Laudetur Iesus Christus! Gerry Matatics has seen fit to publicize his being banned from our conference. As he has taken issue with us publicly, and as this could cause some confusion, I am posting a brief explanation.
The reason I barred Gerry is simple: He was quite evidently using our event as an opportunity to advance his sedevacantist agenda, something we believe to be nefarious. We don’t think that we are bound to let everyone who has something to say exercise his right to free speech at our conference.
Priests Who Aren’t Priests
Among other things, I would not want Mr. Matatics leading folks at our conference to believe that the two priests offering Mass there aren’t really priests. He has done this before, to the confusion and scandal of the faithful. Mr. Matatics made a cause célèbre of certain “invalid” priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter just before the Chartres pilgrimage once, and found himself barred from the pilgrimage. Also, at least one member of the Matatics household was known to refer to Father Carl N. Gismondi, FSSP, “Mr. Gismondi,” to the disedification of the faithful of St. Michael’s parish in Scranton, PA.
Both Father Gruner and Father Smith were ordained in the new rite and / or, by bishops consecrated in the new rite. Since Gerry openly doubts the validity of these sacraments, he would very likely not refrain from telling people that these men are not (or may not be) priests. As Gerry says, he is not like other men who “tend not to vocalize and propagate their more controversial views. That restraint, unfortunately, is a skill I have never mastered: when I become convinced of some truth, I feel constrained to shout it “from the housetops” (to coin a phrase).”
Perhaps it would be “controversial” of me to point out that Mr. Matatics’ “convictions,” tend to evolve very rapidly. When today’s convictions contradict yesterday’s, the “Mega-Tour” will roll on, only the message will change.
An Unwelcome Opportunism
Unbeknown to me, Gerry posted on his site that he was going to be in attendance at our Conference. The posting, if read quickly (as many people read while surfing the web), would seem to indicate that Gerry was a speaker at our conference. When I was told of this, I wrote Gerry to tell him he was welcome, as long as he followed certain guidelines while there, including not distributing any literature. He did not respond to my message. Then, some time later, he announced that he was going to have a seminar on the evening before our conference, at the same hotel in Fitchburg. This made it look even more as if he were part of our program. I took the whole thing as a provocation and an opportunistic, last-minute piggy-backing off of our carefully planned event.
Because of the confusion that ensued and was bound to continue, and his failure to acknowledge my conditions for his presence at our conference, I decided that the most effective way to disassociate ourselves from Mr. Matatics’ event was to bar him entirely from our own.
Gerry seems to think that he has been done an injustice. Although he does not say this in so many words, the generally wounded tone of his column bespeaks it. In truth, it is the other way around. Our event has, in the minds of some, been associated with his outlandish ideas. Gerry seems to think he has a right to attend and express his views at our conference. (Otherwise, why complain — and publicly — when not allowed to?) Being against what Pope Leo XIII condemned as “Americanism” and the unqualified exercise of the first-amendment right of free speech, I stand on the classical Catholic teaching that “error has no rights.” I will therefore advance my right to bar the error of sedevacantism from our conference.
One statement on Mr. Matatics’ site is particularly indicative of his victim posturing, along with a hint of self-praise: “Incongruously, others who hold my views have been welcome, even as speakers, at the SBC conference — perhaps because they tend not to vocalize and propagate their more controversial views.”
This is not true. The only possible candidates to fit this description are two men (a priest and a layman) who personally entertained various views which coincide with some of Gerry’s. In personal conversations with both of them, they explained to me that these were not things they felt certain of. They did not, at the time they spoke, “hold [Gerry’s] views.” It is hardly “incongruous” to have such men speak while refusing to have Gerry Matatics on the same platform. These men entertained some of these ideas without stating them conclusively, perhaps because they humbly acknowledged that they could be wrong and would not encourage the faithful to make life-changing (and possibly eternity-changing) decisions based upon their own latest “convictions.” Gerry Matatics, on the other hand, insisted on his right to declare the new rites of ordination and episcopal consecration to be invalid in the context of a talk on Catholic fatherhood (the talk he would have given last year). Big difference.
While Gerry plays the part of a noble knight in an altruistic pursuit of Catholic purity, much of what he comes out with is self-aggrandizing, dishonest hype. This includes the claim I just referred to, as well as an earlier misstatement of my reasons for his not speaking at our conference last year, and his “spinning” (in an email to a mutual friend) of the reasons I declined his offer to debate someone at our conference. I would have kept matters purely between Gerry and me had he not publicized his distortions of the facts and implicitly calumniated our apostolate for suppressing his noble efforts to enlighten the world.
For the record, there are those in the traditional movement who have barred us from their forums — conferences, newspapers, magazines, etc. I have not seen the need to mention them by name, complain about these circumstances, or play the part of a wounded hero. To their credit, neither have our censors seen fit to publicize such things. Apparently they, like me, would rather keep such things in the background so as to retain and build upon that often frail unity which exists in the traditional movement. For this to happen, issues of personality have to be kept in the back burner, a difficult discipline for a public figure.
I have known apostolic persons in the clerical, lay, and religious states who have experienced such censorship and who “take it on the chin” when it happens, even when it wounds their self esteem or finances. This is how we are supposed to act. It goes with the territory. To his discredit, Gerry uses these occasions as PR opportunities.
The Real Victims
Gerry’s speaking engagements all over the country recently have informed people that many traditional priests aren’t, in fact, priests. Thus, the convinced faithful who can’t find a priest who meets Gerry’s specs will probably stay home rather than risk going to a Mass Gerry holds to be invalid. That’s a lot for a man to take upon his conscience. His 300-city-and-town “Mega-Tour” is preaching this despairing gospel of a pope-less and (virtually) sacrament-less, bishop-less, and priest-less Church. Those heeding Gerry’s word are led to join the ranks of the “home aloners” — those devout souls who stay at home on Sunday, praying the Rosary and reading their Missals — if they fail in their Arthurian quest for a real priest.
And those who die without sacraments because of it can accuse Gerry Matatics on judgment day.
Gerry’s column on his web site makes reference to the “great charity, heartwarming hospitality and genuine friendship” that he has received from the various houses of our Order over the years. I would love to count Gerry Matatics as my genuine friend, but I will not allow him to propagate his odd views to our conference-goers.
After reading these harsh-sounding words of mine, I hope Gerry will consider these words of St. Augustine, an expert in “genuine friendship”: “Not everyone who spares is a friend, nor is everyone who strikes an enemy” (Ep. 93).