Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Crucial Question

Father Sean Finnegan poses an interesting question: Who has done the most damage to the Catholic Church?

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who claimed to be passing on what he received, and ordained four bishops without the authority of the Holy See. Apart from this act of disobedience, which he claimed was a necessity, he claimed to have denied nothing of the Catholic faith.

Fr Peter Kennedy, the parish priest of St Mary, South Brisbane, Australia who baptises, not In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as Our Lord told us to do, but in the name of Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifer, hundreds of these baptism were declared invalid by the Holy See. Fr Kennedy also blesses homosexual unions, opens his Church to a Buddhist prayers, states publically his lack of belief in key scriptural doctrines such as the Virgin birth, the Resurrection of Christ and Life after death.

As Fr Sean suggests this is actually a crucial question, that is at the heart of the Benedictine papacy.
For the last forty years, in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree, we have been following Fr Kennedy's course and decrying Archbishop Lefebvre's. The question today is, should we? This is ultimately what is behind the furore over the Williamson business, and the squeals and noise from the Catholic left at the possibility reconcilliation of the SSPX.
If you can answer this question, then the next one is: What is they way future?


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

A crucial question with an easy answer.

Don't mess with the Sacraments 100's of thousands of babies are invalidly baptized with Fr. Kennedy and even worse, there could be other Sacraments that would have been invalid.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kennedy's actions represents the most serious danger in my books.

Thank you Father for the clarifying question, it is crucial as Joe points out.

Anonymous said...

Father, in my opinion Mr Peter Kennedy's affair is simple. He is most probably suspended and excommunicated by the fact of these terrible abuses. The most important question is HOW could he continue all this for so long time? Is there any bishop or any other Church authorities? Are there any parishioners who could (and must) have complained?

Anonymous said...

100's of thousands is probably a bit of an overstatement but there would definitely be other Sacraments which would have been invalid e.g. Holy Orders, Confirmation, Holy Communion. As far as I know all to receive any of these sacraments one has to be baptised.

Peter Kennedy has now threatened to stage a sit-in (no doubt with media present) should the archbishop try to evict him.

Fr Patrick said...

Don't think it is a question of either or, have both not have done damage to the church in equal measure? Neither has been faithful to the church. Whatever opinion one has of their actions you can't see either of them showing much faithfulness to Rome.

Anonymous said...

The answer seems obvious to me - Archbishop Lefebre was disobedient in what he and many others believe were exceptional circumstances, for which he was punished by the Church - a punishment now lifted on the bishops he consecrated. At heart he, and his followers, remained Catholic and in other respects remained loyal to the teaching authority of the Church. They changed not one iota of Catholic teaching, and disagreements of aspects of a General Council do not, of themselves, constitute a break away from the Church: uncritical adherence to the tenets of Vatican II, per se, is not a litmus test of true Catholicism, if it is interpreted outside of previous teachings. Human failings (on both sides) may have got in the way of dialogue, but he never wanted a rupture with the Church - and he and his followers do not preach heresy. History, will I am sure, support his stance. Juridically his followers for the moment remain outside the formal structure of the Church - but that does not mean they are essentially wrong - and that can and will change in God's good time.

Fr Kennedy, too, is disobedient, but in effect has apostasised from the Faith. His actions in denying true Baptism to Christ's children are inexcusable and some of his reported views seem tanatmount to being heretical. He seems to be leading people away from the Church's magisterial teachings. History, will, I suspect, prove that he has fallen away but, through the grace of God, he may see the error of his ways. Juridically, he is still a 'priest in good standing' - but that situation simply highlights the anomalous differences between the juridical and the morally practical approaches.

In these situations the supreme law-maker (Peter's successor) has to make a decision - stick to the letter of the law and let Kennedy remain as a priest in good standing, albeit one who might need to 'tweak' his teachings - or adhere to the spirit of the law and reinstate the SSPX followers. No contest.

While appreciating that this summary represents a simplistic approach, it seems to me that it addresses the essential issues that need to be resolved.

Auricularius said...

A crucial question, perhaps, but one which nonetheless presents a false dichotomy.

Who did more damage to the Catholic Church: Henry VIII or Luther? Luther, of course, since his doctrines are more clearly "extra ecclesiam". But what he shares with the Old Brute is the spirit of pride which arrogates to itself the right to decide when the institutional church has erred.

Its the same with Archbishop Lefebvre and Fr Kennedy. In their different ways, they are both a source of scandal.

Anonymous said...

"..and the squeals and noise from the Catholic left at the possibility reconcilliation of the SSPX."

Well, I certainly don't consider myself to be on the 'left' of anything, indeed quite the opposite, but would add my voice of concern to what I can only perceive as a very bad move.

Anonymous said...

The difference between Archbishop Lefebvre and Father Kennedy is that Father Kennedy is automatically excommunicated for heresy and does not baptise validly.

SSPX used to be excommunicated, but have always celebrated valid sacraments.

Anonymous said...

Over the last few weeks, disgruntled 'liberal Catholics' and Catholic-haters have used the stupid remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson to attack the Pope, Catholic unity and his work for an enhanced hermeneutic of continuity. This should be overcome by all means possible - prayer, getting the message out in the media and setting out the case for reconciliation.
Above all Pope Benedict XVI must not be forced to loose nerve in the face of this media onslaught- particularly evident in Germany.

Anonymous said...

Archbishop Lefebvre knew on how we got priests like Fr. Kennedy:

"I was explaining one day to a Cardinal what I was doing in my seminaries, with their spirituality directed above all to the deepening of the theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass and towards liturgical prayer. He said to me, "But Monsignor, that is exactly the opposite of what our young priests now want. We now define the priest only in terms of evangelization." I replied, "What evangelization? If it does not have a fundamental and essential relationship with the Holy Sacrifice, how do you understand it? A political evangelization, or social, or humanitarian?


The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, but the priests or simple faithful who surrender to the spirit of the world will not bring forth a harvest. The devil's greatest victory is to have undertaken the destruction of the Church without making any martyrs."

- Open Letter to Confused Catholics

Anonymous said...

This is a good question and it hasn't been asked for the past 40 years. The left have been treated with kids gloves whilst the right have been treated like lepers. The crucial difference though was that the right never disputed anything on doctrine. In fact the opposite, they defended it to the hilt. Something tells me once this has sunk in there will be a rehabilitation of Lefebvre. On doctrine he was sound as a bell and no one could deny that. It's also probably fair to say that single-handedly he kept the Old Rite mass alive. Without him people like me wouldn't be enjoying it today. Fair's fair.

On a personal note I have to add that I owe a debt to the SSPX because it was whilst reading one of their fold out charts that it suddenly dawned on me what grace and the supernatural life was. I still use that when I'm teaching today and everyone understands straight away. Not all their fruits are bad as some people would have us believe.

Who caused the most problems?

It has to be the likes of Fr. Sean Finnegan. They've poisoned the catechesis, seminaries and schools and more or less run amok. It will take years to put right. The SSPX are small beer by comparison and nobody even knows who they are. I never knew, for example who they were until 5-6 years ago. 1 million members what's that?. Ask the man in the pew, he will tell you he didn't even hear about them until this weekend.

What do we do next?

Go back to slow incremental changes and sound doctrine. Don't try to re-invent the wheel and stop thinking that 20/21st Catholics are somehow a special breed put on this earth to tell all other previous generations of Catholics where they went wrong. That's just the devil talking to our egos - not reality. Finally be plain in speech and stop being embarrassed by what we have to say. This "soft tones" Catholicism leaves people confused and just requires re-explanation anyhow. It also gives the impression we haven't go the stomach for the fight any more. It's a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, should have said "the likes of Fr. Peter Kennedy...." not Fr. Sean Finnigan.

Delia said...

One's schismatic, the other heretical, so therefore, presumably, the latter is more damaging since it deprives souls of the fullness of truth and sacramental grace.

Clearly, the woolly jumper route is not to be recommended! But I do think there's an intimate link between truth and beauty. And although poor old Fr Kennedy with his jazzy altarcloth might be rather an extreme example, surely there's a connection between a more relaxed approach to liturgy and the adoption of unorthodox and liberal views?

PeterHWright said...

Knowingly to perform an invalid baptism is a terrible thing.

Fr. Peter Kennedy has performed many invalid baptisms.

SSPX baptisms are not, and never have been,invalid.

As to the future, it is rooted in the past and the present. No revolutionary, in fact no one at all, can change that.

The Church's future is inescapably rooted in the past and the present. It would be foolish to deny it. Therefore, its way forward can never involve a rupture with, or a denial of, its past. And by its past I mean all of its past down the centuries, which includes all its Truth.

Delia said...

Have changed my mind, or rather, am now trying to answer the question! Heresy does more damage to individuals, but schism damages the Church more - hence vote now goes to Lefebvre. Hey ho.

gemoftheocean said...

Obviously invalid sacraments are the worst, but how about following neither group of nuts?

universal doctor said...

I think that is what is known as a "no-brainer". How is it possible, except through the cunning of the evil one, for people such as "fr kennedy" to deceive so many, and with such fervour, plausibility and ease? He will stand condemned for having denied the beauty of truth.
I have often asked myself why such people would want to call themselves Catholic if there is nothing about the Magisterium or Tradition of the Church to which they subscribe. And goodness knows I've met enough of them. It's like saying you belong to the GReen Party but support deforestaion in South America, or that you're an animal activist but really think that experiments on animals is the way forward. Madness, Badness or Delusion.

alban said...

Father Ray, Both the acts of Fr. Kennedy and Archbishop Lefebvre have damaged the Church. It is not a question of who has damaged more, but that damage has taken place.

I very much dislike the manner in which the comparison of the two cases has been made, as it is couched in a way that seeks to justify what Marcel Lefebvre did, and this is unacceptable. Monsignor Lefebvre (whose sincerity I do not doubt) disagreed with several aspects of the Second Vatican Council, including sections of the Constitution on the Church which is dogmatic in nature; it was not some minor disagreement or inconsequential episcopal ordination that followed, but willful disobedience and schism.

I am most heartened by the generous overtures made by the Holy Father towards SSPX, and also by Bishop Fellay's various responses, the censure of the Bishop Williamson and his removal as seminary rector together with the expulsion of the recalcitrant Fr. Abrahamowicz from the SSPX. It is not only the Catholic left (very much a remnant these days) that views elements the SSPX with some concern, but orthodox Catholics like myself. There is much work to be done, and a beginning has been made due to the pastoral sensitivity of Benedict, but the SSPX must completely adhere to the teachings of Vatican II.

Any false teaching, any schism hurts the Body of Christ; whether it is from the "left" or the "right" is irrelevant. Fr. Kennedy (whose sincerity I do not doubt any more than that of Monsignor Lefebvre) is errant and so was the archbishop. As for the validity of sacraments mentioned by some who have posted here: not only are Fr. Kennedy's (Creator, Redeemer + Sanctifier) baptisms invalid but so is every marriage witnessed and confession heard by the priests of SSPX.

Paulinus said...

A no-brainer

JARay said...

The example of St. Mary's Brisbane is yet another example of a failure in leadership which "Ches" on "The Sensible Bond" tells us that +Williamson" railled against in his teachings to those SSPX seminarians whom he taught. The Archbishop of Brisbane has protested at the actions and beliefs of Fr. Kennedy but, apart from his protests, he has done nothing to stop the carryings on of Fr. Kennedy. How weak is that?!


JARay said...

Thinking just a little more on this topic, I think that it poses the wrong question as to who, or what, has done the most harm to the Catholic Church.
As you might deduce from my previous post, my feeling is that it is neither Arch. Lefebvre nor Fr. Kennedy but a widespread failure of leadership within the Church to proclaim fearlessly what the Church teaches and where the Church stands on important moral questions.
Take for example the fact that about 50 of the Bishops in the US declared that to vote for Obama was a mortal sin because of his unremitting stance in the promotion of abortion. There was no clear stance from the whole of those US bishops on just why Catholics should not have voted for Obama. Hence, a majority of "Catholics" actually voted for Obama. A failure of leadership.
Then there was the surprise at the publication by the Bishop of Lancaster of his "Fit for Mission". Why was he singled out for this publication? Surely because he actually said what ALL the Bishops of the UK should have been saying loud and clear. But DIDN'T!
So, if you want to look for the reasons for the decline in the Catholic Faith, look to the Church's leaders as a whole.


Anonymous said...

Lest anyone think that Lefebvre kept the faith in all its fullness, consider this.

He rejected the teaching of the Council that God has not revoked His covenant with the Jews. Since this teaching is based on Romans 11, it is an authentic teaching of a doctrine divinely revealed.

It is therefore to be received as de fide divina even though it is not yet de fide divina et Catholica so that rejection of it would be heresy.

Anonymous said...

'Who caused the most problems?

It has to be the likes of Fr. Sean Finnegan.'

This had me in stiches as he's my PP - so glad the error was corrected below. I do hope he's read it...

The old rummy in the tank-top needs to disappear (Peter Kennedy, Fr. Sean would never been seen in such a thing)

JARay said...

An interesting comment by Michael Petec that the Old Covenant has not been revoked.
If it hasn't then why was a New Covenant made?
When one makes a Will, a new Will always revokes an old Will. At least, that is the position in common law. It is also common sense.
Don't tell me that God is lacking in common sense!
I can just see the Jews sacrificing hundreds of lambs as a sin offering in a rebuilt Temple.


Red Maria said...

I agree with PatHound, Auricularius and Alban who argue that both Kennedy and SSPX have damaged the Church.

It seems to me that wondering which has caused more damage is like asking which is worse, hanging or shooting: different methods, same result.

As others have pointed out, SSPX was for a long time, obstinately disobedient to Rome. And for all that Williamson has been belatedly disciplined by SSPX, I do not think that he was an anti-Semitic exception in the order. I recall that Paul Touvier, the vichy collaborator and war-criminal evaded justice for many years by hiding in an SSPX priory in Nice. I doubt this happened without Lefebrve's knowledge and approval. I also recall meeting an SSPXer a few years ago who was an outspoken anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.

As to Kennedy, it sounds to me as though every time he opens his mouth, pure gibberish is expelled. Quite how anyone can take this egocentric nutjob seriously, still less sit through any of his tedious voodoo-hoodoo rituals without having an attack of twitching, eye-rolling impatient stop-the-circus heckling is beyond me.

Apparently Kennedy - who has been recently sacked by the Archbishop of Brisbane - is solidly supported by his parish. But he would say that, wouldn't he? I bet he hasn't had a survey of all of them, or even a representative sample, conducted. Kennedy has appealed the decision. Heh heh. You bet he has. The old fraud knows that if he breaks away to form his own oddball community, it'll shrivel away into nothingness within years, depriving him of his satisfying status.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why people like Kennedy who aren't Catholic, or sometimes even Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, always resist being sacked by the Church: without her they're nothing. I believe the technical term for this is parasitism.

My one quibble with the Archbishop of Brisbane is what took him so long? Kennedy's antics have been making headlines for years. Yes, I know, there are processes and procedures and ways of doing things. But couldn't you have got a move on chaps?

Red Maria said...

Michael Petek's right about the old covenant not being revoked, JAYay. I believe it was his late holiness, John Paul the Great who was most insistent on that point.

God made a promise to the Jews and God never but never fails to keep his promise and neither does the promise cease to exist and become undone.

Anonymous said...

I think people read far too much into what the SSPX and Lefebvre say about the old covenant/new covenant. I can't see anything amiss here with what the Church has always taught. What they are saying just seems to me to be taken out of context. But correct if I'm wrong - I haven't read everything they've written.

I have to say though I think the SSPX are also guilty of reading far too much into the V2 documents. They see things that just aren't there or were never intended and are just being paranoid. They have "fifth column" on the brain. If you read the documents from beginning to end I can't see what's wrong with them. Too flowery for my liking and always seeking to put a positive spin on things but that seems to be policy at the moment. I wish we'd drop that approach but it won't happen any time soon.

Anonymous said...

A disobedient act does not always result in schism. For someone to be truly schismatic, they have to deny the leadership of the Pope in ALL respects. Archbishop Lefebrve accepted the pontificate of JP II as valid. There was more than meets the eye, than to just simply say the Archbishop ordained bishops without papal mandate. People do not realise that the SSPX was a huge embarrassment to the papacy of JP II because they were a thorn in his side in regards to his religiously indifferent ecumenism. The consecrations went ahead only after the Assisi 1986 debacle (which scandalised a lot of Catholics - not necessarily of the traditionalist type). Rome was hoping that by delaying the choice of the next bishops of the Fraternity, the old Archbishop would die and the SSPX would be disbanded. SSPX disbanded, would happily mean for Rome, no criticism of their shenanigans in the ecumenical form, their inactivity to deal with the liturgical chaos around the world or to discipline the real heretics in seminaries and chanceries.

The fact is now Pope Benedict has hinted that there was dishonesty on the side of Rome, in dealing with the SSPX. He has also admitted to Bishop Fellay, in their meeting in August 2005, that there may well have been (and still be) a perceived state of emergency in places like France and Germany. Both sides need humility and honesty when it comes to discussing points of conflict.

Anonymous said...

Looking at this from outside I am put off by both lots. Williamson's denial of obvious historical facts as if the grace of illicit ordination conferred a private revelation denied to full time historical scholars is one thing,Kennedy's rewriting of the Scriptures and basic Christian morality is another. Both seem to stem from arrogance and individualism .Fortunately Pope Benedict stands out as a model of scholarship and charity.

Anonymous said...

(1) Concerning the continuance of the Old Covenant: there is not one Old Covenant, but at least three, and each was established for a different purpose.

The covenant of Abraham constitutes Israel as an indestructible people with the potential for political life in the Land of Israel, which God promised to give to Abraham's offspring the Messiah.

The covenant of David sets kings over Israel and gives eternal sovereignty of Israel to David and his royal successors forever (2 Chronicles 13:5).

Jesus is the Messiah by divine nature because He is eternally anointed with the Holy Spirit. But He is, by divine disposition, qualified as Man to be the Messiah because He is a son of both Israel and David, succeeding to the royal office according to law and assimilating it perfectly to the particular Divine Government of Israel.

The covenant of Moses established the Levitical system of worship and a code of law, and it is this alone which the New Covenant replaces. Jesus could not be a priest under the Law of Moses because He is not a son of Aaron. He could be a priest only by a new Law which repeals the old.

Pope Pius XII taught this in Mystici Corporis:

29. And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area - He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the house of Israel - the Law and the Gospel were together in force; but on the gibbet of his death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees . . . .

The Church replaces only the Levitical system, for the business of both is (and was) the worship of God. She cannot replace Israel because Israel is a nation which is meant to be under civil authority, while the Church is a spiritual society whose business is different.

(2) Concerning the schismatic character of SSPX's illicit episcopal consecrations, they are schismatic because the Holy Father declared them to be so in a decree which is authoritative at least for its own facts.

These seem to be, that schism is, according to case law, committed where: (1) a cleric (2) commmits an excommunicable offence; (3) contrary to the express will of his Superior.

chiara said...

What is the higher authority...Sacred Tradition or the authority of a Pope? Of course, one naturally assumes that a Pope and the Magisterium obey and preserve the Sacred Tradition of the Church...it is their duty. Cardinal Ratzinger stated in his book "Milestones' that Pope Paul VI caused a rupture in Sacred Traition by organically changinging the Order of Mass...never happened before in the history of the Liturgy. Thanks Be to God for Archbishop Lefebvre for passing on what he had received.

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