What Serious Catholics Should Know About the CMRI

Part 1 of a three part series: Part 2, Part 3

There is no Wikipedia for traditional Catholicism. One has to learn things over time from various sources and even then, one has to then contend against the widespread malformation of human minds worldwide, general disrespect of clergy, and the frequent failure to recognize the laity’s proper role in subordination to those clergy. Coming to proper Christian thinking and acting at every moment is a long process, never likely to be fully achieved by many of us during this life. 

I did not come to the non una cum position right away. My journey from ten years in the SSPX (“recognize and resist”) position to sedevacantism took roughly two years, but it would be another two before I would stop attending the SSPX Mass in Kansas City, where I lived. 

This was in part due to my emotional attachment to the sacraments, but also because there were clerical voices telling me that attendance at these Masses was permissible. One of those voices was Bishop Mark Pivarunas of the CMRI. 

In 2011, returning from a CMRI ordination in Spokane which I had attended, I ran into His Excellency in the airport and in the course of a brief discussion I disclosed, somewhat shamefacedly, that I attended Mass with the SSPX. Rather than rebuke this position, the bishop merely said something to the effect of “what else can you do” and said that he understood. 

Lest my anecdote be marginalized as permissive in my particular case but contrary to the actual rule, there is also a publicly available document in which Bishop Pivarunas defends attendance at una cum Masses as legitimate and permissible in itself. 

Assistance at an una cum Mass is objective participation in the modernist Novus Ordo. There’s simply no getting around this.

The CMRI acknowledges that Bergoglio and several of his predecessors are clearly not vicars of Christ, instead enemies of God and His Church. Yet the CMRI permits, and in some cases, encourages people to attend Masses that name him in the Canon.

Growing up conservative Novus Ordo, I still remember my father occasionally painfully telling us that “what Father said today wasn’t right.”  Do people who attend una cum Masses want to undermine clerical authority in the minds and hearts of their children when they too have to “correct” Father’s words on the ride home from Mass? I can just imagine the conversation, “Daddy, what did Father mean in the sermon when he said that we have a duty to resist ‘Rome’ and the Pope?  I thought there wasn’t a Pope.”  From the mouths of babes…

The CMRI’s laxity on this issue is only more troubling when compounded by their permissiveness in the creation of annulment tribunals. The SSPX has engaged in this sham for years, but it has been known for some time that some of the CMRI’s priests engage in the judging of marriage cases. But this is something that falls directly under the legal functions of the Church and does not fall under epikeia. No one currently possesses the authority to issue judgments in these marriage cases and so the best our clergy can do is investigate to give someone some sense of probability, but no more than that.

In any case, the fact that even as late as 1968 there were only 338 annulments given for the entire United States that year should give helpful context in this regard.

In our unfortunate situation, there is an easy and effective way for these people to solve their marital dilemmas: abstinence and chastity.  One should not risk a “re-marriage” if one’s “previous” marriage is doubtful or probably invalid.

***

There are positions that the CMRI holds that are legitimate disagreements with fellow Catholics. For example, they observe the new Holy Week, which is very close to the same Holy Week used by the Novus Ordo (because Bugnini and his cronies used Holy Week as a test run for the rest of the Missal). When Pius XII issued the changes it was part of something transitional, not meant to be permanent

The CMRI argues that it was a valid act of a valid legislator and in that case they are correct. The New Holy Week is a Catholic rite and one may attend it in good conscience. 

Yet those of us who have done the research or who have read Fr Anthony Cekada’s masterful work on the Novus Ordo, cannot ignore what we now know in hindsight: this Holy Week was the beginning of the end of the Catholic Faith for millions and hence it may be reasonably argued that given the intentions and the outcome of those reforms, a Catholic’s safest option is in an unchanged liturgy. Since the same incorrect liturgical and doctrinal principles are at work in the changed rites of Holy Week as in the Novus Ordo Mass, why accept the beginnings while refusing the end?

That said, this is still a matter capable of dispute. Both the CMRI and clergy on the other side of the argument have reasonable and coherent arguments on the issue of Holy Week. That will be an issue that will be resolved by the Church if we, unworthy though we have been and continue to be, ever get to see a restoration. 

But the attendance at Mass in which a heretic is named in the Canon? Is this a question that is capable of dispute? One might look to the example of the French church during the Revolution. Pope Pius VI said that hosts consecrated by juring priests (those who took an oath to the Constitutional French church) were to be left in their tabernacles to decompose, as no Christian should associate with these hosts brought down in opposition to God and His Church. And those hosts were made into Our Lord during a Mass in which the valid and gloriously reigning Holy Father was named! 

That same gloriously reigning Father said the following in his encyclical condemning the Civil Constitution on the Clergy, “Keep away from all intruders, whether called archbishops, bishops, or parish priests; do not hold communion with them especially in divine worship.” (Emphasis mine). 

How do we think the authorities of the Church would react to “well, there weren’t any other valid Masses in our area” as the reason for attending una cum Masses? If you simply “want to attend a valid Mass” then why not go to the so-called Orthodox? Many of them possess valid orders. The answer is simple: because the so-called Orthodox are conducting a liturgy in opposition to God and His Church. So too with una cum Masses.

In the aforementioned publicly available (and linked) 2002 letter elliptically defending the case for attending una cum Masses (by stating that attendance at such Masses cannot be forbidden, which isn’t the point), Bishop Pivarunas concludes his remarks by saying that if una cum was such a big issue, why did it not come up earlier?

The answer is not immediately obvious. When Vatican II happened, a kind of bomb went off and clerics and laity struggled to find their bearings and each other in the rubble. Once they treated the wounded and reestablished an unblemished offering of the Son to the Father, they were free to turn their minds to other things. 

Bp Donald Sanborn, once an opinionist, wrote against opinionism. Fr Anthony Cekada, once una cum, wrote against the una cum Mass. The same Fr Cekada wrote in defense of Archbishop Thuc and the CMRI. Christians err and it is magnificent when they admit their errors and acknowledge how truly misguided it is for dust and ashes to be proud. The clergy above admitted to their errors on issues, repudiated their former positions publicly, and changed. That same door is open to the CMRI, should they wish to go through it and stop judging marriage cases on their own authority and stop telling people they can and should go to una cum Masses. 

Until such time, however, serious Catholics cannot consider the CMRI a safe place to be properly formed in the Catholic Faith. The errors in thinking we have mentioned inevitably lead to errors in other areas which we have not, and we believe we have a responsibility as a traditional Catholic content company to state our concerns and reasons for those concerns. 

Some possibly privately disagree with the CMRI’s positions on the issues we have mentioned and attend the Masses offered by a CMRI priest who privately disagrees, or at least does not publicly agree, with them. However, this does not change the fact that the priest is associated with an organization that is lax towards the una cum issue and is permissive in the ”granting” of annulments. One who attends such a priest’s Masses associates with that organization and its public positions.

Based on what I know, I believe the best option is to not associate with the CMRI and I have instead sought better alternatives. Though I would wish the same for others, and recommend that where possible, I understand that such alternatives aren't an option for many. Until the CMRI changes its positions on these important issues, we believe that Catholics should be wary of seeking moral or theological advice from their clergy who are going along with these things; and laity attending their chapels should be asking their priests to do what they can to ensure these problems are rectified as soon as possible due to their seriousness and gravity. No one should misinterpret our having raised these serious concerns of also involving a lack of our acknowledgment/awareness of all the good work that clergy in this organization have done and continue to do.

CMRI Part 2: Corrections and Answers to Objections

This article is also available in French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Image: Triumph of St Hermengild - Francisco Herrera the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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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