Friday, January 30, 2009

Nicola Bux and Salvatore Vitiello on the Revocation of the SSPX Excommunication: an Act of Real Ecumenism

Another view on the the recent lifting of the excommunications comes from the regular WORDS OF DOCTRINE column of Fr Nicola Bux and Fr Salvatore Vitiello on the Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith:

Revocation of excommunication: an act of real ecumenism.

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Holy Father Benedict XVI expressed a wish in a Letter which accompanied the Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, addressed to the Catholic bishops of the world, on 7 July 2007: “ It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. ” .

Now, following various meetings between the Pope and officials of the Roman Curia, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Pius X Society, we have the result: the revocation of the excommunication on the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without pontifical mandate.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI did this with the authority to bind and to loose, - the “power of the keys ” – which the Lord gave to Saint Peter and his Successors in the Church. This is part of the Church's mission or “oikonomia”. Therefore this gesture towards the Saint Pius X Fraternity of priests, was analogous to the gesture Paul VI made towards Orthodox Christians on 7 December 1965: excommunication is revoked to foster reconciliation in charity.

The presupposition is given by the fundamental unity of faith, which persisted despite the schismatic ordination of bishops. Moreover, it was agreed that there are no substantial doctrinal differences and that Vatican II, and its decrees signed also by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, cannot be separated from the whole of Church Tradition. Marginal errors must be tolerated and corrected with a spirit of understanding. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, old or more recent divergences must be healed by means of purification of hearts, the ability to forgive and the will to overcome these divergences once and for all.

Very often in the past, anathema were revoked without any formal act, but simply with reciprocal acceptance of the parties in conflict. Today this step is clearly indispensable on the path towards Christian unity. The abrogation of excommunication is therefore, an “act of charity”.

In a letter to the S. Pius X Society, the Society's superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay wrote that the gesture was a fruit of ardent praying of the Rosary to Our Lady of Lourdes, and he reaffirmed faith in the Roman Catholic Church and obedience to the Pope.

Above all it is necessary to reflect on the fact that the itinerary which led to the revocation of the excommunication is pleasing to God who forgives us when we forgive one another; in this Gospel spirit, it cannot fail to be appreciated by all true Catholics all over the world as an expression of reconciliation and a call to continue, in reciprocal charity, dialogue which will lead, with God's grace, to the full communion of faith, fraternal harmony and sacramental life which existed before the schism.

May 'political' interpretations of the ecclesial community which aim only to divide the Body of Christ into traditional and progressive be put aside once and for all. Let us leave this to the world. We belong to Christ. Do we not seek dialogue and reconciliation? Or are we only ecumenical on alternate current?

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