Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Avoiding an Austrian Schism

I feel sorry for the Pope. His major concern is to follow the Lord's instruction to Peter, to "strengthen the brethren". Be too harsh and the sheep scatter. The Church has always understood that it can tolerate a little heresy but what should be avoided is formal schism. Individuals have been excommunicated under Pope Benedict but rarely groups. Indeed like the Good Shepherd he goes in search of the lost sheep, be they the SSPX or the Chinese Patriotic Church. The Williamson Affair shows the lengths to which he is willing to go and the opprobrium he is willing to suffer to achieve this.

The situation in Austria, epitomized by the diocese of Linz, seems to indicate a Church which is out of control; the wacky liturgies, clergy living in concubinage, the rejection of bishops appointed by the Holy See, the welcoming of non-Catholics into Eucharistic communion, the seminary and theological faculty of the university that seem to denigrate Catholic doctrine, all indicate something quite problematic. The safe pair of hands that should have been Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, seems now to be part of the problem. Almost everything one hears seems to indicate a Church whose bishops have abrogated governance to lay cliques and is increasingly distanced from the Holy See.

It seems that rather than being summoned to Rome, it was the Austrian bishops themselves who asked for a meeting with the Pope before the meeting of their Episcopal Conference. It should also be remembered that the appointment of Fr Wagner was the initiative of Bishop Ludwig Schwarz of Linz, diocesan bishops submit their choice of three names to Rome when appointing Auxilliary Bishops.

Although the Austrian bishops sought the meeting with the Pope it is significant that they were also met by such a high powered set of Curial officials:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Presumably Cardinal Cañizares Llovera would have also been their had it not been that was still in Toledo. Each of these Cardinals represents an area of serious concern to Rome. It will be interesting to see how far the Austrian Episcoplal Conference dares to go in their forthcoming meeting.


Anonymous said...

The Church has always understood that it can tolerate a little heresy but what should be avoided is formal schism.

Father, it is certainly incorrect. This describes the modern Church, after the VII. Earlier Church tended to tolerate schism (look at the long theological discussions and rather kind theological attitude towards the Eastern Orthodox, e.g. in St. Thomas De errores graecorum and many official documents). But earlier Church strongly and intensely fought against heresy, numerous have been condemned. Kings and emperors were anathematised etc. I think the current rather timid attitude ("No, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it.") may promote indifferentism and shows these people that they are probably allowed to go very far in stupidity.

Anonymous said...

"The Church has always understood that it can tolerate a little heresy but what should be avoided is formal schism."

This modern attitude that "a little" heresy is unimportant in contrast to institutional schism, is probably (1) an expresion of a post V2 rupture and (2) secularian values imposed and forced on the Church's life. For (2), secular institutions usually lacks clear doctrinal unifying factors and therefore institutional unity is the most important thing. The Church is different, here teaching and doctrine is most important (here, institutional schism can be tolerated to some degree, although it's true that schism is often the first step to heresy). Look at the Church of England which have for many years been following this devastating principle: institutional unity is more important.

Eastern Orthodox are right that early Church did not know institutional unity. The unity of the early Church was based on doctrinal unity from which followed the unity of communion.

Compare this attitudinal rupture: Eastern Orthodox have never been anathematised for the obvious schism (followed by a probable although not so obvious heresy) - pre V2. Post V2: clearly orthodox, non-heretic catholics were anathematised just for a "schismatic act" and the whole group condemned for many years (making the situation much worse and facilitating their deviation and further schism, a very sad thing for which the Church is responsible).

Hestor said...

The Church has always understood that it can tolerate a little heresy...


George said...

Perhaps Archbishop Ranjith might find some time to 'pop-in' to Linz on his way to Colombo!

You know just to say "Hi" to his fellow clerics, "How are you all doing".

"Have you heard the funny story about this Austrian priest who thought a pitta bread on a stick was a Monstrance and the Body of Blessed Our Lord - Haaa Ha Ha, have you ever heard of anything so absurd.

OK must dash to take up my new appointment. Please all together now:

Tantum ergo sacramentum
Veneremur cernui......."

Richard said...

Avoiding formal schism is important, but what it ignores is the thousands, if not millions, of people who have left the Church because of the sort of liturgical nonsense that Austria seems to specialise in.

When even Bishops seem to deride and mock Catholic beliefs and practises, no wonder so many of the laity have abandoned them.

Sadly the lapsed are not a visible group, so do not seem to get any attention. But the Church still has a duty to them.

Elizabeth said...

We must bring back the prayer to Holy Michael the Archangel after every Mass aswell as after the Rosary. Linz shows how true the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII is.

'Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. After celebrating Mass, the Holy Father was conferring with his cardinals. Suddenly, he fell to the floor. The cardinals immediately called for a doctor. No pulse was detected, and the Holy Father was feared dead. Just as suddenly, Pope Leo awoke and said, "What a horrible picture I was permitted to see!" In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work against the Church. The devil chose the twentieth century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the Pope then ordered that the prayer be said at the conclusion of Mass'.

When Pope Paul VI issued the new rite of the Mass in 1968, the prayer to St. Michael at the end of the Mass was suppressed.

In the Spring of 1994, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, urged the faithful to offer the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. He also made the strong suggestion that the recitation of the prayer be instituted at Mass once again.

So please tell me why, we are not saying this prayer at the end of every Mass???.
It is so patently obvious to me a simple Catholic Mum, surely it must be even more evident to the hierarchy of the Church.

becket said...

From Rorate Caeli

" The unstoppable Cardinal of Vienna

During his visit to the Vatican with a delegation of Austrian Bishops in the past two days, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna delivered a message from his flock, as Italian news agency ASCA reports:

In the Vatican, Card. Schönborn also presented the so-called "Initiative of the lay faithful" (Laieninitiative), a petition by relevant Austrian Catholics launched earlier this year, which asks for the abolition of compulsory celibacy, the return to activity of married priests, the opening of the diaconate to women, and the ordination of [married] 'viri probati'."

Well who is more Catholic. This Austrian delegation or Bishop Fellay and the SSPX. You decide!.

Norah said...

If nothing changes in Austria there will be more scandal for the Faithful who are hanging on, white knuckled, to the Faith trying to follow the teachings of the Church and watching them ignored by the shepherds.

An expat friend says that Schonborn is personally orthodox but pastorally soft. Having seen the Mess in the cathedral through the baloons and heard of the drek in the art gallery it seems that he has been asleep at the switch for a good many years.

Maybe the powers that be at the Vatican need to bite the bullet and actually do something constructive to rein in Austria and send a warning to other dioceses in the world who replicate Austria.

Ma Tucker said...

Is there are exorcist on the list?

gemoftheocean said...

Is it mere coincidence that Hitler was born in Linz?

George said...

Hello Linz!

Are any of you Austrian Catholic Blogosphere surfers reading these comments on Fr Ray's Blog???

Please let us know what are the genuine feelings of the ordinary faithful Catholics in Austria to all of this. Are you happy with the Pitta bread Corpus Christi celebration and all the other issues going on with the Austrian Church hierarchy? Is the One True Holy Roman Catholic Church safe in their hands?

If you are not happy let the world know!! YOU have a voice. Let Papa Benedict and the Roman Curia know what is going on.

Mary help of Christians - Pray for Us.

Fr Ray Blake said...

There is always a point when the Church says so far and no further. Obviously where there is formal descent from the Church's teaching then it acts, or at least should do so.

In practice heresy creeps in under the form of exagerated teaching which manifests itself either in superstition, for example the Neapolitan cult of the Holy Souls, or in a complex and often confused intellectual arguement, for example (maybe not the best)Liberation Theology, the confusion first of all needs to be unravelled and defined before the Church condemns.
The problem Jansenism, is another example, the Charismatic movement might be another example, at its extreme it is impossible to remain in communion with the Church and hold certain beliefs. The Church rightly condemns the extreme, but what about those whose thinking is shaped by Jansenism but do not deny anything the Church holds up for belief, rather than declare anyone in error to be in schism the Church historically has preferred to catechise.

I am not quite sure why you quote De Errores Graecorum, Thomas is writing about a situation where the Church had tolerated error, what he considers heresies, which had eventually ended in schism in 1054. In 1053 the Greeks were happily in the Church holding the same heresies they held when outside of the Church after the excommunication, and the declaration they were in schism.

Before a schism occurs the Church can catechise, admonish, administer sanctions, even redefine its position in a way that can be understood by the heretic, after formal schism there is little that can be done, except to pray. This is presumably why the Pope has been anxious to minimise talk and signs of schism with regard to the SSPX.

GOR said...

The situation in Austria is reminiscent of the opposition to Humanae Vitae in the late 60s and the situation in Holland around the same time (remember the Dutch Catechism…?). I am disappointed in Cdl. Schonborn who, as a student of the Holy Father, ought to know better and be more demonstratively supportive in forcefully promoting orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

I, too, feel for the Holy Father when he is being frustrated by those in his ‘own backyard’ – ones from whom he should have expected the most support and faithfulness. “Your enemies shall be of your own house” comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Father, I am still sure your statemenrt is incorrect, but I apologise, I just misunderstood you: the problem is in wording. I would agree completely if it were "The Church has always understood that it can tolerate a little ERROR ..."

There is a fundamental distinction between HERESY and ERROR. In the above post I used the example of Contra errores graecorum to point to this distinction. St. Thomas points to ERRORS of Greeks, which in most cases follow from misunderstanding, poor translation, taking wording out of historical context etc. Here, the Greek schism is a consequence of errors, NOT heresy.

Incidentally, schism almost always is a consequence of errors (perhaps very rarely, it may follow from purely disciplinary practices, but even in such cases wrong disciplinary practices probably usually follow from errors, almost by definition). Schism cannot occur without some disagreement. Heresy is (at least some Fathers hold this view) already SEPARATION from the Church, i.e. it already involves schism.

CIC, Canon 751:

Dicitur haeresis, PERTINAX, post receptum baptismum, alicuius veritatis divina et catholica credendae DENEGATIO, aut de eadem pertinax DUBITATIO;

Heresy is the OBSTINATE DENIAL or OBSTINATE DOUBT after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith;

Here we see two constituents of heresy (1) "obstinate" and (2) "truth which is to be believed."

For example, I am in heresy if I reject a particular dogmatic point in which I have to believe, I insist to reject it despite I have been pointed to my error(s). If I still continue to hold this my erroneous position as truth, then it is heresy. An error is not necessarily a heresy, but it comes first.

Error is a disagreement on a particular theological or disciplinary issue, where some freedom of opinion is allowed (e.g. particular theological posituion/opinion, theologumen). Error = mistake, a consequence of misunderstanding, getting something wrong etc. Something may also be an error if it is not clearly wrong in itself but naturally brings about a clearly false consequence.

Exaggerated teaching may be an error, maybe not (exaggerated in comparison with what? with the majority? of theologians? bishops? at some time Arianism was the dominant position).

I completely agree on your last paragraphs, but here "heretic" must be changed to "mistaken".

Anyway, we must always use specific and accurate words. Otherwise vagueness may lead to errors. What if someone understands your post that "a little heresy" is allowed? For example, is it possible to holfd "a little heresy" that Our Lord is God but is in some way bodily created as a man? Or that the Holy Host still includes some substance of bread? etc. etc...

Jef said...

gemoftheocean said...

Is it mere coincidence that Hitler was born in Linz?

Yes, Gem, Yes it is.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Perhaps I should have drawn a distinction between formal and informal heresy.

Anonymous said...

Father, I think it is better to avoid ambiguous phrases like "heresy is tolerated" using more neutral like "error is tolerated." "Heresy" perhaps bears too strong connotation and confusion is possible. Confusion in such important matters may be dangerous.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

A smaller and purer Church perhaps? Maybe the intire country can be put on interdict for a temporary period?

The Bishops that are in Austria should have the dignity to resign, but I pray that things will turn around.

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