Much has been documented, both by Pistrina Liturgica and by us at Lay Pulpit (and by others) about the “counterfeit Catholicism” of the cult-masters: their extravagant lifestyles, the doubtful validity of their orders, the woefully poor formation of their “clergy” (especially at their puppy-mill “seminaries”), their total disregard of real Catholic morality, their arbitrary “rules” (which, of course, are selectively applied), their draconian “dress codes” (also selectively applied), their blatant authoritarianism (even though they possess absolutely no authority) – in short, their overall cult-like behavior.
One begins to wonder, “Are there any priests (or places) left in TradWorld that are ‘legitimate’ or ‘safe’ – and what are the criteria for determining whether they are or aren’t?” Well, we do not pretend to be the “ultimate authorities on everything” -- but there are some obvious things to look for, most of which are just a matter of applying a little common sense and prudence. (Also, it’s not as if any of them haven't been mentioned before -- both by us and by others.) And if one follows these steps, one just might be able to navigate his way through what we’ll call Traddieland’s “mine-field.”
Firstly, it should be abundantly clear by now that one should categorically steer clear of SGG and MHT, Dolan’s and Sanborn’s cult centers (and the satellites run by them and their clown crew of auxiliary “clergy”). (However, for those who’ve been living in a vacuum until now, we’ll be citing some reasons in the discussion that follows.) Let us also suggest – in addition to avoiding SGG and MHT outright, one should also be wary of the CMRI, because their leader (Pivarunas) has almost NO formation – and he’s just as materialistic and self-serving as Dannie and Big Don. (Also, his “seminary,” Mater Dei, is also just as abysmal as Big Don’s flophouse in Florida.)
So what are the determining criteria for “safe passage”? First, one should consider the priest’s “pedigree,” i.e., his lineage. With all the claims and counter-claims going on between trad groups, many of whom are trying to “disqualify” their rivals, it makes one wonder “who’s valid,” and who isn’t. To be “safe,” then, one should choose a priest with multiple lineages – and the more a priest has, the better. This is one reason to steer clear of Dannie, whose one-handed orders make him doubtful to begin with (and his stubborn refusal to get conditionally ordained by someone else makes him even more suspect). (And note too, since Dannie’s orders are doubtful, it also casts doubt on anyone whom he has ordained.)
Next, look at the priest’s academic credentials. Did he attend an accredited university and/or seminary -- or did he come from one of Tradistan’s “trade schools”? The janitors-in-training turned out by Big Don’s MHT and Pivvy’s Mater Dei “seminaries” are, at best, simplex priests, who have little to no training in Latin, philosophy, theology (moral or otherwise), or any of the other subjects taught in a real seminary.
Next, be suspect of any trad group that tries to disqualify other groups by claiming some sort of ”exclusivity” – especially on “doctrinal” grounds. This, as we noted so many times, is a sure sign of cultish behavior. Dannie’s “una cum” bugaboo is a prime example of this (as are the other “doctrinal” fabrications that he uses as caveats to keep his sheep from straying to other “pastures”). Such fabrications should definitely not be used – as Dannie uses them -- to determine one’s “Catholicity,” or to deny one membership in the church’s congregation. And, above all, they should not be used to deny the sacraments to anyone.
Next, examine the facility, and its staff. If the church has a school, is it accredited? Also, are its students regularly tested (via standardized state tests) to determine their scholastic aptitude? Look too at its “graduation” rate and its college-admission rate: how many go on to college, and how many get scholarships? What are the credentials of their faculty? Lastly, see what kind of financial “accountability” the operation has. Are their “books” open to the parishioners to see (or to an independent auditing body to examine)? Do they have detailed financial reports that show where the money actually goes?
Lastly, closely examine the clergy themselves. Instead of being good, humble, selfless men, are they pompous, arrogant self-seekers, living extravagant lifestyles, as Dannie, Tony, Big Don, and Pivvy do? Are they always asking for money – especially for questionable “improvements”? Do they seem to go on a lot of “apostolates” to posh destinations (as those lepers also do)? Do they try to orchestrate peoples’ lives to the point of dictating to them what they can and can’t do within their own homes (such as, forbidding them to have TV sets)? If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then beware!
The “bottom line” here, is that one must “really do his homework” to find a good, trustworthy priest. So, what must one look for in a priest? Well, we’ve just given a list of them, including both the “do’s” and the “don’ts.” But, having given them, let us point out that they are not hard-and-fast rules, but guidelines. And let us also point out that it’s hard to find a “perfect” priest, and that sometimes, one might have to settle for “acceptable.” (After all, nobody’s perfect.) However, it should be obvious to anybody that anyone connected with SGG and MHT is by all means to be avoided.
And, again, because its leader (Pivarunas) is just as materialistic (and probably as unprincipled)1 as Dannie and Big Don, one should think twice before taking on a CMRI priest – especially if he’s a product of its “seminary.” Perhaps if one is only looking to “get the sacraments,” one of those “simplex” CMRI priests might do. However, if one is looking for more than that – real Catholic knowledge, i.e., a truly reliable interpretation of Catholic doctrine and moral theology -- then look elsewhere. And in looking “elsewhere,” one should also look for a priest who is a humble, selfless man -- one who is interested in his flock’s spiritual welfare, not their pocketbooks.
Unfortunately, many of today’s trad “clergy” are not humble, but hopelessly mercenary and self-serving. Tradistan, as we noted earlier, has become a veritable “ecclesiastical minefield”; and one must tread carefully in order to navigate through its many “hazards.” Originally, to be sure, “traditional Catholicism” started out as a “noble cause,” led by people who deplored the “reforms” of Vatican II – and who wanted to do something about it. But nowadays, it's peppered with self-serving hucksters like Dolan and Sanborn, who use “traditional Catholicism” to separate the gullible from their cash – camouflaging their true intentions with “Catholic” buzzwords and syrupy sanctimony (and autocratic authoritarianism).
But the good news is that, now, people more and more are seeing through all of this, and are becoming less gullible, because they’re now better informed about these maggots – especially those who’ve been “burnt” by them. That being said, however, one must not underestimate peoples’ gullibility. After all, SGG’s entire congregation witnessed the scandalous events of 2009 – but only half of them left. The other half still fall for Dannie’s “syrup and sanctimony,” and Big Don’s “fire and brimstone” bullying. But, fortunately, their numbers are dwindling, both at SGG and MHT – and the cult centers’ coffers are emptying. And the other “good news” is that people are finding alternatives -- good, humble, selfless men who care about peoples’ souls, not about their wallets – and who have a good deal more knowledge of Catholic theology (moral or otherwise) than the know-nothing imposters of Tradistan.
As more people "network" with one another and thus become better informed, the exodus from the cult centers will continue to grow -- and this is happening. Dannie and Tony, for instance, have had to shut down some of their “satellite” operations; and so too has MHT. The latter have been kicked out of OLS in Arizona, and the swampland complex is becoming more and more insular and isolated. In time, the cult centers will be completely abandoned, and people will no longer have to fear these predators. In time, that “minefield” will be cleared.
1 Besides being just as materialistic (and arrogant) as Dannie and Tony, Pvvy is also woefully malformed. With barely a high school education (and some claim, not even that), he’s probably even more poorly formed than many of his so-called “seminarians” -- and that’s a scary thought! The other thing to remember about Pivvy is that he really has no moral compass: it was he who okayed the “donating” of a heart to a recipient who was the daughter of one of his rich (and generous) parishioners. At best, Pivvy is a moral weakling. And at worst….?