Rorate Caeli

Holy Innocents in NYC and Father Wylie's letter

"There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: 
nor hidden, that shall not be known." (Lk 12:2)

Two new pieces were published this week on Holy Innocents in New York City, the archdiocesan parish that features the city's only daily traditional Latin Mass, on the websites of Fox News and the New York Observer.  This follows earlier coverage of the threat of closure in the New York Times here and here and Rorate's report from April.

An interesting new twist in this plot, however, is the matter of Father Justin Wylie's dismissal from the Archdiocese of New York, originally covered by Rorate in June.  At the time we wrote:

Fr. Justin Wylie, a South African priest serving as attaché to the Holy See's United Nations Permanent Observer Mission, was dismissed from his regular functions as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York following a sermon on the urgent need for the Archdiocese to send true and sympathetic shepherds to serve (and guide) those who attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in the Archdiocese.

We can now add that a correspondent of the blog spoke personally to Monsignor Edward Weber, the director of priest personnel for the Archdiocese of New York, regarding the astonishing, unprecedented, and violent dismissal (with letters sent even to his employer, the Holy See's United Nations Permanent Observer mission, and his native diocese). The monsignor told this correspondent that the removal of Fr. Wylie did not go through his office (whose whole purpose is the administration of priestly personnel affairs), but came "directly from the Cardinal's office".

In this week's Fox News report linked above, Adam Shaw wrote:

Sources told me that a letter was immediately sent to the papal nuncio to the U.N. and, incredibly, to Wylie's archdiocese in Johannesburg, scolding Wylie for his comments and threatening to recommend Wylie's priestly faculties be removed -- an extremely serious move that essentially prevents a priest from acting as one and is usually reserved for very serious accusations like sexual abuse, not upsetting a cardinal.

Sources say that after the letter was received, Rev. Wylie, in a move that sounds more like something from Inquisition-era Spain than from modern day New York, was then silenced,  forbidden from celebrating Mass publicly, and told to pack his bags and leave for South Africa as soon as possible.

Msgr. Edward Weber, head of the Priest Personnel office for the Archdiocese, who would normally be responsible for such a letter, denied that the letter existed when I spoke to him by phone, despite previously being reported on a traditional blog as saying the order came from the Cardinal's office. Weber told me he had been misquoted.

Later, the archdiocese admitted in a statement that there had indeed been a letter, but said it did not come from the Cardinal's desk, and it did not threaten to remove Wylie's faculties. When I asked if they had threatened to recommend that he have his faculties removed, the archdiocese did not respond. 

Wylie's silencing and banishment is devastating for traditional Catholics. Not only is Wylie a renowned preacher, known for solemn celebration and exceptionally beautiful homilies that are so revered they are frequently uploaded to YouTube, he was an important priest both at Holy Innocents, and also at St. Agnes, where he celebrated three out of four traditional masses a month. His move consequently threatens the regularity of the ancient rites there too, as Rev. Wylie's censuring has had a chilling effect on priests who would consider taking over his role.

This chilling effect has spread to non-clergy too. Many of those, clergy and lay people, with whom I spoke who provided me with information and documents on the situation first demanded anonymity in fear that they and the people with whom they are associated would be retaliated against by Cardinal Dolan's administration.

So, according to the top official at the Archdiocese of New York in charge of priests, there was not a letter on Father Wylie, but when pressed there indeed was a letter on Father Wylie.  It sounds like this continues to be a developing story for the archdiocese. 

But it seems self-evident that a priest in an official Holy See mission could never be touched, if not by order of someone in a very, very high position in the diocesan territory...

In the meantime, the archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, still has not publicly addressed the idea of inviting the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter or Institute of Christ the King to run Holy Innocents church as a personal parish, which would solve all of his problems at this beautiful, active and vibrant church.