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Talking Sedevacantism with an SSPX Lay Kahuna

Following the SSPX wave…

Father: Even though I’ve figured out that sedevacantism is the only possible theological explanation for Bergoglio and the whole Vatican II mess, I still have a lot of friends and acquaintances in SSPX circles. Word of my change of position has gotten around, so the topic now comes up in conversations. Lay SSPX-ers agree with my arguments … up to a point. Their priests respond like they are brain dead, and either have no answer at all or tell me to read the Salza-Siscoe book.

Recently, though, a layman who is a respected major player in the SSPX empire invited me over to talk with him about sedevacantism. He’s an intelligent guy, and probably hopes to “convert” me back to R&R from the “errors” of sedevacantism. Any ideas about how to handle him?

LOOK ON IT as an opportunity to get him thinking about some of the unquestioned “givens” the Society has handed him about “evil, schismatic, proud” sedevacantism.

Like the SSPX priest, your friend also probably told you to read the Salza-Siscoe book, which is like Ambien in print. Zzzz. Instead of sending him links to Dead on Arrival and A Dignified Burial, my two videos refuting the book’s arguments,  I’d recommend you point him to a big wave coming from another direction.

A SEDE behind that smile?

I. Abp. Lefebvre in Favor of Sedevacantism?

For any SSPX kahuna, clerical or lay, the gold standard for explaining the state of the Church after Vatican II is supposedly “the position of Archbishop Lefebvre,” as if this were some great body of fixed and consistent teaching — which, of course, it was not. (See a 1984 article here.)

But since the notion of Lefebvre’s supposed authority casts such a long shadow in SSPX-land, you should meet your friend’s suggestion that you read the Salza-Siscoe book with another suggestion to him: that he take a close look at the material found at these two links:

Chances are, the lay kahuna will run this rather surprising information by an SSPX priest, perhaps even the District Kahuna himself. These priests — unlike me — did not know Abp. Lefebvre personally or hear him say these things, and they will not have a convincing way to explain them away for your friend.

So, an intelligent and reasonable man, having been told for ages that “the archbishop’s thinking” on Vatican II mess was nearly divine revelation, may indeed rightly begin to question the SSPX party line that sedevacantism is “schismatic.”

How could it be, if the the Iron Bishop himself so repeatedly spoke in favor of it?

The only conclusion if you say “true popes.”

II. The Real Problem: A Defecting Church

But serving up Abp. Lefebvre’s pro-sede statements is just a little hors d’oeuvre.

The essential argument against R&R and for sedevacantism is based upon ironclad principles of Catholic (i.e. pre-Vatican II) dogmatic theology concerning the indefectibility and infallibility of the Church — n.b. not just the infallibility of Roman Pontiff alone in rare ex cathedra pronouncements. I have provided a summary and application of the teaching in Resisting the Pope, Sedevacantism and Frankenchurch, and again in Section I of Sedevacantism: A Quick Primer.

The logical corner to force intelligent SSPX-ers like your lay friend into is the defecting Church.

(1) If Vatican II is error and the new laws are evil — as SSPX and R&R firmly insist —and at the same time, and the men who promulgated them somehow still had authority from Christ, the Church herself has defected, and Christ’s promises have failed — especially, “I am with you always.”

(2) But faith tells us this is impossible.

(3) The only alternate solution consonant with the Church’s infallibility and indefectibility is that the men who promulgated these errors and evils never received authority from Christ in the first place; they defected — not the Church herself — and became incapable of being validly elected popes or of receiving authority from Jesus Christ.

(4) The judgement that the changes were errors and evils is thus implicitly a judgment that those who promulgated them had no authority.

In other words, the errors and evils of the officially-approved changes is the smoking gun which leads to an unassailable and ironclad verdict: No authority, fake popes.

An Angelus Press bestseller?

III. Wait for the Lame Excuses…

Your friend will probably have heard the standard objections that SSPX has employed to get around this argument, and may repeat them to you:

  • Where would we get a true pope, then?
  • Vatican II is not universal ordinary magisterium because it is not in accord with previous “tradition,” so we’re not bound by it.
  • The pope is like a bad dad whom we can disobey.
All these have been answered over the years, and answered in spades:

(1) Not having absolute certitude how to get a pope does not make a heretic a true pope by default OR solve your defecting Church problem.

(2) ALL the bishops came home from the Vatican II and, in union with the Vatican II popes, taught the Council’s doctrines, which John Paul II then duly enshrined and imposed as obligatory in his universal catechism; so, if you believe the V2 popes are true popes, Vatican II is universal ordinary magisterium.

(3) The SSPX argument that universal ordinary magisterium, to be such and to be binding, must first be “in accord with tradition”

a. Erroneously turns a consequence into a condition. In fact, a teaching is “in accord with tradition” and infallible because a true pope and his bishops universally teach it — that’s how Christ’s promise works — not because you, Mr. Layman or Father SSPX, have checked out the hierarchy’s pronouncement and decided that it is consistent with “tradition.”

b. Was an argument of the anti-infallibilist “Old Catholic” party that was rejected by Vatican I.

(4) A bad dad’s authority is paternal, domestic, private and expressed in particular commands, whereas a pope’s authority is jurisdictional, universal, public and exercised through universal disciplinary laws, which are infallible. Sorry, there are no common points, making this old analogy particularly bone-headed and silly.

There are other equally worthless evasions that have likewise been answered again and again. (See section 3 of Sedevacantism: A Quick Primer.)

•  •  •  •  •

YOUR LAY FRIEND should have no difficulty understanding the argument: once you say that the officially-approved changes in doctrine and discipline are errors and are evil, you are logically stuck with one of two explanations: the Church has defected, or the individual or individuals who imposed them have defected.

Sedevacantists like Bp. Daniel Dolan, Bp. Donald Sanborn and myself have been making this same argument for decades, and no one — not Michael Davies, not The Remnant, not SSPX, not its SS shock troops, not anyone on the R&R side — has been able to come up with a convincing refutation for it based on the principles of pre-Vatican II dogmatic theology.

If the doctrinal, disciplinary and liturgical changes are error-ridden, evil and sacrilegious, the papacy of the Vatican II popes is toast. It is a straight-line argument to that inexorable conclusion.

Your lay friend may indeed be comfortably basking in the SSPX empire’s sunny climate at the moment. But forcing him to think logically about the Church’s infallibility and indefectibility may well lead him to say a final aloha to the R&R myths, and bid a new one to sedevacantism as his own wave of the future…

Time to catch the wave, kahuna!




The Remnant’s Latest: The Blathering of the Clams

RECENTLY I received a letter urging traditional Catholics to circulate a video produced by the R&R publication The Remnant, and calling for the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) to “unite in battle against our true enemy, the Modernists.”

In the video, Mission Impossible: Unite the SSPX and FSSP Clans, Remnant editor Michael Matt treats viewers to potted histories and fawning portraits of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, SSPX and FSSP. His is a whining, emotional appeal, entirely divorced from any discernible theological principle. We (all trads, but especially SSPX-ers and FSSP-ers) are all “brothers” because we go to the Latin Mass. Why, oh why, can’t we “just get along” to fight “the enemy.”

I addressed just this question in a 2008 sermon, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? — because of Catholic doctrine, especially Catholic doctrine on the authority of the Roman Pontiff, which R&R outfits like The Remnant and SSPX have rejected both in theory and in practice. Moreover, the Church teaches that the principle for unity among Catholics is submission to the Roman Pontiff, who exercises authority from Christ to proclaim and protect the truths of the faith.

A Clueless Analogy

Mr. Matt, however, proposes another principle for unity (at 18:56) with a truly wacky analogy, based on a scene in the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart (though fortunately not the most infamous one…). The William Wallace character, played by Mr. Gibson, knows that the English can only be defeated by uniting the warring Scottish clans and that he can’t do this on his own. So (as Mr. Matt puts it), “he appealed to a higher authority… the highest ranking noble, Robert the Bruce,” to “unite the clans.”

“In our case,” says Mr. Matt, drawing his analogy, “the old faith itself is Robert the Bruce. The old faith, that’s what we appeal to. The faith can unite the clans.

The block-headed cluelessness of such a statement leaves you wondering whether Mr. Matt intentionally ignored the analogy that should be obvious to any Catholic: the pope — if you claim you have one — is the highest ranking authority for Catholics, and unity can only come from submission to him.

But no, in Mr. Matt’s R&R world, the pope is not the “higher authority.” Instead, it is “tradition” or  “the faith,” either as interpreted by Mr. Matt and R&R bloggers, or in the case of SSPX-ers, The Position of the Society as Substitute Magisterium. For all these, it is truly a case of The Pope Speaks: YOU Decide!

Another Remnant special!

More of the Same!

In addition to this fundamental error, the Matt video is yet another installment in the unending series of whiney, pointless, wild goose chases that The Remnant has been trying to launch since its foundation in the 1960s. None of them — not one — has had the slightest effect in slowing down the Vatican II juggernaut. So while Mr. Matt may present his latest public emotional jag as a passionate appeal for a “gathering of the clans,” it’s nothing more than the usual “blathering of the clams,” the main ingredient of The Remnant’s peculiar theological chowder.

And as for “uniting” SSPX and FSSP, these organizations are already united in their communion with the apostate/false pope Bergoglio, and with the false church of Vatican II.

SSPX and FSSP are not “battling” the modernists, both groups have in fact surrendered to them. Their members are all sold men.

Put ‘em in a bag, shake ‘em up, and they all come out the same.

This is so because the Matts, the R&R camp, SSPX-ers, FSSP-ers and others like them have promoted the poisonous theological error and the sinful moral principle that a Catholic is free to “recognize” someone as the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth, but “resist” him by ignoring, denouncing or mocking his teachings, his laws, his liturgical ordinances and his commands. This error and sinful moral principle utterly overthrows the whole edifice of Catholic teaching on submission to the Roman Pontiff as necessary for salvation.

Helping Build the One-World Church

Both SSPX and FSSP, moreover, are in the process of providing Bergoglio with exactly what he wants, and what the forces of anti-Christ have wanted for centuries: a one-world religion that unites every type of religious practice (Latin Masses, Pentecostalism, guitar Masses, lady Lutheran bishops, worship-the-earth environmentalism, Indian peace-pipe rituals, Brazilian paganism, etc.) into one, big, happy dogma-free organization that recognizes no absolute truth.

In this system, the pope has no true authority, whether doctrinal or disciplinary, over anyone. If he makes a pronouncement or promulgates a law, you’re free to heed or disregard it as you see fit in terms of your own criteria for judgement — “tradition,” if you’re an SSPX-er; the “Bible,” if you’re a Pentecostalist; or “cultural conditioning,” if you’re a feminist theologian.

I understand the emotional appeal of the Rodney King, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along trick that Mr. Matt is trying to pull.

Don’t fall for it. Mr. Matt’s clam chowder is just a new recipe on Bergoglio’s menu for a One-World Church.

A Short Musical Setting for the Creed

A PRIEST who is also a church musician quickly finds he has to balance pastoral considerations and musical aspirations without doing harm to either.

As a trained church musician who loves and wishes to preserve the great patrimony of the Catholic sacred music, he naturally wants to have his choir and organist perform as much splendid music as they can. As a priest, however, he learns that this must be tempered by the practicalities of running a well-ordered parish.

In the latter category, inevitably, falls the question of the length of church services, especially that of the Sunday High Mass. Before Vatican II, most harmonized settings of the Ordinary included a musical setting for the Credo. This was invariably the longest of the six movements; it took many rehearsals for a choir to learn, and it consumed a lot of time at the average Sunday parish High Mass.

As a teenager and aspiring church musician during the horrible period in the 1960s when the Vatican II changes were gradually being introduced and old-style sacred music was being dumped en masse, I haunted church music dealers in my home city, plowed through Mass settings that were being sold off for pennies, and bought what I considered to be the best. So here, more than fifty years later, I still have this collection with me, numbering well over two hundred scores.

When I purchased these Masses in the 1960s and again when I organized them about ten years ago, I noticed that in most cases, the Credo settings tended to be far less musically interesting than the other movements. Obviously, I’m not referring to the works of the great masters such as Palestrina, Victoria and Mozart, but those of the B, C and D list Catholic church music composers. I suspect that most of the inspirations the composers got came for the five shorter movements, and that the Credo setting was left till last.

Therefore, when I took over the church music program at St. Gertrude the Great in 2009, it occurred to me that if most musical settings of the Credo not only took a long time for a choir to learn and were usually musically inferior, but also consumed a lot of time for the parish High Mass, why not look for better alternatives? (Continued)

Spiritual Cooties: The SSPV Sacramental Penalties after 30 Years

Purely imaginary!

Coot-ie: n. informalUS. a children’s term for an imaginary germ or repellent quality transmitted by obnoxious or slovenly people.

JULY 4, 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of my departure from the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV).

Most traditional Catholics know that some sort of a conflict occurred many years ago among the priests who had left SSPX in 1983-84 and later formed the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV).

Few trads, however, know what caused the SSPV dispute. Fewer still know why the four priests who ultimately remained in SSPV (Frs. Kelly, Jenkins, Mroczka and Skierka), as a matter of policy, still refuse sacraments to lay Catholics affiliated with former SSPV priests such as Bp. Donald Sanborn and myself.

Normally, one would pass over in silence the details of such an ancient controversy. But thirty years on, a new generation of SSPV clergy still enforces this draconian penalty on a new generation of young traditional Catholics, and this naturally ought to raise a number of unsettling questions:

  • Why do you — a faithful twenty-year-old traditional Catholic from my parish or Bp. Sanborn’s, say — have to hide your affiliation if you’re traveling and want to receive Communion at an SSPV mission?
  • Why, if you’re a twenty-year-old former graduate of Fr. Jenkins’ school in Cincinnati, does Fr. Jenkins forbid you to receive Communion at Bp. Dolan’s parish when it’s convenient to do so?
  • Why, if you are a parishioner at St. Gertrude the Great, does Fr. Jenkins refuse to allow you to be a godparent for a nephew baptized at his church? (This incident actually occurred in late June, 2019 as I was writing this article.)
  • Why, if you’re a priest just ordained by newly-consecrated SSPV Bp. James Carroll, are you expected to enforce these penalties or prohibitions on your contemporaries, even though you can’t find the “crimes” they punish described in any pre-Vatican II canon law or moral theology book?

These practices, as we shall see, are all applications of what I call the “SSPV Spiritual Cooties Rule.”

Like the cootie of children’s playground fame, the SSPV cootie is an imaginary creature. You “catch” this cootie infestation by receiving sacraments from a traditional Catholic priest who himself caught a cootie earlier — from someone that SSPV declared cootie contaminated. It makes no difference how long in the past the contamination occurred. The rule has no statute of limitations, and the SSPV cootie has a very, very long arm.

When you step back from it even a bit, it is obvious that the Cooties Rule is nothing more than a punishment based on guilt by association. None of us who are old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II Church can ever remember anything like this going on.

Where did the rule come from and why is it still in place? The answer is quite different from what you might at first imagine, and the thirtieth anniversary of my departure from SSPV is the perfect occasion for me to explain.

The Daughters of Mary, Round Top NY. No canonical status and merely private vows.

The Daughters of Mary

In early 1984, a year after our expulsion from the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Kelly announced he was going to found his own order of nuns, the Daughters of Mary. He promptly purchased a property for it in Round Top, New York, an isolated location nowhere near our numerous mission Mass centers and a three-hour drive from our Oyster Bay headquarters.

Before proceeding further, we should be clear on the principles in church law that apply to founding an institution like this in the post-Vatican II era.


For Neo-Trad Sedevacantists, “Sex Sells”


As I noted a few weeks ago in The Errors of Athanasius Schneider, the “right” in the Conciliar Church — “conservatives” or, in the case of those who promote the old Mass in the Novus Ordo system, “neo-trads” — has become more and more vehement in denouncing Bergoglio. A mere six years ago, talk of papal heresy was routinely dismissed in these circles as “schismatic sedevacantist fantasies” or as “rejecting Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would never prevail.”

Now, however, we find establishment conservatives and neo-trads, in an “Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church,” declaring that “We are accusing Pope Francis of the canonical delict [i.e. crime] of heresy.”

Strong stuff, and a good development. It is encouraging to see conservatives and neo-trads finally begin to take seriously the notion that heresy itself – and lots of it — is behind the degeneration of faith and morals that came about universally after the Second Vatican Council. And it is likewise encouraging to see them acknowledge that heresy can and indeed does (at least in the case of Bergoglio) come from a putative pope.

But why now? It’s simple: “Sex sells,” says the adman. In other words, it gets the attention of our fallen human nature, one way or another.

Hence the shock and outrage that erupted last summer among Catholics everywhere over the clergy sex abuse scandals, both towards cleric-predators and towards their enablers: McCarrick, Cupich, Wuerl, Farrell, Maradiaga, Ricca, Zanchetta, and hundreds among the lower clergy. Because of the sexual component, the story caught fire in broadcast, print and social media, and shows no sign of petering out.

This would have been a volatile enough mix on its own, but it became linked in many people’s minds with Bergoglio’s more egregious heresies on sexual morality – divorce/remarriage, who am I to judge, the alphabet soup Mafia, “breeding like rabbits,” etc., coupled with his loony dissimulations about “clericalism.”

This combination overthrew the one constant that establishment conservatives after Vatican II felt they could always count on: unchanged official teaching on sexual morality which declared that divorce and remarriage, homosexual acts, contraception, abortion and similar practices were always sinful. While under Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, these official teachings were widely ignored in practice, they nevertheless remained “on the books.” For conservatives, it was as if sex was all that mattered for a true Catholic. (Continued)

Does the Pope Honorius Affair Refute Sedevacantism?

Pope Honorius I

THE MULTITUDE of theological errors and evil laws that have emanated from the Vatican II popes over the past fifty years — and that is exponentially increasing during the madcap reign of Bergoglio — has prompted many traditionally-minded Catholics to seek out ways to reconcile the notion of papal authority with the obvious destruction wrought by those in our day who claimed to wield it.

Sedevacantists like myself settled on the following explanation a long time ago: the very errors and evils officially sanctioned by the Vatican II popes demonstrate that they never truly obtained papal office (or authority) in the first place, and were therefore false popes. (For an explanation, see Sedevacantism: A Quick Primer)

Others — be they Novus Ordo conservatives, neo-traditionalists within the Vatican II establishment, or traditionalists of the Recognize-and-Resist (R&R) variety — shied away from this conclusion. They sought to reconcile “recognizing” the V2 popes as true Successors of Peter with simultaneously “resisting” them — minimizing any obligation to adhere to the teachings of the V2 popes, to observe their laws, or in practice, to submit to their authority.

To achieve this end and to negate the logical appeal of sedevacantism, the conservative/neo-trad/R&R camp sought to demonstrate two things:

  1. Since ordinary papal teaching lacked the “infallible stamp” that the rare ex cathedra papal pronouncement possessed, Catholics had no obligation whatsoever to submit or adhere to it. Ergo, you’re free to ignore Bergoglio’s (or for that matter, Paul VI’s) teachings and laws. 
  2. Some popes in the past (Nicholas I, Vigilius, Honorius, Liberius, Celestine III, John XXII, Alexander VI) were heretics, but nevertheless were always recognized as true popes. Ergo, a pope can teach heresy and still remain pope — take that, wicked sedes!

This is old stuff that the “right” subjected to constant recycling, even before Bergoglio’s Laudato Sì, and it always manages to float back, like gas from the landfill. I refuted point (1) in section 1 of 9/11 for the Magisterium, as well as in the introduction to my recent article, The Errors of Athanasius Schneider. I have refuted point (2) in a variety of articles listed in section 3 of my sedevacantist primer — and in so doing, please note, I have always pointed out that it was the Protestants, the Gallicans, and other haters of papal authority who raised these charges of “papal heresy” and were roundly trounced by an array of Catholic dogmatic theologians.

For the conservative-neo-trad-R&R camp, however, the historical case that seems both to provide a refutation of sedevacantism and to demonstrate the validity of points (1) and (2) is the case of Pope Honorius. From this, we are supposed to draw by analogy a principle for a course of action vis-à-vis Bergoglio and all the Vatican II popes that will allow one to recognize them as popes, but never, ever submit to them.


The Errors of Athanasius Schneider

The Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Mary in Astana

SIX YEARS’ WORTH of the antics of Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka “Pope Francis”) have left a lot of previously clueless Catholics really shaken. The radical and destructive nature of the Vatican II doctrinal and moral revolution, kept discreetly masked to a large extent under the regimes of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, finally emerged into the light of day once Bergoglio took charge in March of 2013 and began to implement the Council at full speed and with a vengeance (often literally).

The “right” in the Conciliar Church — those we will here call “conservatives” or, in the case of those who promote the old Mass in the Novus Ordo system, “neo-trads” — were at first stunned, then outraged by the breadth, depth, and sheer volume of errors that Bergoglio began to crank out by word and deed.

Lengthy and open critiques of Bergoglio started appearing in conservative and neo-trad opinion outlets. Soon even the words “heretic” and “heresy” began to pop up. But since Bergoglio’s critics in these circles had long pronounced sedevacantism to be utterly unthinkable, they had to create some sort of plausible theological justification for their overall position. This “third way” would somehow need to allow them to continue to do two things:

  1. Utterly ignore the errors and heresies Bergoglio teaches and acts upon, and
  2. Still claim Bergoglio is a true pope, the Successor of St. Peter, and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth.

The justification the conservatives and neo-trads have come up with for squaring the circle is this: The theologians who taught that the pope receives some sort of special assistance from the Holy Ghost in his authentic magisterium — the teaching function that he exercises every day — were wrong. Similarly, theologians were likewise wrong in saying that Catholics must give “the assent of the intellect” to what the pope teaches through this authentic magisterium.

Poof — There you have it! Problem solved! The pope has no rights, and you have no obligations!


My Seminary Life as Student and Teacher

IN ADDITION to my writing and pastoral work since my ordination in 1977, I’ve been involved in teaching seminarians, first in the Society of St. Pius X in Armada MI and Ridgefield CT (1977–1983), and then at Most Holy Trinity Seminary in Warren MI and Brooksville FL (1995–present).  My current work at Most Holy Trinity takes me down to Florida for one week a month during the academic year.

One of my colleagues (and former students) Fr. Nicolas Despósito thought this aspect of my priestly work might be of interest to traditional Catholics, so I sat down with him for an interview on the topic in February 2019. It was only then that a surprising fact occurred to me: seminary teaching, in one way or another, has been a part of my life for nearly 30 of my 42 years as a priest — a turn of events (as you will learn from the video) that I could have never foreseen in my twelve years as a seminarian!

May God continue to grant us more well-trained and zealous priests!


A Bit Rich, Vicar! Fr. Hunwicke vs. Pius XII

Fr. John Hunwicke

On his Mutual Enrichment blog in early January 2019, ex-Anglican-turned-Novus Ordo High Church apologist Fr. John Hunwicke posted three short articles that attempted to refute my lengthy study of the 1968 Rite of Episcopal Consecration, “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void,” which, among other things, demonstrated that the essential sacramental form in the new rite did not univocally express the conferral of the episcopal order, and was therefore invalid.

Fr. Hunwicke, it seems, had posted the first two articles on the topic more than a year ago, and in the second, written in his coy and ever-so-precious style, dropped hints about the existence of some supposedly damning “evidence,” which he then failed to deliver.

Now comes Fr. Hunwicke with a third article and the supposed evidence, claiming that the form Pius XII himself specified in 1947 did not univocally express the conferral of the episcopal order.

Yes, you read that right.

As his proofs, Fr. Hunwicke offers (1) an opinion from Cardinal Gasparri (+1938) in his treatise on Holy Orders, and (2) a “medieval manuscript” that reads “mysterii” where the Pius XII form reads “ministerii.”

In response: (Continued)

Hollywood Meets Homeschooling: A Saint in Hiding

THE POWER of film to engage the heart and mind for the good is tremendous, and faithful Catholics who can skillfully employ the filmmaker’s techniques to edify and instruct are now able bring the truths of the faith and a spirit of devotion to countless souls who might not otherwise be inclined to pick up a catechism or a saint’s biography.

For this reason, I was delighted to view a new movie by Hannah Petrizzi, A Saint in Hiding. (Continued)