Sunday, February 01, 2009

Weekend Break

It was hard to keep up with all the incredible developments last week. First there was the lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops which was quite a surprise. Excommunication is a `medicinal` penalty designed to stop the offender doing whatever he was doing and come back to the straight and narrow. The SSPX bishops have carried on doing exactly what they intended to do in 1988 so why was the penalty revoked? Well the Pope is the Supreme Legislator and if he, in a particular case, decides that it is right to lift the penalty then that is perfectly in accord with the law. The result has been an increase of good will towards the Holy See by the SSPX so that we have news of bishop Fellay saying that he can accept Vatican II and the unexpected development of bishop Williamson apologising to the Holy See. Neither of these were things I ever expected to see. When I saw bishop Fellay in Gateshead last year, issuing his normal criticisms of the Vatican then I thought this was not a man who would ever submit to the Holy See. Bishop Williamson`s long-standing attacks on the `Romans` never led me to believe that he could apologise to the Holy Father for the embarrassment his stupid comments caused.
Then there was the story of the 400,000 ex-Anglicans who may be accepted into the Catholic Church in some corporate move, preserving their Anglican ethos as far as that is possible. This may have important ramifications for England. I have never found Christian Unity week to be so interesting. Normally it is a time for empty platitudes. After all it as the Church of England that put paid to any hopes of re-union by the unilateral decision to go ahead with the ordination of women. It was the Anglicans who thought that ecumenism was not that important. Ever since then the whole thing has been rather pointless but this initiative may lead the way for more Anglicans to seek re-union with the Holy See.
The appointment of a new Patriarch in Moscow brings with it the prospect of closer union and maybe even full communion.
I can hardly begin to wonder what this week will bring? After all some people are forecasting Tuesday as the day for a formal reconciliation of the SSPX with the Holy See. Maybe we will finally get a new archbishop of Westminster and he will be a surprise rather than being one of the usual suspects.


Anonymous said...

Well the diocese of Linz were surprised this week that the Holy See directly appointed an "ultra-conservative" auxiliary bishop rather than choosing from the list which the Cardinal of Vienna sent to Rome.

So that's another thing in a busy week!

PeterHWright said...

What will this week bring ?

Well, heavy snow and biting winds in the south and east, I gather, and (I hope and pray) news that Fr. Briggs is getting better.

As to the ecumenical front, it seems to me Rome needs first to reconnect, after (let's face it) many years of disconnection, with its own tradition, before it can engage with the Orthodox.

More personal prelatures (for the TAC and SSPX) ? It wouldn't surprise me.

Some sort of looser confederation whereby Rome can enter into communion with the autocephalous Orthodox Churches ?

Well, when Cardinal Ratzinger was at the CDF, they accepted the anaphora of the liturgy of Adai and Mari (which has no Words of Institution), so why not ?

Admittedly, it all sounds a bit far fetched, but I am beginning to think these are unusual times.

In the context of his post, I love Father's use of the phrase "the usual suspects" !

Anonymous said...

"The appointment of a new Patriarch in Moscow brings with it the prospect of closer union and maybe even full communion."

Dr. Brown, On what evidence?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer, I have read about him in the last couple of years and he is generally portrayed as being open to dialogue with Rome. Here`s a snippet from Rorate Caeli:

`There are expectations of more cordial relations between Moscow and Rome now that Kirill (who met Pope Benedict XVI in December 2007) has been elevated to the Patriarchate; indeed, he has faced sharp criticism in Russia for allegedly being too close to the Catholics and for continuing to advocate ecumenical dialogue with Rome. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that Kirill spent part of 2008 expanding the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Latin America and striking up alliances with various leftist regimes there (apparently in the interest of getting them to help with the construction of more Russian Orthodox churches). He has also made clear that there will be no doctrinal compromises with Rome.`

Fr Michael Brown said...

Peter, I spoke to Fr Briggs on Friday and he sounded like his old self. I expect to speak to him again today. I`m sure he will be eager to get back to his parish soon.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brown,

I think there are two matters here which you are, inadvertently, blurring.

Less than a week ago on relations with Rome Metropolitan Kyrill (as he then was) said: ""It is not a matter of the Patriarch's or the Pope's personality, there is the matter of certain realities that exist in the relations between our Churches. This is why at the moment I repeat what the late Patriarch had been saying in recent years when asked such questions," he said in an interview published in the Trud daily on Monday.

The Patriarch and the Pope cannot meet "unless we see some real progress in the issues that have long been problematic in our relations." (

However, Patriarch Kyrill has made very clear he believes there should be wider cooperation on humanitarian and social measures with other churches to combat secularism. As to communion let us not forget too that in the final analysis Orthodoxy does not believe sacraments are valid outside of the Church.

What a glorious liturgy yesterday. When the now Patriarch visited London a year or so ago he was very impressive indeed. Many years!

Anonymous said...

Well, Bishop Williamson (aka Bishop Willy) may have apologised but I note that he did not say that he withdrew his Holocaust denial remarks. On the same theme I doubt that previous remarks about the wickedness of Rome and the Vatican by SSPX priests (and Bishop Fellay) will be withdrawn. Only two weeks ago I was told that they were still at it, at least in Gateshead.
Peter: 'More personal prelatures (for the TAC and SSPX) ?' If that happens how can they be allowed to go on saying things so critical of Rome - and how would they be prevented from doing so?
Fr Michael: Yes, I, too, thought that 'Excommunication is a `medicinal` penalty designed to stop the offender doing whatever he was doing and come back to the straight and narrow.' But, perhaps, just perhaps, sometimes a bishop or priest may be treated somewhat differently from the ordinary Catholic?

PeterHWright said...

Thanks to Father for good news about Fr. Charles Briggs. That is very cheering.

Sceptical Believer raises an important point.

I agree it really wouldn't do if a canonically regularised SSPX were to go on criticising Rome. This would have to be made clear by Rome before an accord is reached.

But they could no doubt focus on many objects of legitimate criticism in the Church today without being overtly critical of Rome : one thinks of, for instance, liturgical chaos, liberalism, lack of faith, etc. Rome presumably wouldn't mind them doing this.

However, a great many bishops, especially in England and Wales, would probably refuse to work with them.

This is why I wonder if SSPX, which will want to retain its network of churches and chapels unimpeded by the local bishop, might seek greater autonomy as a personal prelature.

It sounds far fetched, I know, and I'm not at all sure how it would work in practice, but these are strange times.

What next, I wonder.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer I can distinguish between social and moral co-operation and ecumenical dialogue. I read those coments you quote too buut overall I get the impression fromelsewhre that Kirill is more moderate in his approach to talking to Rome than previous Patriarchs and represents the best chance of progress we have seen.

I had heard that the Orthodox regard non-Orthodox sacraments as invalid but it seems to be more complicated than that:

We`ll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

I thought that article rather polemical and not surprisingly so considering the background of the writer who converted to RCism from Orthodoxy and then co-wrote a book explaining how the 'old rite' had been duly supressed by papal authority.

This thread is quite interesting in respone to comments made by one of Rorate's posters:


It strikes me Likoudis was very much saying "kiss the ring and all will be forgiven".

I do however fully agree that we wait and see.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at the controversy over the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Williamson. He is certainly not the most pleasant person I have corresponded with (nor the worst) but he was surely excommunicated because of his actions in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre performed illicit ordinations. His Holiness (just when did that title apparently become unfashionable?) could hardly have excluded Bishop Williamson from the lifting of the excommunications when denial of the Holocaust (stupid though it may be) is not grounds for excommunication. Well, not yet! The two actions are quite separate.

Anonymous said...

Well at least the Notification from the Secretary of State helps clarify some issues.

a) the Lefebvrist bishops did incurr excommunication and that has been lifted;
b) the bishops and the SSPX have no recognised ministry in the Church;
c) the full teaching of the Second Vatican Council etc;
d) Williamson may never hold a ministry within the Church unless he publicly distances himself from the views he currently holds.

Why couldn't this have been said in the first place?