Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rumblings from the Dissident Modernist Movement

The ignorance and lack of reflection displayed by dissident Catholic theologians never ceases to amaze. Benedict XVI's lifting of the excommunication of the 4 SSPX bishops resulted in much modernist wailing and gnashing of teeth. As an example of this, read a recent statement circulating that seeks to instruct the Pope on the conditions for admission into communion with the Catholic Church:

The very first sentence of the petition is ample proof of ignorance of basic facts relative to the recent action of the Pope:

"The papal cancellation of the excommunication of bishops from The Society of St. Pius X signifies the reception into full communion with the See of Rome those who have consistently opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council."

Contrast this with the actual Vatican document lifting the excommunications:

It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X." (Thanks to Rorate Caeli for the translation.)

Full communion of the SSPX bishops with the Catholic Church has NOT been achieved, and the opening sentence of this petition fails to recognize even this basic fact.

Let us keep reading:

"We believe that the close correlation between the excommunication’s cancellation and the 50th anniversary of the calling of a General Council of the Church by Blessed Pope John XXIII gives a clear indication of the direction which the present Papacy wishes to take. We sense a desire to return to a pre Vatican II Church with its fear of openness to the breath of the Holy Spirit, a positive appreciation of ‘the signs of the times’, and the values of democratic institutions.

We are very concerned that this act of rehabilitation heralds a turn-around on important documents of Vatican II, for example, the decree on ecumenism “Unitatis Redintegratio”, the declaration on non-Christian religions “Nostra Aetate”, the declaration on religious liberty “Dignitatis Humanae” and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “Gaudium et Spes”. Such an act will have a disastrous effect on the credibility of the Roman-Catholic Church. For Catholics who love their Church, the price is too high!"

Fear permeates these words. Ecumenism is all well and good until the other party in dialogue threatens modernist presuppositions. Who are the ones who REALLY fear "openness to the breath of the Holy Spirit?" These petitioners ignore explicit Vatican statements affirming the non-negotiability of the teachings of Vatican II, claiming that in fact Benedict's action is indicative of a negation of the developments of Vatican II. What they really mean is that Benedict's action is indicative of a rejection of the modernist understanding and misappropriation of the developments of Vatican II, which is, by the way, also false (although OTHER actions or words of Benedict XVI do so indicate).

Furthermore, the characterization of the fictitious "pre-Vatican II Church" is absurdly trite and false. Despite what they may think, the "breath of the Holy Spirit" is NOT synonymous with "radical dogmatic change," and democratic institutions and their values were NOT the object of magisterial condemnation prior to Vatican II. (Any of the petitioners read Leo XIII? Anyone?)

The petition ends in these words:

"The Church of Rome, perceived as the Barque of St. Peter, lists heavily as long as the Vatican: only rehabilitates the "lost sheep" at the traditionalist edge of the Church, and makes no similar offer to other excommunicated or marginalised Catholics; persists in preventing progressive theologians from teaching; refuses dialogue with all movements in the Church."

Allow me an argument by analogy: If I am convinced that there is only one best way to play the game of golf, and if I am also convinced that I know this "best method," I may start a school to teach students the best way to play golf. If I hire teachers to help teach this to the students, do I not have the right to fire a teacher who insists that he has a DIFFERENT and BETTER way to play the grand old game? In fact, doesn't such a teacher undermine the entire project of my school? I have the best method, not the teacher I've hired. Of course, I may be wrong and the teacher right . . . unless I am infallible in matters of golf-playing, in which case I have the right and the DUTY of firing that teacher, for the good of the students who pay me so that they can play the game of golf as well as possible. In like manner, the Pope has both the right and the duty of "preventing progressive theologians from teaching," assuming, of course, as one ought, that "progressive" means "not bound to past definitive teachings of the Church."

The last straw: the petition is signed "We Are Church UK 5 February 2009." Need I say more.


  1. FIRST!

    Ah, a welcome addition to the blogosphere. I look forward to your hopefully many future posts!

  2. Hey Travis,

    Excellent analysis of this issue. Of course, sober analysis does not sell papers as well as headlines like "Pope Benedict, a former Hitler-youth, re-instates Holocaust-denying Bishop."

    You should do an analysis of the Maciel/Legionaries of Christ issue.

    Sean Pidgeon

  3. Regarding the "We are Church" folks: never trust anyone who doesn't use definite articles before the term "church."

  4. "breath of the Holy Spirit" + "signs of the times" + "progressive" = yikes.

    Good post, sir (golf analogy aside). Glad to have you in the blogosphere.

    Have you figured out why man was or was not mortal pre-Fall yet??

    Oh, and check my blog too!