Skip to comments.In West Orange, a church divided
Posted on 12/28/2004 2:00:22 PM PST by CatherineSiena
At the church founded by the late Rev. Paul Wickens, Mass is always said in Latin. Women still cover their heads, and people receive the host in their mouths from a priest, never touching it with their own hands.
To say that St. Anthony of Padua, the church Wickens started nine years ago, is a haven for traditionalists is an understatement. And with his death this year, the search for just the right successor to the old founder has split the parishioners of this unusual West Orange church.
At a time when they would rather rally around a new priest, hundreds have boycotted the chapel for makeshift Masses at a Ramada Inn in East Hanover and a VFW Post and the Wellesley Inn in Fairfield.
The schism opened soon after the July death of Wickens, whose opposition to the historic 1960s reforms of the Second Vatican Council attracted hundreds of other "traditionalist" Catholics who like him felt the changes sullied ancient Catholic traditions and practices.
Modern Catholics would find some practices at St. Anthony's obscure. But when Wickens died, parishioners wanted a replacement who shared their views. They also wanted the chapel kept separate from the Newark Archdiocese, which accepted the 1960s reforms and suspended Wickens after a 1980s dispute stemming from his opposition to Catholic sex education.
Wickens remained a vocal critic of the archdiocese, calling Archbishop John J. Myers too liberal even though Myers is generally known nationwide as a staunch conservative.
The current boycotters say they have nothing personal against Wickens' replacement, the Rev. John Perricone, a conservative Catholic in his own right who in many ways seems a perfect fit for St. Anthony's.
Perricone, who started at St. Anthony's Dec. 1, is founder of the group "Christifidelis," which is dedicated to the Latin Mass.
Still, many longtime St. Anthony's parishioners reject him because he is an archdiocese priest, officially placed on loan to the chapel by the archdiocese.
At his last archdiocese post, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Orange, Perricone celebrated Mass in the modern way that traditionalists deplore, in English, facing the pews, and letting lay people touch the host.
"This Perricone, he's on both waters, he offers both Masses -- the Latin Mass and the modern Mass. And we do not accept that," said Elvira Valdez, who joined St. Anthony's in 1998 and has attended motel Masses.
"We only accept the ancient Mass, the old Mass, the Latin Mass. That's why Father Wickens stayed clear cut away from the archdiocese, because they would make him accept the modern Mass as equal to the old Mass."
Valdez and others say they fear that Perricone's hiring will lead to a full-scale takeover by the archdiocese, and that Mass in English may eventually be allowed there.
While reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council are widely regarded as more inclusive of lay people, the members of St. Anthony's think they watered down the faith, and that translations from Latin are inadequate.
Since Perricone started, some longtime St. Anthony's churchgoers have traveled long distances to attend other traditionalist churches, such as St. Jude's in Eddystone, Pa.
Locally, the latest alternative Masses were at the VFW Post in Fairfield Saturday, for Christmas, and Sunday, drawing about 200.
A similar crowd attended a motel Mass in Fairfield earlier this month, where people knelt on the green patterned carpet of a kneeler-less conference room and received Communion from the Rev. John Fullerton, flown in for the occasion from Missouri.
Fullerton is with the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, which was founded by French Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated after refusing to the accept the 1960s reforms.
Attendance at St. Anthony's, meanwhile, has been lighter than before Wickens died, and Perricone's supporters hope he can draw back those who left.
"If the diocese leaves us alone, there'll be no problems here," said Bill Brooks of Pompton Plains. "And the people will hopefully come back. Father Perricone is a good priest."
In his first sermon at St. Anthony's, the Rev. Perricone left no doubt about his beliefs, praising Wickens, whose archdiocese suspension lasted until he died.
"I am privileged," Perricone said, "to be able to bring forward the sacred traditions that Father Wickens has ... preserved."
Yet many who stopped attending St. Anthony's feel the church's three board members, who approached the archdiocese about Perricone, disregarded Wickens' wishes by bringing in an archdiocese priest.
A week ago, a group of them filed suit in Essex County Chancery Court, saying the statute under which the church was incorporated lets all members, not just trustees, pick the priest.
On both sides of the St. Anthony's dispute, parishioners say the church should honor Wickens' wishes. But they relate different versions of what he wanted.
Some, allowing that Wickens praised Perricone, said he also thought Perricone's archdiocese ties tainted him. Others say Wickens wanted the church turned over to the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X.
At a church meeting on Nov. 14, St. Anthony's board members -- Andrew Flock, Larry Small and Bob Ciuffreda, elected the day Wickens died in a previously scheduled election -- played a tape of Wickens praising Perricone shortly before his death.
But some who heard the tape at the meeting have complained it had only excerpts of the conversation. In what was played, Wickens did not address Perricone's archdiocese ties, a subject that surely was of interest to him, board critics said.
Asked about that, Al Wickens, the priest's brother, said that Paul Wickens never spoke about the archdiocese or the Society of Saint Pius X on June 24, the day he was taped.
"From that conversation, which was seven or eight minutes ... was a clear indication that if Father Perricone could possibly come, it would be a perfect fit for the chapel," said Al Wickens, who said he was present when the taping occurred.
While the arrangement with the archdiocese strikes many longtime St. Anthony's members as improper, to others it straddles the right side of a thin line. Archdiocese spokesman James Goodness said that while Perricone is considered "on loan" from the archdiocese, St. Anthony's is responsible for his salary, and the archdiocese does not receive a percentage of weekly collections.
Despite last-minute efforts to reconcile, the archdiocese never lifted its suspension of Wickens. It wanted him to sign a letter of obedience to Newark Archbishop Myers, which all pastors do when starting a new assignment, Goodness said. Wickens refused to do so, Goodness said.
Whether they attend a Latin Mass at St. Anthony's or elsewhere, the people drawn to it say they go for reasons other than merely hearing the words in Latin, though that is important.
"It's not just the Mass said in Latin. It's about the traditional faith. It requires the reverence that's there, the respect for the way the sacraments are done," said William Denk, who stopped attending St. Anthony's and now travels elsewhere for Mass.
"Many people have seen family members lose their faith. They've seen the breakdown in our culture and society. Now, when you've had Catholic bishops who have to debate whether a candidate who is pro-choice can remain Catholic, it shows exactly where (society) has gone to now."
Jeff Diamant covers religion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-1547.
Interesting read..As an Episcopalian, and lord knows we have enough on OUR plates..it would seem to me that with all now going on in the Catholic church, this is akin to arguing if the prime rib was rare, or pink..
Still, many longtime St. Anthony's parishioners reject him because he is an archdiocese priest, officially placed on loan to the chapel by the archdiocese. >>>
The full priesthood is contained in the bishop, they should be honored that a priest assigned to a bishop is there and the archbishop himself extended an olive branch to bring the parishioners back into the fold.
You can't be Catholic and have your own private little church. What's wrong, are they afraid they will have to contribute to the bishops annual campaign?
From what I understand the board is still in control of the church building and parish finances.
The Parishioners of St. Anthony's are worried that the ratty types who've infested our Church will eventually get their paws on it and ruin the chapel that THEY themselves built.
I don't blame them for feeling this way. The New Order manipulators have ruined everything else they've touched when they've been given enough time. If they don't make a complete mess of Saint Anthony's (or close it down) it would be an anomaly.
You also have to understand that traditional Catholics live their lives differently. To name just a few aspects of this; they fast stricter and more frequently, dress nicer for church, teach a stronger catechism, bury their dead differently and the women cover their heads (as per scripture) at mass.
The New Church in the New Springtime doesn't believe in or require any of this anymore. It's not just about the Mass itself.
The prime rib appears rare and may taste delicious, but if eaten, the unseen arsenic in it will kill you.
Be careful. Just because someone professes to be a traditional Catholic doesn't necessarily mean that person is holy.
Some traditional Catholics are indeed holy; but some aren't.
Well we've finally done it. St. Anthony's has finally made the papers!
What is this talk of a VFW mass in Fairfield? Is that being said by the SSPX? Is that a regular mass?
Star-Ledger Article about the situation at St. Anthony's Chapel in West Orange, NJ. It was on the FRONT page of the New Jersey section on Tuesday.
Are people actually driving all the way to St. Jude's in Eddystone, PA to go to mass? I have seen Jersey license plates in the parking lot there, but I had just assumed that they were all from South Jersey. Come on though, that's a really long drive, around 2 hours from North Jersey. If you want to go to a Society mass there is one in NYC which is pretty close to the North Jersey area or even the Society's church in Ridgefield, CT is closer than the Eddystone Chapel.
I go to St. Jude's from time to time when I'm back at College, which is outside of Philly.
Generally speaking however, they have a better foundation "out of the box", and don't make me physically ill as some of those I've encountered at NO-Masses.
This said, I'm attracted to traditional Catholicism much more so because it's spiritual benefits than because of any fellowship with it's followers. I'm not a big people person anyway.
You can not have it both ways , you are either true to Christ and His Church, the way is was, before Vatican 11 turned everthing upside down, with modernism.....or you fall into the same pit as the liberal, faithless ,moderen, way of the New Ordo where everything goes!
Fr. Wickens went back to the Mass of his Ordination for the reason that the New Mass way NOT RIGHT..what the heck do ya think thise folks are clinging to what Fr. taught ? Clinging onto the Faith of the Martys and countless saints, who NEVER attened or said the New Ordo? You Can Not go both ways!
Unfortunately the Catholic Church has been in this mess since Vatican 11 and this is only ONE incident in the 40 yrs. of its people constanlly being divided and tossed about, because they wish to cling to the old Latin Mass and all the old, holy ways. The clergy are to blame !!!!
One would think, that as Rational people, they would take thier measure of the man personally.
As one that has, I find the arguments against him, to be more than wanting.
Conservative, Erudite, and bringing others down the Traditional path...
Ironically enough, that sounds just about the way lefties talk about Conservatives.
Of course, he did! Fr. Wickens said that Fr. Perricone was the most desirable choice and that the hardcore traditionalists would not be happy with the compromises necessary to bring Fr. Perricone to St. Anthony's. Fr. Wickens had asked Fr. Perricone a number of times even before he knew of his cancer to come to St. Anthony's. He knew and respected Fr. Perricone's position that he wouldn't leave the archdiocese to go to an independent chapel. Fr. Wickens understood that the compromises necessary to bring Fr. Perricone to St. Anthony's involved the archdiocese. And he accurately predicted the response of the hardcore traditionalists.
That looks better....
"It's just trads being trads. Petty, spiteful, proud (the bad kind), and somewhat egomaniacal."
ME: It's just NeoCons being NeoCons. Petty, spiteful, proud (the bad kind), and somewhat egomaniacal." OOPS! And very JUDGMENTAL. I'd suggest reading St. Ignatius of Loyola and his admonitions toward assuming the intentions of others. Very traditional! But not "neo-Conservative" at all.
I don't know their particular situation, but I do know (from my days in NY) that Fr. Perricone is an excellent priest and very traditional. However, I think the parishioners' big fear is that there is no guarantee, once the archdiocese gets its hands on the parish, that it won't insist that the NO mass be celebrated there, also.
That at least is the fear of many independent chapels. The people build the parish with their own money and effort, and the diocese negotiates because it wants the property; but there is never any guarantee given that the NO won't be celebrated there or even that the Tridentine Rite will always be continued after the diocese gets the property.
Still, that said, I think this sounds like a fairly good offer, and I don't think Fr. Perricone would betray the parish or let the archdiocese do so.
Yet, those that favor that particular solution see no problem with that.
IMHO, in my recent exposure to the man, I don't think he is a good fit to carry on Father Wickens work.
My Personal opinion is that he is the best man drawing breath, to continue where Fr.Wickens left off.
Are you including me with your slander?
What was the final disposition of the lawsuit, mentioned in the 1994 Macomb Daily article, you referenced in this column...?
A lot of independent chapels are not SSPX - they're just what it says, independent, usually founded by a local group of disgusted Catholics who were unable to get indult masses but did not want to go in with the SSPX. But if they do have to do the latter, at least they know that the SSPX wouldn't force them to have the NO mass.
You seem to be missing the point here. It's about their wish to continue with the Tridentine Rite mass and, in fact, all of the pre-VatII practices, the calendar, etc. Few dioceses (if any) will guarantee them this.
Well the current situation at St. Anthony's does guarntee this. The Chapel is owned by the board members and only the 1962 liturgical rite are to be used at the chapel. Novus Ordo will never be allowed into the chapel, and if the diocse even thinks that its going to attempt to bring Novus Ordo in, the board members can kick the diocese out.
This basic situation played out ten years ago with Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Pequannock. The Chapel used to be Independent, but then in 1994 the FSSP was given permission by the Diocese to staff the Chapel. In the ten years which Our Lady of Fatim has been under the diocese of Paterson, Novus Ordo has never reared its ugly head at all, and it never will as far as I'm concerned.
That's good news. A chapel I know of here in Florida is in conversations with the diocese, but the diocese is unwilling to give them any guarantees, and there have been other chapels that seem to have been absorbed by dioceses basically in order to disband them. It's a pretty frightening prospect.
I don't think Fr. Perricone would permit it, either, and hopefully the Bishop is an honorable man and is not considering it.
The point I was making, was that in the process of determining a course (and if you read the article you probably picked that up) many of those that left, wanted to bring in SSPX.
BUT..... SSPX wanted to run the Parish as a Mission Church, and wanted everything ceded over to them at the end of a two year period.
Yes, I saw that, but I meant that the important thing was keeping the Tridentine Rite, regardless of who owns the property, and certainly the SSPX would guarantee that (whereas the diocese might not).
Good luck, in any case!
No, there is no guarantee, that in 2.5 years time, after everything had been ceded, they could theoretically close the Parish, and take their booty. That was the problem.(not to mention running an established Parish as a mission church from Connecticut...rme)
The Archdiocese has a priest, technically "on loan" and no control over anything else.
So, you tell me, who comes away looking like the better bet, if your only concern is the health of the Parish?
Yes, that's the essence of it...
"It's just trads being trads. Petty, spiteful, proud (the bad kind), and somewhat egomaniacal"
You think this is what motivates them--or is it the faith? By the way--your post is exactly what you describe--petty, spiteful and proud.
"There are 2 Indult Masses in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Why are you going to the SSPX?"
Maybe because he prefers the SSPX.
Really, that would be news to the SSPX !!!!
You willingness to lie in order to insult csbyrnes84 renders you beneath contempt.
What I am saying is, the only nearly 'Local' (singular) Society mass, is in NYC. Which is not what you portrayed.
Otherwise more of you SSPX voluptuaries would leave the Essex House.
The web page is
What is the Essex house? What town is it in? And why is everyone talking about it?
It's around the block from St.Anthony's. And it currently Hosts the 9:00 w/Fr.Murphy.
When that one was inviting you to Fairlfield, he as basiclly luring you on a drive....lol
Look, aside from the not staffing the Parish, etc....THe demand of a take it or leave it decision, does not inspire confidence.
Yes, that's place.
lol, that would have been a pretty good prank.