History of TLRC & CMRI
Coeur d'Alene Beginnings
Refer to the Schuckardt page for a more detailed discussion of the foundation prior to 1967.
Blue Army Cells & 1967 Foundation
Francis Schuckardt and Denis Chicoine attracted their initial followers through international speaking tours from 1963 to 1967 as part of The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima.
As part of these tours, Schuckardt encouraged the creation of Blue Army Cells. Typical members were over 40 years old. These weekly meetings included praying The Rosary & members wore the brown scapular. Both Schuckardt and Chicoine were third order Carmelites, and this was reflected in the initial norms of the beginnings of the group.
In May 1967, Schuckardt and two other brothers made a pilgrimage to Fatima and the Shrine of Mary Immaculate Queen in Paris. In July 1967, Schuckardt made a phone call to the young women who had been following Schuckardt, and he invited them to come live in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Schuckardt and the brothers had been wanting to move the Blue Army Center from Bellevue, WA (Schuckardt's hometown & his headquarters prior to 1967) to Coeur d’Alene, ID in the summer of 1967. In the months following the May 1967 pilgrimage, Schuckardt moved the Blue Army Center and the group was formed in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The young women arrived on July 26, 1967 to staff the Blue Army Center in Coeur d’Alene. The original sign on the building was “Mary Immaculate Queen Center.” Two priests from the Diocese of Boise came to dedicate the new center that summer.
The religious brothers & sisters took private vows on October 7, 1967. They soon became targets for violence in Coeur d’Alene due to their conservative way-of-life. In October 1967, Schuckardt returned to Fatima with a group of 30 lay followers. At this time, there were four young women staffing the Blue Army Center while the religious brothers were in Fatima. The CMRI did not attend Masses offered by priests of the diocese after the words of consecration were changed in 1967, but instead were served by priests who offered the Mass prior to the changes.
In 1969, with the approval of Bishop Sylvester Williams Treinen of the Diocese of Boise, Schuckardt formed the group into a religious congregation of sisters and brothers.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Schuckardt was able to attract numerous retired, vagabond, or otherwise dissatisfied priests. The CMRI would continue to attract priests from the main Catholic Church throughout their history. Francis Schuckardt surrounded himself with priests who were later credibly accused of sexual abuse of children including Fr. Burton Fraser, S.J., Fr. Lawrence S. Brey, and Fr. Joseph Pinneau. The CMRI was never listed in public records of this abuse since Schuckardt operated outside of the bounds of the diocese structures and was able to effectively shield connection to the abusers. To this day the CMRI has never been publicly accused of being a refuge for abuser priests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
With the implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1970s, Schuckardt and the TLRC came to believe that Pope Paul VI was not a valid pope. Schuckardt never used the term “sedevacantism” that was later accepted by the CMRI after 1989. The group sought services from sympathetic Catholic priests who shared their views, among them Fr. Burton Fraser, S.J. (who was later credibly accused of sexual abuse), a Jesuit from Colorado, who became the congregation’s spiritual advisor. Other Catholic priests who became associated with the group include Fr. Lawrence S. Brey (who was later credibly accused of sexual abuse), Fr. George Kathrein C.Ss.R. (who later joined the SSPX), Fr. Joseph Pinneau (who was later accused of sexual abuse), and Rev. Clement C. Kubesh. Fr. Kubesh had begun publicly rejecting Schuckardt in the early 1980s on charges of homosexuality. Fr. Kubesh separated from the group and refused to talk to anyone about why he left. Fr. Kubesh died in 1987 and is buried at the back of Memorial Gardens, a secular cemetery in Coeur d’Alene. Fr. Brey dissociated from the group after his attempt to correct some aberrations was received with indignation by Schuckardt. Fr. Frasier was killed in a car accident.
Growth of TLRC: 1971 to 1978
Refer to the Schuckardt page for a more detailed discussion of his consecration in 1971.
From October 28 to November 1, 1971, Schuckardt was tonsured, ordained a priests and made a bishop by Daniel Q. Brown of the Old Catholic Church who had come to accept ideas similar to Schuckardt. The two worked together until Brown separated from the group in 1973.
Schuckardt ordained two priests on Saturday September 20, 1975: Very Rev. Father Denis Philomena Marie Chicoine and Rev. James McGilloway of Salinas, CA. He ordained another two priests on Saturday September 29, 1979: Rev. Mary Benedict (Kevin Hughes) of Port Clinton, Ohio and Rev. Alphonsus Maria (Mark Joseph Barnes) of Chula Visa, CA. During the 1984 split, Rev. Alphonsus went with Shuckardt, and the other three priests stayed with the Chicoine faction.
The congregation achieved its peak membership in the late 1970s, leading to the eventual purchase of Mt. St. Michael. Denis Chicoine traveled extensively throughout the county during these years, including stops in Biloxi, Fremont (Ohio), Colorado Springs, Minneapolis, Modesto, and Columbus (Ohio).
Mount St. Michaels
1977 to 1984
On the last day of 1977, the congregation acquired the 735 acre old Jesuit building Mount Saint Michael for $1.5 million and relocated its headquarters from City of Mary to The Mount. The property was purchased by Pillar Investment Co. Patrick Urann (age 18) had recently obtained his real estate license and was instrumental in the purchase. Others noted in the purchase were Thomas “Tom” Drahman, his wife Mary Drahman, and Lawrence Urann. All were members of the TLRC. The Jesuits thought they were selling to developers and didn’t realize who was actually buying the property.
Anti-Cult Movement: 1970s and 80s
For a wider discussion about the anti-cult movement, go to the main scholarship page.
This was the era of talking about “cults” and “brainwashing” and “don’t drink the kool aid” and “deprogramming” and all the other popular buzzwords popular throughout the 1980s hysteria surrounding "cults." Famous groups commonly known as “cults” were Jonestown (mass murder/suicide in 1978), the Unification Church or Moonies, The Way International, The Children of God, Church Universal and Triumphant (Elizabeth Clare Prophet's group in Montana from 1970s to 1990s), and The Rajneeshees in Oregon (early 1980s). While I disagree with teachings of these groups, words used to characterize them (cult, abuse, brainwashing, etc.) can have a wide number of meanings, and they can be used to attack a wide variety of groups and ideas. When does something go from discipline of children to abuse? When does something go from making an argument to brainwashing? It’s really their opinion when something is a “cult” but what’s worse about the Moonies vs normal Roman Catholics? There are critics of both groups, saying they’re all cults, but just of different intensity. When does something become a cult and when is it just a group of people with a similar lifestyle? When is something brainwashing & when is it just something you believe? How deep can these concepts go? Because you could call anything a cult or anything brainwashing if you want to stretch that idea far enough, but maybe that’s ok.
Local media & opponents of the Fatima Crusade group used the Jonestown Massacre of 1978 to their advantage. They were never like Jonestown, so the comparison was idiotic, but opponents will do whatever idiotic things they can.
Cheryl Ernst (staff writer with The Spokesman-Review) wrote two articles on John Cox, a current member of the group who wanted to leave. Cheryl capitalized on the Jonestown thing, otherwise nobody would care about some disaffected seminarian who wanted to get out of the group. This is yet another reason people shouldn’t read the newspapers, and it’s evidence that newspapers were terrible in 1979, so long before the internet came along. The two articles were “A young man’s anguished decision” published on Wednesday May 30, 1979 and the follow-up piece, “Tridentine: cult or ‘true church’?” published the next day, Thursday May 31, 1979. This caused some back and forth and nonsense letters to the editor. Really, it was a stupid hit piece from the paper, and nobody should’ve cared.
John M. Tamplin & his daughter Margie Skarisky were given media attention for their protests of the group. They would put hand painted signs on their pickup truck and park near Mt. St. Michael. Some of the messages on the signs included, “The Crusade is a Satanic Family Splitting Cult” or “Francis Schuckardt is not a bishop.” John had left his wife in 1975 to join the church, and shortly thereafter was kicked out. John made the stupid decision to leave his wife & business, and when he regretted it, he tried to blame the church. The media gave him attention probably because it helped to see subscriptions, otherwise John just looks like an idiot. He tried to sue the group, but lost his lawsuit. It seems the TLRC should’ve been more careful about allowing him to join the group in the first place.
Bill Wassmuth (who resigned the priesthood in 1988), Greg McKenzie, and Barb Strakal first discussed wanting to setup a “cult awareness center” in December 1982. They worked with Kent Burtner (who left the priesthood in 1994). Again, this was all the rage at the time, given the Jonestown thing 4 years prior and the growth in the Mt. St. Michael group. Who knows the exact motivation, but surely they saw the Jonestown media stuff and then the 1979 and 1980 articles on the Mt. St. Michael group, and they thought it was now time to get in on the action. All these people seem insufferable, but of course Wassmuth went on to greater fame vs the Aryan Nations, when he went on attack against that group.
Beginning in April 1980, Bishop Welsh of the Diocese of Spokane began releasing a series of articles in the local diocese newspaper, Inland Register. This was later published as “Tridentine Latin Rite Church” written by Bob Cubbage and edited by Paula LaBeck. This was a collection of the series into a single pamphlet. People didn’t realize it at the time, but Bishop Welsh had his own issues that were later revealed, including assault of a gay male prostitute in a hotel room, covering up sex abuse, and he was an alcoholic. I can only shake my head at this stuff.
Connection to Aryan Nations
The TLRC purchased automatic weapons from the Aryan Nations around 1984. The Aryan Nations had been headquartered near Hayden Lake, Idaho since 1973. This Aryan Nations connection was also corroborated when Sheriff Deputy Cloud testified under oath in California (Court Case 87-2823) that the members of the Aryan Nations had been guests at Mount Saint Michael.
On June 3, 1984, Schuckardt and a group of his followers (including Fr. Alphonsus Maria Barnes) left the Spokane area. Estimates are that 5% to 10% of the followers and religious (less than 100 people total) went with Schuckardt, while the majority remained with Chicoine (somewhere around 700 people in the Spokane-North Idaho area). The Chicoine faction claim that Schuckardt left after being exposed for reports of abuse & drug addiction. The Schuckardt faction claim that Chicoine simply wanted to take over the group to gain power and to relax the severity of the rules that had been imposed by Schuckardt. The peak membership of the group was noted to be around 5000 (throughout the U.S.) and 800 in the Spokane area. In the time surrounding Schuckardt’s departure, large numbers of followers abandoned both factions. By 2002, The Seattle Times noted that Schuckardt had approximately 100 followers. Exact membership decline in TLRC-Chicoine between 1984 and 1989 is unknown, although estimates are that 25% to 50% of members left the group in the years 1984 to 1989.
Chicoine Era: 1985 to 1989
Thuc Bishop Connections (1985)
Shortly after Bishop Schuckardt left, the CMRI started looking for another bishop to ordain priests for the group. They found their solution in the numerous wandering bishops created by Archbishop Thuc. Soon after, Bishop George Musey (Thuc line bishop from Galveston, Texas) was brought in. All professed obedience to Bishop Musey, so he had become the new leader, but this was shortlived. On April 23, 1985, the three remaining priests (Fr. Chicoine, Fr. Benedict, and Fr. James McGilloway) made an abjuration of error, despite the fact that they recognized Schuckardt as a valid bishop. My guess is that this was done for political reasons, to make some attempt at distancing themselves from Schuckardt’s lineage. On June 27, 1985, Bishop Musey ordained Mark Pivarunas to the priesthood.
He led the group for a little while, but the TLRC-Chicoine was not willing to make all the changes Musey wanted, and his conclusion was that the group was still under the influence of Schuckardt and was not willing to make changes he thought were necessary. Musey left the group on negative terms, taking some of the nuns with him. The CMRI fails to note how Musey was kicked out because Chicoine thought he was too liberal.
After the CMRI and Bishop Musey departed on antagonistic and negative terms, the CMRI began courting another Traditionalist bishop: Bishop Robert McKenna (another Thuc bishop). During Bishop McKenna’s time (around 1987 to 1989), TLRC-Chicoine established rules and constitutions, though they did this behind Bishop McKenna’s back, which caused a rift between Bishop McKenna and the CMRI. Shortly after, Bishop McKenna lef the CMRI on negative terms.
Fr. Blanco & New CMRI: 1989 to 1995
In 1989, the CMRI members held a meeting and Denis Chicoine was removed from power after a vote of “no confidence” from the rest of the priests. Fr. Tarcisius Pivarunas was then elected to be superior general. Denis Chicoine soon left for New Zealand, where he remained until shortly before his death. Why Denis Chicoine left for New Zealand and wasn’t consecrated is a mystery. It’s strange that he developed cancer and died shortly after being removed from power.
Fr. Mario Porras Blanco was a serial child rapist (link) and sedevacantist priest operating out of an independent chapel in Tacoma, Washington in the 1980s. The original parish had been called "Our Lady Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church" and is today operated by Francisco Blanco, Javier Blanco, and Irene Villeges (link) and (link). He had previously been a priest with the Diocese of Sacramento, but had left the diocese in 1973 and joined the Traditionalist movement. This independent chapel in Tacoma had about 170 parishioners and was associated with the CMRI. Fr. Blanco would also travel to other sedevacantist chapels in Redding, CA, Spokane, WA, Tucson, AZ, Denver, and Los Angeles. Actor Mel Gibson regularly flew Fr. Blanco back to California to celebrate Mass for Traditionalist congregations.
In 1991 there was a sex abuse settlement regarding previous abuse by Fr. Blanco. The parishioners in Tacoma then wanted to remove Fr. Blanco and they asked the CMRI to send them a priest. Due to this situation, the group separated from Fr. Blanco, bought their own property (link), and renamed their group "St. Mary's Parish." During this time, Fr. Blanco was able alienate the CMRI from all the Traditionalist bishops in the United States, effectively leaving the CMRI isolated and without a bishop. How a rapist priest was able to isolate the CMRI from all the bishops is a mystery. I assume he told them the CMRI was power hungry, churning through bishops, and was unwilling to work with other groups.
In response to Fr. Blanco’s successful alienation of the CMRI from the bishops, Fr. Tarcisius Pivarunas went down to Mexico and had seminarians ordained by Bishop Carmona. In the following months, the CMRI made radical changes & the group had what should be considered a complete restart. Numerous important and key events happened from 1991 to 1995:
- Sept 24, 1991: Bishop Moises Carmona consecrates Bishop Pivarunas
- Nov 1, 1991: Bishop Moises Carmona dies in a suspicious and freak car accident only 38 days after the consecration
- Dec 13, 1991: The US sedevacantist movement held a conference in Cincinnati to discuss the purpose & validity of the CMRI. Notably, many did not want to recognize Bishop Pivarunas.
- Mar 29, 1992: Bishop George Musey dies
- Nov 30, 1993: Bishop Pivarunas consecrated Bishop Daniel Dolan. Strangely, Bishop Dolan had been opposed to the Thuc lineage (along with the entire SSPV) in the 1980s. Why he changed his mind is a mystery.
- Aug 10, 1995: Denis Chicoine dies of cancer
All of this history is strange, suspicious, and is kept from CMRI members and the general public. Most members are not aware that Fr. Blanco was a serial rapist who was able to isolate the group from all the bishops. Members aren’t aware that Bishop Musey and Bishop McKenna left the group on negative terms. It seems impossible that the group was able to survive the absolute chaos and criminal behavior of 1984 to 1991, and I assume that there were some powerful politics happening behind the scene, possibly involving governments & organized crime.
Wiki Edit Wars and Bloggers: 2006
Current and former members began an edit war on wikipedia from 2005 to 2006. The edits were centered around the page of Bishop Francis Schuckardt.
The internet also allowed for a more hardliner element to grow in the movement with a focus on "Baptism of Desire", modesty, criticism of "epikeia" and a preference for pre-1955 liturgies. People were starting to again question much of 1950s Catholicism, and to take a more firm stance against the changes that CMRI had made in the 1990s after the departure of Bishop Schuckardt and Fr. Denis Chicoine.
Changes in Movement: 2007
Impact of Benedict XVI
The internet had begun to take off in 2005, but activity started to pick up more in 2007 with the departure of a group of 15 nuns from Mt. St. Michael, and outside critics began to setup blogs and websites in order to publish their own views.
In the wider traditional Catholic world, there was a boom in the "TLM" movement, primarily focused on the permissions given by Benedict XVI to the FSSP.
There was a push in the main Catholic Church to give people "the Latin Mass" while keeping obedience to Rome & accepting (at least formally) Vatican II and all the changes made in the 1960s and 70s. Many within the FSSP were happy to have these isolated parishes where they could seem to be holding to old ways, while claiming to be with Rome.
Sex Abuse & COVID: 2018 to 2020
By 2018, many of the original members from the 1970s had died, and a new generation was becoming the dominant force in the group.
In 2018, a new round of sex abuse allegations were exposed after Cardinal McCarrick was charged with exposed. This exposed more former TLRC priests who had not yet been publicly accused.
In 2020, Bishop Daniel Dolan began taking a more hardliner view against the COVID vaccines, while CMRI senior leadership and official newsletters largely remained silent.
A CMRI affiliated priest, Fr. Gregory Lavery, currently based in Ohio (@FrLavery on twitter), made local headlines in 2021 for speaking against vaccine mandates and voicing skepticism of the vaccine's effectiveness. His sentiments are commonplace among the clergy and laity.Video of Fr. Gregory Lavery
Around 2022, outsiders began to criticize the CMRI for its views on "una cum" Masses and annulments. This more hardliner element was coming from those sympathetic to Bishop Daniel Dolan and Bishop Sanborn.