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‘When we left, the stones came from behind’

Mark Greaves visits traditionalists in Orkney who are about to enter into full communion with Rome after decades of estrangement

By on Friday, 1 October 2010

The Transalpine Redemptorists pictured with Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen (Photo: Brother Martin)

The Transalpine Redemptorists pictured with Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen (Photo: Brother Martin)

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, was an attempt to end decades of division over liturgy: to bring the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), and all the groups affiliated with it, back into the Church. The older Latin Mass, the Pope said, had never been outlawed; it was, in fact, the “same rite” as the newer Mass, the Novus Ordo. The Church must make “every effort” to achieve unity, he said, adding: “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”

Negotiations with the SSPX have indeed begun, yet so far no traditionalist group has taken up the Pope’s call – except, that is, for one small community based on a tiny, windswept island in Orkney.

The community, known as the Transalpine Redemptorists, have paid a heavy price for their decision. Four brothers and two priests have left, and about 1,000 supporters in Britain have broken off contact with them – only one or two families are still in touch.

They have not been ecstatically welcomed, either. It is more than two years since they first approached Rome, yet they are still waiting for their bishop, Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen, to grant them legal status within the Church.

Fr Michael Mary, who founded the community in 1988, is a kind man but no softie. Later, when he gives me a rosary as a present, he says “don’t blub”. He is a New Zealander: he left in 1987 to join Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at his Econe seminary in Switzerland.

When I arrive at their island, Papa Stronsay, the waters are calm. A seal is bobbing its head by the shore. I sit down with Fr Michael Mary in the monastery guestroom – he tells me it was once a herring shed, where women used to gut fresh herring. Next door is the chapel, where office is now sung in Latin for several hours a day.

When Summorum Pontificum came out, he says, he was back in New Zealand. He read it first on the Rorate Caeli website – the “BBC of tradition”. Later he printed a copy for another priest, Fr Anthony Mary.
They had no thoughts, at that time, of becoming reconciled with Rome. It was only months later, at an SSPX conference, that doubts about their status began to creep in.

It started when Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX, mentioned that he would ask Rome to give the SSPX jurisdiction for marriages. Currently, their marriages could be automatically annulled by the Church if the couple wanted a divorce; that, clearly, was a problem. The remark made Fr Michael Mary wonder, though: if the SSPX has “supplied jurisdiction”, as it has always claimed, why does it need to ask Rome? (Bishop Fellay later claimed that he did not make this remark.)

Several weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, 2007, Fr Michael Mary went to bed early. As he was going to sleep, he was struck by a very strong feeling. It was, he says, a “complete turnaround”. He got out of bed and wrote these words on an envelope: “I, Fr Michael Mary, believe tonight that Pope Benedict XVI is the true Pope of the Catholic Church, and that I must now do everything possible to live in union with him.”

Fr Michael Mary rustles his rosary beads loudly as he talks. Occasionally, when trying to remember something, he takes off his glasses and holds them in the air, his eyes directed at the ceiling.
He says he was eager, then, to resolve the question of jurisdiction. It boils down to whether the SSPX founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was right to claim “a state of necessity” that meant he could ordain bishops without permission from the Pope.

First, he contacted French Dominicans. These, he says, were the experts: they had huge libraries and produced dense periodicals. But when he asked them about jurisdiction, expecting them to have a treatise on it, they said they had nothing of the sort. He mimics their response to his question: a very knowing, drawn out, “Ah, bon…” They told him that to ask that question would be “the revolution” in his community.

After that he got in touch with Fr Josef Bisig, founder of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), who broke from the SSPX in 1988. Fr Bisig said he would email over the FSSP study, and wrote: “Excuse me for saying my personal opinion, but I think you probably are schismatic.”

Reading the FSSP document, says Fr Michael Mary, was depressing. “I thought, ‘this is bad news’. We are actually in a difficult situation.”

He printed off the study for each member of the community, and suggested they read it three times, letting it filter through. They reached the conclusion that they should seek communion with Rome “at all costs”. In March 2008, they had a vote. Each member put a bead in a voting box: a white bead for “yes”, a black bead for “no”. All the beads were white.

Without Summorum Pontificum, says Fr Michael Mary, they “would not have dreamed” of becoming reconciled with Rome. They were struck by the graciousness, and courage, of the Pope, and by his admission that the old Mass had never been outlawed. “Because nearly everybody would tell you it had,” he says.

At first they kept their vote a secret. After all, they did not know who to tell. Their contact with the mainstream Catholic Church had, for 20 years, been “zero or negative”.

On the advice of Fr Bisig, they arranged a meeting with Fr José Monteiro Guimarães, a Redemptorist official in the Congregation for Clergy (he is now Bishop of Garanhuns in Brazil). They travelled to Rome, staying in a hotel. It was, he says, very daunting. “We had the feeling that we should go back, that we had made a big mistake. We were completely out of our camp.”

In the months that followed they met officials at Ecclesia Dei, the body set up to negotiate with the SSPX. They met its prefect, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos. Their priestly suspensions were lifted. Later they wrote a constitution, lifting parts of old Redemptorist constitutions from 1921 and 1936. That has been approved. All that is needed now is for Bishop Moran, their local bishop, to issue a “decree of erection” that will put them in canonical good order. (Last Friday Bishop Moran issued a statement which said he was waiting for guidance from the Congregation for Religious, to whom the matter has now been passed.)

The process, though, has not been smooth. Some in the community have family who are in the SSPX. Four Brothers left, two without saying a word to Fr Michael Mary. One priest, based on the next-door island of Stronsay, split off immediately, taking most of the parish with him. Another, Fr Clement, left more recently, for a traditionalist parish in Melbourne. “Nobody expected it to take this long,” says Fr Michael Mary.

Subscriptions to their monthly newspaper dropped by half, from 4,000 to fewer than 2,000. They received hate mail from people they thought were friends. They had to withdraw seminarians from an SSPX seminary in Australia after the rector told them they would never be ordained unless they defied Fr Michael Mary and started their own breakaway group. Fr Michael Mary is hurt by all of this. “When you leave the ghetto, the stones don’t come from the front, they come from behind you. If they can get you in the back with a good boulder – that’s how it felt.”

Despite all these hardships, the community has a joyful feel to it. At recreation there are roars of laughter. One brother, who wears Doc Martens along with his habit, has an apron that says: “Danger: Men Cooking.”

They are also very young – in their 20s and 30s, mainly. Two brothers are about to be ordained as priests; four more are seminarians. In total there are 15 in the community.

It is not an easy life here: in winter there are only six hours of sunlight, and the winds are ferocious — sometimes up to 120mph. “If you are small and frail,” says one brother, “you stay inside.”

Brother Jean-Marie, 32, and Brother Yousef-Marie, 35, are both from warmer climes. “When you first come here,” says Brother Jean-Marie, from India, “you feel like there’s ice on your face.”

Brother Jean-Marie was a student when he felt called to the religious life, but the orders he knew did not really impress him. He then came across a small leaflet about the Transalpine Redemptorists. “People were actually wearing their habits, they were not ashamed of it. I thought, this is something I feel inspired to give my life to.”

It attracted him partly because it offered what he describes as a masculine kind of Christianity. “You’re not just sitting on your thumbs. You’re mixing cement, slaughtering cows, handling boats and ropes. In monastic history, monks always did work, they built the monastery themselves. They didn’t have people to do it for them.”

Brother Jean-Marie and Brother Yousef-Marie, from Sydney, have an intensity about them. They have both just finished their studies and, once the community is canonically erected, they can be ordained. Right now they are in limbo. “It is not a pleasant feeling,” says Brother Jean-Marie. “But ultimately God is in charge.”

  • Julia Jones

    I subscribe to their newspaper and it's excellent. A bargain!

  • Rtsully1297

    Read this article, “A historic Latin Mass in the cathedral of the Orkney Isles… blocked by the Catholic bishop” in the That will explain why it has taken 2 years and still up in the air. The Bishop wants nothing to do with the Latin Mass or traditionalists. Most bishops want nothing to do with Traditionalist that is why Archbishop Lefebvre had to do what he did. Not sure why the Redemptorist want to be so tight with Bishop's like this.

  • Ben Whitworth

    As a Catholic in Orkney, I feel blessed to have the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer – to give them their official name – just a ferry ride away. Theirs is a joyful and hospitable, as well as prayerful, community, and the regularisation of their canonical status will unlock many graces for this parish and for this diocese.

  • Mcampbellray

    While it may seem unfortunate that the Redemptorists still do not have full legal status within the Church, surely something good will come from their patience in waiting.

    I, too, am a former adherent of the SSPX (a lay person). I totally understand and agree with all that Fr. Michael Mary has stated here. It is my hope that those who are still firmly attached to the SSPX will try, in charity and love for Our Lord, to look at the situation from father's point of view.

    I see that one “traditionalist” forum in the U.S. has accused Fr. Michael Mary of lying about what Bp. Fellay stated in regards to jurisdiction for marriages. To this unfair accusation I would say that surely something good can come of being unjustly calumniated, as Fr. Michael Mary has by traditionalists attached to the SSPX. I recall that when I still attended an SSPX chapel, a priest there (Fr. Hufford) once said that the saints of old craved to be (unfairly) calumniated. Sometimes, SSPX priests do have good insights.

    Hopefully, they (the SSPX) will go the same route as the Redemptorists, and ask to be fully reconciled with Rome. However, in seeing the terrible backlash that the Redemptorists experienced from diehard traditionalists, one can only imagine the backlash that Bp. Fellay would experience if he and others would reconcile. My hope is that Bp. Fellay will embrace the terrible challenge that awaits him should he reconcile with Rome. It will be extremely unpleasant, but surely much good will come from it. He would have to be willing to unite himself with Our Lord on the Cross, as we all should be willing to do.

  • Fatherrizzo

    As a close friend of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, and a former priest of the SSPX, now a member of the FSSP, I enjoyed this article and found myself even more sympathetic and supportive of Fr Michael Mary and his Community. As a slight misunderstanding may arise with the mention of Fr Clement “leaving for a Traditionalist Parish in Melbourne…” may I add here that Fr Clement will be joining a tadditional community that is in full union with the Church, the Latin Mass Community under the the excellent guidance of Fr Glen Tatersal. Fr Clement is not leaving his (former) Community out of opposition to Fr Michael Mary wanting a full reconciliation w/ Rome. I kindly and respectfully make this clarification. Thank you! Fr John Rizzo, FSSP in Christchurch, NZ

  • Mattb1

    They dont want to be tight with that bishop they want to be tight with the Catholic church!

  • The_Monk


    Our love for the Gregorian Rite mass has to be placed in context of the proper hierarchical authority as appointed by Our Lord. For myself, let me reaffirm the words of our Blessed Mother, “Let it be done to me according to Thy will”, not my will. Let us pray for His will.

  • Ben

    First point. The 'St Magnus Cathedral saga' has nothing to do with the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer; they weren't even aware that Una Voce Scotland had approached the Bishop. And the bishop's answer to the lay people who approached him was not 'No', it was 'Not just yet'. Damian Thompson tried to start a fight about this, but there isn't one.

    Second point. As for saying that 'the Bishop wants nothing to do with the Latin Mass', I can only suggest you look at the above photo, which shows the Bishop vested in chasuble & maniple after celebrating the traditional Latin Mass in the Papa Stronsay chapel, something he chose to do on his own initiative.

    Third point. We can always find something to criticise in our leaders, if we choose. But there is a bigger picture here, which Mattb1 has put his finger on. The great Catholic typographer Stanley Morison (I hope you say a prayer for his soul every time you type a document in Times New Roman, which he designed), was once asked by the editor of the Tablet why he remained a Catholic, after he had spent a long lunch ranting about the failings of the English bishops. His reply, punctuated by thumping the table was this: 'Do you think I'd stay with this bunch of second-rate macaroni merchants for one second longer if it wasn't THE ONLY WAY TO LAY HOLD ON CHRIST?'

  • EditorCT

    It just beggars belief that anyone who knows anything about the leading clergy and Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen, could be surprised that priests offering the Traditional Mass are not being welcomed with open arms there. The notion that Bishop Moran is waiting for guidance from the Vatican would be hilarious were it not the case that the innocents abroad will believe him.

    Bishop Moran didn't like the comments from the Vatican about the link between homosexuality and child abuse, and, in fact, didn't hesitate to call them “stupid.” And his mitre was still at the fitting stage when he opined that women priests were a possibility in the future, completely ignoring Rome's definitive statement on the matter. So, humbly awaiting guidance from Rome in the matter of a handful of traditional priests being able to administer the sacraments in Aberdeen, he most certainly is not. Bishop Moran does not want the traditional Mass spreading in his diocese. That is the simple truth of the matter. Live with it, Father Michael Mary. I mean, look at the photo in the article above – does the Bishop look radiant with joy surrounded by traditional monks, with the prospect of them going from parish to parish spreading the Traditional Latin Mass? Exactly.

    As for Father Michael Mary's comment which, like some kind of special divine revelation he felt compelled to commit to paper – shocking: “I, Fr Michael Mary, believe tonight that Pope Benedict XVI is the true Pope of the Catholic Church, and that I must now do everything possible to live in union with him.”

    What on EARTH did he believe before that fateful New Year's Eve? Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX have ALWAYS believed the recent popes to be true popes. And of course we must all do everything possible to live in union with the Pope – but it is NOT possible to do certain things, with Catholic integrity, just to remain “in union” with a particular pope. We cannot, for example, participate in the popular ecumenical activities that effectively reduce Christ's Church to one religion or denomination among many, because that is offensive to God who established one Church only, one ark of salvation for all.

    Clearly, judging by his own written statement about the Pope, Father Michael Mary was, in fact, harbouring a schismatic mentality prior to his “conversion.” I'm saying nothing about the fact that this about-turn took place on New Year's Eve. I mean, would I suggest that perhaps he'd had a wee dram or two too many? Would I?

    In any event, just because he had a wrong-headed way of thinking about the Pope, he really ought not to lead others into thinking that the SSPX priests are the same. That is the implication throughout the article.

    Personally, I've heard umpteen SSPX priests delivering sermons on just about every topic under the sun, and I've never heard anyone suggest that the Pope isn't the true Pope. On the contrary, I heard an excellent sermon only a couple of weeks ago in which the SSPX priest pointed out the two key errors for Catholics – one in thinking that the Pope is right about everything and cannot be legitimately criticised, and the other danger is the heresy of sedevacantism – the belief that the chair of Peter is vacant – that the Pope is not a true Pope. That is not the position of the SSPX.

    Father Michael Mary's key mistake, of course, has been to settle for Summorum Pontificum as “the end” instead of what it is, in fact, which is merely the beginning of the end. Bishops, including Bishop Moran, are not implementing Summorum Pontificum. Most of them are using the excuse that the clergy don't know Latin. Of course, Bishop Moran doesn't have that excuse now, hence “waiting for guidance from Rome.” Yeah right.

    Finally, I'm very sceptical about Father Michael Mary's claims to have received “hate mail.”

    I wrote several comments on his blog at the time of his Hogmanay Enlightenment, none of which got posted, but almost immediately I'd post a comment (which always went to him for moderation) a notice would appear claiming receipt of hate mail/nasty comments. I don't DO “hate-mail/nasty comments.” I do write forthright comments and don't like to miss and hit the wall.

    So my response to these claims of “hate mail” are, well, if you don't like the heat, get out of the special non-deals with Bishop Moran. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool those of us who are informed about the Scottish hierarchy, at all. Not at all.

    I'll be over the moon if the Bishop of Aberdeen makes good use of these traditional Mass offering priests. I really will. But I am definitely not holding my breath.

  • EditorCT

    What does this mean? Are you saying that if the Bishop tells you to offer the new Mass, you will obey him?

  • EditorCT

    You seem to have lost sight completely of the fact that Rome needs to be reconciled with the Tradition of the Church. I've just spent some time trying to console a Catholic man who is depressed about the state of the Church and who remains shocked that the Pope could embrace the schismatic “Archbishop” of Canterbury, address multi-religious leaders and not mention the holy Name of Jesus once.

    By the way, this depressed Catholic man thinks the SSPX are in schism.

  • EditorCT

    I have often wondered, so maybe you can enlighten me, Father Rizzo, as to how often the priests of the FSSP reflect on the fact that they would not be in existence at all, but for Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St Pius X?

  • Peter Mackin

    This statement is a classic example of false obedience. The quote below from St. Pius V's “Quo Primum” should scare the living daylights out of you.

    “By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it.” And he concluded: “No one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

  • Fatherrizzo

    You have a very good question Editor CT. Yes, we in the FSSP do and have acknowledged the past good work of Abp. Lefebvre. I joined FSSP in l993 and I remember hearing a lecture given by one of the FSSP priests and he said exactly that. I was ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in l985 and I continue to keep him in my daily prayers, esp. in gratitude for all that he has done. I also continue to pray for the SSPX priests and hope that one day they will be reconciled fully w/ the Church, as Rome is working on that same goal.
    God bless, Fr Rizzo

  • EditorCT


    I've only known two FSSP priests in my lifetime and certainly one of them says the new Mass.

    May I enquire if you do or if you would, if asked/commanded?

    Also, may I ask you what you mean when you say you pray that the SSPX priests will one day be “reconciled to the Church” – do you mean on any terms? Should they leave aside all doctrinal concerns? Should they abandon their work of adhering to the whole of Tradition in order to embrace the concept and practice of ecumenism and religious liberty?

    And finally. Was St Athanasius finally “reconciled” to the Church or is there another reason why this twice-excommunicated saint is now, not merely a saint, but a Doctor of the Church?

  • Diffal

    For all the faults a Bishop may have (He is human after all) Surely to be in Communion with the Catholic Church is to be in Communion with the local Catholic Bishop. St Ignatius of Antioch comes to mind here…

  • Diffal

    I'm sure your not the only one in communication with/sending mail to Fr. Michael Mary and I have seen some comments on the blog that are far from complimentary so if yours were not published then I can only guess at how little Christian Charity they contained. as as for the appearance of Bishop Peter, I challenge you to find a good picture of him, he is my Bishop and I haven't seen one yet. (P.S. I can't wait until the F.S.S.R have full canonical status within the Church)

  • The_Monk

    It would certainly depend under which Bishop's authority the priest presents, wouldn't it, and the Bishop's adherence to the Holy Father's Motu Proprio granting priests the opportunity to offer the Mass observing the Gregorian Rite? Also, did the priest take a vow of obedience? If not, the point is moot. If yes, then does the vow not mean anything? Observe the life of Padre Pio for reference.

  • Margaret

    Macambellray seems to be using inflamatory words and conflating the traditionalists comments with the SSPX.

    I have taken the Catholic magazine for a few years and still get it delivered and in the main it is edifying but since the monks agreed to 'reconcile' with Rome there have been some very ungenerous and unworthy comments about the SSPX in almost every edition since.

    From my point of view they are causing scandal by criticising the SSPX, as in this article above, and have shown a lack of charity.

    I have never heard any unkind comments from any SSPX priest about the Redemptorists(Holy Sons of the Redeemer) and yet they the SSPX are being continually harassed by press comments from those who justify the changes made by Fr.Micheal Mary. i dont think they are the calumniators but the suffering servants. I rest my case.

  • Mcampbellray

    The Monk, I agree absolutely with you that our love for the Gregorian Rite has to be placed in context of the proper hierarchical authority as appointed by Our Lord.

    I would like to add (in response to some of the other comments here) that Our Lord established the One, Catholic, and Apostolic Church for all of time, to be governed by a visible heirarchy, and only the visible heirarchy in relation to the govenment of the Church. Only the visible heirarchy of the Church has the lawful authority to regulate the use of the sacraments. Those of us who live in a democratic society may have a difficult time with the stand of the Church regarding obedience to the authority of the Church heirarchy, but that's how Christ established His Church. It cannot, of course, be maintained in a democratic fashion.

  • Mcampbellray

    I apologize for seeming to accuse the SSPX of calumny. I used the term 'adherents' and those 'attached' to the SSPX to describe the laity who attend Society chapels. I did not intend to accuse the SSPX (priests and bishops) of calumny). Sorry for the confusion.

  • EditorCT

    I've obviously gotten the wrong impression, The_Monk, because I thought you were one of the Transalpine (as was) monks, Clearly not.

    But that was why I posed the question. However, I would expect the monks to have at least managed to gain an assurance from the Bishop/Rome that they would be allowed free rein to offer the Traditional Latin Mass and not be coerced into saying the new Mass. In other words, I'd expect them to have retained at least a minimal understanding of the concepts of true and false obedience, and not walk into the Lion's Den unarmed. An assurance that they would not have to say the new Mass, is the very least I would have expected the monks to have achieved before “reconciling.”

    But then, I'm a simple gal.

  • EditorCT

    All the lawful authority in creation, doesn't allow any lawmaker to break the law or impose illicit rules themselves.

    I've copied from Peter Mackin's excellent post above…

    The quote below from St. Pius V's “Quo Primum” should scare the living daylights out of you (to which I'll add,should scare the living daylights out of every post-Vatican II pope – EditorCT),,,

    “By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it.” And he concluded: “No one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

  • EditorCT

    It's one thing to stay in the Church through this terrible scandal: that's a must-do.

    But it is downright foolish to risk one's salvation by going along with and thus being complicit in, maverick changes to Catholic doctrine such as those imposed at Vatican II. All the liturgical abuses, found in Aberdeen as elsewhere, and condoned and even promoted by the bishops (I'm thinking of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) – all of these must be condemned and by condemning these things, we implicitly criticize both Pope and bishops.

    And no “great Catholic anything” would be lunching with the editor of The Tablet, which is THE most anti-Catholic, pope-hating, doctrine-hating rag on record.

  • EditorCT

    Funny that, because St Athanasius comes to my mind here.

  • EditorCT

    I've seen plenty of photos of Bishop Moran smiling. He was once a guest in my home when I lived in Aberdeen (he was the humble priest representative on the Catholic Education Commission at the time) and he can laugh like the rest of us.

    Diffal, are you saying that you think Bishop Moran is delighted at the prospect of several Traditional Latin Mass-offering priests loose in his diocese? Cos, if that's what you think, you most certainly do not know him.

  • EditorCT

    Spot on, Margaret. Big time.

  • Fatherrizzo

    Dear EditorCT, I have on occasion been asked to offer the Mass in the Ordinary Form, but on those few occasions have declined to do so. However, since the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, I have not been asked to offer this particular Rite.

    In regard to your 2nd question, a reconciliation with the Church could not take place “on any terms.” These terms would have been formulated by those “on both sides” of the issue. The present negotiations occuring in Rome w/ the SSPX are not made public; however, I am pleased that issues of doctrine (and not just liturgical questions) are being raised and discussed. Ultimately, assuming that you are Catholic, would you not want the SSPX to have full union w/ the Catholic Church? Abp. Lefebvre once said in a talk to his seminarians, of which I was present: “Gentlemen, let us pray that we will one day be a part of the Church once again. We are in business to go out of business…”

    St Athanasius, like any Saint, would never encourage separation from the Church. One must be careful in adopting this particular saint as a “patron saint for Traditionalists.” We all want the “tradition” of being united to the Church.

    God bless, Father Rizzo

  • Ggreg

    Where did they expect the stones to come from?

  • Ggrimer

    What does full union actually mean Father Rizzo? Is there such a thing as partial union?

  • Ggreg

    “I can't wait until the F.S.S.R have full canonical status within the Church”.

    @Diffal You may have to wait. They don't seem to be rushing for Traditional minded Catholics as they do for the Anglicans do they?

  • EditorCT


    Thank you for your reply. I am really pleased that you have declined to say the new Mass. And of course nobody in their right mind wants to be in the irregular situation of the SSPX. I agree. Roll on the day when we can all return to normality. It really boils down to who the Pope wants most – the Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, Humanists, Atheists… or traditionally minded Catholics. In a nutshell.

    I also want to tell you that, having now read your letter to your parishioners to explain why you left the SSPX, I fully share the concerns you expressed in that letter about “cultish” behaviour in some SSPX priests and superiors. We are lucky here in Scotland, because the priests we have at the moment have not displayed any sign of this silliness, but there is, at a higher level, no question about it, a wrong attitude to women and modesty. And it has driven people away from the Society. Sadly.

    I'm just sorry that you didn't stay and help fight this daft attitude to women's dress, because I think it will be difficult for any new priests with a more sensible (i.e. more inherently Catholic) attitude to these matters, to survive without support.

    Finally, I do not think of St Athanasius as encouraging separation from the Church, but St Athanasius was in the same position as the SSPX – forced to refuse “obedience” to something that contradicts the Traditional belief of the Church. That's quite a different thing.

    And I think the point needs to be made, to underline Bishop Moran's position, that since this alleged “deal” with Rome, he, the Bishop, has even refused permission for a TLM to be offered in the home of an Aberdeen diocesan family. Which means that the Redemptorists are in a worse position that they were before the “deal.” Then you could accept invitations from individuals without any problem. Now they are virtually prisoners in their monastery, miles from anyone and anywhere. I've been up there and believe me, they are miles from anyone and anywhere.

    Having lived in Aberdeen for five years myself, I would love to think of a band of traditional priests going from place to place offering the TLM – but I'll only believe it when it happens. In the meantime, I'm watching, with interest, to see how Bishop Moran gets out of this one!

  • CH_Reader

    Something that this article completely left out was their current relationship with the “real” Redemptorists and what that relationship might be if they these guys are fully received into communion with the church. As a former Redemptorist seminarian (not the Transalpine folks), I can tell you that it will not be good.

  • Brian

    “….the 'Catholic' since the monks agreed to econcile with Rome there have been some very ungenerous and unwworthy comments about the SSPX in almost every edition since”

    Sorry, but I fear that your memory is playing you tricks!. I too receive the 'Catholic', and what is remarkable is the obvious care taken by Fr Michael Mary to ensure that a true spirit of charity is maintained at all times, particularly towards the SSPX. This does not mean that he has failed to correct malicious and/or false public statements about his Community or in defence of the Holy Father or the Church, but on the rare occasions that this has been done, it has always been in a spirit of true charity.

  • Christina

    Aye. During 40 years of wandering, I have heard the once-familiar Prayer for the Pope only in the Manchester SSPX chapel, where it is usually sung by priest and congregation at Benediction.

  • Anti-SSPX

    No, they should be in union with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter because that is the true Tradition and DOGMA that every Catholic must observe.

  • Peter

    I happen to know the Father Rizzo situation rather well and frankly he was in a pocket of cultish behaviour from the SSPX which extended from the Rockies to the Mississippi River. The way he was treated by them shocked a lot of people in the UK where he was a much loved young priest on his first assignment and considered a very holy and self-sacrificing man who impressed many with his piety. I can also testify that he behaved with a great deal of decorum at the time.

    Like the curate's egg, however, the SSPX is good in parts (it ordained Father Rizzo after all) and depending on who the superior is in your country or part of the country you can have a great experience or a bad experience. Not unlike the Catholic Church, since your experience under Mahony or Weakland is going to be a whole lot different than under some conservative bishop or Cardinal.

    My conclusion is that we live in confused times. You pays your money and takes your choice. If the SSPX works in your region go for it, if it does not then go to the FSSP masses. A bit of healthy competition for the collection is probably a good thing. I personally avoid the Novus Ordo establishment altogether and only attend masses said by priests who exclusively say the old rite of mass (no fence sitters or double dippers). I figure that if I just ignore everything said in the last 50 years and behave as a Catholic like my grandfather behaved then I have as much chance as getting to heaven as he did. Seems logical to me. God cannot condemn me for being old-fashioned and the NO church has not revealed any new “truths” that I must believe on pain of sin.

    You dance with apostates and heretics, however, and you are likely to have your faith tainted. Of the 180 boys and girls I went to Catholic Secondary school with I am the only one who practices their faith today and definitely the only one who is not contracepted to the eyeballs. I must be doing something right.

  • Ben

    As it happens, the conversation I allude to took place in 1968. Tom Burns had just taken over, as editor of the Tablet, from the impeccably orthodox Douglas Woodruff. Then Humanae Vitae was promulgated, and Burns was considering whether to lead the Tablet into dissent by editorialising against the encyclical. To try & find out the 'feeling' among the Catholic intelligentsia, he went round lunching various notable layfolk, including Morison. Morison was actually pretty trad, and (I would imagine) probably spent much of the lunch lambasting the bishops for abandoning his beloved Gregorian chant.

    But I do seem to recall reading some where that our blessed Redeemer supped with publicans and sinners – perhaps it is no great sin to break bread even with the editors of Catholic magazines …

  • Mcampbellray

    One of the things that impresses me about the Redemptorist community on Orkney is their humilty. Not that they don't sometimes 'tell it like it is,' but charity and humility are usually a reflection of great love for Our Lord, for these go hand in hand. It reminds me of the work of St. Catherine of Siena (Doctor of the Church), in her book called 'The Dialogue,' in which Our Lord tells her, in private revelation, about the nature of obedience on page 353 (just a few paragraphs here taken from the lengthy section on obedience):

    “…This is the true remedy the truly obedient possess, and they have it new again every day. They increase the virtue of obedience by the light of faith. They desire slander and abuse and to be laden with heavy burdens by their superiors so that the virtue of obedience and her sister patience will not rust and will not fail them or work only with great difficulty when they need to use them. therefore they constantly sound the instrument of desire, wasting no time, because they are hungry for these things. Obedience is a solicitous spouse who does not want to stand idle.

    O delightful obedience! O pleasant obedience! Gentle obedience! Lightful obedience, because you have lifted the darkness of selfish love! O life-giving obedience!, giving the life of grace to the soul who has chosen you as a bride after you have taken away the death of self-will that had brought war and death to the soul!

    You are generous, because you make yourself subject to every rational creature! You are kind and compassionate: Kindly and meekly you carry every great burden because you are accompanied by strength and true patience. You are crowned with perseverance; the importunity of superiors of lack of descretion with which they may impose great burdens on you does not make you falter. You are so joined to humility that no creature can take her from the hand of holy desire in the soul that possesses you.

    And what shall we say, dearest most beloeved daughter, about this marvelous virtue? She is good without any evil. She stands hidden in the ship so that no contrary wind can harm her. She makes the soul sail on the strength of the rule and her superiors; not on her own; for the truly obedient will not have to render an account of themselves to me, but the superiors to whom they are subject will.

    Fall in love, dearest daughter, with this glorious virtue. Do you want to show your gratitude for the blessings you have received form me the eternal Father? Be obedient. For obedience shows whether you are grateful, because it proceeds from charity. It shows if you are not foolish, because it proceeds form knowledge of my Truth. Thus it is a good that is known in the Word, who taught you the way of obedience as your rule by becoming obedient himself even to the point of his shameful death on the cross. In his obedience, the key that unlocked heaven, is founded in the general obedience given to you as well as this special obedience, as I told you at the beginning of this discussion of obedience.”

  • EditorCT

    Peter, thank you for replying on behalf of Father Rizzo. I well understand his reluctance to publicly discuss any details of his situation. However, I'm quite sure a number of SSPX priests will be following this thread and I think it is good for them to be confronted with the damage the cultish behaviour is doing, which prevails in certain places, among certain clergy, When the laity hear this kind of nonsense, too many of them are infected by it. I've already had my work cut out to encourage one teenager (as was) not to abandon the Society after she was signalled to follow an elderly lady down to the notice about dress code in the church porch. Pointing to the girl's jeans, and then back to the notice, this “lady” asked her to consider if she was really suitably dressed for Mass. Now, I wouldn't dream of wearing jeans to Mass – but I'm not an eighteen year old having grown up in the modern church (more's the pity – about being eighteen, I mean! I'd make a gorgeous eighteen year old…)

    Then, too, I had a nasty email from someone who told me to instruct my”friends” to dress more modestly – a reference to a friend who was dressed very modestly, but in trousers and long jacket due to the fact that she'd had a stroke some years previously and could not manage to dress herself with all that is required for the wearing of a skirt, if you follow my drift. So, this is a real problem among certain clergy which does need to be put right. Thankfully, as I say, our recent clergy here in Scotland have been faithfully expounding Catholic doctrine but, while not failing to mention modesty and purity in context, have had the sense not to try to tell us what we can and cannot wear. And I'm sure they would be sensitive enough to speak to any individuals whom they felt were really unacceptably dressed, without lecturing those of us who are fashion plates personified, without infringing the bounds of human and feminine decency…(I do suit red…)

    I agree with you about these confused times. Indeed, when I encourage people to attend the SSPX chapels in Scotland (we only have two) I usually remind them that the crisis in the Church is very deep and evidence of it is to be found everywhere, even in the SSPX. Then I ask them to reflect on whether they would prefer to be wondering if their priest objects to women in trousers or if he has an illicit “relationship” on the go. No contest!

  • EditorCT


    Which Bishop of Rome? Which Successor of Peter? the fact is, one cannot be in union with both Pope Saint Pius X and any of the post-Vatican II popes.

    So which should we choose? The Vicars of Christ who protected the deposit of Faith without ambiguity, or the modern popes who have introduced new doctrines?

  • EditorCT

    Exactly. And when I was Head of RE in a school in England attending the NO Mass on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, I was given the frozen shoulder by the priest for suggesting we include a bidding prayer for the Pope. And that was the very liberal Pope John Paul II – just imagine suggesting that now!

  • EditorCT

    Look, obedience is a central virtue,Mcampbellray, but one of the most elementary lessons a Catholic used to learn in the days when we had true Catholic education and sound teachers and priests, was the difference between true and false obedience.

    Gimme strength!

  • Mcampbellray

    EditorCT, do you believe that the above quote from St. Catherine's Dialogue is not an example of true obedience?

  • Diffal

    That is Plain nonsense! and is indeed an error that you share with many of the modernists. For you, it seems, the teaching for the Church stalled in the 1960's for them the teaching for the Church seems to have started in the 1960's. To view the Second Vatican Council, an Ecumenical Council of the Church, outwith a hermeneutic of Continuity, is to cut yourself off from Pope Saint Pius X, Venerable Pius XII and all of their successors. What new doctrines have the Popes introduced?
    Pope Benedict has himself said the Pope is the Servant not the Master of Tradition. I choose union With Peter and ALL of his successors right up to HH Pope Benedict XVI

  • Diffal

    That particular problem was solved last year. Its all been sorted in Rome and the name poses no barrier to full canonical status. That is part of the reason they have changed their official name to the “Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer”, F.S.S.R, rather than the Redemptorists “Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer” C.S.S.R. which they previously used

  • Diffal

    they are already in Full communion, its canonical status thats the problem

  • Diffal

    If I have to wait then I will wait. It will be a glorious day WHEN it comes, even if I have to wait until Bishop Morans' Successor does it (he is 75 after all). As with the Anglicans the Pope will not accept reconciliation on any grounds, It is simply that the Anglicans are asking to return to the Church and the Pope has offered them the means to do so.

  • Diffal

    I never said he couldn't laugh or smile I said he takes a bad photo, but to base an argument on a facial expression in a photo is weak in the extreme. Bishop Peter didn't have to say Mass for the Community and he certainty didn't need to pose for the photographic evidence we are debating. But I agree he is probably not ecstatic but neither is he hostile as he could make things more difficult for them If he wanted to

  • EditorCT


    You make the very common mistake of, literally, idolising the Pope. And sorry, but you do NOT stand with Peter and all of his successors right up to HH Pope Benedict XVI. Impossible.

    Indeed, those who scream fidelity to the Pope (in criticism of the SSPX, usually) are often the same people who are flagrantly disobeying the Pope by e.g. taking on illicit roles in the Church – such as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion now used routinely, against the stated rules (by the Pope in his Motu Proprio, 1997 on the matter) and “lay” chaplains – and loads of other liturgical abuses besides.

    So, don't gimme “obey the Pope.” There's a lot of ignorance around about the nature, extent and limitations of a pope's authority; there are those, for example, who, were the Pope to express the view that it might rain tomorrow, would go out and buy and umbrella. Others, as I've intimated above, routinely defy the Pope's wishes and rules, not to mention Canon Law, while screaming “disobedience” at the SSPX. Get real.

    But, listen. To save me reinventing the wheel, check out this old thread from our blog. It's the first one on the list of threads on “obedience” and you'll find plenty of information there about true and false obedience, examples from the history of the Church and so on.

    As for this “hermeneutic of continuity” – that's a fancy footwork way of trying to convince us all that there has been no rupture with Tradition. Every Pope until Vatican II condemned the kind of ecumenical activity and inter-religious scandals that are now routinely taking place, so don't gimme “hermeneutic of continuity.”