MARCH 2003
Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 6

No End To The Spinning

Requiem for a Traditional Heavyweight in Brooklyn

Why was a dedicated priest's funeral preparations treated with indifference and intimidation? What kind of game are these Novus Ordinarians 'Dodgers' playing? Sounds like 'da bums' in the chancery are dodging integrity and fairness over the funeral and follow-up of Father Salvatore Franco. Thank God the SSPX was in his corner!

    "Sadly, though, Father Franco was treated the same way in death as he was in life by diocesan officials. The story of how Father Franco was treated by the Diocese of Brooklyn-both in the days before he died and in days after his death-is so typical of how traditionally-minded priests are viewed by ecclesiastical bureaucrats, men who are unable to demonstrate true pastoral concern to anyone they view as an eccentric or a nuisance because of his devotion to a past that they have convinced themselves was the source of personal neuroses and scrupulosity"

   One of the foremost goals of all revolutionaries is to wipe out the truth about the past and to create a "memory" about the past that justifies their novelties. The Protestant Revolutionaries were the pioneers of wiping out the memory of the glories of Christendom, achieving a measure of success that was no doubt influential in helping to convince the Freemasons and their kindred spirits in the secular world that similar efforts could be as successful in social revolutions.

   Pamphleteers such as Thomas Paine disparaged the past during the time of the American Revolution. James Madison did so in The Federalist, Number One, stating that the American Constitution was a decisive break from the "tyranny" of the past, a period that was meant to include everything up to 1787, including Christendom. The French Revolutionaries went so far as to try to change the dating of time, a device copied by the Bolsheviks and the Maoists and so many others. Contemporary social engineers in our society have used textbooks and the mass media to foment false images of the past in order to justify their own nefarious agendas, relying principally upon sloganeering as the rhetorical weapon of choice to try to brand as intolerant and bigoted anyone who dares to contradict their falsehoods.

   Flushing the past down the Orwellian "memory hole" has been one of the principal means by which the theological and liturgical revolutionaries have attempted to disparage everything associated with the "preconciliar" era, including the Traditional Latin Mass and all Papal pronouncements prior to 1958 that warned Catholics about the dangers of the modern world (especially those of Blessed Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Saint Pius X, Pope Pius XII ). However, our own revolutionaries have gone beyond the mere wiping out the past down the memory hole. They have sought to harass and to persecute those who refuse to have their memories erased, both priests and laity. The persecution in some dioceses has been especially vicious against priests, both those who have tried to maintain as much tradition as they could in the new order of things and those who are dedicated to the restoration and growth of the Traditional Latin Mass. And it is sometimes the case that this harassment and persecution does not stop with the death of a particular priest.

   As I noted in "Home to his Mother", Father Salvatore Franco, a retired priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn who died on the feast of Saint Lucy, December 13, 2002, was completely dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass. He gave my wife and daughter, whose first name is Lucy, and me the privilege of attending his private Traditional Mass in his home for about five months prior to his being hospitalized with heart problems. He even tried to resume offering daily Mass for us once he got out of the hospital, although none of us, including Father Franco himself, knew that he had a form of acute leukemia that would take his life in a matter of weeks.

   Father Franco wanted so much to continue to be part of the underground church so as to offer Masses for people in their own homes and to serve as a spiritual director to the parents of home-schooled children. Our Lady had other plans for him. Indeed, we have learned that the Society of Saint Pius X may soon be offering a daily Mass on Long Island, which would be a first for the Society. It was one of Father Franco's fondest wishes for this development to occur. Perhaps it is the case that Father's prayers from eternity have made this development more of a possibility than it had been prior to his death. Although he is no longer with us in the Church Militant, he is still part of the underground church, pleading from eternity for the children who drank from his wisdom and were inspired by his priestly zeal for souls.

   Sadly, though, Father Franco was treated the same way in death as he was in life by diocesan officials. The story of how Father Franco was treated by the Diocese of Brooklyn-both in the days before he died and in days after his death-is so typical of how traditionally-minded priests are viewed by ecclesiastical bureaucrats, men who are unable to demonstrate true pastoral concern to anyone they view as an eccentric or a nuisance because of his devotion to a past that they have convinced themselves was the source of personal neuroses and scrupulosity. Here are the facts, therefore, concerning the death and burial of Father Salvatore Franco.

   Father Franco was given "several weeks" to live after he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia on Tuesday, November 26, 2002. Although Father Franco was asking everyone to pray to Blessed Father Nelson Baker for a miracle, he was preparing for the possibility of his death. His conditioned had so worsened by the week of December 9, 2002, that he placed a phone call to the Diocese of Brooklyn to request permission for a Requiem Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum of Pope John XXIII. According to his sister, Helen Franco, who spoke to this writer by telephone on the evening of December 21, 2002, Father Franco was quite explicit in what he told the two priests he spoke to in the Brooklyn chancery office. He informed them that he was dying, that his death was imminent. His sister told me that her brother had told her that someone from the diocese would get back to him. He told her to take the message in case he was not in to receive the call. However, no one from the diocese got back to him. No one called to see how he was after that initial call was made. The Bishop of Brooklyn, the Most Reverend Thomas Daily, never bothered to find out the condition of a man who would have celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination on June 6, 2003.

   Father Franco was hospitalized at North Shore University Hospital in Plainview, New York, late on the evening of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, 2002. The Sacrament of was administered to him in the traditional rite by a traditionalist priest that very evening. My wife Sharon and I visited Father Franco in the intensive care unit of that hospital just ten hours before he died on Friday, December 13, 2002. He was barely conscious when we visited with him. Almost miraculously, though, he rallied a bit a few hours later, being strong enough to hear a man's confession just three hours before he died. Father died without having any contemporary of his in the priesthood come to visit him, although I had personally informed a priest who had been in seminary with Father Franco that his death was imminent. Father Franco died on a Friday, suffering the same sort of death suffered by the One Whose Sacrifice he offered in an unbloody manner to the Father in Spirit and in Truth every time he celebrated Holy Mass. Father Franco died abandoned and rejected and scorned by almost all of his brother priests.

   The arrangements for Father Franco's requiem Mass were made a little complex by the involvement of a lot of well-meaning friends of his, people who were desirous of relieving his sister from some of the details involved with planning the location of the Mass. As the Diocese of Brooklyn had never gotten back to Father Franco, it was evident that it would be fruitless for anyone to seek a response from a closed chancery office on the weekend. Thus, one of the original plans was to have a Traditional Requiem Mass in a parish of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which is where Father Franco and his sister lived. That plan would have involved outright subterfuge as the Diocese of Rockville Centre strictly forbids the Traditional Requiem Mass. Indeed, Father Franco told my wife and I just days before he was diagnosed with leukemia that he was upset with a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre who he believed was not fighting hard enough on the inside to overturn the diocesan bans on the requiem and nuptial Masses. However, the former pastor of a parish in that diocese, who had been in seminary with Father Franco, agreed out of love for Father Franco to let the requiem Mass be celebrated, provided that no one find out about the true nature of the Mass until after it had been celebrated. The subterfuge would have involved also the distribution of Latin Novus Ordo Mass booklets prior to the beginning of the Mass in case the new pastor made an appearance during the Mass.

   As nothing good comes out of subterfuge, a friend and spiritual directee of Father Franco's prevailed upon Helen Franco to have the Requiem Mass celebrated at Saint Michael's Church in Farmingville, Long Island, New York, which is run by the Society of Saint Pius X. As it turned out, this is what Helen Franco wanted all along. So many other people with the best of intentions had gotten involved in the planning of the arrangements that Helen had to step forward to insist that the Requiem Mass be celebrated at Saint Michael's, which Father Franco had supported spiritually and financially over the years.

   The Diocese of Brooklyn, which had not seen fit to get back to Father Franco after his phone call to request a Traditional Requiem Mass, had Father Stephen Aguggia telephone the Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home in Westbury, New York, immediately after learning of the location of Father's Requiem Mass. According to a man named Chris, who is one of the funeral directors, Father Stephen, as he identified himself, told him that Father Franco would not be considered as having been buried in the Catholic Church if the requiem Mass was held at Saint Michael's. Chris told this reporter in a telephone interview on Friday, December 20, 2002, that Father Stephen told him that a memorandum would be sent out to all of the priests of the diocese to forbid them from attending Father Franco's wake and/or his funeral Mass. Chris was given instructions to inform Helen Franco of what Father Stephen had told him. Catholic priests can go to Jewish synagogues and to Protestant "churches." They are forbidden from going to the Society of Pope Saint Pius X. Quite interesting.

   The rumors began to fly furiously after that. Word circulated in traditional circles on Long Island that a memorandum had in fact been circulated to the priests not only in the Diocese of Brooklyn but also in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. A spirit of ill-feeling and resentment developed as word spread about how Father Franco was being treated in death by diocesan officials. It would not be until after Father's Requiem Mass that Father Aguggia's telephone call to the Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home would begin to cause difficulties for the apparatchiks in the Brooklyn chancery office.

   Father Franco's Requiem Mass, celebrated by Father Francois Chazal of the Society of Saint Pius X, was exquisite. I said to myself during the Mass, "This is one of the most Catholic things I have ever seen. Too bad they aren't Catholic, huh?" That is, people deemed wrongly to be "schismatics" are branded as un-Catholic by the very people who tolerate "Catholics in good standing" who support contraception and abortion and women's ordination and other outrages as teachers in Catholic elementary and secondary schools and colleges. The very people who encourage liturgical novelty, both authorized and unauthorized, in the "renewed liturgy" are the ones who reject as outdated and even as dangerous the wonderful Mass that was kept alive by the courage of Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre. Father Salvatore Franco's Requiem Mass, which was offered on Tuesday, December 17, 2002, was a marvelous display of Catholic truth. Father Chazal praised Father Franco for his fortitude, prudence, and charity.

   There was some doubt as to whether Father Franco's body would actually be permitted to be buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, New York. Monsignor Mario Costa, a classmate of Father Franco's, made sure that Father Franco's body was buried. He read the traditional burial prayers in English. Father John Murphy, a priest ordained for the Trinitarian order who lives on Long Island but who is persona non grata for his pro-life work and for his own private offering of the Traditional Latin Mass, offered those same prayers in Latin, as did Father Chazal. Michael Posillico, a close friend of Father Franco, told me after the burial, "We got Father buried. He had a Catholic burial. And no one can say anything else."

   As my wife and baby and I were venturing off of Long Island to drive to California, I could not do some of the investigative work I wanted to do about the efforts of the Diocese of Brooklyn until we had gotten to Channelview, Texas, on December 20, 2002. I called Father Stephen Aguggia, who told me that no memorandum had been sent out to the priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn to forbid them from attending Father Franco's wake and/or funeral Mass. As he did not want to say anything else on the record, he referred me to the diocesan communications officer, Mr. Frank DeRosa, who has had his hands full this year dealing with press interest in Bishop Thomas Daily's role in the protection and reassignment of sodomite priests in the Archdiocese of Boston when he was an Auxiliary Bishop there before his appointment as Bishop of Palm Beach in the 1980s.

   Mr. DeRosa, who telephoned me only after I had tried calling Father Aguggia a second time on December 20, 2002 (after I had spoken with Chris at the funeral home), told me that no memorandum had gone out to the priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He said that no phone calls were made to prevent anyone from going to the wake or the funeral Mass. When I asked him about Father Franco's request to have a Traditional Requiem Mass, Mr. DeRosa said that he had another phone call coming in and that he would call me back in several minutes. As our conversation resumed, Mr. DeRosa said at first that there had been "no contact" between the diocese and Father Franco prior to his death. He amended that after I pressed him, saying that Father had spoken with two priests, neither of whom knew that Father had any "terminal" condition. Mr. DeRosa said that one of the two priests was going to set up a meeting for Father Franco to discuss the "options" for his funeral Mass. "He would have been offered the Mass of Pope Paul VI in Latin," Mr. DeRosa told me.

   Mr. DeRosa was asked why Father Aguggia threatened to send out a memorandum to forbid priests to attend Father Franco's wake and/or funeral Mass when he spoke with Chris at the Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home. Was this an effort on the part of Father Aguggia, I asked, to seek to intimidate Helen Franco from having her brother's funeral Mass at the "schismatic" church? Mr. DeRosa demurred, saying that anyone who knew Father Stephen would know that he would be the last person on earth to seek to intimidate anyone, that he was neither physically nor verbally intimidating. As for the state of Father Franco's burial, Mr. DeRosa said, "Father Franco was buried as in a Catholic cemetery."

   It is clear that a story was cooked up in the four and one-half hours between my initial call to Father Aguggia and Mr. DeRosa's telephone call to me. The story is this: Father Franco did not make it clear that he was dying and no memorandum was sent out. While the second part of the story may be true, there was the threat of such a memorandum, a threat that no one in the Diocese of Brooklyn has explained satisfactorily. The first part of the story is a contradiction of what Helen Franco knew from overhearing her brother speak to the priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

   As this was in contradiction to what I knew to be the case, I made the aforementioned telephone call to Helen Franco on December 21, 2002, wherein she reiterated the fact that Father Franco had indeed told the two priests he had spoken to that he was dying, that his death was imminent. She reiterated the fact that her brother had told her that someone from the diocese would get back to him, although no one did.

   The facts speak for themselves. Diocesan chancery offices have not acquitted themselves well over the years when it comes to veracity, something I know from first-hand experience when covering so many news stories for The Wanderer in the eight year of my association with it. When caught in a lie, diocesan officials usually obfuscate in a Clintonian manner, which is much easier to do when the subject of an investigation is dead and unable to directly speak for himself. However, the facts do indicate that the Diocese of Brooklyn did ignore Father Franco's plea and then did attempt to engage in an effort through the funeral director to intimidate Helen Franco into not having her brother's funeral Mass at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Farmingville, New York. It is apparently the case that Bishop Thomas Daily, who does nothing to stop liturgical abuses in his parishes and doctrinal error in his schools, has more pastoral solicitude for the likes of Father Paul Shanley, a co-founder of NAMBLA, than he does for a son of Our Lady who was devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass.

   As a son of the Church, I will never tire of pleading with the Holy Father to erect immediately an Apostolic Administration for the Traditional Latin Mass. Men like Father Franco deserve respect and dignity, not lies and threats. And the priests who serve in the Society of Saint Pius X deserve the approval and protection of Holy Mother Church, not opprobrium and persecution.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

MARCH 2003
Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 6
CHRIST or chaos

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