A Kansas City Cranmer
Parishioners who wished to enter their church were unable to do so. They were forcibly excluded by armed police brought in by Bishop George Fitzsimmons, and auxiliary bishop who had been appointed pastor of Christ the King. The bishop had brought in his mercenaries so that the tabernacle containing Christ, our Eucharistic King, could be torn from its place of honor on the high altar to be demoted to a brick pedestal at the side of the church. The bishop had not gone quite as far as Cranmer and banished Our Lord from the church completely, but he had made sure that the focus of attention there in the future would be Bishop George Fitzsimmons, the liturgical president, an episcopal operator possessing a smoothness and ruthlessness which Cranmer himself would have envied.
What took place in the parish of Christ the King in April 1981 is an apt symbol of what has taken place in the sanctuaries of thousands of Catholic churches since the Second Vatican Council. This Council had raised hopes of a widespread spiritual renewal among most English-speaking Catholics. But the reality was well summarized by the late Archbishop R.J. Dwyer of Portland, Oregon:
. . . hopes blasted, gone a-glimmering. For the barbarians have taken over, the despisers of culture, unless it be the culture of the Grand Old Opry and the discotheque, and the denatured liturgy and the ICEL. 2
The parish of Christ the King had been a thorn in the side of Bishop John L. Sullivan of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, for several years. Most of the bishop's parishes had suffered a severe decline in Mass attendance following the imposition of the denatured liturgy which he had declared would renew his flock. But the parish of Christ the King had a different problem: coping with a massive increase in Mass attendance. The pastor, Msgr. Vincent Kearney, had implemented the post-conciliar liturgical changes mandated by the Council. He had not followed the example of Archbishop Lefebvre and refused to abandon the Mass of his ordination, the Tridentine Mass, but opted instead to offer the New Mass in the most reverent manner possible. There were no banners, clowns, guitars, balloons, or go-go girls in the sanctuary of Christ the King. The communion rails remained intact, kneeling communicants received the Host upon the tongue only from the consecrated hands of a priest-----extraordinary ministers of Communion were never used. The hymns sung were traditional, as were the many well-attended devotions provided in the church for its devout and profoundly Catholic parishioners. Above all, the tabernacle remained in the place of greatest honor and greatest prominence, upon the center of the high altar as prescribed by Canon Law.
The most evident characteristic of the post-conciliar Catholicism has been the self-exaltation of man and an almost total neglect of the honor we are bound to offer to Almighty God. Similarly, there is now an almost total lack of interest in Heaven, the world to come, and an excessive preoccupation with this world. The average Catholic bishop in the U.S.A. will be more concerned with warning his flock of the dangers of a nuclear war, rather than the danger of losing their immortal souls and spending an eternity in Hell. The traditional liturgy is evidently God-centered, focused on Heaven, aptly symbolized by priest and people offering the Sacrifice together facing the east, the traditional symbol of the Resurrection and the heavenly Jerusalem. In the reformed liturgy the priest and people have turned in upon themselves, and the purpose of their coming together often appears to be mutual entertainment rather than the solemn worship of a transcendent and omnipotent God. The celebrant, the "president of the assembly", is to be the focus of attention, but the presence of our Eucharistic King in a tabernacle on the center of the altar remained a distraction to any parishioner who had retained at least a vestigial Catholic sentiment-----so the tabernacle had to go! But in the parish of Christ the King, Monsignor Kearney would not tolerate any diminution in the honor paid to the Blessed Sacrament. In Christ the King parish, Christ was still King. It was the only parish church in the diocese where the tabernacle had been retained in its proper position of honor.
Clearly this was a situation that Bishop Sullivan could not tolerate, particularly as priests from neighboring parishes were becoming extremely anxious at the widespread emigration to Christ the King, where Mass attendance had grown to 5,000. Monsignor Kearney had been ordained in 1943; he had served the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for thirty-five years. In a letter published in The Wanderer on 16 April 1981, Msgr. Kearney recounted the manner in which his fidelity had been rewarded:
On June 10, 1978, at 10:30 a.m., John J. Sullivan, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, ordered me by telephone to leave Christ the King parish "immediately". There was no cause presented for such manner of action. No new parish assignment was ever discussed. No parish was offered nor has been offered to me at any time. I left Christ the King parish as ordered by Bishop Sullivan and took up residence with my sister in our family home without any financial assistance from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. That is my present status.
The public face of the Conciliar Church is of bishops, priests and people united happily together in a smiling, joyful, hand-clapping, hand-shaking community dedicated primarily to peace and justice-----rather like the official version of life in the USSR. But the reality of the Conciliar Church is very similar to the reality of the USSR; the treatment received by Msgr. Kearney represents the true face of conciliar Catholicism, and his case is very far from being an isolated example.
2. International Committee for English in the Liturgy.