"Divorced from the ultimate goal of the salvation of souls, all Church law loses its meaning, its purpose, its reason for being there at all. But some Neo-Catholics, at least implicitly, would have us believe that obedience is the highest good, that if a command or prohibition comes from John Paul II, then it must be obeyed, no matter what. But then they have made Church law autonomous of everything and made it its own reason for being. It borders on the Kantian "the law needs to be obeyed in all circumstances because it is the law, no questions allowed." This is not Catholic philosophy; this is Kantian error! For that pernicious heretic Immanuel Kant (d. 1804), circumstances didn't matter. You had to follow the law because it was the law; period. It was a matter of duty, and circumstances that could alter the situation didn't count. Do the Neo-Catholics really wish to align themselves with Kant? "
I pray that my series on the illicit but necessary episcopal consecrations of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of 1988 has shown people the truth about the matter at hand and the seriousness of the crisis in which the Church finds herself these days. His Grace had to do what he did for the salvation of souls. In his 1923 encyclical Studiorum Ducem, Pope Pius XI repeated again that the salvation of souls is the "chief task and peculiar mission of the Church" (paragraph 1). If the Church were ever to fail in this, she would have failed in her primary reason for being. Hence, Archbishop Lefebvre knew he was doing the right thing when he opposed the papal prohibition for the consecrations and thereby ensured the possibility of salvation for countless souls who would otherwise have fallen into the hands of the modernists, modernists in miter, in cassock, in cope.
A common canonical adage is that "against necessity, there is no law," or "necessity knows no law." In his constitution "Exiit qui seminat" of August 14, 1279, Pope Nicholas III confirmed this principle: "one is to be excused from every [positive] law on account of extreme necessity" - but for the Neo-Catholic, not only does this principle, that against necessity there is no law, not exist; he actually claims the opposite is true: "against law there is no necessity" [I wish to thank Bro. Alexis Bugnolo for pointing this out to me]. And, if you allow me this little cynical comment, they would say there certainly is no necessity against the laws or wishes of John Paul II!
But of course this is nonsense. The canonical prohibition against illicit episcopal consecrations is a law made by the Church, and its ultimate purpose is to ensure the salvation of souls, inasmuch the Pope needs to have an eye on who is getting ordained by whom so that no dissenters, no heretics, no schismatics, nor anyone else who would harm the souls of the faithful could become a bishop. Since this law is a law made by the Church and not a divine law, it can be dispensed from in cases of necessity (of course a divine law cannot be dispensed from!). That such a case of necessity existed can hardly be questioned now, but in order to exonerate him from excommunication, all that needed to be the case was that Archbishop Lefebvre thought such a state of necessity existed.
Divorced from the ultimate goal of the salvation of souls, all Church law loses its meaning, its purpose, its reason for being there at all. But some Neo-Catholics, at least implicitly, would have us believe that obedience is the highest good, that if a command or prohibition comes from John Paul II, then it must be obeyed, no matter what. But then they have made Church law autonomous of everything and made it its own reason for being. It borders on the Kantian "the law needs to be obeyed in all circumstances because it is the law, no questions allowed." This is not Catholic philosophy; this is Kantian error! For that pernicious heretic Immanuel Kant (d. 1804), circumstances didn't matter. You had to follow the law because it was the law; period. It was a matter of duty, and circumstances that could alter the situation didn't count. Do the Neo-Catholics really wish to align themselves with Kant?
In this final installment for the series, I wish to give a brief wrap-up as well as dissect an account of "conversion" from the SSPX back to Novus Ordoism found in the book Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church, edited by Donna Steichen (Ignatius Press, 1999). There currently seems to be a flare-up against traditionalists among Neo-Catholics because they are realizing we're becoming more and more of a threat to their New Religion as more and more people are realizing that our position actually makes sense. You know, the "I stand with the Pope" line starts to lose its force once people examine the issues thoroughly.
So, besides Donna Steichen's recent book, editor Patrick Madrid's Surprised By Truth 3 also features a "conversion" story from traditionalism (specifically, SSPX) to Novus Ordoism by the notorious Pete Vere. And the same Patrick Madrid teamed up with the same Pete Vere in a tape set entitled "More Catholic Than the Pope," responding to traditionalist arguments. As you can see, rhetoric is again at the forefront: "more Catholic than the Pope." Sounds great, and the average listener who's not that well-versed in the issues is quickly convinced just by the title. But there's no substance behind it: of course one can be more Catholic than the Pope if the Pope is steeped in heresy or other serious error! There is no guarantee anywhere that the Pope will always be the most Catholic, the most orthodox of all people on earth. It would be great if it were so, but alas, that's just not the case.
In general, I have seen a rush to judgment on the part of some Neo-Catholics with regards to the issue of schism and traditionalists. Traditionalists are very quickly labeled "schismatics," as though this canonical offense could lightly be hurled at anyone who does not deviate one iota from perennial Catholic doctrine. Do these people not realize that they will one day have to give an account of every word they have spoken? Do they not realize how serious a sin defamation of character is? How many people remain in the Novus Ordo because they wrongly fear being schismatic, all because some loonies have rashly judged traditional Catholics to be "schismatic"?
Of course it is tempting to become schismatic. It is very tempting to just throw in the towel and say, "This Pope has no authority over me." And anyone who says that is a schismatic indeed, and I condemn that. And if there are any such traditionalists, they are schismatics indeed and therefore are not part of the Holy Catholic Church.
Talking about schism…..earlier this year, a diocesan bishop in Italy permitted an SSPX priest to say the Holy Mass in his diocese on at least one occasion. If the SSPX is in schism, why is the bishop not being disciplined for allowing a schismatic Mass? At least to my knowledge, no disciplinary action against him has been taken. But letting a schismatic say Mass in public is a most serious offense. This just goes to show once again that Rome has a very ambiguous stance on the SSPX. I believe that Rome itself no longer knows what to believe or say about the SSPX. I think it's just one big mess over there.
Anyway, one very outspoken proponent of the false thesis that Archbishop Lefebvre engaged in a schismatic act on June 30, 1988, is canon lawyer Pete Vere. He obtained his degree rather recently from a pontifical university in Canada and is himself a former adherent of the SSPX. It seems it is the same with former traditionalists as it is with former Catholics: they're the worst.
Leaving that aside for the moment, though I have not engaged in a comprehensive critique of his canon law master's thesis "A Canonical History of Archbishop Lefebvre's Schism" (even though I may do just that if it should prove necessary), I have pretty much countered in substance the main arguments put forth in that thesis paper in my previous Q&A installments. In this conclusion of the series, I wish to present in a succinct manner why Vere's arguments do not establish the conclusion he wants them to establish:
(1) There is no law or canon in the Church which defines the state of
(2) There is no law or canon in the Church which says the state of necessity
must be "objectively verified"
--and even if there were, "objectively verified" has not been defined; and
--if it were defined in the manner Vere wishes, namely that "objectively verified" means "confirmed by the Vatican hierarchy," this definition would automatically render the nature of necessity impotent inasmuch as it would exclude there being precisely such a necessity as the one in which we now find ourselves (namely, that the Vatican has at least materially lost the Faith); and
--Canon 1323 7° suggests that the state of necessity cannot be subject to verification by Vatican authorities because then how could the canon make an exception for those who mistakenly think there is a state of necessity "through no personal fault"?
(3) While it is true that the mind of the Supreme Legislator was known with regards to the illicit consecrations incurring excommunication, the Supreme Legislator's mind was, though authoritative, not binding because of the injustice incurred by the excommunication, namely, the injustice that henceforth no real Catholics would be ordained bishops, and anyone who would dare to consecrate in defiance would be declared to have excommunicated himself
(4) Since no Church law forbids the use of the "state of necessity" defense
when the mind of the Supreme Legislator is known, Archbishop Lefebvre was allowed to use the clause in his defense
(5) The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (PCILT) cannot make up laws after the fact and then enforce them retroactively
(6) The PCILT, or the Supreme Legislator, do not have the authority to
define bindingly whether or not a state of necessity is present, because
there is no Church law, canon, or any other indication that they possess this authority; besides, this does not square with reason since it is possible that the state of necessity is enhanced when the PCILT or Supreme Legislator do not recognize a given necessity
(7) The PCILT's statement that it is never necessary to consecrate bishops
against or without the will of the Pope is arbitrary and not based on any
Church law or canon. In fact, through the hypothetical but quite possible
scenario that I have presented in
Q&A part III [http://www.dailycatholic.org/ issue/2003Apr/aprmdi20.htm],
I have given evidence to the contrary; hence, the PCILT is wrong in claiming that it is never necessary to consecrate bishops illicitly, and therefore its ruling is unjust and wrong, and hence not binding
(8) The existence of the state of necessity can be objectively verified by
anyone who has eyes to see; the systematic disintegration of traditional
Catholicism is obvious-but there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
This, in sum, is my response to Pete Vere, and I would be happy to interact with him further on this if he so wishes.
I will now proceed to examine the conversion story "My Flight from Vatican II" by Mary Epcke Kaiser, found on pp. 299-322 of Prodigal Daughters. I will do this because it contains typical arguments from Neo-Catholics against traditionalism and the SSPX in general.
In the first dozen pages or so, Kaiser tells her life story, how she was raised Catholic, became a secularist, then returned to the Church, became a traditionalist, adhered to the SSPX, and even moved to St. Mary's, Kansas, which is to SSPX traditionalists sort of what Salt Lake City, Utah, is to Mormons. She writes that when she desired to return to the Church after her years of secularism in the 1960's, she went to Mass (the Novus Ordo then) and herself admits:
"I had to look around to be sure I was really in a Catholic church. The Mass was not greatly different from any Protestant service I had attended, and I was horrified" (p. 306) !!! What a stunning admission! What would any Pope before John XXIII, or even including him, have thought of such a scenario?
Alas, despite this experience, Kaiser nevertheless abandoned her traditionalism later on. But we're not quite there yet; first we have to follow her journey further. Fed up with the changes in the Newchurch, Kaiser started going to an SSPX Mass exclusively, and having received her teaching certification, she even applied for a teaching position with the SSPX - which she received - at St. Mary's Academy and College in St. Mary's, Kansas. It was there that she says she sensed an "attitude of male superiority." She then claims that
"if anything could have made me a feminist, it would have been the SSPX" (p. 313).
Oh boy. Now, obviously I have no idea what exactly-or even more generally-she encountered. She says she knows the husband is the head of the family, but she feels that it was not emphasized enough that the wife, the woman, is equally important. Since she doesn't care to give any more details, though she seems to have no qualms about making the accusation nevertheless, I cannot comment on it. But it may very well be that what she thought was an unjust "male superiority" complex was nothing but healthy Catholic morality that isn't well-received nowadays in a feminist culture, which everybody who is alive today has experienced and which many, often without noticing and without even meaning to, have absorbed simply by being exposed to it. For instance, how many otherwise godly women see nothing wrong with wearing slacks or pants nowadays, or even shorts? The Revolution of the 60's has blinded so many, it is truly amazing.
Ah well, and now the accusations against the SSPX and traditionalism start coming. Says Kaiser:
"Externals seemed to take on an exaggerated importance to those in the society [of St. Pius X]; often a woman's orthodoxy was judged by whether she wore a chapel veil or slacks, or whether she displayed outward acts of piety" (p. 313).
Groan! No wonder Kaiser is in the Novus Ordo fold now. She seems to fit right in. Now, about the "externals," since she gives no examples, it is hard to comment on that. Perhaps she only has this impression because she had been exposed to too much "it's all in your heart" nonsense. I don't know. But I would be seriously distressed to see a woman who is a traditional Catholic wearing slacks or deliberately refusing to wear a chapel veil. If we know that this woman knows better, it is indeed cause for concern (all revolutions start with little things, and many of them with good intentions).
Of course, this is entirely different with a Novus Ordo woman who's a first-time visitor at an SSPX chapel and is just discovering the traditional Mass. You would not expect her to know how to dress or to wear a chapel veil, and lots of prudence must be used when trying to help her dress traditionally. Probably a good first step is to just have her come more and more often, and by the grace of God, she'll soon realize that she's the only woman wearing pants, or the only woman without a mantilla.
About the "outward acts of piety," I have no idea what she's talking about. But her complaints get worse:
"Woe to any Catholic of either sex who received Communion in the hand" (p. 313). Yes, woe to him indeed! What in the world did Kaiser learn during her traditional years?? In my (SSPX) parish, no one would be able to receive Holy Communion in his hands!
She then has the guts to add:
"Clearly, the ordinary flaws of human nature had not been left behind, outside the society" (p. 313).
Of course, if she sees guarding orthodoxy, proper dress code and manners, liturgical piety, etc., "flaws of human nature," then indeed we should hope these have not been left behind! But in general, let me say that as regards true flaws of human nature, of course these are present in SSPX parishes. They're present everywhere. Unfortunately, we're all sinners. If Kaiser thought she was joining a perfect religious community, she thought wrong. She'll have to look elsewhere for that, but let me drop a hint: she won't find it.
Her further complaints show the picture of a woman who has not really understood how serious the situation in the Church is, and hence she was "offended" by the entirely prudent advice of SSPX clergy. Kaiser:
"Our priests discouraged us from attending any but a Tridentine Rite Mass, for fear of contagion with a false spirit of Catholicism" (p. 214). Horror of horrors! These priests actually fear for the salvation of your soul. Of course, we can't have that. That's not "charitable." The SSPX priests very rightly forbid going to any other rite of Mass, because even though a Marionite rite may be traditional (in the Eastern tradition), we must remember that our fight and resistance is not just about the Mass. The Eastern Catholic rites are just as Novus Ordo - they fully approve of Vatican II, they do not speak out against Assisi, they endorse the New Catechism, etc. And of course to a Novus Ordo mass, we cannot go under any circumstance. So what's Kaiser's problem?
She says further that it was
"commonly said that anyone would lose his soul if he went back to the Novus Ordo" (p. 315). So, what's the problem with that? She doesn't say. She seems to take it for granted that people find these assertions outrageous, but she doesn't offer any arguments for why this should be unacceptable.
Next she talks about disobedience and schism. Talking about Archbishop Lefebvre, she says that
"the archbishop seemed, increasingly, to be more at odds with the Pope than in union with him" (p. 316). Increasingly more at odds with the Pope, indeed, but that was because the Pope was increasingly moving further and further away from previous Church teaching and discipline. Kaiser seems to take it for granted that when someone is at odds with the Pope, it is always and necessarily the other person's fault. While this would often be the case in normal times, these post-conciliar times are anything but normal (just look at the Neo-Catholics' cheers when Rome condemns homosexuality-as though this were something supererogatory or heroic, rather than the bare minimum necessity requires). In any case, Kaiser's distress that Lefebvre and the Pope should be at odds was justified-it's just that the problem was with the Pope, not with Lefebvre. Or, please, anyone tell me just which error or heresy Lefebvre held to! Lefebvre never changed his Catholicism; he never "updated" anything. The Pope is the one who did that. So why does the archbishop get blamed? Do you have an answer, Mrs. Kaiser?
Mary Epcke Kaiser relates that it was her future husband who would plant seeds of doubt in her mind about the SSPX. She was at St. Mary's during the mid-1980s, just before the illicit consecrations happened and at a time when a new principal was being installed (I believe it was Fr. Ramon Angles, SSPX, who is still there today). She complains:
"The new principal was a priest I had always respected, . . . [but gradually] he too was denouncing the New Mass and 'Novus Ordo Catholics' from the pulpit" (pp. 315-26).
Of course, if Kaiser never really saw a problem with the New Mass and that it needs to be denounced, or with Novus Ordo Catholicism, then it is not surprising that she would be unhappy about this being denounced from the pulpit. It seems to me that Kaiser was never a real traditionalist to begin with. Why else would she have problems with this? Of course, if a priest always preaches against Novus Ordoism and never about personal holiness, sin, the last things, indulgences, prayer, etc., then there is a problem. But Novus Ordoism is the most serious error going around these days, that is, since it falsely poses as authentic Catholicism. It is quite appropriate, therefore, to bring up the topic again and again and to warn the faithful about it. It's a very "appealing" thing, after all, that is, appealing to sinful man, because it is a compromise with the world, with Protestantism, and with modernism. Therefore, we must be on guard, and God bless any priest who preaches against it!
"…when my husband tried to discuss the matter [i.e., his doubts abot the SSPX] with several of the SSPX priests . . ., they answered his questions about legitimate papal authority and union with Rome by listing ostensible papal abuses" (p. 316). Now, granted, I was not there when this conversation took place. However, I think there is some misinformation in this passage. For one thing, I can guarantee you that the issue was not one of union with Rome, but one of obedience. There is never reason to become schismatic-schism is inherently evil, and no circumstance, no intention, could ever justify it. Hence, union with Rome was not the issue; never has been, never will be. I am very certain that what the SSPX priests in question were trying to do by bringing up "ostensible papal abuses" was to demonstrate that Pope John Paul II has done so much damage to the Church that to disobey him in the matter of episcopal consecrations and perhaps a few other serious matters was necessary for the health and sanity of the Church (which has proven quite true!) and justified. If my conjecture is correct, and I think it is, then Kaiser has-once again-nothing to complain about.
Kaiser continues her expression of dissatisfaction,
"The quality of one's faith seemed to be measured by the degree to which one was scandalized by those abuses" (p. 316). I don't think it's a matter of faith here, but a matter of orthodoxy. Of course, if you are not scandalized by the Pope kissing the Koran or gleefully recounting the first time he prayed with animists (this is documented!), then yes, I would indeed be suspicious and distressed about your orthodoxy.
Continued on next page
Editor's Note: So many of the post-conciliar bishops today refer to those clinging to the true Roman Catholic traditions that were in vogue for 2000 years prior to the reforms of Vatican II as 'fossils,' 'dinosaurs,' 'old folks who will die off soon.' We beg to differ and offer as proof the youthful wisdom and enthusiasm of the younger generation in the Traditional Insights of Mario Derksen who exemplifies the thinking of many more young men and women today who realize the new thinking of the post-conciliar church does not add up to true Catholic teaching. Thus they long for those traditions so tried and true. His insight shows great promise, optimism and hope for the future of Holy Mother Church.
Note: [bold, brackets and italicized words used for emphasis]
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2003mdi.htm
Late Summer Hiatus Issue
volume 14, no. 34
Mario Derksen's TRADITIONAL INSIGHTS