When the Vatican sent a new Bishop to the Idaho diocese, I did extensive research on His Excellency and wrote up a fairly significant review of his past in the blog post CCS investigates: Idaho Bishop Christensen. I was most interested in how he would interact with the massive presence of traditional Catholics in Idaho. My theory in that piece that he would essentially ignore us when I said “…From my confidential priestly sources their initial reaction is that Bishop Peter Christensen seems to be “neutral” to traditional Catholicism…” ended up being spot on. At least so far.
Now the Grand Inquisitor on behalf of the Pope has issued a letter that may lead to more interaction between Bishop Christensen and the Society of Saint Pius the X in Idaho. Previous to this, to the best of my knowledge there has been little to no interaction between the diocese and the Society. Now there may be. Because of that, I wanted to share some insights with His Excellency to hopefully help him avoid costly mistakes. First why I am uniquely qualified to provide this insight.
Been there done that
Protestants are seeking the truth also. I am a convert to the Catholic faith. My entire family is mostly not practicing atheist and agnostic people who were baptized Christians. I love my family. There are even members of my family who have converted to Islam. I know there are good people out there of other faiths, even though I can strongly be opposed to their ideology. There are many people in my family who have lost their faith for various reasons.
Raised as a protestant
My wife’s family includes many, many people who have walked away from the Catholic faith for many reasons including the routine assault and abuse of the church. I know of several non-practicing Catholics who hate child raping priests so much they have stopped interacting with the Catholic faith at all. They encourage all the remaining Catholics in her family to leave their faith. This often works since no one in her family has been well catechized, to begin with. It is strange to me that your Novus Ordo church does not seem to focus on these lost souls, lost in part because of the actions of the Catholic Church itself but likes to focus on believing traditional Catholics instead.
Converted through the Novus Ordo RCIA program
I am a convert to the Catholic faith. The person who worked with me for a long time before I started my Catholic journey and led the process of my conversion to the one true faith was a Novus Ordo Deacon. He is a good man and a solid Catholic. I will always love him for his help to me when I needed it. That parish was an active parish, and a good one, but it had immodestly dressed women giving the reading, Eucharist ministers manhandling the Eucharist and Alter Boy girls. We would go to Mass in our flip flops and shorts on the way to the beach. We simply did not know better. Still, I would say the process of RCIA he ran is better than what I have seen in the SSPX or the FSSP parishes. In my opinion and experience, most Catholics, and especially traditional Catholics are terrible at evangelisation. The SSPX does not appear to have the same level of experience in converting Christians non-Catholics in in the US. Traditional Catholics are very insular. I am most likely one of the very few people in the traditional Catholic community who have extensive experience with the Novus Ordo church, and one of the few who has any positive experience with the Novus Ordo church.
Attended Parishes administered by the FSSP
Next, I attended an FSSP managed parish for a very long time in a different part of the country. We were very happy at that parish, and the priests were amazing. Since we left that parish, and due to some horrific tragedies in our life, my wife has experienced a great loss of her faith. In that FSSP run parish, as a family, we deepened our understanding of the Catholic faith and started to understand what it means to be Catholic. That FSSP parish had such an excellent outreach to non-English speakers, and I would say again, the FSSP parish was much better at outreach to the local area, much more “friendly” than the SSPX parish. I actually would say the same thing about the FSSP parish where we live now. Simply more welcoming. We appreciate that parish so much that my youngest daughter shares a name with that parish. I am one of the very few people in my current parish who have a good experience with an FSSP parish.
Attend Parish & Schools administered by the SSPX
Still, the SSPX parish we attend now is very rock solid in its faith and we have met so many wonderful people who have helped us out. Also the thing it has that the FSSP parish does not have is excellent schools. The SSPX parish worked so hard for the miracle that saved my wife’s life, as well as the FSSP parish. I wrote about the incredible help the local SSPX (and FSSP) communities provided to our family several times. However, I would say that our local SSPX parish is somewhat insular, and “cliquish” and thus not as welcoming as other traditional Catholic parishes we have experienced. This cliquish has been noted by several people who have become our friends and have attended SSPX parishes for more than 20 years. Multiple families. Still, this parish has so many good, wonderful traditional schools, solid and faithful people and such a solid faith life.
Thus I have a very unique religious background. I have personal, extensive and for the most part positive first hand experience with non-denominational protestant Christians, Novus Ordo Catholics, diocesan approved traditional Catholics such as the FSSP, and non-diocesan approved Catholics such as the SSPX and even Sedevacantists such as the CMRI. Very few people have this extensive and direct experience.
Now my recommendation
For a long time, it was my objective to try and bridge the gap between our FSSP and SSPX friends. They are obviously very similar and both very good people. I will continue to try, but I have found after years of trying it nearly impossible. There is too much bad blood between the FSSP and SSPX religious and faithful. Now we interact only a little with the local Sedevacantists CMRI community. Once again, very solid in their faith, great people but they appear to be even more insular than the SSPX parish. So that brings me to the point of this post.
Bishop Christensen may choose to interact with the SSPX communities of Idaho, partially because of the Pope’s new letter where he authorizes a Bishop to send a diocesan delegation to “…receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite…” I wanted to share with His Excellency my observation. I would not involve FSSP in this diocesan delegation. There is too much bad blood on both sides, including between the faithful and religious in these communities. I would not involve the FSSP in communications with the SSPX if I wanted those interactions to be positive.
Now I have had a great personal interaction with the FSSP priests and the faithful who attend the FSSP parish. They have been extraordinarily kind to my family and I. However I have personally seen when you say “SSPX” to FSSP priests, it is as they falls into what I have called SSPX derangement syndrome. We have encountered the same thing in the previous FSSP parish. What I see as a normally loving and supporting priest becomes pretty unthinkingly hostile when the subject of the SSPX comes up. They seem oblivious to their weakness.
Previously it was my theory that the FSSP were well situated to be a bridge between traditional Catholics and the modernist Church. You are into sailing and I am a naval veteran, thus I will put this into nautical terms. That ship has sailed. There is extremely bad blood between many, if not most FSSP and the SSPX faithful and religious in your diocese. If you choose to send a delegation to witness SSPX weddings (big if), and the Society agrees to accept diocesan involvement (even bigger if), I would strongly encourage you not to send an FSSP delegation to an SSPX parish. Many will take this action is your underhanded way of continuing to attack the Society and the faithful who attend their parishes.
In addition something the local SSPX priest may not tell you. I will tell you; just you or your delegation setting foot inside of an SSPX parish will cause a deep feeling of unease for some, if not many of the SSPX faithful. If the SSPX priest allows this, I can assure there will be some SSPX faithful who will leave that parish and most likely start attending the SSPX-resistance gatherings. You will push them further away. How many, I have no idea, but I am fairly sure, some. I doubt anyone will say anything to you, as from my experience SSPX faithful have deep instinctual respect for all Catholic religious, even Novus Ordo priests. This is why I am sharing this with you. I can assure you that there will be more than a few people who have serious problems just seeing a Novus Ordo priest or Bishop among their community.
I (and I believe many) feel you, your peers and predecessors have repeatedly attacked and savaged the SSPX community for a long time. When you personally put out a press release two years ago in response to the issue with the child rapist who attended the SSPX parish you said essentially said the SSPX are not Catholic. Specifically you said “… the church with whom Mr. Sloniker worked, Immaculate Conception Church, in Post Falls, is not a Roman Catholic Church” which is a lie. Many SSPX faithful saw it and just added it to the list of insults.
Another example of your predecessors continuing attack on the SSPX, Idaho is big. There are people asking for traditional Latin Masses everywhere. I personally know this. There is one priest managing two or three physically separate parishes which are shrinking in Lewiston, Idaho. There is no permanent traditional parish in Boise. Yet even though there are calls for the Latin mass all over Idaho you choose to place the FSSP parish, right next to an existing SSPX parish, even though there are many other people begging for traditional Latin masses all over your diocese. No one is stupid; they understand that you placed the FSSP parish right next to an existing SSPX parish to try to weaken the SSPX community. That attack has not worked.
To heal any wound, you must first acknowledge there have been wounds made. If you want to try and heal these wounds, and both the Pope and Superior General of the Society Bishop Bernard Fellay, apparently want that, I strongly encourage you not to involve the FSSP priests in interactions with the SSPX.