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Telling the Pope how to do his job: your tax dollars at work.
The Priestly Pugilist ^ | 2/4/2009 | Priestly Pugilist

Posted on 02/04/2009 11:34:29 AM PST by Balt

Die-hard PP fans—all six of you—know exactly what your PP thinks of Catholic polititians who feel they can separate their faith from their public responsibilities. Entries from previous years (they're available at the bottom of the page) are filled with many posts on this subject. I was on the verge of actually getting tired of the topic until this glittering jewel of colosal ignorance came along.

As you've probably heard from other sources, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, lifted the excommunications which were automatically imposed on four renegade bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Because Eastern Catholics don't routinely keep up with the "old-lady-type" gossip about the "goings on" in the Latin Church, allow your PP to bring everyone up to speed, as this story requires some background.

Marcel Lefebvre, born in 1905, was originally a priest of the Diocese of Lille in France, before leaving the diocese to join the Holy Ghost Fathers. He served as a professor and rector of two seminaries operated by the society before being sent to Africa as a bishop by Pope Pius XII. There he served in both pastoral and diplomatic capacities, eventually becoming the first Archbishop of Dakar in Senegal. After the death of Pius XII, Pope John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Tulle in France (retaining the personal title of Archbishop), and made him a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Second Vatican Council. In 1962 he was elected Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers.

As a bishop, Lefebvre participated in the Second Vatican Council, and was outspoken in his opposition to liturgical reform and the Council's so-called "Declaration on Religious Liberty." After his retirement, he was approached by a group of students from the French Seminary in Rome who had been denied Holy Orders because of their traditionalist views. In 1970, he took nine seminarians to Switzerland, where Bishop François Charrière of Fribourg gave him permission to establish an experimental seminary as a Pious Union—a provision in Canon Law which is the first step to creating a Religious Order—called the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). In 1971 he moved the seminary to Ecône, Switzerland. The French bishops, whose theological outlook was quite different from Lefebvre's, treated the Ecône seminary with suspicion and referred to it as "the Wildcat Seminary". They indicated that they would incardinate none of the seminarians. In November 1974, two Belgian priests carried out a rigorous inspection on the instructions of a commission of cardinals, producing, it was said, a favourable report. However, while at Ecône, they expressed a number of theological opinions to which the seminarians and staff objected to as scandalous, including the opinion that women should be ordained to the priesthood. In what he later described as a mood of "doubtlessly excessive indignation", the Archbishop wrote a "Declaration" in which he strongly attacked the modernist and liberal trends that he saw as apparent in the reforms being undertaken within the Church at that time. In 1975 the new Bishop of Fribourg withdrew the SSPX's pious union status. Archbishop Lefebvre continued his work at the seminary regardless, and ordained his seminarians to the priesthood in 1975 without the permission of the local bishop, despite receiving letters from Rome forbidding it. As a result, his powers to function as a bishop were suspended. In the years that followed, Lefebvre continued his work of educating priests according to his own traditional outlook, sending them out to establish parishes and missions throughout the world which worked independently of the local bishops, all the while rebuffing offers from Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to find a way to regularize the status of the SSPX.

Up to this point, even though Lefebvre's activities were clearly reputiated by the Church, he had done nothing to warrant the draconian punishment of excommunication. That began to change in 1981, when, at the age of 81, he announced his intention to consecrate a bishop to carry on his work after his death. The consecration of a bishop without the permission of the Pope carries with it an automatic excommunication. Much activity took place at this time to try and forstall what many people believed was nonetheless inevitable: Pope John Paul created the commision "Ecclesia Dei," which had power to grant priests permission to offer the "old Mass." The then-Candinal Ratzinger offered an aggreement by which a bishop chosen by Rome would be consecrated for the SSPX. Both actions failed to persuade Lefebvre; and, on June 30, 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre, with Bishop Emeritus Antônio de Castro Mayer of Campos, Brazil, as co-consecrator, consecrated four SSPX priests as bishops: Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Fellay. On July 1, the Holy See issued a decree declaring the consecrations a schismatic act, and that all six people involved had thereby incurred automatic excommunication. Pope John Paul II confirmed the excommunications the following day. Lefebvre died of cancer in 1991 at the age of 85.

A lot of water has flowed under the Tiber since then: in 1988, Pope John Paul II established the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a Society of Apostolic Life which has attracted many priests from the SSPX to return to regularized status within the Catholic Church, granting it's members permission to serve as priests according to their traditional sensibilities. In 2007, Pope Benedict issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, granting every Roman Catholic priest to right to offer Mass in the ancient form wihout restriction and wihout seeking the permission of his bishop.

So, now you're pretty much up to speed. What draws our attention to all of this right now is Pope Benedict's decision to lift the excommunications from the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre in 1988, an action which ordinarily would not draw the attendtion of the secular press were it not for the fact that one of these men, Richard Williamson, has made an imprudent statement in which—get ready for it—he denies the Nazi Holocaust.

Head spinning yet? Good. That's what we like here at Priestly Pugilist, lots of confussion. But let's try and clarify some of it anyway.

First, some facts. The lifting of the excommunication does not regularize the SSPX within the Catholic Church, nor does it make the four bishops involved "bishops-in-good-standing." It lifts a canonical penalty, restoring them to ordinary membership in the Catholic Church; but they are still suspended priests, unauthorized to function as such within the Church. One persumes that talks between the Holy See and the SSPX will continue, as both sides try to iron out some agreement which would make it possible for the SSPX to function as a part of the Catholic Church again. Pope Benedict, after all, is a traditionalist himself, having already made the use of the so-called "Old Latin Mass" (properly called the "Extraordinary Form of Mass") available to everyone. The comments made by Bishop Williamsom regarding the Holocaust, which are clearly the products of a wacked-out brain, are completely extraneous to the Holy Father's pastoral concern for the members of the SSPX. But that doesn't seem to matter to the press, which can't pass up an opportunity to find scandal within the Catholic Church.

Now, I did mention Catholic politicians at the top of this post; so, here's what prompted your PP to weigh in on this in the first place. A group of 50 Catholic congremen have written a letter to Pope Benedict "expressing concern" over his "failure" to denounce Bishop Williamson's remarks. Their letter, in part, reads:

As Catholic Members of Congress, we are writing to express our deep concerns with your decision to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson to communion with the Catholic Church at the same time that Bishop Williamson publicly denies that the Holocaust occurred or that such was the policy under Adolf Hitler. We do not question your reasons for revoking the excommunication of Bishop Williamson or your right to do so, but we fail to understand why the revocation was not accompanied by an emphatic public rejection of his denial of the Holocaust … [T]his is too sensitive an issue to be handled without a direct repudiation of Bishop Williamson’s views. As a spiritual leader and the head of the Catholic Church, we believe it is vital that you publicly state your unequivocal position on this matter so that it is clear where the Church stands on one of the most consequential events of the 20th century.

If you're tempted to sympathize with the concerns expressed in this letter, it's time to think again. But on the outside chance that you might not—think again, that is—let's have another little PP fact check:

First of all, Bishop Williamson's remarks were made after the decree lifting the excommunication was issued; so it would have been pretty much impossible for the Holy Father's decree to be "accompanied by an emphatic public rejection of his denial of the Holocaust." The man may be infallible in matters of faith and morals, but he's not clarvoiant. Also, a Papal decree lifting an excommunication, is just that: a Papal decree lifting an excommunication. It's not supposed to include a commentary on whatever happens to be in the news at the time, no matter how prescient. Likewise, the idea that the Pope's "failure" to repudiate Williamson's remarks leaves some kind of confussion in people's minds about where the Church stands on Nazism is ludicrous to say the least. It's an example of the common political ploy of expressing outrage over something that everyone's already outraged about for no reason but to pad one's political resume. No one—except for a few conspiracy-theory kooks still hurting over their childhood abductions by aliens—thinks the Catholic Church likes Nazis.

But the real rub regarding this letter from 50 U.S. Catholic Congressmen is the fact that the ring-leader of this aliance of the concerned is none other than Rosa DeLauro, Democrat from Connecticut. Don't remember her? Oh, she's an old hand at writting letters to the Pope. She was the one who, back in 2006, got the same group of concerned Catholic congressmen to write to Pope Benedict in protest to his statement that public officials who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion.

So, let's recap and see if we have this straight: the Pope has no right to tell Catholic politicians who funnel millions of dollars of tax-payer money into the slaughter of innocent, unborn children that their wrong; but they have every right to tell the Pope that he's wrong because he hasn't condemned Nazism again this week. Yeahsureright!

I don't know about you, but this business of telling the Pope how to do his job is getting a bit worn on me. Ms. DeLauro and her aliance of the concerned would probably tell me that the Pope shouldn't tell her how to do her job, either. The problem is, he's not. He's telling her how to be a good Catholic—something in which she has, obviously, never been interested.

by Priestly Pugilist

[As a companion to the above, Fr. V has given your PP permission to reproduce here a letter he wrote to Congresswoman Delauro back in 2006, at the time she and other so-called Catholic Members of Congress issued their original statement concerning the obligations of Catholic politicians. —PP]

3 March 2006

Hon. Rosa L. DeLauro
2262 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative DeLauro,

          I am writing to you today to express concern over the “Statement of Principles” released from your office on February 28th of this year, and signed by 55 Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Without delving into the specific issues which may have prompted the statement (about which I am little equipped to discuss), I am troubled by what you and your colleagues describe as the “primacy of conscience,” particularly since there is clearly no such concept in Catholic moral teaching.

The Catholic Church defines the conscience as a faculty of the intellect that alerts us as to whether our actions are in conformity with the truth. Whether the conscience can do this is determined by whether it really knows the truth. A conscience which has been misinformed, or is ignorant of the truth, cannot perform it's function and is therefore useless. For example, if a Catholic priest, for whatever reason, tells someone that they may steal money from work and that this is not wrong, the person does not sin in doing it, because their conscience has been misinformed. But that does not make the act right, nor make the conscience infallible. As soon as that person becomes aware of the truth, the excuse of conscience is no longer valid, since the conscience now has a new standard by which to judge. How one feels personally about the issue at hand has absolutely nothing to do with how the conscience operates.

As I’m sure you know, this “common stock” misunderstanding of conscience is most acute when it comes to matters dealing with more personal and intimate moral questions. People who interpret conscience as "how I feel about it personally" will say that conscience excuses deviating from Catholic moral teaching because of the person's own personal conclusions. But this is not conscience. Conscience can only excuse such a deviation if the conscience is either ignorant of the law of God, or if it has been misinformed by "Father Friendly." In such a case, the conscience is wrong through no fault of it's own; and we are obliged to follow even an erroneous conscience provided that we don't know it's erroneous (and this is what is commonly mislabeled as “primacy of conscience”). But once the conscience has been informed as to the reality of what the Church teaches, then the excuse no longer exists, and one must now act in accord with the new standard the conscience has received.

Moral theologians refer to this as “invincible ignorance,” that is, a conscience which is in error about the truth. It is only through invincible ignorance that a person's conscience can excuse from guilt in deviating from the moral order. A conscience that knows what the Church teaches can never be used as an excuse to do what the Church teaches is objectively evil.

In conclusion, I find it ironic that you and your colleagues refer to the Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, of our late Holy Father, John Paul II, in support of your misleading and uninformed statement, particularly in light of the fact that it was this same pope who stated that Catholic lay people in public office who conclude that the performance of their government duties require them to deviate from Catholic moral teaching have an obligation, in conscience, to immediately resign their government posts.

Hoping that your Lent will be grace filled, and with a promise of my prayers, I am

Sincerely Your in Christ,
(Rev.) J. Michael Venditti

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: delauro; excommunications; popebendtict; williamson

1 posted on 02/04/2009 11:34:30 AM PST by Balt
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To: Balt

Who is that horrible looking woman? Is that De Lauro?

2 posted on 02/04/2009 11:59:31 AM PST by livius
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To: Balt
The professionally outraged CINO’s in Congress are outraged. What a surprise. And the fact they are lying about the cause of the outrage? Also a surprise. The fact most of them have a 100% approval rating from NARAL? Stop. My heart can't take much more shock.
3 posted on 02/04/2009 12:05:05 PM PST by IrishCatholic (No local communist or socialist party chapter? Join the Democrats, it's the same thing.)
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To: livius
Who is that horrible looking woman? Is that De Lauro?

The one and only.

4 posted on 02/04/2009 12:06:40 PM PST by Balt (
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To: Balt

Egads. People with her attitudes always look so absolutely - well, mean, nasty and ugly. It’s a combination of internal and external.

5 posted on 02/04/2009 12:10:01 PM PST by livius
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To: IrishCatholic; Balt

I wonder if Burke’s very firm statement today about the need to deny Communion to ostensibly Catholic pro-abortion politicians is in some way connected with this. These pipsqueak politicians have been poking the Vatican with a stick, and perhaps it’s finally making some of the heirarchy angry enough to insist that the bishops in this country stand up and do their jobs.

The sheer chutzpah of this group of losers writing to the Pope stunned me yesterday. They’ve been allowed to do things like this for too long without consequences, though. The Pope is a patient man and believes in teaching and pursuading, but I wonder if he’s deciding that this is not sufficient.

6 posted on 02/04/2009 12:22:03 PM PST by livius
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To: Balt

I just read that De Lauro rents the basement apartment in her luxe DC mansion to ... Emanuel Rahm, Obama’s enforcer. Isn’t that interesting.

7 posted on 02/04/2009 5:07:43 PM PST by livius
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To: livius

Yep, that is Rosa DeLouro, one of the Reps. from my home state, CT. A Dem as well.

8 posted on 02/04/2009 5:53:58 PM PST by Biggirl (GO UCONN!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Biggirl

I think the connection between DeLauro and Emmanuel is very significant.

9 posted on 02/04/2009 7:11:20 PM PST by livius
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