Me and the FFI

Me and the FFI June 4, 2014

Various people are writing me to denounce my passionate partisanship concerning the FFI cuz I posted a link to Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger’s discussion of the fracas and committed the mortal sin of calling him “sane”.

Dear People Inside the Reactionary Bubble:  

It’s not all about you.

Please understand something. I. Don’t. Care. About. the. FFI. Trads.  I. Don’t. Care. About. The. FFI. Controversy.

I. Don’t. Care.

I have not followed this controversy at all and did not even know till I got the note from Fr. Geiger with the link to his discussion that he had anything to do with it. That demonstrates the level of my Not Caringness. So far from Passionate Partisanship, I have nothing but Passionate Boredom with the whole thing.  I have been dimly aware that somewhere on the fringes of my consciousness, FFI Reactionaries and partisans have been screaming about persecution (as is their custom) but I have paid no attention because I don’t care about Reactionary screaming. So I have no interest in or dog in this fight. My personal interactions with Fr. Geiger have been few, but very positive, but have had nothing to do with FFI stuff. He has impressed me as an honest person and, what is more, as a sane Trad who who spoken truth to the insane bigotry of the Holocaust Denier and his nutjob sycophants and bedwetters who were the first to scream THE HORROR when Francis was elected. It was primarily in contrast to those foaming lunatics that I was comparing his sanity (though I have little doubt that if he is concerned about the FFI trads, they are foaming lunatics too).

So if I don’t care about the FFI, why did I post the link? Because I post lots of things readers send me that hold no interest for me, but might interest my readers. I try to be careful that the person sending me the link is not a nut and I try to make sure the link is reasonable. I’m not always right, but that’s basically the goal. I had no interest in the FFI thing myself. I simply thought some readers might. My intent in referring to Fr. Geiger as sane was to make clear that, despite the endless whining from Reactionaries about my “blanket denunciations” that I do, in fact, recognize that there are sane Traditionalists. Sue me.

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  • Peter Williams

    I think that referring to Fr. Geiger as “one of the sane *FFIs*” rather than “one of the sane *trads*” may have contributed to the confusion, and made it seem like you were taking a side in a contentious intra-order controversy.
    Even such, posting on such a controversial issue such as this that many people care about (even if you do not), is sure to provoke responses and discussion.

    • chezami

      I’m currently being told he’s not a Trad. Oh well.

      • Peter Williams

        Ha. Darned if you do…

      • Just to make it official: I am not a Trad.

        • chezami

          I stand corrected.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Mark – God bless you. I’m with you on this one (as on most ones, factually). However, you might want to check before calling Fr. Geiger a ‘trad’, as I’m fairly sure he does not self-identify as such, and in fact has written quite extensively on the serious theological issues with traditionalism.
    Anyhow, the FFI need prayers, mostly – it’s a tough situation indeed, and Fr. Geiger is a real hero in the affair, in my view.

    • chezami

      Ah! Well this only goes to demonstrate how little attention I have been paying, doesn’t it?

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        Indeed. Just got your back, here, to save you the thundering herds of commenters yelling at you for BEING WRONG again. 😉

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I think one of the reasons for him denying being a “trad,” is his definition of Traditionalism (which can be as varied as that of Libertarianism, depending on who you ask). I actually like his definition:

      [T]hat ideology by which Catholics, in the name of conserving
      Tradition, take it upon themselves to determine what magisterial act
      does and does not belong to Catholic Tradition.

      Most people view “traditionalism” as an affinity for the EF. While I prefer a pretty strictly-celebrated OF, I agree with some philosophies of those who care for liturgical rigidity. That said, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with the Traditionalists that Fr. Geiger describes, either. Way beyond my pay grade.

  • For the record, in the 3rd paragraph of the post which you linked and commented upon, Fr. Geiger says “I am one of the original five friars who appealed to the Holy See concerning the problems within our Institute. I mention this in the interests of full disclosure.” This is why I brought to your attention the obvious bias Fr. Geiger has as a source in this matter.

    • HornOrSilk

      Yes. And I’m sure you will tell us the obvious bias of St Athanasius against Arius, next, and the reasons why we should accept the testimony of the Arians against Athanasius for corruption, right?

    • chezami

      Bored. Losing consciousness. Don’t care.

      • Catholic Fast Food Worker

        Two fellow NCRegister Bloggers, cool

      • Athelstane

        Which is your usual response when you wade into these waters with a careless remark or ad hominem, and then face blowback on, Mark: “Bored. Don’t care.”

        Well, you cared enough to not only post the link, but to suggest that most of Fr Geiger’s fellow friars are insane.

        Would it be possible to have some decoder key to know which of your posts with rhetorical blasts or ad hominems you actually care about, and which ones you don’t?

        • HornOrSilk

          That is a poor reading of what Mark wrote. He never said anything about “most.” Even if most are sane, they would all be a part of the “sane” wing then. If there are a few insane then the contrast is easy to see, without indicating numbers. It’s like saying Aquinas is one of the sane scholastics. It doesn’t say how many are insane.

          • Athelstane

            What does follow is that there are at least two categories of FFI friars, “Sane” and insane (or “not sane”). And it’s not at all unreasonable to conclude that those friars not in agreement with Fr. Geiger in some aspect of this development fall into the latter category.

            Perhaps it’s unhelpful – actually, perhaps it’s extremely uncharitable – to start questioning the sanity of certain Catholics, especially if you claim you don’t care about the whole thing (or haven’t bothered to inform yourself about much of what’s going on) in the first place.

            Since Mark drops these ad hominems around like so much confetti and, as is too often the case, never bothers to draw relevant distinctions, what are people left to conclude? It’s one thing to say some of these friars (or Fr. Manelli, the founder) are being imprudent, uncharitable, or unjust, or even in doctrinal error; it’s another to start questioning their sanity.

            Archbishop Tobin warned this week about the ongoing balkanization of the Church into factions. Some traditionalists unfortunately feed that development. But so is Mark with posts like these.

            • HornOrSilk

              If Mark said “Aquinas was one of the non-heretical schoolmen” would you act like he was saying all the scholastics were heretics? Hopefully not; yet would you deny that there were schoolmen who were condemned of heresy? Hopefully not. By not putting “numbers” to the list, Mark has not said what you have tried to make him say. It is quite unreasonable for you to misread what Mark said because it does not logically follow.

              • Athelstane

                1. The FFI is a far more discrete group (a few hundred men, all living) than the medieval scholastics (many thousands of scholars spread out over several centuries).

                2. You aren’t reading carefully. I never concluded or suggested that Mark was insinuating that every single other FFI friar is insane. It follows only that some other friars must be so. Given that he’s officially endorsing Fr. Geiger’s post offering his position on this affair (which is Mark’s right), the insinuation is fairly that any friars who disagree with Fr. Geiger fall into the “not sane” category.

                3. Some scholastics actually faced formal Church discipline as heretics. I have yet to see any evidence that the sanity of any FFI friars or leaders has been questioned let alone clinically diagnosed. Do you have such evidence?

                4. Accusing other friars of heresy would actually be an improvement, if a very grave charge, because it’s a term which has a discrete, recognized definition in Church law. The Church generally doesn’t concern itself with sanity.

                I can’t believe your insisting on defending this ad hominem, HoS. Because that’s what it is.

                • HornOrSilk

                  1. Again, Mark did not give numbers. You are adding them. All he has suggested is that there is more than one he would not describe as giving a sane presentation. If there were three such insane ones, the rest would be “among the sane ones.” Your parsing is illogical because it is forcing what Mark left vague.

                  2. This you didn’t suggest all, but “most.” You wrote that above — the word “most.” This does not follow Mark’s statement, but is your own forced reading which is not necessary nor even a likely reading.

                  3. The fact that some of the FFI have been acting as if the typical rite of the Church must not be followed, I would call that theologically insane.

                  4. Heresy takes a greater amount of work to demonstrate; however, it is easy to demonstrate the problems at the FFI, and sorry to say, it is an insane undercurrent. This is not to say all are insane, just we know there are some who are insane, and at least one who is sane.

                  It’s not an ad hominem. As is typical, you have no clue to fallacies. Mark did not make an argument by giving his personal opinion and view of these friars acting contrary to the Church. An ad hom requires an argument being made.

                  • Athelstane


                    1. I never employed a number. (Go back and read those posts again, You won’t find a number.) By some accounts, it’s a majority of the FFI friars who favor the EF as their preferred Mass. It’s not unreasonable to suggest he’s calling a majority insane. But let us say it is merely a sizable plurality, which even Fr. Geiger would not (as I understand him) deny.

                    What if it’s just one? That’s still unacceptable.

                    God knows…Hans Kung is dead wrong, horrifically wrong, clearly heretical on a number of propositions. In any other age of the Church he would have been long excommunicated (and rightly so). But I would not stoop to calling him “insane.” And nothing the friars have been accused of publicly rises to anything like that level.

                    2. I would call that theologically insane. and if you did, it would not only be irresponsible, it would make no sense. What in the name of God does “theologically insane” mean? Is this part of the Church’s discourse?

                    In any case, your terminology is erroneous. The Missal of Paul VI is canonically considered merely a form of the Roman Rite, of which the 1962 Missal is the other form. The former is indeed the “ordinary form,” but it is not considered a distinct rite (though some of us might argue that it quacks like one). In any event, there are dozens of societies and orders under the authority of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei which exclusively employ the Missal of St. John XXIII (1962) with the approval of the Holy See. Are they “theologically insane?” Has Cardinal Muller been informed? If in fact some FFI leaders have attempted to completely exclude any celebration of the N.O. (Ordinary Form), this might be a violation of the FFI charter, or even of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, but that does not rise to the level of “theologically insane” (whatever that means).

                    Do you even know exactly what these friars are accused of? In detail? Because even Fr. Geiger has not come forward with much of that information. Are you privy to that information? Can you share it with us? Because if you aren’t, maybe some more reticence in throwing around nasty labels and charges is called for. (And yes, the same holds true for some of the more histrionic traditionalist reactions as well.)

                    Fr. Geiger believes that the conduct of the chapters and the order has been in some cases disregarded by some of its leaders, and this is why he was compelled, along with four others, to appeal to Rome. Fair enough; he might be right. But I am not inclined to see any of these parties called insane without more information, however much my sympathies lie with the more traditionalist oriented friars, based on what I know. What’s this “insane undercurrent”? I keep looking for details on what is being advocated or done, and I keep coming up with wispy allegations. Are they rejecting the validity of the New Mass and the Council?

                    If it’s wrong for certain traditionalists to throw around reckless charges and names, so too is it for you and Mark. It’s got to stop, and each of us has to start with our own discourse.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      When they deny the common rite as it is performed now, it is insane. Sorry. You play games. Good day.

    • That’s the problem with “cognitive bias” as an argument, Patrick: Too often, it’s used as a hall pass to skip analysis of the opposing argument in favor of attacking credibility.

      “Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at
      the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine
      is ‘wishful thinking.’ You can never come to any conclusion by
      examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is
      to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. … In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he came to be so silly.” (Lewis [1941], “Bulverism”, God in the Dock)

    • Yes, Pat, but I printed the opposition’s version of events in full without editing, along with my commentary under my own real name. At least you can identify who you think has a bias and why that might be so.

      That is more than the opposition have done. In fact, much that has been published against the Commissioner is innuendo without evidence from anonymous sources.

      What is more, as religious of the Roman Catholic Church, the five did what good Catholics have a right and sometimes a duty to do when they have serious problems of conscience. They went to higher superiors.

      The appeal went all the way to the Pope, basically. And though many on the Internet can’t imagine the reasons would could be sufficient for what followed, the highest authorities in the Church decided to intervene.

      Just so my “bias” is put into perspective.

      • Athelstane

        Yes, Pat, but I printed the opposition’s version of events in full
        without editing, along with my commentary under my own real name.

        Which, I think, redounds to your credit. It was helpful to have both in full, side by side, as it were.

  • Elaine S.

    Ok then, perhaps we should resolve once and for the question of “who/what is a ‘Trad’ Catholic for purposes of discussion on this blog.” Is it:

    1. Someone who likes the EF/TLM and wants it made readily available but who does not have any objections to the OF or Vatican II and does not question their validity.
    2. Someone who believes the EF/TLM is a distinctly “better” liturgy than the OF and has the potential to revive the Church (“save the liturgy, save the world”), but who accepts the OF as valid and will attend it if an EF Mass is not available.
    3. Someone who believes that “real” Catholics prefer the EF and that those who don’t like it or attend it regularly are either being shortchanged or are not Truly True Catholics at heart.
    4. Someone who insists that the EF is the only “real” Mass, refuses to attend any other liturgy and/or questions the validity of anything promulgated by Vatican II or of popes elected since then. (This would include SSPX’ers, sedevacantists and the like).

    • Heather

      Perhaps the question for this particular post is how Fr. Geiger defines it on his own blog. As quoted below, it actually has little to nothing to do with liturgical preference in and of itself:

      “[T]hat ideology by which Catholics, in the name of conserving
      Tradition, take it upon themselves to determine what magisterial act
      does and does not belong to Catholic Tradition.”

      In other words, he uses the term “traditionalist” to refer to what Mark calls “reactionaries” or what others might call “rad trads.”

      It appears to be a distinction between those who prefer older forms of liturgical and spiritual expression and those for whom traditional forms of liturgical and spiritual expression have been turned into an ideological hammer, an “ism.” From the smattering of posts on his blog that I have read, I would consider him on at least the tradition-friendly side. Maybe “traditionAL but not traditionalIST.”

      Personally I find the terminology a little problematic since it is likely to be misunderstood by self-described traditional Catholics, but it is the term he has chosen to use.

    • AverageCatholic

      I think it important to post again to clear up some confusion. Fr. Ripperger has detailed the difference between Traditional Catholicism and Conservative/Neoconservative Catholicism. Well worth a read to understand the difference and clear up misunderstandings.

    • Rodney Burton

      As a former Protestant, now Catholic, I am always shocked when I see this internal squabbling. We have the infallible teachings of the Pope and the Magisterium.

      Rejecting those and calling yourself Catholic is like eating a hamburger every night and calling yourself a vegetarian.

      • As a former Protestant, now Catholic, I am always shocked when I see this internal squabbling.

        As a former Protestant, now Catholic, it makes me feel good all over. The fightin’ fundies you will always have with you, but here, in the Catholic Church, we have to acknowledge them and live with them. We don’t get to disown them.

  • Hematite

    It occurred to me that one of the things that the trads and the “progressives” have in common, is that they are both trying to impose their idolatress ideologies on the Church. It’s just what Uncle Screwtape was yearning for: to make the Church into a faction.

    • JJG

      It’s a little more complicated, but yeah, pretty much. It’s the sin of pride, which is the deadliest of the seven deadlies because it’s present in _every_ sin. Its manifestation is disobedience, and every sin involves disobedience to God. It’s antidote is humility, which has never been a very popular virtue.
      The most common danger in the spiritual life is doing exactly as you please and convincing yourself it’s in fact the will of God. So it’s when one feels most comfortable with himself that he most needs to examine his conscience.

  • Patrick Madrid .

    • chezami

      Jurassic period.

  • JJG

    With all due respect to my learned colleagues below, I think the issue is meta.

    The actions of Fr. Volpi regarding the FFI had assumed a symbolic significance to the Pope-Francis-isn’t-Catholic crowd. It was taken as incontrovertible evidence of the correctness of their thesis, coupled with the ever-popular idea that modernist Rome, which is infested with sodomites, and Freemasons, and Communists, and fruit-bats, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals … where was I? Oh yes, that Rome is hostile to Tradition, and wishes to suppress it. The idea that there might actually be some problems with the FFI that need addressing, as Fr. Geiger appears to suggest, is not likely to be greeted with alacrity by such folk, hence the chimp-out.

    It’s analogous to saying that gender is not a societal construct, but a characteristic intrinsic to the human person. If you go so far as to mention that a gander between one’s legs out to sort that out, or suggest that in fact it’s all about the chromosomes, baybeee, you’ll be condemned for the thoughtcrime of cis-gender privilege. But that’s not an argument, of course, it’s just an alternative way of saying “yer mutha!”

    Still, as Goethe said, one must keep repeating the truth. It’s just that objective facts are not likely to carry much weight in an era when “reality-based” is taken to be a pejorative.

  • Jonna

    So what is an FFI? Can’t anybody just be a plain old Roman Catholic anymore?

    • Rodney Burton

      It’s a religious order, and I agree with you.

      Frankly I would see the internal affairs of a religious order to be between them and the Vatican, not the laity, unless of course if they were doing false catechesis or something similar like the LCWR (that was a rough summer)

  • Peggy

    Perhaps some uniformity in worship in the Latin Church would eliminate these divisions. …Ahem…

    • HornOrSilk

      Historically there was no “uniformity in worship” in the Western Church. There have always been a variety of rites and local traditions.

      • peggy

        Uniformity in the Latin RIte…Latin…Latin…no novus ordo “options” for priest….no ad libbing….

        • HornOrSilk

          Never happened. In all of history. Ever. There were many religious rites used in the West. Always. And I bet if you read about medieval festivals, you would be jumping up and down about liturgical abuse, too (what, children are acting as priests and bishops!?)

          • ivan_the_mad

            “There are many religious rites used in the West.” Fixed that for you 😉

            • HornOrSilk

              Well, yes. Both were and are. The point is that in the “idealistic past” many try to look to, the diversity was greater (Trent limited it, but not entirely).

              • Peggy

                The novus ordo goes beyond a ‘rite.’ It is replete with “options” for priests, who along with ‘liturgists’ and music directors desire to put their own stamp on the mass. Thus, they in turn go beyond the approved ‘options.’ A straight up novus ordo without the crap and crappy music is tolerable. Nonetheless, the vernacular novus ordo is a huge departure in Catholic worship and beyond what the council called for. (Read Sacrosanctum Concilium)

                If Mark has no opinion on liturgical matters, he should not post on them and most importantly should not judge people who do care. (He must care on some level since he disagrees with EF devotees.) I recall a time when he complained about Haugen and Hass….

                • HornOrSilk

                  And there has always been “options for priests.” If you want a machine go to a computer. And the Church can and did determine that vernacular can be appropriate. So much for legalism.

                  • Peggy

                    The NO options can and have had a jumbo jet driven through them. SC proposes a limited approach to the use of vernacular. Bugnini’s vision is far from tradition.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Uniformity in the Latin rite? I don’t think you understand what Latin rite means to call for such a thing 😉 The Roman (of which the Novus Ordo is the ordinary form), Ambrosian, and Carthusian rites are all Latin liturgical rites, i.e. rites of the Latin church. There are others.

  • a sinner

    Mark- I’m on a sort of mission, a personal one. It has no scientific basis, at all, and is purely for my own information. But I’ll share, and you can read -if you are interested-
    I’ve noticed a running theme, as I try to figure out the truth in the current division between so-called “Trads” and the rest of us ordinary Catholics. .

    My hypothesis is this- those with the more “Trad” mindset in the current war, seem to consistently sound more angry, sarcastic, and superior, than those on the “ordinary” area of the spectrum do (strictly from my limited observation.) My poor hypothesis is this: as angry, sarcastic and superior-sounding people, they are less likely to be in possession of the truth since anger tends to block out a person’s capacity to think clearly.

    But you- an apparent “ordinary Catholic” with whom I so often agree- are completely ruining my data and conclusions! So frustrating.

  • Athelstane

    Hello Mark,

    So if I don’t care about the FFI, why did I post the link? Because I
    post lots of things readers send me that hold no interest for me, but
    might interest my readers.

    That simply doesn’t fly as a defense when you do more than merely post a link, but offer up substantive critiques. Or, worse, as in this case, fling around ad hominems, which you did with the clear insinuation that some (a majority, if some reports are to be believed) of Fr. Geiger’s fellow friars are not sane. Not just imprudent, uncharitable, or even in some error, but not sane.

    When you wade into these fires with your gas can, you had better have on your flame-retardant big-boy pants.

    Mark, by all evidence you’re caring human being, father and husband that would give the shirt off your back to someone in need; as a public figure you’ve written some valuable apologetics books that I’ve recommended to people interested in converting to the Church. But as a blogger, you’re frequently your own worst enemy. You hit that “post” button all too often without thinking, and you suffer almost any criticism or difference ill, and often quite viciously. You almost always opt to jack up the temperature rather than try to lower it. So here’s a start: Consider a prayer before posting. Try to refrain from obvious ad hominems and cuss words (such as the one in the headline of another post this morning). And let us pray your opponents do the same.