Church and World
“Motus in Fine Velocior”— Things Speed Up at the End
February 11, 2013, is a date that will go down in history. On that day, Benedict XVI announced to an assembly of stunned cardinals that he had decided to renounce the pontificate. This news was received “like a lightning bolt from a clear sky,” in the words reported by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, and a photograph of a lightning bolt that struck St. Peter’s Basilica that very day went around the world.
The abdication took place on February 28, but Benedict XVI had previously made known his intention of remaining in the Vatican as pope emeritus, an unprecedented step that was even more surprising than his renunciation of the pontificate. In the month that passed between his announcement and the conclave that opened March 12, the election of the new pope was in preparation, even if it seemed unexpected to the world. What was thought even more surprising than the identity of the man elected, Argentinean Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was the unprecedented name he chose, Francis, almost as if he wished to represent something unique in its kind. His first address was remarkable for following his colloquial “good evening” by presenting himself as “bishop of Rome,” a title that belongs to the pope, but only after the titles of Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter, the foundations of the sovereign pontificate.
The photograph of the two popes praying together on March 23 in Castelgandolfo, presenting the image of an unheard-of pontifical ‘diarchy,’ added to the confusion of those days. But that was merely the beginning. Next came the interview on board the plane returning from Rio de Janeiro, July 28, 2013, with the words, “Who am I to judge?” which would be used to justify any transgression. Other interviews with Pope Francis followed, with the editor of Civiltà Cattolica in September and with the founder of La Repubblica in October, and their impact in the media was greater than that of his first encyclical Lumen Fidei. It was said that these interviews were not acts of the magisterium, but everything that has happened since in the Church has stemmed from them; their character was magisterial de facto, if not in principle.
The confusion has peaked1 with the confrontation between the (future) cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Tegucigalpa Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, co-ordinator of the counsellors for the reforms of Pope Francis. According to Maradiaga, traditional doctrine is not enough to provide “answers for the world of today.” It is maintained, but there are “pastoral challenges” adapted to the times to which we cannot respond with “authoritarianism and moralism” because that is not “the New Evangelization.”
After Cardinal Maradiaga’s statements came the results of the survey on pastoral challenges relating to the family, launched by the Pope for the Synod of Bishops of October 5-19. The SIR (Service of Religious Information) has released a summary of the first European results. The bishops of Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany feel that the Catholic Faith is too rigid and does not meet the requirements of the faithful. The Church should accept premarital cohabitation, recognize homosexual marriages and civil partnerships, allow birth control and contraception, bless the remarriages of the divorced, and allow the remarried divorced to receive the sacraments. If this is the road to take, it is correct to call it a road to schism and heresy, because it means denying the natural and divine law which not only upholds the indissolubility of marriage but also prohibits sexual acts outside of it, especially acts against nature. The Church receives all those who repent of their mistakes and their sins and intend to leave the morally disordered situation in which they live, but it can in no way legitimize a sinful state. It would be nonsensical to claim that the change only applies to pastoral practice and not to doctrine. If doctrine is not related to pastoral practice, it follows that practice becomes doctrine, as it unfortunately has become ever since the Second Vatican Council.
Must the Church give new answers “for the world of today”? The great reformers in Church history, such as St. Peter Damian and Pope St. Gregory VII did not behave in this way. If they had, simony and nepotism among the clergy would have been legitimized in the 11th century, so as not to let the Church fall out of step with the reality of the times; whereas on the contrary, they denounced these wounds in the Church with fiery words and worked to reform morals and restore the true doctrine.
It is the intransigent and uncompromising spirit of the saints that is dramatically lacking today. There is an urgent need for an acies ordinata, an army in battle array armed with the weapons of the Gospel, announcing the words of life to the dying modern world, rather than embracing its corpse. Between the Council of Trent and the French Revolution, the Jesuits were for the Church such a company of combatants. Today all the religious orders have fallen into decadence, and if one of them appears rich in promise, it is inexplicably suppressed. The case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, which came out in July, presents an obvious contradiction between Pope Francis’s incessant calls for mercy and the iron hand with which Commissioner Fidenzio Volpi was instructed to annihilate one of today’s few flourishing religious institutions.
The paradox does not stop there. Never has the Church renounced one of its divine attributes, that of justice, as it has in this first year of Pope Francis’s pontificate, to present itself to the world as merciful and benevolent; yet never before this year has it been the object of such violent attacks from the world to which it has outstretched its hand.
Events are flying by more and more swiftly. The Latin phrase “motus in fine velocior” is commonly used to express the increasing pace of time at the end of an era. The proliferation of events shortens the time, which in itself does not exist outside of the things that happen. Aristotle tells us that time is the measure of motion (Physics, IV, 219 b). We define it more precisely as the duration of things that move. God is eternal precisely because He is immutable: all motion has its cause in Him, but nothing in Him moves. The farther we retreat from God, the greater the chaos produced by change.
Acceleration in Time
February 11th marked the beginning of an acceleration in time, the consequence of a movement that has become vertiginous. We live in an historic hour which is not necessarily the end of time, but certainly the twilight of a civilization and the end of an era in the life of the Church. If at the end of this era the Catholic clergy and laity do not carry out their full responsibilities, what the visionary of Fatima saw will certainly come to pass: “And we saw in an immense light that is God (something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it) a Bishop dressed in white (we had the impression that it was the Holy Father). Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins, and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”
This dramatic vision of May 13th should be more than enough to incite us to prayer, meditation and action. The city is already in ruins and the enemy soldiers are at the gates. Whoever loves the Church will defend it, to hasten the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
(Source: Correspondance européenne – DICI, No. 291, February 28, 2014)
1 Roberto de Mattei alludes to the interview Cardinal Maradiaga gave on January 20, 2014, to German newspaper Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, part of which is reproduced here, translated from the transcript published in the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger.
Maradiaga: I asked the Pope, “Why yet another synod on the family? We had that 1980, and we have the beautiful teaching of Pope John Paul II’s Exhortation Familiaris Consortio in 1983.”
KStA: How did Francis respond?
Maradiaga: That was 30 years ago. Today, the family of that time no longer exists for most people. And it’s true: we have divorces; we have blended families, single-parent families, phenomena such as surrogacy and childless marriages, not to mention the same-sex partnerships. In 1980 none of this was anticipated. The world of today needs answers. And it is not enough to say, “We have the traditional doctrine.” Of course, the traditional teaching will subsist. But these pastoral challenges require answers for the world of today. And they cannot come from authoritarianism and moralism. That would not be the “New Evangelization”–no, no!
KStA: Your confrere, soon-to-be Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, apparently thinks more highly of the authority of the Church, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
[Laughter] Maradiaga: So I have read, yes. And I thought, “Okay, maybe you’re right, but maybe not.” I mean, I understand: He is German–yes, I have to say, on top of that a professor, a German professor of theology. In his mind there is only right or wrong; that’s it. But I say, “The world, my brother, the world is not like that. You should be a little flexible when you hear other voices, so that you do not just listen and say no, here is the wall.” So, I believe he will get there, he will learn to understand other views. But now he’s still just at the beginning, he’s just listening to his senior staff.
The New Lists of Grievances
A strange questionnaire on the family, to which anyone can answer freely whatever he wants, whatever he feels, perhaps what he believes…concerning the indissolubility of marriage, contraception, homosexuality… The answers to these questionnaires are supposed to help the cardinals understand better the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” at the Synod that is to be held next October.
For the last several weeks, these answers have been diffused in the press and online by certain Bishops’ conferences that wish to show the world, but especially Rome, that Catholic doctrine and the practice of Catholics are not on the same page. It is already being suggested that in order to reduce this difference, we need only reduce moral demands…
If we continue thus, the answers to this worldwide survey will soon be presented as the lists of grievances that the laymen place in the hands of their representatives, the cardinals, for a Synod seen as the States-General of “the family in the context of evangelization.” Then shall we be able to repeat with Cardinal Suenens, speaking of Vatican II: “It is 1789 in the Church!”
Switzerland and Germany: Answers to the Survey on the Family
In Switzerland, the official results of the consultation on the Catholic Church’s pastoral teachings on marriage, the family and life as a couple were presented on February 4, 2014, in Bern, by the Swiss Bishops’ Conference (CES). Pope Francis desired this consultation in preparation for the extraordinary synod on the family that is to be held in Rome from October 5-19, 2014. (See DICI, No. 284, Nov. 8, 2013, and DICI, No. 289, Jan. 31, 2014.)
The results of this consultation—which de facto was in the form of a survey of the faithful—reveals that out of the 25,000 answers received, 90 percent of Swiss Catholics wish the Church would recognize and bless remarried divorcee couples, and about 60 percent are favorable to the Church recognizing and blessing homosexual couples. Arnd Bünker, director of the Swiss Institute of Pastoral Sociology (SPI), who collected and evaluated the answers, also pointed out that there exists a “dramatic discord of which we have long been aware” between the Church’s doctrine and the faithful on questions of contraception: forbidding artificial methods of contraception is far from the practice and ideas of the majority.
In answer, far from recalling Catholic doctrine and morals, Bishop Markus Büchel, bishop of Saint-Gall and president of the CES, declared that the hierarchy of the Church can no longer continue to deliver its message in a way “that no longer reaches man.” While he says that the Church’s teaching should not be submitted to “a cheap majority opinion,” the Swiss prelate considers that this teaching needs to be renewed in the light of values and ideals that correspond to people’s real life.—Which means in other words: adapt the moral teaching of the Church to the “values” that are accepted today; the press agency Apic resumes it in these words: “For a doctrine that corresponds to people’s reality.” The revealed doctrine no longer transforms sinful reality; it must be reduced to the level of this reality.
In Germany, the permanent committee of the Bishops’ Conference presented the press with the results of this consultation-survey on February 3, in Bonn. The bishops pointed out that there exists among the German Catholics a “general impression that the Church behaves mercilessly towards remarried divorcees.” In consequence, they ask for a “pastoral teaching that respects the decision of the individual’s conscience” and a merciful attitude towards failure, “which would also allow readmission to the sacraments.”
Catholics consider that the sexual morality advocated by the Catholic Church is “far from the real life” of believers as of non-believers. The bishops admitted that “when they don’t reject them altogether,” the faithful adhere very little to the Church’s affirmations, be it on sexual intercourse before marriage, homosexuality, remarried divorcees or contraception.
As far as contraception goes, the bishops remarked a “great difference” between the official doctrine and what the faithful think of it. The encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968) is refused by a vast majority of Catholics. They call it “incomprehensible” and make no effort to put it into practice. But as far as abortion goes, most Catholics share the teaching of the Church.
As for the legal status of homosexuals, a majority of those surveyed consider it “necessary in justice” to recognize these life communities legally and to respect homosexuals. However, the idea of making the legal institution of marriage available to same sex unions is “mostly rejected” by Catholics.
The answers from 27 German dioceses and about 20 Catholic associations and institutions reveal—as in Switzerland—the necessity of finding new ways to transmit the Catholic Church’s moral teaching. And in order to ensure that these answers and the solutions they suggest will be internationally diffused, the German bishops are going to publish a report on the German Bishops’ Conference website, in English and Italian.—The Rhine is still flowing into the Tiber.
In Austria, the bishops received over 34,000 answers to the questionnaire, and results are mostly along the same lines as in Germany and Switzerland. A large percentage points out that the Church does not take seriously enough the reality of failed marriages and families. For this reason, a vast majority of Catholics ask that remarried divorcees be once again allowed access to confession and communion. This majority also rejects the Church’s position on artificial contraception.
At the Vatican, Lucetta Scaraffia, editorial writer for L’Osservatore Romano, rejoiced in the February 4 edition over this world-wide consultation on the pastoral teaching on the family. She noted the “remarkable vitality” (sic) of the Church revealed by the answers that reach the Vatican. She considers that “the opposition between the hierarchy and the faithful” has made room for a “passionate will to understand better, to come up with an idea and test it peacefully.” According to her, Catholics “want to feel involved in an institution that is ready to understand, welcome, and forgive, rather than to judge, set up obstacles and mark boundaries between what we ought to do and what we live on a daily basis.” Is this dialoguing irenism the result of an unconscious intelligence, of a “useful idiot”? But for whose ends?
Lucetta Scaraffia mentioned France and the “heavy initiatives on the legislative level to revise the status of the family and filiation.” She esteems that “the opposition between the two conflicting parties” has made room for “a free discussion.” “The more it is freed from the mortgage of politics,” she wrote, “the freer and the more interesting the discussion will become; and it will attract other people who had withdrawn from it out of fear of the direction the debate was taking.” —This journalist for L’Osservatore Romano wishes for a “free and interesting discussion” on homosexual marriage, medically assisted procreation and surrogate mothers for anyone… The French protestors who have been fighting to save the family for months now will appreciate that!
Comment: We have already noted how this kind of opinion poll “will help to dilute the dogma a little further into a pastoral plan that is more dependent on sociology than on theology” (see DICI, No. 284, Nov. 8, 2013).
We must also note that the results of these consultations are highly questionable. What are 25,000 questionnaires compared to some three million Swiss Catholics? This questionnaire on the family, open to all, has no statistical method and we cannot help wondering whether progressive groups have taken the opportunity to promote their ideas.
St. Pius X denounced the use of democratic methods as typical of the modernist system. He wrote in Pascendi Dominici Gregis in 1907: “For we are living in an age (say the modernists) when the sense of liberty has reached its highest development. In the civil order the public conscience has introduced popular government. Now there is in man only one conscience, just as there is only one life. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to adopt a democratic form, unless it wishes to provoke and foment an intestine conflict in the consciences of mankind. The penalty of refusal is disaster. For it is madness to think that the sentiment of liberty, as it now obtains, can recede. Were it forcibly pent up and held in bonds, the more terrible would be its outburst, sweeping away at once both Church and religion. Such is the situation in the minds of the Modernists, and their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of the believers” (No. 25).
(Sources: Apic/ Imedia/ OR – DICI, No. 290, Feb. 14, 2014)
The Vatican City State Celebrated Its 85th Birthday
The smallest State in the world, the Vatican City State, was born of the Lateran Accords, signed on February 11, 1929, by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Secretary of State, and by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on behalf of Pius XI (1922-1939) and King Victor-Emmanuel III respectively. Ratified on June 7, 1929, these pacts had put an end to the “Roman question” started by the capture of Rome by Piedmontese troops on September 20, 1870, and the annexation of the city to the Kingdom of Italy, thereby pitting the Vatican against the Italian State from 1870 on. These accords also meant the disappearance of the Papal States.
The 1929 Accords created a sovereign entity on 44 hectares [109 acres], which makes the central government of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, a subject of international public law. They also allow for its independence from any established authority in the world. The Pope resides in Vatican City, where some organizations of the Holy See are headquartered. Head of State of the Vatican, he delegates his duties of representing the Vatican in international relations, for diplomatic relations and for the conclusion of treaties, to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.
The nine departments of the Vatican City State are responsible, respectively, for the finances of the State, general services, security services and civil defense, health-related matters, the famous Vatican Museums, technical services, telecommunications, economic services, and finally the pontifical villas. The Astronomical Observatory of the Vatican is an autonomous organization.
The Vatican State has its own yellow-and-white flag with the tiara and the keys on the white field, a hymn—the Papal March by Charles Gounod (1818-1893), license plates, postal service and money.
In 2012, the Vatican City State numbered a little more than 500 citizens, among them the pope, the cardinals residing in Rome and at the Vatican, the diplomats of the Holy See residing abroad, as well as the men of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. But only 240 of these citizens live within the City itself. Conversely, some 250 persons who do not have Vatican citizenship reside at the Vatican, so that the total number of residents in Vatican City is almost 500.
L’Osservatore Romano emphasized that the anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Accords between the Holy See and Italy, on February 11, 1929, coincides with the [thirtieth] anniversary of the conclusion of the Villa Madama Accord on February 18, 1984, which somewhat modified one of the protocols making up the Lateran Accords, the Concordat.
Jean Gaudemet, professor emeritus of the University of Paris II, explains the nature of and the reason for this important change: “The Lateran Treaty still made the Catholic religion the only State religion. This notion disappeared with the 1984 Accord.” In effect, he continues, “the doctrine to which the 1984 Accord subscribes…is also that of the conciliar Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes, 1965).” The new arrangements differ from the system of the 1929 Concordat on numerous points; more particularly “the political power is no longer the creator of a freedom that it guarantees. It acknowledges the freedom that the Church claims by virtue of her mission. For it is in order to exercise her pastoral mission, and no longer for the exercise of a power, even a spiritual one, that the Church enjoys full freedom. This is new vocabulary, but most importantly a new concept of the Church’s role in the world, inspired by the ecclesiology of Vatican II” (Annuaire français de droit international 30 , 212).
“We Must Be Men of Principle”
SSPX U.S. District, Feb. 27, 2014.—This letter from Fr. Karl Stehlin explains how we must be men of principle according to the proper Catholic sense.
Recently, Father Jean, a priest of the traditional Capuchin community in Morgon, France, gave a sermon in which he expressed the opinion that the SSPX is “going soft on Modernism” for having sought a practical agreement with Rome. In response to this false accusation, Fr. Karl Stehlin (the superior of the SSPX’s Eastern European Autonomous House), felt compelled to write to him and the Capuchin community at large, in order to explain five important Catholic principles that he has learned over the years as a Society priest.
We are grateful to Father Stehlin for allowing us to publish a translation of his letter, which dovetails perfectly with two other recent articles concerning the principles that govern the SSPX: “What Comes First: Obedience or Fidelity?” and “A Question of Principles: SSPX vs. FSSP.” The footnotes in Father’s letter were added by sspx.org.
Warsaw, February 6, 2014
To Rev. Fr. Antoine, Rev. Fr. Jean, and the whole Community of Reverend Capuchin Fathers1
Reverend Father Jean,
I just received your sermon from the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, and I must tell you that it deeply moved me. It reminded me of those days when I had the honor of receiving you into the Militia Immaculatae [M.I.], and of your visit to Poland to participate in our great pilgrimage to Czestochowa. What is more, you know how attached I am to you Capuchin Fathers, especially since it is through you that the M.I. spread in France, forming knights of the Immaculate willing to work for the conversion of souls. Finally, what a joy it has been for me to see Polish postulants enter your monastery and the convent of the Poor Clares.
All this to say that I read your sermon with the utmost attention, all the more so since you Fathers rarely speak “ad extra.”
How right you are to insist that we must be men of principle, and that our principles must be inflexible, with no possible compromise. I admit that I have been thinking about this very point for a long time, and wishing to be a man of principle after the example of a Cardinal Pie and an Archbishop Lefebvre, I have tried to gather together the main principles (I found five) and place them before my conscience in order to examine whether I strive to put them into practice. Allow me to expose them to you, not in hierarchical order, but as they come to mind.
First Principle: The Good of Obedience
Reading your words as a son of St. Francis and of our beloved St. Maximilian Kolbe, I thought first of all of how much the latter insisted on supernatural obedience. You know his famous texts and you know better than I that for St. Maximilian, the only sure mark of the voice of the Immaculate is the voice of one’s superiors. This saint practiced this obedience to the point of heroism, and that is the profound reason for his influence and the success of the Immaculate. I have always admired the Capuchin Fathers for being champions of the practice of this great principle. And St. Maximilian (and St. Thomas before him) tells again that only if superiors ask of us something immoral or against the Faith must we respect the greater obedience towards God and therefore refuse to obey His human instruments. Thanks to this principle, which is the essence of obedience, we have chosen the superior obedience towards God over obedience to His instruments who ask us to do or accept things against Faith and morals.
But if I am in front of a legitimate superior (see the second principle), I owe him total obedience, through which I accomplish the will of the Immaculate in perfect safety. And St. Maximilian insists that this obedience is thus supernatural because of our love for God and our submission to Him.
I admit that it is sometimes hard. And I can still hear Fr. Antoine saying during a retreat, “You have to hold on tight” to persevere on the path of obedience. And I am so happy and grateful to my superiors who not only have never asked of me (nor of anyone I know) anything bad, but on the contrary: how many times have their orders saved me, although at the time I didn’t understand, and I thought that humanly speaking such order seemed to make little sense. But the principle is formal: As long as there is no act, order, or demand against faith and morals, complete and total obedience! How I wish the sons of St. Francis and of St. Maximilian Kolbe would remind us of this principle that is the source of all sanctity and apostolic fecundity. All of us priests ordained in Tradition made a solemn promise at the moment of our priestly ordination, and in the light of this, how painful it is to read the declaration of the priests that call themselves “the Resistance.”2
Second Principle: Authority
Another principle linked to the first is the principle of authority in se, which alone can save us from the Protestant free inquiry. All of Tradition holds together through this principle, without which everything would fall apart, for the duty to refuse the ordinary authority in order to safeguard the Faith implies the duty to submit to the authority of extraordinary supplied jurisdiction.
Tradition has survived because Providence provided this supplied jurisdiction through the founding of the SSPX to which were attached friendly communities.3
The minute we reject this authority, we endorse terrible consequences: Without it there is no unity. Look at the 20 sedevacantist sects, look at “the Resistance” after less than two years: no principle of unity except that of fighting against the SSPX. Among them there are already a good number of formal sedevacantists,4 one preaches that today a priest has to be a bit of an anarchist, etc. Look at your sermon and your tract:5 it is your interpretation, it is your point of view, and you have no way of giving any other credit to your text besides the arguments you offer.
You quote the bishops of the Society, criticizing them for each having a different point of view on the situation. Look at your own beautiful monastery: perhaps one priest has another vision of things, and yet another comes to a sedevacantist conclusion. And then what will become of the Father Guardian?6 For in the name of safeguarding the Faith, all the Fathers will “put their priesthood at the faithful’s disposition” and do what they want.
Please, Father, by refusing legitimate authority one destroys one’s own authority.
At this point I would like to draw your attention to Bishop Williamson. You know well that we have been trying for years to prepare the conversion of a good number of Protestant pastors. Well, their testimony is interesting. They say that in reading Bishop Williamson’s Kyrie Eleison,7 they are strangely reminded of the “prophets of the 19th century” in the Lutheran Church who shared their apocalyptic interpretations, always with the conclusion that the world is going to end and it is all over. All there is left to do is wait for the last day. Each one believed he held the true Gospel according to the principle: objectivity is me!
Third Principle: One Must Not Use Bad Means for a Good End
You see, Father, once in my life I went around this principle, and if it hadn’t been for the intervention of Providence through my superiors’ firm hand, I would have fallen never again to get back up. Ever since that experience I have a profound horror of anything that violates this principle.
However, seeing the procedures of the so-called Resistance, I cannot help being deeply shocked by the constant violation of this principle, especially because of the Internet, which spreads these things throughout the whole world, most of them to people who have no way to check the truth of what they are told.
But the worst of all bad means is to spread “half-truths,” to present the probable as certain, to judge important things without knowing the circumstances and all the facts. Seeing the declaration of the confused priests that you esteem so highly brings tears to my eyes. I personally know the real story of about half of those who signed, the real reasons for their criticism and departure. I do not know a single one of whom I can sincerely say: It is only in order to safeguard the whole Faith. And with these facts before my eyes, I have the right to ask that the slogan “to safeguard the Faith” not be used as a means to avenge themselves, justify themselves, or show that they were right.
I also know of Fr. Chazal’s correspondence with his confrere concerning the situation in Asia; I know Fr. Pfluger’s conference in Flavigny8 and what the great media of the Resistance made of it. It is always the same thing as in the text of the declaration: tendentious or distorted presentations (e.g., calling the confidential text drawn up for discussion on April 15, 2012,9 a “declaration”; presenting this text as the actual position of the superiors of the Society of St. Pius X, while ignoring the decision of the General Chapter). I know well that you do not do this, but I deplore the credit you grant to these people.
Fourth Principle: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam10
We come now to the principle of principles that you evoke: “Everything here below is ordained to the glory of God,” and you would surely have nothing against adding “and the salvation of souls—Salus animarum suprema lex.”11
You see, this great principle directs my whole missionary life and certainly that of all my confreres. I wish every second, every thought, word and action of my life to be entirely directed to this and nothing else. I beg this of the Immaculate every day. How I wish for all souls to be inflamed by this principle and live by it.
So it is all the more painful for me that in the name of this principle the Resistance puts all the superiors of the Society on trial. I will come back to this point later; allow me just to finish my presentation of the principles first.
Fifth Principle: Filius Ecclesiae
This principle makes me understand that I am a son who has a mother, thanks to whom I have received everything from God. Every ordination begins with the words: “Postulat Sancta Mater Ecclesia.”12 This principle tells me to love the Church as Christ loved her. However there is only one visible Church founded upon the Apostles. She is a great mystery, for she is at once divine and human, holy and composed of members who are almost all sinners. Meditating on St. Teresa of Avila, I Am a Daughter of the Church (title of a book by Fr. Eugene, O.C.D.), Fr. Emmanuel, Dom Grea, Cardinal Billot, Cardinal Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, St. Maximilian Kolbe, I have realized with terror that my mother became an abstraction, a fiction, and when I think of her present representatives on earth, an object of horror. I loved the Faith, the sacraments, the holy treasures of the Church, but I was no longer interested in the Church herself. In thinking “the Church,” I thought only “the conciliar Church” with all its aberrations and abominations. It was as if there were two Churches for me: the traditional Church (our little traditional world) and the conciliar Church, which de facto no longer existed for me. But there is only one Church, Spouse of Christ, Mystical Body of Our Lord. As you mentioned Our Lady at the foot of the Cross at the end of your sermon, I thought about how she accepted as her children all these horrible people that we are and all those who continue to crucify Our Lord.
But reading the authors listed above made me understand that I must love my Mother the Church, who is in the most terrible agony, bleeding from all sides. I understood that Providence has given me the remarkable grace of discovering the sacrosanct treasures hidden within this Mother, but almost inaccessible to the faithful. And I understood that my vocation is to approach the members of the Church, my brothers, in order to transmit to them what I have received, to reach out to the sick and dying members, and even those who are dead in order to bring them “the oil and the olive,” and thus to help my Mother that she may bleed a little less, that she may heal a little, for the more she heals, the more she will draw souls in order to save them. But if I do not do this, if I sit on my treasures and receive only the small number of healthy members, then I abandon my Mother to whom I owe my priesthood and from whom I have received everything in the order of grace.
Applying this principle to our situation, I understood Archbishop Lefebvre’s line of conduct after the consecration of the bishops, as well as the 2006 decision. As you say, and as Fr. Pivert’s book13 shows, it was the only way for us to keep the deposit that they were trying at any cost to make us ruin through compromise and alterations. That was the service rendered to the Church, and the strict application of this principle. And then I understood the Superior General’s line of conduct and the 2012 decision as the same service being rendered to the Church and the strict application of this same principle: for Providence used the circumstances so that we, sons of the Church, members of the religious orders of the Church, might once again do good for our Mother, agonizing in her members, beginning with the head. In fact, thanks to the papal decisions,14 thanks to the discussions with Rome and a certain “thawing out,” some of the deeply buried treasures have resurfaced to the great benefit of many souls. And that lasted up until the very moment when Rome once again demanded compromise and alteration. At that moment, the application of the principle required us to withdraw again and wait for better times.
At this point, please allow me to consider your interpretation of the great principle: the principle is the integral safeguard of the Faith and the freedom to propagate it, thus fulfilling the order to evangelize. The principle is the obligation to do everything possible for the salvation of souls. Therefore also to proclaim freely the only saving truth which is to denounce errors.
The principle is not the means by which we put the principle into practice. For the means can change. As you said yourself after the example of Archbishop Lefebvre: before the consecration of the bishops, after the consecration of the bishops. So by this very fact you recognize that the Archbishop considered that the means of application could change. However, the means depend on the circumstances in which we live, and Archbishop Lefebvre could not foresee these circumstances, just as he could not foresee the Internet and the iPad. After the consecrations the circumstances were unbridled ecumenism, 2 plus 2 was anything but 4, so it was clear that there was no way for Tradition to make itself heard in Rome. With Benedict XVI the situation also changed; 2 plus 2 was once again 4, but also 5 and 6. From a logical point of view, this is worse because the principle of non-contradiction is abandoned, but God, who can raise up sons of Abraham from stones, clearly drew good from this situation, that the voice of Tradition might once again resound in the Church. With Pope Francis, yet another situation, perhaps the worst yet, etc.
Now, who has the right to decide on the means best suited to obtain the end? The authority!
There are the five principles that I submit for your reflection, and I thank my superiors with all my heart for the Society of St. Pius X that allows and helps me to practice them without hindrance.
Allow me again to speak of my small experience, which I believe you have always held in esteem:
Through numerous retreats, pilgrimages, days of recollection, our publications and public conferences, we apply the GREAT PRINCIPLE to the letter. I don’t know if anywhere else in the world there are as many public conferences whose goal is to defend our Faith and denounce error. The result is an ever growing number of faithful (especially youth) solidly anchored in the Faith of all times and acting against the modernist errors.
Thanks to the foundation of the traditional M.I. almost half of our faithful (about 1,000) form themselves after the principles and ideals of St. Maximilian: the desire to obey the Immaculate by understanding the role of the instruments she uses to guide us. Upon discovering the betrayal and infidelity of the official clergy, and at the same time our fidelity, they cling to Tradition and live ever more in a supernatural obedience. There are only two sorts of faithful who stir up trouble to divide Tradition: the sedevacantists and the Resistance.
Looking back at the years that have gone by, I come to a whole new appreciation of the decision of the SSPX’s superiors, and the facts are there to confirm it: until 2007, there were very few faithful in Poland, but after the motu proprio, about 70 Mass centers started celebrating the traditional Mass, a good number of the priests learning to say the Mass with our help. Thanks to this event, Novus Ordo faithful discovered the Mass, and through it the treasure of Tradition. Often with the help of these priests they discovered our traditional literature, and then many of them participated in our retreats. Our chapels were even fuller after January 2009, and the number of faithful in Warsaw grew to 450. The discussions with Rome also had their echo: I was often invited to conferences to debate with modernist priests, I was able to speak in universities, and everywhere many young Novus Ordo Catholics came to listen. The voice of Tradition was heard in public, and our conferences were heard sometimes by up to 60,000 people through the Internet. Above all, we came into contact with many young priests who participate in our retreats, come to our conferences, discreetly receive instruction and formation, and thus grow closer and closer to Tradition.
What a joy for the missionary to be able to say that in five years the number of faithful who have returned to Tradition has grown so much that I do not hesitate to call it a miracle of the Immaculate.
What is more, I have several times been able to participate in meetings related to the work of Father Gruner’s Fatima Crusade. During these meetings, I have met many bishops and priests of the official Church. I was very impressed by their reaction to my conferences and meetings: thirsty for true doctrine, very open to getting to know Tradition better, even asking me to come preach to their priests on retreat. No one has asked me to make the slightest act of compromise or ecumenism. But these members of the hierarchy visibly discover Tradition little by little through these meetings. You see, Father, none of this would be possible without the wisdom of the superiors who do not refuse contact with Rome, without their discussions and their will to find a modus vivendi that would perfectly safeguard the principle but choose with prudence the best means for applying it.
Whereas applying the principle as you interpret it (“First, on your knees and fully recognize that you were wrong, the Pope first, etc., and then we can talk”) would have made it impossible for the modernist clergy to approach Tradition in Poland or through the Fatima Crusade. So in Poland we would still be about 100 instead of 2,000.
As for “sons of the Church,” well, look at the application of the principles. What a joy for a missionary to be able to say: O Immaculate, thanks to these discussions with Rome, thanks to the decision of the latest General Chapter, you have granted that I, your poor instrument, might make my contribution, that twenty bishops take a great interest in Tradition; I have been able to receive four priests into the SSPX in Poland in the last three years; and about forty priests already call themselves our friends and are coming ever closer to Tradition. At least I have been able to help bandage a few of the terrible wounds that have torn my Holy Mother the Church. Not only have I been able to remain faithful to all the principles, but I have been able to instill them into thousands of souls.
On the other hand, a priest asks for prayers for the success of a retreat that he is preaching to the priests of a diocese, and a religious congregation whose work has been displaced. At the news of priests coming back to Tradition, a priest close to the Resistance asks if they have been re-ordained sub conditione.
I conclude: Yes, Father, the Resistance really is ignoring and trampling upon principles one after another. I take you at your word: “We are still in a battle of principles. And it is a very important, an essential battle.”
Please forgive me, Reverend Father, for the length of this letter, and the many spelling and grammatical mistakes, but I assure you that these words come from a heart that holds the Reverend Capuchin Fathers in the highest esteem. I know that I am but a poor missionary, the Immaculate’s miserable broom; all the more reason for me to beg her to intervene in these painful times and save us.
Yours, deeply saddened, in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Karl Stehlin
1 The Capuchin community at Morgon, France, was founded by Fr. Eugene de Villeurbanne after the Second Vatican Council. Their desire to retain the traditional Capuchin life caused them to work with Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X.
2 “The Resistance” is a loose collection of priests and laymen who believe the Society of St. Pius X has become so liberal in recent years that they have abandoned the original vision of Archbishop Lefebvre.
3 Father here refers to the dozens of religious houses and communities that work with the Society: Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, etc.
4 Sedevacantists are those who believe there is currently not a valid Pope. The term comes from the Latin term sede vacante, meaning “the seat being vacant,” referring to the papacy.
5 Fr. Stehlin is responding here not only to the sermon of Fr. Jean, but to a tract disseminated after the sermon.
6 “Father Guardian” is the title given to the superior in the Capuchin tradition.
7 Bishop Williamson’s personal newsletter.
8 Fr. Niklaus Pfluger, SSPX, the First Assistant to Bishop Fellay, recently gave a retreat to some SSPX brothers in France. Some supposed notes were leaked to the Internet in which Fr. Pfluger was accused of taking a liberalizing tone towards various subjects.
9 This refers to another leaked document; in the midst of the discussions between the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the SSPX in 2012, several drafts of a possible text were produced.
10 “To the greater glory of God.” The motto of the Jesuit order.
11 “The salvation of souls is the highest law.”
12 “Holy Mother Church asks...”
13 Fr. François Pivert, a priest of the SSPX, published a controversial book mainly composed of quotations of Archbishop Lefebvre related to the Archbishop’s line of conduct towards Rome.
14 Summorum Pontificum in 2007 and the remittance of the so-called excommunications in 2009.