The Dinoscopus & John M. StraneyWednesday, February 04, 2009
In 1967 I went to Mass in Mexico City. I had not attended Mass for some years except in Buenos Aires. To my amazement, at a point during the Mass, perfect strangers on either side of me began to hug me. I could not understand what was happening. It seems that the liturgy reforms of the Vatican Council II (1962-1965) presided by Pope John XIII and Pope Paul VI had somehow passed me by! The other funny thing is that the priest faced us at all times. The mystery of what he had previously done with his back to us was now revealed. A few months later I heard that the church had held a most unusual Mariachi Mass.
Bishop Richard Williamson, of the Society of St Pius X (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X, FSSPX) is alive and well and living in Argentina. As a matter of fact he is the head of the Seminario de Nuestra Señora Corredentora (co-redeemer in Spanish) in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in La Reja, Moreno. This seminary is one of many worldwide run by the extremely conservative Society of Saint Pius X. It's South American branch can be found here. There is another rather handsome site here.
There has been a messy uproar of late when the German pope decided to revoke the excomunication of four Bishops (one of them is Williamson) who had originally been consecrated by the ultra-conservative French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Few of the articles on the formerly Enlish and Anglican, but now most Roman Catholic Richard Williamson mention that he is alive and well in Argentina. They find it more important to inform us that this man regards The Sound of Music as satanic, on the grounds that Maria undermined Captain von Trapp's paternal authority.
That fine venerable and orthodox Argentine newspaper La Nación adds an interesting tidbit of Williamson lore. It seems that the young seminarians at La Reja (far shorter than Seminario de Nuestra Señora Corredentora), have to write with fountain pens and are not allowed to watch television. But the conservative Bishop does embrace technology when it is convenient. As a matter of fact La Nación reveals that Williamson has a blog called Dinoscopus and has managed to post 88 times in almost three years. Williamson's cartoon, below left, is from his blog.
I would like to interject here that while Bishop Williamson and I have our differences there are a few points in common. I have blogged not almost three years but a few days more. We are alike in not wanting creeps and idiots to contribute to our blogs so we do not allow comments. We both have ties to the lefebvristas which is how Argentines call ultra conservative Catholics. Williamson's followers are most certainly lefevbristas and I have a grand nephew, a member of the Opus Dei whose father says, "My son is to the right of Lefebvre." Since my grand nephew's father takes things lightly (en joda, as they would say in Argentina) I am not sure if I believe him. He did tell me that his son had invited him to an old-time Mass with incense. He declined saying to his son, "I hate the smell of incense and besides I don't want to spend a whole Mass watching the priest's rear end."
The whole Bishop Williamson brouhaha brings to mind how my wise brothers/teachers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross handled with aplomb a situation that seems almost unreal and funny to me now when I think of it. At St. Ed's High School in Austin, I had a very good friend the first year I was there (1957) when I was in grade 9. His name was John Straney. He had also lived in Mexico and spoke excellent Spanish. In a neighbouring Texas scrub we had built a fort and we played there. We talked about the Nazis and their wonderful tanks and airplanes. We marveled at their cool uniforms. We discussed all the variant models of the Meschersmitt Me-109. One day later in the year he lost interest and never wanted to return to the fort. I did not understand that Straney was growing up faster than I was. For the next three years our relationship cooled and he moved to the more sophisticated circle of a Lee (Buddy)Lytton and John McShane.
It was in his 11th grade that Straney began to publicly assert his belief in the non existence of God. In a Catholic boarding school that can be pretty serious. I remember having various arguments with Straney where I applied every "proof" I knew for the existence of God. I told him of Aristotle's Unmoved Mover to no avail. Straney would not budge. I finally just gave up. But it is only now that I realize that the Brothers of the Holy Cross wisely never took him to task. They did not expell him. They kept their cool. Straney finally guarded his belief to himself. We all graduated in harmony. I have since found out from Lee Lytton that Straney was one of the earliest of our class to die. It is my hope that Straney led a useful and happy life. God or no God I am sure Straney would have happily accompanied me to my favourite church in Mexico City that featured Gregorian Chant. Straney would have admired and enjoyed the juxtaposition of modern architecture with an ancient rite.