Ss. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Mission
P. O. Box 7352
York, PA 1740
January 2, 2008
Most Holy Name of Jesus
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
4800 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2153
Dear Bishop Rhoades,
After reviewing your last letter, I must confess that I am disappointed in your reply. When we say that you have a “serious moral obligation to respond,” it means that the duty imposed by your office requires that you respond with a formal judgment in the name of the Church by virtue of your office regarding the claims of Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission. What you have offered is your personal canonical opinion.
You implied in your letter of November 18, 2005 that you were a man of conscience, that is, a man who insures the formation of a conscience that is both true and certain and then acts according to that conscience. Surely you must know that as Catholics we have a right to an authoritative judgment from the Church on our claim because it touches upon the very nature of our faith. You have the obligation to either institute your own adversarial canonical process against us from which judgment a direct appeal to Rome can be made, or you must simply refer the matter to Rome asking directly for the authoritative judgment of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Either course of action would fulfill your obligation, but this you have refused to do. A canonical opinion was neither solicited nor wanted from you.
I am fully aware of the canons that you cite in your letter. You know as well as I that canon law is human law, is hierarchical, and does not bind in cases of necessity or impossibility, has no power against a conscience that is both true and certain which every Catholic is obliged to follow, and most importantly, can never be employed against the proper end of the Church which is the teaching of the Catholic Faith for the salvation of souls. To quote these canons to us after we have submitted our claim to you is just one big begging of the question.
You recently permitted St. Patrick Cathedral to be used for the installation ceremony of a Lutheran “bishop.” This man is not a bishop and does not possess a salvific faith. Permitting this sacrilege to take place in a Catholic church is a grave sin. No Catholic is permitted to act outside a conscience that is both true and certain. In this matter, as with the question of the traditional Mass that you held to be illegal, you have acted upon a false conscience. You may have the power as the bishop to do so, but you do not have the authority or right to permit the desecration of a Catholic church.
The altar railing at Ss. Peter & Paul Chapel, dedicated to Thomas Ignatius Smith, a deceased founding member of our Mission, says in part, “who having witnessed the destruction of countless sanctuaries over the last 40 years gave of himself helping to build the one before you. May the good God grant us the grace that we rather die than permit its desecration.” What you permitted at St. Patrick Cathedral will never be permitted at our chapel. Herein lies, I believe, your true opposition to our Mission.
You cited canon 301, §1 in your letter, “It is for the competent ecclesiastical authority alone to erect associations of the Christian faithful which propose to hand on Christian doctrine in the name of the Church or to promote public worship, or which intend other purposes whose pursuit is of its nature reserved to the same ecclesiastical authority.” We happen to completely agree with this canon. This very issue was previously addressed to Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith in March of 2004 in a letter posted on our web page. The problem today is the same as it was then. In the conflict of rights, an accidental right possessed by virtue of office cannot destroy a right possessed by virtue of nature and grace. As clearly demonstrated by the available statistical data, you and your predecessors have failed to pass on the Catholic faith and have persecuted those Catholics who have promoted true worship for the last 40 years. This canon does not forbid the teaching of Catholic doctrine or restrict Catholic worship in the face of incompetent exercise of authority.
The problem with discussing the current crisis in the Church, whether doctrinal, moral, liturgical, or canonical, with modern clerics is that they reject the perennial realist philosophy preferring rather the modern liberal constructs that deny the immutability of truth. They begin by denying the first principles of the understanding and offer in their place a subjectivist construct, divorced from reality that seems to revel in holding contradictory opinions in the same head at the same time. I am getting the impression that the claims we have made regarding our rights as Catholics are wholly incomprehensible to you.
Nevertheless, we have demanded from you as our bishop, by virtue of your office, that you fulfill your duty toward us and render a formal judgment in the name of the Church addressing our claim, either directly from you or by submitting our claim to the authoritative judgment of Pope Benedict XVI. Failure to do so permits liberty of action on our part. We have submitted our claim for judgment both to you and to Rome that we as baptized Catholics have by virtue of our baptism the right to the ecclesiastical traditions of our Church as the perfect outward expression of our Faith which we are morally bound to profess, particularly, the right to receive the sacraments according to the “received and approved” traditions of our rite. Further, while recognizing that rights can be duly regulated, we hold that these rights can never be conditionally exercised in a manner prejudicial to the Catholic Faith and that they are not grounded in the grant of any indult or privilege granted by positive human law. We have received no judgment from you or from Rome regarding this claim. Therein lies the essence of our legal presumption of approval and your personal canonical opinion to the contrary does not alter this. We have done all that is morally required for us to do. You cannot say the same.
In closing, I would like to add that in the future when you reference a private letter that was not copied to you, you copy the letter in your correspondence so that I can be sure that what you received is what I sent.
Your name and the name of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, are remembered in each Mass offered at Ss. Peter & Paul Chapel as well as in the Rosary of reparation to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary offered each day before the Blessed Sacrament.
Sincerely in Christ,
Ss. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Mission