“Why I Left the Society of St. Pius X”

A refugee from the toxicity and weirdness of Traddery pens a thoughtful letter that (with far more charity and kindness than I would ever be able to muster) tries to open the eyes of the self-pitying bullies in Traddery to their destructive pride, narcissism, and the incredible damage they do to souls. This is just a sample. Do read the whole thing:

My mother and father are converts from Protestantism, and they came into the Church when I was five. As is often the case, they had certain preconceptions of what life in the Church would be like. After all, it was supposed to be a safe haven away from the problems of Protestantism. What they discovered, however, was that God’s Church on earth was a mess (as it has always been). They were exposed to bad liturgies and poor catechesis. My parents had also been in the military and were high achievers, and most Catholics came across to them as undisciplined pukes in their (non)practice of Catholic religion. Gradually my parents came into contact with the traditional Catholic movement, and it immediately drew them in. All this happened in about two years, and I became an officially inducted “Trad” at the age of seven. My first holy communion, confirmation, and religious formation all took place under the auspices of the SSPX.

Shortly after “coming into Tradition,” my mom discovered Sedevacantism, which demonstrated to her several logical and historical problems with the doctrinal positions of the SSPX. These are what had prompted the first splinter group of priests to break away from the Society in 1983, called “the Nine”. Among them were the now well-known Traditionalist priests Daniel Dolan, Donald Sanborn, and the late Anthony Cekada. They refused to accept the reformed 1962 Missal of Pope John XXIII, and believed that the ecclesiological position taken by the Archbishop and his Society was inconsistent with the Tradition of the Church. These priests were expelled, and lengthy legal battles over real estate ensued. Mom came to embrace their position as her own, although she continued to receive the sacraments from the SSPX chapel our family attended.

My dad admired the leadership of Archbishop Lefebvre, and also that of Bishop Richard Williamson. He believed that they had achieved a delicate balance between the two extremes of the “Novus Ordo church” and Sedevacantism. Following their example, he did not completely reject the possibility of a sedes vacans, but he found it problematic in several regards. This allowed a period of relative peace in our family, as my parents did not completely disavow each other’s positions, and they were united in their rejection of the “conciliar Church”. Besides the SSPX chapel, where Mass was available only every other weekend, we would also attend Masses offered by the priests of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), which they would offer in our houses on the off-weekends. As my dad liked to say, “We’re all on the same team.” This lasted until a parishioner snitched to our SSPX pastor, who threatened to ban us entrance to the chapel if we continued to open our house to the naughty Sedevacantist priests. This seemed very ungracious, considering the CMRI did not forbid its followers to attend the SSPX chapel. But perhaps it is to be expected in a turf war.

I received my vocation to the Dominican Order when I was eight, after reading a life of St. Dominic by Mary Fabyan Windeatt. I was eager to join as soon as possible, so upon learning the minimum age required by canon law, I wrote to the community associated with the SSPX in Avrillé, France. They generously offered me an opportunity to attend their high school, while at the same time participating in their postulancy program. My parents were very supportive, and I arrived there in Summer of 2011. I spent a year of discernment with this beautiful community, until I decided to return to the United States to complete my high school education. Before I left, I had the pleasure of a private audience with a family hero, Bishop Williamson, who had come to visit our community in Avrillé. He kindly agreed to meet with me, and gave me wise and helpful advice regarding my vocation. I did not exactly know what he was doing in Avrillé, but the reason would come to light later. I had begun to hear rumors of “infiltration” and “compromise” in the SSPX. This was strange, but not quite as strange as my homecoming.

Upon my return in 2012, my family was walking around with candles and believed the earth was the center of the universe. My parents had become enamored with the writings of Charles A. Coulombe and Solange Strong Hertz. These were two intelligent Traditionalists who had followed the logical trajectory of Traditionalist principles, and they were advocating ideas and doctrines which, interestingly, most Traditionalists would reject. Coulombe advocates for Feeneyism, and points to the Aristotelian philosophy of St. Thomas as facilitating the Church’s betrayal of the traditional dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Hertz branches out even more broadly, indicating that brick-making and electricity are of demonic inspiration, that the Church has compromised herself by accepting heliocentrism and democracy, and that these two led to universal salvationism. I did not quite know how to react, especially since I had studied encyclicals by Popes Pius XII and Leo XIII which contradicted Hertz’s narratives. Whose interpretation should I accept, the Popes’ or Hertz’s? Both made solid appeals to Tradition and Scripture. Had the Church of Rome gone off track even before Vatican II?

The longer the madhouse of Traddery goes on, the more it looks and acts like a very strange sect of Fundamentalist Protestantism that happens to have a fetish for Catholic aesthetics. And the more sane and Christian and actually loving the Holy Father they hate so deeply looks in comparison to them.

I hope this guy finds some peace. The comboxes on the piece show a few other souls who are looking for a way to detox, but even the comparatively sane ones still express their naked contempt for the Holy Father. It’s a discussion taking place way out on the right end of the bellcurve and ordinary Normals in the Church are not welcome in that blast furnace of rage. I’ll take a parish of quiet, unassuming Normals who don’t think God died and sent them to save the Church from the Pope any day.


10 Responses

  1. If I may be so free to elaborate on what you said …

    ”A fundamentalist protestant sect with a fetish for Baroque aesthetics and and a desire for authority, which they unfortunately mostly invest in themselves, which brings us back to the beginning of this sentence.”

    With sincere apologies to those protestants and Italian 17th century artisans (I love you, Bernini) that I so uncharitably implicated

  2. I’ll say this much: Nothing will ever convince me that repealing Summorum Pontificum was the right idea to get rid of the Bad Trads and I will never stop praying that those who oppose the Latin Mass on ideological grounds (whoever they may be) suffer an absolute crushing defeat.

    HOWEVER, I will ALSO never stop praying that any and all errors which have impeded (or completely destroyed) the Gospel witness of the Traditional Movement be utterly purged – not just the various ecclesiological snafus, like sedevacantism, Beneplenism, etc., but perhaps especially the wholesale replacement of Catholic Social Teaching with the Trumpian brand of warmed-over Americanism, and all the failures in charity and common sense that come with it.

    Given how deep the rot has gone at this point, it’s definitely a tall order. Then again, if God could mould a coward, shuffler, and snob like Peter into the Prince of the Apostles, who’s to say he can’t do the same for us Trads – especially those of us, like yours truly, who only came to the Movement seeking beautiful liturgy and solid preaching and never wanted any part of this tinfoil hat nonsense to begin with?

  3. I find it very interesting to read a little bit of insight from someone close to sedevacantists, although I would disagree with part of this statement:

    These were two intelligent Traditionalists who had followed the logical trajectory of Traditionalist principles”

    That is not the logical end unless one defines traditionalism as a specific set of rigidly defined principles. The reality is a continuum of views, I guess including people who reject even using electricity like the author’s parents, but ranging up to people who simply appreciate practices our predecessors found helpful in their spiritual lives, such as routine use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy (which it seems like a fitting opportunity to note that Vatican II agrees).

    We absolutely want to discourage a form of traditionalism that uncritically drives towards older as automatically better, or any similarly flawed logic.

    However, I don’t think the way we’re going about it as a Church right now is helping. Frankly, I think it’s doing the opposite. It’s like in American politics – people are getting defensive and more polarized, and as I talk to traditionalists whom I encounter and try to re-assure them, I can’t help but sympathize with them. It’s great for me to be able to talk about positive things I see like the great young priests at several parishes in my area who actually are working hard to restore “decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican II” like Pope Francis recently called for, but my arguments don’t seem to convince others, because even I know these things are the exception, not the norm.

    I started to write a lot more, but I stopped and deleted it, because it tended to lead me down a list of unnecessarily specific tangents. The summary of what I started to write is that recent changes in the Church that affect traditionalists have been abrupt, go beyond their stated intent, and are lopsided. That made people defensive, and psychological mechanisms kicked in that are difficult to overcome with words. We talk about accompaniment toward gradual change of heart, but not for people who appear “rigid.” For them we responded in turn with rigidity, and we made certain to do the same to all their friends, too.

    On the point about lopsided changes, one of the things that drives people past a love of the Church’s traditions, and into a traditionalist mindset is that they really do treasure much of what the Church offers us, especially the Eucharist and the Mass, but they seldom see the Church at large act in a way that outwardly expresses that. When they see it demonstrated in the older liturgical form, that has a strong appeal. I experienced that myself, but backed away from it when I learned most of the traditional aspects that seemed to me like they should have been retained by Vatican II actually were retained by Vatican II. My suspicion that maybe the Dominican parish I had learned to like was cheating a bit turned out in reality to be the first parish I had encountered consistently doing what the Church said to do at Mass.

    I really do think we can pre-empt a lot of the liturgically centered polarization that is going on in the Church right now by putting as much emphasis on following Vatican II as we do on preventing people from following what preceeded Vatican II. It rings very hollow when we say new Missal is better, but in many parishes the Missal is treated as little more than a starting point for further innovations.

    This is similar to what Mark keeps saying about the pro-life movement: we seem like hypocrites and we harm our own cause when we don’t put similar emphasis on helping the born as we do the unborn.

    There’s other aspects of the traditional movement to address besides the liturgy, of course, but it’s a major focal point, and this post is long enough anyways.

    1. A word comes to mind.


      When I was a child my father played his grand piano almost every night when I was falling asleep. I thought that every father did that, and every child knew Beethoven Mozart etc..

      One of my worst temptations happens when I go to a place like Disneyland. (I can’t even talk about water parks.) Nothing about the aesthetic of places like Disneyland truly appeals to me. I find it shoddy, cheap and childish. I was disgusted by the movie Encanto. Disney films fail to move me.

      My 18 y.o. likes to say: “that sounds like a YOU problem” even though I know that because he is my son, and I have corrupted him with my *pain* when it comes to aesthetics. He probably is doomed to be disgusted by Disneyland also, even though he’s still a teen.

      About 15 years ago, I had an uncomfortable religious experience at Disneyland. I saw this throng of people dressed cheaply, immodestly, sporting tattoos, *clearly overweight*…and I could swear I heard Jesus telling me how much he loved them–that he would die for every single one of them.

      I continue to feel pretty disgusted by Disneyland and the clothing choices of the people that inhabit it, but now I realize that it’s a *me* problem. I’m a recovering snob.

  4. My heart goes out to him. I’m cheering for his liberty from it! After reading the comments, I began to feel like I was swimming through glue. It was awful–Mind numbing. Satan in a bad suit, a silly wig and pantomime.

  5. >Coulombe advocates for Feeneyism, and points to the Aristotelian philosophy of St. Thomas as facilitating the Church’s betrayal of the traditional dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

    My eyes glazed over when I read that. All this arguments and documents and clauses ..when elephants fight, the grass get’s trampled.

    I have only sympathy towards those who who cannot get beyond the trappings of ritual. Christs’ original mass had only simple human words.

    To me, it seems everything that exists as ritual today is crutches. Crutches meant for those who cannot get into the spirit with simple words as at the Last Supper or it’s commemoration by the Apostles.

    And it seems like the argument is about “my crutches are better than yours”, when Christians should aspire to outgrow crutches

    1. “I have only sympathy towards those who who cannot get beyond the trappings of ritual. “

      This is one of the types of attitudes that troubled me in my longer post on this discussion. I get the sense that because I, among countless others, have found numerous rituals helpful in my spiritual life, I am the object of your pity. Sure, I suppose we could call rituals a crutch in a sense. We are, after all, fallen and broken creatures. The broken need crutches to walk, myself included.

      An interesting thing is that the background of this discussion is people who reject or at least struggle to accept the reforms of the second Vatican Council. If you read Sacrosanctum Conciliam, you will find that one four central documents of the Council is entirely about the use of rituals – our liturgy – to deepen our spiritual lives. The Church as a whole insists our sacred rituals are important.

      Be careful not to react to one extreme that treats our rites as unchangeable by instead taking the other extreme that treats our rites as lacking value to hold onto at all. This also is an aspect of accepting the second Vatican Council.

      1. @iamlucky

        I stopped attending the local Parish a few years ago. The ‘innovations’ became a bit much. I’m by no means a hardliner, but an ‘alternative version of the creed’ is not for me. I attend a church across the border now, in Maastricht. Liturgically sound new mass at 8:45, Latin mass at 11:00, alternatively with Gregorian chant and polyphony every other week. Many who usually attend the Latin one attend the new mass if they can’t make it at 11:00. Many others, like me, sometimes attend the Latin one for a taste of a different liturgy, and for the music. I’ve never heard anyone being obnoxious about either form of the liturgy. The Motu Proprio passed without any fuss, afaik.

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