Friday, September 30, 2005

The Case for Ecclesia Dei

Many times people have heard me say to avoid the SSPX and other schismatic groups as much as possible, but have never heard me really give a case for why we should go through the Indult. Yet I believe that if one wishes to call himself a traditionalist, one cannot but choose to be associated with those in union with the Holy Father, and who the Holy Father holds to be in communion with him. This is the Tradition of our Fathers. St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the late first-early second century AD, a man who walked with the Apostles, had the following to say about the role of the bishop:

Follow the bishop, all of you, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the presbyterium as the Apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of God. Let no one do anything with reference to the Church without the bishop. Only that Eucharist may be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated with the Bishop or his delegate presiding. Where the bishop is, there let the community be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians

We follow the Pope by following those he has appointed to watch over us. Even if they are not doing the best job, they are still our shepherds, and for that sake alone we should not abandon them. According to St. Ignatius, unless the Eucharist is celebrated either by the Bishop or one he appoints to do so, we must reject that celebration. Even if it is valid, we cannot hold it legitimate. Therefore if we are to work in emphasizing tradition, it must be through the Bishop, and through the Roman Pontiff, himself a Bishop as well. To work in emphasizing tradition, but to do so without the Bishop is to betray the very tradition we seek to uphold. To go against the Bishops and the Pope is to rise against Peter and the Apostles themselves. When speaking of the role of the Bishop, St. Cyprian says the following:

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: 'I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. St. Cyprian of Carthage, to the Lapsed, c. 250 A.D

Not only does the saint ascribe the notion of Peter to the papacy, but rather of all Bishops. For Cyprian, Peter is the source of unity for the Church. All Bishops share in that role of being the source of unity, and hence to follow those groups that are not united with the Bishop, is to attack the very unity of the Church. This is no small act.

Some have accused this as being a blind obedience to where nobody may ever question anything. This could not be further from the truth. Whatever way you wish to look at it, the Holy Father has provided an avenue for traditionalists to promote the their charism within the body of Christ. Traditionalist criticism is not muzzled, but rather refined. If there is to be criticism, it must be respectful of the leaders of the Church, those appointed to watch over us. It works to change and implement policies we believe are for the good of the Church. Yet at the same time, it respects the authority that has passed judgement, and it obeys that authority. Agreement is not a requirement of obedience. If we truly wish to reform the Church, we must first reform ourselves, and make sure that we operate from this standpoint without failing. We respect not only the Roman Pontiff's authority to speak infallibly, but respect and submit to his authority of governing the Church. We may not like that decision, we may disagree with that decision, we may even work to see that decision reversed, but we cannot refuse to obey it. Though hard times may come as a result of that situation, it is something we must always hold firmly to.

Many times we will hear "with the crisis in the Church, I will go where I am guaranteed the Traditional Faith and Sacraments." As we have already seen, for one who claims to bear the Traditional Faith, one must be united to Peter. While the forms of sacraments one may receive are from traditional usage, they as St. Ignatius tells us, since they were without reference to the Bishop, they are illegitimate, that is illicit. Pius VII of happy memory had the following exhortation in regards to illicit sacraments:

I cannot conceal from you at the end of this letter, venerable brothers, "Since my sorrow is great and the pain of my heart unceasing," my feelings for my children, the peoples of France, and other peoples still seething with the same madness. Nothing would be more desirable to me than to give my life for them if their safety could be achieved by my death. We do not deny—rather, We proclaim—that the bitterness of Our grief is much diminished by the invincible purpose which several of you have displayed. We remember this daily. Men of all kinds, age, and rank have followed this example. They do so, preferring to suffer any insults, dangers, losses, and penalties, and to face death itself. They consider this nobler than to be defiled by the stain of an illicit and wicked sacrament thereby committing sin and disobeying the decrees of the Apostolic See. Indeed, the courage of ancient times has been renewed no less than the cruelty. [Pius VII, Diu Satis]

This Pope exhorts and praises the faith of those who would suffer so much, rather than simply receive an illicit sacrament. It may calm their creature comforts, but they understood that this would never suffice. Furthermore, the consequences would be quite grave, as they would be defiled by sin in their reception of it. No matter how beautiful one may find a form of a sacrament, it is not worth sinning to receive it. Work towards the promotion of those forms of sacraments within the Church if one desires. The Sacraments are also God's food to us. Sometimes we may not like the food, but in some cases it would be necessary, and what we thought would not be pleasing to us ended up being our source of nourishment. Being a traditionalist is not easy, nor is any life one walks as a Christian.

God Bless,
Kevin M. Tierney