Former Board Member of Fisher More College Set the Record Straight


March 7, 2014

St. Thos. Aquinas, ora pro nobis

Dear Cordelia,

I received your email a few days ago; sorry I couldn’t respond right away. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, so you didn’t know that I stepped down from the Board of Visitors of Fisher More College. In January, I resigned because my personal circumstances made it impossible to devote meaningful financial support and impossible to devote adequate time to the College at a critical point in its life. I still believe in the mission of the College and admire the sacrifices the Kings and others have made for the apostolate, and (unlike just about everyone else, it seems) walked away on good terms. While I didn’t have much hope for the College’s future when I stepped down—there were too many practical obstacles to overcome in my view—I didn’t anticipate this particular storm.

Who would have thought that a pastoral Bishop appointed by humble Pope Francis would do something so brash and…let’s just say it: so stupid…in the very first month of his reign? I don’t even think the worst Mahony-ite modernist like Bishop Tod Brown would have tried such a thing. But Bishop Olsen did.

I haven’t read all the excrement that’s out there on the web—I have a lot of things going at work and at home that are more important than reading two thousand comments by ignoramuses who have never lifted a finger to do the real work of the Church, but are happy to exercise all ten of them typing calumny and innuendo on the blogs. But I took a fair sampling of what’s out there a couple of nights ago, and I’ve received a few updates here and there, so I think I can address some of the fundamental issues. I’ll also touch on a few of the trivial issues that are too assinine to pass without comment. You’ll forgive me if don’t use names except for those who have thrust themselves into the public eye by their own statements. You might be able to guess who I’m talking about even without names. So be it.

Disclosure of the Letter. You wondered why the Bishop’s letter was made public. Well, how could it not be? It wasn’t a personal letter to Michael King about him and his family. Nor was it part of any sort of confidential negotiation with the College. It was a letter making a definitive administrative pronouncement concerning the public liturgical life of the College by an Ordinary. Nothing private about that, whatsoever (despite the diocesan spokeslady’s—or spokesman’s?—ludicrous assertion that it was somehow private).

Canonical Status of Chaplains. You asked if the College really was having canonically irregular priests say their Masses. The answer is no. All chaplains were approved by the Diocese of Fort Worth and all our fill-ins (who were very often visiting friends from the FSSP) were in good standing. Yes, I may presume that Fr. Gruner celebrated private Mass there when he visited, but Fr. Gruner gave evidence that he is incardinated in the Diocese of Hyderabad, and in all the years of Gruner-bashing, no one has ever produced the document that supposedly suspended him. I’m told that a priest from the SSPX visited the College a couple of times, and that’s no surprise, because throughout the College’s history, a small minority of Fisher More students came from their chapels. They were always welcome as fellow Catholics, and in the last few years they began to engage fully in the liturgical life of the College, which they hadn’t done in the years before Michael arrived. The SSPX priest was welcome to visit privately, of course. But neither the SSPX nor any other priest lacking canonically regular faculties ever celebrated the sacraments in our chapel. That leaves only the Gruner issue, and if somebody shows Michael an official document having the force of law that suspends Fr. Gruner, and it’s dated after his last good standing letter from his diocese, I’ll bet Michael will admit he was mistaken. Don’t waste his time with a snippet from an Ed Peters blog post or an interview comment or informal statement by a curial official. Show him the real thing.

The EF Mass at St. Mary. You asked if we were trying to encroach upon the Latin Mass community at St. Mary of the Assumption. The College made no effort to form its chapel into a pseudo-parish in competition with the community at St. Mary. Everyone was welcome at Mass, of course, and since it was the only daily Mass in Fort Worth in the vetus ordo, quite a few folks did come. And some folks preferred Mass on Sunday morning to the evening Mass at St. Mary. Who can blame them for that? If anything, the College hoped for a closer relationship with the St. Mary community, but that was frustrated by the diocese and the Mater Dei priests in Dallas (Irving). The one problem we had in that regard was a short-lived web page set up without authorization by an FSSP priest then in residence. It was ordered taken down as soon as it became known to the College administration and his FSSP superiors, and that is certainly part of the reason that priest is no longer with the College.

Relations with the Fraternity of St. Peter. Speaking of recalls, the FSSP didn’t recall their priest because of the College’s direction. There are internal issues with the FSSP involved, and the estrangement from the two Dallas FSSP priests really started months before the infamous Dudley speech and had more to do with their personal opinions and internal FSSP politics than with the College or Michael King. I shouldn’t give any more specifics on that topic right now, but I will say from witnessing at least three recent experiences unconnected to the College that the FSSP superiors haven’t been the greatest managers of their personnel and their apostolates. The chaplaincy issue was the FSSP’s fourth or fifth major botch-up that I have personal knowledge of. I’m not saying that the FSSP’s mistakes at Fisher More are a primary cause of the issues they’re dealing with right now, but I don’t want you to think their hands are entirely clean, either. I can elaborate on those other issues when we see each other next, but there’s no benefit in elaborating on them in an open letter.

The “Big Problems.” You asked what the “big problems” were with the College. The College is indeed beset with problems. The most fundamental problems were bad hiring and retention decisions that were made in the last three years. For that, we do have to look primarily to Michael, but I sadly share some direct responsibility for the worst of them, which was the retention of Taylor Marshall. The others were financial difficulties and the typical Traddie sins.

Here’s how it came about: bear with me as I give you some background.

Deep History. Contrary to comments some disgruntled Patrick-era students and staff, Michael didn’t give up his comfortable job at Benedictine College only to teach at half-pay as a Fellow of the College and to raise money. He was brought in as the intended successor to the College’s founder, who was in his 70s. The truth is that the College was moribund in 2010. There were only a handful of full-time students, serious financial problems, serious morale problems, no campus life, and no guarantee that the College would make it through the 2010-2011 school year. In 30 years, the school never had more than a couple dozen residential students at any one time, and numbers were dwindling. The physical plant consisted of a half-dozen converted houses, run down apartments and some outbuildings on less than one city block. There was a fairly new chapel built in a modern style on one corner, but the rest of the campus was a shambles. On my first visit a few months after Michael started, I saw trash everywhere. The buildings were in disorder. The student body and faculty didn’t regularly attend daily Mass. I was shocked that Michael had taken on the job of cleaning up the mess. Even if he could attract more students, there was no place to house them, as the accommodations were substandard and limited, and with the campus being completely surrounded by Texas Christian University, and there was no possibility of obtaining adjacent land for construction of new buildings. Michael spent his first year working through the financial issues that had to be addressed before serious fundraising could begin, which put him at odds with Dr. Patrick, but at the same time he struck upon a plan that gave the College time to recover and relocate.

The College wasn’t in any position to attract substantial donors for 2011-2012. As I mentioned, a cursory investigation by a potential benefactor would see that were almost no students, almost no faculty, significant debt (in comparison to the college revenues) and no formal program in place for recovery and growth. So Michael’s plan was to buy time by refinancing the debt and borrowing a year’s operating budget from a prominent Fort Worth Catholic family, pledging the entire Campus as collateral. Despite its condition, the Campus was highly valuable property due to its proximity to TCU, and because the loan would be for a little more than a third of the Campus value, there was virtually no risk to the lender. In fact, there would have been some tremendous upside to the lender if the College failed and they foreclosed. If Michael had not negotiated that loan, the College would have folded before the 2011-2012 school year.

….continued in Part 2

Posted by Robert Drumm at 8:29 PM No comments:

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Open Letter on Fisher More, Part 2

This is the second of a 3-part posting of my open letter to Cordelia on matters at Fisher More College…

The First Attempt. So now the College had money for the Fall 2011 semester, but needed faculty and students. There were only a handful of professors (then called “tutors”) at the College at the end of the spring 2011 semester. A couple of them were due to retire, and a couple of the younger ones left with Dr. Patrick because they didn’t like Michael King or his plan to put more emphasis on the “Catholic” part of the school’s mission. The College didn’t have a regular chaplain, either–only a kindly retired priest in residence who really needed to get into an assisted living arrangement. It was about this time that I joined the Board of Visitors. We needed a philosophy professor, a theologian, and a chaplain, and we needed a Dean who could take responsibility for academic matters. At about the same time, a couple of faculty members of good reputation (a layman and a priest) had been kicked out of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis when Archbishop What’s-His-Name decided to undo some of Cardinal Burke’s good work there. We hired the layman as Dean and the priest as Chaplain. We also hired some other young men for the non-teaching staff who were recommended by the new Dean, and who said all the right things in their interviews. Unfortunately, the faculty members, after spending the previous few years at an established, comfortable seminary supported by diocesan taxes, were unhappy with the makeshift campus, lack of resources, and the lack of organization once they got down there. And the two young guys on staff were useless—worse than useless, really. All four of these hires came in knowing what they were up against: they would need to help Michael build the missing infrastructure and reorganize a College from the ground up. But they spent their time complaining and getting each other worked up about the difficulties, instead of setting to work to fix them. They all had their own ideas, and of course Michael King, although President of the College, was merely another layman, no better than them, so they didn’t really have to execute on his ideas, and didn’t really have to show any initiative for him. In the end, Michael was reduced to overseeing the most menial tasks (and handling some of them himself) because the staffers wouldn’t take the initiative, and he also found out that the Dean wasn’t up to doing the most basic administrative work, such as making a schedule for the Spring 2012 semester. As Michael’s frustration with their lack of initiative and lack of diligence mounted, the one of the impudent young staffers called his daddy to report “Mr. King is a bad, mean man.”

Daddy. And so entered Joe Schutzmann, a/k/a “Daddy.” If you haven’t met Daddy, you really should, or at the very least you should Google some of his preposterous comments about the College and Michael, because you’ll never get the chance to meet a person truer to the negative archetype of the pompous, self-righteous traddie. Just be careful not to speak to him beyond an formal introduction, because whatever you say in a private conversation will be distorted into some sort of calumny on a public forum. Anyways, Daddy drove down from Kansas City one weekend and within 48 hours, he had started a coup. Once it was underway, he came back to Kansas City and arranged through a mutual acquaintance to meet me at an Olathe coffee shop (I still feel bad for that acquaintance being used like that). Anyways, Daddy told me that he had “for years” been developing his own plan for a traditional Catholic college (the Schutzmann Plan™) , and that his family had given gazillions of dollars to other Catholic Colleges. He was excited about our College, but anyone who dared to speak unkindly to sonny could not be a part of it. So, Daddy wanted me and the other Visitors to fire Michael, replace him with the Dean who couldn’t put together a course schedule, and move the College to this empty convent “he had found” for us in Tulsa (in reality, the Tulsa opportunity was already in the works with us; it wasn’t originally part of the Schutzmann Plan™, and it didn’t pan out because of Daddy’s interference, but it probably wouldn’t have panned out anyways, because it was outside our accreditation region). I told him I took his allegations seriously, would look into them, and would take action if they were substantiated. Well, after meeting with me, he misrepresented my response to other Visitors and to his co-conspirators. When the Board actually got together, investigated, and discovered the truth, the coup was put down. Unfortunately, it cost the Dean his job, and we needed a new Dean and a new philosophy professor for the Spring 2012 semester, which was a couple of weeks away from starting.

I’m not just airing Daddy’s dirty laundry here; I’m finally responding to the lies he’s put out in various internet fora, even if I’m a little late in doing so. If you make a cursory web search, you’ll find Daddy’s version of the story (with wholly fabricated specifics, of course). I can only credit Daddy with being unique in his attacks on Michael and the College. Unlike everyone else who complains about Michael only in generalities (even when I ask them privately, face-to-face), Daddy makes up some highly specific (although completely fantastic) facts.

Hiring Taylor Marshall. And so entered Taylor Marshall. As with Daddy’s story, I’m not telling you or anyone else about Dr. Marshall just to score some points in detraction. I have been silent until now. Last spring I personally told Dr. Marshall that I and the other Visitors would keep quiet about his tenure at the College and the circumstances of his departure unless he made it necessary to speak out in defense of the College. I did my part, and held my tongue when many fathers asked me about the Scouts of Saint George. But Dr. Marshall has made it necessary to clear the air, and I intend to do so more completely than Michael King did in his too-charitable public statement.

Bringing in Dr. Marshall as Dean in January 2012 was risky, as the ink wasn’t dry on his Ph.D., he was a recent convert to Catholicism, and his attachment to tradition was even more recent. But we didn’t have a lot of options, or a lot of time, and Dr. Marshall was highly recommended by a traditional priest who was an erstwhile friend of the College. Well, Dr. Marshall was a popular teacher in his two or three classes each semester (as was his predecessor), but he largely neglected the mundane administrative tasks he was supposed to be performing in the other 30 + hours of the work week, instead devoting his time to self-publishing non-academic books and to becoming a celebrity blogger. Michael and the Visitors who were seriously engaged with the College weren’t entirely happy, but we thought that after the Schutzmann debacle, we needed to tolerate and try to redirect it for the sake of continuity, and for the promise we thought Dr. Marshall held as a fundraiser. We obviously put too much value on continuity and misjudged his willingness to help with fundraising.

The Promotion of Taylor Marshall. After his first semester—I don’t have the precise date in my head, but it was in the summer of 2012—the Dr. Marshall told us he had a better job offer in Montana or Wyoming or somewhere like that, and he threatened to break his contract just before the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester. Michael found out what he wanted in order to make him stay. In my gut, I knew giving the title “Chancellor” to a newly minted PhD in his 30s with only one semester under his belt was a bad idea. But again, for the sake of continuity, I worked with Michael to retain him, supporting him to get the title of “Chancellor,” to be relieved of his paperwork duties as Dean, and to pay him a salary substantially higher than any other staff member (including Michael). Mea culpa.

The Departure of Taylor Marshall. We should have seen it coming. He certainly used the “Chancellor” title to promote himself early on, but through the 2012-2013 school year, he became increasingly disengaged and disgruntled. He (and a couple of Michael’s other bad hires) contributed to more delay in finalizing our “Statement of the Apostolate,” which was an elaboration of our mission statement and our plan for the future of the College, and therefore a delay in kicking off our fundraising campaign, which didn’t really start in earnest until after he left. And in his role as Dean and as Chancellor, Dr. Marshall didn’t much engage or even get along with his fellow faculty members. He wasn’t comfortable dealing with legitimate disagreements in academic and ecclesiastical matters, and he didn’t show any leadership with the younger faculty (although he was one of the younger faculty himself). He had one foot out the door long before the speech that he claims such pious indignation about. And at the end of the spring semester, Dr. Marshall resigned. I read some of the laudatory comments he garnered for himself up on his Facebook page about his courage in resigning (Oh, Dr. Marshall, you’re sooooo brave and soooo principled! Such an inspiration!). To my wife’s relief, I managed not to vomit on our carpet. But I know the truth about his departure, because I was directly involved. The Board took the decision out of Michael’s hands, and I was one of the point men in the discussions at the end of Dr. Marshall’s tenure (it only being fair that I clean up the mess I had helped make). It seemed that Dr. Marshall was trying to get fired so he could play the victim, and it was explicit that he wanted a substantial severance (he asked for full year’s pay) in exchange for his cooperative resignation, but it didn’t work. At one point in my discussions with Dr. Marshall, I floated the idea that the Board should keep him and enforce his contract, but he said he wouldn’t accept that. When we didn’t agree to a big payout, he accused us of doing injustice to him and his family, but of course, he’s the one that chose to disengage himself and finally quit, and it would have been a far graver injustice to divert almost $100,000 that we needed to pay the remaining staff (who would keep working on austerity pay) so that a narcissistic self-promoter didn’t have to give up his expensive tea. We had paid him for a year and a half to blog and self-publish books in neglect of his administrative work, and, and even with what he’s been doing since, I’m gratified that (despite our other mistakes) the Board didn’t seriously consider paying him for another year without even the pretense of working for the College whatsoever. To do so would have been an injustice…even if the College could have afforded such a payment.

And I’m also satisfied with the fact that we didn’t give in to blackmail.

Yes, blackmail. Dr. Marshall told Michael that if we paid him that big severance he would say conciliatory things about the College when asked, but if we didn’t, he’d make sure the world knew how wicked we were. It was a dumb move on his part, and what’s even dumber, he left an electronic trail. He texted Michael over the course of three or four days reiterating his ultimatums and threats: messages such as “Your time is running out!” As I mentioned, we told Dr. Marshall that we would not talk about our dissatisfaction with him unless it was necessary to counter trouble he created for the College, and in light of his conduct, we warned him that his attacks on the College—even if we didn’t respond to them—would naturally have a more negative effect on his own cherished reputation as a celebrity blogger than it would on the College’s, or Michael’s, or mine.

Well, although Dr. Marshall didn’t follow through as Dean or Chancellor, it seems that he did follow through with his threat of calumny the College, which was his dumbest move yet. We now know he has conducted a murmuring campaign and orchestrated problems for us ever since, spreading disaffection among remaining staff members and students. It appears that he worked to drive a wedge between Michael and the couple that ran Fisher More Academy (the high school). It appears that he worked hand-in-hand with one of the disaffected Dallas FSSP priests to arrange secret meetings to organize a revolt among certain picked students…excluding others that weren’t deemed reliable. And we’re pretty sure he was in Msgr. Berg’s and Bp. Olsen’s ears, too, and filled those ears up to the point that they weren’t willing to hear anything to the contrary from Michael. I’m sure that Dr. Marshall’s will answer that it was his Godly duty to warn everyone. Yeah, whatever. And it wouldn’t have been if we’d stroked that big check? If you haven’t heard that sort of “I have a duty to warn” talk from one self-righteous prig or another before, you’ve been living under a rock.

So yes, bad hiring is the College’s biggest problem, and Michael is primarily to blame for being too quick to hire and too slow to fire, but I share in the responsibility for exacerbating the situation on the very worst hire Michael made. In retrospect, Michael and I should have packed Dr. Marshall’s office for when I was down there for meetings in August 2012, rather than bent over backwards to keep him. Mea maxima culpa.

Financial Problems. The second most serious problem is the lack of financial support. A few supporters in the traditional milieu gave generously within their means, but only a handful were able and willing to make five-figure gifts, and none of them stepped forward to make any of the six- and seven-figure gifts that are absolutely necessary to attract respected faculty and meet the expenses of the new Campus. So although Michael made some really weak hires, we didn’t have the resources to make the really good ones. Well, why didn’t we raise money sooner? Fair point; we’re at fault for that. With the saga above, now you know why. But frankly, we quickly found out that there weren’t any rich, generous traddies or trad-friendlies who would step forward. Now, some combox troll stated “I heard they lost their big donors…” but the truth is that there never were any big donors. Here’s the lowdown: The largest single donor to the College for 2014 so far is a new donor that gave $150,000. That donor was not associated or even acquainted with any so-called “schismatic” group, BTW. The largest single donor in 2013 was a traditional Catholic couple from an FSSP community, and they gave about $29,000 directly and through matching gift programs. In 2012, that same couple was also the largest single donor, and their total was a little more than $33,000. The next largest donor gave less than half that in each of those years. The Fort Worth family that made the Campus loan were not donors: they were creditors who received their full principal back with interest. If the college had no large donors to begin with, it had none to lose.

Typical Traddie Sins. The third fundamental problem is really a foundational problem related to the first and (to a lesser extent) the second on above. It seems that with only a few exceptions, everyone who came into contact with the College brought his own agenda (and this includes faculty, non-teaching staff, parents of non-teaching staff, some students and their parents, and even priests who were erstwhile friends of the College). But let’s be honest: along with our traddie strengths, we do have some weaknesses. Our great traddie sins of pride and self-righteous imprudence manifested themselves in ways that made the management and development of the College’s mission well-neigh impossible. When one of these people found anything they didn’t like, or they didn’t get their way, they didn’t mortify themselves and just work through it. Nor (with a couple of exceptions) did they simply pack their offices and leave. Nearly every one of them turned into an active saboteur, seeing himself as having some sort of Godly mission to destroy the College and those at the College who didn’t acquiesce to his will, and confident that the College wouldn’t call him to account for it. That criticism is not just limited to Daddy and Taylor Marshall, although they’re certainly prime examples. There were many more who did the same thing. What is at the root of it is of course the pride, lack of charity and inability to deal with prudential matters referenced above which makes most traditional Catholic laymen unwilling to obey other laymen. They’ll obey a priest…maybe…sometimes… if he establishes their trust and stays within his rightful authority. But never another layman. In a true egalitarian spirit that should be repugnant to anyone who values tradition, they refused to bow to any authority beyond their own in so many of the day-to-day management situations of the College.

Perhaps it would have been possible for the College to be thriving now had a traditional institute of priests or religious taken over its leadership instead of us layman, and had been able to put a damper on those sins. But they didn’t. The Board and administration talked to them about it early in our development, and again when the difficulties of building the College as laymen began to appear insurmountable—but the institutes weren’t interested in taking over, or even making initial steps in exploration of a takeover (perhaps understandable, without a Bishop in the see), so both the Board and Michael continued the apostolate as best they could, handicapped as laymen though they were.

“Disasterous Real Estate Deals.” One thing that was NOT a fundamental problem was the supposed “disastrous real estate deal.” Dr. Marshall is not only breaching his duty of confidentiality as an ex-officio board member, he’s also directly misleading everybody on that issue. Upon the sale of our campus, after we paid back the loan with interest, there wasn’t as much left as you would expect. From that we still had to operate for a year on those funds, because our development plan was still in process and we hadn’t found a substantial donor to help us bridge our expenses for that year. And the College had no choice but to move: TCU’s bulldozers were waiting to raze our buildings as the last boxes were loaded. We had spent too much on payroll in particular that year (paying Dr. Marshall, among others). We couldn’t make the first payment on the new Campus and have enough money left over to operate for the Fall Semester. So our choices seemed to be either to suspend operations at the residential college entirely or to proceed with the acquisition solely on faith without having the money in hand to finish the Fall 2013 semester. Suspending operations would have been the death knell of the College as a residential institution (and perhaps overall). Proceeding to buy the building on the agreed terms without retaining enough money to finish the semester would have been unjust to our students—particularly those few students that were actually paying tuition instead of being on full scholarship. But somehow, though, Michael pulled through and came up with a third alternative: he negotiated a lease with the owner of the building, thereby buying two years in which the College could raise the money to finalize the purchase. At this point, Michael had already saved the College from financial collapse once—without him it may not have made it to the end of the 2010-2011 school year—so we authorized him to try again, and he managed to preserve mission of the College from coming to an end at the end of last school year.

…Continued in part 3

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Open Letter on Fisher More, Part 3

The third and final part of my open letter to Cordelia on the state of affairs at Fisher More College….

Adminstrative Turnover. You asked who the “long-time administrators” were who left the College. There were none to begin with, and therefore none to leave. The founder, Dr. Patrick, retired about three years ago in circumstances entirely unrelated to the direction of the College, even before that direction was established. Other administrators and faculty members were part of Dr. Patrick’s inner circle and left at the same time. The one remaining “long-time faculty member” was on sabbatical last year, and (last I knew) was intending to return. No one else had a tenure that predated Michael’s.

Board Turnover. You asked about resignation of board members. I guess six have stepped down in the last year, including me. Two longtime board members resigned last spring or summer because they were in the minority and thought the College should give up its mission to serve traditional Catholics in a residential College and just become another online school. They seemed to be well-meaning old people who decried the state of the culture but didn’t connect the dots and see how the College’s unique mission was well-suited as an answer to their concerns. Another Visitor whose tenure predated mine resigned—I can’t remember her particular reasons or even her name offhand—she attended very few of the board meetings and it was no noticeable loss. I was very sad to see the two others resign—they were rock-solid traditional Catholics without any of the weird traddie quirks one usually has to work around. But they were older, too, and their health wasn’t great, and they didn’t like conflict as much as I do, nor were they comfortable dealing with the financial challenges of the College. I was the last one to resign. Like I said, I did so because my personal circumstances had changed, and without the ability to write meaningful checks or continue my once-regular trips down to Fort Worth, I was of no use to the College in the present circumstances. My only disagreement with Michael and the majority of the board when I left was regarding the advisability of proceeding with the spring 2014 semester. I didn’t think it was prudent to do so after the failure of our Rorate fundraising drive last fall, and yes, I was a little embittered by the history I related above. I hated to give up on the apostolate, but based on the fact that our enemies were highly motivated, and our friends were lackluster and disinterested, I saw no choice. On the other hand, the rest of the Visitors weren’t as embittered or discouraged as I was, and they wanted to move forward. I feel badly that I’m not there to help them through this, but on the other hand, as an unaffiliated party, I’m not bound by the courtesies and strategic considerations that they are, and I can at least answer the College’s critics plainly and say what I really think about the situation and the conduct of all the people involved.

Chaplaincy Turnover. You asked why there were so many changes in the chaplaincy. That issue was certainly a problem. The Benedictine priest we had originally hoped would be our permanent chaplain, two years ago, was unsuited to the position. While a college chaplaincy may look like a fun position from the outside, but it’s a difficult role for anyone to play, even in a stable environment. Just ask any exhausted priest who is running a public college’s Newman Center. Unfortunately, without the sponsorship of a traditional priestly institute willing to commit some of its strongest personnel to the project, the College can only pick up a priest between other assignments, and he is usually worn thin from his last assignment when he arrives and he can’t stay long.

Sedevacantism and Crypto-LeFebvrianism. You didn’t ask if Michael was a sedevacantist, or a schismatic, or a crypto-LeFebvrian, but I’m going to address those most assinine comments anyways. Michael has never stated to me or implied that Jorge Borgolio, Pope Francis, is not the legitimate Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ (or as the Pope himself prefers, Bishop of Rome). It’s true that before last week I never directly asked him if he thought otherwise, because it never occurred to me to do so. I myself held sedevacantist opinions briefly last year, from February 28, to March 13, and I suspect Michael (and Dr. Marshall) did, too. But to make sure of Michael’s current views, I spoke to him after this donnybrook started and asked if he’d changed his view since then, just so I could be definitive. Here’s the transcript:

Drumm: “Who’s the Pope, Mike?”

King: “Huh? What do you mean?”

Drumm: “I mean, do you think we have a Pope? Who’s the Pope?”

King: “Oh. That’s an odd question. It’s Pope Francis.”

Drumm: “Jorge Borgolio?”

King: “Yes, Jorge Borgolio.”

Nor are any of the other members of the Board in that camp. In fact, one of the best general-audience articles ever written against the empty Chair was authored by a current member of the Board. I can’t say that he (or me, or most others favorable to tradition) wouldn’t be happier if instead we had Malcolm Ranjinth as Pope Leo XIV, but we accept God’s will in such matters, and insinuations of “sedevacantism” are absolutely rank. I’ll guess that half of the combox imbeciles who use the term don’t know what it means. Likewise, “Schism” and “crypto-Lebvrianism” are more the same sort of calumny. Professional NeoCatholics and our pastoral Bishops like to throw out “schismatic” whenever they can (so long as we’re talking about traditionalists and not LCWR nuns). This is even though Pope Benedict himself said the SSPX is not in schism. And of course those same cretins don’t recognize (or don’t care) that the “crypto-Lefebvrian” coinage as coming directly out of the Marxist propaganda playbook. I have no idea what it means, except that it must be someone who doesn’t shout loudly enough that Marcel LeFebvre is worse than Hitler and Stalin put together.

Theological Problems. You ask about theological problems that are rumored at the College. Now, I’m still confused about how there can be “theological” problems with Vatican II in the College or more generally, with folks who take issue with certain aspects of Vatican II. The event of Vatican II is an ecclesiastical and historical fact, and I never heard anyone at the College say otherwise. But it was a pastoral council, wasn’t it? No new doctrines were articulated, were they? That’s what the Council fathers and the Popes from Bl. John XIII on say, right? So if a group of people chose to live their faith in a manner common prior to Vatican II, without reference to the pastoral propositions of Vatican II, and if they hold the position that the often-ambiguous propositions of the Council fathers are unhelpful at best, or worse, have produced harmful fruits, you might say they have pastoral insensitivity, or unfashionable ecclesiology, or you might say they are jerks (and many of them are), but you can’t really say they have theological problems, now, can you? They’re not denying Revelation or any doctrines of the Church; they’re just disagreeing with a set of prudential, pastoral propositions from the 1960s that they find unhelpful. Right?

The Dudley Speech. That being said, there was one lecture given about a year ago by Dr. John Dudley, one of our professors (an Irishman who lived in Belgium), about the decline of the faith in Europe. The speaker ended by pointing to Vatican II as the cause of the decline. I didn’t hear the speech, because my wife and I were in France at the time, going from empty church to empty church in Paris and seeing the state of the Faith in Europe for ourselves. Anyways, I read the text of the speech when I returned, and I don’t know that I agreed with him about Vatican II. Seems to me that Vatican II was more of a catalyst for the decline of the faith, accelerating problems that began to arise after the first World War, rather than it was the original cause itself. At any rate, the speaker’s approach to the topic in that particular forum was imprudent, to be sure. The Board discussed it and directed Michael to admonish him for it. It’s important to know, though, that everybody who had issues with the speech but actually spoke to Dr. Dudley after the lecture came away satisfied in the professor’s good faith and sensus catholicus. And that should have been the end of it.

But of course, it wasn’t the end. The speech became a pretext for the failed-Dean-turned-failed-Chancellor to go off the rails entirely. He bolted for the door as the talk concluded rather than help deal with the situation as leader should. He had hardly spoken to his fellow faculty member at any time before the speech, and he never spoke to the professor afterwards despite Michael’s instruction to do so. We heard of a diocesan priest in Dallas who never heard or read the speech, and probably had never heard of the College, denouncing us. The speech became one pretext for two Board members (who although they lived in Dallas, spent less time at the College than I did) to resign because it was an affront to their “New Springtime” worldview. It became a pretext for withdrawal of support by an Mater Dei priest who had been previously close to the College but was already unhappy with us for other reasons (see note above about Traddie sins). But it was not a severance of friendly relations with the FSSP, as is erroneously reported. It became the pretext for every other prideful, uncharitable, imprudent Catholics (trad and non-trad) with an agenda of his own to weigh in (did I mention prideful, uncharitable, imprudent traddies before?). And it became a pretext for a bunch of NeoCatholics who believe they’re more Catholic than every Pope except Bl. John Paul II to start crying “schism” and “sedevacantist” and all that crap. What were we to do? We couldn’t fire him for heresy. Deploring the state of the Church and attributing a pastoral council as the cause may be wrong, or may only be imprudent, but it isn’t the sort of thing that falls under the category of heresy, and we wouldn’t have been qualified to judge him if it were. We were miffed at his imprudence, but couldn’t fire him for that, either, because we didn’t have that luxury. He was our most serious scholar. He actually wrote academic papers, not blog posts. He was a good teacher, and a faithful Catholic, and we didn’t have the money to hire a replacement of his caliber. We knew that the more attention we gave to the Dudley speech, the more other people with their own agendas would make of it, so we simply tried to move beyond it. Of course, the self-righteous rabble that gathered around us would allow it.

The Mass and the Bishop. As for your questions about the Mass and the Bishop:

Bishop Vann would occasionally visit the chapel and one All Saints Day said Mass with the Paul VI missal there. The College welcomed him and even hauled the altar out into the middle of the sanctuary so he could celebrate versus populum. One of the early chaplains regularly said Mass in both forms, but when he left, there was no demand for a regular Mass in the new form. Our students and staff were all attached to the old form. The Bishop knew what we were up to, and he approved our chaplains who were known to say the vetus ordo. There was never, in the time that Michael was in charge a prohibition against saying the new Mass in the Chapel. I witnessed a visiting priest say a Mass in the ordinary form in the chapel last spring.

From the beginning, the College regularly tried to meet with Bishop Vann and (after he left for the Crystal Cathedral) the diocesan administrator, Msgr. Berg, and sought to keep them informed as to what was going on at the College. As the College was attempting to restore the abandoned Our Lady of Victory convent to Catholic use, we anticipated that they would be interested in our progress. But meetings were cancelled and calls unreturned until the Fort Worth Star Telegram ran a beautiful feature on the new building early last fall. Apparently, the pictures of young men praying in coats and ties and young women wearing mantillas was too much for the chancery (or for the metropolitan, Archbishop Garcia of San Antonio, who we heard was involved in the first move against us). Msgr. Berg first attempted to restrict the old Mass last fall by producing an old letter dated prior to Michael’s arrival purporting to restrict the old Mass to twice a week. The letter had never before seen by anyone then at the College, it was contrary to Summorum Pontificum, and anyways, it had been long-superseded in practice by Bishop Vann’s own appointment of our chaplains who were explicitly attached to the old Mass. Msgr. Berg refused our invitations to visit the College during his time as administrator. Rather than embarrass Msgr. Berg and Bishop Vann by going public with Msgr. Berg’s new directive or make a sudden change in the liturgical life of the College that would have required disclosure of the letter, we attempted to meet with him again (or in postconciliar language, “dialogue” with him), but the chancery’s pattern of unreturned calls was resumed. Msgr. Olsen’s appointment as Bishop was announced during period, and so the status quo was maintained.

As soon as the pro nuncio announced the appointment of Msgr. Olsen as the next Bishop, the College again attempted to reengage the diocese. As of the time I left the Board, the Bishop-elect had not responded to our efforts to contact him through the Chancery, and I understand that he never had any contact with Michael prior to the meeting referenced in the letter. Bishop Olsen, it should be noted, was closely acquainted with (you guessed it) Dr. Wormtongue Marshall, and we may presume that he did take Dr. Marshall’s calls, as I understand that he was so well acquainted with that side of the story he didn’t need to hear any other. He was curt and hostile to Michael. My understanding of the meeting was that the Bishop expressed displeasure at “some of the speakers,” but of course that wasn’t what he tried to address. The speakers weren’t the milquetoast Scott-Hahn types, of course, but College hadn’t given a forum to Bishop Tom Gumbleton (on one hand) or Bishop Clarence Kelly (on the other). If the speakers were the perceived problem at the College, the Bishop could have lawfully required that the College get approval for speakers in the future. But he didn’t do that. He went after the traditional Mass. And more than going after the Mass, he’s going after the traditional Catholic life. Fisher More is a threat to him and Modernists like him who talk about faith from life experience rather than from Grace (see The fact that a traditional Catholic life-experience is being attempted in his diocese—not just a weekly Mass at an inconvenient time and place—is unthinkable. Egad! We can’t have that! None of this would have come about if our students had been experiencing coffee table Masses with tie-die vestments, or we’d been a mainstream College dispensing contraceptives and organizing a GLAAD chapter!

So, Cordelia, there you have it. I could go on and address several other issues, including the ingratitude and self-righteousness of some of the students and parents who enjoyed two or three years of free education, but it’s late and this explication is already too long. I’ll just close by pointing out again that this is really about the old Mass and the life that flows from it. The diocese took no interest in the College until the Fort Worth Star Telegram feature ran and made it clear that the institution’s liturgical life is centered around the old Mass. The old Mass has been the primary topic of its conversation with the diocese since then. Whatever the other problems at the College, and whatever falsehoods and exaggerations they’re hearing from Dr. Marshall, the actions of Msgr. Berg and Bishop Olsen (and presumably others above them in the hierarchy) leave no doubt that they are trying to crush the old Mass, and disperse a group of people who are living the traditional faith. If the Bishop was just concerned about the speakers, he could have set parameters for future speakers. If the Bishop was seriously concerned about the stability of the College, he would have ordered removal of the Blessed Sacrament and complete closure of the chapel, and forbidden the College from calling itself “Catholic.” He didn’t. What he did was attack the Mass and those of his flock attached to it. In doing so he showed himself to be both a fool and a tyrant. He’s acting illegally and unjustly, and he and everyone who is whispering in his ears or carrying out his instructions in order to deprive the College of this matter are doing the Devil’s work. Let’s hope they come to realize it before they get the Devil’s reward for it, because although I openly admit my anger and revulsion at him (and for that matter, at Daddy, Taylor Marshall, and all our enemies), and I want to see justice done, of course I will him (and them) happiness in this life and the next.

I told Michael several times through the years that if nothing else, his effort would be a cautionary tale to others. And so it is. Despite his mistakes, he and his wonderful wife and children should be commended for the complete sacrifice they made of their time, their material comforts, their privacy, and their reputations, as should several other families whose names I won’t bring into this discussion. And they will be rewarded. Perhaps Dr. Marshall has already been rewarded for his efforts by the effusion of Facebook love from his fans, and perhaps Bishop Olsen will be rewarded with a pallium from his friends in the hierarchy in a few years, but the Kings’ reward will likely have a more lasting value.



Robert J. Drumm

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One comment on “Former Board Member of Fisher More College Set the Record Straight

  1. Thank you Robert. You may not remember me from KC. I am now in Dallas at Mater Dei. I have been waiting for someone close to the college to debunk Taylor Marshall and his slander. I think what ever changed your association with FMC is providential so that you could do the Kings the justice they deserve. God bless and reward you.

    Erica Kauffman, Dallas, TX

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