Dear Fr. ______;
I am pleased to learn of your desire to avail yourself of the new Motu Proprio which Benedict XVI has seen fit to issue this past July 7. I hope and trust that you have found the pre-Vatican II rite to be a significantly more beautiful and reverent and holy Mass than that which has come afterwards. I have seen you do one and you did it flawlessly, as far as I a mere layman can tell. I am also aware of your genuine love for the true and authentic Faith, and I have seen the many great initiatives you have implemented in your parish to foster love for the true Faith, for example when you provided the Catechism classes with copies of the Baltimore Catechism which you paid for out of your own pocket just so the students could get an instruction in something more than "circles of family and community" or whatever the latest diocesan catechism materials blather on about.
I am impressed with the quality of lay teachers you have accepted to teach at the attached school. They set a high standard and live to it themselves and the students can tell. I am especially impressed with that clever "opt-out" you have provided to enable parents of those students who object to the horrible diocesan "Sex-Ed" program to allow your teachers to use more orthodox and respectful materials. Even your bishop could not criticize this "out" you have provided since it requires explicit parental direction. In short, I think you are doing a truly great job and clearly have a pastor's heart for the people of your parish.
There is one significant concern I do have, but one which I think can be addressed as a one-shot event and then I have no doubt that you will be able to take your place among the truly great Catholic priests of all time.
I notice that you are quite a young man, and apparently you were ordained only a scant four years ago. Furthermore, you were not even ordained for some Indult order as the Fraternity of Peter or suchlike, but merely for the Novus Ordo. I have heard that you enjoy reading up on the great theological and saintly writings of Catholics of bygone days. No doubt that has a lot to do with your evident love for the true faith rather than that practically mandated to you at the diocesan level. I would hope and trust that you might include some pre-Vatican II seminary textbooks on sacramental theology.
What I trust you will find in there is a number of significant reasons to doubt that you have in fact been validly ordained. And even if by any chance your ordination ceremony might have passed that bare threshold of being capable of conveying a valid ordination to you, a far more serious question lingers over the question of whether Bishop _______ who ordained you was even a valid bishop at all. Since he was made a bishop only a couple years before he ordained you, I have every expectation that the new rite must have been used, and there are grave reasons to doubt its validity.
I know that you might be tempted to shrug this all off with "Well, if the Church accepts it, it must all be OK." It is a very easy temptation, and I all too well understand. For one thing you have lived in such an assumption for many years, providing "sacraments" to people over all that time, which if what I say here is true, was in fact all a deception and you have shortchanged those to whom you provided fake sacraments, albeit unknowingly. Even as an honest mistake on your part, it is a horrible admission to have to make. How far easier it would be to close your eyes, pretend all is well, and go on providing false and invalid sacraments to your parishioners who come to you for more than that.
But as to that question of whether the Church accepting it is enough, bear in mind that in Canada it was found that some several thousand children had not been baptized (through some administrative error), and rather than go through with baptizing them they simply declared that "the Church supplies" a "baptism" despite there being no baptism, merely if they treat them as baptized. I think you would have to admit that such is a grave misrepresentation of the "Church supplies" teaching, which in fact applies to canonical jurisdiction (for such things as the faculties to forgive sins when in some doubtful canonical situation), and not to some supposed ability to substitute for performing the sacraments.
Or, let me put it to you this way: I know that you must already know from your reading that a sacrament requires proper form (what is said), matter (what, or who, it is said over), intention (to do what the Church does in performing said sacrament), and minister (qualifications of the one administering the sacrament). If all these things are present, it "works," and if any of them are lacking it doesn't, "ex opera operato."
Now picture for a moment me as a layman standing in the street holding a Twinkie and declaring (to no one in particular) "This is my Twinkie and I'm going to eat it!" which I proceed to do. If a Pope who happened to be passing by and to see me do all of this were to declare, "By virtue of my authority as the Successor of Peter I hereby teach and declare for all the Church to hold as true for all time that what I have seen this man do here constitutes a valid Mass, and anathema to him that dares to oppose this declaration!" would that indeed make what I just did a valid Mass? I think you have to know that it would not, for "This is my Twinkie and I'm going to eat it!" is clearly nowhere near any valid form for a Mass, a Twinkie is clearly not valid matter, I have no intention above that of consuming my Twinkie, and finally I am not a valid minister, being only a layman.
Sacramental theology is something quite infallibly and irrevocably settled by the Church and not even a papal declaration could render valid that which is not valid. And the more you become acquainted with the classical and Catholic and infallible teachings regarding the validity of a sacrament, and especially as regards the sacrament of Holy Orders, I truly believe that you will have to agree that you have been (though no fault of your own, up to this point) placing the much beloved members of your parish at grave risk of losing their souls.
But as I mentioned, this grave risk can be easily averted, and that would be by having yourself ordained in a traditional (Catholic) manner, and by a traditional bishop. I have no doubt that many of them might be willing to do this service, once your education, credentials, and orthodoxy of mind can be established, and I urge you to look into having this done that you may indeed serve the spiritual needs of your congregation as you clearly and obviously desire to do.
Respectfully, Your Parishioner Mr. _________
Your Excellency, Bishop _______;
I am the parish priest of the parish of _________ in the diocese of _______. I say the traditional Latin Mass in accordance with the directives of the Motu Proprio issued by His Holiness Benedict XVI. I no longer say the Novus Ordo (an assistant priest sees to the desires of what few parishioners desire that, and they can easily go to a neighboring parish if need be), and while I am not in a position to denounce the Novus Ordo itself, I have at least been able to obtain acceptance of the fact that I myself will no longer be doing it, but leaving it to others, against whom I have no complaint.
I have studied your order and your activities and writings and I am impressed with your orthodoxy and the clear value of the care with which you have tended your flock. More than that, I am persuaded that your episcopal consecration is indisputably valid, as is the ordination ceremony by which you ordain your priests. Perhaps if I could do it all again, I could easily see being a priest of your order. But as it stands now, I don't believe that is to be. At any rate I now have a congregation to whom I have become attached as their spiritual father.
I come to you with my hat in hand to ask of you a tremendous favor. Some months ago a parishioner of mine alerted me to the fact that the validity of the Novus Ordo sacraments, and especially Holy Orders, is gravely in doubt. For a while I pressed on, trying to convince myself that there couldn't be anything to it, but in that dark midnight of my soul I always wondered, "What if it were true? What if I were only giving mere bread instead of the Manna from Heaven at the communion rail? What if those sins people went away thinking to be absolved were in fact not absolved as it is not in my power to absolve them? What if in the hereafter my parishioners should cry to me from the fires of Hell, denouncing my false and graceless sacraments which, not actually providing the graces intended, instead had merely deceived them into a false peace?"
With fear and trembling I zealously read all the classical seminary textbooks and the more I read the more I have doubted my ordination. Then I went to read the newer ones that attempt to explain or justify the changes made, and what I found there were books written by complete idiots who don't understand anything! Even back in my seminary days I had sensed at times that the textbook writers and my professors were "making it up as they go along." That impression has only been significantly confirmed and deepened with my increased knowledge and understanding of actual Roman Catholic theology. So therefore I promptly declared that I was taking an extended sabbatical "to sort out some personal issues." I have told no one my reasons for this. My bishop probably thinks I have a girlfriend, or worse still, a boyfriend. But in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Not merely suspecting, but knowing that I am in all probability not validly ordained, I refuse to deceive another parishioner by simulating another sacrament until such time if any as I can be certain of my ordination.
Which brings me to what I am asking of you. Could you be persuaded to ordain me, knowing that I have no intention of departing in any permanent way from my present assignment? I certainly welcome and encourage you to check out all of my credentials to convince you that I am indeed who I say I am. No doubt you might well have certain terms or conditions or stipulations under which you might be willing to perform this service for me, and I tell you now I am quite willing to work with you to try to come to some agreement by which you would be able and willing to do this for me.
It is important to me that I should be able to provide the true sacraments and teachings to my many parishioners, as the shepherd appointed to their care. I beg you please to hear my request that I may indeed lead my flock to Heaven.
Your Servant, Father ________
Dear Father ________;
My apologies for the delay, your letter reached my while I was in the midst of providing a conference. You have given me and my priests quite a turn, and I must admit this is a most unusual request. Where can we meet in order that I and two of my closest priests can indeed ascertain your credentials, for many would like me to ordain them and I don't normally ordain anyone who has not been trained and formed in my seminary, or at least at a seminary of a bishop whom I trust. And please note that my willingness to look into your situation and verify your credentials does not of itself constitute a willingness on my part to do this, even should your credentials all be verified. I can be called at ________ if you have any questions.
His Excellency, Bishop ________
Dear Father _________;
Thank you for a delightful visit. It was quite a wonderful blessing to find one of such like mind despite your coming from the Conciliar position. I am not particularly sanguine about your desire to bring the Conciliar organization back to the true Faith. I think that is practically a hopeless task. However, if there were anyone who could do it, I think it would be you, and I welcome your efforts, for who knows what may come of it. I have therefore decided that I would be willing to do this, provided you meet and agree to the following conditions:
Without proceeding any further on this (hopefully) interesting correspondence, I would like to put it out to the reader the question as to what sort of things a traditional Catholic bishop should require.
Some traditional bishops might say that Father has to leave the whole Conciliar organization, regardless of what privileges he has diplomatically obtained to provide the true and Catholic teachings and sacraments to a congregation. I think that would be rather extreme and counterproductive. Anyway, since Father here is plainly going to function like a true Catholic priest, the result of his attempting such a thing will either be to establish a beachhead of Catholic tradition in at least his little corner of the Novus Ordo establishment, or more likely to be put out on his ear at some point for his refusal to follow the party line. At any rate, whether Father can function within that establishment or not really should be up to them, should it not? For no matter how bad people may be, one must always provide them the means to redeem themselves. Charity alone demands that much. I therefore regard it as unreasonable for the traditional bishop to insist upon Father joining his order as a condition of being ordained, and it would be even more unreasonable for him to flat out refuse to ordain Father under any circumstances whatsoever.
Now let's look at some sorts of things it would be reasonable for a truly Catholic bishop to require of Father before he can ordain him. Certainly Fr.'s understanding of just how bad the situation has gotten within the Novus Ordo ranks is already clearly established by his willingness to approach a bishop whom his own organization has dismissed as being a mere "schismatic" in order to obtain that which he must know he has not, namely a valid ordination. And of course Father's credentials would have to be established. But let's see what might need to be done. For one, Father might need to attend some classes from His Excellency's seminary so as to be more firmly rooted in the Faith and more aware of the sorts of false assumptions that have been carefully planted in his brain by the Novus Ordo "seminaries."
A person might after all be of a right disposition and truly mean well, and seek to obtain and spread the true Faith, but oftentimes there is a huge learning curve though which one must go before being truly there. While a layman might learn all he needs to know as a traditional Catholic in a few weeks worth of instructional classes, a priest has a great deal more to learn in order to know and believe and fully practice as a truly Catholic priest. Still, some classes, or at least the tests and major assignments for all classes of a traditional seminary should be sufficient to ascertain that Father has all the necessary instruction.
One other factor is formation. Novus Ordo "seminaries" are often notably lax in their discipline and structure, and Father would do well to show himself willing to live in accordance to the traditional Catholic seminary discipline for at least some period of time. This also gives His Excellency a chance to observe Father's personal and moral life, to ascertain that Father might indeed be a true asset to the Church, wherever he ends up serving.
One reasonable condition would be that Father must never speak ill of the traditional bishops, clergy, and communities to which he would now owe his valid ordination, but rather refer to them with due respect, where necessary to mention them at all. The traditional bishop involved, if sedevacantist, would also want to acquaint Father with the reasons to doubt the papacy of the recent and current Vatican leaders. While I think it would be unreasonable to require that Father become a sedevacantist himself, but it would be perfectly reasonable to educate him to the point that he can be truly open to this concept as something validly and legitimately possible, and more importantly that he would treat those who have reached this conclusion with (again) due respect. This much he must solemnly vow before God. He may also need to formally abjure any errors or heresies he may have accidently and unintentionally picked up from the Novus Ordo. I do not foresee any immediate obligation for this whole process to be revealed to his Novus Ordo bishop, his congregation, or even for that matter the traditional bishop's order and flock (apart from what clerics may assist His Excellency in this effort, and who would all be under an oath of silence). This would best be treated as a private matter between Father and His Excellency (and God), and left at that.
Which now gets us to one last question, and that is just how far might a traditional bishop "go the extra mile" to help Father do this in a timely manner that would still enable him to return to his parish before the Novus Ordo establishment gets suspicious. For example he could offer Father accelerated classes, or even look into ordaining Father while the training is still in progress, providing of course that there is a way to ensure that Father will complete it.
All of this is no mere abstract fantasy, I am certain that this sort of
thing has to have already occurred at least some few times, and all I can say to that is that I strongly encourage to be a great deal more of this. I know many might well wish to abandon the Vatican institution to wallow and flounder in its errors, deeming it past all possible recovery. That may well be the case, but it isn't for any of us (or even our priests and bishops, who are the Church Hierarchical today) to say for certain. While the Novus Ordo apparatus is clearly on the outs with God and with Holy Mother Church, in all charity we owe them every possible chance to redeem themselves and return to the Faith (and Church).
For if we all could be so cocksure that they shall never recover, then why is it that we have not all labored to heal our own internal divisions and unify ourselves and then do our own part to continue the Church as the Visible and Hierarchical institution She was meant to be?
Griff L. Ruby