Mary's Little Remnant, A unique
sedevacantist group from Truth
or Consequences NM
Ok, let’s continue down the rabbit hole of sedevacantism. I have explained it in two previous posts of this title and so we won’t go over old territory. I also talked about those krazies who have taken opportunity of their sedevacantism to fill the allegedly empty Chair of Peter with either a pope whom they claim Jesus directly appointed through private revelation or one who was elected by one or another conclave of spurious authenticity. It really is interesting to see what convoluted paths the minds of some take—and all in all I think a lot of people have far too much time on their hands.
Of course, these various claimants to the papal throne, either “divinely appointed” or dubiously elected are so obviously delusional that they attract very few disciples. The somewhat more (all things being relative) plausible krazies are found among the sedevacantists who believe that the papacy ceased with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and remains unfilled. As I posted in the previous entry on this topic, they cite a long list of authorities including Pope Innocent III, Saint Antoninus, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Alphonsus Liguori and a host of seventeenth and eighteenth century theologians on the idea that should someone fall into heresy they then cease to be a member of the Church, and should that person be a Pope then, since they are no longer a member of the Church, neither can they be Pope. It is all a neat argument, very carefully tied up in a nice logical bow. Since they also believe that the Second Vatican Council is heretical, the Conciliar popes must ipso facto be heretical and thus not true popes. Some go back and say the first of these false popes was John XXIII who lost the papacy since he was—in their claims—a Freemason and thus excommunicate; he never was truly Pope. His successors, all appointed Cardinals by him or subsequent popes, were not authentic cardinals and the conclaves that elected them were therefore not valid conclaves. Others claim that John was a duly elected Pope but that his successor, Paul VI, was the first of the false popes because of his being the Pope who published the (heretical) decrees of Vatican II. And of course, his cardinals not being real cardinals since he was not a real pope, held a false conclave and—well, you know the story.
Now, while I think that most sedevacantists have, shall we say, “different reality coordinates” than you or I, I don’t think they are all crazy. We looked briefly at the Mount Saint Michael and the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church movement under Bishop Mark Pivarunas. Pivarunas succeeded Denis Chicoine as Superior of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate, Queen and the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church based at Mount Saint Michael in Spokane Washington. Chicoine was the collaborator with and successor to Francis Konrad Schuckardt who founded the Congregation of Mary Immaculate, Queen and was the original American proponent of sedevacantism. Schuckardt and Chicoine each saw the Church through lenses of skewed theology and disturbed psyches and consequently the Congregation of Mary Immaculate, Queen and their followers among the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church have more than their share of disturbed souls. Nevertheless, Pivaranus, to his credit, has managed in his years of leadership to give the movement some degree of respectability. Pivaranus was consecrated a bishop at the (well below canonical) age of 30 by Moisés Carmona of the schismatic Episcopal lineage of the Ngô Đình Thục lineage. While Pivarunas’ sedevacantism is difficult to reconcile with Saint Augustine’s principle “securus judicat orbis terrarium” that in matters theological we should trust the judgment of universal Christendom, he has in fact been able to hold his movement to solid—if preconciliar—doctrine and discipline. Their particular sort of Catholicism, if Catholicism we can really call it as it is neither part of the Catholic Church nor in any sense “universal,” is a snapshot of a frozen-in-time 1950 American Catholicism. The Mount Saint Michael group is somewhat analogous to the various Fundamentalist Mormons who have broken with the authorities in Salt Lake City and formed their own self-contained enclaves where they can live life pretty much unaffected by the cultural shocks of the 20th and 21st centuries. In other words, I think one could say that Bishop Pivarunas and his followers are somewhat peculiar, but I wouldn’t call them krazy—or even crazy.
But trust me, to my research they are the only group of sedevacantists who are just not off the flippin’ wall. One of the kraziest of these groups is that of one “Brother Michael” Dimond and his two-man Most Holy Family Monastery in Fillmore NY. Most Holy Family Monastery was founded in 1967 by the late Joseph Natale who had spent less than a year seeking a vocation at Saint Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe PA. Natale never did become a monk before he was dismissed from the postulancy and went on to establish his own “monastery” in Berlin NJ. Over the years Natale never had more than three or four men attempting to live the monastic life in his community which was totally non-canonical. In fact, as the effects of the Second Vatican Council began to be felt, Natale was a rigid and outspoken opponent of the Council and most especially of the Novus Ordo Mass. Natale broke with the Catholic Church by the end of the 1970’s as he realized that there would be no going back from the Conciliar changes for the greater part of the Catholic Faithful. Among those who tried their vocation with Most Holy Family Monastery is John Vennari of whom we will hear in later postings. Vennari left to work with Father Nicholas Gruner. We will also hear about Father Gruner and his aide, Christopher Ferrara as they all are among the more colorfully plumaged birds in the Krazies’ nest.
In any event, Frederick Dimond, recent convert to Catholicism, joined Most Holy Family Monastery in 1992 at the age of 19, taking the monastic name and title, “Brother Michael.” Being the sole companion left to Natale he succeeded to the priorship of the monastery when Joseph Natale died in 1995. He was later joined by his sibling, Peter Dimond, aka Brother Peter. The two Dimond brothers seem to be the only vocations that have lasted at Most Holy Family Monastery.
Michael Dimond is a frenetic worker who produces massive amounts of literature which is against everything from Natural Family Planning to contemporary biblical scholarship to marriage annulments to other sedevacantist groups. In fact, it is hard to know exactly what Most Holy Family Monastery promotes as their literature seems to be entirely negative. He takes particular venom in attacking those who once worked with him but who refused to fall into discipleship under his guidance. Most Holy Family Monastery has earned the questionable distinction of being labeled “a hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of their anti-Semitism. But we will see that the Katholic Krazies are often aligned with anti-Semitism and other racist philosophies.
A truly unique sedevacantist group is Richard Joseph Michael Ibranyi and his “Mary’s Little Remnant” of Truth or Consequences New Mexico. Classic sedevacantism is founded in the belief that the Bishops went astray from Catholic orthodoxy at Vatican II and that the Vatican II Popes and their followers (Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis) are false claimants to the papal throne. Ibranyi, on the other hand, claims that the last real Pope was Honorius II (died 1130) and that all subsequent popes have been heretics and/or idolaters and thus false claimants to the Chair of Peter. Ibranyi’s disciples also have that look of Mormon Fundamentalists save for the multiple medals, crucifixes, and scapulars conspicuously worn about their necks and over their clothes. They believe, of course, that through these many centuries the Apostolic Succession has died out in the Church and there is no authentic hierarchical leadership. Their worship consists of bits and pieces of non-sacramental ritual that they can reconstruct from the preconciliar rites which they believe go back to the times of Catholic authenticity with Honorious and his predecessors. There seems to be a particular emphasis on the Tenebrae and on the Paschal Fire. All in all it seems that Mary’s Little Remnant consists of about 30 people in all.
I think it is significant that these various sedevacantists—Schuckhardt, Chicoine, Dimond, Bawden, Ibranyi and even Pivarunas have had no formal theological training. It is hard to know how they can authentically interpret the theological tradition of the Church and make the sort of judgments they assert themselves qualified to do when they not only often do not agree among themselves, but also when so many qualified scholars have come to an opposite consensus. Saint Teresa of Avila told her nuns that if they must choose for their guidance between a holy priest and an educated priest to choose the educated priest. Her experience had showed her that piety alone without a sound knowledge of the faith can often lead souls astray, whereas sound advice, even from a sinner, is sound advice.