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Sometimes, in these crazy days in the Church, a story happens that really disturbs, shocks and is revealing of the chaos — all at the same time. One such story occurred this weekend here in the archdiocese of Detroit (but really has been unfolding over the course of decades; it just became public this weekend).
In short, a deacon in a suburban parish, St. Anastasia, Dcn. Mark Springer, was invalidly baptizing people from 1986 until 1999 — 13 years! Doctrinally and theologically, that means anyone baptized by him was not able to validly receive any of the other sacraments over the course of their lives because baptism is required for any other sacraments that follow. And that includes ordination to the priesthood.
So when Fr. Matthew Hood happened to be watching some old family videos of his baptism, he noticed the deacon did not use the correct words (which means he himself had not been validly baptized). This means he had not validly received any of the other sacraments either — including being ordained to the priesthood.
This means most of the sacraments he performed after his non-ordination were also invalid (his Masses, his absolutions in confession and so forth). Father Hood did the right thing immediately. He contacted the archdiocese, told them all about it and his situation was rectified.
He was validly baptized, made his first Holy Communion, was confirmed, ordained a deacon and then a priest. He is good to go. But between Fr. Hood (who had been non-ordained about three years ago) and the scurrilous Dcn. Mark Springer (who took it upon himself to simply change the words because he liked them better), the number of souls in this archdiocese who were impacted for decades — and still are — is too difficult to calculate.
Invalid marriages, confessions, Masses, last rites and so forth: It's beyond staggering. It is so bad that Detroit archbishop Allen Vigneron had to issue a public statement admitting the tragedy. In it, he names the deacon and the parish (St. Anatasia).
He also names the affected parishes where the young and innocent Fr. Hood had been present in his early non-priesthood years, blessedly shortened only by his viewing of an old family video. Vigneron even had to release a much lengthier note to his own clergy — and even had a conference call with all of them yesterday to answer their many questions.
See, the knock-on effect of this is huge. There's simply no reasonable way to discover how many people are impacted and still continue to be. To his credit, Vigneron is making the shameful incident public to alert people so that if they are touched by this, they can rectify their own situations.
Precisely what the faithful do not need to hear right now is that an archdiocese can't keep guard over renegade ministers of the sacraments. This situation went on for 13 years and raises a truckload of questions. Was Springer the only deacon in the archdiocese so horribly trained in seminary that he felt he could freelance his way through sacraments? What about any of the priests likewise trained? How far back did the poor training go?
Are there any other invalidly ordained priests in Detroit not confecting the Eucharist, not actually absolving sins in confession, perhaps not validly witnessing marriages and not actually administering last rites?
The story actually resulted in a very sad social media meme demonstrating the depth of the scandal for the faithful: A dying Catholic asks a priest for proof of his valid ordination before administering last rites. Many things we cover here at Church Militant (as you know) also have another aspect to them. And when it comes to bishops and their chancery staff, they cover up the even-more-disturbing parts.
Here's the part neither Vigneron nor his staff are telling you about this. Remember, the statement to both the other clergy and the public makes it appear as though this all came to light when now-validly-ordained Fr. Hood was watching an old family video. That's only partially true. That is when it came to light for him.
But the archdiocese had known about this for years before Fr. Hood approached them. How does Church Militant know this? Because around 2006 or 2007, we received a phone call from someone who we considered an extremely reliable source.
It turns out they were more spot-on than even we knew at the time. They told us — in short — that there were various discussions going on at the chancery that they had heard about (but not been privy to themselves, directly) that invalid baptisms were being performed in a suburban parish.
They didn't know who the chancery officials were who knew; nor did they know what parish (and possibly parishes); nor did they know if it was a deacon or priest. But they knew the overriding story. Church Militant tried to discover more, but with just that little bit of very general information (and, of course, a chancery which covers up with the best of them), there was nowhere else to go to verify it.
Bottom line: This scandal was known by at least some chancery officials years ago — at least as far back as the 2006–2007 timeframe, and perhaps longer. Nothing was done. As far as anyone knows, this goes back at least three archbishops, and there's no way — it's simply not possible — that tens of thousands of souls have not been adversely affected.
We're talking about something going on 35 years here. Thirty-five years for an archdiocese to figure out how to simply lock down the sacraments so the faithful have a certain assurance. They can't even guarantee the proper administration of the sacraments. Then there's the even-more-disturbing fact that some people in the chancery covered all this up for years.
In fact, the proof is in the pudding because, had Fr. Hood not come forward and created a "public" moment, the faithful still would not know what some in the chancery had been keeping under wraps for years. We don't know who the personnel were who knew about this — and neither does the archbishop — who while, yes, doing the right thing in a limited and narrow way, has made no mention one way or the other of any internal investigation as to how the calamity occurred.
Are the faithful not owed that much? It's being painted as a kind of singular, renegade deacon. But we have no idea if that's the case. In fact, why would it be? Given the gay-porn-video-viewing nights that were official every Wednesday evening in the seminary here in Detroit — yes you heard that correctly — gay porn, once a week, mandatory as part of a so-called human-sexuality class, it stands to reason (with satanic filth going on in the training) that Dcn. Springer is not some isolated case.
Given that chancery personnel would cover this up for at least a decade, it seems more likely that there are others. Here's the reality: many of the priests around the country as well as here in Detroit were poorly formed — malformed actually — in seminary over the course of decades.
Detroit was a leading force in all this but was by no means alone in churning out bad clerics — some of whom are now actual bishops. Heck, we even need to ask if some of these men are actual bishops. Yes, because this is that serious and far-reaching.
They can't even guarantee the proper (meaning "valid") administration of the sacraments. Think about that for a moment. Why and how has it gotten this bad? That, sadly, is an easy answer, because as we've been saying for many years here at Church Militant, many of the men wearing miters and collars do not believe the Faith.
There is a dimension to this whole sordid mess of it being a combination of innocence and ignorance on the part of many involved — Fr. Hood not the least. That also includes the thousands — tens of thousands (who knows really, except God Himself?) — of those who thought they were receiving the sacraments validly and did not.
Of course, God does not hold that against them. He is bound to the sacraments, not by the sacraments. But underlying the dynamic of ignorance and innocence, there is also the dynamic of malfeasance and wickedness, of horrible training, of cover-up, of losing the further trust of the faithful.
Where is the investigation into how this could happen in the first place? Which chancery personnel knew of it? How many other men ordained to the priesthood or diaconate also received invalid orders? Where is that investigation? We're talking about the sacraments here!
And what of the doubts now placed in the minds of the faithful — their expanding concerns as they think more about all this? All of that has been placed there precisely by a renegade faculty at the seminary and scoundrel clergy at the chancery.
However He carries that out, God provides for the faithful, certainly. But that does not let the crooked clergy here off the hook. Once again, the faithful have been lied to and deceived; fed double-dealing, misleading, incomplete information.
Vigneron did the right thing but has not completed what he needs to do; he needs to root all this out — meaning the individuals who knew about this and whatever priests are among them need to be excommunicated and defrocked. He needs to find out who was on the seminary staff and faculty in those days (which, by the way, includes him) and get to the bottom of everything.
It's not enough — nowhere near enough — to merely correct Fr. Hood's situation and put out an "APB" for anyone else who might be impacted. That's just for starters. There are evil, malicious people (clergy) in this diocese and Vigneron allows them to remain in place.
He's only got a couple of years and a few months left, and he should spend the rest of his time here rooting all this out, not persecuting Fr. Edward Perrone based on testimony from a pack of lies from a sheriff's deputy and Msgr. Michael Bugarin.
He should also stop pushing his infantile, Protestant "ALPHA" program as some cure-all for evangelization problems in the archdiocese.
Evangelization? Seriously? You have a deacon (and who knows how many others) invalidly administering the sacraments, and it's been going on for so long that it's become generational. As far as we know, Vigneron knew nothing about this, but that's just as far as we know.
We do know he knows that he has many unfaithful clergy — pro-gay, pro-contraception, anti-Church-teaching and so on (the whole usual gamut). He lets these men stay in place, administering the sacraments (although perhaps not validly, no one really knows), preaching Sunday after Sunday, perverting the minds of the faithful. Allowing sacrilegious Holy Communions non-stop, not instructing his priests to tell people not to approach if they are in a state of serious sin. The list goes on and on.
And, of course, the question arises elsewhere: If it happened in Detroit, why couldn't it happen elsewhere? In the rush to destroy the Church by this modernist crowd, they didn't even pretend to do things right. Some people — some clergy in that chancery — knew what was going on, let it happen anyway and let it continue to happen.
In 2009, when Timothy Dolan was elected head of the U.S. bishops, he responded to a question asked by a reporter about what he might change in the conference. He gave one of the most brain-dead, politically correct answers in the annals of the Church (either brain-dead or a flat-out lie).
He said he didn't intend to change anything. "It's not like there's a crisis," he said with a straight face. The U.S. hierarchy is a joke. They are sex abuse cover artists; malformers of seminarians; liars to the faithful; thieves; weak, emasculated men; and now, add to the list men who can't even perform the most basic task their office demands of them — the proper administration of the sacraments.
Yep, there's no crisis. But thankfully, as Bp. Barron keeps reminding us all, good thing we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved.