I’ve been “home” for a couple of years now.
“Home?” One might ask? Were you gone?
Well, yes, I was gone. I was gone from the Church. I left what we called the “New Church” for the “Real Church” around 18 years ago, a little over a year after we began attending the Indult Tridentine Mass in 1995.
So how did that come about?
Well, here’s my story.
My parents did not like the changes that were instituted after the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, although they went along with them and did as they were told. Could that have been the beginning of it? I remember hearing discussions about something going on “with the Pope” when Vatican II was taking place, but I was only in 5th grade at the time and, while I cared deeply about God and our Faith even then, a child doesn’t take much in when it comes to grown-up things that grown-ups are concerned about. Kids not only don’t understand, but they can do nothing about things that are in the grown-up world. So I stayed out of it.
I do remember seeing Pope Paul VI on our neighbor’s television when he came to the UN. That seemed to be a very big deal. And I remember, after the Council was over and our Mass had changed from Latin to English (about which I was very sad, because I loved the Latin Mass and especially the High Mass choir, in which my father sang), that a new, very young priest came out onto the altar one Sunday morning. I was around 15 years old then. That Sunday was a two-fold shock, because when we entered the church, there was a huge, plastic covering over where the high altar had been. Our altar was in the process of being demolished, and I was absolutely horrified. Our church, St. Joseph’s, had been one of the last ones to institute the “liturgical changes” that we were hearing about. This new priest came out and faced the congregation, smiled and said, “Good morning!”
We all, to a man, sat there and stared at him like he was from outer space. He was talking in church! Not only that, but he was standing there as if he were waiting for us to answer! Dear Lord, this was uncomfortable, to say the least. Needless to say, no one said a word. We. Do. Not. Talk. In. Church. Who didn’t know that? So what was this all about? A priest was breaking the rules? He grinned and said something to the effect of, “Hey, don’t you people in Canaan answer when someone says ‘good morning’?”
He said, “OK, I’m going to try it again. GOOD MORNING!”
“Go-od mor-n-ing…?” came the weak response from a few voices here and there.
“Well there you go, that’s better!” said Father.
And off we went, into the New Church. Guitar Masses (my sisters and I hated them!) and Father Smiley. My parents said he was “fresh out of the seminary.”
In 1974, I married a Catholic whose family had beliefs much like those of my family. I began reading The Wanderer, a conservative Catholic newspaper. In the midst of the Church’s troubled waters, The Wanderer reported everything that happened in the Church, in our country, and in the world, and it put me on guard. I had also taken a subscription to American Life League president Judie Brown’s pro-life publication ALL About Issues, which exposed the pro-abortion enemies within the government and the Church. I was certainly an “active participant” in the defense of the Catholic Faith from the enemies within as well as a defender of the right to life and the real rights of women. (I discovered Phyllis Schafley and took an active part in sending out hand-written and carbon-copied letters to women family members and friends against the government’s proposed Equal Rights Amendment).
Meanwhile, in my marriage, as babies began to arrive, I had to “go against the grain” there as well. I took on the study of nutrition, since I didn’t know anything about it and wanted to raise healthy children. I discovered that the best way to raise healthy children was to shun non-nutritious grocery store food and raise our own food. So that is what we did. I learned that doing things the way my grandparents and generations before them had done it was the best way to get the nutrients needed for healthy bodies.
Not only that, but as the years went by, more babies arrived and I was regularly the focus of “Another baby on the way?!” questions, when “normal” folks were only having two. It wasn’t easy.
It seemed as though everything was a struggle! I don’t mean to say that I was unhappy about things — by no means! I thoroughly enjoyed everything I was learning and was happy to be immersed in all these different aspects of living.
Years later, after having moved back to New England from upstate New York, where we’d been homesteading on an organic potato farm near Lake Ontario, I was re-joined by my family. My sisters were both married now, and they had children, too. Since we were now geographically close again, we began sidewalk counseling together outside of abortion clinics on Thursdays. When Randall Terry’s Rescue Movement began in the late 1980’s, we “signed up” as it were, inaugurating CT PLAN (Connecticut Pro Life Action Network) to organize and carry out baby-rescuing efforts in Connecticut. We closed down abortion clinics and were arrested for peaceful non-compliance.
This is all a lead-up to trying to explain (maybe even to myself) why the Latin Mass seemed like the “right” thing to do.
I remember getting a phone call from my sister. “Jean,” she said, “there’s a Latin Mass over here in Wingdale, NY on Sundays at noon. You have to come!”
“Joan,” I replied, “Wingdale is an hour and 15 minutes from us. We are not going to drive that far for Mass. And who cares about the Latin Mass anyway?”
“Jean, they are going to close it down if enough people don’t go!” Joan said.
For some reason I was unable to abide that thought; “OK! I’ll go!” I said. “But Pat is teaching CCD on Sundays, so he won’t be able to go.”
So the following Sunday I packed up however many kids we had home at the time (I think it was seven) in the van, and went to the Latin Mass for the first time since the changes had occurred.
It was beautiful! There was a choir with a High Mass. Ethereal — I loved it! It felt right. Within a couple of weeks, Pat had resigned his teaching position as a CCD teacher so he could join me, and we never looked back. It was another one of those things that my grandparents and generations before them had done that should not have changed. We had rediscovered “the Mass of All Time.” (Unfortunately, we were not schooled in the history of the Mass, nor did we think it through logically. In reality, there have always been occasional changes in the Mass.)
Well, maybe we did look back, but not in the way that you might think. We looked ’way back, long before Vatican II. At the time, we were friends with a man by the name of Richard Ibranyi, and we also became acquainted with the Most Holy Family Monastery in New Jersey and Brother Michael Dimond (yes, of the infamous “Dimond brothers”). They exposed us to all sorts of articles “proving” the infiltration of the Catholic Church by malicious outsiders and the evils of Vatican II and the “post Vatican II popes.” It was “proven” through “writings of the Church” that a sacrament cannot be changed and, consequently, we became convinced that the “new sacraments” were invalid. Any man who had become consecrated a bishop or ordained a priest after the sacraments had been changed was not a real bishop or priest. Not only that, but because they accepted Vatican II and its heresies, the Church taught that they were ipso facto excommunicated. Period. No declaration needed. Canon 188.9 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law said so.
We church-hopped for a while, going from the Indult (issued by Pope John Paul II) to SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway group), to Monroe, CT (“Faithful Catholics”), to SSPV (Society of Saint Pius V, an even more radical spin-off from SSPX) and finally ended up at an independent chapel in Glenmont, NY, where we attended Mass, again an hour and 15 minutes from our house, for 18 years.
The scariest time was going to the SSPX chapel. I remember sitting there thinking, “Well, the roof hasn’t caved in yet!” because we’d read so much for years in The Wanderer about how they were “out of the Church.” But the Mass was very beautiful and we loved it. We began to have one of their priests up to our family home to say Mass for the whole 30-something of us and to give us catechism lessons for adults afterwards. I couldn’t, however, reconcile their position of recognizing that John Paul II was the Pope while they offered him no obedience. If he was indeed the Pope, then it was incumbent upon a Catholic to obey him. I thought it a schismatic mentality. I thought the same about the St. Benedict Center (the center of the Feeneyite controversy, concerning “no salvation outside the Church”) in New Hampshire. That is one reason that we ended up as sedevacantists.
Because we were convinced that we were “doing the right thing” and had “re-discovered” the real Catholic Mass and the Faith (unadulterated!), as difficult as it was, we assumed that our good-willed Catholic friends would all soon join us. Understand that when I say “us” I mean my whole family! Not only my husband and myself and our many children, but both of my sisters and their families, my brother and his young family and both of my parents became convinced sedevacantists — those who believe that the seat (sede) of Peter was empty (vacant-ist). For years and years we lived this way. The fact that most of our friends avoided us was something that we chalked up to sufferings that we had to endure for the love of the Faith and Our Lord. While we missed our old friends, we’d made many new acquaintances in the “Traditional Catholic” church, which blunted the loss. We became good friends with families from the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, a group that had spun off from the Father Feeney debate years earlier. We were dedicated “Feeneyites” for years as well, believing that Father Feeney had been wrongfully treated by Pope Pius XII, until finally, one of our sedevacantist priest-friends took the time to show us how Canon Law and encyclicals showed that Father Feeney had interpreted the teaching incorrectly.
There were a few times that I re-examined our sedevacantist position. The first time was in 2004. My conclusion after that re-examination was that a person was not condemned for remaining in the “Novus Ordo” church. Such people simply didn’t know any better, and that was OK, because the “New Church” seemed like the “Real Church” to them.
Another time I was presented with a challenge regarding our position and re-examined it again, very carefully, writing and talking to my sedevacantist friends. I would say to our independent priest occasionally, “Father, do you not agree that we should re-examine our position now and then? Because, since it is a conclusion that we have come to and is not dogmatic, if we are wrong, we are out of the Church, right?” And Father would always say that, yes, it was indeed the prudent thing to do.
But I always ended up coming down on the sedevacantist side. I must admit that it never occurred to me to examine Vatican II in the light of the possibility that it, in itself, might have been from God. We were completely immersed in the belief that everything that came from that council was not Catholic, beginning with the Mass, but also its documents. The pre-1962 Missal was all that we would use. We were told that Pius XII had had no right to begin the changes, so our priest went with the oldest missal he could find; I believe it was the Father Lasance Missal from 1949.
Why did Pius XII have “no right” to change anything? I’m not quite sure. I know that it must have had something to do with Pope St. Paul V’s Quo Primum, which said, quite clearly, that not one word of the Tridentine Mass could be changed and that anyone who dared to do so would have the wrath of God come upon them and the wrath of Saints Peter and Paul — although that didn’t connect with the first changes that were made by Pope Pius XII in the Holy Week services.
I read articles and books and listened to talks by the likes of John Vennari (may he rest in peace), Chris Ferrara, John Salza, and a few others on the errors of sedevacantism, but they always had a “disconnect,” if you will, with saying that the Pope was indeed the true Pope, but he was in error and that one could and should “resist him to his face.” That just didn’t make sense to me. If he was the Pope, then God put him in charge, and Catholics are duty-bound to trust and obey. The only thing that made sense was that they were not popes because of the (obvious to us) heresies they believed and promulgated. The rest of the clergy weren’t even really ordained, as far as I was concerned, because the rites of ordination and consecration had changed, and that “wasn’t allowed,” so I believed (may God and the priests forgive me!) that those ordained in the New Rites were “men in priests’ clothing.”
Also, I didn’t believe that the hosts in the New Mass were consecrated. We had been told that to bow to a piece of bread as if it were God was worshipping a false God. (I told you we were serious!) There is a teaching in the sedevacantist circles that the New Mass is the “abomination of desolation set up in the holy place” described by the prophet Daniel. We were in deep and total. As much as I’d like to deny it, I can’t. I was a “soapbox sedevacantist,” always trying to convince everyone that the “Real Church” was tiny — just a handful of believers, as was prophesied in all the end-time prophecies!
The August 2015 issue of the Catholic Family News arrived, as it had for 20 years, in our mailbox. The main article on the front boldly stated “Deposing A Heretical Pope.”
“Ah!” I said, elated. “Finally John Vennari has come to his senses!” I sat down to read it.
But … by the time I’d read a few columns, I was getting a bit disconcerted. This article was proving, by using Church documents and quoting saints, that even if a Pope became a heretic, no one can depose him, and (the kicker) he remains Pope.
“Pat! You’ ve got to read this article!” I said to my husband. “They have presented an argument that, while not totally convincing, at least carries as much weight as the argument for sedevacantism!”
Pat read it and wasn’t as bothered as I was. I passed it on to my son-in-law, and he too wasn’t impressed.
But my roots had been shaken. What if we’d been wrong all these years?
I began to pray about it. I asked our priest what he thought, but he hadn’t read the article. I believe it was written by Robert Siscoe. I remember talking about it to a fellow sedevacantist at our chapel, and he said that he didn’t understand why I was so moved by the article, that it wasn’t convincing to him at all and that Siscoe had been a 33rd degree Mason before he converted, so he was likely just trying to continue to lead people away from the true Faith.
During that time one of our sons was attending Gregory the Great Academy, a Catholic boarding school for boys in Pennsylvania. I was being exposed to a lot of (what we traditionalist Catholics called) “Novus Ordo Catholics,” and I remember being impressed with the depth of trust in God that they displayed — something I didn’t have! Traditional Catholics tend to “wrap themselves in cocoons” (as I say) and not have a lot of interaction with non-Trads. As I see it now, I was being exposed by Jesus to Novus Ordo Catholics. And I couldn’t help being impressed. I was also meeting priests who were trained and ordained in the New Church and was surprised — often awed — by the depth of their love for God.
I began to wonder… What if something had gotten through and they really were priests??
The following February I went on retreat at the SSPX retreat center in Connecticut. I took the opportunity to query these well-tooled trad priests on their own beliefs and the beliefs and teachings of SSPX. They believe that the new Rites are valid, I was told. They said that the priests were trained in the new seminaries with the new teachings, so they didn’t know the Real Catholic Faith, but that they could certainly absolve people of their sins. Just don’t go to the New Mass, I was warned. Not that it wasn’t valid, just that it wasn’t … what? Good enough? That didn’t make sense. If they believed that the New Mass was valid, then it was the Sacrifice of Calvary. How could it be “not good enough”?
I also asked why it was that Archbishop Lefebvre had disobeyed the rules of the Church and consecrated bishops if he believed that the new Rite was valid. The answer: He doubted the intention!
Even a lay, uneducated Catholic like me knows that the Church teaches that intention is never to be doubted. What was up with that? Why wouldn’t the Archbishop know that?
At last, we were able to get together with our very honest and well-educated sedevacantist priest. I told him that my Number One Question was this: Is there any possibility that the New Rite might be valid and that something might have gotten through and the man was really a priest after all? And secondly, did he think that there was a possibility that the New Mass might truly be valid and that, inferior as the ritual was, those priests actually consecrated the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord?
I sat back and waited for his confident “Absolutely not!” But, instead, he said, “It is possible.”
I was floored.
If that were the case, what the HECK were we doing???
Now came the emotional part. I turned up the heat on my prayers and supplications. I fasted, prayed, wept, read, talked to everyone I could; I sent out e-mails to anyone who I thought might have an answer. Everyone I trusted was contacted. I sent out e-mails to everyone in my family, to many sedevacantist friends, to “sedevacantist thinker par excellence” John Lane in Australia. I discussed the topic over many coffees with my mother, wrote to our friend, Ben, who was raised in the SSPX, wrote to sedevacantist nuns, my sedevacantist friend Margaret, and many more. Some helped (thank you for your efforts!), some thought I was having a “crisis of faith,” some thought I was crazy — basically, because after all, “isn’t it obvious that Pope Francis is a heretic? I mean, look what he says about homosexuals! ‘Who am I to judge?’ What kind of an answer is that for a Pope? And isn’t he trying to allow adulterers to receive Communion? What about that?”
But the problem wouldn’t go away. For, if those men were really priests, and the New Mass was really a Mass, something wasn’t adding up. Not to mention that I began to really think critically about our position as sedevacantists. I began to play the “devil’s advocate” for the “New Church.” For example:
1. If our position was correct, then why hadn’t more Catholics joined us by now? All of my husband’s siblings were devout Catholics who went to Sunday Mass, some daily Mass, said the Rosary, etc. And what about all the other Catholics that I was meeting at the school? When we first became sedevacantists, I truly expected that in a few years all those Catholics who were devoted to the Faith would see the truth of sedevacantism. That had not happened.
2. If the Church had defected, wouldn’t that make a mockery of all those Catholics who had lived and died practicing what they thought was the Catholic Faith? Would God really do that to His faithful children? Would He really have denied them His Body and Blood for over 40 years?
3. If the sedevacantists were right, where were the fruits of sedevacantism? Our Lord said “By their fruits you shall know them.” Really, looking sedevacantism and traditional Catholicism boldly in the face, where were the fruits? I saw perfect law-keeping, but I also saw a dearth of charity; the corporal works of mercy weren’t visible. Neither was there an evangelical spirit. I remember asking our priest when we first became sedevacantists why he wasn’t out there on the street corners trying to bring people into the Church. His reply was that he “was in hunker-down mode.” That answer never set right with me, but because I was so convinced of our position, it didn’t deter me. I just thought that he was in error in that outlook.
4. Our priest has a policy of never answering the phone and rarely calling back. Why was our priest so hard to get in touch with, if he was “one of the few priests left in the world”? I realize that he doesn’t represent all priests, but nevertheless, there are few enough as it is, so why was he so hard to contact?
5. What if? What if it was time for things to be re-presented in the Church? What if it was time for Latin in the Mass to go, for people to understand what was going on and to be actually included? It was, after all, in the middle of an extremely turbulent time in the world. Education was degenerating; young adults were rebelling against the hypocrisy of the Powers That Be. Maybe the Faith needed to change its wording and its approach in order to reach the souls of this day? After all, the Church is responsible for all the souls in the world, and if things weren’t working one way, then God could certainly find another. Discipline can change. The Mass had not always been the Tridentine, as we had believed! And a re-reading of Quo Primum said clearly, to me, at least, that the Pope was talking to those who were going to be saying the Mass, not to future popes, since it is impossible for one Pope to bind a future Pope to a discipline.
The book True or False Pope by Robert Siscoe and John Salza was hot off the press, and I am pretty sure I was one of the first to place an order. Again, I was also pretty sure that the arguments would be fairly easy to refute because of the mindset of non-sedevacantist trads to propose that there was a Pope but he could be ignored. When I got to Page 65 or so, they presented a point that I hadn’t clearly thought through before. The assertion was that Our Lord had founded His Church not only on Saint Peter, but upon St. Peter and the other eleven Apostles. He had made the promise that He would be with His Church “until the end of time.” This granted it visibility, jurisdiction, and also the right to govern. The book stated that John Lane had been contacted, but his answer to this problem didn’t make sense to me at all. I wrote to him to ask him about it; he said he had been misquoted, but the answer that he gave me via e-mail was really even worse. He said that he was writing a book on it and that I should “wait to make any decisions about returning to the Novus Ordo.” Uhhhh, no thanks!
So now, another Big Question was: where is the Church? I had always just confidently stated that it was “in eclipse” as per Our Lady of La Salette’s message, but now I wasn’t so sure that that was correct.
It couldn’t be SSPX; there was too much controversy there for too many Catholics and there were no faculties (authorization to function as a priest). It had always bothered me that they call themselves “parishes” when they are most definitely not authorized as parishes. That was “faking it” — wishful thinking and more than a bit presumptuous.) It was obviously not sedevacantist chapels for many reasons, among them no clear faculties. “Supplied jurisdiction” doesn’t work for very many people — there is no unity, zero visibility, etc. I kept thinking of the over one billion souls who had been born, lived, and died as Catholics since the Second Vatican Council who would have been “fooled” by God by remaining faithful to the Church. Also, all Catholics know that faculties flow from the Pope to the bishops to the priests. If the New Rites were valid, then epikea (the idea that a law can be broken or ignored in order to achieve a greater good) would definitely not suffice — or be necessary — to resolve the question of the lack of faculties among separated groups such as the SSPX.
Holy Week of 2016 arrived, and we did our usual Good Friday Tre Ore readings by ourselves at our chapel over in New York. (We never had a priest during Holy Week because our priest always went to a trad chapel in Virginia to join in the Triduum as it is “meant to be celebrated.”)
The following week was Low Sunday in the “real Church” (where we went), but it was Divine Mercy Sunday in the “New Church.”
On Monday night the phone rang. It was a call from a friend whose whole family had been very dear to us before we had become sedevacantists. They had moved to Virginia, and we had pretty much lost touch, though we still cared for each other. Our families had been very close friends in the late 1980’s. We had met during the heyday of Rescues. This family is well-known for its consummate ability to harmonize and sing liturgical song. The father, Joe Garvey (may he rest in peace) had been a composer and had written some beautiful music. His family had carried on the love of music as they married and had children. One of his daughters, Johanna, is a gifted choir director. It was she on the phone. She had called to tell me that their daughter, Stephanie, was getting married to a man from Massachusetts. The whole family had been asked to sing at the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass, which was the following Sunday, so they were going to combine a trip up with a bridal shower for Stephanie, and did we want to come? We most certainly did! It was a wonderful reunion — it was so good to see everyone again!
The next day, Low Sunday (that is, Divine Mercy Sunday), we woke up to an unannounced, freak, and horrible storm with snow, sleet, wind and rain. It was incredibly nasty out! It was too dangerous to drive and, when that happens on a Sunday, we stay home and say our Mass prayers and Rosary in front of our altar to the Sacred Heart in our cozy living room in front of the wood stove. That is what we did that Sunday. I had texted Johanna and offered to bring them warm clothing, because they had come from an early spring in Virginia and were completely unprepared for this storm of storms. But she declined, saying they’d be fine; they would have something to offer up. I couldn’t convince her to let me bring them any comfort!
Some of our children and grandchildren made it to our house, and we proceeded to kneel and say our prayers, all cozy and warm in front of the wood stove, while the storm was crazy outside. My mind kept wandering to picture the Garvey family (almost all of them had come — at least 20-some!) up at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, outside in this horrible weather. I had a suspicion that they were offering their sufferings for our “return to the Faith.” As if we needed to “return” to the Faith! We were the ones holding on to the True Faith!
A few weeks earlier, out of the blue, a sedevacantist friend had sent me an article by Stephen Hand about the Abbé de Nantes. It was long, and I couldn’t read it right away, but one night, in the wee hours of the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, I couldn’t sleep, so I got out my iPad to read something. I remembered that article and thought that this would be a good time to read it.
The Abbé was a devout and well-educated, very well-respected priest who was the abbot of a monastery in France during the Second Vatican Council. When the Mass changed, he was distraught. He was, in fact, the one who was the moving force behind “The Ottaviani Intervention.” His thought was that he would have the New Mass thoroughly examined and exposed for what it was — a heretical, non-Catholic service. His plan was to present this report to all of the bishops of the Council, which was still in session, have them sign it, and then present it to Pope Paul VI, thus proving that either the New Mass had to go or that the Pope was a heretic and a movement to have him depose himself as a heretic must be initiated.
What happened knocked his proverbial socks off. The report was written, certainly. Ottaviani and Bacci signed it. But, when it was presented to the other bishops attending the council, not one of them would sign it!
The Abbé was being courted at that time by Fr. Guérard des Lauriers to proclaim Pope Paul VI a heretic. He wanted “to set up a faithful and unofficial Church in the midst of the universal wreckage, and planned to assume complete pastoral jurisdiction in an extraordinary manner, independently of official ecclesiastical authority, either local or Roman” (see http://crc-internet. org/our-doctrine/catholic-counter-reformation/for-the-church/introduction/).
The Abbé resorted to his most powerful weapons: prayer and trust in Jesus. This was indeed a tough spot.
He ended up being convinced that “by virtue of the Promise of Our Lord, it was impossible for the Church to promulgate a false Sacrament.” Even though it was impossible to understand, he was staying with the Church.
Des Lauriers and the others went on to become well-known sedevacantists.
This article I read, as I mentioned, in the wee hours of Ascension Thursday morning, May 5, 2016. As I finished the article, I put aside my iPad and said to myself, “Oh no! I’ve got to go back to the Novus Ordo!”
The next morning, Pat had gotten up before me and was sitting at the kitchen table, barely awake. I poured myself a cup of coffee and plopped myself down across from him with conviction.
“Pat,” I declared, “I am going back to the Novus Ordo.”
“Jean … can this possibly wait?” he implored, “I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee!”
Merciless, I replied, “Nope. It can’t. I’ve been thinking about it all night and I have finally been convinced. Not only that, but since my family is all going to Mass this morning, I have to tell them today.”
Pat groaned. (Sometimes I am pretty sure that being married to me can be a daunting and exhausting experience.)
That morning, we were having our sedevacantist priest come out to say an early Holy Day Mass for us at our private family chapel. I decided that I’d better tell my family all right then, as long as they were all gathered together. It wouldn’t be fair to tell them in an e-mail or something later, since I’d had the chance when they’d been right there in person. So after Mass, I asked everyone to please say a Hail Mary with me out loud because I had an announcement to make. After some scoffing at me, the Hail Mary was prayed — and then I dropped the bomb. Faces went white with shock and horror. Oddly enough, no one really asked “Why?” — and they still haven’t to this day. They all think I’m doing it for an alternate reason: “emotion,” “boredom in the Tridentine,” “more fun in the Novus Ordo” are some of the reasons they give for my “defection.” I would think that they’d give me more credit than that after having been a sedevacantist for 18 (wasted!) years, but apparently not. Not yet, anyway! All they can do is either 1) Ignore me as an apostate or 2) Try to show me where I am wrong. But, never, never ask why I did it.
Right after my announcement that same Ascension Thursday, and right smack in the middle of the Extraordinary Year of Divine Mercy, I drove myself to our local pastor, explained my situation, went to Confession and was received back into the arms of our Holy Mother the Church. Just like that! It happened on May 5, 2016, exactly 30 days after our friends had offered their sufferings for us on Divine Mercy Sunday.
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers concerning everything that has come out of Rome. And I can keep in mind the very real truth that no one, not even the Pope, is impeccable in their decisions. They can be imprudent. But I have changed my whole way of looking at things since I have been given the grace to return to the bosom of the Church. I don’t have to understand everything, nor do I have to be able to explain everything, for starters! I trust that God knows what He is doing.
In the first place, I owe a lot. Since I constantly criticized the Popes of the Second Vatican Council for 20 years, one of the restrictions that I have imposed upon myself is “no criticizing the Pope or bishops or priests.” Instead, I have ordered myself to judge as I would like to be judged. In other words, they are human. God has put them in charge. They have dedicated their lives to the salvation of souls. That can’t be easy! So… give them the benefit of a doubt.
I have come to believe that the Second Vatican Council is almost as important as the First Coming of Christ. And, no offense to my beloved trad friends, but that the “sedevacantists and traditional Catholics” are more like the Pharisees and Sadducees than they’d like to admit. It is as if, in following those rules and saying all those prayers, how could God possibly damn them?
But on the other hand, there is a dearth of charity and a superabundance of superiority (how could it be otherwise when an sedevacantist/trad is part of the very, very few who God has entrusted with His real truth?) … and unkindness, mercilessness! Also, it’s very depressing to be a traditional Catholic, because you have read so many of the end-time prophecies that you know that things are just going to go from bad to worse. You get almost addicted to hearing how awful things are, and look for the next bad thing that’s happened to further illustrate that the prophecies are all coming true now. The kids are sick of hearing about it, since they’ve been hearing it all of their lives and nothing has happened as we said it would. Their Faith has been formed by fear more than by the love and trust of God.
I think that the Second Vatican Council was indeed an “opening of the doors and windows of the Church.” It needed to be aired out! It was stale with the rules and they had, inadvertently, become God, while God Himself had become obscured by His own rules!
I understand why Pope Francis is getting a bit annoyed with traditionalists. He is bending over backwards to try and get everyone to accept the Mercy of God and get immersed in His love and return to the Church — and all the trads can do is criticize, criticize, criticize!
Look at it differently. These post Vatican II popes have been trying to reach out to everyone in the whole world. You might not like the way they are doing it, but really, you aren’t in their position and you don’t have to answer to God for them. But you do have to answer to God for your attitude and lack of charity. We do have to answer to God for refusing to look at things in a different way. Stubbornness won’t be rewarded, but letting the Holy Spirit move us will. Humility is an absolute necessary requirement for salvation.
I feel so bad for John Vennari. He spent his whole life fighting an uphill, unwinnable battle, for that is not the direction that God has for His Church.
Fruits of traditional Catholicism? How many trad Catholic families do you know who are immersed in the love and service of the Church and are aware of the great and constantly-available mercy of God? How many trad youths? I haven’t seen many. I have, on the other hand, spoken to many, many heartbroken mothers who have done everything in their power to pass the Faith on to their children, but the children reject it. They don’t just reject traditional Catholicism; they reject God altogether and turn to sin! I’m not saying that everything is rosy back in the Church. But in looking for fruits in traditional Catholicism, as we are advised by Jesus to do, I don’t see much. And precious little happiness, either. I wonder just what trad Catholics think the end result is going to be. Where are they going with it? What is the end goal? It should be obvious by now that the Church is not going to return to the past. Allow the Tridentine Mass? Yes, done. But return to it? No. Never, as far as I can see.
The Pope did contribute a great deal of money to acquire a large cathedral for the SSPX in Rome, but I am sure that it is not because he is interested in going backwards. It is in the interest of bringing them back in union with Rome, so they will be able to receive regular graces. That is why he also extended the faculties to them to continue to hear confessions even after the Year of Mercy was over. He wants everyone home, no matter what you have been told. Read his writings! He is constantly exhorting everyone to humility, forgiveness, generosity and to Christ!
At first, going to the Novus Ordo Mass was an effort of pure obedience. I was horrified by so many things that assaulted my post-sedevacantist viewpoint. The very first Mass was during the week at the Shrine of Divine Mercy. Ewww! It seemed so loud! (We have the blessing of living only 20 minutes from the Shrine, and they offer at least three Masses every day.) It was not easy, but I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. I found it impossible to “find my voice” for the first few months. I just went because it was the Mass, and I needed it. Then, after many, many Masses, I began to find my voice. (Remember, I had been gone — and silent — for 20 years!). Luckily I was guided by the Holy Spirit to seek a spiritual director for those difficult months. I was all alone in this journey, as no one in my family could see — nor did they want to see — my points, and Father Thaddaeus walked me through things, answered my questions and prayed ardently for me. His guidance was an undeserved but much-needed blessing at the time, and now, two years later, with me very comfortably happy back “home,” he remains my spiritual director.
As difficult as returning to the Novus Ordo Mass was at first, I have been blessedly at peace with this whole thing. I truly love it now. Graces flow when judgments stop! It’s glorious to feel the love of God growing in my heart! I am learning so much about the love of God and how to trust in Him. The monthly Magnificat publication is a great comfort.
Pat returned about a half a year after I did, under a completely different set of circumstances, and just two weeks before the Extraordinary Year of Mercy ended. Our sons Gavin and Quinn are with us too, in our return. It was hard for Quinn at first (it’s hard for everyone at first!), but now, though he still misses our old chapel in New York State, he loves it. He served the Stations of the Cross for the first time last night. At our chapel in New York, that never was allowed.
As I went along, I wrote to my old friends, told them of my return and was, for the most part, not only welcomed back with open arms, but so warmly and with so much love that it was a bit overwhelming. So many people whom I had insulted by thinking that they were the ones “out of the Church” were completely willing to forgive me and so very happy that I was back “home.” (I put off telling Pat’s siblings, hoping that grace would prevail and he would return. When he did, I let him tell his siblings, and they were overjoyed. It had been so many years, they had almost given up hope.) It has been pretty amazing, and we are so grateful!
We have had some conversations with our children and our friends from our sedevacantist chapel, but mostly it is them trying to convince us to return to sedevacantism, something which isn’t ever going to happen. I was out long enough and I’ll never, by the grace of God, leave again! I can’t say that I can understand or explain everything that seems wrong that has come out of Rome since Vatican II. But if that is the Church, where else can I go? I can just trust that He’s at the helm, and I don’t need to figure everything out before I am in where I belong.
At this time, I am praying for healing in our family, because we raised them in the sedevacantist mindset, and it is very painful for them to witness this return to what I had so adamantly thought was not the Church. I have put the whole thing in the hands of a devotion that I came across when I was at Gregory the Great’s Immaculate Conception Rugby playoffs: Our Lady, Untier of Knots. It seemed very appropriate.
I discovered a few months later that it is our Pope’s favorite title and devotion to Our Lady.
“Our Lady, Untier of Knots, pray for us!”
1. Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter, the first Pope. He established His Church upon Peter and the other eleven Apostles and promised to be with His Church until the end of time and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The Church is visible, jurisdictional, governmental and hierarchical.
2. Because of the Promise of Our Lord, it is impossible for the Church to promulgate a false Sacrament.
3. Ergo, the Sacraments in the Catholic Church are real.
4. Ergo, the post-Vatican II Mass is real.
5. Ergo, there is no epekea to rely on for not having faculties if there is a hierarchy!
6. The Popes aren’t mistakes. They are part of His plan. There are many saints, Church documents, and teachings that say no one can depose a Pope. There is only one place sedevacantists can point to, to say that a “heretical Pope” deposes himself ipso facto. That is Canon 188.9 of the 1917 Code. Canon Law can be argued (otherwise there would not be canon lawyers or an ecclesiastical court). Point: The sedevacantist conclusion can be 100 percent wrong. Error on that point would mean that sedevacantists are outside of the Church!
7. We have been looking at things wrong. It was time for things to be “changed up,” according to God’s plan.
8. Some not-so-good things that have happened as a result of the Council will be righted in good time. It’s OK. God is in control. It usually takes about 100 years for the Church to return to normalcy after a Council. We are halfway there.
9. We need to trust that God is in charge of His Church and stop thinking that we have to put everything through our own “Catholic Sieve.”
10. We should distrust ourselves and trust the Church. Sedevacantism is not the answer. It is not united, it is not charitable, it is exclusive and it is not from God.