Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Helpful vs. less helpful: the Fisher More College situation

I may be updating this post periodically today, but I wanted to share a couple of quick things for now that may shed light on the Fisher More College situation.

One of them, extremely helpful in my opinion, is this public statement from Dr. Taylor Marshall:
Much of the politicization around the “Latin Mass and FMC” is Mr. King’s careful attempt to distract attention away from his financial misdealing at FMC. The college is currently teetering on bankruptcy and this latest entanglement with the bishop will lead to a public statement: “Fisher More closed down because the new bishop of Fort Worth persecuted the Latin Mass!” when in reality the College is failing because Mr. King entered into a dubious real estate deal that washed out college’s endowment AND all the proceeds from the sale of the original campus.

How did a College sell its extremely valuable campus to TCU for several millions dollars in 2012 only to announce at Christmas 2013 that it might be closing without an immediate fund raising campaign through Rorate Caeli? [...]

FMC hosted a public repudiation of Vatican 2 and the Ordinary Form of the Mass in April of 2013 that was so offensive that my wife and I walked out of it before it’s conclusion. That did not do much to heal the breach with the local diocese or presbyterate and it contributed to the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) discontinuing their support and presence at FMC. The current FMC website advertises that the FSSP provides a chaplain, but this is not true.

At the same time, Michael King estranged himself from the diocese of Fort Worth by not allowing the Ordinary Form (as stipulated by the previous ordinary Bishop Vann of Fort Worth). He also contracted an irregular/suspended priest without faculties, and hired “trad resistance” faculty while there was no bishop in Fort Worth to check these developments. Mr. King was able to create a community in his image (he affectionately referred to himself the “father” of this community) during the episcopal inter-regnum of the diocese of Fort Worth.

Clearly, a bishop's intervention was inevitable. The current controversy really has nothing to do with the Latin Mass per se. The Latin Mass is at the center because Michael King is politicizing the Latin Mass in his favor, knowing that “bishops vs the Latin Mass” is red meat for some traditionalist blogs.
Do, please, go and read the whole thing here.

Less helpful, to me, is the public posting of Patrick Archbold's letter to Bishop Olson:
Pursuant to your actions vis-à-vis the prohibition of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite from taking place at the chapel of Fisher More College, I have the following questions:

What problem is this prohibition intended to remedy?

Is this prohibition the least restrictive measure possible to effect that remedy?

What consultations, if any, were held with the school to avoid such actions?

Are there clear criteria or actions set out which, if followed, would allow for the restoration of permission for the public celebration of the EF at Fisher More College?

Since the offering of the Extraordinary Form is key to the mission of Fisher More College and is a particular attraction for many of its students and their families, is it of concern to you prohibiting the EF may undermine such attraction to the school and thereby precipitate its demise?

There is more, in the same vein--and tone.

Why do I find this less helpful?  It's not that Pat Archbold wished to write to Bishop Olson and ask these questions (even though most of us probably make it a practice only to write to our own bishops about diocesan matters).  It's that the letter, which he chose to share publicly, seems to me--and I know some may disagree--to begin with an accusative tone that seems to presume that the bishop is in the wrong here, when most of the information I am hearing on the ground here in Fort Worth is saying something very, very different.

I'll add updates to this post during the day if it becomes necessary, but I think at this point that with so many people with direct experience of this college--Taylor Marshall especially--saying that Bishop Olson was indeed justified in taking this quick and direct action, it may behoove the rest of us to give the bishop the benefit of the doubt here.

UPDATE: I keep seeing people on various blogs insisting that it is not fair to "punish" the college students by taking the E.F. Mass away from them (and an assumption that the nearest E.F. Mass is in Dallas).  However, the nearest E.F. Sunday Mass is at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Fort Worth, only 2 miles away from Fisher More College.  The Mass is at 5:30 Sunday evenings (a Mass time I'd have loved when I was in college!).  I don't think Bishop Olson is placing an undue hardship on the college students who are sincerely attached to the E.F. Mass when there is such a Mass available at such a near distance which they can attend for the time being--even indefinitely--while things are being straightened out with the college.


Harry Seldon said...

Pat Archbold has apparently let his small amount of fame go to his head. Because he blogs at the Register, now he feels he can call bishops on the carpet to explain their decisions. Amazing.

freddy said...

I read the links you posted in your original article below. I found Patrick Archbold's post to which you linked there also "less than helpful." Not to put too fine a point on it, I find his remarks a soup of passive-aggressive whining. Worst are his ugly misuses of language: he begins with "I am not jumping to any conclusions..." and segues immediately to "In a shocking, largely unexplained, and possibly canonically illegitimate move...." He cultivates an air of concerned gravitas, but his questions appear more to censure than to seek knowledge. His assumption that the bishop has to explain himself to Patrick Archbold would be amusing if it weren't so nauseating. It's almost as if Patrick is trying to gain entry into Rorate Coeli's super-secret club. "Less than helpful" indeed. And very sad.

Michael said...

Red Cardigan - whatever the problems with Dr. King, and whatever his view of the OF, suppression of the EF is wrong. It doesn't get "less wrong" because students can travel 2 miles to get it. Your logic is identical to that contained in the Justice Department's lawsuits on the Contraceptive Mandate - the "burden" is trivial. Bishops don't punish bad behavior by suppressing the Holy Mass. (The DO save unrepentant sinners from sacrilege by denying communion - but that's something completely different.) Oh, "but they get the NO" one might say. Again, that's not the point. They came to a traditionalist school for a traditionalist Mass. If the Bishop can't find a priest in his diocese capable of providing that, he should hire one.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Michael-- the issue seems to be that they HAD priests capable of providing it (The FSSP) and the FSSP pulled out because of problems at the school.

Are you saying that the bishop should force the FSSP to return against their better judgement?

How is this an 'evil supression of the Tridentine Mass' issue when some of the TLMs biggest boosters refuse to touch the school with a 12 foot pole?

This seems more like an 'organized intervention because these people are going off the deep end issue.'

And, if the school environment IS toxic, having the students travel 2 miles to a TLM that is more solid and not tending towards schism is a LOVING intervention.

It's taking the hard candy away from the toddler and replacing it with a piece of chocolate. Something just as good, but less dangerous.

freddy said...

Michael, you said,"...suppression of the EF is wrong."
Um, no. A bishop has certain rights and duties proper to his office, including the right and duty to suppress a certain rite, pious practice, or devotion in his diocese if it falls under his purview. One must assume, in charity, the best about a situation, particularly a situation in which we do not have all the facts. The bishop is suppressing the EF at this place and at this time For The Good of Souls. Who are you to question that? You are certainly free to disagree with the bishop, but be very careful accusing him of wrongdoing when you don't know the facts or have the graces that come with ordination to the episcopate.

Diane said...

Hi, Erin. Can you share some of what you are hearing "on the ground" in Fort Worth? Am not asking because I want to savor some gossip ;) but just because I truly want to understand this whole mess. My instincts tell me that the bishop was fed up, and Mr. King was recalcitrant, but further evidence would be very helpful, even if it turns out not to support my instincts. :)

Thanks you,


Red Cardigan said...

Diane, honestly, I am hearing things that substantiate what Dr. Marshall has said, such as:

--the school's problems are mainly financial;
--the school appears to be mismanaged;
--the school has fired/lost teachers and staff members who were all quite traditional (so, not fired for objecting to tradition, etc.)
--the school has had some iffy speakers (and here I will be cautious, as I have no proof of the specific allegation and have not seen that specific one backed up as of yet)
--the loss of the FSSP priest or priests who were saying Mass was *not* due to the bishop's actions (again, I don't know this one for certain, but the timeline of the end of the E.F. Masses at the school seems unclear at this point)

And this one which may be important:

--Bishop Olson took such immediate action because the Diocesan Administrator, Msgr. Berg (soon to be Bishop Berg of Pueblo, Colorado), had gathered information during the vacancy of the episcopal seat here on the college's actions, actions which allegedly indicated a serious situation regarding the college, a situation that could not wait to be addressed by the new bishop.

Again, let me EMPHASIZE that these are things I am hearing here which I can't independently verify at this point, which is why I am not putting them in the main post. They may all be true; some may be true; some may not be true. However, given that Dr. Marshall includes some of these same points in his public post I think that there is at least some good grounds to think that the bishop's detractors are acting prematurely in this specific matter.

Red Cardigan said...

That last point should have said "..a situation that could not wait *for long* to be addressed...etc."

Red Cardigan said...

Michael, to what others have said I would just add that it's problematic to say that the students "...came to a traditionalist school for a traditionalist Mass..." From what I understand, the college chapel is canonically under the bishop's authority, and if he believes that they need the O.F. Mass on campus, he has the right to make that decision. Thus, the school can't promise a "traditionalist Mass" as if the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were a sort of college amenity.

LarryD said...

Is my post helpful, less than helpful, or just plain silly?


Red Cardigan said...

Funny, Larry! Definitely funny. (For those who haven't seen Larry's post, go here:)


geeklady said...

I am not 'on the ground', but my understanding, from Taylor Marshall's Facebook post (13th paragraph) is that the college had prohibited celebration of the new Mass. Which is rather a big deal, Mr. King certainly lacks the authority to do that, and I don't understand why no one mentions it in the ensuing arguments, as it casts significantly different light on Bishop Olsen's specific removal of the EF.

njurewicz said...

Pat Archbold and New Catholic of Rorate appear to be in the throes of quite the bromance on Twitter. Strange, b/c I never considered Pat much of a Traddie before now.

re. FMC's financial situation. It is extremely odd and worrying that FMC sold property to TCU, then launched a panicky fundraising campaign only a few months ago to keep the doors open. Such things stink to high Heaven, and this oddity was not addressed by the recent statements on the FMC site. Of course, all the standard Traddie blogs will say "it's about Summorum Pontificum and nothing else."

This whole sorry affair is truly exposing the hyperventilating Traddies at their finest. Pearl-clutching abounds. I am reminded why I stayed away from the TLM for so long. It was only after I met some normal Traddies a few years ago that I approached the traditional Mass and have attended it most of the time ever since.

After reading this blog and others, in addition to comments (mainly on Taylor Marshall's FB) from people "on the ground" who have worked at FMC or had children enrolled there, my wild guess: the college was about to fall into the hands of the SSPX, and the bishop stepped in very early in his term to put a stop to it.

Curmudgeon said...

Well, perhaps there' a side to this story Dr. Marshall didn't tell? Here's a perspective from a board member:


One of these guys is lying. Are you going to believe the disgruntled former employee and his general accusations, or the board member with text message evidence? Or I guess you could put your head in the sand and keep telling yourself "a bishop is never in the wrong...a bishop is never in the wrong..."

Curmudgeon said...

I just read the ridiculous comment by nj above. So If a college is about to fall into the hands of the SSPX, how does going to the extraordinary step (not to mention unlawful step...under Summorum Pontificum and Quo Primum) step of refusing them the old Mass help things? Doesn't it make it more likely they'll go irregular instead of less so?

How pastoral and prudent is that? I forgot...a bishop is never wrong. Bravo, Cardinal Dolan, and all that.

Been there said...

Wouldn't it be a good idea to ask all of the board members who resigned for their input instead of taking the word of ONE? Especially since this one throws stones at everyone involved except his personal friend, Mr. King?

Been there said...

Fisher More accumulated a LOT of "disgruntled" employees during it's short
life. Maybe they have a perspective that Mr Drum, a personal friend of Mr King, does not have.

Likewise, the other board members who resigned when Mr King insisted on pushing through the "real estate deal" should be taken into account, especially in the light of last night's news regarding the lawsuit against the college.

Been there said...

a traddy is never wrong ...a traddy is never wrong...