Interview with Bishop Donald Sanborn on Cultural Issues: March 2009

Find below Part 2 of the interview I did with Bishop Sanborn earlier this year in Florida. In this interview he covers items as diverse as how he discovered his own vocation, to the early days of the SSPX in America, to seminary education, to Hitchcock movies, to what Traditional Catholic families are doing well, and not doing well, and much more...and you will find that he agrees with Bishop Williamson on university education - for both men and women! Gasp!

Enjoy more Catholic counsel from yet another Catholic bishop originally ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Stephen Heiner: How long now have you been working in some sort of capacity forming priests?
Bishop Sanborn: Many years. I started in January 1977 in Armada and continued in that capacity until April of 1983 in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Then I started forming priests again, I think, in 1989/1990 and had Father Baumberger and Father Greenwell in Michigan at that time. Then when the Bishop Mendez presented himself, they departed. Others came. Two former seminarians of Winona came to us looking for training. I trained both of them for a while, but they decided not to pursue it. Then Bishop Dolan was consecrated in 1993, and the idea of the serious formation of priests became a reality again. In 1995, I officially established Most Holy Trinity Seminary in Warren, Michigan, and we have been functioning ever since.. So really the only time in my 34 years as a priest that I have not been training priests was my first year of ordination and about five years between 1983 and 1989, so maybe six years.S.H. So that was when you were in Oyster Bay with Father Kelly?
B.S. Yes, my first post was in New York with the then Father Kelly.

S.H. But then you were moved to this house of formation.
B.S. Yes, Father Ward—Father Anthony Ward — had left the Society of Pius X rather quickly, and I think Archbishop Lefebvre had nobody else. I think that’s why. I was really too young.

S.H. How old were you then?
B.S. I was twenty-six years old, and I thought I was too young then and I know now I was too young. I think it can be summed up in this way: “There’s nobody else to do it and you’re American and you’re available. You do it.”

S.H. So when you went to Michigan how many young men were there?

B.S. There were three.

S.H. Three. And then how long were you there before you went to Ridgefield?
B.S. We went to Ridgefield in the fall of 1979.

S.H. So you were there for four years?
B.S. Yes.

S.H. And things were really sort of humming along from all accounts, even from what Bishop Williamson tells me things were just moving along.

B.S. Things were going well in Ridgefield, yes. We were building a new building in Ridgefield. Donations were really strong.

S.H. I want to veer off for a moment and present you with the ability to reflect on the entire “event” as it were of 1983. I have reconstructed the events through the eyes of Bishop Williamson, who has asked to simply retell the story by referring to an Angelus interview he did on the matter in 1983, Fr. Cekada, who wrote a long article in which he talked about the legal matters and did an interview with me about it, Bp. Dolan, in a forthcoming interview where he talked about how his relationship with the Archbishop informed the whole event…now you…the man who was, in effect, fired and expelled as Seminary Rector.

I have three questions and you can respond to them in any order you would like. One, did you expect that this was inevitable? Two, after nearly 30 years of retrospective, would you have done anything differently or do you have any regrets? Three, do you see, as I do, that the clash between the “Nine” and the SSPX still characterizes the “hard-line” and “Rome-line” within the SSPX to this day and hour, though recent personnel moves have certainly displaced some of the more outspoken “hard-line”?
B.S. To answer the first question: yes, it was inevitable. With the election of John Paul II in 1978, Archbishop Lefebvre was on a fast track toward reconciliation with the Vatican. The clash with the Americans was inevitable, therefore, since we wanted nothing to do with the Modernists who inhabit the Vatican. To answer the second question: I regret that the whole thing had to happen. The ideal, of course, is that all of Catholic tradition show itself as a single unified force. But even now looking back at 1983 after more than twenty-five years, I do not see how it could have been done any differently. To answer the third question: Absolutely, the forces which caused the split in 1983 are still very much at work in the Society of Saint Pius X. There are many different currents in that group, and they may well end up with another big split before long. On the other hand, they often manage to bury their differences by some sort of cohesion which springs, I think, from the memory of Archbishop Lefebvre.

S.H. Let's return to the state of the seminary in 1983. You had a good group of young men?
B.S. There were about 30-35, I think, depending on the year. The first year of the seminary, however, can be at times disappointing.

S.H. When you’re saying disappointing, what do you mean by that?
B.S. It means that there is a formation that we have to give them, and they come face to face with that formation their first year. Some of them respond really well and some of them do not. That first year is a critical year: it’s when you lose most of those whom you will lose. And it could be for any number of reasons. It can be for theological reasons. It could be for character reasons. It could be for academic reasons, or maybe disciplinary reasons. There is a formidable formation that they have to face. Many times they have come in from an absolutely abominable academic atmosphere of modern education, and they have no study habits or bad study habits. They do not even know the basics of English grammar. Their English is often marginal, full of grammatical errors. Their pronunciation is bad. You are really dealing with very raw material in many cases. So then we’re faced with teaching them, in many cases, their own language. Then we have to teach them Latin. They have had no Latin. Years ago Latin — unless you were in a B or C track —was obligatory in Catholic schools. Almost everybody took Latin. Since they have no Latin, they’re facing the challenge of language all of a sudden, and it’s a very, very disciplined study, with memorization and grammar. That is a lot. Not everybody can take that. Then they have other courses, namely in philosophy, which is very abstract. It’s just a whole new world of academics for them. Many cannot survive.

S.H. So when you are talking about what we alluded to earlier about having to put up with a smaller group of people to pick from, in the same sense do you find that you’re losing people sometimes not due to a lack of piety or a lack of desire but they just don’t have the academic ability to keep up?
B.S. That’s one of the reasons, one of the reasons.

S.H. Do you think other reasons are occurring more now than before the Council as far as what’s stopping a young man from coming into a seminary?
B.S. Yes. What is stopping a young man from coming to seminary today is the selfishness —that’s one reason — and the other is the distraction of the modern age.

S.H. Can you elaborate on both of those, Your Excellency?
B.S. The way in which children are raised today is one in which the selfishness is accentuated; the natural selfishness of Original Sin is accentuated as a virtue, practically. The question that would arise at the age of fifteen or sixteen is “What is fulfilling to me?”, “How does this fulfill me?” And when you add materialism to that, and certainly Western Europe and the United States are soaked in materialism, the obvious response is “How can I make the most money?” and “How will I be the happiest?” That’s the only question. So the priesthood obviously is way, way down on the list even for the pious person, even for the person who has been raised in the Catholic Faith, and by that I mean the traditional Faith. He cannot overcome that tendency to selfishness, even if he should be pious.

When World War II broke out, the lines for the recruitment offices were packed. You couldn’t even get into the recruitment offices. Those were people who were volunteering. I don’t think you would see that today in the young man. I think he is a whole different kind of person. Before the 1960’s there was the idea of responsibility and work, what you needed to do in life. You picked out your career early on in life and went toward it and were stable in it. That’s gone. The young people want to live for today and have a job that pays today and they don’t want to worry about the next day. There is no idea of great responsibilities. It’s just against the culture.

S.H. So that goes into your second point about distraction then?
B.S. Yes. That goes into distraction and material things and impossibility of seeing beyond today. They’re not attracted to even worldly undertakings that involve responsibility. It’s even hard to convince them to get married.

S.H. Really?
B.S. The idea of settling down with a wife and children, together with all of those responsibilities, sounds hard to them. It’s common knowledge that your twenties are your teens now and your thirties are your twenties, and you might get married when you’re thirty-eight and settle down the way that people would have done when they were eighteen or nineteen, sixty or seventy years ago.

S.H. It’s definitely moved. I can speak from personal experience.
B.S. It’s all of the excessive schooling that goes on too. In the 1930s probably 5% of the male population went to college, and the academics in college were of far better quality. It was truly a university or college in which the idea was liberal arts and the perfection of the mind in various ways, for example, through philosophy and theology and so forth. Now universities are essentially trade schools, business schools concentrating on various forms of making money, even in the sciences and teachnology. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that is not the idea of a university. That’s a trade school. It’s like plumbing or electricity. I’m glad that people go to trade schools still, but it is not the idea of a university.S.H. It’s a very expensive trade school.
B.S. My brother is a physician in New York. He always said, “I went to trade school.”

S.H. Your Excellency, if you’re talking about a young man changing at fifteen or sixteen, have you thought about a minor seminary? Have you wanted to do something like that? Is it just a matter of numbers?
B.S. We did actually did do a minor seminary for a while. The problem really is staff. They should be separated from the major seminary. It is impossible to do them together. We tried; it’s impossible. You need a separate building. You need a staff, and the formation is entirely different. There is a big difference between someone who is fourteen, fifteen, even sixteen, and someone who is twenty-one. They’re still very much kids. They need both the supervision of kids and the recreation of kids. There’s a much bigger need for programmed recreation than, let’s say, for someone who is twenty-one. So it’s really staff. I think it’s a wonderful thing but it’s a question of staff and facilities.

S.H. Now the CMRI has one, I think.
B.S. Yes, they do.

S.H. Enlarging this question, when you started Most Holy Trinity Seminary and as time has gone on and you’ve sort of become more, amenable to working with a group like the CMRI, was there ever thought given to combining programs and sort of having a staff there for different classes?
B.S. No, our formation is quite different and it would not work out. People always ask me this question and it is difficult to answer because it is sort of a way of doing things that’s different, as well as certain attitudes and…

S.H. Because some would argue that the Roman Seminary (where the Archbishop went) or those other places, you had a bunch of priests there from a hundred different orders and they managed to go to classes together and learn some basic things together, but they all went back to their houses of formation at the end of the day.
B.S. That’s right but they were just taking classes.

S.H. But if you could all take classes there and then you’d have priests on staff responsible for formation and you could pool the teachings stuff. You’d only need one or two, you could use one priest to be the rector for that house of formation but now you’ve pooled the teaching staff so you don’t need to have all those priests there.
B.S. It’s a thought. Yes, it’s a thought but somehow I don’t think it would work out.

S.H. Do you think families are doing enough to encourage vocations?
B.S. Some are; some are not.

S.H. So, in the way of a positive question, what more could be done? What can families do to encourage vocations more?
B.S. What they should do is pave the highway so that if the young man has the grace, there is no obstacle to his pursuing it. The vocation is a grace. It cannot come from any other place authentically. You can join the priesthood for wrong reasons, but authentically it cannot come from any other place than from the grace of God. But it is possible to have the grace of God to pursue the priesthood and it could be the will of God to do that, but that there at the same time be obstacles in the way, either voluntary or involuntary, whereby you don’t make it.

So the parents should pave the highway and should also encourage but obviously not force or insist on the vocation. They should tell their children that the best thing they can do with their lives is to be a priest, a brother, or a nun, that there’s nothing better and nothing would please them more, if that is the will of God for the child. That’s the first thing. The second thing is to have a deep piety in the home. ButI would say even more important than that is a strict adherence to the Catholic rules. Piety should never be seen as a substitute for the obedience of the commandments. Where the Catholic Faith lives in the family is primarily in the observance of Catholic rules: Catholic rules of belief and Catholic rules of morality.

Then they should detach themselves and their children from the evil influences of the modern world. The first place is to get rid of broadcast and cable television. That is number one on the list. That is so culture-forming from every point of view: worldliness, modesty, what is virtue, what is vice. Nothing can compete with that. It goes so deep, that daily dose of television goes so deep, and nothing can compete. The Catholic school can’t compete. Not even good Catholic parents can compete against that. Their entertainments have to be very much controlled and those influences eliminated without compromise.

Another thing I would warn them against, and which is a great vocation-killer, is sports addiction. There’s nothing wrong with sports. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in who won the ball game. But today there is an addiction to sports. The child remains always a child by this addiction because the sport is only a game, and he lives in a world of games as he grows up. The most important thing in life is the game. I see young men at 25 and 30 having discussions about games and about professional players, discussions that you would expect out of an eleven year-old, when in fact it really doesn’t matter a hoot who won that game. It doesn’t matter a single hoot. In a year or two no one will remember, except some fanatics, who won the game, and who those professional players were. If young men live in a fake world of sports, it is a vocation-killer because a vocation is as serious as a heart attack. You are taking on the burdens of the world. You’re taking on the grave responsibilities of being a link between God and man. You couldn’t get something that requires more responsibility and more gravity than that. Being addicted to sports is about the lightest and the most frivolous thing you can do. Consequently those two things are absolutely opposed. Addiction to sports is a vocation-killer.

S.H. So television, addiction to sports…can you think of anything else?
B.S. Discipline. Since the 1960s, the discipline of children has changed radically, and there’s a phenomenon of what I call “child worship” where the child becomes practically a little god in the family and all things are directed toward the child, and there is no sense of having the child live in an adult world. The old way of raising children was that they would be quiet and they had to conform to rules and they had to be good little children. Now they run amok and scream and become totally unruly. That’s considered something that is quite normal and natural. “They are expressing themselves.” In fact, these are effects of Original Sin that are manifesting themselves. There is no attempt to suppress these things. As a matter of fact, any attempt to curtail these tendencies in a child is considered wrong and improper in the modern culture. So many Catholics, although they are very pious about the traditional Mass and the traditional Faith, are completely modernized in regards to the way they are raising their children.

S.H. Well, I was going to follow up with that, Your Excellency, about these norms. Why do you think families would fight you about the television? Why would they fight you about discipline when its advise coming from you or any priest?
B.S. For a number of reasons. One is that many people perceive the problem to be one of merely liturgy. “We don’t like the New Mass. We like the traditional Mass. We have found the Traditional Mass, and that’s the end of the story”. Yet there is a whole other world beyond the traditional Mass, one of sacred doctrine and there’s a world of preserving all of the practices that are dictated by Catholicism and which were observed before the Council. Many people don’t want any part of these.

S.H. Why?
B.S. Because I think they have this schizophrenic personality in the sense of wanting the traditional Mass but at the same time wanting their culture from the modern. They like the modern culture, but they don’t like the New Mass.

S.H. Is there something to be said for reconciling change and permanence, reconciling modern culture with Catholic thought or trying to understand modern thought through a Catholic prism? Why do you think they are not bringing their Faith into observing the culture or changing the culture or adapting the culture?
B.S. They want to live, in my opinion, in two different worlds. There’s the world of Sunday morning and then there’s the world of the week. It is just too disturbing for them to observe certain rules of modesty, certain rules of entertainment, certain rules of discipline. It’s too disturbing for their lives, makes them too different from their peers and their other family members who may not be as traditional. It causes a lot of problems to be sure, even picking a spouse, the person you bring home, and so forth. It’s difficult. It makes you swim against the current and that’s uncomfortable for a lot of people.

S.H. So you still—when you’re speaking about this, Your Excellency, are you talking about the congregations that you and your priests work with? You still have some of these problems?
B.S. Sure. Very much.S.H. And even though they’ve been properly catechized from the pulpit, they say, “Thank you, Father. Thank you for Mass” and then…
B.S. You know, you have a whole spectrum of people. Some people are very observant in all of those things and others would not be disrespectful to you, but they essentially decide that the priest is excessive or doesn’t understand the situation, or give you some sort of brushing off.

S.H. So is that how it was before the Council?
B.S. Well, I lived before the council. I remember it distinctly. I think people observed the rules overall. We in Catholic school would get a list every week of what was playing in the movie theatres with the Legion of Decency rating next to it. We were told that as children we can only go to “A-1” movies, and if we went to anything that was marked ‘B’ it was a mortal sin. All of my friends observed that. We wouldn’t think of going to a movie without looking at the Legion of Decency. We wouldn’t think about it.

S.H. Well, maybe Bishop Sanborn only hung out with the goody-good kids then?

B.S. I don’t know. I’m sure there were always some that were...

S.H. I mean what would be a ‘B’ movie?
B.S. That would be today…Gone with the Wind was ‘B’.S.H. Because he said “damn” in there?
B.S. That was one of the things, I am sure, but more importantly there was the theme of a loose-living woman. They were very conscious of themes. Where divorce was glorified or even socially accepted, the movie was given a B. It wasn’t only the skin flick that they were looking for. It was moral and social themes that were very important…so some of them would be put in “A-3” which was for adults only, but some were given B.

S.H. Some of the Hitchcock movies?
B.S. Some of the Hitchcock movies have themes which would not scandalize a prudent adult. Other some are very bad.

S.H. But you would cite that as an example of the fact that it wasn’t just “We went to mass.” We were given instruction…
B.S. People in general observed the rules.

S.H. Catholics could swing elections back then.
B.S. Absolutely. Catholics are the ones who cleaned up television in Hollywood. They would adjust movies in order to get the “A-1” rating or the “A-2” rating. The Legion of Decency was revered.

S.H. And who shut that down?
B.S. That was the Council. 1964, I think, was the last year of the Legion of Decency and then the Catholic Office for Motion Pictures was put in its place, and things were starting to be approved that were totally unacceptable. Then they eventually shut it down when Hollywood started to do the MPAA ratings. But, no, if you look at some of the movies and pictures made in the 1950’s, they were generally clean. By today’s standards they were squeaky clean. Consider all of the Hays Office rules for television. That was from Catholicism. The fact that you could not show adults in bed on television—I don’t know if you noticed that…

S.H. You mean everything had to be Ricky-Lucy beds, so separate.
B.S. That was Hays Office.

S.H. But that wasn’t a norm for couples to sleep in separate beds, that was just something that we didn’t want to talk…
B.S. Right, it was something that television was supposed to avoid. In other words, obviously married people sleep in the same bed. But because married couples sleep in the same bed, it does not necessarily follow that such intimacy should be put on the television screen.

S.H. We’re not going to explore that area.
B.S. Right. In other words, sexual matters are not for the world of television.

S.H. So you would have seen it as a prudent thing, that that was a prudent practice?
B.S. I’m not saying that showing separate beds is necessarily required by the moral law but I am respecting the idea that they did observe this rule, and am admiring the idea that they were keeping sex out of television. That was the effect of the Catholic Church. All of that fell apart in the ‘60’s with the Council. I have a distinct memory of life before the Council. It was a very, very ardent life; the churches were packed, Catholic schools packed, and there were many nuns, brothers, and priests. People obeyed the rules and if people didn’t obey the rules, you were in serious trouble.

S.H. Your Excellency, would you say it must have been very shallow for everyone to fall away after the Council or would you say that it was so earthshaking that is was justifiable their leaving, all of these nuns and priests, brothers just leaving after the council?
B.S. I don’t think it was shallow, no, I don’t. I knew priests and nuns and they were not shallow—I never got any kind of impression of shallowness. I knew brothers. Of course some were better than others, but I never got the feeling of lack of faith, that they did not believe what they professed to believe.

S.H. So why did they leave?
B.S. I think that they were poisoned by the Council. I think that authority, in their minds, what was Catholic authority, was telling them to accept a new religion. Whereas the authority should be confirming the true Faith, it was giving them a false religion, and I think they converted to a false religion based on that authority, in quotation marks, and fell away because of that.

S.H. So you don’t buy the idea of this sort of legalistic shell, ‘50’s sort of Catholicism?
B.S. No. That’s a Bishop Williamson myth. He was busy being an Anglican at that point. He never lived it.

S.H. I’ve heard that sometimes—and Bishop Dolan and Father Cekada reiterated this—priests would do things that are incomprehensible even for those of us who grew up in the Novus Ordo, like the idea that a priest would read announcements while Mass was going on or that Communion was given by the time, let’s say, when the Pater Noster was being said. That these sorts of practices were going on, gave the very mechanized sense that, “Well, I went to Mass and there’s this sort of machine that went on.” That would never happen now. I mean those of us who go to Traditional Mass, we would never—I think we have a very skewed perception of what the Traditional Mass is because we have made it our likeness and image based on what we saw from the Novus Ordo, but before the Council if this sort of stuff was happening…
B.S. I will say it was machine-like, yes. The problem was that there were these enormous city parishes, enormous and swelling from the time of the 1920’s to the 1960’s. There would be six or seven Masses upstairs, six or seven Masses downstairs. You had ten minutes in the pulpit and you had to get the Masses over with quickly or the pastor would be very upset with you. You had all these communions to distribute. So, yes, they were giving short sermons, and yes, it became mechanical. I think the problem was that the parishes were too big.

S.H. So could that also have been part of the problem? When there’s something like that, there’s a lack of catechesis and then people feel like they’re a part of this big machine, and then the machine stops working. Then they think, “I’m not going to go to Mass anymore.”
B.S. I don’t think so, no. I think that certainly, yes, that was a fault, that that could have been corrected somehow, but the people knew their Faith, they observed it. It was a working, functioning church, and it was healthy. Everyone accepted the Faith. Families were united. You would talk about things that pertained to Faith. No one ever questioned it.

S.H. I think that’s what those of us who are under 30 who came and found out about this later, for us there’s a big disconnect between this vibrant Church that I’ve heard you discuss and my dad says the same thing and I don’t doubt it…but I try to connect that vibrancy and that Faith and knowing, these people being fully catechized, coming out on the other side of the Council and wholesale people leaving and accepting these changes without resistance… when we have stories throughout the history of the Church, faithful resisting things like the Milanese resisting just some liturgical changes in the Mass with swords...
B.S. Yes, but I think that you have to understand how Pius XII was viewed and by that I mean the Papacy. He was like a god.

S.H. Did you ever see him in the United States? Did he ever come to the United States?
B.S. Not as Pope, but he came as…

S.H. As a Nuncio?
B.S. It was not an Apostolic Delegation. He was sent over for something when he was here, but I never saw him. Not just Pius XII, particularly, but the pope in general was like a god. He was somebody who belonged more to heaven than to earth. That’s how the Pope was seen in Rome. He was no ordinary personality, just Father Smith that became something. He was seen by people…there was such a deep respect for the Pope that —you would not even think that he could hand you a false doctrine. There was an expression “to be more Catholic than the Pope.” The sense was that no one could be more Catholic than the Pope and Pius XII in particular. All of them conducted themselves with great dignity and perfection as clergy, but especially Pius XII. Just perfect. None of the garbage you see today. They were revered as practically angelic.

S.H. So you’re saying that they took advantage of that to poison them?
B.S. Yes. It was the authority. The faith in Catholics all fell apart when all of those things started to come down from Vatican II. I saw it with my own eyes. It all fell apart. I think a lot of those priests left because they realized that this was a new religion implicitly. It meant that everything that they learned in the seminary was a lot of nonsense. They had lost the faith, and they were being indoctrinated in the early 1960’s and 1970’s with this new stuff. I saw it. I was in the seminary, a college seminary in the 1960’s, and they had what they called the Pastoral Institute. It meant that all the pastors in the diocese came and listened to this indoctrination from liberal professors and all learned how to be good Modernists. It was all under the authority of the “Catholic Church,” and the Catholic Church operates on authority.

Because that was so unthinkable at the time that the authority had defected from the Faith, the only alternative was, “Well I have to become a good Modernist.” I saw a lot of priests and nuns who were fine examples of priesthood and religious life just go down the tubes doctrinally, or they left. It all fell apart. It was like putting a pin in a balloon. The whole thing holds nicely together, but if you break the essence of it, it just disintegrates in front of you. I think that’s what happened. The essential elements of Catholicism were taken out, and it just sank. That’s my estimation. To be sure, Modernists were doing their work; the liturgical people were doing their work. I had a priest whom I knew that was a hospital chaplain in the Brooklyn diocese and he told me he was in the seminary in the 1940’s during the war, and he said that one professor in particular put aside the textbook and said, “Just take notes.” He would take notes and he would say to himself, “I think I could get him for heresy for this.” He said they were waiting in the wings. They were just waiting for their moment, all these liberal members of the clergy and others. They knew each other and they were talking about what was coming and, to use his term, “they were waiting in the wings.” When John XXIII came they moved the whole thing out onto the stage. They were definitely there. It’s not to say all was perfect, by any means. As I said in my article recently, the real cause of Vatican II was this energy of the modernists who had submerged from 1903 to 1914 but who reemerged in the pontificates from 1914 to 1958. I put a great deal of blame on those popes for not heeding what Pius X said to do. I think we would never have had a Vatican II if they had continued the programs, the anti-Modernist programs, of Pius X. They considered him to be excessive, and I wonder if Pius XII did not canonize Pius X for that very reason. There are comments Pius XII made here and there that would lead you to believe that he knew that the situation was out of control and that after him there was going to be a deluge. He canonized Pius X over the objections, fiery objections, of so many people who “suffered,” under him, people like Roncalli. Oh, Pius X. The Godzilla of the ecclesiastical state! Yet Pius XII canonized him over all of those objections. I wonder if Pius XII was not saying that Pius X’s program was correct. Pius X in the minds of the people is frequent communion and communion for seven year-olds. In the mind of the clergy is he’s the lion, the suppressor of Modernism and the sacker of priests, cardinals and bishops.

S.H. Well he was the first Pope Saint in five hundred years. Pius IX now in hindsight as well. There had to be reason for that. The one prior to him was Pius V.
B.S. Yes and I think Pius XII was making a statement. I really do, because Pius XII was certainly a person of great faith but at the same time a timid person and a somewhat worldly person, not from the point of view of morals but from the point of view of enforcing doctrine.

S.H. Well, he came from the diplomatic quarter.
B.S. Yes, and his background was aristocratic and world-pleasing. That’s always the difficulty with aristocratic members of the hierarchy and aristocratic popes: that their whole youth is one of living with the current aristocracy and of being on good terms with aristocracy. Aristocracy, unfortunately, since the seventeenth century has been poisoned by liberal ideas, and so there has always been this idea of balancing Catholicism with the liberal ideas of their peers. So he was raised in that, and I think you can see in his demeanor either weakness or excessive toleration of things, also a tendency to being dazzled by modern science and certain modern ideas, a little dazzled, for example, by satellites. Pius X had a healthy detestation of the modern world as it is modern. He saw the problems. He saw that the modern world and Catholicism were two separate things radically opposed. Those other Popes did not see that, and I think that the fact that Pius X was a farm boy meant he had no care of pleasing anybody. There is a famous quote: when he was told by a bishop that he was going too hard on the modernists, he responded, “The modernists should be beaten with fists. When you’re in a fight with somebody you don’t count how many blows you give him, but you strike him wherever you can.” That was brought up against him in his canonization process.

S.H. (Laughing) Yeah, “You can’t canonize him, he’s violent!”
B.S. “Look at this man, he’s horrible!” But, of course, we know what was going on. It was great to see. He was the one who gave Cardinal De Lai essentially carte blanche to spy on Modernists by means of the Sodalitium Pianum. It was actually Cardinal Merry del Val who thought that that was a little bit too extreme. But the channels were opened straight to Pius X through Cardinal De Lai. It was Msgr. Benigni who ran the Sodalitium Pianum.

S.H. It was a smart move.
B.S. Cardinal De Lai was wonderful. He was the one said at the election of Benedict XV, “Humanly speaking, the Church is finished.”

S.H. For you as a Sedevacantist the clock has sort of stopped at Pius XII, and there are pronouncements of his that address modern issues. For example, NFP is more of a preoccupation for the modern Catholic. People look at that allocution as a way to justify NFP and say, “Well Pius XII said this,” and so do you think it’s problematic to have to look back to Pius XII as we continue forward as Catholics and have to deal with different challenges?
B.S. Sure that’s a very, very serious problem that you don’t have a living Magisterium, extremely serious. It’s like turning off the sun. We would more easily live without the sun than we would live without the living Magisterium. I can’t think of any worse curse upon the earth than to silence the Roman Pontiff.

S.H. But the sun being turned off…that means death…or at least sterility, which is an adjective I often hear ascribed to Sedevacantism. Sedevacantists don’t have any Benedictine monasteries or Dominican Priories, or that sort of thing, how do you respond to that, that accusation that Sedevacantism is sterile? What do you think that means?
B.S. I would not say it is sterile; I would say it is small because it is saying something very unpopular, and not mainstream at all. Furthermore it is difficult to understand.

S.H. Some would say conspiracy theory.
B.S. No. But it is difficult to understand. You have to do your homework to be a sedevacantist.

S.H. So then the argument would be made so Sedevacantism is only available to intelligent Catholics and that the simple Catholic can’t…
B.S. No, that’s not true. It’s just that—I would say that the simple Catholic has to, any Catholic whether intelligent or not, has to do his homework to be a sedevacantist. He has to think it out and move off of the position that all that counts or all that’s important is the Traditional Latin Mass. The Traditional movement has been poisoned from this attitude from the beginning, and that’s why most of the Catholics who did react in the 1960’s and 1970’s went down the route of Latin Massism.

S.H. It was like the Father Gommar DePauw school of thought…

B.S. Yes, something like, “The pope really, secretly, wants this.” Some sort of ridiculous argument regarding their legal acceptability of having the traditional Latin Mass even though it’s been suppressed or outlawed. Casting aside the problem of the papacy and making the pope just a fixture, if you want, that we don’t really have to think about. That has been the path of the traditional movement and it is a poisoned path. It’s going straight back into the Novus Ordo. If you have Benedict’s picture in the vestibule and his name in the canon, you’re going to be back with him sooner or later just like a satellite that is circling the earth. It’s going to fall down onto the earth. All of your logic, your theology, everything is going to lead back to Modernism. There is nothing intrinsically sterile about sedevacantism. I’m just saying it is small and one of the reasons that we’re small is because the SSPX principally has poisoned the traditional movement.

S.H. How?

B.S. By having this schizophrenic position, “recognize and resist.”

S.H. Your Excellency, I’d like to circle back to talking about the religious orders. You mentioned some problems for men and grasping vocations. What about women? Is there any additional element holding back women from being nuns and is it that same explanation for distracting them from marriage or are men more distracted?
B.S. I think men are more distracted. The female vocation has always been easier than the male vocation in the sense that the woman is more inclined to piety, is more inclined to a domestic life by nature. You know the man is the roamer, the hunter-gatherer. You do have a somewhat constrained life in the priesthood although it’s not as constrained as some might perceive it to be. It is something that is a little distasteful, I think, to many.
The female vocation has always been easier. I think that’s even true today. However, I think in both cases you have the uncertainty of the times. This also might be something holding back the girl particularly. You have to have a very stable foundation in order to form nuns and expect them to give over their lives to something. It has to be stable in all ways: not merely theologically and liturgically, but also stable financially and governmentally. That might be a factor in both cases, both men and women, holding them back. What does the future hold? I can’t answer the question. I never could. When I was deciding to become a traditional seminarian back in the 1970’s, I had no idea what was going to happen. So, I think it takes a special person today to pursue the priesthood or the woman’s religious life more than, say, 75 years ago. Things were so stable then. Life was so predictable that it was much easier. I think that would perhaps be a factor for some girls. I don’t see in women the same sort of selfishness as I see in men, but I do see some infection of feminism in women that might be a factor.

S.H. That is a word (feminism) that is always so bandied around so can you be a bit more specific, Your Excellency, and maybe one or two examples of that, you say, feminism. Are modern women more willful?
B.S. I think you have to go back to the basics in Genesis. Women were created as assistants to men, so whenever you have the word “assistant” it means you have a principal. I think that a failure to understand that role is feminism.

S.H. (Pauses.) There are a number of Traditional Catholic women who would, um, take umbrage at that formulation. “Women were created as assistants to men, so we don’t have value ourselves, Your Excellency?” That would be the question, so we’re not valuable in ourselves; we’re only valuable so far as what we can do for men. I think that’s the feminist follow-up to that.
B.S. Valuable, I’m balking at that word. Everyone is valuable. Every soul is valuable in the sight of God even though we’re sinners.

S.H. Maybe worth? Men validate themselves through their work, right? People can validate themselves through their work, but if women are created as assistants to men, it would seem that if they don’t have a man to assist than they’re purposeless.
B.S. I’d say you would have to distinguish between the norm and the exception, which means that in itself the reason why God created women was to be assistants to men, but it could happen that a woman could have a role, by some fluke or accident, that was not intended as the norm. If the husband dies, for example, she has to be the head of the family. But that does not change the intrinsic purpose in creating women was as assistants to men. That’s in Genesis.

S.H. So these women who never get married, let’s say, is there a lack of fulfillment in their role as a woman because they weren’t serving as an assistant to a man, other than let’s say at a job or in a functional capacity that’s over at the end of the day.
B.S. It certainly—I wouldn’t say it’s “without worth” or without value—but I’m saying that it is not the role for which they were created. They may have to assume such a role for reasons of necessity or whatever, but the greatest fulfillment of a woman or the greatest role, in the natural order, that she can undertake is actually that of a mother and that as an assistant to the father of the family. Naturally speaking, the greatest role for a woman, as a woman, is that she become a mother. What is supernaturally a greater dignity is that she preserve her virginity and consecrate her virginity to God. That is yet greater than being a mother, but there again she does that in an assisting capacity to the priesthood.
Just as is the case in any hierarchy, there are some people that are principals and some people that are assistants. If everyone is a principal, you have chaos; if everyone is an assistant, you have chaos, because an assistant implies a principal. In every machine, in anything that works in an orderly fashion, there is a principal and an assistant, and everything works well when the principal acts as the principal and the assistant acts as the assistant. But there could be cases and there are many cases of women who are required to perform functions that ordinarily men should perform. If there is a reasonable cause for it, then obviously it’s not wrong, and, in many cases, there are reasonable causes for it.

S.H. Your Excellency, what about your vocation? I mean was it this traditional sort of thing, where you were praying and you heard a calling, or did you really have a sense that this was something you were suppose to do?
B.S. It actually was one of those dramatic sort of things. I remember very clearly; it was 1965. Really I had never given much thought to the priesthood. I remember the nuns in seventh grade or eighth grade, which would have been 1962, ’63 saying, “Why don’t you become a priest?” and my saying “I don’t think it is for me” and yet I was a pious…

S.H. What were you thinking of being back then?
B.S. I think I was thinking about teaching at a university.

S.H. The intellectual life?
B.S. I think I was attracted to that if I recall. I wasn’t really sure but I didn’t give the priesthood much thought. I thought it was a wonderful thing. I always had a great admiration for the priesthood. I was pious, but I was not very pious. You know I was not in church all the time but I do recall loving to go to high Masses as a child, Stations of the Cross, Benediction. I thought that was always something of interest to me and was happy when it happened. I remember going to daily Mass during Lent, but I mean I was not extraordinarily pious. I remember that it was the first Sunday in November in 1964, the first of Advent 1964. The first changes had come down from Vatican II, and I remember walking home from church practically sick to my stomach.S.H. Had they dumped the Last Gospel?
B.S. They had dumped the Last Gospel and the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. There was some English, some English in it. Things were different, and I remember distinctly saying to myself, “There’s something protestant about this and I don’t like it.” I was one of the early traditionalists. I sensed something was deeply wrong. There was something wrong.

S.H. 1964. So you were fifteen, sixteen?
B.S. Fourteen at that time. But like everyone you keep on going to church and keep on doing what you’re told to do. In 1965, I was fifteen years old and troubled by what was going on in the church, and I remember kneeling in my parish and something came over me or something like that. I remember making a very definite but quick decision, “This is what I will do.”

S.H. In response to that sick feeling?
B.S. No. I was just kneeling waiting for Mass.

S.H. So that had happened just like that Sunday and then during that week…
B.S. That was it, and I never swerved from that thereafter.

S.H. And what did your parents think?
B.S. I told them eventually. I didn’t go home and tell them that. Eventually I let them know I wanted to be a priest. So my father went up to the priest of the rectory and said, “What shall I do, my son wants to be a priest. Should we send him to seminary?” And he said, “No just let him stay in the Catholic school where he is in and if he wants to be a priest, he’ll pursue it and if he doesn’t, he won’t.” And that’s true too. The priesthood has such a strong drive in you that if you have a vocation you’ll get there unless you have some serious obstacle like academics or something. So that’s what I did. I stayed in the Catholic high school and after that I went to Cathedral College in Douglaston. They were just changing the system at that time where they wanted you to have a college degree.

It used to be that they would give you four years of high school, and then two years of humanities. This was the minor seminary. Then they sent you to the major seminary. At the major seminary, you would do two years of philosophy, and four years of theology. That was the program. They changed the program to four years of minor seminary, four years of college seminary—Father Cekada went to the same thing—and then four years of major seminary. I entered when I was seventeen.

S.H. That’s how they do it now?
B.S. Yes, but now I think they’ve closed down their college seminaries and they send you to local university, like Marquette.S.H. Because they don’t have enough.
B.S. The college seminaries all old-age homes now. But they were running the college level at that point. That’s where I went. When I was seventeen I thought, “The parish is really liberal but in the seminary, they’ll be straight-laced. Nothing to worry about there.” I thought I would find somewhat of an oasis of Catholicism. But it was typical 1960’s seminary: liturgical abominations, no discipline, all sorts of heresy, awful theology, many, many cases of bad philosophy depending on who you had. At that time it was still a mix of traditional and liberal. I remember on the feast of the Annunciation they brought in a rock band and they sang Lady Madonna, and that’s when I said I cannot…

S.H. I mean were you all wearing cassocks?
B.S. No. We wore the cassock for Sunday Mass and that was it. Then it was sweatshirts. I always wore a jacket and tie.

S.H. I can’t imagine you in a sweatshirt.
B.S. It is the typical college student look. It was a horrible place. When we sang Lady Madonna I thought this is it. I don’t want any part of this, and I remember thinking to myself, “I do not want to be in the same rectories with these people when I’m in my fifties. I have to get out of this one way or the other.” So then…

S.H. What year? That was when?
B.S. That was about 1970. I think that’s when Lady Madonna came out, such a horrible memory of that.

S.H. March 25th, 1970.
B.S. I’m going to guess it as that year. I thought, “This is not my religion.” So then I looked at other dioceses initially, took trips, wrote letters, went up to Massachusetts, went up to Scranton, Pennsylvania thinking that maybe New York was wacko and perhaps something that was a little more countrified or backwater would be conservative. At that time your only hope was to find something conservative and to survive in it. There was no thought of what we’re doing now. All the conservatives thought that Paul VI was the prisoner of a liberal entourage. He was thought to be supremely orthodox. He was thought to be like Pius XII. He was either weak or threatened or in someway wasn’t doing his job—whatever his problem was, but he was still placed on this pedestal.

S.H. Well and that’s continued to the present, through John Paul II.
B.S. Yes. that mentality. So your hope was to find some conservative bishop who would keep things more or less in order in the diocese.

S.H. Like the Bishop Bruskewitz sort of thing.
B.S. Yes, and so you looked for him. That was your only hope. There was no idea of doing what we’re doing now. The only person that was doing what we’re doing now was Gommar DePauw. He said effectively — he didn’t ever say bluntly — but he said effectively, “This is not Catholicism. We have to branch out and preserve Catholicism this way.” He was the only person in the whole world who was doing that, and he started in 1964, even while I was in the seminary, though then I couldn’t buy it. I just couldn’t do that because of the whole notion of Catholic authority and jurisdiction. That just wasn’t right.

S.H. Was he censured in any way?
B.S. He was condemned by the bishop of the diocese.

S.H. Was he allowed to function? Was he suspended?
B.S. I’m sure he received all the ecclesiastical suspensions, etc. I was too young to follow it, but I am sure that everything came down upon him, but he continued to function. He was a priest of the Diocese of Baltimore. He was a canonist and he had a lot of spurious, canonical explanations of what he was doing. Whether he believed them or not, I don’t know, but he would put something out to the people saying that this is all justified.

S.H. If you look in subsection two and such and such…
B.S. I think he was too intelligent to really believe it himself. He taught at Saint Mary’s in Emmettsburg. He was the canon law professor and he was the theologian to a Franciscan bishop at the Council. Fr. De Pauw had him there in Westbury for a while. He was excellent. I forget his name. But Fr. De Pauw was the only one doing that. It was in late 1970 that Archbishop Lefebvre’s name came up, very late perhaps even early ’71.

S.H. Early 1970, late 1969.

B.S. No, no. He founded the SSPX on November 1, 1970. I had heard about him. I’m going to say January of ’71 in a small publication called The Voice. It was coming out of upstate New York. It talked about him, so then I got in contact with him, and he said he was coming to this country in any case. I met with him on March 15, 1971.

S.H. It was almost a year after the Lady Madonna incident.
B.S. Yes, yes. I met him with the then seminarian Kelly, now Bishop Kelly, and then seminarian Anthony Ward who is now Father Ward who is functioning in Colorado Springs.

S.H. How did you all meet each other?
B.S. Because Father Ward was in Douglaston at the college seminary with me for a while, and then he went to the major seminary and he talked to Clarence Kelly…

S.H. So you knew Father Ward?
B.S. Oh very well, yes. I knew him from practically the first day I got there because I was looking for conservatives.

S.H. Then I guess that also makes sense to send you to go clean up the mess then if he leads with everything.
B.S. I don’t think so. I think I was the only possibility. I was the broom in the corner. I don’t think I had any other qualifications. He’s there. Tell him to take care of it.S.H. So Father Ward was in college with you, college seminary?
B.S. Yes, he was ahead of me, though, so he was finishing while I was starting.

S.H. So you knew him?
B.S. I knew him and we talked a lot. He was so happy. I remember we were sitting around at dinner a few weeks in, a week or two into my first year there. I was saying, “Among all these seminarians, is there anyone conservative here?” You know how blunt you are when you’re young. “Anybody conservative you know? I don’t like all these changes, you know.” He looked at me and said, “You’re a conservative?!” That was the term then. I said, “Yes, I’m conservative.” He said, “Oh, good.” We hit it off right away. We talked a lot, and he actually taught me a lot of things. He was very knowledgeable; he had been through the high school seminary.

S.H. So he’s still stuck in this time warp of “I have to find a good bishop.”
B.S. Yes, and apparently he has found somebody to ordain those people. Whether it was a validly consecrated bishop is another question. I don’t know who ordained them; he will not say who ordained them.

S.H. Well, he’s in the fortress or whatever, right?
B.S. Yes. He was always that way.

S.H. He’s only two years ahead of you, so does that mean he’s in his sixties, early sixties?
B.S. Yes. I’m fifty-nine, so I’d guess he is sixty-one.

S.H. He still has plenty of fortress years ahead then?
B.S. Yes. He told somebody, somebody very reliable, that privately he’s a sedevacantist. He said that to somebody who’s absolutely believable. I can’t remember who said it but somebody who spoke to him. But Father Ward was always someone who wanted to be hooked up with the Novus Ordo hierarchy. I think that he thought that we can’t just go out on our own, so to speak. Somehow we have to get this licensed by the Novus Ordo hierarchy. He always had that in him.

S.H. I think we all have to cross that bridge because I had to as well. I came from all these conservative institutions. I was with the Cistercians in Dallas at their prep school. I went to the prep school of the Norbertines in California. They do the full Office in Latin and the Mass, smells, bells, etc. So when I was crossing that bridge you know, there’s always, “Well, Stephen, you know you can’t go there…”—because they had the Traditional Mass until 1981 and they gave it up out of their own free will…Now before you went to Econe, where were you in Seminary?
B.S. In my final year of the college seminary.

S.H. Where you would have gone next?
B.S. I would have gone there, but I intended not to in any case, but Anthony Ward got to know Clarence Kelly who had come from Catholic University. He was a member of the Diocese of Rockville Center in Long Island. He had achieved a degree in philosophy at Catholic University in Washington.S.H. Was it the practice to send kids to Catholic (University), to send their seminarians there?
B.S. No. I think he decided to become a priest when he was at Catholic U., and he switched to the seminary afterwards. So they got to know each other. Clarence Kelly had to be converted somewhat to the traditional stance. He definitely was reacting to a lot of the new theology. He saw through them and fought with them in the classroom over the new theology, but it was this enduring war that brought him over to the stronger position. I got to know him at that point, so the three of us met with Archbishop Lefebvre in New York on March 15, 1971. In that discussion, Archbishop Lefebvre came and showed us the decree from the Bishop of Fribourg, that the Fraternity had permission to exist and Clarence Kelly said, “Well, the Traditional Mass is suppressed. How can we have the Traditional Mass?” The archbishop said, “They can’t suppress the Mass. You just have to continue with the Mass. They have no right to suppress the Mass.”

S.H. And you were talking to the Archbishop in French?
B.S. He had an interpreter, Father Peter Morgan, who has since passed over to Anglicanism. Then he was doing interpreting, and I knew some French at the time. He was saying they, the Vatican, didn’t have the right to do that. He was saying, “This [the Fraternity] is a legitimately erected thing and we’re continuing with the Traditional Mass that they don’t have the right to suppress.” So I went over in April of that year and spent a week there, and I was pleased with what I was seeing. They were not by any means perfectly traditional but at that time if you had…

S.H. You might as well have been here.
B.S. After Lady Madonna, anything looked good. It was refreshing to see that there were some other people in the world…

S.H. There were a lot, relatively speaking, not just like you…
B.S. There were thirteen seminarians I think.

S.H. Not just you and another guy among a bunch of others.
B.S. Right, right. And as it was, we were considered to be just crazy for wanting the Traditional Mass in the diocesan atmosphere at that point. You were out of your mind if you wanted the traditional Faith, the Traditional Latin Mass. That was finished. “What are you crazy? You want to go back to that?” You were isolated, not that that bothered me. You just lived a life of theological isolation. It never made me falter. But it was nothing like it is today, and it was even unpredictable that it would get to this today.

S.H. It’s gone mainstream.
B.S. And that was unheard of in the 1970s, unheard of. It was outer space. Then there was the problem, the theological problem, which presented itself more and more. The Novus Ordo got worse and worse. The problem started to present itself. Can we work in this system? Archbishop Lefebvre always said he wanted a society that could go into a diocese and help the bishop. He always had this in mind. For that, he was consistent.

S.H. Did you buy that? Did you think it could work?
B.S. At the time I thought that was a nice idea, you know, maybe if you could find conservative bishops.

S.H. Was there the perception that there were conservative bishops in the United States you could go to?
B.S. Not in the United States.

S.H. Not in the United States? So you’d have to go…
B.S. He was talking about a bishop in Argentina, a bishop in Spain.

S.H. One guy here and I know a guy who knows a guy. Okay.
B.S. Yes, that was the idea but he had a certain hope for the future. He said the New Mass will never last. It will, he said, collapse under its own weight. He said that this [the traditional Mass] is the true Catholic Mass. This is the one that will have endurance. We just have to help it along in a diocesan situation. So that was his plan. There was no idea at that point of really splitting from the Novus Ordo hierarchy. They were seen as the hierarchy at that point. You knew that they were liberals, that they were infected with imperfect theology and things that they shouldn’t be thinking, but the idea that they were heretics and that they defected from the Faith was not there. But as time went by, their defection from the Faith started to become apparent and more and more traditional clergy were saying it. So that’s when you had a split starting to form in Econe of those who wanted to go down their route and those who wanted down go our route. Archbishop Lefebvre presided over all of it, and, as I said in my articles, he gave both sides something to work with at different times.

S.H. He didn’t feel Sedevacantism was a threat, right? (Fr.) Guerard de Lauriers was a Sedevacantist from the beginning, right?
B.S. Yes, and we were quite open about being sedevacantist in the seminary. I became a sedevacantist in 1973 or ’74.

S.H. About the time Bishop Dolan did.
B.S. Yes and…

S.H. So now you were now the new conservative at Econe?
B.S. Well, it wasn’t so bad though. First of all, you didn’t go around preaching it. It was something you talked about…

S.H. People just knew.

B.S. Yes, yes, but it wasn’t a hot-button issue. The then Father Guerard de Lauriers gave a conference on it at Econe.

S.H. Really?
B.S. Yes.

S.H. As far as like, “This is a possibility”, like an opinionist sort of stance?
B.S. I think that’s where he gave his—I wasn’t at the conference but I know he gave one. It was only to certain invited seminarians, and I was one of the ones invited but I didn’t go for some reason. But I know he gave it on that, and I know he told Archbishop Lefebvre about it. Fr. Barbara was a sedevacantist at the time and I think he told Archbishop Lefebvre. You know Archbishop Lefebvre didn’t become heated about it until the bear hug from Wojtyla. He even said things — I remember, Father Anthony Ward telling me — he was at Fribourg where the Archbishop was and he was going to the university at Fribourg for their theology courses. He said to me — this would be 1972 — “You know Archbishop Lefebvre has said things that would lead you to believe that Paul VI is not a true pope.” The Archbishop and the seminarians would talk at the table. He would eat with seminarians. You know you say things somewhat casually and freely at table. I remember his telling me that and my thinking, “Wow. That’s heavy.” At the time I was…

S.H. Well, that’s why the professors don’t sit with the seminarians. You need to have your free time to say what you need to say, freely.
Your Excellency, I want to back up and ask again because I think of these young men at the Seminary all those years ago, and I keep thinking of young men entering today…I asked you if parents were doing enough to support vocations, and we got into the general question of raising children, and we talked about some errors and problems. Can we—because there are so many things parents could do and instead of having a top ten list—what are one or two things you think would be useful for parents to do more so?
You talked about discipline. Are there cultural activities or are there things that can be encouraged in the house that will help destroy this selfishness and lack of discipline, addiction to sports and some of these other things we talked about—one or two positive things they can do to fix some of those problems?

B.S. Yes, it’s difficult. First they have to come to the conclusion that the Catholic family has to be different from the modern culture. They also have to understand that culture is an absolute dictator of morality and mentality, for good or for bad. Whether it’s promoting good morals and a good mentality and attitude or bad, culture has an extremely strong influence on us, indicating to us what is commonly held to be good and beautiful and right. That is culture. Whether it’s art, whether it’s literature, whether it’s religion, whether it’s fashion, what we put on…all those things contribute to culture, and, like I said, it’s an absolute dictator. We very much listen to culture and want to conform to culture, so when we are living in a world that has a completely hostile culture to Christian culture, you must make the Christian culture in your home. It’s the only place you can. Therefore, they must inculcate in their children all sorts of, let’s say, values and attitudes and ways of looking at things that are radically different from those of the modern world.

S.H. Are you implying there’s a discomfort with that notion—let’s say the Amish or Mormons are very comfortable with knowing they’re different and they’re okay with it, you’re saying that as Catholics we have to know that we are different as well.
B.S. Yes, yes. We don’t have to ride in buggies, but we do have to, without hesitation, reject what is not in conformity to Catholic culture.

S.H. A majority of time does this effectively mean television, movies, music, most of what popular culture gives us?
B.S. Television obviously is not bad in itself, but what comes through the television, television programming, especially or including, I should say, commercials. You can be watching something very edifying and the commercial is something that is totally destructive of Catholic morality and is an occasion of serious sin. The television is probably first on the list. Next is rock music, impurity in dress among women. What women wear and the general penchant for the modern woman toward glitz and glamour, the modern Marilyn Monroe culture, the Hollywood movie star culture, that this is what girls should aspire to…that has to be eliminated. It is extremely destructive. That’s part of the sexual revolution which started after WWI with the lifting of the hemlines of the woman’s dress. Just look at the fashions of the 1920’s. That was the beginning of the sexual revolution. It blossomed in the 1950’s and then went wild, just exploded, in the 1960’s. That sexual revolution, all of that culture, has to be absolutely excluded from the Catholic home. Yes.

S.H. So I was asking about parents, but this would also seem to be good guidelines for children as well and obviously that comes with obedience. To tie into that, I was asking yesterday about religious vocations for both men and for women, how does this tie into those who do not have a religious path and are trying to find a useful and important part of being a grown Catholic? What role does vocational training, university, going to college and getting a degree, etc, study abroad, all those things that most 18-22 year olds have to deal with in the world, in that popular culture, how does that relate for what young Catholics should do?
B.S. Well, I would say, considered in itself, the modern university is a serious occasion of sin, considered in itself. I think that, in some cases, that occasion of sin can be lessened to the point of being acceptable. For example, if someone were to live at home and not at the university, that would be one thing that might make it acceptable. Secondly, if you were to pursue a math-science degree over history-English and liberal arts degree, it could possibly make it acceptable. I don’t see how anybody could, without committing mortal sin, pursue liberal arts at a major university. It is a direct assault upon the Faith.

S.H. What about places like Christendom or Thomas Aquinas College where the great books are upheld and they believe in Western culture and there’s a belief in the primacy of dead European males and that sort of thing? Like say, for example, Saint John’s in Maryland which is a secular college but teaches the great books program.
B.S. I think that they are in a certain way even more dangerous because they are presenting liberalism, Vatican II Modernism, under the aspect of Catholicism. They are presenting themselves as a refuge from the horror when in fact they present the horror.

S.H. But let’s say only in theology but not so in, let’s say, history, music or those other things.
B.S. The little experience that I have had is that they are badly tainted and infected despite whatever claims they may make. I remember that that author that is constantly touted as a great anti-modernist, Carroll…

S.H. Warren Carroll.
B.S. I read things in his book that horrified me. He gave…

S.H. Are you talking about his multi-volume history work?
B.S. I don’t remember which book it was but he talked about Moses crossing the Red Sea, and he gave the classic Modernist explanation of Moses crossing the Red Sea.

S.H. Meaning?
B.S. That the wind blew. His interpretation, as I recall, is that the Red Sea was a swamp, and the blowing wind made a path for the Hebrews. It contradicts right reason right off the bat.

S.H. He said the red sea was a swamp?
B.S. As I remember. It’s been a number of years. It was merely that the wind blew in a swamp. If you read Exodus, the water was like two walls on each side. It says it in Exodus. Now no wind that I ever heard of is going to make walls out of water.

S.H. So you’re saying people like that, like down here in Florida at the Ave Maria University…
B.S. They are tainted with liberalism. It’s Vatican II; it’s Modernism. It has to be opposed radically and deeply.

S.H. So you’re saying it’s a serious occasion of sin not just for what you’re learning but because of the lifestyles you’re being exposed to.
B.S. Yes, yes.

S.H. In the cafeteria.
B.S. Yes. All of your friends. Bad friends have always been a very, very serious influence.

S.H. But given that it is near impossible to get any sort of job that provides a good income for a family without a college diploma or without some sort of great job experience that somehow you were able to bypass without a college diploma, you are unable to get a white-collar job without a college diploma. Do you see another path for young men who want to have a job that will provide for their families?
B.S. I would advise them this way: that the first principle is that it would be better to sell pencils on the street than to go to hell. That’s principle number one, that if we have to starve to death it is better, that is to be preferred, than the denial of the Faith and going to hell. If they don’t agree with that principle than I have nothing further to say to them. If they agree with that principle, then I would say, “How are we going to eke out an existence in this kind of atmosphere?” I would say in response that you have to reduce dramatically the dangers to the faith in this atmosphere, so you have to be yourself very strong in the faith, very confirmed, very pious and you have to avoid the bad influences and you should pursue a career either in business administration or mathematics or some of the sciences or a vocational education like an electrician, electrical engineering, those things. Certainly those are the money-making things. You can’t sell liberal arts. And so if you’re saying, “I want to go to college to learn literature or history…”

S.H. Or Classics, or that kind of thing.
B.S. …you have to no proportionate reason to do that because you can not sell those things. You can sell business administration but you cannot sell the fact that you know baroque art.

S.H. Would it have been justifiable in a previous age? Because of circumstances now can say those options are closed off to the serious catholic?
B.S. Yes. There is no proportionate reason to expose yourself to the liberal arts education in any university today, not just at a Roman Catholic university, but in any university today. There’s no proportionate reason. The modern university is permissible only if the occasions of sin are sufficiently lessened, and if there is a proportionate reason to expose yourself to these occasions of sin. Attending the university in the capacity of a trade school, for example, usually lessens the occasions. The proportionate reason is that it is practically necessary to obtain such degrees in order to make a decent living.

S.H. So right now, Your Excellency, we’re talking about males so far. How does this advice modify for women?
B.S. For women I would say this. Are you going to get married or are you going to pursue a career? It’s either/or. Being married and a worldly business career do not go together. If you don’t agree with that, again I have nothing further to say. If you want to pursue some sort of elaborate career, decide you are not going to get married and then do whatever you want as far as career. If you want to become a nuclear scientist or something like that—sure, she can do that. I have no objection that she does that. It’s just that I think that to say, “Well, I’m going to be a nuclear scientist and then I’ll get married when I’m 35, and then have a child or two, and we’ll give the child over to daycare, and my husband and I will work different jobs, or my husband will stay home to cook and clean and I will have my career.” Then she has a completely twisted idea of what her role is.

S.H. Alright, let’s say she’s not a nuclear physicist and she’s saying, “Alright, I’ll tread water until I get married. I’m just going to do something.” Given that our time, everything’s so misshaped and everything’s so corrupted and there are fewer traditional Catholics available than in the past what happens? It used to be that you would show up to church on Sunday and there would be twenty young men and twenty young women and they’d all pair off. Since it is an indefinite amount of time for either sex to tread water waiting for an acceptable spouse…
B.S. Yes. I think it is necessary for women to have some way in which to make decent money today, sufficient money. Not only for the reason you just said, that it is hard to find a spouse but also because of the prevalence of divorce. They could be thrown into divorce, and I know many cases of this, if…

S.H. (Stunned) Among Traditional Catholics?
B.S. Yes. Through no fault of their own, they have to become the breadwinner for little children because divorce is so easy and prevalent today.

S.H. Do you find problems of divorce in the traditional movement?
B.S. Problems. Yes, yes.

S.H. Is this the man or the woman who’s doing this?
B.S. Sometimes it’s the man and sometimes it’s the woman, but in any case you have women ending up as breadwinners and ending up with the need for serious money. I do think it’s good for girls to have a skill because they may never get married or they might be facing divorce.

S.H. What’s something you observe among traditional Catholic couples or traditional Catholic families where the man could do better here or the woman could do better here—obviously we could all do better as a whole.
B.S. It’s the selfishness, the modern day selfishness. That’s the cause of divorce in most cases.

S.H. So within the family, how does that play out?
B.S. To have a successful marriage it has to be not 50/50 but 100/100, and if people go into marriage thinking as they do with regards to religious vocation, “What’s in this for me?” “How am I fulfilled?” “Am I happy today?” — if that’s their attitude, they are going to have an unsuccessful marriage because marriage is a very, very demanding institution. It annihilates selfishness. You almost make your own humility because you must, every single day, suppress your own desires and what you would like to do in order to preserve the unity of the family, to do your duty. It is a very difficult stage in life, especially when children come. It requires a great deal of sacrifice, and sacrifice is the enemy of selfishness. If you have a culture of selfishness, it is a marriage breaker. There is also the sexual revolution. Absolutely no control over sexual impulse. Someone sees a woman and thinks it is perfectly legitimate to seek fornication with her. That’s modern culture.

S.H. So in the past there was a reserve, an understanding that, yes, I have those impulses because of Original Sin but I have a state of life, etc…
B.S. You can’t do that because it’s against the commandments of God. It’s contrary to the fidelity that I vowed to my wife. It would destroy my family. Those considerations have been set aside. Now it’s “I see, I want.”

S.H. That’s goes back to our theme from earlier. You were talking about permanency, seeing beyond today that if you take a vow of marriage that that lasts beyond today and that those are decisions made today.
B.S. Yes, absolutely. It seems that young people are incapable of these long-term decisions that they must make.

S.H. Your Excellency, while I hate to end on that note, perhaps I can turn it by saying that your emphasis on our current selfishness should be an inducement, a challenge, a goal to be selfless, which is the essence of our Christian and Catholic lives.
B.S. St. Thomas says that the greatest obstacle to the grace of God is pride. Selfishness is one of the forms of pride, and until Catholics acquire humility and self-forgetfulness, and learn to embrace duty and responsibility as fulfillments of their obligations to God, I fear that they will fall into all of the faults of the modern culture which is rotting away our society.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen founded True Restoration in 2006 and served as its first President until 2023. He now lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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2 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    Excellent interview, thank you Mr. Heiner.

    There are so many good points here, and serious talk. Even not being a sedevacantis myself, I enjoyed a lot this long interview.

    By the way, it is still on in AQ… ut I'm afraid it will be deleted very soon.

  2. Thank you very much, Stephen.