A blessed feast of St. Joseph the Worker! http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/may-1-feast-st-joseph-worker
Last week, Fr. Bernhard Gerstle, German District Superior of the Fraternity of St. Peter, gave an interview to the German Bishops’ official website. This interview made headlines on several traditional websites for statements made concerning the SSPX, conciliar texts, and Tradition in general. In short, the authors of this blog do affirm that good Catholics faithful to Eternal Rome are right to be scandalized by this interview, which made several compromises on Tradition. However, we furthermore believe that this interview simply revealed further the erroneous positions held by the Ecclesia Dei Orders concerning Vatican II and the New mass.
The timing of this interview is quite coincidental since the author of this post was actually about to write an article concerning the Ecclesia Dei Orders and traditional Catholics’ attendance at Motu Proprio Masses. That article will be posted later this week. In the meantime, I will elaborate on a few principles and apply them to this interview.
Admittedly, it is very difficult to address this issue because the Ecclesia Dei Orders are faithful in many respects. These religious and their faithful are often among the most conservative Catholics in the “mainstream” Catholic structures and do possess a genuine love for the Traditional Mass and practices. Also, there are many traditional Catholics who vehemently oppose any criticism regarding these Orders for the sake of “unity”. The SSPX and like-minded Catholics are consequently upbraided for trying to divide for vain purposes.
I would answer by stating that in almost all ways, the SSPX and the Ecclesia Dei Orders are very much united. Insofar as the latter upholds Sacred Tradition, there is no division. However, for the sake of the Faith, the SSPX is required to recognize that there are some grave errors in the Vatican II documents themselves. All Catholics are objectively bound to oppose these errors as well to remain Catholic. Certainly unity is praiseworthy, but true doctrine must come first! To recognize unity before the Truth is to fall into a common modern error. We see in our universities, for example, the urge to recognize all lifestyles and cultures, even if we might personally feel uneasy about them. Nonsense! This violates the basic Law of Non-Contradiction. Certainly we are obliged out of Charity to acknowledge the good of these Orders, but we must disagree with their position on the Vatican II documents.
Bp. Bernard Fellay: “First of all, all the Ecclesia Dei members understand that if we would not have had bishops, they would not exist. Directly or indirectly, they depend on the Society’s life. That is very, very clear. And now the fruits of their apostolates are totally subjected to the good will of the local bishops. They drastically limit any solid desire to establish traditional Catholic life by limiting the possibilities of the apostolate in that direction. They are obliged to mix with the novelties of Vatican II, the world, and the Novus Ordo. This is the great difference between the Society and Ecclesia Dei groups.”
We have elaborated on the errors of Vatican II in a previous post(https://damselofthefaith.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/errors-of-vatican-ii/). Some claim that the FSSP does not officially recognize all of Vatican II. The blanket acceptance of this Council has actually always been the official position of these Orders. Just observe, for example, their full acceptance of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the stated “preference” for the Traditional Mass because it better suits their charisma(not necessarily because it is THE Roman Rite of the Church). One of the most essential missions of the FSSP is to study the Vatican II documents in order that they might all be better understood faithfully by Catholics.
FSSP Superior General Fr. John Berg: “With regard to the documents with passages that are unclear within the Second Vatican Council, there should be no cause for scandal. They simply need to be read in light of the full teaching Tradition of the Church. Of course, ultimately, these two cannot contradict. This is the work that needs to be done.”
Pope Francis: “By way of the celebration of the sacred Mysteries according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and the orientations of the Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as by passing on the apostolic faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, may they contribute, in fidelity to the living Tradition of the Church, to a better comprehension and implementation of the Second Vatican Council.”
Let us now examine a couple of points Fr. Gerstle makes, as taken from the excellent above-linked article by Maike Hickson:
Father Gerstle insists that for the FSSP, the new 1983 Code of Canon Law is the standard.
Canon 844, §4 allows the administration of penance, anointing of the sick, and even holy communion to non-Catholics who manifest “Catholic faith” (vs. principle 7) in these sacraments.This used to be considered a mortal sin and was gravely forbidden (1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 731, §21) because it implicitly denies the dogma, “Outside the Church, no salvation” (principle 2).
Canon 1055, §1 no longer defines marriage by its primary end, the procreation of children, but mentions this only after a secondary end, the good of the spouses. And this latter, as we can see in the light of annulments now given, has become the essence of marriage [vs. principles 5 & 6]: the partners give each other their whole selves (and not just “the exclusive and perpetual right over the body of the partner as regards the acts capable in themselves of generating offspring,” 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1081, §2) for their self-fulfillment in wedlock (canon 1057, §2).
There is considered to be no marriage where one spouse cannot provide the other this help (canon 1095, 20 and 30, canon 1098, etc., cf. canon 1063, 40). Whence today’s annulments’ fiasco: in the United States, for example, there were 338 annulments granted in 1968; there were 59,030 in 1992.
Canon 336 codifies the collegiality of Vatican II. The “college of bishops,” a 20th century invention, is now made a permanent subject, together with the pope, of supreme and full power over the Universal Church. A bishop, moreover, participates in this universal jurisdiction by the mere fact of his consecration (cf. canon 375, §2).*
*This becomes all the more disconcerting when one considers the recognition now given by the Vatican to the Orthodox bishops. Cf., Pope Paul VI:
It is on the heads of the Churches, of their hierarchy, that the obligation rests to guide the Churches along the way that leads to full communion again. They ought to do this by recognizing and respecting each other as pastors of the flock of Christ entrusted to them…”
Quoted at Balamand, by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, Final Statement §18 cf., §14; Ut Unum Sint §§50-63
These are but the most grave deficiencies; other defective points include the following:
- mixed marriages (canons 1125, 1127),
- diminution in censures (excommunication of freemasons, etc.),
- the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas is no longer strictly enjoined in seminaries (canons 251ff), and
- general absolutions are more readily available (canons 961-963, etc.).
In passing, it is interesting to note that for Pope John Paul II the 1983 Code of Canon Law had less weight than a conciliar constitution.
“This notion I do not like at all to hear. We are not traditionalists, but simply Catholic.”
This is not entirely incorrect. As Catholic Truth Scotland Patricia McKeever notes: “…we should not need labels such as “traditionalist” because ALL Catholics should be adhering to both Tradition and Scripture. In the current crisis, these labels have sprung up to distinguish those who go along with the revolutionary changes in the Church post-Vatican II, and those who do not.”
However, I do think Fr. Gerstle’s reasoning for making such a statement is probably more spurious. Catholic Truth blogger “Athanasius” observes: “The real reason why Father Gerstle doesn’t like to use the word Traditional is that he would then be forced to admit that there is a serious problem in the Church since Vatican II that strongly resembles the Modernist crisis predicted by the pre-conciliar Popes, particularly St. Pius X. He wants a foot in each camp, Tradition without the persecution, heaven without the Cross, which is what he gets with his present stance. The only problem with his position is that it is not honest, and I think his conscience troubles him about that. Hence the reason why he doesn’t want to distinguish between Traditional and Modernist liberal Catholics. Everyone knows that the divide exists, just look at the devastation in the Church since the latter usurped the positions of influence in Rome and elsewhere.
So what is the real reason why Fr. Gerstle dislikes the use of the word Traditional? It has to be conscience. I simply do not believe that he is genuinely convinced that all Catholics today fundamentally believe and practice the same ancient faith that came down unsullied for almost two thousand years to the fateful Vatican II. He’s too educated a man to believe such nonsense.”
Certain elements of the new liturgy could be “enriching for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.”
The Ottaviani Intervention: “It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever. With the promulgation fo the Novus Ordo, the loyal Catholic is thus faced with a most tragic alternative.”
The Traditional Rite is the only true form of the Roman Rite. The New mass is not a licit rite and objectively cannot be attended by Catholics, except for passive reasons: http://sspx.org/en/faq-page/what-is-wrong-with-the-novus-ordo-missae-faq5
The Fraternity of St. Peter, however, has accepted to study without prejudice the conciliar texts and has come to the conclusion that there is no breach with any previous magisterial statements.
I will provide just one example to challenge this ridiculous assertion. Lumen Gentium 16: “In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.” This sentence is both heretical and blasphemous. The Moslems do not worship the One, Triune God as we do. Just read the language, if you dare, that the Koran ascribes to those who believe in the Holy Trinity. Does Fr. Gerstle really believe that this statement of Vatican II does not contradict an earlier Church teaching?
But, in the meantime, Rome has already made here concordant clarifications which the Society of St. Pius X should now also recognize.
Abp. Pozzo, among many others actually in charge of the SSPX-Rome Discussions, are not insisting that the Society accept the erroneous Vatican II positions.
As Catholics, he says, “we appreciate tradition,” but without “completely blocking organic adaptations and changes.”
Louie Verrecchio comments: “I suppose he means such “organic changes” as those concerning the Church’s view of the Jews in our time who are pleased to reject Christ yet are now considered to be one with us in the Cross (NA 4), or the heretic communities that we now understand as being used by Christ as means of salvation (UR 3), or maybe the newly discovered right that man has to practice whatever religion he chooses both publicly and privately – a right that comes from man’s own dignity, no less (DH 2).
Then again, maybe Fr. Gerstle was referring to the “organic changes” that brought about the Novus Ordo Missae…”
Father Gerstle further distances himself from those smaller groups within the SSPX – whom he calls “hardliners” – who “reject the Second Vatican Council to a large extent, for example with regard to religious freedom or as to the decree on ecumenism.” Some of them, he says, also doubt the validity of the new liturgy.
I do not doubt that Fr. Gerstle might know a few SSPX priests personally, but I do not trust this analysis at all. Just read his remarks on the number of priests who disagreed with the Econe Consecrations. However, a few clarifications should be made. The official SSPX(aka Catholic) position on Vatican II is that some of the documents are perfectly fine, some are ambiguous, and some are directly erroneous(such as on the aforementioned subjects of Religious Liberty and Ecumenism). I have attended SSPX Chapels since I was 5 years old and know personally at least a third of the priests in the U.S. District and many more residing in other countries. I have never known any of these priests to not fully agree with this position. I have also never seen any official SSPX publication disagree with this position. This is true also for virtually all of our faithful, even those newer to Tradition.
The SSPX does not doubt, in itself, the validity of the Novus Ordo Missae, but holds that many of these masses may be invalid because of common additional abuses introduced into the rite. If an individual SSPX priest would happen to disagree on these positions regarding Vatican II and the New mass, he is not allowed to proclaim them publicly. If there is trouble in this regard, he is expelled from the Society.
For almost all of the Society’s history, there have been conciliar prelates who claimed that a large number of the Society’s priests did not agree with the Society’s positions. This has been proven wrong time and time again. One can only wonder if such statements are not made to simply scatter and divide the little remnant.
Let us above all pray for our traditional priests, that they remain firm! Let us also resolve to always love and support our priests who have bravely opposed the Revolution and continue to do so to this day!
~ Steven C.