A `vertical’ approach
The more than 400-year-old Latin Tridentine mass (established by the counter-reformation Council of Trent) is “the true mass,” [said worshiper Miguel Garcia]. “God instituted it one way, and we shouldn’t be changing it. That’s what happened at Vatican II.”
Something else happened, according to organist and choir director John Cooper of Clarendon Hills, an insurance salesman and part-time jazz pianist. It’s not just that the new mass “an atrocity.” The new church “hasn’t worked.” Seminaries are closing and mass attendance is down, thanks to “all this liberty baloney. People need some kind of regimentation,” he said.
As Scott put it, “No condemnation, no obligation. Popes always used to condemn things, but liberals don’t believe in condemning anybody.”
Scott terms Pope John Paul II “a conservative liberal” who is “very weak in governing the church. He has not acted against heresies.” One such heresy, Scott argues, is to “make man the center of the liturgy.”
Indeed, at Our Lady Immaculate, worshipers look to the altar. There is no handshake of peace before communion (received kneeling and on the tongue, not standing and in the hand), as in the new mass. It is what’s called a “vertical service,” teaching people to look up, to God, rather than “horizontally,” to one another.
“The way you worship affects your view of God,” Scott said. “It is not just sentimentality. We like Latin, the Gregorian mass, and incense. But none of these are the point.”
“What was touted as church renewal and revival has obviously fallen flat on its face,” said John Pfeiffer of Forest Park, a 32-year-old Loop attorney, referring to priestly defections, shortage of vocations, and the like.
“People don’t realize their Catholic faith is being snatched away from them, like in the time of Henry VIII,” said Rita McCarthy, a 40-ish Orland Park typesetter.
“At a funeral, there’s no mention of purgatory. In baptism there’s no mention of original sin. In marriage, emphasis is on the couple. But the first purpose of marriage is to have children, and the relationship of the couple is secondary. All of the sacraments have been watered down. People don’t know anything about sin anymore. Divorce, abortion, birth control condemn you to hell. People don’t seem to know that.”
The church is not amused
Authorized Latin masses are offered at three churches weekly — St. John Cantius, 825 N. Carpenter St.; St. Thomas More, 2828 W. 81st St.; and St. Peter, in Antioch — and every other week in Libertyville and Techny.
But Catholics are forbidden to attend Our Lady Immaculate in Oak Park, though an archdiocese official is wary of saying that it is a sin to do so or that specific penalties will be meted out.
The Society of St. Pius X is “not schismatic,” meaning it hasn’t formally split from Rome, notes Rev. Robert Flinn, vice chancellor of the archdiocese. Its bishops and priests are excommunicated, but its parishioners are welcomed back “just by coming, with no need for special absolution.” They need only “disassociate themselves from their Pius X church.”
That’s “moral persecution,” Scott said. “We remind (archdiocesan authorities) continually of what they ought to be. We have a sense of identity and purpose and mission which they have lost.”
Scott himself is a convert from Protestantism, drawn to Catholicism by the writings of St. John of the Cross, the 16th Century mystic who wrote from a prison cell after getting in trouble with the church, and by the traditional Latin mass. Scott had found the new mass “more Protestant than Protestant services” and lacking in reverence.
He met Lefebvre in Melbourne, asked to be ordained, and went to Switzerland for six years to study theology. Ordained in 1988, he was sent to the U.S., where he taught for two years at the society’s seminary in Winona, Minn.
Now based in Kansas City, he heads the society in the U.S. with its 35 priest members (of 250 worldwide) and 100 chapels and other installations in 38 states. He says mass in Elkhart, Ind., or Memphis on alternating Sundays after his Oak Park appearances.
A former Jesuit theological seminary in St. Mary’s, Kan., near Kansas City is the site of the society’s coed kindergarten-through-high-school “academy,” with 345 students, and its 50-student college. At St. Mary’s the society has its biggest parish, where 1,300 attend weekly. The Oak Park parish has 90 families. Weekly attendance is around 235.
The church, formerly Second Presbyterian of Oak Park, was bought for $390,000 by members of the Holiday Inn group. The society took over payments and spent $20,000 to rebuild the altar area and install new stained-glass windows and an altar rail-“to remake it as Catholic,” Scott said.
Traditional worship and morality are the key to Our Lady Immaculate’s attraction, but members’ finding a home away from home is strong as well, as with any successful church.
A sympathetic ear
Scott talks a tough game from the pulpit, but he also offers a good shoulder to cry on, to judge from Julie Badon’s experience. One of her daughters sought him out in the midst of a recent crisis.
“Father Scott counseled her and was very patient with her,” Badon said. “She really loves Father Scott, and has no qualms about approaching him.”