Friday, October 16, 2009

It is not about the SSPX

NLM carries a snippet of an article by Robert Moynihan on the formal theological discussions with the SSPX. Recently there have been reports of Bishop Fellay saying these discussions could go on for years, the impression given by him.

Personally I don't think the SSPX are actually that important in these discussions, nor is their reintegration into the Church that important in this context, it would be a happy by-product but most supporters of the SSPX seem happy with their present situation of being in communion with the Church but out of communion with her bishops and clergy and the ordinary form of its liturgy.
What is important is the "assaying of Vatican II". The Council was indeed a Pastoral Council but it also made dogmatic statements Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum, are not purely pastoral documents. The absence of a summary of doctrinal canons or anathemas was seem as an act of liberalism by John XXIII but in fact led to confusion and confusion led to a centralisation of authority, indeed it led to the victory of Ultramonanism, giving the impression that the Pope and his curia rather than being the servant of the Church are its arbitary masters.

The pre-Vatican II hopes for the decentralisation of the Church and wider evangelisation depended on clarity of what was actually at the heart of Catholic teaching, hence the Council's teaching of a "heirarchy of doctrine". It depended on bishops being faithful bearers of the Tradition, therefore they need to be in communion with that Tradition, hence VII's call for a deeper knowledge of Tradition and Scripture (read in the light of Tradition). What we have ended up with is bishops pushing the envelope of doctrine, not only have they confused the faithful about the central doctrines of the faith but are confused themselves. The result has been both a loss of confidence in evangelisation, of which a loss of a sense of vocation is just a part but even more importantly there is a loss of a sense of the centrality of the bishop, as a successor of the Apostles, and therefore a denial of the importance of the local Church, a central Vat II doctrine. It is not only the rise in the power of Bishop's Conferences but also the sense that comes from many in the Curia, which traditional minded Catholics might agree with, that the bishops cannot be trusted to be faithful bearers of the Tradition that has rendered bishops impotent.

Short of calling another Council these discussions are going to be highly significant. One of the other significant issues that must be touched on is the role of the Roman Pontiff's relationship with the Tradition of the Church. When Pius IX was asked to change the "perfidious Jews" Good Friday prayer, though apparently he was in favour of it, he refused saying that he did not have the authority to change the liturgy, the liturgy being "a given" thing, something belong to what had been passed on, not the subject of personal papal tastes.

In Et in Unum Sint JPII, possibly Joseph Ratzinger, states the Papacy is a serious obstacle to unity, in our dialogue with the East and for the present Popes successor there is a need to clarify the role of the office. One of the issues that iis likely to come up in a slightly more subtle form, or maybe not, is what did it mean when JPII kissed the Koran, or prayed with tree worshipping Africans or was blessed by a Voodoo priestess. What Benedict, and the SSPXers wants is for the personal tastes of a future Pope to be controlled and subject to what the SSPX refers to rather nebulously as the "Eternal Rome". Whether it is Benenedict XV or Linus XI should make little difference, it is Tradition not whim that should govern the Church.

"The pope must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word," he said when taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7.


becket said...

I personally feel that until a Vatican 3 occurs, these discussions will pretty much amount to not much for ordinary Catholics. Are we going to see drastic changes being implemented , NO!. Will we ever see every priest and Bishop celebrating ad-orientum. NO!. The SSPX will still go on being the SSPX, and the liberal Catholics will continue being liberal Catholics. Nothing will change!. Just my opinion!. I'm not very optimistic. The damage is done. And unfortunately it is permanent. My best advice to young Catholics wanting more of a traditional Church that wasn't hampered by liturgical and theological changes. Look to the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox!. My opinion!.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Vatican III? Who has yet digested Vat II? A Council in the age of relativism will be ____________?

Apostacy is a serious sin, even to Orthodoxy, it is unacceptable for a Catholic to suggest it as a solution to anything.

Charlotte said...

I agree with Becket, for the most part. I know people in the SSPX who have said they don't care about the talks in Rome, they will never agree to anything and they will stay as they are. I know liberal Catholics who are already suspicious of and pre-rejecting the changes to the mass that Benedict has planned. Everyone just does what they want and feel now, and the bishops support it. There are people ready and happy to organize into a separate "AmChurch." And what will anyone do to stop them? Perhaps all this is the fruits of VII....a beginning scattering similar to the reformation beginning the spin-off of thousands of Protestant denominations. And while sad, I again ask: What's anyone going to do about it?

On the other hand, I understand what Fr. Blake is saying. Another council held today could be disastrous for the reasons he cites. It may be a smart pope, indeed, who holds off from that idea and waits it out until the older generation of hippie priests and bishops die off.

STILL, in the meantime, the Catholic Church continues to pull apart at the seams for the average Catholic and no one steps in to stop it. Even the more orthodox priests. I do believe what's happening is what happened after the reformation - Catholics are sub-dividing into little Catholic denominations (without their even knowing it) and when you get strength in numbers, it's hard to go back.

becket said...

You are not renouncing ones religion (Christianity). Remember the Orthodox do have valid sacraments!. Many ex Roman Catholics who have converted to Orthodoxy have re-discovered their Catholic faith thanks to the Byzantine tradition and the teaching and guidance of the early Church Fathers, and sound teachings from the pulpit. Some have even discovered Oriental Orthodoxy, like the Coptic Church. The East has made them orthodox Christians again. This is far from being a sin Father!. This only shows that there are some serious problems with Roman Catholicism today. When was the last time clergy have spoken from the pulpit about the wisdom of the saints that came from Alexandria or Antioch. How many Roman Catholics today even know who St Cyril or Clement of Alexandria are.

Fr Ray Blake said...

This ia arguement from a non-Catholic, not from some who believes the fullness of Christ's Church subsists in the Church in communion with the successor of St Peter.

Roberto said...

I agreed some of the comments listed. As Saint Pope Pius X warned that "modernism" is the root of all evil that is happening of the whole church. Vatican II is not dogmatic council, it merely a pastoral. Bishops have the free hand to interprete to their liking. Liberal bishops high jack the council, Fr. Bugnini with premason influence. I am not surprised the church is in a mess. NO priests vocation, convent closing down and even churches specially in America where bishop close "willy nelly" without care to his people. I think the traditional catholic movement will continue to flourise because the holy spirit will guide the true catholic. God bless.

Fr. Roberto

Mariana said...

Father (Anyone?), What DID it mean, kissing the Koran, praying with tree worshippers, and being blessed by a Voodoo priestess? As a convert I wasn't even aware of all this and am, frankly, surprised and mystified.

Nelly said...

Merely Pastoral? Didn't you read the heading of the DOGMATIC Constitutions at seminary? They are headed "DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION" that means Teaching, not "merely Pastoral", as Father Blake points out.
Has there ever been a "Pastoral" Council before, possibly Father might comment on what "Pastoral" means? Or is it that all Councils are "Pastoral"?

Michael Petek said...

Becket, the Orthodox do have valid sacraments. Indeed they have everything the Catholic Church has except one: participation in the the guarantee of infallibility for which communion with the Bishop of Rome, and recognition of his jurisdictional primacy, is necessary

Hestor said...

Given the results of Vatican II, it is perhaps high time the Pope called for a Trent II.

Btw: the incident with Pius IX is incorrect. It wasn't to do with the Good Friday prayer for the Jews but for inserting St. Joseph into the canon and the confiteor, to which he said, "How can I? I'm only the pope!"

Henry said...

I just get the impression that things are coming right with gathering momentum. Perhaps I have been lucky where I have been, but there seems to be a wind of change blowing through the Church now, with tradition being restored while the "liberal" opposition has lost its nerve and melted away.

It's just a matter of keeping on working at it now.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Strange to read this post and responses following on from the green shoots blog not so long ago. The key is demography as the Western tribes die out. This reality will determine the future expression of the Church in the contemporary World.

WWII not Vatican II is ultimately the villain of the piece. The intellectual community was so psychologically damaged by the War that the Church didn't stand a chance when J23 announced Vatican II only 13 years after the War's end. 100,000 women in Berlin alone were raped by the victorious Allies between 1945-1946 so the idea that German theologians were in a fit state to tell us how it should be done is tragically risible. Truly tragic.

jack said...

Whilst I don't endorse what becket is saying about the Eastern Orthodox he does have a point about how they haven't mangled the liturgy, personally i can't wait for the crop of young orthodox priests to become bishops, then I won't have to meet traditionalists in by speaking in code

dillydaydream said...

I'm interested in what you mean by saying that prior to V2 there was a hope for decentralisation, then with V2 came rigid centralisation, then later uncontrollable decentralisation and factionalism (if I have understood you aright, Fr).

Who, prior to V2, wished for decentralisation? Was it those who sought to advance their own agenda by dividing and conquering?

Why did a sudden hard-line develop on the new liturgy after 1963, which was deplored by many Archbishops such as Cdl Heenan, but which they accepted as duty?

Why was every variation on the liturgy except one (the TLM) permitted during the early pontificate of Paul VI?

Cui bono?

Whatever and whoever was behind it - decentralisation/recentralisation : pastoral/dogmatic status - all these were feints to hide what was really going on - a coup d'etat, I fear.

As for mass conversions to Orthodoxy - well I'd be glad to do so, provided they re-instate the filioque clause, change their liturgy so my 11 year old can understand it, provide seating, and ditch the married clergy. What's that? They don't welcome a la carte converts? Oh well. Better the devil you know.

old believer said...

I believe 'Becket' has a point.

I went to Westminster Abbey this afternoon as it was the only day I could go within the Octave of St. Edward to venerate the shrine.

There was an 'ecumenical Evensong' with the Chapter of Westminster Cathedral attending (along with its choir) and also Bishops Stack, Longley, the Nuncio (I think?) and Archbishop Vincent of Westminster. Archbishop Vincent gave a joint blessing (concelebrated?) with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I cannot imagine the Lefebvrists would have approved of that.

bernadette said...

I'm with Becket.

Many of us are praying for V3.

V2 was hijacked by Political Liberals.

I am increasingly confused, reading this blog, as to what constitutes teaching and what constitutes pastoral ideas.

What I DO know, is that:

Our Lady Queen of Peace, Prays for Us.

I hope that doesn't upset you, Fr B. (It IS one of Our Lady's names in the Litany, after all. I am sorry if it offends anyone who hates Medjugorje. Apologies.)

If you get the chance to visit Medjugorje, in order to disprove it, Fr B., I think you should accept the invitation. We need good priests like yourself, to check these things out in order to warn the rest of us thickos...

Thankyou, respectfully.

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

I was raised Protestant, became Orthodox when I was 32, and was received into the Catholic Church when I was 35.
Are you aware that to become Orthodox, a Catholic must publicly renounce the Papacy and every doctrinal development from the past millenium?
There is a wealth in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches (and the Orientals may not require such a renunciation - I don't know), and, yes, they do have valid sacraments. But why go from the manifest fullness of the faith (even though there are heretics among us) to a denial of a portion of that fullness.
In the word's of "Gone with the Wind's" Mammy, "It ain't fittin', it just ain't fittin'"

Fr Ray Blake said...

My love or hate or Medjugorje is not very important, an emotional response is purely that: emotional.

As Catholics we depend on the judgement of the Bishops, perhaps what you infer is illustrative of what I am trying to illustrate here. Emotions being substituted for Truth and failure to trust in the judgement of he who succeeds the Apostles in Mostar.

The fact that matter was brought to Rome is illustrative to some degree of centralisation.

JARay said...

I found it very interesting to note what Louis Pizzuti writes that anyone who leaves the Catholic Church and becomes an Orthodox has to renounce the Papacy and the Councils of the last millenium.
What a thing to do!?!

Glen B.... said...

Becoming Orthodox means not just a repudiation of the doctrines of the Catholic but invariably a repudiation of her sacraments too. That is apostacy, that certainly is grave sin.
Up until Vatican II that was regarded as damnable!

Victoria said...

Do the Orthodox have a central teaching about abortion, artificial contraception, cloning, invitero fertilisation, homosexual marriages, divorce etc or do the various bishops make a policy for their dioceses, or do the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox etc have teachings for their people which may differ from country to country?

JARay said...

Forgive me if I'm wrong but I understand that the Orthodox also have a somewhat "relaxed" attitude to divorce. If I remember aright, you can divorce and re-marry but not too often!
And then there is the business of the "Filioque" which they reject from the Nicene Creed.
St Thomas Aquinas (whom also they're not too keen on ) gives as clear an argument from Philosophy as one can give on the matter, that the Son proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from them BOTH. It, sort of, takes two to tango, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father's love for the Son and the Son's love for the Father. He is the power which comes forth from both.
I know that it is a mystery, but St Thomas Aquinas did his very best to explain its rationale.
The Orthodox can't see that!


Anonymous said...

becket said...
The damage is done. And unfortunately it is permanent.

No, there are changes. From time to time I attend rather liberal New Masses (university and school). A year ago it were apparently hop-hop sweety with guitar, not even a single word in Latin, the priest roaming around the whole church during the sermon etc. Now, I observe lots of Latin texts even at the children's Mass there (although guitar is still used), no roaming and generally a clear improvement. Probably not always and not everywhere. But the vector is certainly changing. It is slow, but do not believe rapid and abrupt change, a new revolution or a sudden amnesia of the past 40 years is good at all.

I do agree, however, that VII will affect the Church forever. Clearly, the matters will be clarified. This always occurs, just recall the total confusion in the Church during the time of the first Oecumaenical Councils, the problems and damage were even more serious than we now have - most people, including bishops were unsure who Jesus Christ actually was! The damage was long but still temporary, there were numerous schisms, confusions and heresies, but the Church came out with clear and logical doctrine. The Magisterium in the form we now have is the result of this temporary confusion. No place for pessimism: et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam!

Anonymous said...

becket said...
"The East has made them orthodox Christians again. This is far from being a sin Father!. "

Becket, This is very confusing, dangerous and totally wrong argument. Basically, you argue that a wrong doctrine can make someone an orthodox Christian.

If you remembre the historical facts, many if not most heretics were very "orthodox," most were monks characterised by rigour, austerity and apparent saintness of their personal religious life. But this does not grant against eternal damnation.

Apostasy is not a "re-discovery" of the "Catholic faith." It is certainly the work of Satan.

Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be according to their works.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"Who has yet digested Vat II?"

What is left to digest? I think the time has come to quietly put this council to bed, sing it a lullaby (in a syrupy tune if required) and turn the lights off. I estimate the process will take about 30 years at least so I guess we better get started and the young (?) people here already have.

This blog began about Vatican II and they are already discussing the Orthodox Church. Come to think about it that is what we should have been discussing for the last 40 years. Instead, your ex-boss offered us ARCIC as the "plat du jour".

Simon Cotton said...

Bernardette, Our Lady was known under the title of "Our Lady Queen of Peace" long before Medjugorje. So no problems for anyone who wants to invoke her under that title!

Moretben said...

Sacred Tradition is nothing other than the "light" in which Holy Scripture is read and "realised" in the Church.

At the heart of this whole problem of the SSPX is an attenuated understanding of very idea of "Tradition", affecting the whole of Catholicism, the SSPX included. Reduced to little more than a series of essential propositions, "Tradition" has been progressively stripped of vital force, presence or substance; dimly acknowledged in theory as in some sense a source of "authority" (isolated from Scripture), it has degenerated to a fugitive and insubstantial concept merely, devoid of any real interest or utility (as I discovered when I attempted to discuss it recently on a Cathoic forum).

The SSPX attempt to resist this iconoclastic spirit by absolutising the status quo ante - the ideological struggles of the 19th and early 20th century Popes, neo-scholasticism and the aridities of "manual theology". "Traditionalism" is something that happens when Tradition fails. It is itself artificial.

I sincerely hope the damage isn't permanent, as another poster here suggests and that recovery (rather than a contrived, legalistic "continuity")is possible. I believe, however, that it is absolutely conditional on learning "lessons" Father Francis Marsden mentions on another thread, but doesn't specify; and as I replied there, I fear that involves things about authority in particular that the West will never consent to hear.

Moretben said...

Fr Roberto says:

Saint Pope Pius X warned that "modernism" is the root of all evil that is happening of the whole church...

Respectfully, Father, I suggest that this fixation with modernism and the pontificates of Pius X, his immediate predecessors and successors, is in fact a grave weakness of Catholic "Traditionalism". Yes, it's perfectly true that Pascendi is a useful guide to understanding certain familiar, characteristic attitudes; but what you need radically to address is the undoubted fact that the post-Conciliar crisis arose from the dedicated actions of people working in good faith who were not "Modernists" at all. Modernism is the gnat, not the Camel.

Moretben said...


Orthodoxy is not Roman-Catholicism-minus-the-Pope.


re-instate the filioque


Henry said...

It would be very easy to go off to some schismatic group with a nice liturgy but key to the Catholic faith is belief in the Church, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. So from one has to put up with liturgies that are not to one's taste. That is part of an understanding of the priorities of faith.

Those of us who have stuck in there, maintained the chant and Latin so far as possible, are now, contrary to expectation, finding those efforts are being rewarded and the lean times are coming to an end.

Fr Ray Blake said...

This whole discussion on ecumenism and joining Orthodoxy or not, is one of the issues that the SSPX have raised concerns over: how far should religious liberty extend and how should we understand ecumenism?

Fr Ray Blake said...

A note on the "Filioque" clause.

There two issues for the Orthodox:
1. Does the H Sp proceed from the Father and Son.
2. Does the West [the Pope] have the right to add to the Symbol of Nicea [Nicene Creed].

Moretben said...

I agree with Henry. Orthodoxy is not a repository for disillusioned or discontented Roman Catholics. No-one should consider entering Orthodoxy who does not believe the fullness of the faith is to be found there, and that the Orthodox ecclesiology is the authentic one.

Roberto said...

old believer said

Ecumenism is false legacy of vII.
I will base my thinking on Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Curae, Anglican order declared null and void.

I have nothing to add.

old believer said...


Please do not misquote me or attribute comments to me that I did not make.

Henry said...

Ecumenism is surely more about unity with the orthodox churches than with protestant churches? There is so much less dividing the church of Rome and the churches of Constantinople and Moscow.

Anglicanism is a minority interest of no significance outside of English-speaking countries. Nice buildings and music, though.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"Traditionalism" is something that happens when Tradition fails. It is itself artificial.

Can we have more of this Moretben please? Yours is a fascinating post. What is it about authority that the West doesn't want to hear?

My own view is that the 1930's + WWII caused a massive crisis for the intellectual community in the late 1940's & 50's. This infected the theologians of the council. It stills infects academic discussion today: has Hans Kung ever joined a religious initiative that doesn't sound straight out of George Orwell?

I don't share your optimism about the future.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"the post-Conciliar crisis arose from the dedicated actions of people working in good faith who were not "Modernists" at all"

Moretben, I think you have a valid point. I work in a large multinational. The most dangerous initiatives within the workplace are introduced by the virtuous and polite. (The sort of people Cardinal Hume claimed that he preferred within the Church context). Everything is fine until they introduce a process that is manifestly wrong. It's impossible to get rid of it. To get rid of it is to question the virtue ("good faith") of the originator/implementor/apologist.

Virtuous lay people should get off the sanctuary and witness to the Faith in their local golf club or knitting circle or wherever.

Moretben said...

Sadie, would you mind emailing me please? My address is newly posted at my (dormant) blog.

Independent said...

Perhaps some of the work has been done for them already by John Henry Newman? His conception of Papal Authority and Papal Infallibility would seem to fit in very well with your excellent discourse on Tradition, Fr Blake.

I often wonder how Catholic Apologetics managed before the general acceptance of Newman's idea of the development of doctrine. Did they try to defend the idea that everything was there clearly right from the beginning? I wonder too how the tradition is clearly identified except by recourse to a Pope or Council.