The not yet excommunicated Fr. Vaughn Treco was ordered on December 11 to come to Houston for what turned out to be an unfriendly discussion with his bishop and two of his assistants that was to uncover a few violations of homiletic protocol but no heresy. A sparring match with no decision.
Here is Fr. Treco’s account of the meeting of Wednesday, December 12th, 2018, edited for conciseness and clarification, with scattered commentary,.
Led into a conference room with a long table, he found himself standing before three men, seated, none of whom stood to greet him or shake his hand. One pointed to a seat opposite them.
They were the bishop, Steven J. Lopes, and Fathers Timothy Perkins, vicar general, and Richard Kramer, moderator of the curia and director of vocations and clergy formation for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, the organization of Anglicans who come over to Roman Catholicism.
The bishop led them in prayer, then said how the meeting would go. Fathers Perkins and Kramer would address the suspect-defendant, followed by the bishop. Each would “demonstrate the heretical character” of the November 25 homily. A forlorn hope, as matters developed.
Fr. Perkins began with a critique of the passage from Ezekiel as used throughout the homily — “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge” — noting (“correctly,” said Fr. Treco), that it was intended to dispel the belief that children are held guilty for the sins of their fathers.
Fr. Treco, however, said his questioner was ignoring “the poetic manner” in which he had used the text, describing how “the Fathers of the Church” — popes and bishops — had failed “to be diligent in their duty to guard the Faith” and how this failure had “a deleterious effect” on “the children of Holy Mother Church.”
Fr. Perkins asked what translation “was authorized for liturgical use” by priests of the Ordinariate, as it were building a case. Fr. Treco named the translation, Fr. Perkins asked, “Why did you choose not to use this translation when you quoted from the sacred texts?”
To provide “a more poetically satisfying” rendering of the texts he was using, Fr. Treco explained.
Fr. Perkins continued: Why had Fr. Treco used the “collect” prayer as established by Pope Pius XI rather than the currently approved one?
Perhaps chafing at the pace of interrogation, the second examiner, Fr. Kramer, interrupted and began his own “presentation” before Fr. Treco could reply.
Taking another tack, he observed that Fr. Treco had “a robust Internet presence,” referring to the posting of his homily on a major traditionalist site. “Did you know that?” he asked.
He was “not aware of this,” Fr. Treco replied. “I simply post things to the web” but “do not follow discussions [of] the post.”
Fr. Kramer continued. “Did you know that more than 20,000 (33,000 at a later date) people have viewed your homily?”
Fr. Treco said he did not.
Fr. Kramer said several hundred viewers had left comments. He quoted one of them: “Finally, a priest who gets it.”
“Do you get it?” Fr. Kramer asked.
“I am not sure I know what the writer meant by ‘it’,” Fr. Treco said.
Later came the heretical nub of the matter, when Fr. Treco was asked by one of the three — he did not recall whom — if he thought the popes since Pius XII were legitimate popes.
“Quite honestly,” he wrote in this account, “I was taken completely off-guard by the question,” which “seemed quite unrelated to anything that had been said in the meeting thus far” and was “completely unrelated to the substance of my homily.”
In any case, he “affirmed without hesitation” that he believed that those popes “were each validly elected successors of Saint Peter.”
He might additionally have noted his implicit acknowledgement of this belief within his homily in his fanciful presentation of several of them as “Peter” in a litany of condemnations of things they did without ever raising the specter of illegitimacy. Nor did he in any way urge his listeners to adopt this belief.
“Feeling somewhat disoriented by the tangential character” of the questioning, he did not recall much of what the bishop said, only to notice “random, disconnected comments,” including his saying “early in the meeting, perhaps even at the very beginning, that he was surprised that Fr. Treco had not come to this meeting with his letter of resignation.
What on earth? He was to knuckle under at the very hint of accusation, just shut up and fade away?
What’s missing here is any attempt to verify the heresy charge. Fr. Treco denied it, as we saw. In any case, as the meeting drew to close, he it might be good for him to spend the evening in prayer.
Bishop Lopes had Fr. Perkins give him a copy of the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity which he had signed before his ordination. He said he’d be praying for him and would offer his morning Mass for him. He closed the session in prayer. When he stood, the accused “knelt, kissed his ring, and embraced” him. pickup
End of session.
Leaving the meeting, he left the building and engaged in a “mindless search” for gifts for his grandchildren, before returning to his hotel to pray.
More to come in this tale for our time in handling heresy and excommunication matters . . .
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