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Fisher More Refuses to “Censor” Her Faculty: Therefore Fisher More Shall have no more Mass

Fisher More Refuses to “Censor” Her Faculty: Therefore Fisher More Shall have no more Mass
The "Dudley" Lecture

By Brian McCall, JD

The Internet and news sources are all abuzz with the brutal suppression of the Liturgical life of Fisher More College by the newly installed bishop of Fort Worth. In a summary act, without a hearing or even an opportunity to be heard and without even informing the College of their purported offenses, he illicitly declared the college under an effective interdict. Yes, he did not invoke a true canonical interdict. That would have required at least a façade of a canonical proceedings and a post-trial appeal process. Rather, he simply in a pure act of fiat legal positivism declared a de facto interdict by claiming the College was forbidden from the sacramental and liturgical life central to their publicly stated mission of being a Traditional Catholic College grounded in the Traditional Mass.

Notwithstanding such a blatantly despotic act that shows zero pastoral concern for the students (and their parents), faculty and staff of the college, some people are trying to defend the bishop. The local ordinary refused to give any reason for his act other than a vague reference to pastoral concern. Yet, the Internet is a buzz with rationalizations to justify the unjust. Faculty and staff and parents had chosen the college in reliance on the publicly stated mission of the College that included a clear and public commitment to access to the traditional Liturgy. For at least several years, the diocese was fully aware of this commitment on which parents, faculty and staff relied in making important life decisions.

Now some people, including some formerly associated with Fisher More College have rushed to defend the local ordinary, who undertook this extraordinary act within less than a month of taking possession of the See. Dr. Taylor Marshall, former Dean of the College, has publicly defended the actions of the bishop. The heart of his complaint is that the College refused to censor one of her distinguished professors, Dr. John Dudley. Dr. Taylor in his public internet statement claims the bishop was justified in attempting to suppress the Mass (which is beyond his authority): “Mr. King [the president of the College] refused to disassociate himself from the public statements of faculty member Dr. Dudley that claimed in his Year of Faith lecture that Catholic professors have the duty to teach young people that Vatican 2 is not a valid Council (he also endorsed other “resistance” positions regarding the Novus Ordo, John Paul II, etc.)”

There you have it. One faculty member gave a lecture that called into question the sacred cow of the contemporary Church and the entire College must be punished. This is the reason the bishop has acted like a despot rather than a shepherd. Mr. King has refused to dissociate himself from the public lecture of Dr. Dudley, a respected academic with a distinguished career. Dr. Taylor claims this lecture was “so offensive that my wife and I walked out of it before it’s conclusion.” Those are strong words. Thus, I decided to verify Dr. Taylor’s claim and
downloaded from the College’s website a copy of the lecture. I examined the text to see if the content were so outrageous that an entire institution needs to be punished.

The Lecture

Dr. Dudley clearly states that the “thesis in this paper is that the decline in Faith in Europe and indeed elsewhere has led to a decline in moral standards, and that this is clearest of all if we look at the family. Vice versa, of course, the decline in moral standards has led to a corresponding decline in faith.” The lecture which was to be a keynote for the year dedicated to the Faith directly addresses the crisis of Faith in our time. The first part of the lecture is dedicated to proving there is a great crisis in Faith in Europe that is related to a general decline of morality in the same continent. The first part summarizes the wealth of statistical data irrefutably proving a decline on all levels of Catholic belief and praxis. Readers who are familiar with the
Index of Leading Catholic Indicators would find nothing surprising in these paragraphs which examine the issue from many perspectives, belief in God, Mass attendance, etc.

Dr. Dudley moves from this factual evident to argue his thesis that this documented decline in faith is causally related to a commensurate decline in moral standards. His argument is centered around the destruction of the institution of marriage which he uses to demonstrate that moral decline in one area leads to decline in others and to a rejection of
de fide precepts. He argues that “Christianity has the highest standard of any religion.” He then traces the origin of the single greatest attack on the family, divorce, to ideas originating in the Reformation. Protestant countries started to introduce divorce on limited scales and then the French Revolution advanced the issue more generally. After the Second Vatican Council, Catholic countries one after another began to fold to the divorce regime. After this process the “only two countries in the world where divorce is still prohibited are the Philippines and Vatican City.” Dr. Dudley summarizes the consequences of this Protestant innovation thus: “The availability of divorce always leads to greatly increased rates of marital breakdown and finally leads, as we see today, to the decline of the institution of marriage.”

The moral decline with respect to the indissolubility of marriage, argues Dr. Dudley, leads to further decline. “Historically abortion laws have always come after the liberalisation of divorce, and never the reverse. It always surprises me for this reason that in the USA, where there is such a strong campaign for the prohibition of abortion, there is no campaign that I am aware of for the abolition of divorce. Yet the availability of divorce is the root of the liberal mentality that leads to abortion and numerous other evils.” Beyond abortion, it is now “no longer accepted that there is anything wrong with committing adultery” since not a single country considers it a crime or even an offense against one’s spouse worthy of compensation.

Finally, all of the above evils lead to an acceptance of contraception which in turn, he argues, leads to increased adultery, failed marriages, and more abortions. All of this moral degeneration ends in the virtual destruction of the family itself. Dr. Dudley cites staggering statistics of the rate of children born illegitimately, outside of marriage. “This means that marriage is no longer considered by a very sizeable percentage of the population in developed countries to be necessary for bringing children into the world. Clearly this attitude is incompatible with Faith, since Faith requires total commitment between spouses.” Once marriage is demolished, a false counterfeit, so called “same sex marriage” can and is presently being erected in its place.

In concluding this part of the lecture, Dr. Dudley makes a very astute observation: “It seems to me ironic that the demand for marriage by homosexuals is continuing to grow, while at the same time the percentage of heterosexual couples still wanting to get married is continually declining. Same-sex couples seem to want the respectability of marriage, while more and more heterosexual couples prefer to avoid the level of commitment involved in marriage. What these two phenomena have in common is that marriage and the family are gradually being eroded.”

There should be nothing controversial in what has been said so far to anyone other than Planned Parenthood or the United Nations. If Dr. Taylor is so offended by any of this than there clearly is some problem with his
sensus Catholicus.

The Causes

Having clearly documented a multi-dimensional moral decline that leads to further moral decline, Dr. Dudley then, in true Aristotelian fashion, what are the causes for such a rapid decomposition of faith and morals particularly in Catholic countries of Europe in the late 20
th century. Reasonably he admits that there is not one single cause. “I would argue that there is not one single cause. There are many causes. Life has become too comfortable and secure. Television, the Internet and pornography are another reason. The scientific mentality which claims to supersede faith is another reason. And one could give a full-length paper about each of these reasons.” Yet, in the setting of a college publicly committed to a Catholic search for truth, he proceeds to examine one of the causes of this crisis which emanated from within the Church. “But in this paper I would like to concentrate on one cause which more than any other has caused the decline in faith, namely the Second Vatican Council. “

Now we arrive at the reason that the college in which Dr. Dudley teaches is being persecuted, effectively being placed under an illegal interdict. Dr. Taylor is outraged and the bishop must swoop down in one of his first official acts as ordinary because Dr. Dudley dares to say that the great Council Emperor has no clothes and Mr. King refuses to repudiate this respected academic of decades of experience for expressing his reasoned evaluation of a cause of the problem. So much for academic freedom to speak the truth! Mr. King is condemned for not censoring one of his faculty members. I have learned that in fact the faculty took a vote on whether Mr. King’s speech should be censored and the faculty voted that he should be allowed to make his argument. The small minority of the faculty who favored censorship eventually left the college. Dr. Dudley dares to connect cause and effect and to explain how this seminal event has produced the fruit of decline in the faith he has so well documented in the lecture thus far. For this argument, the entire school is illegal persecuted by the bishop. All of this in the era of Pope Francis calling for a Church of Mercy!

Returning to the lecture, let us consider if Dr. Dudley’s argument about Vatican II is shockingly novel. Dr. Dudley first traces the bare outlines of the preparation for and the maneuvering at the Council itself. His theme is to show how an organized liberal minority took over the Council and remade the Council to one of their liking. Frankly his few pages present nothing new. He does intersperse some personal anecdotal experiences he had with key players in the Councilliar drama, Cardinal Suenens and Fathers Schillebeeckx and Rahner, for example.

Aside from the personal anecdotes, Dr. Dudley merely summarizes what at greater length Father Ralph Wiltgen’s
The Rhine Flows into the Tiber and more recently Dr. Robert de Mattei’s The Second Vatican Council an Untold Story document in great detail. I do not mean this statement to be a criticism of Dr. Dudley. His genre is a lecture, theirs was a book. He presents the salient points that demonstrate the Council was procedurally flawed. It was hijacked by a fulcrum of committed liberals. Notwithstanding Fr. Wiltgen and Dr. Mattei saying in more detail what Dr. Dudley repeats neither the Divine Word Missionaries (of whom Father Wiltgen was a member) nor the European University in Rome (where Dr. Mattei holds a teaching post) have been sanctioned and placed under interdict for their publicly available works criticizing the proceedings of the Council. Why have not the Divine Word Fathers or the European University of Rome been ordered to publicly repudiate the work of these two men but Fisher Moore College needs to summarily and brutally persecuted? Is anyone aware of a bishop suppressing the Mass in any of these institutions due to pastoral solicitude? Is anyone intimidating college students to drop out of the European University of Rome claiming their immortal soul is endangered by these books? Yet, this very act of injustice has been reportedly happening on a grand scale at Fisher Moore by priests living in the Dallas Fort Worth area since Dr. Dudley’s lecture. Clearly what is happening is a man wiling to repeat the claims of others and call a spade a spade must be censored and silenced. If Michael King will not muzzle and gag Dr. Dudley then the college he oversees must be squeezed until he agrees to deny academic freedom and silence Dr. Dudley.

To be clear, Dr. Dudley never claims that Vatican II is not a valid Council as falsely stated by Dr. Taylor. He recognizes it was an Ecumenical Council but by its own terms one that acted like no other before it, as a “pastoral council.” As we shall see he does not advocate declaring it invalid but rather to follow a precedent of history he advocates the Church put aside this pastoral experiment and get back to what she had done for centuries. Never does Dr. Dudley call it an “invalid Council.”

After outlining the liberal takeover of the Council, Dr. Dudley then turns to the first document taken up by the Council and the one change that both John Paul II and Francis have pointed to as the most significant change wrought by the Council, the Liturgy. By quoting the text of the Council Constitution on the Liturgy, Dr. Dudley argues that the Council explicitly and at other points implicitly authorized and enabled the dismantling of the Mass as preserved by Tradition in favor of a new form that bears more of a resemblance to a Protestant communion service than the Traditional Mass. Again he says nothing other than what Michael Davies claimed in his writings which were spoken of with praise by Cardinal Ratzinger. The liturgist Klaus Gamber dedicated an entire book to the same subject, again with a preface by Cardinal Ratiznger. Yet, Dr. Dudley gives this lecture saying the same thing and Dr. Taylor has to leave the room and quit his job and then he commend the bishop for punishing the college. Dr. Dudley’s crime is to put into words the truth of what is going on; a truth some would rather just pretend didn’t exist. He concludes that “in fact all traditional Catholics of the present time de facto reject the Second Vatican Council, since they reject the norms for the Mass laid down by the Council.” But many Traditionalists who, Dr. Dudley argues, in fact reject at some level the Council because they reject the Mass that at least two popes repeatedly point to as embodying the Council want to maintain the intellectual discontinuity that their actions do not mean what they clearly demonstrate. They want to pretend they don’t reject the Council while going to a form of the Mass the Council enabled be dismantled. Dr. Dudley merely asks the logical question, why do we refuse to be honest with ourselves and consider what our actions imply in fact.

Dr. Dudley although acknowledging that some passages of the documents of Vatican II repeat traditional teaching, argues that others clearly contradict it. Again, such a claim is not news worthy. He notes that Pope Benedict XVI was keenly aware of this tension and in fact according to Benedict, “Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, was an anti-syllabus, meaning a direct contradiction of the syllabus of errors published by Pope Pius IX in 1864.” Dr. Dudley then argues that in his opinion the way the Church should deal with this problematic Council is to just put aside the whole thing the way in which the Church simply put aside and ignored the teaching of the Second Council of Constantinople while still acknowledging it to have been an Ecumenical council.

This suggestion (the Church should just ignore the Council and in another Council simply reinstate the traditional doctrine) is the exact same approach advocated by Thomas E. Woods and Christopher Ferrara in
The Great Façade. As far as I know the parishes and other organizations in which they are employed were not placed under interdict for suggesting that the Church should simply ignore this Council that created so many problems. Reportedly, the students in the college were not shocked by his suggestion to the Church. Many reported that this was nothing different from what they had heard at home. Now we might disagree with Dr. Dudley’s suggestion on how the Church should deal with the problem of the contradictions in Vatican II. Certainly Archbishop Lefebvre articulated a similar but distinct approach: to retain what was traditional, to interpret what was ambiguous in light of Tradition and to reject only what was contradictory. Yet, I do not think that Archbishop Lefebvre would have lashed out at Dr. Dudley for suggesting another approach to the problem. He would not have called for Dr. Dudley to be fired and censored for his opinion.

Dr. Dudley concludes his lecture by returning to the subject of the first part of his lecture and summarizes how the great shaking of the traditional Faith and Liturgy during and immediately after the Council contributed to the vicious cycle of decline of faith and morals that remains to our day. He concludes his reflections with the following summary of his argument: “If I was asked to sum up the Second Vatican Council in a single sentence I think I would say that it was an attempt to take the Cross out of Christianity, in other words to remove the very essence of Christianity, an attempt to produce a comfortable modern form of Christianity, not the Christianity of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, but a Christianity of the resurrection without the passion and death on the Cross.” With the cross removed the barrier against the destruction of faith and morals was removed.

So after an examination of the facts on the ground, it seems that Dr. Taylor’s attempts to justify the despotic actions of the Fort Worth ordinary fall flat on their face. He appears to be someone who simply wants to second-guess the prudential business decisions of his former boss. Fine, he is free to disagree with Mr. King about these decision but he is completely wrong in supporting the denial of the Liturgy to the College as a method for vindicating his prudential evaluation of the situation. Secondly, he justifies the punishment be referenced to a speech that synthesizes much of the literature that has been around for decades and intersperses some interesting personal reflections and anecdotes. The lecture at most makes an argument about cause and effect. The Council contributed to the decline of faith and morals in our time and states an opinion, shared by many others, that the Church should just move beyond the Council and put it aside as a failed pastoral experiment.

But according to Dr. Taylor and the Bishop of Fort Worth, Mr. King has committed the unforgivable sin against the Super Council, he refused to censor and gag Dr. Dudley. Readers may perhaps recall that the final public speech of Pope Benedict XVI was a rather negative reflection on the Second Vatican Council. Certainly the Holy Father placed the blame differently from Dr. Dudley within the complex historical phenomenon of the Council but nonetheless he lays some blame at the doorstep of the Council. Does Dr. Taylor think that Pope Benedict should be banned from offering the Traditional Mass in his private chapel as Fisher More has been illegally banned from having done in its own private chapel? If he wishes to be consistent he is forced to argue that very point.

Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher refused to be censored to go along with what was popular at the time. Both saints refused to declare that the novelties of Henry VIII were in continuity with Catholic Tradition. They lost their heads as a result. For the moment, the College under their protection for refusing to deny reality has lost its heart, the Mass. Yet, the sacrifice of these saints was the source of grace for their country. After their bodies fell to the ground, God sent brave missionaries priests who brought the Mass back to their beloved country. Let us pray that a brave priest will soon bring the Mass back to the College as the brave English missionaries brought the Mass back to the devastated vineyard of England.

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