John Allen, Crux, and Why 1 Million Catholics Don’t Matter

John L. Allen, Jr. at Crux wrote about the SSPX and the former SSPX Bp. Williamson, a renegade who has by now consecrated another bishop.

There is something pretty chilling in Allen’s tone, when you read him carefully.  You’ll see what I mean.

Here the title, and then I’ll skip down:

Why détente between Rome and traditionalists was always a pipe dream


[… there’s a LOT to take exception to in the top part of the article, but this is where Mr. Allen really shows how that segment of the Church thinks….]


The head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, is viewed as a realist who sees his movement’s future eventually in coming in from the cold. His freedom of action, however, has been constrained by the more intransigent elements in the fold.

It’s conceivable that without Williamson and his following, Fellay may be able to move more boldly. [HEY! Williamson has been out of the SSPX since 2012!  But who would expect the MSM to get this right.  After all, these are just a bunch of kooks, right?  Hardly worth the time.]

[This is where you need to pay attention!] One might wonder why any of this matters to the Vatican. The Society of St. Pius X claims a global following of around 1 million, which, if true, would represent .01 percent of the full Catholic population of 1.2 billion. [.1%] Investing resources in trying to lure such a relative footnote back might seem disproportionate.


“relative footnote“?  “disproportionate“?   Right… it’s only a million people.

There’s more, along with Allen’s strange moral equivalence between traditionalists and the terrorist Yasser Arafat, and, later on, conjectures based on his assumption about SSPX being schism, yadda yadda.  Whatever.  I, too, am not super optimistic these day about what might happen between the Holy See and the SSPX.  I’d like to think that a Pope for the “peripheries” might show some mercy and compassion but I won’t hold my breath.

The take away from Allen’s piece is that 1 million followers of the SSPX – or, I suppose, all others who stay close to our Catholic tradition – don’t merit attention or pastoral care from the Church.

That’s like saying that they don’t count.  They’re nobodies.

Could anyone get away with saying that about any other marginalized group in the Church?

Apply that to pet groups of the marginalized whom liberals lionize and see how they react.

Divorced and civilly remarried who actually still go to church regularly and want to receive Communion? Nah, they’re a tiny number compared to the universal Church of over 1 billion.  They don’t merit our resources and time.  Active open homosexuals who denounce the Church’s teaching concerning morals but who go to Mass regularly and want to receive Communion?  Nah, there aren’t many of them.  We shouldn’t waste our resources.   Wacky women religious into cosmic consciousness and moving beyond the Church with their dying orders and institutes?  Nah, not many of them left, so let’s put our resources somewhere else.

Within the Church, the only “periphery” that matters are those which either explicitly reject Catholic tradition or who have no contact with it.

Could some Cardinal please argue for a “tolerated but not accepted” status for Catholics who embrace the Catholic tradition?

Moderation queue is ON


Fr. Thomas Rosica, who has in the past threatened to sue a Canadian blogger, immediately piled on by retweeting Allen’s link. HERE

Moderation queue is ON

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, SSPX, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    Just goes to show – some peripheries are more important than others.

  2. Robbie says:

    I read this article earlier today because it appeared in my Twitter timeline. At one time, I followed John Allen, but, for various reasons, I hit the unfollow button on him. Regardless, the two things pointed out by Father Zuhlsdorf were the two things that jumped off the page at me as well. First, Williamson has been out of the SSPX since 2012. Second, Allen equated traditionalist Catholics with Yasser Arafat, a murderer and a terrorist.

    A simple Google search of Bishop Williamson shows he was booted from the SSPX nearly three years ago. So either Allen didn’t do the basic research we might expect from a journalist, or he massaged the facts as a way to impugn the reputation of SSPX and traditionalists of all stripes. Maybe there’s a third explanation, but the first two don’t speak well of Allen’s efforts. As for the comparison of traditional Catholics to a terrorist like Yasser Arafat, we shouldn’t forget Allen was a Fishwrap writer.

    It’s hard to comprehend just how much things have changed in the last two years, but they have changed and in a major way. Whether with the Pope’s blessing (I doubt that) or not, many seem to think it’s open season on those who hold close to their hearts the Catholic traditions as they were carried out for centuries upon centuries. Best we accept that fact and move forward with that understanding.

  3. Polycarpio says:

    In defense of John Allen, a generally level headed Vaticanista, the phrase “One might wonder” is often used to introduce a proposition which the writer believes to be ultimately unfounded, and I suspected this as soon as I saw this partial quote. In the article in full, Allen goes on to discredit the notion that SSPX is too marginal to matter, noting that every pope since Paul VI has tried to resolve the dispute. Allen generally analyzes the conflict in cold Machiavellian terms and does not, at least to my mind, imply a “moral equivalence” between Lefebvrists and terrorists. In fact, the comparison is limited to the internal dynamics within each group, as opposed to comparing the groups to one another in terms of their behavior towards the outside world. IMHO.

  4. rayrondini says:

    I have long been feeling that those Catholics who know, love, cherish, desire, and understand things traditional, historical, and liturgical in the Church are often treated as “second class citizens”, dismissed out of hand as “rigid”, “fussy”, “out of date”, “Pharisaical”, etc. or, at best, expected simply to “grin and bear it” for the sake of… someone else, I guess. The “fringes” or peripheries. Reading something like this from John Allen just seems to confirm that general mindset. How incredibly sad.

  5. jhayes says:

    John Allen has added a correction:

    “Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Williamson was “in the process” of being expelled from the Society of St. Pius X. In fact, Williamson was declared excluded from the society in October 2012.”

  6. Deacon Augustine says:

    When you think that only about 20% of the world’s Catholics actually practise their faith to the extent of going to weekly Mass, then those 1,000,000 become significantly more important.

    Of those who go to weekly Mass only 10% try to live by the Church’s moral teachings such as the sinfulness of contraception. Thus, if we were to use Sherry Waddell’s category of “intentional disciples”, there are probably only 20 million Catholics in the whole world who would qualify by her criteria.

    Thus, those who are attached to the SSPX would constitute a very significant number of Catholics who take their faith seriously – probably 5% or maybe more. In 20 years, there will be more Catholics in France served by priests of the SSPX than there will be those served by diocesan priests.

    In many parts of the developed world the Novus Ordo Church is dying and you only have to look at the demographics of the average parish to know that is true. Young people are more discerning than older generations in terms of what they will give their lives to and spend their money on. A Church which is compromised by the world and has nothing to offer apart from an elusive feel-good-about-myself spirituality is not capable of attracting young people anymore. That’s why the Kaspers, Marxs, Dolans and Wuerls of this world are trying to throw the kitchen sink at the attempt to be “relevant” to the people who don’t want to know. When divorce and remarriage doesn’t get them flocking through the doors, they will realize that Christ is the problem and they will get rid of Him too.

    Not only does Allen fail to grasp the importance and value of 1,000,000 baptized souls to the Church, but he also fails to grasp their significance for the times and the state in which the Church of God finds herself right now.

  7. Kerry says:

    Hmm…leaving the 99 sheep and searching for the one that is lost. Too much trouble probably… [When the sheep wants what St. John Paul II called “legitimate aspirations”, heck no. When the sheep wants what St. John Paul commanded “by his apostolic authority” should be given with generosity, no way!]

  8. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Mr. Allen’s arithmetic is off by nearly a factor of ten when he says the SSPX is .01% of global (nominal) Catholicism. I’d consider his other assertions to be in the same general range of accuracy.

  9. FoolishThomist says:

    Last I checked, 1 million is 0.1 percent of 1 billion.

  10. benedetta says:

    Or for that matter the several tens of million helpless on the vulnerable peripheries executed in the name of a penumbra or the marxist atheist state, for that matter? No mercy for them either fron Crux and Company, I take it? Only the interests of Party Members need apply, evidently.

  11. Titus says:

    Regardless of what 1,000,0000/1,000,000,000 comes out to, is the first number even correct? There are (I have heard reports) in France as many or more weekly communicants at SSPX chapels than at diocesan churches. Surely there are more than a million church-going Frenchmen? [I wonder.]

  12. jhayes says:

    The SSPX responds to the consecration of Fr. Faure:

    The Society of St. Pius X denounces this episcopal consecration of Father Faure, which, despite the assertions of both clerics concerned, is not at all comparable to the consecrations of 1988. All the declarations of Bishop Williamson and Fr. Faure prove abundantly that they no longer recognize the Roman authorities, except in a purely rhetorical manner.

    The most recent comment on the status of SSPX priests I have heard is this footnote from a French traditional site explaining why SSPX priests accompanying children and teaching nuns from France were not allowed to say masses for the participants in the Roman basilicas. The Commission Ecclesia Dei offered to provide other priests to say mass for the pilgrims:

    Since the canonical status of FSSPX priests hasn’t yet been regularized, it wasn’t possible to allow them to say public masses in Rome, even though in many churches, including St. Peters, there is no problem for SSPX priests who want to say private masses.

    Representatives of the Vatican continue to make trips to Ecône to continue discussions with the SSPX. I think the core issue is that Church does not want to create a situation in which SSPX priests can present themselves as representatives of the Church if they are going to espouse views with which the Church disagrees.

  13. tcreek says:

    John Allen has always had a way with words. He was in my hometown 13 years ago and wrote this article attempting to make a radical pro homosexual organization seem like “A precious resource” for the church even though the “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville, asking him to tell New Ways it did not have permission to celebrate a Mass, because it would cause ‘confusion and scandal.'”

  14. SaintJude6 says:

    Hang around in the comments section of Crux or NcR and you realize that the prevailing attitude is that any tradition-minded Catholic is a closet schismatic trying to drag the Church back to the Middle Ages. But the “enlightened progressives” are needed in the Church, because how else are they going to bring about the womynpriestesses, approved abortions, and same-sex pretend marriage. So they’ll go through the pretense of arguing about liturgy or other matters, but it always comes down to “You’re stopping me from getting the church that I want. The church of me.”

  15. Mojoron says:

    With one of the Major Schools of SSPX literally right down the road (20 mi) from us, I would love to see the SSPX and Rome get together. I hear they have a score of priests who live on campus and they could fulfill the void we have out here in the hinterlands, even offering the Latin Rite, as Fr. Z likes to propose. Am I selfish. No. I’m thinking of our spiritual backwater and always hoping for ways that it can be spiritually fulfilled.

    I had a good friend (Lutheran) who died last year from cancer who used to deliver and spread gravel, sand and dirt for the SSPX. When he was on his deathbed, a priest came up and sat by his side for a good 6 hours and prayed, in silence. and left, in silence, after kissing his mother. Now that is what God would do.

    [I’m not in the least surprised by that. I think that the SSPX guys are zealous and diligent. I look forward to them being integrated into normal ministry, and soon.]

  16. Sword40 says:

    and then there is Fr. Hunwicke’s post today; .

    Fr. Hunwicke post a real good question.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I think you are correct that Mr. Allen’s explicit point where they are concerned is to assert comparable “moral authority” on the part of Mr. Arafat and Archbishop Lefevre with respect (apparently) to the curiously constituted groups “the Palestinians” and “the traditionalists”. Noteworthy is, that Mr. Allen, after having mischaracterized history with respect to “Palestinian insistence on a ‘right of return,’ ” says “However understandable it may be,” while he nowhere says anything comparable with respect to anything being “understandable” about the concerns of “the traditionalists” (!)

    I do not know how much Mr. Allen’s article may have been silently rewritten between the times Fr. Z, you, and I have read it, but when you say, “In the article in full, Allen goes on to discredit the notion that SSPX is too marginal to matter, noting that every pope since Paul VI has tried to resolve the dispute”, the only sense in which I see him saying this is that “a schism led by a real bishop can become self-replicating, a scenario any pope would want to avoid.” There is no evidence I can find in the article in full that he himself is not largely willing to write off “around 1 million” souls whom he describes as “such a relative footnote”.

    I think, however wrong he is in this, there is a distantly analogous point about large numbers worth making: the Church should not be afraid lovingly clearly to correct and further discipline any and all theologically unorthodox and blatantly immoral members, however numerous, for the good of each and every one of their souls.

  18. Tradster says:

    1 million traditionalists may not be enough to impress Mr. Allen but it’s probably larger than the unfaithful dissidents reading the Fishwrap and Crux by a factor of 100:1.

  19. Matt Robare says:

    “There was an open playground for the happy pessimist. Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original aim of his being; let him call himself a fool and even a damned fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools are not worth saving. He must not say that a man, qua man, can be valueless.” — Chesterton

  20. KateD says:

    The other day, I was talking to a friend about the beauty of the EF, and the woman actually snarled briefly before she caught herself and stopped. Other than that one incident she is normally a lovely person. She said she didn’t understand the Latin and that’s why people prayed the Rosary through the Mass; that she was grateful when it switched to a language she understood. Heck, from what I’ve witnessed I don’t believe 99.9% of Catholics understand what’s going on at Mass regardless of the language…..might as well make the .1 percent happy….lol

  21. paterscotus says:

    Thank you, Mojoron, for that testimony. To know the men of this Society and the faithful they serve is to be impressed. They are serious about saving souls, period.


  23. Eugene says:

    Allen and Rosica, arrogance upon arrogance.
    When will we stop thinking there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world? There are perhaps a quarter of that who practice, maybe 300 million so 1 million serious Catholics out of 300 million is 0.33%. Regardless how can a cleric like Rosica be son uncaring about the status of so many souls and he being an official Vatican spokesman. How tragic and sad.

  24. jherforth says:

    I think I found the issue with this article. I borrowed John Allen’s Bible and his Luke 15:1-7 is different than mine. In his, it states that Jesus taught that if 1 of your 100 sheep goes astray that you might as well write them off. I’m not at all surprised that Fr Rosica is on board with this, he’s clearly using the same translation, the same translation that is missing 1 Cor 6:1-8 as well. Funny how Holy Scripture has the answers to the quandaries we find in life, who’da thunk it?!

  25. Sonshine135 says:

    1,000,000 people are a footnote? Disproportionate? Someone needs to remind John L. Allen, Jr. that Jesus started with just 12.

  26. Subdeacon Joseph K. says:

    Oh – that “Crux”. Please remember that “Crux Now” is the Boston Globe. I live in Sodom — er, sorry — Boston and I can tell you that the Boston Globe is 1000% hostile to Christ. They hate all Christains but have a special vitrol they reserve for Roman Catholics. It is best not to take them seriously. Really – no one of importance is listening to them. They have lost tons of readership and almost gone bankrupt serveral times. If we all ignore them and deny them traffic, they will go away.

  27. Gabriel Syme says:


    That’s an excellent article from Fr Hunwicke (whom I am a fan of). Thank you for posting it.

    I live in the Diocese which produced, in Fr Zs words, “the most cold and negative” response to Summoroum Pontificum.

    The Diocese, under duress, eventually agreed to allow one Sunday latin mass and – as per Fr Hunwickes anecdote – they of course scheduled it for exactly the same (unusual) time as the SSPX mass. How petty of them. It would have been wonderful for us to have two Sunday masses to choose between, depending on our circumstances.

    (If the SSPX held mass at 2.34am on Sunday mornings, you can bet the Diocese would switch to match that time. There is also no doubt that, if the SSPX left down, the Diocese would quickly shut down its sunday mass, saying “theres no need for it”).

    What often happens is that people start going to the Diocesan mass and they like it. But then they get frustrated because the Diocese refuses to provide holy day masses and traditional sacraments at the same location. They end up switching to the SSPX. I just went straight to the SSPX from the novus ordo mass – cut out the middle man!

    (Some good Diocesan priests have links with the SSPX guys, and they offer some traditional masses – often midweek. I support these Diocesan priests too, where possible. Some of them even attended a conference organised by SSPX lay people).

    it is disappointing to compare the paltry Diocesan provision for tradition with its “other language” provision. For example, each week there are numerous chinese, polish and nigerian language masses – but only one latin mass. Accordingly, we don’t have a single Catholic Community as such, but rather a mish-mash of small groups isolated from each other – divided by language.

    So much of this situation is down to the attitude of Dicoesan clergy – which I often find stinks. Anything which is new, or a bit different, or requires a little effort on their part is guaranteed to receive hostility from many them.

    I remember being very interested and engaged, when Pope Benedict revised the English language missal – I was quite taken aback by the uncooperative and surly attitude many priests displayed in response to this. They were up in arms at being asked to say a few different words in English, so you can imagine how some would react to having to learn a bit of latin and how to say the traditional mass.

    Dont get me wrong, we are blessed with some good Diocesan priests, but many just want to go out and go through the motions at mass – relying on puerile jokes and anecdotes over spiritual advice. Compared to those guys, give me the SSPX priests any day.

  28. vandalia says:

    Is there a Pontifical Commission specifically dedicated to any of the groups you mention?

  29. robtbrown says:

    The irony in Fr Rosica’s endorsement is hard to miss.

    He is a Basilian Father. The Basilians have about 100 priests.

    The SSPX has almost 600 priests. The FSSP has about 230 priests, with another 150 in formation.

  30. Andrew Rivera says:

    Well, questioning Fr. Rosica and Crux got me Twitter-blocked by the former (but not the latter at present) – no telling yet if my fellow Tweeters got the boot, too:

  31. Old 21J says:

    As liberals tend to be myopic, they don’t recognize the 200 million plus Orthodox Christians have an interest in what happens liturgically in the Catholic Church. They will continue to be reticent in reuniting as long as Rome continues to reject its own traditions.

  32. bkalafut says:

    That puts the number of SSPX adherents roughly on par with the PCUSA, the UCC, or the Episcopalians and way ahead of the UUs. Yet the formerly “mainline” post-Christian groups are treated by the popular press as important and worthy of not only coverage but respect.

    I can’t imagine Allen writing against the establishment of the Ordinariate on the grounds that the (few hundred thousand, at most) traditionalist Episcopalians marooned by their denomination’s departure for outer space were a tiny fringe unworthy of Rome’s pastoral care. I don’t recall anybody making that argument. The sense of scale seems to vary with the reporter’s gut-level approval of the group.

  33. benedetta says:

    Hmm. Quite interesting overall. I for one am relieved that Allen, Crux, Winters et al are finally coming out and admitting openly their desire for a smaller, more purified Catholic Church, cleansed and rid of traditionalists, those they discover or through surveillance identify within congregations as having conservative politics or speech, apparently, any attached or curious or interested in the old Mass and its development…let’s see, whom else…through this active exclusion, their interest and goal apparently is to discover and orchestrate some remnant Church, of elites and elect who can realize salvation in heaven thereby depriving all other comers of sacraments, worship, (as well as rights to assemble and speak freely, right to privacy), and salvation.

    One can already see the longtime thrust and accomplishment of this war they are engaged in: with tens upon tens aborted and publications like theirs mocking people who assemble and pray on behalf of life and children slated for the death clinics, they already have made the Church that much tinier in this vale of tears.

  34. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    I think the SSPX have co-opted the name of a great and holy pope to serve their own schismatic purposes. But is it right to ignore them and perhaps let them go down another road that may endanger their salvation, which is the Church’s primary mission?

    If the pope wants to negotiate with Communist China, is it because he wants to appease a brutal dictatorship or address the spiritual needs of tens millions of Chinese Catholics who are forced to worship in underground churches instead of the state-created Catholic Patriotic Association?

    I’m surprised with Allen. Liberals always the Church to sit down with feminists, pro-abortionists, secular humanists, gay activists, et al “to find common ground.” Is the SSPX to be shunned along with libertarians and Ayn Rand’s objectivists?

  35. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    When John Paul II became pope in 1978, there were about 563 million Catholics in the world.

    And now there are over 1 billion Catholics?

    How did this happen under the previous two “conservative” popes whom detractors were supposedly sending Catholics out the church doors through an alleged obsession with dogma and sex?

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