From thearchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of Culture Wars.
No Ordinary Bishop
By Michael J. Mazza
From the June 1995 issue of Fidelity magazine
Last month's issue of Fidelity (May 1995) featured an article on the Society of St. Pius X, which, among other things, recounted the story of a young priest by the name of Fr. John Rizzo. Rizzo, it seems, had come to the conclusion in early 1993 that being a schismatic was not all that it was cracked up to be: he subsequently left the Society and came back to the Catholic Church. The essay went on to detail some of the difficulties Fr. Rizzo experienced as a result of that decision, and discussed the eventualities which result when a sect cuts itself off from the life of grace and communion with the one, true Church.
That schism is dangerous to one's own spiritual life should be fairly obvious. St. Thomas Aquinas warned schismatics that because they separate themselves from communion with the members of the Church, whose "Head is Christ Himself," "the fitting punishment for schismatics is that they be excommunicated." (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 39, Art. 4). Excommunication is, of course, the most serious penalty the Church may impose on her members, and is generally reserved for only those sins which are deemed most threatening to the Body of Christ.
But is schism a danger to society as well? Evidently, St. Thomas thought so. Writing in the same article of his Summa, the Angelic Doctor notes that since schismatics also "refuse submission to the head of the Church, wherefore, since they are unwilling to be controlled by the Church's spiritual power, it is just that they should be compelled by the secular power." (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 39, Art. 4). Yet he urges restraint in the administration of such penalties:
"The punishments of the present life are medicinal, and therefore when one punishment does not suffice to compel a man, another is added; just as physicians employ several body medicines when one has no effect. In like manner the Church, when excommunication does not sufficiently restrain certain men, employs the compulsion of the secular arm. If, however, one punishment suffices, another should not be employed." (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 39, Art. 4).
Given the medieval notion of church-state relations to which many within the Society of St. Pius X adhere, one wonders how they would extricate themselves from what appears to be a deep philosophical bind. If, in other words, the dreams of the traditionalists for a truly "Catholic state" ever materialized, they might find themselves among the first to be thrown into prison, as they would be found guilty of fracturing the order necessary to preserve the common good.
While the establishment of a Lefebvrist "Catholic state" is not likely to appear anytime in the near future, it appears that even the morally catatonic Clinton administration has recognized the potential threats that exist within extremist groups occupying what they see as the far right of the political spectrum. As a matter of fact, it appears that the only authoritative moral judgments the Liberal Regime can make are leveled against such people. This is why the chief law enforcement official in this country lets abortionists go free and why people like Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidians are held up as martyrs by the militia crowd.
This might also explain why groups of federal agents investigating the Oklahoma City bombing have descended upon the town of St. Mary's, Kansas in recent weeks and the campus of St. Mary's Academy and College in particular. According to a report in the May 5 edition of the Topeka Capitol-Journal, federal investigators questioned three staff members of St. Mary's Academy and College in their search for any Kansas connections to the incident, but in the end stated they saw no apparent links between the Society and the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
A cloud of suspicion still hangs over St. Mary's, however. A Newsweek reporter acknowledged hearing three different reports that Timothy McVeigh, one of the main suspects charged in the crime, was seen in St. Mary's just days before the bombing. McVeigh reportedly visited an auto parts store and went to Mass at St. Mary's on Easter Sunday. Officials are undoubtedly researching these McVeigh sightings to see if they are legitimate leads or the Midwestern equivalent of Elvis apparitions.
In any case, the fact that Society members at St. Mary's are finding themselves having to deny any connection to paramilitary militia, neo-Nazi groups, and the most heinous act of terrorism that has yet to occur in this country is itself instructive, even if it should turn out that the only reason McVeigh stopped in St. Mary's was because he took a wrong turn on US highway 77.
After all, law enforcement authorities have access to a fair amount of evidence that at least some of the membership and including some of the leadership, of schismatic groups like the Society of St. Pius X has become aligned with some rather unsavory political movements, especially in recent years. It was in July of 1988 that Pope John Paul II declared the SSPX to be in formal schism, just after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre conferred episcopal orders on four Society priests against the express will of the Holy Father.
Many critics of the Society have pointed to that ultimate action of disobedience during the sultry summer of 1988 as the beginning of the Society's steep decline from what it once had been - a respectable voice advocating authentic post-conciliar reform - to what it has apparently become; that is, just one more increasingly isolated sect that stubbornly insists it is not in schism, and that it is the Church itself which has become defective.
One of those four men Lefebvre ordained, the English born Bishop Richard Williamson, has arguably become the most notorious of his class. Besides performing his duties at the Society's seminary in Winona, Minnesota, Williamson has apparently had time to establish some connections with some, shall we say, interesting groups of people.
An advertisement appearing in the January 1993 issue of the Researcher newsletter, for example, enthusiastically announces the release of the first of a projected series of videos entitled Christian Separatists and Traditionalists. The 50-minute color video is "partly an interview with and partly a lecture by Bishop Richard N. Williamson of the Roman Catholic Society of St. Pius X given in Syracuse, New York, apparently sometime around the latter part of 1992. The author of the ad first attempts to assuage the fears of any anti-Catholic Nazis who might be reading it:
"Diehard anti-Catholics will groan and imagine this is a tape full of direction about Catholic piety (there is some), "Popery" and the usual church support for the system. Ah, but this is a churchman with a difference! In the late 1980s, Bishop Williamson spoke in Quebec where he told a packed church that Ernst Zundel was right! (The Zionist-controlled satrapy of Canada tried to have him permanently barred for that). Next Bishop Williamson invited battling barrister Doug Christie to St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota to give an address. This is no ordinary bishop!"
For the uninitiated, Ernst Zundel is a German-born Canadian immigrant who, according to the Anti-Defamation League, acts as a commercial artist when he is not serving as a Nazi apologist. According to the ADL, Zundel has written such books as Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions and The Hitler We Loved and Why. One of his main theses is, of course, that the stories of the Holocaust are simply untrue.
The ADL notes that Zundel was charged in 1985 under a provision of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting individuals from "knowingly publishing false news that caused or was likely to cause damage to social or racial tolerance." Another Canadian revisionist, high school teacher James Keegstra, was accused in 1985 of "willfully promoting hatred towards a definable group, i.e., the Jewish people." Both defendants were successfully represented in court by attorney Douglas Christie, who was featured as a guest speaker at the institute for Historical Review's Seventh International Revisionist Conference in February 1986.
Since 1981, according to the Anti-Defamation League's 1993 book Hitler's Apologists, the IHR Conventions have provided an annual forum for revisionist historians to come together and present papers challenging the veracity of the Holocaust. One of the featured speakers at a recent IHR convention was Ditlieb Felderer of Sweden who asserts that Anne Frank's diary is a hoax. Felderer was convicted in May 1983 by a Swedish court for distributing anti-Semitic hate mail, including locks of hair and pieces of fat which he claimed belonged to Holocaust victims.
The IHR's Eleventh Revisionist Conference took place in October 1992 in the Los Angeles area. According to the ADL, the IHR's "George Orwell Free Speech" award was presented to the "neo-Hitlerian" Ewald Athans, who accepted it on behalf of Ernst Zundel, who reportedly had been denied entry into the United States. Also appearing as a speaker at this same conference was none other than Wolf Rudiger Hess, the son of Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. Another interesting note: the July 1989 IHR Newsletter reported that Dr. Boyd Cathey, a former priest with the Society of St. Pius X and erstwhile professor at the Society's seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut, was the latest addition to its Editorial Advisory Committee.
Judging from the friendly tone of the ad in the Researcher as well as from his invitation to Christie to speak at his seminary, it appears that Bishop Williamson shares at least the historical perspective of these men. Arriving at such a conclusion is not difficult when one reads the panegyrical concluding lines from the Researcher ad: On the video [Williamson] even predicts, in line with a prophecy of La Salette that Rome will become the seat of the Anti-Christ.... If we had even one Protestant bishop of a church congregation the size of the Society of St. Pius X that spoke and acted as Bishop Williamson does, our cause would be far advanced."
It seems fairly certain that no one at the Institute for Historical Review would fault Williamson for not trying his hardest to advance the standard of the historical revisionists. After his address in Quebec in 1989, the IHR Newsletter proudly reported that Bishop Williamson had been subsequently harassed by "Jewish groups, abetted by 'interfaith groups' and the local Catholic hierarchy (Bishop Williams [Sic] movement is considered schismatic by the current Catholic hierarchy), [who] not merely denounced the bishop but set the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on his trail, since the interfaith posse deemed the bishop to have violated Canada's 'hate laws' which have already been applied against James Keegstra and others to good effect."
The idea of Bishop Williamson having to flee "the interfaith posse" provokes an interesting image. An excommunicated Catholic bishop on the run from the Canadian Mounties, his fine, white-laced surplice blowing about him as he flees for the American border, a modern-day martyr for truth, at least in the eyes of the revisionists. Frenzied crowds of swastika-toting skinheads wildly cheer him on, while St. Thomas Aquinas, from his heavenly vantage point, prayerfully pulls for the cops.
Index of SSPX articles
Culture Wars •