Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Battle for the TLM: Conspiracy or Coincidence?

An on-going battle in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, is reminiscent of the battle we have been fighting (and have mostly lost – for now) in the Diocese of Baker. It’s the battle of the faithful to secure their right to have the extraordinary form of the Mass offered in their parishes. And in the end, it’s the battle for the truths of the Catholic Church to be taught to the faithful.

Bishop Taylor
In an article in The Remnant (December 2011), author  Ray Zürbeck pointed to numerous events in the Diocese – what he called “a long series of aggressive maneuvers” by Bishop Anthony Taylor – which had led to the demise of the Traditional Latin Mass in communities where it had been flourishing.  One FSSP priest was dismissed from the diocese on grounds of “child abuse” (not sexual, and investigated and dropped by the local Department of Human Services).  Another diocesan priest who had been saying the EF Mass regularly “was accused of some wrongdoing, and with no preliminary investigation he was removed from his position as pastor of St. Josephs in Fayetteville”. Zürbeck maintains that the priest was “quickly cleared, but to this date his faculties have not been restored”. And finally, a young priest (identified only as “Father X”) who had been trained in Rome, understood Summorum Pontificum, and started offering an EF Mass received this treatment:

…in late February 2010, Bishop Taylor personally escorted Father X to the St. Luke Institute in Silver Springs for “treatment” related to some supposed “personal problems.”  Every priest in the diocese knew exactly what those personal problems were – a desire to offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Zürbeck summarizes the condition of the Diocese of Little Rock:

And so, here we are in the year 2011 Anno Domini, with Catholics in Arkansas still having to fight for their right to the Usus Antiquior as if they were back in the 1970’s.  Bishop Taylor has found a way to get around Summorum Pontificum: if a priest is caught praying in Latin, accuse him of some wrongdoing and broadcast it to the world.  It doesn’t have to be true or accurate. Don’t bother to investigate, just get it into the news media, destroy the man’s reputation, and move on to the next target.  It works!  Even for good priests like Fathers Bradley and Demets.  Or, better yet, send him to St. Luke’s for “treatment.”  I’m guessing that Bishop Taylor and his henchmen will continue to purge the diocese of one holy priest after another in this manner.  What is there to stop them?  It works!  At this point they are just a few steps away from accomplishing their mission, which seems to have everything to do with purifying the Diocese of Little Rock of Catholic Tradition.  Catholic Tradition stands in the way of ideological agendas, you see. 

Bishop Taylor has now responded to Zürbeck’s challenges in another Remnant article posted on February 13, 2012. He addresses many of the charges with lengthy explanations, and concludes:

In any event, my purpose here is not to defend myself point by point against the allegations of Mr. Zürbeck, but simply to indicate that there is no conspiracy in Arkansas against the Latin Mass and that there are in fact honorable reasons why I was forced to take each of the steps to which he ascribes such unworthy motives. I am responsible for protecting the flock entrusted to my care and for implementing the safe environment policies of the Church.

In a rebuttal following Bishop Taylor’s explanation, Zürbeck maintains that there are still some facts that need to be addressed:

·         One of the first things Bishop Taylor did when he arrived in Arkansas was to discontinue a newly-founded Latin Mass community in Berryville.  This was post Summorum Pontificum.

·         After leaving the people of Northwest Arkansas without a Latin Mass, Bishop Taylor publicly replied negatively to requests from the faithful that it be restored.  

·         Shortly after that, a young priest who began offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at odd hours during the week was admonished several times and then finally sent to St. Luke Institute.  Since his return he no longer offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form. 

And regarding the bishop’s assurances that there is “no conspiracy” against the EF Mass, Zürbeck writes:

Bishop Taylor states in his response:  “…. there are in fact honorable reasons why I was forced to take each of the steps to which he ascribes such unworthy motives.”  Why are traditional Catholics in Arkansas seeing a hidden motive, then?  Well, the answer is simple:  People find it odd that within the Diocese of Little Rock it seems that something weird happens to any diocesan priest who, on his own initiative, begins offering a Latin Mass.

So…how does all this relate to the Diocese of Baker? We saw a similar scenario – though on a smaller scale – develop when Bishop Robert F. Vasa was transferred to the Diocese of Santa Rosa over a year ago, and retired Bishop William S. Skylstad was assigned as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese.

Like Bishop Taylor in Arkansas, Bishop Skylstad made swift changes in the diocese that led to the complete disruption of an established EF Mass here. I’ve documented those events here, here, and here. Oh yeah, and here and here, too.

Bishop Skylstad
In short, Bishop Skylstad spuriously restricted the faculties of the priest who had been saying the EF Mass for our stable group; he moved two other priests who were able to say the EF Mass to the farthest corners of the diocese; and he encouraged another priest who had begun to say the EF Mass to reduce the frequency of these Masses (though the bishop did not insist on this).  Bishop Skylstad also removed the tradition-sympathetic pastor of the parish where a monthly EF Mass had been held, and appointed instead a pastor who makes no secret of the fact that he “hates Latin” and has little sympathy for those “who try to shove Latin down our throats”.  It is unlikely that this priest will approve our use of the facilities for the EF Mass!

And Bishop Skylstad did all this while smiling to our faces and assuring us that he had nothing against the EF Mass – “in fact, we even have one of those in Spokane,” he noted.  
So, are all these little pieces of the puzzle just a coincidence? Come on. I took statistics in college. That's why I don't play the lottery.

I’ve been cautioned by a priest whom I respect that it is unwise to question a bishop’s motives for moving priests, and that there may be reasons for the changes of which the laity is not made aware. I agree that this is a possibility. Still, my thought is that bishops seem to be pretty darn good at coming up with reasons that sound “pastoral”, all the while using these “pastoral” decisions to further an agenda against the EF Mass.

And I have no doubt that some bishops do have such an agenda. Until I start seeing diocesan websites that maintain a list of EF Masses available in their domain, and a training program for priests to learn the EF Mass, or at least some show of support for and promotion of the EF Mass, I will continue to doubt that there is widespread acceptance of and conformity to Summorum Pontificum. It ain’t happenin’ in Eastern Oregon, I can tell you that!

It’s beyond credibility that the pattern of events taking place in dioceses all over this country is just a series of unhappy coincidences. I don’t necessarily believe that there is a conscious, carefully-planned, cross-diocese conspiracy to keep the EF Mass under wraps, but…wait…could there be?!...Well, anyway, at the very least, there seems to be a certain mindset amongst some of the bishops which is preventing it from flourishing. And perhaps the bishops learn from each other the little techniques they can use to squelch the EF Mass without admitting that that is what they are doing.

For instance:

·         It is well-known that seminarians – at least in certain diocese and geographic areas – must keep any “traditionalist” tendencies they may have “under the radar” for fear of being dismissed on grounds of being “too rigid” or “not pastoral”. (This has been a national problem for decades, and includes the whole issue of homosexuality in the priesthood, as well; see Michael S. Rose’s Good-by, Good Men.)

Fr. Michael Rodriguez
·         Priest like Fr. Michael Rodriguez (El Paso, Texas) have been removed from their parishes and banished to the hinterlands, apparently for no better reason than that they were speaking the truth and/or offering the EF Mass. Fr. Rodriguez is not the only one, as Zürbeck’s story and my own experiences have shown. I’ve heard similar stories now in Texas, Arkansas, Oregon, and Idaho…and that’s without even looking for the problems.

·         Even the laity comes under attack by bishops and/or diocesan “officials” for speaking the truth – Michael Voris and RealCatholicTV, for example. There was also Daniel Avila, who dared to suggest that Satan might be involved in homosexuality, and lost his job as a result.

So we have hushing, shushing, and shuffling of priests and laity who take being Catholic quite seriously, who hold to Tradition, and who take care to preach and teach the Truth.

And all the while, “catholics” like Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, Joe Biden, Sr. Carol Keehan are allowed to continue to spread their heretical and scandalous thoughts to the detriment of the Church and the souls under Her care, with barely a word of correction or condemnation of their false teaching.

Go figure.

If it’s not a conspiracy of men, it is certainly a conspiracy of Satan and his minions.


  1. Bingo---hard to refute. Deceit seems to run rampant in Washington DC and in some (way too many) dioceses in the USA

  2. It all sounds so very familiar. A well crafted and balanced post, Jay, many thanks.

  3. Sounds like what the Archdiocese of LA used to be (and is slowly getting better)

  4. The utter strangeness of this whole thing is the very simple fact that the Bishops have no right whatsoever to restrict this Mass anywhere - yet they are doing so in various ways - and Rome is, at least as of now, not disciplining these Bishops.

    Let me repeat: no Bishop in the Catholic Church has the legal, moral or religious right to restrict the Ancient Rite of the Mass. Full stop. However....if they do so the case has to be taken to the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome. And under SP, they will be informed that they are acting in disobedience to the motu proprio.

    Now here is the essential episcopal response (in most dioceses): containment. They will try to contain it, ghettoize it, really, in one parish church ONLY and do everything they can to discourage its spreading. Some of the tools they use have been described in the post above. They are not above vindictive, petty and illegal means to get what they want, and they will get away with it if Rome refuses to discipline them.

    But you must NOT let this stop you. You must do your homework, be wise as serpents and gentle as doves and approach the pastor of a church and see if he might be interested in having such a mass in his church. You must be prepared to help him in every way: altar boys, altar equipment and books, a choir if possible, a willing priest to train him or provide him with the plentiful training dvds that are currently available, work within his parish schedule of masses, etc. You must be helpful and make it easy for him. The burden of work will most likely be on your shoulders so be prepared for that.

    You may at first have to settle for an occasional old mass. Remember that many priests think that the Catholics who prefer the quiet reverence of the traditional Rite are all clinically insane, sprout horns on their heads and drool. And, sadly, some over-enthusiastic Catholics have not exactly been winning friends and influencing people. By your grace, dignity and respect you will win in the end.

    I know this method works because I have applied it successfully. The first two attempts were utter failures. But the third attempt went very well. So the ball is in our court right now and we must get to work. It is going to take a long time to undue the damage of the past 150 years so don't expect an instant turnaround. But keep at it.

    And, by the way, ask Mary to help you on this one. She helped me, and she'll help you.

  5. Aged Parent: You are correct in that methodology, of course! Believe me, we know our rights and have made it know that we know them! We have done all that you have suggested, and had the Mass in place for over 3 years, supplied everything ourselves ("we" being The Society of St. Gregory the Great, a lay association which promotes beauty and reverence in the liturgy, with a main thrust being the EF Mass, of course). The apostolic administrator was still able to squelch the Mass by denying us a priest. We have sent formal complaints to the PCED, and the only response is that we should "wait patiently" for a new bishop before any further steps are taken by the PCED. We've been waiting for over a year now! At any rate, we continue to wait and pray!

  6. Is there any correlation between traditional activity in a diocese, and long waits to get a new bishop assigned? There are several dioceses in the US that have been without a bishop for many months, some much more than a year....are these locales also hotbeds of traditional agitation?

    I was just wondering if there could be any connection.

  7. Tantamergo: I suspect it's more complicated than whether there's much traditional activity. In our diocese, there are other issues besides the TLM (or lack thereof), and things are a mess generally. One priest told me that the powers-that-be will want the current administrator to "fix" things before they appoint a new bishop. He's made things worse in his time here, so we're not really a very desirable place for a new bishop. Of course I don't know anything about El Paso that hasn't been out in the news, but I'm wondering if the same thinking doesn't hold true there: Ochoa has made a mess of things by filing a civil law suit against Fr. Rodriguez; what bishop-candidate would want to jump into that mess?! So if they leave Ochoa as administrator, he'll have to iron out the problem, and when it's taken care of, they'll appoint a bishop.
    But what do I know?! Ah, to be the fly on the any number of meeting rooms!


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