Vatican Cardinal Ordains Four for Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
Remnant Editor Questions Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and

Remnant Editor Michael Matt

(Posted June 11, 2008 On May 30, 2008 (the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), it was indeed a pleasure to witness the ordination to the priesthood of Rev. Mr. Jared McCambridge, Rev. Mr. Dennis Gordon, Rev. Mr. Justin Nolan, and Rev. Mr. Jonathan Romanoski. The Sacrament of Holy Orders was conferred for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) according to the traditional rite by Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. The historic event was televised live throughout the world on EWTN.

That there was standing room only in a cathedral with a seating capacity of 800 says a good deal about the success of the event. The congregation was comprised of ladies in skirts and veils, men in suits, and an abundance of well-behaved children (no small feat given the Mass was three hours in duration). The dozens of mothers with babies in their arms who lined the vestibule walls provided additional promise for the future of the apostolates operated by the FSSP in America.

After the ordination I had an opportunity to speak briefly with a number of the priests, including two of the newly ordained. On the road to Chartres over the years, I've seen many of them come up ‘through the ranks’ on their way to ordination.  Priests at last, they were positively on fire with enthusiasm for their vital mission to bring Christ and Catholic Tradition to the whole world.

While it is true that a few critics still labor under the false impression that FSSP priests are not militant enough, this is unfortunate and evidently due to a lack of first-hand experience with these impressive young priests.  It’s unlikely that anyone would actually question to his face the Catholic militancy of a Father Romanoski, for example, or Father Nolan or any number of the cassocked warriors for Christ with whom I spoke in Lincoln.  In many ways these young men are becoming the Marines of the traditional Catholic movement—‘going in’ first and operating under difficult conditions and in often ‘hostile territory.’ 

It seems to us, in fact, that credit to the FSSP for holding that difficult ground is long overdue. Ever since 1988 it was predicted that the Fraternity of St. Peter was on the verge of a total sellout to the Novus Ordo, which was to include adopting the new lectionary, communion in the hand, regular bi-rituality, etc. But this never materialized. As was noted above, I’ve been walking the Chartres Pilgrimage with FSSP priests and seminarians every spring for 17 years and if there has been any change in attitude during that time it could only be an increase in their militancy and genuine commitment to the exclusive use of the Tridentine Mass.

For twenty years now the FSSP has been laboring for the restoration of the Mass at the heart of the Church. Since July 7, 2007, they have trained over 100 Novus Ordo priests to offer the traditional Mass; and now they've launched the new initiative that (Deo volente) will introduce the Traditional Mass to thousands of priests around the world.  

Remind me again—where’s the sellout?  One can only imagine how much more could have been accomplished had the FSSP been given a bishop of their own—something else that’s long overdue!  But in God’s good Providence and under the remarkable leadership of Superior General Fr. John Berg, the FSSP forges ahead in this universal push to restore the traditional Mass to the Church.

Last month's priestly ordinations in Nebraska served as a poignant reminder that some progress is indeed being made, especially since July 7, 2007. I had an opportunity to attend the FSSP's press conference with Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and was amazed to hear a Vatican Cardinal delivering argument after argument in favor of the old Mass that Michael Davies and my father had been making forty years ago but that had been dutifully dismissed as signs of a “dangerous trajectory toward schism”. Now those same arguments flow eloquently from the lips of princes of the Church.  Go figure!

Disagreements notwithstanding, His Eminence struck me as a humble man with a wonderful sense of humor, a profound sense of the dignity of his office and deep love for the holy sacrifice of the Mass. In his demeanor he’s very much a priest of the old school, and it was not only an honor but also a genuine pleasure to meet with him albeit briefly.

Would we disagree on some fundamental points?  Absolutely!  But the Cardinal doesn’t seem to shy away from discussing those differences, either, and nor is he hesitant to go on the record in defense of traditionalists when simple justice demands it: “As a journalist seeking accuracy in terminology,” I asked him, “is ‘schism’ the correct word to describe the standing of the SSPX?” 

“No, there isn't a schism! They have an ‘irregular standing.’” The Cardinal then proceeded to explain why the SSPX is not in schism (see interview below).

My jaw must have been on the floor. How many times we have made the same argument over the years in the pages of The Remnant only to be chastised by the neo-Catholics as aiders and abettors of schismatics!  With a few brief words the Cardinal obliterated the tired arguments of the schism-mongers. Those who would still insist that traditionalists in the Society of St. Pius X are in schism must now concede that their position is completely untenable, lest they violate the norms of Christian charity.

In addition to publicly defending traditional Catholics against dubious charges, the Cardinal was eager to share his profound appreciation for the old Mass and the traditionalist efforts to preserve it.  Now, let’s consider that for a moment: Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos is in his late 70s; he has spent much of his priestly life offering the New Mass.  Considering this and given his elevated rank in the Church, these repeated calls of his for the old Mass to be restored in every diocese in the world represent a previously unthinkable concession and a rather staggering turn of events. In this sense, then, and regardless of affiliation, champagne corks should have been popping all over ‘tradland’ on May 30, 2008!  We may wish he’d say and do more to rein in the Novus Ordo and its myriad abuses, but as far as the enemies of Tradition are concerned Cardinal Castrillón has said and done far too much already. As far as they’re concerned, in fact, he’s siding with us! And if there was any doubt of that before, his high-profile visit to Lincoln drove the point home rather forcefully. Again, pop the cork!

Twenty years ago when Traditionalists such as this writer were hearing Mass in basement chapels with no hope of reprieve anywhere on the horizon, no one would have dreamed that a day would come when the head of a Vatican commission, acting with the Pope’s full blessing, would offer a traditional Mass and ordain four traditionalist priests in a ceremony televised all around the world! Think of the ramifications of that! Archbishop Bugnini (RIP) must have turned in his grave. We can’t dismiss the impact of such Vatican initiatives in favor of Tradition merely because, in our opinion, the Vatican hasn’t gone far enough.  "Patience and time, time and patience" said the old Russian general as he waited for Napoleon to realize that his Grand Army was about to freeze to death. The game is afoot, and though there’s much work to be done we cannot miss this golden opportunity to take the Cause of Tradition to the next level.  And this includes a constant and respectful reiteration of our legitimate objections.

The progressivists, for example, would like nothing better than to torpedo the Holy Father’s MP by introducing altar girls and Communion in the hand into the traditional Mass. We cannot let that happen.

The new instruction for the MP that is rumored to be coming out soon will evidently deal at least in part with the question of the liturgical calendar. Some speculate that the new calendar might even be foisted upon the old Mass. Again, this would be unacceptable.

Msgr. Gamber was quite right about the fiasco that was the introduction of the new calendar! In The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background (a work formally endorsed by then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger), Gamber wrote: “But what possible advantage can be gained for the pastoral care of the faithful by changing the feast days of the saints in the Church calendar, changing the way of counting Sundays during the liturgical year, or even changing the words of Consecration? What possible advantage can be gained by introducing a completely new Order of Readings and abolishing the old one, or by making minor and unimportant adjustments to the traditional rite, and then finally by publishing a new Missal?  Was all this really done because of a pastoral concern about the souls of the faithful, or did it not rather represent a radical breach with the traditional rite, to prevent the further use of traditional liturgical texts and thus to make the celebration of the “Tridentine Mass” impossible—because it no longer reflected the new spirit moving through the Church?” (The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Page 100)

Would the new instruction actually send us down that road again?  Until we know the answer to this question we’d do well to mend fences and hold our respective positions—with the approved orders working for the Restoration on the inside and the SSPX continuing their work on the ‘outside’. I brought this potential impasse to the Cardinal’s attention last week, and can only pray that he realizes how serious it is. 

These are the questions, then, that remain unanswered as we make our way though these uncharted waters; but these are also the very things that should motivate us to stick together, to form a united front, and to continue to prayerfully and respectfully take the case for Catholic Tradition to the highest authorities in the Church. This is no time to retreat further into the ghetto. Tradition is front-page news all over the world, and Vatican officials are willing to hear us out. I well remember the days when this was not the case...when no one in Rome could hear the voices of traditional Catholics crying the wilderness all over the world.  That at long last has changed, and we need to take advantage of it.  

Here, then, is Cardinal Castrillón. There were two other journalists at the FSSP's press conference on May 30th, as well, and their questions were very insightful; most of the questions concerning traditionalism, the SSPX, the MP etc., are mine. There’s much more I would like to have said to His Eminence but, alas, time was limited and it was late in day. I was grateful for the few minutes with His Eminence that were provided for us.

Special thanks to Fr. Joseph Lee, FSSP, for setting up the conference, and of course to Cardinal Castrillón himself. It was indeed an honor to speak with him, and I pray that God will grant His Eminence every grace necessary during this perilous time to assist in the full restoration of Catholic identity and Catholic life through the full restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass and thus the Traditional faith throughout the world. Please God, may it happen soon! In the meantime, keep the Cardinal in your prayers, as well as the Fraternity of St. Peter and all traditionalist priests who man the front lines in this battle for the soul of the Catholic Church in the modern world.

(To hear a good portion of this interview click here and see 'Vatican Visitor' box. Portions of the interview will also be printed in the June 30th issue of The Remnant.)