Francis Konrad Schuckardt (
July 10, 1937– November 5, 2006) was an American Traditionalist Catholicindependent bishop and the first known bishop in the United Statesto take the position of sedevacantism, a theory which holds that Pope Paul VIand his successors are not valid popes. He founded the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen(CMRI) and the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church(TLRCC), considered by some former members as being a cult.
Schuckardt was born in
Seattle, Washingtonon July 10, 1937to Frank and Gertrude Schuckardt. Francis graduated from O'Dea High Schoolin 1954 and from Seattle Universityin 1959 with a bachelor's degree in educationand linguistics. After college, he enrolled in the seminarybut dropped out before the year ended due to ill health. He began teaching high school in Seattle and worked as a linguistic research analyst.
The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima
In 1958 Schuckardt joined the
Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, a group devoted to spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima. In 1961, Schuckardt was stricken with typhoid; this was the beginning of a long succession of illnesses. He was in and out of a comafor eight days. He experienced a remarkable recovery which he attributed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. In January 1963, he was hospitalized with thrombophlebitisof the legs. The infection had spread and doctors decided to amputate. The illness reversed itself to which Schuckardt again attributed to a miracle resulting from a promise he made to Our Lady of Fatima, promising her that he would use his legs to travel and spread her message. [Official Manual for the Blue Army (circa 1966).] He gained considerable fame as a charismatic speaker for the Blue Army and was elected to its International Council in 1963 at the age of 26. Schuckardt was the only member of the Council who was not a national chairman. He was subsequently appointed to the position of International Secretary.
Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church
About the time of his departure from the Blue Army, Schuckardt began giving lectures throughout the United States, promoting devotion to the Virgin Mary as well as speaking out against the various doctrinal changes that were, he claimed, the result of the
Second Vatican Council. [Early Issue of "Salve Maria Regina", ca. 1969.]
He said that after a long and hard struggle, accompanied by much prayer and research, he concluded that from the
Second Vatican Councilemerged a "new" religion which was not truly “Catholic” (Open Letter to members of the Fatima Crusade, ca. 1968), and that Paul VI was a false pope, that is, an illegitimate due to personal heresies. He also criticized the liturgical reforms of Vatican II and the teachings on ecumenismas severe departures of "true" Catholic doctrine.
In 1967, Schuckardt founded a community of
nuns, Religious Brothers, and priests known as the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen(abbreviated as CMRI), initially approved by the Bishop of Boise, Idaho. With his rejection of the reforms and authority of what he considered to be the "new Catholic Church," he formed an organization known as the "'Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church (TLRCC)". He insisted that this is not a "new church," but the same Catholic Church that existed for over two millennia prior to the changes imposed by Vatican II. His followers refer to the Church generally recognized as the Roman Catholic Church as the "mainstream Catholic Church" or the "Post-Vatican Council II Church". They labelled Paul VI the "arch-heretic of Rome" and referred to the mainstream Church as "the Church of the Beast". ["The Reign of Mary." Issue 16. Page 4. "Why are supposedly uncompromising traditionalists willing to wink their eyes at the compromises of such apostate bishops as Marcel Lefebvre(whose much tauted "traditional" seminaries are being operated under the watchful eye of Pittsburgh's apostate Cardinal Wright WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE VATICAN!; whose much-tauted "traditional" priests will serve apostate bishops in apostate dioceses - NOT the true Catholic remnant faithful in the catacombs (you don't build million-dollar seminaries in the catacombs!); and the venerable, but sadly mistaken, Cardinal Slipyi who addresses the arch-heretic of Rome as "his holiness" and pledges his fidelity to the apostate hierarch of the Church of the Beast - the Mystical Body of Satan?"] "Who would be so bold or so foolish as to call these bishops Catholic or to pretend that they possess any legitimate authority? Including the arch-heretic in Rome?" ["The Reign of Mary". Issue 18. Page 3.]
Schuckardt and an associate
Denis Chicoinebegan a national lecturecircuit advocating a return to traditional Catholicism. Due to their outspoken rejection of the Second Vatican Council and embrace of sedevacantism, Schuckardt and his followers were denounced by the Roman Catholic Church. However several traditional-minded Catholic priests (some Jesuitsand diocesan priests) had joined Schuckhardt and would provide the Fatima Crusade with the traditional, Roman Riteof the sacraments and the Mass. In his public discourses (which were preserved on audiotape), then-Brother Schuckardt reminded his followers that, despite the apostasy of Vatican II, Christ would most certainly provide for legitimate apostolic successionin "the Catholic Church." He is on record as saying that he "never expected" himself "to be part of that succession".
In 1969, Daniel Quilter Brown received episcopal consecration as an Old Roman Catholic (English-line Old Catholic) bishop in the line of Arnold Harris Mathew. Brown had been born and raised a Roman Catholic, but became disenchanted with the reforms of Vatican II, and had chosen to become an Old Roman Catholic bishop in order to perpetuate valid episcopal orders, believing that the Old Roman Catholics still retained valid Orders. ["Separated Brethren," William Whalen (1958); "A Catholic Dictionary," Donald Attwater (1997).] Despite the fact that Bishop Brown obtained his consecration in the Old Roman Catholic Church, he and his followers called themselves Roman Catholics and refused to use the title of "Old Roman Catholic." Shortly after his consecration, he broke all ties and communications with the Old Roman Catholics.Letter from Bishop Brown to Francis Schuckardt (9/17/70).]
Bishop Brown soon became acquainted with Brother Schuckardt and tried to persuade him to accept ordination from him. Later he proposed to consecrate Brother Schuckardt to the episcopacy in addition to ordaining him to the priesthood. After Bishop Brown had repented of having received consecration from the Old Roman Catholics, Brother Schuckardt agreed to receive consecration from Bishop Brown: " [T] hese past months have been spent in intense soul searching and continuous prayer to know and follow God's holy will. Thus I could not give you a reply until I felt fairly certain in my heart and mind. Now, finally, in concluding our novena in honor of the Annunciation, I have come to a decision. It is with holy trepidation that I accept your offer..."Letter from Francis Schuckardt to Bishop Brown (Good Friday, 1971).] Between
October 28and November 1, 1971, Schuckardt was ordained and consecrated a bishop [Document of Consecration (11/1/71), translated from the Latin:"The Most Reverend Lord Daniel Brown, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church of the Latin Rite, ... ordained and consecrated, according to the Rite prescribed by the Roman Pontifical, to the Episcopacy of the Roman Catholic Church of the Latin Rite, the Most Reverend Lord Francis Konrad Schuckardt, priest of said Church,...."] in a rented ballroom in Chicago, as they were not welcome in the churches of the Catholic Church.
At first Bishops Brown and Schuckardt worked peaceably together, but shortly thereafter went their separate ways. The Seattle Times references a letter written in 1973 by Bishop Brown in which he charges: "Your group has become a personal cult of Francis Schuckardt and cannot call itself Catholic."
A Spokesman Review article states that Schuckardt claims to be the only true Catholic bishop.Bart Preecs, "Award will wipe out church, says leader". Spokesman Review, August 10, 1983.] Schuckardt's officials deny that he ever made such a claim, and point to the fact that he directed his clergy to diligently search for Roman Catholic Bishops that might qualify as legitimate in his eyes. Fact|date=May 2008
Between 1974 and 1979 Schuckardt ordained Denis Chicoine and five other clerics to the priesthood, who in turn helped him preserve the traditional Catholic Faith primarily through the continued lecture circuit. The denomination was incorporated in 1978 as the "Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church", primarily to distinguish it from the "Vatican II church" ("Tridentine" relates to the 19th Ecumenical Council, the
Council of Trent[also called Tridentium] , which was held from 1545-63.) By 1977 the group had grown so large that they were able to purchase a former 735 acre Jesuit seminary, Mount Saint Michael, just north of Spokane, Washington. The movement continued to grow, eventually sending priests to various parts of the world including Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and the Holy Land. According to a church publication, by 1981 the group had about 120 Sisters, 6 active priests, 61 Clerics and Brothers, a K - 12th grade boys and girls school, and a variety of organizations for the Church, including a convent for the mentally and neurologically impaired and a guild to aid the elderly and terminally ill.Fact|date=May 2008 The same publication stated that running the church would be enough for a strong bishop, let alone one who "is so physically ill, maliciously slandered and persecuted, betrayed at every turn, exhausted with work and His solicitude for his flock."Fact|date=May 2008 In addition to Mount Saint Michael, they also owned over 18 other properties, collectively worth about eight million dollars. [Washington Case #84-2-01445-2.]
Brown consecrated Francis Schuckardt without a pontifical mandate (i.e. permission from the
pope), which is normally required by the Code of Canon Law under penalty of excommunication. [The law then in effect was Canon 953, similar to [http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P52.HTM Canon 1382] of the Canon Law after 1983.] However, traditionalists cite over a dozen historical instances where Bishops were legitimately consecrated in a period of "sede vacante". Traditionalists also point out the superiority of the essential doctrine of Apostolic Authority over the changeable dictates of ecclesiastical law, and hold that Christ would not leave his flock without shepherds.
Lawrence Welsh, the Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Spokane, wrote of Francis Schuckardt in the Inland Register (a diocesan newspaper): "Bishop Schuckardt has received no mission from the church universal and does not accept the unity of the apostolic office. Yet these are some of the very elements which make the Church Roman Catholic." In another section Bishop Welsh adds " [T] hey deny the teaching authority of the Second Vatican Council and the last four popes. Implicitly Bishop Schuckardt has set himself up as the final and last arbiter of Catholic tradition." [http://www.ewtn.com/library/NEWAGE/WELSHCRU.TXT]
As related in a "Spokesman Review" article from 1983, Schuckardt is quoted as saying: "Some of our teachers, studying the French revolution, saw the origins of the red, white, and blue, which was adopted then. The red represented the thousands of bishops and priests who were nailed to the church doors."
Many of Schuckhardt's beliefs and policies drew criticism, including:
*The dress code for women, which was unusually strict. Women were required to have long dresses and counseled to keep their heads covered at all times. ["Years Beneath Her Mantle." Published by Students of Maria Regina Academy. June 9, 1972.]
*His belief that smoking was a "gravely sinful vice". ["Our Lady of Fatima Crusader Bulletin". Issue number 71. Page 8. "In other words, smoking or any other form of delayed-action suicide is a sin against the fifth commandment. Further, if a person is addicted to smoking to the point where he cannot readily stop doing so, he no longer has complete control over his free will and smoking has become for him (or her) a gravely sinful vice."]
*The segregation of men and women at church functions.
*The expectation that members walk backwards out of church.
*The requirement for children to attend the church schools.
*Rarely granting permission to attend college, since none existed that Schuckardt considered as being Catholic.
*The restriction of television programming and censorship of reading material.
*The prohibition of dating until out of high school. Those interested in marriage had to attend the "Cana Cell" and were required to follow established rules and guidelines regarding courtship.
On June 3, 1984, Rev. Chicoine made several public charges from the pulpit against Bishop Schuckardt, related in a "Spokesman Review" article on August 26, 1984.Tim Hanson, "A bishop's life on the run". Spokesman Review, August 26, 1984.]
The newspaper article cited Chicoine's claims: "After we re-obtained possession of the Priory, and started to go through the boxes of mail that had been accumulated over the years and simply stacked in corners we found a large amount of cash and over $15,000 in out-of-date uncashed checks." "For the past several years several things in the Community have been in complete and utter chaos." and that "The vast majority of chaos is caused by Bishop Schuckardt's inability to physically function" due to pain, lack of sleep, and medications.
"Chicoine has also charged that Schuckardt was sexually involved with some of his male assistants. He said he has several sworn statements." The article quotes Chicoine: "I have in my possession sworn statements by several persons whom Bishop Schuckardt told personally that he was the Pope. These persons were told not to tell myself or other priests and clerics since we did not have the grace to accept it."
Schuckardt left his Spokane mansion within days after Chicoine made his accusations public. [Washington Case 84-2-014450-2.] Chicoine found that he had the backing of the vast majority of the religious and laity alike, and took charge of the Fatima Crusade.
Schuckardt's Response to the Charges
The Schuckardt faction denies they are a cult.
* Regarding the charge of sexual impropriety, the Spokesman Review of August 26, 1984 quotes Bishop Schuckardt says "Schuckardt denied the allegations. He said the charges are part of a plot by Chicoine to discredit him and seize control of the church... (The charges) sicken me because there's not a word of truth to it at all." Schuckardt's defenders point out the difficulty of proving a negative. How does one prove that an accusation is false, when by its very nature it excludes the possibility of either physical evidence or witnesses? Furthermore, it is accepted science that sexual predators are incurable, therefore if Bishop Schuckardt was a sexual predator, as some claim, surely over the last 21 years at least one more accusation would have surfaced, especially when considering that there have been people who left the Schuckardt faction between 1984 and 2004 who are very hostile towards him; but no new accusations have surfaced. In 1987 all of the Religious men, seminarians and boys that were boarding with the seminarians, were individually questioned by the Sheriff's Department and the
FBIregarding this particular accusation, but nothing of concern was found (Calif. Case #87-2823). They further claim thtat even if the accusations were true, the authority given to the Church by Christ is not contingent upon the personal sanctity or impeccability of the hierarchy exercising that authority.
* Regarding Chicoine’s allegation of Bishop Schuckardt’s incompetency. Neither civil nor ecclesiastical law (Canon 12, Canons 1648 – 50,…) allow legal actions to be taken against an incompetent person. Since Chicoine’s public accusations of incompetency, Bishop Schuckardt squared off with him in various courts of law in California, Washington, Utah, Canada. [Case #87-12190, #87-12258, #13096 & #13097, #87-4047, #CV87-13584, #C872893, #84-2-01445-2.] Never once did Chicoine raise the incompetency issue in any legal proceeding nor did any court of law ever question the Bishop’s competence, despite the fact that the Bishop took the stand in many of these legal actions.
* Schuckardt denies that ever declared himself to be the pope. Some of his followers, however, believe him to be so based upon their belief that he is the "last true Catholic bishop" in the world and upon the teaching of the Catholic Church that the Church must have a pope, except during periods of interregnum.
* The dress code "by traditionalists' standards" was strict, but the dress code was not based upon "traditionalists' standards" but upon compliance with the standards set forth by Pope Pius XI ["But you especially, ... as Bishops to rule the Church of God, must... promote by all your power, everything which has to do with the protection of modesty... to admonish and exhort, in whatever way seems most apt, people of all stations, but particularly youth, to avoid the danger of this kind of vice (immodest dress), which is so opposed, and potentially so hazardous to Christian and civic virtue..." Pope Pius XI.] and Pope Pius XII regarding "Mary-like" standards of modesty. [Ven. Jacinta: "Our Lady said that more souls to go Hell because of sins of the flesh, than for any other reason," and that "certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord."]
* Representatives of the TLRCC assert that women were not required to cover their heads except when in Church, [Per I Cor 11:5] they were, however, encouraged to have them covered whenever in public, in imitation of the
Virgin Mary, whom tradition tells us always had her head covered in public.
* Men and women are indeed obliged to occupy the opposite sides while in Church. This custom goes back to the earliest days of the Catholic Church and was taught by the Fathers of the Church. ["If the Church is shut, and you are all inside, yet let there be a separation, men with men, and women with women: lest the pretext of salvation become an occasion of destruction." St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Father of the Church, Catechetical Lecture, Catholic Encyclopedia.] St. Augustine roundly condemns those who would criticize this practise. ["They, then, are but abandoned and ungrateful wretches, in deep and fast bondage to that malign spirit, who complain and murmur that men are rescued by the name of Christ... Only such men could murmur that the masses flock to the churches and their chaste acts of worship, where a seemly separation of the sexes is observed; where they learn how they may so spend this earthly life, as to merit a blessed eternity hereafter…" St. Augustine, Father of the Church, City of God, Bk. 2, Ch. 28.]
* Bishop Schuckardt did teach that smoking was against the 5th Commandment: "we all know that Rome doesn't issue decrees on every moral matter… Rome has not issued a decree against the use of heroin or LSD, but that does not absolve the local Bishops and clergy from condemning the use of it." (Fatima Crusader Bulletin, Issue 71)
* The practice of walking backwards out of church was optional, not mandatory; and when impractical, not done, as was the case when classes of students left as a group. It was encouraged, however, in an effort to keep to the ideals outlined by Pope Pius XI, on the Kingship of Christ. [Encyclical on Christ the King - "Quas Primas" by Pope Pius XI (12/11/1925).]
* By forbidding members to attend college without good cause, Schuckardt asserts that he was conforming to the teachings contained in an encyclical of Pope Pius XI, which states: "Catholic children may not attend non-Catholic, neutral, or mixed schools... and it pertains exclusively to the Ordinary of the place to decide... under what circumstances and with what precautions against the danger of perversion, attendance at such schools may be tolerated." [Encyclical: "On Christian Education" by Pope Pius XI (12/31/29).]
* Bishop Schuckardt allowed only discerning adults to watch television, and even then only with a great deal of caution. He claims this is in keeping with a statement of Pope Pius XII regarding the evils that television presents to Catholics. ["Everyone knows well that children can often avoid an epidemic so long as the disease is outside their own home, but cannot escape it when it lurks within the home itself. It is an evil thing to bring the sanctity of the home into danger. The Church, therefore, as her right and duty demand, has always striven with all her resources to prevent these sacred portals suffering violence, under any pretext, from evil televisions shows." Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XII - "Miranda Prorsus (9/8/57).]
* Regarding Chicoine’s allegation of finding large amounts of cash and out-of-day checks, the Spokesman Review quoted Bishop Schuckardt as saying “an assistant failed to properly handle the matter and that he was unaware of the problem.”
The Schuckardt faction considers the Chicone faction in schism. Since both Bishop Schuckardt and Rev. Chicoine acknowledged no higher Church authority than Bishop Schuckardt himself, [“ [W] e believe that Bishop Francis Konrad Maria… represents the lone bastion of true, traditional Catholicism in the midst of universal apostasy so evident in the United States and throughout the world.” Letter of Rev. Chicoine (2/11/76).] there was no lawful means whereby Rev. Chicoine could depose him and take control of the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church as he did. [“I and the members of the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church no longer accept or recognize any of the above named defendants [Bishop Schuckardt et al] as members of or as religious officials of the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church…” Affidavit of Rev. Chicoine (6/6/84) - Case 84-2-01445-2.] Schuckardt formally excommunicated Chicoine on June 30, 1984. In the August 26 "Spokesman Review" article, Chicoine is quoted as saying: "We contend that it is not a valid excommunication. If he is incompetent, which we believe we've proved, then his acts are null and void." Chicoine died on August 10, 1995 and is buried at
Mount Saint Michael. His excommunicationby Bishop Schuckardt was never revoked.
Legal battles between Chicoine and Schuckardt
In an article by Tim Hanson that appeared in the "Spokesman Review" article on August 26, 1984 Schuckardt is quoted as saying: "If there is some way I can just let the people know we didn't run away. We were sent away. We were thrown out of our home. If there was anyway we could have stayed there, we would have. They must know that it was made impossible." The article goes on to state that On June 7, 1984 Chicoine filed a lawsuit in Superior court asking that Schuckardt and 10 of his associates be prohibited from returning to the church property at Mount St. Michael's or Schuckardt's mansion at E2314 South Altamont Blvd.Tim Hanson, "Tridentine bishop target of lawsuit". Spokesman Review, June 7, 1984.] As a result of this lawsuit, a document was served at his mansion. The article states: "Schuckardt said last week he thought the document was an eviction notice rather than an order to appear in court. He also believed an arrest warrant had been issued." Bruce Erickson, a Spokane attorney representing Chicoine stated: "There wasn't any warrant out for his arrest. I or the court or the sheriff's department can't force them to read the documents". Schuckardt left the mansion during the second week of June. The article went on " [N] either Schuckardt nor a legal representative appeared in court. The court therefore issued an order banning the bishop from church property." Spokane County sheriff detectives confirmed that no warrant exists for Schuckardt. The court later ruled that Bishop Schuckardt had never been given proper legal notice of the pending action and overturned its original judgment against him and a handful of his followers.
After leaving Spokane, they moved around and finally settled in Greenville, California. “One of the main reasons we move is because of the harassment we’ve been getting from Chicoine” stated loyal Bishop Schuckardt follower, Brother Mary Fidelis, “They’re trying to do anything they can to destroy us, literally. We fear harm, physical harm, coming to the Bishop. We wouldn’t put anything past them.” As further reported by Jim Sparks in the "Spokesman Review"Jim Sparks, "Schuckardt reportedly running school in California". Spokesman Review, July 27, 1986.] "In Greenville, Calif., 102 miles northwest of Reno Nevada, Schuckardt appears to be king once again."Schuckardt and his followers continued to operate as the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church while Chicoine reincorporated the group at Mount Saint Michael as the Latin Rite Catholic Church on
June 14, 1984. [Corporation number 2-345308-7.] On May 9, 1987 a Plumas County, California Sheriff's Department SWAT team, with support from the California Highway Patrol, conducted a raid on the TLRCC [Jim Sparks, "Former Tridentine bishop in drug bust". Spokesman Review. 198X.] Deputies searched Bishop Schuckardt's house and those of the Brothers and the nuns while a CHP helicopter hovered overhead to look for automatic weapons which the Chicoine faction falsely told them they possessed.Calif. Case 87 2823.] They found illegal drugs along with precious metals in quantity, $75,000 in cash and about eight handguns and rifles in the three separate homes. Rather than going through a lengthy and expensive trial, Bishop Schuckardt accepted a plea bargain of attending a one-day drug-diversion class in exchange for all charges being dismissed against him.All charges against the others arrested with Bishop Schuckardt were dismissed without prejudice. They furthermore obtained a “Factual Declaration of Innocence” regarding the same.
The Chicoine faction subsequently filed civil suits in five different states wherein the Schuckardt faction had assets, claiming that these assets belonged to his church, but lost all of these cases. The Schuckardt faction also challenged the civil suit [Case 84-2-01445-2.] filed by the Chicoine faction in Washington in 1984 and agreed to a settlement before the trial began in 1993. The settlement heavily favored the Chicoine faction. Nine years of legal wrangling finally came to an end, with the Chicoine faction getting the lion’s share of the Fatima Crusade’s assets.
For the remainder of his life Schuckardt lived in the Seattle area. As reported November 2005, [Noel S. Brady. "Charges shed light on church: Eastside 'cult' is likely hiding members accused of sex abuse, police say". "King County Journal"
November 25, 2005] the TLRCC has about 100 members in the area. The article states "At the heart of the mysterious group lies its founder, Francis Konrad Schuckardt, a charismatic leader who considers himself to be the true pope, according to members of the group." The church has no public address or telephone number.
In 2002 a reporter from "
The Seattle Times" attempted to obtain an interview with Schuckardt for an article, [Susan Kelleher. "The Sect Behind the Shroud". "Seattle Time". November 25, 2002.] but requests were denied because of health reasons, although the reporter was allowed to conduct an extensive interview with 6 Church members and given access to Church services.
In 2006 Schuckardt consecrated Andrew Jacobs (Brother Mary Fidelis) and Joseph Belzak (Brother John Francis Marie) as bishops.
In April 2006, Schuckardt was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died on
November 5, 2006.
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* [http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10176935/ Church near Seattle struck by scandal] "MSNBC Scarborough Country"
November 23, 2005
* [http://www.king5.com/localnews/stories/NW_110305INKcultJK.26506701.html Eastside cult faces sex abuse claim] "King 5 News Seattle",
November 4, 2005
* "Denver family tries to free mother from religious cult". "9 News Denver"
November 3, 2005
* [http://www.democratherald.com/articles/2003/04/09/news/oregon/state03.txt Esparza pleads guilty to killing nun] , "Albany Herald-Democrat",
April 9, 2003
* Susan Kelleher. [http://www.rickross.com/reference/tlrchurch/tlrchurch1.html The Sect Behind the Shroud] . "The Seattle Times".
November 25, 2002(mirror of article from [http://www.rickross.com rickross.com]
* [http://www.bishopschuckardt.com Bishop Schuckardt's Personal Website]
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