A major step forward in relations with the SSPX? I hope so. | Fr. Z’s Blog

Posted on 11 August 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

One of the most significant points of conflict between the SSPX and the Holy See has been the issue of the document of Vatican II Nostra aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.

Over the years, I’ve said that this document, as well as the document on religious liberty Dignitatis humanae, shouldn’t have to be an obstacle.  Of course, ecumenism and religious liberty are intimately intertwined.

The issue of religious liberty and ecumenism is difficult and susceptible of many Catholic approaches and views.  It should be acceptable to disagree about various aspects of religious liberty.  I am reminded of the case of Fr. Leonard Feeney, SJ, who took a hard-line position about the truth of the Catholic doctrine, “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus … outside the Church there is no salvation”.  After significant conflict with ecclesial authority, he was censured with an excommunication. Later, he was reconciled and he did not have to abure his hard-line position.

The situations of the SSPX and Fr. Feeney are not strictly parallel, but the example of the later serves to illustrate that Catholics, rather well-informed theologians, can have differing positions about difficult points of doctrine, so long as they do not dissent in a scandalous way from dogma.

There should be some flexibility when an issue is really hard, as the issue of religious liberty is.   Do people have a natural right to pursue error, or is this only a civil right?  Are there really paths to salvation outside the Church?  Does what the Second Vatican Council resolve these questions definitively?

We now see at LifeSite that an ice layer has broken in the jam at the Holy See regarding Nostra aetate.

One particular Council document with which the SSPX takes issue is Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), a declaration on the Church’s relationship with other religions. Some interpret it as inconsistent with or at the very least muddying the Catholic Church’s teaching that it alone is the one true religion.

Pozzo said Nostra Aetate is not dogmatic and therefore no Catholic is bound to accept it as such.

Read more here: A major step forward in relations with the SSPX? I hope so. | Fr. Z’s Blog

Does Pastoral Practice Take Precedence Over Doctrinal Faith?

It seems an important question to ask at this time; for we have recently endured a recurrence (which was predominant after Vatican II) of adhering more to pastoral practices and less to our Doctrinal beliefs. Practices, that for all intents and purposes, seem to fly counter to the Doctrines of our Faith.

For the Doctrines of the faith and all practices which emphasize those Doctrines are seen to be Draconian in our present expression of faith which looks more like coddling than the old idea of spiritual direction.

It is no longer enough to simply learn the laws from the Supreme Law-Giver and try to live according to them. We must try to pretend that they are not there at all or else hide them from prying eyes so that nobody will be offended; such is the fallen state of human minds and wills in this overly-sensitive society. And there is the problem.

For from this newly found gentleness and sweetness we have devised pastoral practices to coincide with this present age where pampering and stroking of ones self-esteem (our egos) is more important than speaking the Truth plainly and unashamedly. To teach rather than to ‘share’ is old-fashioned and mean-spirited. Let’s talk about what it means to me and how I ‘feel’ about this article of faith or morals. It is not enough that Christ has written the Law in our hearts and has established a Church to teach His laws to mankind thoughout the world. For the teaching is too hard; who can bear it?

After many years of bad blood between those who accepted the Coucil of Vatican II but did not accept their pastoral documents (which seemed to fly in the face of earlier Church Teachings) we now have a situation where the Vatican is now saying explicitly that the non-adherence of the SSPX in these pastoral documents is not an obstacle to their reintegration into the Church. We all knew that and it had been said by traditionalists over and over again these last 50 years but it is only now that such an admission is being made by Rome. But the Church took baby steps to rectify this situation after ensuring that a huge change in practice had already taken hold and that the generations raised in a post-Vatican II Church would not remember or know what the kerfuffle was about. All they know is the present day expression of Church teachings (or the lack thereof) which they have become acustomed to.

So Pope Benedict XVI finally gave us his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum that clearly stated that the old Mass was never abrogated and that any priest who wished to say this Mass need not ask permission to celebrate it. We knew that as well – and boy what a lot of heartache could have been saved had this been proclaimed at the outset of the reign of the Novus Ordo Missae.

So with the admission of both the Traditional Mass being still operative in the Church and that documents such as Nostra Aetate need not be adhered to and may, in fact, be flatly rejected by a priest or parishioner, then all this internal fighting and bickering would  have been nipped in the bud from the start. Sadly, the damage is done as stated before. Most Catholics living today have never been to a Traditional Latin Mass nor have they heard the Catechism taught without hesitation or regard for having to sugar-coat the teachings or pamper the little ‘dears’ who are too delicate to learn the faith of their fathers. Ecumenism has fallen into a false irenicism in far too many corners of the Church and these things have caused irreperable harm to the Faithful.

Is it too late? I guess it is never too late for our Lord. We might yet recover from the degenerative effects of placing the practices above the teachings that they were to be the living witness of. Or maybe not? But the faith shall endure . . . even if it is a remnant Church.

The Novus Ordo Liturgy: of the world, by the world and for the world

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Annibale Bugnini (a suspected freemason) with the approval of Pope Paul VI, reformed and presented the Church with a new liturgy whose rubrics (directions) were so minimal and loose that it allowed for experimentation. This left the door open for the emergence of an egalitarian and social justice element to flourish within the Church. And now after 50 years of experimentation we have a novel (and very fluid) liturgy which aligns itself more with the spirit of ecclesial anarchy than it does with the obedience to faith: no two Masses need ever be the same . . . each can and probably will be unique to the parish and the priest who celebrates the Mass. What the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, (the Eucharistic Feast, understood as the Source and Summit of our entire faith), had been, is now in most instances unrecognizable. We have a largely manufactured Mass for the first time in our history (with only the slightest pretense of organic development from the previous liturgies) and what it has quickly morphed into over the last 50 years would be difficult to defend . . . even by Pope Paul VI. But we can find myriads of defenses for everything that is contained therein even though it was never promulgated as we now experience it. Every aberration is fervently defended or conveniently overlooked in an effort to explain away the obvious loss of virility, vitality and effectiveness that once was the Catholic’s mainstay and fortress of the faith. It proves difficult to approve, accept and support many of these ‘popular changes’ on an intellectual or even a spiritual basis as there is no Ecclesial approval or mandate for them. And yet these same novelties are the hill upon which many a Catholic would choose to die. We must remind ourselves that legitimacy (validity is not being questioned) is not the same as good taste or a reverent treatment of what is purportedly Holy: a baptism performed by a clown with a squirt gun could be valid but certainly irreverent and severely lacking of the dignity that the sacrament deserves.

This most sublime and essential element of the Faith and well-being of the Catholic Church as well as the spiritual development of each individual has been put to the test for many a worldly desire. And the promoters of these changes are often those who are not in a true sense Catholic as many reject much of the Church’s defined teachings. in extreme cases there are even those who are desirous to destroy the faith as we have known it. These same destructive forces have gained increasing strength whilst the faithful have become weak; some losing their faith entirely. Many faithful Catholics are also disillusioned and are quickly falling into a malaise of sorts; feeling utterly helpless, hopeless and impotent in their inadequate efforts to confront the leadership (or lack thereof) to restore what is rightfully theirs by Canon Law. For it is the progressive activists who claim leadership roles in many dioceses’ and seem to think it is more important that their vision of the New and better Church is superior than that which the Holy Spirit guides to its appointed end. They believe that their goal is inspired by the Holy Spirit and should be more properly accepted and valued within both the collective social and religious movements of the world. Thereby they readily utilize many secular ideals which arose from the social justice and social activism prevalent in our day; at the peril of the real Gospel. These activists claim victimhood (as they make claim that they are disenfranchised) and desire to lead the Church into a new Springtime. This secular influence seems rooted in our worldly notions of egalitarianism . . . the new unassailable, undeclared doctrine to which every practice and belief must now bow lest it be sacrificed upon the altar of inclusiveness, tolerance to sin and the principles of secular social justice and attendant ideologies. Sadly, many well-meaning Catholics, who simply wish to follow the Church have fallen for their activism and march in-step with these facilitators for a reformed Church.

To listen to the defenders of the Novus Ordo is to hear that we are overly attached to this little thing or that little thing and that each change is simply a personal preference and is of no real importance: these are just window dressing; and the people seem to like these changes. They will then tell you that the centrality of the Eucharist, to which we fully assent, is the most important part of the Mass and that these little things are not important enough to be of any consequence. That would be true if these small things did not jeopardize and weaken our beliefs and redirect our minds from Christ to the world; thus we are being cajoled and led toward more important issues; chief amongst them is heresy and apostasy which can be seen quite openly amongst many of our laity today. Our self-serving attitudes have allowed many to pick and choose (by their own ‘inner light’) what they wish to hold as beliefs that must be accepted. Same sex marriage and contraception are two such teachings that are routinely rejected by the ‘faithful’ within this new Church brought up and fed by the Novus Ordo Rite.

So where are the rubrics for the Novus Ordo coming from or do they even exist? Nobody in Rome said to say Mass ad populum, nor did they say to stop saying Mass in Latin or to purge the music of Gregorian and sacred polyphony . . . quite the opposite. No one ordered the altar rails removed, the kneelers removed or the tabernacle veil to be removed. Who said that we ‘must’ offer Communion under both kinds? The Vatican II documents said that it was a more complete sign but did not make it a rule. Nobody wrote a rubric that said it is now OK to speak before, during and after Mass or to clap for the choirs latest rendition of Lord of the Dance. Though the Vatican did say that they could find no reason to prevent girls from serving at the altar (done while Pope Saint John Paul II was recovering in the hospital from a broken hip) there is no mandate to allow them to do such. Extraordinary ministers and lectors were not forced upon us by Rome  but they showed up anyway: first as men, then as women. Who started the holding of hands for the Our Father? Who started the people raising their hands like priests to bless things and at the epiclesis etc.? Thank God a bishop in Coventry, KY put a stop to this within his diocese; the first one as far as I know. See this link: http://www.praytellblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2011-Pastoral-Letter-with-Decree-Bulletin-Insert.pdf  Why is it that most parishes only teach the children and the converts to receive in their hands when this method of reception is only an indult and not the ordinary method of reception? It seems that the activists and the compliant priests and theologians have foisted these changes upon us. Is that really how the development of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is supposed to be done; by the people who attend or those who are the celebrants?

I know, I know . . . little things . . . nothing to see here. A hand full of dirt from enough people will create a mountain or turn a mountain into a plain. The lines, once clear and distinct, between the priest and the people has almost disappeared. A blurring of the roles between the priest and the laity is so complete that women think they should be able to be priestesses. We commune ourselves from the consecrated chalice . . . once the private reserve of the priest with His consecrated hands (of no importance now) and the Altar Boys who assisted him with great reverence. We commune ourselves with the Eucharistic bread placed in our hands as though we are worthy to ‘take’ communion rather than to ‘receive’ communion because Christ has deigned to invite us sinners (absolved from serious sin) to this Heavenly Banquet. The polls show that all these little things have amounted to a laity that largely does not believe in the Church’s teaching on transubstantiation and a large number think it only symbolic. It is no longer a privilege to receive the Blessed Body and Blood of our Lord but a right and an entitlement: reminiscent to what charity to the poor has become once the secular world took over the ministry of ‘helping’ the poor . . . who’s misery index has risen ever since. And the retreat from saying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ad orientem has reinforced the laities inclination to see themselves as the center of attention rather than Our Lord. Is there any wonder why we no longer recognize the Kingship of Christ and never hesitate to heap laud and honor upon ourselves?

The use of inclusive language and the egalitarian push for equal roles for women in the Church was only the beginning. We are already beginning to see that we will be invaded by every self-proclaimed ‘victim’ group who wants to cry foul. Many men now feel that there is no place for them in the Novus Ordo Mass and it is why they have largely abandoned the pews for the football games on Sunday. If the women are now able to be ushers, lectors, extraordinary ministers and such then men are not going to participate in this coed Rite; for men respond to needs, duty, honor and the like. That is the clarion call for men . . . not to ‘participate’ as a cheerleader for the equality of women as in a social experiment. The altar boys will take after their dads and feel no obligation to serve at Mass unless the parish makes it a requirement to get Confirmed; and after Confirmation they will stay at home with dad and watch football. Gone are the old, cherished and manly Knights of the Altar as founded by St. John Bosco. However, there is a new guild of Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar which was begun by Cardinal Burke in 2008 and it is spreading. But without the support of a traditional Latin Mass which has strict controls on the ‘little things’ within the rubrics it will not be enough for the faith to return nor will there be a draw for men and the boys who might want to consider a vocation to the priesthood or to a religious order. The manliness, prestige, honor and duty of such a life is quickly disappearing. See the following article for a deeper discussion of this: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-devirilization-of-liturgy-in-novus.html   We can say all the prayers we want at Mass for priestly vocations and they will not produce fruit unless one actually provides an avenue that attracts young men to serve in such a lofty role. But then again, if we can’t get boys who want to be priests there are plenty of feminist activists who are eager to oblige and are praying for the men and boys to flee. And if you look at things from their modernist, progressivist, activist position . . . it all makes complete sense in its own diabolical way. The Church has largely stopped dictating Her morality and teachings to the world and now it is the intention of these novelty seekers to dictate their activist ideology within the Church. We once received the worldly to transform them in Christ and now it seems that the world, having entered our house, is transforming us.

A look at Faith, Morals and Practice

Holy Hour

There is a symmetry that one might even call symbiosis which exits between Faith, Morals and Practice. It might be helpful should we take the time to look at these more closely.

Faith

Religion, starts with matters of Faith which are guarded and taught primarily as a basis or foundation of the underlying reason for submitting oneself to the yoke of religion. This Doctrine of Faith gives man a glimpse into the meaning of life and the end for which the human soul was made as well as the nature and perfection of God and the fallen and miserable state of the human soul. It describes and sets forth the reasons for our misery and the insurmountable chasm between the perfection which is God and the imperfection that is mankind. It delivers to the soul a message of how serious is our sinfulness: serious or grievous sin, smaller less serious sin and even imperfections of things that God would have us do better though they are not of themselves, to the letter of the law, sinful of themselves.

These doctrines help us orient ourselves toward the Light which is God, the Beauty inherent in God’s Love and His ultimate Goodness. It acts as a beacon to that which is immutable and never changing and orders our lives toward the All Good and the Everlasting. These are primarily the thinking and the road map of the Church, given for our edification, as passed down through the ages and which encompass the wisdom of the Saints and the Teachings of our Lord and the History of our Fall and of our Desired Salvation.

Thereby, doctrine is a source for our Faith, our Hope and our Love which becomes the necessary virtues to be gained in this life. Without them, we are left to make the best of our fallen lives in a fallen world in which we have no hope of ever changing before we finally succumb to the inevitability of death in our transitory passage through this world.

So it becomes incumbent on the soul that wishes to escape this goldfish bowl of an existence to gaze through the distorted glass and dream of an existence far more fulfilling than the natural state into which it was born. In fact, it is a means by which we are told, should we do well, leads precisely to the fulfillment of that dream to a life that neither ends nor suffers the natural ills that accompany this transient life which we truly deserve.

Faith lets us know that God is so perfect that, like a goldfish in a bowl, if He were to remove you from this state and take you as you are into His realm, we would die; for the air is much too pure for the gills to endure and the Love is too concentrated for our hearts and minds to bare.

So pointing the soul to live its life for a higher purpose and to develop habits and capacities to love in a way that totally transforms us into children of God seems to be the end for which we were created and the ultimate vocation of each and every soul that God has made. How do we then begin?

First we come to the realization of Who this God is and form a desire or zeal for Him and learn about His Love for us and His plan for our lives; and we love Him for the love of us. Then we are pointed toward a journey intent of eliminating those things within our lives which separate us from our God and try, one by one, to eliminate their hold on us. We begin to feed ourselves on the things of God and on God Himself; He provides all. We become knowingly dependent on His good pleasure to do with us as He will and that our every breath and even our creation is a product of His good will and His love. And since His good will is that we live with Him forever we should do all that is in our power, using the gifts that only He can and will supply us, to attain to that end. It is a vocation that requires all along our way, the proof of our avowed love of Him and our assurance that there is nothing that we would not do to please Him in order to reach the end for which He has made for us.

Morals

Morality is a an outgrowth of love of God. It has as its end the purpose to bring the soul into a more intimate love of God and conversely to discourage the soul from harming its relationship with God. It has as its secondary purpose the education of the soul to its fallen state and its inordinate desire and love of creatures.Thereby, moral teaching creates habits that let us live our lives truthfully, in full knowledge of who we are and Who God is. For God is He who is and I am he who is not, so that we will find that of ourselves we are nothing, or even less than nothing because nothingness does not have the capacity to offend God, though we have only the capacity to sin if left to ourselves.

Therefore all the good that we will must be supplied by Him who is even supplying the willing itself. Therefore the outcome of morality, when used as intended, is to enlighten the soul as to what it really is and to thereby establish a soul in humility; which is seeing the truth about itself. Therefore, the denial of self and the acceptance of Divine Providence is taught us by our practice of the principles found in moral teaching. It sets our feet firmly on the way to dying to self and becoming other Christ’s in this world. So morality is not only avoiding that which is intrinsically bad for us, it is a teacher of our most inner fallen nature. It is a window into our soul.

Morality is a constant reminder that we have not the ability to resist sin and to endure hardships unless we rely on the strength and the love of God for all things.

Practice

Though Faith and Morals are considered Teachings of the Catholic Church which (we have been taught) are infallibly guarded from error by the Holy Ghost, practice is not. That is not to say that practice is of little consequence to the soul who looks to the Church for guidance in this world. For practice should flow from our Teachings and thereby be a reflection to every Catholic soul and perhaps to a lesser extent, to the rest of the world about what we truly believe: our liturgy, our music, our prayers, our alms giving, our care of the poor, our care of the sick and all other aspects of Christian living which come from this body of practices though informed, as it were, from Faith and Morals.

It is not, thereby, unusual that practices are at times confused with our faith or morals and that much of what is discussed at length between differing faiths is often a critique of this realm.

Practices change, as the world has changed to reflect both the intellect and learning of a world that is more literate than it once was (though that might easily be contested). It has also changed due to a shift, largely in developed countries, who have become soft (if I might use that word) in regards to suffering, or self-denial. For today, every small act of discipline, abstinence or self denial is seen as inordinate and far too demanding. We have become obsessed with our own comfort and our own sense of worth and our own sense that we are deserving of something. We have lost the visceral reaction that we might once have had by looking upon a realistic crucifix of the only truly innocent victim of our sins. So if mis-accused of some wrong deed we want the Doctrines to change or the practices to change. If we are inconvenienced, we do not bear the cross with joy but we squirm and complain and demand relief. I wonder if is were so for the not-so-modern Christians of yore. Their yoke was hard already, just eking out a living. And to sacrifice for the good of their souls seemed, perhaps, not that much different from their day to day existence.

I think the Church takes such things into consideration, though for some of us it seems to be a bit too comfortable and conciliatory. Perhaps they are trying to take these weaker souls and wean them off their mother’s breasts and encourage them to take their first steps into the supernatural realm of spiritual warfare and to awaken within them an interior life which they have not yet discovered. It remains to be seen if this strategy will work or fail. For the teachings of the saints are still with us: we only need make ourselves understand what it takes to lay hold of the Pearl of Great Price and then utilize what is already there for the taking.

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