In the midst of the shocking sex abuse scandals and cover-ups rocking the Church in America I found, on the front page of a diocesan newspaper, an article stating that a traditional Catholic chapel within the diocese was "not in communion with the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church." The article went on to mention that the "leader" of "that 'church'" "severed ties with the Catholic Church when he refused to follow directions from the Holy See." The bishop would like anyone with questions about this to call his office.
Naturally, I have questions. But before I call the bishop, I need to get a few things straight. Sometimes a little refresher on "communion with the Holy Father" seems to be in order, because to tell you the truth, sometimes I forget how it all works. I think the summit in Dallas last month brings this home only too clearly.
Without a doubt, the question of communion with Rome is one of the hardest issues for a neophyte Traditional Catholic to stomach until he/she realizes that in the modern Church we are dealing with an illusion rather than authentic communion
Any serious Catholic would shudder at the thought of not being in communion with the Holy See. However, this concept has taken on a paradoxical meaning in keeping with all the new trends in the Church since Vatican II. I wish to make it clear that I love the Holy Father, pray for him daily and keep his picture on my refrigerator along with the rest of my family and loved ones. However, the undeniable evidence which we must face indicates that to be in communion with the Holy Father today means being quiet about the failures of Vatican II along with accepting the New Mass without question, to the detriment of our faith. Indeed, it was Saint Catharine of Siena who told Pope Gregory IX to his face, "Alas, Most Holy Father! At times obedience to you leads to eternal damnation."
In the recent attempted negotiations between Rome and the SSPX, there appeared to be no problem with sweeping the excommunications out of the way. However, allowing priests the freedom to celebrate the Tridentine Mass would be a dangerous move because it might depreciate "the value of the Holy Mass as it is celebrated in today's Church" (Letter from Cardinal Castrillion Hoyos to Bishop Fellay of the SSPX, May 7 2001). In other words, protecting the status of the Novus Ordo Mass is paramount.
As Bishop Bernard Fellay expressed in his letter, The Campos Situation, March 1, 2001, before the priests of Campos were given "accepted status" by Rome, they had to accept an "agreement in principle on the [Second Vatican]Council (although nuances and some conclusions would be open to discussion)…… Furthermore, Father Cottier, the theologian of the Papal household, did not use any other argument: the acceptation of the Council is manifestly the major and determining factor. After it comes the acceptation of the New Mass."
Interestingly, the status of the faithful is apparently never mentioned in either of these negotiations with Rome. In fact, all the ordinations, marriages, confessions and other sacraments received by the people at the hands of the bishop and priests who have not been "in communion" with the Holy See are not even questioned. Nor does Rome appear to be concerned that these priests may have been teaching error to the faithful for all these years, (which of course they haven't). The only requirement is that the priests be muzzled regarding criticism of Vatican II and the New Mass. This is astonishing behavior in my estimation, and shows the real priorities of the modern Church.
Looking at the rubble piled high all around us, we have to ask ourselves if the aforementioned newspaper article is correct in stating that "refusing to follow the directions from the Holy See sever[s] one's ties with the Catholic Church." The painful truth is hard to swallow, because only Traditional Catholics get the shaft on this one.
For three decades, an appalling number of priests and bishops have refused to instruct the faithful regarding the truth about contraception. The living proof (or non-living, if you want to get technical) can be seen in every diocese and in every parish no matter how small. These priests and bishops remain in communion with the Holy See. Indeed, two-thirds of the bishops who have covered up the scandal and sexual abuse sins remain in communion with the Holy See, but not those who seek to live their Catholic Faith as it has been taught for 2000 years!
The sacrament of Penance has been practically obliterated, with priests allowing an embarrassingly insignificant amount of time for confessions while increasing the number of Eucharistic ministers because the communion lines are so long. Confessions have been quietly suppressed because too many priests don't talk about sin and they don't like to sit in the confessional. Instead, they began practicing general or collective absolution in order to save themselves from ever having to enter a confessional. Despite this disobedience which has flourished throughout the land for decades, we all know these priests and bishops remain in communion with the Holy See, even if they are now getting a verbal wrist-slapping from the Pope. (Misericordia Dei)
Many women religious are rigorously promoting ecospirituality, feminist theology and global spirituality complete with shamans, Circle Dance, and an agenda right in step with the New World Order. You guessed it; they're still in communion with the Holy See.
Well known dissenters such as Fr. Richard McBrien openly contest and lambaste every statement coming from the Pope, while continuing to brainwash students at Notre Dame in heresy. Not only does McBrien retain his position at this prestigious "once Catholic" university, he continues to be in communion with the Holy See.
Priests across this country have neglected the religious education of the faithful for 30 years. That's an entire generation of Catholics who got fluffy notions of "how does this make you feel?" to the accompaniment of "Kumbaya" without ever learning the first thing about Catholicism. Priests, bishops and nuns actually stood by the printing presses churning out tons of theologically inferior, often disgusting materials to be used in every Catholic parish, all the while remaining in communion with the Holy See.
There are priests and bishops who remain virtually silent regarding the horrors of abortion and the sinfulness of this callous act. You and I both know that this doesn't tarnish their communion with the Holy See.
These are only a few of the things that are tolerated decade after decade by the Holy See. However, if a priest returns to all that was taught and practiced by the Church for centuries prior to Vatican II, he is no longer "in communion with the Holy See" and is a scoundrel, a schismatic.
The Church has for centuries worked hard at being true to the task given by our Lord, to go forth into the world, baptizing in the Name of the Triune God and preaching all that Christ commanded. Something drastic and inexplicable happened in the 1960's which has profoundly altered the Church's course. Those who refuse to follow blindly will be persecuted, perhaps making the front page of the diocesan newspaper.
Considering all that has happened since Vatican II, topped by the farce that went on in Dallas a few weeks ago, wouldn't you think Rome would have taken more of a hands-on role in this terrible scandal that has rocked the American Church? You would think it would be priority number one on the Pope's list. You would think so.
Now I like ZENIT News Agency. They have the most candid way of revealing all the interesting little items the Vatican is involved in on a daily basis that would otherwise escape the eyes of most Catholics. What really screams out when these headlines pop up on my computer screen is the fact that while the Vatican keeps a close eye on the world and has something to say about nearly everything going on under the sun, routinely telling governments and nations how to address certain issues, the Holy See seems to have no idea what's going on in the Catholic Church - especially in the United States.
Just to lighten things up after the public discovery of the sex scandals had been plastered on every headline coast to coast and internationally, ZENIT reported that "as the World Cup championship continued, John Paul II appealed to those who engage in soccer and other sports to be 'witnesses of fraternity', especially by promoting initiatives in favor of children's rights" (ZENIT 2002-06-09, Soccer Can Be "Witness of Fraternity," Says John Paul II).
While the U.S. bishops were preparing to meet in Dallas to address the very, very serious issue of homosexual-predatory priests, on the Pope's agenda was a symposium on the environment, appealing to the people of the world to take better care of the earth. "John Paul II and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople signed a historic joint document on the environment, an event filled with ecumenical overtones…..The Pope participated via a satellite connection from the Vatican." Catholic Patriarch Angelo Scola of Venice addressed the symposium with the astounding idea that, "religions are precise resources for the construction of civilizations in reciprocal dialogue" (ZENIT 2002-06-11).
Catholics everywhere will surely find comfort in the fact that during these times of devastation within the U.S. Church, the Pope is sending a papal envoy to visit us. "John Paul II appointed Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as special envoy for the Sept. 2 dedication of the new Los Angeles cathedral" (ZENIT 2002-06-12). Readers of The Wanderer may have to wait a while before they get any reaction to their requests for a papal legate to clean up the Church in America. Meanwhile, it doesn't look like the Vatican has adopted the view that Cardinal Roger Mahony's temple is an abomination to Catholics everywhere.
During this same time period, the cross for World Youth Day made headlines, arriving "in Toronto after a trek that took it to places as diverse as Alaska and ground zero in New York."
While each of these events may have merit in some form, they seem so trivial when compared with the real devastation to the faithful who have been betrayed by their own bishops. Cardinal Bernard Law could very well be indicted by a Grand Jury for his cover-up of abuses in Boston and elsewhere. But he remains in communion with the Holy See.
Catholics are in a state of utter confusion. One estimate making the rounds says that for every seven Catholics, one Catholic will leave the Church over the present sex scandal. Considering how many of the faithful have been teetering on the edge for years due to lack of proper catechesis and the reprehensible state of the ever changing modern church, this should arouse great pity and compassion among all Catholics.
Without pretending to know the load of responsibilities the Holy Father must shoulder, permit me to offer a suggestion that would seem appropriate to the present crisis from the viewpoint of an ordinary Catholic.
I think the Pope should have cancelled World Youth Day. The moment the headlines broke the news, right after "consulting" with the U.S. Cardinals, it would have been appropriate to cancel the party. While I'm not opposed to some of the celebration of youth, which WYD is really all about, I think Catholic young people could benefit from facing the reality that is staring all age groups squarely in the face regarding the state of the Church. Youth today could learn a great deal by realizing that when more important matters surface, you often have to change your plans.
It would be a great example to young and old alike if the Pope addressed the entire Catholic world via satellite, just like he did for the environmental symposium, (yes, it's technologically possible and most parishes could be linked up) and tell us that instead of going to Toronto, he would be making a trip to the United States to meet with the bishops. While here, he could be sending envoys to each and every seminary, not just to survey the homosexual problem, but to overhaul the entire method of teaching and priestly formation, and to implement sound theology.
Since the Holy Father would be on serious, official business, his visit would be quiet and without fanfare. Only the bishops would be attending Mass with the Pope, and there would be no banners or chants of "JPII! We love you!" Any public statements to the faithful from the Holy Father during his visit could be televised from a discreet, undisclosed location. In preparation for the Pope's visit, all Catholic parishes would be asked to take part in a public novena to the Holy Spirit.
Would such an event occur, it could actually convince a multitude of Catholics that they have not been abandoned by Rome. If the Pope made it his priority to come to the United States, a lot of priests and bishops would be shaking in their shoes, thinking, "He really means business this time." The Supreme Pontiff could effect a restoration of trust among the faithful toward the hierarchy if we could see that the Pope was really in charge of the Church.
It wouldn't be a good idea, however, to hold your breath in hopes that anything remotely similar will occur. This would be a very serious and difficult task for the Holy Father, without "ecumenical overtones" and it would directly infringe upon the holy cow of "collegiality." Considering the Pope's frail health, it would almost be asking too much. But I'd like to ask anyway, even though I know that a big celebration with young people from around the world sounds like a lot more fun.
Meanwhile many of those bishops who were in Dallas have returned to their dioceses and given lip service while, in reality, doing nothing but covering their own derrieres. It would seem that they are not concerned for their flocks, only how they can fleece them out of more funds; monies they can use to continue secret payments to victims for the specific purpose of covering up the sins of the fathers. Yet they all remain in communion with the Holy See. While all this churns in the underbelly of corruption, priests of the Society of St. Pius X and other faithful Catholics, all who have been totally loyal to the Sacred Deposit of the Faith as set down by holy Mother the Church up until the revolution in the sixties are considered outsiders - black sheep.
The difference is these "black sheep" have good shepherds, shepherds who care for their flocks and feed them with the nourishment of the truths and traditions set in stone by the infallible Council of Trent. Yet they are considered 'not of the fold'! Is that ridiculous or what?
Have so many forgotten our Lord's words in Matthew 24: 9-13, 15? "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death; and you shall be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then shall many be scandalized, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved...When therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place; he that readeth let him understand."
The reality is that our comfort must be found in the fact that Our Lord knows the plans He has for His Church, and one day they will come to fruition despite all the handicaps of the human element which He allows to steer the ship. Don't give up, my Catholic friends. No matter how strong the headwinds blow, Christ Jesus is still the Captain.
Those who are of the illusion that the Church today is on the right path - and the homosexual problems and cover-ups of sexual scandals have all been blown out of proportion by the media and other Catholic bashers - are in for a rude awakening.
With that in mind it is the responsibility of every serious Catholic to put aside the politics, unmask the illusion, and ask the painful question, "How can I be true to my Lord and His Church while compromising the TRUTH?"
Be prepared for sleepless nights, many tears and great sorrow when reality hits.