From Rorate Caeli:
Rorate can independently confirm the report —hinted at just now in Le Forum Catholique — that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter with a final offer to the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX): resume the dialogue with the Holy See by February 22, or else the Holy See will make an offer of reconciliation and full communion to individual SSPX priests. (What kind of offer or structural basis will be offered is unclear.)
I cannot say for certain that this report is accurate (although Rorate is very careful in its reporting), but if it is, I find it very odd indeed.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Bishop Fellay back in October, not as in an interview; but rather in an extended conversation over breakfast. Among many things, I asked His Excellency if, given the fact that the formal discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX had ended at an impasse, he was prepared to make public the Doctrinal Preamble that both parties had agreed to keep secret throughout the process.
His response was characteristically humble. He said, in essence, that while the current state of affairs may indicate that he could do so, he would not presume to make the contents public because he was holding out hope that the Holy See would one day invite him to continue the dialogue.
This being the case, if in fact the CDF has issued an ultimatum saying, “Resume the dialogue with us by February 22nd, or else…” one cannot but wonder, is this a calculated attempt, on the part of those who do not truly desire the Society’s regularization, to discredit them (by no mere coincidence, in the weeks leading up to the dawn of a new papacy) by falsely suggesting that Bishop Fellay had until now refused to enter into further discussion?
Most Catholics understand that the sacred liturgy as commonly celebrated today is in need of correction, including Pope Benedict XVI, who has given little concrete indication that he would repent of any of the stark observations set forth in his writings on the matter as Cardinal Ratzinger.
These include such gems as the distinction between the organic development of the sacred liturgy that one should expect over long periods of time and the post-conciliar process that was carried out “as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, an on the spot banal product.”
He further indicated in his writing that Holy Mass celebrated versus populum (facing the people) is a modern day invention that finds no support in the 2,000 year liturgical tradition of the Church, and that ad orientem worship is nothing less than a “fundamental expression” of the liturgy’s true nature.
The future pontiff had many other liturgical insights to share in the years prior to his elevation to the Chair of St. Peter, indicating that he perceives the Novus Ordo to be wanting, not just with regard to the way in which it is celebrated, as if strict faithfulness to the rubrics is all that is needed, but rather as it relates to the rite itself.
Even so, Cardinal Ratzinger stated in “Spirit of the Liturgy” (Ignatius Press – 2000) that he was not in favor of instituting an immediate correction as this would perhaps be as damaging as the overnight changes thrust upon the Church in the aftermath of the Council, giving the false impression to the faithful, who after several decades have grown used to the status quo, that liturgical change is legitimately spontaneous.
Indeed, how often we’ve heard it said, “The pope cannot simply mandate immediate liturgical fixes; rather, he must be pastoral, instituting corrective measures only slowly and gently…”
In thinking about state of the liturgy in our day and this widely accepted idea that it would somehow be imprudent for the Holy Father to legislate more or less immediate correction via proclamation, the A&E program Intervention came to mind.
For those unfamiliar, Intervention is a “reality” series that documents the lives of drug abusers, detailing the upheaval and heartache experienced by the family and friends of an addict who is slowly committing suicide. While each episode is somewhat different in the details, there are a number of common themes in nearly all of the stories.
In every one that I’ve seen, the parents of the addict have unintentionally participated in their child’s demise, creating havoc for the entire family, by “enabling” the abuser’s self- destructive behavior over a period of many years.
When confronted by a substance abuse expert with the horrible reality that, apart from an immediate and drastic correction, the family can count on nothing but increased heartache as their loved one continues to barrel headlong toward certain death, the parents often resist, striking a tone remarkably similar to the one previously mentioned.
“I’ll wean him off of my financial support over time… I’ll cut back on the amount I allow her to drink in my home… I’ll let him live here until he finds another place to go…”
Ultimately, at least in the more successful cases, the parents end up realizing that there’s really no such thing as “a little enabling” when it comes to such grave matters of life and death.
A perfect analogy? Of course not, but I think you get the drift.
Is it really the case that those who dwell in the House of God are truly better off when the Papa in whom authority rests is resistant to the notion of leveling drastic corrective measures, in favor of tolerating for “just a little longer” many of the serious liturgical abnormalities and aberrations to which all concerned have grown accustomed?
If the answer is no, as I for one believe it is, then perhaps the following legislative acts concerning the sacred liturgy might be considered worthy of immediate enactment by the next Holy Roman Pontiff.
– Rescinding the indult for Communion in the hand
– Disallowing female altar servers
– Requiring the ad orientem posture (the so-called “Benedictine arrangement” being insufficient)
– Requiring the use of the Latin language, at minimum, for the ordinary of the Mass
– Forbidding the use of popular hymnody as a substitute for the liturgical texts
– Forbidding the use of profane instruments apart from the direct (and rare) approval of the Holy See
– Setting strict requirements that will henceforth make the use of EMHC’s exceedingly rare
– Eliminating the “sign of peace” among the assembly
Surely there are more liturgical matters that deserve immediate correction, but this would be a good start.
Will there be much wailing and gnashing of teeth? Of course, but those in need of an intervention, once confronted with reality, sometimes do that.
I searched the depths within my soul
Unworthiness there loomed
The din of burdened days foretold
A life of torture doomed
Whence through the fog of bitter tears
Came forth a whispered name
Then straining all my might to hear
A voice to pierce my shame
Above the shrill of yester’s pain
The whisper yet grew clear
When as one washed in gentle rain
I felt my Lord draw near
My name He spoke repeatedly
In tones I’d never heard
At once a beckon “come to Me”
Consuming love His Word
Within the view of One so pure
My demons bid take flight
Yet drawn to stay by Mercy’s lure
I knelt within His sight
Relentless Lord who calls to me
With gaze of brilliant light
My every weakness His to see
And yet His love burns bright
The shadows cast by struggles past
Once lumined by the Son
Reveal a treasure unsurpassed
Redemption for me won
Amidst the echoes of dark days
No more shall I abide
Instead I’ll listen for my name
From Him who for me died
It’s always a risky proposition to suggest that “the emperor’s clothes are in some way lacking,” but to do so when he is much beloved and has just announced his impending abdication, well… that’s just asking for a knee jerk rebuke from the sentimental masses.
Be that as it may, while I love and admire much about Pope Benedict XVI, and will be eternally grateful to him for Summorum Pontificum, there are some things about this Holy Father’s pontificate that I most certainly will not miss; among them, the way in which he (like his predecessor) has been pleased to impart to non-Catholics and their religions a dignity they simply do not possess, as if doing so is anything other than an invitation to grave error.
Case in point, in his audience of today, His Holiness said, in part:
While the Lord continues to raise up examples of radical conversion, like Pavel Florensky, Etty Hillesum and Dorothy Day, he also constantly challenges those who have been raised in the faith to deeper conversion.
The first two examples of “radical conversion” (allegedly “raised up” by the Lord Himself) are non-Catholics, one a Russian Orthodox (who denied the authority vested in the Vicar of Christ), the other a Jew (who denied Jesus Christ!); both of whom died outside of the Catholic Church (baptism of desire notwithstanding).
Perhaps the writings and experiences of these figures may be of some value to those already well grounded in the faith (and one cannot but recognize how few who call themselves “Catholic” truly are), but surely there must be countless other, far better, examples of “radical conversion” the Holy Father could have offered for the world’s consideration; especially at this time when indifferentism is running rampant and global attention to his every word and gesture is swelling daily in anticipation of February 28th.
So, what is one to make of the pope’s words? Is it truly a Catholic thought to maintain that the Lord “raises up” individuals who reject His Son and deny His Church? Are we further to believe that He does this so that they might serve the world as shining examples of what “radical conversion” looks like? Certainly not, and yet that is precisely what the Holy Father’s comments indicate.
Given the understandably warm feelings that all of us have for the Holy Father in these highly unusual days leading up to his departure, many will simply refuse to even consider how dangerous these kinds of comments are, and the degree to which they stand at odds with the very mission of the Church. Others will choose to dismiss any and all concern, thinking to themselves, “Of course he didn’t mean to imply that,” as if the person speaking was Fr. Bob in a casual chat at the local coffee shop and not the Vicar of Christ whose well prepared text is disseminated globally almost instantly.
To be sure, speaking thus is not the exclusive franchise of the current pope; it has become a hallmark of the post-conciliar age for churchmen to engage in theologically loose speech, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. The world deserves better than this. Christ deserves better than this.
I’m not the only person whose ears perked up upon hearing this message. Dr. Robert Moynihan, founding publisher of Inside the Vatican Magazine, wrote from Rome, “Benedict’s choice of these three, from a certain perspective, could not have been more provocative…” (Dr. Moynihan’s emphasis)
The take away from this is simple but bitter; the realities of Catholic life in our day are such that we can no longer consume with abandon, like a babe at the breast, every religious proposition that comes to us even from the highest places in the Holy See; rather, we must scrutinize and measure all that is proposed against the Faith that comes to us from the Apostles, because clearly, not all of it is good food for the soul.
Oh how I long to see a man elevated to the Chair of St. Peter who is willing to speak plainly of the deficiencies of non-Catholic religions, and likewise of the utterly unique glory of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, boasting not of himself but of the Lord, calling those outside of the fold to embrace the one true religion.
After all, isn’t that what Jesus commissioned His Church to do?
In other words, I imagined that any number of them were sitting there dumbfounded, not because they were taken aback by the announcement, but by the fact that they, like so many of the laity, have also been robbed of their Catholic identity and heritage and therefore couldn’t understand a blessed thing the Holy Father was saying as he spoke in the language of the Church; Latin.
Well, sure enough, that was the case indeed. I just listened to an interview with Cardinal O’Brein, my former archbishop, in which he was asked to share his initial reaction when the Holy Father announced that he wished “to communicate a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.” (At 2:55 in the audio clip below)
To which poor Cardinal O’Brien had to awkwardly admit, “Well, my Latin is not that good, but I did see the rest of the Cardinals kinda sit up straight and lean forward…”
What a sad commentary this is. It makes me feel badly for Cardinal O’Brien (and for every Catholic, clergy or otherwise, who has had to suffer the injustices of the last four decades), and it makes me wonder how much more complicated the conclaves are now than they used to be, or ever should be, due to the lack of a universal tongue.