Father Mawdsley’s visit to Northern Kentucky was admittedly brief (approximately 24 hours), yet highly memorable. Before driving out of the airport parking garage, I was already impressed by his intelligence, sense of humor, and the ease with which he articulates profound Mysteries of the Faith. As I was fumbling through my wallet for the garage parking ticket, he was reflecting on the powerful witness of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta and explaining the importance of reparation and how deeply it is rooted in supernatural faith and charity. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that quick and that deep into discussing the Faith with anyone.
He had been traveling all morning, so we headed to lunch at a local landmark established in 1921 which features southern hospitality, traditional cuisine, and regional history. This afforded us the opportunity to discuss religion, politics, the ecclesial crisis, his challenge of the Burmese government for violating its peoples’ basic human rights, his call to the priesthood, and his passionate defense of the Faith which has resulted in his current suspension.
Father explained that when he promised obedience to his superiors and the bishops, it was as a member of a society of apostolic life. He understood that his superiors would send him (missio from Latin) to serve the Mystical Body of Christ. And just as a contemplative cannot be be forced to take on an active ministry, and a diocesan priest cannot be forced to become a religious, so a member of an apostolic society cannot be forced to surrender their mission — unless there be a crime and canonical process. When someone promises to give their life to Christ in service of His Church, and is ordained for this, the hierarchy does not have the right to arbitrarily withdraw the mission. Indeed they have a greater obligation to provide for this than the subordinate, as parents have a greater obligation to care for their children than children have an obligation to obedience. Both are vital, but that of the parents is prior.
Unfortunately, Father’s superiors repeatedly withdrew that mission without due cause. Church authorities certainly have the right to discipline – even suspend or laicize – a priest, but the severity of the punishment should be commensurate with the violation. Father Mawdsley was withdrawn from pastoral duties for upholding the honor of Christ and the good of souls: once for distributing Holy Communion on the tongue when a cardinal wanted it banned, another time for permitting ‘too many’ people to attend Holy Mass, and finally for refusing to wear a mask. All of this points to the madness which has overrun the Church Militant since the emergence of the Wuhan virus.
Father Mawdsley knows the history of the grave disobedience which led to distributing Holy Communion in unconsecrated hands (documented by John Vennari, R.I.P. and in a Fatima Center Special Report). Like many priests, Father refused to participate in such a sacrilege. When the Archdiocese of Vienna attempted to forbid Communion on the tongue, this would have risked Hosts already in the tabernacle going stale, and that faithful go without Holy Communion for months, with no end date except at the whim of the chancery. Father refused the illegal order of the cardinal and distributed Holy Communion on the tongue.[All Catholics should know:  It is extremely important to obey one’s proper authorities. Such right authority reflects God’s will.  However, one may never obey when the authority commands a violation of God’s law. One should never obey if the authority commands that which opposes the salvation of one’s soul.  And if authorities command something outside their respective competence, one is not obligated to obey. This is very clearly explained by St. Thomas Aquinas (see Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 104, Article 5) and upheld by Catholic teaching throughout the centuries.]
Father was also punished because he would not wear, or coerce the laity to wear, a mask during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It fortified my own faith in the Mass to hear Father explain how the Mass communicates the life of the Blessed Trinity to us, and reveals the “face of God” by leading us to the very mystery of His sacrifice and love. How the entire concept of the mask – which covers the face of the priest (the alter Christus) and the faithful (the beloved) – is antithetical to the nature of interpersonal communication and self-revelation. In essence, ‘the mask’ is diametrically opposed to the very nature of the sacred liturgy.
We all know that good priests who preach orthodoxy, offer the Holy Sacrifice reverently, and inspire the laity by their courage and faith attract a greater number of people. Father was informed that too many people came to his Holy Triduum liturgies. This despite the fact that these liturgies, more than any others, conform souls to the Paschal Mystery (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), and it is a priest’s duty to help the faithful live the Paschal Mystery. Yet, for admirably fulfilling his duties and helping souls, Father was summarily removed – once again – from active ministry.
Then the Vatican released the document Traditionis Custodes, which attacks the Sacred Liturgy and the very foundations of our Faith. In the face of such evil, Father Mawdsley would not keep silent. It is one thing to quietly offer up one’s own suffering, but a priest is not supposed to offer up the care of the flock. Years beforehand, when he was much younger, he had endured solitary confinement, torture, and even danger to his life from Burmese prison guards. The human rights violations in Burma were more gruesome but not as deeply malevolent as the destruction of Christ’s Holy Sacrifice. He was therefore willing to endure suffering again – this time for an eternal cause: the glory of God and the salvation of souls. I have the impression that no degree of alienation, loss of financial stability, calumny, or any punitive measure will induce him to betray Christ and abandon his convictions.
He spoke to his superiors and explained why he would choose to leave his assignment. As a priest, he simply could not turn people away from the Sacraments for unjust causes (like not wearing a mask). He could not stand by silently while the Mass of Ages was being unjustly stripped from hundreds of priests and countless Catholic souls. His superiors had effectively already removed him from his mission, despite the commitment they made to him upon his ordination. Given the current milieu (grave crisis!) in the Church, and his own iron determination to remain faithful to Christ, Father knew these removals from ministry would likely continue, if not for corona then for tradition.
After leaving his assignment, he was suspended. Father waited until after suspension before speaking about his convictions, hoping that vindictive Vatican officials would not punish members of his priestly fraternity on his account. Even while suffering under his superiors unjustly, Father Mawdsley took measures so as to protect them.
Father explained that years of reflection and experience led him to realize his biggest mistake when challenging the government in Burma was having spent too much of his time and energy opposing the middle-level management. I was surprised when he told me that he had given his prison guards and administrators such a hard time that they could not handle him! Although he was sentenced for 17 years they released him after 14 months. Now he realizes he should have taken the fight to their superiors and those who really pulled the levers of power.
He does not want to make the same mistake again. He speaks highly of his fellow priests and superiors in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. He admires them, views them as good priests, and considers them to be assuredly part of the solution, not the problem. They are the “middle management” responsible for many apostolates and countless souls in each district. He understands their actions, even though he wishes they took a firmer stance. They act out of fear, not wanting the bishops to shut down their apostolates and further persecute the Latin Mass and ostracize Tradition.
But what kind of sick [abusive] relationship exists when priests fear their bishops to a degree where they won’t act according to true doctrine and right worship? For this reason, Father Mawdsley wants to raise the resistance against the upper levels of Church leadership: bishops, Cardinals and the Pope. The higher authorities wield the levels of power in the Church and it is there that true reform and conversion is most urgently needed. However, even more important than resistance, he asserts, is that each seek and hold onto Christ as best they can — including by striving to live true to Tradition.
Father Mawdsley serves as a tremendous inspiration for me. He is willing to fight at a time when we need fighters. But he is willing to fight with discipline, patience, and long-suffering. Father never spoke uncharitably of others. He had a simplicity and humility about him, being grateful for the little we could offer him. He has a strong faith and unyielding hope. He is absolutely convinced that God not only will triumph – but right now, is in fact triumphing; for history is working out exactly as He wills it! Father’s love for Christ is intimate and real; it shines forth in all he says and does. And so he remains at peace. I believe it was this ‘peace’ which he exudes that most impacted me.
My young children readily picked up on all this as well. He narrated Bible lessons with great enthusiasm. He stopped our conversation at noon to sing the Regina Cæli. He answered their questions and showed genuine interest in teaching them the Faith. When we visited a beautiful church (Mother of God in Covington), he promptly led us in chanting the Litany of Loreto. He gave them profound insights into God’s providence and absolute control over history. His intensity and peace, while enduring his own trials in the face a of Church-wide persecution, makes his witness so credible. This is the kind of priest who will inspire young people to follow Christ!
Please keep Father James Mawdsley in your prayers.
And beg God to inspire more courageous priests to lead us in the great spiritual battle which is now upon us.
And beg God to grant the necessary graces for courageous and orthodox bishops – for we desperately need Successors of the Apostles molded like St. Athanasius, St. John Fisher, and St. Anthony Mary Claret – to lead us in this dire conflict.
St. John Mary Vianney’s Prayer for Priests
O God, we beg Thee to give Thy Church today many priests after Thine own Sacred Heart.
May they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance; be examples of humility and poverty; shining models of holiness; tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God; and zealous dispensers of Thy grace in the Sacraments.
May their loving devotion to Thy Son Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to Mary His Immaculate Mother, be the twin fountains of fruitfulness for their apostolic labor. Amen.
Our Lady, Mother of All Priests, pray and intercede for Thy sons.