Dear faithful priest of Jesus Christ,
It has long been second nature for good priests to quote or make reference to the Holy Father in their homilies. The Vicar of Christ is the chief teacher of all Christians. It is almost an inviolable principle that the pope’s reliability as a teacher is not to be questioned. And this is a praiseworthy disposition. Catholics should be able to trust the pope. It is right to encourage the faithful to look to the pope for sure guidance in all things Catholic.
But these are not ordinary times. And Pope Francis is no ordinary pope.
Today, when you quote the pope in a homily, informed and faithful Catholics can’t help but wonder if you share the pope’s brusque contempt for orthodox doctrine, his visceral dislike of traditional liturgy, his casual dismissals of Catholic morality, and his public disregard for canon law. We can’t help but wonder if you share Pope Francis’ highly critical and un-Christian attitude towards Catholics of traditional sensibilities, as demonstrated by his many hostile acts and appointments, and recorded for all posterity in The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults. We can’t help but wonder if you also share the pope’s heterodox opinions on the first and greatest commandment, or attending Mass on Sundays, or the salvation of pagans through the rites of their pagan religions. We can’t help but wonder if you also believe, with Pope Francis, that our marriages could be easily and speedily annulled, or whether ours is among the fifty percent of marriages that Pope Francis believes are invalid, or whether Catholics in troubled marriages are wasting their time by keeping their marriage vows in order to protect their children and continue receiving the sacraments. We can’t help but wonder whose side you would take should our families suffer the abandonment of a spouse who wants to remarry in the Church.
Respectfully, then, I ask the orthodox Catholic clergy: please don’t quote Pope Francis in your homilies. Please don’t quote him in your bulletins and columns and articles. Please don’t direct the faithful to the pope’s interviews, homilies, motu proprios, apostolic exhortations, or encyclicals. Please don’t pretend that this pope is a reliable guide to the Faith. We will probably try, in all charity, to assume that you just haven’t been paying much attention to the pope’s words and actions. We realize that many priests are too busy to keep up with this most confusing and loquacious of pontiffs. But in the back of our minds, we can’t help but wonder whether you are secretly on his side.
There is one reason – and only one reason – why the SSPX is does not enjoy a normal canonical relationship with Rome, despite years of negotiations: Bishop Bernard Fellay will not relinquish the Society’s freedom to defend the Faith in a public way. The other details had been worked out, but Rome wanted compromises that would have effectively silenced the SSPX when it came to proclaiming hard truths. It’s fair to say that Bishop Fellay has been fully vindicated by recent events. The SSPX is the only priestly society, and Bishop Fellay the only Catholic prelate, capable of addressing Pope Francis in so direct and public a manner as this:
Declaration Concerning the Synod on the Family
The Final Report of the second session of the Synod on the Family, published on October 24, 2015, far from showing a consensus of the Synod Fathers, is the expression of a compromise between profoundly divergent positions. Of course we can read in it some doctrinal reminders about marriage and the Catholic family, but we note also some regrettable ambiguities and omissions, and most importantly several breaches opened up in discipline in the name of a relativistic pastoral “mercy”. The general impression that this document gives is of confusion, which will not fail to be exploited in a sense contrary to the constant teaching of the Church.
This is why it seems to us necessary to reaffirm the truth received from Christ (1) about the role of the pope and the bishops and (2) about marriage and the family. We are doing this in the same spirit that prompted us to send to Pope Francis a petition before the second session of this Synod.
1. The Role of the Pope and the Bishops
As sons of the Catholic Church, we believe that the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ, and at the same time that he is the head of the whole Church. His power is a jurisdiction in the proper sense. With regard to this power, the pastors, as well as the faithful of the particular Churches, separately or all together, even in a Council, in a Synod, or in episcopal conferences, are obliged by a duty of hierarchical subordination and genuine obedience.
God has arranged things in such a way that, by maintaining unity of communion with the Bishop of Rome and by professing the same faith, the Church of Christ might be one flock under one Shepherd. God’s Holy Church is divinely constituted as a hierarchical society, in which the authority that governs the faithful comes from God, through the pope and the bishops who are subject to him.
When the supreme papal Magisterium has issued the authentic expression of revealed truth, in dogmatic matters as well as in disciplinary matters, it is not within the province of ecclesiastical organs vested with a lesser degree of authority—such as bishops’ conferences—to introduce modifications to it.
The meaning of the sacred dogmas that must be preserved perpetually is the one that the Magisterium of the pope and the bishops has taught once and for all, and it is never lawful to deviate from it. Hence the Church’s pastoral ministry, when it practices mercy, must begin by remedying the poverty of ignorance, by giving souls the expression of the truth that will save them.
In the hierarchy thus instituted by God, in matters of faith and magisterial teaching, revealed truths were entrusted as a Sacred Deposit to the apostles and to their successors, the pope and the bishops, so that they might guard it faithfully and teach it authoritatively. The sources that contain this Deposit are the books of Sacred Scripture and the non-written traditions which, after being received by the apostles from Christ Himself or handed on by the apostles under the dictation of the Holy Ghost, have come down to us.
When the teaching Church declares the meaning of these truths contained in Scripture and Tradition, she imposes it with authority on the faithful, so that they might believe it as being revealed by God. It is false to say that the job of the pope and the bishops is to ratify what the sensus fidei or the common experience of the ‘People of God’ suggests to them.
As we already wrote in our Petition to the Holy Father: “Our uneasiness is caused by something that Saint Pius X condemned in his Encyclical Pascendi: an alignment of dogma with supposed contemporary demands. Pius X and you, Holy Father, received the fullness of the authority to teach, sanctify and govern in obedience to Christ, who is the Head and the Shepherd of the flock in every age and in every place, whose faithful vicar the pope should be on this earth. The object of a dogmatic condemnation could not possibly become, with the passage of time, an authorized pastoral practice.”
This is what prompted Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to write in his Declaration dated November 21, 1974: “No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church’s Magisterium for nineteen centuries. ‘But though we,’ says St. Paul, ‘or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.’”
2. Marriage and the Catholic Family
As for marriage, God provided for the increase of the human race by instituting marriage, which is the stable and perpetual union of a man and a woman. The marriage of baptized persons is a sacrament, since Christ elevated it to that dignity; marriage and the family are therefore institutions that are both divine and natural.
The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children, which no human intention should prevent by performing acts contrary to it. The secondary end of marriage is the mutual assistance that the spouses offer to each other as well as the remedy to concupiscence.
Christ established that the unity of marriage would be definitive, both for Christians and for all mankind. This unity possesses an indissoluble character, such that the conjugal bond can never be broken, neither by the will of the two parties nor by any human authority: “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” In the case of the sacramental marriage of baptized persons, this unity and indissolubility are further explained by the fact that it is the sign of Christ’s union with His Bride.
Anything that human beings may decree or do against the unity or indissolubility of marriage is not in keeping with the requirements of nature or with the good of human society. Moreover, faithful Catholics have the serious duty not to join together solely by the bond of a civil marriage, without taking into account the religious marriage prescribed by the Church.
The reception of the Eucharist (or sacramental Communion) requires the state of sanctifying grace and union with Christ through charity; it increases this charity and at the same time signifies Christ’s love for the Church, which is united with Him as His only Spouse. Consequently, those who deliberately cohabit or even live together in an adulterous union, contrary to the laws God and of the Church, cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion because they are giving the bad example of a serious lack of justice and charity, and they are considered public sinners: “He that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery.”
In order to receive absolution for one’s sins within the framework of the Sacrament of Penance, it is necessary to have the firm resolution to sin no more, and consequently those who refuse to put an end to their irregular situation cannot receive valid absolution.
In keeping with the natural law, man has a right to exercise his sexuality only within lawful marriage, while respecting the limits set by morality. This is why homosexuality contradicts natural and divine law. Unions entered into apart from marriage (cohabitation, adulterous, or even homosexual unions) are a disorder contrary to the requirements of the natural divine law and are therefore a sin; it is impossible to acknowledge therein any moral good whatsoever, even diminished.
Given current errors and civil legislation against the sanctity of marriage and the purity of morals, the natural law allows no exceptions, because God in His infinite wisdom, when He gave His law, foresaw all cases and all circumstances, unlike human legislators. Therefore so-called situation ethics, whereby some propose to adapt the rules of conduct dictated by the natural law to the variable circumstances of different cultures, is inadmissible. The solution to problems of a moral order must not be decided solely by the consciences of the spouses of or their pastors, and the natural law is imposed on conscience as a rule of action.
The Good Samaritan’s care for the sinner is manifested by a kind of mercy that does not compromise with his sin, just as the physician who wants to help a sick person recover his health effectively does not compromise with his sickness but helps him to get rid of it. One cannot emancipate oneself from Gospel teaching in the name of a subjectivist pastoral approach which, while recalling it in general, would abolish in on a case-by-case basis. One cannot grant to the bishops the faculty of suspending the law of the indissolubility of marriage ad casum, without running the risk of weakening the teaching of the Gospel and of fragmenting the authority of the Church. For, in this erroneous view, what is affirmed doctrinally could be denied pastorally, and what is forbidden de jure could be authorized de facto.
In this utter confusion it is now up to the pope—in keeping with his responsibility, and within the limits set on him by Christ—to restate clearly and firmly the Catholic truth quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, and to keep this universal truth from being contradicted in practice locally.
Following Christ’s counsel: vigilate et orate, we pray for the pope: oremus pro pontifice nostro Francisco, and we remain vigilant: non tradat eum in manus inimicorum ejus, so that God may not deliver him over to the power of his enemies. We implore Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for him the graces that will enable him to be the faithful steward of the treasures of her Divine Son.
Menzingen, October 27, 2015
+ Bernard FELLAY
Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X
Please sign this important petition and circulate as widely as possible.
Esteemed Synod Fathers,
We thank you for your witness to and defense of the truth of Matrimony and Family proclaimed by the Church, in fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Ordinary Synod on the Family continues its work, confusion and scandal spread among the faithful. Catholics are concerned that some members of this body of apostolic successors, under the guidance of the Pope, are seeking to endorse homosexual relationships, effectively question the indissolubility of marriage, and permit the distribution of the Holy Eucharist to the unrepentant.
The current Instrumentum Laboris contains language in certain sections (§ 122 (52); §§ 124-125 (53); §§ 130-132 (55-56)) that is completely unacceptable from an orthodox Catholic point of view regarding divorce and attempted remarriage, homosexuality, and contraception. We have witnessed with profound sorrow the ongoing development of this crisis, beginning with last year’s extraordinary session in October, 2014, making it difficult to have confidence in the outcome of the Synod.
The irregular changes to the rules governing the current synodal process practically assure that the existing Instrumentum Laboris will be largely adopted. This revised process also appears to reject openness, transparency, and collegiality, and the committee drafting the final document of the Synod seemingly rejects any substantive input from the Synod fathers. We note with regret that the highly visible and widely adopted filial appeals and open letters have not been acknowledged, and have produced no discernable amendment by the Synod organizers. Several high-ranking Cardinals have brought concerns to the Pope, only to have them summarily dismissed as unworthy of consideration – with unfair accusations against those who are legitimately concerned that their voices will not be heard.
We fear, evidenced by all of the above, that the Ordinary Synod will attempt to recommend changes in teaching and pastoral practice that are contrary to the Gospel of Christ and the constant teaching of the Church on the sacred mystery of Catholic marriage and the nature of human sexuality. This would pose a clear and present danger to souls.
The Code of Canon Law 212 §3 states that the Catholic faithful “have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful…”
Therefore, we faithfully request that each and every faithful Catholic bishop at the Synod, having made every effort to resist these attacks on Christ’s teaching, if its direction remains unaltered and those faithful voices remain unheard, do his sacred duty and publicly retire from any further participation in the Synod before its conclusion so as to prevent greater scandal and confusion.
Those bishops who remain as participants, accepting this process and its outcome, must certainly bear responsibility for whatever confusion and sin may result among the Catholic faithful from what would be the disastrous fruits of the Synod.
There is just no excuse for Catholics pretending anymore. Pope Francis is a vandal – a man who so viscerally dislikes his own religion that he wants it defaced and disfigured beyond recognition. Jesus Christ is permitting this for our purification, as a test of our faith and love for Him. Furthermore we can be assured that Francis will not triumph ultimately: the holy Catholic Faith will survive until the end of time, and indeed will arise from the ashes in which we find it today. In the meantime, though, good men have an obligation to face reality and to oppose this destruction to the best of their abilities. Christopher Ferrara is to the point in his latest essay, “Vandals in Rome: Will They Sack Christian Marriage?”
Francis pays lip service to what he pointedly describes as the “the principle of the indissolubility of the matrimonial bond” (Mitis, Preface) while making it all but a dead letter in practice. But that is what Modernists always do: affirm what they deny while denying what they affirm. And Francis is a Modernist. Full stop. There, I’ve said it. We all know it, of course, but the time has come to declare it openly and explicitly so that as many other members of the faithful as possible may awaken to the clear and present danger this dictatorial, megalomaniacal visionary poses to the Church.
Alarm is continuing to spread throughout the Church over the pontificate of Pope Francis. This is one of the most thorough presentations I have seen to date, from Fr. Linus Clovis at a pro-life conference in Rome last week. Sober, direct, but charitable and non-hysterical. It’s worth your time.
God willing, and God helping, there seems to have a been a breakthrough. Two prominent Catholic theologians in good standing – neither of whom are particularly known as firebrands – are tackling the egregious error that Pope Francis inserted into Evangelii Gaudium 161. One has already done so publicly at Rorate Caeli this morning.
While Pope Francis has certainly pushed the envelope, the trajectory began with Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. One Peter Five has some balanced commentary and history in this important article – The Greatest Commandment: Did a Council and Two Popes Teach Error?
Please take the time to read it. This conversation desperately needs to happen, and it needs to happen in the Catholic mainstream. The tragic anthropomorphizing of Catholic life over the last 40 to 50 years can be traced directly to the perverting of Our Lord’s Greatest Commandment. As it turns out, this is all by design.
Since the Synod last October, there have been numerous reports indicating the extreme concern and dissatisfaction of the Polish hierarchy with the direction of the Church under Pope Francis. The latest report from Radio Poland uses the strongest language I have seen to date:
“Pope Francis is openly departing from the teaching of the ‘Polish pope’, Zdort wrote in daily Rzeczpospolita on Friday.
Pope Francis may be be seeking the establishment of a new religion, distinct from Catholicism since John Paul II’s teaching was without a doubt within the Catholic tradition, Zdort wrote.
The traditionalist writer sees the potential for a schism, as ‘never before has such a large (and growing) group of hierarchs been openly against the incumbent pope’s chief contribution to ideas.’ As examples of opposition figures, Zdort names Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and the archbishop of Warsaw, Henryk Hoser.
In Pope Francis’s overtures to divorcees or gays, the Church has ‘betrayed John Paul II,’ Zdort quotes Archbishop Hoser as saying.”
It is one of the great tragedies of our time that the Catholic Church reels from such unprecedented internal divisions. The modernists – now firmly in control under Pope Francis – are more alienated from orthodox Catholicism than were any of the ancient heretics whose errors, by comparison, seem like mere child’s play. This crisis has brought even the possibility of evangelism to a halt. It isn’t clear anymore to which set of “Catholic” beliefs a convert would be converting to. Indeed, we see a kind of reverse evangelism in actual practice – “stick to your non-Catholic religion and dialogue with us”.
Readers of this blog are well aware of the crisis and its sad details, so I’ll say no more about it here.
Orthodox Catholics have survived until now due, in part, to their hard-won knowledge of a “secret” and unpublicized network inside the Church. Most every diocese has an oasis or two. We all know which priests, parishes, schools, organizations, religious orders, seminaries, and colleges can be trusted. We’ll drive for hours and make tremendous sacrifices to find them. We’ll pack up and move to be close to them. We’ll spend ourselves into penury so they can educate our children. Etc.
There is every reason to believe that this underground “A”-list is soon to be put to the test. I’m not Ann Barnhardt’s biggest fan (for reasons of tone more than anything), but lately she’s been hitting it out of the park. Miss Barnhardt refers us to a Remnant article by Megaera Erinyes concerning the October Synod and its obvious raison d’etre, from which she quotes the following:
“The gravity of this looming crisis cannot be overstated. If this proposal is adopted, it will be more far-reaching than any other of the post-Conciliar manipulations like Communion in the hand or altar girls. This will strike, in one blow, against the very pillars of the Faith: the Eucharist and the priesthood. The Eucharist, the presence of which was barely preserved in the New Mass, will be systematically desecrated. And those who will be expected to do the desecrating will be the priests, who will certainly be punished if they refuse.
It will also put paid to whatever hopes we have of restoring the Faith by the work of an up-and-coming young faithful priesthood, since only men who have demonstrated their willingness to desecrate the Holy Eucharist will be considered suitable for the seminary.”
In other words, many if not most priests will be obliged to knowingly facilitate sacrilegious communions – objective desecrations of the holy Eucharist – and will likely be disciplined or even removed from ministry if they refuse. Barhardt then tells us how she will personally handle the situation:
“IF this Bergoglio-Kasper plan is brought to fruition, I will refuse, AS POLICY to attend any Mass celebrated by a priest who has not, either personally or through his order, fraternity or society, made a positive statement of rejection, refusal and resistance to the Bergoglio-Kasper plan, and made a positive statement of fidelity to the teaching and Magisterium of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Body and Bride of Jesus Christ. I suspect this is what Cardinal Raymond Burke was referencing when he said ‘I will resist’. And this is also what I suspect Pope Benedict XVI was referencing when he said that the Church was going to become ‘very compact’.
To be present at such a Mass, where Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist was being knowingly desecrated by the priest at the distribution of Holy Communion, would be a grave, grave sin.
And PLEASE REMEMBER that these lines will NOT be drawn strictly down the Novus Ordo – Traditional Mass line. There will be groups and priests who celebrate the Traditional Mass who will capitulate on this, too. I suspect that MOST, but not all, Novus Ordo priests will capitulate to Bergoglio, if it comes to that, and that MOST of the Remnant Church will be tied to the Old Rite, but the delineation will not be perfect along that line. There will be crossovers on both sides. One will have to do one’s due diligence.”
I agree entirely with her comment about the new line of delineation crossing both traditionalist and Novus Ordo ranks. Absent some very tolerant bishops (don’t count on it), what this means is that the new “A” list – once the shifting alliances have settled in – will essentially be a small network of faithful priests who will be forced into the catacombs, some of them (perhaps most) operating without faculties. Sound familiar? If almighty God does not intervene to avert this disaster, may He grant us the faith, hope, and charity we will need to persevere.
Yesterday, on February 23, it was reported that Pope Francis formally declared Gregory of Narek to be a Doctor of the Universal Church. Gregory of Narek was an Armenian priest, monk, and poet who is greatly revered by Armenians but virtually unknown otherwise. Bypassing what must be dozens of qualified orthodox Catholics (Dom Prosper Gueranger is already de facto a doctor of this stature), Pope Francis instead chose an obscure mystic who died in schism, and who was presumably an adherent of the Miaphysite heresy in conflict with the Council of Chalcedon. Traditionally, a Doctor of the Church is chosen only among recognized Catholic saints. So far as I can tell, Gregory of Narek is the first and only non-Catholic among only 36 doctors of the Church.
Is this a problem? Well, the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia are somewhat consoling:
“It is not in any way an ‘ex cathedra’ decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error.”
And yet, and yet …. this is setting a potentially disastrous precedent. Gregory of Narek may have been a man of extraordinary sanctity; he may have been a great teacher; and it may be a laudable thing that his works become known to the larger Christian world outside of the Armenian community. But if a man is declared a “Doctor of the Universal Church”, the faithful have the right to assume that he is, at the very least, a Catholic. Furthermore, as Ann Barnhardt drives home, granting this title to a non-Catholic Armenian priest sends an unmistakable message to all the faithful: heresy and schism are no big deal.
Why this unsettling choice? It really makes no sense of any kind. Given what we know about Pope Francis and his appalling religious indifferentism, it is safe to assume that he has an ulterior motive. Let me make a little prediction: Pope Francis is preparing the faithful for the canonization of the first non-Catholic “Catholic” “saint”. Anyone care to guess who that might be?
A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the “or” operator. Putting issues or opinions into “black or white” terms is a common instance of this fallacy.
E.g., criticize the pope, or pray and fast for him. Those are your only two choices.
An analogy was suggested at Mass this morning: that of St. Peter, the first pope, who denied Our Lord three times and yet subsequently became a great saint, and Pope Francis, who is likewise sinful and flawed but may also become a great saint. The homily’s implication was that we should temper our criticism of the Holy Father just as we do for Saint Peter.
First, praying and sacrificing for the pope, and criticizing or correcting him when necessary, are not mutually exclusive. I don’t believe our homilist explicitly claimed they were, but I suspect that many in the pews came away with that impression. This suggestion would be a classic false dilemma.
Second, it must be recalled that St. Peter, at the time of his denials, was not in a position of great influence. There is no record of others following him in his denials. Certainly, if he had encouraged others to do the same, any disciple of Christ would have been obligated to state publicly: “No, don’t follow Peter in this matter. He is wrong. To follow him would be a sin.” Unfortunately with Pope Francis we are faced with a pope who has immense influence and who has, in fact, led millions into false beliefs by his many heterodox statements. No good Catholic can be silent in the face of this reality. We must oppose Pope Francis publicly when he is misleading people publicly. Pray and sacrifice, of course, but also speak up!
It is crucial that the SSPX not be the only voice that warns people of this danger. The Society’s voice is important, but there also need to be voices among other orthodox Catholics of every persuasion. At this point, the orthodox clergy must toe the line, in order to preserve what good influence they have under this pope, but the laity are not so constrained. Speaking out at this juncture is primarily the duty of the laity. You have been taught your Faith for a reason. Defend it.