Upon reading the news about Fr. Rodriguez, my thoughts immediately turned to a story I remembered, printed in Michael Davies’ Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre: Volume III. The story was in the form of an article reprinted from the December 1981 issue of The Homiletic and Pastoral Review. The title was “The Plight of a Papist Priest.” The anonymous priest in question was not even a Traditional priest, but simply a priest who professed the Catholic Faith. Still, even in the era of John Paul II, he, and countless other priests like him, were in the process of being marginalized and persecuted by bishops and the diocesan structures of the Conciliar Church. Even though this priest merely cited certain orthodox statements of Faith and morality from the writings of John Paul II and Vatican II, this was still considered too “conservative” by the modernist police and he, and others like him, were considered a threat and neutralized.
In those days, this “papist priest” felt he could appeal to the Pope who supported certain traditional Catholic doctrines against numerous openly Modernist bishops and clergy. Sadly, today, good conservative priests can no longer even count on the Pope or Rome to back them up against the heavy hand of their local “progressive” bishop. In fact, bishops such as these (Kasper, Maradiaga) are now the Pope’s closest friends, advisors, and theologians! Most relevant of all is this priest’s chastisement of the marriage tribunals that fast tracked and liberally granted annulments in the 1980’s. Surely this priest would be even more shocked and scandalized by the Pope himself now calling for even more fast-tracked annulments.
In the following text, I quote portions of this priest’s story from 1981. If you have time, you should read the full article here. Sadly, hardly anything has changed since the “papist priest” wrote his damning assessment of Conciliar bishops and diocesan workings. The parallels between his case over thirty years ago and the case of Fr. Rodriguez today are striking. Please pray for Fr. Rodriguez and for the Church in our country...Chris Jackson
…In his diocesan context the papist priest is a pariah, the butt of obloquy, of condescending pity, barred from any positions of influence, quarantined to small enclaves, usually isolated rural places where he can do least "damage." For all that, it must be emphasized that what we call here the "papist priest" is, in any healthy Catholic diocese, just another priest in good standing.
To get some grasp of the jeopardy in which he exists, let us, sketchily, survey some conditions in the control dioceses in which Modernism has all but smothered Roman Catholicism.
…The most sensitive diocesan offices are in the hands of Modernists. They are, as was boasted publicly a decade ago, "in lock-tight control" of the religious education establishment. All the staff must be in harmony with the director's philosophy. Any papist catechetical books, aids, lectures, etc., are rigidly excluded, in some cases by a list of "disallowed" materials. Only Modernist texts are endorsed. Thus has the Index been revived- to destroy the Faith! Diocesan education conventions are brainwashing spectaculars whose rosters of speakers and topics are completely predictable.
…The diocesan press is firmly in the progressive camp: columnists (McBrien, Greeley, Boster, Curran, et al) features such as "Know Your Faith"; and even the diurnal flow of news is filtered through NC whose slant is showing. That Rome knows the problem has been brought home by the remarkable message of Archbishop Pio Laghi to the American episcopal publishers. The parishes are under enormous pressure to take "full coverage.” A papist priest has the choice to disobey his bishop or feed poison to his flock.
…What has transposed this nightmare into a wide-awake scream in the dark focuses on the activities tribunals. For years, we papists have suspected that something was rotten with their praxis. We were constantly assured that all was beyond reproach, that the soaring numbers of annulments were due to new norms, expanded staffs, greater efficiency, etc. Meanwhile, in our (typically) small country parishes there were disproportionate volumes of annulments. Folks at the bars began to gossip and make bitter accusatory jokes. They knew people on the next farm who had been married for years and had five children and suddenly they were "rendered asunder." We pastors closed our eyes, swallowed hard, told God that we couldn't overrule the bishop's own experts and we married the new annullees to new spouses who were often enough annullees themselves. Thank God, we were not privy to the grounds, much less to the acts. But then came cracks of thunder: Pope John Paul II in November 1979 spoke of "divortio sub alio nomine tecto" in reference to unqualified annulments. The full storm broke loose publicly at the fall 1980 Synod on the Family. Cardinal Felici told us what we had long suspected and the Holy Father seconded the complaint in equally firm if less inflammatory terms. It was this crisis more than anything else that drove me to write this article and suggested its title. Once more the papists may be constrained to stand up for the Pope on the matter of annulment-this time by the hundreds of thousands. Poor Henry! Why the fuss in 1534? It is now imperative to pose hard, excruciating questions that cannot be left unanswered. There is now sufficient doubt about U.S. annulments that pastors cannot drift along without a final decision. It is the opinion of this writer that the annulment debacle has for a decade rooted and institutionalized the potentials and dynamics of an American schism. How can thousands of these cases, affecting new families, and affecting all who are related to them, be reversed? How do you annul an annulment? On the other hand, how can the Church close her eyes to what are invalid unions, for that is precisely what has been suggested by the Roman comments.
We papist priests find ourselves, by the grace of God, entrenched here and there in these arenas of apocalyptic anarchy. Usually we are in the "boon-docks," small rural communities. It has become nearly impossible to serve larger parishes except where two papists have contrived to be assigned together and have been in place for some time. Also these priests must have found good religious, who still staff the schools and allow them to satisfy their "scruples." Once a parish has been converted to the "new Church" it becomes interdict to papists. I have seen a brilliant, devout, vigorous priest attempt to assume control of a Modernist parish. Within six months he had been ground to powder by the parish council and the nuns. He left for the hinterlands, broken and disillusioned. In our foxholes we must compromise as far as we can, for, we are well aware, there are few places left to take us in. These "priest holes," to allude again to the past, are far from hermetically sealed. Our people are very mobile. They often visit Modernist parishes as they travel or attend weddings and funerals. Their children bring their stories to school on Monday mornings. "Father, guess what they do in that other church!" Do we tell innocent children that the other priests are disobedient? The confusion mounts as the months go by. Less stable parishioners apply pressures for outdoor polka masses, for scandalously secularized weddings, for intercommunion, for general absolution, etc.
…The basic question is what do we papist priests do when we experience a direct conflict between the authority of the Holy Father and the authority of our local bishop? What are we to do when the bishop, directly or indirectly through his officials, orders us to disregard (and in fact disobey) repeated and insistent papal directives? Do we obey the bishop or the Pope? To state the question seems to answer it, but to know the answer in theory is not to solve it in practice. We need guidance from the highest authority since problems such as time of First Confession, general absolution, inter-communion, to name only a few common conflicts, are well known to Rome but the bishops have been permitted to remain in authority, to all appearances in full communion. We appreciate that remedial action takes time, but meanwhile we need moral direction for our consciences and pragmatically clear pastoral guidance. The questions become specific: Must we attend lectures given by heretics when the bishop so insists? Should we feel justified in concelebrating with priests who openly deny essentials of the Faith, including the doctrine of the Real Presence, or when glaring abuses take place and we seem to endorse them by our participation? Very specifically, if we have been directed by the diocese to pour the left over Precious Blood down the sacrarium, should we do so in peaceful conscience? When priests, notoriously radical in doctrine and in liturgical discipline, come to our parishes, let us say for weddings or funerals, what should be our response? Are we to continue to suspend judgment, stifle our fears, and routinely cooperate with our tribunals in areas of suspect annulments? Is it tolerable that the now public disagreement between Rome and the U.S. canonists simply drifts for years without a resolution? What should be our stance in regard to the people committed to our pastoral care? Must we remain silent forever about the errors and abuses which inundate them? Dare we risk causing scandal by warning our faithful people about this spiritual poison when they know that specific priests and perhaps the bishop himself are prescribing it? We have been prudential for years; is this a virtue or a vice?
These, and a long litany more, are momentous, historical questions. They are of utmost urgency. If they are not answered soon, or if remedy is not otherwise given by corrective action, the papist priest will have no recourse but to meekly and silently retire and live his life (be it years or decades) without public exercise of his public ministry. And why? Simply because in these sorry times he must, in conscience, remain loyal to the Vicar of Christ. He demands the right to believe what the Pope teaches and freely to obey his directives. In Washington, D.C., October 7, 1979, in his address at Catholic University, Pope John Paul reminded the bishops of the "greatest right" of the faithful: to receive the Catholic doctrine purely and entirely. In April of 1980 he issued Inaestimabile donum, in which he added to this "bill of rights of the faithful" the "right to a true liturgy, which means the liturgy desired and laid down by the Church..." Surely faithful priests, a fortiori, since they are pastors of the flock, must have these same rights: the right to openly profess and teach and defend the Faith as it is taught by the Pope; the right to adhere to the liturgical laws authorized by Rome; the right to defend the Holy Eucharist from profanation; the right to keep inviolate the Profession of Faith and the Oath Against Modernism, which we solemnly swore on the eve of our ordination. Were we not imbued with a sense of deference and reverence towards ecclesiastical office, we would be tempted to call for a "priests' liberation movement" to demand these rights, without which we cannot survive.(1)
1) From Michael Davies' Introduction to the article: "...The author of the article stresses that he is not a "Lefebvrist," but the very fact of being orthodox shows that, where contemporary bishops are concerned, he might just as well be. It is unfortunate that he considers resignation and living out his life without exercising his ministry the only option open to him. The "papist priest" might have remembered that the salvation of souls is the supreme law, even if this means working for this end outside the official diocesan structures, as St. Athanasius did. Could any true Catholic who reads this article truly fault Mgr. Lefebvre for going into the dioceses of the Modernist bishops which it describes in order to sustain the faith of the persecuted remnant of orthodox believers?"