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March 2009

Ut Unum Sint


[...] In the accomplishment of this service [of the unity of Christians], I decided, a few days ago, to grant the remission of the excommunication in which the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, without pontifical mandate, had incurred. I fulfilled this act of fatherly mercy because those prelates repeatedly manifested to me their deep suffering for the situation in which they found themselves. I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by the solicitous effort by them to accomplish the ulterior steps necessary to accomplish full communion with the Church, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience 28/1/2009


Last October, on the Feast of Christ the King, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, conducted a pilgrimage to Lourdes where he initiated a Rosary campaign for the above intention. The remission of the excommunication “was for us a gift of the Holy Virgin,” said SSPX Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa. “Because we had given the Pope the [1.7 million] rosaries which we had offered as a gift from the Holy Virgin.”

Thus, the maternal intercession of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, has brought about this unexpected advance which removes a significant hurdle to the reintegration of the SSPX into the mainstream life of the Church; a stabilising prospect for both parties.

In the process, Christ, through his Vicar on earth, has signalled two pivotal things. Firstly, He has restored authentic Catholic meaning to “Ut unum sint” - His appeal to God the Father for unity among His Catholic disciples: “That they may be one” [Jn 17:21] - a sacred phrase long perverted by false ecumenism. Secondly, He has thereby corrected the skewed priorities of the Vatican, since the papal gesture cries out: “Physician heal thyself!” Our Lord is saying: ‘A sick Church cannot possibly heal a sick world, let alone the doctrinal and moral wounds of the “separated brethren” which keep them from My Catholic Body.’ Or, put another way: ‘Charity begins at home; not with the neighbours!’
Some further reflections:

• While the “deep suffering” of the excommunicated Bishops was a pastoral concern for the Holy Father, his decision is a giant step towards solving the more practical problem of ultimate authority: a dilemma faced by all those who break with Rome, no matter how allegedly righteous their cause. As Bishop Fellay reminded his flock several years ago during his tumultuous clash with Fr Phillipe Laguérie (over what the latter perceived as troubling deficiencies and tendencies at the Econe seminary): since Rome does not recognise the Society there is no higher court of appeal for its priests, and unless they accept the Superior’s decisions as the last word in such disputes the SSPX edifice cannot stand. In other words, everything depends on this unspoken clerical pact which periodically proves intolerable to aggrieved priests, like the hugely popular Fr Laguérie (revered for leading the Society’s 1977 seizure of the church of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet in central Paris). At loggerheads with Bishop Fellay and unable to appeal his disciplinary decisions, Laguérie finally reconciled with Rome and founded the traditional Institute of the Good Shepherd.

Apart from relieving the personal discomfort of the four Bishops and saving the Society from ‘structural implosion’ in the long-term, the Pope’s decision is also fundamental to stemming a “psychological schism” among younger SSPX generations who “have never known a normal ecclesiastical situation.” For publicly voicing this and other concerns made known to him by the SSPX faithful, Archbishop Lefebvre’s close companion/assistant and former French District Superior, Fr Paul Aulagnier, was expelled from the Society in 2003. He, too, reconciled with Rome.

• Although corporate reconciliation and regularisation should eventually resolve these bitter spats and splits, a final resolution is far from settled. “Are you now Bishops for the Pope?” La Stampa asked Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. “No, we are still not [titular] Bishops because we do not have an episcopal see.” he responded. “It is not finished, time is needed. The Pope will decide [our future], with the mediation of the Roman Curia.”

To allow this mediation to proceed smoothly, it was important for Rome to clarify the precise canonical implications of the Holy Father’s decision, to allay all confusion and stop the claims and counter-claims of Modernists, neocons and traditionalists which began before the ink had dried on the Vatican Decree. Thankfully, the Secretariat of State issued a Note on 4 February which stated:

The removal of the excommunication released the four Bishops from an extremely grave canonical censure, but has not changed the juridical position of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, which, at the current moment, does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. Not even the four Bishops, though released from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not exercise licitly a ministry in it.

In case the desired “accomplishment of full communion” is not as “prompt” as the Decree signals, it might be prudent to issue a further definitive statement on other contentious issues - to clarify such workaday matters as attendance at SSPX Masses and Society priests vis-à-vis the faculties required from local bishops for the valid dispensation of the sacraments of matrimony and penance.

• In welcoming the papal decision, Bishop Fellay declared: “we accept and make our own all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council.” Like us, he has “reservations” about the Council. Yet while he had stated elsewhere that “accepting the Council is not a problem for us” [La Liberté, 11/5/01], it was suddenly unclear whether he did accept it, or if he was now conflating a rotten Council with an invalid one? In a 29 January interview with Corriere della Sera, however, Cardinal Hoyos, head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission,settled the matter.“In our conversations,” he said, “Bishop Fellay has recognised Vatican Council II, he has recognised it theologically. Only a few difficulties remain, such as ecumenism and freedom of conscience...”

What bad news for the shell-shocked Liberals! Counting on the Society to shoot itself in the foot (not for the first time, some would say) by refusing that “recognition of the authority” of Vatican II flagged by Benedict as non-negotiable, they had to make do with Bishop Williamson’s toe-curling attempt to reduce the Holocaust from genocide to small-scale slaughter on Swedish television. Making common cause with the godless ‘Holocaust Industry,’ they created an international incident out of the merely ludicrous and offensive views of a notoriously eccentric prelate.

“The official Jewish response to the affair,” wrote Rabbi Kula, the high profile President of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York, “says a great deal about the psycho-social state of American Jewish leadership or at least the leadership that claims to speak for American Jews.”

Referring to himself on the Washington Post website as “an eighth generation rabbi and someone who lost much family in the Holocaust,” Rabbi Kula slammed Jewish organisations and leaders worldwide for their “outrageously over the top” response. This would include Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who bleated disingenuously that the lifting of the excommunication shows that Vatican “sensitivity to us as Jews is not what it should be.” Dear oh dear! As Kula pointed out, both Benedict XVI and John Paul II are renowned for their sensitivity to the Jews. He queried: “Where is the ‘proportionality’ ... in response to something that is admittedly upsetting but in the scheme of things is less than trivial? [...] Would we Jews like to be judged by the crankiest, most outlandish, hurtful, and stupid thing any rabbi in the world said about Catholics or Christians?”

Dismissing ranters like the Chief Rabbinate in Israel (“one of the most corrupt religious establishments in Western democracies”!) the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the American Jewish Committee and all the usual suspects whose fund-raising depends on such rabid shows of faux indignation (and whose arrogance and vicious bullying foments anti-semitism) Kula thundered:

Is it possible that the leadership of Jewish defense agencies... have become so possessed by their roles as monitors of anti-Semitism, so haunted by unresolved fears, guilt, and even shame regarding the Holocaust, and perhaps so unconsciously driven by how these issues literally keep their institutions afloat, that they have become incapable of distinguishing between a bishop’s ridiculous, loopy, discredited views about the Holocaust and a Church from the Pope down which has clearly and repeatedly recognized the evil done to Jews in the Holocaust and called for that evil to never be forgotten.

Jewish American historian Norman Finkelstein, the son of concentration camp survivors, says the same thing even more bluntly in his explosive book The Holocaust Industry [2000]. He rightly considers the ruthless industrialisation and exploitation of Jewish suffering by the self-serving Jewish establishment a greater threat to the memory of the Holocaust than Holocaust deniers. Laying bare their lies and naked greed, he has suffered at their smearing hands for truth-telling. Rabbi Kula better watch out!

• And so the Williamson uproar says far more about the corrupt liberal Jewish and Catholic ‘elites’ than the state of the Church. Utterly irrelevant to the rapprochement itself, it will not prevent the hard-core Vatican-SSPX discussions from proceeding as scheduled.

This is a prospect we all relish but which the Modernist hegemony shudders to imagine: since it promises to be not so much a “dialogue” as a tug of war! “There will be doctrinal theological discussions regarding doctrines of the Second Vatican Council between the delegates of the Holy See and us,” says Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. “We do not change our positions, but we have the intention of converting Rome, that is, to lead Rome towards our positions.”

No wonder the Mods are torn between fury, desperation and fright: variously fulminating, riding the Williamson scapegoat and shaking in their dummy-spitting booties! The enemy within the gate has been thrown into disarray for the second time in a few years and it is a providential joy to behold.

Not that this kind of Schadenfreude is appreciated by everyone. A couple of readers found our teasing treatment of the queeny tantrum thrown by Italian Bishop Luca Brandolini at the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, ‘unChristian’ [Oct. 2007]. Yet not only was that mild indulgence in ‘traddy triumphalism’ a most charitable exercise for all concerned, in our view it was about forty years overdue! And now we have Tantrum II.

In The Tablet, a Modernist theologian (oxymoron) by the name of Nicholas Lash greatly feared a backing down from Vatican II. A concern shared by its Rome correspondent, Robert Mickens, who yelped: “All of this should be a cause of great alarm to those of us who still believe that something monumental happened at Vatican II, that there were developments, reforms and  - yes - points of rupture with the past (despite the Pope’s unconvincing arguments to the contrary).” Elsewhere he further opined:

A young professor at the Legionaries of Christ’s university in Rome, Fr Mauro Gagliardi, gave a clue of what to expect.  “The Fraternity of St Pius X can offer the Church an important contribution in applying the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ that must be applied to the documents of Vatican II,” he said.

... And Gagliardi is not just any professor in Rome. He was recently named as consultant to the papal liturgical ceremonies office and mixes in the circles that are currently in favour in the Vatican. He said, “The ‘Lefebvrists’ have a spirituality and charism that can be a richness for the life of the entire Church.” This certainly is the view of Cardinal Castrillon and probably reflects, at least in some measure, the Pope’s thinking, too.

There is no question that Pope Benedict wants the SSPX back in the Church. Up to now he has done everything to accommodate them on their terms. He will do so on the interpretation of the Council, as well.... The Lefebvrists will argue, and the Pope will agree, that, in substance, we have the same doctrine after Vatican II as we had before. All “changes” were merely stylistic or operational, but not theological - i.e. none of the changes were essential, so none have to be adopted. The Vatican and the SSPX will also say, together, that much of the Council was badly misinterpreted by theologians and bishops in the post-conciliar period, and they will even cite the long list of theologians the CDF condemned to prove that Rome never caved in. Despite everything to the contrary (i.e. the fact that the SSPX does not really buy or live Vatican II), they will find a way together to finagle a formula that helps them profess “true fidelity and true recognition” of the Council (in light of the constant Tradition) but allows them to continue living as if Vatican II never existed. There are already a number of “Ecclesia Dei” communities in communion in Rome (off-shoots of the SSPX like the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) that currently do this.

Piling lament upon lament, the more depressed the Modernists became, the more Catholic spirits soared. To be fair, despite their laughable dejection, at least Nicholas Lash and Robert Mickens did not whine like little girls. But they didn’t have to: Italian theologian Gianni Gennari railed and rented his unholy garments on behalf of the Liberal ‘chatterati’ worldwide. 

“I can’t fight back the tears .... This is the saddest moment in my life ... It’s a day of mourning,” was Bishop Brandolini’s pathetic response to Summorum. Eighteen months on, it is Gennari’s turn. For this laicized (married) priest and popular columnist for the Catholic daily Avvenire, the Pope’s decision is not an exercise of charity or a show of fatherly love for his SSPX flock. Nor is it an opportunity to heal and unify. On the contrary, “It is a tragedy, the complete debacle of the Church!” he wailed to the Ansa news agency.

Distraught and supposedly “holding back his anger and his tears with difficulty,” he erupted angrily and tearfully: “I am ashamed by the result of this act. I am disappointed, stunned, scandalized! I don’t know if the Pope himself should also be ashamed, that belongs to his conscience. He is a great theologian, and I do not understand what may have happened. It displeases me because I like him.”

Poor ticked-off Gianni, Nick and Rob! Forever promoting perverted notions of “charity,” “tolerance,” “dialogue,” and “unity,” Modernists recoil in horror like demons sprayed with holy water whenever confronted with the genuine Catholic articles.

Meanwhile, still rattled by Summorum Pontificum which started the traditional ball rolling, anonymous Italian Bishops complained to Il Messaggero about the latest papal concession, even as their very bitterness confirmed the providential restoration it signifies.

Reconciling with “ultra-Traditionalists” who have fought for the rehabilitation of the ancient rite of Mass will lead “inevitably to some imbalance,” said one. “I ask myself, at what cost will the re-entry come,” fretted another. “I fear that it will consolidate what two years ago was only an extraordinary rite. The entry of the Lefebvrists cannot but undermine the path made since Vatican II. Furthermore, it is like ignoring the work of Paul VI and John Paul II.”

Too fearful to admit the epochal difference between “ignoring work” and ‘interpreting work in light of Tradition,’ a jittery Cardinal added: “The gesture of Pope Ratzinger will cause a certain instability. It will expand even the movement towards the ancient rite, creating ulterior uneasiness, at a theological and pastoral level, in the parishes.”

Such unwitting prescience! Through the continued intercession of the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, “the ancient rite” will indeed “expand.” Yet it will do so precisely by “creating ulterior uneasiness”! Since this is not a negative, as the Modernist Cardinal assumes, but God’s providential thorn for pricking the secularised post-conciliar conscience. And as for causing “a certain instability,” let us pray for much more: that the Holy Father’s generous act will trigger the veritable earthquake of traditional reform Holy Mother Church so desperately needs if she is ever to realise that unified Catholic body for which Our Lord Jesus Christ so ardently prayed: “That they may be one.”



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