Reading room > Br. Dave Sonnier - Farewell presentation

7 Jun 2001

On the evening of attending my final meeting I would like to share a few words with you.   First of all, it has been a great pleasure for me to have been associated with the founding of this order of Knights, and things have turned out quite differently than when we initially discussed establishing a council of the Knights of Columbus.


I was initially in favor of a different patron for our order of Knights, but in retrospect St. Thomas More is an appropriate patron for the times in which we live.  During his time there were two kinds of Catholics:


-          those loyal to the Pope and the Church,

-          those who were part of the ongoing separation. 


Of the latter, some were aware of their participation, others were not.  Those who were aware of what was happening but did not side firmly with the Church, who chose human respect instead, were many.  All of the Bishops fell into this category with the exception of St. John Fisher.  All intelligent, educated subjects of the King found themselves faced with a difficult choice.  Many failed.  There was too much at stake in their lives, or, so they thought at the time. 


St. Thomas More had martyrdom handed to him, he did not seek it.  Many were able to remain loyal Catholics with the underground Church over they years, served by courageous priests who were prepared to give their lives in order to bring the sacraments to the people.  St. Edward Campion comes to mind, but that was years later.


For us times are different.  We do not have a monarch demanding our loyalty to him instead of to the Church.  What we do have is this new "we the people" demanding our loyalty to the spirit of the times.  There is widespread confusion over what one must be, do and believe to be a loyal Catholic.  But if we are to be successors of St. Thomas, we are not going to be the type of men who simply muddle along into apostasy, schism, or heresy without knowing what is up.  Everyone here is intelligent enough to know.  Yet it never ceases to amaze me that fellow Catholics can be so well versed in the US Tax Code, UCMJ,  AF Regs, etc. and not have a clue as to what the Catechism, Vat II documents, or Code of Canon Law has to say.  Or just don't care.  But these are things of eternal consequence.


Is this how the successors of St. Thomas More would be?  I think not.  We should be properly versed in these things.  Once we are, we can see that we are faced with a crisis not far removed from that face by St. Thomas.  But we must nevertheless reject the tyranny of "we the people," "the way we do it here," and side with the Church. 

If you're not convinced that there is a crisis, consider:


Doctrine:  The protests over Humanae Vitae which continue unabated.  Most (>50%) Catholics now vote for pro-abort politicians, many have abortions themselves…even use our tax dollars to pay for abortions.  

Dominum Iesus:  The recent rebellion by theologians all over the world, including at the University of Leuvain-le-Neuve. 


Ex Corde Ecclesiae:  Heard of it yet?  Issued by Pope John Paul II in the early 1990s, it defines what is a Catholic College, and how Catholic institutes of higher learning are to protect their Catholic identity.  For several years, it was buried by the US Bishops responsible for implementing it; now it will require a certificate from the local ordinary for theologians.  There's widespread protest over it.  I don't think Ex Corde Ecclesiae has even appeared on the radar screen in Europe. 


Eucharistic belief down way below 50%; even for priests, according to an article by Homiletic and Pastoral Review a few years ago.  Canon law requires First Confession prior to First Communion and this is routinely ignored.  (Canon 914).


Mass participation:  From 90% to 8% in Quebec (a typical Catholic region) over the last 35 years.  Down to 2% in Belgium. 


Vocations:  St. John Bosco once said that one out of every 3-4 boys is called to the priesthood…where are they?  Last year for the first time in Belgian Christian history there were no vocations from Brussels.  I am often criticized for worshiping with my family exclusively in the Tridentine (pre-conciliar) rite, but I can tell you that at our church 50% of the altar boys have expressed interest in eventually becoming priests.  Out of my own 3 sons, one has expressed an interest in eventually being a priest.  Last weekend I attended a Tridentine Mass offered by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, 15,000 people were in attendance, and the median age of the priests there was well under 40.  (maybe 100 priests…).  In France 2/5 ordinations are now Tridentine, and 3/5 are considered to be of "Traditional liturgical sensibility." 


Am I advocating a return to the Tridentine Rite?  No.  But we should look to where the vocations are.  I would like to point out that in the Diocese of Lincoln, two seminaries have been built recently, one Tridentine, one Novus Ordo (post-conciliar, new liturgy).  Both are full.   What's their secret?  Well…the Diocese of Lincoln has no altar girls.  Nor does the Holy Father's own Diocese of Rome.  Perhaps we should teach our little girls to sing, play the organ, and do altar linens instead.  Should successors of St. Thomas More participate in practices which are forbidden in Rome's major basilicas?  If it is the case that where this practice is avoided there is an abundance of vocations, why do it? 


And what exactly does the Church say about the use of Latin in the liturgy?  We just found out in Liturgiam Authenticam that the translations are bad…and have been for the last 30 years…it would seem that it was wise to adhere to the use of Latin after all.  But furthermore, the Second Vatican Council document on the Liturgy mandated that Latin be retained (#34 and #36).  Canon 928 - Latin is the "typical" language of the Latin Rites.  Local ordinaries are encouraged by the Apostolic See to provide Masses in Latin…The use of music with Latin texts has been encouraged by every document on the Liturgy since Vatican II.  Yet we find, (and this will convince you that we have a problem, if nothing else does) that the VERY MASS WE CELEBRATED FOR OUR INAUGURAL CEREMONY HAS BEEN FORBIDDEN ON US MILITARY INSTALLATIONS THROUGHOUT EUROPE - BECAUSE IT INCLUDED THE USE OF LATIN.  Gentlemen, if that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will. 


It is good to participate in the simple and humble work around the parish that has to be done, but there are many battles being waged.  The Church is divided from top to bottom, but don't let that confuse you.   Where St. Peter's successor is, that is where the Church is.  I would hope and pray that the KSTM would commit to taking steps to ensure that your parishes remain firmly attached to the Church of Rome.  If you do not intend to do so, please remove my name from your historical documents.


(I forgot to mention…. please remember our promise to pray daily for our deceased brother knights.  I have forgotten to several times, so I know others may have.)



                                                                                                DAVID L. SONNIER

                                                                                                Knights of St. Thomas More


David L. Sonnier