the Church of 2008 is not the Church of the VII Council. The post-conciliar age is past. We are living in the post-Summorum Pontificum era.

Trust in the Lord. Be at Peace. Just as the abuse crisis, in the Time and Providence of God, could no longer be kept quiet, the issues that the SSPX rightfully raises can and will no longer be kept quiet. Summorum Pontificum guaranteed that as nothing else has, including even the valiant efforts of the SSPX itself.

This is God's Church, not ours. God is in control. Trust him, and come back into full communion with His Church.


Anonymous said...

Thats funny.

Brian Kopp said...

"Thats funny."

Bishop Fellay seems to be taking this all more seriously than the press, SSPX critics or SSPX supporters:

pascendi said...

Very good, Brian.

Brian Kopp said...

Thanks Pasc. Good to "see" you.

Joe said...

Very well put. The die-hard SSPX'ers seem to forget that they are Roman Catholics, not Traditionalists....
I hope you are not banned againg from AQ for this posting- they need a healthy dose of reality checking now more than ever.

hopingforheaven said...

I also posted on AngelQueen for over two years and the main reason was to defend the Pope every chance I got.

But now if a word criticizing the SSPX is written, off you go. And folks certainly have the attitude that it is a separate and superior church to Rome. The Pope bashing I cannot stand. Calling the Pope insane and other things. Our Holy Father is an incredible gift to the world and is Christ's Vicar.

So I also left that forum where some true hate lives.

yes, the abuse is simply mind-blowing and it continues in many ways for the agendas that fostered it are still there. I do not trust the bishops as a whole but only some individually. I do not even trust most of them to tell the truth!

The SSPX could now be an instrument of good within the Church but it may be that they will stay out and throw stones and claim to the the 'real church' as many others do. And they will be truly schismatics.

Patrick Archbold said...

Absolutely brilliant post. You have summed up my own thoughts much better than I could ever have done. Well done.

Patrick Archbold said...

Point of order!

You wrote "In all the recent discussions about the SSPX and negotiations with Rome, there has been a truly frightening level of vitriol from both SSPX critics and SSPX supporters."

I hope this doesn't mean that I can't have a little fun at Bishop Williamson's expense does it? I too have great respect for much of what the SSPX has tried to do. But Williamson is just asking for it. Can I still have a little fun?

Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick:

I love your forum, but no, now is not the time. Leading by example is especially important now, while events are still fluid.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kopp

Nicely argued.


Chironomo said...

I particularly agree with your point that we are now in the "Post Summorum" era... there are many (including many Bishops and clergy) who do not yet realize this. Everything that happens within the Church from now on will be touched by this, and the major effects are still to be seen. But they will happen, and we will see them.

pascendi said...

Of all the things written, excluding Scripture of course (ha ha, etc.), I believe this is the statement which made me physically nod my head vigorously up and down:

"The Pope does need the SSPX, and the SSPX must realize now that they are nothing without the universal Church. The Church will move forward in its role of saving souls with or without the SSPX."

D. W. Downey said...
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patrick Archbold said...

Mr. Downey,
Remarks such as your will not be allowed here. Go elsewhere.

Michael said...

You commentary about the wreckage left behind by the malfeasance of the American clergy is stunningly close to what I think. The bitterness felt by this same clergy towards the Pope and his Summorum Pontificum, and I can only guess on the post-SP comments of Cdl Hoyos indicates that there is a fight occuring in the Church for its very soul.

Pope BXVI does indeed understand the wreckage, I might add. He's written about it. I don't know the spiritual journey he took from his VII days to now, but since he's been in the CDF, he has empathized with our pain as if he knows it personally.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who can read Italian, see here ( the very good point by Fr. Cantoni.
For those who cannot, please emancipate yourselves and study Italian. m(_ _)m

Lance said...

Dr. Kopp,

Welcome to the Post-Summorum Pontificum age.

"This brings me to my third point. You are rightly convinced that the usus antiquior is not a museum piece, but a living expression of Catholic worship. If it is living, we must also expect it to develop. Our Holy Father is also of this conviction. As you know, he chose motu proprio – that is on his own initiative – to alter the text of the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday liturgy. The intention of the prayer was in no way weakened, but a formulation was provided which respected sensitivities." Cardinal Castrillon when he was in London.

And- “The Catholic Church has no right to absorb the other Churches... [A] basic unity — of Churches that remain Churches, yet become one Church — must replace the idea of conversion, even though conversion retains its meaningfulness for those in conscience motivated to seek it.”[10]
Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Joseph Ratzinger, (New York: Paulist Press, 1966), p. 73.

Brian Kopp said...

Lance, you quoted Joseph Ratzinger from 1966.

Can we also judge you on your religious and political convictions of 42 years ago? I didn't think so.

Besides, Dominus Iesus supersedes his reflections from 1966.

Lance1 said...

Dr. Kopp,

Many thanks for your reply.

The quote from 1966 still stands today. Please notice the ecumenical activities and statements of Pope Benedict.


Benedict XVI, Address to 250 Representatives of about 10 different “Christian” denominations at Ecumenical Meeting, April 18, 2008: “Through you, I express my sincere appreciation for the invaluable work of all those engaged in ecumenism: the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, the Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and many others… I thank you all.”[

And why would Pope Benedict receive a blessing from a Rabbi?
Or for that matter, bless a Rabbi?

"With deep humility, I asked for a blessing and was blessed. I also asked for the pope's permission to bless him and was authorized to do so," Rabbi Sobel said.

Also, The Balamand Agreement agreement, which agrees not to " convert" the orthodox ? This 1966 quote as to the meaning of that Vatican II decree is very much a part of Benedict XVI's theology.

What work of ' salvation' for souls to enter the One True Church is being done here?

The Pope in fact does need the SSPX, and since Pope Benedict recognizes as ' within" the Catholic Church those churches not in Union with the Rome i.e. the Roman Pontiff, the SSPX to retain the Catholic Faith of our Fathers, does not need Benedict XVI.

Anonymous said...

No pope approved SSPX sect. Nor did any pope approve Opus Dei, Novus Ordo Missae (New Order Mass), SSPV, FSSP, CMRI, and any other sect. The only society approved by popes was the Society of Jesus - Jesuits (but, not the modern theology mew "Jesuits").

lance1 said...

It was suggested Pope Benedict is working to restore tradition and reject the post-Vatican II " religion"

Pascendi even liked the comment that the Church will go on converting souls, with or without the SSPX......Pope Benedict is pure Post-Vatican II, but a prelate that perfers Mozart at " Liturgy" instead of the Beatles

Well Pope Benedict does not want "conservative" Anglican Bishops to the join the Catholic Church. Hr wants Anglican unity.... since he hold Anglicans to already be " within" the Catholic Church anyway.

Vatican shuns defectors and backs calls for Anglican unity

Original Here:

By James Macintyre, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Pope is leading an unprecedented drive by the Roman Catholic Church to prevent the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican Communion ahead of the once-a-decade gathering of its 800 bishops, which begins today, The Independent has learnt.

In his first public comments on the Lambeth Conference, Pope Benedict XVI has warned Anglican leaders that they must find a "mature" and faithful way of avoiding "schism". On top of this the Pope has:

* Sent three cardinals to the conference in Canterbury, including one of his top aides from the Vatican, to act as personal intermediaries between the two churches;

* Let it be known that he does not support the defection of conservative Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church;

* Given behind-the-scenes support to the Archbishop of Canterbury's attempts to hold together the conservative and liberal wings of the Anglican Church, including at face-to-face meetings in Rome.

Brian Kopp said...

lance1 said...

It was suggested Pope Benedict is working to restore tradition and reject the post-Vatican II " religion"...Well Pope Benedict does not want "conservative" Anglican Bishops to the join the Catholic Church. Hr wants Anglican unity.... since he hold Anglicans to already be " within" the Catholic Church anyway.

Vatican shuns defectors and backs calls for Anglican unity

Original Here:

By James Macintyre, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Typical. The schismatic-minded love to use the lies of the liberal/progressivist MSM to "prove" their points against Pope Benedict XVI.

Damian Thompson already demolished this absurd claim by, but the Pope-bashers will dutifully keep posting it ad nauseum to undermine our present Holy Father.