We take joy in announcing the selection this year of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Donald J. Sanborn for inclusion into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor for his uncompromisingly upholding the truths and traditions of holy Mother Church and fostering vocations to carry on the true Faith.
He was born in New York, where he attended Catholic elementary school and high school. In 1967 he entered the seminary college for the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he majored in classical languages and graduated cum laude in 1971.
That same year, unhappy with the modernist seminary training he was receiving, he entered Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, thus becoming one of the first seminarians in a new religious organization of priests called the Society of Saint Pius X.
Four years later he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on June 29, 1975. He returned to East Meadow, on New York's Long Island, to assist Father Clarence Kelly there. His duties included teaching at St. Pius V School on Long Island, and traveling to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.
In January 1977 Archbishop Lefebvre appointed him the Rector of St. Joseph's House of Studies in Armada, Michigan at the beginning of 1977. It was the Society's very first seminary in America. That autumn, he was joined by Father Anthony Cekada, who was enshrined into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor two years ago this month. In 1978, Father Sanborn acquired a church facility in Redford, Michigan for the specific purpose of meeting the sacramental needs of Catholics who had balked at the Novus Ordo in the Detroit metroplex. Headquarted in Armada, Fr. Sanborn began to search in haste all around the country for a larger seminary complex to accommodate the growing number of seminarians flocking to the Society in the face of the growing apostasy out of Rome. A year later, with the Archbishop's permission, he acquired a former Jesuit retreat house in Ridgefield, Connecticut, which was then renamed St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. Voila, the SSPX had a larger facility to train more for the priesthood.
Even before classes began expansion was on the drawing table in Ridgefield. Father Sanborn was responsible for initiating a major fundraising campaign to collect the necessary funds by 1982 to build on a new wing. But all would not be copacetic.
One professor who had an impact on "nine priests" including Fr. Sanborn was Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy who passed away two years ago on July 19, 2006 at the age of 77. He could not justify what the Archbishop was proposing by making his priests say the 1962 Mass of John XXIII. The priests and seminarians at St. Thomas Aquinas were greatly influenced by Dr. Coomeraswamy's teachings and the book he wrote The Problems with the New Mass. More and more the majority at St. Thomas Aquinas embraced the very real possibility of sedevacantism and became what could be called "hard-liner" members of the Society vs. those favorable to John Paul II who were considered "soft-liners." Griff Ruby provided the best detailed description of the "war" between the two camps within the Society quite well in his book The Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church in Chapter Nine in which the two camps became quite pronounced with the south-west division utilizing The Angelus with a conservative soft-line approach and the north-east division publishing The Roman Catholic which was edited by Father Cekada.
The photo above shows six of the nine signers below. They are 1. Father Donald Sanborn, 2. Father Anthony Cekada, 3. Fr. William Jenkins, 4. Father Daniel Dolan, 5. Fr. Joseph Collins, 6. Father Clarence Kelly. The priest to the extreme left is Fr. Carl Pulvermacher who died in May of 2006.
It was the Mass which created the stir for Archbishop Lefebvre had sent Bishop Richard Williamson (six years before he became bishop) to investigate the hard-liner agenda at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.
It all came to a head in April 1983 when Archbishop Lefebvre himself visited the Seminary in Oyster Bay Cove to personally resolve things after nine priests had sent him a most respectful, but firm letter called simply Letter of 'the Nine' to Abp. Marcel Lefebvre It was signed by Father Sanborn, the Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield at the time along with Father Clarence Kelly, District Superior, Father Cekada, then Bursar of the District, along with Fathers Daniel Dolan, William Jenkins, Eugene Berry, Martin Skierka, Joseph Collins and Thomas Zapp. It was the latter, the youngest of the newly-ordained priests who initially refused to use the 1962 Missal, based on the letter he had signed. Consequently the other eight personally refused as well. Twelve seminarians backed them against the Archbishop's request. Their points were well-founded and based on the Magisterial Authority which, in essence, contradicted what the Archbishop was exerting. In addition they asserted that Father Franz Schmidberger, then Superior General of the Society, did not have the authority to exact obedience with the threat of one's "eternal welfare" in matters of "speculative theological questions" which, as the Fathers pointed out, "are, in fact, open to discussion, and which can only be settled definitively by legitimate authority when the traditions have been restored."
The nine stood firm to their convictions and were banished. Dr. Coomaraswamy also resigned. Father Richard Williamson was placed in charge of the seminary in Ridgefield but it would eventually move to Winona, Minnesota. With this split, the Society of St. Pius V was formed with its charter and statement of principles of the SSPV on the Octave of the Ascension on June 7, 1984 as outlined in Chapter Nine It was signed by the nine priests and three other priests ordained by the Archbishop: Fathers Daniel Ahern, Denis McMahon and Thomas Mroczka. As we have seen from history all was not calm within either traditional camp for there were still many problems that continue to this day within the Society of St. Pius X and there were problems in the Society of St. Pius V as well.
In the late summer of 1984 Fr. Sanborn founded Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Martinez, California. Two years later he returned to Michigan where he purchased a large school facility in Warren, suburb northeast of Detroit. This would become the site for Mary Help of Christians Academy, and for Queen of Martyrs Chapel, which in 1999 would expand, finding a larger church in Fraser, another northeast suburb nearby.
In late 1988, the SSPV started a television show called "What Catholics Believe" which featured the various priests of the SSPV discussing aspects of the Catholic Faith and current events and issues. The show, despite its limited airings, garnered very positive reviews and soon gained such famous guest speakers as Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
It was Fr. Sanborn's heavy involvement with this television show along with his close friendship with Fr. Kelly which motivated him to stay in the SSPV and sit tight on what he knew about the Thuc consecrations clear until some time late in 1991.
After a bitter court battle over parishes and properties, the SSPV retained some of the chapels in the northeast and in Ohio where they had made previous financial assurances for, and they established their headquarters at the chapel in Oyster Cove Bay, retaining the rights to publish The Roman Catholic. With their stance unmistakably sedevacantist there was no waffling in the SSPV, but there was a question of jurisdiction for Father Kelly would not accept the Thuc-line bishops. Other than Archbishop Lefebvre, the only truly traditional bishops in the United States were both Thuc-line bishops Bishop Louis Vezelis, OFM in the eastern part of the country, Bishop George Musey from Galveston, Texas for the western part of the U.S. The Mississippi was the dividing line and ne'r the twain should meet. Their insistence that they had jurisdiction created problems with sedevacantist groups who did and did not recognize the Thuc-line bishops. Not recognizing the Thuc-line, the SSPV went without a bishop for ten years. It wasn't until the death of Bishop Alfredo Jose Isaac Cecilio Francesco Mendez-Gonzalez that Father Kelly revealed that he had indeed been consecrated by Gonzalez on October 19, 1993 in Carlsbad, California. All fine and good, for Mendez-Gonzalez was a retired bishop truly ordained and validly consecrated before 1968 and was the retired bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. He consecrated Kelly for the same reason Lefebvre and Thuc had consecrated bishops: for the perseverance of the Faith and the Sacraments. But Kelly steadfastly refused to accept the Thuc-line bishops even after Fathers Cekada and Sanborn had done extensive research and gone to the greatest lengths to even travel to Germany to personally interrogate and get signed affidavits from the witnesses of the Thuc consecrations. They took Father Jenkins with them. This thorough research had been prompted by Father Sanborn's visit to Bishop Antonio Castro de Mayer in Campos in 1985. He had made the visit in hopes that His Excellency could help in ordinations, but Castro de Mayer surprisingly told him to seek out Bishop Guerard des Lauriers because, as the Campos Bishop stated "if it's valid for Guerard, it's valid for me." With that both priests embarked on a three-year search for the truth of the Thuc consecrations since the former Dominican theologian who had been Pope Pius XII's personal confessor and a co-author of the famous Ottaviani Intervention had been consecrated on May 7, 1981 by Archbishop Thuc. Certified in their consciences and having the physical documentation, they presented it to Father Kelly in 1988. Kelly still refused to believe even when all evidence was inevitable. This dishonesty on Kelly's part prompted Fathers Sanborn, Dolan and Cekada, and eventually others including Father Ahern, to split from the SSPV.
Most of the priests who left the SSPV over the 1989 to 1993 period, along with Dr. Coomaraswamy, then coalesced into a loose knit association known as Instauratio Catholica, or Catholic Restoration. In late 1991, Fr. Sanborn began publishing his own magazine, Catholic Restoration, and soon after, its companion for priests, Sacerdotium. Many of the priests of this association have worked with the CMRI priests on certain projects of mutual interest. Sacerdotium is a scholarly quarterly for traditional Catholic priests, and Catholic Restoration, a periodical for the Catholic laity. Both immediately acquired a well-deserved reputation for excellence in content and presentation. During this period, Fr. Sanborn turned his attention to writing, and produced a series of articles analyzing the errors of Vatican II and John Paul II. They can be found today at Traditional Mass.org.
In 1995, with the encouragement of fellow traditional Catholic priests, he founded Most Holy Trinity Seminary in Michigan. It goes without saying that Bishop Donald Sanborn has proven he is eminently qualified to form young men for the priesthood. He has a profound grasp of Thomistic philosophy and of Catholic dogmatic and moral theology, and is an outstanding teacher who is able to communicate his knowledge effectively. In addition to expertise in Latin and a working knowledge of Greek, German and Spanish, he is fluent in French and Italian, and has a broad understanding of Catholic history and culture. He is devoted to the solemnities of the sacred liturgy, and his years as a priest and seminary rector provided him with many insights into priestly spirituality. As the twentieth century was coming to an end, Fr. Sanborn introduced a curriculum to teach the seminarians a course on the history of modern errors. It was the product of several years of reading and research, and will one day be published as a book. We look forward to that for this editor might add that it was His Excellency's exposé in early 2002 titled O Sacrament Unholy when we began to truly realize that John Paul II was not a true pope. It would take more research over the next year and a half before being fully convinced of this sad fact and the obvious conclusion that all his conciliar predecessors and successor were likewise null and void as well, but it was Bishop Sanborn who triggered our search.
He had proved his qualifications, and fully accepting the Thuc Consecrations, he himself was duly consecrated a Bishop on June 19 in 2002 by the Most Reverend Robert Fidelis McKenna, OP, whom we also honor this year.
Now charged with guiding a larger flock as a true prelate, the following year Bishop Sanborn set about acquiring fifty acres near Brooksville, Florida which is due west of Orlando and due north of Tampa on the west side of the state. He continues to seek funds for constructing new buildings for the seminary campus and parish where he resides today at 20120 Barnett Road in Brooksville, FL 34601. Construction of the new seminary building and chapel in the Spanish Mission style began in January 2005.
When completed it will feature a large church with a Roman Classical interior and about forty rooms opening onto an arched walkway around the central courtyard much as the medieval missions were built in the past. But to complete this massive project, Bishop Sanborn needs help both in prayer and in any financial help the faithful an offer. You can find out more about it at Most Holy Trinity Seminary.org. A review of the seminarian's comprehensive curriculum will convince anyone of the excellence of this traditional seminary and the need to support it for the sake of providing the sacraments to the children of our children and beyond.
As we have done with this series of tributes this year, we've asked Dr. Thomas A. Droleskey to contribute his comments because of his personal rapport with those honored this year. Of all the inductees this year, Tom has had far less contact with Bishop Sanborn because of where he is located, the steamy state of Florida which Tom has equated to the closest thing to hell climate and bug-wise. He explains in this brief he wrote a while back:
His Excellency Bishop Donald Sanborn is known as the "Mauler of the
Modernists," as indeed he is. His writings and his sermons eviscerate all
of the sophisms of the conciliarists and their apologists and enablers.
Blessed with a clear, incisivie mind and a biting wit that would make
Saint Jerome blanche, Bishop Sanborn's one goal is communicate the truths
contained in the Deposit of Faith for the honor and glory of the Most
Blessed Trinity and for the eternal good of the souls entrusted to his
own pastoral care.
A master educator who has been using the classroom for over thirty years
to form and inform future priests, Bishop Sanborn is also an exemplary
pastor of souls. His Excellency has been known to get on a plane to try
to save failing marriages and/or to drive long distances to bring the
Sacraments to the dying or to those in prison.
Of particular concern to
Bishop Sanborn is protect his sheep from the insidious influences of the
popular culture, that we build a "wall around the modern culture" so as to protect ourselves and our children from the nefarious, multifaceted influences of the world, the flesh and the devil.
We do not just "get" to Heaven. We must help to foster a supernatural atmosphere and outlook in our homes at all times, and this means avoiding all bad company, all bad associations that could in any way influence ourselves and/or our children to defect from the Faith and to apostatize into the world of conciliarism or into the naturalistic, materialistic, consumerist, self-seeking, relativistic, positivistic and anti-Incarnational world-at-large.
Those who pray well and who have studied the lives of the saints know that it is necessary at times to remonstrate with those whom we love, understanding that our efforts might be greeted with scorn, contempt, insults, ridicule and endless calumnies, which can be spread now far and wide by means of e-mails and internet postings. It is no work of the Supernatural Virtue of Charity to reaffirm someone in error, either by omission or commission, no less to stand by as other souls are put into jeopardy as a result of our own failure to defend the Faith by remonstrating with those who are in error. His sermons on this and other topics, archived at
Traditional Catholic Sermons.org, are most edifying. Many of his
articles are archived at Traditional Mass.org, and they are a treasure trove of Catholic clarity and of good, old-fashioned New York humor,
which this native New Yorker appreciates very much.
Catholics worldwide owe a debt of gratitude to Bishop Sanborn for all
that he has done--and continues--to do in defense of the Catholic Faith.
Truly His Excellency's endeavors to build the Most Holy Trinity Seminary complex in Brooksville is a massive project, but like Padre Junipero Serra who built Spanish Missions from San Diego to San Francisco in the 1700's, so also Bishop Sanborn forges forward confident of God's Providence. As mentioned above, the advanced curriculum assures that the priests of tomorrow trained under His Excellency will be equipped to handle any crisis that occurs for they will be solidly anchored in the truths and traditions of holy Mother Church in carrying on the true Faith with no concessions whatsoever to the counterfeit church of conciliarism. The learned prelate Bishop Sanborn has always sought out truth no matter the cost of status or position, teaching to all with the authority and decisiveness of a Saint Augustine and thus, it is most fitting that on the feast of the holy "Doctor of Grace" this year on August 28, we pay tribute to Bishop Sanborn and proclaim that day as Bishop Donald Sanborn Day throughout all of Christendom.
For those inducted so far into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor see HALL OF HONOR