Athanasius was excommunicated. He continued his job, uncaring. More than that – and something I seldom read about – he and St. Eusebius started appointing bishops of their own, again ignoring the Pope. The bishops they appointed – and I read about that seldom, too – were not bishop without territorial jurisdiction, like the SSPX one. They were bishops in charge of a diocese all right. Nor can it be said that in that world of difficult communications the Pope might not have had control of certain territories. Firstly, it is poppycock (communications in the Roman Empire were, like all the rest, stunningly efficient), secondly it is neither here nor there, because the fact remains that Athanasius and Eusebius clearly appointed those bishops without caring a bit of what the Pope thought about it. He could approve them if he wanted to. If he did not like them, though luck.
To make a modern comparison, it is as if the SSPX appointed the new archbishop of Chicago without either asking or caring for what Francis says, and the Catholic faithful of Chicago accepted this appointment as a matter of course, fully uncaring of Francis’ more or less sensible thought on the matter.
Let us, then, now pose the “Athanasius question”: did those Bishops have jurisdiction? Could they hear confession, administer the Last Rites, marry their sheep? And could the priests appointed by them do the same?
If yes, why? If not, why not?
It is very tricky, the Athanasius question. There is no doubt whatever Athanasius was a Lefebvre on steroids. There is also no doubt there was no precedent for the situation in which Athanasius found himself, whilst the SSPX has the shining example and illuminating precedent of… Athanasius. We know as a fact that Athanasius refused to obey to the point of incurring excommunication, did not recant after receiving it, appointed bishops of his own, and really did not care what Patheos would have said.
Therefore, if you follow modern mainstream V II conservatism Athanasius and his brave men had no jurisdiction, those sacraments were not valid, etc. If, however, we accept the principle that when those at the top behave like heretics the tough Catholics begin to play then we must apply the same reasoning to the 100%, 2k years-certified SSPX.
There is no doubt in my mind that the second applies. Every now and then, the Church loses her mind from the very top. It is then the task of a handful of very tough Catholics to simply keep doing what they have always done, safe in the certainty of their orthodoxy because… they do what Catholics have always done. There is no better guarantee of orthodoxy, and no better litmus test of Catholicism.
Athanasius did not know when sanity would come back. Nor did he ever care. He kept doing the Catholic thing and if the entire world derides him, so be it. Athanasius knew he might have to die in the middle of rampant, apparently triumphant heresy. He did not care for that, either.
Truth is truth. How many people refuse to follow the truth is ultimately irrelevant. If the Pope sabotages the truth, then he will be punished more harshly unless he repents, but sabotage it still is.
Truth is truth. It does not depend of from the rank of those who spread lies.
So: Athanasius disobeyed to the Pope. What say you? Athanasius appointed bishops, and bishops with territorial competence, fully ignoring the Pope. Schism? Athanasius decided to disobey and to die, if needs be, excommunicated for being (far) more Catholic than the Pope. What is the difference with Archbishop Lefebvre?
Why, why all those semi-conservative legalists apply all their clerical rigidity to Archbishop Lefebvre, and forget all of it when they speak of Athanasius? Was Athanasius schismatic in the moment, and Catholic only after victory? Or was he, as logic commands, 100% Catholic all the time?
The Athanasius question cannot be easily avoided. It stares at us straight in the face every time we compare Athanasius’ “disobedience” to Lefebvre’s. It has no other answer than this: no heresy can be acceptable because it’s promoted or protected or encouraged from the very Pope, and those who defend orthodoxy are right even when the pope excommunicates them.
In times of great turmoil, God sends us great men.
Thank God for Athanasius, and for Archbishop Lefebvre.
The news that the Franciscans Sisters of the Immaculate are going to go the same way of their male counterpart is now everywhere. As Pat Archbold rightly points outs, the continued persecution might have the aim of driving some of them into the (perfectly Catholic) arms of the Society. At this point, the great “I told you they were bad” moment of Volpi & Co. would have arrived.
On the other hand, doing nothing leads simply to destruction. The FFI will simply be, at some point, disbanded and his members dispersed among other orders, probably ill or dying, but where they would be a tiny minority to be “re educated” in the failing ways of V II.
Damned if you do, dead if you don’t.
How to get out of the quandary?
One understands the thinking that to accept persecution in the short term is for the greater glory of the Church in the longer term, and if the FFI meekly accepts the persecution their sacrifice will be remembered one day as a luminous example of obedience in times of madness. One understands that one might reason in this way.
Still, I am not persuaded.
If this thinking had been applied by the Great Man, today we would very probably – nay; let’s call it “certainly” – have no Traditional Mass. All those, therefore, who advocate the meek acceptance of the scaffold for the FFI members should, in order to be coherent, consider offering themselves the very same meek submission they think the Great Man should have offered, and radically avoid attendance at TLM masses, be they the SSPX, the old Indult or the new SP ones; it being very clear that without the SSPX there would be no Indult and no SP masses for as long as the V II madness endures.
I am a supporter of the SSPX. I think that they represent not a sign of rebellion, but a sign of obedience. I can, therefore, not see why the obedience to a higher Power than the Pope then showed by the Great Man should not find application in this situation, which is a kind of replay on a much smaller scale of what happened then.
Either this higher loyalty exists, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, Traditionalism in any form whatsoever should not exist – actually, the very word should not exist – in the first place. If it does exist, then it is if not necessarily mandatory, at least always legitimate to decide that, when this higher loyalty cannot be preserved without great detriment to the Truth, disobedience to wrong orders should be the choice. As the smart Italian soldiers used to say, gli ordini sbagliati non si eseguono, “the wrong orders are not carried out”.
Add to this that whilst Volpi & Co. would have a short-term argument to persuade those who do not need persuading anyway, a robust defection of FFI male and female members would be a permanent thorn in the side of NuChurch, and expose the failure of such attempts to purge orthodoxy from the Church and get away with it. On the contrary, a robust defection would show that Modernism will not be allowed to make itself comfortable within the Church without resistance, and every action will cause a reaction.
Again, it is a matter of higher Loyalty. Or is there anyone of you who thinks Athanasius should have been obedient to Liberius, and meekly accept the massacre of Catholicism in the serene confidence God will, at some point, set things right?
God sets things right by motivating brave men and women to set them right, not by sending Angels on earth to clean the mess in the kitchen, whilst the cooks look and do nothing.
At some point, resistance must be legitimate. Common sense and love for the Church say that it must be so.
I hope that, if this scandal does not end, a sizeable minority of FFI friars and sisters will leave the FFI and FSI and will ask to be affiliated to the SSPX.
Let Volpi & Co. scream as much as they like. They will only persuade those who are already sold to their Modernist ideology.
Below, an excerpt of a very interesting article, from the Great Man himself, on Sedevacantism. My emphases in red.
The New Mass and the Pope
By Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre
LET US PASS NOW to a second but no less important subject: does the Church have a true Pope or an imposter on the throne of St. Peter? Happy are those who have lived and died without having to pose such a question f One must indeed recognize that the pontificate of Paul VI poses and continues to pose a serious problem of conscience for the faithful. Without reference to his culpability for the terrible demolition of the Church which took place under his pontificate, one cannot but recognize that he hastened the causes of that decline in every domain. One can fairly ask oneself how it was possible that a successor of Peter can in so little time have caused more damage to the Church than the French Revolution.
Some precise facts, such as the signatures which he gave to Article VII in the Instruction concerning the New Mass and to the Declaration on Religious Liberty are indeed scandalous and have led certain traditionalists to affirm that Paul VI was heretical and thus no longer Pope. They argue further that, chosen by a heretical Pope, the great majority of the cardinals are not cardinals at all and thus lacked the authority to elect another Pope. Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II were thus, they say, illegitimately elected. They continue that it is inadmissable to pray for a Pope who is not Pope or to have any “conversations” (like mine of November 1978) with one who has no right to the Chair of Peter.
As with the question of the invalidity of the Novus Ordo, those who affirm that there is no Pope over simplify the problem. The reality is more complex. If one begins to study the question of whether or not a Pope can be heretical, one quickly discovers that the problem is not as simple as one might have thought. The very objective study of Xaverio de Silveira on this subject demonstrates that a good number of theologians teach that the Pope can be heretical as a private doctor or theologian, but not as a teacher of the Universal Church. One must then examine in what measure Pope Paul VI willed to engage his infallibility in the diverse cases where he signed texts close to heresy if not formally heretical.
But we can say that in the two cases cited above as in many another, Paul VI acted much more the liberal than as a man attached to heresy. For when one informed him of the danger that he ran in approving certain conciliar texts, he would proceed to render the text contradictory by adding a formula contrary in meaning to affirmations already in the text, or by drafting an equivocal formula. Now equivocation is the very mark of the liberal who is incoherent by nature.
The liberalism of Paul VI, recognized by his friend Cardinal Danielou, is thus sufficient to explain the disasters of his pontificate. Pope Pius IX in particular spoke often of the liberal Catholic, whom he considered a destroyer of the Church. The liberal Catholic is a two-sided being living in a world of continual self-contradiction. While he would like to remain Catholic, he is possessed by a thirst to appease the world. He affirms his faith weakly, fearing to appear too dogmatic, and as a result his actions are similar to those of the enemies of the Catholic Faith.
CAN A POPE BE LIBERAL and remain Pope? The Church has always severely reprimanded liberal Catholics, but She has not always excommunicated them. Here, too, we must continue in the spirit of the Church. We must refuse Liberalism from whatever source it comes because the Church has always condemned it. She has done so because it is contrary, in the social realm especially, to the Kingship of Our Lord.
Does not the exclusion of the cardinals of over eighty years of age, and the secret meetings which preceded and prepared the last two Conclaves render them invalid? Invalid: no, that is saying too much. Doubtful at the time: perhaps. But in any case the subsequent unanimous acceptance of the election by the Cardinals and the Roman clergy suffices to validate it. That is the teaching of the theologians.
The visibility of the Church is too necessary to its existence for it to be possible that God would allow that visibility to disappear for decades. The reasoning of those who deny that we have a Pope puts the Church in an extricable situation. Who will tell us who the future Pope is to be? How, as there are no cardinals, is he to be chosen? This spirit is a schismatical one for at least the majority of those who attach themselves to certainly schismatical sects like Palmar de Troya, the Eglise Latine de Toulouse, and others.
Thus, I have never refused to go to Rome at his request or that of his representatives. The Truth must be affirmed at Rome above all other places. It is of God, and He will assure its ultimate triumph.
Consequently, the Society of St. Pius X, its priests, brothers, sisters and oblates, cannot tolerate among its members those who refuse-to pray for the Pope or affirm that the Novus Ordo Missae is per se invalid. Certainly we suffer from this continual incoherence which consists in praising all the Liberal orientations of Vatican II and at the same time straining to mitigate its effects. But all of this must incite us to prayer and to the firm maintenance of Tradition rather than to the affirmation that the Pope is not the Pope.
In conclusion, we must have that missionary spirit which is the true spirit of the Church. We must do everything to bring about the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the words of our Holy Patron St. Pius X: “Instaurare omnia in Christo” We must restore all things in Christ, and we must submit to all as did Our Lord in His Passion for the salvation of souls and the triumph of Truth. “In hoc natus sum,” said Our Lord to Pilate, “ut testimonium perhibeam veritate.”
“I was born to give witness to the Truth.”
You might not know it as a reader, but if you run a blog you can see who links to your blog post: when some visitor of the other blog clicks the link, you get to see from which site your blog post has been clicked. It was in this way that I discovered some excellent sites, and some very stupid ones.
Yesterday I discovered a site of the second kind. I have written a blog post about Athanasius and Archbishop Lefebvre, pointing out that both resisted to the pressure of their time and held fast to Truth because it is the Truth coming from God, immutable and not depending from the “ecumenical” and “inclusive” pressure of the moment. I am not a mother tongue, but I am absolutely sure the dimmest intelligence must have understood, by reading the blog post, that Athanasius’ and Archbishop Lefebvre’ s disobedience was due to the necessity to be loyal to a higher obedience than the one to the Pope – that is, the one to God – and that the Truth of God can be found most clearly and unquestionably in those teaching that have, being the Truth, never changed (organically develop they can, of course; but changing, they can never do).
Well, exactly this point seems to have been willingly ignored by that poor troubled soul who linked my blog post to his perverted blog explaining that as Athanasius was once seen as heretic and then found to be right, then the homosexualists pretending to be in harmony with Christianity will one day be seen as orthodox too. The only point of my blog post (the existence of an immutable, divinely given Truth unchanged by ages and to be protected even against Catholic authority if needs be) has been not only ignored, but turned into its exact contrary, in a tragic parody of the point I have made.
This is, I reflected, typical of homosexualism: a perverted thinking leads to the self-delusional turning upside down of the most elementary truths, and to a blatant disregard for the most elementary logic. You read blog posts like the one that contained the link to my own one and you understand Satan has these people so firmly in his power, that they would use everything and turn it into its exact opposite just to satisfy their obsession.
This is, of course, not the first time I am confronted with people unable to reason; discussion boards all over the planet are full of them. Still, that even confronted with yours truly’s rather refreshingly blunt writing style they would pretend to understand the exact contrary o what I have written is profoundly disquieting.
Souls are at stake, and Satan is making a big harvest.
May those poor (=stupid), confused souls manage to repent and get to terms with Christianity before they die.
Most of you may already know that the Church has already gone through very troublesome periods. Many of you will be aware that the Arians were probably the biggest challenge the Church had to confront, at least before the challenge of V I I.
What,though, many of you might not know is that even Athanasius, the great champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy, was excommunicated by Pope Liberius, and that the same Pope Liberius actually demanded that his diocese (or perhaps the entire Church, not sure on that but it isn’t so relevant) does not use the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in public worship. In a word, whilst not proclaiming a heretic dogma or denying the Trinity as traditionally intended, Pope Liberius did try – and certainly intended – to silence orthodox Catholic understanding at least in some regions. He did it, we are told, to avoid “fractures” within the Church and to not upset those “good Catholics” who had a, erm, modern understanding of the Trinity and should not feel, erm, antagonised.
Mind, those progressive Catholics thought they had their heart in the right place and were, no doubt, the nicest and most tolerant chaps around. I do not doubt they thought they would, by getting rid of an embarrassing concept like a God-Man who is fully God and fully Man, make Christianity more, erm, relevant. They must have seen our Athanasius as an extremely inflexible, obviously “uncharitable” bloke, bent on slavish adherence to “the past” with no consideration at all for the “new times” and the necessity of being “pastoral”. No doubt, after the papal excommunication (let us say this again: papal excommunication) most devout Christians thought the good man had now nothing else to do than to bow to the superior rank and wisdom of the Pope and retract his strange fixation with the Trinity properly intended.
Ubi Petrus, and all that…
If you think Athanasius bowed faced with group pressure, think again. If Pope Liberius did, he didn’t. If you think he was afraid of the excommunication, or fearful for his own soul, I will have to disappoint you again. This saintly man simply knew he was on the side of the Truth the Church had taught from the start, and if an angel had come down asking him to believe different things than those transmitted to us by God through the constant teaching of the Church he would have simply refused.
Fast forward to the XX century. The Church at large adopts strange ideas which, whilst not (mostly) openly heretics, are certainly at variance with what the Church has always taught. The Creed is not abolished, but the sacredness of the Liturgy as such is under a great attack. A very strange (but very convenient) theology concerning religious liberty and the role of the Church is being introduced; mainstays of Catholic theology are “revisited” according to modern sensitivities, with Capital Punishment now largely perceived as intrinsically bad, and war as always wrong. The primacy of the Pope itself is under attack, now practically – if not formally – substituted by a thinking according to which the Pope is there to give some good counsel and wise admonition every now and then, but leaving the real business of governing the Church to his bishops as a body. Concepts like the Kingship of Christ are not officially abolished but willingly forgotten; the same happens with countless traditional devotions like the Rosary, the Litanies or the Vespers; even the Sacraments suffer unprecedented attack, with Confession now seen as an embarrassment by many priests and even the sancta sanctorum of Catholic dogma, Transubstantiation, being factually ignored by a growing number of priests and faithful who, like their Arian ancestors, simply feel too modern and enlightened to believe in such “old” things.
A bishop reacts, like Athanasius, to all this. Like Athanasius, he does not care what the clear majority thinks, preferring to side with the minority which includes Christ instead. Like Athanasius, he is not impressed at having the Papacy against him, and like Athanasius he gladly suffers excommunication at the hands of a Pope to allow true Catholic teaching to continue.
We all know who this brave Archbishop was. Please remember him with affection in your prayers, and ask him to help you in your daily tasks and toils if you think – which would not be surprising at all – that he is in Heaven and can intercede for us wretched sinners fighting not only against the lures of the world, but against a clergy apparently joyously intent in a ceaseless work of self-destruction, and of possible destruction of legal Catholic practice in many Western countries.
To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman famously said. To be even shallow in Church history is, if you ask me, to cease to be deceived by clericalism or, worse still, papolatry.
The Truth is the Truth is the Truth. We do not adapt the Truth to the thinking of the Clergy, but we measure the work of the Clergy according to its adherence to Truth. Pope Liberius’ mortal spoils have finished decomposing a long time ago, whilst the immortal Truth defended by Athanasius could never die. This our hero never forgot. Several times during the course of his very turbulent life he had to endure exile, humiliation, and physical danger. Never he wavered, knowing he had Truth on his side.
I suggest you remember Athanasius every time you are told the one or other bishop (or Society) must recant or repent or adopt a strange theology because… the Pope says so, perhaps under pain of excommunication.
Athanasius didn’t retract, because he defended the Truth and the Truth is defended against angels, let alone Popes. It is not clear to me why the thinking of the XX Century’s Archbishop or of his followers should be any different than the one of the great saints of the past.
I am more and more persuaded that if one wants to read contemporary sources of undoubted Catholic orthodoxy, the SSPX is the place where to look.
For this reason, whenever you think or suspect that something is not orthodox enough, or might be “nuChurch” under the appearance of orthodoxy, it is never wasted time to look what the SSPX says on the matter. These are people willing to be excommunicated to remain faithful to Truth, and there is no way they are going to compromise.
Let us take, for example, the “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” question – so often misused by misinformed – or disingenuous – Protestants to shoot at the Church and criticise her alleged lack of common sense – and let us see what Archbishop Lefebvre had to say on the matter.
From the “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”, available online in English from the SSPX Asia, we read the following:
First, the late Archbishop sets the main points of the question:
The Church is the one ark of salvation, and we must not be afraid to affirm it. You have often heard it said, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”–a dictum which offends contemporary minds. It is easy to believe that this doctrine is no longer in effect, that it has been dropped. It seems excessively severe.
Yet nothing, in fact, has changed; nothing can be changed in this area. Our Lord did not found a number of churches: He founded only One. There is only one Cross by which we can be saved, and that Cross has been given to the Catholic Church. It has not been given to others. To His Church, His mystical bride, Christ has given all graces. No grace in the world, no grace in the history of humanity is distributed except through her.
Then, he proceeds to explain how proper Catholic doctrine is rightly interpreted:
Does that mean that no Protestant, no Muslim, no Buddhist or animist will be saved? No, it would be a second error to think that. Those who cry for intolerance in interpreting St. Cyprian’s formula, “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” also reject the Creed, “I confess one baptism for the remission of sins,” and are insufficiently instructed as to what baptism is. There are three ways of receiving it: the baptism of water; the baptism of blood (that of the martyrs who confessed the faith while still catechumens) and baptism of desire.
Baptism of desire can be explicit. Many times in Africa I heard one of our catechumens say to me, “Father, baptize me straightaway because if I die before you come again, I shall go to hell.” I told him “No, if you have no mortal sin on your conscience and if you desire baptism, then you already have the grace in you.”
The doctrine of the Church also recognizes implicit baptism of desire. This consists in doing the will of God. God knows all men and He knows that amongst Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and in the whole of humanity there are men of good will. They receive the grace of baptism without knowing it, but in an effective way. In this way they become part of the Church.
The error consists in thinking that they are saved by their religion. They are saved in their religion but not by it. There is no Buddhist church in heaven, no Protestant church. This is perhaps hard to accept, but it is the truth. I did not found the Church, but rather Our Lord the Son of God. As priests we must state theTruth.
Finally, in case you should think there is a rather easy way to salvation outside the Church, he takes all illusions away from you:
But at the cost of what difficulties do people in those countries where Christianity has not penetrated come to receive baptism by desire! Error is an obstacle to the Holy Ghost. This explains why the Church has always sent missionaries into all countries of the world, why thousands of them have suffered martyrdom. If salvation can be found in any religion, why cross the seas, why subject oneself to unhealthy climates, to a harsh life, to sickness and an early death? From the martyrdom of St. Stephen onwards (the first to give his life for Christ, and for this reason his feast is the day after Christmas), the Apostles set out to spread the Good News throughout the Mediterranean countries.
Would they have done this if one could be saved by worshipping Cybele or by the mysteries of Eleusis? Why did Our Lord say to them, “Go and preach the Gospel to all nations?”
Finally, a concrete example of how the post V II Church could be terribly wrong, and suffer the Truth to be substituted with heresy or worse by the work of the bishops themselves:
It is amazing that nowadays certain people want to let everyone find his own way to God according to the beliefs prevailing in his own “cultural milieu.” A bishop once told a priest who wanted to convert the little Muslims, “No, teach them to be good Muslims; that will be much better than making Catholics of them.”
Now please observe this:
1) This is straightforward, well explained, full of common sense and easy-to-grasp wisdom. Personally, I found that whenever you look for authentic Catholic answers, this is what you find.
2) This comes from a man of such unflinching orthodoxy as to be able to suffer excommunication just a few years before death, for the sake of Truth. You can think for yourself how probable it is this is not a fair and accurate representation of infallible Magisterium.
I have very often found that the critics of the SSPX love to criticise them based on preconceptions they have heard of – probably by some tambourine priest – and uncritically accepted. These people are seriously good, infinitely better Catholics than those priests and bishops calling them “schismatics”, or worse.
Irrespective of the final outcome of the SSPX-Vatican talks, I would encourage everyone to inform themselves about the SSPX position on whatever matter, rather than indulging in criticism by hearsay.
You will discover they take their name very, very seriously.
The UK Site of the SPPX has one interview with Archbishop Lefebvre, given around one year after the consecration of the four SSPX bishops
One part is particularly interesting, because it echoes an issue that is of particular actuality. Let us see question and answer (emphasis in red mine).
Question: Some people say, “Yes, but Archbishop Lefebvre should have accepted an agreement with Rome because once the Society of St. Pius X had been recognized and the suspensions lifted, he would have been able to act in a more effective manner inside the Church, whereas now he has put himself outside.”
Archbishop Lefebvre: Such things are easy to say. To stay inside the Church, or to put oneself inside the Church —what does that mean? Firstly, what Church are we talking about? If you mean the Conciliar Church, then we who have struggled against the Council for twenty years because we want the Catholic Church, we would have to re-enter this Conciliar Church in order, supposedly, to make it Catholic. That is a complete illusion. It is not the subjects that make the superiors, but the superiors who make the subjects.
Amongst the whole Roman Curia, amongst all the world’s bishops who are progressives, I would have been completely swamped. I would have been able to do nothing, I could have protected neither the faithful nor the seminarians. Rome would have said to me, “Alright, we’ll give you such and such a bishop to carry out the ordinations, and your seminarians will have to accept the professors coming from such and such a diocese.” That’s impossible. In the Fraternity of St. Peter, they have professors coming from the diocese of Augsburg. Who are these professors? What do they teach?
These were, therefore, the words of Archbishop Lefebvre at exactly the same question is posed today. One wonders: what has changed?
My answer is that whilst something has certainly changed, it is fair to say the changes are probably not enough to let the SSPX feel they can proceed to the reconciliation without fears of being muzzled. At least, they would want to have some form of guarantee (the Ordinariate might be one) and things made in such a way that a Vatican infiltration of SSPX structures (the last cited words are enlightening) is not allowed.
It seems clear to me, though, if Lefebvre lived today he would have a very cautious approach, and would put the guarantees for the proper action of the SSPX before his personal desire of not being excommunicated or in some irregular position anymore.
The 15 April looms. Don’t hold your breath. If there is a surprise, it will be the more beautiful but honestly,it is likely the times are not ripe.
Rorate Caeli has some reflections about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who died 21 years ago.
I disagree with their statement that without him the struggle for the preservation of traditional Catholicism would have been lost – my take is the Holy Ghost allows the Church to undergo periods of confusion, not to lose Her mission and identity – but I think it cannot be put in doubt that this man gave a huge contribution to the vocal defence of what Catholicism had always been and should have remained.
Twenty-one years after his death, we see Archbishop Lefebvre – though of course not perfect – more and more vindicated not only among conservative Catholics (who certainly have always loved him to a degree, even those who disagree with the SSPX stance) but among mainstream Catholics and the Vatican hierarchy, as the problems he foretold punctually exploded with devastating force and as the drunkenness (I keep describing it this way, as it seems to me a very fitting description) of V II slowly but surely makes place for a long due soberness.
Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX were not the only ones to vocally oppose the systematic destruction of Catholic liturgical tradition and orthodox thinking during and following the Council, and I only need to remind you of Romano Amerio’s wonderful Iota Unum to show opposition came from several corners, and was extremely strongly worded.
Still, it cannot be denied that it was this organisation which carried – and still carries – the flag in the most recognisable of ways, spreading all over the West whilst the people of the tambourines ravaged the very essence of Catholicism and the Vatican looked on in culpable impotence.
Therefore, on this day one Eternal Rest or three for this brave man is, I think, more than appropriate.
Thank God for Archbishop Lefebvre, and his brave soldiers of Christ.
I have often read harsh criticism about the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre in consecrating the four bishops after becoming fed up with JP II’s waiting games.
I will readily admit that this was an act of disobedience. But in the simple world in which I live there is disobedience and disobedience. A son may disobey to his father in rebellion at his father’s authority qua authority, or he may disobey to his father because the father himself insists in misbehaving. The first disobedience is out of rebellion, the second out of a higher form of respect for the father’s role and obedience to the God-given commandment. The first disobedience is aimed at making a father out of a son; the second is aimed at making of a bad father a good one. The first disobedience aims at destroying traditional, God-given rules; the second at preserving them.
If your father is drunk and you don’t obey to his damaging – or outright wicked – orders not because you don’t want him to be your father, but because you want him to stop being drunk you are still being disobedient, but you are certainly a good son.
I have therefore not many qualms with the Society of St. Pius X and the only reason why I never attended their mass (whose sacramental validity I do not doubt in the least, nor does the Vatican) is my subterranean terror of finding myself surrounded by a couple of dozens of bony, angry nutcases eager to recruit “the new one” to their poisonous cause with intemperate rants about the Antichrist in Rome and the like. I might be entirely wrong of course; but in these matters I am a rather sensitive, delicate flower who prefers to avoid unpleasant experiences.
In the same spirit, I look with a certain sympathy to those cheeky priests who realise that they have been tested with an uncommonly disgraceful bishop and decide to try to twist his arm on this or that matter (the recent episode or Thiberville having as disgraceful protagonist bishop Nourrichard comes to mind).
In all these cases, I see disobedience as a higher form of obedience. Obedience to the Church as an institution rather than obedience to (say) a liberal baboon; or obedience to what the Church commands rather than to what a bunch of naive (or faithless) bishops wanting to play “cool” and “popular” think is all right and very Catholic indeed.
But you see, all these disobedient priests and bishops still obey to that higher order that is the Church that has always been. They haven’t tailored their beliefs to what suits them; they haven’t come out with a new theology; they have just continued to believe what has been transmitted to them by countless generations of Catholics! “The Bishop’s – or Pope – good servant, but God’s first” could they say paraphrasing Thomas More. Whilst I agree that this behaviour is not advisable bar in the most extreme circumstances, I can’t see in it a menace to the Church, but rather a menace to the liberals and modernists within her. Never can the Church be damaged by those who, confronted with dramatic and sweeping changes, upheld what the Church has always been. To think so is, in my eyes, a contradiction in terms. These reactions should then be properly seen as a useful gauge of a malaise within the Church; a malaise which would then have to be scrutinised in the light of the strictest orthodoxy, not demonised as if the Church of the past had suddenly become wrong.
This is the reason why in my page about Catholic Quotes (see the upper bar) the place of honour is given to this beautiful quote from Robert DePiante:
What Catholics once were, we are. If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.
We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now.
I do hope that the rift (not schism) between the SSPX and Rome will be healed in my lifetime. Until then I will continue to give my allegiance to the latter, and my admiration to the former. I can’t avoid thinking that all that is happening now (from the slow resurgence of proper Catholicism to Summorum Pontificum to…. well, there’ s not much else for now and we might be slowing backpedaling) has been accelerated by the constant work of the SSPX, whose action – sometimes wrongly worded, sometimes a bit ego-driven, but in my eyes always conducted in a proper spirit of Catholic orthodoxy – has exposed the ridicule of NuChurch and helped to shape the resistance to the post-Vatican II drunkenness.
The threatened disobedience of the priest who says that he can’t accept what, in her essence, the Church has always been (find an example here) is not defending Church tradition, but starting his own one. The threatened disobedience of the priest (or archbishop) who says that he can’t accept that the Church may become different from what she has always been is on another plane altogether.
And so it is out: the beatification of JP II will take place on the 1st May.
I am, as no reader of this blog can avoid noticing, no great fan of the man as a Pope. I think that his contribution to the fall of Communism is vastly, vastly exaggerated (the one who did it for communism was clearly the Gipper; George Walker Bush and Pope John Paul II only reaped the benefits afterwards and the liberal press would commit suicide rather than give Reagan his due) and I find it frankly extraordinary that a Pope should be praised for…. being opposed to Communism.
As far as his work as Pope is concerned, I personally think that the only redeeming feature of his too long Pontificate is the fact that he came (excluding the short weeks of what could have been a wonderful Pope, Albino Luciani) after Paul VI, the undisputed Jimmy Carter of the Church. JP II’s actions against the problems of his time (say: the Dutch Schism, Liberation Theology, the rampant “spirit of Vatican II”-mentality) can be considered in a halfway positive manner only in the light of Paul VI’s tragic impotence, but were slow and contributing to the confusion of Catholics by every other modern standard. In his appointment of Bishops, JP II will probably prove one of the most disastrous Popes of all times as he is the main responsible for the appointment of an entire generation of bad shepherds, who have almost completely given away Catholicism and will now continue to afflict the Church for a couple of decades to come.
A further problems of JP II’s pontificate is, in my eyes, the stubborn refusal to deal in an exemplary manner with people clearly responsible for grave misconduct. Cardinal Law’s treatment, or Cardinal Groer’s, are in my eyes great stains on his pontificate as they show an attitude towards grave problems by which the desire to avoid scandal and public admission of fault comes before the desire to send clear signals as to how the Church is led and what behaviour is expected from the men at the top.
And then there’s the media orgy. JP II’s pontificate can be remembered as the age of the dumbing down of everything Catholic, the search for popularity at all costs, the media circus, the desire to sink towards common people aspirations and conveniences instead of drawing them to aspire higher to Christ. From the unspeakable rock concerts (in which Catholicism had to witness the head of Catholicism being publicly scolded by rock singers; Pope Pius XII must have cried from Heaven), to the interconfessional/ecumenical/heretical events in Assisi, Fatima and elsewhere, to the in itself obviously heretical kissing of the Koran, to the relentless seeking for TV time in his pursuit to travel in the furthest corners of the globe whilst Vatican work was clearly neglected (cue the inefficiency and indecisiveness in tackling the problems of the Church, like the evident issue of rampant homosexuality in the seminaries), John Paul II’s years have diluted and banalised the Catholic message. The most dramatic example of this sad development was seen in his last days, with a huge media happening and a vast attention from a mass of individuals obviously not caring in the least for Catholicism and merely attracted by the next media-pumped collective hysteria in purest Lady Diana style. When he died, JP II had successfully transformed himself in the Che Guevara of our times, a man whose face is on millions of t-shirts carried by people who don’t even know who he was and what he wanted, but find the projected image someway cool. In the meantime, a generation of Catholics was raised without even the basis of proper Catholic instruction but hey, there were 500,000 people when he went out of the aeroplane so we are doing fine.
One of the least palatable aspects of this attitude was the late Pope’s desire to please the masses by sending ambiguous messages which, whilst not openly contradicting the Church’s teaching, were meant to give them a varnish of political correctness and make their distorted perception popular when the real ones clearly aren’t. He formally abolished the capital punishment in the Vatican, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful that the legitimacy of capital punishment is integral part of Catholic doctrine and as such not modifiable and not negotiable. He asked for forgiveness for the atrocities committed during the Crusades, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful of the saintliness of their cause and of the glorious page represented by the Crusades themselves. He was personally contrary to every conflict happening in his time, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful that the Doctrine of War is also integral part of Catholic teaching. As a result of this, Pope John Paul was vastly perceived – particularly by poorly instructed Catholics, let alone by non-catholics – as a white-clothed pacifist opposed to capital punishment and ashamed for the Crusades. I am not aware of any effort he made to counter this widespread popular impression and no, this is not good.
Allow me here to also remind my readers of the Lefebvre affair. From the information I have found and read, it seems to me that a clash of egos (it happens among the saintliest men; it’s human nature) played a more than secondary role in the events but that at the root of the mess was JP II’s refusal to understand when things have gone too far and it is time to stop being stubborn and to start being reasonable. Hand on heart, I thank God for Lefebvre’s courage and determination on that occasion. To use an admittedly strong image, when the father is drunk the son who refuses to obey him is not going against the family and his father’s authority, but respecting and upholding them and the values they represent. The SSPX’s affair is, if you ask me, just another of the many avoidable blunders of John Paul II’s pontificate.
Still, behind the Pope there was the man. A deeply religious, pious, spiritual, sincere, kind man of God. A man whose mistakes were certainly never made in bad faith and whose first desire was to protect the Church and to win new souls to Christ. A man in front of whose deep spirituality and pious nature most of us (and certainly yours truly) must hang their head in shame. A man of whom you can criticise everything, but not the pure heart and the honesty of his intentions.
Whenever Catholics criticise the many mistakes of his pontificate (as they, if you ask me, should do far more often and much more vocally in order to avoid another pontificate like his to be ever repeated), they should remember – and should remind the enemies of the Church – of the purest of hearts behind those mistakes and of the example which John Paul II continues to give as a saintly man.
A saintly man is not necessarily a good Pope and a good Pope is not necessarily a saintly man. Much as we would like to see both qualities together, this is by far not always the case.
When we are blessed with a saintly Pope, I can’t see why we shouldn’t – whatever the shortcomings of his Pontificate – draw strength and inspiration from his saintliness.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.
Talking with friends about religious matters one is always astonished at the amount of shallowness and ignorance exhibited by many Catholics. This is the more shocking because these Catholic appear to be, more often than not, in good faith.
As always, one must point out to the tragedy of a Catholic instruction which is so deficient as to lack the very basics; and one can only hope, for the sake of the involved souls, that the priests in charge of instructing their sheep have not intentionally caused this abysmal ignorance (don’t ask me to bet on all of them, though).
Here I would like to shortly touch on one point: the relationship between Vatican II and doctrinal truths.
Whenever appropriate, Catholics must be told (in the office, within the larger family, among friends) that Vatican has not changed anything in the doctrinal apparatus of the Church, because Catholic doctrine doesn’t change.
It just doesn’t. It never could. It never will.
Vatican II couldn’t change anything in the doctrinal corpus of the Church because – besides the fact that V II was a purely pastoral council – such a thing just doesn’t exist in Catholicism.
The idea that V II might have changed the Church’s doctrine is profoundly heretical and the fact that such an extraordinary assertion may be made in good faith may – to a point, and given the circumstances – excuse the faithful who expresses it, but doesn’t make the expression less heretical.
Whenever a new document is issued by the Church, this document must always – and can only – be read in the light of Church doctrine. This is the only valid criterium of interpretation as far as doctrinal matters are concerned.
This must be well understood by everyone who deals with doctrinal matters. “This doctrinal point is not valid anymore because this or that encyclical has changed it” is pure Protestant thinking, not Catholicism. It is dead wrong, and it is utter heresy.
Encyclicals and other Vatican documents always make sense in light of the Church’s traditional teaching, and their sense is always to be searched in this light.
This is true even for the most dramatic cases of bad wording and shallow formulations. This is so true, that even Archbishop Lefebvre thought it fit to sign all of the Vatican II documents.
Please make this clear to your poorly instructed friends and acquaintances (of which, I am sure, you have as many as I do) whenever appropriate.