Lefebvre Was Right? The “Disobedient” Ordination of Alcuin Reid

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Above: Dom Alcuin Reid pictured with Cardinal Burke in 2014 (New Liturgical Movement). This photo is not meant to imply anything other than that fact. 

Dom Alcuin Reid has been for years a respected liturgical scholar in the Church (Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the forward to his seminal work published by Ignatius Press). He is the founding Prior of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France and has published numerous academic works on the sacred liturgy. Thus he made an important appearance yesterday in the premier of documentary, Mass of the Ages, Episode II: A Perfect Storm, which details the creation of the Novus Ordo Missae following Vatican II.

After Traditionis Custodes was released, Catholic World Report published his essay “Does Traditionis Custodes pass Liturgical History 101?” in which he said, following Ratzinger:

As I have said many times, I am not a traditionalist. I am a Catholic. And as a Catholic I hold that the bitterness, fear, alienation, and growing division directly brought about by Traditionis custodes is a situation of the utmost grave concern. It is a source of scandal well beyond those whom it targeted and, pastorally speaking, is already a disaster – particularly amongst the young.

In the face of this, as a liturgical historian, I cannot remain silent. Legislation cannot change historical facts. Nor can an act of legal positivism determine what is or is not part of the lex orandi of the Church, for as the Catechism teaches, “the law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition” (par. 1124) – of which the bishops, and first amongst them, the Bishop of Rome, are guardians, not the proprietors.

As the prior of Monastère Saint-Benoît since its founding in August 2020, however, Dom Alcuin was only a deacon and the growing monastery depended (with difficulty) on diocesan clergy for the Holy Mass according to the traditional Roman Rite. As a result of this dependence on diocesan clergy, the monks had sometimes had to go without the Holy Sacrifice on any given day, which obviously destabilised their Benedictine life, besides threatening vocations.

Three monastic visitators, therefore, recommended to the local bishop (Msgr Dominique Rey) that Dom Alcuin be ordained to the holy priesthood, even as late as December 2021 – after Traditionis Custodes.

However, according to the recent statement of the monastery, the Bishop feared to go through with the plan for fear of repercussions from Rome and informed the monastery that he would not ordain Reid. Now the life of the monastery was again asked to suffer for the sake of the bishop’s fears.

Meanwhile, vocations to the priesthood worldwide and the general faith of society continues to degrade.

At some point, the monks felt the situation of approved Latin Mass religious life – which had been quite clear and lawful under the past two pontificates – had been thrown into a climate of fear. This is exactly what esteemed historian and OnePeterFive contributor Henry Sire documented about this pontificate years before Traditionis Custodes, which earned Pope Francis the nickname “Dictator Pope.” (Proving his argument, Henry Sire was immediately “canceled” by the Francis pontificate for his truth-telling).

Under Francis, it is clear to all that traditional religious life has been in the cross hairs from the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – an order documented by Mr. Sire as unlawfully suppressed – to the new Cor Orans regime seeking to undermine contemplative, religious life to the latest efforts against the Carmelites of Fairfield.

Therefore no one can deny that Reid and his monks were exercising the virtue of caution – to apply experience from the past in order to avoid future evil.

After much prayer and providential opportunities – Dom Alcuin Reid was secretly ordained by an anonymous bishop who is, according to the monastery, a “senior prelate in unimpeded communion with the Holy See.” He then submitted himself to his local bishop Rey, who immediately suspended him.

The action of secret ordination was justified, according to the monastery’s statement, “for the ultimate good of souls in a truly extraordinary situation in the life of the Church.”

As Anthony Stine observed, this is an obvious parallel to Archbishop Lefebvre’s justification. Mike Parrott has also made note that it has similarities with the disobedient, secret ordinations conducted by Karol Wojtyła (John Paul II) and Josef Slipyj.

In this climate of fear and hyperüberultramontanism, this new suspended status for Fr. Alcuin Reid might make the organisations that formerly published Reid afraid and some might “cancel” this great scholar that Ratzinger promoted (similar to the way some had cancelled Msgr. Klaus Gamber, whom Ratzinger also defended). As the Holy Father continued to rail on Trads and punish the little ones and take away the sacred liturgy from them, do we not see what Mr. Sire documented a few years ago? What is this climate of fear but a dictatorial regime?

This is a matter of grave importance as we see traditional religious life – the very life blood of the Church’s spiritual life – continually threatened under this pontificate.

All good and pious Catholics must ask themselves this question: does Alcuin Reid deserve the judgment of charity and mercy? Do you think he was doing his best to obey God in a difficult situation? Unless you would like to judge his heart about his statement, we can reasonably and charitably conclude he believed his conscience was well formed, and acting in obedience to God.

Do you think the same about the future John Paul II and his illicit ordinations, or about Archbishop Lefebvre? Do not all Catholic deserve the judgment of charity?

As St. Thomas says:

Unless we have evident indications of a person’s wickedness, we ought to deem him good, by interpreting for the best whatever is doubtful about him… He who interprets doubtful matters for the best, may happen to be deceived more often than not; yet it is better to err frequently through thinking well of a wicked man, than to err less frequently through having an evil opinion of a good man, because in the latter case an injury is inflicted, but not in the former (ST II-II q60 a4).

To those Catholics who would see a suspension like this and do the uncharitable and anti-Christian act of “cancelling” a well-respected churchmen and a brother in Christ, I ask this: what is your evident indication of his wickedness?

You say: he disobeyed his bishop! He has been suspended!

I say: when has the Church defined that disobedience to a bishop is intrinsically evil? Or that suspensions are infallible?

Is the salvation of souls the law above every law? or not?

No, every Catholic must admit this in theory since that is the very purpose of canon law and the episcopal office.

No one can posit that a suspension is infallible or that disobedience to a bishop is intrinsically evil. Therefore, we have no evident reason to claim Reid’s wickedness. Thus, if we are to act like Christians instead of internet trolls, we are obliged to judge every party in this case with charity. Perhaps Reid did the wrong thing. Perhaps the bishop did the wrong thing. Perhaps Pope Francis is wrong about Traditionis Custodes, as many orthodox Catholics and many bishops and priests have agreed at this point.

Go now and read his statement with charity and see if you can possibly conclude that he was not honestly doing his best to obey God.

If you are so arrogant as to claim knowledge of a man’s heart and cancel him on a difficult matter, you sin against your brother by acting against charity. Instead, let us follow the Angelic Doctor in this case, and in the cases too of John Paul II, Cardinal Slipyj, and even Archbishop Lefebvre. Instead of the impious wickedness of the internet and shallow media lynch mobs, let us follow the wisdom of the saints:

It is dangerous to judge others because, being unaware of the need or the motive out of which they do things offensive to us but either correct or excusable in God’s sight, we put ourselves in the position of having judged them rashly; in this we commit no small sin by thinking of our brothers other than we ought.[1]

It is only after many years that pious men with wisdom discern and agree with one another on some disputed question of conscience. Some of these questions have still been unresolved after centuries.

Will all Catholics one day know if Lefebvre was right or wrong? Are we truly living through a neo-Arian crisis which demands from pious hearts disobedience to ecclesiastical authority in order to obey God?

Thank God – we are not the judges of men’s hearts, but God Almighty is. Let us then, properly form our own consciences and do our best, by God, to be faithful to grace, showing great mercy and kindness to our brother, lest we come under the judgment of God Who said, blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. He who judges his brother rashly or harshly will himself be judged harshly by God. Let us rather tremble, brethren, before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.

I encourage all Catholics to avail themselves of the new treatise on obedience by Dr. Kwasniewski (which is free for seminarians and all clerics). With the help of grace, this text will help form our consciences for the days and years ahead.

Meanwhile, traditional religious may need to abandon the ideal of a stable monastery and return to the roots of monasticism: laymen going to the desert, following the Father of Monasticism. No bishop can stop laymen and women from forming into monastic communities and renouncing the world, just like St. Anthony.

They can take our Sacraments, but they can never take away our faith and our prayer life.

It may take nothing less to preserve traditional monastic life. But let us not fear but pray the words of the Holy Psalter that the Novus Ordo Liturgy of the Hours censored:

In thy mercy thou wilt destroy my enemies. And thou wilt cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant (Ps. cxlii. 12).

But they have sought my soul in vain, they shall go into the lower parts of the earth: They shall be delivered into the hands of the sword, they shall be the portions of foxes. But the king shall rejoice in God, all they shall be praised that swear by him: because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things (Ps. lxii., 10-12).

Let us pray these words of Christ against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and let all monks and nuns rejoice in suffering in union with their Crucified Lord.[2]

 

[1] St. John Cassian, Institutes, bk. 5.30 in Boniface Ramsey, trans. (Paulist, 2000), 134.

[2] On the spirituality of Christ in the Psalter, see T. S. Flanders, Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics, ch. 2.

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