Modern Catholics: Confusion Reigns.

Editor writes…

A friend of mine tells me that it was only when she read Archbishop Lefebvre’s Open Letter to Confused Catholics that a light switched on in her head and she began to comprehend the gravity of what is going on in the Church.  Below, Chapter One of the Open Letter, entitled Why are Catholics Confused?

Who can deny that Catholics in the latter part of the twentieth century are confused? A glance at what has happened in the Church over the past twenty years is enough to convince anyone that this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only a short time ago the path was clearly marked: either one followed it or one did not. One had the Faith–or perhaps had lost it–or had never had it. But he who had it–who had entered the Church through baptism, who had renewed his baptismal promises around the age of twelve and had received the Holy Ghost on the day of his confirmation–such a person knew what he had to believe and what he had to do.

 Many today no longer know.  They hear all sorts of astonishing statements in the churches, they read things contrary to what was always taught, and doubt has crept into their minds.

On June 30, 1968, at the close of the Year of Faith, His Holiness Pope Paul VI made a profession of the Catholic Faith, in the presence of all the bishops in Rome and hundreds of thousands of the faithful. In his introductory remarks, he put us on guard against attacks on Catholic doctrine which, he said, “give rise, as we regretfully see today, to trouble and confusion in many faithful souls.”

The same words crop up in an allocution of His Holiness Pope John Paul II on February 6, 1981: “Christians today, in large part, feel lost, perplexed, confused, and even deceived.” The Holy Father summarized the underlying causes of the trouble as follows:

“We see spread abroad ideas contrary to the truth which God has revealed and which the Church has always taught.  Real heresies have appeared in dogma and moral theology, stirring doubt, confusion, rebellion.  Even the liturgy has been harmed. Christians have been plunged into an intellectual and moral illuminism, a sociological Christianity, without clear dogma or objective morality.”

This confusion is seen everywhere–in conversations, in books, in newspapers, in radio and television broadcasts, in the behavior of Catholics, which shows up as a sharp decline in the practice of the faith as statistics reveal, a dissatisfaction with the Mass and the sacraments, a general relaxation of morals.

We naturally ask,  therefore, what brought on this state of things? For every effect there is a cause. Has faith been weakened by a disappearance of generosity of soul, by a taste for enjoyment, an attraction to the pleasures of life and the manifold distractions which the modern world offers? These cannot be the real reasons, because they have always been with us in one way or another. The rapid decline in religious practice comes rather from the new spirit which has been introduced into the Church and which has cast suspicion over all past teachings and life of the Church.  All this was based on the unchangeable faith of the Church, handed down by catechisms which were recognized by all bishops.

The faith was based on certitudes. The certitudes have been overturned and confusion has resulted. Let us take one example: the Church taught–and the faithful believed–that the Catholic religion was the one true religion. It was, in fact, established by God Himself, while other religions are the work of men. Consequently, the Christian must avoid all contact with false religions and, furthermore, do all he can to bring adherents of false religions to the religion of Christ.

Is this still true? Indeed it is! Truth cannot change–else it never was the truth. No new fact, no theological or scientific discovery–if there can be such a thing as a theological discovery–can ever make the Catholic religion any less the only means of salvation.
But now we have the Pope himself attending religious ceremonies in false religions, praying and preaching in the churches of heretical sects.  Television conveys to the whole world pictures of these astonishing events. The faithful no longer understand.

Martin Luther–and I shall return to him later in these pages–cut entire nations off from the Church, pitched Europe into a spiritual and political turmoil which destroyed the Catholic hierarchy over wide areas, invented a false doctrine of salvation and a false doctrine of the sacraments. His revolt against the Church became the model for all revolutionaries after him who would throw Europe and the whole world into disorder. It is impossible to make Luther, as they want to do now after five hundred years, into a prophet or doctor of the Church, since he is not a saint.

If I read La Documentation Catholique1 or the diocesan papers, I find there, from the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commission, officially recognized by the Vatican, statements like this:

“Among the ideas of the Second Vatican Council, we can see gathered together much of what Luther asked for, such as the following: description of the Church as ‘the people of God’ (a main idea of the new Canon Law–democratic, no longer hierarchic, idea); accent on the priesthood of all baptized; the right of the individual to freedom of religion. Other demands of Luther in his time can be considered as being met in the theology and practice of the Church today: use of the common language in the liturgy, possibility of Communion under two species, a renewal of the theology and celebration of the Eucharist.”

Quite a statement! Meeting the demands of Luther, who declared himself the resolute and mortal enemy of the Mass and of the pope! To gather together things requested by a blasphemer who said: “I declare that all brothels, murders, thefts, adulteries, are less evil than this abominable Mass!” From such an extravagant summary, we can draw only one conclusion: either we must condemn the Second Vatican Council which authorized it, or we must condemn the Council of Trent and all the popes who, since the sixteenth century, have declared Protestantism heretical and schismatic.

It is understandable that Catholics are confused by such a turn of events. But there are so many others! In a few years they have seen a transformation in the heart and substance of religious practices which adults have known from early childhood.  In the churches, the altars have been demolished or replaced by tables, which are often portable and disappear when not in use. The tabernacle no longer occupies the place of honor: most of the time it is hidden, perhaps perched on a post, to one side. When it remains in the center,  the priest turns his back to it during the Mass. Celebrant and faithful face each other and dialogue.  Anyone may touch the sacred vessels, which are often replaced by breadbaskets, platters, ceramic bowls. Laity, including women, distribute Communion, which is received in the hand. The Body of Christ is treated with a lack of reverence which casts doubt on the truth of transubstantiation.

The Sacraments are administered in a manner which varies from place to place; I will cite as examples the age for baptism and confirmation, variations in the nuptial blessing, introduction of chants and readings which have nothing to do with the liturgy–but are borrowed from other religions or a purely secular literature, sometimes simply to express political ideas.

Latin, the universal language of the Church, and Gregorian Chant have generally disappeared. All the hymns have been replaced by modern songs in which it is not uncommon to find the same rhythms as in places of entertainment.

Catholics have been surprised also by the sudden disappearance of religious garb, as if priests and religious were ashamed of looking like what they are.

Parents who send their children to catechism discover that the truths of the Faith are no longer taught, even the most basic: the Holy Trinity, the mystery of the Incarnation, Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception. Hence the feeling of profound disorientation: is all of this no longer true, out-of-date, passé? Christian virtues are no longer even mentioned.  Where can you find a catechism speaking of humility, chastity, mortification? The Faith has become a fluid concept, charity a kind of universal solidarity, and hope is, above all, hope for a better world.

Novelties like these are not the kind which, in the human situation, appear at a certain moment in time, so that we get accustomed to them and assimilate them after an initial period of surprise and uncertainty.  In the course of a human life, ways of doing things change.  If I were still a missionary in Africa, I would go there by plane and no longer by boat–if, indeed, you could find a steamship company still in operation. In this sense, we can say that one should live in one’s own time; one is really forced to do so.

But those Catholics on whom they tried to impose novelties in the spiritual and supernatural order, on the same principle, realized it was not possible.  You do not change the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments founded by Jesus Christ; you do not change the truth revealed once and for all;  you do not replace one dogma with another. The pages which follow try to answer the questions you are asking yourselves, you who have known another face of the Church. I shall try also to enlighten the young people born after the Council and to whom the Catholic community does not offer what they have a right to expect from it. I would like to address myself, finally, to the unconcerned and the agnostics, whom the grace of God will touch some day or another, but who by then may find the churches without priests, and a teaching which does not correspond to the needs of their souls.

Then there is a question which, by all evidence, interests everyone, if I can judge by the attention it gets in the general press, especially in France. (The journalists are also showing some confusion.) A few headlines: “Is Christianity Dying?” “Will Time Work Against the Religion of Jesus Christ?” “Will There Still Be Priests in the Year 2000?” These questions I hope also to answer, not with any new theory of my own, but relying on unbroken Catholic Tradition–unbroken, yet so neglected in recent years that to many readers it will seem no doubt like something entirely new.

Comment:

It’s easy to see how Catholics became confused in the immediate aftermath of the Council, but now? Fifty odd years on, surely there must be a  sufficient number of Catholics with intelligence enough to have worked out that something is very wrong – and why. The question is, where are they and what are they doing to end the confusion in their neck of the woods… And, in a spirit of true Christian charity, is there any way in which we can help them?  If you are a modern Catholic, tell us about your confusion – we’re looking forward to hearing from you! 

Cardinal Burke Feet of Clay…

In the clip below, Cardinal Burke pronounces the Society of Saint Pius X in schism.  Listening to it, I recall the reason several Catholic friends gave for refusing to attend his Pontifical High Mass in a Glasgow parish church recently, summed up by one insightful soul: “…he’s not the real deal.”   

Blogger Gabriel Syme, who did attend the Pontifical High Mass in Glasgow recently, writes: 

I read that earlier and was much dismayed by the reported comments from Cardinal Burke.

it is unbecoming for a prelate to tell fibs (that the SSPX is in schism) which contradict his brother Bishops.

Ironically, he would never say such a thing about genuinely schismatic groups, such as the Eastern Orthodox churches.

How disappointing that he is so feeble in the face of Francis, yet so bold with unprovoked attacks on faithful Catholic groups, attacks based on deceit.

I am very disappointed in him and have diminished respect for him now. As if attacking the SSPX should be on his agenda, while everyone is waiting (and waiting and waiting) for him to act on the dubia.

Comment:

His “damp squib” dubia and meek acceptance of the Pope’s refusal to grant him an audience to discuss the four cardinals’ concerns about Amoris Laetitia, are now placed firmly in context.  He hasn’t a clue.  He’s apparently no clearer in his grasp of the limits as well as the extent of papal authority than most of the confused Catholics, ordained and lay, suffering in the Church-anything-but Militant today.  He has shown himself to have feet of clay. Or maybe you’re a Cardinal Burke fan, just because, at least, he values the traditional Mass?  Let’s hear it… 

Should Catholics Be Concerned About The New Forms Of The Sacraments?

Yesterday, I found myself in conversation with a reader  (we’ll call her Jo, because that’s not her name but it’s short and sweet) who has started attending the SSPX Masses in Glasgow.  We were discussing the hostility which I have personally witnessed at a number of Fatima meetings recently, when novus-attending Catholics became furiously hostile, especially at the very idea that the traditional Latin Mass needs to be restored as soon as possible. Even put a million times more tactfully than that, hostility spilled out like fresh cream in a gorgeous Dairy Sponge cake. Except there was nothing “gorgeous” about it.  Anyway,  when I asked Jo if, after attending the Society Masses for several weeks now she planned to continue, she replied, without a second’s hesitation: “yes”, because she just could not return to the novus-ordo – especially after reading the Open Letter to Confused Catholics, penned by Archbishop Lefebvre.   Got me thinking that, although we have discussed various chapters from that excellent book from time to time, we’ve never examined the chapter on the new forms of the Sacraments, so let’s check the Archbishop’s writings on that topic: do we need new forms of the sacraments? If so, why?  Or, should Catholics be concerned about these new forms of the Sacraments?

Archbishop Lefebvre writes….

The Catholic, whether he be regularly practising or one who goes to church for the great moments of life, finds himself asking such basic questions as, “What is baptism?”

It is a new phenomenon, for not so long ago anyone could answer that, and anyway, nobody asked the question. The first effect of baptism is the redemption from original sin; that was known from father to son and mother to daughter.

But now nobody any longer talks about it anywhere. The simplified ceremony which takes place in the church speaks of sin in a context which seems to refer to that which the person being baptized will commit during his or her life, and not the original fault that we are all born with.

Baptism from then on simply appears as a sacrament which unites us to God, or rather makes us members of the community. This is the explanation of the “rite of welcome” that is imposed in some places as an initial step, in a first ceremony. It is not due to any private initiative since we discover plenty of variations upon baptism by stages in the leaflets of the National Center of Pastoral Liturgy. It is called “deferred baptism.” After the welcome comes the “progression,” the “seeking.” The sacrament will be administered, or not administered, when the child is able, according to the terms used, to choose freely, which may occur at quite an advanced age, eighteen years or more. A professor of dogmatic theology, highly esteemed in the new Church, has established a distinction between those Christians whose faith and religious culture he is confident he can verify, and the others–more than three-quarters of the total–to whom he attributes only a supposed faith when they request baptism for their children. These Christians “of the popular religion” are detected during the preparatory meetings and dissuaded from proceeding any farther than the “ceremony of welcome.” This method of going on is “more appropriate to the cultural situation of our civilization.”

Recently a parish priest in the Somme department who had to enroll two children for their First Communion asked for their baptismal certificates, which were sent to him from the family’s parish of origin. He then found that one of the children had been baptized but not the other, contrary to what the parents believed.  This is the sort of situation that results from such practices. What they give is in effect only a semblance of baptism which those present take in good faith to be the true sacrament.

That you should find this disconcerting is quite understandable. You have also to face up to a specious argument which even appears in parish bulletins, generally in the way of suggestions or testimonies signed with Christian names, that is to say anonymously. We read in one of them that Alan and Evelyn state, “Baptism is not a magic rite which will efface by miracle any original sin. We believe that salvation is total, free, and for all: God has elected all men in His love, on any condition, or rather without condition. For us, to be baptized is to decide to change our life, it is a personal commitment that no one can make for you. It is a conscious decision which implies preliminary instruction, etc.” What frightful errors are contained in those few lines! They lead to the justifying of another method; the suppression of infant baptism. It is another alignment with the Protestants, in defiance of the teachings of the Church right from its beginnings, as St. Augustine wrote in the fourth century: “The custom of baptizing children is not a recent innovation but the faithful repetition of apostolic tradition. This custom by itself alone and without any written document, constitutes the certain rule of truth.” The Council of Carthage, in the year 251, prescribed that baptism should be conferred on infants “even before they are eight days old,” and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a reminder of the obligation in its Instruction Pastoralis actio, on November 21, 1980, basing it upon “a norm of immemorial tradition.”

That is a thing you should know so as to be able to insist upon a sacred right when someone attempts to refuse your newborn children their share in the life of grace. Parents do not wait until their child is eighteen years old before deciding for him his diet, or to have a necessary surgical operation. Within the supernatural order their duty is even greater, and the faith which presides at the sacrament when the child is not capable of taking on for himself a personal engagement is the responsibility you would have in depriving your child of eternal life in Paradise. Our Lord Himself has said in a most clear manner, “No one, unless he be born again of water and the Holy Ghost can enter into the Kingdom of God.”

The results of this peculiar pastoral practice were quick to appear.  In the diocese of Paris, whereas one child out of two was baptized in 1965, only one child in four was baptized in 1976.  The clergy of one suburban parish observed, without appearing concerned about it, that there were 450 baptisms in 1965 and 150 in 1976. From the whole of France, the fall continues. From 1970 to 1981, the overall figure dropped from 596,673 to 530,385, while the population increased by more than three million during the same period.

All this is the outcome of having falsified the definition of baptism. As soon as they stopped saying that baptism wipes out original sin, people have been asking, “What is baptism?” and straightaway after, “What is the good of baptism?” If they have not got as far as that, they have at least thought about the arguments that have been put to them and accepted that there was no urgency, and after all, at the age of adolescence the child could decide for himself and join the Christian community in the same way as joining a political party or a union.

The question is raised in the same way regarding marriage.  Marriage has always been defined by its first aim which is procreation and its secondary aim which is married love. Now, at the Council they sought to alter this definition and say there was no longer a primary aim, but that  the two aims of which I speak were equivalent. It was Cardinal Suenens who proposed this change and I still remem- ber Cardinal Brown, the Master General of the Dominicans, getting up to say, “Caveatis! Caveatis!–Beware! Beware! If we accept this definition we go against all the tradition of the Church and we pervert the meaning of marriage. We do not have the right to modify the Church’s traditional definitions.”

He quoted texts in support of his warning and there was great agitation in the nave of St. Peter’s. Cardinal Suenens was pressed by the Holy Father to moderate the terms he had used and even to change them. The Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, contains nevertheless an ambiguous passage, where emphasis is laid on procreation “without nevertheless minimizing the other aims of marriage.” The Latin verb, post habere, permits the translation “without putting in second place the other aims of marriage,” which would mean “to place them all on the same level.” This is what is wanted nowadays; all that is said about marriage comes back to the false idea expressed by Cardinal Suenens, that conjugal love–which was soon termed quite simply and much more crudely “sexuality”–comes at the head of the purposes of marriage. Consequently, under the heading of sexuality, everything is permitted–contraception, family planning and finally, abortion.

One bad definition, and we are plunged into total disorder.  The Church, in her traditional liturgy, has the priest say, “Lord, in Thy goodness, assist the institutions Thou hast established for the propagation of the human race…” She has chosen the passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which points out the duties of the married couple, making of their joint relationship an image of the   relationship uniting Christ and His Church.  Very often the couple to be married are nowadays invited to make up their own Mass without even having to choose the Epistle from Holy Scripture, replacing it by a profane text, and taking a reading from the Gospel that has no connection with the sacrament to be received. The priest in his exhortation takes good care not to mention the demands to which they will have to submit, for fear of giving a forbidding impression of the Church or even of offending any divorced people present among the congregation.

Just as for baptism, experiments have been made for marriages by stages, or non-sacramental marriage, which scandalize Catholics. These experiments, tolerated by the episcopate, take place following lines laid down by the official organizations and are encouraged by diocesan officials. A form put out by the Jean Bart Center shows some of the ways of going about it. Here is one:

A reading from the text: “The essential is invisible to the eyes” (Epistle of St. Peter). There is no exchange of vows but a liturgy of the hands,  symbol of labor and workers’ solidarity.  Exchange of rings (without the blessing), in silence. Reference to Robert’s work:  welding,  soldering (he is a plumber).  The kiss.  The Our Father by all the believers in the congregation. Hail Mary. The newlyweds lay a bouquet of flowers at the statue of Mary.

Why would Our Lord have instituted the sacraments if they were to be replaced by this kind of ceremony devoid of everything supernatural, excepting the two prayers at the end? A few years ago, we heard a lot about liturgy in the department of Saône-et-Loire.  To justify this “Liturgy of Welcome,” it was said that they wished to give young couples the desire to come back later and get married for good.  Out of something like two hundred pseudo-marriages, two years later not a single couple had returned to regularize their position. Even if they had, the fact would remain that the priest of this parish had actually recognized officially, if not actually blessed, over a period of two years, something none other than concubinage. An official Church survey has revealed that in Paris, 23% of the parishes had already held  non-sacramental weddings for couples, one of whom if not both were non-believers, for the purpose of gratifying the families, or the couples themselves, often out of concern for social conformity.

It goes without saying that a Catholic does not have the right to attend such goings-on.  As for the so-called married couple, they can always say they have been to church and doubtless they will end up by believing their situation to be  regular by dint of seeing their friends follow the same path. Misguided Catholics will wonder if it is not better than nothing. Indifference takes over; they become willing to accept any arrangement, from a simple registry-office wedding to juvenile cohabitation (in respect of which so many parents want to show themselves to be “understanding”), and finally through to free unions. Total de-christianization lies ahead; the couples each lack the graces which come from the sacrament of marriage in order to bring up their children, if at least they agree to have any. The breakdowns in these unsanctified households have increased to such an extent as to worry the Council of Economic and Social Affairs, of which a recent report shows that even a secular society is aware that it is heading for ruin as a result of the instability of these families or pseudo-families.

Then there is the sacrament of Extreme Unction. This is no longer the sacrament of the sick or the feeble. It has become the sacrament of the old: some priests administer it to persons of pensionable age who show no particular sign of approaching death. It is no longer the sacrament that prepares one for the last moment, which wipes out the sins before death and disposes the soul to final union with God. I have in front of me a notice distributed to all the faithful in a Paris church to warn them of the date of the next Extreme Unction:  “For those who are still active, the sacrament of the sick is celebrated in the presence of the whole Christian community during the Eucharistic celebration. Date: Sunday, at the 11 o’clock Mass.” These anointings are invalid.

The same collectivist mentality has provoked the vogue of penitential celebrations. The sacrament of penance can only be of an individual nature.
By definition and in conformity with its essence, it is, as I have previously pointed out, a judicial act, a judgment.  A judgment cannot be made without having examined a cause; each one’s case has to be heard in order to judge it and then to remit or to retain the sins. His Holiness John Paul II has insisted several times on this point, notably to the French bishops on April 1, 1982 telling them that personal confession followed by  individual absolution is “a requirement of the dogmatic order.” It is consequently impossible to justify these ceremonies of reconciliation by explaining that ecclesiastical discipline has become more relaxed, that it has adapted itself to the needs of the modern world. It is not a question of discipline. There was formerly one exception: general absolution given in a case of shipwreck, war, etc.; an absolution whose value is debated by learned writers. It is not permissible to make a rule out of the exception. If we consult the Acts of the Apostolic See we find the following expressions uttered both by Paul VI and John Paul II on various occasions: “the exceptional character of collective absolution,” “in case of grave necessity,” “in extraordinary situations of grave necessity,” “quite exceptional character,” “exceptional circumstances.”

Celebrations of this type have, however,  become habitual though without becoming frequent in any one parish, due to the scarcity of faithful who are disposed to put themselves right with God more than two or three times a year.  They no longer feel the need, as was quite foreseeable since the idea of sin has been wiped out of their minds.  How many priests still remind people of the need for the sacrament of penance? One member of the faithful has told me that in going to confession in one or another of several Paris churches where he knows he will be able to find a “priest on duty” he often receives the congratulations or thanks of the priest, surprised to have a penitent.

These celebrations subjected to the creativity of the “animators” include singing, or else a record is played.  Then comes the turn of the Liturgy of the Word, followed by a litany type of prayer to which the assembly responds, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” or else by a sort of general examination of conscience. The “I confess to Almighty God” precedes the absolution given once and for all to the whole congregation, which only leaves one problem: would a person present who did not want absolution receive it just the same? I see on a duplicated sheet distributed to those taking part in these ceremonies at Lourdes that the organizer has asked himself this question: “If we wish to receive absolution, let us dip our hands in the water and make the sign of the cross upon ourselves,” and at the end, “Upon those who are marked by the sign of the cross with the water of the spring the priest lays his hands. Let us unite ourselves to his prayer and accept pardon from God.”

The British Catholic paper, The Universe, a few years ago lent its support to a movement launched by two bishops which consisted of bringing back to the Church those of the faithful who had long since given up the practice of religion.  The appeal made by the bishops resembled the public notices put out by families of runaway adolescents: “Little X, please come home. No one will grumble at you.” It was then said to the future prodigal sons, “Your bishops invite you during this Lent to rejoice and celebrate. The Church offers to all her children, in the imitation of Christ, pardon for their sins, freely and without restriction, without their meriting it, and without their requesting it. She urges them to accept and begs them to return home. There are many who wish to return to the Church after years of separation but are unable to make up their minds to go to confession.  At any rate, not straightaway…”

They could then accept the following offer: “At the Mission Mass which will be attended by the bishop in your deanery (here is given the time and the date) all those who are present are invited to accept the pardon of all their past sins. It is not necessary for them to go to confession at that moment. It will be sufficient for them to repent their sins and desire to return to God, and to confess their sins later, after having been again welcomed into the fold. Meanwhile they have only to let Our Father in heaven take them into His arms and embrace them tenderly. Subject to a generous act of repentance the bishop will grant to all those present and desiring it pardon for their sins. They may then immediately receive holy communion…”

The Journal  of the Grotto,  the bi-monthly magazine from Lourdes, reproducing this curious pastoral letter under the heading “General Absolution: Communion now, confession later,” made the following comment: “Our readers will be fully aware of the deeply evangelical spirit which has inspired it, likewise the pastoral understanding of people’s actual situation.”

I do not know what results were obtained, but that is not the issue. Can pastoral needs take precedence over doctrine to the point of undertaking to give Communion in the Body of Christ indiscriminately to people who are probably in many cases in a state of mortal sin, after so many years without the practice of religion? Certainly not. How can we so lightly consider paying for the conversion with a sacrilege, and how much chance has this conversion of being followed by perseverance? We can observe, in any case, that before the council and before this “welcoming” pastoral method there were between fourteen and fifteen thousand conversions annually in England.  They have dropped off to about five thousand. We recognize the tree by its fruit.

Catholics are just as confused in Great Britain as in France. If a sinner or an apostate, following his bishop’s advice, presents himself for collective absolution and at the holy table in these conditions, does he not risk losing his confidence in the validity of sacraments so lightly accorded, when he has every reason to consider himself unworthy of them?  What is going to happen if later on he neglects to “regularize” himself by going to confession? An unsuccessful return to the house of the Father will only make more difficult a final conversion.

That is what dogmatic laxity leads to. In the penitential ceremonies which take place, in a less extravagant manner, in our parishes, what certainty has the Catholic of being truly pardoned? He is given over to the same anxieties as Protestants, to interior torments provoked by doubt.  He has certainly gained nothing by the change.

If it is a bad thing from the point of view of validity, it is also bad psychologically.

For instance, how absurd to give collective absolution with the reservation that people with grave sins have to confess them personally immediately afterwards! People are not going to draw attention to themselves by showing that they have grave sins on their consciences, that is obvious!  It is as though the secret of the confessional were violated.

We should add that the faithful who communicate after collective absolution will no longer see the need to present themselves before the judgment of penance, and that one can understand. The ceremonies of reconciliation are not complementary to auricular confession, they eliminate and supplant it. We are proceeding towards the disappearance of the Sacrament of Penance, established like the six others by Our Lord Himself. No pastoral concern can justify this.

For a sacrament to be valid, the matter, the form and the intention are all needed.  The Pope himself cannot change that.  The matter is of divine institution; the Pope cannot say “tomorrow we will use alcohol for the baptism of infants, or milk.” Neither can he change the essential of the form. There are essential words. For example, one cannot say, “I baptize thee in the name of God,” because God Himself has settled this form:  “Thou shalt baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation has been equally maltreated. One formula current today is, “I sign thee with the Cross, and receive the Holy Spirit.” But the minister does not then specify what is the special grace of the sacrament by which the Holy Ghost gives Himself, and the sacrament is invalid.

That is why I always respond to the requests of parents who have doubts regarding the validity of the confirmation received by their children or who fear it will be administered invalidly, seeing what goes on around them.  The cardinals to whom I had to explain myself in 1975 reproached me on this and since then similar reproaches are repeated through the press on all my journeys. I explained why I carried on in this way.  I meet the wishes of the faithful who ask me for valid confirmation, even if it is not licit, because we are in a period when divine law, natural and supernatural, has precedence over positive ecclesiastical law when the latter opposes the former instead of being a channel to transmit it. We are passing through an extraordinary crisis and there need be no surprise if I sometimes adopt an attitude that is out of the ordinary.

The third condition of a valid sacrament is a right intention.  The bishop or priest must have the intention of doing what the Church wills to be done. Not even the Pope can change that.

The priest’s faith is not among the necessary elements.  A priest or bishop may no longer have the faith;  another may have it less; and another a faith that is not quite complete.  That has no direct effect on the validity of the sacraments they administer, but may have an indirect one. One remembers Pope Leo XIII’s decision that Anglican ordinations are invalid through a defect in the intention. Now it was because they had lost the faith, which is not only faith in God, but in all the truths contained in the Creed, including, “I believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church,” that the Anglicans have not been able to do what the Church wills.

Are not priests who lose the faith in the same case? There are already priests who no longer wish to confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist according to the Council of Trent’s definition. “No,” they say, “the Council of Trent was a long time ago.  Since then we have had Vatican II.  Now it’s trans-signification, or trans-finalization.  Transubstantiation? The Real Presence of the Son of God under the appearances of bread and wine? Not in these days!”

When a priest talks like this, he makes no valid consecration. There is no Mass or Communion. For Christians are obliged to believe what the Council of Trent has defined about the Eucharist until the end of time.  One can make the terms of a dogma clearer, but not change them; that is impossible. Vatican II did not add anything or retract anything; and it could not have done so. Anyone who declares that he does not accept transubstantiation is, in the terms of the Council of Trent, anathema, that is, cut off from the Church.

This is why Catholics in this latter part of the twentieth century have a duty to be more vigilant than their fathers were. They must not let just any idea be imposed upon them, in the name of the new theology or the new religion: for what this new religion wants is not what the Church wills. [Emphases added]
Source – The New Forms of Sacraments Baptism, Marriage, Penance & Extreme Unction

Comment:

Should Catholics be concerned about the new forms of the Sacraments? 

Pope To Abolish Summorum Pontificum?

ROME, July 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Sources inside the Vatican suggest that Pope Francis aims to end Pope Benedict XVI’s universal permission for priests to say the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. While the course of action would be in tune with Pope Francis’ repeatedly expressed disdain for the TLM especially among young people, there has been no open discussion of it to date.

Sources in Rome told LifeSite last week that liberal prelates inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith were overheard discussing a plan ascribed to the Pope to do away with Pope Benedict’s famous document that gave priests freedom to offer the ancient rite of the Mass.

Catholic traditionalists have just celebrated the tenth anniversary of the document, Summorum Pontificum. Pope Benedict XVI issued it in 2007, giving all Latin Rite priests permission to offer the TLM without seeking permission of their bishops, undoing a restriction placed on priests after the Second Vatican Council.

The motu proprio outraged liberal bishops as it stripped them of the power to forbid the TLM, as many did. Previously priests needed their bishop’s permission to offer the TLM.
Additionally, Summorum Pontificum stated that wherever a group of the faithful request the TLM, the parish priests should willingly agree to their request.

The overheard plans are nearly identical to comments from an important Italian liturgist in an interview published by France’s La Croix earlier this month. Andrea Grillo a lay professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St Anselmo in Rome, billed by La Croix as “close to the Pope,” is intimately familiar Summorum Pontificum. Grillo in fact published a book against Summorum Pontificum before the papal document was even released.
Grillo told La Croix that Francis is considering abolishing Summorum Pontificum. According to Grillo, once the Vatican erects the Society of Saint Pius X as a Personal Prelature, the Roman Rite will be preserved only within this structure. “But [Francis] will not do this as long as Benedict XVI is alive.”

The plan, as related to LifeSite, involved making an agreement with the Society of St. Pius X and, with that agreement in place, sequestering those Catholics wanting the TLM to the SSPX. For most, that would strip them of access to the TLM since there would not be nearly enough SSPX priests to service Catholics wanting the TLM worldwide.

Moreover, LifeSite’s source suggested that the plan may explain a May 20, 2017 letter by the recently ousted Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Even though Cardinal Müller wanted the SSPX fully reconciled to help fight modernists in the Church, the May 20 letter seemed to scuttle an agreement between Pope Francis and the SSPX which would see them get a personal prelature. The letter includes provisions long known to be completely unacceptable to the SSPX, thus nullifying an understanding SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay believed was imminent.

The LifeSite source suggested that the May 20 letter by Muller perhaps was written because he knows what Francis was up to and wanted to avoid the plan to bury Summorum Pontificum with Pope Benedict. “It’s directed not so much against Fellay but against the agreement,” said the source. “Pope Francis was very angry that document came out from Cardinal Muller and some say that’s why he made the decision to dismiss him.”  Source

Comment:

One glimmer of hope in this pontificate is the rising opposition of some clergy – click here to read more

Of course, the Scots clergy are a meek lot, and unlikely to rebel unless their bishop, too, rebels – and then, voila!  Good career move.  I’d better watch – I’m in danger of becoming cynical…

Share your thoughts – especially on the possible link between the Pope’s apparent enthusiasm for a Personal Prelature for the SSPX and his suspected intention to abolish the provisions of Summorum Pontificum so that ONLY SSPX priests will be able to offer the TLM. Surely that can’t be… what about the other traditional Mass groups – FSSP, Institute of Christ the King?  What would those priests do – join the SSPX? What!  But they set up shop to distance themselves from that “schismatic” bunch…  Irony of ironies! 

SSPX: Pope Sets Impossible Conditions

For the record: Cardinal Müller’s letter to Bishop Fellay on the necessary conditions for “full re-establishment of communion” with the SSPX

Last weekend, as rumors swirled of Cardinal Müller’s imminent dismissal from his post as Prefect of the CDF, the French website Medias-Presse.Info published what it claimed to be an excerpt from an important letter sent by the Cardinal to Bishop Bernard Fellay regarding the conditions for an accord between the Vatican and the SSPX. Today the Remnant published an English translation of this excerpt; we reproduce the entire Remnant article below, followed by a note on the 1988 Professio Fidei mentioned in it.  

Rorate’s own sources have confirmed the authenticity of this text. 

Cardinal Müller’s Letter to Bishop Fellay 

From http://www.medias-presse.info comes the following excerpt of a letter from Cardinal Müller to Bishop Bernard Fellay. According to http://www.medias-presse.info, Cardinal Müller’s letter was communicated to all SSPX members by the SSPX General House. 

Excerpt from Cardinal Müller’s letter: 

“As you know, Pope Francis has many a time manifested his benevolence towards your Priestly Society, granting, in particular, to all priest members the faculty of confessing the faithful validly and by authorizing local Ordinaries to grant licences for the celebration of the marriages of the faithful who follow the pastoral activity in your Society. Furthermore, discussions are continuing concerning questions relative to the full re-establishment of the communion of your Society with the Catholic Church. 

In relation to this, with the approbation of the Sovereign Pontiff, I judged it necessary to submit to the Ordinary Session of our Congregation (which met on May 10 last) the text of the doctrinal Declaration which was transmitted to you during the meeting of June 13, 2016, as the necessary condition in view of the full re-establishment of communion. Here are the unanimous decisions of all the members of our Dicastery in this regard: 

1) It is necessary to require the adhesion of the members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to the new formula of the Professio Fidei dating from 1988 (c.f. annexe). Consequently, it is not sufficient to ask them to express the Professio Fidei of 1962. 

2) The new text of the doctrinal Declaration must contain a paragraph in which the signatories declare in an explicit manner their acceptance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and those of the post-conciliar period, by granting to said doctrinal affirmations the degree of adhesion which is due to them. 

3) The members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X must recognize not only the validity, but also the legitimacy of the Rite of the Holy Mass and of the Sacraments, according to the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council.” 

www.medias-presse.info adds that Cardinal Müller concluded the letter saying that “during the Audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect on May 20 2017, the Sovereign Pontiff approved these decisions”. The French website also adds that in his accompanying letter to SSPX priests, Father Christian Thouvenot, Secretary General of the SSPX, recalled the words of Bishop Fellay after the meeting of the major superiors in Anzère, Switzerland, on June 28 2016: 

“The Society of Saint Pius X does not seek primarily a canonical recognition, to which it has a right because it is Catholic. The solution is not simply juridical. It pertains to a doctrinal position which it is imperative to manifest […] Divine Providence will not abandon Its Church whose head is the Pope, Vicar of Jesus Christ. That is why an incontestable sign of this restoration will reside in the signified will of the Sovereign Pontiff to grant the means for re-establishing the order of the Priesthood, the Faith and Tradition – a sign which will be, furthermore, the guarantor of the necessary unity of the family of Tradition”.  Source – Rorate Caeli

Comment:

This news is as disappointing as it is worrying.  A one-liner comment on an American blog sums up the problem of the schismatic mentality which has become rooted in the souls of some SSPX affiliates who rejoice each time a “deal” falls through:  A deal breaker.  Thank God!  wrote one USA blogger. 

Clearly, Bishop Fellay cannot compromise – that’s a given.  But that there seems no end in sight (humanly speaking) to the irregular situation in which the crisis in the Church has placed the SSPX, is surely no cause for rejoicing – is it?

FSSP: Two Masses Enrich Each Other

The usually cautious and reserved Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) has now given its current opinion concerning the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and on its possible formal re-integration into the structures of the Catholic Church. Father Bernhard Gerstle – the head of the German district of the FSSP – just gave a 24 April interview to the German Bishops’ official website Katholisch.de in which he explains many of the positions and opinions of his priestly fraternity. (Father Gerstle is the same priest who, in 2016, made a politely critical statement about the papal document Amoris Laetitia.)

Father Gerstle explains, first of all, that he himself split off from the SSPX because of the “illicit episcopal consecrations” in 1988 which, in his eyes, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried to forestall. (Interestingly, and just in the recent past, there have been voices saying that Cardinal Ratzinger, as pope, later removed the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops because he realized that he had contributed to the intensification of that earlier conflict. Worth noting is that, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who has served as an official Vatican liaison to the SSPX, recently called this act of excommunication an “injustice.”) In Gerstle’s eyes, the 1988 breach happened due to a “lack of trust toward Rome.” He also claims that many more priests within the SSPX had disapproved of the episcopal consecrations, “but did not make the final step.” Thus, there were “only a few priests and seminarians who left the Society of St. Pius X at the time [in 1988].” Gerstle explicitly says that the foundation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter happened “essentially due to Cardinal Ratzinger, [who was] then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Father Gerstle further distances himself from those smaller groups within the SSPX – whom he calls “hardliners” – who “reject the Second Vatican Council to a large extent, for example with regard to religious freedom or as to the decree on ecumenism.” Some of them, he says, also doubt the validity of the new liturgy. Gerstle makes it clear, moreover, where the Fraternity of St. Peter stands with regard to the Second Vatican Council:

The Fraternity of St. Peter, however, has accepted to study without prejudice the conciliar texts and has come to the conclusion that there is no breach with any previous magisterial statements. However, some texts are formulated in such a way that they can give way to misinterpretations. But, in the meantime, Rome has already made here concordant clarifications which the Society of St. Pius X should now also recognize. [Emphasis added]

Additionally, Father Gerstle insists that for the FSSP, the new 1983 Code of Canon Law is the standard. In his eyes, the SSPX has here some more reservations. For the FSSP, explains Gerstle “there is not a pre- and a post-conciliar Church.” “There is only the one Church which goes back to Christ,” he adds. Gerstle also insists that the FSSP does not “wish to polarize or even to promote splits,” but that they wish to instill in their own parishes “an ecclesial attitude.” Certain (unnamed, unspecified) abuses in the Church should only be criticized in a “differentiated and moderate way.”

Father Gerstle also distances himself from the concept “traditionalist” when he says: “This notion I do not like at all to hear. We are not traditionalists, but simply Catholic.” As Catholics, he says, “we appreciate tradition,” but without “completely blocking organic adaptations and changes.”

The worthy celebration of the traditional liturgy, together with a loyal teaching of the Catholic Faith, is at the center of the work of the FSSP, according to Gerstle. “Salvation of souls” and “eternal life” are their Fraternity’s own concern. Unfortunately, adds the German priest, “the Four Last Things have been widely neglected in the Church, with the effect of a belittling and attenuation of sin and of a loss of the practice of sacramental confession.”

Father Gerstle sees that “one cannot simply introduce everywhere again the old liturgy and, so to speak, impose it upon people.” “Both rites thus [with the help of the “reform of the reform”] should enrich each other,” explains the priest. Certain elements of the new liturgy could be “enriching for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.”  To read IP5 extracts click here To read entire interview with Fr Gerstle, click here

Comment:

I’ve only ever conversed with one FSSP priest and it was not pleasant.  He insisted on describing the Society of St Pius X priests as “wolves”.  I insisted that, while they are certainly far from perfect, they are not “wolves”.  The chat went downhill from there. So, I read the above interview with much interest, and have concluded that while they may not be “wolves” the FSSP priests are certainly not going to get back on the fence any time soon – while they talk of the SSPX reconciling with Rome, they, the FSSP have manifestly reconciled themselves to the new Catholicism born at Vatican II.

I do agree with Fr Gerstle – and have said it often on this blog – that we should not need labels such as “traditionalist” because ALL Catholics should be adhering to both Tradition and Scripture. In the current crisis, these labels have sprung up to distinguish those who go along with the revolutionary changes in the Church post-Vatican II, and those who do not. 

The FSSP – according to Fr Gerstle –  appears to go along with the revolution to a large extent – even to describing the traditional Mass as the “extraordinary form” (a dead giveaway, as far as I am concerned), so I suppose that accounts for his dislike of the term “traditionalist” and his attitude towards the SSPX.  Allow me to hastily add, however, that I know that not all FSSP clergy are hostile to the Society of the Saint Pius X; however, Fr Gerstle is the Superior of a district of the Fraternity of St Peter and so, we may assume, may we not, that what he says, reflects the policy or position of the FSSP on the Mass and the SSPX, and indeed, everything else covered in the interview. 

Reading both the IP5 shortened version and the entire interview, is recommended before commenting. Then, loud and clear, let’s hear what YOU think…