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.

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A Year of Faith or a Year of Doubt?

This is the last installment of a series that I originally planned to be just two posts, but has turned out to be four.  I link to them, not in the order that I posted them, but in the order of their logical development.   First, there is a bit of background about my own experience and formation with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and what I mean by the term “traditionalism,” and why I think a discussion of it is important (“Traditionalism and Liturgy”).  Second, is a an explanation of the stated motives of Pope Benedict XVI for having promulgated the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum and what he means by the “reform of the reform” (“The Spirit of Summorum Pontificum”). The third installment is an examination of what the current debate over the “hermeneutic of continuity” is all about and why a statement of Pope Benedict has been used speciously as a pretext to question the continuity of Vatican II with Tradition (“Traditionalist Sleight of Hand”).  And lastly, here I wish to illustrate the current problem of sympathy for traditionalism by means of the contrast between traditionalist incursions and the responses to them from the Vatican over the last several years.

On October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict promulgated an apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, “the Door of Faith” in which he announced “A Year of Faith” to begin in exactly one year on October 11, 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict tells us that he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, who in 1967 announced a year of faith to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdoms of Saints Peter and Paul.

I believe that this announcement is both providential and calculated.  The Holy Father is taking opportunity of the providence of God in the arrival of these anniversaries to address a mounting “orthodox” contempt for the Second Vatican Council—a traditionalist sleight of hand that proposes to dissect the Council and analyze it according to contingent opinions about Tradition and then invoke Pope Benedict as the one who mandated the exercise.  For a growing number of traditional Catholics, in spite of fifty years of papal teaching, the problems of our times within the Church were not occasioned by disintegration of modernity hitting the Church at the time of the Council.  On the contrary, they tell us, the Council itself has been the cause of a great anti-dogmatic revolution.  And Pope Benedict is on their side, they say!

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SSPX on the Brink

No joy for the SSPX.  They did not sign and the Holy Father has not backed down.  It seems, as I have said, that the Holy Father does not favor the position of Gherardini and De Mattei.

The doctrinal preamble is non-negotiable.  The existence of a hermeneutic of continuity, as such, is not a matter for debate.

Here is a section from the Final Report for the Synod of Bishops of 1985. It seems to be one of the first, if not the first reference to conciliar continuity, and may have been influenced by Joseph Ratzinger.  It is highly unlikely, to my mind, that is was not:

The theological interpretation of the conciliar doctrine must show attention to all the documents, in themselves and in their close inter-relationship, in such a way that the integral meaning of the Council’s affirmations–often very complex–might be understood and expressed. Special attention must be paid to the four major Constitutions of the Council, which contain the interpretative key for the other Decrees and Declarations. It is not licit to separate the pastoral character from the doctrinal vigor of the documents. In the same way, it is not legitimate to separate the spirit and the letter of the Council. Moreover, the Council must be understood in continuity with the great tradition of the Church, and at the same time we must receive light from the Council’s own doctrine for today’s Church and the men of our time. The Church is one and the same throughout all the councils.

Basically, the doctrinal preamble states that “[i]t is not licit to separate the pastoral character from the doctrinal vigor of the documents. In the same way, it is not legitimate to separate the spirit and the letter of the Council.”  This has been the essential point all along and Joseph Ratzinger, now the Vicar of Christ, will not budge.

I know many have a problem with this statement, but at some point those who love the Church will have to concede to Peter.  This brings to mind the response of Cardinal Ottaviani to the new Mass and his eventual acceptance of the liturgical changes. [see comment below  The following quote was made by Cardinal Ottaviani before the intervention.  The comment linked to shows other evidence of his acceptance of the liturgical changes, though this one indicates his disposition of obedience]:

The words of Christ “feed my sheep” are words which have been addressed only to His Vicar, and it follows that whoever would wish to be counted among the Flock of Christ must submit to the Universal Pastor appointed by Christ.  No one can be an exception to this rule, not even bishops.

There is no way around this point except to fall into sectarianism.

I find this report concerning Bishop Fellay’s reaction to the decision of the CDF interesting:

During this morning’s meeting, however, he appeared more conciliatory, and in a private conversation that took place in the palace of the former Holy Office, he said he had “no difficulty in accepting the profession of faith,” and also claimed to have no difficulties with the principles expressed in the preamble: the problem, Fellay said, was not the principles, but their application – namely, the fact that the Church today lacks fidelity to the Magisterium.

But this not what he was saying six weeks ago, when it was clear that he would not sign and he was giving his reasons why:

And I may say, what is presented today, which is already different from what was presented on the 14th of September, we can consider it as all right, good. They fulfilled all our requirements, I may say, on the practical level. So there is not much problem there. The problem remains at the other level – at the level of the doctrine. But even there it goes very far – very far, my dear brethren. The key is a principle. Which they say, “this you must accept; you must accept that for the points that make difficulty in the Council – points which are ambiguous, where there is a fight – these points, like ecumenism, like religious liberty, these points must be understood in coherence with the perpetual teaching of the Church.” “So if there is something ambiguous in the Council, you must understand it as the Church has always taught throughout the ages.”

This is problematic to say the least.  Heads up and pray for Bishop Fellay and the members of the SSPX.  This is their last chance.

The Spirit of Summorum Pontificum

In this essay I continue to register my thoughts on traditionalism and liturgy, specifically with a discussion of the expressed motives for Pope Benedict’s promulgation of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum.  After this post I plan to take up where I left off with my “Traditionalist Sleight of Hand” essay.

The current biformity of the Roman rite, established formally by the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, is a reality that has existed and has been spoken about as such by Joseph Ratzinger for many years.  He has said numerous times that the old form, that is, the Extraordinary Form, was never abrogated.  However, the Motu Proprio establishes by way of “universal law” this biformal liturgical discipline, presumably, attempting to stabilize, at least for now, this condition as the liturgical status quo:  two forms, one ordinary, the other extraordinary.  The motives for this have been variously interpreted, and it seems to me that something parallel but antithetical to what happened in regard to the interpretation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council has happened in respect to the text of Summorum Pontifcum.   I hope to make this clear as well as suggest a sound alternative. Continue reading