13 May 2010

Regarding Certain Recent Remarks of Bishop Fellay

Brian Mershon recently interviewed the Superior General of the the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, mostly concerning the SSPX's Rosary Crusade and the ongoing doctrinal discussions with Vatican officials. This interview first appeared in The Remnant.

However, I want to address one minor comment by His Excellency, which really had the character of an aside, which referenced the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. I do not, of course, speak in any official capacity for the ICRSP, but I did want to make a few comments. Here is the relevant question and answer:

Brian Mershon: Some critics say that the Society’s rejection of a canonical or practical solution is a sign of obstinacy or ill will. How do you answer that?

Bishop Fellay: It is very simple. The Holy See has agreed that the doctrinal talks should happen, so that should answer the questions without putting the burden on me. Besides that, it is very clear that whatever practical solution that would happen without a sound doctrinal foundation would lead directly to disaster. We don’t want that. We want and need the security of a sound solution on the level of doctrine to go ahead. So to pretend there is something definitive prior to engaging in the doctrinal talks…

We have all these previous examples in front of us—the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King and all of the others are totally blocked on the level of doctrine because they first accepted the practical agreement.

There is a history, of course, between the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Society of St. Pius X. The Fraternity began its unique existence in 1988, when some members of the SSPX objected to the Episcopal consecrations of the four current SSPX bishops, and received recognition by the Holy See as the FSSP.


Whatever the issues that remain between these two groups, I am not terribly knowledgeable about them. I wish to limit my observations to Bishop Fellay's allusion to the Institute as being "totally blocked on the level of doctrine."

I would like to know in precisely what way the Institute is "totally blocked" on the level of doctrine. Which doctrines? Name one. I know of no Catholic doctrine with which the Institute disagrees, let alone with which it is "blocked" from contesting.

And, with respect, just what "practical agreement" did the Institute reach before settling a doctrinal question? Though its antecedents were already there, the Institute was canonically formed in 1990, two years after the consecrations and the formation of the FSSP. It was not an offshoot or remnant of the SSPX. The Institute's priests were formed under the great Cardinal Siri. Its canonical structure was, at first, one of diocesan right, and since 2008 one of Pontifical Right.

The Institute's growth and trajectory were based first and foremost on its own unique charism based on its patrons, its dedication to liturgical tradition and beauty in the spirit of St. Benedict, its Salesian spirituality, and its adherence to Thomistic theology. And it is consecrated to is principal patroness-- Our Lady, under her title of the Immaculate Conception.

Its approach has never involved any doctrinal compromise, and the wisdom of its approach has seemingly been rewarded by the Holy See in that it was elevated to Pontifical Right after establishing a long track record of fidelity to the faith, healthy growth, and proof of the benefit of its mission for souls--not as a precondition in exchange for obedience, but as a recognition of its worth.

I respect Bishop Fellay. I respect the SSPX and FSSP and the other traditional societies. But His Excellency clearly speaks beyond his knowledge here.

What may be most telling about the growth of the Institute is that His Excellency mentions it at all; this is the first time I have personally seen him do so in print. Having fewer priests than the other two societies in question, it probably did not register before. But the Institute has done much to advance the cause of the restoration of Catholic tradition and liturgy, and more people are becoming aware of it.

I pray that the SSPX will soon reach an understanding with the Holy See that will allow all Catholics of good will to have the maximum possible positive effects on souls.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us!

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

St. Benedict, pray for us!

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

10 comments:

Joe said...

I am not asking as someone who knows the answer, just posing a hypothetical... Are the priests of Institute of Christ the King free to criticize (from the pulpit) Ecumenism as taught today? The answer may shed some light on the situation.

MrsC said...

Thank you for this post, Timman. I have been an avid supporter of the Institute of Christ the King precisely because it was not formed to contest (I don't use the word "protest") any doctrinal point, but to be totally faithful to the teachings of the Church and to amplify the beauty of her liturgical traditions.

Through the Institute and its priests, I have learned to love the Church more, rather than to criticize her. When there are so many positive aspects to understand and to incorporate into one's practice of the Faith, how do people find time to criticize, from the pulpit or elsewhere?

thetimman said...

Certainly, if you mean the type of ecumenism we often see, of watering down our faith towards a superficial and false unity. I have heard sermons decrying this. Of course, such ecumenism isn't "taught" by the Church, but is practiced by those who ignore or repudiate the Church's teachings.

That being said, one of the characteristics of the Institute that I like is that it will teach "the truth in charity", as its motto states. Not charity without truth, not truth without charity.

thetimman said...

My last comment was in response to Joe's.

Mrs. C, thanks for your comment. I was trying cover what you more eloquently said about loving the Church and being faithful to her doctrines in my reference to the Institute's motto. It is a hallmark of an "Institute" sermon that it will focus on the good and beautiful, uplifting the soul, making use of the Church's tradition, the writing of the saints, etc. There are often occasions to point out the errors of certain groups and ways while doing this, but that usually is not the thrust. As you know.

However, I did want to give Joe a "straight answer", because just to say that someone "focuses on the positive" or other types of phrasing is often used as a "code" to hide one's reluctance to state the truth. That is not been my experience with the Institute. Far from it.

Irene said...

Hi timman,

I assist at a Society of St. Pius X chapel but am no more a spokesman for them than you are for the Institute of Christ the King. You asked: "I would like to know in precisely what way the Institute is 'totally blocked' on the level of doctrine. Which doctrines? Name one. I know of no Catholic doctrine with which the Institute disagrees, let alone with which it is 'blocked' from contesting."

The Society of St. Pius X takes the position that the Second Vatican Council must be made to reconcile with Tradition, not the other way round as proponents of "Living Tradition" tend to say. The Society is unconvinced that Council documents on the subject of the definition of the Church, on religious liberty, and on ecumenism can be reconciled with Tradition.

I would not know if the Institute of Christ the King is free to take this same position. I do not even know if the Institue would take this position in relation to at least those three teachings of the Council. But Bp. Fellay believes it would be premature to accept a canonical status before the Holy See was aware of these beliefs on the part of the Society.

I do not know if it would be satisfactory that the Society be permitted to hold this view as a legitimate "school of thought", which would seem to be easier to obtain, or if it would be necessary for Rome to grant the truth of the Society position.

Like you, I pray for a canonical solution to the current problem. The Society would never have sought to be "irregular" had steps not been taken in Rome to marginalize the ministries of their traditional priests, with the culmination of the now removed excommunications of 1988.

I tend to think like you, that they should accept every move toward regularization that might be offered while being very clear that they continue to have doubts about certain sections of the Council. I think there is no question that the FSSP have to be careful about being so open since they can only minister under the pleasure of local ordinaries who tend not to care about Tradition if it seems to come into conflict with the Council. I can understand His Excellency's solicitous concern to avoid this problem. He may have misspoken about the Institute.

I don't take the view that the Society is necessarily taking the best, most prudent approach to this question. Not even the pope is infallible in matters of prudence. But I trust that their heart is for the good of Holy Mother Church, which means the good of the Holy See and the return of Tradition as a "less flexible" norm than has seemed to have been assumed since the Council.

Thanks,

Rory, (using daughter's google account whose name means "peace", and which I pray will prevail over all of the faithful children of the Church in union with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.)

Alison said...

The priests of the FSSP do not compromise doctrine. They are loyal sons of the Church. It has not always been easy for them to go into a dioceses where they are invited and they may have to bear crosses as the cost of obedience. As far as the FSSP order compromising doctrine, it hasn't happened. Those charges have been made by the SSPX and their followers for along time and they are false. All this said I pray and hope the SSPX can find the way back to full communion with Holy Mother Church. It is imperative.

thetimman said...

Rory,

In some response, I'll take in order:

You said:

"The Society of St. Pius X takes the position that the Second Vatican Council must be made to reconcile with Tradition, not the other way round as proponents of "Living Tradition" tend to say."

I would say that there is 100% agreement on this issue. It is simply impossible for an ecumenical council to promulagate any teaching that is contrary to what the Church has always taught. Which leads us to this:

"The Society is unconvinced that Council documents on the subject of the definition of the Church, on religious liberty, and on ecumenism can be reconciled with Tradition."

To which I say that one simply must give these documents a reading that does comport with the Tradition of the Church. Is it difficult to do with these documents, owing to their ambiguity, perhaps intentionally abiguous? Absolutely. But we have to. Christ's promise to Peter is that the gates of hell would not prevail. If a council could promulgate erroneous dogma, that promise is called into question.

In the case of V2, this very weird task of reconciling ambiguous documents is made easier by two things. First, and this is so important as to bear constant repetition to those Catholics who have not been properly catechised these many decades, is that the Council by its own terms did not define any teachings, did not anathematize any errors. Hence, this "pastoral" council was about method, in a sense, rather than substance. This is a little bit of an overstatement, but this is a blog and not a treatise, so I'll leave it there. Secondly, though sometimes the Catholic reading of V2 documents is not the most obvious one, it is always possible, and therefore the Catholic reading must be taken. Hence, V2 cannot and does not conflict with Tradition. This is not an approbation of the wisdom of the documents, or their clarity, or anything else other than what I said.

As for your other points, and your overall sentiment, I largely agree. I think that if the position of the Society were "we think it is hard to square these V2 documents with tradition" it wouldn't be an insurmountable hurdle--even if they expressed the idea that prudentially the council was a seemingly bad idea. Whether others agree with that sentiment or not, it does not put the Society outside Catholic thought. If, though, the position is "there is no possible way, however much one sifts the words, that the documents can square with Catholic teaching, and further even realizing that the formulation of any novelties is obviously not binding on the faithful we still must repudiate the council per se" then probably it is a barrier.

Because, really, if you look at it, that second position (which I am not accusing the SSPX of having; I don't know all of the nuances of its position), it isn't a Catholic position.

In the end, I think the position of the Institute can best be summed up by an expression I have heard its priests often say-- We (the Institute) do not save the Church; the Church saves us.

God bless you.

Long-Skirts said...

"We (the Institute) do not save the Church; the Church saves us."

...and that's all fine and dandy but I'm certainly glad that the SSPX Order were willing to go to the deserts of motels, school gyms, etc. to confect the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass AND even have other Rosary Crusades not only for the lifting of the excommunications of their Bishops but for the freeing of the True Mass for ALL the Church's priests which no other Order was willing to pray for...they got theirs but the SSPX Order wanted the Mass to be free for ALL in other words, EVERYthing they do is for "the good of the WHOLE Church" not just "their" little group.

Keep praying for the Pope to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with ALL the Bishops!

Irene said...

Hi timman,

I want to raise a question against an assertion about Vatican II you made here as follows: "...one simply must give these documents a reading that does comport with the Tradition of the Church. Is it difficult to do with these documents, owing to their ambiguity, perhaps intentionally abiguous? Absolutely. But we have to. Christ's promise to Peter is that the gates of hell would not prevail. If a council could promulgate erroneous dogma, that promise is called into question."

Councils of the Church can promulgate erroneous dogma. We Catholics understand that for an ecumenical council a form of ratification from the bishop of Rome is in order for it to possibly carry the mark of infallibility. If all the bishops in the world said that a council at which they deliberated was infallible, it would not be if the pope demurred. I think we are in agreement thus far.

I am not familiar with Council Fathers proclaiming the infallibility of Vatican II, but it can be presumed for sake of argument. The Pope has the authority to ratify a Council and we may assume that this indicates his approval of the doctrines as being infallibly proclaimed. I presume we are still agreed.

But it seems possible to me that a reasonable argument can be made that Pope Paul VI issued several disclaimers against the ordinary infallibility attached to an ecumenical council. I leave you with what seems the clearest and most important:

1) "Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council...But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements..."

Pope Paul VI, Address of the last general meeting of the Council, Dec. 7, 1965

2) "There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the church's infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in any extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility."

Pope Paul VI, General Audience of Dec. 1, 1966

What would have happened if Pius IX said things like this after Vatican I? The same thing as is happening after Paul VI issues them after Vatican II, a question is raised among faithful Catholics to wonder if perhaps the documents could be fallible. If the promulgating pope of a Council says that there is no exercise of infallibility in the Council, it seems like a case can be made that we must believe that, just like we would believe it if he affirmed infallibility.

I propose that this leaves us room, if need be, to consider the documents of Vatican II as fallible. I am not saying that they cannot be reconciled with Tradition. I personally like significant portions of Vatican II. I don't disdain the Council. However, I think it might be wise to be cautious, under the unique circumstances where it seems that Paul VI issues disclaimers against infallibility, before we could say that "the gates of hell have prevailed" if we should admit that a teaching found in Vatican II is in error.

Thanks for your consideration timman.

Rory

thetimman said...

Long-Skirts, I thought I might hear from you. I understand your perspective. I agree with the activity of the SSPX to keep the Mass alive during the lean years. I do think you misstate the position of the ICRSP, if you are including them in the description of "getting theirs" and not worrying about everybody else. They did not cut a deal to be in the mainstream. They were formed as any usual society of apostolic life and have worked very hard to spread the TLM throughout the world. They of course are much smaller than the SSPX, but they have grown steadily. They haven't gone to motels etc. because they have churches that occupy all their numbers. They were not a part of the pre-1988 wasteland, when the SSPX was there. No fault or praise, just a fact. They train Diocesan priests and priests from other orders in the Mass. They teach the liturgy to diocesan seminarians-- to my certain knowledge they were key in setting up and still assist Kenrick-Glennon in training all new seminarians in the TLM. Is their mission and charism different than the SSPX? Certainly. But I don't think it would be fair to ascribe some cowardly motives to their actions. I


Rory, you have raised some excellent points that deserve a reasoned response. I will do some thinking and get back to you in this space. Thanks.