The current situation with Fisher More College is the new handle on the radical traditionalist axe. As though an indisputable fact, it is being compared with the restrictions placed on the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy within the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The story goes that whatever the problems might have been in these institutions there simply can be no legitimate reasons, or motivations of pastoral charity, that would justify a moratorium on the use of the old Missal. But I believe a more apt comparison is to be drawn between the way in which the two situations have been used for propaganda purposes by these traditionalists.
In both cases there has been a leaking of documentation to Internet blogger/journalists, whose credentials show them to be, not just advocates for the full implementation of Summorum Pontificum, but also mouthpieces for the extreme side of traditionalism (end of the reform of the reform, the horror of Pope Francis, the impossibility of a hermeneutic of continuity, etc.). Likewise, in both cases there has been a great deal of prejudicial conjecture, placing the worst possible interpretation on the decisions made by the Church. In the case of the FI, the problem has been fire-bombed with conspiracy theory and the wholesale destruction of reputations. It needs to be clear that is has been the traditionalist sources that have made a public spectacle of these ecclesiastical problems. If any reputations have been damaged on either side, it has been due to the fact that they chose to fight this problem out in the public square.
Ironically, Rorate Caeli accuses those who have come to the defense of Most Reverend Michael Olsen of spreading gossip, when it was RC that published the leaked letter from the bishop to Michael King, president of the college, just as RC and other sympathetic organizations have been publishing leaked internal information about the FI. Is it really so unreasonable to assume that the bishop may have had grave reasons for his decision? But for RC and others, it is all about—as everything is always about—Summorum Pontificum and its implementation. It does not matter what the bishop’s reasons were, which he did not care to share publically, RC & Co. are going to drum up a resistance.
I don’t believe that the former chancellor of the college, Dr. Taylor Marshall, is guilty of gossip. He has maintained complete silence about his resignation in June of 2013 until the just now when the bishop was attacked. Dr. Marshall himself was an eyewitness to the fact that the college hosted a “pubic repudiation of Vatican 2 and the Ordinary Form of the Mass.” Likewise, within the FI, there are internal reasons for the restrictions that were never intended to be made a matter of public record, but now the situation has been so convoluted by publicized paranoid conjecture and premature conclusions that the damage is done.
Fisher More’s own website confirms much of Dr. Marshall’s testimony. Since his resignation, the speakers there have been increasingly more radical, that is, openly hostile to Vatican II and the Holy Father, obsessed with alleged Jewish conspiracies and pet theories of geocentrism, and in the case of a priest, suspended ad divinis: such are the likes of Robert Sungenis, John Vennari and Fr. Nicholas Gruner. And now, just as in the case of the FI, the Internet vanguard of the traditionalist movement has chosen to instrumentalize the situation.
I understand and appreciate that traditionalist bloggers see the situation differently and are, therefore, understandably concerned. They don’t see these anti-conciliar opinions as problematic in the first place, so how could they be reasons to stop the EF? They also see the EF as such a fundamental good for the Church that they tend to absolutize the provisions of Summorum Pontificum. And I would grant them SP’s character as universal law provides them with a strong case. I also understand that many of these bloggers and their readers are just fearful and disappointed because they are loosing the good favor they experienced during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI. However, it is just not true that the bishop has no discretion in this matter, regardless of whether one judges his decision to be prudent or not. Mark Shea correctly interprets Universae Ecclesiae when he brings up the following passage in this context:
19. The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.
Furthermore, many of the traditionalists seem oblivious to the fact that their propaganda campaign fails to accomplish what needs to be done most, which is to sell the case to those who are bit unprepared to accept it. But that does not seem to be what some of them are after. Indeed, the flame-throwing propagandists are their own worst enemies.
It would appear what some of them really want is an all out counter-revolution against anyone that would oppose the rad trad agenda. And this is why the objections of men like Dr. Marshall lead to his resignation; why in response to such objections the institution becomes increasingly more radicalized, and why when the hens come home to roost—and it was inevitable that they would—it is everyone else’s fault, except the change agents who stoked the flames.
They can argue all they want about the legal issues involved, but it is very unlikely that under either Pope Francis or even Pope Benedict there would ever be a reversal of such a decision in the face of the facts which inevitably the Diocese of Fort Worth has documented and would be prepared to use if challenged. So the rad trads will blame the bishop as other bishops watch attentively and conclude that the Most Reverend Michael Olsen did exactly what needed to be done. No bishop wants this kind of trouble in his diocese. People can complain foul as much as they want and all they will accomplish is to learn nothing from the lesson. Apparently, even the FSSP has backed away. They don’t need the trouble either.
The more the moderates in the movement are marginalized and the more the RC radical types are the principle spokesmen, the more the regular folk are going to identify the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy with anti-conciliar ideology, conspiracy theory, antisemitism and geocentrism. Complain all you want. That is just the way it is. I feel for men like Patrick Archbold, but what does he expect? As it turns out, Michael Voris might be the smartest man in the traditionalist room—not that I agree with him entirely—for having thrown his rad trad friends overboard.
Ironically, Dr. Marshall in the past has counted my concerns about significant radicalized elements within the traditionalist movement as exaggerated. I don’t know if he still maintains that position, but in my opinion, the longer it is ignored the more harm traditionalists will bring upon themselves. I am sorry that traditionalists feel marginalized. But if they feel marginalized they would do well to see to it that men like Dr. Marshal are not marginalized within their movement. Probably one of the worst days in the history of Fisher More College was the day he realized that input from men like him was no longer welcome.