Friday, December 16, 2005

The Case for Catholic Principles, Part VIII: The Importance of a "Positive" Worldview

The concept I am attempting to outline today in this column is probably the most important for any Catholic, and I feel is a concept all too often neglected. There is a tendency amongst Catholics today to define themselves not by what they represent and advocate, but rather what they oppose. This line of thinking infects numerous schools of thought.

For the Traditionalist, all too often they are not putting forth a positive case for the Traditions of Catholicism, but rather an attack upon how what we have today contradicts that tradition. For the Charismatic, it is not a positive exposition of how the Holy Spirit should work in the life of a Christian (unless it is doing what they themselves do) but rather how every other line of thought in Catholicism "inhibits the spirit's work." For those involved in social concerns such as abortion, they are not as much as pro-life as they are anti-abortion. Ask them to put forth a coherent ethic surrounding questions of life, and one gets a blind stare. For the so called "Conservatives" (in the religious sense, not the political) their love affair with the Second Vatican Council is based not so much on demonstrating it's teaching and it's continuity with tradition, but rather it's demonizing of everything before Vatican II. (Interestingly enough, here they become the useful idiots of the modernists favoring woman priests, contraception, and a host of other issues "in line with the Spirit of Vatican II.")

Attempt to call them on this, and people get offended. They like their fixation with negativity. To be able to point out what is wrong with things is a basic element in humanity, and necessary for the cause of discernment. However, to most past the negativity and put forth a positive worldview in place of it, that takes hard work and co-operation with grace. A perfect example of the type of worldview to embrace for example would be in St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians:

To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth. Wherefore putting away lying, speak; ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another. Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Give not place to the devil. He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need. Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamour, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ.

For St. Paul, it was never enough to simply point out what we were to avoid, or what he was against. Rather, something must be put in it's place. For the thief, not only should he no longer steal, but he should devote himself to labor, primarily to understand the high value of the property he used to steal from others. Not only are we to avoid obscene speech, but our speech should only be for the purpose of edification. If one's speech does not edify another, even if it is not inherently evil, it should be avoided. Let bitterness and rage give way to kindness and charity.

Following St. Paul's example, we should discern the negative, and definitely focus on it when the time is proper. However, once the negative has been pointed out, we must then progress past that, to working to put something else in it's place. For the Traditionalist, who fled to the Indult to avoid what they viewed liturgical anarchy, let their attendance at the Latin Mass teach them how to appreciate the liturgy, and how to get more out of an ordered and stable Mass. For the Charismatic, let them understand a greater appreciation for how the Spirit works in all Christians, not just your life and how others inhibit Him. The same can be said for other groups as well. It is the culture of death and the religion of self that is defined by it's rejection, namely it's rejection of God. The Culture of Life and religion of Christ should be modeled upon what it endorses.

God Bless,
Kevin M. Tierney


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos Interview

The entire interview, below, is very edifying and interesting but I've hilighted a few passages that struck me as particularly noteworthy with respect to the situation with the SSPX and also for all Catholics, Traditionalist or not.
To be clear, my intention in conveying this information is not to take a stand in support of what Monsignor Lefebvre did, but only to pass on insight as to the status of things in regard to the SSPX and to possibly glean some lessons for all Traditionalists.


After the Pope’s audience with the Superior of the Saint Pius X Fraternity

Rapprochement by unhasty stages, but not too slow either

Interview with Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of Ecclesia Dei, on relations between Rome and the Lefebvrians
Interview with Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos by Gianni Cardinale

The Holy Father Benedict XVI this morning received, in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Superior General of the Saint Pius X Fraternity, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, who had requested it. The Pope was accompanied by the Most Eminent Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei". The meeting took place in an atmosphere of love for the Church and of desire to reach perfect communion. Albeit aware of the difficulties, the wish to proceed by stages and in reasonable time was shown. In these words a communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See on 29 August last gave news of the first contact between the new Pontiff and the Fraternity that, as the Vatican Radio bulletin of the same day reminded us, was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who died on 25 March 1991.

The news of the audience granted by Pope Benedict XVI, though not published by the "Our News" feature of L’Osservatore Romano, appeared, however, in a short paragraph at the bottom of page 4 in the official newspaper of the Holy See dated 31 August. 30Days asked Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos about the hearing of August 29, at which Don Franz Schmidberger, an old collaborator of Monsignor Lefebvre and well known to Pope Ratzinger, was also present. Since April 2000 Cardinal Hoyos has been President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Vatican body concerned with relations with the variegated traditionalist world, and has also, since 1996, been head of the Congregation for the Clergy.

Q: Your Eminence, what was the nature of the audience granted by the Pope to the Superior General of the Saint Pius X Fraternity?

DARÍOCASTRILLÓN HOYOS: The audience is part of a process that began with a very important intervention by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, who signed a protocol of agreement with Monsignor Lefebvre before the latter decided to proceed to the episcopal consecrations of 1988.

Q: Monsignor Lefebvre did not back off…

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: Unfortunately Monsignor Lefebvre went ahead with the consecration and hence the situation of separation came about, even if it was not a formal schism.

Q: Then there was no more official contact up to the Great Jubilee of 2000.

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: As President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, learning that they were on a pilgrimage to Rome, I invited the bishops ordained by Monsignor Lefebvre to lunch, for an informal meeting, to get to know each other. Since then I have had many meetings with His Excellence Monsignor Fellay and with other members of the Fraternity. Meetings that have always taken place in a very positive atmosphere. So much so that at a certain point I believed we were really very close to a full rapprochement.

Q: Was the Pope aware of these contacts?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: John Paul II was constantly informed of them all. Not only that. The Pontiff himself received for a brief meeting in his private chapel Monsignor Fellay and Don Michele Simoulin, then Superior of the communion of the Fraternity of Albano Laziale. There was no true and proper dialogue, but on that occasion the Pope expressed the wish that dialogue could be taken up by imparting his blessing.

Q: Earlier you suggested that at a certain moment you thought that rapprochement was imminent; then what happened?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: I got the impression, from His Excellence Monsignor Fellay, and from his collaborators, of something like fear, as if Rome were laying a trap for them. As if the Holy See intended to absorb them so as then to close off the possibility of celebrating the mass of Saint Pius V and clamping down on their critical remarks on some developments and interpretations following Vatican Council II.

Q: So there was no rapprochement, but dialogue has continued. In this context, in 2001, there was, however, rapprochement with the Brazilian group close to the Fraternity, the one now headed by Monsignor Fernando Arêas Rifan, who was elected in 2002 by the Holy See as bishop and titular of the personal apostolic administration of San Giovanni Maria Vianney in Campos.

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: There the situation was very different, because while the Saint Pius X Fraternity is an unrecognized association, served by bishops who declare themselves "auxiliaries", in Brazil instead Bishop Castro Mayer when he renounced the diocese, was followed by fifty or so priests who in fact maintained a parallel organization to the diocese. When Monsignor Castro Mayer died, one of the priests was consecrated bishop by the Lefebvrian bishops. Thanks be to God this bishop, Monsignor Rangel, and his priests, amongst whom the current bishop administrator apostolic Monsignor Rifan, at the moment of asking for rapprochement, distancing himself in this from the bishops of the Fraternity, recognized that the conditions that Monsignor Lefebvre in his time called "of necessity", no longer existed to justify the consecration of bishops without apostolic mandate. And this because the Pope had manifested his wish of granting them the use of the Tridentine rite, recognizing their particularity. On their side there was the recognition of the validity of the new rite of the Mass and of the legitimacy of Vatican Council II, though proposing to keep up respectful and honest discussion on some less clear Council texts, on some interpretations of those texts and on some developments after Vatican II.

Q: Do you think the solution adopted in Campos successful?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: The facts confirm it. Thanks be to God, the faithful and the priests of the diocese and of the administration co-exist in fraternal fashion, the two bishops meet frequently for the necessary coordination. Not only that. A dozen bishops from Brazil have already signed conventions with the administration to help the faithful of their dioceses who love the old liturgy.

Q: But it was a solution that didn’t please the leaders of the Fraternity…

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: Yes, the Campos solution was a delicate moment. Because the Fraternity was annoyed. Whereas for me it was something providential because it showed a possible way for a wider solution of the question.

Q: Your Eminence, let us go back to the audience of 29 August. How was it organized?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: The audience was requested by Monsignor Fellay through the normal channels, through me as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of «Ecclesia Dei», given that the Saint Pius X Fraternity is a priestly body composed of priests validly ordained even if in an illegal way. The request was passed to the Pope. And the Pope decided to grant the audience. Ratzinger the theologian, Cardinal Ratzinger, with his great duties, had always kept up with the question and knew the question and the persons involved in the dialogue well. Pope Benedict XVI could add to that the special presence of the Holy Spirit guaranteed by the fact of having become Peter’s Successor.

Q: What can you tell us of the audience?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: It was a meeting under the sign of charity, in the theological sense, of love of God and of His Church. It was a conversation among brothers who desire, with the help of God, to knit back the fabric of full unity. The Pope let those present speak: Monsignor Fellay, Father Schmidberger and myself. And then the Holy Father spoke, making a strong appeal for unity and expressing the wish that future rapprochement come by unhasty stages, but not too slow.

Q: What observations were made by the Superior of the Saint Pius X?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: Monsignor Fellay, but this was known even beforehand, was able to express his fears on the state of the Catholic Church in the light of the abuses, not only liturgical, that have occurred since Vatican Council II. I believe that critical contributions of that sort that can come from the Fraternity can be a treasure for the Church, when expressed under the charisma of Peter and in charity among brethren. In the Church in fact we are all free to formulate critical observations on what doesn’t concern dogma and the essential discipline of the Church itself. On that subject I can testify that Cardinal Ratzinger was already fully convinced of the need for theological dialogue on the difficult points. In full unity there is more light to be found for studying these sensitive points.

Q: After the audience an authoritative cardinal suggested that the Fraternity should recognize the legitimacy of the present Pontiff…

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: Unfortunately that is proof that within the Church, even at high levels, there is not always full knowledge of the Fraternity. The Fraternity has always recognized in John Paul II, and now in Benedict XVI, the legitimate successor of Saint Peter. That is not a problem. That then there are traditionalist groups that don’t recognize the last popes, the so-called "empty throne" people, is another question that doesn’t concern the Saint Pius X Fraternity.

Q: It is known that the Saint Pius X Fraternity is asking the Holy See for a liberalization of the so-called Tridentine mass and a declaration affirming that this liturgy has never been abolished.

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: The mass of Saint Pius V has never been abolished. As for liberalization, I remember that under the pontificate of John Paul II there was a meeting of all the department heads of the Roman Curia, in which the vast majority were not against such a request. It would be dangerous to create opposition between the old rite and the new. The liturgy cannot be a battlefield. As priest, as cardinal and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, I feel great pain in seeing the unacceptable language at times used of the wish of Jesus to give his own body and blood, and to entrust them to his Church. And this is true of some spokesmen of the Saint Pius X Fraternity, but not only them.

Q: Are many bishops against?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: At times the pastoral anxiety of a bishop leads him to think that granting permission to celebrate the Tridentine mass in his diocese may create confusion among the people of God. And when believers who ask for this type of celebration are very few, the perplexity can be understood. Whereas when it’s a more substantial group wanting the mass, it’s up to the Pontifical Commission «Ecclesia Dei» to remind the bishop, honestly and kindly, that the wish of Peter’s Successor is to be generous in responding in favor of these believers. And I see with joy that, day after day, there are ever more who so respond.

Q: You are well acquainted with the traditionalist world. How do you judge the personal piety of the priests who belong to it?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: Many traditionalist priests I have known have made an excellent impression on me: they have a sincere love for the mystery. Unfortunately there can also be fanatics who are bound to the old liturgy as one can be bound to a mathematical formula of which one doesn’t even understand the value in depth.

Q: Do you think they represent the legacy of a past in any case on the way to extinction?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: At the World Day of Youth in Cologne there was a considerable group of young people attached to the traditional mass. The echoes have been positive. And it shows how short-sighted it is to consider the traditionalist phenomenon as on the way to exhaustion. Not least because in the traditionalist world, in proportion, the number of priestly vocations is decidedly superior to that of many diocese in the Church.

Q: In September 2001 John Paul II, in a speech to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship, praised the very fine prayers in the Missal of Saint Pius V. The speech was published with unusual delay by L’Osservatore Romano and has never been published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, though it usually prints papal speeches to the plenary assemblies of the Roman departments. When you then, on 24 May 2003, celebrated, for the first time after the post-council liturgical reform, a Tridentine mass in a patriarchal Roman basilica, that of Saint Mary Major, L’Osservatore Romano totally ignored the event. What do you think of these two acts of "censorship"?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: I prefer to judge facts rather than intentions and I don’t know what the cause of the two missing notices is, which, however, had ample repercussion.

Q: Do you think that the above-mentioned speech of John Paul II may be finally published in the Acta?

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: If it wasn’t the explicit wish of the Pope not to publish that speech, even when it was he who made it, I think it’s a serious thing not to have done so.

Q: The title of a piece in Corriere della Sera of 26 August, anticipating the audience of three days later, described relations between the so-called Lefebvrians and the Holy See as "the impossible peace".

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: The newspapers can say that and a great many other things. Luckily, and I stress luckily, newspapers are not infallible.

Q: Your Eminence, a last word for those who reproach the Fraternity with using rough language, at times verging on irreverence, towards the Holy See.

CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: It can cause distress, but at bottom I’m not surprised by the fact that words, articles, letters may appear that use a rather crude language. Including some statements attributed to His excellency Monsignor Fellay. Until there is full unity, and so full mutual charity, one can’t be scandalized if there is still some verbal intemperance. It’s always well to keep in mind Augustine’s saying: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

Here is another link regarding the interview, also very interesting:


Monday, December 12, 2005

Party of Christ or Church of Jesus Christ? Part One - How Did We Get Here?

In the last post, I discussed the Holy Father's insight that the Church is something that comes from outside of ourselves. When we forget this simple fact, we run the risk of thinking the Church is something we can mold and create according to our own whims and wishes. Inevitably, we fall into the same trap that plagued the Corinthian Church of St. Paul's day (I Corinthians, 3).

Though I definitely want to get into what truly constitutes being “Church,” from a scriptural and historical viewpoint, in this post I instead want to list some of the Holy Father’s insights on how we got into the situation we’re in now in the modern Church.

The Holy Father begins with a fundamental group of questions:

“... we must premise the fundamental question: What is the Church in the first place? What is the purpose of her existence? What is her origin? Did Christ actually will her, and, if so, how did he intend her to be?”

(Called to Communion, pg. 13)

These questions lie at heart of the issue, no? The question of the nature and origin of the Church is essential in any discussions in Church reform. Without an adequate understanding of where we came from, we’ll never adequately see where we’re going or how we can get there. The Holy Father goes on to list three methods of biblical interpretation that have guided (or, more accurately, misguided) modern man’s understanding of ecclesiology in this century. These three methods include the liberal, the cultic, and the neoliberal/marxist.

As regards the liberal, the Holy Father writes:

“At the beginning of this history stands liberal exegesis, which regards Jesus according to the liberal world picture as the great individualist who liberates religion from cultic institutions and reduces it to ethics, which for its part is founded entirely upon the individual responsibility of conscience. Such a Jesus, who repudiates cultic worship, transforms religion into morality and then defines it as the business of the individual, obviously cannot found a church. He is the foe of all institutions and, therefore, cannot turn around and establish one himself.”

(all emphases added unless otherwise indicated.)

(Called to Communion, pg. 15)

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, that sounds familiar,” and you’d be right. This late 19th/early 20th Century mode of exegesis is very similar to today’s understanding of the Church’s role in society. However, the modern neoliberal understanding has a slight difference which we’ll go over in a minute. For now, what’s important to understand is that there are two forms of exegesis which vie for control in any discussions of ecclesiology: They are the individualistic (“priesthood” of all believers) and the cultic (special role of priest vs. special role of laity). As regards the latter, the Holy Father continues:

“The First World War brought with it the collapse of the liberal world and a resulting aversion to its individualism and moralism. The great political bodies, which had relied entirely on science and technology as carriers of he progress of humanity, had failed as forces of ethical order, So the yearning for communion in the sacred was reawakened. There was rediscovery of the Church, even in the domain of Protestantism. Scandinavian theology witnessed the development of a cultic exegesis, which, in strict antithesis to liberal thought, no longer saw Jesus as a critic of cultic worship but rather understood this worship as the intimate, vital atmosphere of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament. ... there was a growing awareness that the Messiah is unthinkable without his Church.

(Called to Communion, pgs. 15-16)

This method, the cultic, is, obviously, the Catholic model. The fact that this understanding was reawakened amongst Scandinavian theologians is not too surprising considering the sacramental base that exists within Lutheranism. American Evangelicalism, however, has yet to catch up with this type of exegesis. America’s value of individualism has, I believe, had an impact on Evangelical ecclesiology. Undoubtedly, many Evangelical Christians would object to being labeled as ‘individualistic’ in their ecclesiology, especially considering the community aspect that is fostered in many Evangelical churches. However, it cannot be denied that Evangelicalism’s rejection of the cultic interpretation of scripture inevitably leads to an understanding of church authority in which all believers are ‘priests,’ and any claim to special authority is looked upon with grave suspicion. It is this distaste for authority that leads to our third and final method of exegesis outlined by the Holy Father - the neoliberal/marxist. The Holy Father comments:

“In the neoliberal world of the West, a variant of the former liberal theology of now became operative in a new guise: the eschatological interpretation of Jesus’ message. Jesus, it is true, is no longer conceived as pure moralist, yet he is once again construed in opposition to the cult and the historical institutions of the Old Testament. This interpretation was a revamping of the old framework that breaks up the Old Testament into priests and prophets: into cult, institution and law, on the one hand, and prophecy, charism and creative freedom on the other. In this view, priests, cult and institution appear as the negative factor that must be overcome. ... A new variety of individualism thus comes into being: Jesus now proclaims the end of the institutions.”

The marriage of this ideology with Marxism was inevitable:

“But this new version of liberalism was quite susceptible to being converted into a Marxist-oriented interpretation of the Bible. The opposition between priests and prophets becomes a cipher for the class struggle...In accordance with this dialectical model, the “popular Church” is pitted against the institutional or “official Church.” This “popular Church” is ceaselessly born out of the people and in this way carries forward Jesus’ cause: his struggle against institutions and their oppressive power for the sake of a new and free society that will be the “Kingdom.”

(Called to Communion, pgs. 18-19)

So there you have it. Modern man’s distaste for authority and the “unpopular” is ultimately at the root of the liturgical, moral, and theological crisis that faces the Church today. All discussions of Church life are seen through the myopic lens of “popularity.“ Rather than seeing such components as structure and authority as essential marks of ecclesiology, in the "heirarchy vs. me” atmosphere of the modern church these elements are seen as something additional and detrimental to worship of the true God. With the loss of understanding of what the Church is actually here for, we fall into a “party mentality“, in which every group has their own agenda of how the Church should function. Only by returning to the tough questions about the Church’s nature, origin, and mission will we be able to recover any semblance of sanity in our discussions of Church reform. It is to these questions we will go in the following post.

God Bless,