Monday, June 8, 2020

On seeking forgiveness from "super trads"

About 8 years ago, without thinking about it much, at the Easter Vigil practice with my servers I said, “Let’s do a video on the steps of the Church, then we’ll get started with practice”.  The Harlem Shake was a video that everyone was making and posting versions of them doing the dance.  I thought it would be a good way to show the transition from Lent to Easter in the Catholic Church.

I have since realized that it was sacrilegious, and I took the video down (it is the only video I’ve ever made that I took down)

A year or two ago, a parishioner said “Father, I saw a video of you posted on Facebook from some trad group…you are…um…famous!”

I went and look it up after Mass and sure enough the video of me and the servers doing the Harlem Shake had been reuploaded by someone and was being spread around.

I went in to the Facebook group and posted an UNQUALIFIED apology.  I shared that I had
1. Taken the video down
2. Gone to confession for the sin of sacrilege
3. Since blessed the items used in the video (vestments, servers cassocks and surplices, aspergilium, etc) according to the Latin book of blessings which someone had recently purchased for me.

I made zero excuses for the video and submitted an apology without any footnotes.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.  The comment was deleted by the Facebook group’s administrator who then reached out to me behind the scenes and said, essentially, that he read my post, but that it wasn’t welcome and that I was not welcome in the group.

Every few months, on a random homily that I post on Facebook, some “super trad” will randomly post the video and say something like “he’s a fraud priest”

So why this post now?  A few weeks ago, on the post pinned to the top of my public Facebook page about my brain tumor and where to get updates, someone posted the video and said, in essence, “You think this priest is trad?  Watch this.” 

I have tried to ask forgiveness for about 5 years for the video.  Some have accepted it.  But some “super trads” will not grant me forgiveness.

Jesus says “If your brother seeks forgiveness, grant it to him.”  I am seeking forgiveness.  The balls is now in the court of the super trads.


  1. Father, I say in all sincerity, if you feel you behaved sacrilegiously, then it is good that you confessed and repented. But never apologize to the mob; you owe them nothing. They take it as a sign of weakness and they will use that perceived weakness against you. As an academic in the current climate, I learned this lesson a while back.

  2. As always, 3 Hail Marys for you "on the spot," for all your intentions, including God's will for your life, and for all you encounter in any way. I'm also wrapping this intention in my Rosary beads as a permanent intention.

    O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

  3. This is a battle between Good and evil, and you are in the cross fires. Your repentence and openness to the truth is sufficient. Offer this persecution as you walk in the footsteps of the Lord when God allows it. Soon , we will see peace, but first the battle goes on. Know you are making a difference when persecution doesn't let up. It will in time. Focus on pleasing the Lord, and leave the rest to Him. Proclaim the truth and safeguard the flock. What is out of your control is for the Lord to handle. We pray for all. We appreciate what you are allowing the Holy Spirit to do through you. Thank you for everything.

  4. I love our Catholic faith, I love the traditions and think I would love Latin Mass but am not a super trad. Since the NO practice is licit and the only option near me, I cant understand the super trad position.

    I always appreciate your open honest words Father. Like Nathaniel you are truely a man without guile.

    You are in my prayers for your healing and the healing of our church and nation.

  5. I have seen that video on YouTube it still up never thought it was sacrilegious I kinda thought it was cool I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way either way I love you anyway I’m sorry people treat you this way I have learned a lot from your liturgy of the hours and your read the Bible in a year podcast I’m praying for you

  6. Super trads, eh? They sound positively Pharisiacal.

  7. Look, father, they are literally saying who is welcome, and the one looking for forgiveness is you? Come on... Great act of humbleness that of yours. The often called traditionalists tend to be a cartoon of real Tradition. I won't lie, if I had seen the video, I would have felt sadness as well, but Our Lord has given you light now. May God bless you.

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  9. I think we can learn from this mess. I can think of two things, 1. once something is on the internet it's there forever and 2. this is what happens when we sin. I'm not pointing a finger at you father, I'm pointing them all at myself. I do something sinful and it's with me (it's a part of who I am) until it's burned out of me in purgatory. I don't even get to complain about the consequences, even if they're unjust or blown out of proportion because it was my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault. I don't think I get to say "I've apologized, let's move on". HOWEVER, in justice if people can't comprehend the fundamentals of forgiveness then they're just as fallen as me... which is pretty low frankly.

    To that point, there's no comparison to who I was and who I am. I don't think there are many trads who haven't developed over the years who aren't ashamed of what they did decades ago. I've got one, over 20 years ago I was a sacristan and used to count the Hosts in the tabernacle BY HAND before Masses so the priest would know how many additional altar breads to Consecrate... I'm absolutely horrified. I'd never do that now and at the same time looking down on someone who is doing it now is even worse because I certainly knew no better. Looking down on someone who stopped 8 years ago rather than 20 years ago is even

    Of course since trads have been treated so vilely by the hierarchy for decades and have had to go it alone with almost zero priestly or episcopal guidance what can one expect? Beat that dog long enough and he will stop shying away and start tearing you apart.

  10. Father Hollowell, you did what you thought was right. You learned a lesson in what to post. You can’t seek acceptance from everyone. You are a good man and a great priest. God’s forgiveness is all you need.

  11. You have made your confession to God, you have made your confession in the Sacrament, you apologized to those who needed apologizing to.

    You don't owe anything to anyone else, least of all to self righteous people who never, of course, make mistakes.

  12. Father, I must be a very bad Catholic. I do not see where what you did was even a matter for confession. How does it even meet the requirement for sin? Sure, silly and thoughtless, maybe, but sinful? And let me add, I struggle with scrupulosity.

  13. Wow! I'm so sorry you're going through this! I got to know you a bit while watching the show with Taylor Marshall where you were talking about your brain tumor and how you felt like it was suffering God had given you for the sake of the victims of priest sexual abuse, and I thought you were so sweet about it, and also with very solid theology, so it was a really enjoyable interview for me. I also noticed some comments scrolling through what was the live feed that seemed to come from traditional types, and they weren't very charitable imo.

    It sounds like you have done all you can to make amends for the mistake you made back then. Like the previous commenter said, you've repented and confessed in the appropriate way, and you don't really owe the haters anything more. I've been in situations where some significant wrong was done by a priest and the wrong was addressed as transparently and positively as possible and yet people still weren't satisfied, and I got the impression nothing would satisfy them. I think there really are people out there who for whatever reason aren't going to let go of a wrong like that, and I guess all we can do is hope and pray for their healing because there is clearly something wrong with them--some deep psychological wound.

  14. I believe you know my brother Edward Atkinson. Your example and path through much suffering is edifying and encouraging. Ad multa!

  15. I am sorry you are going through this. I pray for you every day and we must pray for the persecutors too
    These so called “super trads” give those who love the traditional form a bad name

  16. I just now Googled this and sure enough, there it is re-posted. So many scriptures and thoughts come to mind...

    The one scripture that I will say here is Romans 8:28 (We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose). You are in the middle of a most extraordinary mission from God. To so joyfully be surrendered in offering so much suffering for those who were sexually abused, those you had no part in hurting and don't even know, is nothing shy of showing us heroic virtue. It was even striking to me that as you publicly spoke out that you would be taking this on to help in healing and to give hope(something no other priest had done), ALL priests worldwide were forced to join you in isolation and celebrating Masses alone. Though I can never know for certain, it was as if you were silently leading the way for your brother priests in God's economy to set things right. For this video to be brought up time and time again is, in my view, just an attempt by the evil one to derail you from complete surrender in focusing on your mission from God. So much good is coming by the prayers and sacrifices you are offering in this pivotal time...don't look back and loose that focus!!

    And one final thing, flip regret to praise. Every time it surfaces, praise God you have an opportunity to grow even deeper in humility; to pray for those who are trying to harm you; for grow in holiness for the boys in the video with you; to just surrender yourself in that moment...whatever comes to mind. God is allowing it and you know you can turn what was meant for evil into something wonderfully good.

    I will stop "preaching to the preacher". God bless you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you are doing. I pray deeply for you daily.