Recently, a scandal has broken out at a sedevacantist church located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The parish in question is St. Gertrude the Great which is currently pastored by Bishop Daniel Dolan and Fr. Anthony Cekada. I have referenced Bishop Dolan and Father Cekada several times when writing about sedevacantism in the past. In this article, however, it is not my intention. Rather, I would like to give my own opinion on what is happening.
Recently, a young priest named Fr. Markus Ramolla was expelled from his apostolate at St. Gertrude the Great. Fr. Ramolla was to be the principal of the parish school, but he was not able to assume the reins of power. Rather, the rug was pulled out underneath his feet by his superiors and his work visa was revoked one day before he was notified of his expulsion. The question arises: Why would a priest be expelled from his apostolate and post and then told never to return to the school or parish again under threat of a lawsuit?
The answer is that Fr. Ramolla wanted to reform the school at St. Gertrude the Great. As is well known in some traditionalist circles, St. Gertrude the Great Academy is not renowned either for its academics or discipline. Rather, the school is run by one Mark Lotarski and his family. Mr. Lotarski is a strict disciplinarian who believes in the old adage that to spare the rod is to spoil the child. However, Mr. Lotarski has not “spared the rod” when it came to the young children that were entrusted into his care. Rather, those same children were systematically psychologically abused and bullied by him, some of his instructors, and even Lotarski’s own children.
Suffice it to say that many parishioners at St. Gertrude’s were greatly disturbed by what they saw going on in the parish. They aired their grievances to Bishop Dolan and Fr. Cekada only to have these swept under the rug. If these persons persisted, they were thrown out of the parish and told never to return. To cite one example, a teacher at this school was labeled as “mentally ill” because he de facto refused to go along with the party line. Since then, this same person has written countless posts under the handle “gladius-veritatis” at cathinfo (a traditionalist board where you can read more about the situation I am describing).
Upon the expulsion of Fr. Ramolla, Bishop Dolan and Fr. Cekada went on the defensive almost immediately. One continuous sermon was preached last Sunday in which Bishop Dolan did not shy away from lambasting all of those that stood in his way. The following is what he told his parishioners about the recent scandal:
If you are aware of any of these controversies or are missing someone today, know that it is because Father Ramolla began a systematic program of both denunciation and whispering to destroy first the seminary and the bishop who trained him for the priesthood – he began that before he was even ordained, it comes to light – the bishop who had educated him from our . . . garden nursery store to a rather polished and impressive young priest. He arrived here just over a year ago and soon turned his campaign against this church and its clergy and our school, and its principal and their family whom he hated and hounded and humiliated, and for this I am particularly sorry. But in all that he said and did and incited others to say and to do he meant to destroy us personally as well as in our capacity as clergy or as lay workers in a Catholic Church.
There are several falsehoods contained in this statement. First of all, Fr. Ramolla never intended to destroy St. Gertrude the Great Parish or its school. That is a patent falsehood. What he wanted to do was to eliminate the abuses and problems at the school and send the principal, who is the cause of those problems, packing. If Bishop Dolan had any sense, he would have listened carefully to what Fr. Ramolla told him in various conversations during their Mass circuit in Europe earlier this year. However, he chose not to listen and went to defend Mr. Lotarski.
Within this patent falsehood, there is another cited by Bishop Dolan in his sermon wherein he speaks that Fr. Ramolla should never have been ordained to the priesthood. His Excellency says that the evidence is a conversation held between a priest and a dying laywoman who warned said priest that Fr. Ramolla’s ordination would be a disaster. If that was the case, then why was Father ordained in the first place? Why wasn’t he thrown out of the seminary if people knew that he was at troublemaker? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Also, hearsay evidence would not stand up in a court of law unless it can be backed up.
As a former sedevacantist, I have seen what happens when priests and bishops take the law into their own hands by not listening to the Pope. Since there is no one in authority over them, they become the ultimate authorities in absolutely everything pertaining to their parish churches. Many of these are priests, I will admit, are pious and hard working men who are extremely zealous for souls such as Fr. Ramolla. However, there are those others who let the power go to their heads and who act like oriental despots.
I hate to say this, but Bishop Dolan and his confreres belong to that second category. Bishop Donald Sanborn, who operates a sedevacantist seminary in Brooksville, Florida, for example, asks that his seminarians sign contracts in which they promise His Excellency that they will not attend any Masses of which he does not personally approve. If His Excellency sought to protect his seminarians from faulty theology or modernist teachings, then he did the right thing. If, however, he arbitrarily used this as a test of a obedience then this is beyond the pale.
Yet this arbitrary usage of power is not anything new in the world of sedevacantism. Indeed, it is something that has been making the rounds for decades. For example, Bishop Francis Konrad Maria Schuckardt ran a cult at Mt. St. Michael in Spokane, Washington. When his right hand man, Fr. Denis Chicoine, blew the whistle on the bishop’s abuses of power, Schuckardt labeled Chicoine “insane” and said that he was having a nervous breakdown. “Everything is fine here,” he probably told his cult members. “We’ve just been infiltrated by the Communists.” Those familiar with the sedevacantist movement will know how that story ended. Bishop Schuckardt was expelled from Mt. St. Michael and sent packing with a small band of followers. Although he tried to regain the property with several lawsuits such a thing never happened.
Bishop Dolan’s situation is similar to that of Bishop Schuckardt. A whistle blower has come forward and said clearly that there is a problem with the parish and school. Rather than acknowledging the truth of what Fr. Ramolla says, Bishop Dolan decides that its much easier to send the priest packing.
What His Excellency could not have anticipated was that many parishioners came to support Fr. Ramolla. Over a hundred attended a Mass offered at a local hotel and, according to Cathinfo, more than 200 have left St. Gertrude the Great. Clearly, some parishioners have had the wool removed from their eyes and they see St. Gertrude’s for exactly what it is.
If you have stayed with me thus far, I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am spending so much time writing about this particular scandal and not about anything else going on in the Catholic world like the USCCB’s approval of the new translations.
First of all, I was a sedevacantist many, many years ago at the time of my conversion to the Catholic faith. I have had first hand experiences of what life is like on the other side of the fence. Not only this, but I also feel that it is necessary to expose the facts here so that others do not make the same mistakes that I did.
Also, I have continued to pray that the sede’s eyes will be opened to the true state of the traditional movement. With events like this, we can only hope that God will allow some of them to return to Rome and the Holy Father. Indeed, what options do you have when you see that your little boat is sinking but the barque of Peter continues to sail the seas? Do you just go swimming against the waters or do you jump ship? That depends, of course, on how you view the current situation.
I ask that the readers of this blog, few though they are, pray for all of the people named in this post. Join me in praying for their conversion and that the wrongs exposed may be righted. Pray, especially, that God heal all of those hearts and souls that have been damaged by the abuses of power at St. Gertrude’s whether on the parish or school level and that God in His mercy bring out good from this tremendously difficult time.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Gertrude the Great, pray for us!