Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The SSPX displays its true colours?

There are two big news items today featuring the SSPX.

The first is Bishop Fellay's denunciation of Pope Francis as an out and out modernist.

The other is their decision to give an unrepentant Nazi war criminal a funeral Mass after the diocese of Rome had denied him one.

Frankly, the sooner the Pope declares them to be in formal schism the better so that the rest of us are not caught up in the legitimate criticisms made of them.

Shut up and pray?

I'm not sure I'd go as far as Patrick Archbold over at the US National Catholic Register and tell them to just shut up and pray.

There are those who claim that whether a teaching is Magisterial or not, to take a different view to a pope (or bishop or priest?) is 'presumptuous'.  I'm not one of them.

The challenge, it seems to me, is this: how to we find the proper balance between respect for the Office of Pope or bishop or priest, and appropriate docility to the 'munera' (gifts) of teaching and governing that flows from ordination and Office; proper acknowledgement of the expertise potentially gained by a priest through his study and training; and a healthy faith that engages our reason and intellect, not denies it.

Personally, I don't think there is any problem with critical comments such as those increasingly being offered by neo-conservatives such as Dr Robert Royal (who was one of my theology professors) on this, who reportedly said:

“We had one of the greatest living intellectuals [in Benedict], and now we’ve got a guy who doesn’t think clear expression is important." and "Francis is “a remarkable man, no one would deny that,” But I’m not sure if he cares about being accurate. He gets into an [evangelizing] dynamic with people and that seems to be the most important thing. . . . In some ways it makes people very anxious. If you do this, what’s the next thing?"

But I do think the latest SSPX remarks go far beyond the bounds of respectful criticism of the Pope.  In short they seem to lend support to a sedevacantist position.  Take this comment for example:

“If the present pope continues in the way he started, he is going to divide the Church. He’s exploding everything. So people will say: it is impossible that’s he’s the Pope, we refuse him. Others will say: “Wait, consider him as Pope, but don’t follow him. He’s provoking anger. Many people will be discouraged by what people in the Church do” and will be tempted to “throw it all away.”

Mind you, it is hard to see where else the SSPX can go now but sedevacantism if the reported summations of the points of disagreement with Rome are correct.  Apparently the SSPX aren't prepared even to concede that the Novus Ordo was legitimately promulgated, or anything but evil.

And then there is the Nazi funeral..

In many ways the biggest blow to the credibility of the SSPX though, is surely the decision to grant a funeral Mass to an unrepentant Nazi war criminal, thus lending weight to all those claims of anti-semitism in the organisation.

According to CNN:

"The Diocese of Rome said in a statement that Priebke's lawyer was asked to hold a "small, private" funeral in the Nazi war criminal's home rather than in a church.

"The prayer for the deceased was not denied," the diocese said in a statement, "but rather a different manner for the ceremony was decided." Pope Francis is the titular head of the Rome diocese but has little involvement in its daily affairs.

Priebke's lawyer rejected that proposition, according to the diocese.

Instead, the conservative Society of St. Pius X stepped in, agreeing on Tuesday to hold a funeral Mass in their church for the former Nazi."

And the rationale offered?  A claim that any baptised Catholic has the right to a Christian funeral:

"A Christian who has been baptized and who has received the sacraments of the Confession and the Eucharist, regardless of what have been his crimes and sins, as he dies reconciling with God and with the Church has the right to have a Holy Mass celebrated at his funeral," the group said in a statement.

But that is a long way from the traditional position.  The current Code of Canon Law specifies that 'manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful' should be deprived of a Church funeral unless they gave some signs of repentance before their death.  That doesn't seem to have occurred here, and as a result, there were large demonstrations by those outraged at the event.

And the old Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"..It has further been recognized as a principle that the last rites of the Church constitute a mark of respect which is not to be shown to those who in their lives have proved themselves unworthy of it..."

***The latest media reports state that the Rome diocese had permitted a requiem to be said privately at his house; his lawyer rejected this and wanted a public ceremony, presumably to accompany the pro-Nazi interview he had arranged to be released after his death.

26 comments:

Richard Collins said...

That appears to be a sound appraisal of the SSPX but, when we left the modern Church in 1989 one, just one of the factors that we used in justification of our move was the fact that Rome had 'excommunicated' the SSPX Bishops but refused to excommunicate the priests in Northern Ireland who were
acknowledged to be involved in gun running and other IRA activities.
I have some concerns regarding the SSPX but, on the whole find them Catholics faithful to God if not to Rome. Bishop Fellay has really only echoed what has already been stated by many priests and laity in Britain.

pab said...

Dear Kate

1) re SSPX and inherent evil of TLM: no news here; this has been their position as long as I can remember - congrats. on catching up

2) re notorious funeral: how do you know he was unrepentant? I guess the stereotype many presume is that the SSPX are a bunch of quasi-fascists, but the fact that Abp. Lefebvre's father perished in a Nazi prison rather alters things mightn't you concede? Makes the funeral sound like a rather generous act of forgiveness (c.f. St Maria Goretti's unconditional forgiveness of her assailant).

More generally, your evident hopes for the prospect of the SSPX's excommunication represent a severe departure from your usual professional standards I am sorry to read.

Kate Edwards said...

PAB - If you read the various media stories and bio sites, you will find that not only did he never express any contrition whatsoever for his actions, he continued to justify them as just following orders, and the execution of terrorists.

And in an interview recorded not long before his death, he blamed the jews for holocaust and defended Nazism:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/513290/20131011/nazi-war-criminal-erich-priebke-political-will.htm

Meanwhile it seems the funeral has been halted because of clashes between pro and anti-fascist demonstators.

As for the SSPX views on the Mass, I admit I try and avoid reading their propaganda. But what I have seen on official websites previously seemed to stop rather short of calling it outright evil, and the last time I mentioned it on this blog the 'liceity' argument generated all sorts of fudging obfustication from supporters.

But I guess now that the prospect of reconciliation is off the table, the gloves are off.

Anonymous said...

Daniele said ... At Fatima, Our Lady predicted that the Pope would have much to suffer. Certainly the SSPX was also in her mind. The Reformation already made it clear that if you are not at Papist, you are not a Catholic. Like a branch but from the vine, the SSPX only resembles the real thing (the Catholic Church).

Kate Edwards said...

Anonymous commenters: Please give yourself an identifier if you wish ot be published!

Anonymous said...

Teddy Kennedy killed more people with his car and congressional votes. Yet his very public funeral celebrated by a prominent Cardinal didn't do that prelate's career any harm. He's now in the group of 8. I have no strong feeling about the SSPX funeral here, other than a sense that the misplaced indignation and disproportionate hand wringing is coming from those who already think they are beyond the pale. I hope he confessed.... I truly hope he confessed.

Marcel

Kate Edwards said...

An outrageous comparison Marcel that helps explain why trads have a bad name.

The diocese had rightly denied him a public funeral and yet the SSPX just ignores the proper authority for no good reason.

Mummy's Little Helper said...

Re Erich Priebke, who are you to judge, Kate? How serious are you about your own motto 'for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart'? Just as well Jesus will be judging him and not you.

Just for the record, initially Priebke was found not guilty. When convicted on appeal he claimed that he was the victim of intense hatred, and that he was blamed for all atrocities done during World War II. Certainly it is true that he had such powerful Jewish organisations as the B'nai B'rith lined up against him. And by the by, if you think that the B'nai B'rith are friends to the Catholic Church you'd better think again.

Also by the by, are you at any stage going to protest the numerous atrocities committed by
Jewish movers and shakers of the Soviet Union and its Cheka, and argue that they should/should have been punished? Some of them are still alive and are at present living peaceful, undisturbed lives.

As to what the Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"..It has further been recognized as a principle that the last rites of the Church constitute a mark of respect which is not to be shown to those who in their lives have proved themselves unworthy of it..."

Just for interest, did you kick up a fuss when Teddy Kennedy was given a Catholic funeral with great pomp and glory?

Food for thought.

Janet Baker said...

No, SSPX will not go into sedevacantism, because they understand the teaching of the Church on the matter of the papacy. That teaching is, no matter what a pope does or teaches, he is still the pope. Why? Because he was elected to that position, not because he is good, not because he is certifiably doctrinally pure, but via the legitimate procedures established from the beginning for that purpose. He was elected. Just like the town sheriff. Just like the president. He is the legitimate leader of the Catholic Church until he is unelected--but that can happen! The Cardinals who elected him may declare any pope to be a Manifest Heretic, and then he ceases to be pope. This has happened in Catholic history, I believe twice, or perhaps I am remembering it wrong, maybe they were rolling toward such a vote, and one of the popes in question conveniently died, and the other recanted his heretical teaching. All the details can be found in the small volume The Papacy, found at Angeles Press. SSPX gets it, and they will never be sede, although they have individuals who don't get it and who are in practice sede, rejecting all outreach to the Church, to the parishes around them, and so forth, but perhaps they have left now. Fellay puts SSPX's position like this (Candlemas speech last year): SSPX must stand on the porch, in the rain, knocking, and the Church opens the door and says, Come in, come in, and SSPX says back, Are you ready to return to tradition? And the gatekeeper says, No, and shuts the door. And SSPX resumes standing out in the rain, knocking. It is a tortured position, not the warm, dry sede one.

And by the way, Bishop Fellay was speaking to the annual SSPX conference in Kansas City, where people have driven long distances and paid dearly for lodgings (they compete every year with a NASCAR event), and they expect a little rhetorical drama for their trouble. It happens every year. The only question is, is Fellay wrong? Is not Francis kicking the skids out ofrom under any civic struggle against abortion and homosexual marriage? And aren't these two practices, which contribute to our broader fertility collapse and consequent economic collapse, rather important to us at the moment, just from a practical point of view? Francis is doing the opposite of helping, and Fellay simply said so, with dramatic gestures appropriate to the setting, and he says so along with many other analysts, even strictly financial ones like Christopher Caldwell, an atheist who nevertheless wishes the Church would just lead on these issues, as on immigration, which is crushing Europe. But the usual tone of SSPX is more like the gentle analysis released just, what, last week? And of that, everyone was saying it pulled its punches, it was lame, SSPX had gone over, etc. etc. Let's just keep our eye on content and not style: Francis *is* making things worse, he should please stop.

Anonymous said...

Well, none of us can know if he repented before he died. His attorney and the priest in question says he was absolved (which regardless of the situation of the priest, would have been valid in such a case).

The priest that the media reports is implying was to say the funearal Mass, Fr Abrahamowicz, has been expelled from the SSPX. I've not heard what Church they were using.

You'll also note that Canon Law allows for the prohibition of PUBLIC funerals if it would cause scandal. No priest except, it seems, Fr Abrahamowicz has been willing to say a private funeral Mass because of the Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome's comments (which I'm not sure how that would hold people outside of the diocese bound).

It seems to me very curious how a baptized Catholic (who converted and was conditionally baptized after the war), no matter what his sins may have been and the vile position he took on many things in public is forbidden not just prayers for his soul, but also a place to be burried even after he is known to have been absolved. Where are the works of mercy in all of this?

No one, not even the most horrible war ciminal or pro-abort should be denied prayers for his salvation. We have seen the mobs trying to prevent this seen people publicly call for his body to be burnt and the ashes scatered in a pagan way to satisfy vengence and hatred of the man. Yet the Church does not stand up to this? It is all very sad.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord...

-Brian

Kate Edwards said...

On Kennedy, two wrongs do not make a right.

Secondly, whatever the details of his trial, he did in fact confess to the murders, both in a written document shortly after the War, in a subsequent media interview while living in Argentina which sparked the decision to prosecute him, and in more recent media interviews.

There is is no issues here about being denied prayers for the repose of his soul. The Diocese had already provided for that.

A funeral mass is a different issue. The Church has always reserved the right to specify who can be publicly prayed for, as opposed to privately.

The issue here is twofold. First the diocese who have the appropriate jurisdiction made a decision;the SSPX (I'm interested in the claim that this is an ex-SSPX priest, I haven't seen that said in any of the media reports) decided to disregard a properly made prudential decision for no good reason.

And secondly, the diocese's decision has been vindicated by the demonstrations at the attempted funeral.

Pius said...

Rorate Caeli certainly maintained (four years ago) that Fr. Abramowicz had been indeed expelled from the SSPX. I have found no indication online that he was subsequently re-admitted, though perhaps he was.

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2009/02/news-agencies-sspx-expels-father.html

If this is the case, then I don't see how the SSPX can be blamed for the funeral.

Kate Edwards said...

Pius - Whatever the status of the particular priest involved, the justification for the funeral occurring appeared on the SSPX's Italian website, and the church used was theirs.

jeff said...

Indeed it was the SSPX who approved the funeral as this press release makes clear: http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/catholicism-about-mercy-and-forgiveness-2610

True, this press release may be a form of damage control but it's good to see them denouncing anti-semitism.

As to the "liceity" of the Novus ordo, +Fellay skips around the issue in the Kansas talk. He doesn't directly deny its liceity. However, in the doctrinal declaration which he presented to Rome he admitted that the Novus Ordo was both valid and "legitimately promulgated"

John said...

Wait a minute!

I think Bishop Fellay's comments scandalous; I ALSO think Rome's attitude RE Priebke's funeral VERY disappointing.
I have to think that if the man WAS unrepentant, he has greater need for a Mass to be offered than if he wasn't. It certainly would need to be a private, plain affair, but it would be important.

I'm pretty disgusted with ADL ight now. They need to let go of the hate. That's precisely what started the Holocaust in the firdt place!
We need not glory in the man's life, but neither should we jeer his death.

Kate Edwards said...

John - The plain private affair was exactly what Rome offered. The dead man's lawyer rejected that offer.

JB said...


i can't agree with you that Fellay even suggested sedevacantism in his remarks. He simply said that Francis is confusing so many people that it will lead some to say "ignore him" and others to say "he can't be pope." But he himself did not state that he isn't pope. Even canon law states that if a pope becomes a heretic (not that Francis is), he is no longer pope, so these remarks in my view don't come close to fitting the accusation.

The bottom line here is that Francis is the one who has stirred up all this tumult by his poor choice of words over and over, and some comments which, if accurate, are deeply disturbing and inconsistent with Church teaching for untold hundreds of years.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew West Wyalong NSW said...

"Francis is “a remarkable man, no one would deny that,” But I’m not sure if he cares about being accurate. He gets into an [evangelizing] dynamic with people and that seems to be the most important thing. . . . In some ways it makes people very anxious. If you do this, what’s the next thing?"
That's my take on Pope Francis as well and you know what, we, you and I are "the next thing."
The pope is refusing to do what us Catholics should be doing, taking the doctrines of our faith proclaimed at the magisterial level and translating them to the masses - not only with words suitable for their understanding but also with our lifestyles.
Pope Francis is doing what many think a Pope should do, challenge all Catholics to live an authentic life in order to attract many into the Church.
Messy, yes, but life is messy.
Pope Benedict spent the eight years of his Papacy presenting the doctrines of the Faith and we thought it was great. We forgot to respond in kind by accepting the gift of his papacy and then, in gratitude, returning the favour by becoming the living translation of those doctrines so others would clearly see the path into the Church.
And, of course, the disarray in the Church because of the last forty years of a 'take it or leave it' commitment to Church doctrines has left its very sad mark.
The way forward is both, a recovery of what was all but lost in the Church and a commitment from each one of us, not to leave it to the Pope, but to get in and do our bit.

Anonymous said...

RomeSeminarian

Dear Kate,

As I continue toward priesthood, I am not sure whehter i am growing softer or you are becoming more severe as they years go by.

I am reliably informed that he confessed his sins, and was absolved before death by a priest in good standing, in which case the SSPX was quite right to step in.

Overall however, I must agree with PAB, it is a shame to see your standards slide like this.

OPI

Anonymous said...

sacerdote::As reported by Vatican radio, the Holy Father seems to have his critics in mind at the end of his sermon on October 18 in which Christ talks about his own opponents: “When a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.” He who does not pray is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement.” Instead, he said, “when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus.” And, the Pope said, “I say to pray, I do not say to say prayers, because these teachers of the law said many prayers” in order to be seen. Jesus, instead, says: “when you pray, go into your room and pray to the Father in secret, heart to heart.” The pope continued: “It is one thing to pray, and another thing to say prayers.”
“These do not pray, abandoning the faith and transforming it into moralistic, casuistic ideology, without Jesus. And when a prophet or a good Christian reproaches them, they the same that they did with Jesus: ‘When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him’ – they are ideologically hostile – ‘and to interrogate him about many things,’ – they are insidious – ‘for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.’ They are not transparent. Ah, poor things, they are people dishonoured by their pride. We ask the Lord for Grace, first: never to stop praying to never lose the faith; to remain humble, and so not to become closed, which closes the way to the Lord.”

Kate Edwards said...

One of the things that often puzzles me is why so many who claim to be traditionalists are so untraditional in their attitude to certain matters.

Funerals is one of them.

The issue in canon law is not whether or not he confessed and was absolved, but the question of public notoriety.

And given that whatever repentance he made, it didn't stop him having a Nazi propaganda interview released after his death, the Rome diocese surely made the right call on this.

Regardless, the proper authority having made a decision, why should other feel free to flout their disobedience!

Kate Edwards said...

Sacerdote: It is always so hard to know just who the pope is really talking about or what he is really saying in these non-Magisterial ferverinos.

How, after all, can we know who are ones who are not actually bothering with prayer here?

Insistence on following Church teaching on morality, for example, is not casuistry, but simply the call to repentance and truth.

And the 'social justice' crowd for example all too often seem to be motivated by things other than prayer and the actual Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Sacerdote said ...
What the Pope is saying in his talks is what St. James said when he said “faith without works is dead.” In other words, there is something wrong with that faith (it is an ideology). In 1 Corinthians, it is explained as a kind of faith that Paul had in mind when he said one can have “faith to move mountains,” but without love, it is nothing. In his description of love, Paul makes clear what is lacking in those who have transformed faith into an ideology: “Love is patient, love it is kind, it is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude ….” The critics of Pope Francis in their critical, condescending attitude to him reveal by their lack of charity that they (not he) have a problem – not that I claim to be better than any of them. I just want to explain what the Bible says about all this. The “faith” of many of his critics reveals that they do not have the proper respect him as the Vicar of Christ; they seem to regard him as a prominent theologian, and not a very good one. However, if we judge the Bible by their criteria, it is also puzzling and unclear – which is why there are so many sects. Perhaps that is why Jesus thanked his Father for “concealing” things from the “wise and the clever” and “revealing them to mere children.” However, I think what the Holy Spirit would like us to understand from the words of the Vicar of Christ is especially clear in his concluding remarks: “But why is it that a Christian can become like this? etc.

Kate Edwards said...

Sacerdote: I'm no sure why one would assume the Holy Spirit wants us to understand anything Pope Francis says in particular - surely you are not suggesting every word he utters is divinely inspired?

Personally I'm a follower of Christ; I think the Pope is supposed to be a guardian of the deposit of faith, not the source of it!

And on just what he is getting at in his attack on ideology, I'd highly recommend a read of Fr Finigan's comments:

http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/have-you-got-ology.html

He says, after expressing his puzzlement on the whole topic:

"Certainly we would not want to reduce the Christian faith to a set of propositions; it is more than that because we believe in a personal God and we should desire to do His will, and love Him with all our hearts. Nevertheless, if somebody says "I believe that all Jews should be exterminated", we Christians can and ought to reply (with many brave souls who did so in the face of persecution) "No, all people have the right to life and we must never kill an innocent person."

This last statement is a proposition which I passionately believe to be true. It is an idea, if you like. Does it form part of an ideology? I suppose it does really. But it is also fundamentally part of my Christian faith, my adherence to the person of Jesus Christ.

My personal following of Jesus Christ and His teaching does involve me in professing certain ideas, beliefs and values..."

Mummy's Little Helper said...

Kate said: "One of the things that often puzzles me is why so many who claim to be traditionalists are so untraditional in their attitude to certain matters." ... "The issue in canon law is not whether or not he confessed and was absolved, but the question of public notoriety."

The issue in canon law most assuredly is whether or not he confessed and was absolved.

From information provided courtesy of Eternal Word Television Network - ROME, 18 AUG. 2009 (ZENIT) Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

"Canon 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal
of the faithful.

In fact, these strictures are rarely applied. In part, this is because many sinners do show signs
of repentance before death."

My comment: Note that canon law says "unless they gave some signs of repentance before death".

Food for thought.

Kate Edwards said...

Sorry Mummy's Little Helper but repentance in the 'internal forum' (ie confession) is not sufficient for this. Public notoriety has always been held to require some public sign of repentance. And failing to stop a very unrepentant interview being released after his death would surely counteract any alleged confessin.