Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One traditionalist responds to hardline, schismatic traditionalists

[I present this as an interesting piece. I haven't had time to formally go over it to see if I agree with all of Monsignor's assessments or assertions, however, the basic assertion about the importance of full communion with the Holy See is very important.]

A response to the Joint Statement of the Remnant and Catholic Family News
In regards to the possible regularization of the Society of St. Pius X

by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro

Rome, March 13th, 2006

The main purpose of the authors of this manifesto is to argue that the time has not yet come for the SSPX to reach an agreement with the Holy See.

Against the basic assertion of this Joint Statement, first and foremost we should start with a strictly theological consideration. Not being in hierarchical communion with Rome places SSPX in serious spiritual danger.

Even if they are not in formal schism, their irregular canonical situation severely wounds their insertion into the Catholic Church. If we hold the traditional dogmatic teaching of the Church-that a person in order to be saved has to enter into the Catholic Church-a serious consequence of this fundamental dogmatic statement is that a Catholic should never encourage anyone to remain outside the physical borders of the Catholic Church, nor in an ambiguous position of membership. The authors rightly express their concern about the ambiguity of many elements of the document of the 21st Ecumenical Council. So, being logical, it is surprising that they would advise fellow Catholics to remain in an ambiguous position with regards to their full hierarchical communion with the Church.

Benedict XVI has started a process to move the Church in line with tradition through its reinterpretation of Vatican Council II as demonstrated not only by his address of December 22nd, but by several articles published at his command in L'Osservatore Romano and L'Avvenire (the newspaper of the Italian Bishops) which interpret that ecclesiastical event in accordance with tradition. Counter to what the authors of the Joint Statement affirm, the mere fact that the Holy Father has initiated this process of reinterpretation is a clear implicit admission that many of the documents issued by the 21st Council of the Church are ambiguous. In the reinterpretation of Vatican Council II, Benedict XVI uses a valuable intellectual tool which he calls the hermeneutic of continuity; that is, trying not to return to a liberal or ambiguous interpretation of the Vatican II documents, but interpreting those documents in accordance with tradition.

The authors forget or don't want to see that the main intent of the December 22nd address of Benedict XVI was not to praise religious liberty but to usher in this process of reinterpretation. We should also consider that a call for a "healthy secularity" is a prudential opinion of the Holy Father applicable to some contemporary situations, but cannot be construed as a rejection of the teaching of the Church on the Social Kingship of Christ.

To accuse Benedict XVI of having the New Theology of Vatican II at the centre of his universe is simply a gratuitous insult against the intellectual integrity of the Holy Father. At the centre of his theology we find Doctors of the Church, as his valuable works on St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure serve to demonstrate. This would be evident also in reading his Address to the Bishops of Chile and Colombia of July 1988 or many of his more recent texts.

A reconciled SSPX will not be operating under the aegis of what the authors call the "Modernist New Theology" because in no way shape or form will they be asked to recognise this theology. First, this type of theology has only a partial hold in the Church and is the out-shot of an interpretation of Vatican Council II that Benedict XVI is bent on correcting. Second, the SSPX will only be asked to recognize the historical existence of the documents of the 21st Council of the Church and that these be interpreted in accordance with tradition, as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was himself ready to do in 1988. Third, the SSPX will keep the right to disagree with non-binding documents of that Council like the Declaration on Religious Freedom. (At the same time it is always important to remember the non-dogmaticity as a whole, of that ecclesiastical event, as Cardinal Ratzinger himself has clearly stated.) The unnamed cardinal who is quoted by John Allen [National Catholic Reporter] is expressing his own personal opinion, which obviously is not necessarily the opinion of the Holy Father. Fourth, but more important still, the full integration of the SSPX within the Church will help in the process of destroying the influence that the so-called "Modernist New Theology" still holds.

It is true that the crisis in the Church continues in an unabated way; recent events like the declarations of Bishop Francis Deniau of Nevers, calling in an indirect way for the abrogation of Humanae Vitae, show that this crisis continues. But the solution is not for the SSPX to maintain its "irregular" canonical status in an indefinite way as the authors themselves agree. Here we should insist that we can not combat evil with evil, and remaining in an irregular canonical status cannot be considered in any possible way a good means of combating evil.

The authors with some degree of arrogance seriously attack the Holy Father for all sorts of prudential decisions, presenting a long list of accusations that take well more than two pages. Instead of trying to discuss each and every one of those charges, we have to consider something more fundamental:

a pope in his prudential decisions is not always necessarily correct, as the most cursory reading of Church history will show us. But that does not mean at all that Catholics have a right to withdraw their hierarchical communion with the Holy Father when they disagree with his prudential decisions, putting themselves as a consequence in an irregular canonical position.

Also, the list given in the Joint Statement is dishonest because it obscures all the good things the reigning pontiff has done.

The section called "Cardinal Ratzinger's Former Contempt for Traditional Catholics" is dishonest because it does not list all the positive things that Cardinal Razinger has said and done in favour of tradition. In a book interview granted to Peter Seewald in 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger underlined that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. Afterwards he noted with concern that:

"Unfortunately, in Germany tolerance for bizarre tinkering (of the liturgy) is almost unlimited, whereas tolerance of the old liturgy is practically nonexistent. We are surely on the wrong path in that regard." In his Memoirs published in 1998, speaking of the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy, he gives a serious critical judgment of what actually occurred. He points out how the new missal has been set as "a new construction over against what had grown historically, forbidding the results of this historical growth, thereby makes the liturgy appear to be no longer a living development but the product of erudite work and juridical authority; this has caused us enormous harm." After other important considerations he concludes that he is convinced "that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy."

In the year 2000 Cardinal Ratzinger underlined that: "For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted." And then he added with very strong tones that: "Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my Episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for non apparent reasons is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church."

In conclusion we might ask ourselves: what is going to be the probable outcome of the bitter zeal of the writers of this manifesto in the case that their wrong advice is taken? First, that the full union of the SSPX with the Church will be further delayed. Second, that their current irregular canonical position might evolve with the passage of time into a formal schism. Third, that it is a totally flawed way of thinking to assert: "In fact, it seems obvious that at this point in time, the entire traditionalist movement benefits from the SSPX remaining exactly where it is." Any traditional manual of Moral theology would show to the authors of this manifesto that we should never do evil to obtain good.

Fourth, as a consequence of the erroneous advice of this manifesto, many lay Catholics that are suffering duress under bishops that are not being generous in granting the traditional Mass, might be tempted to follow the position of the ones that now find themselves in an irregular canonical position.

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