The Crypto-Lefebvrist Dodge

The following is my response to Professor Roberto de Mattei (Italian, English) who recently came to the defense of Rorate Caeli. I note that neither de Mattei nor Rorate Caeli link to my original critiques (1 & 2).

Professor Roberto De Mattei, like New Catholic at Rorate Caeli, believes that my use of the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” is meaningless. They say that it is name-calling directed at faithful Catholics. In particular, de Mattei believes that my intention is to demonize those whose only wish is to be guided by Tradition and the Magisterium, and who under that guidance decide for themselves when the reigning Pope is to be followed and when he is not.

I have been saying for a long time that Bishop Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, has been highly successful at executing his intention for the now failed dialogue with Rome. That intention, which he explicitly stated a number of times, was that the work of the Society should serve to weaken the influence of Vatican II. Roberto de Mattei has labored at this right along the Society of St. Pius X. Continue reading

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Evangelii Gaudium and the Culture War

“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

—Benedict XVI, quoted by Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, 7

The Year of faith has just ended with the proclamation “Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the center of the history of every individual.”  And today Pope Francis has released his first Apostolic Exhortation in which he encourages us to create the conditions in which all men may find Christ in an “event,” a personal encounter capable of bringing a “new horizon and a decisive direction.”  Both Benedict and Francis have invested much in this event of the encounter with Christ, and have proposed it as the way that supersedes all ethical choices and lofty ideas.  This is the new evangelization.

With this post I would like to examine a specific problem regarding the reception of Pope Francis’ teaching.  Unfortunately, some have already pigeonholed Pope Francis as a liberal and are poised to parse his every word in that light.  I would suggest his teaching ought to be approached not simply through an assessment of “lofty ideas,” but as an encounter—a personal opportunity in the here and now to accept a transformative grace.   It is too soon for me to write anything in depth about the Apostolic Exhortation, but not too soon to suggest a manner of reception that will prove to be fruitful.  And for that we need to avoid a serious pitfall. Continue reading

St. Francis through the Eyes of . . . Updated

Several weeks ago I gave a conference to our Third Order in New Bedford on St. Francis and his charism entitled “St. Francis through the Eyes of St. Bonaventure, through the Eyes of Pope Benedict, through the Eyes of Pope Francis.”  It is largely based on three general audiences that Pope Benedict delivered in March of 2010 (3, 10, 17), about St. Bonaventure, his life, his influence on the Franciscan Order and his theology.

Pope Benedict is somewhat of an authority on St. Bonventure, having written a thesis on the Seraphic Doctor’s theology of history.  Some have said that it is Pope Benedict’s understanding of this teaching of St. Bonaventure’s that is a key to his papacy.  At least, I would contend that it is a key to what Pope Benedict called the “hermeneutic of continuity.”

I believe this is all helpful to understanding where the Church is headed under Pope Francis and may help to explain the style and content of his comments, particularly in his interviews.  In the following audio recording of my conference one will hear me make reference to the  interview with Eugenio Scalfari, in which, according to Scalfari, the Holy Father stated that that the most the “most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.”  I suggested, with Zygmunt Bauman, writing in L’Osservatore Romano,  that Pope Francis may be saying something more than is suggested in the all the commentary.  Since I gave the conference the Scalfari interview has been removed from the Vatican website, presumably because Scalfari’s recollection of the Pope’s words leaves something to be desired.  This is all worth keeping in mind.

In any case, even if the Holy Father said nothing like the quote above, I believe it remains true that his emphasis on the relational aspects of the new evangelization will continue to be key to his pontificate and its advisability will continue to be debated.

Of that debate, I will have more to say in the next few days.  Here is the conference:

Update: Scalfari Confesses to having published his own invention under the title “interview.”

Francis the Prophet

I have sat back a bit to observe the reaction to Pope Francis’s interview with Father Antonio Spadaro.  So far, I have only mentioned it briefly in my last post where the Holy Father touched upon a topic I was already working on.  I do not think anyone is surprised that pundits on the far left and right have interpreted the Holy Father’s remarks as expressing freewheeling liberalism.  Neither is it surprising that those loyal to the Holy Father have dedicated most of their time to clarifying what the Holy Father actually said.  Hopefully, now more time will be spent assimilating his words without fear of receiving or conveying the wrong message.

I think Pope Francis in the interview is perceived  by many commentators the way he must be by the Vatican Police who are constantly challenged in their efforts to maintain a parameter of safety around this man who is of the people, and who finds it necessary to relate directly with them.  The Vatican police must wonder if the Holy Father is aware of the danger, because he does not seem to show it.  On the contrary, from his contact with the people as well as from his teaching and example, it seems that Pope Francis sees a greater danger in not taking such risks. Continue reading

Francis and the Holy Spirit

The people of St. Francis’ time, both the hierarchy and the simple faithful, recognized him as a particular prophetic instrument of the Holy Spirit.  He created a movement that set the world on fire and it spread like fire.  His movement was both traditional and innovative.  I wonder if in the providence of God Pope Francis’ name has a significance beyond what even himself might have anticipated.  St. Francis was an instrument of the Holy Spirit to reform the Church in difficult times.  But his innovation was not without its own problems. Reform typically initiates a crisis from which equilibrium only emerges after time and much difficulty.

St. Francis’ spirit of obedience to the Church manifested itself, not only in an evangelical desire for reform and the simple gospel life.  It also showed itself in a docility to the prescriptions of reform promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council.  In fact, St. Francis made sure that the simple gospel life of the friars was protected from pride and error by his instance, stated at both the beginning and end of his Rule, that the friars remain humble and submissive to the Holy Roman Pontiff. Continue reading

Benedict and Francis

Most Catholics around the world are giving thanks to God for a new pope.  A few of us are already pontificating about the future.  This is my own little reflection on the relationship  between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Benedict’s Plan

I believe that in order to fully appreciate the events of the last month or so, one must consider that we have a new Holy Father because, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict carefully formulated a plan.  The evidence shows that he did not just wake up one morning and say: “I have had it.  I just can’t do it anymore.”  The historical facts indicate that he was considering a potential abdication through most of his pontificate.  I think it is also fair to say that he was aware of all the potential outcomes.  The man, before anything else is a thinker.  I don’t believe he was surprised by any of the reactions or criticisms.  He had prayed for a long time and had thought the whole thing through.  When he made his decision he was definitive. Continue reading

In the Hands of God: Updated

The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain,” to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength.

Benedict XVI, February 24, 2013

These words from the Holy Father rise above the confusion of the media feeding frenzy, tearing into every rumor, conspiracy theory and rash judgment about his abdication.  I am not so naive as to think that the media circus should be surprising, nor am I scandalized that men should speak the sincere convictions concerning this matter.  But there are risks involved in all of it. Continue reading

The Lord is Victorious

And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialized … and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church.

It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us.

I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious! Thank you.

Benedict XVI, February 14, 2013

Immediate reaction to the address of the Holy Father to the Roman clergy has been varied. Some have interpreted his comments as a remarkable and a new revelation of his disdain for the conciliar reforms; others as a poor attempt of distinguishing the work of the Council itself from its aftermath.  In fact, he has simply reaffirmed what he has been saying since the beginning of his pontificate, namely, that Council needs to be interpreted according to a hermeneutic of continuity and reform, not one of rupture.

Continue reading

Pastoral Authority of Peter II

Rorate Caeli has given a translation of an excerpt of yesterday’s  address of the Holy Father to the Italian episcopal conference:

[M]ay the 50th anniversary of its beginning [of Vatican II], which we will celebrate in the fall, be an occasion to deepen the study of its texts, the condition for a dynamic and faithful reception. “That which above all concerns the Council is that the sacred deposit of the Christian faith be kept and taught in a more efficacious way,” Pope Blessed John XXIII affirmed in his opening address. And it is worthwhile to meditate and read these words.

The Pope charged the Fathers to deepen and present such a perennial doctrine in continuity with the millennial Tradition of the Church: “to pass on the doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or distortions,” but in a new way, “according to what is required by our times.” (Address of solemn opening of the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican II, October 11, 1962). With this key for its reading and application – according to a view, certainly not of an unacceptable hermeneutic of discontinuity and of rupture, but of a hermeneutic of continuity and of reform -, listening to the Council and making ours the authoritative indications are the path to ascertaining the ways with which the Church may offer a significant response to the great social and cultural transformations of our time, which have visible consequences also on the religious sphere.

That last sentence underscores the importance of the “supreme, effective, and authoritative pastoral office of Peter” as the only adequate principle of unity for the Church.  Pope Benedict speaks of “authoritative indications” pointing the way toward discernment in matters pertaining to the “great social and cultural transformations of our time.”  The pope is not simply arguing for the doctrinal continuity of the Council with Tradition, but also that the pastoral discernment of the Council and its correct interpretation by the papal magisterium is the work, not of man but of God.

Applying the principles of the faith to the problems of the modern world has been a complicated process.  Progressives used the liberty granted by the Council as a pretext for a modernist revolution.  It was a risk all the postconciliar popes have been to say was necessary to take, and while we can continue to argue to the end of the world about what hypothetically would have happened had there been no Council, Peter, to whom Christ entrusted his Church, has settled the matter.  This is abundantly clear, but, of course, not clear enough to those who really “know” what is good for the Church.  Take a look at the comments on Rorate Caeli.  This one, fairly moderate as they go, is a succinct summary:

Father B said…
More and more I look at Vatican II as an event of unnecessary surgery.
24 May, 2012 16:50

It is a bit disconcerting that Cardinal Brandmüller refers to Dignitatis humanae and Nostra aetate as “non-binding,” because of a lack of “binding doctrinal content.”  Is he suggesting that “pastoral authority” is no authority?  It seems that Pope Benedict’s argument regarding the “hermeneutic of reform,” which includes both a measure of discontinuity of application within the continuity of doctrine, is not an attempt at all to declare that the Council must be followed because it is infallible, or always doctrinally binding.  Rather, it is the affirmation of the magisterium’s pastoral authority to interpret doctrine and apply it according to circumstances. Furthermore, such applications are not always merely pastoral, as is the case in regard to religious liberty.  They constitute a development of doctrine.

I find it remarkable that Pope Benedict patiently reaffirms this at every turn in spite of the unvarying responses of traditionalists.