Skip to comments.Status Ecclesiae January 2006 - The Obedience Test
Posted on 01/11/2006 10:09:32 AM PST by NYer
Three significant movements have swept through the Church since the Second Vatican Council, all of which have been sources of great blessing and sometimes confusion, with, on occasion, some devotees mistakenly making themselves a Magisterium unto themselves. Most of them outgrow this error.
I am speaking of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Marian movement — particularly involving reported apparitions, especially those occurring in Medjugorje, in the former Yugoslavia — and the Traditionalist/ Tridentine Mass movement. I most closely associate myself with the charismatic renewal which I credit with perhaps saving my life while Jesus was working on saving my soul.
Of course there are other great movements like Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Focolare; however, I focus on the three mentioned above because these three appear to have arisen almost spontaneously without a particular human founder. Wherever human beings gather, there one finds error, mistakes, even abuses, as the history of the Church attests.
In the early days of the charismatic renewal there were people, including priests in leadership positions, who left the Church for Protestant congregations, believing them to be more “alive” than their parishes. There were also those who made absurd judgments about other Christians and whether they were really Christians if they didn’t pray in tongues. This is unfortunate because St. Paul settled the matter once and for all in 1 Cor. 14. I wish everyone prayed in tongues, but that’s just me—and St. Paul (see 1 Cor. 14:5). But everyone doesn’t and that’s fine. Paul addressed the issue of what is most important. (See 1 Cor. 13)
But for the most part problems were recognized, attended to and corrected by wise pastoral authority which stressed fidelity to Church authority and specific Catholic elements of the faith like the Eucharist, Mary and the papacy. There was also a brief scrape over the practices of certain covenant communities that overstepped themselves. I personally witnessed the embarrassment and humiliation of various charismatic movement leaders who accepted correction and took their medicine in humble submission to the competent authorities.
The fruits to the Church have been tremendous in terms of devotion, prayer and Bible study. In my opinion the charismatic renewal led to increased Marian devotion, pro-life activism and Eucharistic adoration. Far from being “emotionalism” as some critics have charged, an increase in silence, contemplation and orthodoxy have been among the fruits of the charismatic renewal. At least that is my experience.
The charismatic renewal also won praise from both Pope Paul VI and John Paul II as being “a chance for the Church.” As prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, also spoke approvingly and hopefully of the renewal.
In the 80s and early 90s there was a great deal of excitement over alleged apparitions of Our Lady in the town of Medjugorje, in the former Yugoslavia. The urgent message was “Pray for peace!” No one dreamed at the time that the region would soon explode in war. We are not concerned here with the validity or non-validity of those events other than to say they had the effect worldwide of people coming into the Church and fallen-away Catholics returning to the sacraments. On the other hand most of the objections to it seemed to involve alleged misconduct by those closest to the events, which I’m not sure is grounds to invalidate the reported apparitions.
I remember at the time the question being posed to those devotees: “What would you do if the Church turned thumbs down on those apparitions? How would it affect your faith?” All those I spoke to at the time said they would obey the Church.
This brings us to the Traditionalist/Tridentine Mass movement of the present. There seem to be a lot of goats mixed in with the sheep. On the one hand the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre and his St. Pius X Society (SSPX) are simply in formal schism. Yet there seems to be a great deal of cross-pollinization between the SSPX people and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, (FSSP) the group that broke off from SSPX and pledged fealty to the See of Peter, very sensibly avoiding excommunication.
The FSSP has grown remarkably fast in every corner of the world, and from what I hear the good Fathers of the FSSP have their hands full teaching the validity of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Mass.
For my money, Traditionalists who currently claim that Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass are invalid are the traditionalist equivalent of those charismatics in the 70s and early 80s who claimed those who didn’t speak in tongues weren’t really Christians. Additionally, some scholars in the traditionalist movement (not theologians, by the way) have bitterly mocked the charismatic renewal as though it were some sort of “novelty” introduced by post-conciliar euphoria, instead of a genuine outpouring of the graces of Pentecost. While the charismatic experience may not be to some people’s taste, (as though taste were an issue), it would be wise to be very circumspect about anything vaguely close to mocking—blaspheming—the Holy Spirit.
It is unwise to mistake one’s liturgical “tastes” for what is valid or invalid. How often history shows that those who attempt to be “more Catholic than the Pope” soon enough find themselves no longer Catholic at all. To be running after conspiracy theories and the spiritual lust, paranoia and arrogance they inspire, not trusting in Christ’s promised protection of the Depositum Fidei, is to be deceived.
Protestantism ushered in a new form of Christianity wherein each believer was a magisterium unto himself. Catholics are free of that burden. It is a pastoral tragedy when people of no theological training, or even very little formal education, start declaring themselves right and the Pope wrong, and that includes rejecting an ecumenical council, one of the highest levels of Magisterial authority.
Every Catholic has the right to be indignant, even angry, about the abuses introduced into the Church by dissent after the Council, often in the name of the Council, but there is a huge difference between saying that many problems emerged after Vatican II and saying the problems emerged as a result of Vatican II. There is always some vertigo and a period of adjustment after an ecumenical council, and the Church tends to think in centuries, not decades. Every Catholic needs to remember that abusus non tollit usum— the abuse does not remove the use.
Andy Warhol said, “Anyone who says they remember the 1960s wasn’t there.” I am inclined to paraphrase him to those who would romanticize the 1950s as a utopia of ecclesiastical culture. The 1950s contained a simmering dysfunction which merely exploded in the 1960s, using the Council as an excuse to run wild. But the Council did not call for anyone to run wild. It called for universal holiness.
John Paul II wisely introduced the Indult allowing the Tridentine Mass to be said. This is a wonderful thing, expressing the richness of Catholic tradition, another option to help us worship. Benedict XVI has expressed great sympathy for the devotees of the Tridentine Mass. There is even talk that he may lift the limitations of the Indult, granting every validly ordained priest the right to celebrate it if he wishes. That would also be wonderful, should he choose to do so.
But until then every serious Catholic calling himself a traditionalist should ask himself the question, “If the Pope removed the Indult tomorrow and forbade the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, where would my loyalties be? Would I bend the knee, make the sign of the Cross and say, ‘Your will, not mine be done, Lord,’ or announce ‘Non serviam!’ and go into schism?”
St. Ignatius of Loyola, who taught the Church much about discernment of spirits, said, “We ought always to hold that the white which I see is black, if the hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the Ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed.”
For almost exactly 40 years now dissenters have been putting forth the idea that dissent was somehow an expression of “adult faith” or “thinking for oneself.” The exact opposite is true. In fact, dissent is an adolescent act. Religious obedience, on the other hand, is a matter of great spiritual maturity. Obedience to God is the pinnacle of wisdom. There is no greater expression of maturity than obedience to God. When it comes to faith and morals, the Magisterium is our divine guarantee of freedom from error. There is no other.
>>which Im not sure is grounds to invalidate the reported apparitions.<<
This is where I had to stop.
An excellent article. The critique of the Charismatic Renewal is right on the mark. I know, I was there in the late 70's through mid-80's. The experience transformed my life, because it was the experience of Christ's Spirit who led me to rediscover Him in Word and in Sacrament.
But the so-called "charismatic experience" is but the beginning, or the reinitialization of one's life of faith. Those who think that it is an end in itself have got it wrong.
*Well, the Old Liturgy is not the only thing they refuse to let go of. There is also the antisemitic "the Jews are cursed" doctrine the sspx teaches. There will be no reconciliation unless the sspx repudiates that hateful doctrine.
*FWIW, I have read, several times, Pope Benedict is going to lift the Indult
I'm sure not everyone in the SSPX subscribes to that, though I know Bishop Williamson may.
This old canard again. I would like someone to show me one authoritative decree from the Vatican that calls the laity in the SSPX in formal schism. This is a grey area canonically and Rome has been very careful in its declarations.
John Paul II wisely introduced the Indult allowing the Tridentine Mass to be said. This is a wonderful thing, expressing the richness of Catholic tradition, another option to help us worship.
Mmm...I get what he's saying but it's too cute by half. The old rite is not just a different option. It is the fullest expression of the Latin Rite of which the Novus Ordo is a severely truncated version. Now, I don't pretend that every innovation post-VII was a disaster or every pre-VII practice was sacrosanct. We can take them case by case. But in general, the Novus Ordo as currently practiced in most U.S. parishes *has* to grow up, and the only way it's going to grow up is by restoring what was lost from the old Mass. They are not on an even playing field, and the younger must stay still and learn from the older if it's not to remain in a perpetual state of immaturity. For Pete's sake, the Anglican liturgy has more piety and Catholicity in it then the ICEL American NO.
This is more than simply a matter of liturgical "tastes". I'm not hysterically opposed to the NO, but let's not kid ourselves that it is what it ain't.
I have done so very often. And the answer is that unless you stand with Peter you stand alone. However, this is a very touchy issue, and any possible way I could fight such a decree short of outright disobedience I would so do.
And failing that, I would push in every possible way to make the NO as close as possible to its progenitor.
After that, it's in God's hands. But if anyone is thinking Claud and his ilk are gonna take that liturgical imperialism lying down, they got another thing coming. ;)
*It already is. See The Last Supper
*It's more of a juvenile duck.
September 4, 1995
Feast of Pope St. Pius X
Scott M. Windsor, Sr.
P.O. Box 11502
Prescott, Arizona 86304-1502
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Vatican City, Europe
My name is Scott Windsor, I live in Prescott, Arizona, USA, which is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix under Bishop Thomas O'Brien. I am a convert and a "Traditionalist" Catholic. I truly appreciate the beauty and holiness of the Tridentine Mass. I am married and the father of five, and am extremely concerned for the well-being of all our souls.
In our diocese the Tridentine Mass is not licitly celebrated. Our only options for this Mass are:
1) through "independent" priests or
2) the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
Where I live, in Prescott, we only have the SSPX for the Traditional Latin Mass. As a side note, Bishop O'Brien has been petitioned several times to allow the "Indult Mass" here and has been approached by (at the request of some local Prescott parishioners) the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter; all requests have been denied.
I have been well aware of the encyclical Ecclesia Dei , issued by the Holy Father on July 1, 1988 and the ramifications listed therein for those found in "formal adherence" to it. I have struggled with this for a long time, and then last Summer I was made aware of an incident in Hawaii wherein the Bishop of Honolulu (then Bp. Ferrario) had issued a "Canonical Warning" to a Ms. Morley. The particular charges that Bp. Ferrario named against Ms. Morley and the others, was that of schism and "ipso facto" excommunication (at which point he then referenced Ecclesia Dei).
In reading your response to Ms. Morley, you stated that there was "no formal schism, in the strict sense" plus the "charges lacked foundation and hence validity." You also indicated that the actions they were involved in were grave indeed, (assuming you meant the radio productions and the questioning of the soundness of Novus Ordo Missae, and other public embarrassments to the local church), for which you suggested alternative measures including interdict. My concerns for the attending and supporting the local SSPX mission seemed answered and I became more comfortable in my attendance and support there.
Lately, some of my friends on a computer bulletin board service (BBS) have challenged me, stating that I am a schismatic and need to reconcile myself to Holy Mother Church. I have listened to their arguments with earnest and thus have some renewed concerns that I know would be best answered by you.
My specific questions are:
Am I being schismatic in attending the Society of St. Pius X mission here in Prescott?
What does the Hawaiian Case mean to me in Prescott, Arizona, or any other person in a Society of St. Pius X chapel?
In all humbleness and sincerity, I am,
Scott M. Windsor, Sr.
PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO ECCLESIA DEI
Rome, 29 September 1995
Mr. Scott M. Windsor, Sr.
P. O. Box 11502
Prescott, Arizona 86304-1502
Dear Mr. Windsor,
Thank you for your letter of 4 September 1995 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger. It has been transmitted to this Pontifical Commission as dealing with matters related to our particular competence.
We are aware of the lack of authorized celebrations of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal in the Diocese of Phoenix and we can appreciate your desire to assist at the traditional Mass. We also recognize your earnest desire to remain in full communion with the Successor of Peter and the members of the Church subject to him, a desire which obviously prompted you to write this letter. In order to answer your questions we must explain the Church's present evaluation of the situation of the Society of St. Pius X.
There is no doubt about the validity of the ordination of the priests of the Society of St. Pius X. They are, however, suspended "a divinis" , that is prohibited by the Church from exercising their orders because of their illicit ordination.
The Masses they celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2 ). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.
While it is true that the participation in the Mass and sacraments at the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X does not of itself constitute "formal adherence to the schism", such adherence can come about over a period of time as one slowly imbibes a mentality which separates itself from the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff. Father Peter R. Scott, District Superior of the Society in the United States, has publicly stated that he deplores the "liberalism" of "those who refuse to condemn the New Mass as absolutely offensive to God, or the religious liberty and ecumenism of the postconcilliar church." With such an attitude the society of St. Pius X is effectively tending to establish its own canons of orthodoxy and hence to separate itself from the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff. According to canon 751 such "refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the communion of the members of the Church subject to him" constitute schism. Hence we cannot encourage your participation in the Masses, the sacraments or other services conducted under the aegis of the Society of St. Pius X.
The situation of at least one of the "independent" priests in the Diocese of Phoenix to whom you allude is somewhat different. He and the community which he serves have declared their desire to regularize their situation and have taken some initial steps to do so. Let us pray that this may soon be accomplished.
Finally, we may say that "the Hawaiian case" resulted in a judgment that the former Bishop of Honolulu did not have grounds to excommunicate the persons involved, but this judgment does not confer the Church's approbation upon the Society of St. Pius X or those who frequent their chapels.
With prayerful best wishes, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Camille Perl
*If it look like a schismatic sspx duck; if it walks like a schismatic duck into the SSPX Airplane Hanger Chapel; and if it it echoes the schismatic SSPX quackery, then rest assured it is a schismatic duck about to crap all over the Barque of Peter
Secondly the argument that both Masses effect the same sacrifice, while true, does nothing but state the obvious. The debateof traditionalism is not whether what happens at the altar in NO and traditional Roman Masses is the same event.
The great debate rather, is whether what is going on around the altar reflective of what is happening on the altar. In other words, does the rite accurately, clearly, and obviously communicate the sacrifice? The validity of the NO is not the end of the story.
The Magisteriun decides what is and isn't Tradition. Any Christian who maintains the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine,and Authority is,therefore, a traditionalist. That being the reality, the vast majority - over 90% - of true Traditionalists are those in union with Rome and assisting at the normative mass
From looking at your about page, I detect a bee in your bonnet on this issue. Look, we are not going to see eye to eye on this. But there is nothing in all of Tradition that says that the changes in any Rite are sacrosanct and above reproach--I don't care who they are made by. You are extending Tradition way beyond what it incompasses.
Any Christian who maintains the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine,and Authority is,therefore, a traditionalist. That being the reality, the vast majority - over 90% - of true Traditionalists are those in union with Rome and assisting at the normative mass
Why is it necessary to empty the word of its meaning? Traditionalist means those who prefer the '62 Missal to the newer one. I'm not at all clear why it is necessary to so mangle the English language to call everyone who goes to the Novus Ordo a traditionalist.
Traditionalist is a *way of being Catholic*. I prefer that way to the newer way. It is not an endorsement of schism any more than going to the Novus Ordo is an endorsement of modernism/liberalism. If you want to saddle all of us with the baggage of Williamson et al., then I don't see why you can't be saddled with Weakland, Bernardin and Mahoney.
I don't even go the SSPX. I make no apologies for their many faults. But I think your caricature of traditionalism is absurd and serving to do nothing else but estrange your fellow Catholics.
*True. And I appreciate that metaphor rather than sugesting I have bats in my belfry
Look, we are not going to see eye to eye on this.
You are extending Tradition way beyond what it incompasses.
*Oh, not at all. Tradition teaches it is the Magisterium, not individual members of the laity who annoint themsleves with the distinguishing adjective "Traditional" Catholic, who decides what is and isn't Tradition. It is a tautology that any Catholic is Traditional mrely by the fact he IS a Catholic.
Why is it necessary to empty the word of its meaning?
* It is necessary to recapture a word unjustly expropriated by those opposed to the Magisterium
Traditionalist is a way of being Catholic*. I prefer that way to the newer way. But there is nothing in all of Tradition that says that the changes in any Rite are sacrosanct and above reproach--I don't care who they are made by. *Obviously that logic extends to the old liturgy.
I don't even go the SSPX. I make no apologies for their many faults.
* I think it is probably unnecessary for me to point out I don't make excuses for them either.
But I think your caricature of traditionalism is absurd and serving to do nothing else but estrange your fellow Catholics.
* I think the use of "traditionalist" and of "Traditionalism" to distinguish oneself from the vast majority of faithful Christian Catholics is the worst form of Pride and arrogance.
It isn't my intention to estrange my Christian brothers and sisters. It is my intention to confront the false idea Traditionalists or Traditionalism is more Faithful, or more substantial, or more correct, or truer to Tradition that that annointed or approved by Holy Mother Church.
Sheesh!!! Talk about "More Catholic than the Pope"
But why? No arrogance or pride is intended, at least in the circles I travel in. We have Ukrainian Catholics, we have Maronite Catholics, we have Anglo-Catholics. The Orthodox have the Old Believers. Why not Traditionalist Catholics? Catholics who hold to the old way of doing things. You want a better name use one..Classical Roman...old Roman...I dunno.