My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
“And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.” (cf. Gospel, Mt 8,4)
Today and next week we will briefly talk about a very painful topic, that of bad clergy.
We are not concerned with the many – real or pretended – deviations of the modernist clergy because they are too far from our thinking, and most of them are not even validly ordained priests or consecrated bishops, mainly due to the rite of episcopal consecration which has been put in place 50 years ago.
But our concern is with certain individuals or congregations which prosper within the “traditionalist” world. There are some who come under the label of bad clergy, for which the term “underworld” clergy has been coined.
Firstly, it is to be expected that there be deviations within the clergy in the Church’s situation of the past five decades: the Church functioning without a true Vicar of Christ and a true hierarchy of bishops and local ordinaries. Each member of the clergy, although set apart from the laity by holy Orders, retains his human nature and is thus prone to commit sins. This basic and undeniable fact is very largely and easily amplified in a situation where there is no Authority which by its very nature watches also over the good behavior of the clergy!
Secondly, since there is no Authority, there is no daily magisterium. Cases of doubt or dispute, be it in matters of doctrine or of discipline, therefore remain without an authoritative solution. Again, each member of the clergy shares the first and foremost scar caused by original sin: that of ignorance. Your servant considers himself an eminent example of this reality…! Besides ignorance there is always the possibility of imbalanced or wrong thinking which leads to false conclusions or evil practices. The aspect of social aid and control which is part of the lawful and correct exercise of authority in the Church is missing, and small deviations of a member of the clergy can become big ones and unsolvable problems, much more easily and more freely than in “normal” times.
To give you just one example of an unreasonable stance taken publicly by one group: They have this statement on their home page: “Although we cultivate theological accuracy as a Religious Community, nevertheless unlike many Traditionalist groups we do not engage in debate, or arguments concerning Validity of other groups’ Orders, the minutia of Ritualistic practice, or the rights and wrongs of Vatican II. Such arguments cause further wounds to the body of Christ and are not conducive to the practice of true religion.” Why should anyone consider himself as a “traditionalist” of any kind if he does not “engage in debate or arguments about the rights and wrongs of Vatican2”? What is the problem, in their view, if it is not Vatican2?!
Thirdly, there is the very thorny issue of recruiting and training clergy. The holy Council of Trent has brought about, as one major point of true reform, the structure of diocesan or inter-diocesan seminaries. Up to that time, the training of the clergy had not been organized in this way, and therefore lots of clergy were not trained properly; they were just ordained to say Mass. – Most importantly, no-one must snatch the priesthood or any holy Orders through his own will or doing (cf. Heb 5,4). It is God who calls through what is called a “vocation”. This vocation ultimately comes through the voice of the Authority which Christ has established in the Church. But this Authority has not been present over the past several decades. So, it is a difficult thing to assume the task of training clergy in the present situation. The Institute Mother of Good Counsel has made its stance as clear as possible: “As the training of the clergy is of vital importance for the continuation of the Mission entrusted to us from our Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that while this state of privation of the Church’s authority lasts, it is our right and duty to prepare as many as are called by God to the priesthood (…) the San Pietro Martire Seminary is not a legal reality, but a purely factual one.” (https://www.sodalitiumpianum.com/the-st-peter-martyr-seminary/) – At the same time it is obviously a dangerous thing to want to make a big step backwards, namely by almost 500 years, and pretend that the time of seminary training is a thing of the past. Such a view would necessitate a thorough theological argumentation which has not been brought forward over the past decades, as far as my knowledge goes. A priest can train future priests, for certain. But this is not an easy task by any means. – Finally, it happens again and again that bishops – may they be validly consecrated – proceed to ordain untrained or very poorly trained men to the priesthood. Sometimes they even endeavor to impose their hands upon subjects who are intellectually and/or morally utterly unfit for holy Orders. This is a thing which any Catholic in his right reason must consider a thing of utter impossibility.
It is totally inappropriate. It just should not happen. But it does! This is one of the immediate reasons why I am talking to you today about this topic. A bishop – possibly validly consecrated, which has no immediate significance for our subject – is said to be about to ordain a priest, possibly several priests, in Munich. The case of one man whose ordination is at stake – it may well already have happened in the mean time – is such as to blow any reasonable person’s mind, let alone the understanding of a Catholic of good standing. I would not mention this if I had no first hand knowledge of the case. I will not elaborate on the details in public because they are disgusting and of the nature of those things of which St Paul says that they should not even be mentioned among us: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints.” (Eph 5,3)
St Paul, in the same passage of his Epistle to the Ephesians, also gives us the all-important conclusion of what to do in such a case: “Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not therefore partakers with them.” (Eph 5,6-7) Together with Frs Weinzierl and Zaby I have taken turns, a few years ago, to say Mass in Munich for a group. I want to make it here absolutely clear that I have nothing whatsoever to do with the actions which might now be happening there.
We will stop at this point for today, and then continue next week to show which principles must guide us in dealing with different situations or persons. For not all is simple and straightforward in this regard, as you may guess.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.