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Indult Masses and spiritual directors

traditional, catholic, orders, underground church, nom

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy


Now when one is at war with a small number of soldiers one must use guerilla tactics. What I am saying here is that the Catholic structure will inevitably take on new forms. There are those who will decry such a possibility, but they do not understand the issues. What is important is to be Catholic. The forms which give expression to this Catholicism are not fixed in stone. One has but to look to the English reformation to recall that priests wore lay clothes and because they traveled along hedges by the side of the road to avoid detection, they were called 'hedge priests.' I am not saying that it will come to that - the powers and principalities are not interested in martyrs - they are far too intelligent for that - but pressures will be applied such that priests may well not be able to be supported by the laity and may have to earn their own living. Remnant monastic communities will be closed down and monks will have to adapt and become monks living in the world. Priests will be saying Mass on very simple altars - still the Mass and still altars, but by no means as beautiful as we are still allowed to have them. In the early Church, priests said Mass in private homes and families maintained chapels in these homes, examples of which are still venerated in Rome such as the home of St. Cecelia. We are going to become an underground Church. For this we must be prepared.

What I am saying here is that our traditional priests, because they do not see the writing on the wall, have not taught our laity - and we are responsible for doing this - we have not taught out laity what it means to be Catholic. We have been satisfied with letting them think it means going to the Tridentine Mass and supporting the chapel of their choice. We have inherited a certain contemptuous attitude towards the laity as if they had no other function than to support the clergy. I have even heard it said that 'spirituality is not for the laity,' a truly shocking statement. And so it is that we are asking them to support a war in which they should be soldiers, but, at the same time we are asking them to fight without arms.

I am aware that they are given sermons. But if you doubt what I say, ask them, as I have, what the fight is all about. Most of them are completely confused as to what doctrinal issues separate us from the new and false post-Conciliar establishment. Protocol 1411 is correct in stating that for many of them their attachment to the traditional Mass is 'psychological,' and if proof of this is required, just look at what has happened when the Indult Mass is made available. Across the country traditional priests have seen their parishes emptied as the local bishops provide an Indult Mass (or some other 'Latin' Mass) to satisfy their psychological needs. They have no idea that they have in fact joined the enemy and in doing so have cut their own spiritual throats. They have in essence, 'sacrificed to the gods of Rome.'

Those who accept the Indult Mass - be they priests or laity - must recognize that in doing so they are accepting the entire post-Conciliar establishment, Vatican II and the NOM. In doing so, they immediately declare themselves part of the problem. They may decry the post-Conciliar church and insist on their conservative position. They may even think they are somehow preserving the faith. But facts are facts. They are recognizing and embracing the authority of the current post-Conciliar hierarchy; they are accepting all the sacramental changes; all the encyclicals and doctrinal statements of John Paul II; Their conservative opinions are just that, opinions, and they have no more force than the most liberal opinions of any fellow priest-president. This is precisely why the post-Conciliar hierarchy allows them to use the Indult. In order to see this, one has to understand what will happen in the not too distant future. At some point the Indult will be withdrawn. This is not a speculation. They have told us that they intend to do this. What then - an uneducated laity, a laity without leadership will be swept into the new church without resistance.

Traditional priests have hesitated to teach the faithful the fullness of the Truth. They do not want to talk about these issues because it raises the spector of the Pope and they fear many of their congregation will leave. This is a compromise with the truth. It is not that they have to tell the congregation from the pulpit that he isn't the pope - much less provide them with the almost incomprehensible theory of his being a material but not a formal pope. Rather, it requires that the priest explain to them the nature of authority and how authority - if present in the present incumbents is from Christ. And if this is so, then they have to accept an authority from Rome that demands they give up their Catholic faith. As Paul said, 'even if an angel from heaven...' This takes time - more time than a sermon during Mass.

There is only one solution. The laity need to be educated. This requires, at this time probably two nights a week of intense study and direction. I am told that people are too busy. Fine. Then don't complain if they leave the faith when nick comes to tuck because they really don't have the faith. They are not going to die for what they have and in a war we need soldiers who are willing to die. Its that simple. You say they are too busy. Well, I am sure if you gave them a lecture on how they could make more money in the market they would be willing to give you two nights a week for that.

It is not that every person in the congregation is capable of understanding these things. But many are and a certain degree of selectivity would be required. Christ's parable of the talents is pertinent. We must create leaders among the laity who have the same obligations to God as priests have - by this I mean, the same obligations to be Catholic and live the Catholic life to the best of their ability - they also have talents they must answer for. We must get rid of our contempt for the soldiers in the trenches and realize that while their paths are different than that of the priests, they are also called in their own way to be alter Christus. And as for the priests who are too busy - I have heard this excuse more than once.. The priests are meant to give until they bleed - like their Divine Master. I see little evidence of this at this time. (And may I also add, mea culpa.) The Cure of Ars never said he was too busy.

A comment on the issue of time. Jewish children manage to find time to go to shoel or Hebrew school five and six days a week after public school where they are taught both Hebrew and their faith. Muslim children in the middle east where I have traveled extensively also do likewise, and I have watched them not only learn the Koran by heart, but listen to wonderful and mystical expositions on the meaning of the Koranic verses given by well qualified teachers. In India where I grew up, we memorized as children the sacred texts which I can still remember. It is true that we didn't fully understand them as children, but things were explained to us at the appropriate level and as we aged we were given more profound explanations. If our religion is worth anything to us as Catholics, we can at least begin to emulate these other religions. We always have time to do what is important to us.

I can hear the criticisms. They don't impress me. I grew up during the time of the Communist infiltration. Communist cells had study groups that met several times a week and it was not unusual to find Communists who were intimately familiar, not only with the works of Marx and Engels, but with the entire corpus of Lenin, Bukanin and a host of other leftist 'lights.' When did you last talk to a Catholic who could give you an appropriate quote from St. Thomas (who's he?). It can be done, and if were serious, God will help us do it. The problem is, were not serious. And this is the tragedy.

It goes even deeper than just teaching the faithful the faith. It is important that they know their theology because there can be no spiritual life that is not protected by the boundaries that theology provides. What we need are saints, and as we priests are rather poor at becoming saints ourselves, at least we should try to induce our parishioners - God's grace helping - to become saints. We don't need buildings; we don't need money; we don't need big organizations. We need saints. During the English Reformation there were far more lay people who died for the faith than there were priests - and of the hierarchy there was only one who lost his head! The most significant martyr was a layman. In Campos it was the laity who supported the traditional priests who had their faculties removed and who were expelled from the Churches. This was because the Bishop and priests prepared them for what was coming. They refused the Novus Ordo and built their priests new places to say Mass. The priests willingly accepted the poverty involved.

Now of course, if priests are to become spiritual directors - not of everyone, but of those who they will come to know, they must themselves be leading deeply spiritual lives. It is not enough for the priest to provide the Sacraments and give good sermons. He must also himself be engaged in that spiritual warfare which leads to self abnegation and sanctity. I have spoken to traditional Catholics who have gone to traditional priests seeking spiritual direction and literally cannot find in them a source. This is at the heart of the tragedy. Such individuals do not need to be told that as long as they go to Mass and Confession that is all that is required - much less to be told that the priest has no time to talk to them - or even that they must make a scheduled appointment. When such an individual actually goes to a priest with such a request, the priest is being presented with a precious gem. It is Christ who has led such an individual to the priest's door. To turn him away is a crime. If the priest is too busy, let him once again take a page from the Cure of Ars who sat 14 hours a day in the confessional. There is no excuse. Needless to say, I am speaking of what I know has happened.

And if we make saints - if we ourselves are saints - than it will be clear to us what we must do. No longer will we be fighting about some of the stupidest issues among ourselves. No longer will we be making rules that impose further difficulties on the lives of our parishioners. Rather we will be seeking out ways to make things easier for them. No longer will we be disturbed if a stranger walks into our chapels improperly dressed. We will welcome them and in explaining to them the tremendous gift of the Real Presence and our love for our Divine Master, they will slowly come to realize that they too must give expression to that Presence by dressing appropriately.3 I remember a recent phone call from Canada of a 65 year old woman - a person who had always gone to the traditional Mass - who during a heat wave had her elbows exposed. The priest told her she couldn't go to Mass with her elbows exposed. She was rather upset and called to ask my opinion. I told her that I thought the priest was absurd. In the Indian villages the women go to Mass and feed their babies with exposed breasts. Proper dress is of course important, but compared to sitting down and teaching the faith and giving real spiritual direction it hardly shows up on the graph.

Recently another so-called traditional group indirectly asked my opinion about setting up a mediaeval village. I laughed. We don't need mediaeval villages. Traditional Catholic families are almost always in isolation. There is no community left. They are often miles away from other traditional families, and often have to travel two hours or more to get to a traditional Mass. They need help and support - the help of a strong faith and a viable spiritual life based on the Sacraments. They are often much more intelligent than the priests that serve them - for, thanks God, one doesn't have to be that intelligent to be a priest. What are we doing to help them? Not very much in my experience. We must remember that the head of a family is called 'Father,' as is the priest who should be head of the community and who in turn derives his title from God the Father whose representative he is.

The father of the family is the spiritual director of his family. How are we helping him to fulfill this function? How often have we visited his home and blessed his house - again, the Cure of Ars did this yearly for everyone in his parish. He once said as he passed the graveyard in Ars that he had buried many saints there and he was not speaking allegorically. These are after all the soldiers who will shed their blood for Christ. Have you ever tried to send such a family to a traditional chapel? Try it some time. If you send them to one they are told that if they go to any other they will be damned! If they are traveling, you have to warn them that they should not tell the priest where they go where their home parish is. You have to warn them about the foibles of every traditional group so they don't offend some priest or other. It becomes absurd. St. Paul spoke to this in Corinthians I.4

If we face up to the real issues; if we start trying to become more Christ like ourselves which is the essence of sanctity, and if we lose our contempt for the laity and realize that it is our job to lead them to sanctity, than all the petty arguments will slowly go away. It was said of the early Christians - no let me say, Catholics - 'look how they love one another.' I see little evidence of this around me today. Christ has given us a tremendous opportunity and I fear that many of us - not all of course - and I can speak for myself at least - I fear we are blowing it. The priest-presidents of the Novus Ordo will have much to answer for, but will we not have much more to answer for?

I have said that the Catholic Church will find new ways of expression. It is not that the Sacraments will be changed, but ways of living the faith will inevitably have to be changed. We can no longer insist that Catholics go to Mass every Sunday for families with children may not be able to get to the only Mass within a two or three hour radius. We may have to accept the fact that we don't have fancy Churches - the Apostles didn't have them either. Priests may have to go back to mending tents - and I know of traditional priests who do work at reasonably honorable jobs to supplement their incomes - in one case to help care for a sick and aged mother. He did not wish to ask his congregation to do this. And of course he was criticized by other traditional priests for this!

I cannot of course predict the forms of expression that will manifest themselves. But this I know. If we have saints - be they hidden or manifest - these forms will be Christ-willed and they will save souls. And that's what its all about. Again, let me give an example. The Jesuits were in India for over 300 years. I knew them well in Bengal. A Jesuit priest who moved into the native quarter was ostracized by his fellow Jesuits (this long before Vatican II) and criticized for going native. He made the first translation of the New Testament into Bengali (there being some 70 million Bengali speaking people) in 1942. Now, it was the custom of the Jesuits to smoke cigars and drink beer in public. They had always done this in Europe. The problem was that Hindus could not see such actions as being compatible with living the spiritual life. This ostracized priest made more converts than all the other Jesuits I met during the two years I was there. By analogy our traditional priests must be careful not to be cigar smokers and beer drinkers.

Let me add a comment about married priests since it is well known that I am a married priest. I am admittedly hesitant to add this paragraph as it may seem self serving, but the point is important. A priest cannot marry, but a married man can become a priest. The restriction about married priests is a canonical or administrative law of the Church instituted in the 11th to 12th century for good reasons. At that time married priests were collecting benefices - often as many as six or more - and passing them on to their children whether they be priests or not. There was only one way to stop this, and quite rightly the Church stopped the abuse. There were other reasons also, for clearly the single person dedicated to the priesthood was freer to act than an person encumbered with a family. It was also a time when there was no shortage of clergy.

However, the Eastern churches (many of which are Uniate and hence united in principle with Rome), have married clergy. Some of these in recent years have been men of remarkable sanctity. I know of individuals who left the seminary rather than be ordained to the new liturgy and subsequently married. They are now older and have grown families towards whom they no longer have responsibilities. If their wives give permission, there is absolutely no reason why such individuals - carefully selected - should not be ordained. We need soldiers and these are individuals who will make excellent soldiers. There is no need for them to live separately from their wives. Once again, let us consider the substance and not the accidentals. Anyone who feels this violates any principle would do well to read the Scriptures which instruct us in the duties not only of married priests, but of married bishops - including the duties of their wives5.

Again, let me repeat, I do not know the various forms the true Church will take or adapt in the future.6 I am happy to let these become manifest. What I know is that if we have a saintly priesthood and a saintly laity, these forms will be appropriate and Catholic. They will also be vastly different from the forms we are presently familiar with. I am not saying that rules are not important, or that they should be completely ignored. What I am saying is that we cannot allow rules to replace substance and the substance is sanctity.

One last story. The Cathedral in Cologne has for its architect no less a person than St. Albert the Great. He in turn was given the plans for this Cathedral by Our Blessed Lady. When the Cathedral was dedicated, the person giving the Sermon was the Blessed Tauler. He made the following comment. He said, 'It is not the Church which makes the people holy,' but rather, 'it is the people that makes the Church holy.' This is an excellent motto for the traditional priests to adopt.

Let me finally add that there is nothing in the present situation that prevents any one of us from being Catholic. May God help us then all to be truly Catholic - not only in outer ways, but in our hearts.


3 I can give several examples of people who went to traditional chapels and were literally attacked for being improperly dressed. They never went back and it has taken considerable effort to convince them that their experience was unfortunate, but that they must learn to seek out the truth and not the outer form.

4 It has been my privilege to be instrumental in leading several individuals back to the Catholic Church. I speak from considerable experience when I say that making it possible for them to get to valid sacraments becomes a major issue. Not only do they have the problem of relative isolation along with the problem of bringing wife and children along with them, they have the additional problem of dealing with exclusivist groups that demand adherence to rules that are by no means essential. More people are turned away from traditional chapels than most priests have any idea of because of such issues.

5 This is in no way to deny that the state of virginity is higher than that of the married state. It goes without saying that chastity and celibacy are required of those that enter into Holy Orders.

6 This should not be interpreted as a denial of the need for a hierarcical structure in the Church. Nor should it lead to the concept that we don't need a Pope. How the reconstruction of the papacy will be brought about remains to be seen - but in the interim there is nothing that prevents us from being fully Catholic.

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