Wiegel on the SSPX excommunications

UPDATED: 1751 GMT

I found this in Newsweek:

My emphases and comments.

Rome’s Reconciliation

Did the Pope heal, or deepen, the Lefebvrist schism? 
By George Weigel | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jan 26, 2009

[He starts with a question that I have tried to get through to the various reporters and news outlets who have called me in the last few days: There are burning political overtones to what the SSPX desires, especially in France, which complicate the issue enormously.  Watch!]

What do the Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XVI, the Bastille and the Reign of Terror, the Bourbons and Robespierre, the revolutionary depredations in the Vendée, the Dreyfus Affair, the anti-clericalism of the French Third Republic, and the World War II Vichy regime have to do with the schismatic movement [Many, including the Holy See, say that it is not technically "schismatic"… though it is hard to see how it isn’t sometimes.] that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre led out of the Roman Catholic Church in 1988—a movement that Pope Benedict XVI is now trying to move toward reconciliation by lifting the excommunications of its four illegally ordained bishops on Jan. 21?

In a word: everything.

There are, of course, many different kinds of people in the Lefebvrist movement; the great majority of them are men and women who find the older forms of Catholic piety—especially the Latin Mass celebrated in the Tridentine form—more spiritually beneficial than the reformed liturgy that followed the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). And it is also true that Archbishop Lefebvre, one of the leaders of the anti-reformist faction at Vatican Council II, was very unhappy with what was done to the Church’s liturgy after the council.

But Lefebvre was also a man formed by the bitter hatreds that defined the battle lines in French society and culture from the French Revolution to the Vichy regime. Thus his deepest animosities at the council were reserved for another of Vatican Council II’s reforms: the council’s declaration that "the human person has a right to religious freedom," which implied that coercive state power ought not be put behind the truth—claims of the Catholic Church or any other religious body. This, to Lefebvre, bordered on heresy. For it cast into serious question (indeed, for all practical purposes it rejected) the altar-and-throne arrangements Lefebvre believed ought to prevail—as they had in France before being overthrown in 1789, with what Lefebvre regarded as disastrous consequences for both church and society.

Marcel Lefebvre’s war, in other words, was not simply, or even primarily, against modern liturgy. [Right.] It was against modernity, period. For modernity, in Lefebvre’s mind, necessarily involved aggressive secularism, anti-clericalism, and the persecution of the church by godless men. That was the modernity he knew, or thought he knew (Lefebvre seems not to have read a fellow Frenchman’s reflections on a very different kind of modernity, Alexis de Tocqueville’s "Democracy in America"); it was certainly the modernity he loathed. And to treat with this modernity—by, for example, affirming the right of religious freedom and the institutional separation of church and state—was to treat with the devil.  [At a certain point the reps of the SSPX and those of the Holy See will have to deal with how Pope Benedict XVI parsed this, especially during his visit to the USA.]

The conviction that the Catholic Church had in fact entered into such a devil’s bargain by preemptively surrendering to the modern world at Vatican Council II became the ideological keystone of Lefebvre’s movement. And the result was dramatic: Lefebvrists came to understand themselves as the beleaguered repository of authentic Catholicism—or, as the movement is wont to put it, the Tradition (always with a capital "T"). For 10 years, Pope John Paul II tried to convince the recalcitrant Archbishop Lefebvre otherwise; he got nowhere. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger then tried to mediate. But at the end of the day, Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome. [Good phrase.] So in 1988, rejecting the personal pleas of John Paul II and Ratzinger (men who could hardly be accused, reasonably, of preemptive concessions to modernity), [Ho1 Ho!  That is exactly what the SSPX leadership does!] an aging Lefebvre ordained four bishops to carry on his work, without the requisite authorization from Rome. Those four bishops (whose orders, while illegally conferred under church law, are nonetheless valid sacraments in the church’s eyes) automatically incurred excommunication by participating in a schismatic act—an act in conscious defiance of church authority that cuts one off from the full communion of the church. It is those excommunications that have now been lifted by Benedict XVI, in an effort to move the Lefebvrist movement toward reconciliation with Rome and toward the restoration of full communion.

That one of the Lefebvrist bishops, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier and a promoter of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" has drawn considerable attention and commentary, particularly from Jewish scholars and religious leaders who have made large investments in Jewish-Catholic dialogue since Vatican Council II. Their concern is entirely understandable, although it has to be said that the lifting of Williamson’s excommunication in no way constitutes a papal endorsement of Williamson’s lunatic view of history, [RIGHT!  Everyone should keep that in mind.] or a retraction of John Paul II’s 1998 statement deploring the Holocaust, or a revocation of Vatican Council II’s teaching on the sin of anti-Semitism. At the same time, it ought to be recognized that Williamson’s Holocaust denial and his embrace of a crude anti-Semitic canard like the "Protocols" is not all that surprising, given that Lefebvrist political ideology grew out of the same French fever swamps [nicely done!] that produced the anti-Dreyfusards. (Even as it ought to be recognized that the hypersecularists of the Third French Republic hated Catholics as much as some anti-Dreyfusards hated Jews.)  [Let us not forget that lots of secularists really hate committed Catholics… more than any other group.]

Williamson’s inanities, while deplorable and disgusting, are something of a sideshow, however. For the highest stakes in this drama hove into view when Bishop Bernard Fellay, the current head of the Lefebvrist movement, issued a Jan. 24 letter on the lifting of the excommunications to the movement’s faithful. It is an astonishing document, declaring as it does that "Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated" [I tackled that here.  The SSPX bishops are not the embodiment of "Catholic Tradition".] and that the Lefebvrists constitute those "Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world." The letter goes on to affirm "all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations." And it implies that the talks that will now commence between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, now that the excommunications have been lifted, will focus on those "reservations."

Responsible canon lawyers have raised questions about whether this arrogance on the part of Bishop Fellay does not cast into question his fulfillment of the canonical requirements for a lawful lifting of his excommunication. [NEWSFLASH: The excommunications were lifted.] In any event, non-canonists will read his letter as Fellay’s unilateral declaration of victory: the Lefebrvists have been right all along; the Holy See has finally recognized the error of its ways; the only things left to discuss are the terms of surrender. [The SSPX leadership has a based they have to placate.  At this point, it would be better to try to bring in as many en masse as possible, rather than reconcile them piece meal.  So, let’s not get overly worked up about some… some.. of their rhetorical flourishes.  I think the best way to deal with them is simply to shrug, perhaps with a discreet roll of the eyes when no one is looking.] Ironically, but hardly coincidentally, the Catholic left (which has been clever enough to avoid formal schism while living in intellectual and psychological schism [right!] since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on family planning, Humanae Vitae) has welcomed Benedict XVI’s canonical rescue of the Lefebvrist bishops, with numerous left-leaning Catholic dissidents now saying, in effect, "Where’s my bailout?" [LOL!  Good one.]

Benedict XVI undoubtedly intended this lifting of excommunications as a step toward healing a wound in the church. Bishop Fellay’s letter, in response to the pope’s gesture, suggests that the healing has not taken place. [Wellllll…. that might be overstating it.  Healing is a long process.  I still have twinges from old injuries, after all.] Moreover, Fellay’s letter raises the stakes for everyone, and to the highest level. For what is at issue, now, is the integrity of the Church’s self-understanding, which must include the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican Council II[On the other hand, there are some really hard things to understand with clarity in some of the the documents of the Council.  Theologican Joseph Ratzinger wrote with concern about Gaudium et spes for example.  Let’s not turn the "teaching of Vatican Council II", whatever that means, into a super-dogma.  People of good will can hold differing opinions on how to accomplish ecumenism or how religious liberty is to be worked out beween Church and states.  We should avoid reducing hard issues in the documents to a sort of "spirit of Vatican II" which no one is permitted to drill into.]

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the pope’s spokesman, emphasized to reporters on Jan. 24 that the lifting of the excommunications did not mean that "full communion" had been restored with the Lefebvrists. The terms of such reconciliation are, presumably, the subject of the "talks" to which Bishop Fellay referred in his letter. Those talks should be interesting indeed. For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II’s teaching on the nature of the church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism. Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home.  [Again… on very hard questions which are not spelled out with perfect clarity, people should be able to have differing opinions.]

GEORGE WEIGEL, a NEWSWEEK contributor, is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

 

Good article.  I was thinking about attacking this French poltical angle myself, but hadn’t gotten to it yet.

I wonder if Weigel hasn’t slid into a sort of "spirit of Vatican II" position here. 

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98 Responses to Wiegel on the SSPX excommunications

  1. Brian Mershon says:

    George Weigel: A psychobabble analysis of a dead Archbishop. How respectful. Wonder how Mr. Weigel would react if someone psychologically analyzed how a recently deceased convert prist took in millions of dollars from Neocon sources to promote his own ecumenical/Americanis view of Catholicism.
    [I am getting a little tired of your harshness. – Fr. Z]

    I wonder…

  2. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    George Weigel will be criticized by many Traditionalists for this article. But, as a always, I think he places the issues on the table with sincerity and seriousness. It will be interesting to see how things progress as we go forward. Again, It think the book Vatican II: Renewal within Tradition will be a great first start!

  3. Gravitas says:

    “But at the end of the day, Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome.”

    Give me a break.

    I would think H.E. Lefebvre would say he loved eternal Rome more. While some may want to paint his decision as black and white, loyalty to Rome vs. his own wants, I think that is dumbing it down quiet a bit and does nothing to advance this issue.

  4. MS says:

    “Did the Pope heal, or deepen, the Lefebvrist schism?” I thought George Weigel’s title was a bit odd. (Though, the article was insightful.) At this point, the Holy Father really has no direct way to heal or deepen the “schism” himself. All he can do is make his best offer (a pretty generous one, might I add). They can graciously step forward and receive it, or they can dig their heels in deeper. I think it was an excellent move on Pope Benedict’s part: strategically smart, humble, and full of charity. It doesn’t get much better than that. Now he can sit back and see how they receive it. That will tell him volumes about what his next decision should be. Whether the rift deepens or heals depends on how his actions are received.

  5. Matt says:

    Wow, I was going to post a comment wondering how long it would take someone to chime in with “Neocon”.

    Well played, Brian!

    BAck to the topic at hand. Weigel is correct, of course. The context is obvious to anyone who takes a look at the history. And I fail to see why this would get Traditionalists angry. Isn’t that their point? That modernism and “Modernist Rome” are the problem?

    (And the Jews, of course.)

  6. Mike says:

    With all due respect to the “dead Archbishop,” Mr. Mershon, someone who engages in an act which overtly leads to the situation known as the SSPX, should expect himself to be subjected to a post-mortem.
    Are we now to treat Archbp. Lefebvre as some sort of a saint for having defied Rome, as someone above all suspicion? What sort of a role model for obedience are we establishing?

  7. Michael Penny says:

    Marcel Levebre hated Modernism because he loved Rome. The Oath Against Modernism, remember?….Does anyone still believe this or take this heresy seriously? Pope St Pius X pray for us!!

  8. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    The rest of the article in which Mr. Wiegel shows himself to be a theological lightweight living in a dream world, where the documents of Vatican II have no need for clarifications:

    That one of the Lefebvrist bishops, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier and a promoter of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” has drawn considerable attention and commentary, particularly from Jewish scholars and religious leaders who have made large investments in Jewish-Catholic dialogue since Vatican Council II. Their concern is entirely understandable, although it has to be said that the lifting of Williamson’s excommunication in no way constitutes a papal endorsement of Williamson’s lunatic view of history, or a retraction of John Paul II’s 1998 statement deploring the Holocaust, or a revocation of Vatican Council II’s teaching on the sin of anti-Semitism. At the same time, it ought to be recognized that Williamson’s Holocaust denial and his embrace of a crude anti-Semitic canard like the “Protocols” is not all that surprising, given that Lefebvrist political ideology grew out of the same French fever swamps that produced the anti-Dreyfusards. (Even as it ought to be recognized that the hypersecularists of the Third French Republic hated Catholics as much as some anti-Dreyfusards hated Jews.)

    Williamson’s inanities, while deplorable and disgusting, are something of a sideshow, however. For the highest stakes in this drama hove into view when Bishop Bernard Fellay, the current head of the Lefebvrist movement, issued a Jan. 24 letter on the lifting of the excommunications to the movement’s faithful. It is an astonishing document, declaring as it does that “Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated” and that the Lefebvrists constitute those “Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world.” The letter goes on to affirm “all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations.” And it implies that the talks that will now commence between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, now that the excommunications have been lifted, will focus on those “reservations.”

    Responsible canon lawyers have raised questions about whether this arrogance on the part of Bishop Fellay does not cast into question his fulfillment of the canonical requirements for a lawful lifting of his excommunication. In any event, non-canonists will read his letter as Fellay’s unilateral declaration of victory: the Lefebrvists have been right all along; the Holy See has finally recognized the error of its ways; the only things left to discuss are the terms of surrender. Ironically, but hardly coincidentally, the Catholic left (which has been clever enough to avoid formal schism while living in intellectual and psychological schism since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on family planning, Humanae Vitae) has welcomed Benedict XVI’s canonical rescue of the Lefebvrist bishops, with numerous left-leaning Catholic dissidents now saying, in effect, “Where’s my bailout?”

    Benedict XVI undoubtedly intended this lifting of excommunications as a step toward healing a wound in the church. Bishop Fellay’s letter, in response to the pope’s gesture, suggests that the healing has not taken place. Moreover, Fellay’s letter raises the stakes for everyone, and to the highest level. For what is at issue, now, is the integrity of the Church’s self-understanding, which must include the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican Council II.

    Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the pope’s spokesman, emphasized to reporters on Jan. 24 that the lifting of the excommunications did not mean that “full communion” had been restored with the Lefebvrists. The terms of such reconciliation are, presumably, the subject of the “talks” to which Bishop Fellay referred in his letter. Those talks should be interesting indeed. For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II’s teaching on the nature of the church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism. Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home.

  9. Athelstane says:

    Lefebvre seems not to have read a fellow Frenchman’s reflections on a very different kind of modernity, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America…

    Perhaps not. But in fairness, the lived French experience of Church-State relations has been very different from America’s. Jacques Maritain realized this, and appreciated the latter because he had the good fortune to come to live in America for many years.

    There are a lot of assumptions about what Dignitatis Humanae says and does not say. Notwithstanding the opening qualification – “Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” – the assumption frequently is that John Courtney Murray’s view, or something not far removed from it, won out. This is perhaps one of the few things Lefebvre and liberals might agree on. The disagreement is over whether this is a good thing or not.

    Weigel is a big believer in the success and soundness of the American model, and is gratified by Dignitatis Humanae’s seeming opening up of room for that view. Ratzinger is not quite in that territory but clearly has a greater appreciation for it, and greater skepticism about church-state entanglements than most previous popes, given the state of affairs he has had to live with in Europe through most of his life.

    On its surface, DH does seem (despite that qualification in Sec. 1) to present tensions with a long list of previous Church pronouncements on the subject, especially those from the 19th century. How are we to reconcile this? More is at stake than the teaching on just church-state relations, but on the development of doctrine itself.

    I think it remains an open question whether the traditional American model is sustainable in an increasingly diverse and secularized society. The difficulty with the SSPX, however, is the the too-easy assumption that since the French Revolution was bad (and it was), what came before must have been good. Whereas I think the record of the ancien regime leaves a heck of a lot to be desired where the Church is involved: reduced too often to a royal catspaw and aristocratic dumping ground. Nonetheless this nostalgia for a (nominally) Catholic society that once existed, be it pre-1789, or even Vichy or Franco, is a constant theme in SSPX thought – not surprising given how much (as Weigel puts it) that they hate modernity.

  10. TNCath says:

    The Holy Father’s lifting of the excommunications was a gamble he felt was worth it, so we certainly must support it, regardless of Richard Williamson’s bizarre stances and opinions. Whether Williamson and/or the other bishops themselves will ever actually fully reconcile with the Church is another issue entirely. Only time will tell. The only thing I would add to this article is that the issue with Archbishop LeFebvre was not just “modernity” but also obedience.

  11. Pete says:

    Weigel’s claim that Pope JPII “could hardly be accused, reasonably, of preemptive concessions to modernity” speaks loudly regarding Weigel’s world view. Did he never see a papal liturgy during the JP II’s reign or has he not noticed the ‘NFP cult” which has sprung up from JPII’s Theology of the Body? Lefebvre’s act of defiance and the subsequent years of disunity are a sad affair but to dismiss the SSPX criticisms of the post-Vatican II Church as the fruit of a politically frustrated Frenchman seems unreasonable.

    Pete

  12. Way to go Brian. The people at Chronicles could tell you about that convert priest and the money he diverted. Pray for him and Wiegel— it’s been a tough year.

    SSPX and Vichy:
    http://www.olfatima.com/August%20301%202006.html

    American History from the SSPX perspective (though not written by an SSPXer)
    http://www.tumblarhouse.com/puritans_empire.php

    Prison where the NAZIs kept the “dead Archbishop’s” dad:
    http://cathcon.blogspot.com/2009/01/prison-where-nazis-imprisoned.html

    Didn’t the Vichy gov’t outlaw abortion?

  13. Melchior Cano says:

    “Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome.” I think, as stated above, this is unfair. We owe charity to all men, and we must take them at their word. If you said that Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved the individuals in authority in Rome, I’d agree. However, I would argue, and I think the late Archbishop makes this clear in most of his writings and sermons, that his love for Rome, the Church, was the animating principle behind his hatred of modernity. Its too easy to pigenhole the SSPX into a group focused primarily on politics, specifically because they think the social order matters.

    The fact of the matter is, and Mr. Weigel did not address this, it was not only Archbishop Lefebvre who opposed modernity, and the separation of Church and State, and many other modern novelties; it was also Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari Vos, Pope Bl. Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors (among other documents), Pope St. Piux X, in fact, all of the modern popes down to Pope Bl. John XXIII. This is the sticking point. How does Dignitatis Humanae and the new orientation taken by the Church with regards to the relationship of states and the True Faith square with the constant teachings of the Popes prior to the Second Vatican Council? If there is a break, then we must stay with the doctrine always taught. If there is not a break, then Dignitatis Humanae has to be read in light of Mirari Vos and other encyclicals like it, in which case, the Society is still correct that separation of Church and state is an error. Mr. Weigel and others won’t accept that.

  14. Anthony Ozimic says:

    Sorry, Father, this isn’t a good article. Weigel’s position seems to me to be neo-Catholic i.e. reformed rather than Catholic i.e. traditional. His comments on de Toqueville and on altar-and-throne suggests to me that he loves America more than Christendom.

  15. Athelstane says:

    Hello brian,

    I don’t doubt which passage bugged you the most: Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome. Fr. Z: [Good phrase.]

    As you no doubt know, Weigel has used this expression a few times before.

    I can see why traditionalists who identify with the Archbishop would be offended by it. Sure, they hate modernity, but they do love Rome. Or at least Rome as she *ought* to be, and once was, rather than (Conciliar) Rome as she has become. Maybe it is better to say that Lefebvre loved Rome, but objected to the extent that she seemed to embrace modernity – or worse, modernism. And was willing to go quite far in that objection. Obviously that’s not as pithy as Weigel.

    Weigel seems to regard DH, and its prescription for religious liberty and church-state relations, as a settled issue. He is a vigorous advocate for this view and he is vested in it. I can only note that DH was the most contested document at the Council, and stirred the greatest opposing vote (although it still passed comfortably). And that some very respectable (hardly traditionalist) scholars, such as Ernest Fortin and (Weigel’s friend) Russell Hittinger have raised real questions about the tensions between DH and previous Church teachings, and how we are to receive DH in continuity with the latter. Which is another way of saying the issue is not quite as settled as Weigel might like to think. I’m not sure SSPX has the full answer either. But I am intrigued to see how this issue might be opened up again as they try to reintegrate fully with the Church.

    Given current developments in the West, it’s a very opportune time to do so.

  16. Andrew says:

    Weigel raises some salient points, but he is hardly in a position to speak, having himself a tendency to make a cult of American exceptionalism and modernity. The American polity has always been arrayed against the Catholic Church, first from the standpoint of Protestantism and now from the standpoint of secularism. His America is one that is free to defy Catholic teaching in engaging in godless hypercapitalism and circumventing just war doctrine.

  17. The difficulty with the SSPX, however, is the the too-easy assumption that since the French Revolution was bad (and it was), what came before must have been good. Whereas I think the record of the ancien regime leaves a heck of a lot to be desired where the Church is involved: reduced too often to a royal catspaw and aristocratic dumping ground.

    For a glimpse of pre-Revolutionary Gallican Catholicism, try Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers. Burleigh recognizes that what replaced it was worse, but that doesn’t mean the Church in France didn’t have serious problems. (He compares Louis XIV to England’s Henry VIII, arguing the former was simply more clever.)

  18. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    There is nothing wrong with the Church dealing with modernity. It’s here. It’s now. Indeed, Pope Benedict seems more adept at entering the internet age than Pope John Paul II. The role of the Church remains, as it always has been, to speak the Truth within whatever time, period, or intellectual climate. The Incarnation engaged God with history, which means that the Church cannot withdraw from history or refuse to engage with it. Indeed, her sacred duty is to engage with the world, preach to it, and challenge it.

    And this appears to be the main point of contention. Parts of the SSPX argue that the Church no longer preaches Truth within the modern world, but has abandoned Truth altogether in favour of modernity. It is, sometimes, a subtle distinction. But the Church, whose one king is Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit, is simply incapable of abandoning the Truth. Individual members within the Church may think erroneously or with the infamous hermeneutic of rupture, but the Church herself cannot err. This SSPX challenge that the Church herself has abandoned Truth is, perhaps, the greatest stumbling block to unity. But the Church, for all her human failings, remains the Church, entrusted to Peter, the Roman Pontiff.

  19. Athelstane says:

    Hello Rich,

    [Burleigh] compares Louis XIV to England’s Henry VIII, arguing the former was simply more clever.

    And he has good cause to do so.

    On the whole, the French Bourbons don’t exactly provide the best model for Church-state relations.

  20. Bailey Walker says:

    “Modernity” ? Modernism.

  21. Brian Mershon says:

    Cute trite phrases by Weigel “modernity” will not detract from the truth.

    Archbishop Lefebvre did not condemn nor hate “modernity.” He loathed “Modernism.” whos fruits we see around us everywhere today.

    What further bugs Weigel is that DH is not dogma (as much as he wants to raise it to that), but instead will not even be insisted upon by the Holy See as a condition of full canonical regularization.

    I’d love to see how Weigel would show DH in light of the authoritative 19th century condemnations on this subject.

    The Neocons don’t even try to do it. They just follow the John Courtney Murray mantra. It is old. And its fruits are showing in our country right now.

    Pope Leo XIII ably summarized the Church’s position in Libertas.

  22. Bailey Walker says:

    Sorry. My previous post used the “not equals” sign which did not appear properly.

    I meant to post: “Modernity” does not equal Modernism.

    Mea culpa… or perhaps the fault of my computer.

  23. prof. basto says:

    The monumental 2005 Christmas Adress of the Roman Pontiff to the Roman Curia also addressed the question of the different forms of Church and State separation: the anti-clerical separation that limits the liberty of religion and its public display, quasi-creating a State-sponsored “Religion of Secularism”; and the model of separation that does not intend to limit the freedom of expression of religious movements.

    The Pope, who surely read “Democracy in America”, explicitly associated, in his Adress, the first model with the French Revolution; and the second model with the American Revolution. Unfortunately, in France we still see the efects of the first model of secular State.

    And what the Christmas Adress seemed to signify is that, for the Church, the second (American) model of separation was OK, whereas the first (French) not. According to this view, then, the Church’s magisterial documents opposing the Separation of Church and State should be read as opposing only the French Model. Pope Benedict even makes referece to the teachings of bl. Pope Pius IX as targeting the “radical” brand of liberalism, championed by the French revolution.

  24. The monumental 2005 Christmas Adress of the Roman Pontiff to the Roman Curia …

    I’ve re-read that address at least a half-dozen times and am constantly working its themes into my segments on Catholic radio. I’ll wager it will go down as one of the most consequential — if not the most consequential — of his pontificate.

  25. JSarto says:

    An absolutely despicable article written by a man – a warmonger neocon – that hasn’t the minimum sense of Tradition (yes, with capital “T”!), much less of real “romanitas”. He doesn’t dare to say that, but he would prefer that excommunications hadn’t been lifted. Despicable!

    By the way, Archbishop Lefebvre perhaps never read Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, but Mr. Weigel certainly never studied papal teachings fom Gregory XVI to Pius XII, much less Claudio Janet’s “Les Etats Unis Contemporains.

  26. Marc says:

    So far as I can tell, Mr Weigel doesn’t really indulge in “psychobabble” at all and doesn’t pretend to psychoanalyze the late Mons Lefebvre: my guess is that he may appear to do so, however, to eyes that are accustomed to seeing reality only in the black and white, atemporal and anhistorical language that is cultivated by those who sometimes seem not to be able to distinguish between adherence to Tradition and a certain immobilism stuck in the 19th century.

    Mons L. had his insights that Wiegel doesn’t do justice to, but he isn’t St Athanasius standing alone against a world lost in heresy, either: to proceed to rehash the supposed or real ‘crimes’ of ‘the neoconservatives’ in this particular context, when the present agenda includes the gravely noxious political choices of some members of the SSPX, seems to me just partisan ingenuousness.

  27. Banjo Pickin' Girl says:

    Father, I agree this is a good article. Weigel has written a lot of sense in his career that has helped bring some of us into the Church. This article makes sense to me in light of some things that Benedict the Sixteenth said on his visit to the U.S.

    God bless you, Father, for your blog.

  28. Breier says:

    Weigel tries to give a political explanation based on French history. He ignores the real basis for Archbishop Lfebvre’s positions, previous papal teaching!

  29. Isn't Weigel a Neocon? says:

    Isn’t Weigel a Neo-COnservative?

    He says “Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome.”

    Can’t it likewise be said:

    “George Weigel loves Democratic Capitalism more than Roman Catholicism.”?

    At least that’s the sense I tend to get from his usual writings.

  30. ETH says:

    Here’s the thing that bugs the heck out of me. As Athelstane commented, there is a real tension between DH and previous Church teachings, but SSPX et al. don’t seem to provide any real scholarly theological analysis to defend their concerns. Rather it’s just amateurish comparison between church documents: “Quanta Cura said X, while DH says Y. Therefore, DH is a corruption of Catholic teaching.” If superficial contradiction with prior church documents is sufficient to render a subsequent teaching illegitimate, then I’m afraid we would be left with a very meager Deposit of Faith.

    In contrast, there are men who are doing the hard work of trying to figure out how DH fits into the Tradition of the Church. (As Athelstane mentioned, Dr. Hittinger–an old school Thomist and someone who isn’t an unreserved defender of Vatican II–is one of them.) I hope that one of the good things that comes out of the lifting of the excommunications is that the SSPX actually engages in a mature dialogue about religious freedom and the other stumbling blocks to full communion.

    A related point: Is the SSPX ever bothered by the fact that nearly every major Catholic theologian (including those with strong Traditionalist sympathies) accepts the validity of Vatican II? I know the SSPX and its fellow-travelers love to point to the example of St. Athanasius, but let’s get real. First, St. Athanasius was one of the foremost scholars and a giant in his era whereas the SSPX, although founded and composed of undoubtedly men of good will, doesn’t seem to have anyone with the theological gravitas even approximating St. Athanasius. Since SSPX’s defense essentially turns on theological questions, it doesn’t bode well for their side that they can’t field a theologian who can keep up with Benedict XVI, let alone St. Athanasius. Second and more important, while yes it’s the case that there have been times in the Church’s history where the majority of its members fall into error while a minority holds out and helps bring the truth to the majority, the MUCH more common case in history is a sect breaking off the Church and . . . well, doing exactly what the SSPX is doing: defying Church authorities and using as its justification “The whole Church is crazy, except me!”

  31. Charlotte says:

    Can someone please give a short, concise explanation of what a neo-conservative is? Those of us reading the hundreds of comments on all these SSPX posts are able to get a small idea, but I’d like an actual explanation/definition. I’m sure there is someone who will take this request as an act of charity. Thanks!

  32. Ottaviani says:

    Weigel has never really been happy since the death of JP II “the awesome”.

    I suspect it’s hard to adjust yourself when the wind is clearly blowing in a different direction and when the pedestal that you put your idol on top on, starts to crumble…

  33. J. Brooks says:

    While I don’t know who is right regarding AB Lefebvre’s love of Rome or hatred of Modernism, and can understand the offense taken by those who like AB Lefebvre, I do think the whole French Connection is very interesting and revealing; not in the sense of reducing him to his context but in understanding the motives of both Modernists, Traditionalists, and those in between. Although he is somewhat critical of the Liturgical singularities of the Ancien Regime, Fr. Jonathan Robinson’s book “The Mass and Modernity”, at least deals with some of this. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but his analysis of Philosophical movements and their influence on the Liturgy is breathtaking. (Although in a way that may make you weep.) I would love to see some further analysis of the Philosophical Trends in France after Napoleon up to today and see how these have played a role, not just in the formation of AB Lefebvre, but in terms of Catholic Identity in general and our Liturgy in particular.

  34. Did Weigel really think that the Society of St. Pius X supporters, priests etc. from the USA, from Mexico, from Spain, from Ireland, from Britain, from Holland, from Germany, from Poland, from Denmark, from Switzerland (inside of which no modernity ever threatened the Church really), and from Italy all fought for some French idea of unity of altar and throne? This is nonsense.

    Archbishop Lefebvre fought against the (seeming or real) contradictions between Vatican II and post-Vatican II and pre-Vatican II defined Roman Catholic doctrine, which includes the Syllabus errorum, Quanta Cura (1864) and Quas primas, which he saw threatened.

    These were only one minor point, it was also primarily about a (new, ecumenist) ecclesiology of “partial” communion, as opposed to Mystici Corporis (1943) clear teaching on the nature of the Church, as well as Humani Generis (1950, §. 27).

    And also on dogmatics of the Holy Eucharist.

    It was not about King Louis XVI for Fr. Gommar DePauw, Fr. Malachi Martin or Fr. Schmidberger. Not at all.

    Weigel is just one-sided. And incorrect. And deeply disrespectful as he does not even fairly depict the SSPX. Which means the SSPX must be saying some good things also.

  35. ETH says:

    Charlotte:

    Neoconservative is basically a meaningless term now. It originally referred to a group of New York, Jewish, intellectual liberals who increasingly became more conservative in their politics as the Democratic party radicalized in the 60s and 70s. The term grew to include any former liberal who became more conservative in response to the radicalization of the Democratic Party. In this sense, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and the late Fr. Neuhaus are neoconservative. Now it just means anyone who holds certain policy positions such as being more sympathetic to the welfare state (although they want government to work for conservative ends) and supportive of a more hawkish/interventionist foreign policy. They are also generally considered ardent defenders of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.

    Neoconservative is also used to refer to non-Traditionalist, conservative Catholics. Thus, they support the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, they just critique the manner in which the Council has been implemented or interpreted. They are also characterized as ultramontane. The term is usually used pejoratively. In this sense, George Weigel, Fr. Neuhaus (again) and Michael Novak are considered neoconservative. (Note there is usually alot of overlap between Catholic neoconservatives and neoconservatives more generally.)

  36. Ottaviani says:

    Charlotte – I think the term “neo-Conservative” is an American term for those Catholics who usually have an exaggerated view of the papacy e.g believing that every single thing a Pope does or says is an act of the Holy Ghost, which is beyond question. Any form of reservation or criticism would equate to “schism” for them. They would also seem to feel that in order to be seen as faithful to the “new regime” they have to disassociate themselves with the old ways (hence the number of priests of good will, that would not allow or celebrate the traditional liturgy because it “turning back” on the council or doesn’t fit in with their “reform of the reform programme).

    And they would also tend to ignore church history and pronouncements from before the council – thus giving the impression to non-Catholics that the church started in 1962.

  37. Fr. Neuhaus (God keep his soul) was sadly also a political Neocon, allied with (sometimes Jewish) ex-Trotskyists like Wolfowitz and others in order to get the invasion of (peaceful, although dictatorial) Iraq started. Not for the good of the USA, but for the good of Israel and economic and military-industrial complexes. At the cost of almost one million innocent Iraqi lives, who were relatively secure under the Baath regime – as long as they kept silent.

    Of course there were also Iraq-war-critical Neocon Catholics. Generally to be found inside Europe among the “conservative” groups like Opus Dei and others, who wanted to conserve the “Revolution of Vatican II” as Vatican II critics call it and them.

  38. Jon says:

    Nothing new here. Weigel has just lifted (in soem minstances word for word) his previous criticism of + Lefebvre and the SSPX from his JPII biography.

  39. Jon says:

    Nothing new here. Weigel has just lifted (in some instances word for word) his previous criticism of + Lefebvre and the SSPX from his JPII biography.

  40. Matt says:

    ETH,

    support the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, they just critique the manner in which the Council has been implemented or interpreted

    I don’t believe it’s considered “neoconservative” to support the reforms actually called for by ecumenical council. I think you would be right on if you dropped this part of the description. The term is generally not applied to those, like Fr. Z who cling to the tradition of the Church and use the EF exclusively or, OF properly celebrated (ie. in a very traditional fashion). It’s more associated with Catholics who embrace many of the reforms that went beyond the teaching of the council, but still adhere to the moral teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality etc.

  41. Fr. Neuhaus (God keep his soul) was sadly also a political Neocon, allied with (sometimes Jewish) ex-Trotskyists like Wolfowitz and others in order to get the invasion of (peaceful, although dictatorial) Iraq started. Not for the good of the USA, but for the good of Israel and economic and military-industrial complexes. At the cost of almost one million innocent Iraqi lives, who were relatively secure under the Baath regime – as long as they kept silent.

    Charlotte, as this ‘graf reveals, “neoconservative” as a pejorative term is also bound up with hostility toward Jews.

  42. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    ETH,

    Have you read Iota Unum, Vatican II and Religious Liberty by Davies, Religious Liberty Questioned by the Archbishop? Vatican II is unique in the history of the Church. It is the only council that I am aware of that issued documents, and basically said we will spend the next 50 years determining what they mean. Before you can demonstrate a continuity between previous Church teaching and the documents of Vatican II, you have to definitively say what they mean. We are still at the stage of trying to figure out what Vatican II said. What does subsistit mean? What does the inerrancy of scripture cover? Is the goal of ecumenism a return to the Catholic Church of non-Catholics? Until these and many other questions are answered definitively by Rome, when can not even think about showing their continuity with tradition.

  43. Jason Keener says:

    Anthony Ozimic,

    You wrote:

    “His comments on de Toqueville and on altar-and-throne suggests to me that he loves America more than Christendom.”

    There is nothing wrong with Weigel favoring the American political system because the Catholic Faith is not fundamentally tied up with any particular form of government, including monarchy.

    In 1885, Pope Leo XIII taught in “Immortale Dei,”

    4. The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the administration of the State.

    Archbishop Lefebvre may have preferred monarchy, and that was his right. It is not correct, however, to insist that the Catholic Church favors monarchy over other forms of government. Pope Leo XIII clearly shows us the Church doesn’t have a preference.

  44. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    I also disagree that the Neo-Cons are ultramontane. They praise the Popes and spin their writings to support their agenda, but when the Popes come out clearly against their beliefs, they have no problem defying the Pope. So when the Pope and Vatican were clear that he US war with Iraq did not meet the just war criteria, they went to Rome and gave talks undermining the traditional teaching, and pretending the Pope was acting outside his prerogatives by deciding the morality of the action.

  45. ETH says:

    Matt:

    I agree.

  46. ETH says:

    Christopher:

    Ultramontane doesn’t mean consistent. However, I think it’s fair to say that so-called neoconservative Catholics GENERALLY assume the reasonableness or rightness of papal pronouncements–even when its touching on matters where obedience is not required. I’d call that ultramontane, you can call it whatever you want. And judging from the close relationship between many neoconservative Catholics and the Vatican, I don’t think the Vatican wholly objects to the neoconservative “spin.”

  47. Sal says:

    With respect to Weigel’s concern for leftists dissidents (“Where’s our bailout?”) – they have already received their bailout. None of the usual suspects has been excommunicated, while some have been censured to taken to task by the CDF (Haight, Sobrino, Phan), the penalities have been exceedingly moderate. Or Consider Richard McBrien, who has been misrepresenting Church dogma and history for decades – where’s his censure? They should be grateful and silent.

    As far as Weigel (and the late Father Neuhaus) among others, while the term “neocon” is probably past its sell-by date, it does characterize a group of Catholics (some cradle, some converts) who are dogmatically and doctrinally pure (at least, according to them), but who regard Church tradition, perhaps especially the liturgical tradition, as completely contingent. And they are, de facto though not de iure, “spirit of Vatican II” in that they tend to see Vatican II as the beginning out of the “dead centuries” (which may mean all but the age of the Apostles) and in which we can now do the important things. It’s primarily directed toward ecumenism (as they define it) and evangelization (again, as they define it). I disagree with Ottaviani to the extent that their ultramontanism was extended only to John Paul II; certainly, Benedict XVI has not been the recipient of much of their undying good will and “docility.”

    In fact, the group that has and will have the greatest trouble with any SSPX reintegration into the Church will be Catholic neocons. Because they think they define orthodoxy and, for some reason, they are deathly afraid of a resurgence of liturgical tradition and, hence, of other traditions in the wake of this one.

  48. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    ETH,

    Most ultramontanes of the past century like Gueranger would argue the absolute prerogative of the Pope to judge the actions of nations, defending the theory of the two swords. I can not think of a Catholic teaching (the two swords as appears in the Bull Unam Sanctam) that is more in opposition to the idea of democratic capitalism as presented by Novak and Wiegel.

  49. John says:

    How about instead of the non-stop ad hominems against George Weigel, we actually discuss the content of his article… there’s a thought…

  50. Ironically, I think George Weigel’s article proves that Archbishop Lefebvre, in the end, was right. A state divorced of proclaiming the one, true religion in the end will crumble. How can you not agree with Archbishop Lefebvre especially when one reads the encyclicals of Blessed Pius IX, Pope Pius X and Pope Leo XIII?

    Does Weigel still think that the separation of Church and State is one of the “fruits” of Vatican II?

  51. ETH says:

    Christopher:

    When I say ultramontane, I’m not referring to a particular theory of papal power. May be I’m using the term in a sloppy manner, but I was under the impression that most people use “ultramontane” to refer to a more general disposition toward papal authority.

  52. Romulus says:

    “neoconservative” as a pejorative term is also bound up with hostility toward Jews.

    So say some who object to any criticism of neoconservatism. Rich, it is grossly unfair even to suggest that critics of neoconservatism should be dismissed as anti-semites. That is a bully-boy tactic for shutting down debate because certain questions are deemed to be immune from examination and debate. No decent person stoops to ad hominem smears. Anti-semitism is a loathsome sin. So are calumny and detraction. Please be careful.

  53. Matt says:

    We are still at the stage of trying to figure out what Vatican II said. What does subsistit mean? What does the inerrancy of scripture cover? Is the goal of ecumenism a return to the Catholic Church of non-Catholics? Until these and many other questions are answered definitively by Rome, when can not even think about showing their continuity with tradition.

    I think the goal is not to pass judgment on the documents but to actually interpret them in light of and duly weighted with Tradition. This the Pope’s “hermeneutic of continuity”. In some areas it may be difficult, but that is the point. I believe that many of these questions are answered already.

  54. Veritas says:

    Father, thank you for your commentary. My reaction to this article contained some reservation, and it was nice to see that reservation expressed and set forth in response to Mr. Weigel’s argument.

  55. Athelstane says:

    Hello Charlotte,

    “Neo-con” has become a somewhat nebulous term, not to say pejorative (deserved or not is discussion for another time), as you seem to suspect. But I always liked the pocket shorthand: “A liberal who has been mugged by reality.”

    Hello ETH,

    Thanks your your thoughtful followup on my post. I liked what you said here:

    A related point: Is the SSPX ever bothered by the fact that nearly every major Catholic theologian (including those with strong Traditionalist sympathies) accepts the validity of Vatican II?

    Indeed. Forget the theologians: Traditionalists – nay, many theologians – are rightly bothered by the ambiguities of the conciliar documents and indeed the entire conciliar project: a pastoral council which issues no definitions or anathemas yet is to assume a magisterial authority. Yet how many more problems are posed by the more extreme SSPX position which would seem to reject in toto an ecumenical council called by a legitimate pontiff and attended by virtually all of the world’s then three thousand bishops? What are the theological problems entailed in saying that was a mulligan? It issued no dogmas but can we say it was just chickenfeed? It’s one thing to say a Council may not have been entirely successful, or that it left certain issues for later clarification. But to reject one, especially one which on its face represented the universal church more than many previous ones had, entirely…that opens up all kind of vexing ecclesiological questions, and I am not sure the SSPX has really pondered the implications involved.

    I share your skepticism that the Society currently has many minds capable or willing of digging into these urgent questions. On the other hand, they are at least capable of asking some of them, and that may provide the opportunity for an overdue examination of DH and its place in the Tradition – even if, as I suspect, the final accomodation with the Society may be one which on practical terms elides many of the differences by minimizing any reference the SSPX needs to give to DH.

  56. No one of consequence says:

    One doesn’t have to see Vatican II as any sort of super-council or the like in order to affirm that its teachings are the teachings of the ordinary Magisterium and thus require our assent.

    The “ambiguities” are greatly overstated. Does it make everything 100% clear? Nope. Neither did most previous councils. Nicaea spawned major confusion – “homoousion” had previously been associated with the genuine heresy of modalism. Ephesus needed clarification by Chalcedon, which needed Constantinople II, which needed Constantinople III. Those on both sides of the controversy de auxiliis were able to appeal to Trent. Etc.

    And DH is pretty unambiguous about what’s in and out of bounds in the area of state coercion in matters of religious practice. It’s not at all a question of a “spirit of Vatican II” approach – it’s a question of what the text says.

    Does its teaching contradict that of some earlier popes? Yep. Was that earlier teaching infallible? No. Is the contradiction, then, a problem? No.

    Reading DH in continuity with Tradition doesn’t mean overstating what the Tradition genuinely requires of the living Magisterium today – and/or artificially understating what DH teaches.

  57. GregY says:

    I agree with a lot of what Weigel says with this exception: the insistence that in light of Dignitatis Humanae, the Church no longer teaches that states, in an ideal world at least, should recognize the one true religion–ie, “confessional states” remain official, perennial doctrine, de facto or de jure. Of course it is not practical in most states today, but it remains true in principle.
    Fr. Brian Harrison, OS, has done some excellent writing on this subject, showing an interpretation of D.H. that does not contradict prior Church teaching and that does not endorse strict Church-state separation as Weigel implies.
    This is not mere theoretical discussion either: Most Catholics don’t realize that a few countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, are still officially confessional Catholic states. Even though minority groups there also have civil liberty to practice their faith, in accordance with DH, the Church has quite a lot of special juridical rights and privileges that the other religions don’t have. So, obviously, Rome has not repudiated, even in practice, the concept of a confessional state.

  58. Jason Keener says:

    Melchior Cano,

    The Popes you mentioned spoke out against the separation of Church and State in their times because the State and Church were so bound up together in the old days. It was hard to even imagine the State and Church not being tied together. A close State and Church was the arrangement of the day.

    In our present situation, Catholic monarchy is dead. Societies are mobile, diverse, and pluralistic. The social teaching of the Church has to adapt to address the current social and political situation. The principles of social teaching are constant, but the judgments and adaptations are new to fit whatever situation presents itself. Doctrine of a political and social character does not follow exactly the same course of development as pure dogma. Catholic social teaching is not simply spun out of the original Deposit of Faith but emerges with a certain irregularity according to the vissitudes of history.

    Catholic social teaching on Church and State relations seems so contradictory at this point in time because the Church has had to apply the constant principles of the Gospel to radically different political and social situations in a relatively short period time.

    It is not hard to understand why Archbishop Lefebvre, who seemed grounded in monarchy, could not come to grips with the newer positions the Church was taking. Possibly, Archbishop Lefebvre was still looking at Church and State relations through the lens of monarchy. In reality, the world had changed radically from the days of monarchy.

  59. GregY says:

    I agree with a lot of what Weigel says with this exception: the insistence that in light of Dignitatis Humanae, the Church no longer teaches that states, in an ideal world at least, should recognize the one true religion–ie, “confessional states” remain official, perennial doctrine, de facto or de jure. Of course it is not practical in most states today, but it remains true in principle.
    Fr. Brian Harrison, OS, has done some excellent writing on this subject, showing an interpretation of D.H. that does not contradict prior Church teaching and also does not endorse strict Church-state separation as Weigel implies.
    This is not mere theoretical discussion either: Most Catholics don\’t realize that a few countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, are still officially confessional Catholic states. Even though minority groups there also have civil liberty to practice their faith, in accordance with DH, the Church has quite a lot of special juridical rights and privileges that the other religions don’t have. So, obviously, Rome has not repudiated, even in practice, the concept of a confessional state.

  60. No one of consequence says:

    Fr. Brian Harrison, OS, has done some excellent writing on this subject, showing an interpretation of D.H. that does not contradict prior Church teaching and that does not endorse strict Church-state separation as Weigel implies.

    Unfortunately, his approach doesn’t work. He’s among those who asserts that earlier teachings were infallible, when they certainly were not. Thus, he sets up a most unnecessarily high barrier for DH to overcome.

    Then, in order to get DH over that barrier, he offers a totally implausible reading, according to which DH still allows – although only in very rare, perhaps only hypothetical cases – the suppression of non-Catholic practice simply qua non-Catholic.

    You just can’t get that out of (or into) the text of DH.

    The right approach: Recognize that the fact that DH somewhat contradicts earlier teaching is not a problem insofar as that earlier teaching wasn’t infallible.

  61. No one of consequence,

    The teaching of Dignitatis Humanae is not infallible.

  62. No one of consequence says:

    I don’t think anyone here is saying it is. But it still requires assent – all Magisterial teachings do. And when a later teaching – even a non-infallible one – contradicts an earlier non-infallible one, then we owe assent to the later one, as part of our general fidelity to the living Magisterium.

    Non-infallible doesn’t mean we can dissent from it.

    Non-infallible does mean that the Magisterium could change it. And we then owe assent to that change.

    This isn’t anywhere nearly as complex as many make it out to be.

  63. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    No one of consequence,

    DH I would say does not rise to the level of authority of Pius IX’s Qunata Cura. I am not a conciliarist, so I do not feel that a statement from a council necessarily has more authority than a statement from a Pope. I also reject the idea that the authority of a statement is based on how new the statement is. So if one has to give way it would be the document that is 1. of lesser authority and 2. of lesser clarity, ie DH. Also do you not think that your understanding is an example of the hermeneutic of rupture which the current Pope is trying to avoid?

  64. Nicknackpaddywack says:

    The money quote comes at the end. Vatican Council II’s teachings on the nature of the Church, on religious liberty, and on the Church’s relationship to other religions are part of the foundation of Church unity and should be non-negotiable. And there are real differences between VII on these issues and past Church teaching on them, differences that can be precisely stated but rarely are by the polemicists of the sspx.

    And if the society had their way, it would of course be the other way around, and Weigle would have to endorse their view of go packing.

    An interesting theological question here is whether there is room for disagreement on these issues in the context of Catholic tradition or whether that amounts to “cafeteria Catholicism.” Obviously, there is room for disagreement on substantive issues in Catholic theology. What is the case for making the Church’s new teachings on these topics beyond debate? Weiigle doesn’t answer that question in this article, he just assumes that accepting them is part of being a Catholic.

  65. Athelstane says:

    So say some who object to any criticism of neoconservatism. Rich, it is grossly unfair even to suggest that critics of neoconservatism should be dismissed as anti-semites

    It *is* unfair. Too often it is used to preempt discussion.

    But let us be perfectly blunt: There are pockets of genuine anti-semitism in the SSPX. And I’m not talking about merely vigorous defenses of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, or criticisms of contemporary theologies which distort Nostra Aetate to effectively produce indifferentism. I’m talking about wild conspiracy talk, deference to the Protocoals of the Elders of Zion and, yeah, Holocaust revisionism. Part of the problem with the latter is that so many who engage in any serious question of Holocaust data pretty obviously have some animus at work. And while I readily take on board the point that the SSPX is a lot broader than just France and the concerns of French history and society, the fact is that many of the parent elements of the SSPX were and are French, and that a lot of the vibe of the old Catholic right, with all its glories and flaws, disproportionately informs the Society’s outlook.

    That said, it is not right to assume that anyone in the society is an anti-semite. That is grossly unfair.

    For my part, however, I’m hoping for a little more charity on both sides going forward. The Society needs the Church, and the Church needs the Society.

  66. Jordanes says:

    N.o.o.c. said: He’s among those who asserts that earlier teachings were infallible, when they certainly were not.

    You don’t tell us which earlier teachings you have in mind, so we can’t determine if your opinion that earlier teachings weren’t infallible is correct. Nor is it at all clear that your opinion about which teachings are infallible and which are not can be relied on. Since you dogmatically assert that certain earlier teachings are certainly not infallible, you should explain what your standard is for an infallible teaching.

  67. Alan F. says:

    If I was french I’d support their monarchy.

  68. Alan F. says:

    *A claimant to their monarchy I meant.

    You know what I mean!

  69. marcum says:

    Consider that shameless Pelosianism is alive and well
    in the US with dare I say a majority of self-described Catholics?
    I trust the holy father in his wisdom on dealng with the SSPX.
    I’m hopeful in the years to come they will strengthen the body
    of Christ and stand to protect the much attacked and endangered
    holy family.

  70. ben says:

    I think Weigel is mistaken.

    He ought to have said that “Marcel Lefebvre hated heresy more than he loved Rome.” That would have been accurate.

  71. Let’s solve all the world’s problems on two hands:

    On the one hand, less of liberté, égalité, fraternité, and more of travail, famille, patrie.

    On the other hand, invite everyone to chant the Te Deum in Notre-Dame de Paris, but don’t invite a certain archbishop, until he reconsiders.

    Only the French will understand what’s on those two hands, I suppose. That’s a bit dangerous for me, since I’m in France. Lucky for me here in Lourdes, there are plenty of caves in which to hide!

  72. Cosmos says:

    “Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome.”

    I found this statement to demonstrate an intellect that lacks a level of sensitivity to human experience. Would he tell a man man who separated from his wife after he found her out with another man: “Joe Smith hated adultry more than he loved his wife”?

    I will never follow Lefebvre’s lead, but have a heart, George! The Church warned men of modernity in the harshest terms for their entire lifetime and then, in one short generation, seemed to embrace it with abandon. It must have felt like betrayal.

    Many “neocons” are more than willing to embrace people of other faiths, atheists who reject the faith because of the church’s past, and protestants of every background. But any Catholic to their right is to be dismissed out of hand.

    Lefebvre is excommunicated for his dissent, meanwhile, what it takes to get excommunicated from dissension on the left is staggering.

    I can’t agree with Weigel either, except insofar as the conspiracy theory side of SPPX is damaging to the catholic world.

  73. Melchior Cano says:

    “The Popes you mentioned spoke out against the separation of Church and State in their times because the State and Church were so bound up together in the old days. It was hard to even imagine the State and Church not being tied together. A close State and Church was the arrangement of the day.”

    This is a relatively simplistic understanding of the Pope’s teaching. They were clear that they were teaching principles that must be held by Catholics as definitive. Pope Bl. Pius IX condemned these things as false principles, not merely false times. You either have to say that they were wrong, bound up as they were by the assumptions of their day, or that they taught true, undeniable Catholic principles. It is a simplistic and silly argument to state that things are different today. So what, principles don’t change. Is separation of Church and State an error, forbidden for Catholics to hold or is it not? I’ll stand with all of the Popes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries on this.

    As a side note, perhaps you’d like to explain how Pope Leo XIII, who called for Catholics to participate in the modern Italian and French states, and yet still condemned separation of Church and state, falls into your thesis?

  74. Papabile says:

    It amazes me the level of vituperation against Lefebvre for his position on DH.

    First, I am not, nor ever have been, a Lefebvrist.

    But much needs to be answered on reconciling DH with former infallible statements of the ordinary Magisterium.

    I could spend plenty of time pulling the quotes from Denzinger, but you could too.

    It would have been helpful if Rome had put out a firm, logical position on this 35 years ago in the midst of the Indifferentist assault.

    Now, 40 years later, we are trying to end a schism over it, because people are holding to an understanding of a particular ecclesial and irreformable teaching that was commonly held for 400 years.

    What level of teaching authority accrues to DH, not only in the moral sense, but also canonically. That’s important to understand, and something which should be seriously examined.

    Without the serious examination of it, schisms and the like will perdure.

    Some may say impostant work has been done on this… it’s all been answered before…. yadda yadda…..

    Well, it hasn’t been satisfactorily addressed for the vast majority of Catholics most of whom don’t even know Vatican II addressed this issue.

  75. Baron Korf says:

    Cosmos, the Archbishop wasn’t excommunicated over dissent. We was excommunicated for performing the illicit ordination of 4 bishops.

  76. Cosmos says:

    Baron,
    That is a good point, and that does make the Vatican’s position more consistent: you can pretty much do what you do until you cross certian lines.

    No illicit ordinations…
    No denying Jesus’ divinity explicitly in publication…

    Thanks

  77. Maureen says:

    The Church never warned against “modernity”. It warned against the heresy of “Modernism”. Similarly, the Church warned against the heresy of “Americanism”, but not against “Americans” or “American-ness”.

    It’s no aid to argument to indulge in conflating any word containing the particle “modern” with Modernism. Rather, it makes it sound like you slept through theology class. It’s like saying that Indo-European languages are only spoken by followers of Arius. :)

  78. So say some who object to any criticism of neoconservatism. Rich, it is grossly unfair even to suggest that critics of neoconservatism should be dismissed as anti-semites.

    Then someone explain to me why so many critics of “neoconservatism” feel compelled to interject gratuitously Jewish surnames into the conversation. Surely you have observed this pattern.

  79. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    Rich,

    If you look at the other thread on the Neo-Conservatism, all seem to agree that originally Neo-Conservative referred to Jewish democrats who became disillusioned with the party. Only later did the term move beyond Jews.

  80. Christopher,

    I’m familiar with the term’s origins. But when it is used pejoratively and the Jewish connotation is highlighted for no apparent reason, it cocks an eyebrow.

  81. paleothomist says:

    The most ignored line from Dignitatis Humanae (1st chapter):

    “Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

  82. Martin says:

    Whoever writes an article that contains the following:

    be recognized that Williamson’s Holocaust denial and his embrace of a crude anti-Semitic canard like the “Protocols” is not all that surprising, given that Lefebvrist political ideology grew out of the same French fever swamps [nicely done!] that produced the anti-Dreyfusards.

    is, at best, an ignorant.

    Moreover, this article transpires typical anti-French sentiments so common amongst American “conservatives”.

    Finally, the comment about Tocqueville shows that either Weigel did not read Tocqueville himself, or misunderstood it. La Démocratie en Amérique certainly not offers a favourable view of modernism and democracy.

  83. David says:

    Three cheers for Weigel! He succeeds in being the equal in arrogance. Instead of retracting HIS canards against Archbishop Lefebvre (Please! A man who’s father died in a concentration camp being compared to an anti-Dreyfusard! Absurd!), he manages to sneak in a low blow by implying the excommunications aren’t really lifted!

    Weigel and +Williamson have more in common than they think.

  84. Jim Dorchak says:

    The Catholic Church needs a little more \”Rodney King\” today………

    and I am not hearing it……… here anymore.

    Jim Dorchak

  85. Call Zrobin says:

    With all due respect, this article is just as well informed and healthy as Bishop Williamson’s decalartions. Why don’t people work constructively as our Holy Father does instead of writing this piece of misminformation?. It saddens me…

    Call Zorbin

  86. Bub Canton says:

    David & Zorbin: Interesting for finding out the relationship: WILLIAMSON = WIEGEL.
    Indeed they have the same destrutive style. Both really aim at hurting the Church…and both are effective…

  87. Brian says:

    It seems that Weigel begins with the premise that the “Lefebvrists” are dead wrong with regard to their doctrinal criticism of Vatican II. Weigel argues that Lefebvre’s error was that his rigid political views shaped his theological conclusions and blinded him to the truth as taught by Vatican II and the post-Vatican magisterium.

    If one begins with this position, there is not really going to be a dialogue about doctrinal issues. The only option for the SSPX, according to this position, is for the SSPX to finally recognize their error, publically repent, and thankfully accept the remission of their excommunication with humble gratitude and an increasing willingness to receive correction and instruction.

    I don’t think that is going to happen. The SSPX thinks that they are right and that the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar magisterium are inconsistent with Traditional Catholic dogma.

  88. Jason Keener says:

    Melchior Cano,

    Catholic teaching on Church and State relations is a very complex issue. I agree with you that there does seem to have been a reversal in Church teaching that needs reconciling. From what I can tell, earlier papal statements condemning the separation of Church and State probably do not fall into the category of an infallible and definitive teaching that could never change because we seem to have seen a definite reversal in how the Living Magisterium has addressed this issue throughout time. It seems earlier Popes clearly condemned the separation of church and state. Pope Benedict now lauds the separation of church and state as a great sign of progress for humanity.

    I also realize that your view makes sense, and I am open to having my mind changed. I waffle back and forth on this issue becaue it is so unclear.

    In any event, here is where my thinking is now:

    It would seem that the Church and the State should remain separate entities. Of course, the Catholic Church always retains Her right to help the State make correct decisions when it comes to the common good or the salvation of souls. In reality, the State and Church are never totally separate because the Church always has a right and duty to inform public debate and preach the Gospel.

    The reason why we probably should insist on the separation of the Church and State when it comes to governments having an official stance on a religion is because not every State in the world is a Catholic country with a majority Catholic population where the joining of State and Church would be beneficial.

    If Pope Benedict were to insist today that the Church and State should be joined, Muslims would be further encouraged to join their own religious beliefs to their governments. Muslims using the joined Church and State model would be a disaster for Catholics living in Muslim countries. The religion of Islam is already joined closely to most of the governments in areas of the world where Islam is heavily practiced. This joining of State and Church (Mosque in this case) in the Islamic world unfairly subjects Christians to Sharia law, prohibits Christians from worshipping openly, etc. What about majority Protestant countries? Would we want them to officially marry the Protestant Church to the State? Clearly, the model of a joined offical religion and State is not always an optimal thing. When the Roman Pontiff teaches, he has to keep in mind that Catholics are not the only ones listening.

    In a majority Catholic country, however, there would seem to be no problem with the Catholic Church being officially recognized as the one true religion in the public life of the state, if that is what the people decided. I do not think Pope Benedict would be opposed to this.

    Of course, in such a confessional Catholic country, non-Catholics should still be able to practice their non-Catholic religions freely as long as they are not disturbing the common good. I say this because religious faith is always a gift that must be freely accepted by a person without coercion or force from an outside source like the State.

    Also, a society can live in a holy way without the government making a formal proclamation of the Reign of Christ the King. The people of a society can demonstrate their acknowledgement of Christ the King by living holy lives, acting charitably towards poor citizens, outlawing abortion, and making other just and holy laws. There are ways to recognize the Reign of Christ the King over the public life of a society without having the Church and State function as one identical entity.

  89. Shzilio says:

    Wow, there is a lot of anger right now. When this news about the SSPX came out I was ecstatic. I think we need the assistance of the SSPX in the Church. The election has shown us that we are in a culture war. The fact that 52 percent of the people who voted for the man who is singlehandedly responsible for exporting abortion to the developing world must have told the Holy Father something.

    Why is there all this preoccupation by people like Weigel and Damien Thompson about what is popular to the liberal Catholics or the Jews, or even protestants? I don’t get it. Whatever happened to being Catholic and standing for what is right in the face of criticism? How can these same writers, with a straight face, type the messages they are disseminating, with all this talk about offending people and popularity, while simultaneously preparing talks to pro-life groups about doing what is right in the face of what is difficult?

    And let us please define — if Father is ready for another litter-covered parking lot of our musings — what is anti-semitism?
    Is Anti-semitism not supporting the Israeli state?
    Is Antisemitism disliking Jews simply because they are Jewish?(Which in my experience seems to be the reason for all of the persecution or at least that’s the way it is taught, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why.)
    Is Antisemitism not believing that Jews are any better than other people based upon their ethnic heritage in light of the Old Testament?
    Is it Antisemitism being Christian? Is it the Passion of the Christ? Is it Mel Gibson?
    If the Church says it is a sin then I’m certain She has defined it as she is so great at doing.

    By the way, I always thought that a “neocon” was a person who was conservative on fiscal issues like spending and taxes, but who would go with what is ‘popular’ over what is morally correct and right on issues like abortion, homosex, pornography or divorce. Basically someone who is a pragmatic, selfish, spinelacking individual. I’ve always thought of Rudy Giuliani as a NeoCon. That is, how I describe a neocon. Other words are “moderate” or “lukewarm”.

  90. Bugnini says:

    That article made about as much sense as the giant Chippendales ad featured next to it.

  91. peregrinus says:

    I think the question of separation of Church and State is one of those difficult topics where Catholics can have legitimate disagreements over the exact details.

    My own sense of the debate was that in the infancy of the idea, the Popes saw the error of the view in its extreme: the subjugation of morality to the political process, the aversion to religion in public discourse, the separation of a person’s moral-religious life from his other socio-economuc aspects, etc. The error of this extremist view has been consistently upheld through the pontificates of Pope John Paul II, such as in Fides et Ratio and Evangelium Vitae, and Pope Benedict XVI.

    At the Second Vatican Council, the Bishops chose to focus on the positive aspects of separation of Church and State: religious liberty, freedom for truth, etc. We must not forget that the link between religion and state must also apply for non-Christian religions as well: we cannot expect people to accept the link between the Catholic Church and the State, while we continue to oppose the British Act of Settlement, or the Islamic theocracies in Syria, or the communist regimes in Vietnam or China. Should the Council have taken a more cautious and balanced approach? Perhaps. But the magisterium of the Church never stopped at Vatican II, nor any of the councils or Popes before Vatican II.

    Based on what I know, I don’t see any contradictions between the positions. On the other hand, I find SSPX’s assertions that they have maintained the Apostolic Tradition, or that the Catholic Church slipped into the heresy of Modernism absolutely hilarous and silly. In a sense, I’m happy that their excommunications were lifted (the doctrinal differences need not always be Church-dividing), but their arrogance, as well as that of some posters, is absolutely off-putting. No wonder Pope John Paul the Great reminded us that Christian Unity is a gift from God! We need saints to move us forward towards the unity Christ prayed for. Luckily, most of us are not involved in official dialogues for Christian Unity… otherwise, it would probably never materialise.

  92. Bruce Barker says:

    The reconciliation of the SSPX will not be achieved by dueling Denzingers, as if Catholics are doctrinal fundamentalists who can solve issues with lexicons and their wits. It will occur by recognizing that the Magisterium is the interpreter of the doctrinal texts of the Church, and alone can authoritively decide what is binding (i.e. what is “of Divine and Catholic faith”), from what is non-binding, and even disciplinary, in Magisterial texts.

    Vatican II texts likely contain different categories of teaching, as well as circumstantial applications of teaching. But, this is also true of past Councils and papal documents. Those who blithely assert Vatican II violates infallible ordinary Magisterium make that judgment on their own authority. Let Rome, which to date has only superficially considered the decrees of authority in past and present texts on ecumenism and religious freedom, resolve the matter. If it takes dialogue with the SSPX to do so, well and good. Such a dialogue may be the occasion, but it will be Rome’s charism deciding. Hopefully, all Catholics will accept the outcome.

  93. Jason Keener says:

    Peregrinus,

    You bring up some good points.

    “Dignitatis Humane” was not meant to be a complete treatise on Church and State relations. The focus of the document was geared more towards treating the topic of individual religious liberty. This was very fitting and important because many people in the last century have faced deplorable religious persecution under Communistic, Islamic, and Atheistic regimes.

    Also, when Pope Benedict XVI praises the separation of Church and State, the Holy Father is not saying or implying that the Catholic Church can have no influence or role to play in the life of a State. The Pope seems to be saying instead that the Church and State should not be indentical and should not be doing the exact same things. After all, the Church and the State have different missions.

    We know the problems that can creep in when the State appoints bishops or assumes totalitarian control over every aspect of the life of a society. This totalitarian control has often severely compromised the Church’s mission of saving souls and preaching the Gospel. Totalitarian control of the State has also infringed on people’s indvidual rights to worship freely. The invitation to a personal relationship with God can only be properly accepted in an atmosphere of total freedom without coercion or force from an outside source like the State.

    Evidence that Pope Benedict is not arguing for a total and radical separation of the Church and State is that Pope Benedict is continually asking the Church to make Her rightful contributions to the public debate, to questions of morality, etc., that affect the state. Vatican II also stressed that lay people are to transform the temporal order (government, education, business, etc.) as their rightful task in the Kingdom of God. Maybe the Second Vatican Council made no explicit mention of the Social Reign of Christ the King, but the Church still seems to be vigorously promoting the basic principles that underlie the Social Kingship of Christ.

  94. So, Bishop Williamson has now apologized. He’s invited to the Te Deum after all.

  95. David says:

    What does anti-Semitic mean?

    When I was in the Army, I spent six months with the Multinational Force and Observes on the Sinai Peninsula (1997). While on R&R in Elat a couple of the fellows I was with made friends with a couple of Israeli girls. I met up with them in the morning at pavilion next to the beach, and I struck up a conversation with one of them regarding some the troubles between Israel and the Palestinians .

    At one point I asked her if she really thought the living standards in Gaza were very fair. Don’t human beings deserve more than what the typical Palestinian in Gaza could expect?

    The young Isreali girl stated matter of factly, “Palestinians. They are dogs. They all should be exterminated.”

    I paused in shocked incredulity. Finally, I managed: “Didn’t Adolph Hitler say the same thing about the Jews?”

    “Are you really comparing me to Hitler?” she challenged.

    “Well, yes,” I stammered. “I guess I am.”

    “You’re nothing but an anti-Semite,” she stated with a huff.

    “Let me get you straight, here,” I objected. “You say that an entire race of people ought to be exterminated, yet I’m the anti-Semite?”

    “Yes!”

    “How is that?” I asked in disbelief.

    “Because you would take the side of a Palestinian over a Jew, and anyone who would accuse a Jew of being a Nazi is an anti-Semite. If I were you, I would keep your opinions to yourself around here.”

    “And if I don’t?”

    “Have you noticed? Army personnel carry their M-16s, even when they are off duty.”

    This experience was an eye-opening one to say the least.

    One of the things it demonstrates is that the terms anti-Semitic and anti-Semite have been transformed over the years, I would imagine by parties interested in ascendancy of certain ideological or political agendas. Anti-Semitism should mean to treat the Semitic people as less than human based on their ethnicity. However, it has been transformed into meaning any idea, attitude or statement that criticizes the Jewish religion or lifestyle, or any criticism of the Israeli State or Israeli policies.

    Now, apparently, (with the Good Friday Prayer and the Williamson affair) being anti-Semitic means to affirm Catholic faith and show mercy to the misguided. Perhaps the term has reached it’s final, anti-Catholic, transformation. It could be the primary weapon in a new persecution of the Church.

  96. John Feeney says:

    Weigel is just another verbose, modernist gas bag. He’s irrelevant.