I can only speculate what it all means. I am not inclined to think that it means anything juridical is in the works. However, I would hazard to say that it indicates that Pope Francis has no ill will or nefarious plan for undoing the provisions which favor those attached to the TLM. Which is what I have always been saying.
And for this reason the confusion of Damien Thompson as to why then Pope Francis would have placed restrictions on our Institute, might best be explained by considering that perhaps the narrative some traditionalists have spread about my Institute are wrong.
I am not sure how far he is to be taken literally in terms of the faithful’s right to lodge their concerns to their pastors. On the other hand, he makes a simple and valid point that most of us have come to give way too much importance to the way we think the Church ought to be instead of fostering the unity of the Church by not habitually and publicly contradicting our pastors and undermining their authority. Catholic orthodoxy/traditionalism has pretty effectively aped the rabble rousing progressives and felt banner wavers of the 60’s and 70’s.
The internet and social media, now a part of the fabric of our lives, seems to carry with it the assumption that somehow all of our opinions are important all the time. The digital age also validates the idea that we can say anything we want and then slough off responsibility for having said it.
The internet is a quicksand of cultural exibitionism and voyeurism. We Catholics have been suckered into it in the name of all that is holy.
In the comments on the post at the second link, Steve makes the observation that the real reason why the postconcilar crisis occurred was because the preconciliar Church was actually quite weak. One of Steve’s objectors say this appears to be post hoc ergo propter hoc, but the same can be said of the opposite argument—the more frequent one—that the preconciliar Church was strong and that the Council simply wrecked everything.
A more complex answer is probably the a more accurate one: there were preconciliar weaknesses, as well as the unrealistic optimism of the 60’s concurring with the sexual revolution, and the consequent disastrous implementation of the Council under the influence of ideologues who were able to throw off the fetters. These created a perfect storm.
A theology professor of mine made the astute remark that within the Church, the simple answers sound the best, but are usually wrong. A theological example of this is the doctrine of the hypostatic union. Nestorianism is simple and easy to understand: two persons, two natures, one indwells in the other. The Council of Ephesus is far more complex and difficult to understand: two distinct natures (one fully divine, the other fully human), but only one divine person, with no human person whatsoever.
Ephesus was right. Nestorius was wrong. The truth is not always simple.
Historical narratives are probably even more susceptible to such oversimplification, because they describe the particular and concrete, which are quasi-infinite. A historical cause and effect creates a ripple, which multiplies causes and effects exponentially.
Furthermore, we do not even know what we do not know. This is also a endemic problem on the Internet. Bloggers treat a few facts that they cobbled together like these were a compendium on the nature of everything.
Simple answers are appealing and convincing, especially in the wonderful world of search engines, viral causes and comboxes. We effectively sell our Catholic pontifications in sound bites, tweets, instagrams and blog posts, because that is the way contraception, abortion, same sex marriage and gender relativism has been foisted so successfully on the public.
Today evangelical genius consists in the ice bucket challenge.
I would suggest that we try to resolve our difficulties by having recourse to the living magisterium, but that would be too ultramontane.
There is one simple idea in the Church, a mystical one, which resolves all the complexities and anomalies.
But what do I know? Never mind.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Pius X, one of the great popes of the 20th century. He was born in 1835, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, and he grew up in poverty. His father was the village postman and little Giuseppe walked six kilometers to school everyday. This poverty characterized his whole life, and it was not just a matter of physical poverty. St. Pius X was a man who was truly poor in spirit. Our Lord said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Throughout his life as simple priest and Franciscan tertiary, then as bishop of Mantua, later as cardinal archbishop of Milan and finally as supreme pontiff of the universal Church, Giuseppe Sarto, remained a simple man and a lover of poverty. His last will and testament gives witness to this with the words: “I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor.”
Thus, this great man was single minded throughout his life and placed himself at the dispositions of Christ and His Church, without consideration for himself. This was his poverty in spirit. His whole life was to serve Christ and the Church. (more…)
The following is a report from earlier this year
For more information see this post from The Anchoress.
Pray for the Christians and all the persecuted peoples of Iraq.
Do not dare to forget the Church of Martyrs.
Fr. Z speaks of it here in the context of the question whether one may attend the civil wedding of a Catholic.
An excellent post that I hope will not be disparaged by those who insist that every problem be solved with hard and fast rules.
Read and learn.
Dan Burke from SpiritualDirection.com has invited me to write a series on “Mysticism and Magisterium.” The first installment is up: “Thinking with the Church.”
I am grateful for this opportunity. Thanks to Dan and Liz over at SpiritualDirection.com.
I will get back to my own series on the same subject. I have not forgotten. No, really.
Read the whole thing. It is well worth it.
They speak of “shipwrecks” and “guiding stars.” Men tend to look at women as guiding stars and women tend to think they can turn the men they love into knights in shining armor. In reality, both men and women are “companions in shipwreck.” Kevin points out that Tolkien’s view is both brutally realistic and at the same time wholly fair and charitable.
Here is Tolkien and Kevin (in bold):
I should add that what is said here can be applied to priests and their relationship with the Church. Priest’s imaginations can be preoccupied with ladies other than their real bride, whether these fantasies are of an idealized Church, or a substitute for the Church. Which reminds me of Pope Francis’ statement to priests:
Now that is something to think about.
Recently it was announced that an old reel-to-reel audio recording of a talk by J.R.R. Tolkien will be restored and released after having been kept from the public for many years. In 1958 Tolkien gave a speech at a dinner given in his honor in Rotterdam, which was attended by about two hundred enthusiasts of his mythology. The entire event was recorded and then forgotten about. Subsequently, the recording was found and then hoarded like part of Smaug’s treasure. Now it has been rescued from the clutches of the dragon and all are about to share in the fortune. It is a wonderful find, especially since it promises to reveal a few new insights about The Lord of the Rings.
It has long been known that a recording was made, but it was lost until 1993 when a collector named René van Rossenberg discovered it in a basement. Only now has he agreed to partner with several Tolkien fan sites to restore and release the recording.
What is extraordinary about the tape is that it contains (more…)
That should be “In Defense of
The Week has recently published a hit peace on the new Mass and Vatican II by Michael Brendan Dougherty. Ostensibly it is praise of Pope Benedict and his support of the Traditional Latin Mass–well deserved praise, I must say, the Pope Emeritus’ promulgation of Summorum Pontificum.
But then there is this:
Interesting rhetorical questions, which Dougherty does not answer. But the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is a nice spinning lure that always hooks the fish.
It just illustrates how Benedict XVI is so often used and abused in order to push one agenda or another. Calling Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity a “noble failure” and brushing it off with a wave of the hand also illustrates why I am not a traditionalist.
For a group of people who believe that there is no content to the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” those at Rorate Caeli along with Roberto de Mattei devote a good deal of time and space to the question. They also seem to be quite concerned about the criticisms I have been lodging, devoting as much time and energy as they have to the question, while making sure that they avoid linking to my blog.
But I am willing to concede that the crypto-Lefebvrists are ghosts. At least, they sure do behave like them. Etherial creatures they are, lurking in the shadows and working in the dark.
The latest contribution about this matter on Rorate Caeli is from pseudonymous Fr. Pio Pace who claims that the Holy See has been engaged in the “programmed destruction of the Franciscan of the Immaculate.” Not surprisingly, he calls the allegation of “cryto-Lefebvrism” simply the absurd and baseless pretext for the destruction of the FI. All the while he employs a revisionist historical narrative of the dialogue of the Holy See with the SSPX in the service of his allegation of the Church’s attack on traditionalism within the FI.
I have written an account of the dialogue of the Holy See with the Society of St. Pius X, which you can find here. The facts of the case show clearly that the leaders of the Society never intended to modify their doctrinal position, nor was the Society ever near an agreement with the Holy See. Furthermore, my account also documents the collusion between the Society and the crypto-Lefebvrists on the outside, including those associated with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. I urge you to take the time to read the account. It makes everything else here much more understandable.
Scapegoating Pope Francis
Fr. Pio’s essay is likely to leave the poorly informed reader with the impression that the current want of movement in the dialogue of the SSPX with the Holy See has something to do with Pope Francis and his lack of interest in the Society. But the truth is that the dialogue was effectively over before Pope Benedict announced his resignation. (Again, read that account.)
It is true that Ecclesia Dei sent a letter to Bishop Fellay on January 8, 2013 asking him to accept the doctrinal preamble as it was, but this was a last ditch effort after the personal letter of Archbishop di Noia of December 8, 2012 went unheeded. Pope Benedict announced his resignation on February 11, before the deadline for the Society’s response (February 22), which seems to indicate that he was letting everyone know that the window of opportunity was closing. This had nothing to do with the person who would actually succeed him more than a month later.
Fr. Pio imagines what would have happened had Pope Benedict, in spite of the SSPX’s unresponsiveness, gone ahead an reintegrated the Society after the announcement of the Holy Father’s resignation but before its execution. Had this occurred, he says, it could have entirely changed the outcome of the subsequent conclave and the current position of the SSPX.
But this does not take into account the fact that the dialogue simply failed due to the disintegration that occurred prior the announcement of the resignation. The SSPX had their chance—the best chance that they could have ever hoped for, and they let it pass. Pope Benedict could have held on if he had believed that a reconciliation was a realistic possibility, or he could have simply regularized the Society on its own terms had he been as determined as Bishop Fellay suggested he was. But he did not regularize the Society, whose representatives then declared their satisfaction that they had held to their principles and that the episcopal consecrations of 1988 thus proved to be fully justified. And it was Pope Benedict, and no other, who turned over the future the reformed-minded cardinals.
So it is not at all fair to say that Pope Francis ignores the Society. The dialogue had breathed its last prior to any talk of a new pontiff and Bishop Fellay had already expressed his being resigned to a long period of waiting for more advantageous conditions. But Fr. Pio’s assessment is based on the same false pretext popularized by Roberto de Mattei, namely, that Pope Benedict himself was the sponsor of the “permanent ‘interrogation’” of Vatican II, and at least implicitly had been encouraging the Society to maintain its “loyal” opposition. (Read that account.)
Fr. Pio is correct in saying that Pope Francis does not share the theological preoccupations of his predecessor, and therefore, the questions of continuity and discontinuity do not hold the same place in his thought. But in this regard, there are several things to consider beyond the obvious differences between the former head of the Holy Office and the former Jesuit superior.
First of all, the Benedictine pontificate ispso facto has permanent value in the life of the Church. Pope Benedict has left a patrimony that will not and cannot be ignored. It is condescending and shortsighted to think Pope Francis is ignorant or dismissive of this.
Secondly, Fr. Pio minimizes the several references of Pope Francis to the work of Archbishop Marccheto. That Pope Francis is an outsider to the debate does not mean he is uninterested. But he has reason to remain aloof from the debate over continuity—the same reason that Pope Benedict ignored the appeal of Monignor Gherardini for a great clarification and reordering Council. Fr. Pio maintains the false tradition that Pope Benedict is the sponsor of the great questioning, and that he himself believed that it was urgent and necessary to prove continuity or otherwise abandon the Council. Pope Benedict ignored this contention for a reason, and Pope Francis does as well.
Finally, Fr. Pio leaves the reader with the impression that the situation with the SSPX was ripe for forward movement and hands-on intervention as Pope Francis ascended to the Chair of St. Peter. But actually the opposite is true, as I have shown irrefutably in the post already mentioned several times. The situation when Pope Francis was elected was altogether different than the one in 2007, when Summorum Pontificum was promulgated and then in 2009, when the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops was lifted. Pope Benedict had opened the doors wide to the Society and took them under his wing. It seems to me that this opportunity was exploited by the leaders of the Society to further their own ends and concluded in an inevitable stalemate. The principles expounded by Rome and the SSPX are substantially and intractably at odds. This is the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached after years of failed dialogue.
The Doctrinal Agreement
But not according to Fr. Pio. On the contrary, he contends that, in the reflected light of Pope Francis’ exclusively pastoral preoccupations and his general lack of interest in anything seriously theological, now Vatican officials believe it was a mistake to have submitted “too strict” a doctrinal statement to Bishop Fellay for his signature.
But what was the real difference between the doctrinal statement that Bishop Fellay that he ultimately rejected and the one he was willing to sign? It was the difference between fundamentally accepting the continuity of the Council and insisting that such continuity must be proven before accepted. What Fr. Pio fails to mention, but which Bishop Fellay openly admitted on December 30, 2012, is that Pope Benedict not only agreed to the strengthening of the text of the agreement (55:10) but he also insisted in writing on three points: 1) the SSPX must accept that it is the magisterium which is the judge of what is traditional or not; 2) the SSPX must accept that the Council is an integral part of Tradition; 3) the SSPX must accept that the New Mass is valid and licit (54:43-56:39).
But neither the SSPX nor those represented by Roberto de Mattei could fulfill even the demands of the weaker agreement. This is so because the discussion of such matters among traditionalists sympathetic to the SSPX is not simply the exercise of theology in the service of the magisterium, but counterrevolutionary activism.
This needs to be emphasized. There is all kind of talk about “legitimate” theological discussion, study and explanation of difficult conciliar passages. But this is not really the fundamental issue. The Society and its supporters could not even come close to complying with the CDF’s Instruction Donum Veritatis, on the “Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian,” because their basic work has nothing to do with academic theology but with propaganda and community organizing. Indeed, the anticonciliar agenda is carried out from the pulpit, in seminary and religious formation, in popular literature, in journalism and on the blogs. In other words, it is a complete anticonciliar propaganda machine and an instrument of political agitation. And even if Pope Francis was as uninterested in theology as Fr. Pio suggests, which I do not believe for a second, he is nobody’s fool, and he understands what he would get if all he had was a weak, toothless agreement from the Society.
We are not talking about an agreement involving mere abstractions. In fact, the touchy point in the doctrinal preamble was not about what one may and may not be free to believe, but about what an ecclesiastically approved society with a ministerial mandate may actively promote. And therefore, it is about whether a charism can or cannot be harmoniously integrated into the life of the Church. It is about whether it is practical and advisable to grant the Society such a wide measure of independence, which would be afforded by a personal prelature, if the Society does not actually agree to behave differently than it has up to now.
Fr. Pio goes on to suggest that now with Pope Francis’ lack of doctrinal concern there is an openness of certain Vatican officials to admitting the Society without a strict doctrinal agreement, but, unfortunately, the Society is now much too volatile to accept any agreement with Rome. But Fr. Pio is simply rewriting history. The SSPX has never been close to an agreement with Rome and this has nothing to do with Pope Francis. Furthermore, a regularization without an agreement would be seen as a vindication of the Society’s long held principles and would be used as a pretext to continue their counterrevolution. Neither Pope Benedict nor Pope Francis is so naïve.
And this brings me back to the allegation of Fr. Volpi, the Apostolic Commissioner for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, that the problems of the Institute are related to crypto-Lefebvrism, a contention that I have already defended multiple times. Fr. Pio Pace, concurring with Rorate Caeli and Robero de Mattei, pretends he has no idea what I am talking about, and that, in fact, I am not really saying anything meaningful.
Crypto-Lefebvrism is theoretical and practical agreement with the anticonciliar ideas of the SSPX, involving whatever dissimulation is necessary to continue to operate within full communion. Bishop Fellay has made reference to bishops who act in this fashion, who are in agreement with the SSPX, but more or less camouflage their intentions in order not to be removed from influence (1:14:00-1:16:30).
An example of this is the attempt to justify the Society’s behavior and the theories of its sympathizers, like Roberto de Mattei, on the false basis that Pope Benedict was the one that encouraged the questioning of the “hermeneutic of continuity” The falsity of this is shown clearly, both from my arguments here, as well as my documentation of the dialogue between the Society and Rome.
Another instance is the “95% argument,” namely, that the SSPX agrees with 95% of what Vatican II teaches and therefore could never be construed logically to be fundamentally opposed to the Council. This is simply sophistry contrived to produce sympathy toward the Society. It is abundantly clear that the SSPX believes Vatican II is a poisoned apple. It does not matter what percentage of the Council the Society accepts. Anyone, who has read the sources I have pointed to knows that the SSPX believes the Council and the Mass it produced to be a Modernist, Freemasonic and Jewish betrayal of tradition.
One final example, Chris Ferrara claims that no “crypto-Lefebvrist” would question the liceity of the Ordinary Form, if by that one means “the Latin Typical Edition of the Mass of Paul VI celebrated in Latin with a high altar, Gregorian Chant, and no communion in the hand or altar girls, a la the Brompton Oratory.” But I have personally heard traditionalists argue against the liceity of the Ordinary Form, reasoned from Quo Primum. There is also an argument against it liceity in the comments on my own blog based on the PECD’s Prot. 156/2009, though the author claims it is a position he does not hold, or at least not firmly.
I imagine that readers will notice that I do nothing here to substantively defend Vatican II against the traditionalist arguments. My purpose is different. Here I just want to hold their feet to the fire and get them to commit themselves to their position like the counterrevolutionaries they are.
I understand the reasons for not doing so, especially among priests and bishops, whose positions would be at risk within the postconciliar Church if they came clean. For this reason, Internet anonymity and pseudonymity are very effective tools of the counterrevolution. But it is bad business all the same, and someone has to point it out.
And I have just the motive to do it, since the crypto-Lefebvrists have chosen to make the religious Institute to which I have been committed for more than twenty-five years the battlefield of their little war on the Council. That is one of the reasons why the Holy See has intervened within the FI in the manner as it has, and all the complaining just makes the problem even more evident. The more people who clearly have agendas claim that “crypto-Lefebvrists are just ghosts, the more it is clear they have something to hide.
Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, News, Religion Tagged: Benedict XVI, crypto-Lefebvrism, Pope Francis, Roberto De Mattei, Rorate Caeli, Second Vatican Council, Society of St. Pius X, Traditionalism
This post has been a long time coming. It recounts much of what ought to be clear to the careful observer, but since it runs contrary to the popular narrative this documentation is in order. I wish to put to rest the fatuous misrepresentations of the dialogue between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X.
My account is by no means complete, but neither does it omit the pertinent facts. A separate analysis could be devoted to the various nuances of positions represented within the Society. The Society is by no means a homogeneous group and admits of degrees of intensity in regard to the “hardline.” It is certainly true that there was more sympathy within the Society towards the Pope Benedict’s efforts at reconciliation than was often manifested in the media. However, for several reasons, I do not think it is necessary to attend to these nuances in order to bring to light the aspects of the history that are often ignored. First of all, this is so because it is what the leaders of the SSPX think that is decisive. The opinions of individual members do not represent the Society per se. On the other hand, what the leaders, particularly Bishop Fellay, set down is policy. Secondly, the nuances are not essential to this account because the position of Bishop Fellay is relatively moderate within the SSPX. In fact, he was greatly criticized by many members for his willingness to consider a doctrinal agreement at all.
The following is my response to Professor Roberto de Mattei (Italian, English) who recently came to the defense of Rorate Caeli. I note that neither de Mattei nor Rorate Caeli link to my original critiques (1 & 2).
Professor Roberto De Mattei, like New Catholic at Rorate Caeli, believes that my use of the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” is meaningless. They say that it is name-calling directed at faithful Catholics. In particular, de Mattei believes that my intention is to demonize those whose only wish is to be guided by Tradition and the Magisterium, and who under that guidance decide for themselves when the reigning Pope is to be followed and when he is not.
I have been saying for a long time that Bishop Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, has been highly successful at executing his intention for the now failed dialogue with Rome. That intention, which he explicitly stated a number of times, was that the work of the Society should serve to weaken the influence of Vatican II. Roberto de Mattei has labored at this right along the Society of St. Pius X.
Obscuring the Hermeneutic