The Biological Solution

Rorate Caeli reports here that Bishop Michael Olson (age: 47, ordained 1994) of Fort Worth, TX has banned the Traditional Latin Mass at Fisher More College.  This decision appears plainly to violate the law of the Church.

It illuminates a larger point.  One of the characteristic slogans of conservative Catholics is “the biological solution.”  In theory, because younger priests are significantly more orthodox than are older priests, soon the hierarchy of the Church will become more orthodox.  The orthodox priests will rise through the hierarchy, you see, becoming bishops and cardinals and someday popes.

This is a dumb idea.  There are about 5000 bishops in the world and about 400K priests.  Thus, there are about 80 priests for each bishop.  In 80 randomly selected young priests, there are going to be several very liberal ones.  Young priests are better, not uniformly good.  Thus, if the hierarchy wants heterodox or disobedient bishops, it will have little difficulty in finding them.  There tend to be around 100 voting cardinals.  That’s one cardinal for each 4000 priests.  Making sure the guys with the red hats are mostly or all liberals is very easy.

Personnel is policy, and selection is a very powerful force.  Just because Chinese are, on average, quite short does not mean that Chinese professional basketball players are, on average, quite short.

28 thoughts on “The Biological Solution

  1. I too don’t believe the Neo-Cath mantra about the so-called “biological option.” Still there do seem to be rays of light here and there. That the SSPX are building a large new seminary to accommodate their increasing vocations is positive.

      • The SSPX’s position is frankly too incoherent to characterize effectively as “separatist,” which is why it is possible for both Bps. Fellay and Williamson to have such different ideas of what it means to carry on Abp. Lefebvre’s legacy. The fact is that Lefebvre himself was a deeply divided man, now flirting with sedevacantism, now exhorting obedience. Fellay and Williamson embody the opposing poles of Lefebvre’s personality: his conditioned impulse on the one hand toward obedience, his instinctive piety toward the entire Church, past and present (and hence a revulsion toward the legal positivism that characterized Paul VI’s reign), on the other.

        I am not familiar with Dr. Mirus but, as he is American, it is safe to say he is viewing the SSPX through uniquely American lenses. To the extent the SSPX can be characterized as anything at all, it is “Gallican.” It’s perspective is uniquely French and it cannot be made sense of without understanding French history.

        Google the seven-part series “Il Faut Que La France Survive” over at Valle Adurni for more insights there.

  2. Your larger point about the biological solution is well-taken, though absent further knowledge about Bishop Olson, it’s difficult to tell whether he tends toward orthodoxy or liberalism. From this story it only appears that he makes hasty and perhaps not well-thought-out decisions, though that is even difficult for me to tell, being so far removed from the situation. Maybe you know more about the man. Taylor Marshall is quite close to the situation, loves the TLM, and also thinks very highly of the bishop.

  3. What is now being done at the college? Is the Mass now being held defiantly in secret? Or even better, openly?

    You are right that matters won’t resolve themselves merely because one generation moves on and a new one moves in. Fixing things will take work. The same sort of diligent chipping away that got us into this mess in the first place is what it will take to get us out. In addition to coming to form a larger part of the congregations that will be receptive to these changes, younger people are also the most likely to be carrying them out.

    [i]This is a dumb idea.[/i]

    What is your good idea?

  4. Well this is truly distressing news! I attended the Latin Mass at Fisher More for over a year. Great priest, great group of parishioners, wonderful choir. Mostly students and faculty, but quite a few visitors from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area (which may be why the bishop stopped it).

    I can say without a doubt that considering Fr. Simon’s homilies, hearing a well sung Ave Maris Stella, and witnessing the unfolding of the mass in that little chapel saved my soul on more than one occasion. It’s disheartening to know that others will not have that privilege now.

    (I’d also add that this college is situated in the middle of TCU and is a good point of outreach for Christians attending the larger university.)

    • I’ve heard that in the last 6-12 months they’ve had a lot of difficulty finding priests to service the campus. The FSSP priests at nearby Mater Dei, with whom I’m acquainted, withdrew. Supposedly the bishop’s termination of the TLM there is not so much a discontinuation of an already-existing Mass schedule but a refusal to supply what no one else wants to anymore. Having been to FMC before, can you comment on any of these things? Taylor Marshall suggests all the local priests pulled out of FMC for the same reason he did.

      • I’m afraid not. I never attended the college, just the chapel for mass some years back. I met Mr. King and his family, not enough to know his opinions but enough to have a favorable impression of them. It also seems the priest I knew is no longer there. If there was something amiss there I would be unaware of it, but it’s saddening to hear nonetheless.

        This leaves only one TLM in the Fort Worth Area…

        (Still a good one though, run by the FSSP. Great confessors there, and a beautiful building to boot.)

  5. On the other hand, I’m also pretty grateful for the power of selection to keep democracy at bay. Without it, we’d have been celebrating contraception and third marriages decades ago.

    • That’s my impression, too. The hierarchy is inherently, structurally conservative. Right now, that happens to mean that for the next little while, they’ll be conserving the liberal VII consensus, circa 1976, when they learned how things ought to be. In a while, and yet a little while – say, around 2040 – the hierarchy will be conserving the rebound toward the TLM, etc.

      It’s a smoothing function, that cushions jinks – unavoidable, here below – that would otherwise shatter the Church.

  6. @K “that would otherwise shatter the Church.”

    The validity of your confidence all depends what is meant by ‘the Church” – and reliance that The Church will survive to the end.

    Supposing that The Church has already been shattered, and that SSPX are now the true Church in waiting (and that a Pope will emerge to head it), and all the rest of the RCC is apostate.

    I see no reason whatsoever (quite the opposite) why The Church should be a majority, or even why a particular Pope and Magisterium should not be on the wrong side of apostasy.

    (The Antichrist is superficially-Christian and quantitatively mostly-Christian – it is only the small but fatal portion that is anti-Christian which causes the trouble.)

    If the mainstream of the RCC is *not* The Church, then it is perfectly plausible that it will, by 2040, either have become transparently a ‘spiritual’ front to, and subdivision, of Leftist politics (like The Episcopal Church in the USA or the Church of England, or Scotland) or disappeared almost completely.

    How to know? I suppose individual prayer and discernment are the only way.

    • How to know? I suppose individual prayer and discernment are the only way.

      Yet again Dr. Charlton’s “answer” to modernism is to simply double down on his brand of modernism.

      • Yet again Dr. Charlton’s “answer” to modernism is to simply double down on his brand of modernism.

        How is one to know that the RCC is the true Church spoken of by Christ except through individual prayer and discernment? The Orthodox have one view, the Lutherans another, those of SSPX have yet another and so on.

  7. An elite can reproduce itself despite its being a doctrinal minority through doctrinal nepotism. As you say, there will always be enough liberal priests in the ranks to fill vacant posts in the officer class. Over time, however, this nepotism leads to inanition in the officer class. We can see this using your numbers. If I choose my bishop from a pool of 80 he will almost certainly be more capable than if I choose him from the liberal subset of that pool, numbering, let us say, 20. Over time this arrangement becomes increasingly untenable because the original doctrinal disagreement is exacerbated by the incompetence of the officer class and resentment over obvious nepotism.

    • I agree. If the beneficiaries of nepotism are a small enough minority and are not systematically more capable, then you will end up with a less capable episcopacy. This can be a feature, though, at least for a while. Upper level administrators sometimes choose to appoint incapable lower level administrators because they are more easily dealt with. It can be done so that the overall institution is made worse but the power of those in charge is made greater.

  8. I don’t think it’s an issue of how liberal the priests are (not anymore). The dominant ideological force of our time simply allows no tolerance. The RCC doesn’t have the ability to regress within some ethnic territory protected by soldiers (like the other denominations did) but the continued existence of SPPX does allow for a smoother restoration when the time comes.

    • I’m not familiar with the SPPX. Do they have a European consciousness, or are they universalists like most of the rest of the Church?

      • Well they’re French but the accusation of universalism against the RCC seems to miss the point. If you’re waiting for them to wave IQ scores around and create racial hierarchies, you’ll need to rewrite the Bible first. It was Europeans that became ‘universalist-egalitarian’ first and in the current climate, pushing a European consciousness would alienate them further.

        Put it this way, if the Pope called for some kind of reconquista/crusade, how many Europeans would turn up, ready to forsake their lives for the cause? There’d be 50 of us and about 50,000 Europeans with torches ready to burn VC down to the ground.

  9. Many bishops are old enough to remember Vatican II. Most were formed during or right after the council when the revolutionary fervor was at its peak. The power of the “biological solution” to restore the Church has been exaggerated to be sure. At best, it gives Traditionalists an opening. In my experience, young priests are still woefully ignorant of Tradition, but they’re willing to hear it out instead of ruthlessly suppressing it as their elders spent much of their lives doing.

  10. To judge the Church is the privilege of an heretic. What a single person did, we may judge by our imperfect lights, but to talk airily of Church this or Church that is simply to fall into certain error, as in particular Bruce Charlton is wont to do.

    Let ourselves be guided by the wisdom of Sirach. He lived in the time where Israel was being tempted by superior-seeming Greek wisdom as we are by the scientific wisdom.
    Sirach asks us to assume intellectual humility. Do not look into the matters too deep for you.

    • @BI – “To judge the Church is the privilege of an heretic.”

      This totally dodges the fundamental question at issue – which is (in a situation of multiple rival claims) what *exactly* is The Church which must not be judged?

      • If you disbelieve the claims of the Catholic Church, what call you have to pontificate on SSPX or Pope or any other matter that pertains to the internal affairs of the Church?

        If the Catholic Church, by your reckoning, is fundamentally mistaken, even on Her own identity, then all further errors She might make are trivial in comparison.

        There are always multiple claims to the truth. No scientific truth is unchallenged, even quantum mechanics and relativity. But the question is whether you raise this point merely to confuse the issue or to resolve it.
        Ronald Knox has written (in What Catholics Believe) that Protestants are simply uninterested in pursuing the question. They do not want to know the answer.

  11. Regarding the terrible situation at Fisher More, I have seen on many blogs references to a Dr. Taylor Marshall (and his defense of the Bishop who put Fisher More in this bind) and the using of his words to play this whole thing off as some “radtrad gone bad” affair, and denounce the college and any who stand up for it.**

    Well I think these two links pretty much put Dr. Marshall, the Bishop, and the college into perspective:

    On the ‘radtrad’ism of the college:

    On the financial issues:

    **I was not implying that anyone here at the Orthosphere said anything like that, but I have seen it used in many other places. Regardless the links provide some important insight into this situation, and are worth reading.

    • I thought about posting an update to incorporate the defenses of the bishop now being offered. The problem is that they are so weak, it’s hard to get up the gumption.

  12. Come to think of it why would any statement by the faculty, censored or not, merit this response? With all that is ill in Catholic education what puts a tiny traditionalist college on the top of the list?


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