A Response To Recent Critics

His Honour, Pete Vere, JCL, presiding...

Judging from the reaction to a recent piece Shawn McElhinney and I coauthored for The Wanderer, a few people have difficulty understanding that the Church has suspended Fr. Gruner from exercising his priestly faculties. As Catholic traditionalists, we are bound to submit to this judgment. Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

Yet in every age one finds those who dissent from the Church’s judgment. Thus those who stand by the Church’s position will find themselves under personal attack. I suppose, therefore, I should not be surprised when, like Sr. Lucy of Fatima, I too find myself under fire for standing by the Church. As one of Fr. Gruner’s more vocal defenders recently wrote, "The Wanderer presents Vere as ‘a practicing canonist’ with no mention of his own biography, which reveals that he was a former Catholic, a former occultist and socialist, a former Protestant Pentecostal, and a former Catholic traditionalist (affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X)."

Granted, I enjoyed this little synopsis of my conversion story. For those who prefer to read the full account, however, I invite you to read Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth 3: 10 More Converts Explain the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic. This book is available from Sophia Institute Press for a modest price, or one may call Surprised by Truth ministries at 800-55-ENVOY. If you prefer audiocassettes, Pat and I have also recorded a discussion of my journey from schismatic traditionalism back to authentic Catholic traditionalism.

Thus my conversion story is no big secret; The Wanderer’s readership can easily access it. Nevertheless, as enjoyable a read as friends and critics alike seem to find it, my conversion story has little to do with my professional qualifications as a canonist.

Now returning to the main topic, not a few of Fr. Gruner’s defenders accuse McElhinney and myself of neo-Catholicism. This is despite the fact McElhinney and I are former adherents to the SSPX schism who now strongly support the Ecclesia Dei indult. Thus we are both well acquainted with Catholic traditionalism. Yet our critics charge us with neo-Catholicism because we submit to the Holy See’s decision concerning Fr. Gruner. Certain lidless-eyes among our accusers obviously find obedience to the Church’s legitimate hierarchical authority upsetting, but it is by no means novel.

Nor is our position unique to that held by orthodox and traditional Catholics during the past 30 years. In fact, I am reminded of an article that appeared in the January 19, 1967, issue of The Wanderer. This piece concerned the case of Fr. Gommar De Pauw, who had founded the American Catholic Traditionalist Movement back in the mid-1960s. Fr. De Pauw’s situation at the time bore many parallels to Fr. Gruner’s current situation. Both situations concern a priest with traditional leanings who attempts to incardinate in a foreign diocese reportedly in order to continue his private apostolate. In neither case was the attempt sustained under canon law as decided upon by the competent Roman dicastery.

In addressing this situation concerning Fr. De Pauw, in the above-cited issue of The Wanderer, Walter Matt, considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the traditionalist movement, writes:

"We strongly suggest, therefore, that those of us who choose to call themselves conservative, orthodox, or traditionalist Catholics, should be the very last ones indeed ever to defy the rightful moral authority and juridical institutions of the teaching Magisterium of Holy Mother Church. Our responsibility, particularly in the storm-tossed, revolution-swept world of today, is infinitely greater than that. Loyalty to Christ and to His Vicar here on earth demands something more of us than grudging lip service. It demands of us, as it did of Him, perfect obedience, humility, and loyalty — and, of course, the atoning spirit of forgiveness and sacrifice for the sins of men, even for those who again today would stoop to betray Him and send Him to the cross."

Although penned by Walter Matt in The Wanderer over 35 years ago, these words apply equally today to how conservative, orthodox, and traditionalist Catholics ought to approach Fr. Gruner’s suspension. Christ has instituted His Church as a hierarchy. When all appeals are turned down, the decisions of our lawful ecclesiastical superiors are those to which we must submit. And in spite of the fact our position now finds itself denounced by some as neo-Catholic, our position is no different than that beautifully summarized by Walter Matt in the aforementioned Wanderer editorial as "conservative, orthodox, and traditionalist."

Pete Vere, JCL
The Catholic Legate
August 7, 2003


(Originally published in The Wanderer)