While I mentioned Fathers X, Y, and Monsignor Z, unnamed clergy of the Arlington diocese who developed disciples among the more extreme younger clergy of their diocese in order to pass on the “true faith” of old-time-religion, Catholic style. One of these had come to the diocese in its early days having been refused final vows in the Dominican Order because he was too backwards looking for the Dominicans. Now, internationally the Dominicans are a very liberal order, faithful to their mendicant tradition of service to the poor and so one of the most committed orders to the principles of justice and peace as laid out at Vatican II and in a string of encyclical letters going back to John XXIII and Mater et Magistra, but the East Coast Province in the USA, the Saint Joseph Province is not typical of the larger Dominican family. They are good men and well trained in theology and they perform well in their many ministries, but when it comes to the trappings of religious life and to their theological methodologies, they are antiquarians of the first degree. It is impossible for me to imagine what it would take to be dismissed from them for being “too conservative.” But seminarian X was. He was no sooner out of the Dominicans than picked up for Arlington and ordained by Bishop Welsh for the Arlington Diocese.
I don’t know as much about Father Y except that he is not native to the Arlington Diocese but a refugee from the then liberal Archdiocese of Detroit from the days of Cardinal Dearden. He has ties to Opus Dei, and is a polished orator—perhaps more accomplished as a stylist than for his content. In other words, he is more articulate than knowledgeable—a common quality of many clergy. Well, it would be if one could say that there were many of the Catholic clergy who were at least articulate. Father also is given to the buttons and bows of clerical dress and to gilding the lily of the Mass with as many liturgical antiques as can be devised. Before the restoration of the Tridentine Mass he was known as a specialist in tricking out the “new Mass” to look like the old in the “Solemn High Masses” at his former parish. However, to his credit, I hear that he makes a charming guest at dinner parties in the better homes of Northern Virginia.
Monsignor Y—and to be honest, while I am not certain that he is a Monsignor (I suppose I could check the Kennedy Directory) I know that that he does not contradict those who called him that—is a pompous Irish windbag who would introduce himself as “Doctor Y” although he had never finished his dissertation. The Irish are very good at making fun of pompous asses, but that requires that there be among them pompous asses of whom to make fun and Monsignor Y has always been good enough to oblige. He particularly liked to criticize the “faulty” translation of the 1970 Sacramentary when the fact was his Latin was not, shall we say, itself Ciceronian.
There actually was (is) a fourth horseman to this Arlington Apocalypse. This fellow is bright, and I hear an above average Latinist. He has always dreamed of living in a world untouched by Vatican II and so appealed to go to Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz’s Diocese of Lincoln, the only diocese more conservative than Arlington. Unfortunately he was sent back after only a few years. Like the others he was given to whining and complaining about the liturgy and was very active in the “Reform of the Reform” movement championed by Father Joseph Fessio, a member of the minority of Jesuits who have rejected the direction that the late Father Pedro Arrupe took the society during his tenure as General (1965-1983). These Fathers were the nucleus of a catechetical school for young priests to unteach them anything they had learned in the seminary that smacked of progressive thought and to reform them in their own image and likeness as “Reform of the Reform” clergy. They have had great influence over many of those 84 priests ordained by Bishop Keating and not a few of those ordained by the current bishop, Bishop Loverde, and their catechisis has created a distinctive sort of priest that one does not often find elsewhere. In Arlington one might find a priest in his cassock picking up a few items at the supermarket or taking the parish youth for ice-cream at Coldstone Creamery. In Arlington it is not all that unusual to find a priest facing away from the people for Mass or celebrating the preconciliar Requiem Mass, perhaps in English with some mumbled Latin, for a funeral. Birettas are common, Roman or fiddle-back chasubles more common. Purple Vestments (rather than Resurrection-white) is a common color for funeral Masses. Churches being built in the diocese these days are an architectural throwback to the 1950 Chicago-gothic and antique fixtures from the closed churches of Boston and other northern cities are finding new homes in the parishes of northern Virginia. God forbid you come to Church with an Obama bumper-sticker on your car—you will find a note on your windshield telling you that you shouldn’t be coming to communion and just to make sure, it is not unlikely that some parish stalwart might track down your license plate and tell your pastor that he should refuse you communion at Mass. It is not only a considerable number of the clergy in Arlington who are throwbacks to the days of the gentle Torquemada but an invisible empire of NKVD apparatchiks who monitor everything from the sermons of the suspiciously liberal to the liturgical oddities of the boomer generation priests to textbooks in religious education programs, to hymns sung at Mass. One of their favorite targets of complaint and criticism is none less than the bishop himself. But more on that in future postings.