Friday, January 30, 2009

Stunner Quote: SSPX Won't Be Asked to Accept Vatican II

What may be the most stunning quote of the week in regard to the Vatican/SSPX reconciliation was uttered by Monsignor Ignatius Barreiro, director of Rome's Human Life International (HLI) office and a Vatican "insider":

“They [the SSPX] won’t be asked to accept the Council. There is nothing dogmatic regarding faith and morals in the Council documents. Many have elevated the Council as if it were a superdogma, when in truth, it was not dogmatic at all.”

According to an online article by Brian Mershon, guest columnist for The Remnant, "Vatican sources have indicated that the full regularization may occur as early as February 2, 2009, the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady and Candlemas, which, if true, would be quite a Christmas present to the Church and especially traditionalist Catholics worldwide!"

Mr. Mershon's article follows below (with appropriate links):

Vatican Insider Projects Speedy SSPX Resolution
SSPX Will Not be Forced
to Swallow the Council
By Brian Mershon (Exclusive to The Remnant)

January 28, 2009, Rome, Italy—In his first interview subsequent to the Society of St. Pius X’s (SSPX) official statement to the good news, Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay said that he believed in the infallibility of the Church and that he was “confident” that the Society would “reach a true solution” in its doctrinal discussions with the Holy See.

In fact, Vatican sources have indicated that the full regularization may occur as early as February 2, 2009, the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady and Candlemas, which, if true, would be quite a Christmas present to the Church and especially traditionalist Catholics worldwide!

Vatican Working on Stable Juridical Structure

Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, chief of Human Life International’s Rome bureau, could not confirm the February 2 date, but said his Curial source told him that they are currently busy working out the practical arrangements for a fully regularized Society of St. Pius X.

The final solution “cannot depend upon individual diocesan bishops,” Monsignor Barreiro said, noting the longsuffering many traditionalist Catholics experienced for nearly 20 years under the Ecclesia Dei Adflicta arrangement.

“They would certainly need to have guarantees that where they currently are located, they cannot be touched by the local bishop,” Barreiro said, noting the Society’s chapels being located across the globe, which he described as “de facto parishes.” Barreiro rightly noted that the Society bishops most likely would not accept any solution that involved jurisdiction by the local territorial Ordinary.

France’s Seminaries to be Over One-Third Traditionalist

In fact, specific resistance is most prevalent in the dying churches of France with their bishops and priests. Upon final regularization, Monsignor Barreiro said, “More than one-third of all seminarians in France will be in traditionalist seminaries.” This would include the SSPX, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Good Shepherd and the Institute of Christ the King (ICR) as well as some other lesser known traditionalist priestly groups.

“I expect that some structure like a universal Apostolic Administration may be the only solution,” Monsignor Barreiro said, while cautioning that he did not have direct access to the specific details.

Several articles this week on the SSPX excommunication annulments contained comments from bishops and George Weigel in a New York Times interview noting that they expected that the Society bishops would need to explicitly adhere in some fashion to the Second Vatican Council.

However, Monsignor Barreiro opined that the SSPX’s official request for the lifting of the sanctions would be sufficient as it demonstrates explicit recognition of the authority of the Holy Father and the magisterium of the Church.

Prior to the easing of the excommunications, Bishop Fellay wrote, in part, the following to the Holy See:

"We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial disposition. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much."

Vatican II and All the Councils

“They won’t be asked to accept the Council,” Monsignor Barreiro said. “There is nothing dogmatic regarding faith and morals in the Council documents,” he emphasized. “Many have elevated the Council as if it were a superdogma, when in truth, it was not dogmatic at all.” [Emphasis added to original article.]

In the SSPX’s official request to the Holy See asking for the lifting of the excommunications, Bishop Bernard Fellay wrote the following: “We are ready to write the Creed with our own blood, sign the anti-Modernist oath, the Profession of Faith of Pope Pius IV, we accept and make our own all the Councils up to the First Vatican Council. Yet we can but confess reservations concerning the Second Vatican Council, which intended to a Council “different from the others.” (Addressed by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI)

The perspective of Monsignor Barreiro and Bishop Fellay can certainly be read to be consistent with then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1988 Address to the Bishops of Chile:

"Certainly, there is mentality of narrow views that isolate Vatican II and which has provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it which give the impression that, from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and that what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II."

"The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

"This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy – the form in which the liturgy was handed down – suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited. It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith – for instance, the corporal virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, etc. – nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation."

In Pope Benedict’s “Letter to Bishops” accompanying the July 7, 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, while positively affirming that the Traditional Latin Mass had never been abrogated, the Pope wrote the following, which, upon reflection, was an important but overlooked part of the document. Part of this text corresponds very strikingly with the 1988 Chile Bishops document aforementioned:

"We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church." [All burgundy-colored quotes herein are indented quotes in the original article.]

Cardinal Ratzinger Recommends Bishops Examine Their Consciences

So in the Bishops Letter, Pope Benedict covers some of the same ground as in the 1988 Chilean Bishops address about the SSPX and many traditionalist Catholics who were attached to the traditional liturgy and devotions. Pope Benedict made clear in the 1988 Bishops letter that while he believed the Church had gone as far as it could at that time with its negotiations with Archbishop Lefebvre, he posed that it was the pastoral duty of all bishops and pastors to conduct an examination of conscience regarding the then currents within the Church that could have helped lead to the consecrations of bishops without a mandate. In hindsight, Cardinal Ratzinger was precisely accurate in his assessment.

"Without any doubt, the problem that Lefebvre has posed has not been concluded by the rupture of June 30th. It would be too simple to take refuge in a sort of triumphalism, and to think that this difficulty has ceased to exist from the moment in which the movement led by Lefebvre has separated itself by a clean break with the Church. A Christian never can, or should, take pleasure in a rupture. Even though it is absolutely certain the fault cannot be attributed to the Holy See, it is a duty for us to examine ourselves, as to what errors we have made, and which ones we are making even now..."

"For all these reasons, we ought to see this matter primarily as the occasion for an examination of conscience. We should allow ourselves to ask fundamental questions, about the defects in the pastoral life of the Church, which are exposed by these events. Thus we will be able to offer a place within the Church to those who are seeking and demanding it, and succeed in destroying all reason for schism. We can make such schism pointless by renewing the interior realities of the Church."

One wonders: how many bishops and pastors in the Church in the past 20 years have used the traditionalist situation as a true “examination of conscience” as Cardinal Ratzinger outlined? To ask the question is to answer it.

Pope Urges Bishops to Pastoral Solicitude

Indeed, in the July 7 accompanying letter to Bishops, Pope Benedict repeated this same theme even more insistently, perhaps as a foreshadowing of the January 21 excommunications annulments.

"It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these."

So the Pope asked the bishops to be pastoral and charitable to traditionalist faithful in guiding their pastoral solicitude. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos dubbed it as avoiding treating traditionalist Catholics as “second-class citizens” in spite of the exaggerations and social aspects that had been “unduly linked” to traditionalist Catholics.

I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return, widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

So as we move steadily closer to full canonical regularization for the SSPX, whatever form it may take, we note that the precedent has already been set, most recently by the Institute of Good Shepherd, whose priests were allowed to continue working on the disputed theological points of the Second Vatican Council documents in good faith and avoiding public rancor, in the heart of the Church.

Vatican Will Not Demand SSPX Swallow the Council

In other words, there will be no demand for the SSPX leadership to accept the “Decree on Social Communication” as an infallible, dogmatic document. [Emphasis added to original.]

And despite the ruminations of certain bishops, cardinals, priests, Cardinal Kasper and even George Weigel, neither will they be asked to accept the Decree on Ecumenism, the Declaration of Religious Liberty, Nostra Aetate or even Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum as dogmatic declarations that can stand alone without reading them in light of Tradition.

The Pope made this clear in his December 22, 2005 address. The “hermeneutic of continuity” can not allow the Second Vatican Council to be interpreted any other way other than “in light of Tradition.” And certainly, traditionalists should not overemphasize the degree of binding authority that marks the Council documents. If there is error or imprecision then there can and must be correction. And we now have a pope who is as much as ordering that correction. On what grounds can traditional Catholics object to that? Theological speculation on disputed and unclear points in a spirit of charity and without polemics and rancor will aid future generations in their understanding of Catholic truth.

Let us pray that the SSPX theologians, priests and bishops, as well as the Institute of Good Shepherd, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and Institute of Christ the King, exercise considerable influence in this arena. And if there are points in the Council that cannot be interpreted in light of Tradition then, obviously, they will be exposed and excised. Again, on what grounds could a traditional Catholic possibly object to that?

Source: Brian Mershon, "SSPX Will Not be Forced to Swallow the Council" (The Remnant, January 28, 2009)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Catholic Family News Editor Interviewed on SSPX Position

Mr. John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News, was recently interviewed by The Bulletin , a secular paper with a large circulation in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Vennari states that The Bulletin "was very fair in allowing me to present the SSPX’s position." The article, with source link, is below.

Struggle For Tradition: A Look At The Position Of SSPX
By John P. Connolly, The Bulletin

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Vatican made quite a stir last weekend when it decided to withdraw its excommunication edicts against four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a traditionalist Catholic order that is still formally unrecognized by the Vatican.

In spite of the lifting of the excommunications, the society’s bishops and priests remain suspended from active ministry in the Catholic Church under canon law.

The bishops are still barred from ordaining priests or exercising any authority in the Church under a 1976 papal decree leveled by Pope Paul VI that remains in effect.

John Vennari, editor of the Catholic Family News, a monthly traditionalist Catholic newsmagazine, took the time to talk to The Bulletin about the SSPX’s position and to outline where things stand between the order and the Vatican.

Mr. Vennari said that the SSPX sees itself as trying to preserve what the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years against new tendencies set out by the Second Vatican Council.

“Most people will agree that Vatican II did launch tremendous change in the Church,” said Mr. Vennari. “The nature of the change Archbishop Lefebvre said was contrary to what the faith should be, particularly in the new orientation toward ecumenism and religious liberty.” Mr. Vennari said the new ecumenism is “a path to unity that never speaks about the need for the non-Catholic to convert to Catholicism.”

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the SSPX, was excommunicated in 1988 with four bishops whom he had consecrated without the permission of the Vatican. The four bishops were consecrated in line with Archbishop Lefebvre’s desire to ensure preconciliar Roman Catholic tradition.

“In 1987, the year before he consecrated the bishops, [Archbishop Lefebvre] said, ‘I’ve been in dialogue with the Vatican for 14 years, and I’m in the exact same place I was 14 years ago’” said Mr. Vennari.

In many respects, the impasse between the Vatican and the SSPX is back to where it was in 1988, with some differences. Because the SSPX still has doctrinal differences with the Vatican, until those differences are resolved, unification will not happen.

“The resolution they’re talking about is not necessarily saying to the pope, ‘you have to denounce Vatican II,’ but any sort of regularization can only work if we can continue to resist the points of the council that we see as being out of step with traditional Catholic doctrine.”
But there are several other things that would need to happen before reunification would happen, as well.

Part of the irregular situation surrounding the SSPX is their assertion of a supplied jurisdiction. The sacraments of matrimony and confession can only be performed with permission of the diocesan bishop wherever they are performed. Since the SSPX’s irregular position occurred, some suspect that confessions and marriages are not validly performed by SSPX, because they are not done with the permission of the local bishop. SSPX says they have a supplied jurisdiction for their chapels, and the Vatican would need to recognize that jurisdiction should reunification occur.

The SSPX made the lifting of restrictions on the celebration of the more traditional form of the Roman Mass according to the missal decreed by Pope John XXIII in 1962 a condition of reunion with Rome. Liberating the older form of the Mass from prior restrictions meant any Roman Catholic priest could be allowed to say Mass according to the older rite without obtaining permission from the local bishop. Pope Benedict granted this request on July 7, 2007 when he issued his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Presently, the traditional form of the Roman Mass is said regularly with the blessing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at Our Lady of Consolation Church and Our Lady of Lourdes in Philadelphia and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Plymouth Meeting. Another Mass according to the traditional form was offered last weekend at St. Paul’s in South Philadelphia. The SSPX maintains a local chapel, St. Jude’s Church, in Eddystone, Delaware County, without any connection to the archdiocese.

Mr. Vennari said the SSPX has a lot to offer the Church, especially in the area of vocations.
“Across the board from what I see, the more traditional the seminaries and religious orders, the more vocations they get,” he said. “They appeal the most to the ‘Sensus Catholicum,’ the Catholic things. When a man goes to seminary, he doesn’t want to be walking around wearing dungarees with a guitar strapped to him. He wants to be set apart and consecrated to God.”

The SSPX has seen growth in the years since the excommunications, opening schools where dioceses were closing them due to dwindling attendance. There are also many people who attend SSPX chapels for Mass that have swelled its numbers during a time where parish attendance is down.

“When Bishop Fellay spoke with the pope, said to Benedict as a gentleman,” said Mr. Vennari. “he said, ‘Your Holiness, I wish you to consider that the people who come to our chapels suffer very much. They are denounced as being outside the Church; they are falsely denounced as schismatic; they are falsely denounced as excommunicated; they suffer in their families; and they would rather suffer all that and go to our chapels than go to your parishes.”

Mr. Vennari summed up the SSPX position in two statements from Archbishop Lefebvre.

“Our future is in our past,” says the first statement. “Since we have turned our back on our past, the church is in collapse.”

The second says that the “master stroke of Satan was to sow disobedience to all of catholic tradition through obedience.”

“If the popes [of today] tell me to disobey the popes of the past, then there’s no reason I should obey him now,” Mr. Vennari said.

And now that the excommunications have been lifted, the SSPX is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to continue forward with reunification at last.

Source: John P. Connelly, "Struggle For Tradition: A Look At The Position Of SSPX," The Bulletin (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Pope, the SSPX, and Fatima

Q. Howdy! Being naïve to some of the history, could someone please explain why the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX Bishops could be leading up to the consecration of Russia. I somewhat know who LeFebvre and the SSPX are, but not sure how that ties in. I have a speculation, but would like to have some feedback! Thank you!
-Marie in Texas

That is an intriguing question. Interestingly enough, the topic was never addressed, either on this blog or on the
Keeping It Catholic email list, where it was submitted.

Before sharing my response, there are a few imperative points to consider. Without explicitly stating any reason except fatherly compassion, the Holy Father ordered the withdrawal of the censure of excommunication. This, of course, raises an objective question skirted by the majority of 'mainstream' Catholics who - as it seems, in wishing to appear as though they are not questioning the Holy Father's command - employ the tactic of a consistent, negative focus against the SSPX: Can a pope subjectively excommunicate or lift an excommunication? The answer, of course, is in the negative. Of course, that answer leads to very uncomfortable questions on related topics.

Too, is there a faithful Catholic anywhere who could be anything but impressed by Bishop Fellay's official response, expressing his filial gratitude to the Holy Father, or his open letter to the faithful, in which he openly thanked the Blessed Virgin Mary and again invoked Her intercession? (Please see Pope Lifts SSPX Excommunications: The Decree and the Response.)

At any rate, my response to Marie appears below: [text within brackets denote a simple addition, made for clarification purposes, to the original response]

Dear Marie:

To respond to your question, it seems that:

--- since Bishop Fellay has given all credit to Our Lady for the Motu Propo of 7-7-07 [Summorum Pontificatum] and the withdrawal of excommunication on the SSPX bishops (and just think, how often does one hear a priest, bishop or Cardinal speak of the Virgin Mother!)

---and since the SSPX bishops have always maintained that their previous actions (the 1988 consecrations) were a matter of preserving Tradition

---it is then possible to construct a theoretical "House that Jack Built" scenario in regard to the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In May 1862 - only years before the dogmatic Vatican I Council, which defined papal infallibility (hence, a dogma), St. John Bosco had a prophetic dream. In explaining it, he said that there were two means left to save the Church - devotion to "Mary Most Holy" [in the saint's words] and to the Holy Eucharist. Many believe that the primary means, the Holy Eucharist, was removed with the unlawful suppression of the Tridentine Rite, the Mass of All Time.

Furthermore, the dream showed two popes - one who, after a second council, was wounded, brought to his feet, was again wounded, and died. This happened AFTER 'hand-to-hand' combat by enemies who had managed to get 'on board' the Barque. (This seems to indicate an infiltration within the Church. [If not an open enemy attack within the Church against the Church.]) The Pope's successor was the one who successfully brought the besieged Barque of Peter between two columns and anchored it to them. On top of those two pillars were the Holy Eucharist (taller than the second pillar) and a statue of the Blessed Virgin, "Help of Christians."

Consider, too, the Third Secret Vision which speaks of 'a bishop in white' seen in the light that is God and then later mentions 'the Holy Father,' who trembles and walks with halting step through a half-ruined city, as he advances to the top of a hill. This Holy Father is attacked by guns and arrows, and dies, as he reaches the hilltop. [For further details on St. John Bosco's dream, the Third Secret Vision, and a prophecy made by Pope St. Pius X, please see
Fatima and the Great Et Cetera: Traces of The Third Secret Message.]

Since I study [Church-approved] Marian apparitions, I offer my personal conjecture that the 'bishop in white' (seen in the light of God) and 'the Holy Father' in the Third Secret Vision might NOT be the same prelate. In fact, that thought only came to me this past summer as I wrote my series on Fatima for Catholic Family News.

To continue...

Since Pope Benedict XVI judged that the Tridentine was never juridically abrogated, and now since he has instructed the Congregration of Bishops to withdraw the censure of excommunication against the four SSPX bishops, it would seem that Tradition has been given the proverbial 'foot in the door' into Rome.

There is much work yet to be done, since the 'dialogue' process must ensue. While the excommunications are lifted, the path has been opened - but it is not quite as clear as we might hope. Because Holy Tradition has so many enemies, so does the SSPX. And those who are howling the loudest about the recent decree are known as 'mainstream' Catholics. With their arguments and their petty insistences, they are (as it were) throwing brambles on that path, when they should be publicly encouraging others to pray in gratitude on behalf of both the Holy Father's actions, made for the good of the Church, and the respectful response of Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX. Since they do not wish [to appear] to oppose the Holy Father, they target the SSPX with recriminations, when - again - they should be praying, and encouraging others to also pray for the upcoming Vatican/SSPX discussions.

At any rate, all of this leads to the conjecture that either the SSPX - so willing to publicly give thanks to Our Lady for the graces already received through the Rosary Crusades - will either prudently influence the Holy Father to order and lead the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the IHM, or that - some day in the future, after the 'dialogue' process and the interference it will bring - an SSPX bishop, strongly devoted to the Virgin Mother, may be elected pope.

What is very disconcerting, as stated earlier, are the bitter viewpoints of one-too-many mainstream Catholic organs, who are not rejoicing over these first steps of reconciliation. Why are they so unhappy about the lifting of the excommunications?

They reveal that unhappiness with public responses tinged with an obvious animosity. Already, they are insisting on what the SSPX 'must' do next, interviewing canon lawyers who claim that the excommunications were just (without even allowing a civilized on-the-air or even on-line debate with other canon lawyers who say otherwise), demanding that the SSPX must edit certain articles on their website (immediately and post-haste!), etc.

Is it any coincidence that these mainstream Catholic sources overlook what is a very simple fact? The decree lifting the excommunications made no mention of the very matters and prerequisites upon which the neo-cons [literally meaning 'new form of conservative'] are insisting.

As for us, we do what we must: "Watch and pray." I will also add: "Pray and sacrifice for the Holy Father," for it is he who is the supreme Head of the Church on Earth. Pray and sacrifice also for Bishop Fellay.

In the love of Christ and His Virgin Mother,
Marianna Bartold
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pope Lifts SSPX Excommunications: The Decree and Response

Trusting it serves the purpose, I submit an English translation [below] of the decree in which was remitted from the SSPX bishops the censure of excommunication latae sententia. The following translation varies only slightly from that found on (site of SSPX) , which I believe is more accurate (as well as properly formal) than translations found elsewhere. All bolds and emphasis below are mine, unless otherwise stated. - MCB

Prot. N 126/2009

Decree of the Congregation for Bishops
(also translated as Congregration for Bishops Decree)

In a letter dated December 15, 2008, addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Bishop Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally pronounced by a Decree of the Prefect of this same Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Bishop Fellay affirms, among other things: "We are still as steadfast in our determination to remain Catholic and to place all our strength [or "efforts"] at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We filially accept her teaching. We firmly believe in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and this is the reason why the present situations makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI,
touched with fatherly compassion over the spiritual difficulty manifested by those concerned by the sanction of excommunication and confident that the commitment they expressed in the above quoted letter of sparing no effort to go further in the necessary discussions with the Authorities of the Holy See concerning the issues still pending, and thus of being able to reach quickly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem raised at the origin [also translated as "posed in the origin" which in English could be read as "posed at the outset or beginning"] decided to reconsider the canonical standing of the Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, with respect to their episcopal consecrations.

This act expresses the desire to consolidate reciprocal confidence in our dealings, to intensify and give stability to the relations of the Society of St. Pius X [or Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X ]with the Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign for the promotion of unity in the charity of the universal Church, and to thereby remove the scandal of division.

Desiring that this step be followed without delay by the full communion with the Church of all the Society of Saint Pius X [also translated as "the entire Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X"],
in testimony of a true fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magiserium and of the authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity.

According to the faculties expressly granted
[or "conceded"] to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit the censure of excommunication latae sententiae, pronounced [or "declared"] by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, upon Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Lallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galaretta as I likewise declare void of juridical effects the Decree published at the time [or "I remit from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time."].

Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.
Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Response from the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X

The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.

We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.” [Emphasis added]

Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.

In this new atmosphere, we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition.

Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay

Letter to the Faithful from the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X

Dear Faithful,

As I announce in the attached press release, "the excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 20, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregration for Bishops in a decree dated July 1 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregration on January 21, 2009." It was the prayer intention I had entrusted to you in Lourdes, on the Feast of Christ the King, 2008. Your response exceeded our expectations, since one million seven hundred and three thousand Rosaries were said to obtain through the intercession of Our Lady that an end be put to the opprobrium which, beyond the persons of the bishops of the Society, rested upon those who were more or less attached to Tradition. Let us not forget to thank the Most Blessed Virgin who has inspired the Holy Father with this unilateral, benevolent, and courageous act. Let us assure him of our fervent prayers. [All emphasis added]

Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the Faith of their fathers. Tradition is no longer excommunicated. Though it never was in itself, it was often excommunicated and cruelly so in day-to-day events. It is just as the Tridentine Mass had never been abrogated in itself, as the Holy Father has happily recalled in the Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007. [Emphasis in the original]

The decree of January 21 quotes the letter dated December 15, 2008 to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in which I expressed our attachment "to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Catholic Church," reaffirming there our acceptation [sic] of its two thousand year old teaching and our faith in the Primacy of Peter. I reminded him that we were suffering much from the present situation of the Chrch in which this teaching and this primacy were being held to scorn. And I added: "We are ready to write the Creed with our own blood, to sign the anti-modernist oath, the profession of faith of Pius IV, we accept and make our own all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council, about which we express some reservations." In all this, we are convinced that we remain faithful to the line of conduct indicated by our founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose reputation we hope to soon see restored. [All emphasis added]

Consequently, we wish to begin these "talks" - which the decree acknowledges to be "necessary" - about the doctrinal issues which are opposed to the Magisterium of all time. We cannot help noticing the unprecedented crisis which is shaking the Church today: crisis of vocations, crisis of religious practice, of catechism, of the reception of the sacraments...Before us, Paul VI went so far as to say that "from some fissure, the smoke of Satan had entered the Church," and he spoke of the "self-destruction of the Church." John Paul II did not hesitate to say that Catholicism in Europe was, as it were, in a state of "silent apostasy." Shortly before his election to the Throne of Peter, Benedict XVI compared the Church to a "boat taking in water on every side." Thus, during these discussions with the Roman authorities, we want to examine the deep causes of the present situation and, by bringing about the appropriate remedy, achieve a lasting restoration of the Church. [All emphasis added]

Dear faithful, the Church is in the hands of her Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.[Emphasis added] In Her, we place our confidence. We have asked from her the freedom of the Mass of all time, everywhere and for all. We have asked from her the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication. In our prayers, we now ask from her the necessary doctrinal clarifications which confused souls so much need.

Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay

Additional Responses to the Decree

Available only in Italian or German! If you wish to see them, please check the informative Rorate Caeli blogspot!

History is Made: Pope Lifts Four SSPX Bishops' Excommunications

Today, Saturday, January 24, 2009 A.D., on the very octave of Our Lady of Pontmain, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the 20+ year excommunications of four SSPX bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX, expressed his gratitude to the Pope, stating that the decree would assist the whole Church. "Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world," stated Bishop Fellay.

As is usual when the pope makes a just move on the Church's behalf, the critics are making themselves heard. Due to remarks made by Bishop Richard Williamson in regard to the Holocaust (and which were made public within the last few days), the gratitude of Bishop Bernard Fellay is in danger of being overlooked.

According to an AP report, "the pope acted on behalf of the Church despite an outcry from Jews that one of the four bishops [Williamson] was shown in a Swedish state TV interview this week saying that historical evidence 'is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed.' The report prompted Rome's chief rabbi to ask the Vatican to halt plans to rehabilitate (sic) him."

May it be noted, however, that the lifting of excommunications is not a question of "rehabilitation" for either Bishop Williamson or, for that matter, the other SSPX bishops. Rather, it is the first step to justly settling a very serious interior Church conflict, one which ultimately centers on preserving the Church's perennial Tradition. The 1988 excommunications, as many have long contended, were never licit. Unfortunately, this imperative fact is again overshadowed by the current cacophony against Bishop Williamson's remarks.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi stated, "Bishop Richard Williamson's views had no impact on the decision to lift the excommunication decree." It seems that neither did Rome's chief rabbi's opinions on Bishop Williamson's subjectivity bear any weight in the Holy Father's decision. The ANSA news agency reported Rev. Lombardi as also clarifying that the Pope's decision in no way implies "sharing [Williamson's] ideas or his comments, which will be judged on their own."

Bishop Williamson's comments may be offensive and erroneous, said Monsignor Robert Wister, Professor of Church History at Immaculate Conception School of Theology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey (United States), but they are not an excommunicable offense. Monsignor Wister also stated, "To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy, even though it is a lie. The excommunication can be lifted because he is not a heretic, but he [Williamson] remains a liar."

Unfortunately, Monsignor Wister is misinformed regarding Bishop Williamson's denial of the Holocaust. It seems the Bishop does not deny the Holocaust; what he disagrees with is the total number of Jews massacred, just as he also questions the very existence of the Nazi death camps' gas chambers.

That said, Bishop Williamson's individual viewpoints in regard to the World War II Holocaust - made during an interview made public earlier this week - displayed either a fumbling faux paux of incredible proportion or an appalling lack of charity, wisdom and prudence. Like the deplorable remarks (or actions) made by liberal or "neo-con" bishops on a variety of subjects, it still remains that Bishop Williamson's personal opinion on the Holocaust (or any topic, for that matter) has nothing to do with the eternal Church's doctrines, dogmas or disciplines. To his credit, Pope Benedict XVI grasped the difference between an individual's subjectivity and the Bride of Christ's objectivity.

Bishop Williamson, on the other hand, should have foreseen the impact of airing his personal conjectures. By doing so, he recklessly and needlessly incensed those who are always seeking to force the Pope's hand.

Supernatural grace, time and experience should have taught His Excellency that, as one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Meyer, his words and actions are carefully watched, both by adherents of Church Tradition and by Tradition's enemies. Above all else, a priest's duty (and a bishop's) to God and to His Church means praying and working to be a holy priest - for the sake of his own soul, for the lambs to which he is responsible, and for those souls who might be ready to hear and accept the Faith.

The absurdities issuing from the mouths of some clerics today should remind us why we must pray for all priests: Just because a man has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders does not immediately transform him into a saint, much less a man possessing knowledge on a variety of subjects, or a even a man of human wisdom. Yes, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man becomes another Christ, - not because he is immediately transformed into a Christ-like character, but because he holds certain powers given to him by God to save souls. A priest can consecrate and effect the miracle of Transubstantiation, absolve confessed sins, etc. But he, too, must work out his own salvation in fear and trembling. Above all, that is why all clerics, irregardless of rank, must be doubly careful in what they say and do, whether inside a parish church or not.

"As long as Christ is served first," St. Joan of Arc was wont to say. To return to this particular case, Bishop Williamson should have foreseen that his very position as an SSPX bishop granting an interview to a man who is no friend to tradition jeopardized not only himself but the Church. As an SSPX bishop, he should have known that a long and loud outcry would result from airing his personal conjectures over the Holocaust history.

For that reason, Bishop Williamson should have known that his remarks would rally unjust charges of anti-Semitism [which means hatred of Jews], charges made not only against himself but against the Church and especially against traditional Catholics. He should have known that he would unfairly open the Church, the Pope, and the SSPX to malicious and undeserved scrutiny. Objectively speaking, it cannot be denied that, whatever the bishop was thinking, he did not place the honor of Christ and His Church's needs first.

Nor can it be denied that WW II, and its aftermath, cut short the lives of millions - lives that were precious to God, Who wills the salvation of all souls. The exact count of any one people or of all the people, and the specific methods by which they suffered and died, is a grave matter. And yet, the greatest tragedy is that WWII could have been avoided. It follows that all the evil and wrong-doing since that time would have also been avoided.

The means were given to the Pope and the bishops by Our Lady of Fatima. World War II would never have happened if Christ's Steward at the time, Pope Pius XII, had ordered and led the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a solemn consecration for which Our Lady asked in 1929, ten years before the war's outbreak. In the 1950's, the Virgin Mother told Sr. Lucia to inform the Holy Father (at the time, Pope Pius XII) She is always awaiting the Consecration. She still awaits it. Pope Benedict XVI possesses the duty, the right, and the authority to do what Pope Pius XII should have done. Even now, it is not too late.

That is what Bishop Williamson could and should have said when questioned about the Holocaust.

Again - "As long as Christ is served first." In all we think, say or do, we Christians should always keep that truth in mind.

And may we all pray at least one Rosary as our Te Deum (Thanks be to God!) for the good which Pope Benedict XVI has done for the Church this day. May God and His Virgin Mother preserve and protect him!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Pope and the Vatican on Youtube

It is probably no coincidence that the following announcement coincides with this weekend's anticipated historical event (Pope Benedict's withdrawal or lifting of the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops).

According to the Vatican Information Service:

Fr. Lombardi, director of the Vatican news service, announced the creation of a new Vatican channel on YouTube, through which various forms of video news will be available concerning the activities of the Pope and events in the Vatican. The site will be updated with one or two news pieces each day, none longer than two minutes, he said.

For the moment, the languages available are English, Spanish, German and Italian.

The web page of the new channel, he explained, contains various links via which the visitor can find more information and documentation on the Pope, the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The main links connect to the multi-lingual web pages of CTV and Vatican Radio, to the Vatican and to the new site of Vatican City State.

"Of particular importance", said Fr. Lombardi, "is the link to H2O News which transmits other video news items on the life of the Church in the world".

From the BBC this morning, featuring other details:

(With special thanks to Nichole W., who shared the information above with the Keeping It Catholic email list.)

Pope Withdraws Excommunication of SSPX Bishops

Over the last few days, the buzz began over news-leaks that Pope Benedict XVI will publicly "withdraw" or "lift" the 20+ year excommunications of four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer in Ecône, Switzerland on June 30, 1988. Controversy has raged ever since Lefebvre and de Castro Mayer disobeyed Pope Paul II in consecrating as bishops Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Galarreta, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and Richard Williamson. Although the four bishops were never appointed jurisdiction by either Lefebvre or de Castro Mayer, their consecrations led to what many hold as an unjust charge of "schism" by Pope John Paul II via the July 1988 Motu Propio, Ecclesia Dei.

Along with the recent news leaks, online discussions prove the controversy still rages - much of it centering on personalities and prejudices rather than the Faith and facts. It seems the hot topics about the upcoming withdrawal of excommunication range from the Pope's motives to the anticipated reactions of the four SSPX bishops. From those two points alone, the tangents seem inexhaustible. So far, however, most of them focus on previous remarks made by one individual - SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson - recently publicized (some say conveniently-timed), thus unfairly casting negative aspersions upon the entire SSPX community. That in itself leads to discussion over whether or not Williamson purposely made the remarks to give his honest but imprudent opinion or to "rock the boat" (the Vatican's boat) , whether or not his interviewer possessed malicious intent, and so on. One thing is certain: Public discusssion so far is little concerned with explicit doctrinal issues. Whatever the case may be...

The devil is an opportunist. So why give him any opportunities? It's one thing to defend dogma and doctrine and another to defend subjectivity. St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle...

Incidentally, I do not think it a coincidence that the Pope's announcement is supposedly set for January 25th - which is day after the octave of the 138th anniversary of the Virgin's one-time apparition at Pontmain, France (for more info, please see the post directly below this one).

Surely Our Lady's message then applies now - "But pray, my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son permits Himself to be touched. "

And, as St. Pio said, "The Rosary is the weapon."

Although obstacles and roadblocks are already being thrown in the way, Pope Benedict XVI's decision must be due to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces and the million Rosaries prayed to God for this intention. Such is the efficacy that God has given the Rosary!

However, now is not the time to rest on our proverbial laurels. What the Holy Father plans to do is a first step to the Church's restoration. There are many more to follow.

Might I suggest to my brothers and sisters in Christ that we offer our forthcoming Rosaries in thanksgiving for this incredible development toward reconciliation and for the Church's and the Holy Father's protection? The Church and the Holy Father have many foes who will not be happy about this new development. Recall St. John Bosco's prophetic dream about the Barque of Peter, tossed on the sea and bombarded by enemy ships...and the two popes who strove, one after the other, to direct and then anchor the Barque to two pillars, the first bearing the Holy Eucharist and the second bearing a likeness of Our Lady Help of Christians.

It might be that prophecy has begun to see it fulfillment with the Pope's July 7, 2007 Motu Proprio in which the Mass of all time was released from bondage. It follows that the Holy Father's next plan of action is directly related to the first, for the SSPX have long maintained their purpose of existence is not only the Tridentine Rite of Liturgy but to preserve Tradition. Therefore, the Church's enemies will vehementaly oppose the Pope's recent decision - using any excuse possible - because the withdrawal or lifting of the SSPX bishops' excommunication possesses the ability to further the restoration of both Tradition and the Liturgy.

As Our Lord urged Sr. Lucia when speaking of God's Will for the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, "Pray! Pray much for the Holy Father! He will do it, but it will be late."

We must pray and sacrifice for Pope Benedict XVI, who has proven that he can respond to the graces of his high office! May we also continue to pray and sacrifice so that he soon exercises his prerogative as the Vicar of Christ, commanding the bishops to join him in the Collegial Consecration of Russia to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Catholic Christmas Traditions: The Legend of La Befana

The Legend of La Befana – A Reminder of the Second Great Commandment

The Italian legend of La Befana is a moral story about charity given to our neighbors for love of God, especially if we feel they are blocking our way to a greater good.

In Italy, the story of “Le Befana,” is a lesson about the Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The old story says that the three Wise Men stopped at an old woman’s house, asking for food and shelter. As one who eagerly awaited the coming of the Messiah, La Befana was intent on leaving her home and searching for Him.

Anxious to be on her way, she at first refused her unbidden and unknown guests, whom God had intended would lead her to the Christ Child. She relented too late, for the Magi had gone, and she set out in search of the Infant Jesus. Because of her refusal to the Wisemen, she was never able to find the Holy Infant. The legend says that, to this day, she is still searching for Him, leaving gifts and toys at every home that shelters a child, hoping the Christ Child abides therein.

Throughout the years, the legend has changed so that La Befana, especially seeks for children who are well-behaved, hoping one of them is the Christ Child or may know of Him. Those children usually receive toys, oranges(a rare treat in the Mediterranean not too long ago) and “bombanierre,” a sugar-coated almond treat. Those who misbehave receive pieces of straw or a shoe-full of ashes.“

"La Befana” (which roughly translates to the feminine form of “The Epiphany”) traditionally visits homes on January 6, the day she would have been with the three Wisemen when they finally found “the infant with Mary His mother.”