Benedict’s Letter in English: Fr. Z comments

UPDATE 1207 GMT 12 MARCH:

Now that the official English translation of the Holy Father’s letter has been released I decided to update this entry.

My additional comments at at the bottom of the entry.

I am particularly moved by this:

At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

My emphases and comments.

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
concerning the remission of the excommunication
of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre

Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry!

The remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre without a mandate of the Holy See has for many reasons caused, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time. Many Bishops felt perplexed by an event which came about unexpectedly and was difficult to view positively in the light of the issues and tasks facing the Church today. Even though many Bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope’s concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time. Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment. I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear Brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church. [His Holiness is a great optimist.]

An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy [this is a key point] towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path. A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council – steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support. That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore. [This is interesting: a direct mention of the use of the internet by a Roman Pontiff] I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news. [I am available.  o{]:¬)  ] I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility.  [Their enmity was greater than their respect or their sense of justice.] Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which – as in the days of Pope John Paul II – has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.

Another mistake, which I deeply regret, is the fact that the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication. The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions. An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, [NB: "danger" of schism… not the present fact of schism.] since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication – with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained. The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four Bishops once more to return. This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council. [NB: "obedience to teaching authority"] Here I return to the distinction between individuals and institutions. The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. [This is a very interesting statement.  The point seems to me to be that the doctrinal differences are the real problem and not, in the mind of the Roman Pontiff, the matter of obedience to the Bishop of Rome in matters of discipline.  There is a difference between respecting the Pope’s authority to govern the Church and the Pope’s authority to teach and the Church’s authority to have a Council and promulgate documents of any nature, dogmatic or pastoral.] As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.  There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church. [Good: The real problem is doctrine.  I have been saying this all along.  The liturgical or disciplinary problems can be solved with the stroke of a pen.  The doctrinal issues must be hammered out.]

[This is important….]   In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" – the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope – to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes. The collegial bodies with which the Congregation studies questions which arise (especially the ordinary Wednesday meeting of Cardinals and the annual or biennial Plenary Session) ensure the involvement of the Prefects of the different Roman Congregations and representatives from the world’s Bishops in the process of decision-making. [read: there will be wider consultation once the PCED is involved more closely with the CDF]  The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. [That was a direct instruction to the SSPX.]  But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council [Not really their role in the Church.] also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

I hope, dear Brothers, that this serves to clarify the positive significance and also the limits of the provision of 21 January 2009. But the question still remains: Was this measure needed? Was it really a priority? Aren’t other things perhaps more important[The idea here is this: Why risk damaging relations with the Jews by doing this?  Why give the impression that you are rolling back the Council?  Etc.  Pick your issue.] Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.  [This next part is marvelous.  It is a gem of the letter…. ] The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: [Not any other God.] this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God["talk of God" … "theo-logy"] Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is interreligious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church’s real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small[I like that: even small acts of reconciliation play a part in the larger reconciliation we must pursue.] That the quiet gesture of extending a hand  [excellent] gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept. But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who "has something against you" (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation? Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents – to the extent possible – in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences? Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole[This is classic Ratzinger.  It shows you something of his heart.] I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole. [Important: They bring gifts into the larger Church.  This precisely is what the Pope’s enemies, the Rupturites seek to block.] Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church[Again.. the Pope spoke above about danger of schism, not of a state of schism.] I think for example of the 491 priests. [NB: I noted on many occasions that Summorum Pontificum was especially a gift to priests. Benedict is especially concerned for the priests of the SSPX.] We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them[I hope SSPX priests are paying attention.]

Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. [SSPXers take note: This is PETER saying this to you.] Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? [This next part is fantastic!]  At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. [The Holy Father’s personal experience has shed light for him on that verse of Scripture.] Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? [Freedom… interesting word, here.] And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love? The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome. And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide – even in turbulent times. And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many Bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers. My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter. May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter.

With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain

Yours in the Lord,

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

A couple things.

First, I was strongly moved by his description of a group to whom no tolerance may be shown and if anyone defends them, they too are harassed.  

It is said that the last acceptable prejudice is anti-Catholic bigotry.  But within the Church the same dynamic applies.  I often refer to Summorum Pontificum as a kind of "emancipation proclamation".  I describe not seldom, traditionalists as being treated in by progressivists in power as black were before the civil rights movment took hold in the USA: they can go to the back door of the restaurant for their food, but can’t sit in the nice chairs in the main room with decent folks. 

Second, some would have thought that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be incorporated, perhaps, with the Cong. for Divine Worship.  The Pope is saying rather that it should be with the CDF. 

This to my mind signals a couple things.  On the one hand, the liturgical issue is concluded in large part.  The Holy Father established that there is one Roman Rite in two uses.  Juridically the matter is concluded.  Details can be worked out, but this is a done deal.

On the other hand, the more difficult problem remains, and it is not so must a matter of liturgical use but is rather doctrinal.  Putting the PCED with e CDF opens the way to creating a framework for doctrinal talks with the SSPX.  Issues of canonical status of the SSPX priests, the whole of the SSPX, etc…. that is a matter of paperwork, difficult paperwork, but paperwork nonetheless.  The real sticking points are now doctrinal, as the Holy Father describes in the letter above.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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118 Responses to Benedict’s Letter in English: Fr. Z comments

  1. Mike says:

    S.S. “Spirit of Vatican II” is rapidly taking on water and going down…long live the Pope and the Second Vatican Council!

  2. Amy P. says:

    Wow, just wow. What a letter.

  3. Theodorus says:

    I praise God for giving the Church and the world Benedict XVI, a true Pastor and Father!

  4. Irish says:

    We are so fortunate to have this Pope at this time. And don’t you just love his description of the brainstorm at reading Galatians at the Seminary? Wonderful.

  5. Irenaeus says:

    Er lebe hoch! Ad multos annos! Viva la Papa! (boing boing boing jumps Irenaeus with happiness)

  6. Sarah L says:

    Wow. The Holy Father never fails to blow me away with his intellect and heart. This will take several readings to fully appreciate, but I had tears in my eyes at the end. His remarks on discord in the Church were so applicable to a personal conflict I am going through.

  7. Ruben says:

    The Pope reminds me of the father from the parable of the prodigal son, who speaks to his older son, who is angry at the rejoicing over the return of his brother. The older brother refuses to come into the house and the father pleads with him to be happy and rejoice. In a certain sense, like the prodigal son, the SSPX Bishops seemed to have made off with their inheritance, only to go so far before acknowledging a need for reconciliation with the Holy Father.

  8. Sal says:

    Our Holy Father is the very best. He always has my prayers and best wishes.

  9. Hugo says:

    That is a breathtaking letter. Wow… I am praying for our beloved holy father.

    VIVA IL PAPA!

  10. Thomas says:

    The letter sorta blows the fallacious dichotomy of pastoral vs. traditional out of the water. The big bad German Pope is the one who is full of mercy, forgiveness and a desire for unity while the Modernists seek nothing but condemnation and division.

    May God bless our Holy Father with good health, long life, great success, and every consolation.

  11. Pete says:

    My heart goes out to our Holy Father, seeing the true hatred sent his way by so many inside Holy Mother Church. At the same time, my heart is with the SSPX, and the fight they have waged for so many decades. May Bishop Fellay and the Holy Father come to an agreement soon….and let Tradition live.
    Semper Fidelis

  12. W. Schrift says:

    Non praevalebunt!

  13. Stephanie L says:

    My husband in Germany just sent me the FAZ article and wrote: “crying for joy! This has New Testament quality”. We are so blessed to have this Pope.

  14. Anthony English says:

    “God is disappearing .. the destructive effects of which we are seeing ever more of.”

    And there is the key to understanding the global financial crisis. It’s a new Tower of Babel which is coming down. A stimulus package or curbing executive pay is not going to fix it: the one thing which the politicians won’t acknowledge is that we can’t get out of this mess without falling on our knees.

  15. Irenaeus says:

    “The letter sorta blows the fallacious dichotomy of pastoral vs. traditional out of the water. The big bad German Pope is the one who is full of mercy, forgiveness and a desire for unity while the Modernists seek nothing but condemnation and division.”

    Probably because he’s an Augustinian, and thus serious faith, doctrinal concern, sexual restraint, and mercy and love can be all rolled up in one big ball.

  16. Mitchell NY says:

    I can only imagine the pressure that the media and his own Bishops have put this Pope under to compel him to release his private thoughts and reasons for doing the things he has his right to do. Empathy comes to mind when reading this and I can almost feel his pains caused by such attacks. Any Catholic that reads this who has opposed the Holy Father, including his own Bishops should be humbled to apologize and keep their agenda ridden opinions to themselves. Many people openly said that the whole Williamson affair would have been avoided had he kept his mouth shut and malinformed opinions to himself. Well those same people should have done the same thing in regards to Our holy Father’s decisions. For they too, with their big mouths and opinions, have caused great harm to the Pope and you can see it when reading between the lines of his letter. For as much hate that fills people’s hearts there is even more love for this Papa.

  17. Fr. Wade says:

    the Second Vatican Council carries with it the whole teaching history of the Church. Whoever wants to be obedient to it, must accept the faith of centuries and may not cut the roots from which the tree lives.

    Thank you Holy Father!
    Simply beautiful.

    Or as Joseph Adama once said: “whoever cares the most wins”.
    Pope Benedict Loves His Sheep so he wins.

  18. Rob says:

    I believe that we just witnessed the papal version of writing their sins in the sand.

  19. Baron Korf says:

    Papa just sat us all down for a good talking to. Beautiful.

  20. rcesq says:

    How can you not love this Pope? The original German text is personal and informal in a way that’s a bit lost in translation — this is Pope Benedict speaking straight from the heart, talking directly to all those who are involved and all those who weighed in on the situation, pro and con. You can tell that he was especially pained by Catholics “who should have known better” but who nonetheless piled on with abusive commentary.

    Dear Jesus, save Pope Benedict from the wolves, and may Our Mother Mary shelter him under her protective cloak.

  21. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Like the famous encyclicals, this letter will be cited for some time to come: Tollendo excommunicationum.

    Ad multos annos Papa! Eis polla eti Despota!

  22. Francesco says:

    Does this not bother anyone else?

    …Ecumenism — is included in the highest priority.

  23. Matthew says:

    This moving letter has brought me both joy and gratitude!

    Yet, there is one question I must ask: Is anyone concerned that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei may be undermined now that it is going to be moved under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? I have to believe there are not a few people in the CDF who are unsympathetic to the Benedictine Reform.

    My apologies if I am putting a damper on things.

  24. Thank you Fr. Z. Your comments and insights are filled with wisdom. Our Holy Father needs the prayers of all Catholics to resolve this contentious matter in a way that promotes the Catholic Church. The Pope’s letter was loving, doctrinal and will be the final word

  25. JMMCBXVI says:

    Following this interesting website from Spain… A truly inspiring letter from the Pope, not only to his brother bishops, but to every Catholic worldwide, as there is something in it for everyone! ¡Viva el Papa!

  26. Parochus says:

    “Is anyone concerned that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei may be undermined now that it is going to be moved under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? I have to believe there are not a few people in the CDF who are unsympathetic to the Benedictine Reform.”

    Name one, please, in the dicastery he headed for over 23 years!

  27. Luigi says:

    Does this not bother anyone else? …Ecumenism — is included in the highest priority.

    If we understand ecumenism properly, as the restoration of unity among all Christians, why should it? Jesus prayed at length for such unity.

  28. Matt Q says:

    Great letter by the Holy Father. It clears up what many of us here and elsewhere have been saying for quite a while now. Vatican II was not intended as a rupture with the past, and that many things regarding Vatican II over the past forty years are false and tantamount to heresy; and that the Williamson case and the lifting of the excommunications are mutually exclusive events. They are completely unrelated to the other.

    While the Pope made a sideways reference of “know-it-all” to the Society, we yet have the likes of the McBriens or Mahonys and his minions, who run around espousing the false teachings and meanings of Vatican II, yet never a word about them.

    The Holy Father’s letter should be the end of this excommunication thing but we know the way the media and various idiots in the Church are will carry on with it for years to come.

    =====

    Father Z wrote:

    “A closer connection of the PCED with the CDF would not be for reasons of disciplining members of the SSPX, through the canonical section of the CDF.

    This connection would more than like aim at preparing the way for doctrinal discussions with the SSPX’s leadership and their delegates.”

    )(

    This is perhaps true, that the Holy Father’s lifting of the excommunications has moved the Society’s issues a step forward. It is still unsettling though in that there still many loose ends regarding the Tridentine Mass. Many disobedient bishops and priests still refuse to allow it when the Holy Father has already said his permission is sufficient. Mahony’s recent statement in evidence. There is still yet no clarification in sight even two years after the Motu Proprio’s release. If the Holy Father believes Summourm Pontificum is sufficient, then everything is adrift again because there is nothing to help steer it. Whatever anyone wants to do–or not do–with it, fine, whatever, subject to the caprice of bishops and pastors once again?

    Moving Ecclesia Dei to the CDF, perhaps also means clearing up some desk space for the reforming of the Novus Ordo. Funny how the Pope immediately changed something in the Tridentine Mass right out of the chute but it seems to me, and it’s my opinion, so excruciatingly laboriously impotent in resolving anything regarding the Novus Ordo, or handling the false teachings of his bishops. ??

  29. EDG says:

    What a beautiful, profound letter. How fortunate we are. This is how people centuries ago must have felt when hearing the writings of the Apostles or one of the great Fathers, such as St Augustine, during their lifetimes.

  30. TJM says:

    Absolutely marvelous and so insightful of modern society – I particularly liked his comment that there is always one group that can be hated with
    impunity, and that somehow that is acceptable behavior. Tom

  31. Tomas says:

    It is a wonderful letter; however, this passage bothers me:

    “This should make clear that the problems that are now to be dealt with are of a doctrinal nature, especially that which deals with acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-Conciliar teaching of the Pope.”

    First, Chris Ferrara has already demonstrated that “acceptance of the Second Vatican Council” is a complete illusion, since the Council offered nothing new except vague language. Second, what if the “post-Conciliar teaching of the Pope” contradicts the Magisterium? (in fact, I’ve seen another translation which uses “Magisterium” in place of “teaching.”)

  32. Matthew says:

    Good point Parochus! One and only name came to my mind when I read of this restructuring, and was that was the name of the prefect himself, Cardinal Levada. While I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, I nonetheless cannot help but remember his attitude toward the celebration of the Tridentine Mass while he was Archbishop of San Francisco.

  33. Kevin says:

    We’re all praying for the Holy Father! I feel so blessed to have this good and holy man as our pope!

  34. Joseph says:

    “acceptance of VII” poses no problem since it is a doctrinal issue. I cannot see how the Holy Father will require anyone to affirm to heterodox teachings. Actually I think the real upside here will be, a number of long overdue clarifications. I think this is just logical, no?

  35. Irenaeus says:

    Re: Ecumenism:

    Francesco (et al.), I wouldn’t worry about the ecumenical thing too much. (1) The letter states it’s for the sake of unity among Christians, for division hampers witness; and (2) when it concerns non-Christians, it’s a way for Catholics to witness to others, not to water down the faith. Remember the ecumenical meeting when Papa Ratzi was in the States: to the delegates of other religions, he talked about what ecumenism was and wasn’t and said, “The Church proposes Jesus Christ.”

    I agree that a lot of ecumenism is a complete and total waste of time (I’m a Prot having been in Prot institutions, so I see this everywhere). But with B16, ecumenism can never lose the centrality of Jesus and decisive nature of the Catholic faith.

  36. This letter will indeed go down in History, as the first example in the modern era of a Pope having to defend himself against (many of) his bishops and faithful, merely for being Catholic. I am terribly afraid that those for whom it is meant will not listen, and that is why we must continue to pray without ceasing that our Lord and His blessed Mother continue to grant him endurance and to defend him from his enemies and from all danger.

  37. annie says:

    Grateful to have read this. I’ve noted your link at my website.

  38. Luigi says:

    Holy Father: “All the more do I thank the Jewish friends who helped to quickly rid the world of the misunderstanding and to re-establish the atmosphere of friendship and trust…”

    I am not so sure I’d say “friendship and trust” has been restored just yet.

    This mess reveals the internal struggle that exists within Catholicsm sure enough. But no one seems to be talking about the influence that is brought to bear in the Williamson aspect of this story by the considerable internal struggle that exists within Judaism.

    The loudest voices in the Jewish community in this affair seem to be coming from those who are hardly recognizable as Jews from a religious standpoint, a.k.a. spiritual patrimony with Catholicism standpoint; e.g. they are the pro-abortion, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-homosexual union, etc. Jews who are largely cultural / secular; the majority of those in the US.

    My guess is that the the Jewish friends to whom the Holy Father refers are more akin to Orthodox individuals like Rabbi Yehuda Levin who share our moral beliefs.

    It’s not just a matter or being anti-Catholic-traditonal-morality that inflames things, it is that secular Jews tend to identify themselves less by their covenental relationship with God, and more with the historical / secular matters of the Holocaust and Zionism. That leaves little to fall back on when something like Williamson happens. For these folks, our dialogue isn’t truly inter-religious, it’s more akin to diplomacy that lives and dies on tolerance, not shared faith.

  39. Ottaviani says:

    The loudest voices in the Jewish community in this affair seem to be coming from those who are hardly recognizable as Jews from a religious standpoint, a.k.a. spiritual patrimony with Catholicism standpoint; e.g. they are the pro-abortion, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-homosexual union, etc. Jews who are largely cultural / secular; the majority of those in the US.

    That’s probably because rabbinical Judaism is not the same as Biblical Judaism (some of the reasons that you quote above show this). Strictly speaking there is no such thing as Judaism now, because the Temple has gone. What is now set up as “Judaism” is from the Talmudic tradition, at variance with the religion started by Our Lord.

  40. Ottaviani says:

    If we understand ecumenism properly, as the restoration of unity among all Christians, why should it? Jesus prayed at length for such unity.

    Luigi – if ecumenism is properly understood as it used to be: the return of non-Catholics to the mystical body of Christ which is ONLY the Catholic church, then the SSPX has would not protest.

    The problem arises when officials say things like “ecumenism of return is an out-dated ecclesiology” (said by Cardinal Kasper) and go unapprehended (which can only be interpreted as a silent approval from the papacy). That is what the SSPX rightly point out as a break with the traditional magesterium.

  41. TNCath says:

    What a marvelous letter to the bishops! Now, the question is whether or not the bishops will pay attention. I certainly hope and pray this is the case.

    There is a key statement here the Pope makes that I do think is extremely crucial for future issues: “I understand/hear, that careful following of the news available/accessible from the internet might have allowed one to become aware of the problem in time. I have learned from it that we at the Holy See shall have to be more watch this source of news more attentively in the future.”

    I don’t know who reads this blog, but I suspect a great number of those in places of authority and influence in the Vatican do. With this in mind, I respectfully suggest that the Holy See take seriously the Holy Father’s charge that it becomes more vigilant in its monitoring of the Church via the Internet. Moreover, the Pontifical Household really does need someone like you, Father Z., to provide the Holy Father and the Holy See with what is really going on in the trenches of daily Catholic life, a great deal of which takes place nowadays in cyberspace.

  42. Maynardus says:

    I’ll echo those who have been praising the Holy Father. The so-called “pastoral” bishops of the world should take note, THIS is what a true pastor sounds like!

    With the P.C.E.D. to be combined with the C.D.F. I, too, wonder about the future of its role vis-a-vis the usage of the 1962 Missal. While their involvement in the doctrinal questions would seem to be logically intertwined with the portfolio of the C.D.F., there are still many questions/issues which arise from the implementation of Summorum Pontificum which have nothing to do with doctrine or the S.S.P.X.

    One wonders if, as was bruited previously, there will be some provision made in the future to assign that competency to the C.D.W. It might be seen as a way to facilitate the Pope’s desire that the two forms of the Roman Rite influence each other…

  43. What an amazing display of the Pope as the successor of Peter, defining the issues. The Holy Father clearly expresses the differences between the doctrinal issues with the SSPX and the problems caused by Bishop Williamson.

    I never thought it would be possible for my impression of the Pope to raise higher than it already has, but the wisdom of the Holy Father shines through.

    “Peter has spoken through Benedict”

  44. Collegeville reject says:

    I have read the Pope’s writings and, most of the time, felt that they were “over-my-head”, but this letter spoke to my heart. Thank you Holy Father.

  45. Ed Peters says:

    Commentaria bona in epistulam bonam. Tibi gratias, Pater.

  46. Joe says:

    What a most beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing. Papa Benedetto is an extraordinary man for extraordinary times. God grant him many healthy years.

  47. mark says:

    The Traditionalists at Angel Queen are still full of bile. This simply confirms their belief that the Pope is a Modernist Heretic.

    *Why* do we have sympathy with these people again?

  48. Central Valley says:

    A beautiful loving letter. Will the American bishosp read it and take it to heart? Will it be read by the bishop of Fresno, Ca.?

  49. Luigi says:

    “if ecumenism is properly understood as it used to be: the return of non-Catholics to the mystical body of Christ which is ONLY the Catholic church, then the SSPX has would not protest. The problem arises when officials say things like “ecumenism of return is an out-dated ecclesiology” (said by Cardinal Kasper)

    Hi Ottaviani,

    I agree wholeheartedly that the latter is a problem. Card. Kasper is just wrong. My point is why let the Kaspers of the world turn “ecumenism” into a dirty word? The definiton you gave is what authentic ecumenism has always been, and I am reasonably certain that this is exactly what Pope Benedict meant in his letter. That’s why it doesn’t raise any red flags for me.

    About Judaism, I know what you mean, but consider Judaism didn’t cease during the Diaspora or when the first Temple was destroyed. That’s when rabbinic Judaism began, and even then it had and continues to have among the Orthodox and some Conservative communities a relationship with Temple worship. The synagogues of old used to orient worship toward Jurasalem because that’s where the Temple is / should be. That’s still true, at least in the communities that aren’t almost entirely secular.

    There is still among the Orthodox and some others a shared spiritual patrimony with us with whom inter-religious dialogue is possible. The relationship is much less fragile as a result. I think the majority of what is called by that name “inter-religious dialogue” with the Jews is really nothing more than a sachharine exercise in uber-tolerance. I just made that phrase up. : ) I think it’s a keeper.

  50. Geoffrey says:

    As an orthodox Roman Catholic who wants the new Mass done right and the old Mass done everywhere, I was very confused with the lifting of the excommunications. This letter explained everything and I am no longer confused. Thank you, Most Holy Father!

  51. Sid Cundiff says:

    “What is now set up as ‘Judaism’ is from the Talmudic tradition, at variance with the religion started by Our Lord.”

    This quote is quite wrong and quite anti New Testamental. The Tannaitic tradition, out which emerges the Mishnah and the Talmud, was alive and flourishing in Our Lord’s time. Indeed, He was part of it, Himself a rabbi at the synagogue in Capernaum. St. Matthew is in this tradition as well, a central theme of his gospel being that the Christian Faith is the fulfillment of the Jewish — that the two Faiths are really one. The Sermon of the Mount has Our Lord working with Rabbical tools, e.g., the teaching against divorce and the teaching against an oath are the Rabbinical “hedge around the Torah”, with respect to the commandments against misusing The Name and against adultery.

    And St. Paul also came out of this tradition, himself trained in one of the most important Rabbinical schools. In Romans 9-11 has the image of the Christian Faith as grafted onto the tree of the Jewish.

  52. Merriweather says:

    @Tomas

    The SSPX has always maintained that the problem is *doctrinal* .

    They asked for two things as “preconditions” for beginning doctrinal talks…to build a “spirit of trust”…1. free the Mass for ALL priests; 2. annul the excommunications.

    It makes perfect sense for the pope to move PCED to the CDF; I take it as a signal that those talks are indeed about to begin. In a technical sense, the need for the PCED was made mute by the MP, even if, not all the bishops are doing what they should.

    Let the clarifications of LG, HG, and NA begin!

  53. Sid Cundiff says:

    Now we should follow the example of Holy Father and reach out to the SSPX folk with loving, thankful, and welcoming arms, telling them how much we need them, and then praying with them for the Society’s regularization.

    It is only the enemies of the Faith who fear the prospect of the Society and the rest of us Catholics standing shoulder to shoulder in the same army for battle that lies ahead.

  54. Merriweather says:

    @Mark

    “Should we not, like righteous educators, be able to overhear many an offense and strain ourselves to quietly lead out of the impasse? And must we not admit that discord has also come from Church circles?”

  55. Patrick says:

    Well, the ball is squarely in the SSPX court now. Will they submit to the authority of the Holy Father and resolve their doctrinal issues and come home? The Holy Father is very wise in this matter. He is obviously being led by the Holy Spirit to navigate the reconciliation of those who have been separated for so long.

  56. Luigi says:

    Merriweather: Let the clarifications of LG, HG, and NA begin!

    Yea… that Humani Generis needs some ‘splainin. ; )

  57. Merriweather says:

    @Patrick

    While +Lefebvre was still alive, the SSPX submitted a document containing 39 dubia about the council. The response was a 50 page document from the CDF that did not address any of the dubia in particular.

    The doctrinal issues are not unresolved for lack of effort on the part of the SSPX. Hopefully, these new talks will bear more fruit.

    It sounds like the Holy Father is willing to hear them out.

  58. David Kastel says:

    Patrick, the question could be asked another way:

    Will Rome admit that the doctrine that SSPX has been teaching for the last 40 years is consistent with the Deposit of Faith?

    Is it not Rome which has tolerated dissident voices among its own bishops, priests, and theologians? Among the cacophony of allegedly Catholic teaching, will Rome admit that it is the traditional teaching which is correct?

    Remember, it is SSPX which has been asking for these doctrinal talks since 2000, subsequent to the lifting of the excomms, and the liberation of the mass, but prior to finding a canonical solution.

    Notice what is it the Holy Father criticizes about SSPX and what he praises them for:

    “To be sure, we have for a long time and again on this given occasion heard many discordant notes from representatives of this community — arrogance and condescension, obsessing into the one-sided-nesses and so on. [SSPXers take note: This is PETER saying this to you.] To this I need to add for the sake of the Truth that I have also received a series of moving proofs of gratitude in which an opening of hearts was noticeable. [Again, this is PETER speaking.]”

    He praises them for concrete actions, but criticizes for personality issues (condescension, one-sidedness, arrogance.)

  59. PMcGrath says:

    Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group to which it needs to show no tolerance, which one is allowed to attack with hatred, unquestioned. And whoever dares to touch them—in this case the Pope— has also himself lost the right to tolerance and was allowed to be thought of with hatred, without shyness or restraint.

    You could also say nowadays that of pro-life people generally, or of the pro-marriage people in California for their persecution by the buggery community after the passage of Prop. 8.

  60. David Kastel says:

    Sid Cundiff,

    I think you should re-phrase your post regarding the Christian and Jewish religions:

    “the two Faiths are really one”

    or if that is truly your sentiment, you need to refresh yourself on the infallible and unchangeable Catholic doctrine regarding original sin, justification, and baptism.

  61. David Kastel says:

    This could be evidence of some of the problems with the ecumenical/interreligious dialogue process.

  62. David Kastel says:

    i.e. – the equality of religions

  63. mrsmontoya says:

    I would like to learn more about the “doctrinal” questions. I am poorly educated in these things and would like to understand more clearly what this part of the problem is. Can someone point me somewhere to learn more?

  64. Merriweather says:

    @Sid Cundiff

    I think St. Paul is pretty clear in Romans 7—the religion of the Old Law is dead.

    I also think that describing the Talmud as “alive and flourishing” in Our Lord’s time is pretty rich considering he condemned the hypocrisy of the pharisees.

    Catholics and Jews are indeed at opposing ends until the jews convert. Of course, we must get along in the temporal sphere, and it is certainly not acceptable to hate the jews, nevertheless, there can be no reconciliation if they do not accept Christ.

    St. Paul also says:

    “…for you also have suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they have from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men; prohibiting us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath of God is come upon them to the end.” (I Thess. 3:14b-16)

  65. Luigi says:

    David Kastel: Is it not Rome which has tolerated dissident voices among its own bishops, priests, and theologians? Among the cacophony of allegedly Catholic teaching, will Rome admit that it is the traditional teaching which is correct?

    OF course, David, traditonal Catholic teaching is always correct. But I wouldn’t hold out much hope that Rome will thank the SSPX for its disobedience as though it is the only thing that kept Tradition alive.

    “…praises them for concrete actions, but criticizes for personality issues (condescension, one-sidedness, arrogance.)”

    The problems the Holy Father mentions, “condescension, one-sidedness, arrogance” when you consider they are in the face of the Successor to St. Peter, run a little deeper than personality issues.

  66. Merriweather says:

    @David Kastel and Luigi

    I don’t think the Holy Father is saying that the “condescension..etc” was necessarily directed at him personally, rather just in general. The spirit of criticism is certainly a temptation for traditional Catholics and we must always guard against “bitter zeal”. But I think the pope is also saying that there is fault on both sides.

    Personally, I think that some bitterness on the part of trads is mitigated by the many years of mistreatment. I know little old ladies who were physically pulled up off their knees by priests distributing Holy Communion. I really think (and hope) the pope wants to heal those wounds.

  67. Origen Adamantius says:

    The holy Father has written an excellent letter. However, it is amazing how easily everyone sees their own position affirmed, mainly because we tend to see things as strictly either or and miss theological distinctions.

    Merriweather, Sid Cundiff, et al:

    The reference to Jews in First Thessalonians speaks specifically to those who are directly opposing the belief that faith saves and not the works of the Mosaic Law. “In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29). The Jewish people can only be saved in Christ, however, that does not mean following the Jewish faith (a faith revealed by God so inherently good though finding fulfillment only in Christ) presently is automatically opposed to Christianity. Opposition to the Gospel arises from the human heart not Judaism and that judgment is reserved to God.

    Doctrinal issues are real issues. One of the the doctrinal issues is the absolute recognition that Christ is necessary for salvation yet not everyone who ultimately belongs to Christ is part of the visible Church, Thus the Church (all who are saved in Christ) subsists in the visible Catholic Church (that is the Body of Christ exists fully and truly in the temporal expression of the Church but is not limited to the visible boundaries). Ecumenism is not the equality of religions, but the recognition that where and to the degree that truth and goodness exist there exists Christ and the hope that these elements are united in the temporal sphere in the one holy catholic church.

  68. Patrick says:

    David Kastel: “Will Rome admit that the doctrine that SSPX has been teaching for the last 40 years is consistent with the Deposit of Faith?”

    It would seem the Holy Father has already indicated that they are not consistent with the Deposit of Faith, hence the doctrinal problem that remains. The Holy Father firmly teaches that the Deposit of Faith includes teachings after 1962. As he hints in his letter, the SSPX do not. So, no the SSPX are not consistent with the Faith. If they were, there would be no need for resolving their doctrinal issues.

    I think in all of this the Pope is being very gracious. If one were to compile all the vile things spoken and written by SSPX priests about the Holy Father it would not make for a pretty sight. Undoubtedly, the Holy Father is aware of these sentiments. But he is the bigger man and is trying to bring them home.

  69. Merriweather says:

    @Patrick

    The question is which teachings?

    Can we have some examples of what the SSPX teaches that is contrary to the deposit of the Faith?

    If the council taught nothing new–what is it exactly that Catholics are bound in conscience to accept?

    I for one would like to know–that why I’m looking forward to the outcome of these talks.

    It seems to me, you are being a lot more harsh than the Holy Father is.

    NB: certain positions that the SSPX has maintained for years, have been completely vindicated in recent times: namely that the Mass was never abrogated and that the SSPX was not in schism.

    We’ll see if there isn’t more to come.

  70. Daniel says:

    Father Z wrote: “The real problem is doctrine. I have been saying this all along.”

    Yes. The SSPX declared years ago that the problem was doctrinal in nature.

  71. Merriweather says:

    @Origen

    No, St. Paul is specifically referring to the persecution inflicted by the Jews.

    The Church of Christ *is* the Catholic Church.

    “The Jewish people can only be saved in Christ, however, that does not mean following the Jewish faith…presently is automatically opposed to Christianity.”

    You are mistaken. Our Lord has said that those who are not with Him are against Him—it is impossible to state that Judaism (as well as other false religions) is not opposed to Catholicism on that basis alone.

    “Opposition to the Gospel arises from the human heart not Judaism and that judgment is reserved to God”

    But that Talmud IS opposed to the Gospel. I’m sure no one wants me to quote the many blasphemies against Our Lord contained in the Talmud. Google it on your own.

  72. Origen Adamantius says:

    This is speculation, but these may be some of the doctrinal issues that could be under discussion

    1) The validity and efficaciousness of the NO (Sacraments, Magisterium)
    2) The role of women in the Liturgy. Is the distinction between Priesthood and laity, or Between Priesthood, Men and Women? (Issues of Human anthropology, sacraments, and ecclesiology)
    3) Judaism as a “false” religion (problematic language (since it was founded by God)needing a lot nuance)(salvation, ecclesiology, faithfulness of God)
    4) Ecumenism? Does saying that the RCC is the true Church necessitate that all others do not know Christ? (Salvation, ecclesiology)
    5) Legitimacy of vernacular languages in prayer (universality of God)
    6) What is a sub-deacon, Installed Lector and Acolyte, etc..? (Sacraments)
    7) Subsist? Is the Body of Christ and the Catholic Church expressing the exact same idea? (ecclesology, salvation)
    8) Freedom of Conscience in regards to faith? What can be imposed on others in a Catholic Country?
    9) Freedom of religion? What belongs to Ceaser; does anything not belong to God?

  73. Origen Adamantius says:

    Merriweather

    The Lord also said For \”whoever is not against us is for us\” Mar 9:40. Atomizing texts of the bible and using them in ways that the church does not is problematic. Please read the statements concerning The Jewish People by the two recent Popes and in various Church documents.

    \”The Church of Christ is the Catholic Church\”

    The Church recognizes that there are people of good will who do not belong formally to the church (never having been baptized by water) yet may belong to the Church (i.e. Moses, Abraham) or indeed do belong to the Church (St. Joseph, Martyrs who were not baptized) Thus our language recognizes a distinction between the visible Church (the church as it exists in the present temporal sphere where its members are marked off by baptism and Eucharist) and the Church (In the Eschatological sense as the gathering of the Body of Christ at the eternal banquet.

    “Talmud IS opposed to the Gospel”

    Everyone who is Jewish is a strict adherent to the Talmud??? Is it possible also to be opposed to what appears to be the Church but not the true CHurch? How many people have a distorted notion of the CHurch, we ourselves reject those same distortions.

  74. Merriweather says:

    @Origen

    Are those your Dubia? I don’t think they are what the SSPX has in mind. If they include the 39 dubia of +Lefebvre, they will focus on DH.

    I never said everyone who was Jewish is a strict adherent of the talmud. That’s a straw man. You said Judaism was not opposed to the Gospel—Rabbinic Judaism is based on the Talmud—the Talmud takes precedence over the Torah (Old Testament) and it is opposed to Christianity.

    I know what the Church teaches regarding judaism and the jews, but I find it interesting that you suggest reading the last two popes on that subject. Are you suggesting that they taught something *new* ?

    When Abraham, Moses, and St. Joseph died they went to “Abraham’s bosom” and were released when Jesus opened Heaven (descended into Hell). The Virgin Mary was not baptized because she did not need to be cleansed of original sin. (i.e. The saints before the Law, the saints under the Law, and the saints under grace…)

    I’m not sure why you’d bring up the old testament prophets in response to my statement that “the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church”.

    I do not have a distorted view of the Church (The Church = The Church Militant (us) + the Church Suffering (those in purgatory) + The Church Triumphant (those in Heaven).

  75. Michael says:

    Origen Adamantius
    You are not explicit in your post, but if you mean that the Holy Father has offered to the SSPX the Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium for negotiations – forget about it. A “discussion” must be understood as a process in the course of which the SSPX are expected to clarify in their minds, and reconcile themselves with the whole body of Vatican II and subsequent teaching, in other words: come to their senses and see the fullness of the Catholic truth.

    Only thus reconciled they would be a great asset to the Church, and could legitimately request an autonomous status, directly under the Pope, independent of the local hierarchs, and be the Pope’s right hand.

  76. David Kastel says:

    Patrick:

    “It would seem the Holy Father has already indicated that they are not consistent with the Deposit of Faith, hence the doctrinal problem that remains. The Holy Father firmly teaches that the Deposit of Faith includes teachings after 1962. As he hints in his letter, the SSPX do not. So, no the SSPX are not consistent with the Faith. If they were, there would be no need for resolving their doctrinal issues.”

    Here again, it is SSPX which is questioning the false doctrine being taught by various men in the Church since the Council. The Pope has not condemned any teaching of the SSPX. Again, he says SSPX must accept the teaching since the Council, but does not specifically say what teaching.

    “The Deposit of Faith” was given to the Apostles 2,000 years ago. It cannot change. This idea of accepting the Council using a “hermeneutic of continuity” is good. The SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre have said since the beginning that they would accept the Council “in the light of tradition.”

    (BTW – These people who are saying that the Jewish and Christian Faiths are really the same, or that it is sufficient to be a ‘good Jew’ or member of any other religion to be saved are employing a hermeneutic of discontinuity.)

    The problem is that there are really TWO different hermeneutics of continuity. There is the hermeneutic of continuity and constancy, meaning that the Deposit of Faith given to the Apostles is the same Deposit that the Church proclaims now and must always proclaim.

    There is also a hermeneutic of continuity and changeability, meaning that the Deposit of Faith that the Church teaches grows, changes, and evolves with the times. This idea, that the doctrine of the Church always has evolved and always will evolve to keep up with modern times, has been condemned by the Church always, especially and clearly by the popes of the last century as the heresy called “Modernism”. In particular, St. Pius X.

  77. Patrick says:

    David,

    I expect that the Holy Father knows what hermeneutic of continuity means. But it is the Holy Father, not me, who indicates that there are doctrinal issues between the SSPX and the Holy See.

    I think that the Holy Father’s interpretation and acceptance of Vatican II is in light of tradition. I fail to understand why the SSPX cannot make the same acceptance in order to be in union with the Church.

    Ironically, the SSPX read Vatican II with a hermeneutic of discontinuity as well. Wherever there is a question as to the meaning of a statement, they presume a discontinuity rather than read in light of tradition. This is problematic and is decidedly the opposite hermeneutic employed by the Holy Father.

    On another note, do the SSPX not realize that the liberal “discontinuity” interpretation espoused by some bishops is NOT the teaching of the Church? Why do they assume that it is the teaching of the Church itself that is to blame and not individual bishops’ erroneous interpretation?

  78. Luigi says:

    From the Aug 2008 issue of Si Si No NO – the SSPX Newsletter. This gives a sense for the SSPX position and how much distance remains:

    “If, on the contrary, the conservative,typically Ratzingerian thesis of continuity between the
    pre- and post-conciliar Church were true, it would be necessary to reconcile the irreconcilable: ecumenism, collegiality, religious liberty, and modern ecclesiology with the traditional magisterium; the dogmatic tenor of the Tridentine Mass with the dogmatic tenor of Pope Paul VI’s Mass, and so on… the Catholic Church would continue to exist while legitimately and magisterially teaching the opposite of what was taught by the traditional Magisterium.”

    In other words, unless something has changed, if they really believe the points mentioned to be “irreconcilable” with Tradition it appears the SSPX is looking for Rome to say that the papal magisterium of the last 40+ years has been incorrectly “teaching the opposite” of all that preceded it, and that the SSPX has been the remnant that has preserved the true faith.

    BTW – the Holy Father’s quote concerning continuity is more accurately referenced as the “hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church.” This is important, otherwise VII essentially did nothing whatsoever. Yet it did “reform” in the sense of “renewal” and it did so in “continuity.” i.e. Continuity cannot be taken to mean VII did nothing more than spit back out the sacred deposit to no end.

  79. Brian Mershon says:

    Bishop Fellay has repeatedly said since 2001 that once the Traditional Mass was freed and the excommunications were lifted, the SSPX would then desire to engage in theological talks. The Pope is merely repeating what he has agreed to do at the request of the SSPX.

    I doubt very much there are serious doctrinal issues that won’t be resolved since Vatican II, in none of its documents, exercised the Extraordinary magisterium of the Church.

    It would also be good if just once, someone spoke about specifics within the actual documents and then compared their texts specifically with the encyclicals of the pre-Conciliar Popes and then explain how the very different texts (religious liberty and ecumenism compared to Mortalium Animos) can be harmonized or reconciled.

    The texts of the Second Vatican Council, by themselves, are not of a higher authority than the repeatedly taught doctrines by Popes consecutively for hundreds of years prior to Vatican II.

    So if they can be harmonized with specific and apparently contradictory statements, please show us how it is done.

    The fact remains that the level of authority of Vatican II documents and texts is of a lower level, in most cases, and since some of it is novel (cannot be found in Sacred Scripture or Tradition), has very little lasting authority. Not just Gaudium et Spes, but other documents as well.

    Instead of defining and clarifying issues, Vatican II opened up new cans of worms to be sorted out by theologian and Popes for hundreds of years following the Council.

  80. tertullian says:

    “I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.”

    OK, what concrete steps have been taken by the Holy See to see that these mistakes are not repeated and that the Holy Father has all the information he needs?

    Fr. Z, you have made available to the readers of your blog constructive suggestions of how to write various bodies of the Holy See. I would certainly like to learn who should I write concerning this glaring weakness and what would be appropriate suggestions (other than your nomination as Cyber Czar!).

  81. Francesco says:

    If, by ecumenism, B16 means the bringing of everyone into the Catholic Church why call it ecumenism? Why not call it reconciliation? Or “integration into the fullness of the faith”? Why dither around with platitudes and hat tips to other sects? The curials are good at poetic turns of phrase. I expected better.

    And why use that word with people who are allergic to it? To the SSPX, ecumenism is nigh on syncretism. It’s one of their central doctrinal complaints; maybe *the* central complaint.

    Oh wait, I know: nobody told him. He didn’t know. Nobody at the Vatican uses the internet.

  82. Brian Mershon says:

    Again, It has been Bishop Fellay and the 4 SSPX bishops who have requested the discussions on doctrine. The Pope is agreeing to this request. I am quite certain the SSPX recognizes that the Second Vatican Council was held and was a Council of the Church–if that is what is meant by everyone who wants them to “accept the Council.” Bishop Fellay has said as much.

    He has not said they are doctrinally incorrect about anything. There is NOTHING in Vatican II a Catholic must accept that is defined DOGMA as a matter of faith and morals.

    I can think of at least one dogma, however, that the vast majority of the post-Conciliar Church priests, bishops and cardinals deny.

  83. Franzjosf says:

    At this point, it seems to me that putting the PCED with the Holy Office has broader implications than SSPX concerns, implications that the more perceptive Liberals and Innovators won’t like one bit.

  84. “He has not said they are doctrinally incorrect about anything. There is NOTHING in Vatican II a Catholic must accept that is defined DOGMA as a matter of faith and morals.”

    But that does not mean that it is NOT authoritative and irreformable in its teachings as an Ecumenical Council of the Church.

  85. English Catholic says:

    Like every good father, the Pope has succeeded in making me feel ashamed of uncharitable thoughts I have had in the past, and making me determined to do and be better in future. I hope lots and lots of other people feel the same way after reading this letter.

  86. Luigi says:

    Brian Mershon: The fact remains that the level of authority of Vatican II documents and texts is of a lower level, in most cases, and since some of it is novel (cannot be found in Sacred Scripture or Tradition), has very little lasting authority. Not just Gaudium et Spes, but other documents as well.

    A couple of questions:

    Does this mean then that Vatican II somehow gets a pass WRT its reliablity in matters of faith and morals?

    Are you saying that VII may actually have taught in ways that cannot be reconciled with “the repeatedly taught doctrines by Popes consecutively for hundreds of years prior to Vatican II?”

    If so, how could such teaching not be called heresy?

    To what do we attribute our confidence that this did not happen in the previous 20 ecumenical councils in matters of faith and morals; is it the presence of formulae in the decrees (condemantion, anathema), or is it in the very fact that they came out of an ecumenical council?

  87. mrsmontoya says:

    Origen Adamantius – thank you for listing the bullet points. Whether those are the precise points of doctrine or not, now I have an understanding of what is meant when someone refers to doctrine. Thank you.

  88. Ed Francis says:

    Fr Z – “I noted on many occasions that Summorum Pontificum was especially a gift to priests.”

    This always raises a flag for me, seeming to say that priests are some sort of meritorious end-point of the Pope’s intention, rather than simple workers in the vineyard. [Priests say Mass for and in the Church and they form the Church around themselves as the do. As a priest says Mass, so goes a parish. I have never said that priests are the “end-point”. That is your extrapolation, not mine. I have been very clear about what I think the fruits of this gift to priests will be.] I can understand, through Pope Benedict’s clarification,

    “I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if… they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God,”

    that the Holy Father’s concern for priests, the point of his gift to them through Summorum Pontificum, was to help them help the rest of us, which constitutes a changed emphasis in his gift, not so much especially intended for priests as, through priests, especially intended for all of us.

    Critics throughout history have indicted the Catholic Church hierarchy as elitist. At times, based on the rhetoric, I can see how they reach that conclusion.

    Fortunately, Providentially, God has given us a Pope who cuts through these rhetorical “sleights,” refocusing us all on the urgency of unity, not just in our Church, but for the whole world.

  89. irishgirl says:

    Brilliant letter from our Papa….the heart of a shepherd laid bare!

    Thanks for your comments too, Fr. Z!

  90. “The letter projects the voice of a pastor and the heart of a father. It sounds like the voice of Christ to me. I am proud and grateful that Benedict XVI is our Pope.”

    –Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati.

  91. Patrick says:

    “This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council.”

    Since he mentioned it specifically, the “reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority” might be one of the doctrinal issues that the Holy Father wants resolved.

  92. Sid Cundiff says:

    David Kastel, read what I wrote: I said for St. Matthew the two faiths are one. Christianity for him is fulfilled Judaism and Judaism is proto- embryonic Christianity. And since when is original sin not part of Judaism, since 1st Moses is part of the Torah?

    Merriweather is several problems:

    1. That the Law is dead is the Protestant view of Paul, the “old perspective”. The New Perspective on Paul gets it by and large right (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspectives_on_Paul): Paul thinks the Torah is great; it just can’t do what Christ does; i.e., how one gets into the covenant community does differ in Paul’s view: for Jews one gets in by divine election, circumcision being the badge of of this election; for Christians baptism is how one gets in. Yet one stays in in both covenants by keeping the Law with the help of grace. Now any rabbi, and Our Lord and Paul were rabbis, will tell you that much of the Torah applies only to Jews; yet much of it applies to all human beings. Read Paul Romans 1:18-224 : all human beings are under the Law (Torah), Jews especially.

    2. “I also think that describing the Talmud as “alive and flourishing” in Our Lord’s time is pretty rich considering he condemned the hypocrisy of the pharisees.

    I am misquoted. I didn’t say the Talmud was alive and well but the Tannaitic tradition, out of which the Talmud later emerges. (Look up Tannaitic. Better yet, start with E.P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism)

    Merriweather’s argument is also a non sequitur. Just because Our Lord faulted the Pharisees doesn’t mean that the the Tannaitic tradition wasn’t alive in flourshing. And remember, “your righteousness must surpass the scribes and Pharisees” is our Lord’s own Torah, as is “not one dot or stroke will pass from the Torah”.

    3. As for Meriweather’s quote from I Thess. — aside from the suggestion of the Blood Liable, now condemned by the church — not acknowledged is the progress in Paul’s thought. Read Paul in the order that he wrote his epistles: 1 Thess, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corithians, Romans, and Philippians (the rest of the works attributed to Paul aren’t from him). Paul is pretty harsh on the Torah in Galatians, but after his sad experience with the immoral Corinthians (“but Paul, you said we didn’t have to follow the Law?” “That’s not what I meant!”) he has a changed view in Romans.

    4. Finally, Meriweather needs to study carefully Romans chapters 9-11, which ought set the tone for Catholic-Jewish relations. We Gentile Christians are grafted onto the tree of Judaism. Many Jews have been broken off the tree like broken limbs, BUT God will graft them back on just as He did the Gentiles. Get it? ONE TREE!!!!

    Origen Adamantius has read this section of Romans, to his credit. He might reflect if the word “salvation” is ambiguous, and he might reflect that Paul says in this passage that the Jews will indeed be saved.

    BOTTOM LINE.
    1. I can see why some Jews regard Traditionalist Catholics to be Antisemites. Not true, but understandable given the remarks of some Traditionalists. (Not that I’m calling David Kastel and Meriweather antisemite, mind you!)

    And by the way; those who practice sotto voce Antisemitism are opposed to the SSPX itself, because Felley has gone out of his way to denounce Antisemitism.

    2. 66 years after Divino Afflante Spiritu and a half century of outstanding Catholic Bible Scholarship — the Pontifical Biblical Institute maybe the best place on earth to study scripture — rank and file Catholics still don’t seem to know the Bible.

    [Don’t drag this entry toward an off topic rabbit hole.]

  93. Sid Cundiff says:

    Folks, when does/did ROME, as opposed to certain liberal bishops, tolerate dissident liberals? Did Boff, Kung, Curran just get a slap on the wrist from the CDF? Remember who was head of the CDF in those years?

  94. Sid Cundiff says:

    Can some kind soul provide me a link, or provide me the text, of the SSPX’s 39 dubia?

    In passing: Anglicans know 39 is a fateful number.

  95. ED says:

    His words are so crystal clear you never need someone explaining them.

  96. Jerry says:

    The Holy Father addressed this beautiful letter to his brother bishops. I hope and pray that they will take it to heart and not ignore it as they have most documents from the Vatican for the last 20 years or more.

    Jerry Okonski

  97. Brian Mershon says:

    Fr. Deacon and Luigi, Yes. The Holy Father has repeatedly said it was “authoritative” and that Catholics cannot simply ignore Vatican II. It is an act of the magisterium. Theologians and Pope have NOT YET vetted exactly how “autoritative” it is however, since it concerns itself primarily with pastoral initiatives, liturgy and techniques.

    I would venture to say that Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum should not be read without reading previous encyclicals and authoritative Church teaching on these same subjects. They do not stand on their own–esp. Dei Verbum.

    Look, the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the ICR and the FSSP are all with the same theological mindsets and constructs as the SSPX (even though the SSPX denies this) and they are in the heart and soul of the Church. Same thing can happen very quickly for the SSPX if they simply stop trying to make the Vatican II documens more authoritative than the Church itself claims for them.

  98. Brian Mershon says:

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/LG603.TXT

    Fr. William Most on the doctrinal levels of magisterial authority of Vatican II documents.

    I have found this to be a helpful source and have not found anything like it anywhere in English.

    Fr. Brian Harrison has also done work on this with religious liberty.

  99. Ed Francis says:

    Fr Z -“I have never said that priests are the ‘end-point’.”

    Yes, Father, and for clarity’s sake, I never said you did.

    The intent of my post goes to conceptions of what the Church is, that is, who constitutes the Body of Christ. And, Who is doing the constituting.

    As an example, I don’t see what you mean in saying, about priests, that “they form the Church around themselves as the do.”

    If this is so, and in light of the differing opinions and actions of clergy that we are informed about on this blog, it would be hard to decide which Church is being formed, or how many different ones simultaneously, by however many priests holding clearly variant views.

    Yet, we know there is one Body of Christ, however tattered it may appear in terms of Unity in Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit that forms the Church around us all. God uses priests for that work, but He uses everyone else, too. Let’s not sidestep the Author of all this.

    It’s similar to the expression that I’ve seen here and elsewhere, that the enemy attacks priests.

    True. And, in addition to the routine beatings the rest of us take on a daily basis, the enemy, by hurting priests, hurts us, further.

    I don’t see this as an extrapolation, but rather as my own call to unity. I pray for priests, and I pray for everyone else, all the while hoping that the priests are praying for me, as well.

  100. Luigi says:

    Thanks Brian.

    “I would venture to say that Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum should not be read without reading previous encyclicals and authoritative Church teaching on these same subjects. They do not stand on their own—esp. Dei Verbum.”

    Agreed, but is it ever advisable to read any Church document apart from all that preceded in the way of Tradition? No.

    I am not sure what your “yes” was to exactly. It seems that your comments, and that of others, leaves the door open to the posiibility that VII may have content that treats of faith and morals in a way that cannot be reconciled with Tradition. Do you leave the door open to that possibility?

    Thanks for the Fr. Most link.

  101. Corleone says:

    Not to miss a beat, the liberal Time-Warner tribe has run with the headline “Pope admits Vatican made mistake”

  102. Merriweather says:

    @Sid Cundiff

    The Dubia are published in a book titled “Religious Liberty Questioned”…this is a book review, it might prove useful.

    http://www.angelusonline.org/print.php?sid=524

    As for your other post, I’m going to ignore it except to say you are way off base. Anything more detailed than that would take this “down a rabbit hole” that I think we all want to avoid.

  103. Merriweather says:

    @Patrick:

    “I fail to understand why the SSPX cannot make the same acceptance in order to be in union with the Church.”

    Please tell us how to accept two contradictory statements in the “light of tradition”.

  104. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    Unless I missed it in the postings above, here is the response of Msgr. Fellay to the letter of the Holy Father:

    http://www.dici.org/accueil.php?loc=FR
    Sorry that only the francophones will be able to read this!

    Communiqué du Supérieur Général de la Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X

    Le pape Benoît XVI a adressé une lettre aux évêques de l’Eglise catholique, en date du 10 mars 2009, dans laquelle il leur fait savoir les intentions qui l’ont guidé dans ce pas important que constitue le Décret du 21 janvier 2009.

    Après le récent « déchaînement d’un flot de protestations », nous remercions vivement le Saint Père d’avoir replacé le débat à la hauteur où il doit se tenir, celle de la foi. Nous partageons pleinement son souci prioritaire de la prédication « à notre époque où dans de vastes régions de la terre la foi risque de s’éteindre comme une flamme qui ne trouve plus à s’alimenter ».

    L’Eglise traverse, en effet, une crise majeure qui ne pourra être résolue que par un retour intégral à la pureté de la foi. Avec saint Athanase, nous professons que « Quiconque veut être sauvé, doit avant tout tenir la foi catholique : celui qui ne la garde pas intègre et inviolée ira, sans aucun doute, à sa perte éternelle » (Symbole Quicumque).

    Loin de vouloir arrêter la Tradition en 1962, nous souhaitons considérer le Concile Vatican II et l’enseignement post-conciliaire à la lumière de cette Tradition que saint Vincent de Lérins a définie comme « ce qui a été cru toujours, partout et par tous » (Commonitorium), sans rupture et dans un développement parfaitement homogène. C’est ainsi que nous pourrons contribuer efficacement à l’évangélisation demandée par le Sauveur. (cf. Matthieu 28,19-20)

    La Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X assure Benoît XVI de sa volonté d’aborder les entretiens doctrinaux reconnus comme « nécessaires » par le Décret du 21 janvier, avec le désir de servir la Vérité révélée qui est la première charité à manifester à l’égard de tous les hommes, chrétiens ou pas. Elle l’assure de sa prière afin que sa foi ne défaille pas et qu’il puisse confirmer tous ses frères. (cf. Luc 22,32)

    Nous plaçons ces entretiens doctrinaux sous la protection de Notre Dame de Toute Confiance, avec l’assurance qu’elle nous obtiendra la grâce de transmettre fidèlement ce que nous avons reçu, « tradidi quod et accepi » (I Cor. 15,3).

  105. Merriweather says:

    Rorate-Caeli has it in English.

    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2009/03/communique-of-superior-general-of.html

    Excerpt:

    Far from wanting to stop Tradition in 1962, we wish to consider the Second Vatican Council and the post-Conciliar magisterium in the light of this Tradition which Saint Vincent of Lérins defined as that “which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” (Commonitorium), without rupture and in a perfectly homogeneous development. It is thus that we will be able to contribute efficaciously to the evangelization asked for by the Savior (cf. Matthew, 28,19-20).

  106. Brian Mershon says:

    Luigi said: “Agreed, but is it ever advisable to read any Church document apart from all that preceded in the way of Tradition? No.”

    Agreed. But MANY people take Vatican II and read it and presume that everything in it is infallible DOGMA. The truth is that NONE of it is.

    One cannot read Vatican II documents the same way one might read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma. Many/most? people do not understand that. Vatican II gives a very incomplete picture, in my opinion, on Church doctrine.

    Luigi said: “I am not sure what your ‘yes’ was to exactly. It seems that your comments, and that of others, leaves the door open to the posiibility that VII may have content that treats of faith and morals in a way that cannot be reconciled with Tradition. Do you leave the door open to that possibility?”

    If you go back and read the contents of every single General Council of the Church, you will see many things that look very authoritative and doctrinal and maybe even dogmatic that are not part of the current life, practice and teaching of the Church.

    One of the early Councils specifically forbade kneeling during Holy Mass, for instance. There are countless other examples.

    Vatican II is one of 21 Councils. It is the only one that refused to use its extraordinary magisterial authority.

    Christopher Ferrara and the late Michael Davies have explained all of this better than I can in recent issues of The Remnant.

  107. Paul J. B. says:

    By the way in re of the matter of religious freedom and Catholic tradition, although there has been little *official* explanation of the theology behind recent developments, there is some very good work (I aver) done unofficially by Catholic intellectuals. See, for instance “Catholicism and Religious Freedom” edited by Kenneth L. Grasso and Robert P. Hunt. It includes essays by the likes of the late Avery Cardinal Dulles. (Note to the scrupulous: I recommend the book, but do not necessarily subscribe to every statement therein!)

  108. Corleone says:

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems as Fellay’s letter is saying “We’re willing to tow the line now. Let us in.” What needs to officially happen now? And why hasn’t it already?

  109. Jason says:

    I thought this was an interesting passage from the letter:

    In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

    That’s a great summation of the Christian faith for the Jewish readers who will be reading the letter. Seems like the Holy Father is doing some evangelizing (note the explicit connection made between the God of Sinai and Christ).

  110. Brian Mershon says:

    David Schindler on John Courtenay Murray and Religious Liberty

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/MURRAY.htm

    Thomas Storck on Religious Liberty
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/FR89103.htm

  111. Merriweather says:

    @Coreleone

    I think you misread the situation.

  112. steve says:

    Laudetur Iesus Christus!

  113. Matt says:

    Hello all, just wanna share here a relevant bit from a comment I made elsewhere. When the Holy Father states that “Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life” he recalls a classic definition of Modernism:

    Modernists “lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires. And having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree.” – Pascendi Dominici Gregis #3

  114. Boston Architect says:

    A very heartfelt letter indeed that challenges the
    entire flock to practice greater Charity. How can
    anyone not love the Holy Father. I also understood
    Unity of purpose as one of the important factors in
    our witness to an increasingly God-less culture. In
    other words stop bickering guys, pool resources,
    roll up your sleeves and get to Work!

    I do have some question about the complexity of rolling
    the EDC into the CDF. What of us folks who were never
    part of the SSPX, but whose spirituality has been
    nurtured by the availability of the ancient Roman Mass
    under the 1988 Indult? Many many people young and old
    have been profoundly formed by this. This letter
    addresses an understanding that the existance of the
    Indult was primarily directed to those who identify with
    the SSPX.

    What of others? Could this undermine our work where the
    SSPX as little effective presence? Could this renew
    excuses to limit the EF in places where this is the case?
    Is it possible former EDC folks will be tasked to
    continue their wider pastoral mission under the banner
    of the?

    I thought I would throw these questions out there. I
    suspect it may be a bit premature to get clear answers
    yet and a clarification will address this at a later
    date.

  115. Boston Architect says:

    Correction:

    “Is it possible former EDC folks will be tasked to
    continue their wider pastoral mission under the banner
    of the CDF?”

  116. Aletheia says:

    Try applying these gospel-like words to the reality of the Church in America, where the gap between the English and the Spanish-speaking seems to be geting wider and wider. Both sides would greatly benefit from meditating upon the Holy Father’s love and wisdom. Dear bishops, what a task you have at hand!

  117. Franzjosf says:

    Boston Architect:

    Here’s my guess: Since we have new universal liturgical law with Summorum Pontificum and a new Prefect at Divine Worship, that Congregation will handle liturgical matters in cases of clergy ‘breaking the law.’ The status of the TLM is settled. Now Ecclesia Dei, once moved under the umbrella of the Holy Office, will handle the doctrinal side of Traditionalists seeking clarifications and moving toward full communion. The old ‘indult’ groups are liturgically protected (yes, there is more work to do) and can only benefit from the doctrinal clarifications that come about; indeed, the whole Church will benefit. I suspect that the progressivists understand this only too well, or are beginning to.