File 0132: Kate and the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen


June 21 2024

This week we have a very special guest, Kate! A survivor of CMRI, the Congregation of Mary Immaculate queen, a high control Catholic group that has existed right under our noses for the last 50 years

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It's a bit of a mind warp for me, someone who did not grow up religious in any way, and is now an atheist, to quote the things I'm about to read to you. It feels….wrong and dirty, backwards and bigoted. Because these two quotes ARE just that.

I want to note they come from two different sources, but are they really that different? 

Written and Presented by Halli 

"For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.

I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I'm on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I'm beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker."


"Very often we hear about the importance of "equality" for women. Recall, for example, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Approved by both houses of Congress in the early 1970s, the proposed amendment was then sent to the state legislatures for ratification. By 1977 the amendment had garnered ratification in 35 of the 38 states needed for it to be incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. The amendment seemed destined for approval—until the late Phyllis Schlafly stepped up and mobilized conservative women against it. She argued that the amendment would harm women by forcing them out of the home and making them subject to military drafts along with men, among other things.

In the early 1900s the suffrage movement demanded for women the right to vote. Although the movement for granting women the right to vote in the United States originated in the mid-nineteenth century, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was not fully ratified until 1920. Nowadays, it would seem to most of us a "no-brainer" that women should be allowed to vote, but did you know that the United States bishops opposed it? Why? Because they knew that it would bring women out of the home. Women, who are designed by the Creator as mothers to rear the children whom they bear, would now have to become involved in politics, that they might know for whom to cast a vote. In other words, they would be pulled away for their God-given responsibility in the home."

In other words…women, get your asses back into the kitchen and may you forever be barefoot and pregnant and subservient to your husbands, no matter who they are or what they are like (or what they might do to you and your children). That first block of quotes was from Harrison Butker, the now infamous Kansas Chiefs kicker who gave a commencement speech at Benedictine College earlier this month. He is not, from everything I can tell, a part of CMRI (which we'll get into in a moment), but his views would be not unwelcome in that version of Catholicism.

The second set of quotes was actually from a CMRI priest, in a blog article titled, "The True Role of Women in God's Plan" by Father Benedict Hughes. That section of the blog is, ironically, titled "The Christian Mother" and yet….here's a dude, a Catholic priest no less, talking shit about women and how they shouldn't have ever been allowed to vote and basically venerating Phyllis Schalfy (which is a HOT take because what a piece of shit she was).

So the difference between what Butker was saying and this priest wrote? Not a lot. And CMRI, which is what we're here to talk about, goes even further into extreme viewpoints.

Let's start with the basics…


Congregatio Mariae Reginae Immaculatae or Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen.

We have to break this down a little.

CMRI is a sedevacantist Traditionalist Catholic religious congregation.

  • The term sedevacantism is derived from the Latin phrase sede vacante, which means 'with the chair [of the Bishop of Rome] being vacant'. The phrase is commonly used to refer specifically to a vacancy of the Holy See which takes place from the Pope's death or renunciation to the election of his successor.

  • A traditionalist Catholic movement which holds that since the death of Pius XII the alleged occupiers of the Holy See are not valid popes due to their espousal of one or more heresies and that, for lack of a valid pope, the See of Rome is thus vacant.

The CMRI is dedicated to promoting the message of Our Lady of Fátima and the devotion of the practice of Total Consecration to the Virgin Mary as taught by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

The CMRI holds that the Chair of St. Peter has been unoccupied since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.

Who was Pius XII? He was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 until his death in October 1958.

Why is CMRI hung up on him?

"Sedevacantism owes its origins to the rejection of the theological and disciplinary changes implemented following the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Sedevacantists reject this Council, on the basis of their interpretation of its documents on ecumenism and religious liberty, among others, which they see as contradicting the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and as denying the unique mission of Catholicism as the one true religion, outside of which there is no salvation."

Basically, there is no true Pope right now, because the one in the papal seat doesn't adhere to true Catholicism, in the eyes of CMRI. Everything should go back to the way it was in the 1950s, and you can't get into Heaven unless you adhere to the church's beliefs. And if someone has never heard of Jesus, they go to Limbo after you die. And all Popes after Pius XII are both heretics and imposters.

There's a lot more to it which is, frankly, so steeped in what I would call deep-cut lore that we'd be here forever trying to untangle it. And that's not our goal. If you want to go on your own dive, the links and resources I used are included.

So, whose idea was all of this?

Let me introduce you to Francis Schuckardt. Like any good modern religion, whether it be "new" or an offshoot of an existing one, there is a leader who started it all. The Scientologists have L. Ron Hubbard, the Mormons have Joseph Smith, and CMRI has this guy.

Note as being of "immense symbolic importance" to the Catholic extreme right, Schuckardt "almost single-handedly founded an influential community in the Pacific Northwest that was characterized by a peculiar blend of Catholic survivalism, paranoia, and lockstep dogmatism." If your red flags are waving, you're in the right mindset already.

Michael W. Cuneo, who teaches sociology and anthropology at Fordham University, wrote about Schuckardt in his book The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism (1997, Oxford University Press), that "Francis Schukardt is the rock-and-roll outlaw of Catholic traditionalism – the bad influence that people somehow can't bring themselves to stop talking about." That quote a moment ago was also from his book. Schuckardt was born in Seattle in 1937, and did some stints as a seminarian and high school teacher before he joined the Blue Army, or fully known as the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima (the Catholic title of Mary, mother of Jesus, based on apparitions reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal). It's more widely known now as the World Apostolate of Fatima, an organization to promote "the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church and the strict adherents to the tenets of the Gospel." The Blue Army was formed in 1946 by Harold V. Colgan, a parish priest of St. Mary of Plainfield, New Jersey. When he fell seriously ill and was hospitalized, he would pray to Our Lady of Fatima to cure him, and in return he would slavishly devote his life to her.

Colgan started small, saying that true adherence to Our Lady of Fatima involved three steps:

  • Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

  • Daily recitation of the Rosary and

  • Righteous observance of the duties of one's state of life.

That seems pretty…tame, but Schuckardt is then kicked out of the Blue Army in 1967 for "publicly condemning the Second Vatican Council". Thus begins his openly downward spiral into militant Catholicism. Like any good militant, Schuckardt founds his new community in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (famous and infamous home for all sorts of these guys), and called it the Fatima Crusade. Years go by and Schuckardt's group gets bigger, and he travels extensively through the US, especially the west and Midwest, lecturing to groups of "disaffected Catholics on the evils of the council and the new Mass. By all accounts, he was a powerful and compelling speaker, and throughout the seventies dozens of families from as far away as Illinois and Southern California transplanted themselves to Idaho in order to become full-fledged members of the TLRC" (Schuckardt's group, stands for Tridentine Latin Rite Church).

Through these years, Schuckardt preaches a message of "apocalyptic extremism"; he insists the Second Vatican Council was a "demonic conspiracy aimed at subverting the traditions of the church and thereby preparing the way for an atheistic world order"; all new popes were really "anti-popes, paragons of wretchedness, committed to annihilating the faith they had been entrusted with preserving"; and with the hour of judgment incoming, Schuckardt claimed "authentic Catholicism resided exclusively with the TLRC, and it was only members of the TLRC who stood a realistic chance of attaining salvation."

Through the late 70s and early 80s, the group outgrows its little spot in Idaho, and Schuckardt shifts them to a former Jesuit seminary, the Mount St. Michael's Scholasticate, which is outside of Spokane, Washington. It's all well and good until 1984, when four young men who had separated from TLRC told the news that they had been sexually assaulted by Schuckardt while "studying for the priesthood under him at Mount St. Michael's, and several weeks later a longtime TLRC priest named Denis Chicoine claimed that Schuckardt had been sexually abusing seminarians on a regular basis for at least a decade."

The heat comes down on Schuckardt and he flees in July 1984, leaving his little base of operations with 20 hard-core supporters and at least a quarter of a million dollars in assets. Chicoine takes over as de facto leader of the TLRC, and he got the Spokane County Superior Court to bar Schuckardt's return.

Schuckardt is now in exile, and his reputation never recovers. There is an expose published in the local diocesan newspaper about life in the TLRC under Schuckardt's command, calling it a "daily hell". According to the newspaper, "everything from personal finances to the reading habits of church members was strictly regulated, schoolchildren were routinely force-fed jalapeno peppers for disciplinary reasons, nuns were locked in attics for weeks at a time, and rituals of mortification were administered as a matter of course." There's a particularly brutal passage on page 104 of Cuneo's book that I won't read aloud here, but suffice to say it made me want to light this Schuckardt guy on fire.

Schuckardt tries in vain to rebuild his ministry in northern California, but in May 1987, he and eleven of his followers were arrested by a "twenty-member SWAT team on charges of possessing drugs and stolen property". They also found a cache of weapons, a stash of illegal drugs, and a "bizarre assortment of church publications, including a pamphlet entitled Death to the Race-Mixers and another pamphlet that provided information on such sordid sexual thrills as body dismemberment."

Schuckardt tried over and over again to rebuild, but never managed to amass popularity like in the past, and he died in 2006. But those who started over, after Schuckardt left Mount St. Michael's, did a full rebrand. It took a long time for the community to rebuild, and they went through several different leaders, as Cuneo notes in his book. But as of his 1997 writing, there were 175 families and six hundred people all together, in the parish in Spokane, and another 400 or so in three parishes that operated in Omaha, Nebraska, and Tacoma, Washington. The community operates a private school, has priests and nuns in training, and everyone now belongs to the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), and expansion began in earnest. I checked the official CMRI website and they say, currently, "The congregation lists over 90 traditional Catholic churches and chapels both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as at least 13 schools staffed by religious."

What is interesting, and very telling of Schuckardt's influence, is that even though they ousted him, his teachings remain core to their belief system, and they are adamant that the "papal throne in the contemporary church is unquestionably vacant, and the Mount St. Michael's community has done nothing since his [Schuckardt's] departure to soften this position. Its rationale, in fact, is alluringly simple: if Catholic doctrinal teaching is eternally valid and unchanging, and if the papacy exists in order to preserve it as such, any so-called pope responsible for substantially altering this teaching cannot be regarded as legitimate. Now there is no doubt, the Mount St. Michael's people say, that traditional Catholic doctrine has been fundamentally altered in the contemporary church by the Second Vatican Council, and the implication of this is clear and unavoidable. The popes who have presided over the council and the changes stemming from it must be denounced as false. They are anti-popes, heretics of the highest order."

As Cuneo writes, "there is no middle position". A chilling thought, but oh-so familiar when we talk about extremists.

Currently CMRI is led by Bishop Mark Pivarunas, the "Superior General" of the church. Pivarunas has tried to keep the church out of the media in recent years, even while the Southern Poverty Law Center calls them one of 12 anti-Semitic radical traditionalist Catholic groups in the US.

"Under Pivarunas, St. Michael's Parish has remained an anti-Semitic organization, selling books like John Vennari's The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, which details a "Judeo-Masonic" conspiracy to destroy the church. On the group's Web site are Pivarunas writings that condemn Vatican II for "promot[ing] the work of the anti-Christ" and for its efforts to reach out to Jews and Muslims even though, he argues, those religions have "persistently attacked the Catholic Church throughout history." At a St. Michael's conference last October, Australian John Lane gave a talk earnestly recounting how he had learned "about the Protocols of Zion [a book alleging a Jewish plot to take over the world], I mean, the whole story." Lane also spoke reverently of meeting Hutton Gibson, the actor Mel Gibson's father and a hard-line anti-Semite. Pivarunas chimed in with a condemnation of Pope John Paul II's outreach to Jews, which included a visit to a German synagogue."

I have also seen talk online of how Pivarunas has never fully condemned Schuckardt's actions publicly.

Our guest is Kate, who is a former CMRI member, and was kind enough to come on to share a bit of her story, growing up in this fringe group.