Father Ryan St. Anne Responds to critics
by Norm Winick
The Zephyr, Galesburg
The Rev. Ryan St. Anne and his Monastery, The Holy Rosary Abbey, in the former Cottonwood Nursing home at 820 E. Fifth St., have been dogged by controversy long before relocating here several weeks ago.
Local Catholic congregations have been warned by their priests that hes not one of them and to avoid him. Paul Zipfel, the Bishop of Bismarck, N.D., says hes not a "validly ordained Catholic priest" and the "Holy Rosary Abbey is not an institution of the Roman Catholic church." Authors of dozens of web pages accuse him of everything from being a con-man to a person of interest in the murder of a priest. A reporter in North Dakota has written that a woman in California suspects hes holding her mother against her will.
St. Anne, a self-described traditional Catholic, talked with me for nearly two hours and addressed all the animosity directed his way. "I represent, as far as the Catholic church goes, everything Vatican II threw out. I happen to be very much a proponent of traditional faith." In that regard, St. Anne and his followers still conduct a Latin Mass and adhere to the same pre-Vatican II tenets as Mel Gibson.
"As a Benedictine Monastery, we are not subject to the ordinary [the rule of the Bishops]. Neither are any of the other Benedictine orders. The diocese does not own our church. They say we are in schism. Who is in schism? The ones who changed the rules after 1,500 years or the ones practicing for 40 years? They are the Novus Ordo church, the new order. They are the ones who destroyed all the old books."
"There are literally hundreds of independent Catholic churches and priests in the U. S. alone. We are not insignificant. Why are we such a threat that they go to such lengths to suppress us?"
"Its a matter of money, power and control. The Bishops want absolute dominance over every Catholic."
"Our motto is we are what they once were. And theres a reason that the Holy Mother Church said mass should be conducted in Latin. In Latin, words are what they are. In vernacular languages, words have multiple meanings. Also, in the past, we could attend mass anywhere in the world and feel at home. Not any more. Still today, official documents from the Vatican are in Latin so they cant be misinterpreted."
"Before Vatican II, we were building churches and convents; now were tearing them down. There were plenty of nuns in the Catholic schools and hospitals. There wasnt a priest shortage. Now look at the church and all the lay people who are doing the religious work. The fruits of Vatican II are all the crises in the church."
St. Anne claims that, "Yes, I have been ordained." If they want to argue that point, take it up with the Pope. They sit in their golden palaces with their poison pens. Ive challenged Bishops to meet with me in a public forum and they all refuse."
It isnt just theological differences that St. Anne believes has led to his shunning. "I am a whistleblower. I was a victim of a brutal rape in the church when I was a brother. Father Kunz was about to make my story public when he was murdered. [in Madison, Wisc.] Two years ago, I went before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and told them of sex abuse in the church. They hate me. I encourage victims to come forward. I support victims. I encourage them to do everything they can not for the money but to right a grievous wrong. I am a real threat when it comes to clerical sexual abuse. I do research for victims all over the country. I help them find their perps, track their movement. I want these Bishops to stop playing games like hiding their assets and declaring bankruptcy and fix the problem. I dont know how these Bishops can sleep at night. It tells me something; they have no faith."
"They say I am a smooth-talker and a con-man. Whos conning who? They are all fundraisers. Everything is about the money. We are funded by benefactors. We do not fundraise; we do not sell things. When the public attends one of our masses, we dont pass the plate. Talk about con artists, look at what the church has paid off sex scandal victims. They are nothing but the mafia legal organized crime. Every Bishop in the U.S. needs to be replaced. Bring me one person who says I conned them."
"They didnt give me a chance to unpack my bags or mow the front lawn before they condemned me. Why? Because they are afraid some people might want to put some money through my door."
In response to a question about the elderly woman whose daughter claims is being held incommunicado and is not being allowed to speak to her, St. Anne responded: "She drives her own car. She goes to Wisconsin to visit her friends and family. Do you know how long it has been since her daughter last saw her, 17 years."
"I love my faith; I love my church; I love the monastery. It pains me to see the reputation of the Catholic church brought down to such a degrading level."
In contrast to church officials, St. Anne had nothing but praise for Galesburg. "Every place we have gone, every business weve entered, have been so friendly. The business community and the neighbors have been very welcoming."
He added that he expects several families to move here to be near the monastery.
One fact of Galesburg life he hasnt gotten used to yet is the train noise. "We all go to bed very early and its disturbing but well get adjusted to it."
Sept 6, 2004