Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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January 26, 2009


We Catholics accept a Pope's declaration on matters of faith and morals. Some Catholics will accept anything the Pope says or does as unquestionably "dignum et justum" - appropriate, just and true. For example, when John Paul II appointed Cardinal Bernard Law, driven from Boston by his priests and people for his history of covering up and reassigning pedophile clerics, such papal enthusiasts quickly justified his act, despite its calamitous public relations effects. After all, he's the Pope; he's the boss! Think with the Church!

A few days ago, Benedict XVI removed the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, an excommunication placed on them by John Paul II. The schismatic bishops had not changed their views; the policy of Benedict changed the policy established by John Paul II. If a papal enthusiast, whom do you applaud, Benedict or John Paul? If Pope's disagree, which one do you accept and precisely why?

Benedict's welcome back to the dissidents dismayed those Catholics who had been energized by the reforms of Vatican II. These Lefebrist dissidents had totally rejected that Council and had shown no signs of a new acceptance. Benedict's welcome back without requiring their repudiation of their views says something about Benedict's attitude towards the Council. George Weigel, a strong "pro pontifice nostro" type has observed that "It is not easy to see how the unity of the Church will be enhanced unless the Lefebrists accept Vatican II's teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the evil of anti-Semitism, explicitly and without qualification." Benedict has shown other indications of his movement away from the words and spirit of Vatican II. He has been following the line of JP II in diminishing the role of the eucharistic ministers. Women are still prohibited from being formally installed as Lectors. He has authorized in strong terms the use of the Tridentine Mass, encouraging the faithful to request it from their bishops, and if denied, they may appeal to Rome.

Benedict's welcome reception of these four dissident Lefebrists, one of whom, Bishop Williamson, has denied the existance of the Holocaust of the Jews and others from the Lefebrist group, who have manifested anti-Semitic attitudes, prompted strong objections from major Jewish figures. The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish spokespersons contrasted Benedict's attitude towards the Jews with that of the more brotherly John Paul II, who had established diplomatic realtions with Israel. Benedict had already raised the ire of the Jewish community by restoring a Holy Week prayer that called for "the enlightening of the Jews". John XXIII established cordial relationships with the Jewish community. In the 1960s, he greeted a Jewish delegation, saying "I am Joseph, your brother".

These three popes have a commonality in the truths of the faith. But each has his own priorities. Benedict seems intent on doctrinal unity and has expressed a desire for a smaller Church, but one more intensely Catholic in its identity. He has harked back to the Catholic identity of the old Europe and would seem to favor its restoration. He seems unconcerned about broad public reaction to his views as seems the case here with the Jews and in 2006 with Muslims, when in an address he quoted a medieval scholar, who said that Islam brought things "evil and inhuman". He had not anticipated the angry Muslim response and later apologized. Does he fail to consult with others who could broaden his view of the world to which he speaks? Cardinal Walter Kasper, the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations, said that he had not been consulted by Benedict about the welcome of the Lefeborists, and thus seemed unprepared for the strong Jewish reaction.

John Paul II was not a practioner of listening to others. In his "Exhortations", summing up the work of the many Synods of Bishops during his regime, he clearly projected his own vision of the Church, not that of the assembled bishops. This was most notable in his "Exhortations" after the 1998 Synods for Asia and for Oceania. Most notable for relying on others was the beloved John XXIII in his convocation of the world's bishops for Vatican Council II. It produced documents that touched every phase of church life and that would reenergize the Church. John's successor, Paul VI attempted to follow through on the path of consultation and collegiality by establishing the Synods of Bishops. But his successor, John Paul II, as has been pointed out, did not see things that way. He and Benedict, despite their glowing statements about Vatican II, have clearly been attempting to bypass its words and challenge its true spirit, thus consolidating a single voice that needs little input from outside. Each stands as a single figure and sits in solitary judgment over the work of the world's bishops, united with their Pope.

Three popes, a common faith; three popes, different priorities. The faithful share that common faith. But many of us would choose John XXIII and his priority: listening to the voices of a diverse world-wide Church! Feel free to pick a Pope!


Blogger Joe said...

Marcel Lefebvre was a Frenchman, and a missionary of the Society of the Holy Ghost in Africa. During the Vatican II Council, he was a leader of the Conservatives. Later, when in retirement, he was requested by some seminarians to take them under his wings, as they were disillusioned by the Roncallite Reformation. Thus was born the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth, SSPX: The Priestly Society of St. Pius the Tenth. The SSPX has always baffled the Catholic Resistance: are they with us or are they not?

The Lefebrists accept the New Church’s usurper anti-popes as their popes, but do not obey them, so much so that they have been ‘ex-communicated’ by the anti-pope Charles Voltiva (‘John-Paul 2’). Nevertheless, while they freely expose his heresies and schism from the Catholic religion, they continue in accepting him as the true pope and reject all those who reject him.

In Catholic law, when a person follows a schismatic, even if he does not assent to his heresies, he also becomes a schismatic. Therefore, in Catholic law, the Lefebrists, in accepting the schismatic Charles Voltiva as their pope, are themselves schismatics.

But this is not all. Catholicism teaches that all men, including the pope, have free will and so can defect from the faith, becoming heretics. The Lefebrists, while themselves exposing Charles Voltiva’s heresies and therefore schism, nevertheless adhere to him, thereby implicitly confessing the heresy of Papal Indefectibility – that a man who is pope cannot defect from the faith.

January 29, 2009 at 12:02 AM  
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Pope John XXIII!


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August 17, 2011 at 11:39 AM  

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