An itinerant rebel Catholic priest, celebrating the forbidden Latin mass in a Fairfax County hotel room, warned some 200 sympathetic worshipers yesterday against returning to recognized Catholic parishes.
Their pastors, he said, "have turned into wolves instead of shepherds."
The Rev. Dan Dolan, 26, a priest of the order of the Society of St. Pius X established by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, emphasized repeatedly that the ancient Tridentine Latin mass he celebrated was "the true mass - the true mass of the Catholic Church . . .
"It is essential for all of you, if you want to save your souls, to hang on to this true mass," he said.
"Now that you have come home to the true Catholic mass, don't go back," he continued. "Don't return to those services which have been taken over by Christ's enemy."
By implication, "Christ's enemy" was the bishops of the Catholic Church who, nearly 15 years ago, authorized multiple changes in the church during the Second Vatican Council.
Traditionalists' insistence on continuing the 400-year-old Tridentine Latin mass, now outlawed except under special circumstances, has become symbolic of resistance to those changes.
Traditionalists like Father Dolan maintain that it is they who are preserving the faith and that the mainstream of the church is in error.
Asked after yesterday's service if he, as a visiting priest from Long Island, had asked perrmission of Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh to say mass within the Arlington diocese as Catholic procedure requires, Father Dolan said, "Oh, no I wouldn't recognize his authority." He then added with a smile, "I didn't even know that was his name."
Father Dolan said he was "very satisfied" with yesterday's turnout and expected to hold future services regularly, on a monthly basis at first and later "every other week."
Bishop Welsh could not be reached for his reaction to the illicit mass and the plans for future services that contravene authorized church teaching.
Some Catholic bishops have tended to ignore similar masses in their dioceses, or acknowledge them only by warning the faithful against attendance. Bishop Welsh, however, is known for his strict enforcement of canon law - two years ago he reprimanded a parish for putting too much sugar in its home-baked communion bread - and in the past has taken a hard line against challenges to his authority.
The congregation for yesterday's traditionalist mass at the Tysons Corner Ramada Inn was dominated by middle-aged or older persons, but there was a substantial sprinkling of young families.
Most of the women wore hats or lace head-coverings; a few wore pantsuits.
Worshipers sat prayerfully, fingering rosaries and mouthing silent prayers as Father Dolan heard confessions in a corner of the hotel's Progressive Party Room for 75 minutes before the mass began.
There were still several penitents waiting in the queue before the makeshift confessional when the youthful priest began vesting for the mass, nearly 15 minutes behind schedule.
He began the service by apologizing for the presence of television crews who had been alerted to the mass by press releases issued by the Society of St. Pius X.
The cameras, he acknowledged, "are a distraction, but we permit them because when it is shown on television, many people may know that the traditional mass, the true Catholic mass, is not dead . . . It may be the means by which they are encouraged to come back to the true church."
In his homily, which was on the theme of humility, Father Dolan excoriated the contemporary authorized Catholic mass, calling it "a mess of pottage . . . of ecumenism, of Protestantism - all those isms which have taken over the true sanctuary."
The "true sacrifice of the mass," he said, "has been replaced by a Protestant, humanist service, so offensive to our dear Lord."
It is in the "true mass," he said, that "we save our souls, not in an emotion-packed. Protestant service." But he urged his listeners to pray for those who, in his view, have strayed, "that they might have the humility to return to the true sacrifice of the mass."
Father Dolan, who said he was ordained a year ago at the traditionalist seminary in Econe, Switzerland, counseled humility to his listeners, noting: "It is through no merits of our own that we have been given the grace to understand what is going on today."