Rabid Critics of the SSPX - Fr. Nicholson, Dr. Mirus and CMTV


Some people get nervous when Rome and the SSPX meet in an official capacity.

In most cases, these are people who don't abide by the same principles as the leaders of the SSPX.

To resolve any confusion, Catholic principles that I've written about here and here.

Fr. Nicholson is a great example of a PriestBlogger who, I hope from a state of ignorance of the principles involved, spews out all sorts of hyperbole on the topic of the SSPX.

Here's some samples of his 'work' and with some comments:

To Have Died Excommunicated … How Horrible!Having ventured upon the topic of the Society of St. Pius X, I have encountered a strange and formidable silence.  Virtually no one speaks clearly, if at all.  A terrible thing has occurred.  The indulgent words of the hierarchy far from helping the situation has actually added further confusion. ... We must admit that since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Sacred Magisterium of the Holy Roman Church has decided to address problems and difficulties with an abundance of indulgence.  Rightly or wrongly, this approach has made for the perfect storm of confusion for the Catholic faithful.  It may assist in the ecumenical efforts towards non-Catholics who are the result of the 16th century controversies, but it has given cover to miscreants and devilish havoc within the Church, leading many souls to ruin.
... And it is horrible to behold that many of these same people believe that the excommunicate is a saint-in-waiting, patiently waiting to be rehabilitated by the Church as if he were another Joan of Arc.(1)
Remember that St. Joan was excommunicated on a specious claim of witchcraft and heresy, and it was issued by a local bishop … not the Roman Pontiff.  Lefebvre's excommunication was due to the grave offence that he, and Bishop Castro-Mayer of Campos, Brazil committed against the Mystical Body of Christ, by rejecting the offers of reconciliation with the Holy Father, and ordaining illicitly 4 bishops.  To commit the sin of schism is a grave sin against charity, which is the oxygen of the Mystical Body.(2)

... But his sin, while grave and horrible was not, or is not to the height of making himself pope.  ... He (another bishop) is guilty of the sin of committing a secret schism, but he has not attempted to create an alternative Church. (3)
In the article "The Nine Versus Lefebvre: We Resist You To Your Face" the Reverend Anthony Cekada, a fervent sedevacantist (one who believes that the Catholic Church has not had a pope for over fifty years), a very revealing comment was made.  Cekada, left the SSPX in 1983 to espouse his own 'logical' conclusion, which he attributes to Lefebvre's influence. He could not abide the attempts, though, being made by the aging archbishop to assume to himself the authority that was exclusive to the Roman Pontiff: from imposing what missal the Society would use, to secretly creating a marriage tribunal to annul marriages … all of which smelled like the Society was becoming an alternative magisterium.
 " (…) when people say sedevacantism was the cause of our dispute with SSPX, I respond that the real  conflict was not over failing to recognize John Paul II as pope — it was failing to recognize Abp. Lefebvre  as pope."(4)
Problems with Fr. Nicholson's assessment:

  1. I'm assuming that Fr. N's formation is lacking in that he doesn't realize that any priest can absolve in the 'danger of death'. So even 'if' Archbishop's Lefebvres ipso facto excommunication by the law (not by the Pope) were valid, it does not pose a barrier to the salvation of his soul.
  2. Here we have the ignorant accusation of Schism.  The problem is that consecration without Papal Mandate is not a schismatic act.  Whoever wrote Ecclesia Dei Adflicta for the Pope was simply using the tried and true marketing technique called FUD.
  3. Fr. Nicholson's ignorance is now in full flame in this remark.  A simple review of both Canon Law, and the explicitly voiced intentions of Archbishop Lefebvre show Fr. Nicholson's comments for what they are: ludicrous.
  4. That Fr. Nicholson turns to an 'enemy' of Archbishop Lefebvre is telling. I guess that the phrase 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' applies here.  What Fr. Nicholson is ignorant of is why Archbishop Lefebvre chose the 1963 liturgy instead of the earlier liturgy favoured by Fr. Cekada et al.  
    1. Following the principle of St. Vincent of Lerens Archbishop Lefebvre selected the 1963 liturgy because that was the last promulgated liturgy before the Novus Ordo.  He selected it because he rightly believed that Pope John XXIII was Pope. Unlike Fr. Cekada, who following his 'conclusion' uses the earlier version of the liturgy.
    2. Concerning the delicate annulment issue. Instead of listening to Fr. Cekada, perhaps he should have read what the SSPX has to say for itself on this matter here and here and the principles involved
Before looking at Fr. Nicholson's other 'comments', I would conclude that he has made a gross error of listening to what other people believe about the SSPX, instead inquiring from  SSPX directly.

He is making the same mistake as the protestants who lambaste the Catholic Church teachings without ever having read directly what the Catholic Church teaches.

Not a very reliable foundation to make a decision or accusations.  Here is an article by Mr. Vennari, the provides a background to the SSPX.  I have also posted some articles on this topic that, if one exerts themselves, will help develop an understanding of the origins of the SSPX and the conflict with 'Rome'.

Now we come to Fr. Nicholson's latest screed:

There Is Something Worse Than A Black Mass ...But there is something worse than a black mass. It is the abuse of God's Mercy.
I have seen the images of the Society of +Marcel Lefevbre in a full demonstration against the black mass that took place on September 21, 2014. They look every bit Catholic ... yet they are not submissive to the Vicar of Christ. They are Catholic protestants.(1)
... They promote and assist at a Mass in which the priest objectively offers Mass in the state of mortal sin. How horrible!(2)
... By resisting the call of grace to be converted and return to the Church, to remain intransigent, and stubborn to the workings of grace, the Society of +Marcel attack the Mercy of God! He has given all of us grace, and time to make a sincere conversion.
By pertending you don't need conversion ... but everybody else does ... reveals your spiritual tepidity.(3)

The demonstration on Sunday doesn't reveal the sanctity or good faith of the followers of +Marcel but only further reveals the catastrophe that has befallen the Church. Instead of circulating images of the Society of +Marcel and praising their witness, we should pray and do penance for these Catholic-protestants to return to the Church's bosoom.(4) 
From his comments

Fr. Paul NicholsonSeptember 23, 2014 at 9:50 PMIgnorance reigns supreme among the followers of +Marcel. There is no other way to describe it. As long as you delay your return to the Spouse of Christ, you abuse the Mercy of God. The hour is approaching for all of us, death is certain. What if I am right and you are wrong? The Pope has declared it very clearly, the society of Marcel Lefevbre is outside the Church(5). It does not have any canonical identity.(6) Its priests and bishops offer Mass WITHOUT permission of the Pope and sin gravely by bringing Christ down upon disobedient altars.(see #2) What if you are wrong? (7)You will risk eternity for your stubbornness? You think that by abusing the Mercy of God here, you will obtain Mercy in eternity? I can only repeat, REPENT of this obstinate sin. A black mass is horrible ... but so is abusing God's Mercy. It is terrible to be in such obstinate sin that you can't see it.

At the Remnant, Mr. Jackson has touched upon the phenome called Fr. Nicholson here and here. I also noticed that a number of people have realized that Fr. Nicholson is simply a modern ignorant priest who is the product of his formation. While he has the 'trappings' of traditionalism, he really doesn't smell of a 'traditional' flock.

Now for my own commentary:

  1. This is a switch. He is accusing the SSPX of being protestants?  Now, I know that the old moniker of 'schismatic' doesn't stick anymore - but where the heck did 'protestant' come from? The best that I can discern is that Fr. Nicholson is really confused.
  2. This is interesting because Eccleisa Dei is on record of saying that a Catholic can fulfill their Sunday obligation at an SSPX Mass.  Just in case one refers to a later ED document - here's some rational commentary by Rorate-Caeli.
  3. I think Fr. Nicholson's ignorance and tendency to rash judgement is showing ... again.  At least he is quasi consistent. Given what the SSPX believes and their position, given what has and is happening to those who believe and held similar position (FFI) is it any wonder that the SSPX proceeds with prudence in these matters?
  4. See #3 as well as #1
  5. Now this is new.  Why is the SSPX the only ones that are 'outside' the Church?  Also, hasn't that opinion changed somewhat since the promulgation of ED?  
  6. That is interesting, so not having a canonical identity suddenly makes on 'outside' the Church?  They did have one at their foundation ... what happened to it?  What due process followed?  More importantly, Fr. Nicholson should research why they apparently no longer have a canonical identity.
  7. Here Fr. makes a crucial mistake.  The question is 'wrong about what'?  Are they wrong about Assisi? What about Cardinal Kasper?  
Unfortunately, Fr. Nicholson is not alone in his prejudice and rash judgements.

While Cathlic Culture posts the information about the resumption of formal meetings between the Vatican and Rome, they also published a commentary here by Dr. Mirus.

The whole thesis presented by Dr. Mirus seems to focus on the concept of rebellion.  In his mind the SSPX is in a state of rebellion against the lawful authority of the Church and this constitutes either heresy or schism - depending on the flavour of the day.

Schism ala Dr. Mirus:
 This is so even though the form of the organization is based on a technical refusal (and a practical rejection) of the Pope’s authority to order episcopal jurisdiction in the Church. The ordination of bishops without papal approval and the establishment of a separate ecclesiastical governance are, of course, schismatic acts.(1) They would rupture communion with the Church even if there were no difference in belief whatsoever.
Heresy ala Dr. Mirus:
But the SSPX is more like a heresy because in practice it prospers around the world by drawing to it those people in every region who have serious reservations about key Catholic doctrines as they have become more fully understood and developed in modern times, or serious reservations about disciplinary changes which they believe fundamentally alter the salvific efficacy of the Church. These reservations are used to justify what is referred to as the necessity defense for wholesale disobedience.
Then he drops the bomb with this one:
... The important point here is that, like a heresy, the SSPX attracts—increasingly over time—those who are most disaffected from important elements of Catholic teaching (and of course liturgical discipline). Thus the ever more extreme and recalcitrant doctrinal and disciplinary attachments of the adherents of the SSPX cause the adherents themselves to be a major obstacle to reconciliation with the Church.
The principles that the SSPX uses to guide their relations with the Vatican are clear.  Various people will come to the SSPX because of artifact based coherence - until their fundamental assumptions are challenged by the principles of the SSPX.  Principles that follow their own fundamental assumptions.

When this happens, separation is one of the options and as demonstrated recently it happens whenever people realize that 'oops they really do believe that Bergoglio is Pope'.
It is precisely for this reason that whenever efforts at reunion get to the stage of serious discussion, many voices are raised decrying the slightest compromise with Rome, and insisting on the essential purity of the Holy Way of the SSPX. As I mentioned, these are the earmarks of heresy rather than schism. As soon as this happens, the SSPX bishops, including Bishop Fellay, face the additional dilemma of assuring their volatile and extraordinarily touchy followers that they will never give up anything essential to the Society. Thus there is a marked cultural pressure from within to maintain separation. 
The funny thing is that the 'volatile and extraordinarily touchy followers' is really a farce. Unless he has done a statistically significant sample, he is simply looking at the internet for his information. At best it could be a small sample of people that he has personally encountered.  In my experience (30+ years attending an SSPX chapel and traveling in North America and Europe) the SSPX is by and large made up of faithful Catholics who agree with what is being done and are praying that God guide the leaders of the SSPX to make prudent decisions.  The loud ones (read; resistance) that I assume Dr. Mirus is listening too, have now by and large left the SSPX because they didn't share the cultural assumptions of the SSPX.

As far as Dr. Mirus attempting to make the new moniker of 'heresy' stick to the SSPX.  He really should stop right now and take the beam out of his eye so he can take a real good look at the "Pope's theologian". Yes, I am referring to Cardinal Kasper.  The moniker of heresy won't stick any better to the SSPX than did that of 'Schismatic'. How can that label stick when the Church right now is 'full' of heresies and schisms in the making?

Then ... on he goes in the same vein.

Raising the spectre of schism on the eve of the synod is ludicrous.

The question that Dr. Mirus leaves unanswered (read: we're seeing an example of FUD) is where is the un-named heresy seething within the ranks of the SSPX?

What really is the root for the problem between the Vatican and the SSPX?

It is the Vatican Council, that some prelates can't stand to interpret in the light of Tradition, and the Novus Ordo Missae.

Finally we come to CMTV's point of view, which is aligned with that of Fr. Nicholson.

Fr Nicholson's blog is actually pretty mild compared to the defence of it offered by a certain staffer at CMTV. It was in an email, so I'll post a little snippet here:

A Black Mass is a mockery of Christ and the Sacrifice of Calvary, but it is performed by pagans and unbelievers. The Masses of Reparation offered by the SSPX were, as is true of all their Masses in all circumstances, a mockery of Christ and His Church, a rejection of Christ Himself through an abhorrent act of disobedience by believers who claim to be faithful Catholics while rejecting the authority of the Vicar of Christ...
All SSPX priests are suspended a divinis. Therefore, every Mass they offer, no matter the circumstance, is an act of disobedience by an alter Christus acting in persona Christi. The magnitude of this offense against God makes a Black Mass almost childish and naive by comparison.
Source:Suscipe Domine Forum
The 'All SSPX priests are suspended' is both correct and incorrect.

First, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais was ordained prior to the suspension, so he is the sole member who did not incur the 'suspension a divinis'.

Secondly, this presupposes that, in all the conflict over the Mass and the Council, the suspension is actually valid.  Of course, that would be the point put forward by CMTV and Fr. Nicholson.  Which is consistent with their "I shall not criticize the Pope" point of view. However, it is not that clear given the circumstances noted here, and here. Also the Vatican itself is somewhat bi-polar with regards to the SSPX as demonstrated by the recent event where an SSPX priest was allowed to celebrate Mass over the Tomb of Pope St. Pius X.   Further, during the doctrinal talks the Vatican allowed the SSPX priests and bishop to say Mass.

While this may be confusing for the faithful such as CMTV and Fr. Nicholson, it is not their position to make a judgement in either direction if their superiors do not.

Finally, I will grant the Dr. Mirus is a little gentler in his critique, although naive in terms of organizational culture, but both he and Fr. Nicholson are accusing the SSPX and those Catholics who seek them out for doctrine and sacraments,  of the sin of heresy.

If that is truly the case - then they're just joining Cardinal Kasper.

But that is not the case ...  Cardinal Kasper et al are simply on their own ... in exteriour darkness.


Ps. Further background on Fr. Paul Nicholson.


Fr. Paul Nicholson, Canada
Photo of Paul Nicholson
                                                                 My name is Father Paul Nicholson.  I am a diocesan (secular) priest, in the diocese of London, Ontario, Canada.  I am a pastor in a small rural community.  I have the care of two churches, St. Joseph’s and St. Mary of Perpetual Help.  I was ordained in 1997 at St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica in London, Ontario. I received my seminary education at St. Peter’s Seminary, which is also in London.  I come from a devout Catholic family.  I’m the youngest of six brothers and I am an associate member of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.           
There was no center of Opus Dei in my small town where I grew up.  In fact, Opus Dei, was totally unheard of. How I found Opus Dei is an illustration that controversy and calumny can be worked to God’s advantage.         
Faithfully, each year, my mother would go to the famed shrines of Quebec to pray and petition, St. Anne, St. Joseph, and Our Lady for assistance in the never ending problems that seemed to afflict our family.  In my grade eight year, I accompanied my mother on her pilgrimage.  At the beautiful basilica of Mary, Queen of the World in downtown Montreal, I encountered a small book display.  I was then, and even more so now, captivated by books.  One book stood out, because it was the smallest.  Tastefully designed, I placed my outstretched hand on my first copy of “The Way”.  I was immediately transfixed by the simple “sermon-in-a-sentence”.  I’d like to say the book provoked a major conversion.  Alas, I’m still waiting for that to happen.  I did not have any mystical experiences with the book.  It just met a real spiritual need in my adolescence. I used it all through high school; seldom going to church without it. Funny as it sounds, I had no intellectual curiosity about it’s author. I made no inquiries about its publication or anything.  I simply ate and was satisfied.         
I entered St. Peter’s Seminary in London in the autumn of 1989.  I must admit, the seminary was not an easy fit.  I had been deeply involved in the right to life movement, specifically the direct action movement called Operation Rescue.  The heady, turbulent days of direct action against legalized abortion had given me a great deal of clarity about the state of society and the state of the Church.  I came to the seminary with scars from the culture wars.  Within the first week, my entrance class of 15 men, were given a presentation by a woman religious on collaborative ministry.  I heard the sister read a letter from her co-religionists in Peru who complained bitterly of Opus Dei.  They complained, yes, but they calumniated the Prelature of Opus Dei primarily because of its ecclesiology.  These sisters were deeply involved in Liberation Theology, they had embraced Marxist ideology, and it didn’t take much effort to see that their complaints while directed at Opus Dei, were in fact directed at the Church herself.  This same religious instructed us for the next eight years on ‘collaborative ministry”  Following that class, I returned to my room to look around.  I was convinced I had seen that name before; Opus Dei.  The little book, that I had used to exhaustion, now became a key.  I consider that sister, in fact, the mother of my vocation to Opus Dei.  I try to pray for her everyday in gratitude.           
There is no center of Opus Dei in London, Ontario (yet).  The Work had only recently arrived in Toronto in 1982.  A small center, I quickly became acquainted with the priests.  My first encounter with a chapel of Opus Dei, still fills me with emotion.  Upon entering the small oratory of Ullerston center, I felt a profound Presence.  Here I could see what work was meant for. 
The care and the custody of the tabernacle and the altar led me to exclaim: “See how they love Him!”.  Against the annoying obstacle of distance, I began frequenting the activities of the Work.  There, the little book of “The Way” took on flesh.  I felt no urge to join Opus Dei.  I knew from the start that I was meant for the secular priesthood in the diocese of London.  I understood that I could be “part” of Opus Dei without leaving my obligations or duties as a diocesan priest.           
The numerous obstacles that I have encountered both as a seminarian and as a priest have been the result of the much larger struggle in the Church due to ecclesiology.  I am convinced that Opus Dei represents a clear picture of official Catholicism.  Since the 1960’s when varied attempts have been made to re-make the Church in Canada, Opus Dei stands fully, entirely and completely with the Pope.  This adherence to the Pope creates a lot of complications for a diocesan priest.  Loyalty to the Holy Father and his teachings are interpreted as being “papal maximalist” or “ultra-montagne”.  This is because the contrary position believes that the local Church is supreme; the national church, the ideal.  Anyone who does not know Canada must realize that our afflictions began in 1968 when our bishops issued the infamous Winnipeg statement that diminished the authority of Humanae Vitae; thus challenging papal authority.  This challenge has very long roots and has found its way into dioceses across our country.  Association with Opus Dei then, is as far as I can see, a step away from the ‘national church’ and regressive step to papal domination.           
It would be nice to put a sunshiny face on everything and make-believe that everybody loves Opus Dei in Canada.  Sadly, it isn’t that way.         
Would it be easier not to belong?  The trade off isn’t even worth considering.  Opus Dei has brought such joy and meaning to my priesthood, that I can literally say; “a day within your courts are better than a thousand elsewhere”.  Opus Dei is the original ‘accountability software’.  The struggle for sanctity in the priesthood can remain a very high ideal to which regular daily lip service can be offered.  However, through regular spiritual direction with a brother priest who is really determined to love God and serve others, the path to holiness becomes visible and possible.  Opus Dei has put me in touch with my fallen self; not to leave me there, but push me to aim higher.  It has also unlocked my creativity. Through my relationship with Opus Dei, I’ve been forced out of my isolation and compelled to be a friend to my brother priests.  I’m nudged to dig up priestly vocations, and I’m challenged to expand the horizon of the laity to embrace their baptismal call (which, by the way, exceeds the steps of the sanctuary and church ministries)         
The problem with the ‘local church’ or ‘national church’ ecclesiology is that it does not admit to variations.  It insists on the one party mentality.  Everything, absolutely everything must done according to diocesan or Canadian guidelines.  However, the Catholic Church is the mother of tolerance.  So long as the faith is lived and preached in its entirety, the Church allows for variety.             
Being part of Opus Dei has made me more adventurous in dealing with souls.  I’ve taken young people to the World Youth Days, worked in orphanages in Romania, helped incredibly generous families in catechizing youth and conspired to bring young couples together.         
St. Josemaria opened a new path in the Church for the laity; but he also stirred the waters of the secular clergy.  I’m deeply grateful he invited me in to splash around.


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