Thursday, June 26, 2008

Full Steam Ahead into Schism

There have been many reports on the internet regarding the attempt by Pope Benedict to bring the Society of St Pius X, founded by archbishop Lefebvre, back into a regular relationship with the Church. The Society have been offered five conditions to which they are asked to give their reply by June 28th. It appears that the Lefebvrist leader, bishop Fellay, went to Rome a couple of weeks ago to engage in talks. We will know the answer by Saturday. However the Society`s resident loose cannon, bishop Richard Williamson, has given his answer already. It can be read here. It is no surprise that he rejects an accord. Not until Rome agrees with him will there be a reconciliation.

With the progress of Summorum Pontificum it is hard to see there being much of a future for the SSPX. They will end up as another small schismatic sect. Let`s hope that there is till time and that there will be a happy outcome on Saturday. I expect that if not then further canonical sanctions will be directed against the SSPX.


Anonymous said...

With all due respect, and writing as someone who doesn't like the SSPX very much at all, I rather think the schism card is rather overplayed.

Just who is going to be assisting Pope Benedict at Sunday's Mass in Rome? If Bartholomew of Constantinople can give the homily, recite the Creed (without Filioque) and give the blessing as someone who clearly does not believe what the Catholic Church teaches (particularly in regard to the office of the pope) then it surely is rather ironic, and indeed hypocritical, to castigate the Lefebvrists for believing what the Catholic Church did believe.

Rome should stop these games. If the pope can be a primus inter pares for the Patriarch of Constantinople why does he have to be the Ultramontanist tyrant to the Lefebvrists?

PeterHWright said...

There seems no reason why the SSPX would refuse the five conditions for adhaesio. But if the Society perceives Rome's offer as a threat or an ultimatum, then its response will be negative. The June 28th deadline will come and go.

I can see a very important role for SSPX in providing traditional parishes if the Society were canonically regularised.

But, hope and pray as we do, I honestly can't see the SSPX reconciling to Pope Benedict's hermeneutic of continuity which is a central plank in the Bendictine reform.

Can Vatican II be interpreted in the light of tradition ? Yes, it can be, and should be, and the erroneous interpretations are to be condemned, but I rather think the SSPX takes a different view of things altogether.

Even so, is a rapprochement possible ? Yes. But unlikely, I think.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer I don`t accept that the SSPX believe what the church always believed. Part of what has been handed down is the belief in jurisdiction of the Pope the the indefectibility of the Church. They seem to think the Church has been led into error. What I find amazing is that SSPX followers say they have never claimed a magisterium superior to that of the Pope when it seems clear to me they do take it on themselves to make judgements about whether the Pope is still Catholic that is not compatible with an authentic Catholic outlook.
As for the Orthodox I think there is a huge difference between trying to work to heal a 1,000 year old schism with good will on both sides and seeking in this day and age to cause division in the Church.
Having said that I`m sure the SSPX will become fairly irrelevant. They think the eyes of the whole Church are on them when in fact if I asked most of my parishioners I expect they would not really know who they are.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael,

I fear I must disagree.

Firstly, taking Bartholomew of Constantinople Sunday's actions are not going to end any schism and are really a PR excercise with Bartholomew trying to present himself as the 'leader' of the Orthodox which, of course, he is not. There is a game here as we have two entirely different models of Church authority appearing as though they have compatible models when fundamentally they do not (see: Sherrard, P., 'Church, Papacy & Schism', SPCK, 1978)

However Bartholomew openly rejects RC teaching yet Pope Benedict will celebrate with his assistance at a high profile liturgy.

As I said before I do not like the SSPX one bit, indeed elsewhere on your blog I have described them as a mixture of Gallicanism and Jansenism. One of their major weaknesses is trying to uphold a model of papal authority based on supposed golden days that never really existed (something common to all traditionalists who hitherto have ultimately tried to separate the papacy from its actions: e.g. he is old and weak, a prisoner of collegiality or even not in theological reality the pope at all).

To give but two examples consider the appointment of bishops, so pertinent to the SSPX debate. The modern idea of the pope appointing bishops is just that; modern, and a practice barely 150 years old. Eamon Duffy writes “By 1829, 555 of the 646 diocesan bishops of the Roman Catholic Church were appointed by the state. Another 67, in the USA, Ireland, parts of Germany, Belgium and Switzerland were locally elected by cathedral chapters or some similar arrangement. The pope, acting as sovereign of the papal states and not as bishop of Rome, appointed 70 bishops. As pope, he appointed directly just 24 in Russia, Greece and Albania.” (‘Faith of Our Fathers’, Continuum, 2004, p.73).

Another example, and pertinent to this very day, is the text for the lessons for the feast of St. Leo II found in the old breviary. (Leo II was celebrated on the 28th June until the feast was transferred to 3rd July by Benedict XV in 1921). The ‘modern’ texts give a list of those condemned for heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople as “In eo concilio Cyrus, Sergius et Pyrrhus condemnati sunt…” If one looks at early breviaries printed before the sixteenth century the list of those condemned is significantly different: “In qua sinodo Cyrus, Sergius, Honorius, Pyrrhus…[list of six others]”. (Breviarium de camera secundum consuetudinem Romane curie, Venice, 1500 BL cat IB24625) So St. Leo II approved Council decrees that condemned Pope Honorius as guilty of heresy – which is of course anathema to the modern papalist mindset. There are numerous other examples where historical texts have been revised, or plainly forged, to bolster a growing model of a certain style of papal authority.

The problem with the SSPX is that their view is rather flawed but I believe for different reasons to the ones you suggest. What I find deeply disturbing is the veiled threat made to the SSPX (and delighted in by some commenters on blogs). So again I suggest there is a fundamental injustice if Benedict can invite Bartholomew to a celebration at the same time as issuing an ultimatum to the SSPX. Perhaps the SSPX should enter into a Western Orthodox arrangement under Antioch (of course they won’t) and then they would be welcomed by Benedict?

A papacy in absolute control is the model that brought about the very reform of the liturgy that has caused so much upheaval in the first place - it is surely not the way forward. What will happen when further changes are made to the 1962 missal as Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos mentioned last week? Everyone just goes along with that? It seems rather a potential case of history repeating itself...

Anonymous said...

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Catholic Radio Presents an Interview with
John Vennari, Editor
Catholic Family News

"Father Henri LeFloch and His Influence on the
Young Seminarian Marcel Lefebvre"

Led by the Providence of God, the young Marcel
Lefebvre was placed in the hands of Fr Henri LeFloch,
the distinguished Rector of the French Seminary in Rome
(founded by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers in
1854 of which the Archbishop later become its Superior General))
where Marcel pursued his theological studies
in accordance with the luminous teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas (Scholasticism)
so often recommended by the Popes and by the Church’s Magisterium.
And thereby receiving a solid formation for the priesthood.
It was from Fr LeFloch that the young seminarian learned
the principle “sentire cum Ecclesia” --
think with the Church – a principle that guided Marcel
throughout his priestly and episcopal life. It is thanks to
Fr LeFloch that Marcel recognized the modern errors that
were taking root in the Church and that the antidote to these
modern errors was the teaching of Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors
and the encyclicals of his four successors. Hence the moving plea, that was central to his sermon of June 30, 1988, launching Operation Survival:
“It seems to me, my dear brethren, that I am hearing the voices of these Popes - since Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII - telling us: ‘ Please, we beseech you, what are you going to do with our teachings, with our preaching, with the Catholic Faith? Are you going to abandon it? Are you going to let it disappear from this earth? Please, please, continue to keep this treasure which we have given you. Do not abandon the faithful, do not abandon the Church! Continue the Church! Indeed, since the Council, what we condemned in the past the present Roman authorities have embraces and are professing. How is it possible? We condemned them: Liberalism, Communism, Socialism, Modernism, Sillonism.”
Read in the refectory, the writings of Godefroid Kurth & Fr Deschamps
also influenced the young Marcel to recognize the necessity of the social order
to organized itself around the Social Kingship of Christ.
The truth about Christ the King & Priest was the sacred
deposit that Marcel Lefebvre was determined to pass on in his turn.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer, I think we probably agree about the SSPX and their canonisation of the 19th century. As for the appointment of bishops I don`t think the history is that simple. Yes by the 19th century in many places bishops were not appointed by the Pope but this is because these rights of appointment had been clawed from the Vatican. If you go back to the Investiture Contest, the reformers fought to remove lay influence in bishops` appointments and prefered the chapter to appoint. However gradually through appeals to Rome over disputes, Rome`s role in appointments grew until by the 14th century appointment by Rome was the norm. Where chapters continued to appoint it was explicitly by papal privilege that they did.

I`m with Vatican II on this one on the need for greater subsidiarity in Church life, and I suspect you`d agree. Unfortunately with modern communications I`m not sure we can get back to a less centralised Church. I agree that without Ultramontanism the Novus Ordo could not have been introduced.

I have no idea what further changes to the 1962 missal we can expect. I hope it means only the addition of feasts for the more recently canonised and some extra prefaces. Since we now have the word of the Supreme Legislator that the TLM was never abrogated they can`t change it into the Novus Ordo.

I think the situation between Rome and Constantinople is miles away from that between Rome and Econe. The Patrirach would not indulge in the abuse of the Pope that bishops Fellay and Williamson have gone in for and is clearly seeking a reconciliation. I`ve no doubt that if Fellay is co-operative we might see him taking part in a Mass in St Peter`s except that of course he won`t allow himself to be tainted by the Novus Ordo, even if it is the Pope celebrating.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Brown for posting.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael,

I would readily agree that history is never simple, I was giving an example from a particular time in Church history by quoting Duffy. The ancient, and surely desirable, practice was for the faithful in a diocese to choose their own bishop, e.g. Ambrose of Milan. It could be argued that the popes in turn clawed this away from the rightful electors. Perhaps we can agree that practices have varied over the centuries and in different times reaction to the 1988 consecrations would not necessarily have been the same as in our period of history?

As it has become fashionable to castigate Vatican II it is easy to forget the immense amount of (as yet largely unrealised) good that was sown. Centralisation has been very damaging to the history of liturgy (and to be fair Rome is not the only culprit there) and a restoration of the balance between local, diocesan, authority and the central, patriarchal source is a welcome ideal still to be realised IMHO. What I find highly disturbing is some commentators on less intelligent blogs basically launching a campaign against bishops (particularly the hierarchy of England and Wales) and appearing to call for some form of ‘direct rule’ from Rome.

Likewise I obviously do not know what changes the Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos referred to but I believe it is possible to make some educated guesses. I cannot see that the two versions of the calendar can remain, particularly the 1962 sanctoral cycle. Pope Benedict mentioned, inter alia, the prefaces and the use of vernacular pericopes in SP and its accompanying letter. Bearing in mind the changes to the 1962 rite that were made in 1964/65 and 1967 I do not think it unreasonable to suggest that there will be changes to the calendar, inclusion of the revised periscope system, additional prefaces and flexibility on the use of liturgical language and a simplification of some ceremonial. My view would be that Rome would work towards a ‘Series 3’ and ‘BCP’ option for the EF and OF in due course.

I could not agree with you that SP states “the TLM was never abrogated”. What it does state is that the 1962 missal was ‘never juridically abrogated’ but, frustratingly, does not give any explanation as to how this conclusion was reached. I would not call the 1962 missal the ‘TLM’ and would suggest CLM, Conciliar Latin Mass, a far more accurate description as it was the rite used for most of the Council. In the 1970s and early 1980s organisations like the LMS argued that as Sacrosanctum Concilium ordered respect for all rites (SC, 4) then the old Mass should be so treated but Benedict has now taught that the ‘old rite’ and the Paul VI rite are but two forms of the same rite. Similarly the LMS and others argued that Paul VI’s legislation did not abrogate the old rite as due form was not used for the revocation of immemorial and/or centennial custom. Neither immemorial or centennial custom of course applied to a rite that was then eight years old and had been derogated for six. Indeed I don't think any LMS member in the 1970s would have even doubted that the 1962 rite had been abrogated and wouldn't have been that concerned as the majority of LMS celebrations used what we might term 'pre-Pius XII' ignoring the prescription of the 1971 indult. Now the stroke of this or a future papal pen could quite as easily abrogate SP and its assertion that the 1962 missal was ‘never juridically abrogated.’

Of course, I agree the SSPX and Ecumenical Patriarchate are very different and would not wish to equate them. However, again I ask what good did Sunday’s actions achieve? Where does Bartholomew suggest he wishes to be subject to Benedict or seek reconciliation? I am sorry but I do see this as posturing on both sides – if there was real point surely there would have been a programme of co-operation at national and diocesan levels – your Deanery could have invited the Greek community in Newcastle to a function; the Cardinal could have been seen with Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira etc. I still must maintain there is some injustice in the divergent ways Patriarch Bartholomew and Bishop Fellay were treated. (And yet again let me emphasise I have little sympathy for and no interest in the SSPX: having met both Bishop Fellay and Patriarch Bartholomew in the past the latter is far more interesting).

I agree fully with you that Bishop Fellay would not appreciate the rite the pope uses. That he lacks the historical and liturgical insight to appreciate that the 1970-2002 missal, when celebrated well, is far superior to the 1962 rite is his problem.

Sorry I have written at such length.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer, I`ve a friend in Rome who is writing (very slowly) his doctorate on the election of bishops by the people in the early church. I look forward to reading it when he has finished it. Even if there was a choice by clergy and laity of their bishop he could only be consecrated if the other bishops of the province accepted him. If the metropolitan went off the rails Rome would be the court of appeal to sort it out.

I agree that it is strange that SP says the 1962 missal was never abrogated. It was cardinals coming out and saying this was the case that led me to write my canon law tesina on in 1992 on the legal status of the Tridentine Mass. So far as I culd see Paul VI hads definitely intended to replace one with the other. There is a case for saying it was not abrogated but it seems to have been obrogated but SP goes further than this and says the TLM was always lawful. I look forward to seeing the reasoning behind this explained one day but in the meantime that`s what we are told by the highest authority. I`m not so sure that a stroke of a future papa pen could revoke SP.

While I agree that subsidiarity is much to be desired in Church life part of the problem has been the apparent unwillingness on a local level to deal with problems. The Tablet may depict the CDF as a centralising monster but from what I understand many of the cases it deals with are refered by local bishops who want the CDF to deal with them. I would say Archbishop Burke of St Louis has been exceptional in dealing with problems like this at a local level as did bishop Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Nebraska. The code of canon law in many places leaves room for local bishops to legislate about many things but not very much of this seems to happen.

I`m intrigued by your preference for the 1970-2002 missal, when it is celebrated well. I think there are still problems even if it is celebrated according to the book: the offertory prayers, the muultiple Eucharistic prayers to name a couple. When I was in Rome a number of the students, including priests, were of the opinion that there was no need for the TLM but that of the new missal was celebrated properly then all would be well. I often asked what they meant by this but found it difficult to get a precise answer. The only difference I saw between these priests and the others when they celebrated Mass was that the former looked serious during Mass and did not include the customary jokes in the introduction or before the post-communion prayer.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael,

I am glad we can agree that Episcopal election has differed over the centuries. Your friend’s thesis would be most interesting to read.

Indeed I would welcome the opportunity to read your own thesis on the legal status of the Old Rite. I would agree that Paul VI very clearly intended to replace one rite with another and went to great pains to explain to Mgr. Lefebvre that the Old Rite was no longer an option. However I am afraid I cannot accept the assertion regarding the 1962 missal in SP as it stands.

What of the juridical value of Paul VI’s Motu proprio, Sacram liturgiam, in 1964 that made changes to the 1962 rite? These changes were not an option and derogated from the use of the 1962 liturgical books. Likewise a New Order of Mass was promulgated in the AAS, along with other liturgical changes brought about by Inter Oecumenci for use from 1965. Again, this was not optional there was no question of someone carrying on with the 1962 rite. Three years later another decree, Tres abhinc annos, brought a further set of obligatory changes that, inter alia, allowed all of the Eucharistic liturgy be to celebrated in the vernacular and re-ordered the position of the blessing and Ite as in the Paul VI ‘New Order’ of 1969. Then in 1968 came three additional anaphorae. At no time was the 1962 rite an alternative option.

I have never understood how this could all be ignored and glossed over and the idea come about that somehow a ‘new rite’ replaced an ‘old rite’ and that the latter was some monolithic edifice that had been unchanged since 1570. Canonists like Capponi, Glover etc all argued that Paul VI’s legislation needed to make specific mention of any centennial or immemorial custom in order to abrogate it. Paul VI didn’t do so because there was no need as the abrogatory clauses contained in Missale Romanum were sufficient to abrogate the already derogated rite of 1962 and the rites of 1965 and 1967.

Even if one considered that Paul VI’s legislation was in some way defective, which IMHO I do not, what rite was in use before 1969? It certainly wasn't 1962.
Are you suggesting that the series of reforms from 1964 onwards were all defective in their promulgation? For that matter what about earlier reforms – if Benedict can claim the 1962 rite was ‘never juridically abrogated’ what about the Tridentine rite of 1570-1604, or the Clementine missal of 1604-1634 etc.?

Whilst on the subject of defective promulgation one might ask why does the promulgation of the 1962 missal not appear in the AAS unlike its predecessor and successors? If the 1962 missal was ‘never jurdically abrogated’ one must suspect that many other things from the Church’s history are in the same situation waiting for papal clarification.

The Paul VI 1970 missal it contains many texts and structures that are far older than those contained in the 1962 or even Tridentine missals. The restoration of many prefaces, litanic intercessionary prayers after the Gospel, an improved (albeit imperfect) pericope cycle, a restored rite of concelebration and the restoration of Communion under both Kinds immediately spring to mind as huge gains. The restoration of an OT lesson too is a vast improvement. IMHO the new anaphorae are also a massive gain too, particularly EP3. As a member of the Henry Bradshaw Society perusing the last book issued to members, the Sacramentary of Ratoldus, I could not but notice that it contains many examples of the ‘Solemn blessing’ formulary found in the Pauline missal. I agree the offertory is rather lacking and would happily replace it with the old Dominican form.

In theory one could have a concelebrated Paul VI celebration, oriented of course, with coped cantors, servers in tunicle for great days, an arguably richer choice of liturgical texts, with an ethos far more in common with Byzantine worship. I believe it is a question of wanting to actually do that but alas Roman liturgical minimalism is always a trump card.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer you raise interesting points about the non-abrogation of the 1962 missal. I`ve just read again the letter that accompanied the Motu Proprio. The best I can say is that the 1962 missal was never abrogated although the later reforms did derogate it. My tesina exists on a now outmoded floppy disc and in a hard copy which has suffered the ravages of time. However I recall that I decided that the 1962 missal had not been abrogated by Missale Romanum but it had been obrogated. I hate it when people criticise the Pope for not being a `trained liturgist` but from a canon law point of view this letter is interesting and has raised quiestions among canonists. However as the Pope is Supreme Legislator and has said this it is our duty to try to reconcile it with the available evidence. I hope and pray that one day there will be an official explanation of the canonical mechanics. It is also worth remembering the 1986 commision of cardinals also came to the non-abrogated conclusion although their findings were never published.
As for the AAS I thought I heard Summorum Pontificum had now been included. I have no way of checking, apart from Google. When I asked to see AAS at our bishop`s house in the mid-nineties they had stopped getting it. Maybe our last bishop, a canonist, renewed the subscription, but I don`t know.

I know the Paul VI missal looks good on paper. I don`t agree about the extra anaphoras as I think that makes it something apart from the Roman Rite. However while the type of Mass you describe as possible with the Paul VI missal is possible in practice I can`t see it happening. Apart from the missal itself there is so much later legislation introducing various novelties which are less than traditional. I think Rome has tried for a long time to do something with the Paul VI missal through instructions on abuses etc but these have largely been ignored. I have generally tried to leave the Paul VI missal as I find it in parishes as trying to change it to fit into the `hermeneutic of continuity` looks as if I am imposing my own personal tastes on a form of Mass which is generally celebrated in the same way in all local parishes. It just saves time to use the 1962 as there is no expectation of the untraditional elements and so I don`t have to spend a lot of time trying to persuade people who don`t want any change anyway.

However now we are getting a lead from the top it may be the time to be braver about a reform of the reform. I`m thinking now about the pope`s example in the distribution of Holy Communion. A few more Masses ad orientem would help things too.