Paul Likoudis

Editor's Note: In the Jan. 19th, 1995 edition of the <Wanderer's From the Mail> column, there appeared a notice, from <Fidelity magazine>, that one of the most successful and popular Catholic apologists, Gerry Matatics, a convert to the Church, was becoming more closely affiliated with schismatic groups such as the Society of St. Pius X. <From the Mail> suggested that Matatics was "imperiling his own salvation" by leaving the Catholic Church and, more unfortunately, was leading others out of the Church as well.

Matatics, of course, is just one of many Catholics who, since the excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, have been abandoning the Catholic Church for various "traditionalist" groups. Such groups as the Society of St. Pius V and the Society of St. Pius X, particularly in the United States, continue to grow rapidly, especially since the problems flowing from dissent and liturgical abuses have become worse in many dioceses.

The largest of the traditionalist groups is the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which now boasts 313 priests, 215 seminarians, 50 brothers, 50 oblates, more than 100 sisters, six seminaries on four continents, 83 priories, and nearly 800 parishes. In addition, the society runs 60 schools (including 15 offering secondary education), eight retreat houses, and eight other communities.

Society "Bishop" Bernard Fellay insisted in a recent interview with an Italian newspaper that the SSPX does not have any relationship with <sede vacantist> groups, but was extremely critical of Pope John Paul II for his ecumenical activity, his view of the relationship between Church and state and the modern world, and his "utopian idealism." Furthermore, Fellay said of the Pope's recent "confession" for the past mistakes of the Church that "we would not have been surprised to hear such regret coming from a Freemason, because it is a very subtle restatement of their thesis (of the wicked old Catholic Church) and of their anti-Catholic revolution."

The undisputed turmoil in the Church has caused many, like Matatics, to consider leaving the Church. Typical of the responses <The Wanderer> received after the Jan. 19th <From the Mail> column was this:

"I am the father of seven children (soon to be eight) and I reside in the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., which is headed by Bishop Matthew Clark. In the very issue of <The Wanderer> in which you make your remarks about Matatics' possible damnation appeared an excellent article entitled, 'Rochester Diocese Puts Parishes on Notice: Start Being Newchurch.'

"One of the guiding illustrations for the Newchurch being imposed on my diocese by Bishop Clark shows a female priest marrying two lesbians. The author of the article exposing this fearful scandal reports, 'As one priest told <The Wanderer>, "The Diocese of Rochester is pathetic . . . . The faith has for all practical purposes disappeared".'

If I send my children to the churches of the Diocese of Rochester, they will learn to be feminists and to communicate only in Orwellian newspeak, 'inclusive language.' They will learn from Fr. Bob Collins of St. Thomas More in Pittsford that birth control and abortion are morally acceptable. Being in 'communion' with Bishop Clark means I would have, at Clark's recent admonition, to take my older children to the three-day 'pastoral seminar' on sodomy during which homosexuality was praised and honored as a loving life-style for Catholics.

"Forty miles from my town is a parish operated by the Society of St. Pius X. Here is offered First Communion, Confirmation, solid catechesis, and the Mass, sacraments, and sermons as they always were and as I remember them from my childhood in the 1950s and early 1960s.

"Now, I ask you: In which parish do I and my children risk our immortal souls—the one that is supposedly in communion with the Pope and run by Matthew Clark, or the one operated by the Society of St. Pius X?

"The Catholic Church decrees that the salvation of souls is the highest law. If Pope St. Pius V or Pope St. Pius X were alive today, they would wipe out the sodomites who infest the American Church in five minutes. They would burn out this horrible, cancerous infestation right down to the root.... Obedience to Pope John Paul II cannot ever justify the corruption of one's children and that is where the matter stands for me. I have a duty before God Almighty for the fate of my children's souls. <From the Mail> will not stand with me before the Judgment Seat of God, nor will the Pope. I will stand alone to answer for their spiritual and physical well-being.... You will have to explain a great deal more before you can convince me that keeping my children in the churches of the Diocese of Rochester ensures their salvation, while sending them to a parish where the faith is practiced and believed 'imperils their souls.'

"This is a long-standing controversy, often fleetingly touched upon by <The Wanderer....> Why not offer a substantial examination of this very subject?"

<The Wanderer> intends to offer such a substantial examination, and begins this week with an interview with Karl Keating, founder of <Catholic Answers>, and Patrick Madrid, editor of <This Rock,> both well-known Catholic apologists who find their work increasingly devoted, not to correcting the anti-Catholic charges made by Protestants, but to keeping angry and frustrated Catholics within the Church.

Keating, 45, was raised a Catholic and founded <Catholic Answers> in 1982 in order to counter the anti-Catholic writings he had come across in southern California. In 1988, he gave up his law practice to devote himself to his new apostolate full-time.

Madrid, 34, has been with <Catholic Answers> for seven years, and he annually logs over 100,000 miles throughout this hemisphere and in Asia, leading seminars in both English and Spanish in the Catholic faith.

In a telephone interview, <The Wanderer> asked Keating and Madrid questions on some of the issues raised by the Rochester Catholic, as well as others raised by other <Wanderer> readers.

Q.: How does dissent in the Church affect Catholic apologetics?

Karl Keating: It makes apologetics both more difficult and more necessary. It's much more difficult because people have different understandings of what the Catholic faith is about. There is a lot of underbrush that has to be cleared out before Catholics can understand their faith. At the same time apologetics is more necessary because there are so many Catholics in the pew who misunderstand their faith and can't grow in it until they slough off the old misunderstanding to get on the right path.

Q.: How do you respond to the concerns of Catholics who indicate their profound disillusion with the scriptural modernists and theological dissenters in the Church, and complain that these modernists and dissenters enjoy favor in their particular dioceses?

Patrick Madrid: The first thing we say is that regardless of what others are saying or doing, we have to realize that we are responsible for our salvation, and that we cannot become overly discouraged by what the heterodox are saying and doing. If Catholics maintain themselves in orthodoxy, that is the first step in helping others come back to orthodoxy.

There's no doubt that I am my brother's keeper, but if I am overly concerned about others, then I might not be taking care of myself.

I, too, am very unhappy about what I see in many quarters, and I am concerned, but that should lead me to action: to be a witness to the faith, even if it means ridicule or persecution. We have to be able to stand up for the truth and proclaim it clearly and charitably.

Q: What areas of Catholic teaching do you find undermined by some Catholic biblical scholars, and what is the effect on practicing Catholics?

Keating: I think much of the problem goes back to an anti-miraculous view that many hold about Scripture, and we see these views presented in RCIA classes, in popular publications, and even in parish bulletins. The effect is to cast all of Scripture and defined Catholic doctrines into doubt, with the result that many Catholics even wonder why they should be Catholic. If all Scripture is a fairy tale, why bother?

Why Not Join?

Q.: Since there is so much dissent, even at official levels, there are many Catholics who ask why they shouldn't join the Society of St. Pius X, where one finds sound liturgy, sound doctrine, sound sacramental and catechetical practice, instead of continuing to go to corrupt Catholic parishes where heterodoxy and liturgical abuses abound. How do you answer those Catholics?

Madrid: I'd start by saying you don't solve one error by committing another. It is an error, it is wrong, to go into the Society of St. Pius X. To do so is to go into schism. You're exchanging one abuse for another.

Q.: How do you explain the reluctance of Catholic bishops to deal with the scope of dissent in the Catholic Church, since it is apparent that the lack of episcopal reaction is forcing people into schism, Protestant sects, or, simply, agnosticism?

Madrid: I disagree that these serious problems force people into schism. People are choosing schism as a way out. I do see why many people need an escape, but I think many people are taking the wrong route.

I don't know for sure how to explain the episcopal inaction, but I think many bishops feel overwhelmed by the state of affairs, and don't know where to begin.

Keating: There are bishops who have a better handle on the situation than others, and they are attempting to turn things around, and are having considerable success.

Q.: What drives many people into absolute frustration, and often schism, is they have bishops who encourage dissent. How do you answer that problem?

Keating: You have to pray for your bishop. Most importantly, that circumstance should not prevent us from passing on the faith that has been entrusted to us. I wouldn't want to see us end up in a situation of paralysis where we find ourselves complaining, and then substitute complaining for action. As active lay apologists, we know there is plenty of scope for action, and this is true in every diocese-regardless of how Catholics are helped or obstructed by their chancery.

Are They In Schism?

Q.: Those who go to the Society of St. Pius X are accused of being schismatic. Are they?

Madrid: The Pope seems to think they are. If you read the letter of Bernardin Cardinal Gantin to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre explaining the result of his action in consecrating bishops, I think it is unavoidably clear that he and those following him were leaving the Church.

Keating: For a Catholic, the definition of communion is communion with the Pope, and schism is non-communion. If the Pope says you're not in communion with him, then you're in schism. The Pope said those who knowingly followed those bishops are no longer in communion with him.

It's not a question of canon law. It's an issue of being in communion with the Pope.

Q.: Literature asserting the Holy See has been captured by B'nai B'rith or is <sede vacante> or some other nonsense seems to be proliferating, and more Catholics and even non-Catholics are believing it. How would you respond to those who say there is no real Pope?

Madrid: I would begin by responding with the words of Jesus in Matt. 16:18: "You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." That's the starting point for our response.

Keating: That's the basis of the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church. If you accept the <sede vacantist> position that the Holy See has been vacant since 1958—or even since Pope Pius X, as some are now saying—then every single bishop in the world consecrated by any recent Pope has not been a real bishop. Then the Church is defectible and Christ is a liar. Since we know that is impossible, the <sede vacantist> position is untenable.

Simple Answers For Complex Questions

Q.: What explains the growing popularity of the <sede vacantist> position, or positions similar to it?

Keating: I think the attraction of the position is that it gives a clean understanding of the various problems in the Church over the last 30 years, because you are able to say Vatican II and the changes in the Mass have been pushed through by anti-popes and false bishops and they are all illegitimate and we can start fresh again.

It's akin to the fundamentalist position of security in salvation: If you accept Jesus as your Savior, you're saved. The <sede vacantist> position is attractive, but it is wrong.

Q.: It's clear that the traditionalist movement is not, as it has been described, made up simply of old and bitter people, but it is growing rapidly, with more chapels and schools opening all the time. Can you assess the extent of its spread?

Keating: Numbers are almost impossible to pin down, but I would estimate that in this country there must be several hundred thousand committed followers of the traditionalist movement, who are very generous with their resources—people who are actually in schism. I do not include the people who attend the indult Mass; they are not to be lumped in with those who belong to the fringe movements which operate outside the Church.

Traditionally minded Catholics, especially those who love the old Mass, are much larger in number, and I honor them and sympathize with them. The problem is the good work they do is being subverted by the fringe groups, and if the old Latin Mass ever disappears, the final blow will be wielded by these fringe groups who claim to be its champions.

These fringe groups have grown rapidly over the last three years or so, and they have attracted some of the brightest and most active Catholics to their ranks. It's a pity that this considerable talent will be used, in the long run, to subvert the Church.

Q.: How do you respond to those who say they are going over to the Society of St. Pius X simply because they could not bear seeing their church renovated or "Protestantized" or the liturgy debased? If Catholics have a right to a sacred liturgy, and it's not available in their parish, should they abstain from going to Mass, or go to the Pius X church? Which is worse?

Madrid: I don't believe they should do either. If it means driving 20 or 30 miles to get to a reverent Mass, then they should do that. The Pius X chapel is not an option.

There are a number of people around the country who are finding that that kind of sacrifice is beneficial to them. The reform of the Church will come from sacrifices like these, offered up by people who aren't going into schism.

A Parent's Duty

Q.: What would you say to a Catholic who told you he would be putting his own salvation, and that of his children, at risk if he permitted his children to attend his bishop's schools or parishes?

Keating: In theory, all the parochial schools in one's neighborhood might be deleterious to the faith, in which case, one could send one's children to some other school, or one could home-school.

Madrid: Speaking as a Catholic father, the <primary> responsible party for my children's education is I and not my bishop. When I stand before God, I will be asked what I did or didn't do to raise them in the faith. If a parent honestly feels there is a danger to his children's faith at the local school, regardless of the reason, then he has an obligation not to place them in that position and to seek out another way to school them.

Keating: Again, on a theoretical level, if a person should find himself in a situation where he is absolutely convinced in his conscience that he cannot take his family to any Mass in his diocese, then he should think about moving to another diocese.

Q.: But what about a Catholic's right to a valid, reverent Mass where he lives, in his own diocese? What about the bishop's duty to provide the sacraments of the Church and Church teaching according to the Church?

Keating: Of course, the bishop has a duty to provide the sacraments for those in his care according to approved rites, but if he were to fail in his duty, that would not justify those under him going into schism.

Q.: In general, would you say Catholics join Protestant sects for the same reason they join the Society of St. Pius X?

Keating: There is an underlying common principle uniting those who join the fringe groups and those groups in schism. Both work on the principle of private interpretation. No matter what either group says about the Church or the Bible as the sole word of God, both are saying <non serviam>.

Cardinal Newman said in his <Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine> that if we look at ancient heresies, we see two that are opposed to each other operating at the same time, but both arise from the same principle. We see and hear people leaving the Church; some are getting off the train on the left side, some on the right side. But both are still standing at the station of private interpretation when the train moves on.

Is There A Distinction?

Q.: Is there a distinction Catholics should make between those who promote theological dissent or liturgical abuses from their official positions in the Church, and those who abandon the Roman Catholic Church in their particular diocese out of a desire to preserve the traditional Catholic liturgy and theology?

Madrid: I think that we have to look at these from different angles. First, both are dissenting and both are placing themselves in a de facto state of schism. Now the chancery bureaucrat may think he is in what he calls "the mainstream of the Church," but his actual beliefs have placed him outside the Church. Now the other person, who has all the right instincts and desires, through the mistake of breaking communion with Rome, is also outside the Church.

We all want authentic Catholic piety; we want our children to enjoy the symbols of our faith without listening to leftist ideology; we want our children to receive sound Catholic doctrine. We have to understand the net effects of both actions are inimical to the Church. No one in good conscience can deliberately set out to change the teaching and practice of the Church; nor can one leave the Church in reaction.

We must recall the axiom that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Christians. We are being called to martyrdom and the martyrdom we Ire called to is standing firm, witnessing to the faith, refusing to move from the Rock of Peter, no matter how hard others push us. This is a slower, more difficult, death than being shot or beheaded. This is a true martyrdom.

When people say, "It's not fair we didn't get a good Mass on Sunday," the answer is, "No, it's not fair." But we are called to suffer for our faith. That means suffering and standing firm, even though every ounce of me is saying, I want to get out and go somewhere else. The beautiful part of this is that God will reward us for our sacrifices.

Q.: What solution do you propose for those Catholics who are ready to abandon the hierarchical Church for an SSPX chapel, or what caution would you offer?

Madrid: Know the faith, live the faith, love the faith, and keep away from those who are going to undermine your faith.

No Pied Pipers

Keating: I would say: Don't follow the pied pipers out of the Church. The Society of St. Pius V, the Society of St. Pius X, Vin Lewis, Gerry Matatics, and the others are leading people to schism and heresy. Schism always leads to heresy.

A good example is the Eastern Orthodox Churches which broke off from Rome in 1054, and have since accepted divorce and remarriage, dropped Purgatory, and reject papal infallibility and the Immaculate Conception.

Gerry Matatics is a sad example of how schism does lead to heresy very quickly. He is now telling people it would be a sin for him to attend the new Mass-not just an incorrect Novus Ordo, but any Novus Ordo Mass. The natural implication is that if it is a sin for Gerry, it is a sin for you and me also. This obviously is a dagger aimed at the heart of the authority of the Church to issue sacramental rubrics.

It's thus not surprising that a couple of weeks ago when asked during his visit to the <sede vacantist> Mt. St. Michael's Seminary in Spokane (a former Jesuit seminary) if there is currently a Pope, Gerry answered: "I can't honestly say."

Madrid: I'd like to offer a few practical tips for those being driven to the edge:

1) Put a little extra gas in the car. At one point in the past, we had to drive 30 miles with eight children for Mass. I can't imagine anyplace where there is not one good parish within an hour's drive, except perhaps in Montana or a similar state.

2) Investigate attending a parish of a different rite, for example, Byzantine or Maronite. They are true to the faith and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a very dignified manner.

3) Read <This Rock> and other good periodicals, and some good Catholic history to keep perspective. <This Rock> often answers the questions the traditionalists have, and we're planning to devote much more attention to this very serious problem.

4) Support the Pope. First, he is a priest of Christ and deserves our respect; he is our father in faith and deserves the respect and love given a father. Our duty is to persevere in our trials, be quick to forgive and slow to judge, always supporting him through our prayers and sacrifices. We don't know everything he knows, and we don't have any insight into the struggles he has, and so we commend him to God that God will strengthen him.

(The address of <This Rock> and <Catholic Answers> is 7290 Engineer Rd., Suite H. San Diego, Calif., 92111.)

This article was taken from the February 16, 1995 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.