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Thomas A. Droleskey




          The brave stand taken against the Novus Ordo and in defense of Traditional Latin Mass by Father Stephen Zigrang, the pastor of Saint Andrew’s Church in Channelview, Texas, has inspired countless thousands of people around the world. His celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in his parish on June 28 and June 29, 2003, continues to generate reaction from readers of The Remnant as well as on various websites, The Father Zigrang case has produced the largest number of letters sent to the Seattle Catholic website since the furor caused by the events leading up to the American invasion of Iraq in March of this year. Most of the letters have been very much in support of Father Zigrang.

          As was reported in the July 31 issue of The Remnant, Father Zigrang was told by Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, the Most Reverend Joseph Fiorenza, on Wednesday, July 2, 2003, that he was to take a two month leave from his parish and to consider seeking psychiatric counseling.  In light of the fact that Bishop Fiorenza had shown Father Zigrang a letter that threatened to suspend him if he ever publicly celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass again without permission, Father Zigrang asked the bishop for a confirmation in writing of the July 2, 2003, conversation. Father Zigrang received said letter on Saturday, July 5, 2003. Dated July 3, 2003, the letter reads in part as follows:


Dear Father Zigrang:

      This will confirm our agreement for you to have a good vacation and to make a retreat between now and September 1, 2003. During your time away from the parish the seminary will provide priests to celebrate weekend Masses. I wish to ask the deacons to conduct Communion services on weekdays. . . .

      I want to make a very strong suggestion for your retreat. You are familiar with Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. He operates a Retreat Center in Larchmont, New York (914-235-6839).  Please make a retreat with him and discuss your thoughts about the Tridentine Rite and the Novus Ordo. Talk this over with him as well as everything we discussed on Tuesday. If you would like for me, [diocesan chancellor Monsignor Frank] Rossi, or [diocesan vice chancellor Father Troy] Gately to make contact with Father Groeschel for you, we will gladly do it.

      I leave for vacation on Monday [July 7, 2003]. I will go to Lourdes and Padua and at these holy shrines, I will especially pray for you. Please keep me in your prayers.


Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston-Houston.


          Bishop Fiorenza’s strong “suggestion” that Father Zigrang make a retreat and seek counseling from Father Groeschel itself raises a number of interesting questions. This writer has known Father Groeschel since 1983, although our contact pretty much ceased as a result of my public defense of the Traditional Latin Mass and my criticism of the governance and policies of Pope John Paul II. However, there was a time in my uninformed past in the 1980s when I attended days of recollection given by Father Groeschel. It was during a day of recollection at Saint John the Baptist Church in New York, New York, during Lent in 1985 or 1986. Still a member of the Capuchin order, Father Groeschel gave a conference that was focused solely on the condemning the beliefs and the activity of the founder of the Society of Pope Saint Pius X, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. I was struck at the time by the stridency of the words chosen to describe a humble, saintly man. Although I could not have described myself as a traditionalist at the time, I was not unsympathetic to tradition or to the efforts of Archbishop Lefebvre to defend the Traditional Latin Mass. Thus, Father Groeschel’s conference seemed to indicate a predilection against tradition.

           It is likely, therefore, that Father Groeschel would not be an “honest broker” when evaluating someone attached to the Traditional Latin Mass. Whether or not this is known to Bishop Fiorenza is unclear. What can be rightly inferred by the bishop’s recommendation, however, is that he was trying to play to conservative Catholics and to Roman officials who hold Father Groeschel and his work in high regard. Bishop Fiorenza did not recommend that Father Zigrang go to the notorious Saint Michael’s Institute in Saint Louis, Missouri, or to Saint Luke’s Institute in Maryland. The choice of Father Groeschel was designed, it appears, to make Bishop Fiorenza seem reasonable in the eyes of those who may be inclined to think that Father Zigrang’s actions have been extreme and/or disrespectful of his bishop’s authority.

          (Father Groeschel’s reputation for orthodoxy hinges principally these days on his programs televised on the Eternal Word Television Network. The late Father John A. Hardon, however, told me shortly before his death that he could not endorse Father Groeschel’s In the Presence of Our Lord, a book about Eucharistic adoration that does have a lot of interesting history in it, because of Father Groeschel’s reliance on the Eucharistic theology of the late Father Karl Rahner. For the sake of completeness, though, it should be noted that Father Groeschel is a tireless servant of the poor and was been imprisoned a number of times as part of Operation Rescue. He is associated with a number of homes for unwed mothers. It would be intellectually dishonest to dismiss this work solely because of a possible predilection against the Traditional Latin Mass and traditional Catholics, whether priests or laity.)

          That Father Zigrang’s actions were neither rash nor disrespectful of Bishop Fiorenza’s authority is evidenced by his own letter to the bishop of January 17, 2003. Father Zigrang’s letter reads as follows:


Dear Bishop Fiorenza:


This July will mark my sixth year as pastor of St. Andrew parish in Channevel. I feel it is time to make a change for the following reasons:


1) The numbers of Spanish-speaking increase daily. The people have expressed in writing to you and in a conversation with Bishop Vasquez the need for a priest to minister to their specific needs. Though I limp along in Spanish, the people prefer a priest of their own culture.

2) My effectiveness is limited also on account of my traditional view. I am not able to preach what I believe is the Catholic Faith without criticism both from a small but vocal segment of the parish and your own offices sympathetic to that group. For example, I believe and prefer the traditional the Catholic Faith and its practice but this makes me out of step with the modern church. It is getting more difficult for me to say the new Mass, give Communion in the hand, and be served at the altar by girls and women. The vocation prospect is dismal to say the least and there is nothing I can do about it under these restrictive circumstances.

If I preach my convictions you do not support me.

Therefore may I suggest that you assign me to a parish or mission where I can celebrate the sacraments in the traditional manner. This can be like a personal parish where people from the diocese can go to receive the sacraments and worship at Mass in the traditional way in Latin. I am thinking of the future and vocations. You know ho long it takes to "grow a priest," and the way things are going there will soon be no priest here, and I truly believe that a more traditional setting will foster vocations. Yes it will be an uphill battle, but the solution is certainly not more of the same thing, married permanent deacons and dedicated laity. The salvation of souls requires priests and their essential and irreplaceable ministry.

Dear Bishop, I apologize for the harsh words and attitude that led to my transfer here in the first place. You were very wise, though, in relieving me from the tribunal where I was losing my faith and I didn’t know it. I’ve learned a lesson and have enjoyed being the pastor of Saint Andrew’s. But I feel that my effectiveness is no longer what it was when I first came here. And I truly believe I would be of more help to the diocese and the future of the Church if I could be released to work exclusively in a more traditional Catholic environment to foster priestly vocations.

Please help me realize this proposal for the sake of my soul and for the many people who no longer feel they belong to the modern Catholic Church.


Faithfully and sincerely,

Fr. Stephen P. Zigrang, Pastor."



          As was reported in the July 31 issue of The Remnant, Bishop Fiorenza never responded to Father Zigrang’s January 17 letter. Thus, it can be seen that Father Zigrang did not act rashly or without respecting the authority of his diocesan ordinary. It was Bishop Fiorenza who did not treat his subject and brother priest with even a modicum of natural decency, no less pastoral solicitude.

          Indeed, Bishop Fiorenza has demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the parishioners of Saint Andrew’s parish who complained about Father Zigrang’s preaching (against contraception and abortion, in defense of modesty of dress, the necessity of regular confession, the possibility of going to Hell for all eternity, total consecration to Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart) and his decisions to end the distribution of Communion under both kinds and Communion in the hand. Bishop Fiorenza was more than willing to respond to complaints about Father Zigrang. He demonstrated no desire to respond to him until after the events of June 28-29 at Saint Andrew’s.

          Bishop Fiorenza prepared a statement about Father Zigrang’s situation that was read to parishioners at Saint Andrew’s on Saturday evening, July 5, and Sunday, July 6. The tone of the statement was similar to the letter shown Father Zigrang on July 1 in the immediate aftermath of Father’s public celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass on June 28-29.


My Dear Parishioners of St. Andrew Church:


The unity which Christ prayed for at the Last Supper is essential for the life and mission of the Church, This unity must be maintained not only in doctrinal and moral teachings but also in the liturgical directives of the Church.

Last weekend Fr. Steve Zigrang announced to you that in the future he will celebrate parish masses in the Tridentine rite rather than according to the Revised Roman Missal which was approved by Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council. No priest has the authority to make such a decision without the permission of his Bishop. During this past week, I have discussed this matter with Fr. Zigrang and expressed my serious concern that a violation of the liturgical directives approved by the highest authority in the Church would harm the unity of the parish committed to his pastoral care. The Mass is essential to Catholic faith and worship and should not become a matter of confusion and division in a parish. I have asked Fr. Zigrang to give more thought and prayer to this serious matter and suggested that he take a vacation and make a retreat before any final decisions are made. Fr. Zigrang graciously accepted my request.

For the next few weeks Father Clint Bessler and other priests from the Seminary will provide weekend Masses for your parish. On week days, I will ask the deacons of the parish to conduct a communion service.

Finally, I want to say that Fr. Zigrang has been a good and zealous priest for the past 25 years. He has been a good and dedicated pastor of this parish. I am grateful to him for his faithful priestly ministry. I ask for your prayers that he will continue to be a faithful and obedient priest so that he continues to serve as your pastor.


Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza,

Bishop of Galveston-Houston


          Bishop Fiorenza’s statement contains the erroneous assertion that a priest needs the permission of a diocesan bishop to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. This assertion flies in the face of Pope Saint Pius V’s Papal Bull of 1570, Quo Primum, that no priest could ever be prevented from celebrating the Traditional Mass for the rest of time until the end of the world. The bishop’s concern for the unity of the Church is also interesting when one considers the fact that liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo abound in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston (letters sent to the chancery office to complain about these abuses fall on deaf ears) and that there are an extraordinary variety of Masses offered in diocesan parishes (“teen life,” that is, “rock” Masses, charismatic Masses, Spanish music Masses, African music Masses, etc.). Confusion and division are part of the fabric of the liturgical life of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.

          A Mr. James Frazier of Huntsville, Texas, informed this writer via e-mail that a sacrilege took place at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Saint Andrew’s on Sunday, July 6, 2003:


Father Zigrang told us Thursday night [July 10, 2003] that he had heard that last Sunday (July 6) at the 10:30 Novus Ordo celebration, the carafe (a mere beverage container!--oh well, I guess it was a ‘meal’) containing what was supposed to be the consecrated Precious Blood came apart on the altar and spilled all over it. There were people rushing for a purificator, etc., a real disaster. Father Zigrang had told the congregation that he would not be offering the Precious Blood to them. He gave several reasons, among which was the danger of spilling it. It seems more than a coincidence--what are the odds for it happening? That the incident occurred the very next Sunday after Father did his last Mass there. It reminds me of the splitting of the Assisi altar by an earthquake a year after the blasphemy of putting a statue of Buddha on top of the tabernacle of that altar.


Trying to Convince Father Zigrang of his need for counseling


          As is well known, revolutionaries seek to convince perfectly sane people who believe in “counter-revolutionary” ideas that they are insane. There are instances when truly committed revolutionaries believe that they are actually acting in the best interests of the person who is wedded to the past. There other instances, however, when a concerted effort is made quite maliciously to create a scenario for those in the general public who do not know the history of the past that anyone who asserts the past is not what the revolutionaries contend is in need of real psychological help. It appears as though there is evidence of both approaches in the case of Father Zigrang.

          To wit, diocesan vice chancellor Father Troy Gately, who had been a student of Father Zigrang’s at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Houston, attempted to contact Father Zigrang on Monday, June 30, 2003. Unable to reach him, Father Gately called Father Zigrang’s father, Mr. Jerry Zigrang, to see if he had a cellular phone number for his son. That was, as diocesan spokeswoman Mrs. Annette Gonzales Taylor confirmed in a telephone interview with this writer on July 10, 2003, the first contact that the diocese made with Mr. Zigrang. This prompted Mr. Zigrang to try to reach Father Gately to discuss his son’s situation, about which he knew nothing. When he could not get through to Father Gately, Mr. Zigrang telephoned the diocesan chancellor, Monsignor Frank Rossi, expressed his concern for Father Zigrang’s psychological health.

          Father Gately spent four hours on the evening of June 30, 2003, trying to convince Father Zigrang of his need for psychological counseling. The two men conversed, apparently at cross purposes, in rectory at Saint Andrew’s. Father Gately, who had tried in the past to talk Father Zigrang out of his “rigidity” of attitudes concerning preaching and liturgy, was convinced that his former professor had simply lost touch with reality.

          The question of attempting to impugn Father Zigrang’s psychological health, a tactic perfected by both Vladimir I. Lenin and his successor, Joseph Stalin, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, took a public turn during my interview with Mrs. Annette Gonzales Taylor. When I attempted to question her about whether the twenty or so American bishops who permit the daily celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass are in need of counseling, Mrs. Taylor cut me off, saying, “We are not saying that Father Zigrang is in need of psychological counseling because he is devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass.” I asked why, therefore, the diocese believes Father Zigrang is said to be in need of such counseling. Mrs. Taylor replied, “I cannot go into that.” I asked her if I could characterize her statement as meaning that Father Zigrang’s “need” for counseling is unrelated to the Traditional Latin Mass, she said, “That is correct,” refusing to elaborate. This, of course, implies that Father Zigrang has serious problems.


The Houston Chronicle Tackles the Story


          Although it took nearly a week, The Houston Chronicle published a fairly balanced story on the Father Zigrang situation on Saturday, July 12, 2003. In it however, a priest of Opus Dei, Father Michael Barrett, was quoted fairly extensively about the matter.


      Celebrating the contemporary Mass in the ancient language is permitted for good pastoral reasons, said the Rev. Michael J. Barrett, director of Holy Cross Chapel in downtown Houston. But the Tridentine Mass-- named because it was instituted in the 1500s after the church's Council of Trent -- was, in effect, replaced after the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, he said.

      The new Mass changed some prayers, required the priest to face the congregation and omitted a series of prayers the priest says before going to the altar, Barrett said. The major change was that almost overnight Mass was no longer celebrated in Latin worldwide, but in the vernacular of a parish's country or region, he said.

       ‘Some people found it hard to adjust to,’ said Barrett, who was a young altar server when the Tridentine Mass was still common.

      Still, there are some Catholics who ‘associate the Latin Mass with going back to a more faithful time or truer liturgy,’ Barrett said. For example, priests affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X regularly celebrate the traditional Mass. However, they usually operate outside of local dioceses.


          Hidden in Father Barrett’s comments, which he said in a e-mail to this writer were accurately reflected by Houston Chronicle reporter Tara Dooley, is the false assertion that the “Tridentine Mass” was “instituted” in 1570 after the Council of Trent, making it appear as though it is not unusual for a council to invent a Mass. As the aforementioned James Frazier noted in a letter he sent to the Chronicle for publication, “The Traditional Latin Mass, inaccurately termed the ‘Tridentine Mass,’ had been almost unchanged for a thousand years when it was chosen in 1570 out of other liturgies of the day and made the Mass of the Universal Roman Catholic Church. Actually, we know it is much older than even the 6th century because major portions of it have been found in writings of the 4th century, when the most sacred portions of the liturgy were first recorded in written form. Liturgical history expert Adrian Fortescue terms it the oldest liturgy in existence anywhere--a liturgy whose origins [almost certainly apostolic] are lost in the mists of antiquity.” That is about as cogent a summary of the actual facts of the matter as one can make.

          With that in mind, therefore, this writer e-mailed Father Barrett with the following questions on Saturday, July 12, 2003:


1) According to the way the information was phrased in the Houston Chronicle article of July 12, 2003, it appeared as though you were implying that the "Tridentine" Mass was devised by the Council of Trent. Is that what you meant to say?

2) The Traditional Latin Mass has its origins in the fifth century. As many leading liturgical scholars have noted, including the late Fathers Adrian Fortescue and Joseph Jungmann, S.J., as well as the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber, most of the elements of the Traditional Latin Mass have remain unchanged from the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who changed only a few minor elements of the Mass used in most of the Roman rite. Would you quarrel with these scholars?

3) Is it not important to present the truth of the organic development of the Traditional Latin Mass as opposed to the novelty of the synthetic creation of the Novus Ordo when speaking to members of the press--and through them, obviously, to the faithful?

4) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger praised the work of Monsignor Klaus Gamber's The Reform of the Roman Liturgy as manifesting a clear-cut case of a falsification of the liturgy as a result of a fabricated liturgy. Do you disagree with Cardinal Ratzinger's statement, included in the foreword to the French language edition of Monsignor Gamber's book?

6) Saint Josemaria Escriva Balaguer y Albas so disliked the Novus Ordo that he requested permission from Pope Paul VI to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, which is the only Mass he celebrated until his death on June 26, 1975. Would it not have been in order for you, as a priest of Opus Dei, to point this out to the Houston Chronicle reporter? Why did Saint Josemaria want to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass?

7) Saint Josemaria Escriva Balaguer y Albas noted in the 1960s that the removal of the prayers after Low Mass would produce disastrous results for the Church and the world. Do you agree or disagree?


          In an e-mail sent to this writer on Wednesday, July 16, 2003, Father Barrett wrote simply that he was quoted accurately in the Chronicle article. He would not answer any of the questions posed to him, stating that a journalist must keep his focus as narrow as possible. He would not respond to my statement that it is possible to state the truth of liturgical development simply and cogently without giving the impression that the Traditional Mass was invented by the Council of Trent. He referred questions about Saint Josemaria Escriva Balaguer y Albas to a Brian Finnerty at Opus Dei headquarters in New York City. As I had been told my several members of Opus Dei in the late 1970s about Escriva’s dislike of the new Mass, there is no need for verification of that fact. Indeed, several diocesan priests who were taking spiritual direction from priests of Opus Dei in the late 1970's and early 1980's told me that they were told by their spiritual directors to make sure to say the “Tridentine Offertory” prayers sotto voce when they offered the Novus Ordo Missae. Such advice ended in 1982 when Opus Dei was erected as a Personal Prelature of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

          Indeed, traditionally-minded diocesan priests who receive spiritual direction from Opus Dei these days are told not to make waves, to be docile to their bishops, and to admonish the faithful who attend “indult” Masses never to criticize their bishops nor to complain about only having the Traditional Mass offered on Sundays and not on weekdays. Thus, priests and the laity are encouraged to remain quiet in the face of offenses against truth and tradition, the essence of the heresy of quietism. All examples of heroic sanctity, such as Father Zigrang’s, in the face of such offenses are ignored or denigrated as opposed to the spirit of “the Work.” This quietism (or semi-quietism, to be more precise) reaffirms priests in an attitude of clerical careerism that works against any possible inclination to exhibit manly Christian courage in defense of the necessity of the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass.


Stonewalling from the Diocese of Galveston-Houston


          As was mentioned in the July 31 issue of The Remnant, a series of questions were e-mailed to Mrs. Annette Gonzales Taylor on July 3, 2003. Mrs. Taylor told me in the aforementioned July 10 interview, however, that there would be no answer to the questions listed below (apart from the one about the psychological health of bishops and priests devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass and the correction of Monsignor Rossi’s contention in his conversation with me that Mr. Jerry Zigrang had made the first contact with the Diocese of Galveston-Houston) because the diocesan chancellor, Monsignor Frank Rossi, was personally “offended and insulted” by the tone of my questioning of him in an telephone interview on July 4, 2003. The following seven questions, therefore, remain unanswered by the Diocese of Galveston-Houston:


1) There are approximately twenty dioceses in this nation that permit the daily celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass by priests who are in full communion with the Successor of Saint Peter. The ordinaries of these dioceses have demonstrated great solicitude toward the needs of those who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass. Bishop Raymond Burke of the Diocese of LaCrosse even went so far as to personally consecrate Saint Mary's Oratory in Wausau, Wisconsin, in the traditional rite, praising the work of the Institute of Christ the King, a traditional religious community erected by Pope John Paul II himself. Is it Bishop Fiorenza's contention that his brother bishop is psychologically imbalanced for permitting the daily celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass? It is Bishop Fiorenza's contention that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos was mistaken when he said in a celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome on May 24, 2003, that the Traditional Mass has never been abrogated and that it is incapable of being abrogated?

2) Why cannot Bishop Fiorenza show the same solicitude for the needs of traditionally minded Catholics as at least twenty of his brother bishops around the United States, to say nothing of scores more around the world?

3) Why did Bishop Fiorenza fail to respond to Father Zigrang's January 17, 2003, letter in which he made clear his desire to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively?

4) Why does Bishop Fiorenza fail to act against priests and teachers in his diocese who deny articles contained in the Deposit of Faith while he takes immediate action against Father Zigrang?

5) Why does not Bishop Fiorenza permit advertising for the lone indult Mass at Annunciation Catholic Church in Houston while demanding that attendance be kept up there despite the ban on advertising? Is it true that the bishop or chancellor or other diocesan official has said that there needs to be at least 100 people in attendance at that indult Mass for any period of time (I have heard three consecutive weeks) for it to continue without a threat of discontinuation?

6) There is a Catholic Charismatic Center near the Gulf Freeway [Interstate 45]  in Houston. Why cannot there be a center for traditional Catholics?

7) In the aforementioned letter of July 1, 2003, Bishop Fiorenza expresses his concern for unity in his diocese, believing that the Traditional Latin Mass would be "divisive." However, as one who has extensive personal experience with many parishes in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, I know that liturgical abuses abound in the diocese. Some of these abuses have been most egregious. Why is nothing done to stop liturgical abuses, which certainly divide and bewilder the faithful, while the Mass that produced unity in the Catholic Church for so long is considered a source of division?


          The answers to those questions are pretty self-explanatory, which is the real reason why the Diocese of Galveston-Houston will not answer them. Additional questions were posed of Mrs. Taylor about a related matter (see separate story on Episcopalian priest Eric Law). They will also go unanswered, said Mrs. Taylor.


How is Father Zigrang?


          As a man of deep faith and total trust in the Mother of God, Father Zigrang is doing very well. He is accepting the cross of misunderstanding and slander that has come his way, offering all to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart to be used as she sees fit. Such is his total trust in her. He is grateful for the many scores of letters that have been written in support of his actions. And he is celebrating the Mass of our fathers privately as he spends his time away from Saint Andrew’s. Although the whereabouts of Father Zigrang’s retreat is unknown, it is fairly certain that he will not be going to Father Groeschel’s Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York. More details of Father Zigrang’s situation will be the subject of a further story in The Remnant.

          In the meantime, however, readers are still requested to keep Father Stephen P. Zigrang in their prayers, to have Masses said for him, to commend him to the Mother God, and to pray that other priests will follow his brave example of fidelity to the simple truth that it is the Mass that matters.


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