I recently reread a book titled "Smoke in the Sanctuary" by Stephen Oliver, probably the first member of what remains a very tiny category of writing, the traditional Catholic novel. A couple years ago I had mentioned in passing while reviewing in detail (since I had at that time much more recently read) "The Endless Knot" by William L. Biersach. In all justice I should have reviewed this one first since "Sanctuary" is to "Endless Knot" what "Animal Farm" was to "1984." Where each of the latter are much longer and therein introduce significant subplots (Occultic murders in "Endless Knot" and Winston Smith's endless battles with the Junior Anti-Sex League, O'Brien, and Room 101 in "1984"), each of the former are short, sweet, light on their feet, and focus most perfectly, and with most brilliant humor, on the real issue at hand, the rise of the Leftist Totalitarian tyranny ("Animal Farm") and the rise of the Leftist Totalitarian liturgists and ecumenists("Smoke in the Sanctuary"). By the way, is there really a difference?
"Smoke" introduces us first to a priest named James Page (we hope and assume without commenting on it further that he is somehow validly ordained despite being in the Novus Ordo) who is of a conservative bent, and genuinely concerned with the actual pastoral needs of his small congregation in an English suburb. We are then introduced to Livinia Buller and Miranda Phillips, with a little help from her friend Desmond O'Grady, the opposition leaders. They at once take a disliking of each other, and the remainder of the book is a comic, but all too real, battle of wits between the two sides. Along the way we are introduced to the other members of Buller's circle, the "We Are Right!" (or "WAR") group, a rather plain but fastidious Hubert Drone who is with the Comittee for Real Catholicism (a thinly disguised Una Voce as it existed back then), Terry Molloy, Fr. Page's ally priest who has taken to drink, Julia Anderson, the once clueless but well-meaning and soon staunch ally of a catechism teacher, Mark Spooner, the proverbial "Guy-who-can't-get-a-girlfriend," the slimy and oily "Fr." Rory Sloane who takes advantage of Fr. Page's two week retreat to undo much of the good he had been doing, and a whole wild and woolly cast of characters.
He had come into the parish as a new priest, and at a time that a "reordering" was about to take place. In this reordering the innards of the church would be ripped out and pews and altar would be replaced with carpets and chairs and church in the round. As Fr. Page has time to learn the truth about just how bad the modernist agenda is, he gradually goes from being opposed to the reordering on mere intuitive grounds of mere taste to more substantial grounds based on significant and valid theological principles. Gradually he discovers Latin, and the Latin Mass (at first with Latin Novus Ordos), and later on transitions to Latin Tridentine Masses as his genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of his congregation sees to it that they are provided with spiritual meat in due season, solid worship as God intended, and also solid teaching on Catholic morals.
But while Fr. Page is learning much and progressing well towards true Catholicism, and even beginning to turn his congregation back towards Catholicism, his enemies are also at work, trying to resume progress on the reordering, trying to undermine all of Church teaching, trying to teach the congregation to mock God, and turning the whole thing into only all the more of a joke than it ever was in the first place. And unlike Fr. Page who has much of a learning curve to go through, his opponents are practiced hands at their evil craft. While Fr. Page has the Truth, and the more spiritually aware and savvy members of his congregation on his side, the Phillips/Buller axis has no less than the ear of the Novus Ordo "Bishop," who almost always sides with them, the cold and calculating Fr. Sloane to prevent things from getting too Catholic, a large number of indifferent parishioners who simply want to have church without all the infighting and continual reverses of policy as the good guys or the bad guys variously gain the upper hand.
As Fr. Page gains knowlege and strength in his Faith, the opposition also turns up the heat, pulling out the stops in what gradually turns into an all out war between good and evil. Who wins in the end? Read the book. It's truly worth it.
If there is any immediate lesson or moral that one can draw from this book, it is that we ought to be patient as people go through quite a lengthy and steep learning curve from the ignorance of the Novus Ordo to the light of authentic and full Catholicism. In the beginning of the book Fr. Page is only a Novus Ordo presider of conservative bent, conspicuously ignorant of the gigantic issues surrounding him and his simple choice to follow God and truly tend to the needs of the flock. So often one sees him bowing and scraping where a true Catholic, knowlegable and savvy, would have simply taken a stark and dramatic stance. But he has to learn, and it takes time. Everyone who wants to be a real and practicing Catholic these days has a great deal to learn, and we have a moral obligation to be patient with them as they work these difficult issues out, uncovering false assumption after false assumption, all so carefully and systematically planted by the enemies of Truth.
I bring this book up however for another reason, and that is to examine more closely the source and nature of the Bullers and Phillips axis, namely those lay "liturgists" who populate Novus Ordo "Liturgy Committees" deciding whether next week's service will feature clowns or dancing girls or what not, and who always seem to be so on fire devoted to creating "church in the round," abolishing saints, pews, altars, tabernacles, and in short trying to make church be just some blank room that could be used for anything (except the true Mass). In real life, where do these people come from? How do they get this way? Do the really represent the general run of the church laity?
In the book, it is Mr. Buller who had (for reasons unknown and unexplored) taken the initiative by going to some "liturgy education" program somewhere and deciding that everything he was taught there was Gospel truth. He shared it with his wife Mrs. Buller, who shared it with her friend Miss Phillips, and so forth. And in the book it also happens that the Bullers and Miss Phillips just happen to be close personal friends with the Novus Ordo "bishop," perhaps clear from school days or childhood, who knows? That they are friends from way back is stated; from what events they became friends is never explored, and there it lies, at least with the book. But what about in real life?
It is a fact that in any group of people there will always be those few who want to do more for the group than merely attend and pay their nominal dues. Every church, even false and patently bogus churches, has its zealous souls who want to do more than merely warm a pew for one hour a week and drop some change in the collection plate. In Protestant churches, these types often end up leading the Youth Group, singing in the choir, or doing the gardening or cleaning as volunteers, or else serve on the Board and often then also become known as "elders" or "deacons" assisting their "pastor" in his "ministry." The Novus Ordo, despite its (if anything even more patent) bogusness nevertheless also has that sprinkling of the same sort of person. I was one such, and remain so now as a full Catholic. But in the Novus Ordo, what is such a person to do? Well, many of the same sorts of options are provided, from liturgy committee to choir, to Youth Group leader and teacher of children in various capacities (since nuns are seldom available for this purpose anymore). In my own case I too served in a number of capacities in the local Novus Ordo "parish" until I knew better.
For those who do this kind of thing, it does not take long for them to be invited to some special "training workshop" or other event relating to the particular activity one does. In my own case I experienced three such invitations, one as a member of the choir (I was accompanist), another as the Confirmation Class teacher, and the last as a member of the Legion of Mary (I was President of the local Presidium at the time). The volunteer does not pay for these events (or at most might bring their own lunch) but is bussed to some remote location where the event is combined with a mini-retreat and often set in some beautiful location. The event is nice and fun, and along the way is presented the poisonous materials they really want to convey to us along with the sugar of pretty surroundings and fun activities they surround those materials with. And there it is that we are taught that "in the early days of Church history, the Church used to ..." and it is made to sound like some great idea that unaccountably got lost somewhere along the way. The intent is for us to conclude that "Gee, if we had it way back then, maybe we need to have it now; wouldn't it be neat if we could get our own parish to do this?" It is difficult to explain how it is (apart from God's Grace) that all of this was like water off a duck's back to me as I enjoyed their food, took in the beautiful scenery, even asked a nun out on a date (there is a backstory to this which I will get to presently), and returned home unchanged after it was all over.
And what was the story about the nun? Even in my Novus Ordo days, I had already seen old movies and pictures in which nuns were always shown in a special manner of dress, and it bothered me that the nuns I was meeting up with in the Novus Ordo just dressed like ordinary girls or women. Finally I just made a decision that the next time I encounter some nun (it would have to be a young one about my age and also credibly attractive as a woman) dressed like some ordinary person I would ask her out on a date. And then when she indignantly demands to know why I would do such a thing I would say "How am I supposed to know you are a nun? You don't dress like one!" Needless to say, she didn't accept it. Of course, I was never one of those guys that girls just fall at the feet of at the sight of them, and there is considerable room to wonder if I had been would she have accepted. If she had accepted, all I would have done would be to take her to dinner and a movie and then drop her off at her convent. Anyway, it would never have worked out. Her mind was full of Novus Ordo mush and propaganda and I don't know what (besides prayer) it would have taken to turn her around. But this was not uniquely her, as all of those conducting the training workshop were of like lack of mind.
Since I only went to a few such, and as I mentioned above it was "water off a duck's back" to me, their influence was quite negligable, but it did give me quite a glimpse into the inner workings of the Novus Ordo. It is easy to imagine what the cumulative effect of attending a great many of such sessions over many years would do to one. But having done this, what is the purpose of generating such shills? How are they used?
I don't know if you have noticed, but there is quite a pattern among tyrants and despots in that they all do their oppresion "in the name of the people." They always seem to create "People's" things, from "People's Republics" to "People's Car" (literally "Folk's Wagon" - Volkswagen, what all German Nazi's were required to drive during World War 2) to "People's Mass" and so on. In such a context, "people" is both a deception and a code phrase. The deception is that they want everyone to think of the "people" whose "republic" or "car" or "mass" they are foisting it all on are everyone, you, me, the people living next door and across the street, the lady who rings up your groceries, the guy working in the cubicle next to yours, in short the whole general run of human society. But these things are not done FOR all of us, nor BY all of us, but rather done TO all of us. We are not the owners or creators of these things (and especially neither is God). That definition of the "People" is only for suckers. The real meaning, the code phrase meaning, is this: The "People" are the special, the elite, the fortunate, the chosen few, those born with golden spoons in their mouths, those that Thomas Sowell calls "The Anointed" in his brilliant book, "The Vision of the Anointed." To us they are the master conspirators, the plotters, the traitors. The republics and cars and "masses" belong to them, and it all exists to serve their purposes, not the purposes of all of us. Those few are "The People," and all the rest of us are mere ciphers. Our interests count for nothing; theirs count for everything.
Believe it or not, this practice began with the rather innocuous example of our own American Constitution. The whole thing starts off with "WE THE PEOPLE" who ordain and establish it, but who then turn out to be a short list of about 40 men whose signatures appear at the end of the document. For that, THEY were "The People," not all the people of this nation. Indeed, certain whole classes of persons, such as women, the African slaves or the indiginous American Indians, clearly did not count as being among "The People," and I don't see any way in which any of them could be thought of as having "ordained and established" this constitution. And not everyone else was all that keen on driving out the British (though many were). Those 40 or so men were obviously not all the people of this nation, and yet they dared and presumed to speak in the name of all the people of this nation, with no moral or legal right to. In all fairness to the American Constitution and its writers, many of whom had been wealthy landowners and businessmen, nearly all of them lost their lands, their fortunes, and many even their families or even their own lives, in defense of this Constitution. And many of its significant oversights were overcome with subsequent amendments made thereto, and as human and secular documents go, it is actually quite good. Since that time however, many dictatorial despots, eager to institute some new level of oppression, ever and anon have followed that precedent of doing their oppression in the name of "The People," and that's where they got the idea.
The Novus Ordo seeks to establish itself as being the result of pressure from "the laity." But obviously the actual ranks of the laity were always proving quite uncooperative to their ends, and so something had to be done. This is why such shills were created. It is always these shills who are always demanding these changes, and they, in some supposedly "pastoral response" provide the thing demanded. If they are really theatrical they even may do it "reluctantly," but they always do it. It is extremely rare for there to be such a supported "pastoral response" to those many of us who ask for something actually Catholic to please take place. Towards the end of my sojourn with the Novus Ordo, I had an excellent opportunity to see this first hand. And I just have to be amazed at the tremendous skill by which the shills operate.
Our local Novus Ordo "parish" had just lost a pastor who was retiring, and a couple "diocesan representatives" came to a parish council meeting to learn from the members of the "parish community" just what sort of pastor should replace the aging (and arch-Conservative Catholic-at-heart) priest who was retiring. Of course, they already had their candidate in mind, and the real object of the meeting was to sell this candidate to the congregation, or at least to as many as bothered to show up at this parish council meeting. One of the common strategies to make a large group of people buy into a situation the elite wish to impose is to make them feel like participants in the decision. This gives everyone a kind of "ownership" of the result, making them far more accepting of the candidate they had in mind that it would have been to more honestly say "Here's the crackpot we are now sending to you to lead your parish; deal with it!" So in this parish council meeting they put the question out to us, "What sort of pastor do you feel this parish needs?"
Various people stood up and recommended that he be interested in some particular program or other that the person was themselves interested in, e. g. the principal of the school saying something like "he should be greatly concerned with the education of the children of this parish," and that sort of thing, from others. When it was my turn, I stood and said that "he should be very conservative, old-school, not interested in every passing fad and fashion that comes through, but instead sticking to the classical Catholic teachings and manner of worship." Quite a number of people were nodding and murmuring in agreement to that, and at once the diocesan representatives knew who it was they needed to outfox. It was quite clear that my comment (and even worse for them, the clear concurrence for it given all around the room) represented a significant setback for their agenda. But soon after a blond-headed man sitting nearly across the way from me had his turn to speak. He stood up and said "Obviously, many here have become too comfortable and set in their ways. We need someone who will shake things up a bit and re-energize this parish and awaken them from their stupor." And again there were many nodding and murmuring agreement, even some few of those who had just nodded and murmured their agreement to my statement. The man was a shill (I think there may have been a few others, but he was the main one), as I later learned of his frequent attendence at such workshops and retreats and so forth.
So things went for a time, but before long the diocesan representative began to direct questions as to the sort of man he should be, as a person, and someone said that he should not be someone who gets moved around from parish to parish a lot (in other words someone who is not going to abuse our children), and fortunately for them their candidate was not one who does this, and others made similar such suggestions. There was some considerable discussion about his being bilingual since we had significant numbers of both English and Spanish speaking members of the parish (and I then threw in something about him perhaps also doing some things in Latin which both English and Spanish speaking memers could then do together). As it was, their candidate was Hispanic so there was again reason for them to explore this aspect at length. Then, as things turned back to more of the sort of moral character he should have, again it was my turn and I said that he should be a man of prayer, someone who does not just act, but who prays first, and is familiar with the great saints of prayer. And right away the shill spoke up and said that "Yes, he should be a man of prayer, one who will lead the congregation into learning well all the responses in the mass..." and right away I knew I had been outdone. He had hijacked my request for a man of prayer (who would seek God and work as if he knew he will one day answer to God for what he has done) and twisted it into a request for a man who will lead everyone in the "prayers" of the Novus Ordo and other new things.
Not long after, the representatives closed their notebook and declared that they finally had a pretty good idea of what sort of person this parish needs, and thank you all for your inputs. A few months later, the man they originally and always had in mind finally arrived. Not long after, I and many others made our departure. But one sees here the exact mechanism by which crazy things can all be done in the name of "the laity" when in fact the general run of the laity have no interest in such things and are even faintly opposed to such nonsense, most typically. In other parishes where there might still remain some truly conservative priest or at least a conservative-minded presider, this is how a Novus Ordo "bishop" also labors to undermine that priest, goading him on into the Novus Ordo religion with "You have not been meeting your parish's needs." Whenever they talk about "giving the laity a voice" it is never us who are the general run of society, but only the carefully (mis-)educated shills whose "opinions" and "desires" and "concerns" are invariably given the most weight while the rest are either ignored or interpreted away.