Article on St. Mary’s KS – some pretty hard things to think about

There is an interesting article in Topeka’s Capital-Journal Online about the SSPX venture in St. Mary, Kansas.

This is fairly inflammatory stuff.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.


St. Mary’s home to conflicting views

Flap over female referee is just latest in a string of controversies tied to St. Mary’s Academy and College

By Jan Biles
The Capital-Journal
Published Sunday, March 30, 2008

Five months ago, Charles Baylor severed his ties with St. Mary’s Academy and College in St. Marys. He agreed with the academy’s traditionalist Catholic beliefs, attended its Latin Masses and was a member of its St. Joseph Businessmen’s Association.

But things changed.

Baylor said he made the mistake of hosting a fundraiser for Congresswoman Nancy Boyda’s re-election campaign on Oct. 20, 2007, in his St. Marys apartment. Although he is against abortion and disagrees with Boyda on that issue, he shares her views on the Iraq war and the NAFTA super highway.

Parishioners became incensed when they learned he was supporting Boyda and organized a protest that drew from 15 to 25 people outside his apartment the day of the fundraiser, he said. The protestors included parishioners as well as other St. Marys residents.

"People wanted to lynch me," he said.  [How these Christians love each other!]

At first, [!] he said, the Rev. Vincente Griego, rector at St. Mary’s Academy, wasn’t upset over the fundraiser and even called the uproar a "Phariseeical scandal."

"But the day before the fundraiser his tone had changed," Baylor said.

When he talked to Griego again, he said, "it was clear he thought I was wrong." In the course of their discussion, Baylor offered to not attend Mass anymore at the academy. He said Griego didn’t argue with the suggestion.

"My interpretation was I was no longer welcome at the parish," he said. 

Baylor said some parishioners later told him if he made a public apology and renounced his actions, he could probably get back into the parish.

He didn’t.

Baylor said he was surprised and disappointed when St. Mary’s Academy and his church friends turned on him. He had moved from his home in Nebraska to St. Marys in June 2001 to become a part of the parish after members told him about the traditionalist views promoted there.  [Remember this discussion?]

"I thought, ‘They’re kicking me out of the parish (when) I moved down here for the parish," he said.

Attempts to reach Griego for comment were unsuccessful.

Baylor, who relocated to Topeka, now attends Latin Masses at St. Joseph’s Church in Topeka.

The academy’s core

St. Mary’s Academy and College, established in 1978, is owned and operated by the Society of St. Pius X, headquartered in Platte City, Mo. The society was founded in 1970 in France by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in the late 1980s because he opposed the liturgical reforms and doctrinal teachings of Vatican II.  [No!  That is not why the late Archbishop was excommunicated.  Archbp. Lefevbre incurred excommunication because of his actions and not his opinions.  When Lefevbre consecrated 4 bishops without permission of the Holy See, under the Church’s law he automatically incurred the censure which was then confirmed by the Congregation for Bishops.]

The private, nonaccredited Catholic school, which sits on 465 acres on the east side of town, had an enrollment of 50 students in grades K-12 and 60 students in its two-year college in 2003. The academy’s Web site states the parish had grown to include "2,450 souls" by that year.

St. Mary’s Academy is conservative in its views and teachings. For example, female parishioners are instructed to dress modestly in long skirts and long sleeves. Boys and girls attend separate classes and are to have little, if any, interaction with each other on or off its campus.

Nearly half of the population of St. Marys — about 1,250 people — have ties to St. Mary’s Academy. Most of the parishioners have moved into the small community from other towns across the United States. A small number have married people outside of the parish. Many have set up successful businesses.  [Isn’t this what the folks at Ave Maria in Florida were trying to do?]

Joseph Trummer, who owns Tully’s Pub, moved to St. Marys 19 years ago with his wife and two children from an area near Lake Placid, N.Y. They made the move because they heard about St. Mary’s Academy and liked its curriculum and "moral-based atmosphere."

Since then, Trummer said, the family has grown to include seven children, who are now home-schooled because the academy’s fees exceed their budget.

The Trummers continue to attend Mass at the academy and accept the guidance Griego gives them in and outside of the church, he said.  [That sounds like the role of a pastor, so long as there are boundaries.  If there aren’t boundaries, then it sounds more like a sect or a cult of personality in the darkest sense.]

A while back, Trummer had booked a blues band to play at his pub. The advertisement for the band included language that Griego found objectionable. The priest sought out Trummer to discuss the matter.

"The priests, being pastors of our souls, they’re just concerned," he said. "I don’t see anything wrong with that." [Indeed!]

The Society of St. Pius X and St. Mary’s Academy are not in full communion — good standing — with the mainstream Roman Catholic Church, according to Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan.

While the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of the Eucharist performed at the academy, Naumann said, "We question the validity of confessions and marriages because they have to have the approval of the appropriate bishop who has jurisdiction for the area, which is me.  [For a priest to hear confessions validly, be must have faculties (official permission) from the proper authority to do so.  In danger of death, the law itself gives faculties even to men who have been "laicized" or who are under censure.  But in normal cases, if the priest doesn’t have faculties to hear confessions, the absolution he gives is probably invalid.  Similarly, for a marriage to have the proper "form", which is necessary for validity, certain conditions must be met, including that the minister who witnesses the marriage actually have the Church’s approval to do so.  Again, if a priest is not given that approval by the church, or it hasn’t been delegated to him properly, there is a problem of "lack of form", which raises questions about the validity of the marriage.]

"My desire would be to bring all of them back into full communion," he continued, "but the leaders at St. Mary’s don’t accept my authority."  [Folks… there it is in a nutshell.]

In the news

St. Mary’s Academy has made its share of headlines over the years. Here are a few found in The Topeka Capital-Journal archives:

• March 1993: After he and 15 families of about 93 people broke away from the academy, the Rev. John Rizzo said he received a death threat from a caller who said, "If you come near us, you are a dead priest." After the threat, a $1 million life insurance policy was taken out on Rizzo.  [Nice!  There are wackos out there who make threats.  It happens more often than you think, though perhaps not this dramatically.]

Rizzo was ordained a priest in the Society of St. Pius X in 1985. He left the order and St. Mary’s Academy in the spring of 1993 because he felt "there was something sick or dysfunctional taking place there."

He continued to say Mass, often in vacant downtown buildings, for anyone who wished to attend. In late March, police said someone used super glue to fill the locks of the doors at a community center where Rizzo was to say Mass for the breakaway followers.

"The Society is losing its credibility," Rizzo said at that time. "There are people — professional, educated people — who are observing these things, such as the denouncing of people from the pulpit and the denying of sacraments. Intimidation is one of the worst tools. There is no room for that in a Catholic community.[But let it be said that this is not typical of traditionally minded Catholics.  The problem is that certain things tend to attract people who are happy only when they are unhappy.  Think also of the wierd stuff that goes on with the far left lunatic fringe, kooks disturbing Masses and throwing fake blood around, etc.  That isn’t much different.]

Rizzo guided the 15 Catholic families in establishing a traditional chapel and school in Maple Hill, now part of the St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community, which is in good standing with the mainstream Roman Catholic Church.

• May 1995: Federal agents questioned three St. Marys residents but found no evidence linking them to the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. The FBI agents were looking for information on John Doe 2, an unidentified man thought to be involved in the bombing on April 19, 1995.

The FBI was looking into activities of homegrown militia groups and reportedly conducted interviews with three staff members at St. Mary’s Academy and College. Local law enforcement said no apparent link was found between the academy and the bombing.

• June 1997: St. Marys Police Chief Howard Bishop had a Texas arrest warrant for former St. Marys resident Richard Keyes III, a member of the Republic of Texas separatist movement who had fled into the mountains after a standoff with law authorities. Keyes was being sought on two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity.

The Rev. Ramon Angles, the rector at St. Mary’s Academy at the time, told the newspaper the Keyes family was among 20 families who joined a "breakaway group" he described as "militant."

"The Freemen types, all that militant mentality was floating around this town and in that group," Angles said. "It is total nuts, the conspiracies, the militias, the too much government and too much taxes. I tried from the pulpit to bring sanity to all this nonsense. It’s harmful, it’s anti-Christian, and it’s not wanted.

"But (the Keyes family) was antagonistic toward what I was doing. First, they pulled their children out of school, then they left the church."

Referee controversy

St. Mary’s Academy was back in the spotlight recently when academy officials told Michelle Campbell she couldn’t officiate a boys basketball game at their school because she was a woman. [If they had said she couldn’t preach at Mass, I would have greater sympathy.]

Campbell and two male referees walked off the court at that Feb. 2 game, resulting in national media coverage that ranged from "Good Morning America" to The Washington Post.

The incident was reported to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, and the implementation of a policy that would prohibit its member and approved schools from discriminating against referees was placed on the agenda of its March 11 executive board meeting.

Although representatives of the academy chose not to attend that meeting, they weren’t silent about possible action taken by KSHSAA.

In a Feb. 21 letter, Griego restated the academy’s belief that training of boys and girls is best accomplished by same-sex adults who can act as role models for the children. Thus, only a man should referee a boys sporting contest.  [By that logic, I agree.]

Then he turned the tables and questioned KSHSAA’s motives for the investigation.

"Is our policy under investigation because the Association finds something fundamentally wrong with the principle of non co-education or with traditional Catholic pedagogy?" he asked.  [A very good question!] "Or does the Association feel impelled (sic) to investigate because of media pressure?"

Griego continued, "A ‘disqualification’ of our school’s participating in KSHSAA would certainly seem discriminatory. Should your judgment be negative in regards to our school, I will expect an explanation of the KSHSAA policy that directs you in your choice and that allows you to discriminate against our philosophy of education."

Musselman responded in a Feb. 29 letter that the purpose of the hearing wasn’t to evaluate the decisions made by leaders of St. Mary’s Academy or how they exercise their religion.

"In short, the hearing will not be adjudicative in nature; rather, it will pertain to rule-making," Musselman wrote.

Baylor said he wasn’t surprised by the female referee controversy.

"It reflects the puritanism that is infused in the whole parish," he said.

Jan Biles can be reached

at (785) 295-1292 or


This is certainly a bit inflammatory.  As I read, it occurred to me that the reporter was doing more than reporting.  I had the idea that she had a bone to pick with this SSPX group. I wonder if the issue of the woman ref wasn’t the real point here, and thus very little of a postive nature was provided in the article.  In other words, I wonder if the reporter didn’t set out to make the people at St. Mary’s look like fanatics and the place sort of like a Waco compound.

The article brings out some interesting points for reflection, however.  As I read I also thought about the Rules of Engagement:

3) Show genuine Christian joy.  If you want to attract people to what gives you so much consolation and happiness, be inviting and be joyful.  Avoid the sourness some of the more traditional stamp have sadly worn for so long.

4) Be engaged in the whole life of your parishes, especially in works of mercy organized by the same.  If you want the whole Church to benefit from the use of the older liturgy, then you who are shaped by the older form of Mass should be of benefit to the whole Church in concrete terms.

What happens when indeed the whole life of the parish is informed by those of the far more traditional stamp?  What will the dynamics of entirely "Tridentine" parishes be like?  So much will depend I think on the priests who are there but also on the attitude of the bishop himself.  If the community was forced to claw its way into something, set something up against great opposition from the chancery, then the chance for resentment and all sorts of behavior coming out "sideways" will be greater.  In a way, I am reminded of the behavior of many of the small children I see at some celebrations of the older Mass: they tend to be very well behaved.  First, the Mass itself helps.  Second, many of them are home schooled.  They seem to have less need to act out or be in control.  I think this same thing could apply to people who, after being "orphaned" for so long in their own church, even looked down on by priests and bishops, when they get into a place where they can finally relax, it takes them years, if ever, to settle in and just be Catholic again with having a chip on their shoulders all the time.

I sure know from personal experience the oppressive hell-holes that can be created when the more "liberal" or "progressivist" types dominate a place, such as a seminary or a school or parish, etc.  I guess it wouldn’t surprise me to find there could be problems in the other direction too. 

It is my hope that people with these strong traditional leanings should strive to show exemplary charity and joy in all their dealings precisely so that reporters can’t write articles such as the one we just read.  Don’t provide ammunition.  Summorum Pontificum is still young and the opposition is still strong and the Pope is not a young man.  Great effort and prudence must be used to build a very good track record even in the eyes of critics of the older form of Mass and traditional doctrine.  They should be forced, one by one, to admit, "I don’t especially like that way of saying Mass, but those people sure are nice!  They must be doing something right!"

I wil not open comments here.  

I am pretty worn out by the way some folks have frequently hijacked threads or dominated entries or simply posted outrageous comments out of keeping with what I want to do with this blog.  I want people to have discussions, but sometimes they don’t have much consideration for me or for the topic of the entires. 

People can send comments by e-mail and I will look them over and maybe post some.   I want to be able to present some issues and my thought about them, but usually when they touch on certain topics, some people leap in and… well… you get the idea.

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