Sunday, August 30, 2015

Father Rutler, Quo Vadis?

I recently did a post in which I talked about the heavy cross borne by those who are especially gifted and talented.  As Christians, it is a constant struggle for the "above average" to remember that they are not self sufficient, and that despite their abilities, they are as dependent upon their Creator as all of us average nobodies are.

As an example of one who is truly gifted and talented, I pointed to Father George Rutler, a New York Archdiocesan priest who is internationally known because of the many books and articles he has written and the many appearances he has made on EWTN.   HERE is just one article praising him as one of a kind.  I have personally met him and can attest to his many talents.  However, in recent months, I have become greatly troubled by some of his writings.

My first inkling that something was not quite right with Father Rutler was when I was told last year by a third party that he was harshly critical of the pastor who had succeeded him at Our Saviour Church in midtown Manhattan.  It seemed highly inappropriate that Father Rutler was criticizing a fellow priest to a member of the laity.  However, I was getting this information secondhand, so I didn't let it disturb me too much.

But I became somewhat alarmed when I read one of Father Rutler's weekly posts which he publishes in his church bulletin and which anyone can receive via email. The one I refer to is dated March 15, 2015 and concerns the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC. You can read the entire post HERE. Unless you are from Mars, you are quite aware that the parade this year was especially controversial because it was the first year an openly gay group was allowed to march in the parade, and even more controversial, Cardinal Dolan was the Grand Marshal. Father Rutler never explicitly mentioned Cardinal Dolan or even the fact that a gay group was marching in the parade. He was much more subtle.

Father Rutler's column, suitably enough for St. Patrick's Day, concerned St. Patrick. He spoke first of all of St. Patrick's conversion and ordination as bishop. Father Rutler quoted St. Patrick as being plain spoken in condemning sinners. The good Father then lamented "what has become of his feast in the streets of our city." As I wrote earlier this year, it has amazed me that so many think that it is only now that St. Patrick's Day has become a secular holiday. It has always been a secular holiday here in New York City. There is nothing new about this. Like Christmas, Easter and Halloween, the world has taken St. Patrick's feast day and made it into their own holiday which has little to do with the original meaning. Yes, the Catholic Church has always taken part in the St. Patrick's Day Parade here in New York, but nonetheless, it has always been a secular holiday.

Father Rutler, however, seems to believe that until recently, St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in a solemn, religious manner, and it is only now that it has been secularized. He writes:
[St. Patrick] certainly would decry the notion that his feast was merely a celebration of an ethnic identity which was not his, or of a conviviality not rooted in Christian moral reason.
Here is a newsflash:  St. Patrick's Day has always been a "celebration of an ethnic identity" here in New York City.  It started as a way of the Irish showing their ethnic pride.   If St. Patrick was going to get upset about this, he would have been upset on March 17, 1762 when the first St. Patrick's Day parade in the history of mankind was held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army right here in NYC.

Father Rutler then takes a very subtle but yet very clear swipe at his boss, Cardinal Dolan, the Grand Marshal of the 2015 parade.  Father Rutler writes:
This is not to dampen good spirits and rightful celebration, risky though they are in these Forty Days when the shadow of the Cross looms larger daily. But it is a reminder of the cost of discipleship in a cynical culture, and of the heavy cost of succumbing to the threats of the morally bewildered who, with adolescent petulance, would intimidate the Church that carried the Gospel across the Irish Sea. Patrick said when he braved the dark pagan groves: “If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.”
There can be no doubt as to whom these words are directed.  Father Rutler is accusing Cardinal Dolan of "succumbing" to the culture, and of not teaching the Word of God because of his fear of being "despised."  Father Rutler, of course, is entitled to his own opinion.  However, to publicly voice such harsh criticism in regard to a prince of the Church - and his own Ordinary - is surely stretching the promise of obedience that he took when he was ordained.

Another troubling article by Father Rutler is one which I mentioned in my previous post, in which he criticized Pope Francis for speaking against those who sell weapons of war.  As I showed in my post, Father Rutler displayed a great misunderstanding of the Pope's message, and his criticism was completely off the mark.  The problem is, Father Rutler writes very well and in a very convincing manner, and many of those who read his words take them to heart as though they had the authority of the Magesterium.

Father Rutler even had the audacity to scold the Holy Father in his article [HERE]:
No one should be held accountable for the sins of antecedents, be they of commission or omission. But everyone should refrain from playing Monday Morning Quarterback when it comes to wars. In spite of that nice line about Waterloo and Eton, battles are not won on playing fields. Their proportions are blurred by a vision that is retrospect, and their strategies cannot be assessed by impulsive rhetoric far removed from the shouts from the frontline.
Words such as those quoted above contribute to great divisiveness in the Church, which is never the work of the Holy Spirit. Father Rutler would do well to remember that Pope Francis lived through very turbulent times in Argentina when many people, including priests and religious, were regularly murdered by members of the military. Pope Francis, as Father Bergoglio, saved scores of people from sure death by hiding them and sending them out of the country, and putting his own life at risk in the process, as you can read in this article from the New York Post. Pope Francis knows what it means to live in a state of war and speaks from personal experience. It is not Pope Francis but Father Rutler who has no personal experience of war, and who is guilty of "playing Monday Morning Quarterback when it comes to wars" and who is "blurred by a vision that is retrospect."

My latest concern about Father Rutler is his recent article about pews in churches.  It is Father Rutler's contention that pews should be removed from all Catholic churches.  He entitles his article, "The Problem With Pews".  Not surprisingly, Father John Zuhlsdorf linked to Fr. Rutler's article in a post entitled, "Down With Pews!" and seconded the notion:
My friend Fr. George Rutler is in Crisis. He is talking about pews. He has a few digressions – he wouldn’t be the writer he is without digressions – on the Roman vestment. But his observations about pews are dead on.
Of all the problems in the church, this would seem to be at the very bottom of the list, if it can even be considered a problem. However, Father Rutler seems to believe that pews are contributing to the spiritual destruction of many.

Father Rutler starts out his article telling us about the queen consort of George V, Mary of Teck, who hated climbing ivy. Father Rutler tells us that Mary of Teck had a lifelong obsession with tearing ivy off buildings. Father Rutler informs us that ivy actually damages stones, and therefore it should be removed.

What has this to do with pews in churches? Well, as Father Rutler writes, "Pews are the climbing ivy of God’s house. My case is that they should be removed. . . . Pews contradict worship. They suburbanize the City of God and put comfort before praise."

It is unclear if Father Rutler's intention would be to replace the pews with chairs. Does he mean that we should never sit but only stand or kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament? The following statement would seem to indicate that Father Rutler wants to eliminate seating of any kind:
For most of the Christian ages, there were no pews, or much seating of any sort. There were proper accommodations for the aged (fewer then than now) and for the infirm (probably more then than now) but churches were temples and not theatres. One need only look at the Orthodox churches (except where decadence has crept in) or the mosques whose architectural eclecticism echoes their religion’s origin as a desiccated offshoot of Christianity, to see what churches were meant to look like.
Here is the inside of a mosque, which has no seating at all:

And this is the inside of an orthodox church in Syria, also showing no seating except on the sides:

So this would appear to indicate that unless we are aged and/or infirmed, Father Rutler believes we should never sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Now I personally spend a fair amount of time in church with adoration, all night prayer vigils, and just time before and after Mass. I actually do try to kneel as much as possible, but my decades old knees can only take so much, especially when it is over a several hour period at a prayer vigil. And standing isn't much better.

It is safe to say that people who go to mosques or orthodox churches go there for specific periods of time to pray and then they're out. They don't have the Real Presence, so there is no reason to stick around any longer than the time it takes to pray. That is not true with Catholic Churches. We go to church to spend time with Our Lord in the tabernacle. We try to stay as long as our schedule will allow. If you force us to kneel or stand at all times, that will greatly limit the time we can physically tolerate being in church and in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

For me, I would have to resort to the words of an old Chicago song:
Giving up I close my eyes
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
Twenty five or six to four

If Father Rutler would succeed in his plans to eliminate pews or any kind of seating in the churches, he will drive even more people out because they just will not be able to physically hack it.

I have another question: would Father Rutler eliminate the seating in the sanctuary used by the priests and servers during Mass? Would they be forced to stand at all times? Seems only fair.
Celebrant, Deacon and Subdeacon seated during TLM
I also question what we are to do about the rubrics of the Mass which instruct the faithful to sit during the readings, even in the TLM?  Are we to sit on the floor then?

Another problem with removing the pews is, of course, will there be kneelers? Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in downtown Manhattan has both an upper and a lower church. The upper church has the traditional pews, but the lower church has chairs with kneelers attached. When you wish to kneel, you lower the kneeler on the chair in front of you. By eliminating seating of any kind, you must of necessity eliminate any kind of kneelers. I know my knees could only take kneeling on the floor - especially if it isn't carpeted - for a very short time, and I am sure that is true for most others. Father Rutler does not address this issue, either.

Father Rutler makes the argument that pews in Christ's time were just for the Pharisees "who enjoyed seats in high places . . .and this eventually extended to other people of means and in fact became a source of income. Pew rentals were precursors of pledging for the bishop’s annual appeal.” I am sure that Father Rutler is aware that although this may have been true at one time, churches no longer charge for the use of pews, and the poorest to the richest are allowed to sit in any pew they choose.

Father Rutler contends that pews were primarily used by Protestants and "gradually were adapted by Catholics in areas imbued with a Protestant culture and were alien to purer Latin traditions." Ah, so according to Father Rutler, those of us who actually use pews are really Protestant in nature!

Yet, despite this statement, Father Rutler defends his argument by pointing to the writings of a Protestant, "John Coke Fowler, an Anglican barrister" who, in 1854, wrote "24 Reasons for Getting Rid of Church Pews." Father Rutler then points to another Protestant to make his point: "Paradoxically, James Renwick who designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, was an Episcopalian, but he tried to explain to Cardinal McCloskey that pews were Protestant and inappropriate for a Catholic cathedral." This really gets confusing. Father Rutler condemns pews because he claims they are protestant in nature, and then quotes Protestants to bolster his argument that they should not be used!

Father Rutler does confess that not only did he not remove the pews from his former church, but he actually restored them:
I confess that a few years ago I restored worn pews in my former church, knowing that there was little time to form minds on the subject. In the few months that the church was empty of the pews, people came to admire the uncluttered proportions.
A year or so ago one of the churches I attended also restored the pews, and the people were not happy at all when there were no pews to sit in. That particular church substituted chairs for the pews. I wonder if Father Rutler did the same. Personally, I can't imagine that his Park Avenue parishioners at that time would tolerate not having something upon which to sit.

Father Rutler then makes a criticism which just boggles my mind. It is as follows:
Ascetically, pews stratify the people as passive participants. There actually are churches where ushers, like maître d’s in a cabaret, move down the aisle pew by pew, indicating when the people can go to Communion.
I know Father Rutler is far superior to me intellectually,and maybe that is why I don't understand his arguments. But how do pews "stratify people as passive participants"? I don't understand that. Further, I attended Our Saviour church more than a few times during Father Rutler's tenure there, and this is exactly how we went to communion: ushers moved down the aisle pew by pew, indicating when people could go to communion. And yet this is what Father Rutler is condemning! I honestly don't know any other method by which people can process orderly to Communion, and obviously he doesn't either since this is the method employed in his own church. I really don't know what to think of this statement.

Father Rutler also seems to condone those who wander around during Mass visiting the various statues and lighting candles in the church:
Especially in a busy city parish, people wandering about and lighting candles and casting a curious eye at images, can be distracting, but it is also a healthy sign that people are freed by grace to be at home in the House of God, unlike the passive creature known as a couch potato or, in this instance, a pew potato.
For someone who is so concerned about proper respect being paid to the Blessed Sacrament, condoning those who wander around the church during Mass instead of staying in those "wicked" pews just makes no sense to me.

Later in his article Father Rutler brings up the subject of small seats on subway cars to bolster his argument:
In 1982, the Kawaski Heavy Industries Company of Japan designed subway cars for the New York City subway system and had to go back to the drawing board at great expense, because the seats were not wide enough for the average American posterior. There still are a few cars with the original seats in use on the No. 3 line, presumably for commuters with narrower sedentary profiles. I submit this as a reminder that when an indulged culture makes comfort its god, it is worshipping a very fickle idol.
Small Seats on #3 train in NYC
What exactly do small subway seats have to do with pews in churches? In my opinion, nothing. But according to Father Rutler, people needing larger subway seats is somehow akin to people who cannot stand or kneel for long periods of time in church. Both of these groups are part of an "indulged culture which makes comfort its god . . . worshipping a very fickle idol." Does Father Rutler feel there should be no seats on the subway trains? He would be responsible for major riots if that is the case.

I would not normally waste an entire blog post on such an article, the topic of which is of no real importance, in my estimation. But it was the last few sentences of Father Rutler's article that prompted me to write this post. First, he demeans those who would disagree with him:
It will disappoint me if my opinions do not irritate people who could not fit into a seat on the No. 3 subway, or who like to lounge in pews in ivy-covered churches. 
For the record, I have ridden the No. 3 train (and other lines) with the narrow seats and I fit just fine into those seats. Further, I am not "lounging" when I sit in church. I am either following the rubrics of the Mass or I am giving my aged knees a break. So these two reasons cannot be held up as the reasons why Father Rutler's opinions irritate me.

It was Father Rutler's last sentences that "irritated" me the most:
I could be wrong. I am not the pope. But he is infallible only in matters of faith and morals. On other matters not touching those two subjects, I have found myself to be instinctively and consistently right.
I am sure this is Father Rutler's attempt at humor when he pats himself on the back for always being "instinctively and consistently right." However, at the same time, it is quite apparent that he has complete confidence in his own personal judgments over and above the Holy Father. Father Rutler has made it very clear in previous writings that he has strong disagreements with Pope Francis, and as I have shown, he has even "scolded" the Holy Father in his writings.

In fact, when Laudato Si came out, Father Rutler told us basically that we don't have to listen to the Pope. Like the good conservative he is, Father Rutler denies global warming. Therefore, he rejects anything the Pope has to say on this matter, and advises us that we can follow him in this rejection, which you can read HERE. Notice the scolding he gives the Holy Father, even castigating Pope Francis for using an encyclical to discuss "unsettled science" as he defines it:
It is noteworthy that Pope Francis would have included in an encyclical, instead of lesser teaching forms such as an apostolic constitution or motu proprio, subjects that still pertain to unsettled science (and to speak of a “consensus” allows that there is not yet a defined absolute) . The Second Vatican Council, as does Pope Francis, makes clear that there is no claim to infallibility in such teaching. The Council (Lumen Gentium, n.25) does say that even the “ordinary Magisterium” is worthy of a “religious submission of intellect and will” but such condign assent is not clearly defined. It does not help when a prominent university professor of solid Catholic commitments says that in the encyclical “we are about to hear the voice of Peter.” That voice may be better heard when, following the advice of the encyclical (n.55) people turn down their air conditioners. One awaits the official Latin text to learn its neologism for “condizione d’aria.” While the Holy Father has spoken eloquently about the present genocide of Christians in the Middle East, those who calculate priorities would have hoped for an encyclical about this fierce persecution, surpassing that of the emperor Decius. Pictures of martyrs being beheaded, gingerly filed away by the media, give the impression that their last concern on earth was not climate fluctuations.
Father Rutler is going out on a limb here, and that limb is cracking. He contends that global warming and its catastrophic effects on our world are not "settled science" and therefore, Pope Francis had no right to make this the subject of an encyclical, which is a papal document to be used to explain faith and morals. However, as the Holy Father, Pope Francis has declared the destruction of the planet, caused by man's greed and disregard for human life and life in general, to be a matter of faith and morals. For those of us who have actually read the encyclical, we are quite aware of how profoundly Pope Francis preaches the gospel of salvation in this encyclical. It is all about faith and morals. Read it and find out for yourself.

For the record, as Father Rutler admits, Pope Francis has spoken out many times about the horrific persecution and martyrdom of Christians in the world today. And as shown above, he has personally saved lives in warlike situations. It is possible to address one subject without omitting the other. Further, it is the Holy Father's prerogative to choose the subjects he feels are important enough to address in a papal encyclical. It is not our prerogative to ignore him, contrary to the statements of Father Rutler.

Professor Robert P. George
The "prominent university professor of solid Catholic commitments" referred to by Father Rutler is Robert P. George, described by the New York Times as "a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker." Following are his words which upset Father Rutler:
"Catholic friends: If I may offer a word of advice, please receive the forthcoming papal encyclical in a spirit of willingness to listen and to be taught by the Holy Father. Do not approach it by simply looking for what one agrees with or disagrees with on matters of climate science or anything else. The gift of the papal magisterium to us, the faithful, is just that: a gift--a charism. We are to receive it as such. We can, and no doubt each of us will, appreciate the fact that different teachings or aspects of the teaching contained in the document will be proposed at different levels of authority. That is virtually always true of teaching instruments of this sort. But there will be plenty of time to sort all that out. It should NOT be our first priority. Our first priority should be to open ourselves to learning what is to be learned from the Holy Father's reflections on the physical and moral ecology in the context of the Church's witness to, and proclamation of, the Gospel. We are about to hear the voice of Peter. Our first and most important task is to listen attentively and with open-hearted willingness to be taught."
How does one explain a Catholic parish priest telling Catholic laity that they should ignore advice to "receive the forthcoming papal encyclical in a spirit of willingness to listen and to be taught by the Holy Father." Why is Father Rutler so upset with the statement: "We are about to hear the voice of Peter. Our first and most important task is to listen attentively and with open-hearted willingness to be taught"? Father Rutler feels our first and most important task is to determine if the Pope's statements are worthy of our attention, and if they are not, we don't have to pay any attention to the Pope. Father Rutler - who tells us he is always right - says climate change is of no concern, so you can ignore Pope Francis.

Am I the only one who finds this statement very troubling?

Father Rutler, and all those who reject the idea of climate change, should be aware that 97% of the world's scientists say climate change is settled science. I know there are those who dispute that number, but that doesn't make it any less true. As the article I have linked to states, this number is taken from 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers. This is not just something pulled out of the air, as much as Father Rutler and others would like to think.

But whether one accepts the validity of climate change or not is really not the issue. The issue is that Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. He is Christ's personal representative here on earth. It matters greatly to our Lord how we treat His Vicar. Remember the parable of the tenants in Mark 12:1-12:
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard.He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
The tenants in this parable wanted things their own way. They did not want to submit to the owner of the vineyard. It seems that Father Rutler is falling into this very dangerous trap. He is making his own decisions as to when or whether he will submit to the Vicar of Christ, who is Christ's Personal Representative on earth. This attitude is spilling over into how he speaks of his own bishop and how he speaks of fellow priests. As I showed in my previous post, Father Rutler felt totally justified in emailing his many supporters and telling them to go after his successor at St. Saviour in any way they could, and those followers willingly complied with Father Rutler's wishes.

As Our Lord tells us in the parable, the tenants in the parable in Mark 12 then treated the Son just as they treated the servants.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all,saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
As our Lord said, the way we treat the least of our brethren is how we treat him. And certainly, He views the way we treat His Servants very personally. When Father Rutler scolds Pope Francis, he is scolding Our Lord Himself. When Father Rutler tells his followers not to listen to the Pope, he is telling them not to listen to Jesus Christ. It is not a pretty fact, but it is as simple as that.

Father Rutler, as a Catholic priest who has taken promises of obedience to church authority, has no right to publicly contradict the Vicar of Christ as he has now done on numerous occasions. He has truly overstepped his authority here and is getting into very dangerous territory.

As Father Rutler states in his article concerning pews, he has much more faith in his own opinions than in what Pope Francis has to say. Father Rutler gives the Holy Father credit for infallibility in "faith and morals", but he gives a very narrow definition to this, and feels free to criticize Pope Francis in pretty much any way he chooses. And his followers applaud him and urge him on.

I am really not trying to condemn Father Rutler in any way. But I do believe that his constant criticism of the Holy Father and others in the Church shows that he is not on solid ground. He is a validly ordained priest of the Catholic Church, and deserves the respect of that office. But when he starts talking against valid Church authority and more specifically, against the Vicar of Christ, he needs to be called out, and that is what I am doing.

As I have written above, Father Rutler carries a very heavy and dangerous cross. Pray that he is given the grace to carry it gracefully and for the honor of Jesus Christ.


  1. It is safe to say that people who go to mosques or orthodox churches go there for specific periods of time to pray and then they're out. They don't have the Real Presence, so there is no reason to stick around any longer than the time it takes to pray.

    This is a good example of the fact that you do not know what you're talking about and shouldn't be writing these blog posts.

    First, the decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum" of the 2nd Vatican Council at #25 teaches that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have a valid priesthood. They validly confect the Eucharist at their Divine Liturgies.

    Furthermore, just like the Catholics they have the practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle on the altar (See:

    Second, remaining in the Church in adoration is prayer, so in fact, it is the case that if you leave when you're not adoring anymore, you've only stuck around long enough to pray.

    But regardless, the Orthodox do stick around in their Churches to pray outside of the services anyways (services we might add, which are much longer than those of the Roman Catholic Church).

    Now that you've made a post denying the teaching of an Ecumenical Council it might be time for some hard reconsideration.

    1. I believe that if you research those orthodox churches that believe in the Real Presence and are in communion with the Pope, you will find that they have pews in their churches (Father Rutler would say they have become decadent). The church pictured above is Syrian Orthodox, which is not in communion with Rome and does not accept the Real Presence. Mosques, which is also pictured above, are of the Islamic religion which is not Christian and, therefore, does not have the Real Presence..

      It doesn't change the fact the most of us cannot stand or kneel for long periods of time, and too say that getting rid of pews will suddenly make us more spiritual just makes no sense.

      It also doesn't change the fact that Father Rutler is consistently speaking against the Pope, which is the main theme of my post, and which greatly concerns me. Maybe you could address that?

      And where did I deny the Ecumenical Council? Your bias is showing.

    2. "The church pictured above is Syrian Orthodox, which is not in communion with Rome and does not accept the Real Presence."

      And here it's always the trads who standing accused of being insufficiently ecumenical.

      Look: The Orthodox Churches, both Eastern and Oriental, are not in communion with the Catholic Church, but it's simply untrue to say that they do not believe in the Real Presence. They absolutely do. The Catholic Church has always recognized that their Eucharist is valid that Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity at every properly celebrated Divine Liturgy (even if it may not be licit).

      "The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches." Dominus Iesus #17

      "These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy." Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio #15

      Whatever your larger point about pews might be - and it should be noted that many Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches do at least employ chairs - your statement needs to be corrected. The Orthodox Churches may be in schism, but they do have valid sacraments and apostolic succession. And that most definitely includes the Real Presence.

    3. I stand (no pun intended) corrected However, I believe these churches also have pews, which discounts the point made by Father Rutler.

      Does anyone want to discuss the main point of my post - Father Rutler himself?

    4. Hello CIB,

      You may think it being pedantic, but your statement was an egregiously erroneous one, even if doubtless well intended. And especially given the ecumenical sensibilities of the current pontiff (which are especially solicitous toward the East), it is an area where we have to take care in our statements.

      There is diversity on the seating question in the East, both Catholic and Orthodox. Some have pews; most do not, though most of those seem to employ chairs of some kind. Of course, in my experience at Eastern Rite liturgies, the chairs almost seem superfluous, since I end up spending most of my time standing anyway...

      I don't think that there's any call for a crusade to rip the pews out of our churches, and I don't think even Fr Rutler is making such a call, for the reasons I gave below. I do think it's a worthwhile question for a pastor building a new church to fairly consider. Chairs (the ones with kneelers) may be a good way to go. The new chapel at Thomas Aquinas College takes an interesting compromise on this score, BTW: they have no pews, but have opted for short movable light benches.

      "Does anyone want to discuss the main point of my post - Father Rutler himself?"

      See my newest post below.

    5. Just what did I say that was so "egregious" and "offensive"?

      Father Rutler considers this a very big issue. He said the only reason he didn't try to remove the pews from Our Saviour is because "there was little time to form minds on the subject."

      I consider the subject of pews to be of almost complete non-importance. I just can't see where they impair our ability to worship God. I think Father Rutler is making much ado about nothing.

      My point is Father Rutler is causing division in the church, and that is a very big deal. I will address your comment when I have more time.

    6. "Just what did I say that was so "egregious" and "offensive"?"

      Well, you accused our Orthodox brethren of not accepting the Real Presence. If any of them saw your blog post, you'd certainly catch an earful. I'm sure you intended no offense,'s an important thing to get right.

      "My point is Father Rutler is causing division in the church."

      Even if that's true, why can't the same thing be said of your blog, which appears to be almost entirely a series of long posts expressing strong criticism of other Catholic laity and clergy, usually by name?

    7. When I referred to "orthodox" churches in my post, I was referring to those not in union with Rome. That is why I showed a Syrian orthodox church. It is not possible that churches not in union with Rome could have the Blessed Sacrament because they do not have apostolic succession. They may have valid sacraments, but that does not include the Blessed Sacrament. So you have really confused me in your accusations.

      I think you will find it very difficult to find orthodox churches in union with Rome that do not have pews in their churches. Therefore, I was not referring to them.

      The Catholic blogosphere is one big scandal. There are constant accusations against the Magesterium and hierarchy of the Church. In all of my posts, my point is to defend the Magesterium of the Church against these accusations and show the danger in them. I do this most of all for myself, and if it benefits anyone else, so much the better.

      Yes, I do name names because the laity and clergy that I have mentioned are causing division in the Church. Father Rutler specifically told his followers to go after Father Robbins. Father Rutler has told his followers that they don't have to listen to the pope if he does not speak on "faith and morals" very narrowly defined by Father Rutler himself. Father Rutler has mischaracterized the statements of Pope Francis and has gone so far as to scold the Holy Father. Father Rutler's actions, not my pointing it out, are scandalous. The same is true of others I have mentioned.

      I find it ironic that Catholics will accuse me of Ultramontanism because I trust the Holy Father, yet if I say anything against one of their heroes – Michael Voris, Father Z, Father Rutler – they are quick to attack me and tell me how wrong I am. If only they would trust the Magesterium of the Church as much as they trust their heroes.

    8. "When I referred to "orthodox" churches in my post, I was referring to those not in union with Rome. That is why I showed a Syrian orthodox church. It is not possible that churches not in union with Rome could have the Blessed Sacrament because they do not have apostolic succession. They may have valid sacraments, but that does not include the Blessed Sacrament."

      No, you are wrong.

      The Catholic Church recognizes the orders and sacraments including the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. This includes the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, Coptic Churches, Armenian Orthodox and on and on. Your denial of this is to deny the constant teaching of the Popes and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as Athelstane and I have shown you with citations.

    9. Okay, I've done some research on this and you are absolutely right. Although Eastern Orthodox are not in full communion with Rome, their Masses are valid, although illicit. As Roman Catholics, we can attend their Masses, but it does not fulfill our Sunday obligation. Also, the Eastern Orthodox do not allow anyone who is not a member of their church to receive Communion, so we cannot receive communion in their churches either, even though it is valid.

      So to this issue I say, mea culpa. And I also thank you, sincerely, for setting me straight.

      However, this is just a side issue to the main point of my post. I am not writing about the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I am not even writing about whether or not we should have pews in churches. Personally I don't see how they are harmful in any way, and in fact, I feel the presence of pews and kneelers helps us greatly in our worship, but as far as I'm concerned, it is not an issue worth fighting. No one is going to get rid of the pews in our churches.

      My point is that I am finding a lot of rebellion and divisiveness in the writings of Father George Rutler. I have given several examples, and Athelstane is the only one who has addressed this. He has done so by telling me that I should not believe my eyes, and that Father Rutler has not written what he most definitely has written. I think that is called denial, and it is not helpful to anyone.

    10. I suspect we're reaching a point of diminishing returns here, but...

      I appreciate the concession on the question of validity of Orthodox sacraments, and also that it's peripheral to your real argument. I also hope you appreciate why it was an important question to get right, however.

      I can't speak for anyone else but I am not inclined to hero worship any prelate, let alone lay blogger. I certainly would not advocate making any of those three men Pope. Even saints can get things wrong, and truly outstanding popes have been almost vanishingly few. It's the *tradition* I wish to see upheld, not any man.

      Back to your main argument: Has Fr. Rutler expressed some critical comments about the present Pope? Is it likely he's not a big fan? I'm happy to concede an affirmative to both, but without undue alarm because to my mind he has, so far as I have seen, done so within fairly clear and reasonable bounds. Fr. Rutler is not Louie Verecchio (nor, on the other extreme, Basil Loftus), and he's not within 500 light years of him. The problem of dissent, even by clergy, *is* a very real (actually, dire) one in the Church today, and you're right to be concerned about it . . . but I fail to see how anything Fr. Rutler has written to date qualifies. I'm concerned that your legitimate concern on this score has led you to veer too far to the other extreme, a kind of unhealthy ultramontanism, one that is no longer able to objectively assess anything said or done by a pope (or perhaps even a bishop, unless he's a tradition-friendly one), or willing to countenance any public expression of same. The relentless expansion of popes talking, talking, talking has both reduced the actual doctrinal content of their public ministry while increasing the odds problematic expressions; this is true even of encyclicals, which have in modern times degenerated largely into public theological musings at length - something I fear I must blame my personal favorite modern Pope, Leo XIII, in some real measure for.

      I also really can't get unduly worked up about anything Fr. Rutler may have said in emails or private conversations about Fr. Robbins, because the Church hasn't exactly had a shortage of priests over the centuries who cordially dislike each other, and some might suggest that Fr. Robbins has communicated considerably nastier things about Fr. Rutler, and appears to view his entire ministry at OS as a conscious repudiation of everything Fr Rutler ever did there. Meanwhile, we're left to observe that Fr. Rutler's tenure there at least produced a fiscal surplus and a dozen vocations, whereas the current incumbent has produced a river of red ink and diminished attendance. Whatever one thinks of each man's theological, political or aesthetic proclivities, perhaps . . . it's perhaps not unreasonable to weigh these facts in evaluating each man's conduct in this episode.

      I'll close by renewing my question I asked before: Is there a way for a faithful Catholic, lay or clerical, to offer a critique on these matters in a responsible way? How would you have drafted that an essay on problems with the St. Patrick's Day parade as it exists in modern times? Where are the boundaries we must not cross, in your view?

    11. As I have tried to show in my posts, Father Rutler is a pretty amazing individual, a very talented and gifted man who has worked hard to develop those talents. And since he is a priest in one of the most important cities and archdioceses in the world, he has gained a lot of attention, made many important connections and has developed a worldwide following.

      This kind of influence also carries with it a tremendous responsibility: "To whom much is given, much is expected." Although he is officially a diocesan priest, he has more influence than many bishops and cardinals (the same is also true of Father Z). Therefore, when he says or writes something, it cannot be taken lightly. There are many people who put give more weight to his words than they do to the Magesterium.

      Father Rutler has told his followers to ignore the words of a papal encyclical, and has been upset with another Catholic who said we must read the words of Pope Francis with an open mind. There is something seriously wrong with that. No, Father Rutler is not a bomb-throwing Louie Verrecchio, but Verrecchio is an extremist who does not and never will have the influence of Father Rutler.

      As I have written, I feel that Father Rutler's many gifts and talents are in many ways a heavy cross for him to bear, because these very gifts and talents could actually be his undoing, and I fear that is what I see happening. I think Father Rutler is beginning to believe his own press, and as he said at the end of his article about pews, he believes his opinions and thoughts are pretty much infallible. He believes he has the right to turn his followers on Father Robbins. He feels he has the right to speak against Cardinal Dolan. He feels he has the right to discount the words and even the encyclical of the Holy Father.

      He, with his worldwide influence, is walking on very dangerous ground, and that is the reason for my posts.

      As far as Cardinal Dolan is concerned, I personally have no problem with him. You can read my many posts to learn my views, if that is what you really want to know. I believe Pope Francis is one of the holiest popes in our lifetime, a courageous man who truly loves our Lord and loves His Church. Pope Francis lives the gospel of love and mercy. People like Father Rutler view everything through their own ideas and therefore miss the true meaning. This is what the Pharisees did with Jesus Christ. We have to get rid of our egos and approach Christ and His Church in a childlike manner. I do not see that happening with people like Father Rutler and Father Z.

  2. It is ridiculously funny that CIB posts a picture of a TRADITIONAL Mass, when the article is talking about pews in ALL Catholic churches (the majority of which have only the New Order).

    CIB, your obsessive hate towards the Latin Mass is really not good for your spiritual life!

    Going to the New Order and all the change you claim you have been through should have healed that wound you have. Can't you not have a post on which you simply do not mention the Latin Mass, in any way? It works against your cause to be so obsessed with the traditional Mass?

    1. Where have I said I hate the Latin Mass? I love the Latin Mass. I think it is very beautiful and spiritual, and you will never find any statement on my blog to the contrary.

      What I don't love is the hateful attitudes displayed by many who attend this Mass, condemning anyone who does not love the Mass as much as they do.

      Is it possible that you could address the concerns I have made about Father Rutler? That is the main point of my post.

    2. There's a certain irony here, actually, in that one *could* make the argument that part of Fr. Rutler's target field here are traditionalists, many of whom assume that pews are of ancient if not apostolic provenance, and would fight tooth and nail their removal from their churches out of suspicion that use of chairs is a Novus Ordo innovation. They might be in for a shock if they ever visit medieval churches in Europe.

    3. I would be willing (if I had the money) to give $100 for each traditionalist who thinks that pews are an ancient tradition! I have never heard any traditionalist even consider the idea of worrying about pews!

      So, that comment by Fr. Rutler needed to be substantiated! As does the one you make in explaining Fr. Rutler's comment.

      I will grant that traditionalists will not agree to the removal of the pews, but I would not believe that most of them believe that pews are ancient tradition!

    4. CIN - I would be willing to bet another set of $100 (if I had the money) for every reader of this blog who left thinking that you actually love the Latin Mass.

      You'd be surprised if you could find at least one.

      The thing with the pews is a useless point to argue about. You want to keep them, most traditionalists would also agree to keep them, most Catholics in general would agree to keep them. Fr. Rutler would like people to consider their removal, etc.

      What is that going to accomplish? Nothing. Despite the influence people may think Fr. Rutler has (if he really had a lot of influence he would still be at Our Savior), his opinion on pews will not start a petition or a facebook page asking for the removal of pews in Catholic churches throughout the world.

      But neither will your posts against Fr. Rutler lead those who already like him to question his "style."

      In all fairness, though, you should start preparing a post on the way Fr. Robbins behave, on the way he condemns some things, and on the way in which he treats some people.

      And, to add to all of that, you should also start working on a post about the parish of the Church of St. Agnes. The Pastor there (Fr. Murphy) has hired an openly gay male organist who will attempt to "marry" another Catholic man at an Episcopalian ceremony. Yet, that organist is still part of the staff there, even though he is openly and defiantly going against the teachings and morals of the Catholic Church.

      If in two weeks I do not see a post from you about that, you will have proven yourself to be a fraud in your "concerns" about the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

    5. What you do or do not think of me personally is of absolutely no importance. My goal is to point people to Christ and His Church because that is the only place the fullness of truth can be found. When I come across people who tell me they are Catholic, but then follow that up with advising me that I have to reject Church authority, I call them out. I am tired of Catholic bloggers who claim to be loyal Catholics and then bash the Church every chance they get. And when a Catholic priest tells me that I don't have to listen to the Pope, then I know we are really going off the deep end.

      I don't know anything about Father Robbins. I don't know anything about St. Agnes. I am not a reporter. I am a blogger and I write about things in my life. I have personally met Father Rutler who heard my confession when I came back into the church and convalidated my marriage. I have, therefore, followed him off and on throughout the years, and now I am very alarmed at what I am seeing, and that is what I write about.

      We live in very evil times in which Satan is extremely active. He doesn't have to try very hard with most of the world. He just dangles a few "toys" such as money, power and sex, and they fall down before him. But there are others with whom he has to try different tactics and one of his favorites is the one that destroyed him - pride. If he can get you to believe that you have all the answers and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, you are his for the taking. And that is what I am seeing on the so-called Catholic blogosphere and Internet. And I greatly fear that I am seeing this with such priests as Father John Zuhlsdorf and Father George Rutler. Remember Father Corapi - it is not impossible for beloved priests to fall from grace.

      I am really not trying to give answers to anything because I am a sinner who has a long, long way to go. My goal is to point you to the church and urge you to listen to Christ's personal representatives in a prayerful, non-judgmental way. Realize that the Catholic Church is not just an institution but it is the true Mystical Body of Christ led by the Third Person of the Trinity - the Holy Spirit. Realize that Christ's followers walk by faith and not by sight. They come up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army behind them as the ancient Israelites did, and they don't freak out. And they don't try to figure their own way out. They look to Christ and follow Him wheresoever He leads.

      I truly pray that you understand what I am saying.

  3. There are a number of problematic assertions in this essay, CIB, but - factual errors (such as the one Mr Howard points out) aside - I think the theme that emerges is a certain irony that verges (verges, I say) on...well, hypocrisy: your concern is that Fr. Rutler is uncharitable in his reading and treatment of prelates above him (Cdl Doln, Pope Francis), reading things into what they say say and do that are not warranted, and yet this seems to be what you've done with Fr. Rutler's own commentary and conduct.

    1. I was told last year by a third party that he was harshly critical of the pastor... But told by who? And did they have proof of it? In the traditional teaching of the Church, this would surely qualify for detraction, and quite possible calumny. In the words of Pope Francis, it would surely qualify as “the terrorism of gossip.” While it wouldn’t surprise if Fr Rutler has concerns about what has happened at Our Saviour siunce his departure, we have nothing more than third hand gossip that he is being “harshly critical” of Fr. Robbins. If CMTV threw such an accusation into one of their stories, you would be rightly critical, wouldn’t you? (I know I would.) I think this passage was a very unfortunate and inappropriate inclusion, and that you ought to remove it.

    2. On the St. Pat’s Day Parade: “Father Rutler then takes a very subtle but yet very clear swipe at his boss, Cardinal Dolan.” Yet Cdl. Dolan appears nowhere in this essay, by name, title, pronoun, or even euphemism. Is it not reasonable to suggest he’s drawing a broader critique? Are you not, again, being uncharitable in reading a criticism of Cardinal Dolan that’s really not there?

    As for the history of the feast’s celebration in NYC, there’s nothing in Fr. Rutler’s remarks to suggest he’s confining his critique to this year’s march. More to the point, there really can’t be much doubt that, given what we know of St Patrick’s life and thought, that he *wouldn’t* be appalled at what St. Patrick’s day has long been reduced to, both in NYC and elsewhere – even before gay groups joined the larger bacchanalia - can there?

    3. “Father Rutler would do well to remember that Pope Francis lived through very turbulent times in Argentina…” In fact, doesn’t Fr. Rutler expressly acknowledge (and even praise) that near the end of his essay when he says: “Pope Francis had nothing to do with any of that, and his good heart could not be less than repulsed by it.”

    4. Then we come to church pews. “However, Father Rutler seems to believe that pews are contributing to the spiritual destruction of many.” With respect, that’s your gloss, not his. It’s one thing to say that Fr. Rutler believes we would be better off without pews, and has certain pointed criticisms of their effects. It’s another to impute the belief that they are “contributing to the spiritual destruction of many.”

    Worse, it’s even more unwarranted to impute to him the position that all pews must be eliminated. How could it be so if, as he himself notes, he declined to replace his pews with chairs, let alone eliminate all seating altogether, when it came time to renovate the pews at Our Saviour? More to the point, why not simply assume that it’s far more likely that the most he might be advocating is exactly what obtains at so many old European churches – chairs are provided for the faithful to use – and has obtained for centuries?

    5. Mr. Howard has already addressed your remark about the lack of the Real Presence in Orthodox Churches, which I think stands in immediate need of revision – not just because it is inaccurate, but frankly offensive to our Orthodox sisters and brothers. I’m going to guess (and hope) that what you really meant was that the Orthodox do not practice Eucharistic adoration. Alas, however, as Mr. Howard rightly notes, this is not true either. Either way, I would beg for some immediate correction of this section of your essay.

    I am really not trying to condemn Father Rutler in any way.

    No more, I am sure, than Fr. Rutler was trying to condemn Pope Francis.

    1. Point 1 - the fact that I was told by a third party, which amounts to gossip, about Father Rutler, is why I did not mention anything at the time. But Father Rutler's latest actions have proven to me that the statements attributed to him have a definite basis in fact. The person who told me had, at that time, constant contact with Father Rutler.

      Point 2 - For you to deny that Father Rutler was not talking about Cardinal Dolan is really disingenuous. Of course he was talking about him. That was the whole issue at that time. As for your second point - the fact is that the first time there was a parade in "honor" of St. Patrick, the day became secularized. So that means that for over 200 years we have had a secularized celebration of St. Patrick's Day. You and I both know that is not what Father Rutler was discussing.

      3. Father Rutler was making a direct attack against Pope Francis and saying he basically didn't know what he was talking about. Read the link in my article for Father Rutler's exact words. When Fr. Rutler said the Holy Father had nothing to do with what happened in Argentina, he was talking about the incidents of the 30's and 40's when Jorge Bergoglio was a young child. Nowhere does Father Rutler give any mention of the incidents from the 1970's during the military junta.

      4. These are the words of Father Rutler: "But the problem with pews is worse, for it is not simply a matter of taste. Pews contradict worship. They suburbanize the City of God and put comfort before praise." Sounds pretty condemning to me.

      5. Your last point has already been noted. If I am incorrect on that (and I'm not sure than I am), then I apologize. But that is not the point of my post. The point of my post is that Father Rutler is saying and doing some very disturbing things, and it is not contributing to the good of the church.

    2. 1. I think my point stand here, as you yourself concede that it's gossip. It would have been far more appropriate to leave out such gossip - which we have no proof of, however much you may have grounds to believe it. If you want to refer to the email Fr Rutler sent out, that would be something else. Come to that, some might suggest that they have heard even more venomous statements by Fr. Robbins about *his* predecessor in private statements and emails, but I am not sure this would be any more appropriate to bring up.

      This does raise a larger question: What room is there, if any, for a priest or layperson to publicly (or privately) express concerns over the lawful if possibly imprudent or even destructive acts of a pastor? I don't think anyone denies that Fr. Robbins is the lawful pastor of OS and has the right to do what he is doing, at least based on what we know at this point. But it is also true that many donors gave a great deal of money very recently for these renovations, and it does raise concerns about stewardship that are not unreasonable to moot publicly - especially if it is in the context of rapidly deteriorating finances.

      2. Again, Cdl Dolan is never mentioned in the essay, is he? So I must ask you: what IS the appropriate way to offer a critique on immoral and scandalous degeneracies of the public celebrations of St Patrick's Day in modern times? How would you have drafted that essay?

      3. I think there was enough subtlety and restraint in Fr. Rutler's concerns about Francis's remarks on weapons manufactures (which are, last I checked, not considered intrinsically evil acts in the teaching of the Church), which again raises the question for you as to what room there is, if any, to comment on the public comments of a Pope. I might add that the record suggests that . . . sometimes popes might not get it right in discussing modern economic developments (cf. GregoryXVI condemning railroads as "chemins d'enfer" (roads to hell)).

      4. His words are certainly critical on pews. Maybe even "condemning." But it's YOUR gloss that he is insisting that they are "contributing to the spiritual destruction of many.”

      We're getting into the weeds here, and maybe I should stop here and suggest that it would be more appropriate, and congruent with your aversion to divisiveness in the Church, to take up these concerns privately with Fr Rutler.

    3. Even though I disagree with you, I must say I always appreciate how well thought out your comments are. It is never just hit and run with you as it is with so many others.

      I am going to let your comments stand as I feel I have already adressed them and to say anymore would only be redundant. However, I do want to say that to take up my concerns privately with Father Rutler would defeat the purpose. He has made his comments very publicly, and therefore I am responding publicly. Also, I can assure you that Father Rutler has no interest in what I think. Since Father Rutler does not hesitate to disavow comments made by the Holy Father, and even dismiss an encyclical, he will certainly not listen to me.

    4. Hello CIB,

      "Even though I disagree with you, I must say I always appreciate how well thought out your comments are. It is never just hit and run with you as it is with so many others."

      I appreciate the kind words.

      As for Fr. Rutler: I know him only a little, not well, but...have you tried?

  4. Postscript: Lest I be accused of missing your larger point about Fr. Rutler's conduct, I think this does raise the larger question of what deference is owed to bishops in general and the Pope in particular.

    The larger point I might make is that some very real deference and love is required of us, even beyond obedience to clear exercises of the teaching office of the papacy in regards to faith and morals. And yet this has never been understood to be absolute, either. Surely there is, and has always been, some room for respectful critique of a pope’s non-teaching public utterances or acts – just as, presumably, there was room for then-Cardinal Bergoglio, through his spokesman Father Guillermo Marcó, to critique Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Address in 2006 by saying that "[t]hese statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years.”

    I do believe that there has been a kind of unhealthy ultramontanism that has been growing in the Church over the past century and a half, even as (and perhaps in some reaction to) open dissent has proliferated. It seems especially on display now, in this pontificate, but it is not a new development. The Pope is the servant of tradition, not its master, and while he is infallible, he is not impeccable, even in the lawful exercise of his office. Popes make mistakes all the time, and not just in their private lives: we have had . . . bad popes, mediocre popes, good popes, and great popes, and even good and great popes who cause harm to the Church through mistaken acts or failures to act (cf. Liberius's condemnation of St. Athanasius, Clement XIV's suppression of the Jesuits in 1773).

    I am not attempting characterize the present pontiff. But it would be helpful to clarify what the real bounds are for critique or questioning of any statements or actions on his part, either by the laity or by, well, clergy such as Fr. Rutler.

  5. Why does a sheep persist in gainsaying and undermining one of Christ's duly ordained shepherds, one of His precious "little Christs", such as Fr. Rutler?

    1. Yes, Elliot, I have a problem when a "little Christ" undermines and tells me to ignore the Vicar of Christ.

  6. News flash: your post-"trad" anguish is what this blog has really become about, not Christ's Church simpliciter.


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