Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Some Thoughts on Benedict XVI's motu propio: Summorum Pontificum, The Chinese, and the SSPX

Hear much, leave to one side that which is doubtful, and speak with due caution concerning the remainder. See much, leave to one side that of which the meaning is not clear, and act carefully with regard to the rest. Confucious

I just wanted to share some thoughts on Benedict XVI's motu propio. First, I want to say God Bless Benedict XVI. I do not know what the final outcome of his motu propio will be, but I personally am very pleased with it.

In fact, I want to talk about three things: The motu propio, the letter to the Chinese, and the SSPX.

I will start with the Chinese. I have been to China, but never attended Mass there. I just presumed it was not available (short of finding an underground Church). If I go again, and the letter to the Chinese is accepted, I may attend, but would likely not receive the Eucharist. This would not be a lack of faith, but an rather act of caution.

It is very clear that there is a link between the letter to the Chinese and the SSPX. The link is indirect, but after reading the letter to the Chinese, I was lead to state : "I guess if you want to deal with China charitably, the Vatican will need to deal with the SSPX honestly."

In the letter to the Chinese, Section 8, The Chinese Episcopate, Benedict XVI says:

...In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops [of China- Mark], have encountered difficulties, since persons who are not "ordained'', and sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies...

Later he states:

...Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the Catholic Church in China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has never been deprived of the ministry of legitimate Pastors who have preserved the apostolic succession intact. We must thank the Lord for this constant presence, not without suffering, of Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church....

A little further down,

...Finally, there are certain Bishops -- a very small number of them -- who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected. Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do so illegitimately...

Compare this with the language used by John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei :

1. With great affliction the church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on June 30 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the church of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X founded by the same Archbishop Lefebvre...
3. In itself this act [of ordination- Mark] was one of disobedience to the Roman pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act.[3] In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops last June 17, Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.[JPII cites Code of Canon Law, Canon 751 and 1382].

(Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. )

In other words, the Chinese bishops are in the same boat as the named SSPX bishops. And vice-versa. This is not an apology for the SSPX, but it is trying to gain an understanding of some of the context of the motu propio. If you recall, the motu propio and the Chinese letter were both spoken of in recent weeks together (i.e., here and here ). I suspect there is more than a coincidence in timing involved. In both cases there is an issue of bishops being consecrated without Papal permission. In the case of China, everyone wants a faithful reconciliation with China. Every Catholic should want 1/5 of the world's population to have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and convert. In the letter to the Chinese, even with the issue of illegitimate consecrations, Pope Benedict XVI is acting charitably to help bring about the reconciliation. With this in mind, if he is going to act charitably towards the Chinese, then all the Vatican and Church apparatus need to act honestly towards the SSPX. And Benedict has expressed his desire for reconciliation with them, and has taken concrete actions to support it- including the motu propio.

Many pundits are stating that the motu propio is not about the SSPX, but clearly it is part of it. I personally believe that without the SSPX, there would be no motu propio; though I am not in any way questioning Benedict XVI's stated reverence for the Tridentine Mass. I think everyone who has any honesty will have to admit that the SSPX was at least a catalyst for the granting of the motu propio. And if the popularity of the Tridentine Mass is going to grow quickly, it is going to take the help of the many priests and bishops of the SSPX (reunited with Holy Mother Church) to help train and implement it (along with the FSSP and others of course). This is not meant to excuse the at least technically schismatic act of the SSPX, but rather is a recognition of the truth of the matter. The ball is now in the court of the SSPX. I know there is much more to discuss with the Vatican, but Benedict XVI has swung the door wide open. I pray the SSPX enter.

Let us all hope and pray for a successful implementation of the motu propio, the succesful reintegration of the SSPX into the Church, as well as the conversion of the Chinese nation.

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Blogger Gerald said...

Good points. I do hope it would happen soon. When it does, we'll have a licit Tridentine parish here in Manila and elsewhere that doesn't have access to FSSP priests but do have SSPX priests.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel reasonably sure that the bishops and pastors in most dioceses will frustrate the implementation of the new Motu Proprio.

Friday, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The second to last paragraph of this article refers to the consecration of four bishops by Abp. Lefebvre in 1988 as a "technically schismatic act of the SSPX." In both answer and objection to this assertion I submit the following link to a page of the SSPX website: http://www.sspx.org/SSPX_FAQs/q12_sspxschismatic.htm

Please consider what is stated at that linked page before jumping to any conclusions regarding the status of the SSPX or the act of Abp. Lefebvre in consecrating the four bishops. Thank you.

James B. Phillips

Saturday, January 01, 2011  

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