In an article that no objective reader would call fair or just, Jeff Mirus posts the apparent reflections of a young lady who grew up as a Catholic whose family received the sacraments from the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X. In addition, it seems the young lady went to a school administered by the same Society, it appears, for all of her education (at least her pre-collegiate education). Mirus begins with a note that while negative anecdotal evidence can be found about any person or group, this “seems fairly typical and dovetails with a very real canonical, theological, and pastoral situation.” With no separate explanations, the reader may ask exactly on what basis this seems “fairly typical” to Dr. Mirus, or what the exact nature of the “very real canonical” situation is – a precision he refused to offer in his response to Mr. Chris Jackson of The Remnant.
As someone raising six children in St. Mary’s, Kansas – the largest Society community in the United States – and who grew up in a conservative Catholic family, later attending Christendom College – an institution Mr. Mirus helped found – I think I can bring a unique perspective to bear in examining the possible veracity of the young lady’s assertions. Her words will be italicized; my response will be in normal font.
I always knew about the excommunications, but never once did I hear that they actually had NO canonical status!
Let us first consider the question in itself. She claims she knew about the excommunications – in fact, she had always known about them – so doesn’t it seem a bit odd to think that she had no idea that the Society possessed no ordinary jurisdiction? I can’t count the number of times I have heard priests make direct mention of this in attempting to explain the principles of supplied jurisdiction. But if that’s not enough, let’s consider some other realities.
Angelus Press, for whom I work, publishes a number of titles dealing openly and specifically with the question of the Society’s lack of ordinary jurisdiction, such as Supplied Jurisdiction and Traditional Priests, The Validity of Confessions and Marriages in the Chapels of the Society of Saint Pius X, Is the SSPX Schismatic, Excommunicated?, Is Tradition Excommunicated, as well as Most Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X. Additionally, we have published numerous articles examining this question in our now bi-monthly (previously monthly) journal, The Angelus. Finally, on the official website of the United States District of the Society of Saint Pius X, there are a number of articles that detail the juridical status of the Society today. If this is the attempt of a sect to hide information from its duped members, the Society is making an awful mess of it.
In the next part of her letter, she discusses the reaction of her family and the priests with her regard to her then upcoming nuptials. Without knowing the details of this at all, there is no benefit in commenting, other than to say that my own experience in a Society community has been quite different.
Let us jump back to those things that are more easily verified, which she addresses again in her second to last paragraph.
Many of the new generation Y of SSPX are losing the faith. Among my friends, few knew who the current pope is, let alone who their ‘local’ bishop is. Many have had enough of SSPX’s rigid, strict ways, especially regarding women for the strictness of dress. One inch too short, etc., and you are told you’re immodest!
Let’s look at this in three separate situations: Loss of the Faith, ignorance surrounding the current Holy Father and local ordinary, and finally the strictness/rigidity of the Society’s “ways.”
First, the question of losing the Faith. Obviously, I am not going to attempt to deny that there are some who belong to parishes of the Society who are losing, or who have lost the Faith. And let’s be clear that this loss of the Faith is probably not the exclusive province of the “new generation Y.” It’s probably true of some whose time left on this earth is short, as well as those in middle age. To say this is to say nothing.
The only way this assertion is helpful in critiquing the Society is if there is a systemic problem of loss of Faith that is DUE in some way to the fact that those losing the Faith belonged to a parish/mission of the Society.
But let the evidence speak for itself. In Saint Mary’s last year, we had over 100 baptisms! We have an enormous amount of young people who come to various parish social events, and the Masses are packed with young, ever-growing families. Put simply: all of the hard proof speaks against this letter. Rather than an anonymous assertion that “many” are losing the Faith, we have the practical actions and devotion of a generation which is orthodox, learned, pious, and well-adjusted.
Let’s consider next the statement that few of the writer’s friends know who the current pope is. Again, I don’t know the young lady’s friends, nor do I know where she lives. But, to speak from experience at the Society’s largest school and parish in the U.S., this is simply not true. Not only did all of our priests preach on the need to pray for our new Holy Father, but his official portrait is prominently displayed in the vestibule of the Church, and sold in our bookstore. I can only say that it is truly inconceivable for me to imagine that there are many (if any) members of the faithful (young or old) who attend the Society’s parishes and who do not know who the Holy Father is.
Contrary to many misconceptions, the priests of the Society pray for the Holy Father and for the Bishop in the Canon of the Mass. When our diocese has been given dispensations by our local ordinary (Archbishop Joseph Naumann) during Lent for St. Patricks’ day (for example) it has been announced in our parish and in the bulletin.
Sadly, it may be true that some are unaware of the specific name of their local ordinary. It is, at least, more conceivable than the absurd idea that they are unaware of the current occupant of the Chair of Peter. But let me offer a specific example to counter the amorphous assertion of the letter writer.
Last week, according to the calendar for the 1962 Missal was the Second Sunday after Pentecost. There is an option, according to the same calendar, for parishes to use the Mass of Corpus Christi on Sunday – in the event that a large number of the faithful were unable to attend the Mass on Thursday itself (though the Mass of Corpus Christi is still always celebrated on that Thursday). So, which Mass was offered in Saint Mary’s on June 2? The answer: Neither. Why? Because it is the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of St. Peter, the diocesan cathedral of the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, in which St. Mary’s resides. Thus, we had the Mass for the Anniversary of the Dedication of a Cathedral. This is a tangible proof of our unity with the local ordinary, a tangible proof that we are not separatists, or schismatics, or, as Dr. Mirus so tastelessly puts it, members of a sect.
Now, what of the sermon on this Sunday? A younger priest offered the Mass I attended – the High Mass at 9am. During the homily he preached on the fact that the local ordinary is our necessary connection with the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ. And that while the Holy Father is the highest authority in the Church, Bishop Naumann is our father in this diocese, and we must pray and sacrifice for him. And no one was shocked. There was no gasping or pulling of hair. It wasn’t something new to any of the parishioners. For someone who attends a Society parish, it is simply inconceivable to take the young lady’s statement at face value.
Finally, let’s discuss “rigidity.” As opposed to the modern world, I will say unabashedly that the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X take modesty very seriously. It is taught by word and example in the parish and the school. And the priests are not afraid to preach about that subject (though it is not as if this is the topic of continual sermons, either). However, the implication (ended with an exclamation point) that truly minor (though not unimportant) infractions against the virtue of modesty are met with some sort of vitriol, as a matter of course, is absurd.
Are there those in the community who are too strong, rigid, unbalanced in their approach to modesty, and beyond modesty to other questions as well? Certainly there are. But, two points must be stated:
1. That imbalance has nothing to do with the Society, and the priests are some of the ones who seek to most heartily root it out.
2. That imbalance may be found among individuals in many conservative Catholic settings as well – such as the one in which both Dr. Mirus and I spent a part of our lives.
The simple reality is that the letter quoted by Dr. Mirus is not representative of Society parishes, and it is a caricature of the lives of traditional Catholics. No doubt Dr. Mirus will be able to find others to support his same thoughts – others who have made a life of attacking the Society, but no matter. The reality for anyone with eyes to see is that the Catholics (and we are Catholics, Dr. Mirus, unless you dissent from the opinion of the Holy See) that attend the parishes of the Society of St. Pius X are orthodox, devout, and well-adjusted. We have our share of mischief-makers, and we have our share of do-gooders. Both are frustrating realities of living in any community made up of fallen human beings.
This has always been the case, and it will always be the case. But to take an anonymous letter, which removes all the circumstances of a case, which is incredibly difficult to believe on the surface, and to use that letter to malign the large number of faithful Catholics who frequent the parishes of the Society of St. Pius X is an offense against justice.
If Mr. Mirus wishes to see firsthand what life for those Catholics who frequent the parishes of the Society of St. Pius X is like, I warmly invite him to come visit Saint Marys and see the fruits and vibrancy of Tradition.
As I said at the beginning of my letter, when you are attempting a hit piece against a group, virtues can be inconvenient. Unfortunately for Dr. Mirus, it’s still detraction, even if it’s just about the SSPX.
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A thorough book review by Dr. Wolfgang Koch.
About Dr. Koch: After his studies in Physics and Mathematics, Wolfgang Koch graduated with a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics at Aachen Technical University (RWTH) and a habilitation degree at the University of Bonn in Computer Science. He is head of a research department the Fraunhofer Society, Professor for Computer Science at Bonn University, Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Distinguished Lecturer, and active in the Board of Governors of the IEEE, Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society and the International Society of Information Fusion.