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From  the Pages of

WAND3

Issue Date of 6-22-2000

National Catholic Weekly Founded Oct. 7, 1867 - Our Second Century of Lay Apostolate

The Wanderer

Traditionalists, Tradition, And Private Judgement,

In Perspective

 

  Since the end of the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent promulgation by Pope Paul VI of the new rite of the Mass, there has been a growing division among those Catholics genera

Traditionalists,

Tradition,

And

Private,

Judgement

by

Stephen Hand

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lly known as "orthodox" or "traditionalist."

  The Wanderer itself suffered from the divisions and upheavals following the council. In 1967 editor Walter Matt left the newspaper over a dispute about the meaning of Vatican II. He saw it not so much as a reform and a renewal of the Church but as a revolution that threatened to undermine the Church herself (in that same year, Walter Matt founded The Remnant). His brother, Alphonse J. Matt, Sr. (the present writer's father), took over the reins at The Wanderer and reminded its readers that the real intent of the council was a renewed evangelization of the world for Christ and a personal renewal of every individual Catholic.

  For The Wanderer , the council was not a rejection or an abandonment of Tradition, but a development of that Tradition, safeguarded for 2,000 years by the Holy Spirit, to better enable the Church to bring the Gospel to all men.

  Those "traditionalists" who view the council as a break with Tradition — who blame the council's teaching itself, not the subversion of, and departure from that teaching, by modernists and progressivists — are becoming increasingly hostile to the See of Peter and its present occupant.

  The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who broke with the Holy See in 1988 over the issue of appointing bishop successors from his Society of St. Pius X, tends to be the hero of these traditionalist Catholics.

  This past April, an angry, aggressive statement authored by Atila Sinke Guimarγes, a former member of the Brazil-based TFP (Tradition, Family, Property), titled We Resist You to the Face was published in The Remnant, Catholic Family News, and other traditionalist organs.

  The statement was signed by Mr. Guimarγes and Marian Horvat, both members of Tradition in Action, Inc., Michael Matt, editor of The Remnant, and John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News.

  We Resist You . . . is described by its signatories as "A Public Statement of Catholic Resistance" (in which) "Lay Catholic journalists respectfully suspend obedience to the Pope and remain inside Holy Mother Church."

  A brochure promoting the statement declares:

  " We Resist You to the Face analyzes the consequences of the adaptation of the Church to the modern world, and the consequences of ecumenism, as applied since the Council — including by the present Pontiff. The authors declare themselves in a state of resistance 'relative to the teachings of Vatican Council II, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and to your teachings [of John Paul II] that are objectively opposed to the prior ordinary and extraordinary Papal Magisterium'."

  One can conclude after a careful reading of We Resist You . . . that its authors and supporters are on a schismatic trajectory that can only have tragic consequences.

  We have asked Stephen Hand, no stranger to traditionalists, to examine We Resist You . . ., its premises and conclusions in order to provide some guidance and counsel to those traditionalist Catholics who are troubled and confused by current developments within the Church and the kinds of analysis of such by the likes of We Resist You. . . .

  The result of his effort is: "Traditionalists," Tradition, and Private Judgment. Two important addenda are included: Pope Paul II's Credo of the People of God and Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks in 1988 to the bishops of Chile regarding the Lefebvre schism.

  Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln has graciously provided a preface to the work.

  We recommend this commentary to every Catholic who seeks a better understanding of the controversies which continue to spread fear, doubt, and confusion within the Church. It will prove to be an effective instrument to strengthen one's faith.

                                                                                                           — Alphonse J. Matt Jr.

Editor, The Wanderer

Preface

  Stephen Hand has done a distinct service by his fine monograph pointing out by means of careful research as well as by personal and anecdotal experience the reality of removing a cinder in one's eye when such is there, but keeping the eye intact and not removing the eye out of exasperation, because of the annoyance and sometimes serious pain the cinder can cause.

  It has been an axiom for many years in historical theology that what oftentimes begins or is declared to be a "return to tradition," in other words, a reaction, ends as being an innovation, that is, a schism or a heresy. There are people who suffer from intense headaches, and find themselves utterly incapable of mastering the horrible pain that they frequently endure. In moments of frustration, such people will sometimes say, "I wish I could cut off my head to cure my headache." But they, and all who are rational and reflective in their presence, would always realize that the so-called cure would be far worse than the continuous enduring of even the most tragic pain. It takes a faith-filled and prayer-filled discerning Catholic life to distinguish liturgical abuses, doctrinal and moral aberrations, and grave disciplinary infractions occurring in the lives and practices of people within the Church, from the Church herself, which despite being composed of sinful members, remains the spotless Spouse and Bride of Christ, not a Church of Cathers or Albigensians, but a Church of those who carry within themselves the sad effects of original sin while at the same time bearing the grace of God, which is to say, the seeds of eternal happiness. St. Thomas Aquinas calls pride the queen and mother of all vices, and oftentimes those who perhaps rightly perceive grave faults and defects in people in the Church, even sometimes in people with positions of clerical authority, forget their own creatureliness and sinfulness, and the ability they themselves have to fall into serious error.

  At the time of the Jansenist crisis, for instance, the archbishop of Paris, speaking of the Jansenist nuns at Port-Royal, said they were as pure as angels but as proud as devils. Down through the centuries there have been countless sects, denominations, cults, and churches which have broken off from the Catholic Church under the pretense of being "holier than thou." We are witnessing the same occurrence in our time. Ironically, these groups are most often unknowing and indeliberate allies of the bitterest enemies of Christ and His Church, in effect, denying the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church and the promises that Christ bestowed on His Mystical Body from its inception.

  In his masterful work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, John Henry Newman points out how in the course of the Church's history she occasionally appears to fall into a deliquium, from which, under God's grace, she emerges victorious and stronger than ever. Many of those who defy the Church and even leave the Church in the name of "tradition," thus contradicting the very word by which they choose to define themselves, are ignorant in their despair regarding the Church's future or the realities of the Church's history through 2,000 years. This work of Stephen Hand undoubtedly will assist those who are loyal to Christ and to His Church, and to His Vicar on earth, the Bishop of Rome, to labor zealously within the boundaries of the Church herself for her growth in holiness, and willingly, even joyfully, do all possible to eliminate doctrinal, moral, liturgical, and disciplinary aberrations, but, at the same time, conceding nothing to those who wish not to remove a cinder from the eye, but to remove the eye itself and perhaps replace its empty socket with cinders and decayed matters.

  The Venerable Servant of God, Abbot Joseph Columba Marmion, who is scheduled to be beatified on September 3, 2000, once reminded his readers that "God resists the proud," and he added: "Is it not terrible to be alienated from God? But how much more terrible it must be to be 'resisted' by God Himself."

  May his rhetorical question echo in the minds and hearts of those who make use of this fine work of Stephen Hand.

— The Most Rev.

Fabian W. Bruskewitz,

Bishop of Lincoln, Neb.

"Traditionalists," Tradition, And Private Judgment

By STEPHEN HAND

 

Introduction

  For many of us, the road to the fullness of the faith has been a long one. Somewhere, somehow, in the thick of the schizoid, relentless bombardment of the senses called the "modern world" something happened. And whatever its cumulative nature, there came a moment when we looked around at our world today and said, "This is madness!" And somehow, through the inscrutable designs of grace, we crawled our way back to the Father's House loaded with our sins and seeking forgiveness, prayer, and some quiet refuge from the maddening noise of the world.

  Having spent the better part of my life in far too intimate a knowledge of the seven deadly sins, by the time I finally looked into the spiritual mirror and beheld a fool, I was in sore need of spiritual healing, and a good spiritual boxing of my hitherto spiritually deaf ears. Having used the few gifts which God lent me for so long in spiritually useless ways, by the time I shook off the delirium and began somehow to stumble upward — and the stumbling is the one continuity which has lasted through this "before" and "after" — I needed a real Tonic, a spiritual Medicine which would reach into the depths of my soul and drag it out of the insanity which I had consciously or unconsciously cultivated in deference to my generation's teachers, all the materialist hucksters, artists, wordsters, and media con-men who were the architects of my spiritual folly.

  More than anything else, upon awakening from my spiritual coma I needed silence, solitude, a space in which to "retreat" from the incessant cacophony of words, opinions, pundits, pollsters, rock and rollers, all of whom, like never before, wrestled, sweated, and competed for our time, our attention, and our wallets. Not just any silence, but a silence to be present before the God who wanted to be present for me — and for the whole world. A silence that would teach, heal, help me to learn and unlearn. A silence which would cradle us in a new Reality, apart from and deeper than the madding crowds of the high-tech modern world.

  What a shock, then, it was to crawl with my sins to the Church of my infant Baptism and find the altar gone, the tabernacle sacked or put all but out of sight, the altar turned around, and Father, microphone in hand, walking up and down the center aisle of the church like some prototype of Oprah. It was incongruent, a weird spectacle to be sure. I wondered why the poor priest wouldn't stay in his pulpit, speak from the Gospels, and just give us the Eternal Bread that our souls were starving for. Instead he talked baseball, about the movie Jaws (at my sister's wedding), or he crassly attempted a vile imitation of some professor he heard or read in the seminary and proceeded to demythologize the Christ-event for the hapless and bewildered congregation (Mary probably had other children, it wasn't important if Jesus really walked on water, Jesus didn't "produce bread out of thin air" when He fed the multitudes, Satan was a vestige of Zoroastrian mythology, ad nauseam).

  I concluded that if the priest — forgive me — would just be quiet (if he couldn't bring himself to refrain from judging the word of God but, rather, allow himself to be judged by it), I might at least manage to find some meaning in his Holy Action at the Sacred Table. But by the time he was through, many of us felt so pummeled by his obnoxious joking and giddy and condescending demeanor (we were hardly ever spoken to as adults ) that the Eucharistic Celebration seemed cheapened, trivialized beyond belief. It certainly did not appear much like the unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary renewed for us sinners and for our salvation, which it certainly was.

  By the time the poor priest was finished, even the rote responsorial prayers of the congregation, which left little time for real prayer in the depths of one's soul before God, seemed to approximate something like quiet. The fact is, it simply didn't seem like church anymore, even if there were all sorts of trendy assertions that we — since the council — were "learning" to "be" Church.

  In time it became clear that our parish church was not going to help us spiritually very much, and, if we were not careful, it might even create a distaste in us for the Church herself. So we trekked from parish to parish until we found one where, apart from the tedious responses and handshakes, the Mass was conducted more reverently — and we were thankful for it. And in the better parishes a big part of the difference was that there invariably was a pastor who spoke to adults as adults — briefly and meaningfully — and who seemed to believe the Gospel.

  These were not always older priests, either, as one might have expected. It was simply that the better parishes had a priest — older or younger — who conducted himself as though his Father's House was above all a "house of prayer," and of true adoration. I have known some older priests, like the one first mentioned, who were far from theologically and spiritually sober — or even serious — around the eucharistic altar; and I have known young ones who could be seen sitting near the tabernacle in quiet prayer and contemplation. What an iconic vehicle of grace the latter image was upon entering a church, more powerful than any words. This was most often found in parishes where there were Holy Hours and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. In Novus Ordo parishes Perpetual Adoration made a decisive difference. Still, one wished for the same sense of prayerful silence when the Mass itself was celebrated.

  How foolish were those so-called liturgical experts who thought that what the average man and woman in the street needed in the modern age was more words, laughter, chumminess, and general noise. What a miscalculation! What modern man so desperately needs each day — and certainly at least once a week on Sunday — is the quiet to pray, the silence to confess and to give thanks, the space for contemplation and to adore a Sacrifice so sublime that one can only bow one's head. St. Alphonsus Liguori said, "They who do not love silence will not be able to hear the Voice of God."

  Indeed. The cross — and thus the Mass, its re-presentation — is the ground and apex of contemplative solitude. What modern man desperately wants is not words, but the Word! ( John 1:1). Poor modern men and women are bombarded by words from the time they shake off their sleep in the morning until the time they lay their tired and confused heads back on their pillows at night. They want to "hear" more than speak, love more than prattle, adore more than recite. Man liveth not by words alone. We don't want a "fun" priest at the altar, much less a silly one who seems to love to hear himself talk and who acts like some giddy master of ceremonies. There is a place for fun, surely, but not when the Lamb of God is about to give Himself again in that same sacrifice as on Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Moses put off his sandals before the Presence of the Almighty. The least we can do is put off our jabbering and carelessness. And when priests are not respectful of that need which we have for quiet contemplation, one wonders just how "in touch" they are with real human beings — the People of God — who live in the real world.

  How wrong, again, those so-called liturgical experts, who arrogantly looked down upon those men and women in Church with beads in hand and eyes cast adoringly on the tabernacle and crucifix and presumed to think and say, "These people need to be made to 'actively participate' in the liturgy!" What tragic nonsense! I dare say there was more active faith and contemplation and love in those hearts than in all the millions or billions of chummy smiles and glad-handing which has so characterized the postconciliar era. And theirs was hardly a selfish silence and piety which was insensitive to the needs of others. These were Christians who knew how to share their bread and their time with others, who knew how to console those who were suffering, precisely because they set their gaze on the crucifix so often and said their prayers, and who intuitively understood how the beatitudes were the blessed fruit of that sublime spirituality. They didn't need bureaucratized agendas and social worker substitutes to teach them how to be active in charity.

  The Catholic immigrants who poured into America in the 19th and early 20th centuries didn't need lessons in neighborliness and Christian charity from any "liturgical experts." Their orthopraxy — the fruit of their orthodoxy — was lived out in simplicity by faithfully fulfilling the obligations which their state in life imposed. They helped one another often through messy hardship at the birth beds and at the death beds of their neighbors, and in countless other needs. They didn't spend their lives in front of the TV or on committees. Their faith and their sense of charity was passed on from generation to generation with their mothers' milk.

  No, I suspect that the so-called liturgical experts were too often spiritually superficial and restless themselves and sought to blame previous generations for their own lack of spiritual depth. This is not to say liturgical development is not sometimes justified, if and when the Church sees fit. But development is not rupture. And it should never be superficial, trivializing the Holy Sacrifice, which gives birth to such charity in the hearts of real men and women.

  And this is why, alas, many of us at some point ended up leaving our local churches and visiting a "Tridentine Mass chapel" advertised somewhere. There the Mass seemed to be offered in dignity and the contemplative dimension of the faith, which meant so much to the saints and us, still seemed to exist.

  For a time we exulted in this newfound spiritual space. So what if the priest was not in good standing with his bishop, we rationalized. The bishop doesn't seem to care about us all that much. Sometimes it seemed that the only ones getting any spiritual attention were the radical lobbyists, the radical feminists, and others who were making a living systematically deconstructing the faith of our fathers. And, most regrettably, it was then that we often found ourselves finding and subscribing to "Traditionalist" publications which, even though they often sounded like they represented warring factions — a fact we often repressed — at least seemed to speak of the "old" faith.

  Thus, alas, this new experience represented for many of us the beginning of a deep plunge into an abyss we did not foresee. Before one knew it, one was reading all sorts of conspiratorial theories about what had happened to the Church. Much of the literature was apocalyptic in tone or in fact. Often it put private revelations — whether approved or not — above anything even the Pope said. And as we imbibed the poison we slowly began to think ill of the Pope's leadership and openly criticize it.

  In the Traditionalist literature, one was warned not to trust the Holy Father, not to even read him, because he was, to one degree or another, "infected with liberalism" which was the curse of the times. Unfortunately, many of us swallowed this dreadful conclusion, hook, line, and sinker, even if some of us refused to go all the way and declare him a heretic and papal imposter, as many in the same or other chapels did.

  It is not easy to read such literature and not be affected in some degree. Especially if one at first does not know an epistle from an apostle. This is the problem with these "independent" chapels.

  I tried to gravitate toward those publications which, at least in principle, did not deny the validity of the New Mass, as so many do, and did not — again, at least in principle — deny that the Pope was the Pope. In time, however, I became alarmed by the exaggerations and kookiness I found in so many of the publications and opinions of those considered leaders in the Traditionalist movement. I began writing articles for what I thought were more mainstream Traditionalist publications (one especially, for example, which was once — a long time ago — graced by names like the von Hildebrands and other constructive critics of postconciliar abuses).

  I am sorry to say that I rationalized against nagging doubts to the position that the Pope could be criticized openly as long as such criticism was not overly severe and did not question his legitimacy as Pope, or the per se validity of the New Mass. But in time I saw that even the main publication I wrote for was moving further and further to the right, hardening against the Church, it seemed, and becoming more and more like groups such as the Society of St. Pius X theologically, and it began to worry me.

  I discussed some of these issues with trusted friends and colleagues, but while some shared my concerns, many, it became clear, simply did not fear schism, considering that the visible Church was "already lost." "No enemies on the right" was often the motto.

  These nagging doubts and concerns lasted for nearly two years. Then a widely circulated video appeared (What We Have Lost, put out by the In the Spirit of Chartres Committee) in which my editor, the paper, and some well-known acquaintances appeared. The video declared that the Catholic Church was no longer the Catholic Church, but a "new" Church and a "new" religion. I knew nothing about such plans. The dogmatic Rubicon was crossed here. In Rome, just prior to seeing this video, I had attended a beautiful papal Mass, celebrated with the greatest — even awesome — reverence, and prayed at the spot where St. Peter was crucified upside down. This was the Church I was born in and I had no intentions of leaving it.

  This video questioned the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass and other sacramental rites of the Church and referred to the Church as though it were some sect. It had gone to the extreme, where my friends said they would never go. But there they all were, in it. The video selectively showed the very worst of the Novus Ordo abuses, as if that was all that existed and asked rhetorically:

  "Yet there are many who persist in asking 'isn't the Mass still the Mass and the Catholic Church still the Catholic Church?' Tragically the answer is No! It is a New Church, a new religion."

   This simply was not Catholic. I did not become "Traditionalist" only to end up leaving the Church I was born in, whatever her real problems (and the Church has always faced great problems). Indeed, since 1988 especially, when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre disobeyed the Pope, who was trying to work with and reconcile him, even allowing for many of the archbishop's unusual requests, many of those who once traveled in extreme Traditionalist circles all over the world have fled those Integrist ranks for safer dogmatic ground in order to maintain communion with their local bishops and the Holy Father, and to work for constructive reforms of the postconciliar abuses in the right and proper way. We now hope and pray for both the improvement and reform of the new rite of Mass and for the more complete restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass for all those priests and laypersons who desire it.

  In what follows, I attempt to delineate the major objections I have expressed on many occasions since that time to the extreme Traditionalist, i.e., Integrist, positions, and then suggest a more Catholic approach to working for legitimate change in perfect communion with the Holy Father.

  This, clearly, is not an exhaustive treatment of these matters, but it is my hope it will help more people to think, to pray, and to pay attention to the nagging doubts which prod us in a more Catholic direction in proportion to the degree we are distanced from it, whether from the right or the left. I intend also to examine the methods and — in some degree — the psychology of dissidence which holds back the true renewal of the Church. Nothing said below should be construed as an indictment of the many sincere lay persons who have, with no bad intentions, gotten caught up in Traditionalist extremism. I know how they got to where they are; and I know it is often because of a combination of a sincere desire for liturgical integrity and the incessant propaganda of misguided persons who would presume to act as leaders and who have the temerity to attribute heresy to the Magisterium.

  Let me say up front, however, that the cure for what ails extreme Traditionalists of all stripes lies in going back to the sources of the living faith, in actually and objectively reading the writings of the Holy Father, The Catechism of the Catholic Church , and the documents of Vatican II — not just combing them for proof-texts to fit preconceived prejudices, as is the Integrist habit. When we do that, asking ourselves what kind of Church we would have if the liberals and modernists

Traditionalists,

Tradition,

And

Private,

Judgement

by

Stephen Hand

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actually heeded the wisdom and doctrine contained therein, it becomes clear where the real trouble lies, whether from the left or the right. Modernists and Integrists are actually twins. Both thrive on opposition to the living Magisterium. The problem is not the Pope, not the council, and not the Catechism, but rather the failure of so many to obey these! That alone is what accounts for the terrible crisis in the Roman Catholic Church today. This is what the Integrists must learn.

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  (Stephen Hand is a freelance writer for Catholic publications and is editor of the online Catholic e-zine Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. He lives with his wife and children in Littleton, Mass., and worked as a journalist for many years in radio news in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. He is the author of one novella and also does legal research and writing for a local law firm.)

 

Part 1

The Church And The Council

  The most wonderful thing about being Catholic is that the Church's saving Tradition is a "given," something which we can only receive from the hands of Christ's ministers, who extend in time through the apostolic succession all the way back to the empty Tomb, and who first heard the stunning words:

Receive the Holy Spirit

For those whose sins you forgive,

They are forgiven;

For those whose sins you retain

They are retained (John 20:22).

 

  The Church is not some esoteric gnosis which men must try to discern, decipher, and then keep jealously under a bushel. Rather, she is, following the Incarnation itself, astonishingly visible, a "light to the world" and the "salt of the earth," the continuation through time of Him who was "made flesh and dwelt among us."

  From that moment when earth's history was split into a "before" and an "after," no one has had to look or wait for another Messiah, another teaching or "Way." For He is "with us," "always," (Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 28:20) and is the God who comes, the God who seeks us out, and who offers forgiveness and reconciliation to a world which will never again have to grope to find Him. He is there, in His Church, where, until the very end of the world are heard the simple words of consecration which are the substance of the Mass. St. Paul tells us what that substance is:

  "For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn pass on to you: that on the night that He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and giving thanks He broke it, and He said, 'This is my Body, which is broken for you'."

  In the same manner He took the cup and said:

  "This is the cup of the New Covenant in my Blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me" (1 Cor. 11: 23-27).

  Should she deem it necessary or good, the Church could reduce her liturgy to these words and acts, the "substance" around which all the ritual "accidents," which change through time, adhere. For only she is given to participate in and dispense the divine authority — the great and undemocratic "whatsoever" (Matt. 16:20) — until the Bridegroom returns to receive His Bride at the end of time. It is left for us to only "Hear the Church" which changes only in her "accidents" through the ebbs and flows of time, the "substance" perduring to the consummation.

Crisis Of Authority

  The crisis of authority in our time has affected members of the Church deeply, both on the left and on the right. Men and women today are all too often scandalized by the very notion of the divine authority, the astonishing "whatsoever" (Matt. 16:19) by which Peter and his college of bishops govern and guide the Church.

  Some, on the "left," resent this authority and demand new "freedoms" which, if taken to their logical conclusion, would collapse the divine authority into the rule of the 51%, and turn the Bride of Christ juridically into a never ending debating/voting forum. Others, on the "right," accept this authority in principle, but demand that it be exercised today as it was yesterday, in a way that pleases them, else they will rebel, declare the Church apostate, and set up their own "independent" church or little "remnants."

  If the former (our liberal dissidents) are like Judas and prefer their own way to the way of the Master, the latter (the Integrists or extreme Traditionalists who concern us here) are like the nervous disciples in the boat who are scandalized that the Lord sleeps while the boat is whipped in the storms which threaten to plunge them into the deep (Luke 8:22-25). They forget or hesitate over the divine authority and sovereignty of the Master and would seize control of the Ship themselves if they could — not because they are wicked necessarily, but because, at the end of the day, they do not completely trust the divine "always" and "whatsoever." If they find it easy to walk with the Good Shepherd when the pastures are plenty, they begin to cower or grow angry when He would guide them through the valleys of the culture of death and feel themselves surrounded by enemies and the debris fields of a matricidal and morally suicidal age. It is at that point when the rod and staff of the Lord's Vicar seems insufficient to the tasks at hand in their eyes, and they begin to envy it; they would that it were theirs to wield.

Trust

  Apart from trust in this divine "always" and "whatsoever," there can be no peace. Trust in Christ, for a Catholic, is indistinguishable from trust in His Mystical, hierarchical Body. Two or three people in a room will fight over any little thing. It is so human. By the divine plan, the Vicar of Christ is the only principle of unity in the Church. Thus when liberals and Integrists, each for their own reasons, join together in an unseemly union to attack him, only the culture of death can advance. And this is the great tragedy! Whether out of rebellion or lack of confidence, the end result will be the same. If we do not "hear the Church" as our Lord commanded, as she interprets her Tradition through the vicissitudes of time, we must sink into the depths of our own rebellions or fears through private judgment. For Christ's Church has been given only one earthly Vicar, appointed by the Master. His is the divinely bestowed competence, together with the bishops united with him ("and never apart from him")1 to navigate the Church of Christ through time to the heavenly Port. If we wash off from this Rock, only God knows where we shall end.

 

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Footnotes

 

  1. Documents of Vatican II, Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Role in the Church, n. 1:4.

 

Part 2

Reasons For The Council

  On October 11, 1962, the first day of the council, Pope John XXIII delivered his opening address in St. Peter's Basilica. In that address, after placing the council and its deliberations "under the auspices of the Virgin Mother of God," he said: "The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the Sacred Deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, composed as he is of body and soul. And, since he is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to tend always toward Heaven."

  Thus the Second Vatican Council had as its first and "greatest concern" a two-pronged objective, one apologetic, the other kerygmatic. To guard and teach. To "guard" the "Sacred Deposit of Faith" is to presuppose and reaffirm all the Creeds, all the previous councils, whether ecumenical or general, which came before. This is the doctrinal foundation on which the pastoral objectives would be secured with a view to teaching that Deposit "more efficaciously" to modern man who had experienced more profound changes in the last 100 years than in all the centuries which preceded it.

  The Pope went on to say:

  "In order, however, that this doctrine may influence the numerous fields of human activity, with reference to individuals, to families, and to social life, it is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate."

  It was these "new conditions" which made the council necessary in the first place, according to the wisdom of the Church.

  There was, among these good intentions, a desire to understand and speak to modern man. There was the desire to discern and acknowledge the elements of truth in the varied philosophies which had arisen in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the decline of the Age of Faith. There was likewise a desire to strengthen certain elements for kerygmatic purposes (e.g., gentle effectiveness of Franciscan spiritual praxis and teachings) and the redressing of imbalances which arguably existed in some places and times (e.g., the desire for a more personal and less one-sidedly abstract application of philosophical principles and catechesis). There was also the recognition that more and more laymen in the modern age were able to avail themselves of postsecondary school education and that they were asking more penetrating and sophisticated questions than was ever the case in the largely peasant cultures of times past.

  As a consequence, it was apparent that high metaphysical abstractions — even though surely true — needed to incarnate themselves, as it were — make themselves more amenable to — the language of the 20th century. There can be no doubt that along with the well-known sinister influences which had been condemned by the Popes (e.g., theological modernism, indifferentism), there was also the desire on the part of many to enter into a sympathetic "dialog" with the new educated middle class which blossomed in the West especially after World War II and to take their existential and philosophical questions seriously. For the influences of modern philosophy were ubiquitous and many were feeling the pangs of doubts in a cynical age. The fact that modern man and the entire planet existed under the threat of nuclear annihilation at this time, at the peak of the Cold War, was surely abundant reason in itself for the Church to reconsider in council the relationships between nations and the ways to alleviate these tensions in the Name of the Prince of Peace. If the Church could not broker the way toward such a reduction in tensions, who could? Modern science also posed new questions. Many other factors could be cited also.

  Only when we understand all of this can we understand the reasons for the council.

  Only when we understand all of this can we understand the growing calls for the Church to address these matters, all the while "guarding," as Pope John said, the Sacred Deposit of Faith. Only if we understand the complexities that this involved can we understand the desire of the Pope to examine these questions and matters through the means of a council which would be infallibly protected from errors by the Holy Spirit, per the de fide teaching of the Church.2

  Pope John continued:

  "The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout 20 centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of goodwill."

  Thus the council was called to both guard and more efficaciously proclaim the dogmas of the Church, given the unprecedented technological advances of the day and their very complex implications. These unalterable doctrines and dogmas were utterly presupposed and reaffirmed here and the very foundation on which the council was set. The objective was to ensure that this patrimony would answer the old and especially the new existential questions and doubts and fears of modern men and women.

  Clearly, modern man was being blasted from every direction with innumerable new images, messages, propaganda, and temptations, and in such proportions as to make any previous era appear quaint by comparison. It should not be forgotten that less than 20 years earlier the world was still burning and smoking from a war which seemed to turn the planet into an abyss of murder and mayhem. And even as the council commenced, countless Christians were being executed or starved and otherwise worked over in the archipelagos of Stalin.

  Pope John continued:

  "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for 20 centuries. The salient point of this council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all.

  "For this a council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought.

  "The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character."

  Thus the Sacred Tradition was re-proclaimed from the outset of the council, affirming the distinctly Catholic continuity before the council even began, the "serene tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness," even if it was imperative that the Church step out of its dusty and rigid scholastic methods of presentation and more dynamically cast that same doctrine in ways more appropriate to the times, to modern communications, the educated classes, and technology. Let the Integrists (extreme Traditionalists) be reminded that this reaffirmation specifically speaks of those doctrines which shine forth in the "Council of Trent and First Vatican Council." Thus it is not correct to say this council was merely or "only pastoral," for its stated purpose was to secure and proclaim the unchanging doctrine of the Church!

  If it is true that John XXIII determined it was neither opportune nor wise to conclude the council with the anathemas which usually follow the Church's councils, especially considering the enemies of the Church which looked upon her with contempt, and who had already shown what lengths they were capable of going to exterminate their foes, it is also true that Trent and Vatican I (which had been interrupted in the last century and needed completion) were specifically cited, reaffirmed, as the Church's perennial and unalterable doctrine, and that nothing which followed from this council could be interpreted as a rupture with the teachings of those councils.

  Paul VI's Credo of the People of God, which followed but a few years later, in 1968, is absolutely unambiguous and is, we contend, the hermeneutical key to interpreting the documents of Vatican II. Especially after that Credo, which unambiguously reaffirmed the whole dogmatic structure of Catholicism from the beginning to today, none can attribute even the least shadow of heresy to the Magisterium without demonstrating culpable ignorance. That Credo is a firewall against Integrist schismatic excuses against the council and a line drawn in the sand for liberal dissidents. Of course the liberals never forgave Pope Paul for that and immediately launched their counterattack (including the implicit threat of wholesale schism in some continents) which accounts for the genuine apostasy in many places since. Traditionalist extremists, on the other hand, ignored the Pope and persisted in shifting doctrinal suspicion toward the council. The Credo, however, annihilates all such unjust criticism and dogmatically frames the council in perfect congruity with Pope John's opening address. It is said that when Pope Paul read that Credo, he asked all the bishops in attendance to sit down. He, alone, the Vicar of Christ, stood to proclaim and reaffirm the Church's Tradition.

  Yes, it is true that Pope John XXIII openly rebuked the joyless "prophets of doom," who were too often unbalanced in their apocalyptic tractarian approach to the faith and the modern world, but this was in the interests of the balance of the Church's kerygma. For if the Gospel contains a "Repent or perish" message, it also contains "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). It is precisely the task of the Church's hierarchy to ensure that neither aspect of the Church's proclamation is exaggerated at the expense of the other.

  If the council was to speak beyond the Church to all men of goodwill and optimistically proclaim a new way that nations and peoples should view and relate to one another, it is only in the context of the exaggerated nationalisms and totalitarian regimes which tortured and executed millions and pulverized whole continents in the course of one century that such astonishing optimism can be viewed. And it infuriated the Church's enemies: That "old medieval anachronism" — the Church — is going to proclaim a new order of relations among men? Few expected such talk in such an hour! And it was a stroke of psychological genius — the genius of the Holy Spirit, to the eyes of faith — to pronounce on such optimistic things at just such a time, when the Soviet Union was exporting its atheistic opiate all over the globe and recently risking global nuclear hell during the Cuban missile crisis. The Communists would have preferred good old-fashioned anathemas, which would be easy enough for them to mock! What they did not want was a new and curious competition by a Church already possessing a massive constituency in the fight for the very soul of the world! Again, it was a stroke of genius which could not be fully appreciated, perhaps, until Pope John Paul II and the fall of Communism which he helped bring about, and which left the Church still standing and proclaiming her saving message to the nations!

 

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Footnotes

 

  2. "All the arguments which go to prove the infallibility of the Church apply with their fullest force to the infallible authority of general councils in union with the Pope. For conciliary decisions are the ripe fruit of the total life-energy of the teaching Church actuated and directed by the Holy Ghost. Such was the mind of the Apostles when, at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:28), they put the seal of supreme authority on their decisions in attributing them to the joint action of the Spirit of God and of themselves: Visum est Spiritui sancto et nobis (It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us).

  "This formula and the dogma it enshrines stand out brightly in the Deposit of Faith and have been carefully guarded throughout the many storms raised in councils by the play of the human element. From the earliest times they who rejected the decisions of councils were themselves rejected by the Church. Emperor Constantine saw in the decrees of Nicaea 'a divine commandment' and Athanasius wrote to the bishops of Africa: 'What God has spoken through the Council of Nicaea endureth forever.' St. Ambrose (Ep. xxi) pronounces himself ready to die by the sword rather than give up the Nicene decrees, and Pope Leo the Great expressly declares that 'whoso resists the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon cannot be numbered among Catholics' (Ep. lxxviii, ad Leonem Augustum). In the same epistle he says that the decrees of Chalcedon were framed instruente Spiritu Sancto, i.e., under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

  "How the same doctrine was embodied in many professions of faith may be seen in Denziger's (ed. Stahl) Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum under the heading (index) 'Concilium generale representat ecclesiam universalem, eique absolute obediendum' (general councils represent the universal Church and demand absolute obedience). The Scripture texts on which this unshaken belief is based are, among others: 'But when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth. . . .' (John 16:13) 'Behold I am with you [teaching] all days even to the consummation of the world' (Matt. 28:20), 'The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it [i.e., the Church]' (Matt. 16:18)" ("General Councils," Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913).

 

Part 3

The Reaction To The Council

  While it would not be accurate to say there was no negative reaction to the council while it was underway, it was nevertheless relatively small and scattered. The real trouble, we believe, began after the council in two phases: with Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the traditional prohibition against artificial birth control and provoked the wrath of the liberals, making outright dissidents of them; and then also with his hesitant3 introduction of the New Order of the Mass in 1969-1970 (which provoked some conservative reservations and Integrist exaggerations).

  Since it is not our intention in this article to address the liberal reaction to the council, but, rather, the Integrist or extreme Traditionalist reaction, we will leave that to others, or for another time. Suffice it to say that liberals tended more and more to become dissatisfied with the resulting conciliar documents, since the reforms did not go far enough for them, and the texts still seemed too "triumphalistic" and "scholastic" (read: orthodox) for them. Thus the liberals were forced more and more to avoid the texts and rely on an alleged "spirit" of the council in a kind of neo-Gnostic leap.

 

Integrist (Extreme

Traditionalist) Reaction

 

  After allowing the proposed new Mass to sit on his desk for some three years, and hesitating over whether it should be promulgated at all 4 — especially after the movement of rebellion which Humanae Vitae had provoked — Pope Paul finally gave in to his liturgical advisers — especially Fr. Annibale Bugnini, whom many consider the chief architect of the liturgical reform — who urged that the New Mass would help bring Protestants closer to the Church 5 (and not vice-versa, as the Integrists charged).6

  The "Ottaviani Intervention" (a critical study of the Novus Ordo Mass dated June 5, 1969) was written by a group of Roman theologians headed by Archbishop Lefebvre,7 and sought to marshal strong and high-level resistance against the New Mass.

  Suffice it to say that the numbers of signers hoped for in no wise materialized and that Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, who had expected it to be a private critique, distanced himself from it upon learning the motivations behind it, and refused afterward to have anything to do with its prime sponsors who fell further and further into grave errors and even outright schism.

  The Pope himself pronounced that the new Missal was in conformity with Sacred Tradition (general audience, November 19, 1969) — as it was officially promulgated, not in any abuses of it at the local and national levels. Its General Instruction, together with a subsequent Foreword in 1970, stated explicitly that the Novus Ordo Missae was intended to express the traditional faith. This alone is sufficient to ensure the orthodox intention and reality of the New Mass for a Catholic — whatever else one may think of it. For it is impossible that the Church officially promulgate invalid sacraments, lest the gates of Hell prevail. Moreover, once Rome has spoken on a disputed matter, the case is closed:

  "Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after 'Rome has spoken' they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church 'only by an unconscious desire' " (Holy Office, August 9, 1949, condemning certain doctrines of Fr. Feeney, DS 3870).

  Now it is important to insist here that Catholics may legitimately criticize aspects of the new rite of the Mass, and seek for its improvement, just so long as they do not question its validity. There have been hosts of well-balanced Catholics, ranging from Dietrich von Hildebrand to Una Voce to the approved Traditional Mass orders (FSSP, ICK, SSI, etc.) to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger himself, who have, each in their own way, responsibly criticized the new rite on various grounds, and this is perfectly legitimate if done constructively, without polemics, and in the best interests of the Church. I would like to make it clear here again that I myself consider the new rite of the Mass inferior as a rite so far (we expect improvements to come) to the Traditional Latin Mass and to certain Eastern Catholic rites, though I have never altogether ceased attending the Novus Ordo precisely because it is approved by the Church, and its Blessed Fruit is, de fide, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In my opinion, it is more susceptible to abuse than the Traditional Mass. But we are not allowed to say it is not a genuine rite of the Church!

  It is only when this criticism is made a banner for more sinister and subversive intentions that lines have to be drawn. The fact is that there are many so-called Traditionalists today who are doctrinally unbalanced and who altogether step outside the parameters of the Church's doctrinal certitudes. These range from the various open sede vacantists (those who absurdly say the conciliar Popes are actual heretics and therefore not Popes at all) to those whose positions and attitudes are virtually indistinguishable from sede vacantism, except that they illogically add, "But we are not sede vacantists!" (all the better to deceive people, we contend).

  In recent years The Remnant and Catholic Family News, and the In the Spirit of Chartres Committee — to name but a few — together and in moral union with the Society of St. Pius X, have fallen into this latter category. All of these groups act as midwives of sede vacantism and are emblems of unbalanced Integrism and its methods which we intend to critique below. When the hardening of positions of these groups gradually became evident — faster after 1988 — it became clear to many of us that it was not sufficient to refute sede vacantism and yet leave the bridges to it standing.

 

Many Good People

Led Astray

 

  Most people who have at one time or another got caught up in any of these groups have done so with the best of intentions, after considerable sad experiences in their local churches where the pastors and parishes have done precious little to preach and pass on the faith, teach The Catechism of the Catholic Church, ensure liturgical dignity, nurture Catholic piety and devotions, etc. Eventually these good persons got invited to or discovered a "Traditionalist" Mass — often in an "independent" chapel with an "independent" priest somewhere — where they eventually find aberrant and/or schismatic literature; and thus the descent into the labyrinth of errors and exaggerations began. And it is only with great difficulty that, by the grace of God, they are able to extricate themselves.

  Thus, ironically, it is these very groups which turn out to be the most serious obstacle to true liturgical reform today, since many bishops, who would otherwise be open to more of the orthodox liturgical diversity which has always characterized the Church, are afraid of opening what they perceive to be a Pandora's Box. That is why it is more critical than ever to support only approved organizations and the approved Traditional Mass religious orders which seek responsible reforms within the context of the faith and in unconditional communion with the living Magisterium.

  One discovers in the aforementioned extremist groups, often gradually, that an attachment to the Traditional Latin Mass for the wrong reasons is only the beginning of a legion of errors to follow. In time, people are encouraged to reject or, more subtly perhaps, altogether ignore the Second Vatican Council, as if it were some contagion in itself, even though it was called by a Pope, and its decrees and documents were approved, like all previous councils, in union with all the bishops together with him in council, infallibly protected from errors and heresies by the Holy Spirit. The rationale is often based on an altogether simplistic evaluation of the "bad fruits" of the council (loss of vocations, decimation of churches and religious orders and the like) as if the ubiquitous effects of the culture of death and secularism and their lusty temptations had nothing at all to do with any of this!

  Moreover, this rationale fails to see that it is precisely because Catholics — and especially the liberal dissidents — ignore the actual texts and precise mandates of the council that bad fruits must follow! One can never plausibly accuse the liberals and neomodernists of obediently following the conciliar texts in advancing their agenda! It is precisely because they ignore, disparage, and disobey the actual texts of the council that negative results flow.

  No serious scholar contends that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council ever intended the destruction of Roman Catholicism, or its morphing into some variation of Protestantism or the World Council of Churches. That is why John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger have insisted that the "true council" must be rediscovered precisely in its texts! Not in any alleged "spirit of Vatican II." Many or most Traditionalists have never even read the conciliar documents, only smatterings out of context and filtered carefully by extremists. When they do read them thoroughly, they are often shaken by its traditional expressions and responsible elucidation of the faith in such complex times!

 

Private Judgment And The

Hermeneutics Of Suspicion

 

  There is little doubt that the question of the Mass is the engine driving the Integrist aberrations. But even deeper is what we will call the epistemology of Protestantism (private judgment) and the hermeneutics of suspicion leveled against the faith and the Pope. We shall address these in more detail in a moment, but one already gets a glimpse of this in The Remnant's April 30 issue entitled "We Resist You [the Pope] to the Face"!

  If one looks at the photos of the Pope, carefully selected for that issue, one is struck by the fact that of all the millions of photos of John Paul II taken in the past 22 years, only a few photos are selected very carefully, cynically, precisely in order to make John Paul look like a fool and/or a heretic! The Remnant has selected a few moments in 22 years — of the Pope jesting or receiving homage from pagans (as Jesus did from the pagan Wise Men in His Nativity cave and as missionaries have done throughout the centuries) or being entertained by Bob Dylan. The photos were carefully selected for purely propaganda purposes. There is no attempt at objectivity here. It is cynicism at its very worst.

  And this is done in the Catholic Family News and other Integrist publications as well. In the books by Fr. Johannes Dormann, published by the Society of St. Pius X, the Pope's eyes are placed atop the cover to make the Pope look like a devil! And yet these groups will all deny they are sede vacantists, even as they serve as midwives to it daily. The fact is no Catholic would ever attempt to so selectively and contemptuously portray the Vicar of Christ! This alone is enough to discredit them.

  But this is how Integrists approach the Pope's writings also. They do not read him objectively, but rather comb his writings for texts or phrases which, when taken out of context, may appear ambiguous or odd, and then interpret that ambiguity against the Pope in violation of all Catholic hermeneutics (principles of interpretation)! This is the hermeneutics of cynicism and suspicion. But it secures a subscription base for these papers and for their conferences among the minority of cynics they cater to. Fr. Dormann, employing this methodology, arrives at John Paul's allegedly teaching universalism, the teaching that all men are saved, even though this notion is explicitly repudiated in the Pope's writings, in the documents of Vatican II, and in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

 

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Footnotes

 

  3. Cf. Inside the Vatican, May 1996 issue, "The Bitter Struggle." Deals chiefly with Annibale Bugnini, the chief architect of the liturgical reform and insists that while evidence suggests he was not a Freemason, he was deeply influenced by secular humanism.

  4. ibid.

  5. ibid.

  6. Shortly thereafter, according to John Loughman: www.tcrnews.com, "An Open Letter to Confused Traditionalists."

  7. "The 'Ottaviani Intervention' (a critical study of the Novus Ordo Mass dated June 5, 1969) was written by a group of Roman theologians headed by Archbishop Lefebvre. Fr. M.L. Guιrard des Lauriers, O.P., was responsible for its drafting. (75) Des Lauriers later taught at Ecτne and, finally, on May 7, 1981, he became a sede vacantist schismatic (an opinion which holds that the Chair of Peter is vacant due to apostasy.) [in the Archbishop] Thuc line. . . .'The organizers (of the Intervention) hoped to have a large number of high-ranking ecclesiastics sign it, along with the cardinal — Archbishop Lefebvre spoke of 600 bishops.' (78) It would not be the last time that he would make such a drastic overestimation!"

 

Part 4

 

The Epistemology Of Protestantism: Private Judgment

  To illustrate further, the Pope recently pronounced on the question — raised by our strange bedfellows, liberals and Integrists — of whether Vatican II represented a breach with sacred Tradition. According to ZENIT news agency, February 29, 2000, "The Pope was very clear: 'To read the council assuming that it supposes a rupture with the past, when in reality it is aligned with the everlasting faith, is clearly erroneous'."

  That is quite unambiguous and is nothing that hasn't been said before.8 The ZENIT report continues, quoting Auxiliary Bishop Rino Fisichella of Rome, principal organizer of the February 25-27 meeting in Rome where over 200 cardinals, bishops, theologians, and lay people met in the Vatican to discuss the implementation of Vatican Council II.

  "This continuity of Vatican Council II with 2,000 years of Church history was emphasized by the Holy Father, when he referred to the four fundamental council constitutions. In Dei Verbum, the centrality of the word of God in the life of the Church 'asks each one of us to assume our own responsibility at the moment of conserving it intact in the process of transmission.' Sacrosanctum Concilium illustrated 'the premises for a liturgical life that renders to God the authentic worship owed to him by the people'."

  Thus it is our position that any such question about the continuity between Vatican II and Tradition is closed for any Catholic — though it should never have been disputed in the first place. Again:

  "Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after 'Rome has spoken' they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church 'only by an unconscious desire'" (Holy Office, August 9, 1949, condemning doctrine of Fr. Feeney, DS 3870).

  The ancient Church did not require ex cathedra definitions, as defined for certain situations precisely since Vatican I, when Rome finally speaks on contentious theological matters which threaten the unity of the Church and the inviolable Deposit of Faith. When Peter specifically pronounces on a matter disputed by some, as he did here, he is speaking with decisive authority for Roman Catholics, and one either accepts this or prefers one's own private judgment. Thus Catholics accept the Pope's pronouncement and will not opt, via that age-old temptation of private judgment, to gainsay it ΰ la the epistemological and methodological presumptions of Luther and his Protestants.

  There is a great irony to be seen in the fact that some of those who call themselves Traditionalists feel quite free to simply reject the Pope's pronouncement here and elsewhere as if they, and not Peter and the Magisterium, were the divinely appointed arbiters of what constitutes the Roman Catholic faith. Their habit of cynicism with respect to what the Pope says — or in this case pronounces in an official forum — is all too often ingrained and therefore reprehensible.

  At least the sede vacantist schismatics are consistent. They simply say that the conciliar and postconciliar Popes were and are heretics and possess no authority to teach anything in the name of the Catholic faith, and then these sede vacantists go and set up their "independent" "churches," elect their own "popes" often enough (some 13 or more pseudo-popes from their ranks now!), begin calling each other heretics, and get on with it like good Protestants. But those who say — all the more deceptively — "No, we are not sede vacantists," but who in fact thrive on constant opposition to the Successor to Peter, the "Rock" to whom our Lord gave the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the promise of absolute indefectibility, have even less credibility, if that were possible.

  Vatican II was solemnly convoked by a sovereign Pontiff, ratified by another, voted on by all cardinals and bishops in attendance in union with the Pope over a period of several years, and affirmed by succeeding Popes. That is quite enough to settle the question of the council's legitimacy and continuity with Tradition for Roman Catholics. To question its legitimacy is to undermine the dogmatic foundations of the Roman Catholic faith altogether. Those who would reject the council know not what they do. As someone very wisely said:

  "A restoration in the sense of a rejection of the council would contradict the very principles of that preconciliar period itself, according to which councils are the supreme authority of the Church. Any such restoration would plunge the Church into a foundational crisis compared to which the present state of affairs is a trifle."

  It would mean the collapse and end of the Catholic dogmatic structure! So it is no wonder that a veritable legion of priests and lay persons have left those inconsistent and dogmatically challenged Integrist ranks over the years for safer ground. They have lived and learned. For to forsake the Rock who is Peter is to wash out into the chaos of private judgment. Schism can never be an answer to the postconciliar liberal crisis.

  That is why these inconsistent Traditionalists/Integrists must incessantly attack that same army of priests and laymen who have seen the inconsistencies and absurdity of such positions and have grown out of it, for they unmask the essentially Protestant nature of this epistemology and methodology (if one can say there is a method to it at all). That is why they attack the Indult Mass and often urge people never to attend it, as the Society of St. Pius X in North America did in the spring of 2000. They refuse all Masses in communion with the Pope, even as they pretend or inconsistently believe themselves not to be sede vacantists!

  Protestants say "we will read the Bible and decide for ourselves what is the faith." Integrists do the same thing, only they throw an amateur reading of the Church fathers into the mix, and fortify their erroneous understandings with a selective reading of older papal texts without consideration of either the historical or textual contexts, or the first principles of the faith (i.e., indefectibility). Nevertheless, private judgment at the end of the day is private judgment and will always be anathema in Catholic theology, a sure and very fast way to wash out into schism.

  Now, it is a truism that every heretic thinks the Pope is a heretic, and every schismatic thinks the Pope has departed from the Deposit of Faith and that they are the only believers left. This is as old as the Church herself. In every generation there are those who march resolutely toward that deadly precipice. The Orthodox who broke from the Church in 1054 have retained a valid priesthood, valid sacraments, even martyrs who shed their blood for Christ . . . but they have been no less schismatic for all that.

  This does not, of course, mean that every decision of the Pope or Church is always wise, but it does mean that the Church is infallibly and supernaturally protected against defecting from the faith until the very end of the world (Matt. 28:20).

  I find it difficult to conceive that laymen sitting in front of the TV eating their pretzels and watching their games can feel confident in opposing the Successor of Peter without severe angst. I find it astonishing that they do not even seem to fear schism. No, they are as cocksure of themselves as if each were wearing the mitre now. This reflects grotesquely inflated egos.

  Not a few — even of their schismatic "bishops" and rogue priests — are converts from Protestantism and so have perhaps developed the habit of private judgment, of fighting other believers, and of considering themselves the true, invisible, remnant. But others should know better — or at least fear schism and wring their hands over constantly usurping the role of the Pope and bishops in communion with him. Instead we find arrogance and an unseemly pontificating, as if there were no other plausible explanation to these matters which leaves Church dogmatics intact.

  Many, as we have already said, have arrived at practical or actual schism on the basis of a few things: the New Mass and the all too often dismal postconciliar developments. It is a simple fact that many who have never read the documents of Vatican II (which the liberals despise) conclude the documents must be heretical because, as we said, they allege the "fruits are bad." Nor do they find reassurance in other authoritative documents which contradict liberalism, or sufficiently weigh the impact of what John Paul II calls the all but homogeneous "culture of death" on the postconciliar Church. The only explanations they will accept are their own — by way of private judgment.

  Those who arrogantly think they find a subversive justification in the most abstract and (purely) hypothetical theological reflections of certain of the fathers and theologians about the possibility of a Pope falling into heresy — even though these same fathers stated clearly they did not believe that Church teaching allowed for such a possibility — have about as much right pronouncing on such matters as they would have on the most abstruse and vertiginous heights of the mystery of divine predestination. The fathers knew and stated explicitly that such speculations as these were not meant to be solved, even if that did not prevent them — as accredited theologians — from a certain speculation as is appropriate for those whose approved calling (called by the Church, not by themselves!) involves theological reflection and a degree of speculation. That laymen and priests, however, would take up these most speculative aspects of the highest theological cogitations and then, as a consequence, begin to start their own "independent" churches or veritable counter-magisteriums on the basis of their conclusions, calling the Pope a de facto heretic and the council heretical — or employ equivalent criticism amounting to the same conclusions logically — is preposterous in the extreme. Their increasing isolation is a tragic form of poetic justice and punishment, designed, surely, by God to lovingly call them to repentance, lest they surrender their very souls in falling further by way of private judgment.

  The aforementioned In the Spirit of Chartres Committee video, called What We Have Lost, which is widely circulated and advertised in such Traditionalist circles, and which features the counter-magisterial pronouncements of several of these same Traditionalist personalities and papers, reaches the heights of such hubris when it declares that the visible Church is no longer the Church.9 That is not heretical sede vacantism?!

  So what do those who appear in and advertise that video do (like The Remnant and Catholic Family News)? Do they repudiate with great regret such audacity and humbly change direction as so many others have? No, they attempt to deflect that obligation and instead step up their attacks against the Indult Mass and against the approved Traditional Catholic orders which are dedicated to it and point out with whining negativity the real or imagined problems in the Church! This deflection is tragic in the extreme.

  It does no good to quote Church fathers (always out of historical and textual context) about a selective withholding of obedience from "erring" Popes when those same fathers were thinking of political or other matters when they wrote such words, never believing for a moment that it was possible to attribute heresy or grave errors to the teaching Magisterium or that the Church could defect from the faith and make void the promises of Jesus Christ!

  The fact is, it does no good at all to have Catholic piety severed from Catholic dogmatic certainties. One can pray the rosary all day long, keep every First Friday, consecrate oneself as a slave to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, carry the Third Secret in one's pocket, wear so many holy medals that one jingles when one walks, and attend every conference which is held by the tabloid proponents of these positions and still lose one's soul if such piety is used against the Church, all the while making bishops more and more suspicious of us all as we are broadbrushed together.

  The Mass is no guarantee of right theological thinking as the modernists (who said the Traditional Latin Mass daily) showed at the turn of the century. One may also watch these Traditionalists, consistent with the Protestant principle of private judgment, cannibalize one another, call one another heretics or "dangerous," ad nauseam. When Peter, the Rock, is rejected, Catholic unity dissolves into Protestant rivalry.

  That way is no solution to the problems which exist today. Constructive criticism of ill-considered directions and poorly formulated teaching at the local levels is allowed by canon law in the Church within the parameters of the Church's dogmatic structure, but never by way of private judgment and rejecting the most basic truths of our Catechism.

 

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  (Stephen Hand is a freelance writer for Catholic publications and is editor of the online Catholic e-zine Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. He lives with his wife and children in Littleton, Mass., and worked as a journalist for many years in radio news in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. He is the author of one novella and also does legal research and writing for a local law firm.)

 

Footnotes

 

  8. For example by Cardinal Ratzinger in his interview with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori (The Ratzinger Report, 1984, Ignatius Press).

  9. See TCR's review at "Controversy" section www.tcrnews.com.

 

Part 5

Syncretism?

  Integrists charge — and this is repeated like a mantra in the April 30 Remnant we have already cited — that the Pope teaches universalism, the equality of all religions, indifferentism, and so on. Nothing could be further from the truth. These people simply do not understand that the Holy Father and the council situate ecumenism and interfaith dialog squarely in the context of the Church's missionary imperative. In January of this year, the Pope stated explicitly that "religions are neither complementary nor equivalent" (January 28, 2000 ZENIT):

 

  The Holy Father said: "In some ecclesial environments, a mentality has arisen over the last few years that tends to relativize Christ's Revelation and His unique and universal mediation in regard to salvation." If this is permitted, the Church would also lose her reason for existing because she would no longer be "the universal sacrament of salvation."

  "It is against the faith of the Church to hold the thesis on the limited character of Christ's Revelation, which would find its complement in other religions." According to this theory, "the truth about God could not be accepted and manifested globally and completely by any historical religion, not even Christianity, nor by Christ Himself."

  The truth of Jesus, the Pope said, "full and complete Revelation of the mystery of God," must be carefully distinguished from "the understanding of the infinite mystery" that must "always be studied and pondered in the light of the Spirit of truth."

  "The truth about God is neither abolished nor reduced because it is expressed in human language. On the contrary, it continues to be unique, full and complete, because He who speaks to us and acts is the incarnate Son of God," the Pope explained.

  Jesus Himself, the Holy Father said, appointed "His Church as a salvific reality: as His Body, through which He Himself acts in the history of salvation. . . . Therefore, it is an error to consider the Church as one more road to salvation together with that of other religions, which would be complementary to the Church, although converging with it toward the eschatological Kingdom of God. Consequently, a certain mentality of indifference characterized by religious relativism that leads to believing that religions are equivalent among themselves, must be excluded," the Pope said. He went on to affirm with all of Sacred Tradition that if "in dialoguing with believers of other religions the Church were to renounce her message, the dialog would no longer be such, as the Church would lose her identity" (ibid.).

 

  Cardinal Ratzinger has said many times that dialog with other religions presupposes the Church's sure and absolute identity, else dialog would not be possible. The Church is never up for compromise or barter. If some are saved on account of invincible ignorance, or a Baptism of desire, it is because these have corresponded to a grace which is derived from and ordered to the Church!

  In the Holy Father's 1990 encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, the Pope — doubtless thinking in certain respects not only of liberal misconceptions but of Traditionalist and conservative anxieties after the 1986 Assisi Prayer Meeting of World Religions — presses straight to the problem which he must address in this encyclical, and to the answer, smashing any notion that religious dialog has replaced the Church's missionary imperative:

 

  Nevertheless, also as a result of the changes which have taken place in modern times and the spread of new theological ideas, some people wonder: Is missionary work among non-Christians still relevant? Has it not been replaced by interreligious dialog? Is not human development an adequate goal of the Church's mission? Does not respect for conscience and for freedom exclude all efforts at conversion? Is it not possible to attain salvation in any religion? Why then should there be missionary activity? "No one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). . . .

  If we go back to the beginnings of the Church, we find a clear affirmation that Christ is the one Savior of all, the only one able to reveal God and lead to God. In reply to the Jewish religious authorities who question the Apostles about the healing of the lame man, Peter says: "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well. . . . And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10, 12).

  This statement, which was made to the Sanhedrin, has a universal value, since for all people — Jews and Gentiles alike — salvation can only come from Jesus Christ. The universality of this salvation in Christ is asserted throughout the New Testament. St. Paul acknowledges the Risen Christ as the Lord. He writes: "Although there may be so-called gods in Heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor. 8:5-6). One God and one Lord are asserted by way of contrast to the multitude of "gods" and "lords" commonly accepted. Paul reacts against the polytheism of the religious environment of his time and emphasizes what is characteristic of the Christian faith: belief in one God and in one Lord sent by God (2.2-5).

 

  Thus we have in the words of the Holy Father an answer to both liberal misconceptions and Integrist exaggeration: The preaching of the Gospel with a view to converting all nations can never be replaced by interreligious dialog; see also the two (January 2000) "clarifications" to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressing "ambiguities" and repudiating syncretism, one report by ZENIT, the other by the Vatican Information Service. So human development, according to the Pope, is not an adequate goal of the Church's mission. Respect for conscience and for freedom does not exclude all efforts at conversion. It is not "possible" to attain salvation in any religion apart from Jesus Christ who lives in His Church (without prejudice to the Church's teaching on the possibility of a Baptism by desire and on invincible ignorance, and that "elements" of Christ extend beyond the boundaries of the Church).

  Redemptoris Missio situates the Church's missionary mandate squarely in Sacred Tradition, in the exclusive Revelation of the only true God in Jesus Christ who is the sole Mediator between God and man. The Church can never and will never recognize the validity of any polytheism or salvific means apart from Jesus Christ in His Church.

  As for those like Fr. Johannes Dormann and all Integrists who insist that the Pope teaches that all men are saved by virtue of the Incarnation, or some variation on the theme, the Pope answers decisively:

  "The whole New Testament is a hymn to the new life of those who believe in Christ and live in His Church. Salvation in Christ, as witnessed to and proclaimed by the Church, is God's self-communication: 'It is love which not only creates the good, but also grants participation in the very life of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For he who loves desires to give himself.' God offers humanity this newness of life."

  And then the Pope demolishes the universalist allegation even more explicitly for the very hard of hearing:

  "Can one reject Christ and everything that He has brought about in the history of humankind? Of course one can. Man is free. He can say 'no' to God. He can say 'no' to Christ. But the fundamental question remains: Is it legitimate to do this?" (7.2).

  Thus those who say the Pope teaches that all men are or will be saved simply by virtue of the Incarnation are guilty of cynical and deceptive selective quotation or just plain bad faith. And "text without context is pretext." The fact is that the Pope spills considerable ink in this encyclical and others denouncing any view of the "Kingdom of God" (note, not the liberals' "reign" of God for this Pope) which is reduced to a this-worldly, humanist-globalist accomplishment. But alas, again, so many Integrists do not read the Pope, or The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or the documents of Vatican II, but only carefully filtered selections of these, in the same way that Jehovah's Witnesses read the Bible.

  Thus Assisi, or any other such event, is to be viewed solely in the context of the Church's faith, as is ecumenism itself.

  We need to rediscover and appreciate more how the Church takes (only) the meat and leaves the bones of modern thought or any elements of other religions which are true. Integrists see only points of convergence with other philosophies, without appreciating the critical points of departure, and then deduce false conclusions in terms of a contrived/artificial identity. Liberals, on the other hand, often reject the points of departure from Enlightenment-liberalism.

  The method of St. Thomas is the way of the Church. St. Thomas did not simplistically "baptize" the thought of the good pagan, Aristotle, but took the meat of the philosopher's teachings, purified and transformed it, and assimilated it more explicitly into the faith. St. Augustine did something of the same with Platonic thought. This is the way of the Church always, and hence of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger. At one time the month of May was the time of pagan festivals. The Church transformed it into the month of Mary. The Church only assimilates what can be conformed to the pure teachings of the faith. And she rejects nothing in other religions or philosophies which are true, good, or holy.

Cardinal Ratzinger's 1988 Remarks to the Bishops of Chile Regarding the Lefebvre Schism

 

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  (Stephen Hand is a freelance writer for Catholic publications and is editor of the online Catholic e-zine Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. He lives with his wife and children in Littleton, Mass., and worked as a journalist for many years in radio news in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. He is the author of one novella and also does legal research and writing for a local law firm.)

 

Part 6

Ecumenism

 

  It was doubtless the seemingly radical abruptness of the Church's turnaround regarding ecumenism since the Second Vatican Council which has caused Integrists to suspect it, or even to condemn it, as though it were something intrinsically novel and evil. Rather than appreciate how long and how carefully the Church studied the phenomenon, the Integrists panic. Yet however much we may regret some of its parochial manifestations in the postconciliar period, ecumenism cannot be condemned per se, for the Church has always engaged in it in some degree; and it is the prerogative of the Holy Father, who holds the Keys of the Church, signifying the "care of the whole Church and its government," the "gift of ecclesiastical authority in its widest scope,"10 to discern the particular dispositions on the part of those outside her bounds in any given era. Its forms change according to the times, certainly, but the Church's solicitude is ever one of hope, dialog, and active seeking as history shows.

  To illustrate the truth of this one need look no further than the Council of Florence, the 17th Ecumenical Council of the Church which sought (an important word here) to reunite the Orthodox Churches to the Catholic faith. This council had as its objective "the reunion of the Churches, reforms, and the restoration of peace between Christian peoples."11 This sounds very similar to the stated objectives of the Second Vatican Council's ecumenical movement in the 20th century.

  "The Greeks soon appeared at Ferrara (where they met first in April 1498), headed by the Emperor John Palaeologus and Joasaph, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and numbered about 700" (ibid).

  And during its sessions there was much successful effort to find practical solutions to the dogmatic problems which had separated the Latins from the Greeks, e.g., the Filioque, Purgatory, the Azymes, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (no small considerations!). The council was soon transferred to Florence where compromise formulas regarding the Procession of the Holy Ghost were sought and agreed upon (after much dialog and despite — as one must expect — some hotheads on both sides ready to cry foul). Agreements were also reached on other important controverted matters. This is the ecumenical way of the Church!

  Meanwhile the Catholic Church sought (that word again!) to reconcile also other Eastern Churches (the Jacobites of Syria, 1442, the Mesopotamians, 1444, the Nestorians and the Maronites, 1444). All of these churches, though separated from Rome, had elements of the Catholic faith and valid sacraments by virtue of their historical relationship and unity with the faith. Was the Church to play the part of the Pharisee with these?

  Alas, when the Orthodox representatives of the Council of Florence went back to their home countries and reported the healing of the great schism, it was not accepted by the people. Historic prejudices ran deep and the common Orthodox man was not acquainted with or concerned about important theological terms and subtleties. This grieved the Pope and the Church most profoundly. It frustrated its dialog and "ecumenism" — for a time. But it also revealed the loving solicitude of the Church in a way that illumines our own time.

  Needless to say it is often the vicissitudes of the times as well as the dispositions of those outside the Church, as we mentioned above, which determine whether the Pope and Church deem it wise or ill to actively promote such ecumenical actions and strivings toward legitimate and faithful compromise formulas at any given time. Traditional Catholics have sometimes in their love for Tradition forgotten this. Sometimes the Church's approach will differ depending on who it is the Church is trying to reconcile through dialog and official exchanges.

  "Heresy . . . differs from schism." Schismatics, says St. Thomas, in the strict sense, are they who of their own will and intention separate themselves from the unity of the Church.

  Unity, the Angelic Doctor says, "consists in the connection of its members with each other and of all the members with the head. Now this head is Christ whose representative in the Church is the Supreme Pontiff. And therefore the name of schismatics is given to those who will not submit to the Supreme Pontiff nor communicate with the members of the Church subject to him. Since the definition of papal infallibility, schism usually implies the heresy of denying this dogma. Heresy is opposed to faith; schism to charity; so that, although all heretics are schismatics because loss of faith involves separation from the Church, not all schismatics are necessarily heretics, since a man may, from anger, pride, ambition, or the like, sever himself from the communion of the Church and yet believe all the Church proposes for our belief (II-II, Q. xxix, a. 1). Such a one, however, would be more properly called rebellious than heretical."12

  Remarking on deficient notions regarding the Church and her own pleroma of unity, Cardinal Ratzinger, in a book condemning liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, puts it this way:

  ". . . In order to justify [his position], L. Boff appeals to the constitution Lumen Gentium n. 8 of the Second Vatican Council. From the council's famous statement, 'Haec ecclesia (sc. unica Christi ecclesia) Catholica subsistit in ecclesia Catholica' (This Church — namely the sole Church of Christ — subsists in the Catholic Church), he derives a thesis which is exactly contrary to the authentic meaning of the council text, for he affirms: 'In fact it (sc. the sole Church of Christ) may also be present in other Christian churches' (p. 75). But the council had chosen the word subsistit — subsists — exactly in order to make it clear that the one sole 'subsistence' of the true Church exists, whereas outside her visible structure only 'elementae ecclesia' — elements of the Church exist: these being elements of the same Church tend and conduct toward the Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium, n. 8). The Decree on Ecumenism expressed the same doctrine (Unitatis Redintegratio nn. 3, 4) and it was restated in Mysterium Ecclesiae ."13

  Sometimes it will depend on whether a person or group is the perpetrator of the theological crimes of heresy or schism or whether they simply inherited the problem through no fault of their own. As Michael Davies, echoing the council, says in his book I Am With You Always: "A man born and brought up in a heretical sect may live and die without ever having a doubt as to the truth of his heretical beliefs. Where heresy is adhered to from involuntary causes, such as inculpable ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension, and comprehension of dogmas, it is not an act of the will, and the heresy is only material and does not incur the guilt of sin."14

  Thus any number of factors may influence a person's relationship to God and how the Church regards a group or persons separated from the Church in some degree in a given era.

  At the Council of Florence, prior to the people's rejection, "An amicable agreement was also reached regarding the form of consecration in the Mass" (ibid). The dialog here was fruitful. Serious differences over the Mass are not new to our day. The point is that the Church was and is willing to do all it can when it perceives — or at least has reason to hope for — the goodwill of the representatives of those separated from her. This is not to say the Pope could not in justice demand that the schismatics simply "return"— unconditionally — and accept all the ready-made theological formulas that the schismatics find it so hard to accept. But the Church practices more (not less) than mere justice. Like Christ, she ever seeks the "spirit" and not only the "letter" of the law, which, St. Paul says, only "kills" (condemns). The Church is ever ready, like her Lord Jesus the Good Shepherd — and unlike Pharisees of every age — to leave the ninety-nine who are safe in the fold to go after the single lamb which has somehow strayed and seek to bring it back. This "seeking to bring the lost back" reflects an active "seeking" which is what the Church's ecumenism is all about. Only Pharisees, or misguided souls, find such love offensive per se. After all, have we not also all gone astray like sheep and need the grace of God? And, St. Paul asks, what do we possess which we have not been given? Surely we are not Christians by our own lights and goodness! The Church, as the Light of the world, seeks to share the grace of God with all and who are we to begrudge it?

  In the 20th century, with the Second Vatican Council, the Church once again judged it time, after long observation, to actively seek out those who had strayed, having carefully observed the evolving dispositions of the heirs of the separated churches — and the secular world — during the first half of that century. Will it succeed this time? The dangers (as always) are present and real — perhaps more than in any previous time due to the universal tendency of indifferentism which the Popes of the first half of the century warned about. But none can question the Church's patience or blame the Church, when she so judges, for risking such love and solicitude. Her love has always evidenced the willingness to leave the ninety-nine and to seek after those sheep who have strayed.

  Catholic ecumenism — not its distortions! — is of the essence of the Church to the extent that the Church will always care for those with whom she has been related historically and sacramentally. A Mother never ceases to long for the return of her children who have left and gone astray. Pre-Vatican II Catholics and the Greek Orthodox — surrounded by many common enemies — prayed together for unity at the Council of Florence. How could they not? It is the sick, not the well, who need a physician. Only the Pope and the Magisterium can judge what kind of solicitude toward those separated from the Church (not the heresy!) is required in any given era (in some eras, strict, even harsh; in others not so). This, again, is not to say that the Church does not risk rejection, contempt, or even behave naively herself at times. Florence showed how the Church loved and "lost" in a given era.

  The Church at the Council of Trent also guaranteed and granted safe conduct toward Protestants who wished to attend and dialog and promised them an attentive and fair hearing at the council.15 The Church longed to dialog with them.

  "The sacred and holy, general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same Legate and Nuncios of the holy Apostolic See presiding therein, grants, as far as regards the holy Synod itself, to all and each one throughout the whole of Germany, whether ecclesiastics or Seculars, of whatsoever degree, estate, condition, quality they be, who may wish to repair to this oecumenical and general council, the public faith and full security, which they call a safe conduct, with all and each of the necessary and suitable clauses and decrees, even though they ought to be expressed specifically and not in general terms, and which it is Its wish shall be considered as expressed, so as that they may and shall have it in their power in all liberty to confer, make proposals, and treat on those things which are to be treated of in the said Synod; to come freely and safely to the said oecumenical council, and there remain and abide, and propose therein, as well in writing as by word of mouth, as many articles as to them shall seem good, and to confer and dispute, without any abuse or contumely, with the fathers, or with those who may have been selected by the said holy Synod; as also to withdraw whensoever they shall think fit. It hath furthermore seemed good to the holy Synod, that if, for their greater liberty and security, they desire that certain judges be deputed on their behalf, in regard of crimes whether committed, or that may be committed, by them, they shall themselves nominate those who are favorable towards them, even though the said crimes should be ever so enormous and should savor of heresy" (13th Session Council of Trent chapter VIII).

  Again, this shows the Church's love and solicitude toward those who have strayed from her.

  Ecumenism (which is a part of the Church's evangelism and love, albeit oriented to those who were once within her bosom) takes the form of an active going out toward the separated or lost. In this way the Church follows the Good Shepherd and Physician. Arrogance and unforgiveness or historical vengeance find no place in her, the Bride of Jesus Christ who gave His life for sinners.

  Just as the God of Israel called His wayward people back time and time again, so the Church, being the Mystical Body of Christ and People of God, seeks to call back those who have gone their own way. There are always dangers which accompany this love. Some may indeed mistake it for indifference. But Christ did not despise the cross in calling sinful mankind back to His bosom through His dialog of beatitude and invitation. Neither does the Church, His Body. Nor did our Lord, or His Blessed Mother, leave the charged atmosphere and theological factionalism of the Temple during the long years that Jesus was growing in stature and wisdom before the God and man and retreat, like the Essenes, into the desert as some "true" Temple and "true" Israel of God. No. Jesus ever called the Temple His "Father's House . . . a House of Prayer" and remained there, despite all the disputing between the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the others. Jesus did not separate Himself from sinners. Nor did He forsake the good Samaritan, who, although he held to unorthodox views, showed, our Lord said, more of the love of God in assisting the poor and wounded than all the Levites who, on their way to prayer, knew only their legalistic theology.

  Nor did He forsake that pagan Roman, the Centurion, who displayed a faith hardly seen in all of Israel. Nor even the Good Thief who, dying on the cross next to our Lord, had more reason to despair than hope, and yet hoped as He looked on the tender Savior who so loved sinners and drew them by grace toward redemption. And if He did look harshly on the Traditionalists of His day, the Pharisees, who preferred the letter of the law to its spirit, even among them He sought out those who were willing to listen and respond, like Nicodemus.

 

Finally: Theological Pluralism

 

  The Remnant article we have been referring to, authored by extreme elements of TFP — Dr. Atila Sinke Guimarγes, Dr. Marian Horvat, whose extremist breakaway organization, Tradition in Action, claims to be the true heirs of Dr. Plinio Corrκa de Oliveira's theology, and SSPX sympathizers, Michael J. Matt, confirmed by Archbishop Lefebvre and bonded to SSPX perspectives by family relations and SSPX advisers, and CFN's John Vennari whose writings also rely heavily on SSPX arguments and positions — refers disparagingly to "theological pluralism" in the Church, as if this amounted to a theological pluralism outside the faith.

  The Church has always allowed theological pluralism. Anyone who knows the history of, say, the Dominicans and Jesuits knows that. But it is always a pluralism within the context of Catholic orthodoxy. This is precisely why liberal dissidents are not so fond of this Pope. He does not dialog with them on their own terms, for he dialogs on the Church's terms, ever guarding the Deposit of Faith. The Pope has made it very clear that true theological pluralism must be answerable to the teaching Magisterium, else it is not Catholic theological pluralism at all.

 

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Footnotes

 

  10. CE , 1913, vol. VIII, 632.

  11. CE, 1913, vol. VI, 112.

  12. CE, 1913, vol. VII, 256.

  13. Cardinal Ratzinger, On the Unity of the Church: (U.S. Catholic Conference Documentary Service, April 4, 1985, vol. 14, n. 42, pp. 685-686).

  14. Neumann Press, p. 46.

  15. Safe-Conduct Granted to Protestants, session 13, Trent.U?

Part 7

 

Where To Go From Here?

 

  At the very outset of this presentation, I suggested that the cure for what ails the Traditionalist extremists in all degrees lies in going back to the sources, and to a supernatural confidence and trust in the divine promises, the divine "always" (Matt. 28:20) and "whatsoever" (Matt. 16:19). That is what faith is all about: Trust. Trusting the God who is — despite all appearances of sleeping while the Ship is tossed in the storms — utterly sovereign and absolutely in control. These promises pertain not to some variation of Luther's "invisible" remnant wherein private judgment reigns, but to Christ's stunningly visible Church whose dogmatic and hierarchical structure is fixed until the Parousia.

  I also suggested that the cure will only come by reading the Pope's encyclicals directly and thoroughly (and not through schismatic filters or cynical misrepresentations of them) and/or The Catechism of the Catholic Church which is, in effect, a marvelous and simpler summary of the same.

  The Pope, in his encyclicals, is doing nothing less than re-evangelizing the world by critiquing (smashing!) the major (almost homogeneous/monolithic) currents of secular humanist/globalist thought, while always attentive and sensitive to the human subject. It is an enormous accomplishment. The Pope writes so prolifically and deeply because he is challenging the worldviews which are attempting to eclipse the Catholic faith in the name of a pseudo-humanism and a false view of the rights of man. It is by no means back-pedaling against Sacred Tradition, but rather interpreting that Tradition and breaking up the mountains of errors across all the major disciplines of human thought, a colossal task requiring the most comprehensive grasp of intellectual currents since the Enlightenment, from a mind and heart as erudite and fearless as perhaps a Thomas Aquinas, who also knew how to take the meat and bones from a pagan world, especially Aristotle (this, again, is what the Church always does with secular thought, namely, sift it for its truths and leave its chaff behind). St. Thomas, too, we recall, was condemned by the Traditionalists of his time as a purveyor of novelties.

  Many Integrists confuse things they do not like with heresy and thus miss the real and deadly war against that pseudo-humanism which is ubiquitous. If ever there was a time to pray for the Holy Father, it's today.

  A writer in The Wanderer recently addressed the question about why the Pope doesn't simply excommunicate the neomodernists with anathemas. I once wondered too. Much of the Church — whole continents today — is in practical schism. He said the Pope well knows that while particular schismatics come and go, schism can last for centuries, even millennia, as history shows only too well. The Holy Father is too concerned with the little ones, the faithful, to risk that at this moment in history. So he teaches the faith in its integrity, making this a part of the patrimony of the Church which the Church in the future cannot simply gainsay (have you really read his writings?), he appoints many bishops who are tired of the postconciliar mess and want true, real, liturgical reform which is an organic development of the Tradition and no rupture, ΰ la Cardinal Ratzinger's longstanding critiques. As David Kaftal wrote at TCR (www.tcrnews.com) along these same lines:

 

  When Catherine of Siena began her public life, Gregory XI was Pope and resided in Avignon. He was a good man, though some feel a weak Pope. At that time disobedience to the Holy See had reached epidemic proportions. In many of her letters to him, Catherine urged him to be "manly." Catherine persuaded him to return the papacy to Rome, where he died about a year later. His Successor, Pope Urban VI, instituted a program of vigorous reform.

  Catherine begged Urban to temper his justice with mercy, and urged him to appoint some new cardinals, very holy men, and surround himself with them. He eventually took her advice, but as you'll see he waited too long. Instead, he continued with his reform program at full throttle. He took no nonsense from anyone, and was very outspoken in his criticisms.

  What happened next was that so many cardinals became so offended by the words of Urban VI that the entire College of Cardinals reconvened in Fondi, declared that their election of Pope Urban had been invalid, and chose Roger of Geneva to be the new pope (actually, antipope). He chose the name Clement VII and set up his rival papacy in Avignon. Urban then excommunicated all the cardinals, and chose new ones.

  Here are some enlightening passages from St. Catherine of Siena by Alice Curtayne, pp. 152-153, as quoted in St. Catherine of Siena by Maisie Ward, pp. 33-34:

  "There were now two popes claiming allegiance, two curias disputing every detail of administration, and the dark confusion that spread through Christendom was simply indescribable. The Clementines called the Urbanists' Mass a blasphemy; the Urbanists reprobated the Clementines' worship: In many places the Mass was discontinued.

  "The nations grouped themselves slowly under the rival standards, the grouping being mostly determined by political motives, but in no country was one obedience complete. . . . Religious orders divided on the question and elected rival heads, an Urbanist and a Clementine, who made permanent the division. Even local monasteries could not agree. Two bishops would be seen contending for one see, two abbots for one abbey, even two curates for one vacancy. The very families of Christendom were sundered by it. It was spectacular. . . . The fact that all those concerned in the election afterward repudiated it made the perplexity extreme. Groups of the laity began to split off and form conventicles. New sects were spawned and swarmed in the darkness. Strange new prophecies were given credence. If ever the Church proved that the principle of divine life was within her, it was in working herself out of this calamity. Quite certainly no human institution could have survived such a shattering blow."

  The schism lasted for half a century. In 1409 cardinals and bishops from both sides met at Pisa in an attempt to resolve the difficulty, but only succeeded in adding a third pope to the number. It wasn't until the Council of Constance (1414-1418) that a resolution was reached with the election of Pope Martin V, who reigned with universal recognition.

  As a cautionary tale, I think that that episode in the history of Holy Mother Church speaks for itself. But just imagine if something similar happened in the Church today, with the lightning-fast communications media we now have in place, ready to exploit any severe action the Holy Father might take in a feeding frenzy that would demonize him and Catholicism beyond belief.

  Many feel that a large part of the Church today is already in a de facto state of schism — but clearly things could be far worse, and they would be in a heartbeat if the Holy Father took a meat hatchet approach to discipline.

  Instead, the Pope has avoided all of this for 22 years, utterly exasperating the liberal establishment, by going directly to the People of God and summoning them in every country to follow Christ, our Lady, and the Church. He virtually ignores the liberals (even the liberal bishops) who are not pleased when they see him greeted by devout and enthusiastic throngs all over the globe, and in such proportions that rock stars must envy.

 

  Meanwhile, his prolific teachings, profoundly undermining the lethal assumptions of a culture of death, as well as the false directions of a tired liberalism, have become part of the patrimony of the Church, which the future will have to reckon with as long as time lasts.

  We must beware of the habit of interpreting all dismal developments against the Pope. That is only sawing off the very branch we sit upon. And we must remember that 10,000 or more problems do not amount to one doubt where Catholic dogmatic certainties are concerned.

 

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  (Stephen Hand is a freelance writer for Catholic publications and is editor of the online Catholic e-zine Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. He lives with his wife and children in Littleton, Mass., and worked as a journalist for many years in radio news in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. He is the author of one novella and also does legal research and writing for a local law firm.)

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