Skip to comments.The Situation in the Church and Relations with Rome [ECUMENICAL - SSPX]
Posted on 07/01/2008 3:13:01 PM PDT by NewJerseyJoe
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Ecumenic threads are closed to antagonism.
Therefore anti posters must not try to finesse the guidelines by asking loaded questions, using inflammatory taglines, gratuitous quote mining or trying to slip in an anti or ex article under the color of the ecumenic tag.
Posters who try to tear down others beliefs or use subterfuge to accomplish the same goal are the disrupters on ecumenic threads and will be booted from the thread and/or suspended.
I am sure that you are interested in many questions and topics, and among them the situation of the Church and our relations with Rome. I will try to address these issues. I say that I will try, because the situation is not simple. The situation and state of the Church are becoming more complex and diversified. Before the Motu Proprio, we were fighting to defend a number of principles -- and in this respect, the fight remains the same; nothing has changed. But the Motu Proprio definitely caused a number of people to think that things are different now. So, let us try to consider what may or may not have changed.
In order to better understand the value of the Motu Proprio, we must look back on the past and see in what circumstances it was released. To put it in a nutshell, the Second Vatican Council was the occasion for a number of ideas to be introduced into the lifeblood of the Church. These ideas, which had been fostered in universities and seminaries, had been fought against and condemned by the Magisterium up until the Council. The Council, however, legalized these ideas, and especially the spirit which accompanied them, and thus they officially entered into the lifeblood of the Church. This is the most damaging aspect of the crisis. It is really impressive to see that all the great names of the Council were the names of priests and prelates who had been condemned some ten years before the Council.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical on modern errors, Humani Generis. Among these errors was the confusion between the natural and the supernatural order. No names were mentioned, but shortly before, a Jesuit priest had published a book entitled Supernatural in which these two orders were confused. In 1950, he was forced to leave his teaching post in Lyons, France, and his book was condemned. His name was Henri de Lubac. De Lubac is considered as having been most influential during the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict XVI says he is someone who has inspired and influenced him. This man, who was removed from office before the Council, was made a cardinal after it because of his theology.
In 1952, a Dominican priest, who would later have a similar influence on the Council, wrote a book called True and False Reform in the Church. This book was also condemned, and Fr. Yves Congar had to go into exile and stop teaching. Fr. Congar was later called by the Pope in person to be an expert at the Second Vatican Council. He himself was astonished: I am condemned, yet they call upon me? Even he had a sound reaction at the time.
In 1954, an American priest was asked to write in defense of the theory which is especially prevalent in America regarding the separation between Church and State. Fr. John Courtney Murray was also condemned but his ideas were to be revived in part at the Council under the name of religious liberty.
Another famous Jesuit, Fr. Karl Rahner, was so influential at the Council that someone even coined the phrase Rahner locutus est, causa finita. In the 1960s, Rahner was considered suspect by the Holy Office to such an extent that he was prohibited from publishing anything without submitting it beforehand to the Holy Office in Rome. This means that Rome was keeping an eye on him. It was through the intervention of Adenauer that this supervision was ended.
We could also mention Dom Lambert Beauduin, OSB, who is considered as the father of ecumenism. He died before the Council.
But what is very clear is that these men, who were all very influential at the Second Vatican Council, had been condemned or censured by the Church in the days of Pope Pius XII. The famous Bugnini, a liturgist and the author of the New Mass was, even under Pope John XXIII, forced to leave his teaching position in Rome because of his Modernism. He was later called back by Pope Paul VI to create the New Mass, among other things. This shows you that something absolutely abnormal happened in the Church.
I have no real explanation as to how it was possible for bishops who, for most of them, came to the Council traditionally minded to make such an about-face. If you look at the questions sent to Rome in preparation for the Council, they expressed the genuine concerns of bishops who desired the salvation of their flock. Five years later, they were entirely changed and full of new ideas: ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality.
The attitude towards the world had changed. Until then, the world was considered as the enemy, in accordance with the Gospels. The world hates Our Lord because He preaches the hard way to heaven while the world preaches the broad way of pleasure and an easy-going life. After the Council, all of Christian life was made very easy.
Whether or not you find this strictly in the texts of the Council, they leave many doors open to this spirit. The Council is very ambiguous; in other words, if you put on Catholic glasses, you can have a Catholic reading of the Council. But if you put on other glasses, you find an entirely different reading. This is the problem with ambiguous words. From a Council, you expect clear and precise texts. Besides some obvious errors, we find much imprecision and an ambivalent terminology.
To summarize, a new philosophy, which is no longer scholastic, entered the Church with the Second Vatican Council. When we say scholastic, we mean the traditional philosophical formation given in the Church which is based on Thomism and Aristotle. You may recall that, as a means of fighting modernism, St. Pius X ordered that all those who hold the title of Doctor in the Church must either study philosophy in the scholastic tradition, i.e., Thomism, or lose their title. If this were to be enforced today, probably 80 percent of todays doctors in theology might lose their title. This speaks for itself! A new theology means a new way of thinking, accompanied by a new terminology. Bishop Henrici, secretary of the Communio movement, gave a very interesting conference. (Communio was founded by Cardinals Ratzinger, de Lubac and von Balthasar. It is essentially a think-tank where many bishops have been formed over the past decades. Bishop Henrici gave a conference on the maturation of the Council in which he described how, as a Jesuit, he studied before the Council and how he lived during this period. It is amazing to hear how clearly he dared to speak. He even asked good questions, but the way he answered them was quite surprising. For instance, he explained that when he was a theologian at the University of Louvain, a professor recommended to the most gifted students to read the most prohibited of all forbidden books: Lubacs Supernatural. Henrici asked: Why did we read these books? He clearly showed that he recognized this as an act of disobedience. Basically, his answer was: We saw the Church and the religious congregations as an old train which was about to be discarded and replaced with a new train. So they jumped into the new train without giving a thought to the old one.
It is also very interesting to hear his reasons for adhering to new theories. He explained how, in their studies of dogma, they had learned about the evolution of dogmas; hence, they wanted changes even in dogma. This is pure modernism! Faith and dogma do not change. What is true once is true forever. God is above time and circumstances. The truths about God -- the Faith -- do not change.
So all these attitudes, truths and half-truths made everyone look more positively at the world and things which were previously considered as opposed, or at least, foreign to the Church, for instance, other religions. We used to say: false religions. This expression has simply disappeared from the vocabulary of the Church. You may try to find this expression in modern documents from Rome, you will never find it. It has simply been eliminated. Does it mean that other religions are less false than before? Absolutely not. But it shows a shift in attitude. Let us focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us, they say, as well as many similar sophisms.
Obviously there is some truth in every kind of error. The elements of truth make it possible for error to exist. If the error were pure, no one would care about it. The good elements, mixed with the bad, enable error to propagate. If you tell a Protestant about all the things upon which you agree with him, you simply confirm him in his error. You point out what is good; hence, he is pleased with what you tell him. If you dont speak about his errors, how will he ever come to know that there is something amiss? How can he be driven to convert? If you only mention the things about which he is correct, you will never bring about his conversion.
In the end, this friendly attitude towards everyone is a very false charity. It is, in fact, often called charity. Charity is a notion which has been terribly falsified in our time. You often hear them say to followers of false religions: Be a good Protestant (or whatever) and you will be saved. It is as if at the train station you see someone who wishes to go to New York. However, you notice that he is boarding the train to Albany. Would you tell him, This train is very nice and comfortable; you will enjoy the ride? If you knew he was on the wrong train and going in the wrong direction, in no way can you call this charity. You are deceiving him. If the man found out you were aware of his mistake, he would be mad at you. You have to tell him: Im sorry; the train may be nice, but if you want to go to New York, you must take the other train.
As a side note, the latest change in the Church concerns the new prayer for the Jews in the Good Friday liturgy. I know that this prayer is causing some controversy. We must first notice that this change was brought about by pressure from a group, the Anti-Defamation League, headed by Abe Foxman, which is a very active pressure group outside the Catholic Church. The Pope thus felt obliged to make a change.
What did he change? A prayer which belongs to the oldest prayers in the Catholic Church, the prayers of Good Friday which date back to the third century at least. They are more ancient than even the other texts of the Mass. They are very venerable prayers because of their antiquity, a veritable treasure of the Catholic Church. This alone is ground for saying: How do they dare touch such a prayer? This prayer has never been a problem and has been prayed for centuries. How can we today claim that this prayer is bad? This is the first important argument.
Secondly, if you look at the prayer, it has been deeply changed, though this may not be noticed at first sight. The new prayer asks that the Jews be enlightened and accept Our Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. These requests are correct. If you read only this, it is correct. We do pray that the Jews acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. There is no problem so far.
The problem is that it changes the old prayer which spoke of obscurity -- the Jews were in obscurity and darkness. If you speak of enlightenment, you do not speak of enlightening someone who already has light. But it is very clear that Rome wanted to remove anything that could have been offensive to the Jews. But who among the Jews ever cared about a prayer recited once a year in the Church? They need to be great scholars to even know about this Catholic prayer. All this is a matter of politics; it has nothing to do with religion.
But there is worse still; the meaning of the prayer has been changed. The prayer has two parts: a prayer to God giving the reason for the prayer. We have just commented upon this part. The second part, however, has been profoundly changed. The change is very subtle and clever, it makes allusion to a quote from St. Paul to the Romans. The apostle tells us what is going to happen at the end of time, when all the nations have entered the Church, the Jews will convert. They will return at the end. Their conversion is one of the signs of the end of times. So this is what we now find in the second part of the prayer.
Further, we have a commentary on this prayer which is very interesting and may enlighten those who still have doubts about what we should do with this prayer. This commentary came from the man responsible for ecumenism and for relations with the Jews in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Kasper. On February 7, he explained this prayer on the airwaves of Radio Vatican. He said that the Pope removed what was offensive to the Jews so that there were no negative words about the Jews. He could not, however, renounce the essential fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior. Then he went on to say that when the prayer speaks of conversion, we must keep in mind that the quote refers to the end of time and that the Church does not have a mission towards the Jews as she does towards pagans. He clearly said that we would not deal with the Jews as we deal with others. He there and then promised that they were not going to try to convert the Jews. When you read such a commentary upon the new prayer, you need nothing more to understand why we continue to say the old prayer.
This shows you that you ought not think that the fight is over.
Let us return to our considerations upon the Council. One of the main vehicles for introducing the new ideas into the Catholic Church was the Mass. They made a new Mass which was the most direct contact the faithful had with the Council. Who among the faithful ever reads the texts of the Council? Perhaps a few might. But how did the average Catholic come into contact with the Council? How was his life influenced by the Council? Through the Mass. It is through the liturgy that the spirit of the Church is put into practice. And it was through the new liturgy that the modern ideas, which had come into the Church through the Council, were brought to the faithful.
One of the main ideas behind the New Mass is the ecumenical aspect. Ecumenism, counterfeiting charity, tells us we must not offend our neighbors; consequently, let us remove from the expression of our faith, the liturgy, any offensive reference to our separated brethren. This is what the New Mass does. As a result, those who continue to attend this Mass progressively lose their faith. They turn out to be more Protestant than the Protestants themselves.
Many have thus subtly been brought to think along the lines of the new theology. At first, many may have been shocked by communion in the hand; but everybody does it. Then little by little, as you receive Our Lord in your hands standing, you end up thinking that He is not your Lord. Because if He were really God, you would fall on your knees to adore Him and you would not take Him in your hand. For when you take something in your hand, you are the one in control. I have the matter in hand means that you have something under control. The only one who has the privilege of holding Our Lord is the priest. One of the most astonishing powers of the priest is this ability to call Our Lord and make Him present under the species of bread and wine. God has given this power to the priest and to no one else. This is but one instance of the way the Faith was changed by these attitudes. The old liturgy is full of these little but meaningful attitudes, gestures, and words.
Sometimes the old liturgy is called Tridentine. Tridentine refers to the Council of Trent. But the Mass such as we know it can be found in the Sacramentarium of St. Leo and St. Gregory the Great in the 6th century. The most recent prayers found in the old Mass were brought into the Roman liturgy from the Mozarabic rite in the 11th century. But the prayers of the Offertory date back to the 6th century. So you should be careful about the use of terms such as the Mass of St. Pius V or the Tridentine Mass for the Mass is really much older. You should rather say: the Mass of All Time or the traditional Mass. It is called the Tridentine Mass or the Mass of St. Pius V because, at that time, some bishops had taken the liberty of adding things to the Missal. Consequently, the Council of Trent ordered a new edition of the Missal to purge it from these accretions. This was the work of St. Pius V, who, enlightened by a tremendous wisdom, did something unique in the history of the Church: he gave an indult which enables any priest to offer the Mass canonized by himself until the end of time without incurring any punishment for doing so. You do not find anything like this anywhere else. We might think he had a vision of the future to write something which would apply until the end of time. It is the famous bull Quo Primum.
The crisis nevertheless develops on all levels. If you compare the Church before the Council with the Church of today, you realize that nothing has been left untouched. There was a reaction from a number of priests. Archbishop Lefebvre is well known, although he was not the only one to react during the Council. Then we have the whole history of the fight for Tradition throughout the years.
In l988, at the time of the consecrations, Rome wanted to put an end to the opposition to the Council, and I may say that this is still on their agenda. In all my discussions with Rome, I have never discerned any hint that they think Rome did something wrong and that we should backtrack. Up to now, the general idea is that the Society should bow down and accept the Council. The audience I had with Pope Benedict XVI confirmed this. It was one of the clearest points of the audience; for the Pope, it is inconceivable to have a Catholic today who is not imbued with the principles of the Second Vatican Council. He even talked about the Church of Vatican II. I do not know this church; I only know the Catholic Church.
This is a new manner of speech. You never found at any time anyone speaking of the Church of Trent or the Church of Nicaea. There was only the Catholic Church. Merely to say the Church of Vatican II implies that there was a new beginning. I suppose we can see why some may consider it a new beginning, but it is a bad beginning.
I can say that, in all the talks we had with Rome, it was very clear that although we may not have explicitly talked about the Council, it always loomed in the background. Rome will request of us some way, somewhere along the line, we accept Vatican II, maybe in the light of Tradition, maybe with this or that condition. Nevertheless, they will place it somewhere. The are very crafty. What does it mean to accept Vatican II? If you take it as a whole, it is a mixed bag. We do not want a mixed bag; we want the Catholic Church and everything that comes from her, namely Tradition: that which the Church has always taught and believed everywhere.
On the one hand, in Rome, now, they -- at least the Pope and several cardinals -- accept that there is a crisis, even if they occasionally say the contrary and speak of the good fruits of Vatican II. But, now, such statements seem to be more a matter of politics than the expression of their true thought. Usually, when we can speak seriously with them, they acknowledge that the situation is bad. Sometimes they try to find a way out by mentioning young people and their greater interest in serious things. But they realize that it is not convincing, so they acknowledge the crisis.
A few days before his election, the Holy Father compared the Church to a sinking boat. It is a serious matter to say the Church is sinking because we know that the Church has received the promise of indefectibility from Our Lord, and that she will remain until the end of the world. Hence, Cardinal Ratzinger meant that the situation was serious. On the one hand, they acknowledge that the situation is serious, but on the other hand, it seems almost impossible for them to go back to the cause.
Once, I tried to explain to Cardinal Mayer how power was exercised in the Church nowadays. I told him there was a problem because the chain of command was totally paralyzed. It is paralyzed because, wherever a personal power has to be exercised, it is neutralized by groups, commissions and councils. This is the case at the level of the Pope, of bishops, and of parish priests. Parish councils, presbyteral councils, synods, etc. I told the Cardinal that the situation was unbearable and that the root was collegiality. This startled him, and he said: You are perfectly right. It didnt last very long, however, because when I pushed a little further and said: So, you see, the root of this crisis is to be found in the Council. He said, No, no, you are wrong. There is a crisis in the Church because the Council has not been applied. That was his answer. If, after 40 years of reforms made in the name of the Council, you say that there is a crisis because the Council has not been applied, you admit a failure. We think, however, that the Council was only too well applied.
On another occasion, I gave my arguments about the crisis to Cardinal Castrillon and said: These errors oblige us to go back to their causes. And we must look for these causes inside the Church. He retorted that the cause of the crisis is the world. The world is going bad, hence things are going bad in the Church. The argument is not altogether wrong. If you look around, you can see that there are problems not only in the Church but in the world also. You find also in the world the same errors as in the Church.
But here is the problem: relationships between the Church and the world are such that we know that the world is bad. The Church is not called militant for no reason. The Church always fought the errors which come from the world. And the Church remained alive because she used to defend herself against these errors. What happened at the Council is enlightening; in his opening address, the Pope asked that the windows of the Church be opened to the world.
Let us suppose that you notice that your carpet is soaking wet in a room. You look up and notice that your windows are open and there just was a storm. You might say that the carpet is wet because of the storm. But usually you would simply wonder who had left the windows open.
They opened the windows to the world. The storm came, entered the Church, and flooded her with its errors. When they now blame the world for the crisis, they merely say that it is the fault of the storm. At least, you would expect them to close the windows now. But no; the windows are still open, so water keeps pouring in. No wonder they tell us that the ship is sinking!
Such is the situation at present, nothing has changed. We have the impression that they are blind. Yet, they should see; they are intelligent people. Perhaps they do not want to see. Even our Pope is convinced of the necessity of opening up to the world. The situation is complex.
Rome acknowledges that Tradition is bringing forth good fruits. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, delegated by the Pope to deal with us, told us: The fruits are good, hence the Holy Ghost is there. What then? I asked him, And where do these fruits come from? He remained silent. They see that the fruits are good, and consequently they would like to use us in this crisis which they now acknowledge. Contrariwise, they see that the fruits are not always good on the other side of the fence. They would like us to come in. And I can say that, this has been their plan since 2000. They want us to come in and help them get out of the crisis. Of course, it would not be such a bad idea, if at the same time they did not oblige us to accept Vatican II. They want us to absorb what caused the evil, and after that we are supposed to help. We have tried to explain to them that it would not work.
At some point, we are no longer on the same wave length. Rome looks at us as absolutely not in the way we consider ourselves. Rome considers us as had boys; not as heretics, but as stubborn and proud boys who wanted to have their own way. So, of course, in their eyes, we must yield, obey and accept the Magisterium. To this we answer: We push for nothing of our own invention; we simply do what the Church has always done. I once told Cardinal Castrillon, Forget about the Society of St. Pius X. Forget about us. Deal with your problems and then you will see that the Society is no longer a problem.
The Motu Proprio was very important. A number of more or less conservative cardinals realize that the situation of the Church is bad, and that Tradition could be a very serious help in overcoming the crisis. These cardinals are trying to bring back the Mass. What is interesting is that these cardinals in Rome have always been convinced that the Tridentine Mass had never been abrogated. Twenty or thirty years ago, the Pope was already convinced of what he wrote in the Motu Proprio, not only he, but Cardinal Casaroli and Cardinal Casoria (Prefect of the Liturgy in the 1980s) as well. They knew it and yet let everybody believe the traditional Mass was prohibited.
Cardinal Stickler revealed that, in 1986, a commission of nine cardinals had been set up to study two questions: Did the New Mass suppress or abrogate the old? May a bishop forbid a priest to celebrate the Tridentine Mass? To the first question, eight out of nine cardinals answered that the Tridentine Mass had not been abrogated nor suppressed. To the second question, all nine unanimously agreed that a bishop may not prevent his priests from celebrating the Tridentine Mass. This was in 1986, 22 years ago.
These cardinals in Rome always knew that the traditional Mass was not forbidden. Nevertheless, they acted as if it were forbidden or as if special permissions or conditions were needed. You may remember the Indult. The faithful brought a certain amount of pressure upon the Holy See; thousands of letters poured in from the all over the world asking for the Mass. At the same time, there had been a certain evolution among the cardinals which made them realize that something should be done for Tradition, and for the Church.
Around 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger told the Fraternity of St. Peter that they must hold fast to the Tridentine Mass so that they might act as a counterbalance to the New Mass and the progressivists. Later, once the balance is achieved, he would create a new New Mass. The Holy Father still has this idea of a reform of the reform.
Despite the Indult with its restrictions, bishops made life so hard for the priests and the faithful attached to the old Mass that Rome understood it could not continue in such a manner. In May 2003, the present Pope, then a cardinal, met with some conservative cardinals in Rome. They decided to make a gesture in favor of Tradition. One idea was to make the Society of St. Pius X, as it were, the spinal cord of the traditional movement and organize all the other traditional groups around it. The other idea was to leave us out, since they would never come back, and do something with the other groups, establishing a number of jurisdictions throughout the world. They would be like a diocese or an apostolic administration, directly under Rome and freed from the pressures of the bishops.
We know that, from 2003 until his election, Cardinal Ratzinger worked on this project. The project was almost implemented in France, but the French bishops claimed that such a jurisdiction was unacceptable. They refused to consider it. Hence the French Bishops Conference rejected Romes project for the establishment of such a jurisdiction, perhaps an apostolic administration, for the Tridentine Mass in France. If nothing else, this shows that the project did exist.
A French bishop called one of our priests and told him about the project. But the French bishops did not want Rome to meddle with their business. So they sought to establish something for Tradition in every diocese so as to make Romes project useless. They were scared to death that Rome would set up something over which they would have no control.
French bishops are presently implementing their resolution, but mainly at the expense of the Society of St. Peter. For about a year before the Motu Proprio until now, their agenda has been to suppress the places of worship entrusted to the Society of St. Peter and ask the priests to join the diocese, say the New Mass, and take charge of the very same churches originally entrusted to the Society of St. Peter. This is how the bishops are regaining control. They have already done this in several places. The bishop of Versailles said to the Superior General of the Society of St. Peter, We will no longer give you any work. Your priests will grow bored of having nothing to do, and will eventually join the diocese. It is clear that the bishops wish to remain in control.
When the Motu Proprio was announced, bishops all around the world raised up a massive opposition. We have it from someone very close to the Pope that this latter told close friends that never in his whole life had he suffered as much as he did with the Motu Proprio. It is a very interesting statement because it shows that the Pope went forward despite the difficulties. He chose to suffer rather than give up. He also said that he had to do it in conscience. He felt obliged and bound in conscience to do it. This is a very strong and important statement.
Some think that the Motu Proprio is a trap to get us. This is not true. It might become a trap, but frankly, I do not think that the pope intended it as a trap. It does not fit in with reality.
I can give you another proof of the Popes determination. The year before the Motu Proprio, on November 17, 2006, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Liturgy sent a letter to all the presidents of bishops conferences concerning a correction in the translation of the words of consecration in the New Mass. The letter told the presidents that the translation for all was wrong and that for many was the proper translation of the Latin pro multis. What is most interesting, however, is what happened before and after the letter.
Before the letter, Rome had inquired from all the bishops conferences whether for all should be retained or whether it should be corrected into for many? The figures show that 35 conferences answered; out of 35, three were in favor of for many. Not even ten percent were in favor of multis. Even in Rome, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was unanimously in favor of the translation for all. It means that if the letter was eventually released, the Pope decided, on his own, to go ahead. And in this case, he did it against all, not for all.
It is important to note these things. It is very clear that, in this instance, he made a courageous and truly papal act. By this I mean that he is very aware of his duty as Pope. Hence, if he sees something he is obliged to do in conscience, we can hope that he will go in this direction until the end, despite very real pressure.
After this letter obliging the bishops to go back to for many, many bishops conferences asked Rome to he dispensed from changing their translation. They want to maintain a faulty translation. This was even before the Motu Proprio; it shows a modernistic attitude in the Church. Nevertheless the Pope imposed his will.
We heard about the Motu Proprio more than a year before it appeared. As an aside, I never received an answer from Rome regarding our spiritual bouquet of 2.5 million rosaries for this intention. The only answer was perhaps the Motu Proprio itself, of which the pope wrote that it was the result of many prayers. Cardinal Castrillon also told me that he was convinced that it was the fruit of our prayers if the release of the Motu Proprio met with so little opposition. As a matter of fact, there was an immense opposition, but they considered it as little.
How should we judge the Motu Proprio? It came in the midst of much opposition. There were four bishops conferences which wrote to the Holy Father to tell him that they did not want the Motu Proprio: the Germans, the English, the French, and part of the Americans. The Germans went to see Cardinal Arinze and told him they did not want the Motu Proprio. Cardinal Arinze replied Neither do I. He then grabbed the new Missal and said: This is our baby. He is a traitor to the Pope! It shows what kind of opposition the Pope can meet with just for a Motu Proprio.
When you look at the situation of the Church as a whole and at the crisis, and see how many problems the Pope had for just one thing, you realize that even if he had the best of intentions and the greatest understanding, he would still meet with great difficulties to bring about any improvement. I say if. So, now we have the Motu Proprio, but it is not everything. It is an important step. What is important about the Motu Proprio is this little phrase: The [Tridentine Mass] has never been abrogated. This is why we say it is a good thing for the Church, despite the fact that it contains many points with which we disagree.
This little sentence is the essential point of the Motu Proprio because it has changed the status of the Mass from a juridical viewpoint. It affirms that the Mass is still the universal law of the Church. If a law has never been abrogated, it means that it remains what it was. It was the Mass of the Church, and thus remains the Mass of the Church. Enormous consequences can be drawn from this apparently trivial statement. The consequences are not explicit but they are there nonetheless. And these consequences, which are at the level of the law, are very important even if, at the practical level, they may go unnoticed.
To begin with, the Pope states that the New Mass was promulgated as a universal law of the Church. Usually when a law of universal character is promulgated it makes void whatever the former law may have said on the subject. For instance, Julius Caesar decided that everyone would drive on the left-hand side of the road. Napoleon came along and decided we should drive on the right. You can easily understand that the new law suspended the old. You have a law in the Church which said: Tridentine Mass. Then came a new law which said: New Mass. It is as if you had one law which says to drive on one side of the road, and another law telling you to drive on the other side. To say that the former law was abrogated brings about the same mess as if you were told you may drive on either side of the road.
This is precisely the kind of problem that the first part of the Motu Proprio attempts to solve. It is somewhat awkward to claim that there is but one Mass with two forms: ordinary and extraordinary. It is like saying ordinarily you drive on the left, but extraordinarily, you drive on the right. We cannot agree with this. We do not agree that these two Masses are really one. It goes against the evidence. Anyone who has attended both Masses understands that they are not the same. They are not two expressions of the same rite.
Compared with the Indult, the Motu Proprio radically changes the status of the old Mass. When you say indult, you imply an exception or a privilege, a law for a few. Along with this, certain conditions and necessary permissions are imposed. But when something is a universal law, there is none of this. Its like a green light: even if there is a policeman, you do not ask him permission to drive on. When the Pope says that the old Mass was not abrogated, he gives a green light to the Tridentine Mass. It is a question of law.
Matters are not as clear when it comes to the application of the law. How is this law applied? You can see that the bishops, for the most part, wish to apply the Motu Proprio as if it were an indult. They want to be asked permission. This is strictly against the law of the Motu Proprio. Such is the general attitude of the bishops, notwithstanding some exceptions. The bishops put pressure on priests to prevent the free diffusion of the Tridentine Mass, which is very important.
If, in practice, a real equality of right were given to the two Masses, it would not take too long for the New Mass to disappear. In Rome, I spoke with a high ranking prelate who thought it might take one generation. Personally, I think it might take a little longer. Once again, this is on condition that the real equality of right, as foreseen in the Motu Proprio, be truly granted in practice. But the bishops do not want this because, somehow, Modernists know that if such a freedom was truly granted, it would mean the end of the New Mass.
Legally speaking, the Motu Proprio is for the death sentence of the New Mass. But the problem is that too many people want it to remain alive, and oppose the Motu Proprio. So, they will keep trying to impose the hegemony of the New Mass over the old.
Thus we have reached a decisive point in the history of the Church and of the crisis. On the one hand, the Pope has given a law; on the other hand, bishops oppose it. So there is a confrontation. What is going to happen? If, as it seems to be the case, the Pope thinks he is obliged to do this in conscience, even against the bishops, there still remains a new principle introduced by Vatican II: collegiality. This means that the bishops have their say, and if the majority of them agree on something, the Pope must abide by their decision. So now, if the Pope steadfastly follows his conscience and his duty as pope, he will strike a blow to collegiality. And if he does not, and follows the bishops, he will have given up his power as pope because the bishops will know that they only have to pressure the Pope strongly enough and he will yield. Hence, we are living a decisive time not only for the Mass, but for the whole crisis.
If the Mass comes back, it will bring back the Faith, and eventually morals. We see it with priests who return to the old Mass. It is striking. We have had wonderful experiences with priests who, after celebrating the old Mass two, three, or five times, suddenly realized the two Masses were two different worlds between which they must choose. Most of them made the right choice when faced with such a dilemma of conscience.
With time, they will come back to the Mass and not only to the Mass. There is a whole world that comes with the Mass. They need a complete formation. The work ahead of us is colossal. These poor Priests arrive with nothing, and they discover a new world. Their transformation does not happen in one day. They need help, not only to celebrate correctly, but to understand the Catholic theology that goes with the Mass. We have many testimonies from priests who tell us, By celebrating the Tridentine Mass, I have discovered what a priest is! They had an idea, of course, of what the priesthood entailed, but with this Mass, they suddenly realized that they stand between God and man to offer a sacrifice and work for the salvation of souls. It is so different from the carnival Masses prevalent in Switzerland, for instance. Someone who understands what the Mass is can no longer accept such Masses.
In northern Italy, a society of about 300 priests recently joined Tradition as a group, and with them also is a group of over 300 contemplative nuns. This is certainly good news. Also in a diocese of northern Italy, since the Motu Proprio, three parish priests have decided to celebrate only the Tridentine Mass. It is interesting to know that their evolution began some two or three years ago. They were in such a conflict with their bishop that the affair went even to Rome. In the largest parish, which numbers upward of 1,000 souls, 800 parishioners wrote to Rome asking for the Tridentine Mass. In a few months, these parish priests had made such progress that they carried their faithful along with them.
This shows that we do not believe in a utopia! In a number of years from now, the Church can really go back to the old Mass. It will require much energy and fighting, but it is truly possible. The Motu Proprio is a great help towards this, and this is why we sincerely thank the Pope. We must be grateful, for it was a very important act, even if all is not perfect; and there is much we do not accept, for instance, the holiness of the New Mass. Fundamentally, however, the face of the modern Church could be changed if the Motu Proprio were really applied.
A top-ranking official in Rome told me that the New Mass could not be suppressed all at once, and that we would have to go through several steps. He did not say I; he said we. Now, is the Pope included in this we? I do not know. At any rate, we have the Motu Proprio and we are told that the final objective is the suppression of the New Mass. This is interesting, of course. Yet, it came from one official, whereas a great majority of priests and bishops still oppose the old Mass. We must be aware of this twofold reality. I wish I could make matters less complex. To put it in a nutshell: good and bad things happen at the same time. Matters become even worse when the Pope is self-contradictory. As I said concerning the new prayer for the Jews, Benedict XVI feels obliged to constantly do favors to the Jews which are difficult to understand. We have a mystery there, but that is not the worst. The worst is his theology.
And yet, he is bringing something new in theology, and it is important that we realize it. It concerns the Council and the reforms. Until now, the common understanding in the Church was that Vatican II was something new, which had caused a radical change in the Church. In several seminaries, teaching about the Church is based only on sources dating back to Vatican II and later. In many seminaries, everything before Vatican II is ignored. It is obvious that, for many, everything began with Vatican II.
Now the present pope tells us: No, this cannot be. There must be a link. There can be no rupture between what was before and what came after the Council. And the link must be Tradition. During our audience, he told me that the only acceptable interpretation of the Council was according to the criteria of Tradition. A little anecdote illustrates the problem. Around 1982, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote to the Pope:
You said that the Council must be considered in the light of Tradition. We accept the Council in the light of Tradition. This means that we accept what is in harmony with Tradition in the Council. What is doubtful in the Council, we interpret according to Tradition. What is opposed to Tradition, we simply reject.
Cardinal Ratzinger answered the letter and said, Your proposal about the Council, although very short, could be acceptable. But what you say afterwards is unacceptable. So, Rome finds it unacceptable that we say: We reject what is opposed to Tradition in the Council.
They no longer use the phrase in the light of Tradition, but in the light of living Tradition. The word living is ever present. In fact, when we say Tradition, we do not mean the same as they. In 1988, when Archbishop Lefebvre was condemned and excommunicated, the very text Ecclesia Dei Adflicta explained that Archbishop Lefebvre had a wrong and incomplete understanding of Tradition. So, you see, we use the same word but give it a different meaning.
When we say Tradition, we refer to its definition given by a Father of the Church, St. Vincent of Lerins: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus -- What has been believed by all, everywhere, at all times. What has been believed? It is an object. When we say Tradition, we mean the doctrine and discipline of the Church, something specific entrusted by Our Lord to the Apostles and transmitted from generation to generation. Transmit in Latin is tradere; traditio means transmission: Tradition is what was transmitted, the object handed down. For the modern, Tradition is an act, the act of transmitting. This is one way of understanding Tradition. It is possible to use the word Tradition in this sense, although it is not its usual meaning. But when you speak of the act of transmitting, you look at the person who transmits, and no longer at what is being transmitted, Those who transmit are the Pope and the teaching Church.
The problem comes in with the word living. Living implies movement, and movement means change. Some changes are legitimate, others are not. Let us suppose that you have a tree. If you say that the tree is living, it does not mean that your tree moves from one side of your yard to the other. Neither does it mean that your tree gives apples one year and oranges the next. If your tree is alive, it means that it always grows in the same place and produces the same fruit. Modernists use the word living to denote a change where there cannot be any change.
On the one hand, the present pope condemns those who say that Vatican II is a rupture with the past. He thus condemns the extremists, the super-Modernists who want a new Church. Benedict XVIs thinking is more subtle. He sees that it must be the same Church, and the same Faith because the Faith cannot change. Yet at the same time he accepts the changes and says: These changes are traditional.
One of the most important texts of his pontificate is his address to the Curia on December 22, 2005. If you wish to understand his vision of the Church, you only have to read this address. It is fairly clear and simple. He explained why the Council had to introduce novelties, which, he claimed, were not new. He said that these novelties concerned the relationship of the Church with the world. In the 19th century, the world was very evil and mean, and hence the Church had to defend herself and speak negatively and meanly of the world. He used the word radical, saying that the Church was radical in its opposition to the world. And he went on to explain that, in the 20th century, the world had become much better and therefore, at Vatican II, the Church had to adjust to the new position of the world. The world being better, the Church had to be kinder. Four times in his address he repeated, It was necessary for the Church to give a new definition of the relation between...: the Church and the modern State, the Church and the other religions, the Church and Judaism, and the Catholic Faith and modern science. In each case, a new definition was needed. But how can he speak of a new relation?
Benedict XVI explicitly expanded on the relationship between the Church and the modern State. He explained that the modern State wants to have the same type of relation with all religions, wishing to deal with all of them impartially. He said:
The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself.
Now, is this in harmony with the teaching of Jesus Christ? If you reflect on this, it means that, for almost 2,000 years, the Church had lost her patrimony and was not in harmony with the teaching of Our Lord. This is unbelievable; and yet the Pope said this. You must realize that we have a serious problem here.
When we deal with the relationship between the Church and the State, we are dealing with truths very close to the Faith. Why do we say that there must be relationships between Church and State? Because every member of the Church also belongs to a State, and as citizen of one State or another, he must work out his salvation in this world. If the State recognizes the laws of God, it will legislate in harmony with the commandments of God, and thus help its citizens to lead a life in harmony with Gods commandments, thus making it easier for them to save their souls.
But if the State treats every religion in the same way, the State does not feel bound by any of Gods commandments and makes its own laws. Such a State does not help its citizens to save their souls. We know that the civil society in which we live puts pressure on its members because it is a laicized society. For those who go along with the flow, there is no pressure. But pressure is made to bear upon those who swim against the tide. Now if this pressure is for the good, its fine. But if this pressure is for evil, it is very serious. And in the modern State, with all the new laws against the natural law, they are turning earthly society into hell. This life on earth is becoming ever more like hell because States do not care about Gods law.
This is why it is so important to insist that the State must also recognize God as Creator, Provider, and Lawgiver. This is obvious and has always been the Churchs teaching. Yet now that the Pope tells us that by going against this traditional teaching, the Church is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is terrible.
We are now confronted with a new vision and a new way of explaining the changes of the Council. Until now, justification was given; we were merely told: This is new; let us go forward. But our present pope is more careful about the past. He thinks that we must not break with the past. In this, he is quite right, but the trouble is that he nevertheless wants to implement the new theories. But, as we say, it is impossible to have both; it is either/or. Yet Benedict XVI wants to bless and baptize novelties under the name of tradition. We say: this is against Tradition, and he says: it is traditional. Such is the new problem that we are facing, and it makes our situation very delicate. Before it was clear -- it was a Yes or a No. Now, it is a... Yo.
One week after the Motu Proprio, another document was released by Rome; this time it was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was a note entitled Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church. This document tells us that, at the time of the Council, the definition of the Church was changed.
Now, I like Cardinal Kasper because he always speaks his mind clearly. In one of his conferences on the foundations of ecumenism, he explained that the normal definition of the Church throughout history was: the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church.
The verb to be signifies an identity; it hinds together the subject and the object of the proposition. You can say: the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church or reverse the terms and the proposition remains just as valid. To be is the only verb with which it works. Any other verb links the subject and the object, but both remain distinct.
Cardinal Kasper explained that until Pius XII inclusive and his encyclical on the Church, Mystici Corporis, the Church used the verb is. But the Council changed that into: The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. This is different from the previous definition. When something subsists in another thing, they are two separate things. Kasper argued that the word subsists is the foundation of ecumenism for the Catholic Church. He went so far as to say that this change made the ecumenical movement possible in the Catholic Church. It is clear. As long as the Church used the former definition, ecumenism was impossible. And this cardinal is the Roman official in charge of ecumenism; he is not just any prelate.
This note Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church first argues that the term subsists received many interpretations, some of which are erroneous. The documents purpose is to address these errors. It goes on to say that, at Vatican II, the Church did not intend to change the Faith. The Church believes and continues to believe what has always been believed. So why was the formula changed? Because subsists expresses identity more perfectly than is. Next, it explains the real reason for the new formula. It was changed in order to mean that there are elements of the Church of Christ outside the Catholic Church. That is the problem.
So this note tells us that the verb subsists is better than is. If we are logical, we must follow through this reasoning and see its consequences on salvation. A dogma tells us that outside the Church there is no salvation. If you say that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, you clearly state that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. But what about the rest of mankind, those who have left the Church, or belong to churches which retain certain sacraments? Modern theology maintains that these elements of the Church continue to be efficacious outside of the Church. In plain words, it means that people are saved by these elements. And consequently, there is salvation outside the Church, and this is contrary to Catholic dogma.
In order to reconcile this contradiction the note affirms both at the same time. It further argues that where there are true bishops and a valid Mass, the Church of Christ is present. It says that the Eastern Orthodox Church and the other Oriental churches, which are not in communion with Rome, are true and authentic particular Churches. In the context, particular is to be understood in opposition to universal, and could refer to a diocese, for instance. But if you affirm that people outside the Church are also genuine particular Churches, then what is the difference between a diocese inside the Church, and people outside of it? The note even says that the Church of Christ is edified and brought to perfection in these particular Churches outside of the Church. This is a total contradiction.
Here is their problem: in order to save the novelties, which are opposed to Tradition, they maintain that novelties are not opposed to Tradition, though they are new. Such a reasoning destroys the principle of non-contradiction. This is presently the situation at the theological level. It is very dangerous. Many Catholics belonging to Una Voce and Ecclesia Dei groups rejoice, saying: The Pope wants to come back to Tradition! He says we must look at things in the light of Tradition! I wish this were true. The Pope does say this, but he means something else. It is very subtle and hence very dangerous. Consequently, our position remains the same. We continue to say No and plead for the next steps: first, the lifting of the excommunications, and then doctrinal discussions.
We desire traditional doctrine to be brought back into the Church. We are not playing the holier than thou and taking the place of the Pope. But if, thanks to discussions, these doctrines can be brought back into large areas of the Church, then this may lead sincere souls back to the truth. And many souls are sincere; they are not all completely crooked and evil. Many people are in good faith, but they are confused. If we can bring right ideas back, such people will return. It is a long-term fight, but it is in Gods hands. He could make it shorter, but whether He wants to intervene, it is His decision. We can pray and ask Him for this. If you consider the Motu Proprio, you can see that your prayers are heard. So I invite you to pray for the lifting of the excommunications.
When will this happen? I do not have the least idea. Someone once asked me and I answered that it could be tomorrow just as it could be in ten years. But I know that in 2005, after I had given Cardinal Hoyos all of our objections against the novelties -- it was quite a list -- the Cardinal told me that though on certain points he did not agree with us, Rome did not consider us as being outside of the Church. So he suggested I write a letter to the Pope asking him to lift the excommunications. If Rome tells us to write such a letter, it means they are ready to grant our request. So I wrote the letter.
However, they are using the excommunications, on the one hand, as a means of pressuring us to accept things we do not want to accept. And on the other hand, oni the political level, they use it with the bishops. If the pressure from the bishops is too great. I doubt they will lift the decree of excommunication. Whether they will lift it tomorrow or years from now, I really do not know. The only thing I can observe is that they have no reasonable argument against the lifting of the excommunications. It is all a matter of politics on Romes part.
When I last visited Rome, in November, I was told that the Pope said to those around him that he did not want to hear the word schismatic applied to us. In the Motu Proprio, when he explained why it was released and mentioned us, he wrote that it was an internal matter of reconciliation within the Church. Internal and within do not mean outside. This shows you the state of the Church. We must look at the whole picture. For instance, when we consider the Motu Proprio, we must look both at the Popes thoughts and at the bishops reactions.
On January 13, Cardinal Hoyos granted an interview to Zenit in which he clearly stated that the bishops alone were excommunicated in 1988. No priests and no faithful were excommunicated. That very same day, in Poland, the Archbishop of Gdansk had a circular letter read in all the churches of his diocese in which he claimed that any faithful who attended one SSPX Mass was excommunicated. That very same day! It is ridiculous. But it shows you what happens in the chaotic situation of the Church.
Good things happen, like the Motu Proprio and a number of priests are returning to the old Mass. Some are sincere, but not all of them. Hence, you need much prudence. Do not get involved in uncertain things. Do not simply ask the closest parish priest if he could say the old Mass for you. By all means, incite him to do so, but do not put yourself in impossible situations. At the same time, the fight goes on. It is not finished. You must be prepared for a long fight.
Of course, in this fight, we must always remember that what is most important is what we do not see. The salvation or loss of souls is what is most important. In this respect, God is using all that is happening to save souls. But there are trials, and we are free to accept or reject these trials. Hence the necessity of prayer for fidelity. Members of the Church are called faithful -- what a beautiful title. We must pray for this grace, for daily fidelity in little things. Our Lord Himself promised that the faithful accomplishment of our duty of state in little things is a pledge of the help of His grace for great things.
We must not forget this. Our Lord has promised that He will be with us and give us His grace. We can be absolutely certain that if a soul really wants to be saved, it will be saved. Of course, if a soul really wants to be saved, it will keep the commandments, frequent the sacraments, and so on. If a soul wants God, God will not abandon the soul. To think otherwise would be blasphemous. We must then strengthen our hearts with courage. God is almighty. Let us stay on the side of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and everything will work out for our good.
Just an opinion, but didn’t an exodus from the Church start about the time the Latin Mass was not longer used ???
It appears that the other observations of the the Church may have lessen in authority and the “moral” revolution among young people increased....
The Catholic Church had always stood as a rock of discipline and moral courage against the outrages of the secular world, until the sacraments were watered down..
I started another thread which disloses that the Transalpine Redemptorist (an SSPX affiliated Community) have re-established Full Communion with Rome. This is one of the many fruits of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio.
YES. And much more than that. Check out the following:
One interesting way to present the statistics is to examine some of the myths and realities of Vatican II. I see five major myths surrounding the Council:
What was the state of the Church in 1960? I wasn't there to experience it. I was born in 1964 as the Council was closing. The fact that I grew up after the Council I think was beneficial to me in writing the book, because sometimes personal anecdotes have a way of coloring our thinking and getting in the way of the facts. I can't tell you how many times I've heard comments like, "The Church was authoritarian and our pastor was a dictator," or "It was just pay, pray and obey," or "The nuns were mean and used to hit our knuckles with a ruler."
I have no personal stories about what it was like before the Council. But I do have facts. And the facts show that the Church was in the midst of an unprecedented period of growth in the several decades before the Council.
That conclusion is inescapable by looking at the figures in just a few representative areas. And forgive me for throwing a lot of numbers at you, but as a lawyer I feel a statistic-laden brief is necessary to establish my case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Priests: In 1920 there were 21,019 total priests in the United States. In 1930 there were 26,925, in 1940 there were 33,912, in 1945 there were 38,451, in 1950 there were 42,970, in 1955 there were 46,970, in 1960 there were 53,796. This is not the mark of a declining Church, but of a vigorous Church in 1960 it had a record number of men who were its frontline soldiers, whose ranks had grown 15 percent in the five years between 1955 and 1960.
Seminarians: As one would expect, as the number of priests increased, so did the number of seminarians and it continued to increase substantially up to the Council. In 1920 there were 8,944 seminarians, in 1930 there were 16,300, in 1940 there were 17,087, in 1945 there were 21,523, in 1950 there were 25,622, in 1955 there were 32,394, in 1960 there were 39,896.
Seminaries: The bishops and heads of religious orders found it extremely difficult to keep up with demand and had to build scores of new seminaries. In 1945 there were 53 diocesan seminaries, in 1950 there were 72, in 1955 there were 78, in 1960 there were 96. This was a huge increase in property plant and equipment to accommodate the young men who were storming the seminaries to be trained as priests. Religious seminaries experienced similar growth. There were 258 in 1945, 316 in 1950, 385 in 1955, and 429 in 1960. Remember that building a seminary is a tremendous investment it is really a leap of faith by the chief executive officer, in this case the bishop or head of a religious order, that the organization is growing and will continue to grow in the future. The tremendous boom in seminary construction was a true testament that the Church was growing and, more importantly, perceived itself to be growing, in the period before the Council.
Priestless parishes: And as one would also expect, as the number of priests increased, the number of parishes without a resident priest was declining. In 1945 there were 839 parishes without a resident pastor, in 1950 there were 791, in 1955 there were 673, in 1960 there were 546.
Brothers: The number of religious brothers was also on the increase in the decades before the Council. In 1945 there were 6,594, in 1950 there were 7,377, in 1955 there were 8,752, in 1960 there were 10,473.
Sisters: The next book that is crying out to be written is a study of the destruction of the convents and women's religious orders since the Second Vatican Council. What a profound tragedy. And the wreckage has been so devastating, so thorough, that one can only wonder whether it had a diabolical aspect to it. But contrary to what some would have you believe, it wasn't like that before the Council. In 1945 there were 138,079 sisters, in 1950 there were 147,310, in 1955 there were 158,069, in 1960 there were 168,527.
Parochial schools: Dioceses and parishes predict the future by building more schools in order to educate young Catholics. In 1920 there were 5,852 parochial schools, in 1930 there were 7,225, in 1940 there were 7,597, in 1945 there were 7,493, in 1950 there were 7,914, in 1955 there were 8,843, in 1960 there were 9,897.
Parochial school students: Parents who send their children to parochial schools show that they value a Catholic education and trust the parish to educate their children in the faith. In 1920 there were 1.7 million parochial school students, 1930 there were 2.2 million, in 1940 there were 2.1 million, in 1945 there were 2 million, in 1950 there were 2.4 million, in 1955 there were 3.2 million, in 1960 there were 4.2 million.
Infant baptisms: There were 710,000 in 1945, 943,000 in 1950, 1.1 million in 1955, 1.3 million in 1960.
Adult baptisms: The number of adult baptisms is a true sign of the strength of any religious organization. And in the years before the Council the number of adult baptisms was skyrocketing: 38,232 in 1930, 73,677 in 1940, 84,908 in 1945, 119,173 in 1950, 137,310 in 1955, and 146,212 in 1960.
These hard facts show a growing, vibrant, militant Church at the time the Second Vatican Council opened. Attempts to portray it otherwise are revisionist history by those who want to justify or explain away the revolution in the Church since the Council.
I also must add that many people were infected by a sort of false optimism in calling the Council, by the idea that the world was starting anew in 1962 at its opening. People who cautioned that having an ecumenical council might not be beneficial for the Church were chided for being obstructionist. That point of view, I respectfully note, was shared by Pope John XXIII, who said in his opening speech to the Council: "We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand."
Well, as I say in the introduction to my book, forty years later the end of the world has not arrived. But we are now facing the disaster.
Even some in the Vatican have recognized it. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "Certainly the results (of Vatican II) seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which, to use the words of Pope Paul VI, seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored.
"Expected was a great step forward, instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church."
Since Cardinal Ratzinger made these remarks in 1984, the crisis in the Church has accelerated. In every area that is statistically verifiable for example, the number of priests, seminarians, priestless parishes, nuns, Mass attendance, converts and annulments the "process of decadence" is apparent.
Priests: After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. And remember that in all of these statistics, the per capita decline has been even worse, because the number of Catholics has continued to increase since 1965. In 1965 there were 12.l85 priests for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 7.l0 a decline of 46 percent. By 2020, there will be about 31,000 priests and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70. Right now there are more priests age 80 to 84 than there are age 30 to 34.
Ordinations: In 1965 there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood, in 2002 there were 450, a decline of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.
Priestless parishes: About 3 percent of parishes, 549, were without a resident priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of U.S. parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.
Seminarians: Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700 a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2000.
Sisters: 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000 and of these, only 21,000 will be age 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers. From 1965 to 2002, per capita, the number of sisters fell from 39.43 per 10,000 to 11.56 a decline of 71 percent.
Brothers: The number of professed brothers decreased from about 12,000 in 1965 to 5,700 in 2002, with a further drop to 3,100 predicted for 2020.
High Schools: Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.
Parochial Grade Schools: There were 10,503 parochial grade schools in 1965 and 6,623 in 2002. The number of students went from 4.5 million to 1.9 million.
Sacramental life: In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms, in 2002 there were 1 million. (In 1965 there were 287 infant baptisms for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 154 a decline of 46 percent.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1968 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.
Mass attendance: A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.
The decline in Mass attendance highlights another significant fact fewer and fewer people who call themselves Catholic actually follow Church rules or accept Church doctrine. For example, a 1999 poll by the National Catholic Reporter shows that 77 percent believe a person can be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday, 65 percent believe good Catholics can divorce and remarry, and 53 percent believe Catholics can have abortions and remain in good standing. Only 10 percent of lay religion teachers accept Church teaching on artificial birth control, according to a 2000 University of Notre Dame poll. And a New York Times poll revealed that 70 percent of Catholics age 18-44 believe the Eucharist is merely a "symbolic reminder" of Jesus.
Religious orders: I'm not being chicken little here, but the religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 389 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. There were 1,148 Redemptorist priests in 1965 and 1,128 seminarians; in 2000 there were 349 priests and 24 seminarians. Every major religious order in the United States mirrors these statistics.
If this is renewal, I don't want to be around when the decline sets in.
As Fr. Louis Bouyer said five years after the Council: "Unless we are blind, we must even state bluntly that what we see looks less like the hoped-for regeneration of Catholicism than its accelerated decomposition."
Professor James Hitchcock echoed Fr. Bouyer's thoughts in 1972: "There are many curiosities in the history of the Church in the post-conciliar years, and not the least is the fact that so few progressives have noticed the extent to which the reactionaries' predictions prior to the Council have been proven correct and that their own expectations have been contradicted. They continue to treat the conservatives as ignorant, prejudiced, and out of touch with reality. Yet the progressives' hope for "renewal" now seems largely chimeric, a grandiose expectation, an attractive theory, but one which failed of achievement. In the heady days of the Council it was common to hear predictions that the conciliar reforms would lead to a massive resurgence of the flagging Catholic spirit. Laymen would be stirred from their apathy and alienation and would join enthusiastically in apostolic projects. Liturgy and theology, having been brought to life and made relevant, would be constant sources of inspiration to the faithful. The religious orders, reformed to bring them into line with modernity, would find themselves overwhelmed with candidates who were generous and enthusiastic. The Church would find the number of converts increasing dramatically as it cast off its moribund visage and indeed would come to be respected and influential in worldly circles as it had not been for centuries. In virtually every case the precise opposite of these predictions has come to pass. ... In terms of the all pervading spiritual revival which was expected to take place, renewal has obviously been a failure ... Little in the Church seems entirely healthy or promising; everything seems vaguely sick and vaguely hollow."
Another myth that is popular among certain Catholics is that things have gotten better in the last decade or so, coinciding primarily with the pontificate of John Paul II. Actually the statistics don't bear this out in fact, the rate of decline has accelerated in some cases. Look at the number of priests. In 1975, three years before JPII was elected, there were 58,909 priests. In 1980, two years after his election, there were 58,621, a one percent decrease from five years previously. But the pace of the decline has picked up since then 57,317 in 1985, 53,111 in 1990, 49,947 in 1995, 45,713 in 2000, 44,874 predicted for 2005, 37,624 in 2010, and 30,992 in 2020.
Seminarians: 17,802 in 1975, 13,226 in 1980, 11,028 in 1985, 6,233 in 1990, 5,083 in 1995, 4,719 in 2002.
Sisters: 135,225 in 1975, 126,517 in 1980, 115,386 in 1985, 103,269 in 1990, 92,107 in 1995, 75,500 in 2002.
And, as Michael Davies has noted, the Pope himself has repeatedly remarked that we are experiencing a new springtime since the Second Vatican Council. In his sermon for Pentecost 2001, the pope celebrated the 38th anniversary of John XXIII's death: "The Second Vatican Council, announced, convoked, and opened by Pope John XXIII, was conscious of this vocation of the Church. One can well say that the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of the Council from the moment the Pope convoked it, declaring that he had welcomed as coming from above an interior voice that imposed itself upon his spirit. This 'gentle breeze' became a 'violent wind' and the conciliar event took the form of a new Pentecost. 'It is, indeed, in the doctrine and spirit of Pentecost,' affirmed Pope John, 'that the great event which is an ecumenical council draws its substance and its life.'"
On March 5, 2000, The Catholic Times of London reported the Pope said that the little seed planted by Pope John XXIII has become "a tree which has spread its majestic and mighty branches over the vineyard of the Lord." He adds that: "It has given us many fruits in these 35 years of life, and it will give us many more in the years to come."
Now it is not being disloyal to point out, respectfully, that the facts do not support that conclusion. This is not a matter of judging the Holy Father, or contradicting Church teaching. Either there are many fruits of the Council, or there are not. The facts speak for themselves.
I have to submit that one of the greatest obstacles to facing the reality of the disaster after Vatican II and to working toward reversing the decline is that many think erroneously that you can't criticize the Council or its aftermath because it imposed infallible dogma. Again, as Michael Davies says, a council can do so, but this Council, as acknowledged by popes and bishops, did not. Another obstacle is a misunderstanding of the nature of infallibility some people don't understand that the protection provided by the Holy Spirit is a negative protection that a Council together with the pope will not teach error in matters of faith and morals that it proposes for acceptance by the universal Church. This is not a guaranty that the calling of a Council is divinely inspired or that every word of every line contained in the documents is inspired or even beneficial.
As Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1988: "The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."
The final myth I want to discuss is the idea that the crisis we now face was not caused by the Council or the changes imposed in its name. These people would object to Mel Gibson's recent statement in Time magazine, when he was asked about the effects of Vatican II on the Church: "Look at the main fruits; dwindling numbers and pedophilia."
I have a several responses to the post hoc objection, which comes mainly from conservative Catholics.
First, the correlation in time between the holding of the Council and the subsequent decline is just so startling it's beyond reason to deny the link. I won't go through the numbers again, but in every area the numbers flipped almost immediately with the Council numbers that were on a steep increase immediately before began a precipitous slide.
Second, the most serious declines came in exactly those areas that were most affected by the changes for example, reform of seminaries and convents led to an immediate decline in vocations; the de-emphasis of the distinction between priest and laity was followed by a dearth of priests; the change of the Mass resulted in plummeting Mass attendance; and the emphasis on ecumenism brought about a decline in conversions and missionary activity. The list is endless.
Third, I think the burden is on those who make the post hoc argument to offer a better reason. If the changes made after Vatican II did not cause the crisis, what did? They offer no other reason.
In response to the post hoc objection, I submit another Latin slogan res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.
As soon as I heard of Ken Jones' Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, I had an intense desire to purchase a copy. The 113-page paperback book contains statistics relating to all aspects of Catholic life: Catholic education, religious orders, Catholic practice and belief, seminarians, nuns, and diocesan priests. Having read the Index, my compliments go out to Mr. Jones. Like myself, Mr. Jones is the father of seven young children, so I understand the sacrifice it was for him to take the time to bring this important information together. He has done an excellent job of presenting clear, irrefutable, unbiased, and undeniable raw data pertaining to the crisis in the Church, and he also provides some important analysis of that data. It is important work, and it is solid evidence supporting what many of us have known for a long time.
Poring over page after page of bar charts, graphs, and tables in the Index, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the sense of loss. In every category religious orders, diocesan priests, religious priests, teaching orders, you name it the decline is sharp, obvious and undeniable.
Being a mathematician, however, I was not content to just read his book cover to cover. Mr. Jones' analysis was good, but he did not view his data the same way a mathematician does. Instantly I saw linear functions, exponential functions, and patterns that we can use to model and make predictions. The numbers, bar charts, figures and statistics gave me a level of excitement and an adrenalin rush that most would have to turn to bungee jumping to achieve.
At the sight of the tables of data, I reached for my computational tools: Maple 8.0, Sigma Plot, SPSS for Windows, and my trusty old Texas Instruments TI-85. Initially I was not sure where to begin, but after careful consideration, I concluded that the most important statistics are those having to do with seminarians. Seminarians are the future of the Church; without priests we will become a different Church. Godfried Cardinal Danneels of Belgium stated in an interview with the Catholic Times in May 2000 that "Without priests the sacramental life of the Church will disappear. We will become a Protestant Church without sacraments. We will be another type of Church, not Catholic." Already we can see this bleak prediction coming to pass as one parish after another is turned over to "Lay Administrators." So the chart having to do with the total number of seminarians2 throughout the better part of the last century is the most significant to us as Catholics.
Now, an initial glance at the bar chart titled "Total Seminarians" seems to indicate that there are essentially two functions: one linear and one exponential. The period prior to 1965 shows a linear increase and the period from 1965 to the present shows an exponential decrease.
We begin our analysis by plotting the graph for the period prior to 1965. This period was one of steady growth, so I found that we could roughly match it with a line of slope 829.331. This means that each year that passed there were approximately 829.3 seminarians more than there had been the previous year. So every ten years there were approximately 8,293 seminarians more than there had been the previous decade.
The growth rate over this period can be expressed as P (for "Preconciliar Growth Rate") as a function of time t, where t is in years and t = 0 in 1920:
Or, expressed as a function of the year:
Where the value of year can range from 1920 to the year 1965.
The growth was actually not perfectly linear, as we can see; in fact it was beginning to accelerate into what appears an exponential growth in the final years from 1940 to 1965. However, let's assume the worst that the growth had just continued at the linear rate described by P(year). Then the number of seminarians we could have had in the year 2003 would have been approximately:
So, had this growth rate continued, by the year 2003 we would have a total of approximately 73,927 seminarians instead of the current figure of less than 5,000. Below you will see the actual data, and superimposed on it is a projection of P(year), the Preconciliar Growth Function, extending through the year 2002.
It is clear that the period from 1965 onward is nonlinear, so a different technique is required for modeling this period. The exponential decrease from 1965 onward appears similar to a graph of radioactive decay; as it turns out, this period can be modeled by what is commonly called an exponential decay function. Since this period of the Church is commonly called the "Springtime," we shall refer to this function as the Springtime Decay Function S(t), where S, the Springtime Decay, is a function of time t. We begin by taking the log of each of the data points. This gives us an essentially linear data set, to which we can match a line as we did previously for the Preconciliar Growth Function. Now we exponentiate both sides of our equation obtaining the following function:
Or, expressed as a function of the year:
Applying this model we can see that by the year 2065, 100 years from the beginning of the Springtime Decay process, there will be a total of 10 seminarians in the United States. The half-life of this process is 8.19 years, the approximate period of time it takes for the number of seminarians to diminish by ½.
There are some who will argue that this model does not apply. The last two actual data points are higher than the exponential decay function; certainly, according to some, this means that the decline is over, and that all will be back to normal soon. This is wishful thinking, but to accommodate them we turn to the modified exponential decay model. The Modified Springtime Decay Function is not as simple, but it is more accurate:
Or, expressed as a function of the year:
According to this modified decay function there will be 779 seminarians in the year 2065 instead of the 10 predicted using the previous model.
We can obtain a rough estimate of the number of lost vocations by taking the sum from 1965 to the present, in five year increments, of the difference between P(year) and S(actual), where the values for S come from the actual data in Mr. Jones' Total Seminarians table.
This estimate makes two assumptions:
We obtain the following values for each year:
According to this rough estimate, approximately 17,741 vocations were lost over the first five-year period, 32,904 were lost over the second five-year period, etc., for a total of 327,746 since 1965.
There is no formula available for the calculation of the number of souls lost as a result of this loss of vocations.
There is one additional set of data that was not included in the Index, and that is data relating to the increasing number of vocations found through the "Traditional" Catholic seminaries, or those seminaries in which the 1962 rite is followed and priests are formed according to preconciliar standards. At the moment these seminaries are relatively new, but the growth is impressive. I was unable to obtain any statistics on the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, which has a small presence in our country, but the figures for the graph below were provided courtesy of Fr. James Jackson, rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Our Lady of Guadalupe, where priests of the FSSP (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri, or Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter) receive their formation, is now in its twelfth year. Since their move from Pennsylvania to Nebraska four years ago they have been operating at maximum capacity. This fall, Academic Year 2003-2004, as in previous years, they had to turn away a large number of candidates due to lack of room in the partially completed seminary.
The noticeable gap at year eight was during their move from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.
Many have asserted that the sudden decline in all aspects of Catholic life that began in 1965 was due to "other factors," such as the influence of "the sixties." But Mr. Jones soundly refutes that argument by including a simple chart3 which shows a marked decline in Church attendance among Catholics from the 1960s to the present while it remained virtually level, with a slight increase, for Protestants. To more fully understand the nature of the crisis we find ourselves in, I highly recommend that every Catholic capable of reading beyond an eighth grade level purchase a copy of the Index and study it.
It is clear from this brief analysis of the data relating to the number of seminarians over the past eighty years that several things are true:
Although we cannot know the will of God, we can ponder the significance of the following:
The author, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, teaches Computer Science and Mathematics at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas where he resides with his wife and seven children.
Methinks Bishop Fellay confuses capital “T” tradition with small “t” tradition. What has always and everywhere been explicitly or implicitly believed as part of the deposit of faith (Sacred Tradition) is in no way contradicted by any of the teachings of Vatican II, rightly understood in unity with Scripture, Tradition and prior Magisterium. The ordinary and universal magisterium is part of the deposit of faith and cannot be reformed, but the ordinary magisterium is reformable. Moreover, the authority and magisterial office of the Pope and of an Ecumenical Council approved by the Pope are also part of Sacred Tradition, indeed part of the constitution of the Church established by Christ himself. As for religious freedom (correctly understood as freedom from coercion, not the moral freedom to ignore the truth), this does not contradict the deposit of faith, particularly as some fathers, e.g. Lactantius, argued in favor of freedom of coercion in religious matters. As for ecumenism, it is very simple — the Church can accept in other religions what is compatible with her own beliefs and must reject what is not compatible. It is not a matter of compromising beliefs. Nor does this mean one should not evangelize others. The traditionalists have so much to offer the Church in terms of keeping alive the magisterial and liturgical riches of the centuries if only they would in humility submit to the legitimate and non-heretical authority of Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops in union with him.
I heard about that. What a heartbreaking shame.
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