In his scathing assessment of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, Cardinal Raymond Burke used an unusual term that has a rather specific meaning with respect to the application of canon law. No, not “schism,” but contumacy.
… the requirement for having an excommunication lifted is that a person has withdrawn from his contumacy and now desires to be fully reconciled with the Church, but in fact that hasn’t happened [in the case of the SSPX], and so that’s another bit of an anomalous situation.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Contumacy, or contempt of court, is an obstinate disobedience of the lawful orders of a court. Simple disobedience does not constitute contumacy. Such crime springs only from unequivocal and stubborn resistance to the reiterated or peremptory orders of a legitimate court, and implies contempt or denial of its authority … True contumacy takes place when it is certain that the citation was served, and the defendant without just cause fails to obey the terms of such citation … The plaintiff incurs the guilt of contumacy by failure to appear before the court at the specified time.
With this in mind, let’s see if we can determine why Cardinal Burke, a canon lawyer who knows very well the meaning of “contumacy,” would level such a charge against the SSPX.
First of all, we can dispatch with the notion that the Society is somehow guilty of a “failure to appear.”
The SSPX, at least insofar as I am aware, was never served with, and subsequently ignored, a formal citation to appear before an ecclesial judge or tribunal.
The closest we have in this regard is the Holy See’s invitation for the SSPX to engage in “doctrinal discussions” (2009-2011); an invitation that was accepted.
What remains for our consideration, therefore, is a charge of “unequivocal and stubborn resistance” to some sort of “order” that came from a legitimate ecclesial authority; one that if obeyed would lead to the Society being (to quote Cardinal Burke) “fully reconciled with the Church.”
So, to exactly what order does Cardinal Burke refer?
This brings us back to the aforementioned “doctrinal discussions” and the “order” (if you will) that emerged therefrom.
In a sermon that was delivered at the seminary in Econe on November 1, 2012, Bishop Bernard Fellay revealed that he had received a letter from Pope Benedict XVI dated June 30th of the same year wherein the Holy Father outlined three requirements for the Society’s canonical recognition; two of which, according to Bishop Fellay, were:
– “It is necessary for us [SSPX] to accept the fact that the Council is an integral part of Tradition, of Apostolic Tradition.”
– “It is necessary [for the SSPX] to accept the validity and the liceity of the new Mass.”
Bishop Fellay’s response was firm and clear:
To say that the Council is traditional! Whereas everything tells us the contrary! Fifty years of Church history say the contrary! To say that the new Mass is good! Here too one only has to open one’s eyes to see the disaster … It is necessary to stop saying: the Church can do nothing bad, therefore the new Mass is good. It is necessary to stop saying: the Church cannot err, and therefore there is no error in the Council.
To most regular readers of this space, Bishop Fellay’s response was absolutely appropriate given that the “order” is entirely unjust, and what’s more, it is tantamount to a demand to abandon Christ and His Church.
In the eyes of Raymond Cardinal Burke, however, it amounts to unequivocal and stubborn resistance to the orders of a legitimate authority – thus, the charges of schism and contumacy, and, therefore, a supposed need to be fully reconciled with the Church.
Notice, my friends, that Cardinal Burke’s denouncement of the Society of St. Pius X is based upon their unwillingness to embrace as good the very dangers about which Our Lady came to forewarn us at Fatima:
A bad council and a bad Mass.
This is the same Cardinal Burke that certain unreliable “experts” have been hailing as a friend of Fatima; some even going so far as to claim that he should be credited with providing the total vindication of Fr. Nicholas Gruner.
Don’t be fooled.
Any person or organization that claims to be devoted to making “the entire message of Fatima understood,” and yet fails to firmly denounce (and even applauds!) influential prelates who insist upon acceptance of the Second Vatican Council, the New Evangelization, and the new Mass as if they are compatible with Our Lady’s words, simply cannot be trusted.
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