Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Having last month looked at the long past leading up to the ten-year anniversary of the Episcopal Consecrations in Ecône of June, 1998, let us this month frame some storm-clouds of the future between some sunny skies of the present.
The sunshine to begin with is that the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X, consecrated mainly to give the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders to the souls brought by the grace of God towards the Society, as you could read last month Archbishop Lefebvre himself telling them ten years ago, have quietly been doing just that.
For the last ten summers, including this one, I have been, at the U.S. District Superiors' request, making a tour of Confirmations amongst mainly the Society's American churches and chapels and missions. This year I was in three out of four corners of the U.S.A., Florida, California and Washington State, and in another ten or so States in between them.
Each year, I would have to say, it has been an encouraging experience. In easily most of these locations I have been more than once. This year I noticed many new faces, although in no chapel did numbers seem to have notably increased. This confirms a long-standing observation that the Society's action is rather a holding action than a glorious advance. However, a holding action in today's extra difficult circumstances is glorious enough. On this last Confirmations tour in the U.S.A., I may have confirmed some 400 adults and children. I often tap hard (as the rubrics do not forbid!) in order to warn confirmands how they will have to fight to live as Catholics, but in general the holding action does seem to be holding.
However, those extra difficult circumstances are not becoming any easier. Chaos in people's hearts and minds swirls all around us. Sister Lucy of Fatima called it "diabolical disorientation", and the Archbishop's dear little Society of St. Pius X is going to need a miraculous protection if its faith is not also to perish in the universal storm, still rising. The old-fashioned barometer, reading lower and lower, is beginning to sway on the wall!
Let me take one case of this chaos, featured in many a Confirmation sermon this year, to try to help Catholics to grasp what a gigantic drama is playing out around them, because even most Catholics seem to think (or wish) themselves to be still living in the world of "The Sound of Music"! That world is gone, gone forever, as it deserved!
The case was apparently all over the media here in the U.S.A. several months ago. My knowledge of it is essentially confined to one long newspaper article sent to me by a friend, but the main outlines are clear. A 34-year-old schoolmistress from Washington State, married with four children between the ages of 4 and 13, entered into a relationship with a boy in her sixth grade class (age 11 or 12?), by whom she then had a baby girl. Tried and convicted for the offence against a minor, she was sentenced to jail for eight years, but the sentence was suspended because her "sweet and bubbly" personality must have seemed to everybody to be out of place in the "slammer". However, no sooner was she out than she made herself pregnant by the same boy for the second time, whereupon her judge threw her back into jail to serve the rest of her sentence!
The article prints an attractive colour picture of her in court at the moment of her original sentencing: her pretty little chin perched on her folded hands, looking no older than a teenager herself, she looks wistfully across the courtroom, as though to say, "Why cannot these people understand true love?" For indeed, one of the quotations attributed to her by the article runs, "I have found true love at last." Can anyone doubt she has watched "The Sound of Music" 20 or 50 times? Not I.
"Oh, come on your Excellency! Get off movies, and leave that movie alone!" Dear friends, gladly, if only movies would get off Catholics and Catholics would leave that movie alone! But I have here under my hand a glossy "1998 Catholic Family and School Videos" catalogue, from a reputable conservative Catholic organization out of Colorado, which advertises one smiling, glamorous, sentimental, "uplifting" movie after another, page after page. Where is the blood? Where is the Cross? Where is the sacrifice?
Movies are unreal. Catholicism is for real. Catholic movies, unless they are strict documentaries, are virtually a contradiction in terms. Yet movies occupy the front, center, and back of most Catholics' hearts and minds, at least here in the U.S.A.! This is the drama of our poor schoolmistress who - you guessed - is one of seven children from a strongly conservative Catholic home! She was born in 1962. What did her home lack in those supposedly wonderful days, that she is now completely detached from reality? Catholics must ask themselves!
Listen to two more quotes of hers: "Some day we (she and the school boy!) will marry. We will all live happily together and my two families will be one, and everything will be just perfect!" (She means, she and her middle-aged husband and their four children and the schoolboy and their two children, will all live happily ever after, together? She is mad!) Again: "I couldn't be happier. I have a new life inside me. It's a sign, a sign that God wants us to be together, to be one!" She is using what remains of her Catholic Faith to justify her adultery and betrayal of a minor entrusted to her professional care! And she is watched and listened to with avid sympathy by media all over the country!!
Of course, she was herself betrayed: by all those (which means everybody) who encourage middle-aged women to look and behave like teenagers; by a coeducational school system which puts pretty women to teach adolescing boys; by her family-values, anti-feminist father who himself rocked his family by a scandalous adultery; she was, one might say, betrayed by our whole crazy society (without that being an excuse!). Yet the problem is not just that she is completely detached from reality. The problem is that there are millions and millions, even of Catholics, living in the same unreal dream.
Question: can the Society withstand this tornado-force dream? Can Society Catholics, especially priests, withstand the mighty suction of Fiftiesism, that glossy version of Catholicism without the Cross, all the outer trappings of Tradition, but with none of the substance (cf. II Timothy Ill, 5)? The glamorous modern world which seduced so many priests and bishops into Vatican II is more glamorous and modern than ever - what guarantees that the Society will not in turn go the way of all conciliar flesh? For instance, all over the U.S.A., it seems, from within the Society, the excellent and feminine! - Dominican teaching nuns in Idaho are being accused of feminism because they are standing up, God bless them, for the proper Catholic way to teach girls! That accusation is as false as it is clever! - the appearance of Catholicism with none of the substance.
Listen to a Society priest now working in the U.S.A.: "Here, either a priest fights like a hero, or he slips into Fiftiesism without even realizing it. It's strange, but that's how it is. A priest must have unusual strength of character and rock-solid convictions to stand fast, or he will slide the way the whole modern environment encourages him to slide. So a polarisation is inevitable in all our parishes. That was not so yesterday, when a comfortable conservatism was still possible, but the days of those good conservative priests are gone. Today it's all or nothing. This or that priest may vigorously deny they are liberal, but if they are incapable of serious, steady, almost heroic action, they will give way in practice. You may even not be liberal, but if you do not do what you should do, you will still act like a liberal."
I have long asked myself whether the Society will last until the Chastisement. If it does, God will have given it a special protection. Time will tell if that is His will.
Meanwhile, another of the four bishops of ten years ago, Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta, performed the ordinations at Winona this year in bright sunshine. Lovely weather for the morning itself, and for the following day of the first Masses of the two new priests; a crowd of maybe 650 people; much Catholic happiness and many graces, as usual. God is good. He is still granting to the Society to bear good fruit. May He grant that we not become, following the Conciliar shell without substance, a Traditional shell without substance!
Let us also ask for good weather for the women's and men's retreats soon to take place here. The seminary grounds can be lovely at this time of year, when of a sunny evening all the green is bathed in a soft warm light, with no farm-machine chattering, and with the occasional bird singing away the day. But man's cooperation is needed to mow God's creation, otherwise there are dandelions everywhere!
Enclosed is a flyer for the seminary's Christmas vacation course for men on the Catholic family. Audio and video tapes are available of the valuable similar course of the last Christmas vacation. To re-make Catholic men! It can be done!
+ Richard Williamson