Skip to comments.In letter, pope responds to criticisms over Lefebvrite decision
Posted on 03/11/2009 7:33:37 AM PDT by NYer
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has written a letter to the world's bishops defending his decision to lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops and expressing regret that it gave rise to misunderstandings and polemics, according to Italian newspapers.
The pope said the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson's statements denying the extent of the Holocaust was "a misadventure that was for me unforeseeable" and acknowledged that the Vatican should have paid more attention to information easily available on the Internet, the reports said.
The pope said he was particularly saddened at the reaction of some Catholics who seemed willing to believe he was changing direction on Catholic-Jewish relations and were ready to "strike at me with hostility." He thanked "Jewish friends" who helped clarify the matter and restore a sense of trust.
Excerpts from the letter were published by the Italian daily "Il Foglio" March 11; additional passages were reported on the blog of Andrea Tornielli, who covers the Vatican for the newspaper "Il Giornale." Vatican sources said the reports were generally accurate; the Vatican press office declined comment, but said the papal text would be released March 12.
According to the reports, the pope said his overture to Bishop Williamson and the other three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X was designed to close a wound and bring unity to the church. Instead, he said, "it suddenly appeared as something completely different: as a repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews."
He emphasized that improving Catholic-Jewish relations has been a longstanding personal theological priority.
As for the Society of St. Pius X, he said the church cannot ignore a community of believers that has 491 priests, 215 seminarians and thousands of faithful.
He emphasized, however, that to reach full communion in the church, the traditionalist society would have to accept the Second Vatican Council.
"One cannot freeze the church's teaching authority at the year 1962," he said, referring to the society's rejection of many of the council's teachings.
At the same time, he said, some defenders of Vatican II need to be reminded that being faithful to the council also means being faithful to the church's entire doctrinal history, without cutting "the roots from which the tree lives."
The pope also said the lifting of the excommunications was not adequately explained and gave rise to misinterpretations about the society's status in the church.
The fact that the Society of St. Pius X has no canonical standing in the church is based on doctrinal, not disciplinary, issues, he said. The society's ministers, even though they have been freed from ecclesial punishment, "do not exercise in a legitimate way any ministry in the church," he said.
According to the reports, the pope said he recognized that upsetting statements have often come from the society's leadership, reflecting pride and arrogance. But he said he has also witnessed "an opening of hearts" among some members.
He said the traditionalist society deserves the same kind of tolerance given to other members in the church.
"Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group that receives no tolerance and which one can calmly attack with hatred. And if someone -- in this case the pope -- dares to draw close to them, he, too, loses the right to tolerance, and even he can be treated with hatred, without any fear or reserve," he wrote, according to the reports.
Astute comment about the lack of tolerance towards one group being needed by some.
God bless and protect the Holy Father!
He is just a wonderful man.
I wish we could clone him - but then his greatness would not be so apparent.
reflecting pride and arrogance
JMO, but this is what caused the schism in the first place, they really thought they were holier than the pope and the Church.
“He said the traditionalist society deserves the same kind of tolerance given to other members in the church.”
I think the Catholic Church would lose half its members if the Pope excommunicated every member that disagrees with some of its doctrines. If abortion-facilitator Nancy Pelosi can remain a member of the church, then it’s hard to justify targetting this small group of traditionalists, even though they have some very wrong-headed ideas about the extent of Holocaust. I’m not Catholic, but I’m not shy about telling all of my Catholic friends how much I really like this Pope.
I disagree with you. What caused the apparent schism was the arrogance and pride of the modernizers who used Vatican II as a pretext to disembowel the Tradition.
There is no symmetry between the SSPX and the modernizing groups either. While both sides are not immune to pride and used regrettable language at times, SSPX seeks greater continuity with the Church as a whole — which includes all the saints, doctors and popes. The modernizers seek rupture. I hope they will not use this letter as anything that would grant them immunity from excommunication should they insist of women “priests”, contraception as valid lifestyle, abortion as an “unsettled” issue, desacralized liturgy, or whetever their benighted minds think up next.
The pride goes both ways. However, the schism resulted when Lefebvre ordained his own bishops without approval of the Holy Father. That comes from lack of obedience.
I disagree with you. What caused the apparent schism was the arrogance and pride of the modernizers who used Vatican II as a pretext to disembowel the Tradition.
I didn’t say that the false interpretations of VII didn’t hurt the Church or put it in turmoil but the arrogance and pride came in when they decided that only they could get it right. They just left instead of staying where they were and fighting for what was right.
My analogy is that the marriage was going bad so instead of doing everything they could to save it they left to live with another spouse while expecting the former spouse to change to their liking.
So in addition to pride and arrogance, I would charge them with despair also because they obviously believed that the Holy Spirit was no longer with the Church, because if they did they would have believed that the gates of hell should not prevail against her.
I have had this debate my SSPX friend for years, I have listened to and read their literature and let me tell you, most of the non-theological stuff should be titled “Pride and Arrogance”.
But Archbishop Lefebvre wouldn’t have ordained them if he did not see the Traditional Mass defacto banned, traditionally-minded priesthood driven to extinction, and ecumenism misinterpreted as indifferentism. I do not approve his disobedience but I understand that he moved out of desperation and out of a form of loyalty to the Church as a mystical body of Christ. I am glad the movement he started prevailed in the end.
I would say, SSPX can be analogized to a spouse who separates from the spouse given to debauchery in hopes of repairing the marriage. It cannot be compared to one who goes on to commit an adultery.
What would your comparison be in application to a bishop who refuses to sanction proabort Catholic politicians or instructs the priests not to preach against contraception, but never formally disobeyed the Pope? SSPX with all its set of attitudes, not all are admirable, did not exist in a vacuum.
Archbishop Lefebvre signed all of the Vatican Council II documents. Show me where the original document bans the Latin Mass.
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM - CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY.
How did Williamson become "they"?
False dichotomy alert.
“then its hard to justify targetting this small group of traditionalists, even though they have some very wrong-headed ideas about the extent of Holocaust.
How did Williamson become “they”? “
If it was Williamson alone among this group then I stand corrected.
Because the abuse came after the Council.
Williamson was the only one to publicly express views that can be briefly characterized as denial of the Holocaust of the Jews in WWII; he now regretted the publicity and promised to reconsider his views in light of all the evidence.
However, SSPX as a whole is sometimes described by its critics as vaguely anti-Semitic. Mind you, however, that what SSPX really was objecting to was ecumenism crossing over to indifferentism, when the only orthodox form of ecumenism the Catholic Church should embrace is call to conversion, of non-Catholic Christians to Catholicism and of Jews and other non-Christians, to Christ. There were articles appearing in SSPX publications that highlighted the differences between Catholic Christianity and Judaism that might offend non-Catholics. It looks like SSPX distanced itself from some of these writings lately.
Well, we disagree on that one, they did leave the Church and find their faith in their own egos while saying it was in their own piety. They did commit adultery and they didn’t recognize John Paul II nor do they recognize Benedict XVI. If you have any doubt, I have dozens of their tapes and I would consider sending them to you if I could find them. I have hours of conversation with my SSPX friend.
It is pride and arrogance, with a mask of wannabe holiness, they weren’t willing to wait on the Holy Spirit they wanted a perfect church and they wanted it NOW or else they’d go play by themselves. And they had enough faith in themselves but they didn’t have enough faith that Jesus’ promise would be honored.
“What would your comparison be in application to a bishop who refuses to sanction proabort Catholic politicians or instructs the priests not to preach against contraception, but never formally disobeyed the Pope?”
First of all, it seems that you are assuming that they haven’t done it in private. We have a hierarchical church but they are NOT perfect, only God is and that is where SSPXers really failed, they left a void so that the Pelosis and the Bidens could have a louder voice while they muted their own.
We are the Body of Christ, each and every one of us is responsible for those in our parishes who are wrong headed and the way we can change them is to pray and wait on the Lord and Catechize them when God gives us the opportunity.
If it is a priest then the faithful must call them to task with love. Many saints have taken the priests, bishops and popes to task but you take them to task as one of your children and believe me some children are more stupid than others but God loves them too. You don’t hate them, you hate the deed, God will punish them if they deserve punishment and God-willing they will all be enlightened someday and God-willing they will have a very public enlightenment that will bring others of like mind back to the truth. It sometimes takes the example of horrible sinners to make an impact.
Let’s use Fr. Corapi as an example, do you not think that drug addicts and people who love the rich life listen more to him than they would to a priest who has always lived a holy life? They know he can understand them and if he can become a priest after publicly living a life of dissolution then they can also respond to God’s calling. Had you known Fr. Corapi in his wild days and seen him in church would you be judging him?
I have had people point out to me that some person who a lot of people know is doing something sinful went to communion and what did I think, I say it doesn’t matter what I think but what God thinks and NO, I don’t look to see who is going to Communion and who isn’t, it isn’t my business it is God’s. But, once again, if God gives me the opportunity to help them then I’m ready if God gives me the words. And He has!
I really would be okay with a priest denying a Pelosi or a Biden the Eucharist because while many sin they are sinning in a very public way and if they came to my parish, I would speak with the priest and ask him to talk to them in private and hopefully he would deny them as long as they were publicly sinning.
Just a thought, it is darned near impossible to keep them hypocrital sinners out of the Church!
This is something that Protestants usually say but you have to put your trust in Jesus. Do not despair, do not be afraid, do not worry, put it in God’s hands and try to discern His will in your life. Live your vocation the best you can with God’s help, ask to be an instrument, put yourself in the position to be an instrument and wait on the Lord and He will use you.
I know we’re only human and we want this perfectly spotless church where everyone is good and faithful and fully lives their vocation but even the Apostles walking alongside Jesus constantly messed up and didn’t get it. It was only after His death and the working of the Holy Spirit that they did get it.
If I have said “The gates of hell shall not prevail....” once to my SSPX friend, I’ve said it 10,000 times and if that is not true then what else is? While most of her friends and many of her relatives have abandoned her, I stick like glue because I feel that God made me her friend for a reason.
Sorry for the rambling, I have the flu and my mind is cloudy and my mind is not at its best.
Then they should have argued on that basis. Instead, they started their own cult.
SSPX as a whole is not sedevacantist. They recognize the papacy and do not dispute the validity of the modern popes. It could be that some sedevacantists also go to SSPX chapels, and would consider themselves part of the SSPX, but that is not the official SSPX position. So, there is no adultery.
On the rest of your post, I mostly agree. I myself have never been associated with SSPX for a variety of reasons. I think, however, that their position has been vindicated now and they have provided an invaluable service to the Church by insisting on the Latin Mass. Further, it is good that they are forcing a dialog on ecumenism and its limits. This in no way should diminish the excellent work the Catholic conservatives do while staying fully obedient to Rome, or excuse the excesses of which SSPX is demonstrably guilty. Conservative Catholics have a lot to celebrate with regularization of SSPX, and the liberal Catholics have a lot to fear.
Yes, Williamson was the only one who did it in a way that it publicly disseminated but many of the priests of the SSPX, are openly anti-Semetic.
“Mind you, however, that what SSPX really was objecting to was ecumenism crossing over to indifferentism, when the only orthodox form of ecumenism the Catholic Church should embrace is call to conversion, of non-Catholic Christians to Catholicism and of Jews and other non-Christians, to Christ. There were articles appearing in SSPX publications that highlighted the differences between Catholic Christianity and Judaism that might offend non-Catholics.”
There is nothing wrong with such a goal but they still despaired that the Holy Spirit would, or could do what the Holy Spirit does and what Jesus said and they thought that if they just isolated themselves from the stoopid other Catholics, they’d get it just right. Jesus made the Church to be one but their pride in their own motives and piety took them away from what we KNOW Jesus wanted to try to get people to do what they “thought” Jesus wanted.
Once again, lofty goals but the pride and arrogance made them think that a schism would help?!? That they could break the laws that they thought were breakable and then excoriate everyone else for breaking the laws that they held sacred? IMO, they became Pharisees, “look at me, I’m doing it the right way and you aren’t and ain’t I holy?!”
My SSPX friend’s cousin teaches Catechism and we were in the church one night and she jumped on a kid for not bowing deeply enough. Because I have RCIC my kids are really just learning all that stuff and they immediately came to my side almost frightened. Were they doing it wrong?
I told them that I didn’t watch each and everyone of them but I wanted to know where there heart was. I don’t care if you bow your head, if you bow at the waist, if you genuflect on your right knee, as long as you are showing respect and your heart is in the right place because if it isn’t, the actions are just a lie. It really hit home with my class because I have a disabled child who can’t genuflect on her right knee and kids are so literal.
People can appear all holier than thou but their hearts are rotting because they are relying on their own understanding, their own opinion of others and their own opinion of themselves when we should all be worrying about the opinion of God alone.
“Because the abuse came after the Council.”
I don’t know why I can’t let this go but I had more time to think on the way to and from Catechism.
I don’t think anyone but the most liberal Catholic would argue that there weren’t abuses. But there were abuses in the Church when Martin Luther decided that he was the one to fix them and outside of the Church to boot.
He told them what he thought needed to be addressed and when they didn’t listen to him immediately, he had the pride and arrogance to think that he could fix it himself and I’m sure he justified every move he made to himself. He just wanted a holy church and priesthood, he had a lofty goal but he thought he could fix it instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit and believing the promise of Christ. Martin Luther’s pride made him believe that he was doing the right thing.
No doubt, God can take any schism and use it for His plan, and good can come out of this schism if they are willing to return to the Body of the Church, submit themselves to their bishops and the pope. Is that happening yet? Do you perceive that it will happen? I still have my doubts because pride is a strong emotion and unless the Holy Spirit is very strong and they are inclined to listen, I don’t see a lot of these congregations returning to the fold. I hope I’m wrong. But history is, unfortunately, on my side.
I was formerly Russian Orthodox, which I think gives me a special insight in both how conservation of liturgy works, and how schisms work. The schism of 1054 was a pattern of the SSPX controversy more nearly so than the Reformation, except that this time through, both sides knew what to avoid.
The similarity with Protestantism is real, but it is limited to the disobedience factor. At the same time, much in the fruit of Vatican II invited Protestantism in substance; I would name the conscious desacralization of the Liturgy and encouragement of vaguely understood freedom of conscience. The result was desecrated altars, faithless priests, and the full of itself laity that did not know and did not care to know the Catholic faith. Naturally, millions left the Church. That was a disaster of major proportions, against the background of which I am willing to forgive excessive formalism.
The similarity with the Eastern Orthodoxy is more substantial: like the Orthodox, SSPX understood that the liturgical form defines the substance and that small, seemingly inconsequential changes, like turning the priest to face the congregation at the Eucharistic Prayer have profound consequences. This is why it is not simply a matter of disobedient pride. You cannot fix such schisms with a doze of obedience: a desire to return to the orthodox (small "o") form must be present in Rome. The reform must be reformed first.
The reform of the reform -- the healing of the abuses of Vatican II -- is palpable in Pope Benedict's pontificate. It became possible for SSPX to return after two initiatives came from Rome: the meaning of "church" and especially the evasiveness of "subsistit in" language of Lumen Gentium was clarified in RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH, and the Motu Proprio was issued restoring the Latin Rite. Ther conditions became right for the return of the SSPX.
Does it mean everyone at SSPX is happy? - No. Through the period of the Schism SSPX has accumulated a crew of followers that only care for the ornamental Baroque, are sedevacantist, or otherwise have peculiar and prideful reasons for not coming back. The schism, however, is about to be healed and the SSPX core will return.
On a larger scale, and much slower, the conditions necessary for the healing of the Great Eastern Schism are becoming more apparent. Again, it is not to say that the Orthodox laity en masse is prepared for reunification, -- they are not, but some Orthodox bishops are working toward it, and all by now are on notice that their stated desire to restore unity will be tested soon. In fact, just as the Great Eastern schism was a model for SSPX separation, so will the regularization of the SSPX be a model for the reunification with the East.
Both schisms served a divine purpose. SSPX forced the Church to reexamine and clarify Vatican II, and it preserved a cadre of priests ready to center the Church on the liturgy. The Eastern Orthodoxy -- now that it is a fact of life also in the West -- is a powerful witness against the so-called Reformation, because it validates the Catholic, hierarchical, liturgical character of the Early Church. Against the corrupting influence of modernity, both SSPX and the Easter Orthodox Churches were better off preserving the Tradition on their own for a while.
We live in very interestig times.