Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Motu Proprio and "lifting" of the excommunications in hindsight

So, after several months have passed, what about the Pope’s Motu Proprio and the lifting of the excommunications?

In a May 1 “Letter to Friends and Benefactors, #76,” His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay informs us about a “new wave” of reform which apparently flows counter to the old, and much larger, wave of post-Conciliar error. Pope Benedict, His Excellency affirms, must be credited with helping to generate this new wave, which he further characterizes as a “new movement of reform.” It is “quite real,” says the Superior General of SSPX. What is more, says Fellay, the present pope is one of the most “vigorous causes of this incipient renewal.”

Well now, those are strong and confident assertions! Included, of course, in this new wave of reform, small though it may be presently, is the restoration of the Mass of All Ages to its “rightful place.” So affirms His Grace.

But this is wishful thinking, I’m afraid, for at least a couple of reasons:

1) The so-called “rightful place,” as we all well know by now, and as carefully defined by our pope in his 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, is found to be a position distinctly subsidiary to that now occupied by the Novus Ordo Missae.

2) As that “new wave” approaches the shores of most dioceses of the world its force is quickly dissipated by barriers deliberately erected by modernist bishops. Benedict’s MP contains no serious effort to remove those barriers that I can see. The bishops may still set up all kinds of obstacles to the celebration of the Tridentine rite in their dioceses, and suffer little or no papal censure for thus behaving.

Let’s be frank: What Bp. Fellay describes as the “restoration of the Mass of All Ages in 2007” is merely a triumph on paper, as it were, a pleasant illusion, a Chimera. The de facto reality is quite different.

Example: We live in the Diocese of Boise, right next door to the Diocese of Spokane. To my knowledge, there have been no significant signs of Tridentine “restoration” in either of these two Catholic dioceses, the Society’s several Rosary Crusades notwithstanding. The same goes for the Archdiocese of Seattle a few hundred miles west. Three years after the pope’s issuance of his 2007 MP, there is little to show for it, in terms of any robust traditional breakthroughs. If I’m not mistaken, even the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP), a Latin Mass apostolate fully in communion with Rome, has not exactly had the doors thrown open to them in the Catholic dioceses mentioned above.

In summary: In the four dioceses in our region of America’s Northwest, viz. The Archdiocese of Seattle, the Dioceses of Spokane, of Yakima, and of Boise, there is a collective total of between 410 and 415 parish churches and diocesan missions. Of those 400- plus parish churches, only 10 of them offer a Latin Mass alternative. And of that meager sprinkling of parishes, all do not regularly schedule Sunday Masses using the Tridentine rite.

So really, as far as making the Old Latin Mass available to Catholic worshippers, Pope Benedict has done little more than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on behalf of Tridentine restoration.

The latter, in 1998, issued his own motu proprio entitled Ecclesia Dei. Therein, John Paul declared: “Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago, (i.e. the Papal Indult of 1984, Quattour Abhinc Annos) Well, what about it? Have we seen anything approaching “a wide and generous application” of the ancient rite in all the ensuing years? Hardly! Yet again, Bp. Fellay insists that this latest alleged Benedict-generated “reform” is “quite real.” The bishop, apparently, is trying to convince Traditional Catholics that the present pope is finally beginning to turn the corner and come back to Catholic Tradition.

In his letter to benefactors, Bp. Fellay mentions what he perceives to be another positive development coming out of this new “wave of opposition.” He points to new, Benedict-appointed bishops who are “distinctly more conservative,” some of whom he claims, “were already celebrating the Tridentine Mass before.” I am personally not acquainted with any of these “conservative” bishops, and would love to have some facts and figures concerning them. However, as it stands now, one is forced to wonder suspiciously whether it would take even the fingers of one hand to count them.

The Society’s Superior General, I think, wants to let us down easily. Months after the “glorious bouquet” of 19 million Rosaries was laid at the feet of Our Lady, not the faintest rosy tint of a true papal Consecration of Russia glows on the horizon. We are assured that our rosary prayers will be answered, but in God’s own time. We can’t expect a quick fix is the bishop’s message. Our prayer expectations must be “proportioned to the magnitude of what we are asking.” Well, has it not always been so? In the 81 intervening years, since Our Lady directed that the Consecration be made, the prayers and Rosaries of the faithful have ever been proportioned to that magnitude.

“(T)he Fatima message is not just the consecration of Russia.” It is, “above all,” devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His Excellency reminds us. District Superior of the U.S., Fr. Arnaud Rostand , gives us essentially the same spiel, i.e. that the Rosary Crusade was not conducted primarily for the Consecration of Russia. “The first and main goal” of the Rosary Crusade, he asserts in his own May 2010 letter to friends and benefactors, was "our own conversion.”

Oh really? That will come as news to many, I’m sure. I know for certain that that was not my understanding, nor my wife’s. We said our three Rosaries daily, dutifully recorded and turned them in to the parish office, for the express purpose of Russia’s consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

Bishop Fellay, asked during a May 11 interview with the The Remnant’s Brian Mershon, if he anticipated a “dramatic response” to the third Rosary Crusade, gave this startling answer: “I would be very surprised if the Pope consecrated Russia. It would be a great, great surprise….” But then the SG concedes that the event might occur “quickly,” and that he would not be amazed if it did. Bp. Fellay, paradoxically, seems to occupy two positions simultaneously. He would be surprised, on the one hand, if the Consecration actually happened quickly. On the other hand, he would not be amazed if it did. Since there are only two possible outcomes, viz. either quickly, or not so quickly, respecting the Rosary Crusade’s specifically targeted objective, we may fairly conclude that the bishop never anticipated a “dramatic response” to begin with.

When asked whether in the recent history of the Church “such a large bouquets of Rosaries” had ever been offered to the Holy Father, His Excellency answered in the negative. “(It) is obvious that such a crusade is something unique.” What is not so unique, however, is the continuing refusal, on the part of yet another pope, to do the actual and full Consecration. The fragrance of that “bouquet” will soon fade away as time drags on and no Consecration is made. I think the Society leadership realizes this, and it makes them a little nervous. Thus, they are forced to take a position which, alas, reeks of wavering ambiguity.

Earlier in the year at Jesus and Mary Chapel in El Paso, February 21, Bishop Fellay granted another interview, wherein the subject of the lifting of the excommunications came up. Asked if this meant that communion with Rome was “partially complete,” His Excellency reacted irritably. There is, he rightly claimed, no such thing as “partial communion.” Where, he affirmed, there is no excommunication, there is full commune with Rome, meaning, apparently, that the Society bishops, in their own minds, are now in just such communion with the Holy See. But that does not mean, he added, that the Society is yet in “perfect standing” because of unresolved matters over “certain dispositions of Canon law.”

The pope has a funny way of recognizing the Society’s newly established full communion with Rome, if, indeed, that’s what he meant to have accomplished. In a letter fired off to the world’s bishops just after the excommunications were lifted, Benedict writes: "Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the church, and its ministers -- even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty -- do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the church." I think a parallel may be drawn between a man and his estranged wife who manage finally to achieve a full reconciliation, only to be told that they must continue to live in separation.

At the close of that interview given at Jesus and Mary Chapel, Bp. Fellay was asked to comment concerning a terse summary by Bp. Richard Williamson about the “discussions” in Rome, “Could we,” inquired the interviewer, “consider (these discussions) a "dialogue of the deaf "(as Bp. Williamson described them earlier)?”. His Excellency Bp Fellay did not think so. Why? Because those Vatican clerics participating on the other side are well able to understand the Society’s positions and the doctrinal points their representatives are trying to establish. These men, as HE characterizes them anyway, are not corrupted by “modern philosophy,” nor are they possessed of “totally different modern concepts.”

Well let’s take a brief look at the clerical “esxperts” whom the Holy See has furnished to represent the Vatican’s position, who, in His Excellency’s opinion, are not “corrupted” by modernism:

Msgr. Guido Pozzo, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei., and closely associated with Benedict/Ratzinger since 1987. Pozzo was ordained in 1977, well after the close of the Council, and is obviously a Novus Ordo Vatican insider in good standing. Speaking to the issue of implementing the motu proprio for lay groups experiencing difficulties in obtaining a weekly Mass in the ‘extraordinary form,’ Msgr. Pozzo has this advice: First, “ask the parish priest.” Failing in that, “turn to your bishop.” Still no luck? Well, “write to the Commission Ecclesia Dei,” and the Commission, together with the bishop(s), will try to determine “what the actual difficulties are and how to find a remedy.” Does this sound like a Vatican prelate committed to the vigorous promotion of the Old Mass?

Another Vatican participant in the discussions is H.E. Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria Ferrer: Ferrer entered the Society of Jesus in 1966. He was ordained to the Novus Ordo priesthood in 1973. And just who was appointed to carry out his recent Episcopal ordination in 2008? None other than the wily Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. I think we can say without fear of contradiction that Card. Bertone is no friend of Traditional Catholicism. One of Abp. Ferrer’s co-consecrators was the infamous William Joseph Levada, another Vatican lulu whose dubious Episcopal record follows him.

Still another member of the Vatican’s discussion team is the Dominican, Fr. Charles Morerod, Secretary of the International Theological Commission, and consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith The I.T.C. was originally founded by Paul VI. There is not too much information available about him. Safe to say, probably, that this Dominican is not passionately wedded to the idea of restoring Catholic Tradition.

A fourth member of the Vatican’s team is Rev. Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, Vicar General of the very controversial Opus Dei apostolate. A lengthy article about the Opus Dei work, entitled A Strange Pastoral Phenomenon, appears on the SSPX website here. Its author makes the following observation: “The Opus Dei is a contemporary modernist manifestation, and, as such, falls exactly under the sentence pronounced against modernism and reiterated by the magisterium, particularly by St. Pius X’s Encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, promulgated on September 8, 1907.”

Jesuit Father Karl Josef Becker rounds out this quorum of Vatican “experts.” He is the oldest prelate on the Vatican’s discussion team, (in his eighties). He seems to be preoccupied with some idea of Christian ecumenism, in which Christ , through the Holy Spirit, is “operative in the (various) Christian communities,” .. “reinforcing the elements that impel towards the unity of Christians in the one Church.” I don’t look for a meeting of the minds here.

I myself think “dialogue of the deaf” is an excellent characterization of the situation’s reality. SSPX leadership openly admits that it will take a “miracle” for these discussions in Rome to produce a successful outcome. Why then, one wonders, do Society leaders endeavor to distance themselves from HE Bp. Williamson’s “position” in this regard, when, for all intents and purposes, their “position” is really no different, nor their expectations any higher than His Excellency’s? Will any member of the SSPX negotiating team step forward confidently and affirm that the discussions thus far have been anything essentially other than a “dialogue of the deaf?” I doubt it seriously.

In his most recent Eleison Comment (#CLIX July 31, 2010), Bp Williamson makes use of an even more poignant illustration. He writes: "If you shake furiously a bottle containing both (oil and water), the oil and water will mingle for as long as the shaking goes on, but as soon as it stops, the oil and water separate again. It is in their nature. Being lighter, oil is bound to float on top of water.”

I don’t think I misrepresent His Excellency by interpreting him in plain language, i.e. Post-V2 error and Catholic truth can not commingle. As the bishop writes: “the religion of God and the religion of man will .. not mix. They still fly apart.”

Bp. Williamson's own final sentence from the Eleison Comment cited above: “God forbid that the SSPX should ever join that Rome which is mingling the oil of God with the water of man !”


1 comment:

  1. I think this pope is a brave man, as far as his own safety is concerned. I think, though, that he does have a serious fear. That fear is that if he were to command the Traditional Latin Mass be available in all dioceses, there would be an all out schism. The Denver Archdiocese has allowed the FSSP in, but other than that, there is not a lot of access to the TLM in this archdiocese. There is just not any encouragement of it by the clergy here.