February 1984 Print

The Barbarians Have Taken Over

Michael Davies

Michael Davies has already provided us with pamphlets giving fully documented information on such topics as Communion in the hand, Communion under both kinds, and the legal status of the Tridentine Mass. His next one will be on the subject of the sanctuary. What does Catholic Tradition have to say about the position of the tabernacle or Mass facing the people? Did Pope Paul VI or his successors promulgate any mandatory law on these subjects? Has what has taken place in the sanctuaries of almost every Catholic church in the English-speaking world been a true renewal or an act of barbarism? We shall publish Mr. Davies' conclusions as a series of articles before providing them for you in pamphlet form. In this first part he introduces the subject with an event which dramatizes in the most powerful manner possible the conflict which we are witnessing between the Conciliar Church and Traditional Catholicism. Don't be too depressed by the story he relates; the account has a twist in the tail which will boost your morale!


Deus, venerunt gentes in haereditatem tuam,
poluerunt templum sanctum tuum;
posuerunt Jerusalem in pomorum custodiam.

These words, taken from Psalm 28, begin the Introit for the Feast of the English and Welsh Martyrs, celebrated in all the diocese of England and Wales on May 4th. "O God, the heathens are come into Thy inheritance: they have defiled Thy holy temple; they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit." These words are harsh, but harsh words are needed to describe the havoc wrought by Protestant Reformers in the ancient churches, abbeys, and cathedrals of Great Britain. Altars were smashed; a vernacular Communion Service was celebrated facing the people over a table; Communion was given under both kinds; the bread was placed in the communicant's hand to signify that it was no more than bread, and that the minister who celebrated the Communion Service was not a priest. The Blessed Sacrament, which had always hung in a place of honor over the high altar was banished from every church in the land. Churches were denuded of their vestments, religious paintings, statues, missals and other liturgical books were destroyed in what the Protestant historian, Professor T.S. Bindoff, described as "a frenzy of destruction."


We Will Have the Mass

There was, at first, considerable resistance among the ordinary faithful. When Thomas Cranmer, the apostate Archbishop of Canterbury, imposed his first Protestant Prayer Book in 1549, there was an armed rising in the West of England. It is significant that opposition to Cranmer's revolution emerged primarily among the laity. Almost all the clergy were willing to go along with the changes. West Country peasants forced their priests to put on their Mass vestments and celebrate the traditional liturgy. In the end 4,000 of them were slaughtered. A reign of terror was implemented. Executions were fixed for market days, priests were hanged from their steeples, and the heads of laymen set up in the high places of the towns. The leaders were hanged at Tyburn on 7 January 1550. Thus were the peasants of the West induced to accept the new "godly order" of worship devised by Thomas Cranmer and set forth by order of Parliament. This "godly order," he assured them, was an offer they should not refuse; it had been drawn up by experts, it represented a return to primitive simplicity, only the ignorant or the malicious would wish to refuse it, but, in the end, the offer was one that they couldn't refuse—not if they wished to keep their heads upon their shoulders.

The demands for which these humble men died have been recorded for us. They will strike a chord in the heart of every true Catholic:

We will have the Mass in Latin as before.

We will have the Sacrament hang over the high altar,1 and there to be worshipped as it was wont to be, and they which will not thereto consent, we will have them die like heretics against the Holy Catholic Faith.

We will have palms and ashes at the times accustomed, images to be set up again in every Church.

We will not receive the new service because it is like a Christmas game, but we will have our old service of Matins, Mass, Evensong, and procession in Latin not in English, as it was before.


A Kansas City Cranmer

Cranmer could not find English troops who were willing to massacre the West Country peasants. Most Englishmen were in total sympathy with the rebels. He had to hire foreign mercenaries to act as his hatchet men. I could not help recalling this when reading of what took place in the parish of Christ the King, in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday, 27 April 1981. I had visited the parish only two days before, and had met many of the personalities involved in the events which I shall describe.

Parishioners who wished to enter their church were unable to do so. They were forcibly excluded by armed police brought in by Bishop George Fitzsimmons, an auxiliary bishop who had been appointed pastor of Christ the King. The bishop had brought in his mercenaries so that the tabernacle containing Christ, our Eucharistic King, could be torn from its place of honor on the high altar to be demoted to a brick pedestal at the side of the church. The bishop had not gone quite as far as Cranmer and banished Our Lord from the church completely, but he had made sure that the focus of attention there in future would be Bishop George Fitzsimmons, the liturgical president, an episcopal operator possessing a smoothness and ruthlessness which Cranmer himself would have envied.

A plaque  in memory of John Payne

A plaque on the wall of the Church of the Sacred Heart, and St. Ia at St. Ives in Cornwall, in memory of John Payne, portreeve, who was hanged in the market place, and all the men of St. Ives who died to defend the Catholic Faith in the Western Rising.


The Barbarians Have Taken Over

What took place in the parish of Christ the King in April, 1982, is an apt symbol of what has taken place in the sanctuaries of thousands of Catholic churches since the Second Vatican Council. This Council had raised hopes of a great spiritual renewal among most English-speaking Catholics. But the reality was well summarized by the late Archbishop R. J. Dwyer, of Portland, Oregon: "hopes blasted, gone a-glimmering. For the barbarians have taken over, the despisers of culture, unless it be the culture of the Grand Old Opry and the discotheque, of the denatured liturgy and the ICEL."2

The parish of Christ the King had been a thorn in the side of Bishop John L. Sullivan of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, for several years. Most of the bishop's parishes had suffered a severe decline in Mass attendance following the imposition of the denatured liturgy which he had declared would renew his flock. But the parish of Christ the King had a different problem: coping with a massive increase in Mass attendance. The Pastor, Msgr. Vincent Kearny, had implemented the post-conciliar liturgical changes mandated by the Vatican. He had not followed the example of Archbishop Lefebvre and refused to abandon the Mass of his ordination, the Tridentine Mass, but opted instead to offer the New Mass in the most reverent manner possible. There were no banners, clowns, guitars, balloons, or go-go girls in the sanctuary of Christ the King. The communion rails remained intact, kneeling communicants received the Host upon the tongue only from the consecrated hands of a priest—extraordinary ministers of Communion were never used. The hymns sung were traditional, as were the many well-attended devotions provided in the church for its devout and profoundly Catholic parishioners. Above all, the tabernacle remained in the place of greatest honor and greatest prominence, upon the center of the high altar as prescribed by Canon Law.

The most evident characteristic of post-conciliar Catholicism has been the self-exaltation of man and an almost total neglect of the honor we are bound to offer to Almighty God. Similarly, there is now an almost total lack of interest in heaven, the world to come, and an excessive preoccupation with this world. The average Catholic bishop in the U.S.A. will be more concerned with warning his flock of the dangers of a nuclear war, rather than the danger of losing their immortal souls and spending an eternity in hell. The traditional liturgy is evidently God-centered, focussed on heaven, aptly symbolized by priest and people offering the Sacrifice together facing the east, the traditional symbol of the Resurrection and the heavenly Jerusalem. In the reformed liturgy priest and people have turned in upon themselves, and the purpose of their coming together often appears to be mutual entertainment rather than the solemn worship of a transcendent and omnipotent God. The celebrant, the "president of the assembly," is to be the focus of attention, but the presence of our Eucharistic King in a tabernacle in the center of the altar remained a distraction to any parishioner who had retained at least a vestigial Catholic sentiment—so the tabernacle had to go! But in the parish of Christ the King, Monsignor Kearney would not tolerate any dimunition in the honor paid to the Blessed Sacrament. In Christ the King parish, Christ was still King. It was the only parish church in the diocese where the tabernacle had been retained in its proper position of honor.


A Contemporary Shepherd

Clearly this was a situation that Bishop Sullivan could not tolerate, particularly as priests from neighboring parishes were becoming extremely anxious at the widespread emigration to Christ the King, where Mass attendance had grown to 5,000. Monsignor Kearney had been ordained in 1943; he had served the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for thirty-five years. In a letter published in The Wanderer on 16 April 1981, Msgr. Kearney recounted the manner in which his fidelity had been rewarded:

On June 10, 1978, at 10:30 a.m., John J. Sullivan, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, ordered me by telephone to leave Christ the King parish "immediately." There was no cause presented for such manner of action. No new parish assignment was ever discussed. No parish was offered nor has been offered to me at any time. I left Christ the King parish as ordered by Bishop Sullivan and took up residence with my sister in our family home without any financial assistance from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. That is my present status.

The public face of the Conciliar Church is of bishops, priests, and people united happily together in a smiling, joyful, hand clapping, hand shaking community dedicated primarily to peace and justice—rather like the official version of life in the USSR. But the reality of the Conciliar Church is very similar to the reality of the USSR; the treatment received by Msgr. Kearney represents the true face of conciliar Catholicism, and his case is very far from being an isolated example.


A Good Shepherd—Conciliar Style

Bishop Sullivan had described as "religious illiterates" those Catholics who did not feel all warm and tingly at each new liturgical aberration which he imposed upon them. Having disposed of Msgr. Kearney, he anticipated little difficulty in putting the "religious illiterates" of Christ the King parish in their place. He wanted the Catholic ethos of the parish destroyed effectively and immediately; there was to be no delay, no pity for the broken hearts of the faithful. When has progress come without casualties? On the very ground where the parish now stood there had been Indians who had not wished to keep in step with the march of progress. It may well have been the treatment accorded to them which inspired Bishop Sullivan to treat his "religiously illiterate" sheep with the same severity. There were to be no half measures. He sent in Bishop George Fitzsimmons as his episcopal hitman, with an open contract to lean upon the "religious illiterates" as heavily as he wished until the parish had been "renewed," until peace and harmony reigned, until an ecstatic smile could be found on every face in a joyful parish community.

Bishop Fitzsimmons is a master of the friendly smile, the firm and reassuring handshake. He assured the people that rumors they may have heard that he was there to change everything were incorrect.

He would change nothing against their wishes. But, alas, Msgr. Kearny had not kept them fully informed about the thinking behind the great renewal. He would explain this thinking, and then, if they agreed to changes, would changes be made. I am sure that he smiled when he said this, his eyes may even have twinkled in the most paternal manner possible. I seem to recollect some words in Hamlet on the subject of smiling. They are not intended to refer to any person, living or dead, but they have just passed through my mind so I will share them with the reader:

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables, meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile,
and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Kansas City.3

Bishop Fitzsimmons explained to the parish council why the tabernacle should be removed from the altar. The members were allowed to respond. I am told that one even read to him most of Chapter XX of my book Pope Paul's New Mass which is devoted to the subject of the tabernacle. Well, the result of this friendly, conciliar dialogue was that the parish council most emphatically did not want the tabernacle demoted to a lesser position; and so that, one might have hoped, was that. We read in the Bible that one's yea should be yea and one's nay, nay. One might reasonably presume that ones that should also be that—but we must remember that we are living in the Conciliar Church where more often than not, it is unreasonable to be reasonable. Bearing this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Bishop George K. Fitzsimmons soon announced that the tabernacle would be removed. I understand that when some of the evidently "religiously illiterate" parishioners asked their shepherd why he had gone back on his word they were informed that he had changed his mind, and that was good enough for them. It is probably an indication of my own lack of religious literacy that I found it hard to reconcile this answer with a paragraph in the Vatican II Decree on the Office of Bishops in the Church:

In exercising his office of father and pastor the bishop should be with his people as one who serves, as a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, as a true father who excels in his love and solicitude for all, to whose divinely conferred authority all readily submit. He should so unite and mold his flock into one family that all, conscious of their duties, may live and act in the communion of charity.

Bishops Sullivan and Fitzsimmons may not quite match up to this ideal, but they have few rivals when it comes to the friendly smile, the warm handshake, or the quick stab in the back. They clearly envisage the role of their flock as accepting meekly whatever bizarre or heterodox caprice is currently tickling their episcopal fancies. The official interpretation of pastoral solicitude in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is that when your bishop tells you to jump, you jump—and you don't take a second to think before jumping. If a priest so much as raises an eyebrow he'll be put straight out of his parish—Msgr. Kearney is by no means an isolated example. The slow-jumping layman will find an armed policeman brought in to speed up his reflexes.

One also hears a great deal about openness and dialogue in the Conciliar Church. In Kansas City-St. Joseph this means openness to those whose views appeal to the bishops. Sister Teresa Kane, who insulted the Pope in public, and who espouses every goofy cause imaginable, was welcomed as an honored speaker. Dr. John Senior, an outstanding Catholic academic, was banned for being controversial, i.e., he accepts the official teaching of the Church on faith and morals, and boy, in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, that's really being controversial!

It is not hard to imagine the reaction of the two friendly neighborhood shepherds when they heard that on March 30, 1981, a group of Christ the King parishioners had not simply hesitated to jump at an episcopal command, but had defied the command in a very marked manner. They had sat down in front of the wall where workmen were attempting to build a squalid brick pedestal on which the tabernacle would be placed after it had been torn from its place of honor on the high altar. The foreman decided to halt the work. "As long as someone is in the way, I am not going to harm or touch them in any way," he said. Well, such was the devotion of the parishioners of Christ the King to the Blessed Sacrament that they were willing to prevent the removal of the tabernacle to a lesser position as long as was necessary. Each day it was defended by women kneeling in adoration, and at night men of the parish patrolled in their cars in case the bishops attempted a sneaky night-time demolition. The flock of the diocese knew their shepherds, and the shepherds were perplexed for a week or two—three to be precise. It may well be that the bishops were inspired by Cranmer's solution for the Western rebels for they adopted the same procedure and brought in mercenaries.

At the behest of the bishops, Judge Donald L. Mason of the Jackson County Circuit Court imposed a temporary restraining order, with effect from Monday, April 27th. The shepherd had invoked the civil authority to forbid his flock from entering their parish church. The order was to stay in effect for ten days, and the penalty for violation was a $500 fine or 180 days in the Jackson County Jail. And lest any parishioners' love for their Eucharistic King was such that they were willing to incur these penalties, armed police were hired to exclude them by physical force. "Detective Mike Singleton of the Kansas City Police Robbery Unit, said he and the other officers on duty at Christ the King were being paid by the church to provide security and were not working on regular duty shifts. All wore police uniforms and carried standard equipment."—so read a report in The Kansas City Star of 27 April 1981.

The report said that: "Inside the church, workmen using power tools and bricklaying equipment were making the change in the sanctuary, the loud whine of their drills and saws drowning out the voices of protesters outside."

The report added that the mood outside the locked doors was tense. "The bishop is using armed force to impose this destruction," lamented one parishioner. A reporter asked a young girl from the parochial school why she had joined the protesters. The reason, she said, was so that she could answer unafraid "when Jesus asks us in heaven, what did we do to defend the faith." May God bless her and reward her. I would certainly prefer to be in her shoes on judgment day than in those of either of her bishops!


Shepherds Turned Wolves

I can well imagine adherents of the Conciliar Church being scandalized that I could make such a statement. "How," they might ask, "could you possibly opt for the judgment of a little girl rather than that of two bishops, successors of the apostles, lawful rulers in their diocese, the duly appointed shepherds of their flock?" A valid point and one that merits a serious reply. And the reply I would give them is a comment made by Dom Prosper Gueranger, one of the greatest of Catholic scholars, concerning the public protest of a layman at the heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople in 428:

When the shepherd turns into a wolf the first duty of the flock is to defend itself. As a general rule, doctrine comes from the bishops to the faithful, and it is not for the faithful, who are subjects in the order of faith, to pass judgment on their superiors. But every Christian, by virtue of his title to the name of Christian, has not only the necessary knowledge of the essentials of the treasures of Revelation, but also the duty of safeguarding them.

Well, should Bishops Sullivan and Fitzsimmons be considered as shepherds or as wolves? Is it not possible that the people of Christ the King parish really were "religious illiterates"? As if to prove this point, the Reverend John Weiss, a diocesan spokesman, pointed out that Christ the King "is the only parish in the diocese" in which the tabernacle "is still on the main altar of worship."

What credence can be given to a person or a parish in a minority of one? Superficially, this is a very persuasive argument. I recollect a high priest asking whether it was not expedient that one man should die for the people; I recollect St. John Fisher making his solitary protest that King Henry VIII was not the head of the Church; I recollect, above all, St. Athanasius who was persecuted and excommunicated for refusing to accept the heresy of Arius who denied that Jesus Christ was the second person of the Blessed Trinity, equal in every respect to the Father. This dogma of the Faith had been universally accepted and appeared unassailable, and yet, as the saying goes, the world woke one morning and groaned to find itself Arian. Few of the bishops, I might add, joined in the groaning—they saved their disapproval for Athanasius who rocked the episcopal boat. They put so much pressure upon Liberius, a weak and vacillating pope, that he signed an ambiguous Arian formula and excommunicated the heroic defender of orthodoxy.

As this article is being written in 1984, I can hardly not refer to George Orwell's classic novel with this title. When one reflects upon the current regime in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, it is impossible not to recollect the principle of "doublethink" utilized by the Party in this novel. It means "the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary." Thus, commenting on the events at Christ the King in The Kansas City Times, 1 May 1981, Father William Bauman, Pastor of St. Charles Church, said that the moving of the tabernacle does not relegate Christ to a lesser position "but a clearer place of honor."

I am perfectly prepared to believe that when Father Bauman said this, he believed it; he knew it. I do not know his age, but he had probably received exactly the same seminary education as Msgr. Kearney. He had probably loved and venerated the Blessed Sacrament as fervently as Msgr. Kearney does, and, before the Council, would probably have given his life rather than accept the least diminution in the honor that should be given to our Eucharistic King. Yet now, in the best tradition of "doublethink," he knows, he really knows, that removing the Blessed Sacrament from the position of honor in the center of the altar constitutes placing it in "a clearer position of real honor."

The fact that his former parish had been in a minority of one in not accepting the removal of the tabernacle from the high altar was pointed out to Msgr. Kearney by the Religious Editor of The Kansas City Star. Monsignor Kearney's reply deserved to be recorded and remembered; may God bless and reward him for it:

"It should have happened in every other parish," he declared. "The people were brainwashed and lied to when they were told we have to make these changes and that the pope wanted the tabernacle moved. The mystery is not why Christ the King didn't do it, but why the others did it!

The priests were also misled into believing that the changes were inevitable and necessary, but when we started investigating we found that these things were not mandatory." (My emphasis.)

The hero of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four is a man called Winston Smith. In point of fact he is not much of a hero, and eventually he capitulates. He accepts that Big Brother is right; he believes that black is white, he knows that black is white, and he is happy to know this, and to be united in belief with Big Brother and his mindless, obsequious subjects. But Winston Smith had at least put up a fight. He had not been prepared, as almost everyone else was, to surrender his God-given powers of intellect, reason, and will without a fight. Because he had refused to accept the consensus opinion, he was considered to be mad (i.e., insane). But, he reasoned: "Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad."

Winston Smith was not mad, St. Athanasius and St. John Fisher were not mad. But was Monsignor Kearney mad? Let me repeat the allegations he made concerning the alleged obligation of removing the tabernacle from the main altar of worship:

1. The people were lied to—this means lied to by bishops.

2. The people were brainwashed—this means that unethical manipulative techniques were utilized to deceive them by bishops with the approval of bishops.

3. There has been no mandatory legislation approved by the Pope commanding that the tabernacle must be moved from the main altar of worship—this means that priests who keep their tabernacle on the high altar were not breaking Church Law; therefore attempts by bishops to coerce them into demoting it to a lesser position constitutes an abuse of power which they would be entitled to resist.

We shall examine Msgr. Kearney's allegations in the next issue of The Angelus. We shall bear in mind that, as a diocesan spokesman delighted to point out, he was in a minority of one in his position. But, as we are living in 1984, we shall bear in mind the words of Winston Smith, that "being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad." We must thus accept the possibility that Msgr. Kearney was right, and that if he is, this reflects very badly on the countless parish priests who have instigated or acquiesced in the barbaric "frenzy of destruction" perpetrated in the sanctuaries of tens of thousands of Catholic churches at a financial cost of millions of dollars, and at a spiritual and artistic cost that can never be calculated: "Deus, venerunt gentes in haereditatem tuam, poluerunt templum sanctum tuum."


Episcopal Doublethink

Bishop Fitzsimmons had his way. The tabernacle has been relegated to its squalid brick pedestal. His mercenaries had earned their pay. Thus were the people of Christ the King parish induced to accept the new "godly order" devised by Bishop Sullivan, and set forth with the approval of his diocesan commissions. Then, having destroyed the ethos and harmony of a flourishing parish, a diocesan spokesman issued a statement which, I am convinced, cannot be rivaled within the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four as an example of "doublethink":

The statement said the diocese hoped that the changes, approved by diocesan building and liturgical councils, "will bring a new sense of unity, understanding and purpose among the members of Christ the King congregation" (Kansas City Star, 27 April 1981).


An Irony of History

But the story does not end quite here, with total victory for Bishop Sullivan. He was not able to sit down with Bishop Fitzsimmons for a refreshing cocktail, after exchanging warm handshakes and mutually congratulatory smiles. No, Bishop Sullivan was not able to say: "Well, George, we've done it at last! There is not a tabernacle on a high altar in the entire diocese." Bishop Sullivan was denied that satisfaction, and the story ends with a victory for Christ the King.

St. Vincent de Paul Church in Kansas City

St. Vincent de Paul Church in Kansas City

A few days later another bishop re-dedicated a church in Kansas City, and on the center of the magnificent high altar of that church there reposes a splendid tabernacle. The church in question is the cathedral-like structure of St. Vincent de Paul, among the most beautiful Catholic churches in America. It had been purchased by the Society of St. Pius X, and on Sunday, May 10th, Archbishop Lefebvre had re-dedicated it before a standing-room only congregation. This congregation included hundreds of people from Christ the King parish. Many of them now worship there each Sunday, and more have joined them since. The bitterest blow for Bishop Sullivan was the fact that the church had been purchased from him. He had not sold it to the Society; he had vowed that "those people" would never get it, but he quite happily sold it to a Protestant sect for a nominal sum—and this sect sold it to the Society. Thus, traditional Catholics in Kansas City who wish to worship in a church where the tabernacle occupies a place of honor can still do so despite Bishop Sullivan and thanks to Archbishop Lefebvre. And which of these bishops, I wonder, is a "rebel" in the eyes of God. One is hell-bent on overthrowing the traditions established over two thousand years in the Church's history, the other dedicated to upholding or restoring them. The one professes loyalty to the Pope, but allows those who insult the Pope and repudiate Catholic teaching to preach in his diocese. The other upholds all the defined teaching of the Church on faith and morals, and whose loyalty to the Pope is such that he is willing to expel from his Society any priest who refuses to pray for the Holy Father.

There are in the Church at present two irreconcilable viewpoints locked in conflict; one of them must eventually prevail. There are those best described by the name "Conciliar Church," aptly symbolized by their vandalism in the sanctuary at Christ the King. There are those best described as "Traditionalists," aptly symbolized by the dignified sanctuary at St. Vincent's. It seems, at the moment, that the latter are an insignificant minority with no hope of prevailing—but this appeared to be the case during the Arian crisis. There seemed no possibility that the beliefs upheld by the hunted, despised, and excommunicated Athanasius could ever prevail against the universally triumphant Arianism. But the weak Pope Liberius died; under his successors the true faith was restored, and Athanasius was vindicated. History has a habit of repeating itself—it is doing so already at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Kansas City!

Continued next month


1. The Blessed Sacrament was normally suspended over the altar in a dove-like receptacle.

2. International Committee for English in the Liturgy.

3. The location given by Shakespeare may not have been Kansas City—it's a long time since I read the play and I am open to correction. The second syllable of the adjective "damned" should, by the way, be pronounced as "ned," i.e., "damned" villain. "Meet" means fitting.