Archive for the ‘SSPX’ Category

The Teflon pope


A report notes that Pope Francis is playing with “house money” in the 2015 Synod, “In the abstract, Pope Francis might have reason to be a bit nervous that his much-ballyhooed Synod of Bishops on the family, an Oct. 4-25 summit he’s been touting as a potentially defining moment of his papacy for almost two years, might be about to run off the rails. We’ve already had confirmation, for instance, that a clash among the bishops over the hot-button question of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion is far from resolved”.

Allen reports that “On day one, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő basically tried to bury the issue. Yet on day two, Italian Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli used a Vatican news conference to say that it remains “completely open,” and pointedly asked that if all the bishops were going to do was to echo Erdő’s line, then “what are we doing here?” Similarly, there was enough blowback against changes to the synod process on the opening day that Francis felt compelled to take the microphone to insist that he’d personally approved the new rules, which critics feel are designed to limit the information flow and stack the deck in favour of desired outcomes”.

The piece continues “Much like the last edition of the synod in 2014, there’s also a risk that expectations are being created that might not be realised. On Tuesday, for example, a Vatican spokesman said some participants have called for rejecting “exclusionary language” on homosexuality. “These are our children, our family members,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, summarising points made inside the synod. “They aren’t outsiders, but our own flesh and blood. How do we speak about them [positively] and offer a hand of welcome?” It remains to be seen, however, if a majority of bishops are on board. As Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, put it on Tuesday, for every prelate seeking to overcome a “growing gulf” between Church teaching and the realities of family life by meeting the world halfway, there’s another worried about not being swallowed up by it. For them, the challenge isn’t rephrasing doctrine so much as reinforcing it”.

Naturally Allen notes that “Francis is no naïf, so the question has to be asked: Knowing how easy it would be for things to go wrong, why would he put his credibility on the line by allowing a potentially rancorous summit to play out this way? Part of the answer may be that Francis is in a position to ride out whatever storms may come because he’s insulated by his own narrative. That narrative, of course, is that Francis is the “People’s Pope,” a humble, simple reformer trying to steer Catholicism toward greater compassion and mercy. It’s made him a moral hero outside the bounds of the Church, as well as something of a “Teflon” figure to whom no criticism ever seems to stick for very long. Recent days have brought confirmation of the point by inviting a comparison with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI”.

Allen expands on this point “At different moments in their respective papacies, each has faced criticism for a move with regard to a previously little-known bishop. The controversies involved two chronic sources of anguish for the Catholic Church — its record on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in the case of Benedict, and its reaction to the clergy sexual abuse scandals for Francis. In 2009, Benedict lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including one, Richard Williamson, with a history as a Holocaust denier. That decision sparked global outrage and became a front-page story for weeks, deepening impressions of Benedict as out of touch and insensitive to public opinion. The outcry became so intense that two months later, Benedict released an unprecedented letter to the bishops of the world, apologizing for mishandling the affair and revealing how isolated he was from information anyone could find easily on the Internet. Flash forward to 2015, when Pope Francis named a new bishop for the diocese of Osorno in Chile who critics believe covered up crimes by his country’s most notorious abuser priest. The appointment triggered protests in Chile and objections from some of the pontiff’s own advisors on anti-abuse efforts, but has had little echo anywhere else”.

Pointedly Allen argues “Francis hasn’t responded with a heartfelt mea culpa like Benedict, but with defiance. In a five-month-old video, Francis is heard telling an employee of the Chilean bishops’ conference that people criticizing his move are being “led around by the nose by leftists,” and that the country has “lost its head.” While the substance of the two situations may be very different, the potential for backlash is eerily similar. Just imagine what the reaction would have been had Benedict blamed his own woes on “leftists,” and you’ll understand the difference between the narratives the two pontiffs carry around. It’s striking that outside the Spanish-speaking media, there’s been relatively little reaction to the Barros affair, certainly nothing like the firestorm Benedict faced six years ago”.

Allen then relates this to the Synod “No doubt, Francis would prefer that the summit reach an inspired result on the contentious questions, such as divorce and pastoral approaches to gays and lesbians, and also to generate momentum toward a renewed commitment to supporting families both in their struggles and their triumphs. Yet it’s entirely possible that’s not how things will end. It could be that the synod produces heartache and acrimony, with bishops walking away unsatisfied and Catholics at the grassroots left dazed and confused. The experience of the last 18 months, however — reinforced both by the relatively mute reaction to the Barros controversy, and by the perceived success of the pontiff’s outing to the United States — suggests such a scenario might not put much of a dent in Francis’ own political capital. In terms of broad public opinion, it’s plausible to believe that if the synod is seen as a success, Francis will get the credit. If it’s seen as a shipwreck, the takeaway may be that it’s despite his leadership rather than because of it”.

He ends “At least in part, it may be because Francis grasps that when he rolls the dice these days, he’s basically playing with house money. If he loses, he’ll still be flush; if he wins, he just might break the bank”.


Always in schism


John Allen, after the consecretaion by Richard Williamson of a new bishop writes why any reconciliation, now or in the future probably will not occur.

He opens “Schism with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, was set in cement in 1988 when Lefebvre consecrated four bishops in defiance of Pope John Paul II. In general, Lefebvre and his following protested the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Their signature issue is the old Latin Mass but their objections cut much deeper, generally including ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue and the church’s effort to reach out to the secular world”.

He goes on to write “Just like the Palestinians, the traditionalists were offered almost everything they wanted during the Pope Benedict XVI years as a condition for reunion: Their own juridical structure under church law, giving them autonomy from what they regard as excessively liberal bishops, and a doctrinal statement that acknowledged legitimate diversity in interpreting the documents of Vatican II. Like Arafat they demurred, and the rest is history – the election of a pope not similarly invested in relations with the traditionalists, broader movements in Catholicism that make reunion less likely, and now an internal cleft in the traditionalist world”.

He continues “In truth, however – and as staggering a claim as this may seem – détente between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X was always, if anything, even less likely than Israeli/Palestinian peace. This week’s news, first reported on the Rorate Caeli blog, is that Bishop Richard Williamson, who made a name for himself in 2009 by denying that the Nazis used gas chambers and asserting that historical evidence is “hugely against” the idea that Hitler killed 6 million Jews, plans to ordain a new bishop in defiance of Rome. (Catholic News Service reported Thursday evening that Williamson went through with the illicit ordination and therefore was automatically excommunicated.) Williamson was declared excluded from the Society of Pius X in October, 2012, and the priest he plans to ordain is in the process of being kicked out. This act should certainly put an exclamation point on things”.

Allen mentions that “In the short run, Williamson’s act of defiance may prove a boon to dialogue between what’s left of the Society of St. Pius X and Rome. The head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, is viewed as a realist who sees his movement’s future eventually in coming in from the cold. His freedom of action, however, has been constrained by the more intransigent elements in the fold. It’s conceivable that without Williamson and his following, Fellay may be able to move more boldly”.

Yet he correctly writes that “There’s a good reason, however, why every pope since Paul VI has worked hard to try to heal the schism. Catholic theology holds that any validly ordained bishop can ordain another bishop. Hence the Vatican will be constrained to recognize the Rev. Christian Jean-Michel Faure as a bishop after Williamson ordains him, though it will insist the ordination was illicit and will not recognize any ministry he exercises. In other words, a schism led by a real bishop can become self-replicating, a scenario any pope would want to avoid”.

Pointedly he argues that “there are three reasons why corporate reunion with the traditionalists was probably always a pipe dream and remains so today. First, Fellay is not Arafat, the founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the mythic father of the nation. Arafat may have been the only one who could have convinced the Palestinians in something resembling unified fashion to accept a deal. In the traditionalist world, that iconic role belongs to Lefebvre and no one else. As a result, when negotiations under Benedict XVI reached the moment of “fish or cut bait,” nobody had the moral authority to bring everyone along”.

He goes on to argue “one massive obstacle to an Israeli/Palestinian deal is Palestinian insistence on a “right of return,” meaning reclaiming lands and homes seized by the Israelis in the early stages of the conflict. However understandable it may be, it’s not going to happen, and makes any final resolution a non-starter. Similarly, many traditionalists see a formal renunciation of the Second Vatican Council as a condition for reconciliation with Rome, and that’s every bit as implausible”.

He ends “once the genie of schism is out of the bottle, it’s awfully hard to put it back in. Having lionized Lefebvre for breaking with Rome, one wonders how long it would be after a reunion deal before some elements of the traditionalist camp would find something else intolerable and walk off again. In the days to come, there may be speculation about the impact of the Williamson decision on relations with Rome, and some may predict that the path has been cleared for improvement”.

Williamson ordains a bishop


A Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop who made headlines in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated him and members of his breakaway traditionalist society is heading for new trouble with the Vatican. Bishop Richard Williamson is planning to consecrate a new bishop Thursday in Brazil without Pope Francis’ consent — a Church crime punishable by excommunication. The Rev. Rene Miguel Trincado Cvjetkovic confirmed the planned consecration of the Rev. Christian Jean-Michel Faure in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The consecration was first reported by the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli. Williamson, Trincado, and Faure have all been, or are in the process of being, kicked out of the Society of St. Pius X, which was formed in 1969 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in opposition to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. They have opposed the society’s recent efforts at reconciliation with the Holy See. In 1988, the Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre, Williamson, and three other bishops after Lefebvre consecrated them without papal consent. In 2009, Benedict removed the excommunications in a bid to bring the group back into full communion with Rome and prevent further schism. But an uproar ensued after Williamson said in a television interview aired just before the decree was made public that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.

Muller meets Fellay


The Holy See Press Office has issued a statement to confirm that this morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a cordial meeting took place at the premises of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith between Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X. The meeting was also attended by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., secretary of the same Congregation, Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., adjunct secretary and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, along with two assistants from the Society of St. Pius X, Rev. Niklaus Pfluger and Rev. Alain-Marc Nély”.

Francis meets Fellay


Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X – FSSPX / SSPX), was received by Pope Francis in the Domus Sanctae Marthae sometime in the past few months. In order to protect our sources, we cannot detail the date and persons involved in the meeting, but only generally locate it in time – if the current pontificate so far can be divided into two halves, the meeting took place in the second half. We can also add as part of this exclusive information that it was not a merely fortuitous event – that is to say, many off-the-record meetings with His Holiness have taken place since his election precisely because his being at Saint Martha’s House make him much more accessible and available than many previous pontiffs. No, that was not the case at all – the pope was previously duly informed and duly met Bishop Fellay. The meeting was apparently short and cordial”.


Impossible to reform?


An interesting debate has begun on the New Liturgical Movement blog. It began on 22 December 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI expressed a need for a better liturgical hermeneutic of continunity with the Second Vatican Council.

Since then the reform of the reform has had many fine advocates, though sadly not often enough. Now however the whole worthiness of the reform of the reform has been questioned. In an article by Fr Thomas Kocik, “Reforming the Irreformable?,” he writes that “Although the movement is difficult to define (Is it synonymous with the ‘new liturgical movement’ or but one stage of it?), its overall aim was nicely summed a few years ago by the Ceylonese prelate who stated that the time has come when we must ‘identify and correct the erroneous orientations and decisions made, appreciate the liturgical tradition of the past courageously, and ensure that the Church is made to rediscover the true roots of its spiritual wealth and grandeur even if that means reforming the reform itself…'”

Kocik writes “Long before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he was critically evaluating the reform of the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, identifying those aspects of the reform which have little or no justification in the Council’s liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) and which undermine the true spirit of the liturgy.  As pope it was in his power to remedy the deficiencies—the “erroneous orientations and decisions”—of the reform on a universal scale not only by his teaching and personal liturgical example but also by legislation. He accentuated the liturgy’s beauty, promoted the liturgical and musical treasures of the Western Church (including of course the usus antiquior of the Roman rite), and introduced more tangible continuity with tradition in the manner of papal celebrations (e.g., the ‘Benedictine’ altar arrangement, offering Mass ad orientem in the Sistine and other papal chapels, administering Holy Communion to the faithful on their tongues as they knelt)”.

More controversially he writes “let us suppose, practically speaking and perhaps per impossibile, that the ‘reform of the reform’ were to receive substantive institutional support. Even so, I doubt the endeavour would be feasible—if we take that term to mean the reform of the present order of liturgy so as to bring it substantially back into line with the slowly developed tradition it widely displaced. It is not sour grapes about last year’s papal abdication that prompts my saying so. Like any movement, the ‘reform of the reform’ stands or falls on its own principles, not on any one pope or partisan. No: the ‘reform of the reform’ is not realisable because the material discontinuity between the two forms of the Roman rite presently in use is much broader and much deeper than I had first imagined. In the decade that has elapsed since the publication of my book, The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate (Ignatius Press, 2003), which concerns almost exclusively the rite of Mass, a number of important scholarly studies, most notably those of László Dobszay (†2011)and Lauren Pristas, have opened my eyes to the hack-job inflicted by Pope Paul VI’s Consilium on the whole liturgical edifice of the Latin Church: the Mass; the Divine Office; the rites of the sacraments, sacramentals, blessings and other services of the Roman Ritual; and so forth.Whatever else might be said of the reformed liturgy—its pastoral benefits, its legitimacy, its rootedness in theological ressourcement, its hegemonic status, etc.—the fact remains: it does not represent an organic development of the liturgy which Vatican II (and, four centuries earlier, the Council of Trent) inherited”.

He goes on to write that “There are significant ruptures in content and form that cannot be remedied simply by restoring Gregorian chant to primacy of place as the music of the Roman rite, expanding the use of Latin and improving vernacular translations of the Latin liturgical texts, using the Roman Canon more frequently (if not exclusively),reorienting the altar, and rescinding certain permissions. As important as it is to celebrate the reformed rites correctly, reverently, and in ways that make the continuity with tradition more obvious, such measures leave untouched the essential content of the rites. Any future attempt at liturgical reconciliation, or renewal in continuity with tradition”,

He argues that “To draw the older and newer forms of the liturgy closer to each other would require much more movement on the part of the latter form, so much so that it seems more honest to speak of a gradual reversal of the reform (to the point where it once again connects with the liturgical tradition received by the Council) rather than a reform of it. The twofold desire of the Council fathers, namely, to permit innovations that ‘are genuinely and certainly required for the good of the Church’ and to ‘adopt new forms which in some way grow organically from forms already existing’ (SC 23) could indeed be fulfilled, but not by taking the rites promulgated by Paul VI as the point of departure for arriving at a single, organically reformed version of the ancient Roman rite: that would be like trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. What is needed is not a ‘reform of the reform’ but rather a cautious adaptation of the Tridentine liturgy in accordance with the principles laid down by Sacrosanctum Concilium (as happened in the immediate aftermath of that document’s promulgation in 1963), using what we have learned from the experience of the past fifty years”.

Others have noted that a host of other people have echoed Fr Kocik. What Kocik is saying is that the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is impossible. This seems both defeatist and bizarre. It is becoming more and more apparent that there was indeed a “hack job” done by Paul VI and his associates but to then say that it is beyond reform seems strange.

Only ten or at most twenty years have elapsed since a genunine attempt to correct what has obviously gone wrong. The welcome but all too brief pontificate of Benedict XVI should have given Kocik and those who want a reform of the reform added impetus to the project. Secondly, seeing as the Church thinks in centuries to give up after only 20 years seems to say the least defeatist. To then say the the Latin Mass before the Council should take the place of the Ordinary Form in most parishes is essentially a fantasy.

Thankfully, in response to this strange view, Bishop Peter Elliott, auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, has argued that “now that the concept and project of the reform of the reform is under attack in NLM, let me speak frankly. Permit me to offer counsel to those who announce the total failure of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, claiming that a reform of it is impossible and insisting that the Extraordinary Form is the only answer. Let us be realistic. If you want the Extraordinary Form to become the Ordinary Form, reflect on the millions of people who come to vernacular Masses in our parishes around the world, in many countries and cultures. Would they easily embrace a Latin Low Mass with a server answering?  And let us not forget the priests. This is why some pastoral realism is required”.

He goes on to mention that “We know would that reform would look like. We already have it at our fingertips. It would be a Latin dialogue Mass, said or sung ad orientem, with the readings in the vernacular. Then questions arise about some other changes set out in Sacrosanctum Concilium“.

He ends “However, the integrity of the two forms needs to be preserved and respected, even as the two are meant to influence each other in these times.  My hypothesis about a reform of the Extraordinary Form would also be constrained by that current approach. Please let us keep this important conversation realistic, patient and moderate. The gift of Summorum Pontificum and Pope Benedict’s vision should not be compromised by loudly proclaiming the total failure of the Paul VI post-conciliar reforms.   Sweeping claims and an imprudent triumphalism do no credit to some advocates of the Extraordinary Form. Nor is the Ordinary Form respected or supported by those who grumble about the new ICEL translations and others who draw absurd conclusions from a simpler papal liturgical style”.

In a related piece, some have sought to clarify his argument, “Reading through the comments to my recent post, as well as the welcome contribution of His Grace Peter J. Elliott, I have noticed that there may be some confusion concerning the skeptical stance taken by Fr. Kocik, myself, and several others on the Ordinary Form and on the “reform of the reform.” My goal in this short article is to lay out several clarifications that, I hope, will assist everyone in the conversation. It seems to me that there are two very different meanings of the ROTR. First, it can mean simply celebrating correctly according to the latest edition of the revised liturgical books, following the desiderata of Vatican II (use of Latin as well as vernacular, Gregorian chant and polyphony, appropriate silence, only the right ministers doing what belongs to them, good mystagogical catechesis, etc.), and featuring everything traditional that is permitted in the celebration. Second, it can mean undertaking the step of a reform or revision of those very books, to re-incorporate unwisely discarded elements and to expunge foolishly introduced novelties. For convenience, let us call these ROTR-1 and ROTR-2. I am completely in favor of ROTR-1, that is, celebrating the Ordinary Form in the most reverent, solemn, beautiful, and sacred manner possible, since that is the way Catholics ought to celebrate Mass in any rite or form”.

He adds that “Many Catholics who deeply love the Church have been led by long experience and careful study of the liturgy to the conclusion that the reform carried out by the Consilium and promulgated by Paul VI is not just the unfortunate victim of a wave of abuses but something deeply and inherently flawed in structure and content. It is not in continuity with the Roman liturgical tradition as organically developed and received at the time of the Council. As a result (touching now on ROTR-2), it cannot serve as a suitable platform for the long-term future of the Roman Rite”. He goes on to list the failures of the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

He adds that “What it does say, however, is that there are intrinsic and inescapable limits to the scope and success of the ROTR project. Even assuming a happy day when every OF celebration across the globe is reverent, solemn, beautiful, and sacred, in full accord with Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium, there will STILL be a profound discontinuity between what came before the Council and what came after, in the very bones and marrow of the rites themselves, in their texts, rubrics, rationale, spirituality—even, to some extent, their theology”.

To say that the reform of the reform is impossible and should be abandoned after only 20 years and that as a result of the impossibility of the reform project the pre-Conciliar Latin Mass should once again be the norm seems bizarre to say the least and should not be taken seriously.

Complex legacy


Following on from the series of articles on the legacy of Pope Benedict, be it his foreign policy, musical, liturgical, and cultural challenge to society another article has emerged, this time by John Allen.

Allen opens the article noting the then Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to retire for many years under John Paul II. Allen notes “As Benedict XVI, he led a tumultuous papacy marked by high intellectual achievement but also deep controversy, including the still unresolved child sexual abuse scandals and a massive Vatican leaks crisis. Now that Benedict is finally in a position to grant his own wish to step down, the debate over his legacy is officially open. Fans say Benedict was a great ‘teaching pope’ who also presided over a quiet cleansing of the church’s Augean stables, promoting a financial glasnost, committing the church to reform in the fight against clerical sexual abuse, and challenging the careerist and self-aggrandizing culture in the Vatican — most notably, of course, by being willing to renounce the pinnacle of power himself. Critics may acknowledge that Benedict was a gentle and sincere man, but generally insist he presided over a controversial and sometimes failed pontificate. That tends to be an especially popular verdict in more liberal circles”.

Allen goes on to note “These observers cite crackdowns on nuns and liberal theologians on Benedict’s watch, the pope’s red carpet for traditionalist Anglicans and his outreach to the Lefebvrists without any similar overtures to progressive dissent, his resurrection of the old Latin Mass, and his repeated insistence on a “hermeneutic of reform … in continuity” for understanding the Second Vatican Council (1962-65)”. Yet, while it would be impossible to deny this was true the “crackdowns” are simply want would happen under any pope, be it Benedict XVI or any other man elected to the papacy. The “red carpet” for Anglicans is part of Benedict’s vision for a more committed Church, the inference being that it would be smaller also, with fewer people who are supposedly “less committed” to the check list Catholicism that some espouse.

He carries on writing, “critics say whatever progress Benedict achieved was more symbolic than substantive. They charge that he left too much undone, beginning with accountability for bishops who dropped the ball. They cite the fact that in the United States, for instance, a bishop who was convicted of failure to report suspected child abuse, Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., was not removed from office. In the Vatican itself, there was always a subtle current that held that Benedict may be a world-class intellectual but he was out of his depth as a CEO, sometimes leaving the church rudderless. Even his resignation stirred sotto voce resentment, with Vatican insiders grumbling that plans for the timing of the conclave to elect his successor should have been worked out in advance rather than left hanging”.

Allen ends the article “parallel might be Pope Leo XIII, the only pontiff in the last 150 years to be as old as Benedict while still in office. During his day, he was attacked by partisans on both sides of the “Roman question” in Italy — hard-core papal loyalists found him too soft, while zealous Republicans blasted him as intransigent. Yet more than a century later, Leo XIII is hailed as a great intellectual who launched the modern tradition of Catholic social teaching. Perhaps over time, what will loom largest about Benedict will be his ‘affirmative orthodoxy,’ meaning his emphasis on phrasing classic Christian doctrine in terms of what the church supports rather than what it opposes. As he put it in 2006: ‘Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions. It’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again, because this idea has almost completely disappeared today.’ Perhaps down the line, Benedict’s legacy will be defined by his keen analysis of faith, reason and democracy, providing an intellectual basis for détente with “healthy secularism.” Perhaps it will be his insistence that the pro-life and peace-and-justice components of Catholic social thought belong together, which offered a sharp rebuke to the tendency in various quarters of the church to split them apart”.

“Should not be expected”


Today is the deadline for the SSPX to offer obedience to Pope Benedict yet it seems no such offer will occur.

The Vatican Information Service has today stated that the final days of the pontificate of Pope Benedict will be as follows, “At 9:00am on Saturday, 23 February, the Holy Father and the Roman Curia will conclude their spiritual exercises. Traditionally, the Pope addresses those present briefly. That same day, at 11:30am, he will meet with the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano. On Sunday, 24 February, Benedict XVI will pray the last Angelus of his pontificate with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. On Wednesday, 27 February, Benedict XVI’s final general audience will take place in St. Peter’s Square in the usual fashion, except for his re-entry to the Apostolic Palace, the path of which will wind around the square in the popemobile so that he may greet the many participants who are expected (to date, over 30,000 people have requested tickets). On 28 February, as announced in a notice from the Papal Household, he will personally greet all the cardinals present in Rome, that is, both those who are resident here and those who have come to the capitol in recent days. There will be no speech”. It had previously been thought that he would give a speech to the increasing number of cardinals in Rome that might clarify his views on who should succeed him.

 The VIS note going on to say “Regarding his departure from the Vatican, shortly before 5:00pm, the Pope will greet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., in the San Damaso Courtyard and, upon reaching the Vatican heliport, will bid farewell to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. On arrival at Castel Gandolfo he will be received by the president and secretary of the Governorate of Vatican City, the mayor of the town, and other civil authorities and will appear at the balcony of the Apostolic Palace to greet the faithful present”.
It mentions “Regarding the issue of the Society of St. Pius X, he reaffirmed that the date of 22 February to decide the issue is pure hypothesis and that Benedict XVI has decided to entrust the matter to the next Pope, therefore, a definition of relations with that society should not be expected by the end of this pontificate. In conclusion, he confirmed that the Commission of Cardinals (Julian Herranz Casado, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi) set up by the Holy Father to prepare a report on the Holy See has made its results known exclusively to the Pope. The cardinals will not grant interviews or otherwise comment on the results”.
On the subject of Vatileaks Pope Benedict seems to have cleared the way, at least somewhat, for his successor. In a slew of late afternoon appointments announced today, Benedict has named Msgr Ettore Balestrero as apostolic nuncio to Colombia.  Media reports mention that Archbishop Balestrero appointment “had been months in the works and had nothing to do with the leaks investigation or what the Vatican considers baseless reporting. Balestrero was named undersecretary of the Vatican’s Foreign Ministry in 2009 and, among other tasks, has been a lead player in the Holy See’s efforts to get on the “white list” of financially transparent countries.  Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named him ambassador, or nuncio, to Colombia. Italian newspapers for days have been rife with un-sourced reports of the contents of the dossier, which was presented to Benedict in December. It was prepared by three cardinals after they investigated the origins of the leaks”. Others have noted the unusual timing “He is being replaced by Antoine Camilleri, former personal secretary to Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States. This is an unusual last minute nomination and an important one, particularly as the key role changeover is taking place at a very delicate moment, just days before Ratzinger leaves the papacy”.
Other nuncios appointed today were those in Liberia and El Slavador along with two that are awaiting the placet from their respective governments.

Not ready to jump


The doctrinal preamble “would make possible the return of the Fraternity into the Church provided it recognizes the validity of the Missal of Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council, and the Magisterium as the authentic interpreter of Tradition … conditions rejected in July by the General Chapter of the FSSPX.  Also, in the absence of a positive response from Bishop Fellay by Friday, Rome would exercise the possibility of applying individually to each priest of the Society. Queried by La Croix , the Lefebvrist clergy do not seem ready to leap”.

A personal prelature?


Everybody now knows that the Ecclesia Dei Commission sent a letter to Bishop Fellay [Superior General of the Society] on January 8, and that an answer is expected from him by February 22, the day of the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. The erection of the Prelature of Saint Pius X could be dated from this day, February 22. This would represent the true conclusion of the pontificate of Benedict XVI”.

One last chance


Reports mentions that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter with a final offer to the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX): resume the dialogue with the Holy See by February 22, or else the Holy See will make an offer of reconciliation and full communion to individual SSPX priests”.

The revolutionary pope


In a true sign of his feeling for the good of the Church, the Sovereign Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has decided to resign the papacy on 28 February 2013. The announcement, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and International Day of the Sick, was made by Pope Benedict during an ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of new saints celebrated this morning at 11 a.m. in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Reports note that “According to a press briefing given by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, after the resignation takes effect, the pope will depart for Castelgandolfo and eventually will move to a monastery of cloistered nuns, Mater Ecclesia, inside the Vatican for a period of prayer and reflection. He will not have any part in the organization of the conclave or in the election of his successor. The conclave for the election of his successor will probably take place in mid-March. According the regulation in the seventh paragraph of the introduction of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis, only those cardinals “who celebrate their eightieth birthday before the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant do not take part in the election.”

A conclave will be called the cardinals will be summoned to Rome. Currently there are 118 electors but Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, M.S.U., will turn eighty on 26 February and thus will lose the right to take part in the election”. Therefore, 117 cardinals will be able to participate in the conclave, of which 51 were created by Pope John Paul II; and 67 by Pope Benedict XVI. In 2005, 115 of the 117 cardinal electors participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. The last pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1415.

Damian Thompson writes that “Yet it seems to be true, and there is a precedent – Celestine VI in 1295. Moreover, there has always been a suspicion that Joseph Ratzinger would step down from office if he became incapacitated”. Indeed, Pope Benedict said he would resign/abdicate if he felt he could no longer continue to shoulder the burdens of office. However, Benedict then seemed to say that he would remain on, presumably until his death. Thompson goes on to say rightly that “Catholics will be deeply shocked and, in most cases, dismayed by this decision, which I see above all as an act of self-sacrifice by a man not prepared to see the Church suffer as a result of his increasing frailty. Benedict XVI’s achievements as pontiff have been remarkable. He has renewed the worship of the Church, reconnecting it to the majesty and deep piety of the past. He has forged new links with non-Catholics, for example by bringing ex-Anglicans into the fold through the Ordinariate. He has promulgated teaching documents reconnecting the love and teaching of Christ to the structures of the Church – structures that, it would appear, he feels now unable to continue ruling”. Thompson writes “John Paul II rather than Benedict XVI can be accused of turning a blind eye to certain abominations, not least to the Mexican child abuser the late Fr Marcel Maciel, whom Benedict sent into disgraced exile as soon as he became Pope. One reason Maciel was not dealt with in time was that John Paul was to ill and, let us be honest, mentally enfeebled to confront Maciel’s crimes. Ratzinger has been determined from the beginning not to allow the same situation to overtake him”.

Predictably, the media mention the Regensburg speech and the SSPX/Williamson affair in 2009, yet as has been mentioned, change has already taken place in these areas with more tech savvy officials, both clerical, and lay, being appointed as well as Pope Benedict’s own moves into the technological sphere. The same article notes however that “his 2008 visit to the United States was regarded as a great success, earning him an approval rating of 86 per cent from American Catholics and showing that he could win over audiences. He was a trenchant critic of the excesses of global capitalism, particularly during the world economic crisis of 2008-2009, when he called for a move away from consumerism and materialism”.

Other article adds that “Georg Ratzinger, reportedly said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. Talking from his home in Regensburg to the news agency dpa, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a ‘natural process.'”

Indeed, talk has already moved quickly to Benedict’s successor. Thompson mentions that Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster does not have a vote in the upcoming conclave. He writes that this might not be such a bad thing, Archbishop Nichols “must be aware, however, that the delay in appointing him a cardinal may rob him of his only opportunity to vote for a Pope. Nor will Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, now over 80, be eligible to take part in the conclave. This is no occasion to score cheap points, but traditionalists are unlikely to lose much sleep over the absence of a liberal English cardinal in the Sistine Chapel”.

A similar piece notes Peter Cardinal Turkson as a potential pontiff, while it adds “Two senior Vatican officials have recently dropped surprisingly clear hints that the next pope could well be from Latin America. Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, said that the church’s future was not in Europe”.

The article goes on to mention Cardinal Arinze, talk of which should be ignored. It goes on to metion more plausible candidates, “even the selection of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who is currently placed among the top three or four with every bookmaker, would end 2,000 years of European or Mediterranean rule. As prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, he has vetted and selected bishops all over the world. Multi-lingual and with years of missionary work in South America, he would tick the ‘global church’ box without unnerving European cardinals alarmed that the election of an African would shift the centre of gravity. About half the cardinals who can vote are from Europe, even though only a quarter of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live there. If the College of Cardinals plays it safe and stays in the old continent, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan would be in pole position. His theological background lies in the family issues that the church in Europe increasingly feels must be addressed”.

Lastly Foreign Policy answers the question as to why people should care, “If one cares about power, however, then centralization is still a crucial quality.  Which is why non-Catholics are still interested in who the next Pope will be”.

Pope Benedict has done what should have been done by many previous popes, retire for the good governance of the Church – a truly revolutionary pope that belies his mere “transitional” image.

Another schism?


After the expulsion of Richard Williamson from the SSPX there has been talk that “Bishop” Williamson intends to go to America “in a couple of weeks to consecrate a bishop. Rorate independently contacted one of the priests said to be organizing the consecration ceremony. Although we asked repeatedly, the priest refused to deny the consecration would be taking place”.



The head of a controversial Catholic sect says that Jews are ‘enemies of the Church,’ but the sect has denied any anti-Semitic intentions. Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, declared Jews ‘enemies of the Church’ during a talk that aired on a Canadian radio station, the Catholic News Agency recently reported. Fellay’s remarks took place on Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel in New Hamburg, Ontario. Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society’s future, said the following during the address: ‘Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.’ Fellay said Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council ‘shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s,’ according to the Catholic Register”.

Interesting details


In five days time Pope Benedict will ordained Georg Ganswein as Titular Archbishop of Urbs Salvia as a result of his new role of prefect of the Pontifical Household along with with Angelo Vincenzo ZaniNicolas Thevenin and Fortunatus Nwachukwu.

Little is known about Ganswein beyond the usual details, JCD degree, spent some time in a parish but was transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments where he remained for a short period before meeting then Cardinal Ratzinger and working for the CDF as Ratzinger’s personal secretary replacing Josef Clemens.

A profile has revealed some interesting details about Archbishop Ganswein. The piece mentions “It was a surprising move that undoubtedly delighted Don Georg’s friends and fans, but one that also left many others – especially some inside the Vatican – perplexed and ­troubled. ‘The naming of Gänswein as prefect and archbishop is a scandal,’ complained one church official. ‘The Renaissance papacy lives,’ he said, clearly accusing the Pope of promoting favourites”. This charge is totally preposterous on every level. The official that is quoted seems almost annoyed that he was not chosen for the role and thus would be easy to speak ill of Ganswein having been snubbed. The charge also makes little sense as the scale of nepotism and scandal of what is broadly called “the Renaissance papacy” and what Pope Benedict has done bear no relation to each other. Finally  the charge seems to imply that there are plenty of people that Benedict could have chosen for the role that would be just as suited, this of course is also incorrect as there is a firm division within the Curia as those who support what Benedict is doing liturgically, doctrinally etc and those who do not. There is also the point to make the the feted John Paul II made similar appointments without too much noise.

The article then gets to the meat of the issue, “reports said Pope Benedict gave Mgr Gänswein the important new post so he could shore up an Apostolic Palace left in disarray in the wake of the Vatileaks scandal. They suggested the previous prefect of the Papal Household, the (recently created) Cardinal James Harvey, was responsible for hiring the papal butler who was eventually convicted for stealing the Pope’s personal papers and leaking them to the press. In their scenario, the new appointment of the meticulous and regimented papal secretary, especially because of his closeness to the Pope, would be the best guarantee against future security breaches. That may be true. But they overlooked the glaring fact that Mgr Gänswein had a more immediate supervisory role over the butler and spent much more time in his presence than did Harvey”. Indeed, there is little that can be argued against this particular point. Benedict may be simply storing up further governance problems for his eventual successor but he obviously trusts Ganswein too much to send him elsewhere. The point is reinforced when the author writes “Gänswein will have effective power to make the final decisions. The reason is simple. As the Pope grows older and frailer, he will need to rely increasingly on this man whom he deeply trusts to protect him from being ­manipulated by others”.

The piece then makes clear a point that would otherwise have been little know, “Gänswein, despite his athletic and youthful appearance, is extremely conservative. But he has been careful to tone down his “traditionalist” side. Shortly after the election of Benedict XVI in 2005, all references to the papal secretary’s life prior to his new-found fame disappeared from the internet. Only later did any personal information about him gradually find its way back into the public forum. One reason for this, it appears, is that he initially began his seminary training at the international seminary in Ecône (Switzerland) run by the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), or Lefebvrists. This was finally reported in 2009 by French magazine L’Express and repeated on numerous, mostly Vatican-friendly internet sites. No one at the Vatican has ever officially denied it. A two-year gap in the biography of Archbishop-elect Gänswein suggests this ­earlier seminary training was certainly a ­possibility”.

It goes on to mention “The new prefect of the Papal Household has said in interviews that he decided to become a priest in 1974 when he was 18. But it was not until two years later, at the age of 20, that he began his seminary training for the Archdiocese of Freiburg, the local church for which he was ordained in 1984 at 28”.

While it would be a mistake to overplay the influence of Ganswein on Benedict, it would, equally be hard to dismiss it entirely. The fact that Ganswein enrolled in what is still an openly anti-Semitic and in some regards, unhinged organisation shows just how conservative the new archbishop is. It may also explain Benedict’s own tendency to push for better relations with the SSPX so firmly during his pontificate.
Lastly, the article unfairly, though with great subtly, attempts to tie the appointment of Gerhard Maria Wagner to Ganswein which seems implausible, to say the least. What is clear is that as Benedict ages, the influence of Archbishop Ganswein will only increase.

SSPX status


It has been said before but it should again be emphasised, Pope Benedict has said “As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church”.

Same old Fellay


After the recent collapse in the talks between the Society of Saint Pius X and the Catholic Church and the expulsion of Richard Williamson Bernard Fellay has discussed the state of play between the two groups.

In a homily given recently Fellay stated that “I said that we find ourselves confronting the contradiction in Rome.  And there has been a manifestation of this contradiction in our relations with the Holy See for about a year, since September, inasmuch as I received through official channels some documents that clearly expressed the willingness on the part of Rome to recognize the Society, but it was necessary to sign a document that we could not sign.  And at the same time there was another line of information that I received, and it was impossible for me to doubt its authenticity.  This line of information really said something different”. He went on to say “Since mid-August, a person at the Vatican has been telling us:  ‘The Pope will recognize the Society and it will be as it was with the excommunications, in other words, without anything [required] in return.’  So it was in this frame of mind that I got ready for the September 14 meeting by preparing arguments, by saying:  ‘But have you carefully reflected on what you are doing?  What are you trying to do?  That won’t work.’  And in fact, the document that was presented to us was completely different from what was announced to us”.

This is a fair point. Pope Benedict seems to be of two minds, hoping to reconcile the SSPX to the Church but at the same time demanding they accept the Second Vatican Council, that for all its flaws, must be accepted. Fellay goes on to say that in a letter written by Pope Benedict to Fellay three conditions were laid out for the return of the SSPX, “The first is that we must recognize that the Magisterium is the authentic judge of Apostolic Tradition”, the second being “It is necessary for us to accept the fact that the Council is an integral part of Tradition, of Apostolic Tradition”. The last is to accept the “new Mass”.

The SSPX will not accept second or third conditions  and only partly accept the first. Fellay ends his homily noting “We know very well that one day this trial—a trial that affects the whole Church—will end, but we do not know how.  We try to do everything that we can”.  This phrase of his merely perpetuates the narrative of the SSPX that they are the only bearers of Tradition which they see as static circa 1962, ignoring all scientific and technological advances made since then. Naturally not all of these have been good but their existance cannot just be ignored as the SSPX tries to do.

Archbishop Thomas Gullickson in responding to Fellay’s homily writes “no one can seriously defend the thesis that the fathers of the council upset the apple-cart. It is utter folly to claim that if Blessed John XXIII had never called the Council we would not have known the tribulation of these years. Who knows if we would be better or worse off today? Despite liturgical abuse, despite the false irenicism distorting ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, despite the inadequacy of teaching on religious liberty, democracy or social justice, the alternative closed-ranks defense would have obviated the need for debate on the place of the Church in the world of our time as we would all be required to wear our specific clothing and carry proof of the tax due for being different than the rest in society. This last statement was unfair simply because we don’t know how things might have gone”.

Lastly, Fellay in a more recent homily has said “We are exactly at the same point that Abp. Lefebvre was in the years 1975, 1974. And, therefore, we continue our struggle. We do not abandon the idea of one day regaining the Church, reconquering the Church for Tradition”.

Seeing as the SSPX have failed, yet again to accept the times we live in the discussions will not progress and therefore no further energy should be wasted on what is, and perhaps always was, a fruitless endeavour.

A reward for Pozzo


As expected Pope Benedict XVI has named a new official to the Pontifical Household.

He has retired Archbishop Félix del Blanco Prieto as almoner of His Holiness and appointed in his place Msgr Guido Pozzo who had been serving as secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei since 2009. The role of almoner, has been described “The Pope’s almoner is an archbishop who is a member of the papal family’s ecclesiastical staff and is always present in ceremonies and audiences, alongside the Prefect of the Papal Household. The role dates back to the early centuries of the Church, when deacons first and then one or more of the members of the Pope’s family had the task of handing out the alms. In a papal bull issued by Innocence III (1198-1216), the almoner is referred to a san already existing figure, while the role of the Office of Papal Charities was established by Gregory X in the eighth century.  The papal almoner has the dignity of archbishop and since the era of Leo XIII (1878-1903) this figure has also been responsible for handing out apostolic blessings on parchment paper, authenticating them with his signature. All revenues from the issue of blessing “certificates” go to the Pope’s charity”.

It has been noted that “Pozzo has been involved in the tough task of keeping dialogue between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X” Now that the talks have effectively collapsed between the Church and the SSPX, Benedict obviously thought it was time to reward Pozzo for his efforts while allowing the new Vice-President, Archbishop DiNoia and President, Archbishop Muller to focus on other issues. Also of note is the fact that no successor for Pozzo was appointed adding traction to the view that a major piece of Pope Benedict’s pontificate has failed.

Other appointments to be expected are a new secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and according to some, a new director of the Vatican Press Office. Fr Lombardi, SJ has been in office since September 2006 and it is thought that Greg Burke, who advises Cardinal Bertone, would take the role.

Either Lombardi will stay in his job or, Burke’s appointment will be announced later on, or perhaps in the new year. If these moves are still to go ahead, Lombardi should have been given the almoner’s job allowing him an easy retirement, and Pozzo given a diocese in Italy, any number of which are vacant or have bishops past the retirement age. These include but are not limited to the archdioceses of  Ferrara–Comacchio, Monreale, or the diocese of Ventimiglia-San Remo as well as a host of others.

Alternatively, Lombardi could fill the currently vacant role at Catholic Education which would allow Burke to take up his job.

The other soon to be vacant job that needs to be filled is that of the prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop James Harvey who will become a cardinal at the consistory at the end of this month. Among the names for his successor are Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s private secretary. Other names mentioned are that of Croatian nuncio Petar Rajic, who spent “years in the communications Office of the Secretariat of State, Rajic became Prelate of the Antechamber and so had worked alongside Harvey, making himself known to the members of the Pope’s closest entourage. Another name going round is that of 56 year old Frenchman, Nicolas Henry Thevenin, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s personal secretary and current Prelate of the Antechamber. Yet another name is that of the newly nominated Regent of the Papal Household, the Rogationist, Fr. Leonardo Sapienza”. Also still vacant is the diocese of Regensburg since the appointment of Archbishop Muller to the CDF. Word still exists of Ganswein leaving Rome and taking the job.

The new prefect “is not expected to be made before November’s Consistory and some are anticipating a surprise move from the Pope, a reshuffle in light of the Vatileaks scandal”. Who Benedict chooses will reveal much.

Cracks in the SSPX


A number of developments have taken place in the dialogue between the Society of Saint Pius X and the Church.

The first is that Richard Williamson, the Holocaust denying member of the SSPX has been ejected from the society. Rorate notes “The removal comes at the end of an internal procedure that included repeated entreaties by the higher authorities of the Society regarding Williamson’s decisions and actions that apparently went unheeded”. It then goes on to carry a press release from the SSPX, “Williamson, having distanced himself from the management and the government of the SSPX for several years, and refusing to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors, was declared excluded from the SSPX by decision of the Superior General and its Council, on October 4th, 2012. A final deadline had been granted to him to declare his submission, after which he announced the publication of an ‘open letter’ asking the Superior General to resign”. Williamson’s fate is now uncertain, though it would not be hard to predict him slipping into sedevacantism and becoming the head of the Society of Saint Pius V. It is somewhat ironic that a group that is so hierarchical cannot even control its own members.

In related news the Press Office of the Holy See released a statement, which Rorate has also carried, noting “The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” takes this occasion to announce that, in its most recent official communication (6 September 2012), the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X has indicated that additional time for reflection and study is needed on their part as they prepare their response to the Holy See’s latest initiatives”. The statement goes on to mention “The current stage in the ongoing discussions between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity follows three years of doctrinal and theological dialogues during which a joint commission met eight times to study and discuss, among other matters, some disputed issues in the interpretation of certain documents of Vatican Council II”.

What is most interesting however is the fact that the statement describes the talks as “the ongoing discussions” as though there was more to discuss when it is clear to those who have been following these issues that the talks are stalled over the refusal of the SSPX to obey Pope Benedict.

The statement goes on to note “on 13 June 2012, the Pontifical Commission presented to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X a doctrinal declaration together with a proposal for the canonical normalization of its status within the Catholic Church. At the present time, the Holy See is awaiting the official response of the superiors of the Priestly Fraternity to these two documents. After thirty years of separation, it is understandable that time is needed to absorb the significance of these recent developments”.

Yet it would be a true miracle for the SSPX to accept these documents and return to the Church.

Vatican II at 50 Pt III


In the third in a series of posts of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council an article in the Irish Times fundamentally misunderstands both the Council in addition to having serious historical errors.

The piece, written by Desmond Fisher, opens noting, “the council produced only 16 documents”. The fact that the Council produced “only 16 documents” is totally irrelevant. It is the scale and context in which the documents rather than the actual quantity that is produced. Fisher goes on to write “after half a century, the only noticeable change in the everyday life of the church has been the introduction into the liturgy of the words, but not the phraseology or the rhythm, of vernacular languages”. This is totally wrong.

To say that the only thing that changed was the language used in the Mass, while understandable, misses the broader picture. The documents on religious liberty, the liturgy, laity and ecumenism continue to shape the Church to this day. However, the basic point is that Nostra Aetate (In Our Age) written about non-Christian religions still, along with all other Council documents stands, and has not been repudiated. Not only that but the highly controversial Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews, has also gone, and not returned.

Fisher goes on to write inaccurately, that “the centre of gravity could have moved south of the equator, where two-thirds of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics already live”. This is broadly true but it misses the point. The Church has seen an enormous growth in the Southern United States. Now Catholicism is the majority religion in what was for centuries a nominally Protestant country. Fisher again shows his ignorance when he writes “Trent was summoned to reform a church that was undergoing one of the greatest crises in history. All kinds of corruption was rife. Despite there having been many good popes, others had lived lives of luxury and debauchery”.

However the Council of Trent essentially restated Church teaching in answer to the Protestant Reformation. Trent gave a uniform mass, there were other modifications that occurred in Trent but they simply built on what had gone before. Nothing that was promulgated at Trent has been disavowed by the Church since.

Fisher is correct when he notes that “In a hugely significant but little-noticed initiative, Catholics no longer claim that the Catholic Church is Christ’s church. Instead, it states that it ‘subsists’ in Christ’s Church, indicating that other Christian churches are recognised as also belonging. This wipes out the long-held claim that ‘outside the [Catholic] Church there is no redemption’. And, in direct contrast to the introverted Tridentine Church, it regards modern theories on science, philosophy, sociology and even Scripture not as heresies to be condemned but as insights to be explored”. This indeed is surely welcome, especially since the scandals have hit the Church, due to its own sin and obvious moral corruption.

Fisher argues “Four issues that the council bishops wanted to debate – artificial contraception, the role of bishops, clerical celibacy and women priests – were withdrawn from the agenda by the pope. The first he reserved to himself for decision, the outcome being his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae repeating the existing ban. On the last two he ruled out further discussion”. This harks back to those who want a Vatican III but are unwilling to admit the obvious consequences of such a step on the Church.

Fisher goes on to attack Pope Benedict’s reading of the Council, “Instead of implementing the council’s decision, Pope Benedict XVI and his Curia are using inconsistencies in the council texts and abstruse theological arguments to justify inaction”. Yet Fisher does not say how Benedict has not acted or how he should act and with regard to what. Indeed, when Summorum Pontificum was being drawn up it was against the wishes of every many high ranking Curialists. So to paint them as one is so obviously incorrect.

He goes on to say “Benedict’s point is that the people who are pressing for implementation of the council’s teachings are refusing to abide by the actual council texts. They base their case on the claim that the texts do not reflect the real intentions of the council fathers. Instead, they regard them not as consensus decisions but as last-minute compromises forced on them by deliberate Curia delaying tactics. The real meaning, or what they call ‘the spirit of Vatican II’, as expressed by huge council majorities, is, they say, to be found by reading between the lines”.

It is true that there have been some steps taken over the last decade could be misinterpreted by some as a “winding back the clock” but this too is a selective or mistaken reading. Certainly there has been a “reform of the reform” in the papacy of Benedict XVI, but it was begun by the charismatic John Paul II. It was the Polish pope, who in 2001, signed Liturgiam authenticam that is the reason we in the English speaking world have a new translation for the Mass. In the same vein, Pope Benedict, as part of his drive to have the Latin Mass enhance its vernacular equalivant, and at the same time improve relations with the Society of Saint Pius X, signed Summorum Pontificum. It was long know the then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s unease over how those who implemented the decree on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, overstepped their mandate. Fr. Ratzinger, who attended the Council as an advisor, in his 1977 autobiography, Milestones, wrote, “some liturgists (or perhaps many?) who were working as advisers had had more far-reaching intentions from the outset”.

Indeed, many in the ‘liberal’ camp of the Church have accused Pope Benedict of doing too much to please the SSPX. However, the recent talks that were meant to reconcile the breakaway group have effectively collapsed. The reason for this is Pope Benedict’s refusal to cast aside the Council’s teachings on religious liberty the liturgy, and ecumenism. A close aide of Pope Benedict, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, in a recent interview discussing the SSPX said, “the body of the doctrine of the Council is binding for everyone”.

The Church never claims to be a democracy, nor is it a political organisation. So to speak of a “bottom layer of laypersons” as Fisher says is mistaken and needlessly misleading. There is a need for a hierarchical model when the Catholic Church is over a billion people. Without it splits would occur very quickly and the Church would fracture and disintegrate. The Council lives on. The collapse of the talks with the SSPX should be proof enough.

Dead in the water


The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, has given yet another interview on the most pressing issues facing his office. The interview in two parts, conducted by the National Catholic Register deals with the LCWR, the Society of Saint Pius X, of which he says “I believe that these questions will be resolved in the long term”, as well as his own writings, that some have been highly critical of. This despite Pope Benedict’s own high praise for Muller.

In a separate interview, picked up by Reuters, Archbishop Muller was reported as saying that Rome “plans no more talks with rebel Catholic traditionalists who insist the Church must revoke modernizing reforms launched five decades ago”. The piece adds “His comments to North German Radio (NDR) were the first from the Vatican on deadlocked talks meant to reintegrate the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) into the Church after a 21-year schism over its implacable opposition to 1960s reforms”.

A longer article in the same subject notes “‘We cannot give away the Catholic faith in negotiations,’ Mueller said according to a pre-broadcast report by NDR. ‘There will be no compromises here,’ he said. ‘I think there now will be no new discussions.'”

The piece concludes “Muller, who crossed swords with SSPX traditionalists while he was archbishop [sic] of Regensburg in Germany before going to Rome, rejected the group’s central argument that the Council broke with a Church’s 2,000-year traditions. ‘The Second Vatican Council does not contradict the Church’s overall tradition, but only some false interpretations of the Catholic faith,’ he said”.

Therefore, it now seems that one of Pope Benedict’s most cherished goals has died, not because he did not try hard enough but because the people he was dealing with, the SSPX, are unable to accept the “modern” world, which for all its faults, is the world that currently exists.

Benedict should now ignore the SSPX and focus on the most pressing issues, such as the opposition to the Latin Mass still evident around the world, as well as the New Evangelisation and combating relativism.

Nothing more to discuss


Following on from the recent post about the “demands”  of the Society of Saint Pius X to be allowed to openly deny the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council, in order to reconcile with the rest of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI has made an interesting decision.

A recent report notes that in an interview conducted with “Bishop” Bernard Tissier de Mallerais that “on June 30, 2012, the Pope wrote with his own hand a letter to our Superior General, Bp. [Bernard] Fellay, signed personally: ‘I confirm to you in fact [that], in order [for you] to be truly reintegrated into the Church  [Tissier says:] (let us move beyond this expression), it is necessary to truly accept the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium.'” 

The article goes on to note that “In Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book filled with Vatican leaks published earlier this year, Sua Santità, a specific chapter was devoted to the 2009 “Williamson crisis”, and, in it, mention was made of the note of the Secretariat of State made public by L’Osservatore Romano on February 4, 2009“.

It adds later that the “entire phrase ‘the Holy Father does not intend to leave aside an indispensable condition’ [in the Secretariat of State’s draft] was cancelled by Benedict XVI and replaced with, [in his own handwriting], ‘For a future recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, the full acknowledgment of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of the same Benedict XVI is an indispensable condition.'”

The blog post concludes that “It is unclear if this same content was merely mentioned by Pope Benedict XVI with a reference to the 2009 note in the June 30, 2012”. The consequences this phrase of Pope Benedict is that well known. The SSPX has repeatedly refused to accept the validity of the key element of the Council and despite their hollow protestations of loyalty to the Pope they refuse to see what is right.

The result of this is very clear, the Doctrinal Preamble will now not be accepted by the SSPX and the de-excommunications and subsequent discussions set up by Pope Benedict have all come to naught. This is not so much for Benedict’s lack of trying but the SSPX refusal to accept the will of the Sovereign Pontiff.

The current situation


“Father” Andreas Steiner, spokesman of the German District of the Society of Saint Pius X on the current situation of affairs between Rome and the SSPX, and on the relationship with Archbishop Muller. It notes that Steiner “remarks that there are three points which must be demanded from the authorities if a visible union with Rome will be established. These are: firstly, that the SSPX will be given the freedom to expose the errors of Vatican II; secondly, that the SSPX will be allowed to only use the liturgical books of 1962; and thirdly, that there must always be a bishop in the Fraternity from within its own ranks”. The notion that the SSPX is in a position to “demand” anything should have scuppered any dealings with them years ago, let alone getting them to the current position.

Anylsis from Allen


John Allen on the moves of Archbishop Joseph Augustine DiNoia to Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and Gerhard Ludwig Muller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

SSPX leak


Letter from Secretary-General to regional superiors on discussions.

SSPX declaration


The dance between the SSPX and the Church continues with a Declaration after the conclusion of the General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X that was sent to Rome.

On again, off again


First there was discussion that the talks had failed and collapsed, then there was talk that the SSPX had turned down unification then there were reports that stated that there was no decision either way. Fellay was interviewed after the conclusion of the SSPX General Chapter with a firm decision expected soon.

Thoughts of the prefect


The new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller on the SSPX, liberation theology and when he will be made a cardinal, amongst other things.

DiNoia on the SSPX


Interview with Archbishop Joseph Augustine DiNoia, OP on his new role and the SSPX talks.

Muller to CDF


As had been predicted for months, Pope Benedict formally named Gerhard Ludwig Muller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, president of the International Theological Commission and president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Muller will be the first in the 2013 class of new cardinals along with the other curialists named in the last few days.

Rocco makes the point that, “by seniority Müller will be the first cardinal created by Benedict at his next consistory, which could come in Spring 2013” adding interestingly, that “barring one exception: namely, should the pontiff appoint a new Secretary of State before then who hasn’t already received the red hat”.  There will be a consistory next year, yet a more likely date is around the 29 June, as there will be 16 electoral slots to fill in a possible 120 elector conclave. Thus, Benedict may wish to wait a few months and not have the College of Cardinals above 120 for slightly less time that he would if he held it in the spring, as Rocco suggests. Secondly, Rocco alludes to the fact that Cardinal Bertone is himself going to be 78 this December and Pope Benedict may wish to retire his closet associate and name a replacement. There is however no certainty that Benedict would retire Bertone at all.

Rocco goes on to mention that Muller was appointed a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity with the lone other curialist holding these jobs being the now prefect emeritus, Cardinal Levada. Rocco adds that ” As early as January, however, German reports noted that the bishop had been taking refresher courses in Italian”.

Rocco adds that ironically while at the helm of the CDF the then Cardinal Ratzinger stamped out liberation theology in the 1970s, but  “it’s worth noting that Müller’s appointment to lead the CDF survived an attempted subterfuge by some conservatives in Roman circles, who — among other things — sought to play up a longstanding friendship the new ‘Grand Inqusitor’ has kept with a leading architect of liberation theology, the Peruvian Dominican Gustavo Gutierrez”.

Rocco mentions that Cardinal Levada’s tenure “neared its close, the work of the congregation sparked twin firestorms in the American church and media as, citing “serious doctrinal problems,” in late April the office imposed a wide-ranging oversight on the nation’s leading umbrella-group of nuns, theLeadership Conference of Women Religious, then issued a high-profile warning in early June on a 2006 book on sexual ethics written by another sister, the retired Yale professor Margaret Farley RSM, a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America”.

He concludes “With his ascent, the new prefect now likewise becomes president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, making him — at least officially — the prime overseer of the Vatican’s doctrine-centric reconciliation effort with the Society of St Pius X”.

John Allen makes note that many opposed Muller’s appointment as “Müller is also a close personal friend of Guttierez, widely seen as the father of the liberation theology movement in Latin America. Every year since 1998, Müller has travelled to Peru to take a course from Guttierez, and has spent time living with farmers in a rural parish near the border with Bolivia. In 2008, he accepted an honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, which is widely seen as a bastion of the progressive wing of the Peruvian church. On the occasion, he praised Guttierez and defended his theology. ‘The theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez, independently of how you look at it, is orthodox because it is orthopractic,’ he said. ‘It teaches us the correct way of acting in a Christian fashion since it comes from true faith.’ Müller has been rumored to be in pole position to take over at the doctrinal congregation for some time, and late last year there was a push in traditionalist circles to try to block the appointment. E-mails were circulated suggesting that Müller, already a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is not a man of ‘secure doctrine.’ Specifically, the e-mails cited Müller for espousing suspect positions on the virginity of Mary (which he said in a 2003 book shouldn’t be understood in a ‘physiological’ sense), the Eucharist (Müller has apparently counseled against using the term ‘body and blood of Christ’ to describe the consecrated bread and wine at Mass), and ecumenism (last October, Müller declared that Protestants are ‘already part of the church’ founded by Christ.) Defenders of Müller argued that in each case, his words had either been taken out of context or were consistent with official teaching”.

The SSPX who obviously know better than the pope said they were against the appointment.

Last hurdles


Amid the recent changes to the Roman Curia, Archbishop Joseph DiNoia speaks against those who view the Council as being important, while in related matters the last hurdles to unification with the SSPX and the Church are discussed. Yet interestingly for DiNoia these disagreements that are allowed for the SSPX are not allowed for others.

All but one


Yesterday, 26 June, Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, OP who had been serving as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since 11 July 2009, as vice-president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. With the regularisation of the SSPX into the Church imminent Benedict obviously feels that Archbishop Di Noia’s talents are best at Ecclesia Dei. Archbishop Di Noia has been credited with reorganising the congregation after “Pope Benedict’s ‘motu proprio’ of 30 August 2011, ‘Quaerit Semper'”. Others note that “The doctrinal congregation also emphasized that Archbishop Di Noia enjoys ‘broad respect’ in the Jewish community, which ‘will help in addressing some issues that have arisen in the area of Catholic-Jewish relations as the journey toward reconciliation of the traditionalist communities has progressed.'” The article adds that “Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists that the new position is a sign of ‘the importance and delicate nature of the kind of difficulties’ with which the commission is dealing and should not be seen as an indication of how things are proceeding with the society”.

At the same time Benedict appointed Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds to replace Archbishop Di Noia. On the same day Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family was retired having been appointed in 2008. He was replaced by Vincenzo Paglia, formerly bishop of Terni with close links to the Sant’Egidio movement. Unusally, Cardinal Antonelli did not complete his five year term but was allowed to retire early.

Cardinal Farina who retired from his post of archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church on 9 June had his successor named, as expected, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP formerly secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. Benedict obviously chose not to appoint a senior curial cardinal near the retirement age as was previously thought.

Also on 26 June Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was retired and Protase Rugambwa, formerly bishop of Kigoma, Tanzania. Lastly, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv. was retired as regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary with Fr Krzysztof Józef Nykiel appointed as his replacement. Fr Nykeil, a former CDF official, was not appointed a bishop although this is not unusual for holders of his new post.

Interestingly, some of the appointments where not Italian, with Polish, Tanzanian, French and English priests all receiving posts in the Curia. This is amid increasing resentment by some who view the Curia as once again being dominated by Italians.

Naturally, Archbishop Paglia and Archbishop Brugues will be created cardinals next year just behind the next CDF prefect, the announcement of which did not come, but one is expected in the next few days.

Unusual comparison


After Cardinal Levada was interviewed by John Allen, now it is the turn of the head of the LCWR.

While this is occurring, others have noted that that is a strange comparison between the generally LCWR and the Society of Saint Pius X who, it is thought, are on the cusp of re-entering the Church. He writes in Jesuit magazine America, that “it pays more to rebel than to faithfully question. The Vatican, under Benedict XVI, is doing somersaults to get the excommunicated, anti-semitic Lefebvrists back into the church’s tent”. Indeed, as has says, Pope Benedict has fundamentally changed the position of the Church from the Second Vatican Council being the test of acceptance of the SSPX to the Council being sidelined thus removing the last effective block of the SSPX readmission.

He goes on to write that “what parts of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council will SSPX get to pick and choose? I bet some of those teachings they want to get rid of are those crazy Vatican II decrees on the priesthood of the laity (Lumen Gentium), on the rights of Christ’s faithful (Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes), and certainly those nutty things the Council said about the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), about religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) and the unacceptability of ant-semitism (Nostra Aetate)”.

Indeed, while Benedict does accept these documents, his reading of them is substantially different to the standard reading that has prevailed over the course of the last five decades. Yet, as has been argued here before on these matters, Benedict is going too far, giving away too much, in accommodating a tiny sect, in some ways, detached from reality. Yet, Benedict’s vision for a smaller, more doctrinally pure Church seems to be the driving force for this change in thought from Vatican II.

As the writer acidly, though correctly says, “So now it is SSPX (flip!) that gets to tell the pope what he needs to believe? And what is even more troubling in this bizarre roundelay is that it is the Vatican that is pursuing the Lefebvrists, and not the other way around”.  He invites the reader to compare “this jilted lover’s pursuit of SSPX with the Vatican’s treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)”.

He goes on to stoutly defend the LCWR writing “according to the Vatican, the good sisters are too much concerned about the poor and the marginalized and not enough about crucial  church teachings against abortion and contraception. But helping the poor is the best way of fighting abortions, since the vast majority of abortions are economic ones. And as for fighting contraception, well, we all know what the church teaches, and we can judge for ourselves the acceptance of that teaching by Christ’s faithful. The nuns have absolutely nothing to do with that”. This does overlook the fact the the LCWR have only made things worse for themselves in high Church circles  by acting deliberately aggressively, thus putting those who support them in a harder position.

He concludes playfully, ” To get the Vatican to begin pursuing instead of persecuting them, the good sisters need to go into schism. They need to find a bishop or two with apostolic succession to get them started. Citing the findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission that there is no scriptural basis for the prohibition on female priests, they could declare John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be heretical”.

And so it continues.

Burke on SSPX


Cardianal Burke speaks on the talks of reconcilition.

Moving toward a decision


Pope Benedict seems to be moving toward a decision on a replacement William Joseph Cardinal Levada, 76, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Rocco makes the important point that Cardinal Levada’s expected successor, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Regensberg was appointed as a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and at the same time a member of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Rocco makes the point that Muller, “Said to be particularly close to Benedict — whose held his last professorship in Regensburg during the 1970s — the 64 year-old theologian (above) was surreptitiously added to the memberships of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity”.

He adds that “Levada is the lone senior Curialist who currently has a vote in both offices”, he goes on to mention that “the announcement is likely to spike chatter as, at least for some, today’s move recalls an apparent precedent”. In May 2008 the then Archbishop Burke was named a member of the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Rocco notes that the next month Burke was called to Rome and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

Named to the Congregation for Catholic Education at the same time was Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as well as “Manila’s Archbishop Chito Tagle” who is seen as a rising star at 54, though attached to a controversial school of thought of Vatican II that Pope Benedict fundamentally disagrees with.

Rocco concludes noting that Cardinal Levada, is the “highest-ranking American in Vatican history, the tenure of the LA-born prefect has seen the CDF largely immersed in high-profile matters largely focused on the English-speaking church, from overseeing the handling of clergy sex-abuse cases to facilitating the establishment of the Anglican ordinariates and, of course, the four-year doctrinal assessment of the superiors’ conference of the US’ religious sisters. Beyond principally Anglophone affairs, meanwhile, since 2010 the CDF’s head has likewise doubled as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei — the Curial arm which manages relations with traditionalist groups. As few would need reminding, topping that office’s plate is the ongoing reconciliation effort with the Society of St Pius X”.

Among the other prelates past the age of retirement are Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, archpriest of the Basilica  of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, the dean of the Roman Rota and Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Though Cardinals Monterisi and Abril y Castello are not expected to retire for some time due to their posts which are not especially onerous. Raffaele Cardinal Farina, S.D.B. was recently retired as archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church but no replacement was named.

On 15 June, the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was announced. The ordinariate covers Oceania for those conservative Anglicans who wish to join the Catholic Church.

Drawing close?


Rocco reports that on 13 June “According to a report from Catholic News Service, the superior of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, entered the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio — the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — at 5pm Rome time (11am Eastern) for the aforementioned meeting to possibly convey a papal decision on the breakaway traditionalist group’s reconciliation with Rome”.

Rocco goes on to note that divisions emerged between Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX and the three other bishops with Rome then saying that they would be dealt with individually.   He writes that “should a reconciliation deal be reached, a special canonical structure to accommodate a restored Society (or, most likely, the portion of it that seeks to return) is almost certain to be established. Years of indications have most often pointed to an extraterritorial set-up akin to either a personal prelature — a status currently enjoyed only by Opus Dei — or the new Anglican Ordinariates as the likely arrangement”.

However, it will be a blow to Pope Benedict if he and Fellay are unable to bring the entire SSPX back to the Church.

In a separate post on 14 June, Rocco mentions that the statement issued by the Press Office of the Holy See notes that “The purpose of the meeting was to present the Holy See’s evaluation of the text submitted in April by the Society of St. Pius X in response to the Doctrinal Preamble which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had presented to the Society on 14 September 2011”. It goes on to mention how “Also during the meeting, a draft document was submitted proposing a Personal Prelature as the most appropriate instrument for any future canonical recognition of the Society”.

It would be hard not to miss the significance of these words. It is clear that a deal is imminent with Rocco saying that “Fellay’s response would be unlikely to come until after the lead traditionalist group’s next general chapter, scheduled for 11-13 July at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland”.

Others close to the SSPX have noted that Bernard Tissier de Mallerais has called Rome “modernist”. By saying this, he has made clear that he has no interest in reconciling with the Church.

Too helpful


What has changed is the fact that Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite for the canonical solution.  Today, in Rome, some people regard a different understanding of the Council as something that is not decisive for the future of the Church, since the Church is more than the Council.  Indeed, the Church cannot be reduced to the Council;  she is much larger“.

Cold feet


After interesting thoughts from those close to Pope Benedict, John Allen mentions “Leaked correspondence shows that three of the four bishops of the society are strongly opposed to a deal, while the top French traditionalist has denounced the “plague” of the Second Vatican Council. The society’s superior has openly admitted a split may be in the works. Meanwhile in Rome, even some of the pope’s best friends are voicing concern that a deal should not signal a retreat from Vatican II”.

“Separately and singularly”


Update via Rorate, “the text of the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, received on 17 April, 2012, was examined and some observations, which will be considered in further discussions between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, were formulated. Regarding the positions taken by the other three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, their situations will have to be dealt with separately and singularly”.

Others note that the SSPX will be re-admitted to the Church “even if it does not recognise the controversial Vatican II texts or the New Mass”.

Splits in the SSPX are trying to undermine the unification, which is maybe no bad thing.



Amid the talk that the Society of Saint Pius X is about to formally reconcile with the Holy See some have noted opposition, even within key members of Pope Benedict’s “group”.

John Allen mentions how “some of the pope’s defenders appear to believe a clear signal of adherence to Vatican II ought to be the price of admission”. Indeed, this is the very least they should do before formal admittance into the “real world”.

Allen goes on to write that a conference held in Rome on 3-4 May at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross entitled  ‘Vatican II: The Permanent Value of a Reform for the New Evangelization,’ Allen mentions how “suggestions of anxiety over the Lefebvrites also bubbled to the surface. They were indirect, and certainly never took the form of overt opposition to reunion, but they seemed unmistakable. Opus Dei Fr. Johannes Grohe, a church historian at Santa Croce, surveyed various efforts both during and after Vatican II to bring the council’s authority into doubt, from some progressive theologians who argued it was not truly ‘ecumenical’ because the Orthodox and Protestants weren’t represented, from traditionalist critics who styled it as merely ‘pastoral’ and thus not binding on matters of faith”.

Allen pointedly notes that “Grohe defended Vatican II’s authority, insisting that its teaching is ‘binding’ and ‘must be accepted by those who want to enter into communion with the Catholic church.’ Grohe ended his talk with a call for a ‘profession of faith’, pointedly including the teachings of Vatican II, for anyone who wants to join the church.” Interestingly, and to the sure dismay of the SSPX, Allen says that “Grohe argued that a ‘profession of faith,’ a time-honored way to encapsulate core beliefs one must uphold to be considered Catholic, could be updated with a reference to Vatican II”. While this might lead to more splits, especially with the Orthodox Churches, the importance of Vatican II is plain for all to see, expect of course, the SSPX.

Allen finishes saying that Fr David Maria Jaeger, a judge of the Roman Rota and “veteran of Vatican negotiations with Israel over the tax and juridical status of church properties” made an “even blunter call to defend part of Vatican II’s legacy” adding specifically that Nostra Aetate has a “sharp rejection of anti-Semitism. That, too, has been a point of contention with the Lefebrvites; when Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops in January 2009, it was accompanied by a global cause célèbre related to comments made by one of those bishops questioning the reality of the Holocaust”, Allen ends writing that “Though Jaeger did not single out the Lefebrvites, he expressed concern about the conditions under which anyone with doubts about Vatican II might find their way back into the church”.

It is clear that Benedict still has some friends to win over on what is still a highly controversial issue.



On this, the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict, it would seem that his the short term project closest to him has almost come to fruition.

In mid April it was reported that Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X are “on the verge of reaching an agreement”. It notes that “As soon as it is received in Rome – ‘it is a matter of days, and no longer of weeks’, – it will be immediately examined. If it conforms to expectations, the Holy See will very quickly announce a historic agreement with this group of faithful, known under the name of ‘integrists'”.

It also mentions the enormous efforts that Pope Benedict has gone to to reconcile the Society with the Church notably “The reestablishment in 2007 – as an ‘extraordinary’ rite of the Catholic Church – of the Mass celebrated in Latin, that is, according to the Missal of John XXIII in force before the Council. The removal, in 2009, of the excommunications which fell on the four bishops ordained by Abp. Lefebvre”.

The article concludes noting, “It will probably be done with the creation of a special statute – a ‘personal prelature’ – already experienced by Opus Dei. This structure grants a true autonomy of action at the same time as the Catholic faith is shared. Its superior answers directly to the pope, and not to the bishops”. The response of “Bishop” Bernard Fellay is typical.

This is in addition to the note issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.  The communique mentions simply, “The text of the response of His Excellency Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, requested during the meeting in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of March 16, 2012, was delivered on April 17, 2012. This text will be examined by the Dicastery and submitted afterwards to the judgment of the Holy Father”.

The response of the Fr Federico Lombardi was “steps forward have been taken, that is to say, that the response, the new response, is rather encouraging. But there are still developments that will be made, and examined, and decisions which should be taken in the next few weeks.”

Others have mentioned “Lefebvrians were cautious when commenting on today’s declaration by the Vatican on the last doctrinal response given by traditionalists ahead of their full reintegration into the Catholic Church. The Society of St. Pius X issued an official communiqué stating that “the press has announced that Mgr. Bernard Fellay has addressed a positive response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that therefore the doctrinal issue between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X has now been resolved. The reality appears to be somewhat different. According to the communiqué, the letter sent on 17 April 2012 by the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X was a response to the request for clarification sent by Cardinal William Levada on 16 March, regarding the Doctrinal Preamble text which had been delivered on 14 September 2011”.

Lastly, John Allen notes that “Longtime observers say it remains unclear whether all the Lefebvrites would accept such an arrangement, even if Fellay and other leaders of the Society of St. Pius X embrace it. One possible scenario, they say, could be a further rupture within the society, as some elements enter communion with Rome while others balk”. This is of course a reference to Richard Williamson.

Time up


Vatican statement on SSPX ultimatum: “the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X was invited to clarify his position in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI”.

Another twist


So after the appointment of Angelo Cardinal Amato, SDB as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seemed assured it seems now that he has “no chance of being selected”.

The previous favourite, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Regensburg has returned to the running along with Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard and as has been stated here before, Archbishop Joseph DiNoia. Archbishop DiNoia worked as the undersecretary at the CDF until his 2009 appointment as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

Reports state that an English speaking candidate is being examined due not only to the large volume of sex abuse cases that still comprise much of the work of the Holy Office but also Anglicanorum coetibus and the overseeing the growth that it has seen recently. The appointment of Cardinal Ricard, would in some ways make a great deal of sense. He has been a member of both the CDF and the Pontifical Commission Ecclessia Dei for some time and knows the issues that are currently being discussed. His time at PCED has come to be particularly memorable due to the offer of reconciliation with the SSPX and the subsequent rejection of the offer of full communion with the Church. His French background could be a negative if an English speaker is a priority for the post.

There is still talk that if Bishop Muller does not take over from Cardinal Levada will could still be appointed to replace Cardinal Farina as archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church.

As expected


The Society of Saint Pius X has rejected the Doctrinal Preamble and thus “cannot give the doctrinal reassurances required of them to advance reconciliation with the Catholic Church”.

Apparently Fellay “said his understanding is that the document is ‘not a definite text’ and that it ‘can be clarified and modified.’ In particular, he would like to discuss what the Vatican means when it says that there is ‘leeway’ for a ‘legitimate discussion’ on the documents and legacy of the Second Vatican Council”.

While this may indeed be true, it is doubtful that much will come of it.

Last roll of the dice


The discussions between the Society of Saint Pius X and Roman authorities are slowly creaking to a conclusion.

On the 14th September, the fourth anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the president of the Pontifical Commission Eccelsia Dei, William Cardinal Levada its secretary, Mgr Guido Pozzo and the secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ and Fr Charles met Bernard Fellay and his officials to hand him, what has become to be know as the Doctrinal Preamble. It is thought that the SSPX has been presented with two proposals, one doctrinal and the other canonical.

The meeting was thought not to have lasted long.  It is now known that senior members of the SSPX will meet in early October in Albano, just outside Rome to discuss the offer.

It has been reported that “experts cautioned against expecting a dramatic turn in the relationship anytime soon”. The talks that took place in 2009 and 2010, with “the five-member Vatican delegation consisted of Italian Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission responsible for relations with the traditionalists; Spanish Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of the doctrinal congregation; German Jesuit Msgr. Karl Becker, a longtime adviser to the congregation; Spanish Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, vicar general of Opus Dei; and Swiss Dominican Fr. Charles Morerod, rector of the Angelicum University”. The talks focused on, the Second Vatican Council, religious freedom, ecumenism, and to a lesser extent the liturgy.

Allen reports that “Fellay gave a controversial interview in which he said that for the traditionalists, the aim of the sessions wasn’t finding compromise but rather explaining to the Vatican the “contradictions” between eternal Catholic teaching and the innovations introduced at Vatican II”. Allen adds that the result of this was that “a participant told NCR that at one point Pozzo, who chaired the meetings, asked one of the Vatican delegates if he’d like to contribute something. The delegate reportedly replied: ‘Bishop Fellay has said that the purpose of these talks is for the society to explain what it means to be Catholic. Do I actually need to speak?'”

In addition to all of this, “Fellay also said that two new stumbling blocks to reunion had emerged: the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom traditionalists considered excessively liberal, and Benedict’s plan to host an interreligious summit in Assisi, Italy, this October”.

Now that the discussions are over, it is the last time a pope and his officials will be engaged so vigourously with the the SSPX for many years to come, perhaps ever. The SSPX must decide what they prefer to be in communion with Rome or not. This is probably the best offer they will ever get.

Solution found?


After the breakdown in discussions, the SSPX are heading back to Rome.

Universal Church


The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, under its president, William Cardinal Levada issued an instruction on 13 May, Universae Ecclesiae (The Universal Church), on the Tridentine Mass that clarified Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

The document was called for in Summorum Pontificum itself which says that after three years the bishops of the world should write to Rome to report on its implementation and take up by the faithful. The statement that goes with the instruction notes that “We must remember that ‘Instructions… clarify the prescripts of laws and elaborate and determine the methods to be observed in fulfilling them” (CIC, can. 34). As indicated in n.12, the instruction is issued ‘to ensure the correct interpretation and proper application'”.  

The instruction, as Rocco reports, is “intended to reinforce the 1962 Missal’s lasting place in modern ecclesial life and urging ‘generous’ provisions for its use, albeit with no illusions of the post-Conciliar rites’ being eclipsed by the Tridentine books.

Rocco reports that Universae Ecclesiae, has three aims are to: “offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; “effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; and “promoting reconciliation at the heart of the church.”

He goes on to report that the document says that “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church”. This is a recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X who refuse to acknowledge the validity of the post Conciliar vernacular Mass.

Rocco also reports that the document encourages that seminarians “should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.”

However as was predicted earlier, the instruction orders that “Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted”.

Traditionalist friendly websites have praised the instruction while others have dissatisfied with the supposed limitations. It is in the interests of the Church that this ancient liturgy be given due respect and be as widely available as possible.

Thus far and no further


Today marks the beatification of Pope John Paul II in record time, only six years after his death on 2 April 2005. The late pope’s achievements are profound and should indeed be recognised. Yet, there are critics who say that after John Paul’s death the world witnessed a whitewashed version of events of his life.

The fact that he was a holy man who did his best to live out his faith in the world is almost unqestioned.  Many have reported after his death that John Paul was a living saint who should be seen as one. Crowds, shouted Santo subito (Saint now) at his funeral which shows not only the level of popular devotion.

Not only that, but a look at the guest list shows that in addition to the usual guests, there many Muslim heads of state, and a delegation from the Arab League, and members of other religions especially the Orthodox Churches who John Paul did much to foster relations with as well as representatives from Judism who the pontiff rightly, did much to heal past wounds and injustices.   

When he famously visited his assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in a  Roman prison he showed that it is not revenge, but mercy and forgiveness that sets us free.  

A somewhat representative picture shows that “78% of Americans – along with 95 percent of Catholics and 98 percent of practicing Catholics – admire Pope John Paul II at least somewhat”. Interestingly, the survey shows the overwhelming numbers supporting his beatification with “Nearly three out of four Americans (74 percent) believe that Pope John Paul II is a good candidate for the honor of beatification. So do 9 in 10 Catholics (90 percent) and an even greater number of practicing Catholics (94 percent)”. What is not clear however, are the numbers who support his canonisation.

The Society of Saint Pius X has already made its views clear on the beatification. Indeed, many consider it part of the reason why the discussions on unification between the SSPX and the Church are  coming to an end. Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX has said that “a pontificate that caused things to proceed by leaps and bounds in the wrong direction, along ‘progressive’ lines, toward everything that they call ‘the spirit of Vatican II.’ This is therefore a public acknowledgment not only of the person of John Paul II, but also of the Council and the whole spirit that accompanied it”.  The writer explains that many would not see John Paul in these terms but “John Paul’s ecumenical and inter-religious outreach, his social teaching, even the style of his liturgical celebrations (think World Youth Day) — one can begin to see how a traditionalist might style him a terribly ‘progressive’ pope”.

However the biggest block to John Paul being declared a saint is his treatment of priests and bishops accused of covering up child abuse. The case of Hans Cardinal Goer is just one example of many. Cardinal Goer who was archbishop of Vienna was a known abuser and while there was an investigation into him by the CDF in the early 1990s but it was largely blocked by Cardinal Sodano perhaps not with the direct approval of the pope but it is not hard to imagine Sodano taking his cue from the pope. Not only that but the promotion of Bernard Cardinal Law as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore after he resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston having knowningly moved abuser priest from parish to parish smacks of a slap in the face.

While in Ireland, it was made known that Archbishop Luciano Storero, the nuncio, gave orders to bishops to relax their abuse policy, the “document appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects”. Speaking on the beatification, “prelates who knew the pope argued that a tight focus on the sexual abuse crisis misses the big picture of what John Paul II was all about. ‘If you take his personality as a whole, you’ll have the measure of the man,’ said Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who worked in the Vatican under John Paul II in various capacities throughout his entire papacy. ‘He was so clear, so transparent, and so honest,’ Tomko said”. Cardinal Tomko however is deluding himself. Therefore the official line is that he is being beatified in spite of what he did.

But for all the praise heaped upon him, much of it worthy, as David Gisbon said people “loved the singer not the song”. People weren’t rushing back to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality or not living together before marriage.

Was it all just a personality cult? No, but after today he has been honoured enough.

More Catholic than the Pope


As the much heralded talks between the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and Rome unsurprisingly flounder and fail, there is talk of a new motu proprio on the clarification of Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

Firstly, the discussions that have been ongoing since late 2009 were meant to bring the schismatic SSPX back into the Church, especially after Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four illicitly consecrated bishops in January 2009, amid outrage that the Holocaust denying Richard Williamson was included. This does not however change their canonical situation as the men “consecrated” by Archbishop Lefebvre has not changed and they are not bishops.

The Reuters report states that Superior General of the SSPX, Bernard Fellay was “Asked if Vatican officials had changed their minds during the talks, which began in late 2009, he said: ‘I don’t think that you can say that.’ He said the pope ‘has a certain sympathy for us, but within limits.'”

The Church and the SSPX have been discussing the role of modernity in the Church which encompasses inter-religious dialogue as well as other issues. A key demand of the SSPX was the liberalisation of the stunning pre-Conciliar Tridentine Mass, which Summorum Pontificum granted, which also fits in the Benedict’s reform of the reform agenda. Now however it is unclear where, if indeed anywhere, the discussions will go.

Secondly, when Summorum Pontificum was first released it promised that in three years, i.e. 2010, there would be a clarification. Word is now spreading that this document is almost ready and is apparently restrictive. According to easily excitable sources the ordination of priests, other than those using the old mass exclusively eg FSSP, IBP and others will have the rite restricted.

It is doubtful that this restriction of the Extraordinary Form is what Benedict wants but either way there will soon be clarity.

Word from Rome II


Following on from the previous post, Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX has denied any new motu proprio that would regularise relations between the SSPX and Rome.

Fellay, has refused to acknolwdege the exist of a document that would bring the SSPX back to Rome. He said that the “rumour”, started by Richard Williamson was false. Fellay said that “‘I’m very annoyed by the whole thing,’ said Bishop Fellay. ‘Bishop Williamson’s statement is an unauthorized statement and is his own personal statement and not that of the Society'”.  

Williamson, seen as a loose canon, even to Fellay, may have designs to force Rome’s hand seeing that the talks are failing, or as is more likely, could be trying to ensure the talks end in failure. The article states that Williamson “warns Catholics about the ‘danger’ of a rumored motu proprio designed to lure the SSPX lay faithful into union with Rome and said, ‘…there is no way in which the neo-modernist teaching of Vatican II can be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine of the true Church'”. 

Williamson is long known to be a Holocaust denier and to  propound conspiracy theories. He came to media attention for giving an interview, one day after Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication on the four illictly ordained men in January 2009. The men, who are validly ordained Catholic priests, are not bishops. The sacraments that they give out are not valid in the eyes of the Church.

How this will affect the ongoing talks remains to be seen.