Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pro-Life Witness and blogging recess

It is Holy Week, and I'll have to take a little break from blogging. Photos of liturgies will appear when I get the chance.

The next Pro-Life Witness is this Saturday - it is a fixed Saturday each month. Please come along if you can. It is a peaceful witness of saying the Rosary together, by the Church of St Anthony of Padua, by the entrance to the John Radcliffe Hospital, the only place in Oxford where abortions take place:

115 Headley Way,Oxford OX3 7SS

The Witness takes place from 3 to 4pm, while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed; tea and coffee are available afterwards.

View Schools and Churches in a larger map

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The attack on celibacy is an attack on marriage

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I have explained why the attack on clerical celibacy is an attack on the priesthood. More surprisingly, perhaps, it is also an attack on marriage.

The first thing to notice - something that The Tablet tendency resolutely refuses to notice - is that marriage is an institution under intense attack, both cultural and legal. The number of people getting married has now fallen to such a low level that the divorce rate has itself begun to sag. No cause for celebration: the only people getting married today are those with a slightly better chance of staying together, because everyone else is just living in sin, a lifestyle of quasi-marriage punctuated by quasi-divorces. The progressive collapse of marriage as the normative context for child-rearing is something whose consequences will unroll like a hideous snake over the next fifty years.
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A institution is this state of collapse, increasingly unrecognised socially or legally, under ceaseless attack by social engineers, ceaselessly mocked by opinion-formers, and relegated to one of many 'lifestyle options', is hardly in a good shape to support the tottering edifice of another important institution, the priesthood. But the attitude that marriage can be slotted alongside the priesthood at this juncture does not, in fact, come from people with a high level of reverence and esteem for marriage. It comes from people pretty contemptuous of it.

Caroline Farrow (@carolinefarrow) put her finger on something very important in a tweet: 'I'm really finding a lot of this celibacy debate offensive. Women are treated as objects upon which men must exercise their lust.'

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Exactly so. For the liberals, marriage is seen as a sexual outlet for men who can't keep their flies done up. As best it is regarded as the source of 'emotional support' for priests who get lonely and don't have a housekeeper to do the cooking. I'm not saying that celibacy doesn't represent a real sacrifice for priests, the giving up of something comforting, good, and important - it certainly does. But what the liberals are missing is that marriage is itself a vocation and a commitment. It is not just a handy bit on the side, a sort of concubinage.

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When a priest is ordained he gives up his life for the Church. When a man marries he gives up his life for his family, the family which does not appear later down the line, when children arrive, but which is represented right away by his wife. A husband gives up his property, he gives up his privacy, he gives up his right to be in a foul mood or to get drunk or lie all day in bed or leave his job to be a bum. He may do those things, of course, but to do them is not only wrong, more seriously wrong than if he were unmarried, but wrong to those in his care, his family, who didn't previously come into the picture. This family have rights over him which are all-encompassing, rights to his very body, to his very life. The seriousness and sacredness of marriage carry with them the impossibility of bigamy, polygamy, concubinage, and adultery. We are warned that even marriage after widowhood, while legitimate, is the lesser way, a way less recommended. While marriage is not absolutely, sacramentally, incompatible with the priesthood, this is something we need to stop and think about. In the West, we have persevered, through thick and thin, in the example of Christ's celibacy. We have stopped to think, and that was our conclusion: the priesthood is to be celibate, exceptional concessions aside.

What the liberals are saying about the reform of priestly celibacy is this: marriage is nothing special. Marriage is no special commitment, it leaves a man still free to do other things, like become a priest. The same people, in many cases, would no doubt say that divorce and remarriage should be allowed, and adultery and fornication are no big deals either.
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So not content with cheapening the priesthood, they cheapen marriage. The cultural and legal cheapening of marriage, particularly since the 1968 Divorce Reform Act, has not led to more marriages, but fewer and fewer marriages. If Catholic liberals have their way and carry this cheapening further, extending it formally to places where marriage was still being taken seriously, and by parallel cheapen the priesthood too, we are not looking at a revival of Catholic life. We are staring into the abyss.

Photos: FSSP ordinations are Wigratzbad 2009; and at Denton 2011; one wedding in the Traditional rite, and another.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The attack on celibacy is an attack on the priesthood

Yesterday I pointed to Dr Peters' observation that the legal manifestations of the Church's concern for clerical celibacy were undermined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and that practice since then had further undermined it. We can't proclaim the importance of celibacy and carry on as if we didn't believe it is important. We have to walk the talk.

That is one aspect of the problem. Another is the facile argument made by liberals that, if you lower the bar on the priesthood by removing the obligation to celibacy, then you'll get more vocations, better vocations, better priests, and everything will be wonderful.

Implicit in this is a very un-liberal suggestion. They wouldn't dare to say it openly; they are 'dog-whistling' it, to use political terminology. 'Are you thinking what we're thinking?' they ask. 'Well you know, married men in the priesthood wouldn't cause us these sex-abuse problems would they? Not like those homosexuals.' Nudge nudge, wink wink. I wonder what The Tablet's homosexual chums think of this argument.

The fact is that men with a disordered sexuality should not be ordained: end of story. Sex abusers - whether their victims are of the same or opposite sex - have a very seriously disordered sexuality; they should have been picked up at an early stage. If they had been, we wouldn't be faced with empty seminaries, because, as a mountain of anecdotal evidence (collected in Michael Rose's Goodbye Good Men) shows, the sexual anarchy of some seminaries in the 1970s and 1980s put many good candidates off, or forced them out. Today, potential priests have to consider putting on a suit of clothes which will inspire strangers in the street to shout 'paedophile!' at them. Yup, getting rid of the paedophiles from seminary is a win-win strategy.

An upward sloping demand curve
There is also something utterly crass about the idea that you can get more people to do something by making it easier. Yes, it works with selling crisps. But the nature of the priesthood is completely different. Even economists acknowledge that there are some goods whose demand would fall if they got cheaper - diamonds are a standard example. People value diamonds because they are expensive: their high cost is essential to the roles they play in our lives, as a display of wealth, as a demonstration of commitment, or as a store of value.

Cultivating vocations is not like selling crisps. A much better parallel would be with getting into elite institutions, such as universities, clubs, or, best of all, military units. Getting into these institutions carries a high cost, and the cost is directly proportional to the prestige of the institution, and therefore to the demand. The higher the cost, within reason, the higher the prestige, and the higher the demand. You could destroy the appeal of Oxford or the SAS or White's Club in a few years by making them open to everyone at no cost. Good candidates would go elsewhere.

With the priesthood it is not, of course, a simple matter of prestige. It is a matter of the clergy manifesting the self-sacrificial commitment of Christ. There are various personal ways in which priests may be called to do this, which can be very inspiring. As a body, they need institutional ways to manifest it to others, and to cultivate it inwardly. Clerical dress is a powerful means of doing this; the commitment to the Office and the Mass is another. Celibacy is another.

It always has been - celibacy goes back to Christ Himself. The fact that it has been compulsory in the West for all these centuries means that if we, in the West, abandoned it now, it would be a powerful signal that we were giving up on Christ as an ideal for our priests. It would be, perhaps, like the Orthodox clergy giving up their commitment to their lengthy liturgies, or the rigorous fasting of their four annual 'lents'. Is someone going to suggest that when the Latin Church gives up clerical celibacy, it should take up the things the Oriental Churches do which manifest the spiritual seriousness of their own clergy? I've not heard anyone suggest that. No, it not that critics of celibacy want to replace it with some other costly form of commitment: they want to cheapen the priesthood.


Don't be fooled: the attack on celibacy is an attack on the priesthood. The attack is led be people who consciously reject the divine foundation and supernatural vocation of the priesthood; it is followed by people who have forgotten these things. They want to cheapen the priesthood because they think it is cheap and it should be cheap. But it is not: it is something of a value beyond our comprehension. As I said about the Papacy, it is not the man who is necessarily worthy of veneration, but the office; but equally it is the man as priest who exercises the office. He can speak the words of Christ as direct, nor reported, speech: 'I absolve you', 'Do this in memory of me'. The priest is Christ among us, for all his human faults and limitations. When we need to go to Christ we can go to the priest, a human being who can be found by human means, and find Christ there.

St. Francis of Assisi used to say: "If I saw an Angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the Angel." (Read this by St Alphonsus on the priesthood.)

But this is not all: tomorrow I will argue that the attack on celibacy is an attack on marriage.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Last call for the Family Retreat and Chant Course: April 5-7

Right after Easter the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat will take place: from the afternoon of Friday 5th to lunch on Sunday 7th, at the Oratory School near Reading. It will be led by Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate; there will be Mass and other liturgies (Benediction, Vespers etc.) in the Extraordinary Form; as always there will be a Marian procession through the lovely grounds of the Oratory School; Fr Hunwicke will give spiritual conferences; there will be activities for children.

Don't get left out! Discounts available if the headline price is a problem.

Everyone is welcome; we call it a 'family retreat' because we make special provision for families, but no one is excluded! More details.

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Alongside it is the Gregorian Chant Network's annual Weekend Chant Course - a chance for something more than a day-long training session, with a bit of theory with the practice, and plenty of opportunity to sing 'for real', in the liturgy. Led by Dr Christopher Hodkinson, assisted by Paul Kolb.

All levels of experience, men and women, everyone is welcome! There are special discounts for groups coming from the same schola. All the details are here.

Bring your choir! Get up to speed together, and you'll be able to put it into practice right away when you get home. And it will be very cheap per head.IMG_9717

Crisis of celibacy

Dr Edward Peters, the well-known canonist, explains what he means by a 'crisis of celibacy' in a post which is well worth reading in full.

[T]he last four decades have seen, I suggest, a steady retreat from defending that value in canon law and pastoral practice—married clergy now outnumber celibate clergy in many arch/dioceses, thousands of married ministers have recently come into full communion with Rome and been ordained priests, the observance of clerical continence has been abandoned in the West, and the quasi-decriminalization of attempted clerical marriage itself (as opposed to remaining in pseudo-marriage) has been accomplished. Any one of these developments would have been portentous; but that they have occurred simultaneously is, I suggest, undeniable evidence that clerical celibacy is in crisis.

While in principle the Western discipline of priestly celibacy is still defended at the highest levels of the Church, with vigour indeed, its legal and practical ramifications have been eroded. We are getting to the point at which it needs either to be reasserted in some tangible, public way, or the gap between theory and practice needs to be closed from the other direction.

In the meantime, the forces of liberalism are aiming at celibacy with all their might. The Tablet seems to have become obsessed with the issue. The fact that you can get even orthodox Catholics to say 'Well obviously this is a matter of Church discipline rather than sacramental validity' presents an ever-tempting opening. If it is a matter of discipline, it can change, right?

Liberals appear to think that celibacy is some kind of steam-valve which can be opened to relieve all sorts of problems in the Church: sex abuse, the shortage of vocations, Mass attendance and who knows what else. This is a mistake for two reasons: first, it completely misdiagnoses the vocations (and other) crisis(es); and secondly, because what Dr Peters is talking about it is true, by parallel, with a large number of other issues. I want to deal with the first in a separate post, but what I mean by the second point can be illustrated like this.

In the official documents of the Church, confession is given (obviously) the orthodox definition and explanation: it is necessary for the remission of mortal sin (eg Catechism of the Catholic Church 1457). Once upon a time that was a reality which was manifested in all sorts of ways, in all sorts of disciplines and practices. You could tell Catholics took it seriously because they queued up for confession on Saturday afternoons and were selective about when they went to communion. You knew they took it seriously because of the architectural prominence given to confessionals in the church, and the stress on sin and confession in preaching and catechism. Now, those outward things were not necessary for it to be true that the Church taught what she taught, some of them might even have be better done differently. But today, in many places, the teaching on the necessity of confession is a matter of theory, not practice. It is not manifested in how churches look, what Catholics do, what priests preach, what is taught in RE. And it is not in the hearts of many Catholics as belief.

The same can be said about the reality of the Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. About the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. About the identification of the priest with Christ. About the authority of bishops. About the usefulness of devotions, sacramentals, and blessings. About the intercession of the saints. About the Divinity of Christ. About the indissolubility of marriage. About, in fact, pretty well every aspect of the Church's doctrine and moral reaching. This has happened because of a strange alliance between people who think, or claim to think, that the teachings are so secure and so obvious that it is not necessary to labour them, and people who think, or claim to think, that the doctrines are embarassing, off-putting, or just wrong, and should disappear. Actually, both explanations are sometimes given by the same person, addressing different audiences.

Bl John XXIII was not immune from the first temptation. The high-water mark of this attitude must surely be his speech opening the Second Vatican Council:

'Not that the need to repudiate and guard against erroneous teaching and dangerous ideologies is less today than formerly. But all such error is so manifestly contrary to rightness and goodness, and produces such fatal results, that our contemporaries show every inclination to condemn it of their own accord—especially that way of life which repudiates God and His law, and which places excessive confidence in technical progress and an exclusively material prosperity.'

Admittedly, things did look different in 1962. Back then it looked as if the rope bridge between the words printed in the Catechism and the lived experience of Catholics would still be strong enough to carry traffic if a few of the cords were loosened or cut. Maybe that was true. But then things got a bit out of hand...

Traditionalists like it when things are returned to their former state in the Church, at least in many ways: when the altar rails go back, when people genuflect properly, when Friday abstinence is restored; and of course we like the old liturgy. This is not nostalgia, however. While each thing is neither necessary nor sufficient for lively faith or a true Catholic understanding, they help. That is what they are there for, to help Catholics live the life those dusty old documents say we should live. We need all the help we can get. When the help is taken away, things go wrong. It's true of celibacy, it is true of everything.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spiritual Bouquet for Pope Francis

The Latin Mass Society is gathering together a Spiritual Bouquet for our new Holy Father, Pope Francis I.

We are asking you, our members, supporters and friends, to help us with this.

We are encouraging everyone to ask priests that they know to celebrate Masses in the Extraordinary Form for the new Pope, that he may receive the graces necessary to fulfil the
duties of his new office (you should pay the priest a stipend for this - suggested minimum offering £10). We are also asking you to offer up rosaries and other prayers and devotions for the Pope. In particular, offer up your Communion for the Pope.

The Pope has asked for our prayers to help him in his new office. Let us  respond generously to his call. As Catholics, the Church has always asked us to pray, in charity, for  others, living and dead, but one of the people She has always specifically requested the faithful to pray for is the Pope. This is a good and holy Catholic tradition. Let us live up to that tradition. Offer a priest that you know a stipend to celebrate a Traditional Mass for the Pope, or offer your daily rosary for Pope Francis, or add him to your intentions in your daily prayers, or offer a novena for him. The choice is up to you.

Once you have done this, or decided that you will do this, email or write to us at the LMS to tell us how many Masses, Communions, Rosaries or other prayers and devotions you have offered, or will offer, for Pope Francis. Please let us know as soon as possible. In fact, why not do it today?

These will then be gathered together and presented to the Holy Father on behalf of the Latin Mass Society and its supporters and friends. You don't have to be an LMS member to take part in this spiritual initiative.

Please download and fill in this form and return it to us (contact details below): Spiritual Bouquet Form

Email us at info@lms.org.uk

Write to us at: LMS, 11-13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH

Come to Walsingham!

Join us on the road from Ely to Walsingham! 

Thursday 22 August - Sunday 25 August 2013 


Music: Prima Luce, Sub Tuum Chant and Slavonic Polyphony
(feat. Prima Luce: Bass: Ronan Reilly, Tenor: James Doig)

Photos from Joseph Shaw (Flickr) and John Aron (Flickr).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Visit to New Brighton

(Coincidentally, Canon Montjean ICKSP will be giving a two-day Conference on the Theology and Spirituality of the Traditional Mass at Pantasaph Retreat Centre, 12th-14th April: download the flyer.) IMG_0998
Last weekend I visited the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in their church, SS Peter & Paul & Philomena, the 'Dome of Home'. Here are some photos of their Missa Cantata on Sunday morning, Passion Sunday, when the images in the church are veiled.
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I have visited before, but not since they've actually started to use the church. It is wonderful to see it back in use, though it still needs major work.
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Canon Montjean ICKSP, a Frenchman, is assisted by Abbe Almeter, an Institute seminarian from the USA. Abbe Almeter leads the schola (which I joined for the occasion), in the choir loft. IMG_0993
There is an impressive team of servers.
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In addition to saying Mass here, Canon Montjean says another every week, and on some weeks a third, at other locations. But in the evening he has Vespers and Benediction in the Dome, for the intention of priestly vocations, at the special request of Bishop Mark Davies. I attended this (annoyingly, without a proper camera), and witnessed the famous monstance in action. This monstrance is so huge, and its throne is so high up, that it is raised into position on a sort of lift, worked by a crank.
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To bless the people with it the celebrant climbs a ladder and takes the top part off the the base, which would be far to large and heavy to manhandle; to place it on the altar it fits onto a smaller base. IMG_0595
The congregation at Mass was about 80, a good start for this apostolate, though of course the church is very large. The Faithful, and the Latin Mass Society locally, is very committed to the wonderful church and the Traditional liturgy which takes place here. We plan to organise a pilgrimage here next year - it is, after all, a shrine.
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Full set of photos here.

Is looking after children 'working hard and getting on'?

Yes - as long as it's not your own children.

The Government thinks that looking after children is such worthwhile work that it is going to give people money to help them pay for it. As long as they don't do it themselves.

Does that make sense?

Try another argument. Women who choose to stay at home to look after their children make a financial sacrifice for the sake of their children, because everyone knows that small children looked after by their parents do better than children left in day care. So, to secure an important good, they end up financially worse off.

So the Government thinks that the taxman should take money away from those who have less, and give it to those who have more: those who have not made that financial sacrifice.

And the Government wants to discourage people from doing what is best for their children, and what most women actually want to do.

Does that make sense?

Now, perhaps not everyone is able to look after their own children. But those who make a superhuman effort and do so, should they be punished for it?

Let David Cameron and George Osborne know what you think. Pick up a pen and write to them:

The House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fr Houghton on 'Loyalty downwards'

Fr Bryan Houghton
This seems an appropriate subject for a post at the beginning of a pontificate; it seems to me that this idea is a key to the crisis in the relationship between bishops, the clergy, and the faithful, exemplified by the Cardinal O'Brien affair.

I quote from the late Fr Bryan Houghton's 1979 novel 'Mitre and Crook' (pp33-34); a traditionally-minded bishop is writing to a fellow bishop who is criticising his programme of restoration.

...I am interested in your accusation of disloyalty. I know exactly what you mean but I happen to see things exactly in reverse. The trouble is that people always think of loyalty as being due to themselves. You automatically think of loyalty as working upwards. Thus is natural as you spring from a well-to-do family... I ... come from an eminently respectable but very poor background... I, consequently, think of loyalty as working downwards. I don't say the Squire wasn't tough--he was--but we knew he would see us through: he was loyal to us humble folk. ...You see the point? You blame me for not being loyal to my superiors. It has never crossed my mind: they are perfectly capable of defending themselves and even of breaking me if they so wish ... I, on the other hand, accuse you of of being disloyal to your inferiors. It has never crossed your mind, although they are totally defenceless against you. And your disloyalty, George, is quite irreparable: thanks to it countless souls are seared in this life and may be lost in the next. My disloyalty to you can do little more than melt your collar--if, in fact, I am disloyal.
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A traditional French monk hears a confession on the Chartres Pilgrimage

Our old friends at The Tablet often say that the sex-abuse crisis is fuelled by clericalism: an assumption by bishops and others in authority that members of the clerical club can do no wrong. Well, they need to come up with another explanation for the case of a bishop who abuses his own clergy. But equally clear, and considerably more widespread, is the willingness of bishops and other religious superiors in more recent years to throw their priests to the wolves when accusations of abuse are made: not to defend them, not to get to the bottom of things as quickly as possible, but to act as if they are guilty until proven innocent.

The only explanation which fits both cases -- of ignoring accusations of abuse by priests for decades, and then of showing so little regard for the priests under their care and protection when the smallest accusation is leveled against them -- is the loss of priestly identity. The clergy are a club, if you like, but it is a club bound together by a sense of common identity, and that identity is underpinned by the obligations and ideals of the clerical state. Ignore those obligations and denigrate those ideals, and you just have people with power over each other: as I have written before, the abuse of the power, when stripped of its supernatural purpose, is the root of clerical abuse of all kinds. This is how it is possible that religious superiors are as happy ignoring the suffering of the people immediately beneath them, the clergy, as they are ignoring the suffering of the people at the bottom of the heap, the laity. What difference does it make?

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Priest on the Chartres Pilgrimage saying his Office
To repeat: there is no contradiction here. Where justice can be had only by standing up to bullies, taking flack, and by hard work, then unsurprisingly there is a temptation to sacrifice justice for the sake of a quiet life. In the 1980s superiors got a quiet life by ignoring the accusations; in the 2010s they get it by ignoring the protestations of innocence. Ignoring complaints about liturgical abuse has been the easy option throughout the whole period.

The bishops and priests who are not like this are those who take the obligations and the ideals of the clerical state seriously. They take the ideal of self-denial and celibacy seriously. They take the proclamation of the gospel seriously. They take their obligations to their flocks seriously. They reap a harvest of loyalty from those under their care. Without this reciprocal loyalty the Church in this country will collapse like a pack of cards when there is pressure from outside. And there will be pressure from outside.

Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Thy loving-kindness, in the way of eternal salvation; that, of Thy gift, he may ever desire that which is pleasing unto Thee and may accomplish it with all his might. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Papolatry and prudence

Everyone wants to know about our new Pope. What was his attitude to Liberation Theology? To the Extraordinary Form? To the Curia? What motivated the cardinals to elect him? These are interesting questions, but we shouldn't overestimate how much light the answers shed about his future actions, even if we get them. Pope Francis is in a completely different situation today than he was ten or twenty years ago: he has new information, new priorities, and a completely different job, which - let us remember - brings with it the grace of the office. And anyway we can't influence him with our puny blogs. What we can do, as time goes on, is support and explain to others some of his teaching and initiatives.

That is not to say that we have to adopt the attitude of some kind of Protestant parody of Catholics. It is not Catholic teaching that Popes are impeccable (incapable of sinning). Popes have to go to confession like everyone else. Nor does the Church teach that they possess infallibility in what they do and teach, outside the carefully defined conditions of infallible teaching on faith and morals. There is a wonderful passage in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited when the Jesuit instructing Rex in the Faith discovers that Rex is incapable of distinguishing the real teaching on infallibility from a joke: what if the Pope said it was raining, and it wasn't? The point is that Rex's desire to become a Catholic is insincere. He isn't over zealous, he's just not taking it seriously.

We are not bound to 'Papolatry': to the worship of the Pope. We are bound to obedience, but this has it's proper sphere: matters of faith, morals, and ecclesiastical discipline; it is also limited by Divine and Natural Law. We don't believe that the Pope was chosen by the Holy Spirit; he was chosen by men, and we know from history that these men have sometimes chosen badly. In some cases they have even allowed themselves to be blackmailed or bribed. We know that Popes have made grave errors in dealing with difficult situations - Pope Benedict referred to these errors in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum:

Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. 


Pope Pius IX
The great Pius IX was man enough to reverse his political policy completely when things went wrong. Bl. John Paul II made an astonishing number of apologies in his reign for the human failings of the Church, which include those of Popes; Wikipedia's helpful list leaves out a particularly important one, relating to the immediate past (Dominicae caenae 12):

I would like to ask forgiveness-in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate-for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament [the Eucharist].

In short, and there is no shame admitting it: there have been good Popes and bad Popes. There have been corrupt men who have made reasonable Popes. There have been holy men who have made bad Popes. And there have been good and holy Popes who have made disastrously bad decisions.

This does not mean our support, spiritual and material,  our obedience, and our veneration for the Pope, goes out of the window. Even the worst of Popes is still the Pope. Even the worst of Popes has then gift of infallibility and the power of the Keys: he can teach unerringly, and has the power to grant indulgences. These are spiritual gifts: they don't make the Pope holy, but they make him worthy of veneration. Is this so incredible?

THEN Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. (Mat 23:1-3)

Furthermore, even bad Popes have jurisdiction: they, and they alone, can enact or repeal laws, commands, and disciplines which bind under pain of sin for the whole Church. Finally, they and they alone are able to coordinate and guide the whole Church, to deal with practical problems and give impetus to new initiatives. That is their charism, and we need to take this seriously. When they speak, we sit up and listen. 

The view that only a 'worthy minister' can do the people any good is Protestant. The view that Popes are automatically wise and holy leads, logically, to sede vacantism: it implies the view that Popes 'fall from office' when they go wrong. The Catholic view is that they have the gifts of the office not by personal merit, but by God's cooperation in an institution which is both human and divine. God will preserve the Church, yes, but He won't stop us making fools of ourselves.

Pope Francis commands our respect, our veneration, our obedience, and our attention. He has more than ordinary human powers in seeking solutions to the Church's difficulties, but there will be nothing automatic about his plans meeting with success. We can help by a respectful, serene and well-informed participation in the debate about what measures might work and what might not. We can help also by accepting the teaching of the Church and obeying her laws and traditions: for the Holy Father is the guardian of these teachings, laws, and traditions. And above all we can help by striving for personal holiness, giving witness to the Faith in our daily lives. 

He is going to need our help, even of he turns out to be a genius. Let us be ready to play our part. 

Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Thy loving-kindness, in the way of eternal salvation; that, of Thy gift, he may ever desire that which is pleasing unto Thee and may accomplish it with all his might. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Prayers for the Pope

From the Raccolta
This is the old manual of indulgenced prayers; my copy has an imprimatur from 1951. The second of the prayers is from the Roman Breviary, the fourth from the Roman Missal, and the fifth from the Roman Ritual.

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Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou his light, his strength, and his consolation.

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V. Let us pray for our Pontiff Francis.
R. The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him to be blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Our Father; Hail Mary.

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O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend, and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. His is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, his is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervour the sacred Victim of love and peace.
     Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savour of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in union with him.
     Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in his hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say unto the people over the Chalice of benediction these words: 'The peace of the Lord be with you always', grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with a new and manifest power. Amen.

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O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, mercifully look down upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as the chief Shepherd to preside over Thy Church; grant him, we beseech Thee, so to edify, both by word and example, those over whom he hath charge, that he may attain unto everlasting life, together with the flock committed unto him. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Thy loving-kindness, in the way of eternal salvation; that, of Thy gift, he may ever desire that which is pleasing unto Thee and may accomplish it with all his might. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sources of information on Pope Francis

I can't say I'm a great 'Vatican watcher', knowing where every cardinal went to school and such like. But even if I'd ploughed through a dozen biographies of likely 'papabile' I probably wouldn't be much the wiser about Jorge, Cardinal Bergoglio. Sources are appearing now, however, and here's a quick run-down.

His official biography from the Vatican news blog: dates, jobs, membership of dicasteries. (Vatican departments each have a team of Cardinals, not necessarily resident in Rome, who act as consultors. Cardinals can be members of several at once.)

Interestingly, Pope Francis had limited pastoral experience until he was made a bishop in 1997; at that point he clearly threw himself into things. Before that he'd been a student at various levels, a teacher, and then Novice Master and Provincial for the Jesuits in Argentina. He has never worked in the Curia.

He was ordained in 1969, right on the cusp of the final set of liturgical changes. He lived through all the hopes and trauma of the liturgical reform as an adult, like all his generation, though he is too young to have had anything to do with the Second Vatican Council.

Fr Tim Finnigan has very helpfully pointed to sources confirming the application of Summorum Pontificum in Argentina, including Buenos Aires. Yes, he allowed the Traditional Mass to be celebrated. The subsequent difficulties with that permission are discussed here.

An article written by a Argentinian journalist in 2005, when he was mooted as an alternative to Cardinal Ratzinger. This is fascinating - hat-tip to Valle Adurni for finding it. It seems Cardinal Bergoglio gained a very tough reputation in dealing with the Jesuits as Provincial Superior during a very difficult time, during the military dictatorship, when Jesuits were being sucked into Liberation Theology. He had no truck with Liberation Theology, and made enemies as a result. This weird theology, which is thankfully more or less of historical interest only today, attempted to replace the mission of the Church as the salvation of souls, with a mission concerned only with political liberation, interpreted in a Marxist way.

The other interesting thing is that the author emphasises Bergoglio's shyness and his reluctance to speak and write; he has few published works. It will be interesting to see if he keeps that up as Pope. This is also noted in a new article by Edward Pentin.

The Guardian has a short list of quotations from him, plus a couple of hostile ones about him from others.

The Guardian has also been trying to dig up dirt on his attitude to the military rulers of Argentinia, when he was Jesuit Provincial. They've not come up with anything terribly convincing (or recent); this may, or may not, become an issue later, and it is as well to be aware of the accusations.

Clearly the secular media are not going to like him very much: they will never forgive him for writing this, about the (successful) bid to legislate for Same Sex Marriage in Argentina.

Here, the envy of the Devil, through which sin entered the world, is also present, and deceitfully intends to destroy the image of God: man and woman, who receive the mandate to grow, multiply, and conquer the earth. Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a "move" of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou his light, his strength, and his consolation.

St Francis (the real one) on Perfect Joy

Our new Holy Father has chosen the name Francis; Fr Lombardi, the Vatican press spokesman, has confirmed that it is after St Francis of Assisi (not that we need think that other saints of that name are necessarily excluded: St Francis Xavier must loom large in the mind of any Jesuit). The name of St Francis is, sadly, associated with the some rather mawkish ideas both in the Church and, even more, outside of it; we can be confident that Pope Francis is better informed about him that the makers of those terrible films. The real St Francis was extremely tough: tough on himself, tough on his followers. He was not an adminstrator or a theologian; neither was he an activist or social theorist. He was concerned entirely with the love of God and the death of the self: the great miracles of his life, his compassion for the poor and sick, and his extraordinary connection with animals, flowed out of this as by-products. They were, indeed, gifts of God, given to one who loved Him above all.

Here is a good illustration of his spirituality, from the Little Flowers of St Francis, compiled by St Bonaventure (online here thanks to EWTN).

One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: "Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy."

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: "O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy." 

Shortly after, he cried out again: "O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy." 

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: "O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters - write that this would not be perfect joy." 

Shortly after, he cried out again: "O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy." 

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: "Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy." St Francis answered: "If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, 'We are two of the brethren', he should answer angrily, 'What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say'; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall - then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

"And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, 'Begone, miserable robbers! to to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!' - and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.

"And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, 'These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve'; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick - if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

"And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, 'What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?' But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, 'I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Amen."

The New Liturgical Movement has some interesting material on St Francis and the liturgy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

God bless Pope Francis!

No one seems to know much about the man. As for his views on the liturgy, the traditional Mass scene is not well developed in Argentina.

The BBC, who don't seem to have been able to find a translator familiar with the Our Father, spoke volumes with the comment: 'A theological conservative, but strong on social justice.' BUT? What do you mean, 'but'?

Pope Francis' idea of social justice may not be exactly what liberal Europeans expect, since it does not arbitrarily exclude the unborn, or children denied parents of both sexes.

This may, in fact (speaking from complete ignorance) be the reasoning in the conclave. Who can best defend the Church's teachings on sexuality and life? Perhaps someone with impeccable credentials as a defender of the poor, someone of genuine personal humility.

It is obvious that attacks on the Church, especially by governments, on the issue of sexuality are going to be a major concern in the coming years. If Pope Francis is the man for that job, then he'd have got my vote too. In any event, he needs and deserves our support for this humanly impossible task.

There's little indication that he has a great interest in the liturgy. Surprising as that might seem, I'm quite happy with that. This isn't the moment for the Pope to be getting stuck into liturgical minutiae. Let's leave the whole issue alone for a few years, as long as the legislation we have continues to be applied. And Latin American prelates like to be obeyed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

40 Days for Life with Bishop Egan

Bishop Egan will be joining the Southampton 40 Days for Life vigil at 3pm Palm Sunday 24th March; he will lead the group in the Rosary.

St Mary's Road / Brintons Terrace main entrance to the Royal South Hants Hospital SO14 0YG

Hospital map; directions by car.

Public transport: Firstbus No 7 from Above Bar Street; Uni link U6

The involvement of bishops in these things is of enormous importance, please support him and the initiative.

The photo reminds me of the old joke: a little boy asks his father, seeing an episcopal consecration: 'What are they doing to that man?' The father answers: 'They are removing his spine.' Well, that's a bit of the cermonial they seem to have left out with Bishop Egan.

You can indicate your commitment to attend by signing up directly on the vigil calendar.

Those of you who are too far away, please pray for this initiative!


http://40daysforlife.com/southampton/

prolifebook.com/40dflSouthamptonUK
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Conclave blogging recess

No one wants to read anything except about the Conclave right now. Assuming it doesn't drag on for weeks, I won't attempt to make you.

Please pray for God's will to be done.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Tablet, Portsmouth Diocese, and the Laity

Predictably enough, and as Protect the Pope has observed, The Tablet cannot view the departure of Paul Inwood from the payroll of Portsmouth Diocese without a protest. Inwood was due to retire before long, so it is hardly an earth-shaking event. I am reminded of the words of Polixenes in A Winter's Tale:

... Thou old traitor,
I am sorry that by hanging thee I can
But shorten thy life one week. 

What a tragic, tragic waste that Inwood's influence over the music of Portsmouth Diocese has been cut short ... so little.

But more seriously, The Tablet wants to weave the (clearly very necessary) financial review in Portsmouth into its usual narrative: Vatican II-loving bishops and priests want 'lay involvement', so they employ lots of lay people who bring their special talents to the work of a diocese or parish; horrid old conservatives, who don't like Vatican II, are 'clericalists', they don't like lay involvement, and they don't employ all those talented lay folk, and when they get the chance they sack them.

Lay-led organisations like the Latin Mass Society are hard to place in this narrative, and indeed conservatism and traditionalism are more lay movements, in the Church, than clerical ones (particularly in the UK). The laity so lauded by The Tablet, on the other hand, tend not to inhabit independent institutions, but seem almost always to be connected with an essentially clerical bureaucracy -- one funded, and usually headed, by clerics, whether at the level of parish, diocese, or Rome.

To generalise, Catholic 'progressives' are like their secular counterparts in seeking to bring about change by intervention from above, by people in authority and institutions with money and power. Ideally this is the state, but NGOs are a good substitute, the United Nations is a paradise, and the central institutions of the Church, with their financial resources, and authority over ordinary Catholics, lay or clerical, do very nicely. People who believe that all our problems can be solved by the State, in politics, or by top-down 'reform', in the Church, unsurprisingly devote their energies to those centralised institutions in which they believe salvation lies. People who believe in private enterprise and individual initiative, in politics, or in the sacraments and individual conversion, in the Church, devote their energies to work on the ground, and are well represented among those involved in independent practical initiatives like setting up a soup kitchen, a choir, or an appeal for the Church roof.

Clericalising the laity
The question is: Do we want to concentrate power in the centre, where it can be controlled by a small group of people, 'experts' perhaps, or do we trust people to get on with their lives, their professions, their vocations, with help, if necessary, but normally with the resources available locally and non-coercively?

The Tablet often talks about centralisation as a bad thing, but they have got themselves on the wrong side of the debate. When a central administration is set up in a diocese, or a bishops' conference, or in Rome, it may see itself as merely helping the locals, but if it makes a difference at all it will be  centralising one. As parish priests in Portsmouth Diocese told their bishop, they are bound to feel disempowered to do catechism, music, or anything else the way they want to do it, or to do it at all, if there is a central organisation competing with them, or prescribing exactly what they should do. As Bishop O'Donaghue famously pointed out, bishops themselves feel disempowered if they find that every aspect of their episcopal responsibility has been taken up by some committee in London which knows better than they do.

Due to the division of areas of responsibility among the bishops, such as education, liturgy, healthcare, migrants etc, there can often be reluctance among the rest of the bishops to speak out on these issues, as if somehow they had handed over their competence in these areas to the responsible bishop and his particular committee. For example, there seemed some surprise in some circles that I had issued my teaching document, Fit for Mission? Schools.

What The Tablet can't explain is why this kind of centralisation, towards expensive bureaucracies in dioceses and bishops' conferences, is a good thing, but the counter-balancing centralisation of power to Rome is a bad thing.

It is true that many of the people employed in these diocesan curias and in the Bishops' Conference offices in Eccleston Square in London are lay, but Episcopal bureaucrats with lay underlings is not the golden future the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it called for lay involvement. No, the Vatican II model was that the laity function as laity: not as a sort of minor clergy, fulfilling clerical functions under clerical leadership.

Let me end with some illustrative quotations from the pithily named Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam actuositatem.

7. The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere.

It has a lot to say about 'Catholic Action' in later sections.

Families should do what only families can do:

11. Among the various activities of the family apostolate may be enumerated the following: the adoption of abandoned infants, hospitality to strangers, assistance in the operation of schools, helpful advice and material assistance for adolescents, help to engaged couples in preparing themselves better for marriage, catechetical work, support of married couples and families involved in material and moral crises, help for the aged...

The role of young people and even children is mentioned too.
Bureaucrat at work?

And blogging? Of course:

6. ...this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning-to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

But above all:

4. The perfect example of this type of spiritual and apostolic life is the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, who while leading the life common to all here on earth, one filled with family concerns and labours, was always intimately united with her Son and in an entirely unique way cooperated in the work of the Saviour.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Traditionalist dissent? A longer response

The idea of a symmetry in the Church, with dissent from 'the left' and 'the right', has become a powerful meme among a certain kind of commentators, generally 'conservative' Catholics, the sorts of people liberals want to present as being extreme. Oh no, they say, we're not extreme: we're bang slap in the middle, the via media of orthodoxy between progressive and reactionary dissent. My post about George Weigel is a case in point: clearly he thinks that any critique of progressives is wasted if it doesn't include a good kicking directed towards those attached to the traditions of the Church.

But it ain't necessarily so. Theological debate is not like party politics, with moderate positions flanked by different kinds of extremes. Theological positions are far too complex and systematic for that kind of childish analysis. Our Lord Himself did not set Himself up as the Triangulator of other people's ideas: He was the Truth, and the Truth is radical. Whereas in politics compromises are often sensible and productive, in theology they tend to create positions which don't make sense.

Now it is true that those attached to Catholic tradition, like the Latin Mass Society, have to contend with the existence of groups who share many of their concerns but which are outside the structures of the Church: the SSPX, and heaven knows what complex fringes beyond. The same is, of course, true for progressives, many of whose concerns are shared with people who have incurred excommunication for participating in the feigned ordination of females, or the all-too-genuine termination of human life in the womb, not to mention the Anglicans. But one must take care to consider what the reasons are for these individuals or groups being outside the Church. Not only is heresy not the only possible reason, it is not even the most likely, immediate reason: when was the last time anyone was excommunicated for heresy? It is not for words, but for  actions, that the most serious canonical penalties are usually invoked. Some actions, of course, like that of attempting to ordain a woman, derive unmistakably from the denial of a doctrine of the Faith. Others might have no necessary connection with belief--sexual depravity, for example, or a refusal to obey the commands of a religious superior. Now, the SSPX are outside the structures of the Church in the very simple sense that they operate without canonical authorisation. If we want to say that they are guilty of heresy, then we need to do more than merely point to their canonical status. We need to say what dogmas of the Faith they are guilty of denying.

I don't say this is impossible, but I will say that this is almost never attempted. I would welcome an open debate about the theological position of the SSPX; I would like to see what must be believed, and what is open to debate. (I was obliged to point out recently (and here), that, obviously, the reform of the liturgy is an area for free discussion, not dogma - if that isn't obvious, one despairs.) In the interests of opening up such a debate I recommend a new article by Dr John Lamont; although not an SSPX insider, Dr Lamont defends the SSPX against the accusation of heresy in a systematic way. Admittedly these accusations are vague. If the SSPX's opponents want to do better, all they need to do is come up with more carefully targeted and documented accusations. I don't think it is fraternal charity which is holding them back. What are they waiting for?

Some extracts from Dr Lamont's article.

What is necessary to be Catholic is to believe and confess all the teachings of the Catholic faith. The SSPX does this, and therefore can rightly call itself Catholic. Cardinal Koch raises questions about the Catholicity of the SSPX on the basis of the claims that the Society rejects ‘central points of the teaching of the Holy Father’, “does not accept a council and does not accept a teaching”. The expression “central points of the teaching of the Holy Father” is too vague. A teaching’s being ‘central’ does not suffice to make it an infallible definition or a repetition of previous infallible teachings. The ‘central points’ that the SSPX does not accept have never been claimed or established to be doctrines of the faith, and their rejection of them thus does not mean that they are not Catholics.

...

 Fr. Umberto Betti claimed that the teachings of the dogmatic constitutionLumen gentium virtually reached the level of infallible teaching.[1] This claim was contested by the then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger,[2] who argued against Betti’s maximising interpretation. Even if Betti is correct, however, and we ignore the difficulties in the notion of a teaching being ‘virtually infallible’, his claim applies only to those conciliar teachings contained in dogmatic constitutions; he bases his argument above all on the application of the prefix ‘dogmatic’ to those constitutions.[3] The teachings that Koch mentions as being rejected by the SSPX are not found in the dogmatic constitutions of Vatican II, but in decrees or declarations of the council. 

...

...the SSPX rightly understands that fidelity to the papal magisterium does not consist only in fidelity to the teachings of the current pope. This fidelity is due to the office of the papacy itself, not to the individual that holds it, and the basis of this fidelity is the authority of the apostle Peter, which exists in all holders of the papal office. In the same way, fidelity to the entire college of bishops united under the Pope is based on fidelity to the authority of all the apostles, which is perpetuated in all the bishops throughout the history of the Church acting in unison under the Pope. This authority of Peter and the other apostles is thus present in all the magisterial teachings of the Church, not just in those of the current pope and bishops. Fidelity to the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops thus requires acceptance of all the teachings of all the popes and bishops since the death of the last apostle.

...

...the SSPX’s claim that the Second Vatican Council taught error on some matters; ... is not an assertion about faith and morals at all, and does not in itself contradict any magisterial teaching whether infallible or non-infallible. It is simply an assertion that a small proportion of the Church’s fallible teachings did, in fact, fail to be true. This assertion violates no canon or religious obligation at all, and variants of it are commonly held by theologians.

...

In addition, the claim that the Second Vatican Council taught error is actually quite hard to maintain if we look closely at the words of these documents. These are often framed in such a vague way that if their meaning is examined strictly, they say very little. The claim that some passages of the conciliar documents logically contradict previous teachings misses the subtlety of the problem they pose. It is almost never totally impossible to give the conciliar documents an orthodox meaning, which makes it possible to dismiss traditionalist criticisms of them as unfounded; but the fact that they naturally suggest heterodox interpretations makes it easy to use them to attack the faith when addressing audiences other than traditionalists. 

...

When it comes to the positions on religious truth held by the SSPX, we must also distinguish between the Society’s objections to doctrinal statements and its objections to practical policies. It is very hard to describe, for example, exactly what the position of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism is. The practical policy that has been implemented since the council is however clear; it is no longer insisted that non-Catholic Christians must submit to the teaching and government of the Roman Catholic Church in order to do God’s will.