Tuesday, November 19, 2002

You probably remember the terrible story from Oregon about the two nuns raped and murdered while they were out walking.

Here's an illuminating article about the schismatic traditionalist group of which they were a part: the Tridentine Latin Rites Church

... the two nuns attacked in Oregon were among the 100 or so followers who have stuck with Schuckardt, convinced that they, the members of his Tridentine Latin Rites Church and the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation, are living the Catholic faith the way God intended it to be practiced. ...In recent years, the Tridentines have largely kept to themselves — attending Mass at night in the rented hall in Renton that is as long and narrow as a two-lane bowling alley.

The church uses a post-office box for correspondence, has no published phone number and has changed names nearly a dozen times in the past decade, mostly because of fights with similarly named groups that want no association with it.

In fact, the church might have remained under the public radar were it not for the Klamath Falls attack, which made headlines around the country.

Rosemarie Offenhauer, a Colorado woman who once belonged to Schuckardt's order, recognized it from the reports: Nuns in blue habits, selling dolls outside a grocery store during the day, out praying the rosary when others were long asleep. Nuns oblivious to the risks in the world or confident that God would protect them.

Offenhauer began contacting reporters, insisting that the women were not true Catholic nuns but members of a cult to which she herself once belonged. Among the other members, Offenhauer said, was her mother, who left her husband of 40 years a decade ago to follow Schuckardt and hadn't been seen nor heard from since.

There are, it turns out, dozens such as Offenhauer — traditional Catholics who look sadly or bitterly on the years they spent with the church under Schuckardt.

The Tridentines' only priest, Father Alphonsus Maria Barnes, dismisses the criticisms, saying they are from people who would rather blame others than face their own inability to live the hard life required to be in communion with God. And current members express their unflagging loyalty to Bishop Schuckardt.

The bishop himself is elusive. He hasn't presided over a Mass in two years, and some critics suspect he is dead.

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