By: Randy Engel
Part I – Focus on the Knights of Columbus Bailout of Crux
Knights of Columbus Bail Out Liberal Crux
Remember all the publicity and fanfare back in March of 2016 when the Knights of Columbus proudly announced that they were entering into a “partnership” with Crux Catholic Media, Inc. headed by the former National Catholic Reporter’s John L. Allen Jr.?
Here is the text of the Knights’ March 15, 2016 official press release to refresh your memory:
The Knights of Columbus and Crux are pleased to announce that they plan to enter into a partnership in which Crux will remain an independent news outlet headed by John L. Allen Jr. and Inés San Martín.
The project is designed to make one of the world’s best known Catholic news platforms even stronger. The partnership will combine the Knights’ resources and spirit of service with the journalistic experience and commitment of Crux.
As part of the project, Catholic Pulse, a news and commentary website operated by the Knights of Columbus, will merge with Crux, adding its resources to Crux’s blend of staff-generated reporting and analysis with pieces by respected guest contributors. The Crux website will feature the tagline: “Keeping its finger on the Catholic Pulse.”
Reporting and analysis by Allen and San Martín will continue to focus primarily on the Vatican, the Church and Catholic issues generally, and international religious freedom. The aim is to ensure that informed, responsible, and fair journalism helps to set the tone for discussion of Catholic affairs in the United States and around the world. Over time, plans call for additional contributors to be identified to add their commentary to the lineup.[i]
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson added a personal touch:
We are very pleased to have the opportunity to join together in this important venture and look forward to this partnership with Crux, and with its principals, John L. Allen Jr. and Inés San Martín, as they continue to build on their record of thoughtful and intelligent journalism and commentary. Crux is an important voice and key source of news for Catholics and about Catholic issues, and we are very pleased to be able to keep this important voice speaking to the Church and to the world.[ii]
And here we have the ecstatic comments of Mr. Allen, the primary beneficiary of the Knight’s largesse.
We are thrilled with this partnership with the Knights of Columbus. The Knights are one of the most dynamic and effective Catholic organizations in the world, and their generosity will help ensure that Crux can continue telling the broad Catholic story.[iii]
We are very pleased to know that the Knights of Columbus will be sponsoring Crux going forward. The original launch of this innovative forum for reporting news and sharing conversations concerning the Catholic Church was a great encouragement. We appreciate the Boston Globe having provided the startup for Crux and are confident that the Knights of Columbus, under the capable leadership of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, will achieve new levels of success with this most important communication tool, on behalf of the work of the Church and the good of the wider community.[iv]
Homosexual Group Nixes the Knights’ Sponsorship
One additional commentary of March 16, 2016, came from the openly-sodomite group Dignity which expressed fear that the new Knights/Crux arrangement would disturb Crux’s “high quality, independent journalism” on Catholic (L) lesbian, (G) “gay”, (B) bisexual, (T) transgender and (Q) queer concerns. Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director said she was “deeply concerned that the Knights may try to use the trust Crux has built as an authority on ‘all things Catholic,’ to silence voices that have important perspectives on key issues facing our Church and our world.” Duddy-Burke said she hoped to meet with Allen and San Martin so to better understand “what the conversation about editorial independence has been, and how they plan to ensure that Crux continues to be a credible resource for the whole Church.”[v]
Apparently, the poor woman has never faithfully followed Allen’s columns and opinions on matters sexual, otherwise she would have known her worries about Crux coming down hard on the forces of organized perversion in the Catholic Church were all for naught. Allen may be passionate about many things, but investigating and exposing sodomites and lesbian enclaves, especially in the U.S. hierarchy or female religious orders or the Vatican Curia is not one of them.[vi]
Knights Quietly Pull the Plug on CRUX
So it may come as a shock to many Knights and Catholic laity that after four years and more than two million bucks of hard-earned grassroots Knights of Columbus money gone down the drain, the Supremes at the Knights Tower in New Haven, Connecticut, have finally pulled the financial plug on Crux.
This writer received confirmation that the Knights had stopped supporting Crux from Knight Joseph Cullen, Senior Communications Specialist for the national office following a series of email communications concerning the Knights’ financial investment in Crux news service. Here is a short timetable on that communication:
- On November 2, 2019, I sent an initial media query into the National office asking for information on the Knights’ total financial investment in Crux since 2016. I noted that this information was not available in any Knights publication or article on the subject that I had reviewed in connection with an investigation I was conducting. Unfortunately, I used an old email address and the query was returned to me unanswered.
- On November 7, 2019, I obtained an updated address for Cullen. The query reached its mark. I asked him to provide me with information concerning the total payout made by the Knights to Crux from 2016 to the present time and what benefits were accrued to the Knights from their investment (I unfortunately used the word “ownership”) in Crux.
- The following day, November 8, 2019, I received the following illuminative response from Mr. Cullen:
The Knights of Columbus have never owned Crux. We were one of a number of sponsors, but our sponsorship ended several months ago. Additionally, please note that your recent article [The Catholic Inquisitor] identifying Supreme Knight Carl Anderson as a member of Opus Dei is inaccurate. While some others have likewise made this claim, in fact, Mr. Anderson has never been a member of that organization. We’d be grateful for a correction on this.
- To which this writer replied:
Thanks, Joe, for your reply. Carl Anderson has had a long formal relationship with Opus Dei. So you won’t get “a correction” from me. I’ve been covering this Crux issue for several years. When did the Knights publicly announce they had severed ties with Crux? I never saw such a notice. Was that [severance from Crux] because of the [Elise] Harris/[John] Allen affair? When did the Knights learn of this matter? Were your rank and file members notified of the fact that the Knights were no longer funding Crux?
- Shortly after this communication was sent out, Cullen asked for my deadline and I told him November 27th. The time passed quickly, but no further information was ever received.
- On the 23rd of December 2019, my final communication went out to the Knights on the Crux matter:
Dear Joe, It was my understanding that you were going to send me the financial information I requested on the Crux-Knights of Columbus transaction that began in March 2016. I asked you to provide information on the initial amount paid out by the Knights for this business venture between March 2016 until mid-2019 when you indicated that the Knights ended its sponsorship of Crux. I presume you are a man of your word.
Please forward that information as promised. Also, please indicate the date when the Knights’ sponsorship of Crux was terminated along with a copy of the press release that accompanied that termination. I presume that you did inform your membership that the arrangement with Crux had ended.
Some Clarifications on the Cullen Response
First, when Cullen states that the Knights of Columbus (a non-profit entity) were just “one of a number of sponsors” to partnership with Crux (a for-profit company), this is stretching the truth. It was the Knights who “rescued” Crux from falling into oblivion when The Boston Globe officially closed down the news service on April 1, 2016.
That the majority of news outlets viewed the Knights and Crux “partnership” as a surprise and gratuitous “bailout” is evident in the headlines of major media outlets following the Knights’ initial announcement. For example, “Globe’s Catholic Site rescued by Knights of Columbus” was the headline from the Boston Business Journal[vii] and “Knights of Columbus Come to the Rescue of Crux – Why are the Knights funding more left-wing Catholicism?” was the title to an article by Church Militant writer Ryan Fitzgerald.[viii]
As to the exact amount of money Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and his Executive Knights sank into Crux from March 2016 [including startup costs] until somewhere between July 2019 and early November 2019 [including severance costs], the Knights’ public relation man, Joseph Cullen, has yet to make that information public.
However, it is possible to make an educated guess based on some of Allen’s earlier comments to the press.
In the spring of 2017, the “progressive” National Catholic Reporter, Allen’s old employer for sixteen years, ran a series titled “Knights of Columbus’ financial forms show wealth, influence.”[ix] According to NCReditor, Tom Roberts:
…in an email answer to an NCR query, Allen said that the Knights of Columbus contributes $350,000 a year “against a total budget of around” $850,000. Advertising earns Crux about $125,000 a year, he said, and other support comes from the DeSales Media Group in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, and from the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and Los Angeles.
Over an estimated three-year period that would come out to $1,050,000.
However, in an earlier article on the Knights and Crux “partnership,” I recall Allen saying that the Knights as the “principal partner” absorbed 2/3 of the cost of maintaining Crux which would bring us closer to $2,000,000.
And what did the Knights of Columbus executives and rank and file members receive in return from the for-profit corporation?
As far as I can see, the answer is zilch!
The Harris-Allen Affair
In my final communication to Mr. Cullen cited above, I made reference to “the Harris-Allen Affair” which deserves a short explanation.
On October 23, 2019, my colleague George Neumayr issued an interesting tweet stating:
More Francis-friendly blather from John Allen. Many have been fooled into thinking he is an “objective” Vatican reporter. In truth, he is mainly a stenographer for the bad guys. He is openly heterodox – a divorcee who is shacked up with Crux’s Elise Harris.
Elise Harris is the Senior Correspondent for Crux living in Rome. Allen’s (ex) wife, Shannon Levitt, a Jewess, who has been Allen’s business manager and copy editor for well over a decade has returned to the United States and is still on the Crux payroll as is Elise Harris, and, of course, Mr. Allen.
Shortly after the George Neumayr tweet appeared, Capuchin Father Joseph Mary Elder announced that Allen was engaged to be married to Harris.[x]
In his October 30, 2019 report on pseudo-Catholic reporters, Michael Voris of Church Militant noted:
Some of these so-called reporters not only disagree with the Church’s teaching, but actually live their day-to-day lives in contradiction to it. Last week we chose to keep the identity of one such Rome reporter quiet for the sake of charity. But since then, there are multiple reports all over social media that the Catholic reporter who dumped his wife and is shacked up with another woman is John Allen from Crux. In short, his cover is blown…
This situation is scandalous, and so is the situation of Allen’s other liberal buddies covering for him.
A few weeks ago, Bp. Robert Barron brought Allen on board as a contributor to his Word on Fire self-promotion outfit.
So here is a Catholic man objectively committing adultery, who reports non-stop on Vatican affairs – and we’re supposed to think his reporting can be trusted.
And frankly, this tidy little arrangement between Allen and Barron calls into serious question Barron’s legitimacy.
Allen’s dalliances are a very poorly kept secret in Church reporting circles. It’s a little hard to believe that Barron didn’t know anything about them. But, to give him the benefit of a doubt, if he didn’t, he does now. So watch and see what Barron does.[xi]
Since the story of the Allen and Harris affair broke in late October 2019, there have been some interesting developments in the case.
Elise Harris and John Allen have indeed tied the knot and are (perhaps only) “civilly” married. This writer only found out about the couple’s change in marital status on March 4, 2020, when I was looking up an item for this series and noted that Angelus News (an official publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles) had changed Elise’s name on their website from Elise Harris to Elise Ann Allen. Thus far, I have not seen any public announcement concerning Allen’s second hook-up or if an “annulment” was secured by Allen from his long-time wife, Shannon Levitt, who, like Harris, also works for Crux.
Concerning the Knights of Columbus Executive Board, it would be interesting to know if the Harris-Allen affair was a factor in the decision to terminate their financial support of Crux.
Concerning the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and its head, Opus Dei Archbishop José H. Gómez, when did diocesan officials including Gómez understand that Allen was involved in an “irregular” relationship with his Crux employee Elise Harris in Rome? Was it before or after, Allen and Harris were invited to appear at a video session of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress on March 23, 2019? [xii] Was it before or after John Allen gave the keynote address “With Distinction” at the Brown Robe gala, the annual benefit of the Capuchin Fathers in October of 2019?[xiii]
Certainly, inquiring minds of rank and file members of the Knights of Columbus and many Catholic pewsitters especially in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles want to know.
To be continued in Part II – “Focus on John Allen, Jr. and Opus Dei”
[i] Knights of Columbus Press Release, March 15, 2016 at http://www.kofc.org/en/news/releases/crux-knights-partners.html.
[ii] ”Crux will continue with the Knights of Columbus as its partner,” Crux staff, March 15, 2016 at https://cruxnow.com/church/2016/03/crux-will-continue-with-the-knights-of-columbus-as-its-partner/.
[v] “LGBT Catholics Concerned about Crux moving to Knights of Columbus,”DignityUSA press release, Mach 16, 2016 at https://www.dignityusa.org/article/lgbt-catholics-concerned-about-crux-moving-knights-columbus.
[vi] See “John Allen Jr: The Gatekeeper of Crunchy Catholicism,” by Dr. Jesse Russell, The Remnant, December 30, 2017, at https://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/fetzen-fliegen/item/3635-john-allen-jr-the-gatekeeper-of-crunchy-catholicism.
[vii] “Globe’s Catholic site rescued by Knights of Columbus,” Greg Ryan, Law and Money Reporter, Boston Business Journal, March 15, 2016, at https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2016/03/15/globe-s-catholic-site-rescued-by-knights-of.html.
[viii] “Knights of Columbus Come to the Rescue of Crux,” Ryan Fitzgerald, March 20, 2016, at https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/knights-of-columbus-come-to-the-rescue-of-crux.
During his Angelus address this past Sunday, Jorge Bergoglio (stage name, Francis) announced:
In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven. I invite all the Heads of the Churches and the leaders of every Christian community, together with all Christian of the various confessions, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us. I, therefore, invite everyone to do this several times a day, but all together, to recite the Our Father this coming Wednesday, 25 March, at noon, all together.
He went on to issue a similar call to unite in prayer, this event scheduled to take place two days later:
With this same intention, this coming Friday, 27 March, at 6:00 pm, I will preside over a moment of prayer on the sagrata of Saint Peter’s Basilica, before the empty square. I invite everyone to participate spiritually through the means of communication. We will listen to the Word of God, we will lift up our supplication, we will adore the Blessed Sacrament, with which at the end, I will give the Urbi et Orbi blessing, to which will be connected the possibility of receiving the plenary indulgence.
“To the pandemic caused by the virus,” Jorge continued, “we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness.”
So, are you thinking of accepting Bergoglio’s invitation to join in his global initiative and inviting others to do the same?
Before you answer, consider the following:
What Jorge is proposing is, at best, an ecumenical affair, one that is designed to include the prayers of “all of the various confessions” of self-identified “Christians.”
Big deal? You bet it is.
This means that it will be an amalgam of prayers, some directed to the one true God, commingled with prayers that most certainly will not “invoke the Almighty;” rather, they will be directed to various false gods; e.g., the Methodist false god who has blessed the world with abortion clinics, the Presbyterian false god that approves of homosexual sex pacts, the false god that most of the heretics share whose only begotten Son was born of a sinner, etc.
And then there is the most dangerous fake deity to be invoked among them all; namely, the Bergoglian false god, the “God of Surprises,” the unjust god whose law is too difficult for some persons to keep, the lying god who wills even those religions that explicitly reject Jesus Christ, the fickle god who wills at times that we should break the sixth commandment.
This is what the “universality of prayer” that Jorge has in mind looks like, folks. He didn’t invent the idea. We saw this same brand of apostasy in action at the Assisi abominations, wherein it was supposed that all “prayer,” regardless of to whom it is directed, is fruitful. As such, we might even think of Bergoglio’s event as Assisi IV. Sure, no invitation to join in (yet) has been extended to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., but it just as well could have been.
Lastly, all of the prayers to all of the false gods mentioned are intended to implore God to come to our aid in the midst of the Coronavirus, a malady that Jorge Bergoglio suggests may be Mother Earth’s way of “reckoning with us … so that we will take care of nature.”
Now, with all of that having been said, I’ll ask again:
Are you thinking of joining Jorge in his global initiative and inviting others to do the same?
It is because the reign of Our Lord is no longer the center of attention and of activity for those who are our præpositi [our prelates], that they lose the sense of God and of the Catholic Priesthood, and that we can no longer follow them.
Commenting upon the Archbishop’s words in a conference given in 2010, then Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, stated:
The evil of the Council is the ignorance of Jesus Christ. They no longer know who Jesus is. In theory, they may still attribute to Him the Godhead, divinity. In practice, they refuse to draw the conclusions. One of these is His Kingship. He is the Lord. For them, He is no longer the Lord; look at the way they handle the question of society and the State.
Now, ten years later, it is becoming ever more apparent that the Society of St. Pius X, vis-à-vis the attitude of its current leadership, no longer places the Sovereign Rights of Christ the King at the center of their attention and activities. They give every appearance of committing the grave errors identified by Bishop Fellay a mere decade ago:
In practice, they refuse to draw the conclusions that necessarily derive from Our Lord’s Kingship. For them, He is no longer the Lord; look at the way they handle the question of society and the State.
On 23 March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued an order that effectively prohibits the public offering of Holy Mass. It declares:
We’ll stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals … If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
In response to this unlawful edict from the State, Fr. Robert Brucciani, SSPX, (above) District Superior of Great Britain, dispatched a letter to Society faithful that reads [emphasis added]:
An announcement this evening by the British PM has left us with no choice but to cancel all public religious ceremonies and close our chapels in Great Britain and Northern Ireland for at least three weeks starting from this moment (Monday evening 23/03/2020). An announcement about the ceremonies and chapels of Ireland will follow.
Tomorrow, our priests will work on a plan to continue our apostolate using every means left to us. We are able to tend the sick and the dying within the government restrictions, but we need to find a way of administering the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion to the rest of the faithful without breaking the law. We will also look to develop the teaching and devotional apostolate by printed, audio and visual media.
There is some real good to be drawn from this evil. In this privation of the sacraments, we might deepen our understand of the loss felt by Our Lady and the Apostles as they all came sorrowfully away from the tomb. De profundis clamavi ad Te Domine.
We might also start the family rosary as a daily routine. Mother Mary would be so pleased.
In Jesu et Maria,
Rev. Robert Brucciani
This is how SSPX leadership is choosing to handle the question of society and the State; declaring to their faithful, and to the world at large, that the Church has no choice but to operate within government restrictions. As I recently wrote, one expects as much from the conciliar church, but surely it is reasonable to expect more from a Society that claims unwavering allegiance to Eternal Rome.
In response to my criticism of Fr. Jurgen Wenger’s sell-out to the civil authority in the United States, the rejoinder was offered in his defense:
Who is in charge of the Church, last I saw it was a man named Bergoglio and his chosen men. No SSPX bishop, superior general, or priest carry that crown.
Setting aside the undeniable reality that “Bergoglio” reigns over the conciliar imposter and is not in charge of the Church… For the sake of any who may be similarly confused, the “full freedom of the Church to judge and decide as to the things that may best suit Her ends” (Pope Leo XIII, Officio Sanctissimo, which was addressed to the Church in Bavaria) applies as much to the local churches as to the Church Universal; in practice, arguably even more-so given that the civil authorities operate locally.
So, inasmuch as the SSPX is a part of the one true Church (a claim that is in danger of teetering on the very edge of believability), then it does indeed “carry that crown.” Furthermore, that crown is none other than the Crown of Christ the King!
This is why I shall never tire of declaring that the State has no authority whatsoever to place restrictions upon the Catholic Church in the exercise of her mission!
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and as such Her freedom from the dictates of the State in these matters is a direct consequence of Our Lord’s Kingship and His Sovereign Rights over every nation.
Surrendering this freedom, declaring that we have no choice but to operate under government restrictions, is tantamount to renouncing the Kingship of Christ.
To any self-identified “traditionalist” that feels compelled to defend this capitulation of the SSPX to the civil power in this matter, as well as those who are content to sit in silence as its leaders willingly submit to the whims of the State, the words of Archbishop Lefebvre most certainly apply:
The reign of Our Lord is no longer the center of your attention and activity.
To the rest of you, who presumably share my disappointment and outrage, make it your business to get in touch with SSPX leadership, letting them know that their unwillingness to stand up for the eminent liberty of the Church in the face so much governmental overreach is an affront to the Sovereign Rights of Christ the King that cannot be tolerated.
Cardinal Raymond Burke is back in the news, this time for having published a lengthy letter wherein he weighed-in on the widely unmet spiritual needs of the faithful in light of COVID-19. As usual, he is once again receiving unqualified applause from neo-conservative Catholics, as well as some traditional types.
Don’t get me wrong, the majority of Burke’s comments are on point. It ends up, however, that the portion of the letter that is getting the most attention also happens to be the part that is most lacking in Catholic sense.
… prayer, devotions and worship, above all, Confession and the Holy Mass, are essential for us to remain healthy and strong spiritually, and for us to seek God’s help in a time of great danger for all. Therefore, we cannot simply accept the determinations of secular governments, which would treat the worship of God in the same manner as going to a restaurant or to an athletic contest.
So far so good, but then Cardinal Burke gets to his proposed solution to the present problem. With the civil authorities in numerous places having presumed to issue orders that severely restrict the pubic celebration of Holy Mass and, in some cases, effectively leading to its cancellation, Cardinal Burke advises:
We bishops and priests need to explain publicly the necessity of Catholics to pray and worship in their churches and chapels, and to go in procession through the streets and ways, asking God’s blessing upon His people who suffer so intensely.
We need to insist that the regulations of the State, also for the good of the State, recognize the distinct importance of places of worship, especially in time of national and international crisis. In the past, in fact, governments have understood, above all, the importance of the faith, prayer and worship of the people to overcome a pestilence.
The fact of the matter is that the “regulations of the State” do not apply to the salvific mission of the Church! She is eminently free to carry it out as she sees fit whether the State likes it or not. Why? Because it was given to her by Christ the King who reigns over all men, including those who exercise civil authority.
Even so, Cardinal Burke is essentially saying that we – priests and bishops in particular – must beg the civil authorities to allow for the public celebration of Holy Mass during this crisis. He also suggests that we would do well to remind them that the government, back in the day, was far more accommodating of the Church in the face of such challenges.
For this, Cardinal Burke is once again being placed on a pedestal.
An authentic Catholic response, however, would look quite different. Consider, for example, the words of Pope Leo XIII:
Wherefore, being, by the favor of God, entrusted with the government of the Catholic Church, and made guardian and interpreter of the doctrines of Christ, We judge that it belongs to Our jurisdiction, venerable brethren, publicly to set forth what Catholic truth demands of every one in this sphere of duty; thus making clear also by what way and by what means measures may be taken for the public safety in so critical a state of affairs. – Diuturnum, 1881
Get that? Regulations pertaining to “public safety” include more than just matters of temporal governance; they include mankind’s duty toward God, and on this note it belongs to the Church, not the State, to set the parameters.
Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church … To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer injustice. Whenever this is the case, order is disturbed, for things natural are put above things supernatural… – Immortale Dei, 1885
In other words, what priests and bishops really need to do is to make it perfectly plain to the civil authority that they are not the sole power on earth by which society is governed.
Following is the Letter of Pope Gelasius I to Emperor Anastasius in 494, widely referred to as “Duo Suit” (Latin for “There are two”). Fr. John Hardon, S.J. called this the most succinct expression of the Church’s mind on the civil power’s relationship with the ecclesial power and it remains the doctrine of the Church.
There are two, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests [the Church] and the royal power [civil authority]. Of these, that of the priests is weightier, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment. You are also aware, most clement son, that while you are permitted honorably to rule over humankind, yet in divine matters you bend your neck devotedly to the bishops and await from them the means of your salvation.
In the reception and proper disposition of the heavenly sacraments, you recognize that you should be subordinate rather than superior to the religious order, and that in these things you depend on their judgment rather than wish to bend them to your will.
In many places, the civil authority has issued “orders” setting limits on the numbers of persons that are allowed to gather, even for Holy Mass. In the face of this, many Novus Ordo bishops have gone above and beyond what the civil power has ordered, deciding to cancel public Masses altogether.
Ironically, the conciliar bishops in these cases (never mind whether their decision is good or bad – I happen to think it’s reprehensible) are actually giving a better example (even if only inadvertently) of how the regulation of such things belongs to the ecclesial power alone than some traditional clerics (like Fr. Wegner, SSPX) who have pledged to follow government rulings.
The latter would give one who doesn’t know any better (and evidently very few do) to believe that the Church should submit to the State in matters such as these.
Truly, the world is being turned upside down.
The proliferation of COVID-19 hysteria is far outpacing the spread of the actual virus. Perhaps this is because the latter, unlike herd-panic, cannot be contracted from listening to those “public servants” whose singular greatest concern is amassing more political power, with the help of their fear-mongering friends in the media, of course.
That is not to say that there are not a lot of good people working very hard to monitor the situation and trying their level best to keep us safe and informed. The point is simply this, it would be foolish to assume that everything coming to us from journalists, public sector “experts,” and those in government is necessarily true or even remotely helpful. In other words, we need to apply common sense to the things we’re being told.
As of this writing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks.
Here in my home state of Maryland, the Governor has officially issued an order reflecting CDC recommendations, prohibiting gatherings of 50 persons or more, including those that are “spiritual and religious.” Civil authorities in various other states have issued similar orders, limiting public gatherings to anywhere from 50 to 250 people – a wide range that reflects the degree to which such limits are inherently arbitrary.
When it comes to Holy Mass and the Sacraments, applying common sense to government rulings is not enough; rather, we should expect our leaders to act, and to teach, according to sure Catholic doctrine, especially if they present themselves as defenders of tradition.
In a March 14 letter from Fr. Wegner to the faithful of the SSPX in the United States, Regarding US District and COVID-19 Coronavirus, the District Superior stated, among other things, under the heading “Practical Directives”:
- If there are government rulings regarding canceling or reducing the size of gatherings, we will follow the lawful government orders.
- All unnecessary public gatherings will be canceled. Your local priest or coordinator will be in contact regarding specific events at your chapel or school. [Emphasis in original]
“Gatherings” as mentioned in the former case includes public celebrations of Holy Mass, while in the latter it refers to other events; e.g., sports, bake sales, fish fries, etc. In other words, if the civil authority in a given jurisdiction issues an order that would require Holy Mass to be canceled, the SSPX will comply and Mass will be canceled.
Evidently, Fr. Wegner would consider this a “lawful” expression of the State’s authority. Catholic doctrine, however, tells us otherwise; namely, it would be an example of governmental overreach and an encroachment upon the unique rights and prerogatives of the Catholic Church.
According to authentic Catholic tradition, the Church is not subject to the State in matters pertaining to its salvific mission.
For example, Pope Leo XIII teaches:
Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church … To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer injustice. Whenever this is the case, order is disturbed, for things natural are put above things supernatural… – Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885
Announcing to the faithful, “we will follow the government’s ruling” concerning whether or not to cancel Holy Mass, apart from careful qualification, strikes me as a prime example of putting things “natural above things supernatural.”
In 1887, Pope Leo XIII once again asserted the Church’s eminent freedom, stating:
Of the rights of the Church that it is Our duty everywhere and always to maintain and defend against all injustice, the first is certainly that of enjoying the full freedom of action she may need in working for the salvation of souls … It naturally follows that the Church is a society as distinct from civil society as their reason for existence and ends are different; it follows that she is an indispensable society … a society eminently independent, and above all others, because of the excellence of the heavenly and immortal blessings towards which it tends … It is equally certain the Christ has given the Church full freedom to judge and decide as to the things that may best suit Her ends. – Pope Leo XIII, Officio Sanctissimo
In pointing out the shortcomings in Fr. Wegner’s letter on social media, as expected, I’ve invited the fury of certain Society devotees who are determined to defend its every move, as if SSPX leadership is utterly beyond reproach, regardless of whether or not Catholic tradition is being expressed in their actions. This post is likely to generate similar heat from Team SSPX, to which I say, You have a choice to make: Pope Leo XIII and Catholic tradition, or Fr. Wegner’s unfortunate letter.
It’s not a particularly difficult choice; in fact, the doctrine under discussion is very simple.
When the legitimate civil authorities issue rulings on such things as speed limits, taxation, banking regulations, etc., provided they violate neither natural nor divine law, the Church is duty bound to comply. This would be an example of “rendering unto Caesar.”
In matters pertaining to those things of a sacred character, the salvation of souls and the worship of God, however, these matters fall under the exclusive power and judgment of the Church.
This means that it is entirely up to the Church and those who exercise authority therein to decide whether or not to offer Holy Mass for the public in the face of a pandemic, whether it be for an assembly of one-hundred or one thousand.
In a recent conversation with a friend who is a longtime member of the SSPX faithful, he asked, “Are you saying that the SSPX in Italy should be disobeying the government and having public Mass?”
To be clear, I am not saying that the SSPX necessarily should disobey the government in this or a similar case. I am, however, insisting that the SSPX has every right to disobey or ignore the government when it presumes to issue a ruling that amounts to the cancelation of Holy Mass.
Relinquishing that right, or even giving the appearance of doing so, would be tantamount to indicating that the Church willingly acquiesces to “being subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty,” something that Pope Leo XIII called “a great folly and a sheer injustice.” (See above.)
For the sake of clarity, it bears mention that the State does indeed have the right, and at times even the duty, to curtail the activities of the false religions; i.e., a government ruling that prohibits Protestants, Muslims and Jews from assembling is well within the scope of the State’s authority.
With regard to the activities of the Holy Catholic Church, by contrast, the State has no such power, and the reason is simple – she alone was established and given a mission by her Founder and Head, Christ the King – He who reigns over every individual, society and State. This, as opposed to the garbage that emerged from Vatican Council II, is what genuine religious liberty really looks like.
What I see in Fr. Wegner’s letter is a lost teaching moment for the SSPX, and a very valuable one at that. Rather than embracing this unique opportunity to give witness to the Sovereign Rights of Christ the King and the autonomy of His Church, the faithful are being led to accept the utterly false notion that the Church is somehow subject to the civil authorities, even in matters concerning its God-given mission.
An edifying response to the present public health challenge, one that is far more reflective of traditional Catholic doctrine on Church-State relations, might look something like this:
“In light of COVID-19, We, the sacred pastors of the SSPX, will carefully decide what is best for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the souls in our care; in particular, as it concerns the public celebration of Holy Mass and the administration of the Sacraments. After taking into consideration the advice of both healthcare experts and public officials, our decisions moving forward may, or may not, be in conformance with orders issued by the civil authorities. In either case, be assured that We remain committed to carrying out the mission that was given to us by Christ the King, the Guarantor of Holy Mother Church’s eminent freedom in society, as we labor for the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God.”
Surely some will counter with the question: If the SSPX happens to agree with the State’s assessment of the situation, and decides that it’s best to follow government orders and either cancel Mass or limit availability to it, what difference does any of this make? The SSPX is still making the decision.
It is one thing for Church leadership to decide, of its own volition, that the needs of the faithful are best served by canceling public Mass, it is quite another for churchmen to declare “we will follow government orders.” Precisely who makes the decision to either open or lock the doors to Holy Mass for the public matters a great deal; it matters because the Sovereign Rights of Christ the King matter.
In a sermon delivered for the Feast of Christ the King on October 29, 1989 in Dublin, Ireland, Archbishop Lefevre lamented with “great sadness”:
But you know, now, in our time, many refuse to acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus Christ. They are opposed to the principle of the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
Now, more than three decades later, the great majority of those who call themselves Catholic don’t so much refuse the traditional doctrine on the Sovereign Rights of Christ the King; most simply do not know it! Many, in fact, have never even heard it mentioned, much less taught in any detail.
Archbishop Lefebvre continued:
We need to do everything possible to extend this Kingdom of Jesus Christ in our souls, in our bodies, in our families, in our countries. We must extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in our minds by the practice of the Catholic Faith. The Catholic Faith is the obedience to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in our souls. We must extend this Kingdom of Jesus Christ in our wills, by following the laws of Jesus Christ, and in our families, so that He rules all the Catholic faithful. We must recognize the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and we must also labor to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in our countries.
Among the things that must be done to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, especially on the part of pastors of souls, is to invoke and assert Our Lord’s Sovereignty such as it is expressed in the eminent independence of His Mystical Body, the Holy Catholic Church, which alone enjoys perfect freedom at all times in all places – unencumbered by the civil authority – as she exercises her salvific mission.
As Pope Pius XI stated in the magnificent Encyclical, Quas Primas, On the Feast of Christ the King:
While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim His kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.
When the civil authority presumes to order the effective cancelation of Holy Mass; make no mistake about it, the kingly dignity, power and rights of Our Lord are not only being suppressed, they are being attacked. Therefore, they must all the more loudly be affirmed.
Fr. Wegner’s letter falls well short of doing that. On the contrary, it leads innocent Catholics to embrace a gravely deficient attitude of willing subjugation to the civil authorities in matters religious, extending even so far as access to Holy Mass; as if the Church is somehow under the jurisdiction of the State.
One expects as much in the Novus Ordo world, but is it too much to expect something better from the SSPX?