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제목 Dear Cardinal Burke, SSPX is not in schism (2017-10-14)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2017-10-09

 


Dear Cardinal Burke, SSPX is not in schism (2017-10-14)


My dear Brethren,

I would like to address today a recent declaration of Cardinal Burke concerning the Society of St Pius X. Cardinal Burke was answering questions after a conference in Oregon on 15th July 2017, and in one of these answers he said that “the Society of St Pius X was in schism since the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained four bishops without the mandate of the Roman Pontiff.”[1] Then considering that Pope Francis gave jurisdiction for confession to all the Society of St Pius X’s priests and recently provided for jurisdiction for our marriages too, he simply considers those two measures as “anomalies”, without questioning his own assumptions. As a consequence, he advises people to avoid our Masses, even if they do not have any other “reverent Masses within reasonable distance.”[2]


It is a real sad fact that it seems such Cardinal, especially qualified in Canon Law, did not really take at heart to study our legal case. He would have easily found out that his simplistic reasoning does not stand.


First of all, in the Canon Law, a consecration of bishop without Papal mandate is not a crime against the unity of the Church[3], and thus not a schism, but – if unjustified – only a crime against the administration of the Sacraments[4]: these are two different sections of the Canon Law. Therefore, the Cardinal’s reasoning is false: one may not say: because he consecrated bishops without mandate, he is in schism.


One may object: but such consecration is a practical denial of the primacy of the Pope and therefore a schism. Not necessarily. Archbishop Lefebvre took great care in the very sermon of the Consecrations to show that he acknowledged the primacy of the Pope and that he did not pretend at all to give any jurisdiction to these bishops. He consecrated them only to provide for the ordinations of good priests who would keep the Traditional Catholic Doctrine, Catholic Liturgy and Catholic morals without compromise with the modern errors, because without the Mass and the Sacraments, the faithful would spiritually starve: it was “operation survival.” The Society of St Pius X has always and continues to mention the Pope in the Canon of the Mass, and the local bishop: there was clearly no rejection of the hierarchy of the Church, and therefore no schism.


One may object: but there was the penalty of automatic excommunication if one does so; and an excommunicated person is in schism. The answer is simple: Canon Law itself explicitly says that such automatic excommunication does not apply if one has acted in a case of necessity to avoid a grave inconvenient[5]. The new code of 1983 even exempts from such automatic penalty those who merely subjectively thought they were in a case of necessity[6], even if it was through a culpable error! Now it is beyond doubt that Archbishop Lefebvre stated that he was in such a case of necessity. Therefore, the automatic excommunication of can. 1382 did not apply. The Pope could have made a proper judgement (in a court case) and decide to give him an excommunication, but there was never such court case: Archbishop Lefebvre was never given an opportunity to defend himself in a proper canonical court case. Therefore, since there was neither an automatic excommunication nor a proper court judgement against him, he was not really excommunicated!


One objects further: Pope John Paul II wrote that Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated in his moto proprio Ecclesia Dei, but this is an anomaly – yes, dear Cardinal Burke, this is indeed an anomaly! In that document, John Paul II did not decree nor inflict a new punishment, but simply wrote that Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops “have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law”[7], in other words, the Canon Law applied – but if one properly applies Canon Law, the conclusion should be that Archbishop Lefebvre is NOT excommunicated, as explained above. Yet the Pope took the opposite conclusion, thus ignoring the very Canon Law which he had promulgated!


Moreover, John Paul II then went on and gave three reasons why he thought Archbishop Lefebvre was wrong. First, he accused Archbishop Lefebvre of disobedience, and then of having an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition, incomplete because it would neglect the living character of tradition and contradictory because it would oppose tradition and magisterium. But none of these three accusations is true, and, as said above, Archbishop Lefebvre never had an opportunity to present a defence against such accusation in a proper court of Church Law.


St Thomas Aquinas teaches that obedience is a moral virtue, and as all moral virtues, it consists in the right measure between a defect and an excess. The vice against obedience by defect is disobedience, not to comply with a legitimate order; the vice against obedience by excess is servility, i.e. to comply with illegitimate orders! Oftentimes, when there is a disagreement between a superior and an inferior, it is because the inferior resists a legitimate order, the wrong is on the part of the inferior, it is disobedience. But this is not always the case.


Indeed, the Holy Scripture is very explicit and when the Apostles were commanded by the Sanhedrin not to preach the name of Jesus, “Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God, rather than men”[8]. Sometimes indeed, men in authority command things which are against God, and in such case they should be resisted. In doing so, one is not disobedient, but rather one practices the virtue of obedience by avoiding the vice by excess, servility.


What did Archbishop Lefebvre do? He was keeping the traditional doctrine, the traditional Mass, the traditional morals, and was forming priests who would continue to do so and would provide these treasures to the faithful. Was that wrong? Nobody dared to say so, and yet they wanted him to close his seminary and to suppress his Society. Pope Paul VI explicitly commanded him to close his seminary and disperse his seminarians. Archbishop Lefebvre did not fall in the vice of servility; he did not comply. He saw the many faithful who were confused by all the changes and who needed these treasures of Tradition and who were relying on him to get them: he provided the priests for them. And when his age was advancing, and the diabolical disorientation was increasing especially due to the ecumenical meeting of Assisi in October 1986, he provided bishops who would provide the priests to the faithful. He repeatedly asked the Pope (through Cardinal Ratzinger) for the permission to do so, but they put delays, and further delays and more delays with an evident bad faith: they could not say that what he was asking was wrong; in the Protocol of May 5th 1988 they even granted in principle what he asked, but in practice they put delays such that evidently they wanted him to die first. In such necessity, he provided for the future by the consecration of four bishops. Doing so was not disobedience, but rather the virtue of obedience against the vice by excess, servility.


And the future has already proven him right; and future generations will acknowledge more and more that it was thanks to him that the treasure of the traditional mass and doctrine had been kept in this end of the 20th century, when everybody else had given it up. Some object and say that there are other orders who have the Traditional Mass today with a proper canonical situation. Yes now, but where were they in 1988? He was alone, and the few individual priests who had kept that Mass were getting older and older and many had already died, and they were persecuted, rejected by their bishops. They were not disobedient: they were persecuted because they kept the Traditional Mass, and that was not wrong! They were heroes of true obedience: obedience to God first!


The second accusation of John Paul II was that Archbishop Lefebvre had an incomplete notion of Tradition because he would have neglected the living character of tradition. But here there is a big ambiguity about what is the life of tradition. Archbishop Lefebvre has always accepted the true life of tradition, which is nothing else than the true life of the Church, a participation in the life of Christ, a beginning of eternal life. It is a life of contemplation of the eternal Truth, that is, a loving look on the most Holy Trinity, and then giving to others the fruits of that contemplation[9], through missionary work preaching the immutable truth. Archbishop Lefebvre was a real missionary; and he was resisting ecumenism which is the destruction of that missionary spirit: if all religions are OK, no need of conversion. Missionary work, i.e. the faithful transmission of the eternal truth, this is the true living Tradition.


However, modernists have a complete different notion of tradition. For them it is a process, not a content. Fr. Avery Dulles, one modernist theologians, exposes this new notion of Tradition,criticizing Archbishop Lefebvre’s notion of Tradition: “It is evident that the conflicting evaluations of Vatican II turn upon different concepts of Tradition. Tradition is not so much content as process—a process that is living, creative and community based. What Lefebvre dismisses as ‘Modernist influence’ can therefore be defended as a rediscovery of an ancient and precious heritage—The objectivist authoritarian concept still dominant in contemporary traditionalism is widely criticized in our days.”[10] It is worth noticing that Fr Avery Dulles was later made Cardinal, as were other modernist theologians ofVatican II Council such as Danielou, de Lubac, Congar, von Baltasar, and even Ratzinger.


Thus, there are two conflicting notions of Tradition: on the one hand, you have a living, creative and community based process; but what process? A transmission of a changing personal religious experience empty of content? Unrelated to the objective truth? This is truly the modernist notion denounced by St. Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi. This modernist notion is that of an evolving tradition, with evolution of dogmas, etc. St. Pius X asked every priest and bishop to swear the following: “I accept sincerely the doctrine of faith transmitted from the Apostles through the orthodox fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us; and so I reject the heretical invention of the evolution of dogmas, passing from one meaning to another, different from that which the Church first had…”[11]


On the other hand, you have the authentic Catholic notion of Tradition as the faithful transmission of the Deposit of Faith by the popes and bishops, and this is the notion of archbishop Lefebvre.That this true notion of tradition be full of life, is visible in the many vocations and young Catholic families with many children found in traditional chapels: this fecundity is the most manifest proof of the life of Tradition. On the contrary, the novelties in the wake of Vatican II have caused a great sterility and decrease of vocations.Thus Tradition is, first of all, related to an Object: the Immutable, Divine Truth. To lose sight of this is certainly an incomplete notion of Tradition!


The last accusation was of a “contradictory notion of Tradition, which opposes the universal magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the body of bishops.”[12] Here, again, one must not forget that the magisterium of the Church is essentially related to the Deposit of Faith. Pope Pius IX and the Fathers of the First Vatican Council said: “For the Holy Ghost was not promised to the Successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the Apostles and the Deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”[13]


Archbishop Lefebvre’s fidelity to the constant teaching of the previous Popes, far from undermining the authority of the Pope, is its best guarantee. Remember that Fr. Avery Dulles linked the “objectivist” notion of Tradition with the “authoritarian” notion, and rejected both as “traditional” notion. Without the pejorative endings, it is true that the traditional notion of Tradition insists on its object, the Deposit of Faith, to be religiously handed down by those who have received authority from Our Lord for this end: to insist on the unchangeable object of Tradition is to defend the “authoritarian” notion of Tradition, thus the authority of the Pope. He has received authority in order to keep the Tradition, which notion of authority is rejected by the modernist, not by Archbishop Lefebvre! If authority is only there to approve any new modern “study of believer,” then it destroys its own self; it is exactly what St. Pius X describes in Pascendi, as the modernist notion of authority. If, on the contrary, authority is to keep the Deposit of Faith, which is “complete with the Apostles,” and unchangeable, then this notion of authority in Tradition is fully accepted by Archbishop Lefebvre.


If there is any opposition between Archbishop Lefebvre and today’s teaching of “the Bishop of Rome and the body of Bishops,” it is because they are no longer teaching what their predecessors have taught, they are no longer teaching the Syllabus, the Anti-modernist Oath, the social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, etc....They are trying to teach a NEW doctrineand to impose it with an authority that is made for the opposite: “not to teach a new Revelation, but to keep religiously and expose faithfully the Deposit of Faith.” Cardinal Burke’s Dubia should remind him of the possibility of Popes using their authority in favour of such novelties that destroy it.


The present crisis of the Church comes from a crisis of authority: those who have the authority foster a new doctrine. Every novelty introduced or approved by the Pope tends to undermine his own authority. Indeed if yesterday altar girls were forbidden and today they are permitted, if yesterday communion to remarried-divorcees was forbidden and today is permitted, then today women priests are forbidden but why not tomorrow permitted? Once one accepts the principle of changes in doctrine there is no limit to it, and no doctrinal authority can stand it.


Thus it appears that these three criticisms levelled against Archbishop Lefebvre are not justified. If the reasons for a censure are false or undeserved, then the censure is void.


Some conservatives go on and even accuse the SSPX of being like Protestants, as if we were following our own private judgement. Cardinal Burke does not say that, thanks be to God. But such accusation could not be further from the truth: far from following our own judgement, we want to cling to the judgements of the Church, we do not want to depart from what the Church has established. In doing so, we faithfully obey St Paul: “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9). By keeping “that which we have received” FROM THE CHURCH, we are not Protestants, but simply faithful Catholics! Protestants introduced novelties from their own ideas, modernists introduce novelties from their own mind, we reject both, and keep what the Church has taught for centuries. This is the right Catholic attitude.


One wonders whether at the root of Cardinal Burke’s erroneous assessment of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St Pius X, there is the common assumption among some conservative Novus Ordo that whatever the Pope says is right. Such assumption was common among them with John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, now with Pope Francis, they should open their eyes and see how unfounded such assumption is.


After having acknowledged that Pope Francis had said our confessions and marriages are both valid, which would not be possible if they were illicit, Cardinal Burke continues to claim that our sacraments are illicit. He simply calls it an “anomaly”. That is completely to ignore the crisis of the Church today, or that it to accuse the Good Samaritan of acting illicitly in caring for the wounded, after the local Levite and Priest passed without caring. In very many cases, if the Society of St Pius X had not cared for wounded souls, they would have been completely deprived of the Traditional Mass and doctrine. In some cases, local bishops have asked for Indult religious such as FSP or ICKSP[14] to come and serve some communities only after we had cared for them first, and they would not have asked them had we not been there first: our legitimacy was already established as that of the Good Samaritan and could not be taken away by their late coming.


They criticise us for not having a proper canonical situation, but why don’t they give it to us? We had it at the beginning; it was illegitimately taken away from us. We have been asking for it, for many years, and they have always managed to refuse it, or to put such conditions as to make it impossible! Since the doctrine we teach, the sacraments we give, the morals we promote are simply Catholic doctrine, Catholic liturgy and Catholic morals, if those in authority would simply give us that proper canonical situation without any change on our part, everything would be right. So why don’t they give it to us? Why do they accuse us of not being in a proper canonical situation when we do not have the means to change that and they do have the position to correct it? In spite of being treated as pariah, we have continued to pray for the Pope and for the local bishop at each Mass: we do what we can, but do they do what they can?


The least Cardinal Burke could do, in his position, is to acknowledge that we have never been given the opportunity to defend ourselves in a proper church tribunal. Why then to insist on condemning us, without providing for that elementary justice?


Let us pray, especially in this month of the Holy Rosary, through the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Church. Let us pray for the Church, for the Pope and bishops, that the Good Lord may give them the grace to be faithful to their duty “not to teach a new Revelation, but to keep religiously and expose faithfully the Deposit of Faith.” Then they will have no more difficulties in granting a proper canonical situation to the SSPX, and thus solve the problem the right way.


This is what we asked at Baptism. “What do you ask of the Church of God? Faith! What does faith offer you? Everlasting life!” We ask today again those in authority in the Church for that Catholic Faith taught by the Apostles, that “deposit of Faith”, because we want eternal life! May our Blessed Mother, who certainly wants the salvation of souls, help those in authority to provide the faithful for the clear Catholic teaching that will dissipate the confusion, the diabolical disorientation of our times and lead souls to heaven! Amen.

Fr. F. Laisney



[1]Cardinal Raymond Burke, at the Sacred Liturgy Conference that was held in Medford, OR on 15 July 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The crimes against Faith and the Unity of the Church are in part 4, title 11 of the 1917 CIC and inbook 6, part 2, title 1 of the 1983 NC. Here and after, “CIC” = Codex Iuris Canonici published by Benedict XV in 1917; “NC” = New Code published by John Paul II in 1983.

[4] CIC, part 4, title 16, can. 2370/ NC, book 6, part 2, title 3, can 1382.

[5]CIC, can.2205 §2/ NC, can. 1324, §3, referring to §1,8° and can 1323, 4°,5°.

[6] NC: can. 1323, 7°.

[7]Moto proprio Ecclesia Dei, 2nd July 1988.

[8]Acts 5:29.

[9]Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere, St Thomas Aquinas: this became the motto of the Dominicans

[10]Dulles, Avery, The Reshaping of Catholicism: Current Challenges in the Theology of Church, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, p. 78.

[11]Anti-modernist oath, required on Sept. 1st, 1910 by St. Pius X from all those who receive major orders and ecclesiastical responsibilities.

[12]Moto proprio Ecclesia Dei, 2nd July 1988.

[13] Council Vatican I, dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4; 18th July 1870. Dz. 1836.

[14]Fraternity of St Peter, or Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.