Benedict’s Letter Concerning SSPX

Benedict’s Letter Concerning SSPX March 12, 2009

Gregor Kollmorgen has just translated the Holy Father’s letter concerning the lifting of the SSPX excommunications. The whole thing is worth reading and is copied here after the fold. Sample: “It has saddened me that even Catholics who could actually have known better have thought it necessary to strike at me with a hostility ready to jump…”

Dear brethren in the Episcopal ministry!

The lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 without a mandate of the Holy See has led, both within and outside the Catholic Church, for a variety of reasons, to a discussion of such vehemence as we had not experienced for a long time. Many bishops felt at a loss before an event which came unexpectedly and could barely be integrated positively among the questions and tasks of the Church of today. Although many pastors and faithful were willing in principle to value positively the Pope’s desire for reconciliation, against this was the question of the appropriateness of such a gesture, given the real urgency of a believing life in our time. Several groups, however, accused the Pope openly of wanting to return behind the Council. An avalanche of protests was set into motion, the bitterness of which made injuries visible which transcended the moment. Therefore I feel pressed to address to you, dear brethren, a clarifying word, which is meant to help to understand the intentions which have guided me and the competent organs of the Holy See in this step. I hope in this way to contribute to peace in the Church.

One mishap for me unforeseeable, was the fact that the Williamson case has superimposed itself on the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards the four bishops ordained validly but not legitimately, suddenly appeared as something entirely different: as a disavowal of the reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and therefore as the revocation of what in this area the Council had clarified for the way for the Church. The invitation to reconciliation with an ecclesial group separating itself had thus become the opposite: an apparent way back behind all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews which had been made since the Council and which to make and further had been from the outset a goal of my theological work. The fact that this superposition of two opposing processes has occurred and has disturbed for a moment the peace between Christians and Jews as well as the peace in the Church I can only deeply regret. I hear that closely following the news available on the internet would have made it possible to obtain knowledge of the problem in time. I learn from this that we at the Holy See have to pay more careful attention to this news source in the future. It has saddened me that even Catholics who could actually have known better have thought it necessary to strike at me with a hostility ready to jump. Even more therefore I thank the Jewish friends who have helped to quickly clear away the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust, which – as in the time of Pope John Paul II – also during the entire time of my pontificate had existed and God be praised continues to exist.

Another mishap which I sincerely regret, is that the scope and limits of the measure of 21 January 2009 have not been set out clearly enough at the time of the publication of the procedure. The excommunication affects persons, not institutions. Episcopal consecration without papal mandate means the danger of a schism, because it calls into question the unity of the Bishops’ College with the Pope. The Church must, therefore, react with the harshest punishment, excommunication, and that is to call back the persons thus punished to repentance and into unity. 20 years after the ordinations this goal has unfortunately still not been achieved. The withdrawal of the excommunication serves the same purpose as the punishment itself: once more to invite the four bishops to return. This gesture was possible after the affected had expressed their fundamental recognition of the pope and his pastoral authority, albeit with reservations as far as obedience to his magisterial authority and that of the Council is concerned. This brings me back to the distinction between person and institution. The releasing of the excommunication was a measure in the field of ecclesial discipline: the persons were freed of the burden of conscience of the heaviest ecclesial censure. From this disciplinary level one has to distinguish the doctrinal area. That the Fraternity of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical position in the Church is not based ultimately on disciplinary grounds but on doctrinal ones. As long as the Fraternity does not possess a canonical position in the Church, its officials do not exercise legitimate offices in the Church. One has therefore to distinguish between disciplinary level affecting the persons as persons, and the level of doctrine, at which office and institution are concerned. To say it once again: As long as the doctrinal issues are not resolved, the Fraternity has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers, even if they are free from ecclesiastical censure, do not exercise in a legitimate way any ministry in the Church.

Given this situation, I intend to connect the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which since 1988 is responsible for those communities and individuals who, coming from the Fraternity of Pius X or similar groups, want to return into full communion with the Pope, in the future with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This shall make it clear that the problems now being treated are essentially doctrinal in nature, especially those concerning the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the postconciliar Magisterium of the Popes. The collegial organs through which the Congregation works on the questions arising (especially the regular assembly of the Cardinals on Wednesday and the General Assembly every one or two years) guarantee the involvement of the prefects of various Roman congregations and of the worldwide episcopate in the decisions to be made. One cannot freeze the magisterial authority of the Church in 1962 and – this must be quite clear to the Fraternity. But to some of those who show off as great defenders of the Council it must also be recalled to memory that Vatican II contains within itself the whole doctrinal history of the Church. Who wants to be obedient to it [sc. the Council] must accept the faith of the centuries and must not cut the roots of which the tree lives.

I hope, dear brethren, that with this both the positive meaning as well as the limit of the measure of 21 January 2009 is clarified. But now the question remains: Was this necessary? Was this really a priority? Are there not much more important things? Of course, there are more important and urgent things. I think that I have made clear the priorities of the pontificate in my speeches at the beginning of it. What I said then remains my guideline unchangedly. The first priority for the successor of Peter, the Lord has unequivocally fixed in the Room of the Last Supper: “You, however, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22, 32). Peter himself rephrased this priority in his first letter: “Be ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” (1 Peter 3, 15). In our time, in which the faith in large parts of the world threatens to go out like a flame which can no longer find food, the first priority is to make God present in this world and to open to men the access to God. Not to just any god, but to the God who spoke on Mount Sinai, that God whose face we recognize in the love unto the end (John 13, 1)- in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. The real problem of our historic hour is that God is disappearing from the horizon of men and that with the extinguishing of the light coming from God disorientation befalls mankind, the destructive effects of which we are seeing ever more.

To lead men to God, to the God speaking in the Bible, is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and the successor of Peter in this time. From it then it follows on its own that we have to be concerned for the unity of believers. For their strife, their internal dissent, calls their talking about God into question. Therefore, the effort for the common witness of faith of the Christians – for ecumenism -is included in the highest priority. Then there is also the necessity that all who believe in God seeking peace with each other, trying to become closer to each other, in order to walk, in the different-ness of their image of God, yet together towards the source of light – inter-religious dialogue. Those who proclaim God as love unto the end, must give the witness of love: devoted to the suffering in love, fending off hatred and enmity – the social dimension of the Christian Faith, of which I have spoken in the encyclical “Deus caritas est”.

If then the struggle for Faith, hope and love in the world is the true priority for the Church in this hour (and in different forms always), then still the small and medium-sized reconciliations also belong to it. That the quiet gesture of a hand stretched out has become a great noise and thus the opposite of reconciliation, we have to take note of. But now I have to wonder: Was and is it really wrong, also in this case, to go to meet the brother, who “hath any thing against thee” and to try for reconciliation (cf. Mt 5, 23f)? Does not civil society, too, have to try to prevent radicalizations, to bind their possible supporters – if possible – back into the major creative forces of social life to avoid isolation and all its consequences? Can it be entirely wrong to strive for the lessening of tensions and constrictions and to give room to the positive which can be found and integrated into the whole? I myself, in the years after 1988, have experienced how by the return of communities previously separating themselves from Rome the interior climate there has changed, how the return to the great, wide and common Church overcame onesided-ness and lessened tensions, so that now they have become positive forces for the whole. Can a community leave us totally indifferent in which there are 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university institutes, 117 brothers, 164 sisters? Should we really calmly leave them to drift away from the Church? I am thinking, for example, of the 491 priests. The plaited fabric of their motivations we cannot know. But I think that they would not have made their decision for the priesthood, if next to some askew or sick elements there hot not been there the love of Christ and the will to proclaim Him and with Him the living God. Should we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical marginal group, from the search for reconciliation and unity? What will then be?

Certainly, we have long and have again on this occasion heard many dissonances from representatives of this community – pride and a patronizing know-it-all attitude, fixation into onesidedness etc. For the love of truth I must add that I have also received a series of moving testimonials of gratitude, in which was made perceptible an opening of hearts. But should the great Church not also be able to be magnanimous [in German its a play on words: “great Church – great of heart”] in the knowledge of the long wind she has; in the knowledge of the promise which she has been given? Should we not, like good educators, also be able not to hear some bad things and strive to calmly lead out of the narrowness? And must we not admit that also from ecclesial circles there have come dissonances? Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group for which there need not be any tolerance; which one can unperturbedly set upon with hatred. And who dared to touch them – in this case the Pope – lost himself the right to tolerance and was allowed without fear and restraint to be treated with hatred, too.

Dear brethren, in the days in which it came into my mind to write this letter, it so happened that in the seminary of Rome I had to interpret and comment the passage of Gal 5, 13-15. I was surprised at how directly it speaks of the present of this hour: “Do not make liberty an occasion to the flesh, but by charity of the spirit serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if you bite and devour one another; take heed you be not consumed one of another.” I was always inclined to regard this sentence as one of the rhetorical hyperbole which occasionally there are with St. Paul. In some respects it may be so. But unfortunately, the “biting and devouring” is there in the Church even today as an expression of a poorly understood freedom. Is it surprising that we are not better than the Galatians? That we at least are threatened by the same temptations? That we have always to learn anew the right use of freedom? And that we have always to learn anew the first priority: love? On the day on which I had to speak about this in the seminary, in Rome the feast of the Madonna della Fiducia – our Lady of Trust – was celebrated. Indeed – Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to the Son, in Whom we all may trust. He will guide us – even in turbulent times. So at the end I would like to thank from my heart all the many bishops who have given me in this time moving signs of trust and affection, but above all the gift of their prayers. This thank I extend to all the faithful who have shown me during this time their unchanged fidelity to the successor of St. Peter. The Lord preserve us all and lead us on the path of peace. This is a wish that spontaneously rises from my heart, especially now at the beginning of Lent, a liturgical time particularly propitious to inner purification, and which invites us all to look with new hope towards the radiant goal of Easter.

With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain

Yours in the Lord

Benedictus Pp. XVI

From the Vatican, on 10 March 2009

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  • grega

    It never works all that well when the mea culpa is coupled with finger pointing.

    It is certainly strange to read such a personal passive-aggressive angry letter from a Pope.
    Perhaps if the Pontiff is really all that merciful he could have for example extended his mercy towards the many divorced Catholics that are prevented from full communion.
    It is one thing for the Pope to be miffed with secular ‘catholic’ folks like myself but something entirely different to kick your core base like for example the German bishops conference – Benedict sealed his fate as a leader with this letter in my opinion.
    But what do I know.

  • Can a community leave us totally indifferent in which there are 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university institutes, 117 brothers, 164 sisters? Should we really calmly leave them to drift away from the Church?

    This part I disagree with. If they do not accept the clear doctrine of the church (including that embodied in the 21st ecumenical council) then they have drifted away by their own actions. There is no onus upon us to make inroads to the “womanpriest” movement, or whatever they called themselves. Whatever their motivation, they have placed themselves outside the Church.

  • jonathanjones02

    grega,
    I don’t get that tone – passive agressive and angry. Maybe you are reading in existing feelings?

    MM,
    The difference, though, is that SSPX desires remedy, and is willing to submit to the apostolic spiritual authority of the pope. That comes through, I think, in this and other communications:
    http://www.dici.org/dl/fichiers/Letter_Sup_Gen.pdf

    We should hope and pray for reconcillation in such a manner with any “group” – of the “left” or the “right.” The most fundamental thing is to partake of the Sacraments as gifted to the Church.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    I think we always have the burden to obey our Lord to keep unified. What a struggle, isn’t it, especially when we don’t like the people we are supposed to be “one” with. I admire the Holy Father for trying to obey the Gospel. But he sure could have done a better job. He is human after all.

  • SSPX must accept Vatican II. All of it. Period.

  • jh

    I love the Holy Father’s comments. May I if I amy tell people this is not some Religous figure talking to us BUT PETER himself. It brought me to tears.

  • jh

    “SSPX must accept Vatican II. All of it. Period.”

    Michael and what is exactly Vatican II. I accept itfully 100 percent. But why should SSPX accpet Vatican II 100 percent when so many people think Vatican II is a departure of the whole deposit of faith before it. Our Holy Father the voice of PEter of himslef has been slandered that he rejects Vatican II. Too many have been silent on this.

    Thank God for Pope Benedict

  • jh

    “I think we always have the burden to obey our Lord to keep unified. What a struggle, isn’t it, especially when we don’t like the people we are supposed to be “one” with. I admire the Holy Father for trying to obey the Gospel. But he sure could have done a better job. He is human after all.”

    Radical Catholci Mom I agree with you a hundred perecent. Sadly the Lord Our Savior did not give a Madision Avenue PR agency to help our Pope. But he he has been consistent

  • I weas stunned by the petulant and self-pitying tone of this letter, which didn’t neglect to snidely take a swipe at “those who show off as great defenders of the council…”

    This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor…

    I think for example of the 491 priests…

    My goodness, these are the things he cares the most about in this case? Clerics and recognition of papal authority? This, from a German who was once at least nominally a member of the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht?

    As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was intimately involved in negotiations with the SSPX since at least before 1988. Anyone with even a passing interest in the SSPX was well aware that Williamson was an anti-semite and that the whole organization, from bishops to lay member adherents and sympathizers, was characterized by a fixation on crackpot Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories.

    It’s getting harder and harder to defend Benedict from the charge of being a reactionary and a pre-conciliar restorationist. From the meaning of “subsists” down to this whole affair, he’s taken upon himself the role of being the sole interpreter of the Council. Considering the fact that he’s one of the last men standing, I guess it’s hard to stop him from doing so.

    How many times have we heard things like this?

    “An agreement has been made with Marcel Lefebvre. Now the SSPX has the ball in it’s court.”

    “John Paul II has granted the indult. Now the SSPX has the ball in it’s court.”

    “Benedict has issued the Motu Proprio freeing up the Latin Mass. Now the SSPX has the ball in it’s court.”

    “Benedict has lifted the excommunications. Now the SSPX has the ball in it’s court.”

    An so it goes…

    The SSPX has never tried to move the ball at all. They’ve never moved on anything, apart from this: It sounds like they’ve moved Rome closer to Econe than the other way around.

  • jh

    :”My goodness, these are the things he cares the most about in this case? Clerics and recognition of papal authority? This, from a German who was once at least nominally a member of the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht? ”

    Is that the best you can do. His Father that was an anti Nazi and who has his Downs COusin carried off by the Nazi because he was defective. Why this hate toward Peter I do not know

    “An so it goes…

    The SSPX has never tried to move the ball at all. They’ve never moved on anything, apart from this: It sounds like they’ve moved Rome closer to Econe than the other way around.”

    Peter is doing his job. He is offering the hand of Christian Friendship and reconcilliation. Some will accept and some will not

    “It’s getting harder and harder to defend Benedict from the charge of being a reactionary and a pre-conciliar restorationist. From the meaning of “subsists” down to this whole affair, he’s taken upon himself the role of being the sole interpreter of the Council. Considering the fact that he’s one of the last men standing, I guess it’s hard to stop him from doing so.”

    Go over to Wellborn post today. We have Pope Benedicts writings over a lifetime!!! He loves the Council. He is lying or not. If you think the Holyy Father is lying so be it. If you have the courage to think he is not ENGAGE HIS WHOLE WRITINGS

    I have to think you did not even read the entire letter

  • SSPX must accept Vatican II. All of it. Period.

    I wonder, could that be characterized as “show[ing] off as a great defender of the Council?”

  • jh

    “Perhaps if the Pontiff is really all that merciful he could have for example extended his mercy towards the many divorced Catholics that are prevented from full communion”

    Grega

    Speaking as one of those divorced Catholica Pope Benedict has spoken to me and has given me the courage to live as follower of Christ in our state

  • Is Jeff’s slur of the Holy Father really going to be allowed to stand?

  • jh

    I must say looking at a lot of Catholic blogs todsay and the comment sections I am sadden
    They almost look at this through a poltical lens. They see it almost as Hannity critizing Obama or Olberman going after Bush and looking at every fine point

    First Our Pope is offering a clarification not really an apology. I suppose he is offering a apology on not making things clearer but he is not apolgizing for his actions that he sees rooted in Christ and his Office itself

    Our Holy Father is challenging us to look at the intolerance in ourselves and it appears that many of us dare not want to look there

  • Thank you, jh.

  • May I if I amy tell people this is not some Religous figure talking to us BUT PETER himself.

    Actually, no, the Pope is the successor of Peter, not Peter.

    ut why should SSPX accpet Vatican II 100 percent when so many people think Vatican II is a departure of the whole deposit of faith before it.

    They have to accept VII because it is a council of the Church. The Church is open to many different interpretations of VII, but rejecting it as a whole or in part is not acceptable.

    I am sympathetic to Jeff’s view. I too was put off by the tone of the letter. I was put off by the Pope’s claim that he (gee, whiz) just hadn’t really paid enough attention to the Internet. I am put off by his decisions on who is worthy of efforts to ecclesial communion and who is not.

    Our Holy Father is challenging us to look at the intolerance in ourselves and it appears that many of us dare not want to look there

    Simply amazing. So, jh, what kind of “tolerance” is Benedict inspiring within YOU exactly? Tolerance for “Spirit of Vatican II” types?

  • Greg

    MM,

    Can you point out a doctrine specifically taught by Vatican II that the SSPX rejects?

  • David Raber

    I say, give the Pope a break. If his letter seems petulant or testy, that’s an understandable human reaction to being pummeled from many quarters for an action he considered to be a good deed. As great a one as St. Paul comes off as rather petulant and testy–perhaps even self-important–from time to time in his letters.

    This pope may be something of a partisan in the intra-Catholic version of the West’s current culture wars, but that most certainly does not define him. He has a great mind and a great heart; he is a real Christian–or so it seems to me after reading a good chunk of his work, which is helping me to be a better Christian.

  • grega

    This recent string of rather poorly executed Vatican directives did a lot of harm.
    The average Catholic certainly wonders
    Take just the last two month –

    `The Williamson “oversight” – with the super lame dog eat my homework type excuse -if we only knew how to Google and use the Internet.

    Vatican allows a Brazilian archbishop to excommunicate the mother of a 9 year old girl, raped by her father, likely to die during birth.
    Unlike pompous Bp. Williamson this mother would have been a very good candidate for the mercy and kindness Benedetto claims to possess. Also in light of the Vatican blunder regarding Archbishop Law what do the monsignors think the average catholic parent concludes from this ‘unfortunate’ chain of mishaps?

    Now this rather unconvincing letter blaming the mentioned average catholic for actually being a bit miffed.

    And to round it up the announcement that Pope Benedict will NOT enter the Holocaust Museum during his visit to the Holy Land.

    Oh man

  • jonathanjones02

    I do not censor or delete comments. But folks let’s play nice and be respectful. We are all adults.

  • On another thread, I was recently accused of thinking myself more Catholic than the pope.

    I wonder how many here could be so accused?

  • Greg,

    I refer specifically to the teachings of Nostra Aetate, Dignitatis Humanae, and possibly also sections of Lumen Gentium, Gaudium Et Spes, and Sacrosanctum Concilium.

    Jonathan — if they desire remedy then they need to accept the council. I don’t know why that is so hard. Benedict said as much when he said that the issues were “essentially doctrinal in nature, especially those concerning the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the postconciliar Magisterium of the Popes” and that ” one cannot freeze the magisterial authority of the Church in 1962.” Of course the 21st council is fully consistent the with previous 20, that is not the issue.

  • When I read the letter, and the almost anguished tone when he talks about criticism, I immediately wondered if he had his good friend Cardinal Schoenborn in mind? Look, Benedict messed up on this one. Loyal Catholics like Schoenborn have a duty to tell the truth, and not to create a bubble around the guy.

  • Benedict messed up on this one.

    I don’t think he did mess up though. Maybe even he himself thinks he messed up at this point; but I think not.

    The modern world thinks that everything should be carefully packaged and marketed with appropriate PR, gift-wrapped and brought out on a silver platter for the consumption of modern entitled Man, etc, all to make sure the politically correct thin-skinned don’t have a hissy fit. I think that is nonsense, and this incident provides a kind of counter-witness. I’m frankly grateful that the Holy Father doesn’t act like Chairman of Roman Catholicism, Inc, and I think people who see his failure to act like the Chairman of Roman Catholicism, Inc as a failure have it all wrong.

  • Pope Benedict has never particularly cared what the press and the laity have had to say about him over the years. That’s always been like water off a duck’s back, as far as he’s concerned. He’s feeling sorry for himself now because criticism is being directed at him from priests, bishops, and cardinals.

    Feddy,

    For decades now, the SSPX has been deriding every pope from John XXIII onwards as a usurper of Cardinal Siri, or a modernist, a stooge, a useful idiot for the communists, a koran-kissing heretic, or a presider over “newchurch.” Have you been as filled with righteous indignation over that?

    jh,

    Why this hate toward Peter I do not know

    I believe in the office of the papacy and in the Petrine Charism. That’s why I feel compelled to speak up when I see its moral authority being squandered. I used to spend a lot of time over at Pat Madrid’s Envoy forum, back when it was an SSPX nest, defending JPII from their constant attacks.

    There are popes and then there are popes. I’ve lived long enough now to see that some of them are more effective than others. Some of them are holier than others. Some of them are better men than others. Sorry to say it, but this particular papacy has been a pastoral train-wreck .

    Go over to Wellborn post today. We have Pope Benedicts writings over a lifetime!!! He loves the Council. He is lying or not. If you think the Holyy Father is lying so be it. If you have the courage to think he is not ENGAGE HIS WHOLE WRITINGS

    Amy can come over and read my posts too. I suggest you go over and read the Angelqueen forum, the Fisheaters forum, Rorate Caeli, and Traditio and come back and tell me that the SSPX isn’t full of anti-semites obsessed with Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories and contempt for the popes.

    You bring up an interesting point regarding all these writings. If you go into a bookstore nowadays and go over to the Catholic section, you’ll generally see the stacks dominated by some slim volumes by Scott Hahn (schooled in exegesis at Calvinist Gordon-Conwell), and about 20 books by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict put out by Ignatius Press.

    Where are all the great Catholic theologians? Where are the great minds and intellects of the Church? They’re all gone. They’ve either passed away or they’ve been silenced by the sitting pope. In his time at the Vatican, he’s succeeded in silencing everyone who’s disagreed with him. He’s silenced theologians who were gifted with better biblical scholarship, spiritual insights, and pastoral sensitivity than he has.

    I’ll give the SSPX credit for at least this much.. They make a good point now and then about the cult of personality that has grown up around the popes. Is it really the pope’s role to be the theologian-in-chief of the Church? I don’t happen to thinks so.

  • grega

    Zippy I would not all disagree with your notion –
    yes it is great that we do not have chairman Ratzinger – I am all for tough frank honest debate and guidance – however as a german I have to tell you for Benedict to walk into the minefield of Holocaust denial followed by petty politics regarding how our jewish brothers and sisters view the Vatican actions/inactions during the german/italian Faschist years is a HUGE mistake.
    It is one thing for a Polish Pope to not enter the Yad Vashem Museum in order to make the point that the Vatican disagrees with the view that most Jews have of Pius XII.
    But please to follow the Williamson debacle and the obvious difficult SSPX/Jewish relationship with this petty snub is not bold leadership in my opinion.
    Unless Benedict deep down indeed cares so much to lure the relatively few SSPX’lers back into the fold that he is willing to risk the loss of Millions of us average peons.
    Look at the numbers he cites – if the head of 1 Billion Catholics feels compelled to offer such numbers to make his case one has to wonder.
    We had one example of bold leadership by an aging cleric – Johannes XXIII – bold leadership would attempt to address real problems.

    If you are the leader of 1 Billion you do not cater to the fringes in the bright light of the general public – that is just not smart.

  • Zippy – I think it’s possible to criticize the Pope’s actions here for reasons other than political incorrectness. Don’t assume that OUR reasons for disagreeing with him on this are the same reasons that the media and the typical liberal Catholic have.

  • Right Zippy. I think the Holy Father is a great and holy man. That he has a great love for God, the Church, and the flock he has been charged with. That he’s trying to be the kind of pope that he would admire (and the Church as a whole always did). I think he is probably stunned more than anything by the reaction of a number of people, cleric and lay. My guess is he one of modern day Catholicism’s greatest faults hit him right I the face – lack of charity. It’s beyond disputing the prudence of efficacy of his moves regarding the SSPX, it’s about the contempt and hatred harbored for our separated (not not very much so) brothers. And like the brother in the parable of the prodigal son, many are miffed at their brother and perhaps more miffed at their father for laying open the doors of reunification and viewing that as worthy of celebration. Pope Benedict understands that his role is to strengthen his flock and bring home the lost sheep, and is probably dumbstruck by the number of Catholics who don’t understand that and are so willing to snub their spiritual father. It’s certainly not reflective of what the Catholic spirit is. It also makes me wonder how many Catholics are upset that Pope Paul VI lifted the excommunication of the Orthodox.

    As to the SSPX, there’s a lot of problems there, I know, I was mixed up with them for a time and I consider it a great grace to have not continued down that road. But that doesn’t mean the SSPX aren’t children of God, in need of full communion, and that they should suffer some sort of humiliation before reunification. On the whole what you have are people who are sincerely trying to be faithful and devout Catholics. I believe they’re wrong on a number of issues – that they aren’t looking at certain things correctly – but almost anyone who goes down the SSPX starts out with the best of intentions. It’s just that these disordered views take root and often harden the heart, not to mention there are some people with some issues that I would consider pathological.

    For those concerned about Bp. Williamson, I agree if you think he’s a whack job. I also don’t think, barring a great grace from God, he would ever come into full communion – but others would. Communion itself will actually help correct wrong thinking. It will take time, but that’s the only way it would happen, and the Holy Father recognizes this.

    As far as Vatican II is concerned, I don’t think it would be terribly difficult to come to a satisfactory agreement with the SSPX. The problem isn’t nearly as difficult as the Filioque is to the Catholic/Orthodox situation. The real issue with Vatican II stems in partfrom the nature of the council and the degree of ambiguity contained within. This ambiguity has led a great number of people to think that the Church has abandoned past teachings, teachings of Truth. Some think that’s a good thing (a.k.a. Spirit of Vatican II types), others operating on the same sort of reading think that’s a bad thing and something to be rejected if they are going to remain true to Truth (SSPX types).

    Had a bishop of the Spirit of Vatican II type ordained bishops without papal approval, we would have seen similar action that was taken against Abp. LaFebvre and the four. I think LaFebvre was very wrong for having done it, but the view in the SSPX was that he was hero saving the Church from ruin. They’re way wrong, but I can also understand their view given that there were (and some remain) so many heterodox views in the Church at large at the time that went seemingly unchecked.

    There are always going to be a group of people who will latch onto some particular Truth and blow it of proportion or neglect other Truths. There’s always going to be people that think they have the lock on what authentic Catholicism or Christianity is, that the Church has lost its way, etc. Some will cling to a perception of the Church in the past, others to an idea essentially disconnected from the past. Oddly enough, those parties are most likely to harbor contempt for the other.

  • S.B.

    michael —

    You haven’t expressed any disagreement with the Pope’s action or letter here. All you’ve said is that SSPX must accept Vatican II — and that’s a point with which the Pope already agreed quite expressly. (Maybe you’re mad about the Pope’s evenhanded approach in pointing out that whoever poses as a defender of Vatican II “must accept the faith of the centuries and must not cut the roots of which the tree lives.”).

  • If you are the leader of 1 Billion you do not cater to the fringes in the bright light of the general public – that is just not smart.

    That is precisely my point. The Pope shouldn’t be ‘catering’ to anyone at all when it comes to a simple act of charity in lifting excommunications which in themselves have nothing to do with Williamson’s holocaust-denial fruitcakery. That kind of ‘catering’ is what corporate executives and PR flacks do. I think it is wonderful that our Pope doesn’t act like a corporate executive or PR flack, and while it may be possible to criticize him I think it is silly and harmful to do so.

    If this kind of caritas is bad PR then lets bring on some more bad PR.

  • Am I in moderation because I’m long winded or have I been a bad boy and not realized it?

  • Moderation has a life of it’s own!

  • HA

    Where are all the great Catholic theologians? Where are the great minds and intellects of the Church? They’re all gone. They’ve either passed away or they’ve been silenced by the sitting pope.
     
    Wow. With conspiracy theorists like Jeff,  who needs the Judaeo-Masonic kind?

  • David Nickol

    Am I in moderation because I’m long winded or have I been a bad boy and not realized it?

    Rick,

    You are long winded and you are a bad boy, but moderation has been lifted in a courageous act of charity and benevolence.

  • As to the SSPX, there’s a lot of problems there, I know, I was mixed up with them for a time and I consider it a great grace to have not continued down that road. But that doesn’t mean the SSPX aren’t children of God, in need of full communion, and that they should suffer some sort of humiliation before reunification. On the whole what you have are people who are sincerely trying to be faithful and devout Catholics. I believe they’re wrong on a number of issues – that they aren’t looking at certain things correctly – but almost anyone who goes down the SSPX starts out with the best of intentions.

    Are you willing to say the same thing about the Womenpriests movement and those who favor women’s ordination that you are about Vatican II-rejecting anti-semites? Amazing how you people pull out the concepts of “tolerance” and “mercy” and “reconciliation” when it suits you.

    You haven’t expressed any disagreement with the Pope’s action or letter here.

    Um, I haven’t?

    With conspiracy theorists like Jeff, who needs the Judaeo-Masonic kind?

    What sounds like a conspiracy theory to you in his comment? The fact that Ratzinger bullied and/or silenced theologians?

  • It is one of the Pope’s many jobs to “silence” heretical or scandalous theologians, that is, to defend orthodoxy. That he sometimes does so in an age when doing so is acutely needed is neither conspiracy theory nor even slightly objectionable.

  • Amazing how you people pull out the concepts of “tolerance” and “mercy” and “reconciliation” when it suits you.

    The concept of tolerance (properly understood), mercy and reconciliation always suits me. I’m a sinner, and quite proficient at it nonetheless, so I am always in need mercy and reconciliation and grateful that our Lord has made those graces so available to me. That I desire the same for others doesn’t really come from my propensity toward wretched inclinations, but from a grace to get beyond myself. In that mercy and reconciliation to the SSPX suits me personally, it doesn’t anymore than if womynpriests, Anglicans, or the Orthodox were to be reconciled.

    Are you willing to say the same thing about the Womenpriests movement and those who favor women’s ordination that you are about Vatican II-rejecting anti-semites?

    To be clear, I believe the SSPX rejection of VII is primarily me due to a misunderstanding on their part. They are reading the documents to be a departure from the Truth rather than reading them in the light of the Truth. The SSPX is not alone in doing that. The Spirit of Vatican II types do the same. The difference being is the SSPX rejects what they view a departure from Truth and the SoVII crowd welcome the perceived departure. The SoVII types are just as much or more in material error than the SSPX, yet appear to be in perfect communion.

    There is indeed antisemitism within the ranks of the SSPX, I witnessed it first hand. But it’s not all, and it’s not what the substance of their position is about. A lot of what I see as antisemitism within the SSPX was no different than what I’ve witnessed among the progressive Catholics. I have also witnessed some of the “Jewish banker” and Jewish media” type conspiracy talk – but again, I’ve seen that in other Catholic circles as well as secular circles. It’s wrong, it needs to be purged, but opening the door to reconciliation doesn’t mean that anyone is condoning it. One of the effects of heresy and schism is that once separated, error takes on a life of its own and grows. When Mother Church can bring the affected closer to home, there’s more of a chance of purging those subsequent effects.

    So as to the implication that I’m rather hypocritical about my desire to see reconciliation and mercy, I think it might be a case of projection. Michael, do you believe that anyone who holds to the error that that women can be and should be priests should be excommunicated and the Church not make any moves to bring them home until they totally recant and repent? My guess is no.

  • HA

    What sounds like a conspiracy theory to you in his comment?
     
    Where to start? The allegation that if one goes into a bookstore (and wades through the Dan Brown and J D Crossan and Book of Judas and and other Lenten specials) and makes it all the way to the Catholic section, that what happens to be there (or not) is dictated by the current Pope? Or the one about how “all the great Catholic theologians…the great minds and intellects of the Church…are all gone” and that apart from a general passing away, this is due to Vatican pressure? Instigated by a pope who has “succeeded in silencing everyone who’s disagreed with him”?
     
    Yeah, I’d say that’s a very good start. (I wonder if Jeff would put the SSPX on the list of those who have disagreed with the Pope given that they haven’t been silenced yet?) Furthermore, you may not be able to see this, but the very fact that someone like you is defending statements like that very much helps make my case.

  • And like the brother in the parable of the prodigal son, many are miffed at their brother and perhaps more miffed at their father for laying open the doors of reunification and viewing that as worthy of celebration.

    I’m not sure that the analogy to the prodigal son and his resentful older brother holds up too well here.

    The prodigal son came home in a spirit of remorse and repentance. The SSPX son insists that the house has been his all along to begin with, and wants to return to berate the father further and to see what he still may have hidden in his pockets.

  • The prodigal son came home in a spirit of remorse and repentance. The SSPX son insists that the house has been his all along to begin with, and wants to return to berate the father further and to see what he still may have hidden in his pockets.

    Yes, the prodigal son came home remorseful, not so sure about repentant in the “sorry for the right reasons” way. There’s certainly a strong current in the SSPX that they are the aggrieved party, but that’s not the totality of the group (like I said, some will never come home). I don’t think the cynicism of berating pilfering the father is warranted. But my albeit limited analogy was based on the idea that while the father was hurt by the actions of his son, he still kept a watchful eye out for him and was at the ready to forgive and welcome him home. The brother was spiteful over it, which was wrong, and further the brother seemed more concerned about his own standing with his father on a superficial and material level than appreciating his father for who he is and wanting his father to have good for his own sake.

  • David Nickol

    Can someone name the theologians who have been silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI? I mean truly silenced, not barred from teaching Catholic theology.

  • Michael, do you believe that anyone who holds to the error that that women can be and should be priests should be excommunicated and the Church not make any moves to bring them home until they totally recant and repent? My guess is no.

    I don’t think anyone who believes that ordination should be open to women should be excommunicated. But I do think that those who participate directly in womenpriest ordinations have not only chosen a poor tactic, but have excommunicated themselves. The better move, in the face of unconvincing arguments, is to persist in asking “why?” There’s no sin in that inquiry.

    In either case, excommunication is the move to “bring them home.” These SSPX folks were excommunicated in order to bring them home, not simply to get rid of them.

  • Can someone name the theologians who have been silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI? I mean truly silenced, not barred from teaching Catholic theology.

    What do you mean by “truly” silenced? Permanently? Temporarily? Why is barring from teaching Catholic theology excluded? There are a lot of different penalties that different theologians have experienced.

    I can begin, using different categories. Others can add if they know more.

    Excommunicated

    Tissa Balasuriya (although he was “re-communicated” and remains in good standing)

    Silenced

    Leonardo Boff – for one year. Other penalties followed, I believe. Left the priesthood after constant harassment.

    Ambiguous position between being silenced and being unable to teach Catholic theology

    Roger Haight

    No longer can teach Catholic theology

    Hans Kung
    Charles Curran

    Warnings issued concerning their theology

    Jon Sobrino

    Investigated

    Gustavo Gutierrez
    Elizabeth Johnson
    Peter Phan
    countless others, mostly liberationists

  • If only that list were longer.

  • In either case, excommunication is the move to “bring them home.” These SSPX folks were excommunicated in order to bring them home, not simply to get rid of them.

    Indeed – though technically in both cases they excommunicated themselves by their actions – the declaration of that was part of the prescription as well warning to the rest of the flock (warning not in a heavy handed manner, but a public caution of the dangers with these groups).

    The better move, in the face of unconvincing arguments, is to persist in asking “why?” There’s no sin in that inquiry.

    I agree with that statement. But I’d characterize the two camps differently in that the circumstances are different. The Church has answered the “why not” to women priests. It was done quite satisfactorily and authoritatively. Not infallibly so that it is an article of the faith, but authoritatively enough to where it there are no valid reasons to question the matter – Scripture, Tradition, direct statements from the Holy Father and the CDF all make it painfully clear.

    The SSPX situation is different. They’re not questioning a Truth of the faith, they’re questioning what they view to be a departure from that Truth. I know they’re wrong – that there was no departure – but perhaps they could be freed from their error if the Church addressed their questions as directly and thoroughly as She did the women priest crowd. If the SSPX or elements therein reject it, it’s to their own peril. I KNOW there are huge obstacles to overcome with the SSPX, and yes, a reconciliation would by nature require they be overcome. And I still don’t the SSPX would ever enter communion en mass. Most likely there would be a schism within a schism (i.e. the SSPV forming out the SSPX). My position here isn’t so much an apology for the SSPX as it is a reaction to the awful reaction to the Holy Father.

  • Jeff-

    I don’t spend any time caring what the SSPX folks think, any more than I care what the John Birchers or Ron Paul supporters think. What does bother me is when a person who claims to be a Catholic calls the Holy Father a nazi.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • If only that list were longer.

    Aaaannndddd…. wait for it… next we’ll be hearing Feddie talk about how we need to have “tolerance” for the SSPX….

    The Church has answered the “why not” to women priests. It was done quite satisfactorily and authoritatively. Not infallibly so that it is an article of the faith, but authoritatively enough to where it there are no valid reasons to question the matter – Scripture, Tradition, direct statements from the Holy Father and the CDF all make it painfully clear.

    I think you have a different understanding of what I mean by “why not.” To you, the “why not” is solved when the authorities make a clear authoritative statement that basically says “because we said so.” As if before the authoritative statement, we could ask “why not” because the previous teaching seemed to leave room for the possibility, which has been closed by the subsequent statement. No need to ask further questions. For me, the “why not” is deeper. Not a matter of “why not, since there seem to be nothing to prohibit it” but a “why not,” since the theological justification is simply not convincing especially in light of how we understand the Gospel.

    The SSPX situation is different. They’re not questioning a Truth of the faith, they’re questioning what they view to be a departure from that Truth.

    I’m not so sure the situation is that different. The Womenpriest movement is not questioning a Truth of the faith either. They see the Church’s view on women and the priesthood as a departure from that which the Gospel demands, not a departure in a literal sense but as a disconnect that we have only more recently come to recognize as the sin of sexism (comparable to the eventual realization by the Church that slavery is a sin).

    I know they’re wrong – that there was no departure…

    Well, let’s get this straight: Vatican II, despite the extremist claims of both sides, represents BOTH departure and continuity (“both/and” not “either/or”). Both occurred at Vatican II, and each is just as real as the other.

  • What does bother me is when a person who claims to be a Catholic calls the Holy Father a nazi.

    A little honesty would be nice, Feddie.

  • Feddie,

    How dare you? When did I do that? My point was that a German who was at least NOMINALLY a member of the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht should have had more savvy and pastoral sensibility in handling a matter like this. Instead of worrying about clerics and their recognition of papal authority as his top priority in this matter, he should be worrying about what his history and his actions vis-a-vis Bishop Williamson mean for the reputation of our Church and for his country.

  • For me, the “why not” is deeper. Not a matter of “why not, since there seem to be nothing to prohibit it” but a “why not,” since the theological justification is simply not convincing especially in light of how we understand the Gospel.

    I believe it is, as do the vast majority. What you seem to be rejecting as an authoritarian end-run around the Gospel is actually the legitimate authority of the Church. The Magisterium is the pillar and bulwark of the faith, our view of the Gospel is only as valid as it conforms to the teachings of the Church.

    Well, let’s get this straight: Vatican II, despite the extremist claims of both sides, represents BOTH departure and continuity (”both/and” not “either/or”). Both occurred at Vatican II, and each is just as real as the other.

    No departure from Truth whatsoever. But it’s the belief that VII denies or departs from Truth that leads to the SSPX’s rejection of it.

  • David Nickol

    What do you mean by “truly” silenced? Permanently? Temporarily? Why is barring from teaching Catholic theology excluded? There are a lot of different penalties that different theologians have experienced.

    Michael,

    I asked about theologians being “truly” silenced because Jeff said:

    Where are all the great Catholic theologians? Where are the great minds and intellects of the Church? They’re all gone. They’ve either passed away or they’ve been silenced by the sitting pope. In his time at the Vatican, he’s succeeded in silencing everyone who’s disagreed with him. He’s silenced theologians who were gifted with better biblical scholarship, spiritual insights, and pastoral sensitivity than he has.

    Hans Kung and Charles Curran are still teaching (although not in Catholic schools) and writing. So they are still being heard. Elizizabeth Johnson is still publishing, and if I remember correctly, it was a far-from-dissident priest who recommended Quest for the Living God to me. I know Liberation Theology has been systematically suppressed, but it just doesn’t seem to me that if we have no great theologians, it is because they have all been silenced.

    From everything I know (although it is not a great deal) being investigated by the CDF is nightmarish, so I don’t mean to minimize the trauma suffered by some theologians. But based on what I know, I think Jeff is way overstating the case.

    Did you know Grease, the 1978 film starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta, got an O rating from the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting? It’s basically the old C rating (for condemned), for those who remember the Legion of Decency.

    A-I — general patronage;
    A-II — adults and adolescents;
    A-III — adults
    L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
    O — morally offensive.

  • JohnH

    Feddie–Jeff didn’t say the Pope was a Nazi. He insinuated it, which is totally different.

    How dare you!

  • I suppose there will always be debate as to how far Vatican II was an exercise of the universal ordinary magisterium. If it was an exercise of the universal ordinary magisterium, what it taught, it taught infallibly.

    I’ve encountered many traditionalists however, who consider encyclicals such as Pascendi, The Syllabus of Errors, Mortalium Animos, and Lamentabili Sane as lasting affirmations for all time which somehow carry more weight than the Constitutions signed off on at Vatican II.

    There were changes in teaching, or at least clarifications on what the extreme integrists thought the ever-unchanging teaching was due to their own assumptions.

    For example:

    Our relationship with the Jewish people: Nostra Aetate over Collective Guilt due to Deicide.

    The Principle of Religious Liberty over “Thesis vs. Hypothesis”.

    Vatican II was both rupture and continuity. This was clearly the view of most of the participants at the time. It was also an attempt by the assembled bishops to overturn the grip of extreme anti-modernists who were still dominating the curia at the time (Every heresy provokes an over-reaction), and act like real bishops instead of mere branch managers. The principle of collegiality was brought back into play, trimming back the salis a bit from what had been said at the unfinished Vatican I. Through ressourcement, it was a leap-frogging back over recent tradition in order to recapture and revitalize even older traditions.

  • David,

    Han Kung and Charles Curran were effectively silenced. The Church has no temporal arm to restrain them from still speaking out in other venues, much to the chagrin of some, I’m sure. What do you want Pope Benedict to do, send the Swiss Guard commandos out to whack them? 😉

    Years ago, there were many theologians who could be named, and there was lively debate between them. There were names everyone was familiar with, such as Guardini, De Lubac, Chenu, Schilleebecx, Congar, Rahner, Von Balthasar, Lonergan, Maritian, Courtnay Murray, Gutierrez, Boff, Sobrino, Camara, etc…

    Who do we have now, besides the Pope? Joe Fessio?

    David Tracy, maybe?

    If a climate of fear exists, due to previous silencings, it puts a damper on speculative theology and the academy atrophies as a result. The CDF process is indeed nightmarish, as you suggest. It has a lot to do with the dearth of contributions we see from theologians. Nobody wants to take a risk. The guys forced outside become ever more bizarre. Don’t you think the gulf between the hierarchy and theologians in the academy has widened?

  • I believe it is, as do the vast majority.

    The “vast majority” of Catholics believe that women should be excluded from the priesthood? Please let us know how you have access to the statistics on this, or how you came to acquire that God-like view of yours.

    What you seem to be rejecting as an authoritarian end-run around the Gospel is actually the legitimate authority of the Church. The Magisterium is the pillar and bulwark of the faith, our view of the Gospel is only as valid as it conforms to the teachings of the Church.

    I’m not rejecting the legitimate authority of the Magisterium at all. But I recognize the limits of the Magisterium’s authority. The Magisterium exists to protect, transmit, and interpret the Gospel, but the Gospel also stands above and judges the Magisterium, because the Gospel is Christ. I’m not by any means suggesting that it is easy to determine when the Gospel is in fact coming into confrontation with the Magisterium, only that the Gospel is the ultimate judge. Not the Magisterium.

    No departure from Truth whatsoever.

    I did not mean to imply that Vatican II was a departure from the Truth, but that it is in many ways a departure from previous teaching. Truth does not change. But Church teaching certainly can, in radical ways. In that sense VII was both a departure and continuity.

    But it’s the belief that VII denies or departs from Truth that leads to the SSPX’s rejection of it.

    I realize that. But they have elevated a formerly held truth to the status of Truth.

    Elizizabeth Johnson is still publishing, and if I remember correctly, it was a far-from-dissident priest who recommended Quest for the Living God to me.

    Yes. She’s a great theologian.

    But based on what I know, I think Jeff is way overstating the case.

    Well, yes, perhaps. Especially when you consider that most bookstores would not carry actual theology anyway and instead carries mostly the pop Catholic crap. It wasn’t until Ratzinger was made pope that Barnes & Noble started carrying his books. B&N sure as hell ain’t carrying Sobrino, Gutierrez, Dulles, Johnson, etc.

  • My albeit limited analogy was based on the idea that while the father was hurt by the actions of his son, he still kept a watchful eye out for him and was at the ready to forgive and welcome him home. The brother was spiteful over it, which was wrong, and further the brother seemed more concerned about his own standing with his father on a superficial and material level than appreciating his father for who he is and wanting his father to have good for his own sake.

    One of the main points in the parable is that we can’t earn our own salvation by our own efforts alone. God’s grace acts first. The father spots the son when he’s a log way off and moves first. But the repentance on the part of the son is an absolutely essential and necessary ingredient.

    In many a family fight, “Mother” picks up the phone and makes the call first, even if the fight wasn’t her fault to begin with, and there’s nothing wrong with Mother Church reaching out first, but the SSPX can’t come in thinking that they’ve won.

    As for the older son, I think your overstating it in saying he was “wrong” and materialistic. The father reassures him that “everything I have is yours” and encourages him to rejoice along with him. His father would not have asked this of him without repentance on the part of the yonger brother.

  • ari
  • Ari,

    I don’t think anyone here missed them. In any case, I read the whole letter, so I know I didn’t miss them.

    In fact, David Gibson addressed several of those very points superbly here:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/pontifications/2009/03/pope-on-the-defensiveand-its-n.html

  • ari

    Given the way you have interpreted his letter — yeah, I would defintely say that you have, in fact, missed the point.

    What was superbly done by Gibson was not an analysis but the remarkable lack thereof.

    It was more a demonstration of a prejudicial bias against His Holiness & the message he attempted to convey rather than what should have been an illustration of objectivity — especially when it comes to professional journalism (although, unfortunately, such a thing is non-existent especially these days).

    The attitude that many are exhibiting seems more in line with the incorrigibly unforgiving attitude that the eldest son had towards his younger sibling in the story about the prodigal son.

    The whole article seems more replete with logical flaws than with critically objective analysis, not the least of which is its notorious frequent engagement in petitio principii as well as a smattering of ignoratio elenchi with an ad hominem or two, or three, or four, etc. as its maraschino cherry, but don’t let that get in the way of your appraisal of it being so indicatively superb.

    All in all, it merely continues to confirm the very notion that sheer demagoguery is not dead. not at all.

  • Speaking of missing things, have you missed what’s been pointed out here regarding the persistent misapplication of the Prodigal Son parable in this circumstance?

  • The “vast majority” of Catholics believe that women should be excluded from the priesthood? Please let us know how you have access to the statistics on this, or how you came to acquire that God-like view of yours.

    No statistic, no God-like view. Simple reason suffices. There is no evidence that many Catholics have ever thought there should be or there was the capability of women becoming priests. It’s a very recent innovation of thought and the actual movement only dates back decades. At that, it’s a small fringe movement active primarily in the West. You can disregard the statement as unsubstantiated, fine, but you’d be doing that only for argument’s sake.

    I’m not rejecting the legitimate authority of the Magisterium at all. But I recognize the limits of the Magisterium’s authority. The Magisterium exists to protect, transmit, and interpret the Gospel, but the Gospel also stands above and judges the Magisterium, because the Gospel is Christ. I’m not by any means suggesting that it is easy to determine when the Gospel is in fact coming into confrontation with the Magisterium, only that the Gospel is the ultimate judge. Not the Magisterium.

    I’m curious to know when Magisterium ever erred concerning the Gospel and if the two were in conflict how we would be able to tell.

    I realize that. But they have elevated a formerly held truth to the status of Truth.

    There is some element of that, I agree. However, I think that is more of a reactionary response. It’s like a heaping on of grievances. It won’t be easy to get these people home, there’s a lot of bad blood and error involved. But I still think it better to hope and pray for a reconciliation than to spite them.

    Time will tell whether the pope’s efforts pay off, but if I have any understanding at all of God and Catholicism. The day the Holy Father has to answer for his works, his reaching out to separated sheep and admonishing us to not be so nasty and harsh won’t be one of them.

  • Speaking of missing things, have you missed what’s been pointed out here regarding the persistent misapplication of the Prodigal Son parable in this circumstance?

    Perhaps we’re unconvinced it’s a misapplication (speaking for myself anyway), just as we’re unconvinced Gibson addressed the pope’s letter superbly.

  • Jeff,

    Maybe it wasn’t fair of me to be so dismissive in my prior post. I’m sorry. I’ll address your other rebuttal.

    One of the main points in the parable is that we can’t earn our own salvation by our own efforts alone. God’s grace acts first. The father spots the son when he’s a log way off and moves first. But the repentance on the part of the son is an absolutely essential and necessary ingredient.

    I agree, though I’d qualify that repentance as a necessary ingredient is needed for the reconciliation to have been accomplished but not necessarily for the process. The father in the parable was willing to receive the son before he knew he was going to repent.

    This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It has more layers than an onion, each beautiful beyond compare. There’s a whole lot more going on than that above. It’s a love story. It’s about our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His abundant love and mercy. And yes, it’s about repentance too. But it’s about what a relationship is and what love really is.

    As for the older son, I think your overstating it in saying he was “wrong” and materialistic. The father reassures him that “everything I have is yours” and encourages him to rejoice along with him. His father would not have asked this of him without repentance on the part of the yonger brother.

    Actually I understated it about the older son, I assumed more mutual understanding about his end than I should have. He was wrong. He didn’t get where the father was coming from because he didn’t understand love. He held his brother in contempt. He didn’t relish his relationship with his father, in fact his relationship with his father was actually weaker than the prodigal son’s. The prodigal son, in spite of having essentially spit on his dad, still recognized his relationship with his father as damaged as it was. The older son was of the mind that the relationship of the father and son was broken and should not or could not be repaired. He didn’t want to see that relationship repaired. He was envious of his brother because while he did all the right things, helping his dad and being obedient, his dad never threw him a party, yet the prodigal kid gets a big bash upon his return, it would be hard not to be miffed. But that’s the point – love – wanting good for another for their own sake. You can show love by obedience, but obedience cannot replace love.

    The attitude of those of us who have been obedient and remain in our father’s estate getting mad because our father is rushing down the road to greet our disobedient brother are no different than the parable.

  • Rick,

    That’s an interesting take on the two brothers, but I’m afraid it’s eisegesis on your part. In a way, you’re conflating the older brother with the example of the brother who tells his father that he will go and work in he vineyard that day and does not do it. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, by contrast, is told immediately following these two in order to add emphasis:

    “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?

    And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

    I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

    “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?

    And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’

    In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    There’s no opprobrium placed upon the ninety-nine sheep who were never lost. There’s nothing wrong with the nine coins that were never lost. There’s nothing wrong with the older brother whose father reassures him that “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.” Like the day-workers in the vineyard, he is being urged to be generous in spirit to the idea of the “last being first and the first being last.” The last still get what is fairly due to them regardless.

  • There is no evidence that many Catholics have ever thought there should be or there was the capability of women becoming priests.

    Are you kidding?

    It’s a very recent innovation of thought and the actual movement only dates back decades.

    Yes, because the insight about the full dignity of women and the reality of sexism in general is only fairly recent. I’m not sure what the point is. The insight that slavery is sin is also a fairly recent insight if you consider the longer history of the Church. The issue is not whether the insight is recent, but whether it is true. That’s a more complicated question, and one that you might naturally have an allergy toward, but it’s the right question.

    At that, it’s a small fringe movement active primarily in the West.

    Simply not true.

    You can disregard the statement as unsubstantiated, fine, but you’d be doing that only for argument’s sake.

    No, not for argument’s sake at all. I never argue merely for argument’s sake.

    I’m curious to know when Magisterium ever erred concerning the Gospel and if the two were in conflict how we would be able to tell.

    Aren’t we all. That’s precisely one of the major purposes of theology. But as I said, “I’m not by any means suggesting that it is easy to determine when the Gospel is in fact coming into confrontation with the Magisterium, only that the Gospel is the ultimate judge. Not the Magisterium.”

  • The pope wrote “our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint ”

    Well, Ratzinger’s already got gays for that, he had no use for another group.

  • It seems a few people in this combox glossed over the part of the letter that talked about Galatians 5…. or else thought it didn’t apply to them.