PopeWatch: Bishop Olson

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Well, one clear aspect of the pontificate of Pope Francis is that groups associated with the traditional latin mass had better watch their six.  Father Z gives us the latest details:


The source of these reports seems to be the blog Rorate Caeli, which provides a copy of the letter that Bp. Olson sent to Mr. Michael King, who is the President of Fisher More College.

Here is the letter, which I found at the aforementioned blog:

None of us are privy to the conversation, mentioned by the bishop in his letter, that took place on 24 February.  I have no idea what the tone of that conversation was or how many conversations took place.

However, I am appalled at the tone of the Bp. Olson’s letter to Mr. King.  Frankly, it reminds me of a note an authoritarian seminary rector would pin on the mailroom bulletin board about student attire or lights-out time, rather then gentle pastoral solicitude of a diocesan bishop in the era of Pope Francis.  I am shocked at the suggestion that this decision is taken for the sake of the souls of the students and the president himself, as if the Extraordinary Form were somehow spiritually harmful.

That said, what we don’t know about this situation could fill volumes.

For example, I discern in the bishop’s second point, the one about his granting faculties, the possibility that the priest who had been saying Mass at Fisher More on a regular basis may not have had any faculties at all, from any bishop or religious superior.  I suspect that there is more to that poorly phrased second point than meets the eye.

Also, while some Catholic college and university chaplaincies also have the canonical designation as a parish (e.g., St. Paul’s at the University of Madison), Summorum Pontificum doesn’t seem to apply as clearly.  The Motu Proprio doesn’t seem to apply to college chapels and chapels on military bases.  That said, the spirit of both Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae communicate something far different from the tone, at least, of the bishop’s letter.

Again, what we don’t know about this situation could fill volumes.  I, at least, don’t know who the priests were who were saying that Mass for the students at Fisher More.  Were they of the SSPX or some independent group?  Were they preaching things that were improper (e.g., attacking Pope Francis from the pulpit, directly attacking the Novus Ordo as invalid)?

More will come out, and soon.

In the meantime, it is hard to imagine why a letter with such a menacing tone would be sent to a layman about something which soon-to-be St. John Paul II described as a “legitimate aspiration”.  You will recall that Bl. John Paul asked, nay rather, required by his apostolic authority, that respect be shown to those who desire the traditional forms of the Roman Rite (cf. Ecclesia Dei adflicta, 6c).



My first hope and prayer, and petition to the Guardian Angels of those involved, is for cool heads and a positive resolution to this conflict so that the students and staff of Fisher More will be able to have their legitimate aspirations respected according to the will of St. John Paul and Benedict XVI.

The Moderation Queue is ON.


A priest friend forwarded information from HIS priest friend in Dallas.  Thus, I will edit a great deal and use bullet points. These things either happened or they didn’t and can be verified one way or another:

  • In May a prof of FMC (Fisher More College) gave a talk and denied aspects of Vatican II
  • The FSSP priests withdrew their services at FMC some time ago.
  • Taylor Marshall, married with several children, resigned his job at FMC without another job.
  • At Thanksgiving, 2013, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the suspended Fatima Priest, said Mass at FMC.
  • These things took place when the Diocese of Fort Worth was vacant.
  • “This is NOT about hatred for the TLM.”

All of these points (except the last, which was an opinion) suggest dysfunction which the new bishop needed to address.

It may indeed be that this is not about “hatred for the TLM”.  If that is the case, then Bp. Olson will surely want to make that clear in some way.

One commentator, below, observed that the bishop said that students could go to a parish, off-campus, where the TLM is offered, thus suggesting that he doesn’t have a problem with the TLM itself.

I hope that is the case.  The tone of the bishop’s letter certainly fueled that suspicion.  Getting some of the details out will help diffuse some of this tension about an “attack by a bishop on the TLM”.  It may not be that at all, though I still scratch my head about this.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch is absolutely certain that Pope Francis is, in general, a tolerant man.  PopeWatch is unclear at all as to whether this tolerance extends to Catholics who wish to attend the tlm.  It is entirely possible that the Pope isn’t involved at all in this action, and the action itself may not be directed against the tlm, but one can’t blame those who attend the tlm from wondering if Summorum Pontificum is in the process of dying the death of a thousand cuts.

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  1. I can’t understand how much is assumed by this letter and hearsay. Speculation is not news. I feel this article sows seeds of division and misconstruction of truths.

  2. The bishop’s first bullet point suggests that the bishop is behaving as if the old indult was still in effect and the 1962 missal would be used at only one locus in the diocese and only at his discretion.

    Relatively young bishop (47) who attended one of the few remaining minor seminaries. Do not know what to make of that.

  3. Very long article on this subject over at Catholic World Report:

    Includes text from Taylor Marshall explaining his resignation in some detail. And among the many comments are several from current/former employees or their spouses giving their thoughts on various goings-on at the school. And yes, the article does mention that TLM is available at a number of parishes within reasonable drive from the college.

    As stated in this article, I’m sure there is still much to be learned before any reasoned conclusions can be made, but I do wonder why we’re not as appalled at the intentional leaking of what was clearly meant to be a private communication as we are at the bishop’s tone?

  4. Dr. Marshall’s update certainly indicates some severe problems (to put it mildly) at the college, but it still does not explain why the TLM was halted. If anything, it would seem that the insistence upon only having the Novus Ordo celebrated at the chapel is almost a form of punishment. I don’t happen to think Mass should be used as punishment.

    As for the availability of a TLM “nearby,” one’s definition of nearby is certainly influenced by circumstances. For a college student who may or may not have access to an automobile, it may not be so nearby.

  5. If anything, it would seem that the insistence upon only having the Novus Ordo celebrated at the chapel is almost a form of punishment.


    If the financial condition of the college is as its erstwhile chancellor says, the whole dispute will be moot ‘ere long. You do have to wonder, though, why the board simply folded rather than put the kibosh on the college president’s decisions. In my very limited experience, the board actually cares about physical plant and budgetary matters (if about not much else).

  6. “Speculation is not news. I feel this article sows seeds of division and misconstruction of truths. ”

    No, this post reports on what is happening. If clarification is needed that must come from the Bishop and the school. Too often these type of actions are taken in secrecy and with little or no explanation, and in a time of instant world wide twenty-four hour a day communication that is a poor way for the Church to conduct business.

  7. Pride, the mother of all sins, might be found on both sides of this dispute. Tragically, as a result, Jesus is the abandoned one.

  8. Perhaps, it would be desirable for norms to be prescribed for celebrating conventual and capitular masses, as there were in Quo Primum, which certain persons are, at least in theory, obliged to attend and also for collegiate and military chaplaincies, where choice may be limited.

    As to the letter, a bishop issuing a motion or inhibition (which this is) would be unwise to give his motives. They are peremptory commands, not discussion documents.

  9. While it is true from the Bishop’s letter that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will not be celebrated at the college, all the other pieces point to the fact that the issue is not the EF (TLM) but something far deeper and more problematic.

    The FSSP have pulled out of celebrating Mass at the school-why? That seems to be the clincher here.
    Secondly, there does not seem to be any paucity of TLM in the general area so ‘the bishop’ doesn’t have a problem with the EF

    This is not ‘much to do about nothing’ but some (not on this blog) adding 2+2 and coming up with 5

  10. This was just posted by a recently resigned faculty member which sheds much needed light on the issue:
    Dr. Taylor Marshall’s status.

    Regarding Fisher More College and what you’re reading in Rorate Caeli:

    Now that the Bishop of Fort Worth has weighed in (and is now being maligned), after much prayer, I feel that I should break the silence.

    First off, I love the students at Fisher More College (FMC). I love them so much. It was heartbreaking for me to leave FMC. Last summer (2013) was very difficult for me. I also love the Latin Mass and write about it often on my blog and talk about it publicly (my family belongs to a FSSP parish – Mater Dei parish in Irving, Texas).

    For the record, I resigned as Chancellor of the College at the beginning of June of 2013—only days after our seventh baby was born. I had no job prospects and no income. I did it for the sake of conscience. I felt it would be a danger to my soul to remain at Fisher More College.

    I resigned when moral, theological, and financial discrepancies came to light regarding the presidency of Michael King. I was an ex officio member of the Board so I knew what others did not. From May to early June of 2013, five of the eight College Board Members also resigned for two reasons:

    1) Mr. King refused to disassociate himself from the public statements of faculty member Dr. Dudley that claimed in his Year of Faith lecture that Catholic professors have the duty to teach young people that Vatican 2 is not a valid Council (he also endorsed other “resistance” positions regarding the Novus Ordo, John Paul II, etc.)

    2) Mr. King, after selling the original FMC campus to Texas Christian University for millions of dollars, had imprudently entered into a real estate deal that financially crippled Fisher More College.

    Much of the politicization around the “Latin Mass and FMC” is Mr. King’s careful attempt to distract attention away from his financial misdealing at FMC. The college is currently teetering on bankruptcy and this latest entanglement with the bishop will lead to a public statement: “Fisher More closed down because the new bishop of Fort Worth persecuted the Latin Mass!” when in reality the College is failing because Mr. King entered into a dubious real estate deal that washed out college’s endowment AND all the proceeds from the sale of the original campus.

    How did a College sell its extremely valuable campus to TCU for several millions dollars in 2012 only to announce at Christmas 2013 that it might be closing without an immediate fund raising campaign through Rorate Caeli?

    Rorate Caeli has just released their sensational “exclusive” report on how the new Bishop of Fort Worth is persecuting the traditional Latin Mass in the person of Michael King. They included the (private) letter of Bishop Olson to Michael King and offered their speculation.

    This controversy created by Rorate Caeli with the help of Michael King’s letter is not about the Latin Mass or Summorum Pontificum.*

    FMC hosted a public repudiation of Vatican 2 and the Ordinary Form of the Mass in April of 2013 that was so offensive that my wife and I walked out of it before it’s conclusion. That did not do much to heal the breach with the local diocese or presbyterate and it contributed to the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) discontinuing their support and presence at FMC. The current FMC website advertises that the FSSP provides a chaplain, but this is not true.

    At the same time, Michael King estranged himself from the diocese of Fort Worth by not allowing the Ordinary Form (as stipulated by the previous ordinary Bishop Vann of Fort Worth). He also contracted an irregular/suspended priest without faculties, and hired “trad resistance” faculty while there was no bishop in Fort Worth to check these developments. Mr. King was able to create a community in his image (he affectionately referred to himself the “father” of this community) during the episcopal inter-regnum of the diocese of Fort Worth.

    Clearly, a bishop’s intervention was inevitable. The current controversy really has nothing to do with the Latin Mass per se. The Latin Mass is at the center because Michael King is politicizing the Latin Mass in his favor, knowing that “bishops vs the Latin Mass” is red meat for some traditionalist blogs.

    Bishop Olson says in the letter that he is doing this for Michael King’s “soul.” The bishop understands that this is a personal intervention – and not an attack on Fisher More College or its students or the Latin Mass.

    It’s a serious pastoral problem. Mr. King no doubt leaked Bp Olson’s letter via one of his few supporters to build sympathy before the inevitable financial collapse that will expose his mishandling of Fisher More College. Mr. King, more than anything, would like to blame the inevitable collapse of FMC (within only weeks or months) on the bishop’s “persecution of the Latin Mass.”

    Hold your peace. Watch for how it unfolds, and most of all pray for the students that are still dutifully studying and praying. There are some GREAT students at Fisher More College.

    As one who loves and prays the Latin Mass, please don’t curse or blame Bishop Olson for this one. He is a new bishop who inherited a TOUGH pastoral problem. Pray for him. And if you love the Latin Mass, don’t be so quick to judge the bishops or cite canon law. Sometimes there are things behind the scenes that you don’t know.

    1 Cor 13:1-2 If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    *Regarding Summorum Pontificum in this situation. It doesn’t apply here since the college chapel does not have a priest requesting to say the Latin Mass and the chapel therefore falls under the direct pastoral control of the bishop. It’s the case of a layman (Michael King) asking for it. Those accusing Bishop Olson of breaking canon law or despising Summorum Pontificum should be more careful. Moreover, be assured that Bishop Olson supports the FSSP in his diocese and has nothing against the Extraordinary Form.

  11. Fr. Gruner’s attorney, Christopher Ferrara, has stated that Fr. Gruner is not suspended. What is the source of this accusation?

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