Skip to comments.Pope Meets With Head of Lefebvre Movement
Posted on 08/29/2005 5:53:18 AM PDT by NYer
Pope Benedict XVI met with the head of the ultraconservative movement founded by the excommunicated Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on Monday amid a renewed push to bring the "schismatic" group back into Rome's fold.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the meeting between the pope and Monsignor Bernard Fellay, secretary general of the Society of St. Pius X, was held "in a climate of love for the church and a desire to arrive at perfect communion."
"While knowing the difficulties, the desire to proceed by degrees and in reasonable time was shown," Navarro-Valls said in a statement.
Lefebvre founded the Switzerland-based society in 1969, which opposed the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, particularly its call for Mass to be celebrated in local languages and not the traditional Latin.
He was excommunicated in 1988 after consecrating four bishops without Rome's consent. All four bishops, including Fellay, were also excommunicated.
Benedict, who also opposed what he considered excesses of Vatican II, had worked to head off the excommunication order, negotiating with the society to try to keep its members in the fold.
Just months before the excommunication order came down, Benedict, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, signed a protocol with Lefebvre that had indicated reconciliation of the society with Rome was imminent. Lefebvre later rejected the accord.
With Benedict now pope, some have speculated that there might be a new push to bring the society back under Rome's wing.
Fellay, for example, welcomed Benedict's April 19 election, saying there was a "gleam of hope" that the new pope might find a way out of the "profound crisis" in which the Catholic Church currently finds itself.
Fellay has said he would ask Benedict at the audience, which he requested, to rescind the excommunication order and also allow Catholics to celebrate Mass in Latin without having to ask permission first.
Monday's meeting took place at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who heads a commission that was created after the 1988 excommunication to try to negotiate with the society, also attended, the Vatican statement said.
In a recent interview with the international Web site of the Society of St. Pius X, Fellay said a return to the Latin Mass would mark the start of a "change of atmosphere and spirit in the church," which he believes has been spoiled by the Vatican II reforms.
However, in his 1997 book "Salt of the Earth," Ratzinger said a return to the Latin Mass wouldn't resolve the church's problems, even though he supported its expanded use.
"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it," he said.
"But a simple return to the old way would not, as I have said, be a solution. Our culture has changed so radically in the last 30 years that a liturgy celebrated exclusively in Latin would bring with it an experience of foreignness that many could not cope with," he said.
Some have pointed to the fact that several top cardinals celebrated traditional Masses and prayer services with young people taking part in the recent World Youth Day in Germany as evidence of the Vatican's continued outreach to Latin traditionalists.
However, another of Lefebvre's bishops, Bishop Richard Williamson, has warned against any reunion with Rome. In an Internet newsletter earlier this month that announced Monday's meeting, Williamson warned that the "resistance" movement would carry on without the society if it were to rejoin Rome.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America, said the Vatican had "bent over backwards" in the past to try to reach out to the society, and that Benedict was likely to continue the policy since he helped form it as a cardinal.
"The problem is that these concessions have not been enough for the schismatics," Reese said in an e-mail. "They want the rest of the church to follow them in rejecting Vatican II, which they consider illegitimate."
The society claims about 450 priests, 180 seminarians and has a presence in 26 countries.
On the Web:
International site of the Society of St. Pius X: http://www.fsspx.org
U.S. site of the Society of St. Pius X: http://www.sspx.org
Vatican site: http://www.vatican.va
I'll post pictures once they are made available.
Personally, I'd like to see a Tridentine Rite established, so that anyone who wants to go to a Latin Mass can go. Giving them a personal prelature is insufficient, since that would still put the local bishop in charge of them, and that, in effect, doesn't change a thing.
Here in Philly, the Latin Mass is easily accessible for anyone who'd like to go to it. I think that's the way it should be. If it weren't for the SSPX, however, I think many dioceses wouldn't have a Latin Mass at all, and that's just not right.
And then you have Los Angeles where the high and mighty Cardinal Mahoney attacks it and will not allow it to my knowledge. I hope for a reconciliation, because it will strengthen the Church by bringing in many good strong priests, seminarians, and lay people. We can only hope and pray the SSPX accept what Benedict will offer. Hopefully Benedict will offer a universal indult.
What else could someone do who would write something like this:
SSPX's Williamson on the "Pious Bavarian's" "Intellectual Pride"
Can Cardinal Ratzinger Be Trusted?
February 9, 1999
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Can Cardinal Ratzinger be trusted? Conservative Catholics tend to think so. "Nice" Traditional Catholics wish to think so. "Nasty" Traditionalists think not. Who is right?
The question arose in agonising form in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre was negotiating, principally with the Cardinal, to obtain bishops for Catholic Tradition. Conservatives blamed him then (and still do) for not, finally, trusting Rome. Ten years later Conservatives found themselves facing the same question when the Cardinal appealed to them to trust Rome in the matter of the liturgy. Do they now follow through on their own policy of trust?
The occasion was the Conservative Catholics' gathering in Rome last October to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pope's Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" of July 1988, condemning Archbishop Lefebvre but apparently favouring the pre-Vatican II liturgy. Here is a fair summary of the speech, quoted in full in the December issue of "Inside the Vatican", in which the Cardinal appealed for the Conservatives' trust:
-Despite the positive fruits of "Ecclesia Dei", said the Cardinal, there is amongst Conciliar Catholics much distrust of you Conservative (Ecclesia Dei) Catholics, because of your attachment to the old liturgy. This need not be, if only both sides will abide by the letter (as opposed to the so-called "spirit") of the Second Vatican Council.
- For on the one hand, the Cardinal went on, the text of the Council's Constitution on the liturgy does not promote the wild excesses of the so-called "creative" liturgists who, by pushing the text too far in one direction only, have in the name of community worship virtually emptied out the priesthood, sacrifice, all mystery and sacredness. Quite to the contrary that text never forbade the Tridentine Mass, it does not mention Mass facing the people, it encourages Latin. In fact when a celebration of the New Mass is faithful to Pope Paul VI's Missal, it is closer to the Old Mass than it is to any of the wild new liturgies.
-On the other hand the same text, following the admirable Liturgical Movement which led up to the Council's Constitution, does call for more active participation of the people in the liturgy, as opposed to the excessively private and individual following of Mass which had become the norm for Mass-goers before the Council.
-Therefore, concluded the Cardinal, a new Liturgical Movement to restore a truly liturgical unity-in-diversity of Conciliarists and Conservatives is not something that you Conservatives must distrust. Quote: "Dear friends, I would like to encourage you not to lose patience - to keep trusting..."
Thus Cardinal Ratzinger seems to be suggesting that Rome is pondering another liturgical reform which would give us a Mass neither wildly new nor completely old, and he seems to be asking lovers of the old liturgy to wait patiently for this reform of the reform, and to trust Rome meanwhile. Now the Cardinal seems to be a "nice" man, and few Cardinals in Rome say so many favourable things about the old liturgy as he does. Yet can Rome, even as represented by him, be trusted in the matter of the liturgy?
Alas, the answer must be no. Why?
Because while the Cardinal's heart may be open to the Tridentine Mass, his mind is blocked, and in a man of his calibre, the mind rules the heart. His sympathy with the old Mass is relatively superficial, his opposition to it is profound. All this is clear to see in the autobiographical memoirs for the first 50 years of his life, 1927-1957, which he published two years ago in a little book called "Milestones", available in the USA from Ignatius Press, San Francisco. The matter is of interest to all Catholics, because it shows how crippled is even the seeming best of today's Romans when it comes to defending the Faith. Despite their apparent benevolence they cannot defend what they no longer understand.
Josef Ratzinger was born of humble but devout parents in 1927 in a deeply Catholic part of the world, South Germany, close to the Austrian frontier. Youngest of three children in a tranquil home, he grew up with a natural love of God, Church, family and homeland which never left him. He describes how he was also indelibly marked in childhood by the Traditional (then normal) Catholic liturgy, because the great Church ceremonies of the different seasons of the year impressed deep in his soul the sense of the Catholic mysteries.
Here is why the Cardinal has so little sympathy for the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" in the name of which the Church's liturgy has been turned into a wasteland. Towards the end of "Milestones" are a few pages severely condemning the Novus Ordo Missal of 1969 as a "self-made", or artificial, liturgy, pages which Conservative Catholics love to quote and which many a Traditional Catholic could not have written better. No wonder the Cardinal seemed to receive Conservatives kindly in Rome last October! No wonder he might tempt Traditionalists out of their Traditional fortress!
Then where is the Cardinal's problem? Back to "Milestones". After his happy childhood overshadowed by the rise of Nazism and the wartime years marked by its collapse, in 1945 he entered near Munich the re-constituted Major Seminary to begin his studies for the priesthood, where he says (p.42), "We wanted not only to do theology in the narrower sense, but to listen to the voices of man today" - here for the Catholic reader a red light begins to wink! For nobody may mind any brave young man wishing to grapple with horrors which have just nearly engulfed his world - but what Catholic can conceive of his Church's eternal theology as being somehow too narrow to embrace modem man?
So the young Ratzinger plunges with enthusiasm into the study of modern philosophers. By contrast, I had difficulties in penetrating the thought of Thomas Aquinas, whose crystal-clear logic seemed to me too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made". For, says Ratzinger, he and his fellow-seminarians were presented with "a rigid neo-scholastic thomism that was simply too far afield from my own questions... We, being young, were questioners above all" (p.44).
Now it is all very well pleading youth, but since when was the point of questions anything other than to find answers? Is searching better than finding? That is the modem mentality. Either Ratzinger's teachers did not appreciate the Catholic truth of St. Thomas, or Ratzinger did not appreciate his teachers, whichever it be or both, this young philosophy student is missing out on truth. His brilliant mind is pursuing something else - its own satisfaction upon its own (modern) terms? What will he do when he comes to theology? The crucial Chapter VI tells.
To begin theological studies in 1947, he asks to go not to the diocesan seminary, but instead to the Munich University Theological Faculty "to become more fully familiar with the intellectual debates of our time" (p.47), so as to become later a professional theologian. But, again, are modern (university) questions really more valuable than the Church's (seminary) answers? Does this student have a sense of truth? The star teacher at the Faculty, whose "liberalism restricted by dogma" deeply appealed by its modern-ancient balance to the young Ratzinger (p.52), was a certain Professor Maier, whose "liberal-historical method" in approaching Scripture "opened up dimensions of the text that were no longer perceived by the all-too-predetermined dogmatic reading" (p.52)! In other words, history's relativising had more to give to our young theologian than dogma's absolutes? His mind is at sea!
For he is thinking with the mind not of the Catholic Church but of these humanly brilliant German thinkers, about whom he says, "German arrogance perhaps also contributed a little to our belief that we knew what was what better than `those down there' (i.e. in Rome)" (p.58). Ratzinger and his teachers would submit to a decision of Rome, but basically they felt themselves superior. Chapter VI of "Milestones" abounds in quotations to illustrate the downfall of our pious young Bavarian - intellectual pride.
The pious heart is still there, but it is completely out-weighed and out-gunned for Ratzinger by the dazzling intellectualism of Germany's top modernists, all of whom he will meet and befriend when, after being ordained priest in 1951, he embarks in 1952 upon the academic career he has hoped for. For the next 25 years he is professing theology in Germany in one prestigious seminary or university after another. Let us take a look at how his mind is now working as he sets out to teach (p. 108, 109).
In 1953, to obtain his "Habilitation", or final qualification to profess theology, he describes how he prepared a thesis on the great medieval Doctor, St. Bonaventure. Here is Ratzinger's argument, in which he says he still believes (comments in brackets):
The word "revelation" can mean either the act of revealing or the content revealed [true]. Whereas we usually use the word to mean the content revealed [true], Bonaventure uses it to mean the act of revealing [maybe]. Therefore "revelation" means the act of revealing ["Therefore"? Who made Bonaventure dictator of meanings?]. But there is no act of revealing without someone to reveal to [true, but wait for it ...] . Therefore Church Revelation [act or content??] always includes as an essential element the Church being revealed to. Therefore Revelation, Scripture and Tradition [now Ratzinger has definitely slidden back from act to content!] are all incomplete without the Church or persons being revealed to. Therefore whatever of religion comes to us from God must be no ready-made and finalized product or content such as Catholicism was always supposed to be, but it must incorporate the in-put of us modern men. In brief, in the old days God told men what was in the Catholic religion, but that religion fell dead. Now man tells God what is in the Catholic religion, and religion is again living!
From 1953 to 1988 to 1998 we can see that Cardinal Ratzinger's thinking has not changed. In 1988, in the name of "living Tradition", he did his honest best to stop Archbishop Lefebvre from going into "schism" with his "dead Tradition". In 1998 he did his honest best to keep Conservative Catholics loyal to Rome by trust in a new liturgical reform movement which will of course actively involve living modern man, because without that living in-put the liturgy, like Revelation and Tradition, will be dead. But the excessively private Tridentine Mass is too fixed and ready-made to allow for any such in-put. Therefore the Cardinal's Rome can be trusted not to preserve the Tridentine Mass.
Yet all the while the Cardinal in his heart genuinely appreciates the incomparable sacredness and mystery of the old liturgy (pp. 18-20, 146-149). Alas, that liturgy never took a hold of his head, so it cannot govern his thinking or action. Unless or until he changes his thinking, i.e. doctrine, the Tridentine Mass is bound to remain for him a sentimental side-line. In other words, prior to the Council Josef Ratzinger was a ring-leader of Fiftiesists or Bing Crosby Catholics. Maybe his heart was "dreaming of a white Christmas", but his head was ready filled with the poison of man-centered Vatican II.
Your Eminence, if ideas did not matter, you might be a good Catholic, but since the virtue of faith is seated in the mind and not in the heart, then so long as your mind swings between Tradition and modernity you are, despite yourself, in your position as Guardian of the Faith, a terrible enemy of the Catholic Church.
We might wish to trust you, but we cannot.
**With Benedict now pope, some have speculated that there might be a new push to bring the society back under Rome's wing.**
Do you think this will really happen?
Swiss Bishop Bernard Fellay, the successor of the late ultra-traditionalist rebel French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, smiles as he arrives at his residence in Albano, south of Rome, after a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in his summer residence of Castelgandolfo August 29, 2005. Pope Benedict and the head of a breakaway ultra-traditionalist Catholic group agreed at an unprecedented meeting held on Monday to work together to end a 17-year schism in the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope held closed-door talks with Fellay, head of the renegade Society of St. Pius X, which favours old-style Latin Masses and opposes the modernisation of Catholicism by the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
That looks like Fr. Schmidberger to me, rather than Bishop Fellay. I had thought Fr. Schmidberger would not be attending the meeting, but if he did that's probably a good sign for reconciliation, as I have always understood him to be in favor of it.
The wording of the press release from Dr. Navarro-Valls was also interesting, as it sounded more positive than it might.
I think that ultimately that it is likely the SSPX will have to come back into regular status with Rome without Bp Williamson, who seems determined to continue in exile forever, much like the Russian Old Believers, who have been out of the Moscow Patriarchate fold for 300 or so years, or for that matter certain segments of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), who are resisting the reconciliation of ROCOR with Moscow that is now starting to take place. Interestingly enough, the canonical Orthodox now seem to be developing something of an admiration for the Old Believers' faith and fidelity, despite in some cases bloody persecutions. A very interesting literary treatment of this is in Solzhenitsyn's "August 1916."
Here's a photo of Bishop Fellay.
I think there are a lot of die hards, that wave the SSPX banner, but are actually sedes. Williamson is probably among them.
On what do you base this? Williamson is the least sede of anyone in the SSPX. He's the one that cleaned out Ridgefield of the Sedes that eventually formed the SSPV. Williamson also will not confirm any children that do not profess loyalty to the Pope.
I would like to see more Tridentine Rite Masses, and I think there would have been a quicker resolution of the problems of the SSPX if Fellay had plowed on without Williamson.
Fellay and Williamson are on the same page. Williamson plays "bad cop" and Fellay plays "good cop". Williamson's letter put the meeting into the public eye and gave the Vatican a "heads up" on what the SSPX expectations were. In other words "don't expect us to do anything before you change the atmosphere."
I think not requiring a repudiation of previous errors can be ignored, if the SSPX leadership can assent to the way things are now. The issue of universal Indult has not been settled, but it soon may be.
The SSPX wants a repudiation of the errors of post Vatican II era. As Williamson says, the documents must be clarified "the language has to be brought up onto the high ground." LeFebvre wanted no different and the SSPX wants no different now. The unwillingness of the last pontificate to properly address these concerns is what slowed down attempts at regularization.
Castel Gandolfo, Aug. 29 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) met on Monday with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the Society of St. Pius X, for talks aimed toward reconciliation between the Holy See and the traditionalist group.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the director of the Vatican press office, reported that the meeting had been held "in a climate of love for the Church and a desire to arrive at perfect communion." He said that the Pope and Bishop Fellay were hoping to make gradual progress in overcoming differences, so that a full agreement could be reached "in a reasonable time."
The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, broke from the Vatican in 1988, when the French prelate ordained four new bishops in defiance of a direct order from Rome. Pope John Paul II (bio - news) responded by announcing that the traditionalist group had committed a "schismatic act," incurring the penalty of excommunication for Archbishop Lefebvre and the bishops (including Bishop Fellay) he had ordained. But the Vatican has repeatedly sought means of restoring normal ties with the traditionalist group. [For a short summary of the talks between Rome and the SSPX over the past 17 years, see today's separate CWN headline story.] Today's meeting was scheduled in response to a request from Bishop Fellay, Navarro-Valls reported. The Pope met with the traditionalist leader at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. Also present was Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (bio - news), the president of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, which is charged with the task of seeking reconciliation with traditionalist Catholics.
In a July interview, Bishop Fellay said that he wanted to meet with Pope Benedict, and ask him to give permission for all Catholic priests throughout the world to use the Tridentine rite in celebrating Mass. He said that he would also ask the Pontiff to rescind the decrees of excommunication for himself and the other bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988.
Informed Vatican officials speculate that Pope Benedict may be prepared to grant the traditionalist request for a "universal indult" allowing the use of the Tridentine rite.
According to the Papabile blogspot (extensive coverage on this topic)
Le Figaro reports that a reform for the Pian Rite could emanate from the Synod in October. This has been whispered in the past week or two by more than a few people.
The critical entry from Le Figaro.
Comment Benoît XVI veut ramener les lefebvristes dans l'Eglise: "Selon certaines sources ecclésiastiques proches du dossier, on peut raisonnablement s'attendre à un élargissement de l'autorisation faite aux prêtres de célébrer selon le rite tridentin. Cette autorisation pourrait être annoncée autour du prochain synode sur l'Eucharistie qui se déroulera au mois d'octobre au Vatican. "
Ugh! And this is from the Catholic News Service...
I think you are right about Williamson, the more I read about him the less inclined I am to believe that he will ever reconcile.
Bishop Fellay on the other hand seems inclined towards this, based on his excellent interview in Latin Mass Magazine.
I do expect there to be a split within the SSPX if an accord in reached, what it will look like I don't know.
I wonder if Bishop Fellay woul
Oops, "November 1916".
Incidentally, I don't think that Bp Williamson is a sede. I have always had a sneaking liking for him, at least ever since he (conditionally) confirmed me in 1995 or so, when I was doing the SSPX thing. At that Mass he preached a stem-winding homily against ladies wearing shorts or pants, among other things, as I recall. I went home and told Her Honor, who was at the time (this was late May, I believe, and so already quite hot) decked out in shorts preparing to fly to New Orleans for court the next day. Her response was, as one might expect, one of her classics.
I'm not SSPX, but I would like to see them recognised as a legitimate society within the Roman Catholic Church. I am praying for a good outcome as well, I suppose that there are those for whom no form of reconciliation would ever be good enough. That's too bad for them but we should pray for their souls as well.
We are blessed with a wise Pope, I am sure that he will do the right thing.
Quoting Williamson: "Your Eminence, if ideas did not matter, you might be a good Catholic, but since the virtue of faith is seated in the mind and not in the heart, then so long as your mind swings between Tradition and modernity you are, despite yourself, in your position as Guardian of the Faith, a terrible enemy of the Catholic Church."
I think Williamson will not accept any reconciliation sadly. Our only hope would be that those that choose to remain outside be small.