Catholic Tradition in its relations with the Vatican has truly lived through a number of important events over the last two years.
Since Rome first approached us at the end of the year 2000, it seems to us that the time has now come to take stock, and to reply to a number of objections or questions which the whole issue raises. However, we would also like to mention that if we go into these questions, they are not our main pre-occupation. Celebrating the Holy Mysteries, imparting grace in abundance to your souls, being the instrument of numerous and always very touching conversions, is at the heart of our lives, and these are facts which show us to be truly Catholic, whereas all the discussions and disagreements with the Vatican are merely the expression of our will to remain Catholic.
Recently, an important group of seminarians from Bombay joined us. For their seven years at the Seminary, the existence of the Devil was denied, and the word “hell” never once fell upon their ears, any more than the words “Sacrifice of the Mass”. Their coming over to us brought down on our heads the wrath of the Cardinal of Bombay, of course. In the USA, several priests are either joining us or drawing closer. One of them said to me, “I did everything I could not to finish up with you”. That is eloquent testimony: after exhausting all of today’s alternatives, from their own diocese through the Indult Mass to the various “Ecclesia Dei” congregations, these priests and seminarians have come to the conclusion, despite their disinclination and their initial fear of being connected with Traditionalists still being branded as schismatic, that to lend a fully Christian life we are the only way to go.
What confusing times! Good is condemned, evil is all too often blessed. That is the experience of numbers of priests today who simply wish to remain Catholic. What tribulations! Like the two seminarians rebuked by their Rector for being caught red-handed praying the Rosary! But when they were caught attending the Indult Mass, then they were hauled before the Cardinal in person… We would like to hear of at least comparable reprimands being handed out for all kinds of real misbehaviour.
Yet while a number of priests draw closer to us, Campos is going back to Rome. We think that the decisive argument for Rome to win them over was the promise of a bishop alongside Bishop Rangel, now gravely ill. They wrote to me that they considered that they could not refuse the Holy Father’s wish to give them a bishop, because “that would be schismatic”. By way of a bishop, all they have is a promise: “I shall give you a successor”. Of course, nobody dares doubt such a promise, but the whole question turns on the identity of this successor; who will he be? Where will he be chosen from? One may well think that Rome win seek to ensure the future bishop’s faithfulness to Vatican II, because some of the Romans still have reservations as to the “orthodoxy” of Campos’ doctrinal stance. Suspicion reigns in Rome.
Campos had also been promised freedom to operate throughout Brazil, but when local bishops opposed the idea, then the freedom of action of the Administration granted by Rome shrank back to the limits of the diocese of Campos, period.
What will Campos do? While Campos sets out on its hazardous enterprise armed with ambiguous statements, we see something of great interest happening: at the very same moment several Catholic communities in Brazil of men and women in no way connected with the priests of Campos, have contacted the Society of St. Pius X and wish… to join Traction! And to send their future seminarians to the Society’s South American seminary. In fact a significant number of faithful scattered all over the huge area of Brazil are beginning to react and are asking for our help, not for the help of Campos. What a surprise development! It is as though suddenly Brazil was opening up to the Society’s apostolate. All we need is workers, meaning priests, and more priests…
Meanwhile, having succeeded in drawing Campos away from the Society and, little by little, from its doctrinal positions, Cardinal Castrillon sent us on April 5 of this year a written reply to our letter of June 22, 2001. In it he proposes to re-start the “dialogue”. Before saying a word about it, let me recall the previous exchanges:
When Rome began by offering to the Society a Juridical structure with official recognition, then, while expressing our readiness to open discussions, we emphasized the need to re-build trust.
For indeed, tens of years of oppression, marginalization, threats, condemnations and veritable persecution because of our remaining attached to the Catholic Church‘s Tradition, would not vanish all on their own. So we required by way of pre-condition for discussions a concrete gesture on the part of the Roman authorities; the recognition that the Tridentine rite of Mass was not abrogated, and that the Declaration “excommunicating” any members of the Society was null.
Cardinal Castrillon began by telling us that the Tridentine rite of Mass was liberated in principle, but not in practice. Later he told us it was liberated neither in principle nor in practice, because any such liberation would be to the detriment of the Novus Ordo. As for the nullification of the “excommunication”, that was promised us as soon as there would be an agreement.
Following on this double refusal, further re-enforcing the climate of distrust, the Cardinal wrote a letter on May 7, 2001, which I answered by saying that it was setting up a dialogue of the deaf and going nowhere.
To help things forward, I then proposed a different approach to the whole question. In brief, we laid out that our whole disagreement with today’s Rome was being caused by no culpable ill will on our part, but by a terrible crisis shaking the Church for the last 40 years, as clearly signalled by the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar reforms; we mentioned some facts to show the reality and gravity of this crisis.
Now comes the Cardinal in his letter of April 5, one month ago, with a fivefold rebuke: firstly, we are judging the Pope and the Holy See; secondly, we are stating that the Church has lost the Faith; thirdly, we are denying the Pope’s rights over the Church’s universal liturgy, because we are stating that the Novus Ordo Mass is bad; fourthly, we no longer believe in the true concept of Tradition; and fifthly, we are incapable of grasping the continuity of the Church’s past and present in particular that of Vatican II and the liturgical reform.
Obviously, these points require an answer. But at the same time this letter clearly illustrates that the dialogue of the deal is not over; how little this Rome understands our position! We might have been willing to go into these various points had the letter not been accompanied by manoeuvres making us recall Archbishop Lefebvre’s words just before the episcopal consecrations of June 1988 when he said, “The moment for a free and open collaboration between the Society and Rome has not yet come”, words as relevant as ever. The manoeuvres were twofold: –
On the one hand the Cardinal stated in his letter that, given the gravity of the matter in hand, he had always abstained from giving public interviews; yet only a few days later in an interview given to the prominent Italian newspaper La Stampa, he declared that the Society was ‘ divided into two groups: “A large majority ardently desiring reconciliation with Rome to relieve its conscience (Letter of April 5), and a little group of fanatics wanting nothing to do with Rome” (Yet in his letter, the Cardinal expressed his desire not to divide the Society).
On the other hand a few days after sending me the April 5 letter in strict privacy (double envelope, ‘”persona!”, “confidential”), he faxed the same letter to three other members of the Society! There is no need to go looking for what he was up to, the facts speak for themselves, there is a real attempt here to divide us, which tells us clearly what we must do: keep our distance.
In such circumstances, to begin discussions with Rome is not reasonable. It is imprudent, impossible. Truly, these Romans have no idea what we are about.
For us, it is truly scandalous acts, deeds and statements that have forced us to refuse all novelties and to re-double our attachment to the centuries-old teaching and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church, our Mother. So here is the answer to the Cardinal’s fivefold rebuke of April 5:
Firstly, we are not setting ourselves up as judges of the Holy See by merely laying out the facts, such as the Pope’s visiting the Synagogue or the mosque, kissing the Koran, pouring out libations in the Togo forest, receiving the tilak in India, gestures profoundly upsetting Catholics in their Faith. The same is true of numerous other statements and documents. If to mention such facts is to set oneself up as judge, then one must even stop thinking!
Then as to the liturgical reform of 1966, some Cardinals at the time went so far as to say that “it departed significantly from Catholic theology, both as a whole and in detail” (Ottaviani Intervention). And even recently Cardinal Ratzinger took it upon himself to say that “this extension of papal power in the domain of the liturgy gave the impression that the Pope, basically, was omnipotent over the liturgy, especially if he was acting based on a mandate from an Ecumenical Council. The results of this impression were particularly visible after Vatican II, that the liturgy is in fact something given and not a reality to be manipulated at will, had completely disappeared from the consciousness of western Catholics. Yet Vatican I in 1870 had defined the Pope to be not an absolute monarch but the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The legitimacy of his power was bound up above all with his transmitting of the Faith. This fidelity to the deposit of the Faith and to its transmission concerns in a quite special way the liturgy. No authority can ‘fabricate’ a liturgy. The pope himself is only the humble servant of its homogenous development, its integrity and the permanence of its identity” (“Spirit of the Liturgy”, Ad Solem, 2001, p. 134).
Then as far as the continuity of modern doctrines with the past is concerned, here is what persons “above all suspicion” say concerning religious liberty, key text of Vatican II: “it cannot be denied that a text like Vatican II’s ‘Declaration on religious Liberty’ says, at least as far as the words go, something quite different from the ‘Syllabus’ of 1864, in fact just about the opposite of sentences 15, 77 and 79 of the ‘Syllabus'” (Fr. Yves Congar, “The Crisis in the Church and Archbishop Lefebvre”, Cerf, 1976. p.51)
Then as to the definition of the Church in Vatican II’s “Lumen Gentium” again Cardinal Ratzinger says, “One cannot when all is said and done, fully resolve from a logical point of view the difference between ‘subsistit and ‘est'” (“Ecclesiology of the Conciliar Constitution ‘Lumen Gentium'”, in “Documentation Catholique”, # 2223, p. 311)
Then on the concept of tradition in Vatican II’s “Dei Verbum”, again Cardinal Ratzinger writes: “Vatican II’s refusal of the proposal to adopt the text of Lerins, familiar to and as it were sanctified by two Church Councils, shows once more how Trent and Vatican I were left behind, how their texts were continually re-interpreted… Vatican II had a new idea of how historical identity and continuity are to be brought about. The static ‘semper’ of Vincent of Lerins no longer seems to Vatican II adequate to express the problem” (L.Th.K.., vol. 13, p. 521).
Then on the Council’s key text “Gaudium et Spes”, Cardinal Ratzinger describes it as a Counter-Syllabus, in other words the opposite of the Catholic Church’s authoritative “Syllabus” of 1864. The Cardinal writes (“Principles of Catholic Theology”, Tequi, 1982, p. 426), “If we seek an over-all analysis of ‘Gaudium et Spes’, we could say that it is (linked with the texts on religious liberty and on world religions), a revision of Pius IX’s ‘Syllabus’, a sort of Counter-Syllabus… Let us recognize here and now that ‘Gaudium et Spes’ plays the part of a Counter-Syllabus insofar as it represents an attempt to officially reconcile the Church with the modem world as emerging since the French Revolution of 1789”.
Thus far Cardinal Ratzinger. For our part, we believe in the homogeneous development of doctrine, as the Church has always taught. But the Catholic Faith, which does not do away with the law of non-contradiction, obliges us also to reject any heterogeneous development of doctrine.
In conclusion, we see how far Cardinal Castrllón has gone wrong… All of us desire the Church’s unity, a unity grounded in the Faith, carried out around Peter confirming his follow bishops in that Faith, and consummated in the union of Catholics in the Eucharist. To preserve that unity, all of us, to obey our Catholic conscience, have had to avoid driving onto the broad and easy highway proposed by the Conciliar reforms. It is to ease our conscience that we are where we are, and our conscience would be in no way eased if we were to suddenly set out on a path which, precisely in order to stay Catholic, we have refused for 30 years.
In the name of the Faith of our baptism, in the name of our baptismal pledges to which we promised to remain faithful, we say “No” to anything that does not ensure our salvation. Such is our right. Such is our duty.
May the Sacred Heart fill you with his burning charity, with an unfailing love for the Church and for its hierarchy however much they are presently making us suffer, with a love for souls, souls to be saved at the price of our uniting with Our Lord’s Sacrifice, the Holy Mass that will make us ever stronger in the Faith and in Our Lord’s love, bringing about reparation and satisfaction. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all for souls.