Skip to comments.A Bad Year for the Neocons (Catholics) Who is More Catholic than the Pope?
Posted on 02/17/2009 7:00:22 AM PST by Mershon
A Bad Year for the Neocons
Who is more Catholic than the Pope?
Brian Mershon REMNANT COLUMNIST, North Carolina
By all accounts, 2009 has been a challenging year for Neocon Catholics. Lamenting the spread of the Traditional Latin Mass to their own diocesan parishes since the Pope issued Summorum Pontificum July 7, 2007, the recent revelations concerning the founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus, and now the dissolving of the excommunications of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), the Neocon Catholic worldview is clearly being undermined
George Weigels recent column in Newsweek, as well as his interview quotes in the New York Times coverage of the Popes decisive action absolving the SSPX bishops of their latae sententiae excommunications, reflect a pattern of consternation among many so-called conservative Catholics, particularly in the United States, who believe the Church is always governed by the Popes juridical fiat and who give a decidedly overemphasis to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Weigels first salvo in the New York Times revealed his increasing frustration with Pope Benedict XVI. It seems that the very least Weigel genuinely believes that Pope Benedict XVI really has no idea what he is doing.
Weigel Repeatedly Questions Popes Decision
Weigel opines in the New York Times: It is not easy to see how the unity of the Church will be enhanced unless the Lefebvrists accept Vatican IIs teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the evil of anti-Semitism, explicitly and without qualification; otherwise, you get cafeteria Catholicism on the far right, as we already have on the left.
This same canard has been used repeatedly by George Weigel and his friends. Consider this effective rebuttal to Weigels right-left paradigm. Pope Pius XII called Dietrich von Hildebrand a 20th Century Doctor of the Church. Von Hildebrand explains the mistake of the right vs. left paradigm in Chapter 3 of The Devastated Vineyard:
One can sometimes hear propounded the unfortunate thesis that opposite errors are equally dangerous. It is assumed that because something is false or exaggerated, because one renounces it as "extremists," that its opposite must be just as false and dangerous. It is forgotten that there is a hierarchy of evils, a hierarchy of dangers; and the fact that these evils and errors are opposite, in no way proves that they are equally evil, and equally dangerous. A heresy cannot be placed on the same level as an undesirable attitude of mind. If I juxtapose laxity and rigorism, I can call the former "too little" and the latter "too much" - but never can a heresy be compared in this way to a narrow-minded attitude which represents no heresy. In relation to heresies there is no minus malum, no "lesser evil"apart from the fact that certain heresies can be weightier and worse than others.
In politics, the insight that there is a minus malum is indispensable and basic. But if it is a matter of opposed tendencies in the Church, then the decisive difference is whether they are heretical, or only unfortunate, exaggerated, narrow-minded. A short while ago, a well known and important French theologian, who deplores the present devastation of the vineyard of the Lord, said to me that the "integrists" were just as bad as the modernists. According to him, the integrists, who see everything which is not strictly Thomistic as heretical were, through their spiritual and intellectual narrowness, as great a danger as the "progressivists," who want to introduce pluralism into the holy Church - or a Hans Kung, who denies the infallibility of the Church.
This is obviously a great error. The narrowness of the integrists may be regrettable but it is not heretical. It is not incompatible with the teaching of the holy Church. It views certain philosophical theses as inseparable from orthodoxy, though they in no way are. But these philosophical theses are also in no way incompatible with Christian Revelation.
Therefore, it is completely senseless to place those who hold a philosophical thesis to be inseparable from Christian Revelation, i.e., from the teachings of the holy Church, on a level with those who promulgate philosophic theses which are in radical contradiction to the teaching of the holy Church, of which we spoke of in the last chapter.
Maybe Weigel has not read what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to the Bishops of Chile in his 1988 address where he said that Vatican II was a pastoral Council. And as a pastoral Council, the Declaration on Religious Liberty must be understood in light of Tradition, wrote Cardinal Ratzinger in his 1988 address. In other words, the proper and orthodox understanding of Dignitatis Humanae in light of the traditional teaching of the Social Kingship of Christ is still being worked out within the Church. It surely does not negate the perennial teaching of the Social Kingship of Christ the King as Weigel asserts with his typical altar and throne analogy.
Far from being a dogmatic document, there has been precious little in the way of theology to show the connections between the Councils teaching on religious liberty and the continuous, unbroken line of teaching from multiple Popes previous to the Council that condemned religious liberty. This is not to say it cannot be harmonized or reconciled, but merely that Weigel seems to posit that traditionalists must accept it as an article of Faith. It is not. And its theological implications have certainly not been defined or well developed since the Council by theologians or the magisterium.
In his Newsweek article, Weigel questions whether the Pope has healed or deepened the Lefebvrist (sic) schism. Perhaps Weigel hasnt read Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos repeated acclamations in numerous interviews that the Society of St. Pius X is not in formal schism. Lets give him the benefit of the doubt that his ignorance in this matter is not willfuland further lets try to believe that he doesnt use the Lefebvrist terminology as a slur (Does Weigel label the non-Catholics who write in his favorite journals like First Things heretics, schismatics and infidels?). In any event, in this column, he decides to emphasize the Vatican spokesmans words explaining the dissolving of the excommunications.
Weigel wrote: Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the pope's spokesman, emphasized to reporters on Jan. 24 that the lifting of the excommunications did not mean that full communion had been restored with the Lefebvrists.
SSPX Excommunications Annulment Source of Joy for Whole Church
Yes, by George, he did write that. But in case you didnt read the entire announcement he also said that during this week of Christian Unity, on the exact date of the announcement to hold the Second Vatican Council, It is a beautiful thing that the lifting of the excommunication [for the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X] occurred on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the Second Vatican Council, in such a way that this fundamental event now cannot any longer be considered an occasion of tension but of communion.
While Father Lombardi acknowledged that the process for full canonical regularization was still being worked out, he said the Holy Father expected to see this promptly realized. In a recent radio interview, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos repeated that he fully expected the path to full canonical regularization to move forward. In a separate interview, he said that Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General for the SSPX, has already recognized Vatican II theologically. It seems that the Holy See has no qualms with the SSPXs Catholic understanding about Vatican II. But perhaps Weigels understanding tops that of the Pope?
In Weigels article in Newsweek, he repeats the well-worn historical background and provides a supposed psychological analysis behind Archbishop Lefebvres mindset which apparently made him unable to accept the sweeping changes and the post-Conciliar New Springtime.
And in daring sleight of hand, Weigel puts a doubt into the minds of his readers with the following bombastic statement: Responsible canon lawyers have raised questions about whether this arrogance on the part of Bishop Fellay does not cast into question his fulfillment of the canonical requirements for a lawful lifting of his excommunication.
Really George? Responsible canon lawyers question whether or not the Popes lifting of excommunications is lawful? Hurry! Better tell the Pope because he missed something. And it might be responsible journalism to tell all of your readers the names of these responsible canon lawyers so we can see if their opinions are canonically of a higher value than the Popes!
HLIs Msgr. Barreiro says Weigel Disingenuous
Mr. Weigel is being disingenuous, said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, of Romes Human Life International. It is not up to him to argue if the time has come to reach a reconciliation with the SSPX, Monsignor Barreiro said.
The Holy Father moved by the graces of state that he has received from the Holy Spirit has decided that the time has arrived, Monsignor Barreiro said. So Mr. Weigel has no right to criticize Benedict XVI for this very generous and coherent initiative.
In the January 25 story on the Catholic news service Zenit, Fr. Lombardo said that the best news of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a step taken with Marcel Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X. In fact, Fr. Lombardi called the news of the dissolving of the excommunications great news that we expect to be a source of joy for the whole Church.
Hear that? Great news George! Lets see how Weigel accepted this great news which was expected to be a source of joy for the whole Church.
Archbishop Lefebvre Combatted Theological Modernism not Modernity
Weigel, in the Newsweek article muses, Marcel Lefebvre's war, in other words, was not simply, or even primarily, against modern liturgy. It was against modernity, period.
Having read and digested Michael Davies outstanding multi-volume Pro Apologia Marcel Lefebvre as well as Dr. David Allen Whites biography on the life of Archbishop Lefebvre, methinks George Weigel has this one very wrong.
Lest we forget, Archbishop Lefebvre was one of the consulters appointed by Pope John XXIII to develop the preliminary schema in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.
No. It was not modernity that Archbishop Lefebvre feared or waged war against. It was modernismpure and simplethe heresy of all heresies, according to Pope St. Pius X. While he did not gain the label The Great, Pope St. Pius X is the last canonized saint Pope.
It was a theological battle whose roots were in the Council documents and in the periti, including some think, Weigels beloved Father John Courtney Murray and others. In any event, Monsignor Barreiro weighs in on the accepting the Second Vatican Council that so many bishops, cardinals and others seem to think will be the last straw that may keep the SSPX from full canonical regularization.
It also disingenuous of Mr. Weigel to state how the SSPX should accept the documents of Vatican II, Monsignor Barreiro continues.
He takes issue with Weigels seeming repeated misunderstanding on what seems to be his pet Vatican II documentthe Declaration on Religious Liberty.
The idea that the Mr. Weigel proposes runs contrary to any basic hermeneutic of continuity and against what Cardinal Ratzinger stated in Santiago, Chile in July of 1988, said Monsignor Barreiro. That is that 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.
Liturgical Scholar Reid on the SSPX
Liturgical scholar and author Dr. Alcuin Reid, in his Jan. 30, 2008, column on the SSPX in the UKs Catholic Herald, seconds Monsignor Barreiros lucid thoughts on what is really required of Catholics with regard to the Second Vatican Council.
Now Bishop Fellay speaks of reservations about Vatican II, Reid observes. Reservations are not denials of doctrine, and anyone may have reservations about even an Ecumenical Council's pastoral policies and be a Catholic in good standing.
Compare Weigels dire warnings about the SSPX with those of Dr. Alcuin Reid, most notably the author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy, which contained a positive reception and review by none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
The Catholic Herald (UK), carried the article by Reid entitled Lets thank God for the return of the Prodigal Sons. Reid then charitably posits, in the spirit of Cardinal Res letter dissolving the excommunications, and I would argue, with the true spirit of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, the following succinct assessment:
During the somewhat untidy months ahead, charity and patience are called forfrom all perspectives. We ought to note, though, that Rome has been clear for some time that Catholics may attend SSPX Masses out of devotion to the Church's Latin liturgical tradition, and that they do not thereby commit sin or incur any canonical penalty, so long as they do not do so out of a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church. Given Pope Benedict's acceptance of the SSPX's declaration of its determination to remain Catholic and its acceptance of the Church's teachings, including the Primacy of the Pope, with filial disposition, it is hard to see how any barrier in simply attending Mass now remains.
Those who attended Holy Mass this past Sunday in the Gregorian rite heard the Gospel of the business owner who hired new laborers to work for him throughout the day and then at the end of the day, paid all of them the same agreed upon wage. Those who were hired first complained to him that he had somehow committed an unjust against them. He, the generous business owner, rebuffed them and said he had paid them the agreed-upon wage. What difference did it make to them if he was generous and paid those who came late the same daily wage as those who had worked all day?
Immediately, this brought to my mind those Catholics who have repeatedly and publicly pointed out the deficiencies of the SSPX even after the Pope has definitively lifted the excommunications. Now they are continuing with the full communion vs. imperfect communion card. As if parts of our bodies and souls are united with the Church and parts are not?
In any event, I believe the Gospel from Septuagesima is instructive to the current outrage directed by those dissidents within the Church, including cardinals, bishops, priests and noted Neocon columnists, against our Holy Father and Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. Dr. Reid concludes his article, and this one, with a pause for reflection for them and for us all.
There were two sons in the parable in St. Luke's Gospel. The older one, who had always remained faithful, felt utterly indignant at the celebration of the return of his profligate brother and stood aloof in disapproval. He was rightly rebuked. Let's not make the same mistake.
The problem here is that very few priests remain that know how to say a mass in Latin. It is not taught in the seminaries and the older priests are dying off.
The new religious orders that are involved exclusively with the Tridentine Mass (the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, etc.) are dominated by young priests -- and their seminaries are filled with young men with priestly vocations.
It's the "Baby Boomer" priests who never learned to say the Mass in Latin . . . and THEY are now the ones who are getting old, retiring, and passing on.
It is being increasingly taught in seminaries and there are special sessions offered all over the country to help priests learn the old Mass.
A priest who know no Latin can learn the old Mass in a year with hard work.
This screed is no exception.
I’ve seen that too — there are online Latin Mass for Priests courses, it’s taught at the seminaries, there are old (Irish) priests (at our parish, anyway) who know it, and we have a feisty priest, young, who presides over the Latin Mass currently here in Los Angeles.
How is making peace with the SSPX anti-neoconservative?
I knew this liberal turd who called me a neocon a number of times. I finally asked him just what a neocon was... he could not answer. I am a Reagan conservative, so put that up your neo.
I am rather puzzled by the application of the “Neocon” label to what seems to be a liberal Catholic. I would think that it would mean “more conservative” than typically conservative, who are in fact “moderates” that want to abide, not change.
Were I to apply the label of “Neocon” to a Catholic group, I would think their agenda would include such things as a “Counter-Reformation” against liberal heterodoxy and pagan heresy in the Americas. Even so far as to call on the Vatican to create an instructional mission, for several religious orders to observe and correct such error where found in each diocese, under the authority of the Holy Office.
>>The problem here is that very few priests remain that know how to say a mass in Latin. It is not taught in the seminaries and the older priests are dying off. <<
My pastor learned in three weeks. Now we have a TLM.
It is very common to describe Wiegel, Novak and late Neuhaus as neo-conservatives. Are you objecting to the shortened form or to the label?
I don't find the label particularly useful ... and I generally find that those who insist on using it have very little that is useful to say.
Cranmer was the first neocon.
A couple of weeks ago I assisted at a workshop for permanent deacons interested in the Extraordinary Form. I’ve spent the past several months working with a couple of Jesuits learning and becoming proficient in the EF. This past Sunday one of those Jesuits celebrated his first Solemn Mass in the EF.
The younger men have a hunger for authenticity and mystery and commitment, which the NO Mass cannot supply.
An FSSP priest in my diocese is offering Latin classes on Monday nights. I would go, but can’t make it at that time.
I use quotes around the word "religious" above because First Things is notoriously non-religious in many respects . . . at least in terms of its watered-down approach to religious subjects.