Q: What do you think about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger being elected to the papacy?
A: I was a little surprised, at first, because some people had said he wasn't really in the running. After that, to tell you the honest truth, I don't expect a great deal from Rome as it stands. They are too far gone in the “New Religion,” and the “New Religion” is too radically different and distant from the True Religion. Rome is Rome, though, and I do believe there the popes are, and there are the cardinals, and that is where the official structure of the Church is to be found. But, I'm afraid, for the defence of the Faith, you've got to wait for some grave event to shake Rome and/or to drive the true cardinals out of Rome to start again somewhere else. I'm afraid that Rome is too deeply in the grips of the enemies of God.
Sadly, I largely agree. I am less "Rome-centered" in my ecclesiology than Bishop Williamson.Q: One, would you explain what you mean by the “New Religion” and, two, do you think Pope Benedict is consciously or willingly promoting the “New Religion”?
A: The “New Religion” starts from man and is centred on man. The “New
Religion” starts from the proposition that God, and the idea of God, is
too strange for modern man, and so, to get through to modern man, we must
start from man. That's what's called from Karl Rahner the anthropological
term, the “turn towards man.” And Fr. Ratzinger, at the time of the Second
Vatican Council, was closely tied to Karl Rahner, a close disciple. So, the young Joseph Ratzinger was soaked in this brand new theology. For instance, instead of saying that Jesus Christ is the Son of God from eternity who took a human nature, it [the New Religion] says that Jesus Christ is the man who was such a perfect man that he could be called the Son of God.
I agree with Bishop Williamson that the "New Religion" is anthropocentric: and go further by asserting that this is so because it has adopted the modernist philosophical error of relativism. I disagree with him only in that he seems to deny the utility of "starting from where people are" when presenting the faith to them. Jesus was "perfect man" and so could be called a "Son of God", as others have been called. There is no harm in starting from this point when disclosing the Gospel to an unbeliever, as long as the final objective is to lead him or her to faith in the Incarnation of the Second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity.Q: Is that what Karl Rahner said?
A: Yes, that's Rahner and Fr. Ratzinger. It's an absolute revolution. And it has, deep down, nothing to do with the Catholic Faith. It's an attempt by Catholic priests who want to say something that will be acceptable and understandable by modern man: an attempt by these priests to re-write, to empty out all the bottles, all the dogmas, of their old content and re-fill the dogmas with brand new content that will be acceptable to modern man. And that new content is coherently a system that starts with man, centres on man, and finishes with man. Hence, the New Mass is said in the language of man and no longer in Latin. And its said with the priest turned towards man and no longer towards God. Those are two concrete examples of the “turn towards man.” That is, briefly, the “New Religion.”
Is Cardinal Ratzinger conscious of all this? I believe he's in good faith. I can easily be wrong. I believe that he and his like, sincerely believe that the “Old Religion,” the old Catholic religion, was out of touch with modern man, and they sincerely believe that, whatever the Catholic religion is, it's got to be in touch with the men of its time or get in touch with the men of its time.
Therefore, the true Catholic religion is not [sic, I think the "not" is a mistake] that religion that gets through to modern man; it is that [sic, I think "that" should read "the Old"] religion re-stated, or with the dogmas emptied out and refilled with contents that can get through to modern man. Therefore, I do believe Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI sincerely believe that this is the Catholic religion. I think they're sincere. God knows. My opinion does not matter. What matters is that objectively they have completely turned the Catholic world upside down. And this continues to cause this unbelievable crisis in the Catholic Church because, and as Archbishop Lefebvre deep down grasped, this crisis is primarily a doctrinal crisis. It's not primarily a crisis of the Mass. It's primarily a crisis of the very Faith.
Sadly, I largely agree regarding what "the New Religion" is. I cannot be so sure, as yet, that Pope Benedict supports this vision.Q: If you were talking to a run-of-the-mill Novus Ordo Catholic about the dogmas being spilled and refilled, how would you explain that to him? And explain the point about the Church being inverted?
A: I would quote some of the statements from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: I think he's a decent representative of a crazy mistake. I do believe he's a decent man. But the question is not whether he's decent or sincere. The question is, what is he actually saying? And is he actually defending the Faith?
How would I explain this to an average conservative Catholic? I would
say: Imagine a pharmacy, and during the night thieves break in and they
empty out every bottle in the pharmacy, and then they mix the powder in
great heaps all over. And then they fill all the bottles with a different
powder. Then I enter the shop in the morning and see all the bottles exactly
where they were with their labels. But if I open up the bottles, I will
find a different content. That's how the Modernists keep the appearances
but change the contents. And it means that the Catholic religion, in our time and by the Second Vatican Council and by the promoters of the Council: like, up to now, Pope Benedict XVI; the Catholic religion has been completely gutted. It has been emptied of its substance. It's man centred.
Sadly, I agree.Q: Yes. But what about the good conservative Catholic who says to you, that may or may not be true, but at least Rome has stood firm on some serious doctrinal or moral issues, such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, the male priesthood, and things like that?
Sadly, none of these are "serious doctrinal issues". On the other hand, the question of "Justification" is fairly described by this phrase, and Rome has not "stood firm" on this at all. The other issues, where a stand has been taken are all "gender/sex" issues, and in each case (except, mostly, abortion) I believe, the Magisterium has made a serious mistake.A: Right, that's the case with John Paul II, and its likely to be even more true with Pope Benedict XVI. But, let me give you another image: I have a skyscraper resting on rocks and suppose I empty out the rocks and put plastic in its place? The skyscraper is still standing but its on a very un-rocky, uncertain foundation. It's man-made plastic instead of nature's rock. So, for instance, John Paul II would oppose abortion in the name of human dignity, the dignity of the human person. He would not oppose it on the law of God. (God said, “Thou shalt not kill.”) Pope John Paul would base it on the dignity of the human person, and that's a very dangerous foundation because the mother then turns around and says, “my human dignity requires that I get rid of this little extra piece of my own body.” So, the basis of human dignity is an ambiguous foundation. It can be turned for and against a number of those decent causes for which John Paul II is respected.
I disagree with Bishop Williamson here in theory, though in practice I believe his conclusions to be trustworthy. What is good and evil is not based on the "law of God". Murder is not wicked because God tells us not to do it. God tells us not to murder because it is contrary to the good of both the individual and of society that murder take place. If you like, murder is contrary to human dignity: certainly it is contrary to human prosperity. So long as an objectivist view of what is good for (wo)men and (wo)mankind is maintained, this doctrine is wholesome; but as soon as the objective view is replaced by a subjectivist view, then there is no stable basis for constructing any ethical system whatsoever. Hence, I agree with Bishop Williamson’s conclusion, but say that the dangerous foundation is not an anthropocentric teleology, but subjectivism.Q: Is the use of the “human dignity” argument drawn from Karl Rahner’s teaching?
A: Definitely. They're centring everything on man. Pope John Paul II
centred so much on the human person. He believed in the human person, he
believed in man. And remember what Jeremiah said: Woe to any person who
puts his trust in man. It's the same, very much alive with John Paul II.
I think John Paul II was sincere. I think he was a good man, but he was
mistaken. And I think Pope Benedict XVI is the same kind of man. I believe he's decent and sincere, but deeply mistaken.
I recall, during a trip to Rome organized by Opus Dei, being asked to help to translate an address given by pope John Paul II into english. I found this quite distasteful as the pope used the word "humanism" in a very positive; and, it struck me, misguided and unwise manner.Q: So, things are too far gone in the “New Religion”? What can Catholics do?
A: Well, what is needed? When John Paul I became Pope, there were various
indications he was beginning to understand, although he had followed the
Council, and even changed his mind about religious liberty because of the
Council. He accepted the Council on religious liberty. He followed the
movement, which is what many bishops did. He was a normal, decent
cardinal who followed the movement. Then, when he became Pope, when he was in the hot seat, it looks as though the pressures came to bear upon him, as they must now be bearing upon Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger must now be going through a firestorm.
The indications are that Pope John Paul I was beginning to understand
what the score was. He wanted to get rid of some high-ranking Freemasons
in the Vatican. And they got to him before he could get to them. It is
very likely he was assassinated: again, there are plenty of indications
of this. Of course, the Vatican hushed it all up, but enough truth got
out to indicate
that John Paul I was likely assassinated. So, there's an example of a man from whom we might not have expected very much. But when he became Pope, when he got in the hot seat, he began to get the picture and he had the courage to start to act. And that was enough for him to be martyred.
I hope that this isn't true, but it does have "the ring of truth" about it.It's now very possible that Cardinal Ratzinger, under the same pressure: the stakes are much higher than when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; is taking the hits like John Paul II took the hits. These first few weeks are crucial. The little indications we have so far suggest that he is not going to jump out of his skin and change all his ideas. After all, it's very hard for a man of seventy-eight to change his system of ideas rapidly. He spent his entire life acquiring those ideas. Most men
If Pope Benedict XVI stays with the ideas he acquired under Karl Rahner
and Vatican II, he's going to run the Church pretty much as it was run
by Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI. That's why I don't expect a great
deal, although I hope and pray for Pope Benedict XVI, pray that he may
have the courage of a Pope John Paul I and, if necessary, that he die a
would be a great victory for himself and for the Church.
Sadly, I largely agree.Q: What do you think of the fact that the Pope has kept Cardinal Sodano as Vatican secretary of state and that there have been no major shake-ups in the hierarchy? Is the Pope just taking his time?
A: I remember Archbishop Lefebvre when Karol Wojtyla became Pope John
Paul II. Archbishop Lefebvre said that the new Pope has got a few months
to clear the decks and set a new course if he wants to. After those few
months, it's going to be business as usual. His hands will be tied and
he won't be able to change much. But the Archbishop, at the time, did say
months.” So, Pope Benedict XVI, he's not likely to change high officials within days or weeks of becoming Pope. The question is what he will do in a few months time If there's still no change then, you'll know its business as usual. But if he puts in a few new men, it will be very interesting to see who he puts in. And that will tell us more than any sermons or speeches. Actions
speak louder than words. The men he chooses will show which way his mind is going, as he feels the pressures from the Lord God and from Satan.
I agree.Q: So is too soon to say that this election is good or bad for traditionalist Catholics? We just need to watch and pray?
A: I think that's the best answer now, to watch and pray. We hope: charity hopes all things; we hope, because he must be receiving much more grace as Pope. It is God's Church. We do believe Benedict is Pope. Therefore, logically, either God has abandoned His Church, which is impossible, or God must be giving Pope Benedict XVI all the graces he needs to direct the Church for the good of souls. So, we hope that with this extra grace he receives from God he will see things he has not seen so far as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or as a disciple of Karl Rahner. We hope: it is not impossible. But, to be wise, I think we have to understand that the Lord God does not normally [sic !] violate a person's free will. or does not normally bend people's free will. So, if He doesn't bend Pope Benedict’s free will, its likely that, given the man at seventy-eight years old, Cardinal Ratzinger will stay with his ideas and there won't be a change. For instance, already on his papal blazon, his shield of arms, he's not put the tiara. He's put a mitre, a simple mitre, which suggests that he accepts the idea that he is just one bishop among many and no longer of a papal stature among the bishops.
Humanly speaking, he's a good man. But if I've got a first-class motor car, with excellent tires, chassis, and bodywork, and the steering wheel doesn't work, what use is the rest? The steering wheel is the ideas. And if the ideas are wrong, it doesn't matter how decent and of good will you are. It's simply going to make you crash harder and faster. He may be of very good will, but if his ideas are completely wrong, what's going to happen?
Sadly, I agree.Q: What do you think of the highly negative media reaction in the United States to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope? The media described him as arch-conservative, hard-liner, former member of the Hitler Youth, and so on.
A: The vile media do not like him because he's a “conservative liberal,”
not a “liberal liberal.” And that's to his credit. He's a decent man. The
media have no idea what a real Catholic is. If they did, they would scream
for his martyrdom, they would scream for his skin. They're yelling at Ratzinger
because he's a “conservative liberal.” If he were a real conservative,
media would be screaming even more.
By "real conservative", I suppose that Bishop Williamson means reactionary and authoritarian traditionalist.Q: In your 1999 letter on Cardinal Ratzinger, you talked about his book Milestones, and his philosophy of focusing on the search for something and not the end result: the meaning is in the searching and not in the answer when it comes to theological questions. Would you explain, in layman's terms what you were describing about Cardinal Ratzinger's theology?
A: The modern mind does not believe in a fixed, unchanging truth, basically because the modern mind does not believe in God.
I disagree with Bishop Williamson’s analysis. He has the cause and the effect the wrong way round.And when one comes to believe in an unchanging God: that the whole universe is framed, upheld, and maintained by a completely unchanging absolute and total Truth; then all changes become very small beer, so to speak.
Of course, all of the Created Order is characterized by change and motion!But when you think that there is no truth, that nothing is fixed, then you can have no idea or understanding of the true religion, the Catholic religion.
Here the Bishop restores the correct direction of causation.As I noted in my letter, in his book, Milestones, Fr. Ratzinger says he “wanted not only to do theology in the narrower
No! However, the appropriate means of expressing and mediating the unchanging content of the Gospel to (wo)mankind changes as culture changes.Fr. Ratzinger later says that he chose to study at Munich University Theological Faculty “to become more fully familiar with the intellectual debates of our time.” There, he also chose to study under a Professor Maier, whose “liberal historical method” in approaching Scripture “opened up dimensions of the text that were no longer perceived by the "too predetermined dogmatic reading.”
Indeed, and this is excellent!In other words, history's relativizing had more to give to our young theologian than dogma's absolutes? His mind is at sea.
The Bishop here mis-represents Ratzinger's meaning. I suspect because he does not perceive that what Ratzinger is talking about means anything.He was thinking not with the mind of the Catholic Church but of those humanly brilliant German thinkers, about whom he says, “German arrogance perhaps also contributed a little to our belief that we knew what was better than ‘those down there (i.e., in Rome).”
And perhaps, sometimes, they did!Q: In your 1999 letter, you have a section in there about Cardinal Ratzinger's views on revelation. Would you explain this?
A: The truth is unchanging. And the complete and total truth is “findable.” Hence, its absurd to think that God would reveal Himself to us if he did not make it possible for us to find Him. But without the idea that one can find God, then the alternative is to say that, well, we can talk about it, we can dialogue, we can keep an open mind, and take no decision as absolutely true or not. Yet there are certain absolute truths and they have been found, and that is where our mind closes, on those truths.
This is well intentioned, but mistaken. Reality is objective. Moreover, it may be true that the basic laws that govern reality are unchanging in form. However, our understanding of reality is subjective and always provisional. Moreover, even if one had possession of an absolute truth: no statement in any language could - in principle - properly and fully represent it.With the open mind as your guide, however, all ideas, true and false, drift in and out of the mind, and nothing is ever closed. Nothing is ever absolute, total Truth is forever in the discovery, but it is never found.
Is searching better than finding?
Yes. It has a virtue all of its own in developing and sanctifying the individual. However, there is no point in searching if there is no prospect of finding! I believe that the whole process of intellectual and spiritual life is of a never-ending search for truth and beauty and justice. Even when a soul achieves the Beatific Vision, (s)he has the prospect of an unending journey of discovery: of familiarization with the infinite nature of God.That is the modern mentality. The modern theologians have no grasp of an unchanging God. The Modernists believe in an open mind because they don't believe in a closed truth. They believe that whatever of religion comes to us from God must be not ready-made and finalized product or content such as Catholicism was always supposed to be, but it must incorporate the input of us modern men. In brief, in the old days, God told men what was in the Catholic religion, but that religion fell dead. Now man tells God what is in the Catholic religion, and religion is again living.
This is an invalid dichotomy. Religion is an encounter between God and (wo)men. It is an encounter of Love, not a dry lecture or sales presentation. God listens to (wo)men as well as speaking to us. Obviously, He has nothing to gain in the way of objective knowledge; but He still wishes us to express ourselves to Him so that He can respond appropriately to our context. Nevertheless, what I take to be the Bishop's point remains valid. Reality is reality and is not subject to the conceit of (wo)men. We can desire that something be true as much as we like, but that does not make it so!Q: An article from the May 15, 1969 edition of Informations Catholiques Internationales says that thirty theologians had been chosen by Pope Paul VI to fill a new International Theological Commission, and that Joseph Ratzinger was “previously suspect by the Holy Office” and did “outstanding work in collaboration with Karl Rahner ....” Does “previously suspect” mean that Fr. Ratzinger was teaching something unorthodox?
A: It's very possible because Fr. Ratzinger's doctoral thesis was on St. Bonaventure. And his argument was false and deceptive. It led to undermining the belief in an absolute truth - sheer modernism.
Truth simply cannot be "absolute", because it is always a relationship between an individual believing subject and objective reality. However, I suspect that the Bishop means to say that "Reality is Objective" rather than "Truth is Absolute", and is just speaking loosely.You're back to the idea that religion must be adapted to modern man. And that is exactly what the Holy Office did not support. At that time, the early 1950s, it's no surprise that Fr. Ratzinger and a staggering number of other theologians were “suspect” by the Holy Office. When the Holy Office was still under Cardinal Ottaviani and Pope Pius XII, it did its job. The theologians knew the Faith and believed the Faith and they gave a hard time to any “theologian” who wanted to change the Faith. If you read Cardinal Ratzinger's statement on St Bonaventure, the end conclusion is that the content of revelation needs to be changed: We need to go into the pharmacy at night and switch the contents of all the bottles in order to satisfy the customers of tomorrow. It's crazy unless you've got crazy customers who will enjoy it. And the truth of the matter is that a lot of Catholics enjoy the “New Religion” because it is a lot easier than the tough “Old Religion.”
Sadly, I agree.Q: Yes, and the “Old Religion,” in many ways, is no longer taught, except maybe by parents or traditionalist priests. Also, do you think today that many of the clergy foster this ignorance about the Faith and foster a blind obedience regardless of the scandals that may come about in the Church or what abuses one might be aware of because, all in all, you must obey?
A: Yes. And that's wrong. That's not Catholic. That's exaggerated obedience.
The problem is who or what the man you're obeying represents. If he stands
for the conciliar religion, he's not standing for the Truth. If he's not
standing for the Truth, you can't obey him because he's no longer a minister
of Christ. You can obey him in those things for which he is a minister
Christ, such as not using contraception, no abortion: there you can obey him. But when he's for the new novelties of Vatican II, you can't obey him. You would be disobeying God.
Of course, this amounts to not obeying him per se, but rather of following the Apostolic Tradition.That idea of exaggerated obedience is way off the mark, but it is very common. You have to stick to your Faith and obey God. If you're obeying a leader who has abandoned Christ, consciously or unconsciously, you're going to be led away from God. Let's suppose that Pope John Paul II meant well, that he was sincere, but if he's mistaken, he's going to lead you away from God and not towards God. I can't obey someone who's going to lead me away from God. My reason for obeying him is that he's going to lead me to God. But as soon as he leads me away from God, I've got to obey God and not the man. It's common sense.
Indeed. This amounts to the absolute primacy of conscience.Q: And in Pope John Paul II’s case, it looks like it was a mix. On some things, he was leading people the right way, and on other things, he was not.
A: Yes, and in these modern times, the times of Vatican II, I've got to judge the Pope in some matters. I have to listen to what is said and compare it with what the Church has taught, and then I may not be able to obey.
Q: Getting back to Pope John Paul I, you said that he changed his mind on religious liberty. Would you explain?
A: Prior to Vatican II, he thought that religious liberty, in the modern sense, was wrong: the idea that you are free to choose whatever religion you like. That's the modern doctrine: Because we have the faculty of freedom, we have the right to choose whatever religion. But that's wrong. We have the ability to choose what is right or wrong, but we only have the moral right to choose what's right. We have no right to choose what's wrong. That's common sense.
And then religious liberty comes along and says we have a right to choose
what's wrong. At Vatican II, the future Pope John
Paul I changed his mind on religious liberty and he accepted Vatican II doctrine. Then he became Pope and he realized he was surrounded by villains, and he was going to get rid of them. And the indications are that he was assassinated because he was going to start moving things around in the right direction.
Q: On another subject, how are relations between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X?
A: Can I say its a Mexican stand-off? It's a friendly stand-off. The Vatican officials may not understand why the Society is taking the stand that it has but they do know that the Society is making it's stand. It's not budging. It's not moving. Vatican officials don't like that; they don't understand it. But they reckon that that's how it is and that's how it will stay. On the side of the Society, we do our best to maintain contact with the Vatican, to demonstrate that we wish to have contacts with Rome. And that we have something very serious we want them to understand. Contacts have not been broken off but they have not yet proven very fruitful.
Q: Is the sticking point that the Society wants all priests to be allowed to say the Tridentine Mass?
A: That is the immediate battleground. It is not the war. If it weren't
that battlefield, it would be another. But that is what, at present, the
Society is asking for and that is what Rome refuses to allow. It might
be that Rome would like to grant it but it can't because of the French
bishops or that the Modernist bishops would rise up and revolt, if the
Mass is released. It may well happen because it looks as though some of
the younger bishops are looking more and more favourably toward the Old
Mass and the Old Religion. It's taking time. The wheels of God grind slowly.
It takes time for the Truth to filter. But there are indications that the
Truth is filtering. So, with time, Rome will eventually come back to the
I implore you from the bowels of Christ to declare publicly what it is well known that you personally know to be true, namely: that every priest of the Roman Rite has the right from immemorial custom to celebrate the traditional liturgy without let or hindrance.
The faithful have suffered terribly for forty years. Every imaginable liturgical abuse is tolerated or even promoted by the Bishops. It is not enough for the papacy to apologize or to issue ineffective directives that are routinely ignored by the Bishops. What you must do, as a matter of extreme urgency, is to make it morally impossible for any Bishop to forbid the celebration of the Old Roman Rite. When this is done, those orthodox faithful that remain and the priests that long to serve them will be empowered to begin the restoration of Catholic Order within the Church and dignity to the worship of Almighty God.
I beg you to set an example to the Church by yourself celebrating the Old Rite of Mass in public at the earliest opportunity.
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Q: Your Excellency, you requested the audience with Pope Benedict XVI that took place last August 29. What was the purpose of your request?
A: We wanted to meet the Holy Father because we are Catholic and, as every Catholic, we are attached to Rome. We wanted to show, in requesting this audience quite simply that we are Catholic. Our recognition of the Pope is not limited only to mentioning his name in the Canon of the Mass, as do all the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X. It is normal that we should express our respect as being Catholic and Roman. Catholic means universal, and the Mystical Body of the Church does not just consist in our chapels.
There was likewise on our part the plan to remind once more the Sovereign Pontiff of the existence of Tradition. Ours is the concern to remind him that Tradition is the Church, and that we incarnate the Church's Tradition in a manner that is very much alive. We want to show that the Church would be much stronger in today's world if it maintained Tradition. Thus, we want to put forward our experience: if the Church desires to escape the tragic crisis that it is presently going through, then Tradition is a response, indeed the only response, to this crisis.
I strongly agree.Q.: How did this audience go?
A: The audience took place in the Popes’ summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Foreseen for 11:30 a.m., it actually began at 12:10 p.m. in the Sovereign Pontiff's office. He generally grants an audience of 15 minutes to a bishop. For us, it last 35 minutes. This means, so say the Vatican specialists, that Benedict XVI wanted to show his interest in these questions.
There were four of us: the Holy Father and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Father Schmidberger and myself. The conversation took place in French – contrary to the announcement of certain persons that it would take place in German. It was directed by the Pope in a kindly spirit. He described three difficulties, in response to the letter that we had sent to him shortly before the audience. Benedict XVI was aware of this letter, and it was not necessary to go over the points brought up in it. We there outlined a description of the Church, quoting the “silent apostasy” of John-Paul II, “the boat which is taking in water from every side” and “the dictatorship of relativism” of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with as an appendix of photos of Masses quite as scandalous as one another.
We also gave a presentation of the Society with a list of numbers and different projects. We quoted two examples of actions led by the Society in the present world, and the unbelievable attitude of the local episcopacies in their regard: the law suit in Argentina that obtained that the sale of contraceptives is not forbidden, and which merited for us to be called terrorists by the bishop of Cordoba, and the denunciation of gay pride procession in Lucerne, that finished in the Catholic church by a Protestant ceremony with total indifference on the part of the bishop.
Note the regrettable association of gay issues with syncretism and indiferentist-ecumenism.Finally, we expressed our requests: the changing of the attitude of hostility towards Tradition, which attitude makes the traditional Catholic life (Is there any other?) practically impossible in the conciliar church. We requested that this be done by granting full liberty to the Tridentine Mass, by silencing the accusation of schism directed against us, by burying the pretended excommunications, and by founding a structure for the family of Tradition within the Church.
None of these requests are at all unreasonable.Q: Is it possible for us to know the difficulties raised by Benedict XVI?
A: I can only evoke them.
A: The Pope did not want to go into the problems in depth, but simply to highlight them. But it will be necessary first of all to respond to the requirement of the right of existence of the old Mass so as to afterwards confront the errors of the Council, for we see there the cause of the present evils, both a direct cause and in part an indirect cause.
I strongly agree.Of course, we will go step by step. We must show the Council in a different light than that which is given to it by Rome. At the same time as we condemn the errors, it is indispensable for us to show their logical consequences and their impact on the disastrous situation of today's Church, without, however, provoking exasperation, that could cause the discussions to be
With respect to a reasonable time limit, it is said in Rome that documents are in preparation for communities attached to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, that are quite new, and offering things that have never previously been offered. “Let us wait and see!” It is certainly true that the Pope has the desire of rapidly arranging this situation.
In order to be quite precise, I would like to add this further detail. We must indeed consider the Pope's difficult situation. He is stuck between the progressives on one side and us on the other. If he were to grant a general permission for the Mass on the basis on our request alone, the modernists would stand up against him, affirming that the Pope has given way to traditionalists. We learned from Bishop Ricard that in 2000 he, along with Cardinal Lustiger and the Archbishop of Lyon suddenly rushed to Rome to block a proposition made to the Society, under threat of rebellion if it did not work. We know that the German bishops acted in the same way at the time of the World Youth Conference in Cologne: “It is us or them”. By this is meant: “If they are recognized, then we will leave the Church and go into schism.”
This is scandalous.It is for this reason that the Pope could not, during the audience, give us the verbal assurance that this Fall [autumn - ed], for example, freedom would be given to the Mass. Any promise made by him to the Society in this sense would infallibly expose him to pressure by the progressives. We would then have received the opinions of a Pope against the majority of bishops disposed towards secession. This cannot be expected in the climate of the present debate, even with the will of a certain restoration. As for myself, I believe that it will only be a limited freedom for the Mass that will eventually be granted.
This is unacceptable.Q: The Press has published rumours concerning divisions within the Society of Saint Pius X? What is exactly the case?
A: The announcement of the audience granted by the Pope provoked feverish talk in the media. They have made a lot of noise, attempting to show that divisions exist in the Society amongst its four bishops. Journalists have likewise published the threats directed against the Pope by the progressives: “To grant freedom to the Mass is to disavow Paul VI and the liturgical reform”.
However, I can affirm to you that within the Society of Saint Pius X, the four bishops are united on the question of the relationships with Rome, and that Bishop Williamson, whose name has been quoted, is not “BLEEP!”. The media has nothing to worry about. Alas, this is for them not newsworthy.
Q: Your Excellency, what do you now hope for?
A: Some Cardinals in Rome hope to see Tradition recognized. We likewise hope for it. We hope, in particular, for complete freedom to be granted to the Mass, but there is little chance that this will be for tomorrow. It will then be a duty to acknowledge the place of Tradition in the Church, avoiding the bad interpretations that are often given concerning it. We must force the Roman authorities to admit that we cannot follow without serious reservations the interpretation that they given of the Council and of Ecumenism, as it is practised. Deep down, what we hope for is to make them understand one day the whole reason why Tradition exists.
I strongly agree.
On January 13, 2006, Bishop Bernard Fellay was invited in Paris by the journalists of the Association of Journalists for Religious Information (AJIR). During about an hour and a half, he answered the questions of some 20 journalists specialized in religious information for the main European press agencies.
Journalist’s question: Concerning Benedict XVI, you are not satisfied with the way in which, in his address to the Curia, he precisely set in opposition this hermeneutic of discontinuity; there was a discontinuity between the thinking as it was before and after the Council. And he supported the hermeneutic of continuity, saying: we remain in the same tradition of the Church.
Bishop Fellay: Well, we see very, very clearly in this address an attempt to shed a new light on the Council. I do not know whether we should say an attempt to save the Council, that would be my way of looking at it; but in any case there is a positive will to set a barrier to stop an interpretation, an understanding of the Council which has now been the usual presentation of the Council for years. We see very, very clearly that the pope, under the cover of delicate words, is distancing himself from the usual presentation of the Council. So there is a will to present the Council otherwise, at least on the level of the principles. I do not know what will be the end result.
This is truly a profound development, it would have been impossible under the previous pontificate.Journalist: You did present it as a rupture too.
Bishop Fellay: Oh yes, quite so, I surely did! And besides, if you study this address closely, you will see that the Holy Father concedes that there nevertheless was a rupture, maybe not in the contents, but certainly in the way it was presented, and implemented. This is what he says when he tries to show that there would have been no discontinuity on the level of the principles, principles which he claims not to be apparent; so he speaks also of continuity in discontinuity… I think we will have there a very, very interesting subject for discussion.
Journalist: This address rather causes you to rejoice or you…
Bishop Fellay: Its clarity, its precision, and also its will to
eliminate a certain number of positions which were really causing us
problems in the Church, all these cause me to rejoice; but I think it does not go far enough. But it is always a delicate matter to try and determine how far a movement is going to go. It is quite clear that he is opening a new vista. How broad will this vista be? I do not know.
We can only hope!Journalist: Among the problems still pending, do you still maintain your claim – forgive me for using this trade-unionist vocabulary – for a special status for the Society within the Church?
Bishop Fellay: I think Rome will grant it to us, so in this respect there is no need to claim for it. We find ourselves rather in the reverse situation, that is to say, we keep telling Rome: but we want to be normal Catholics, we have no desire for a marginalized status, if you will forgive me the comparison, in the zoo, we do not feel at all like playing the part of the dinosaur to whom a special status is granted. Because in the discussions we have been having with Rome for some time already, we are always told: very well, your special charisma will be respected. And we retort: Now, listen, this Mass we are requesting, we are not requesting it for ourselves, we are requesting it for everybody. In the past it was the Mass for everybody, the Catholic Mass, and we are asking that it be once again the Mass for everybody and not just ours. So, in this respect we are not asking for a special status, quite the contrary… maybe we will have to go through this stage, yes, it is even probable.
Journalist: Which could be something after the kind of a prelature like for Opus Dei?
Bishop Fellay: I think it will be somewhat different. We are talking about an Apostolic administration, which is somewhat different. What is the difference? The prelature pertains only to the members, i.e. actually the members of Opus Dei enjoy some, let us say, privileges, but only the members enjoy them, you must be a member of Opus Dei. The Society, the members of the Society strictly speaking are priests and religious, that’s all, there is nothing for the faithful. So we must find a way to include also the faithful obviously.
This attitude is very wise and most welcome.Journalist: That’s what happened in Campos, for instance?
Journalist: So this Apostolic administration could be granted to you, but outside of the bishops, guardians of the unity of Catholics in the diocesan territory.
Bishop Fellay: I think there would be an exemption.
Journalist: You are sure?
Bishop Fellay: I said: "I think" and yes, I am pretty sure.
Journalist: After the manner of what was done in Campos for instance, or maybe in a broader way?
Bishop Fellay: That’s it, it is along the lines of Campos. That
is to say that per force, at some point, there still are some relations,
it is not a completely independent status. The status of the faithful,
in such a case, is called a status of mixed jurisdiction, that is to say,
Rome does not withdraw those faithful from the authority of the bishops,
but it allows them to benefit from the parallel authority found in an administration.
Concerning the state of necessity which the SSPX invokes to justify the bishops’ consecrations of 1988 as well as its present apostolate, Bishop Fellay stated that Benedict XVI did not admit the argument of the state of necessity, while conceding some reality to this state of necessity at least in two countries:
"(The terms used will be rather words like "regularization of a situation" because, actually, in this respect), there is the problem to the consecrations themselves, which are censured by Rome; on our part, we try to explain that the censure does not apply because of the circumstances, and, let us say, on the basis of canon law. Rome will say or has attempted to say through the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Laws that our argument, i.e. the argument of necessity, was not valid in that case.
To express things more pointedly, let us say that there is a code, well a canon of the new Code of Canon Law which says that if someone acts out of necessity, he does not fall under the law; and another canon says that if this necessity was purely subjective, i.e. if the necessity did not exist objectively but the person thought there was a necessity, well, he should not be punished with the maximum penalty foreseen by the law. These are the arguments we are using to say, on the one hand that we believe there is a necessity, and even an objective state of necessity; but, at least, that even if Rome does not want to acknowledge this objective state, there remains the subjective point of view; and consequently we should not be punished with the maximum penalty. There was a thesis on this subject, a master in Canon Law written on this theme, and it was received by the Gregorian University.
This is an excellent argument.Then the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Laws intervened to say that, in this case, they could not speak of necessity because otherwise, of course, it introduced a principle of possible anarchy in the Church. Nevertheless, and this is very interesting too, during the private audience with the pope, the pope re-used the argument saying: "You may not justify your activity by referring to a state of necessity" giving as explanation: "I am trying", he said, "to solve the problems", such were his very words. It is at the same time an avowal: it means that there are problems; if he tries to solve them, it is because the problems still exist. And a few minutes later, in his explanation, he himself said: "We should see if there is not a state of necessity in France and in Germany."
This is very important.This shows that after all our argument is not so bad. Well this was just a very small development to say that…
Journalist: In what would there be a state of necessity in France and in Germany?
Bishop Fellay: He did not tell me, he did not say it. First I wondered
why these two countries? Now this is a pure… it is a personal
explanation. I think that the Holy Father, at that point, was referring to the liturgical problems and the opposition the freedom for the old Mass can meet in these two countries. I am not sure this is it, it is my attempt at an explanation. Because if I compare France and Germany with the other countries in the world, truly I, for my part, cannot see much difference. It is true that from the liturgical viewpoint in the United States, for instance, there is much more freedom, many more bishops, there are at least 150 dioceses where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated, it is called the Indult Mass, i.e. the bishop give the permission. But when we speak of a state of necessity, we consider something else. There is not only the liturgy, there is all the life of the Church, there is the teaching of the faith…
Indeed, well said, that man!Journalist: Did you set a date line with Rome ?
Bishop Fellay: We are working on it. I cannot say it already exists.
The only thing I can say is that precisely Rome would like to go
fast, and it seems to us that we cannot go that fast.
Journalist: Rome would like to go fast, that means that they did set a date line?
Bishop Fellay: No. At the very beginning, in the year 2000, I met Cardinal Castrillon on December 29. At that time he said: the pope would like that everything be settled for Easter, so for Easter 2001; and see, we are now in 2006.
I think we are making progress, but slow progress. This is due to several elements, I think that the element… one of the elements that is slowing things down is the psychological element. I tried to explained that to Rome saying: listen, the people who come to us are persons that have been hurt, scandalized and who, at a given time, took a step that cost them a great deal. That is, they found themselves before a choice, and the choice was either to carry on with a situation that was scandalizing them or to join us knowing that they would find themselves under Church censures. And that is never pleasant to find yourself censured by the Church.
Nevertheless, they rather took that step than remain in the situation they were in. Now, how can you imagine, how can you think that these faithful find themselves again in their previous situation if nothing has happened in between? That is one thing, and there is also what I would designate under the word "mistrust". In our circles we – in quotation marks – "do not trust" Rome and it takes quite something to overcome this mistrust, to take stocks of the present situation to see what did move, what changed, in which direction it is heading. And all this takes time".
A whole bunch of questions prevented Bishop Fellay from completing his answer. He was about to add what is summed up in the following paragraph taken from his conference of December 11, 2005 at Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet: With the Roman authorities, I concluded saying: "If you want to regain our confidence, words will not suffice, it will require acts. You must regain control. You must condemn what must be condemned, the heresies, the errors. Whether they pertain to the faith, to morals, to discipline, to the liturgy, these acts of condemnation must be known. Now, there must also be positive acts. Catholic life which is presently made impossible in the official Church, the normal, traditional life must be made possible again. And this can be done only by fostering Tradition."
Indeed, well said, that man!At the very beginning of the conversation with the journalists, Bishop Fellay had already declared:
"On Rome’s part, we can feel a desire to settle the problem, if I may say so, the problem created by the Society, as soon as possible. This is certainly what the pope, the Holy Father wants. Concretely, what does this mean? It means that Rome advocates a regularization relatively soon.
On our part, for once, if I may use this term, we somewhat put on the brakes. This does not mean that we will oppose a regularization, but we would not like to short-circuit on important issues which would remain… which would cause problems later on, it is better to try and solve the problems before rather than after."
After the conference, to a journalist who privately asked him if he
nevertheless foresaw a date for a reconciliation with Rome,
Bishop Fellay answered, maybe jokingly: "Yes, in ten years from now.
Benedict XVI has already taken two important steps toward the correction of these irregularities. On August 29, at Castelgandolfo, he received the two principal leaders of the Lefebvrist Fraternity, Bernard Fellay and Franz Schmidberger, "in an atmosphere of love for the Church and of the desire to arrive at perfect communion." On December 22, in his pre-Christmas address to the Vatican curia, he made an interpretation of Vatican Council II that took into account the seriousness of some of the criticisms advanced by the traditionalists. In particular, the pope wanted to reassure them that the conciliar decree on religious liberty does not have to be understood as a surrender to relativism. Furthermore, from the first Mass celebrated after his election, Benedict XVI has followed in the pathway of the great liturgical tradition, making room again for Latin and Gregorian chant.
But there is an even more substantial element that draws the traditionalists
to the teaching of Benedict XVI: the primacy that he accords to truth.
For example, the pope's message for the World Day for Peace establishes
this primacy right from its title: "In Truth, Peace." And he also wrote
his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," in order to restore truth to
love: "Today the word 'love' is so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused.
We must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor..."
At a Monday meeting of the Roman Curia, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos presented a plan to regularize the status of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, according to informed sources.
The Vatican has issued no formal statement about the meeting, beyond disclosing that Pope Benedict XVI had summoned the leaders of the Roman Curia for a morning meeting on February 13. None of the participants at the meeting have spoken for the record about the proceedings. However, Vatican sources indicated that the top issue on the agenda was the effort to heal the breach that was created in 1988 when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained bishops in defiance of orders from the Holy See. At that time the Vatican referred to the illicit ordination ceremony as a "schismatic act," and pronounced the traditionalist leaders excommunicated. During the past few years, Vatican officials have searched for a way to bring the SSPX back into full communion with Rome.
At the February 13 meeting, Cardinal Castrillon - the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the leading Vatican figure in discussions with the SSPX - outlined a plan in which the excommunication would be lifted and the traditionalist group would receive canonical approval. The plan met some resistance.
Informed sources say that Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, insisted that the SSPX should be required to acknowledge the validity of the documents of Vatican II and the post-conciliar liturgy. The traditionalist group insists on celebrating the old Latin Mass, but the Nigerian cardinal was cited as saying that SSPX priests should be expected to participate in Novus Ordo as well. Cardinal Arinze, sources reported, suggested that instead of a sweeping papal directive giving all priests the explicit right to use the Tridentine liturgy, the Holy See should issue a new document asking diocesan bishops to accommodate the desires of Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass. If the reports are accurate, it is not clear how the directive proposed by Cardinal Arinze's proposal would differ from the apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei, issued by Pope John Paul II, calling upon diocesan bishops to offer a "wide and generous application" of the papal indult allowing the use of the Tridentine rite.
The Pope and the Roman Curia leaders will reportedly resume their discussion
at another meeting late in March.
Italian newspaper reports suggest, though, that the Pope called the meeting to sound out his “principal collaborators” on two specific issues: a strategy to help facilitate the full return to Rome of the schismatic Society of St Pius X (SSPX), and the possibility of further expanding the now-limited celebration of the pre-Second Vatican Council Mass.
This week’s “consultation” is being interpreted as the Pope’s way of
garnering the support of his Curia, or at least “taking its pulse”. He
will get a better reading of the situation on 23 March when he holds a
second session with the Vatican office heads.
As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger criticized John Paul II on many points, even the ones that most distinguished his pontificate.
Ratzinger has always distinguished himself as a man of great vision, not as a manager. He would love to see a Church that is simpler in terms of bureaucracy. He doesn't want its central and peripheral institutions – the Vatican curia, the diocesan chanceries, the episcopal conferences – to become “like the armour of Saul, which prevented the young David from walking.” Partly for this reason, he reacted strongly in 2000 when another talented archbishop and theologian, his friend and fellow German Walter Kasper, charged him with wanting to identify the universal Church with the pope and the curia, with wanting in effect to restore Roman centralism. Ratzinger replied, confuting Kasper’s thesis. The latter spoke again, provoking another public reply. At the centre of the dispute, which was fought on the terrain of advanced theology, was the relationship between the universal Church and the particular local Churches. This was the same question that the progressivist wing was discussing in more institutional and political terms during those same years, promoting a democratization of the Church, a balance of papal primacy with greater power for the college of bishops.
The controversy over the balance of power in the Church was also involved in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and a rejection of a greater role for collegiality was attributed to him, a rejection that would also create an obstacle to dialogue with the Orthodox and Protestant Churches. But the reality is different. It was Kasper himself, whose motives are not suspect, who gave the name “the Ratzinger formula” to the thesis maintained by the present pope on relations with separated Christians, and called this “fundamental for ecumenical dialogue.” One written form of this thesis maintains that “in regard to papal primacy, Rome must demand from the Orthodox Churches nothing more than was established and practised during the first millennium.”
On Monday, 14th November 2005 AD, Benedict XVI sent a message to the Italian bishops' conference, who were meeting in a general assembly in Assisi. At the end of the message, he said:
"I would like to say that I greatly appreciate the thorough insight and the united effort with which you assist your communities and the entire Italian nation in acting always for the true good of persons and society. I encourage you to continue along this way with serenity and courage, to offer to all the light of the Gospel and the words of Him who is the way, the truth, and the light (cf. John 14:6) for us and for the world."On November 5, receiving the Austrian bishops who had come to him one by one on their "ad limina apostolorum" visit Benedict XVI exhorted them to
"look reality in the face with courage, without letting optimism, which is always a lure for us, represent an obstacle to calling things by their names with complete objectivity and without embellishment."He then recalled the "sorrowful" fact that
"the process of secularization which is now increasingly significant for Europe did not even pause at the doors of Catholic Austria. Adherence to Church teaching is diminishing among many of the faithful, and this leads to loss off certainty in the faith and a lessening of reverential fear for the law of God.
So, then, what can we do?
On the one hand, there is a need for a clear, courageous, and enthusiastic confession of faith in Jesus Christ, who is still alive here and now within his Church, and in whom, according to its nature, the human soul oriented toward God can find its happiness. On the other hand, there is a need for numerous missionary initiatives, both large and small, which we must undertake in order to bring about a change of course.
"As you well know, the confession of the faith is one of the bishop's primary duties. 'I did not draw back', St. Paul says in Miletus to the pastors of the Church of Ephesus, 'from the task of proclaiming to you the whole counsel of God' [Acts 20:27].
It is true that we bishops must act with discretion. Nevertheless, this prudence must not prevent us from presenting the Word of God in all its clarity, including those things that are heard less willingly or that consistently provoke reactions of protest and derision. You, dear brothers in the episcopacy, know this well: there are some topics relating to the truth of the faith, and above all to moral doctrine, which are not present in the catechesis and preaching of your dioceses to a sufficient extent, and which sometimes, for example in pastoral outreach to youth in the parishes or groups, are either not confronted at all or are not addressed in the clear sense understood by the Church. Thanks be to God, it is not like this everywhere.
Perhaps those who are responsible for the proclamation are afraid that people may draw back if they speak too clearly. However, experience in general demonstrates that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Don't deceive yourselves! Catholic teaching offered in an incomplete manner is a contradiction of itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God goes hand in hand with the demand for conversion and with the love that encourages, that knows the way, that teaches that with the grace of God even that which seemed impossible becomes possible. Think of how, little by little, religious instruction, catechesis on various levels, and preaching can be improved, deepened, and, so to speak, completed!
Please, make zealous use of the 'Compendium' and the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'! Have the priests and catechists adopt these tools, have them explained in the parishes, have them used in families as important reading material! Amid the uncertainty of this period of history and this society, offer to men the certainty of the fullness of the Church's faith! The clarity and the beauty of the Catholic faith are what make man's life shine, even today! This is especially the case when it is presented by enthusiastic and exciting witnesses."
The first interpretation is the one the Pope called "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture .... between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church." According to this view, what is important about the Council is not its texts but the spirit of renewal brought to the Church, the Holy Father said. This view, he observed, "has often been able to make use of the media's liking, and also of a part of modern theology."
The other interpretation is "the hermeneutics of reform," which was proposed by the Popes who opened and closed the Council, John XXIII and Paul VI, and which is bearing fruits "in a silent but ever more visible way," said Benedict XVI. According to this view, the objective of the Council and of every reform in the Church is "to transmit the doctrine purely and fully, without diminutions or distortions," conscious that "our duty not only consists in guarding this precious treasure, as though we were concerned only with antiquity, but in dedicating ourselves with a firm will and without fear to the work that our age calls for," the Pope said. "One thing is the deposit of faith, that is, the truths contained in our venerated doctrine, and another the way in which they are enunciated, preserving however the same meaning and fullness," he said, echoing John XXIII.
In this way, the Council presented a "new definition of the relationship
between the faith of the Church and some essential elements of modern thought,"
Benedict XVI pointed out. He insisted that "the Church, both before as
well as after the Council, is the same one, holy, catholic and apostolic
Church, journeying through time." "Today we can look back with gratitude
to the Second Vatican Council," he added. "If we read and receive it, guided
by an appropriate hermeneutic, it can be and will be increasingly a great
force for the always necessary renewal of the Church."
"Was the Council a wrong road that we must now retrace if we are to save the Church? The voices of those who say that it was are becoming louder and their followers more numerous. We must be on guard against minimizing these movements.I, for one, am proud to be one of the voices that Pope Benedict here condemns as "sectarian zealots". I am by no means opposed to the whole of the teaching or decisions made by the last Vatican Synod. It is very difficult for anything to be utterly wrong, and there is much of value to be found in its documents. However, they are thoroughly contaminated with heterodox ideas and breath the heady Spirit of the Age in which they were framed. Readers of my website will, of course, decide for themselves whether the theological and philosophical vision that it promotes is "the antithesis of Catholicity".
Without a doubt, they represent a sectarian zealotry that is the antithesis of Catholicity.
We cannot resist them too firmly." [Cardinal Ratzinger: "Principles of Catholic Theology" (1982) pp. 389-390]
"It is likewise impossible to decide in favour of Trent and Vatican I, but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called 'traditionalism', also in its extreme forms."
[Cardinal Ratzinger: "The Ratzinger Report" (1985) p. 28]
"When seen against this background, the explicit emphasis on the ministerial function of the teaching office must be welcomed as warmly as the statement that its primary service is to listen, that it must constantly take up an attitude of openness toward the sources, which it has continually to consult and consider, in order to be able to interpret them truly and preserve them: not in the sense of "taking them into custody" (to which sometimes the activity of the teaching office in the past may have tended), but as a faithful servant who wards off attempts at foreign domination and defends the dominion of the word of God both against modernism and against traditionalism. At the same time the contrast between the "listening" and the "teaching" church is thus reduced to its true measure: in the last analysis the whole church listens and, vice versa, the whole church shares in the upholding of true teaching."
[Cardinal Ratzinger: Chapter II, in "Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 3" Herbert Vorgrimler ed. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968)]
"The text also presents the various forms of binding authority which correspond to the grades of the Magisterium. It states - perhaps for the first time with such candour - that there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy. Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction. In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century regarding freedom of religion and the anti-Modernist decisions of the then Biblical Commission. As warning calls against rash and superficial accommodations, they remain perfectly legitimate: no less a personage than J. B. Metz, for example, has remarked that the anti-Modernist decisions of the Church performed the great service of saving her from foundering in the bourgeois liberal world. Nevertheless, with respect to particular aspects of their content, they were superseded after having fulfilled their pastoral function in the situation of the time."
[Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "The Nature and Mission of Theology" (1993) p. 106]
"The question of what it means to say that baptism is necessary for salvation has become ever more hotly debated in modern times. The Second Vatican Council said on this point that men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation. That is to say that a seeking after God already represents an inward participation in baptism, in the Church, in Christ. To that extent, the question concerning the necessity of baptism for salvation seems to have been answered, but the question about children who could not be baptized because they were aborted then presses upon us that much more urgently.
Earlier ages had devised a teaching that seems to me rather unenlightened. They said that baptism endows us, by means of sanctifying grace, with the capacity to gaze upon God. Now, certainly, the state of original sin, from which we are freed by baptism, consists in a lack of sanctifying grace. Children who die in this way are indeed without any personal sin, so they cannot be sent to hell, but, on the other hand, they lack sanctifying grace and thus the potential for beholding God that this bestows. They will simply enjoy a state of natural blessedness, in which they will be happy. This state people called limbo.
In the course of our century, that has gradually come to seem problematic to us. This was one way in which people sought to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible, but the solution is itself questionable. Finally, the Pope [John Paul II] made a decisive turn in the  encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a change already anticipated by the  Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he expressed the simple hope that God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament."
[Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "God and the World" (2002) pp. 401-402
"The image of a centralized state which the Catholic church presented right up to the council does not flow only from the Petrine office, but from its strict amalgamation with the patriarchal function which grew ever stronger in the course of history and which fell to the bishop of Rome for the whole of Latin Christendom. The uniform canon law, the uniform liturgy, the uniform appointment of bishops by the Roman center: all these are things which are not necessarily part of the primacy but result from the close union of the two offices. For that reason, the task to consider for the future will be to distinguish again and more clearly between the proper function of the successor of Peter and the patriarchal office and, where necessary, to create new patriarchates and to detach them from the Latin church. To embrace unity with the pope would then no longer mean being incorporated into a uniform administration, but only being inserted into a unity of faith and communion, in which the pope is acknowledged to have the power to give binding interpretations of the revelation given in Christ, whose authority is accepted whenever it is given in definitive form.....
In the not too distant future one could consider whether the churches of Asia and Africa, like those of the East, should not present their own forms as autonomous 'patriarchates' or 'great churches' or whatever such ecclesiae in the Ecclesia might be called in the future."
[Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "Primacy and Episcopacy" in "Das neue Volk Gottes" (1969) trans J. A. Komonchak]
"I have reproduced the context of Gese's study in some detail because I feel that its importance cannot be overestimated. It puts the dispute over the question of sacrifice, which has separated Christendom for more than four centuries, in an entirely different light. Surely there are new possibilities here for the ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants? For it gives us a genuinely New Testament concept of sacrifice that both preserves the complete Catholic inheritance (and imparts to it a new profundity) and, on the other hand, is receptive to Luther's central intentions. Such a synthesis is possible because the inner unity of both Testaments has been brought to light, a unity of which modern theology had increasingly lost sight, whereas the New Testament itself wished to be no more than the complete and full understanding of the Old Testament, now made possible in
Christ." [Cardinal Ratzinger: "Feast of Faith", 1981 (1981) pp. 58]
“Against this background we can now weigh the possibilities that are open to Christian ecumenism. The maximum demands on which the search for unity must certainly founder are immediately clear.
While the first three maximum demands are today rather unanimously rejected by Christian consciousness, the fourth exercises a kind of fascination for it – as it were, a certain conclusiveness that makes it appear to be the real solution to the problem. This is all the more true since there is joined to it the expectation that a Parliament of Churches, a ‘truly ecumenical council’, could then harmonize this pluralism and promote a Christian unity of action.
- On the part of the West, the maximum demand would be that the East recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the full scope of the definition of 1870 and in so doing submit in practice, to a primacy such as has been accepted by the Uniate churches.
- On the part of the East, the maximum demand would be that the West declare the 1870 doctrine of primacy erroneous and in so doing submit, in practice, to a primacy such as has been accepted [sic] with the removal of the Filioque from the Creed and including the Marian dogmas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- As regards Protestantism, the maximum demand of the Catholic Church would be that the Protestant ecclesiological ministers be regarded as totally invalid and that Protestants be converted to Catholicism;
- the maximum demand of Protestants, on the other hand, would be that the Catholic Church accept, along with the unconditional acknowledgement of all Protestant ministries, the Protestant concept of ministry and their understanding of the Church and thus, in practice, renounce the apostolic and sacramental structure of the Church, which would mean, in practice, the conversion of Catholics to Protestantism and their acceptance of a multiplicity of distinct community structures as the historical form of the Church.That no real union would result from this, but that its very impossibility would become a single common dogma, should convince anyone who examines the suggestion closely that such a way would not bring Church unity but only a final renunciation of it.As a result, none of the maximum solutions offers any real hope of unity.”
[Cardinal Ratzinger: "Principles of Catholic Theology" (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1982), pp. 197-198]
"Patriarch Athenagoras spoke even more strongly when he greeted the Pope in Phanar: 'Against all expectation, the bishop of Rome is among us, the first among us in honour, 'he who presides in love'. It is clear that, in saying this, the Patriarch did not abandon the claims of the Eastern Churches or acknowledge the primacy of the west. Rather, he stated plainly what the East understood as the order, the rank and title, of the equal bishops in the Church -and it would be worth our while to consider whether this archaic confession, which has nothing to do with the 'primacy of jurisdiction' but confesses a primacy of 'honour' and agape, might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position that Rome occupies in the Church- 'holy courage' requires that prudence be combined with 'audacity': 'The kingdom of God suffers violence.'"
[Cardinal Ratzinger: "Principles of Catholic Theology" (1982) pp. 216-217]
"Besides, I reckon as one of the important results of ecumenical conversations particularly the realization that the
question of the Eucharist cannot be restricted to the problem of 'validity.'Even a theology along the lines of the concept of [apostolic] succession, as is in force in the Catholic and in the Orthodox Church, should in no way deny the saving presence of the Lord in the Evangelical Lord's Supper."[Cardinal Ratzinger: "Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith" 2002 p. 248]
"And we now ask: What does it mean to restore the unity of all Christians?... This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (Unitatis Redintegratio, nn. 2, 4, etc.); the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world. Other the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one's own faith history. Absolutely not!" [Benedict XVI, Address to Protestants at World Youth Day, August 19, 2005 (reported in L'Osservatore Romano, August 24, 2005, p. 8.)]
Compare:"The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it.""The question that really concerns us, the question that really oppresses us, is why it is it necessary for us in particular to practice the Christian Faith in its totality; why, when there are so many other ways that lead to heaven and salvation, it should be required of us to bear day after day the whole burden of ecclesial dogmas and of the ecclesial ethos. And so we come again to the question: What exactly is Christian reality? What is the specific element in Christianity that not merely justifies it, but makes it compulsorily necessary for us?
[Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (#10), Jan. 6, 1928]
When we raise the question about the foundation and meaning of our Christian existence, there slips in a certain false hankering for the apparently more comfortable life of other people who are also going to heaven. We are too much like the labourers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard [Mt. 20:1-16]. Once they discovered that they could have earned their day's pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labour the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we - like the workers of the first hour - want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others' lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian."
[Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "Co-Workers of the Truth" (1990) p.217]
"In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term 'original sin.'" [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "In the Beginning" (1986) p.72]
“It now becomes clear that the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible.....
The foregoing reflections may have clarified to some extent what is involved in the biblical pronouncements about the resurrection: their essential content is not the conception of a restoration of bodies to souls after a long interval….
To recapitulate, Paul teaches, not the resurrection of physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons….”
[Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "Introduction to Christianity" (2004) p.349, 353 & 357]
"A young priest said to me recently, ‘What we need today is a new liturgical movement.’ His was the expression of a wish that cannot be ignored or minimized except by someone of a deliberately superficial spirit. What is important for that priest, is not a stride for new and bold freedoms... He feels the need for a new beginning, sprouting forth out of the deep core of the liturgy itself, just as was the intention of the early liturgical movement, when it was at its true high point; that is, when the liturgists were not busy making up texts and inventing new actions and forms, but rather, were busy rediscovering the living core and penetrating the actual liturgical tissue, so that the renewal of the Liturgy would come forth out of its very own substance.The liturgical renewal in its concrete application is straying ever further away from its origin. The result is not renewal, but devastation."[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Foreword to Monsignor Klaus Gamber’s book ''La Reforme'' (1992)]
"What happened at the Council was something else entirely: in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it - as in a manufacturing process - with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product."
[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: Preface to the French edition of "Reforms of the Roman Liturgy Its Problems and Background" (1993)]
"The promulgation of the banning of the Missal that had been developed in the course of centuries, starting from the time of the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, has brought with it a break in the history of the liturgy whose consequences could be tragic ....
The old structure was broken to pieces and another was constructed, admittedly with material of which the old structure had been made and using also the preceding models .... the fact that [the liturgy] was presented as a new structure, set up against what had been formed in the course of history and was now prohibited, and that the liturgy was made to appear in some ways no longer as a living process but as a product of specialized knowledge and juridical competence, has brought with it some extremely serious damages for us.
In this way, in fact, the impression has arisen that the liturgy is made, that it is not something that exists before us, something given, but that it depends on our decisions. It follows as a consequence that this decision making capacity is not recognized only in specialists or in a central authority, but that, in the final analysis, each community wants to give itself its own liturgy. But when the liturgy is something each one makes by himself, then it no longer gives us what is its true quality: encounter with the mystery which is not our product but our origin and the wellspring of our life ....
I am convinced that
the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today
depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy,
which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur:
as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists
and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.
But if in the liturgy the communion of faith no longer appears, nor the universal unity of the Church and of her history, nor the mystery of the living Christ, where is it that the Church still appears in her spiritual substance? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart."
[Cardinal Ratzinger: "From My Life: Remembrances 1927-1977" (1997)]
"This is why, at the beginning of the Council, I saw that the draft of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which incorporated all the essential principles of the liturgical movement, was a marvelous point of departure for this assembly of the whole Church, and I advised Cardinal Frings in this sense. I was not able to forsee that the negative sides of the liturgical movement would afterward reemerge with redoubled strength, almost to the point of pushing the liturgy toward its own self-destruction. Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. " [Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: "Milestones" p57]
"The Liturgy cannot be compared to a piece of equipment, something made, burt rather to a plant, something organic that grows and whose laws of growth determine the possibilities of further development. In the West there has been, of course, another factor involved. This was the Papal authority: the Pope took ever more clearly the responsibility upon himself for the liturgical legislation, and so doing provided a juridical authority for the forthsetting of the liturgical development. The stronger the papal primacy was exercised, the more the question arose, just what the limits of this authority were, which of course, nobody had ever before thought about.
After the Second Vatican Council, the impression has been given that the Pope, as far as the Liturgy goes, can actually do everything that he wishes to do, certainly when he was acting with the mandate of an oecumenical council. Finally, the idea that the Liturgy is a pre-determined ‘given’, the fact that nobody can simply do what he wishes with her, disappeared out of the public conscience of the Western Church.and that regards also the Liturgy. The Liturgy is no ‘creation’ of the authorities. Even the Pope can be nothing other than a humble servant of the Liturgy's legitimate development and of her everlasting integrity and identity."
In fact, the First Vatican Council did not in any way define that
the Pope was an absolute monarch!
On the contrary, that Council sketched the Pope's role
as that of a guarantee for obedience to the Revealed Word.
The papal authority is limited by the Holy Tradition of the Faith,
[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: "Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy" (2000)]
"The various phases of the liturgical renewal have given the impression that the liturgy can be changed when and how one wishes. If there is one unchangeable element in the Mass, so they think, then that would be nothing else than the words of consecration: all the rest can be altered. Then the following idea seems logical: If the Central Authority can do it, then why shouldn't the faithful also not be able to do the very same? Surely they should be able to express themselves in the liturgy and see their own style recognizably present.
After the rationalistic and puritanical trend of the 1970's and 80's, people have had enough of ‘liturgies’ that are only just lots of words; they long for ‘liturgies’ that they can experience, and quickly come to adopt New-Age styles and chase after liturgical ‘highs’, ignorant of the ‘rationablis oblatio’, of which St. Paul, and the Roman Liturgy with him, speak [Rom. 12,1]."
[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance. Christian Belief and World Religions (2003)]
"The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile.[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: Preface to the second edition of "The Organic Development of the Liturgy", Dom Alcuin Reid (2nd Ed 2004)]
Anyone like myself, who was moved by... the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council,
can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for."
To Dr. Heinz-Lothar Barth, 23 June 2003
Dear Dr. Barth,
I thank you cordially for your letter of April 6 to which I find the time to answer only now. You are asking me to act for a broader availability of the old Roman rite. Actually, you know yourself that I have no deaf ears towards such a request. My work on behalf of this cause is meanwhile generally known.
Whether the Holy See will “admit the old rite again for every place and without restrictions” as you desire and have heard it rumoured cannot be simply answered or confirmed without further ado.
Still too great is the aversion of many Catholics, instilled in them over many years,
against the traditional liturgy which they scornfully call “preconciliar”.
Also one would have to reckon with considerable resistance on the part of many bishops against a general readmission.
Things look different, however, if one thinks about a limited readmission. The demand for the old liturgy is limited, too. I know that its worth, of course, does not depend upon the demand for it, but the question of the number of interested priests and laypeople, nevertheless, plays a certain role. Besides, such a measure can now, only some 30 years after the liturgy reform of Paul VI, be implemented only stepwise. Any new hurry would surely not be a good thing.
I believe, though, that in the long term
the Roman Church must have again a single Roman rite.
The existence of two official rites is for bishops and priests difficult to “manage” in practice. The Roman rite of the future should be a single rite, celebrated in Latin or in the vernacular,
but standing completely in the tradition of the rite that has been handed down.
It could take up some new elements which have proven themselves, like new feasts, some new prefaces in the Mass, an expanded lectionary - more choice than earlier, but not too much, - an “oratio fidelium”, i.e., a fixed litany of intercessions following the Oremus before the offertory where it had its place earlier.
Dear Dr. Barth, if you commit yourself to work for the cause of the liturgy in this way, you will surely not stand alone, and you will prepare "public opinion in the Church" for eventual measures in favor of an expanded use of the earlier liturgical books. One should be cautious, however, about awakening too high or maximum expectations among the traditional faithful.
I am using the opportunity to thank you for your appreciated commitment to the liturgy of the Roman Church in your books and lectures, even if here and there I would wish still more charity and understanding towards the magisterium of the pope and bishops. May the seed you are sowing germinate and bring much fruit for the renewed life of the Church the “source and summit” of which, indeed its true heart, is and must remain the liturgy.
With delight I give you the blessing you have asked and remain sincerely yours
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It's impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that.[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: "Salt of the Earth" (1997), p176]
A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares
that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden
and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent."
"The second great event at the beginning of my years in Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the missal we had had until then... The prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic."
[Cardinal Ratzinger: "From My Life: Remembrances 1927-1977" (1997), p146]
"A great deal of Catholic liturgists seem to have come to the conclusion that Luther, rather than Trent, was substantially right in the 16th century debates....The possibility of celebrating the Mass in that way provides the strongest, and therefore most unbearable, proof against the opinion of those, who believe that the faith in the Holy Eucharist, as formulated by Trent, has lost its validity."
It is only against this background - the de facto rejection of the authority of the
Council of Trent - that the bitterness of the fight against allowing the celebration
of the Holy Mass according to the Missal of 1962 .… can be understood.
[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: Lecture held during the Liturgical Conference at Fontcombault (2001)]
"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters,Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that
it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted.[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: "God and the world" (2002), p416] I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance,
which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church.
This is very sad. Why does "love between man and woman" stand out so. Even beyond that of a mother for her child or "the greatest love: that a man lays down his life for his friends"? Admittedly the pope says "seem to fade" rather than just "fade". Perhaps he is "doing a Plato" here?That love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings, was called eros by the ancient Greeks. Let us note straight away that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros only twice, while the New Testament does not use it at all: of the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, New Testament writers prefer the last, which occurs rather infrequently in Greek usage. As for the term philia, the love of friendship, it is used with added depth of meaning in Saint John's Gospel in order to express the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
And from now on is ignored by the pope, to the extent that he claims that love has only two dimensions - rather then the three that he has identified here. It is very sad - but entirely typical of contemporary Magisterial thought - that no further discussion is given to friendship, though Plato and Aquinas and Christ all identify it as the greatest form of love. This neglect is the root cause of all of the Church's ills in this field. It is interesting that Benedict does mention "friend" once more in a crucial context, but without seeming to understand the significance of what he has to say.The tendency to avoid the word eros, together with the new vision of love expressed through the word agape, clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love. In the critique of Christianity which began with the Enlightenment and grew progressively more radical, this new element was seen as something thoroughly negative. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely held perception: doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn't she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine?
Simply put, the answer to this question is "yes"; though "eros" is not "the most precious thing in life".Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed.
It is good to have this admitted. It is a shame that they are then passed over in silence, rather than being condemned. Because no explanation or examples are given, it is impossible to know what is being referred to and to what degree these "deep set tendencies" are to be condemned or in fact to be tolerated and accepted as legitimate.Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless.
What is the difference? How is man's body "an arena for the exercise of his freedom"? I suppose - according to the pope - by simply only using sex for procreation or somesuch. How exactly does this amount to "freedom"?Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness.
This is exactly the error that the contemporary Magisterium promotes.Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.
This is very welcome, being profoundly Platonic in tone. If only the pope had pursued this theme further.We have thus come to an initial, albeit still somewhat generic response to the two questions raised earlier. Fundamentally, “love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly.
This is well said. It is regrettable that he has never really said what he means by "love", though.Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love.
This is very sad. The three dimensions that he had at first identified have become two, and the most important of the three is from now on ignored!And we have also seen, synthetically, that biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions of it. This newness of biblical faith is shown chiefly in two elements which deserve to be highlighted: the image of God and the image of man.
First, the world of the Bible presents us with a new image of God. In surrounding cultures, the image of God and of the gods ultimately remained unclear and contradictory. In the development of biblical faith, however, the content of the prayer fundamental to Israel, the Shema, became increasingly clear and unequivocal: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Dt 6:4). There is only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is thus the God of all. Two facts are significant about this statement: all other gods are not God, and the universe in which we live has its source in God and was created by him. Certainly, the notion of creation is found elsewhere, yet only here does it become absolutely clear that it is not one god among many, but the one true God himself who is the source of all that exists; the whole world comes into existence by the power of his creative Word. Consequently, his creation is dear to him, for it was willed by him and “made” by him. The second important element now emerges: this God loves man.
This is well said.The divine power that Aristotle at the height of Greek philosophy
A matter of opinion! I thought that Aristotle was an atheist.sought to grasp through reflection, is indeed for every being an object of desire and of love - and as the object of love this divinity moves the world - but in itself it lacks nothing and does not love: it is solely the object of love.
This is simply true.The one God in whom Israel believes, on the other hand, loves with a personal love. His love, moreover, is an elective love: among all the nations he chooses Israel and loves her - but he does so precisely with a view to healing the whole human race. God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape.
This is true but not explained, which is very sad and a missed opportunity.The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God's passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God's relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. Here we find a specific reference - as we have seen - to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God. The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel's eyes to man's true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism.
This is well said, but requires enormous elucidation.It consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God, and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness - a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness: "Whom do I have in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you ... for me it is good to be near God" (Ps 73 :25, 28).
We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives.
This is confused. The only way that God can properly be said to love any created being is that He loves the image of HimSelves that He sees reflected there. The only kind of love that God is truely capable of is "eros", but the love by which God loves His creation is a kind of sliver or shard or "left-over" from the overwhelming infinitude of love that God has for HimSelves.Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God's love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery” and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! ... My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9). God's passionate love for his people - for humanity - is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice.
This is impious nonsense! God could never be turned against himself! It is absurd. Justice is not the same as "revenge" or "punishment" or "vengeance". Justice involves compassion. Mercy is intrinsic to justice.Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God's love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.
There is no need for justice to be reconciled with love. Love is either part of justice or else determines what justice is: depending on how one wishes to use these words.The first novelty of biblical faith consists, as we have seen, in its image of God. The second, essentially connected to this, is found in the image of man. The biblical account of creation speaks of the solitude of Adam, the first man, and God's decision to give him a helper. Of all other creatures, not one is capable of being the helper that man needs, even though he has assigned a name to all the wild beasts and birds and thus made them fully a part of his life. So God forms woman from the rib of man. Now Adam finds the helper that he needed: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Here one might detect hints of ideas that are also found, for example, in the myth mentioned by Plato, according to which man was originally spherical, because he was complete in himself and self-sufficient. But as a punishment for pride, he was split in two by Zeus, so that now he longs for his other half, striving with all his being to possess it and thus regain his integrity.
This is hilarious! The same myth suggests that the "best" type of original sphere was a double-male, which explains why some men are homosexual. I mean no offence to any females reading this: that is just the myth as Plato told it. Please be aware that generally, Plato held that men and women are equal down to the very root of their being.While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become “complete”.
Of course, the Bible says nothing of the kind. Hence the lack of a reference here. Unless "communion" can be taken to mean "passing aquaintance" (in which case the remark is vacuous) this assertion implies that:The biblical account thus concludes with a prophecy about Adam: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh” [Gen 2:24].
What a nonsensical and absurd idea!
- Our Blessed Lord was not a "complete" man: which is an impious notion;
- and neither is any celibate, such as pope Benedict XVI!
Note the crucial importance of the little word "thus".Two aspects of this are important. First, eros is somehow rooted in man's very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons his mother and father” in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become “one flesh”. The second aspect is equally important.
So, Our Lord does not represent "complete humanity"! Surely this is material heresy?From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive;
How does eros do this? Of what is the marriage bond definitive?thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.
Correspondence perhaps, but hardly a causal or definitive relationship. Nowhere in the whole of Scripture is monogomy proposed as right - or even preferable to polygamy. Nowhere in the whole of Scripture is polygamy criticised, still less condemned.Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people
True, but only if the "the" is replaced by an "an".and vice versa.
Hardly! Making a divine reality into a quasi-sacrametal representation of a human reality is putting the cart before the horse.God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in extra-biblical literature.
I would argue that this connection isn't present in the Bible - leastwise, not in the way that the pope insinuates that it is.Though up to now we have been speaking mainly of the Old Testament, nevertheless the profound compenetration of the two Testaments as the one Scripture of the Christian faith has already become evident. The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts - an unprecedented realism. In the Old Testament, the novelty of the Bible did not consist merely in abstract notions but in God's unpredictable and in some sense unprecedented activity. This divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the “stray sheep”, a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him.
I repeat, this is impious nonsense. God could never turn against Himself. It is absurd.This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.
On the contrary, our definition of Love must begin with the teaching of Aquinas: "Love is the attraction of a subject for its proper good."Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.
Here Benedict dimly glimpses the real truth and basis of the Gospel: the Kingdom of God is the fellowship of the Friends of God.
“Hope”, in fact, is a key word in Biblical faith—so much so that in several passages the words “faith” and “hope” seem interchangeable. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews closely links the “fullness of faith” (10:22) to “the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23). Likewise, when the First Letter of Peter exhorts Christians to be always ready to give an answer concerning the logos—the meaning and the reason—of their hope (cf. 3:15), “hope” is equivalent to “faith”.
This cannot be quite true, else why have two different words? It seems to me that "faith", "hope" and "charity" are - from one perspective - three ways of "knowing" apart from formal deductive or discursive knowledge or "doxa". They each offer the possibility of a kind of "episteme" - an informal, intuitive and direct understanding of reality and its meaning: the Platonic Logos. Faith is this kind of episteme as it relates to the reasonable intellect: it gives rise to propositions that are believed with more conviction than the evidence formally justifies - typically with "certainty", when no amount of experiential or experimental evidence can ever justify this. Hope is is this kind of episteme as it relates to the will: it gives rise to courageous action - which is based on faith, but moves beyond the theoretical into the practical. It is hope that enables and justifies martyrdom. Charity is this kind of episteme as it relates to the emotions and affections: it moulds and orders the appetites towards what is truly beneficial for the individual - namely God, first and forewmost, and then neighbour and community.The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life... To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.
The three Cardinal Virtues are each manifestations of the same unitary knowledge and understanding; but each is the particular working-out of the same enlightenment in different aspects of human nature. Hence hope is not equivallent to faith, but both have a common root which gives rise to their reality: namely epistemic Knowledge of God: - a mystical and personal encounter with the Divine, which amounts to a participation in the Logos.
Absolutely! The kind of knowledge at stake, and the way that it is to be known is personal and immediate. It is an intimate encounter with God, a sharing in the Divine Life; not a remote and impartial account of God's ways. This kind of knowledge is transformational and amounts to what is conventionally described as "grace".Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar- Kochba. Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within... Even if external structures remained unaltered, this changed society from within. When the Letter to the Hebrews says that Christians here on earth do not have a permanent homeland, but seek one which lies in the future (cf. Heb 11:13-16; Phil 3:20), this does not mean for one moment that they live only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage.
This is beautifully nuanced. Catholicism does not preach the external or transformation of the world by social engineering or by institutional reform, but by the intrinsic transformation of hearts. The Kingdom of God's Friends will be established by us each becoming a friend of God - the transforming of our intellects, wills and hearts by a personal encounter with God. Once we are all God's friends (that is "saints") then we cannot help being friends to each other. The structural and social reforms that are necessary to promote justice will follow from this radical transformation of society, not the other way round. They should be anticipated in the forms and practice of community and governance found within the institutional Church; though generally they are not!The figure of Christ is interpreted on ancient sarcophagi principally by two images: the philosopher and the shepherd. Philosophy at that time was not generally seen as a difficult academic discipline, as it is today. Rather, the philosopher was someone who knew how to teach the essential art: the art of being authentically human—the art of living and dying... the true philosopher who really did know how to point out the path of life was highly sought after. Towards the end of the third century, on the sarcophagus of a child in Rome, we find for the first time, in the context of the resurrection of Lazarus, the figure of Christ as the true philosopher, holding the Gospel in one hand and the philosopher's travelling staff in the other... In this image, which then became a common feature of sarcophagus art for a long time, we see clearly what both educated and simple people found in Christ: he tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human. He shows us the way, and this way is the truth. He himself is both the way and the truth, and therefore he is also the life which all of us are seeking. He also shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life.
This is powerful stuff and requires no comment from me, except a cheer! This pope is a Platonist, beyond any shadow of a doubt.Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a “proof” of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a “not yet”. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future... Faith gives life a new basis, a new foundation on which we can stand, one which relativizes the habitual foundation, the reliability of material income. A new freedom is created with regard to this habitual foundation of life, which only appears to be capable of providing support, although this is obviously not to deny its normal meaning.
Indeed, faith is a concrete manifestation in the present of the life-changing personal encounter with God and is a down-payment on the eventual divinisation of the human soul, so that it is objectively worthy of God's respect and love. It is not an act of the human individual but an effect of a prevenient Divine Initiative of gracious illumination - itself prepared for by a hybrid process of human investigation, questioning and exploration motivated by a Divine vocation that echoes through every atom of reality. "Raise the stone and thou shalt find me. Cleave the wood and I am there."["The Logia", discovered at Oxyrhynchus 1897, trans. Greenfell & Hunt, pub 1904, OUP: for the Egypt Exploration Fund] Faith can give a new basis for a truly robust life: Eternal Life with God, based on a gracious but real participation in God's very being.Then the question arises: do we really want this—to live eternally?... To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable... Obviously there is a contradiction in our attitude, which points to an inner contradiction in our very existence. On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was the earth created with that in view. So what do we really want? Our paradoxical attitude gives rise to a deeper question: what in fact is “life”? And what does “eternity” really mean? There are moments when it suddenly seems clear to us: yes, this is what true “life” is—this is what it should be like. Besides, what we call “life” in our everyday language is not real “life” at all.
At one level, life is an easy concept to understand; but at another level life within this contingent world is incomprehensible: because it is confronted with the inevitability of death and dissolution and futility. Only God is "living" in an absolute sence, and the only life that is worth living is one that is in fellowship with God. It is this intimacy with Life-Itself that our finite lives crave. It is only this friendship that can make us happy.How could the idea have developed that Jesus's message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly?... It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level—that of purely private and other-worldly affairs—and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope... Progress is primarily associated with the growing dominion of reason, and this reason is obviously considered to be a force of good and a force for good. Progress is the overcoming of all forms of dependency—it is progress towards perfect freedom. Likewise freedom is seen purely as a promise, in which man becomes more and more fully himself...
Salvation has a communal element as well as an individual. The transformation of souls necessarily leads to a transformation of society - else there was no transformation of souls to begin with! Individualism rightly understood is a good thing: we are each called to be the best that we can, in accordance with our own particular nature, aptitudes, tallents and interests. Individualism understood as radical independence from God is nothing more than an incoherent conceit.Karl Marx took up the rallying call... Progress towards the better, towards the definitively good world, no longer comes simply from science but from politics... With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution—and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion... Marx's fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another... Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.
Reason is a good thing; but without a basis of episteme she can acheive nothing. When she is set up against "faith", "hope" and "charity" she becomes the enemy of all that is good; because to do this is to make she who should be a skillful, valuable and beloved hand-maid into a tyranical and conceited false-goddess. Likewise freedom is a great good; but freedom is always "freedom to do" - and without an object in view, without an intuition of justice, it is a loose cannon and will only do harm to the "free individual". Finally, human fulfillment: for man to become "more fully himself" is arguably the greatest human good of all; but Man can only do this as the respected friend of God, and not as some independent rebel from justice. Ultimately, for man to become more fully himself is for him to become more like God: for God is Justice, Beauty and Love.
Arguably, freedom is nothing more than "ignorance" - or, putting it more positively, the potential for knowledge rather than actual knowledge. This ignorance allows human beings to learn and appropriate for themselves an understanding of reality which they can then claim to possess of their own right and effort, and not simply by gift or imposition of another. Paradoxically, such ignorance is the foundation of human dignity and reasonable pride and self-respect; for what the human being discovers for themselves (even with a degree of Divine help) is something that they can claim merit for! The down-side of such ignorance is its open-ness to error and in the end self-deceit, which is wickedness. Without God's grace this path of dissolution is wide and easy. As Plato says, it is an easy thing for a good man to become bad, but a difficult thing for him to remain good! [Protagoras 344-345] Marx should have known better, and would have done so if he'd followed Plato's line.What does “progress” really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise?.. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation... then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.
The examples that could be quoted here are too many and sad to list.Yes indeed, reason is God's great gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of the Christian life. But when does reason truly triumph? When it is detached from God? When it has become blind to God? Is the reason behind action and capacity for action the whole of reason? If progress, in order to be progress, needs moral growth on the part of humanity, then the reason behind action and capacity for action is likewise urgently in need of integration through reason's openness to the saving forces of faith, to the differentiation between good and evil. Only thus does reason become truly human. It becomes human only if it is capable of directing the will along the right path, and it is capable of this only if it looks beyond itself.
Exactly so! What matters is Objective Reality, not subjective wishful-thinking.Otherwise, man's situation, in view of the imbalance between his material capacity and the lack of judgement in his heart, becomes a threat for him and for creation. Thus where freedom is concerned, we must remember that human freedom always requires a convergence of various freedoms. Yet this convergence cannot succeed unless it is determined by a common intrinsic criterion of measurement, which is the foundation and goal of our freedom.
Plato teaches us that justice amounts to every individual "minding his own business"[Republic II (370a)] - but how can the freedom of each and every human being be accommodated and facilitated without one person's agency inpeding - or even worse inflicting injury on - another's?Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope... Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself: reason and faith need one another in order to fulfil their true nature and their mission.
Absolutely! Faith and skepticism go hand in hand towards the discovery of truth.Freedom presupposes that in fundamental decisions, every person and every generation is a new beginning. Naturally, new generations can build on the knowledge and experience of those who went before, and they can draw upon the moral treasury of the whole of humanity... The right state of human affairs, the moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed simply through structures alone, however good they are. Such structures are not only important, but necessary; yet they cannot and must not marginalize human freedom. Even the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order. Freedom requires conviction; conviction does not exist on its own, but must always be gained anew by the community... Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined—good—state of the world, man's freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all.
This is a direct and forceful contradiction of the basis of "Conservatism".Every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs; this task is never simply completed. Yet every generation must also make its own contribution to establishing convincing structures of freedom and of good, which can help the following generation as a guideline for the proper use of human freedom; hence, always within human limits, they provide a certain guarantee also for the future. In other words: good structures help, but of themselves they are not enough.
This is a beautiful outlining of what true "Traditionalism" amounts to.It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of “redemption” which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love... If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then—only then—is man “redeemed”, whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances. This is what it means to say: Jesus Christ has “redeemed” us. Through him we have become certain of God, a God who is not a remote “first cause” of the world, because his only-begotten Son has become man and of him everyone can say: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20)... We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life...
Absolutely! The Incarnation is crucial to our coming to know God. The Kingdom of God's friends is how this abstract episteme is implemented in practice.The Kingdom of God is a gift... we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behaviour is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good... We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad.
Again, this is beautifully nuanced. The pope accurately negotiates the narrow way between "justification by works" and "justification by faith alone". His orthodoxy in these matters is impeccable - as is his Platonism!Suffering is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today. Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering... but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world's healing has emerged in history. It is, however, hope—not yet fulfilment; hope that gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations, aware that, as far as the external course of history is concerned, the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence...
So a certain level of pain and suffering is inevitable in a contingent material world - even the best world of all possible worlds - but this level is compounded many times over by Man's inhumanity. Only the reality of God and God's unconditional concern for the Cosmos and God's infallible power to heal the broken-ness of the Cosmos can give us hope.It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love... The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer... A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another's suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love... Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.
It is deeply paradoxical and yet true, that suffering - which is an evil - is the great test and creator of virtue. It is, I suppose, the other side of the proposition that ignorance is the breading-ground of wisdom. The pope's dichotomy between "my own well-being and safety" and "truth and justice" is a false one - though commonly accepted. The only sure basis for "my own well-being and safety" within any society or community is an absolute and unwavering adherence of every-one (and thst must include myself) to "truth and justice". The pope's dichotomy between "pure selfishness" and "love" is also false, as will be understood as soon as any attempt is made to explain what "pure selfishness" might be.The Christian faith has shown us that truth, justice and love are not simply ideals, but enormously weighty realities.
For a Platonist, of course, this is obvious, and doesn't require saying! The Ideals are exactly those "Things Invisible" [cf. the Nicene creed] which are Most Real.It has shown us that God —Truth and Love in person—desired to suffer for us and with us. Bernard of Clairvaux coined the marvellous expression..."God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with." Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus's Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises... in truly great trials, where I must make a definitive decision to place the truth before my own welfare, career and possessions, I need the certitude of that true, great hope of which we have spoken here.
Once again, the pope places the doctrine of the Incarnation at the centre of the Catholic Faith: exactly where it belongs!Faith in Christ has never looked merely backwards or merely upwards, but always also forwards to the hour of justice that the Lord repeatedly proclaimed... In the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, which were intended to make visible the historic and cosmic breadth of faith in Christ, it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king—the symbol of hope—at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives—a scene which followed and accompanied the faithful as they went out to resume their daily routine... God has given himself an “image”: in Christ who was made man. In him who was crucified, the denial of false images of God is taken to an extreme. God now reveals his true face in the figure of the sufferer who shares man's God-forsaken condition by taking it upon himself. This innocent sufferer has attained the certitude of hope: there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith. Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright.
So even details of architecture and Church decor can be a material part of the Apostolic Tradition! The Iconoclasts were woefully wrong!I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ's return and for new life become fully convincing.
In other words, the manifest fact that the good often suffer and that the evil often prosper in this mortal life requires that there be some forum beyond this mortal existence in which the equitable demands of justice - that causes have their unimpeded intrinsic resolution - be fulfilled.God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right... Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened. Here I would like to quote a passage from Plato which expresses a premonition of just judgement that in many respects remains true and salutary for Christians too. Albeit using mythological images, he expresses the truth with an unambiguous clarity, saying that in the end souls will stand naked before the judge. It no longer matters what they once were in history, but only what they are in truth:
“Often, when it is the king or some other monarch or potentate that he (the judge) has to deal with, he finds that there is no soundness in the soul whatever; he finds it scourged and scarred by the various acts of perjury and wrong-doing... it is twisted and warped by lies and vanity, and nothing is straight because truth has had no part in its development. Power, luxury, pride, and debauchery have left it so full of disproportion and ugliness that when he has inspected it (he) sends it straight to prison, where on its arrival it will undergo the appropriate punishment... Sometimes, though, the eye of the judge lights on a different soul which has lived in purity and truth... then he is struck with admiration and sends him to the isles of the blessed.” [Gorgias 525a-526c.]In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31), Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures; the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst. We must note that in this parable Jesus is not referring to the final destiny after the Last Judgement, but is taking up a notion found, inter alia, in early Judaism, namely that of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a state in which the final sentence is yet to be pronounced...
Is the pope really hinting here at eaxactly the possibility that I have raised - that most of what has been conventionally understood to be Jesus' teaching about an eternal "Hell" was actually teaching about a temporary "Purgatory"? If he is really a Platonist, then this is what one might expect!This early Jewish idea of an intermediate state includes the view that these souls are not simply in a sort of temporary custody but, as the parable of the rich man illustrates, are already being punished or are experiencing a provisional form of bliss. There is also the idea that this state can involve purification and healing which mature the soul for communion with God. The early Church took up these concepts, and in the Western Church they gradually developed into the doctrine of Purgatory... With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell.
But one would reasonably expect this to be a very small number, and possibly the empty set; given the power of God's grace to seduce hearts and transform souls. If this is truly the purpose of life, then what is to bve said about those individuals whose lives have not been such as to allow for such a deliborate shaping and formation to take place: those who die as infants - either baptized or unbaptized - or those who are so mentally handicapped as to be incapable of any kind of rational understanding and so moral capability?On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God.
Here we have it: the idea that the number of damned is small, not large - and possibly zero.In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil —much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur?... it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast...The fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.
So Purgatory is now seen as a really important doctrine, right at the centre of the faith; a doctrine that gives hope - and allows God to deal most gently and delicately with sinners, so that none who do not have to be lost are lost; but that all who have maintained a modicum of decency and humanity may be preserved for eternity and become "Friends of God" - though not without the loss of substance that their wrong choices, made in freedom, necessitates.The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us... So we cry to her: Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel... your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope... From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose?.. No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers... The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples... you were in the midst of the community of believers...The “Kingdom” of Jesus... began in that hour, and of this “Kingdom” there will be no end.
It is good to see Our Lady proposed as the epiteme of hope as found in human beings. May she soon be declared Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of All Grace!
Our predecessor John Paul II having already considered the insistent petitions of these faithful, having listened to the views of the Cardinal Fathers of the Consistory of 22 March 2006, having reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these Apostolic Letters We establish the following:
Art. 1 The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the Lex orandi (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same Lex orandi, and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s Lex credendi (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.
It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church. The conditions for the use of this Missal as laid down by earlier documents Quattuor abhinc annis and Ecclesia Dei, are substituted as follows:
Art. 2 In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.
Art. 3 Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or “community” celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statutes.
Art. 4 Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may – observing all the norms of law – also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted.
Art. 5 § 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.
§ 2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.
§ 3 For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages.
§ 4 Priests who use the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so [in good standing] and not juridically impeded.
§ 5 In churches that are not parish or conventual churches, it is the duty of the Rector of the church to grant the above permission.
Art. 6 In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.
Art. 7 If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5 § 1, has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.
Art. 8 A bishop who, desirous of satisfying such requests, but who for various reasons is unable to do so, may refer the problem to the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” to obtain counsel and assistance.
Art. 9 § 1 The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it.
§ 2 Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it.
§ 2 Clerics ordained “in sacris constitutis” may use the Roman Breviary promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962.
Art. 10 The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.
Art. 11 The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, erected by John Paul II in 1988, continues to exercise its function. Said Commission will have the form, duties and norms that the Roman Pontiff wishes to assign it.
Art. 12 This Commission, apart from the powers it enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See, supervising the observance and application of these dispositions.
We order that everything We have established with these Apostolic Letters issued as Motu Proprio be considered as “established and decreed”, and to be observed from 14 September of this year, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.
From Rome, at St. Peter’s, 7 July 2007, third year of Our Pontificate.
My dear Brother Bishops,
With great trust and hope, I am consigning to you as Pastors the text of a new Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The document is the fruit of much reflection, numerous consultations and prayer.
News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion. There have been very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown.
This document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter.
In the first place, there is the fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions – the liturgical reform – is being called into question. This fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were "two Rites". Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.
As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level. Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood. This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration. We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.
Pope John Paul II thus felt obliged to provide, in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988), guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal; that document, however, did not contain detailed prescriptions but appealed in a general way to the generous response of Bishops towards the "legitimate aspirations" of those members of the faithful who requested this usage of the Roman Rite. At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to assist the Society of Saint Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more painfully. Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about. Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio. On the other hand, difficulties remain concerning the use of the 1962 Missal outside of these groups, because of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because Bishops, in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council would be called into question. Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio. The present Norms are also meant to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations.
In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.
It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects
unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin
liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive
and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two Forms of the usage
of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some
of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.
The "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to
the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard.
The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be
able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the
sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure
guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be
loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in
harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual
richness and the theological depth of this Missal.
I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: "Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!" (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.
There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.
In conclusion, dear Brothers, I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22: "Sacrae Liturgiae moderatio ab Ecclesiae auctoritate unice pendet quae quidem est apud Apostolicam Sedem et, ad normam iuris, apud Episcopum").
Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose
role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity.
Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local
Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with
all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio.
Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.
Dear Brothers, with gratitude and trust, I entrust to your hearts as
Pastors these pages and the norms of the Motu Proprio. Let us always be
mindful of the words of the Apostle Paul addressed to the presbyters of
Ephesus: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy
Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained
with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).
I entrust these norms to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, dear Brothers, to the parish priests of your dioceses, and to all the priests, your co-workers, as well as to all your faithful.
Given at Saint Peter’s, 7 July 2007
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre
Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry!
The remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre without a mandate of the Holy See has for many reasons caused, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time. Many Bishops felt perplexed by an event which came about unexpectedly and was difficult to view positively in the light of the issues and tasks facing the Church today. Even though many Bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope’s concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time. Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment. I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear Brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church.
An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path. A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council – steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support. That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore. I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news. I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility. Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which – as in the days of Pope John Paul II – has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.
Another mistake, which I deeply regret, is the fact that the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication. The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions. An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication – with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained. The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four Bishops once more to return. This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council. Here I return to the distinction between individuals and institutions. The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.
In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" – the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope – to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes. The collegial bodies with which the Congregation studies questions which arise (especially the ordinary Wednesday meeting of Cardinals and the annual or biennial Plenary Session) ensure the involvement of the Prefects of the different Roman Congregations and representatives from the world’s Bishops in the process of decision-making. The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.
I hope, dear Brothers, that this serves to clarify the positive significance and also the limits of the provision of 21 January 2009. But the question still remains: Was this measure needed? Was it really a priority? Aren’t other things perhaps more important? Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.
Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is interreligious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.
So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church’s real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small. That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept. But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who "has something against you" (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation? Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents – to the extent possible – in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences? Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole? I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole. Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?
Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.
Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love? The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome. And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide – even in turbulent times. And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many Bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers. My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter. May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter.
With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain
Yours in the Lord,
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
From the Vatican, 10 March 2009