It is my desire with this short brief to place into the hands of the SSPX leadership the needed tools for their arsenal against the errors of conciliarism. I prepare this for those representatives of the SSPX who will be meeting up with representatives of the Vatican this coming October 26 and days following to begin formal theological discussions as to the differences between Catholicism and Conciliarism.
Whatever else one may think of the SSPX, this is no time for partisan internecine attacks on the weakness of the SSPX in general or its "position" on various matters, or even of its current leader His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay. The whole Church has a significant stake in the outcome of these discussions, and the last thing anyone should want is for Bishop Fellay and company to be browbeaten into accepting philosophically or theologically the fundamental basis of all that went wrong at Vatican II.
No doubt they will already have much of their response to Vatican claims prepared, and hopefully much of what I have to say here would be among it. If they are not aware of all the points mentioned herein, then they go in ill-equipped, and WILL lose.
If any reader of mine has the ear of any of the following who are to participate in these discussions, namely any of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta (Director of the Seminary Nuestra Señora Corredentora de La Reja in Argentina), Father Benoît de Jorna (Director of the Séminaire International Saint-Pie X of Ecône in Switzerland), Father Jean-Michel Gleize (Professor of Ecclesiology at the seminary of Ecône), or Father Patrick de La Rocque (Prior of the Priory of Saint Louis in Nantes in France), please pass this article on to them for their full and free use and reference (direct or indirect, credited or uncredited) to this article or any of the points contained herein, for these discussions.
From the report given by Robert Moynihan (Letter #33, reporting from Rome), one early point meant to be discussed is Lumen Gentium's mention of the infamous "subsists in" clause. With all the announcements to the effect that "He has decided, in effect, to reopen formal debate on the Second Vatican Council and its teaching," no doubt Benedict XVI and company come into these discussion having faced some considerable pressure not to accept any criticisms of Vatican II nor to entertain seriously any possible objections. Certainly, if they CAN overcome that pressure and genuinely listen instead of merely attempting to impose their own interpretation, then for that they can be justly commended and given credit where credit is due. So what about that interpretation?
Point one: Benedict XVI's Interpretation.
Even were the interpretation Benedict XVI wishes to place on Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" phrase possible, the fact remains that another later on could, and, with at least equal if not superior claim, interpret it otherwise.
Even an attempt to promulgate formally and publicly some harmless interpretation of "subsists in" could itself be subsequently interpreted otherwise. I realize that Benedict XVI (or those speaking on his behalf if he himself is not present, but henceforth herein I shall personify the group he plans to send as if they were Benedict XVI himself) desires to expound an innocuous (or at least innocuous sounding) interpretatation of "subsists in." I assume that's how he actually interprets it within his own mind. Though I have serious doubts that even he entertained any such interpretation back at the time of the Council, he may no doubt readily claim otherwise, and really, that is neither here nor there.
And do not let yourself be distracted into focusing on the "subsists" part to the exclusion of the "in" part. For the sentence containing it would have genuinely been innocuous had it read that the Mystical Body of Christ "subsists AS" the Catholic Church. By using the word "in" instead of "as," a definite dis-identification of the Mystical Body of Christ from the catholic church was intended, whether everyone present was cognizant of that or not.
Point two: The Grammar of "Subsists in." The grammar of Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" paragraph does not admit any such innocuous interpretation as Benedict XVI might wish to put forth.
Undeniably, the phrase could be called "ambiguous." In precisely the same sense, a reference to "true Gods" (plural) would also be ambiguous in the sense that the plural of "Gods" could mean two, or three, or five, or ten, or twenty, or a million, or almost any other number of true "Gods" (even zero). But one interpretation such a phrase does not admit is for the number to be exactly one, as in the ONE true God (singular). And no amount of focusing on the word "true" can make the phrase "true Gods" at all true in any real sense. To say that the Mystical Body of Christ merely "subsists in" a church might well allow for any number of possible relationships between that church and the Mystical Body of Christ, but one relationship explicitly ruled out by such a phrase is that of intrinsically an absolutely perfect and co-extensive identity between them.
At this point perhaps, I suppose the Vatican interlocuter could posit that Benedict XVI, as the supreme living lawgiver, is therefore the supreme interpreter of what the statement means, and interprets it as one of absolute identity. But as this is not possible (grammatically), it cannot constitute a real or valid interpretation. For example, I grant there is some room for interpretation of even such a simple sentence as "A cat sits on a mat." For example, for our meaning of "cat" might we also include the possibility of its being a bobcat or a civet? And what do we mean by sit? Sit upright in a chair like some nursery story cat in a drawing, or only in any of some number of various real feline sitting positions? And so forth. But there is no valid way of interpreting such a sentence as meaning that the cat is walking about somewhere else, far from any mat.
It also doesn't do to "accept it" on the basis of an innocuous interpretation, when in fact (as further points will expand upon), the statement, once accepted (on whatever terms) then gets used in a manner quite inconsistent with that innocuous interpretation. Suppose I agree to sell you my car "together with any possessions of mine internally associated with it" (meaning, as I thought we both understood it at the point of sale, the car itself plus anything of mine accidently or purposely left inside it, such as some coins or buttons that fell between the cushions, or an extra tire jack and some oily old rags in the trunk. But then you take that agreement to mean not only the car itself (and things inside it) but also the garage that housed the car, together with all of its other contents, and also the attached house of the garage that housed the car, together with everything in that house, and so forth. Would that be fair? Certainly not to me! I only meant to sell off the car.
Point three: The Rest of Vatican II. Much of what makes the rest of Vatican II's documents so unprecedented takes its roots in a different (and more grammatically obvious) meaning of Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" phrase from what Benedict XVI would have us believe that it means.
How can one justify the formerly unheard of claims that other "churches" and "ecclesial communities" can be themselves sources of grace (as spoken of in Unitatis Redintegratio, for example) for souls to thereby attain Heaven, unless "subsists in" really is meant to extend a status of belonging to the Mystical Body of Christ (and even the Teaching and Jurisdiction-holding hierarchy thereof) to these various other religious bodies and religions in general? How could Unitatis Redintegratio say "Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.
It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church." unless Lumen Gentium said "This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity."
As we know, Yves Congar wrote, "The problem remains if Lumen Gentium strictly and exclusively identifies the Mystical Body of Christ with the Catholic Church, as did Pius XII in Mystici Corporis. Can we not call it into doubt when we observe that not only is the attribute "Roman" missing, but also that one avoids saying that only Catholics are members of the Mystical Body. Thus they are telling us (in Gaudium et Spes) that the Church of Christ and of the Apostles subsistit in, is found in the Catholic Church. There is consequently no strict identification, that is exclusive, between the Church of Christ and the "Roman" Church. Vatican II admits, fundamentally, that non-Catholic christians are members of the Mystical Body and not merely ordered to it.' [emphasis added]"
But as seen just above that, the reading of "subsists in" used in the succeeding documents of Vatican II is therefore clearly with the understanding that the visible, legal, and hierarchal Mystical Body of Christ is not to be limited to even any "catholic church" but extended to all "churches" and "ecclesial communities" and religions of every sort. This therefore demonstrates that the grammatical interpretations of "subsists in" by such figures as Yves Congar and Leonard Boff are not, as Benedict XVI might wish to have us believe, mere isolated opinions of some few individuals "out of step" with the official teachings of Vatican II, but in fact fully in accord with it.
In point of fact, another prominent theologian, a certain Fr. Francis A Sullivan, Society of Jesus (Jesuit) in expounding upon the teachings of one Karl Rahner, writes in his book, Salvation Outside the Church, on pages 145 and 180-181:
During the 1964 period the council voted on its final approval of the revised text, with the result that on November 21, Pope Paul VI was able to promulgate the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church known as Lumen Gentium. On the same date, Paul VI also promulgated the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio. With the promulgation of those two conciliar texts, an extraordinary change took place in official Catholic doctrine about the salvation of non-Catholic Christians. Up until the 1963 draft, as we have seen, the official doctrine was that since there is only one church of Christ, which is exclusively identified with the Roman Catholic Church, it follows that the Catholic Church is the only ecclesial means of salvation, and that, therefore salvation for other Christians must also come through the Catholic Church, by virtue of their implicit desire to belong to it. The recognition, both in Lumen Gentium and in the Decree on Ecumenism, of the ecclesial value of the other Christian churches and communities introduced a profound change in our understanding of the way that other Christians reach salvation. This change is so significant that in my opinion "No salvation outside the church" is no longer a problem for Catholic theology as far as the members of the other Christian churches are concerned. In the light of Vatican II, we can now recognize their own churches as the ecclesial means by which non-Catholic Christians are being saved...
Other Catholic theologians have described, more explicitly than Rahner has done here, the things that can serve as secular mediations of grace and salvation for people who profess no religion, and consider themselves atheists. Yves Congar, for instance, has observed that among such people one finds those who unselfishly devote their lives to such transcendent values as Duty, Peace, Justice, Fraternity, Humanity. He describes such absolute values, which are worthy of unconditional love, as capable of serving as incognitos of God for those inculpably lacking any explicit religion. But of all such mediations of grace, he insists that the preeminent one is the "mystery of the neighbor." It is the other person who is most worthy of self-sacrificing love, and through whom the atheist who offers such love reaches out to God whom he does not know.
Gustave Thils has developed the thesis that some kind of mediation of grace is available to everyone, describing various examples of "individual" and "collective" mediations, through which, with or without any practice of religion, people can arrive at the attitudes of faith and love which are essential for their salvation. As examples of individual mediations he mentions the law written in hearts, the "seeds of the Word," interior illumination, and conscience; as collective mediations he names the covenants of God with humanity, the divine "dispositions," general revelation, and non-biblical wisdom and prophetism. His thesis is that there is no one for whom God does not provide some such mediation, whether of a religious or a secular nature, whereby the person can respond to God in such a way as to reach salvation.
These reflections of Congar and Thils should make it obvious that Karl Rahner is not the only Catholic theologian who recognizes that both non-Christian religions and secular realities can serve as mediations of grace and salvation for people who do not share Christian faith. It occurs to me that, by presenting only Rahner's thought in this chapter, and mentioning the criticisms which some Catholic theologians have made of his theories, I may have left the reader with the impression that Rahner represents an isolated, or at least minority, position on these questions among Catholic theologians. The fact is that, apart from questions of terminology such as "anonymous Christianity," and with differences of emphasis and detail, Rahner's position that both non-Christian religions and secular realities must be recognized as serving as mediations of salvation for non-Christians is undoubtedly the position of "mainstream" Catholic theology today. In its favor one can cite such representative Catholic theologians as Wolfgang Beinert, Yves Congar, Jacques Dupius, Johannes Feiner, Piet Fransen, Heinrich Fries, Walter Kasper, Hans Küng, Joseph Ratzinger, Otto Semmerlroth, Bernard Sesboüé, Gustave Thils, and Hans Waldenfels.
From all of that it has to be clear that the views of Leonard Boff and Yves Congar on the meaning of "subsists in" are therefore quite in sync with the views held by Karl Rahner, Gustave Thils, and quite a host of modernists, including even (interestingly enough) one "Joseph Ratzinger" himself as well (at least at some point, though clearly not now).
Point four: Subsequent Actions. Much of what Paul VI, John Paul II and now even Benedict XVI have done is inexplicable and unjustifiable, unless Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" phrase means that other churches, in fact anyone who hangs out their shingle as any sort of minister, religious or even secular, is therefore a canonically recognized source and means of God's own grace, sanctification, and truth.
How could Benedict XVI have recommended to the Chinese Catholics to have recourse to the schismatic Chinese Patriotic church, unless "subsists in" means that the Chinese Patriotic church is also a hierarchical part of Christ's Mystical Body, duly licensed and empowered to forgive sins and dispense graces of every sort? How could such events as Assisi escaped being the grave sacrilege of "communicatio in sacris," unless "subsists in" means that every person representing every religion in attendance was a duly approved Catholic minister (of at least some sort)? How would it not be "communicatio in sacris" for a Catholic to receive a Hindu religious blessing (as John Paul II recieved)? As one should be able to see, one once accepts "subsists in" and then accepts its true meaning (as believed by at least most Council Fathers, as evidenced throughout the remaining documents of Vatican II, and as held and taught by virtually every current "theologian," and upon which any number of actions can escape scandal only upon that "true meaning" of "subsists in"), then one has in that one gulp accepted the whole range and domain of modernism and modernist revolutionary actions and teachings, and the disease which has crippled the Church ever since. To yield on this one point (of "subsists in") is to yield to the whole thing and deprive all subsequent discussions of any possible value.
Point five: Alien Worship Classically, the Church has always condemned false worship, whether of plainly different religions, or even Christian-style worship when done by and under the auspices of heretics and/or schismatics; only Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" has ever changed that.
Again, that is the whole point of "subsists in." By extending the Mystical Body of Christ to encompass all manner of heretics, schismatics, and other religions of every sort, only then does it become possible to regard that alien worship as salvific for anyone. Up until that point, false worship was of itself at best neutral (in the case of a person in some circumstance of extreme invincible ignorance wanting to do the "right thing" but having no "right person," i. e. valid and lawful representative of God's Own Church, to do it with), or else capable of serving as an actual (but not sanctifying) grace as a step Providentially provided to a soul on its way from depravity (and still in it) towards God's Church. In Sacred Scripture, there is a marked difference between partaking of the "table of demons" from partaking of the "table of the Lord," and any attempt to do both is disingenuous. But now, doing both simultaneously is acceptable because "subsists in" redefines the "table of demons" as now just another "table of the Lord."
Point six: Hermateutics Given the intrinsic break that Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" phrase necessarily causes, it is impossible, however well desired, for there to be any valid "hermaneutics of continuity" between the perennial teaching of the Church and the ecclesiastical free-for-all brought in by "subsists in."
I understand and appreciate the desire to try to make for a "hermaneutics of continuity" since indeed there must always be true continuity between what was and what must always be, for that is basic to the Mark of Apostolicity of the Church. But there can be no continuity between a Church that believes and teaches itself to be God's sole means of salvation on the one hand, and one that believes and teaches not only other (schismatically separated) communities, but even other religions, to be the means of salvation of any individual souls. A "hermaneutic of continuity" might seem "nice," but it has no more reality or validity to it than would a Biblical "hermaneutic of anti-Trinitarianism." In fact, an attempt to apply any "hermeneutic of continuity" to "subsists in" would be at best delusional and at worst outright fraudulent. "Subsists in" is itself the exact breaking point, the severance, between what was and what is.
Point seven: Jurisdiction Given that Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" phrase actually attempts to grant the Catholic Church's salvific power (jurisdiction) to churches and "ecclesial communities" and even religions not answerable to Benedict XVI de jure ("outside the confines"), this impairs his ability fo function infallibly.
For infallibility to occur, a pope must (among other things not relevant to this discussion) speak it to the whole Church, binding them to it as an exercise of his jurisdiction over the whole (earthly Church Militant portion of the) Mystical Body of Christ. But with the Mystical Body of Christ extending outside and beyond his jurisdiction (even here on earth, as "subsists in" would necessarily imply), how can his jurisdiction be any different from that of some lesser patriarch of merely some particular Rite. He can bind those under his authority, but not anyone else, and therefore cannot speak to (and bind in conscience) the entire Mystical Body of Christ. In such a circumstance, how could infallibility even apply to him? And perhaps that might go a long way towards explaining many strange things that have occured since Lumen Gentium's promulgation in 1964.
Point eight: Vatican II Council The claim might be made that "What's done is done and it can't be undone," but that really does not apply to Lumen Gentium with its "subsists in" phrase, and for that matter, to the rest of Vatican II; it is revokable.
Vatican II made claims to being merely a "pastoral" council, concerned with administrative and disciplinary matters only. Even "subsists in" could be properly written off as merely a disciplinary attempt to assign Catholic faculties and jurisdiction to all churches, ecclesial communities, and religions of every sort, and as such, therefore something that can be repudiated. Theoretically, such a thing would be possible, though gravely imprudent (as we have all seen), and in fact null and void in actual effect, with the exception of any schismatic or otherwise separated clergy who, despite their separation, uphold and teach the Catholic Faith whole and entire (such as the SSPX and other traditional clerics).
It's time to realize that despite the fact that there are critics who have argued that Ratzinger should not "dignify" the Society's objections to certain conciliar teachings -- or to the interpretations of those teachings -- by granting such a formal dialogue, and that there had long been an overall policy of viewing the Council as sacrosanct and utterly beyond question, many even in Vatican circles are growing weary of a most problematic Council that has clearly proven to be far more trouble than worth, and that some serious disillusionment with the Council is definitely setting in. For the first time, the idea is being vaguely floated (no doubt at this point as merely a "trial baloon") of reconsidering the Council, which could lead to questioning it, which could lead to challenging it, which could lead to overturning it. Robert Moynihan writes that Benedict XVI "has decided, in effect, to reopen formal debate on the Second Vatican Council and its teaching." It is a first crack, a tiny one I admit, but one nevertheless, in their long-held façade of being utterly and without reservation attached and committed to it.
Bishop Fellay put it quite well when he said, "The solution to the crisis is a return to the past." C. S. Lewis however put it even better when he wrote (in the Preface of his The Great Divorce, "I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power' - or else not."
What goes for an individual soul likewise goes for a whole Church. Everything went askew the moment they all signed up to Lumen Gentium with its "subsists in" phrase, and everything worked thereafter has been like so many further calculations made from a mistaken step. The only way to end the crisis is to go back to that point, fix the problem by eliminating that false step (together with all that followed from it), and this time work it all afresh and anew from the standpoint of Pre-Vatican II theology that (among a host of other things) rejects all schismatic, heretical, and pagan worship as mere partaking of the "table of demons."
If ever Bishop Fellay personally, or the SSPX corporately, should come to accept "subsists in" on any terms (other than as a bad disciplinary law "on the books" that needs to be overturned), then in that one action they will have bought into the whole modernist agenda, for not a particle of that agenda can be defended without "subsists in" somewhere in the background (at least), and a repudiation has to start with that point. And with "subsists in" accepted as some sort of theological proposition, each and every one of the modernist aberrations can be justified. Even if they buy into Benedict XVI's relatively "innocuous" interpretation of "subsists in," in accepting it they will have not only sold off the car, but the garage and house and everthing in them, all for the price of the car alone.
And as for Benedict XVI himself, if he really believes his more "innocuous" take on what "subsists in" means, then it is time for him to realize that the joke has long been on him, as practically everyone else around him knows what it really means, and that what it really means is certainly NOT what he has somehow convinced himself that it means.