Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who will serve the Vicar of Christ?

I have disagreed passionately with George Weigel on a number of things, namely his belief in the moral justification for pre-emptive war and his analysis of the last election, for which Ross Douthat took him to task, but I agree with him on something: what the recent SSPX fiasco and the recent admission by the Legion of Christ concerning the sexual shenanigans of Fr. Marcial Maciel, their founder, shenanigans that include fathering a daughter and sexually molesting young men seeking to join the order, reveals about the Roman Curia. He gives some very salient analysis writing in First Things.

In the case of Maciel, the Roman Curia investigated these allegations, which we know now are true, for years while allowing him to continue his ministry uninhibited, despite the massive scandal going on in U.S. over this same issue, and never arriving at a judgment. It was not until 2006 that Pope Benedict XVI, in an act of courage and conviction typical of this great man, that Maciel was finally forced give up his public ministry as a priest, to resign as head of the Legion, and to retire and devote the remainder of his life to prayer and penance. Maciel died in 2008, let us sincerely hope and pray that he used his time well. It must be noted that he appears never to have personally acknowledged, either publicly or to his victims, his sinful behavior. Rather, he insisted to the end that he was the victim, patiently bearing the cross of Christ- this is but a slight paraphrase of his public statement after the Holy Father's sanctions were announced. Knowing what we know now, this seems to me outrageous; arrogance under the guise of humility.

To my mind, what all of this demonstrates is that the Roman Curia is in need of reform and a thorough house-cleaning. Surely there are people in the world-wide Church possessed of courage, conviction, theological acumen, who also have well-developed pastoral and political (in the best sense of that word) sensibility, people like the Holy Father himself. If the Church wishes to engage the world, then the Roman Curia needs to engage the world, which means doing things more transparently. I disagree with Fr. Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, who, in an act of sincere humility and devotion to the Holy Father, accepted responsibility for the the tumult caused by the Holy Father's lifting the excommunications of the Lefebvre four, by saying it was a public relations failure. Rest easy Fr. Lombardi, you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

As Weigel asks with regard to the decree lifting the excommunications, did no one in the curia, especially in the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was established in 1988 following the schism caused by Marcel Lebfebvre with his unauthorized ordination of these four, for the specific purpose of healing the schism, think "to Google 'Richard Williamson'"? Did "no subordinate [have]the nerve or capacity to compel the superiors to pay attention to a potential landmine?" In other words, what were they thinking? The Holy Father did not know that Williamson is a denier of the mass, systematic, murder of Jews by the German National Socialist regime. This is made even more delicate by the fact that the Holy Father is German. Had he known, I seriously doubt that the excommunications would have been lifted. It seems, as one can easily find out by visting various websites, that the whole of the SSPX is infected with anti-Semitism, of which the Church of Christ has repented and disavowed. This is a matter of being or not being in communion.

On a personal note, I am already tired of the revisionists who claim that people like me are overreacting. After all, what's a little Holocaust denial among friends? I stick by my words: not forgetting means actively remembering and actively remembering forms and informs how we live together, how we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, foster tolerance and peace between peoples. One cannot dismiss the implications of so public an act as the lifting of these excommunications in light of what has surfaced.

So, whose job was it to tell the Holy Father? Once this is determined that individual should be looking for a new way to serve God's people, perferably outside the Vatican in a position that requires no serious work. As one who is in the business of passing along information with analysis and recommending courses of action based on what I know, the worst thing in the world is to not have thought through the most obvious questions, or to have anticipated the questions of the boss, who one has to know in order to serve well. Failure to do that is failure to do my job. Let's be bold and name names, the head of Ecclesia Dei, from whom nothing public has been heard, is the Columbian cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos. Too bad Cardinal Law already has the sinecure at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Fred, writing once again on la nouvelle, draws our attention to an article about courage in adversity, something that is encouraging, the story about a man who saved 20,000 Jews from the Nazis, The Ambassador.

It is heartening to learn this morning that, according to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Benedict's trip Israel in the Spring is a go!

A diaconal bow to my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, for bringing Weigel's piece, the CNS story, and the picture of the Pope to my attention. He provides Weigel's money quote.


  1. actually, that article was a link sent by David.

  2. I for one don't share the view that the whole of the Society of Saint Pious X is infected by the scandalous anti-Semitic opinions of Williamson. Nor is every Legionnaire a moral copy of their founder Maciel.

    If the Church of Christ is capable of repenting and disavowing sins against our Semitic brothers then let us see if the SSPX can do the same.

    Superior General of the SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay
    District Superior for Germany of the SSPX Father Franz Schmidberger
    Williamson relieved of duties
    1.7 million Rosaries

    Not to say that we've seen enough but if there is nothing that the SSPX can do to prove themselves worthy of reunification with Holy Mother Church then I think we're in danger of becoming Donatists - angry with Father who is trying to throw a party for our little loser brother.

    "[W]hat is important at this moment is that the Pope has stopped a schism. The charity that Christ wanted to exist in the Church has been remarkably reestablished, and paths of hope are opened." - Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei

    Today on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes maybe it is worth listening again to our Holy Father's words (par 7) at the Hemicycle of Sainte-Bernadette's Church, Lourdes.

    Besides think of the fun and irony of applying Vatican II's decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio to SSPX reunification!

  3. I did not write, nor did I imply that the whole of SSPX shares the mass murder-denying views of Williamson. It seems clear that they do not. However, given that Williamson's views are no secret, giving rise to the question about why this was not conveyed to the Holy Father, he found a welcome home, not just as a member, but as a leader in the still schismatic SSPX. I stand by my statement that judging from what appears on their official websites and in official publications that they still hold anti-Semitic views which the Church has repudiated.

    Neither did I state or imply that Legionaries of Christ and members of Regum Christi are moral copies of Maciel. They clearly are not, while not my ecclesial cup-of-tea, I grieve for those who suffer as a result of the confirmation of what was long alleged. Hence, I wholeheartedly endorse Suzanne's statement: "I cannot believe that a charism should have to depend upon the moral consistency of the one who receives it. If this were so, we would all be doomed! A charism is a gift from the Holy Spirit (who is anything but tame!) for the Church, for us." I give the Legionaries great credit for being the ones who came clean about Maciel's sins. I pray that the good works of these groups continues.

    I am certainly in no danger of becoming a Donatist. I recognize the validity of the ordinations of the Lebfevre four, but I also recognize the they were illicit and schismatic. To wit: whether I like it or not Williamson is a validly ordained bishop, but he is schismatic and possibly a heretical one. He is certainly a deluded one.

    I would rejoice at any authentic reunification within the broken Body of Christ. Is it not important to note that everything Pope Benedict has done with regard to SSPX has been unilateral? The other three chastising and calling on Williamson to be silent and his removal from his post are certainly positive developments, but ones that stop short of what is required on their part for full reunification. I believe that the Holy Father was poorly advised by some whom he trusted, thus I believe the lifting the excommunications was premature.

  4. You've hit on something important about the Legion.
    I feel bad for the innocent members who were deceived by Maciel, and pray for them. It must be spiritually devastating.
    But I do agree with Weigel and Germain Grisez that some drastic reforms need to happen. This is my own opinion, and I realize others may strongly disagree, but there is good reason to think that the very "charism" of Maciel has been brought into question. Apparently it's true that he sexually abused minors over decades, while covering it up with lies and deceit. If the Holy See had known about it, he would have been defrocked and would certainly never have gained approval for his order. While God can certainly work through us sinful people, the Holy Spirit isn't operative in a "charism" built upon sexual abuse, lies and abuse of money to cover things up.
    The Legion needs prayer more than anything. I also pray that Pope Benedict will have the courage to take the matter strongly in hand.

  5. The Legion, along with Regnum Christi, has been called into question on other things, too. The most glaring example is the scrutiny and consequent oversight they merited by Archbishop O'Brien in Baltimore. Discernment is important and this will be a key factor for the Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi

  6. I don't think that Fr. Maciel's charism was "built on sexual abuse" -- if this were so, then all the Legionaries would be encouraged to practice this sinful behavior! But they aren't -- they are encouraged to follow Christ. While Maciel's sins are abominable, it is also objectively true that many who have sincerely followed him have come closer to Christ -- and this is precisely the sign of a charism. I think that the Pope has already made his (as you point out Scott) courageous, merciful, and sensitive response to Maciel. He did not broadcast the news concerning Maciel's wickedness; but he took steps to make certain he couldn't continue it.

    I don't deny that there has been wrong-doing on the part of other Legionaries and those who belong to RC. And most likely there is a mysterious connection between the founders sins and the blind spots that are manifested in the movement he founded. But these problems are not the last word on this Movement. The last word is always the only Word.

    I feel a little like Abraham bargaining for Sodom! But I have seen the good that has blossomed in the lives of people who have followed Maciel's charism, and I am certain that the Pope has seen it, too -- which is why he is working with the Legionaries to help them find the path.

    I agree heartily with you, Scott, that the deeper problem has to do with the Curia. I am most troubled about it, and I pray that the Pope may be able to bring reform there -- this is the more pressing concern, I believe.

  7. Yes, agree, and true (maybe, just maybe even the unilateral part) - but you left me thinking on the last line...

    I still say sooner is better.

    Rabbi Yehuda Levin - LifeSiteNews article
    Gary Krupp - Zenit piece (only the seventh Jew ever to receive the papal honor of Knight Commander in the Order of St. Gregory the Great)
    Rabbi Irwin Kula - wa-po article
    Anna Arco - Look for the post titled A breath of sanity in the storm.
    The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

    By the way - where my good man is the Friday Traditio!?

  8. While I am happy to post the preceding comment, I must add that it strays from the main point of my post considerably. Nonetheless, the articles and rationale presented therein set forth a certain position held by many in the Church. I find the assertion that so-called left-wingers are using this as an opportunity to derail Pope Benedict's liturgical reform very disingenuous. The outcry is about one thing and one thing only, Christian anti-Semitism. I don't think one can credibly argue that George Weigel, Sandro Magister, or myself for that matter, are so-called left-wing Catholics. Besides, I reject the importation of secular political categories into the Church.

    I am sure that His Eminence is a nice man, a sincere man, a man possessed of deeply held convictions, who is proud to be a priest and a cardinal. However, none of this excuses the public humiliation to which his disservice subjected the Holy Father. Since we're bantering around links, here's one that gets to the point even better than Weigel- Sandro Magister's
    Double Disaster at the Vatican: Of Governance, and of Communication.

  9. "Now, let’s consider that for a moment: Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos is in his late 70s; he has spent much of his priestly life offering the New Mass."

    This seems to be the germain point. The good Cardinal, for all his love of the old Mass, remained obedient. Obedience to the present authority, to Peter, means following a road we don't plan or construct.

    The Cardinal was not hanging out in basements. Let's just think about that. What does following mean?


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...