theology

GREC – III

GREC – III posted in Eleison Comments on April 6, 2013

Wishing to put himself in the place of God, modern man seeks to replace God’s order of the world with his own. But God’s order is real, outside of and independent of man’s mind. So modern man unhooks his mind from that reality, and selects from it only such pieces as he wishes to build into his own fantasy. Now the highest order of God’s Creation is best expressed in his Church’s doctrine. Therefore all churchmen or laymen today undergoing the influence of everything “normal” in the world around them suffer from a deep refusal or ignorance of the nature and necessity of doctrine.

Here is the essential problem of GREC, as presented in two previous issues of “Eleison Comments” (294 and 295). The Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques was founded in 1997 in the salons of Paris to promote friendly meetings and exchanges between Catholics of Tradition and Catholics of the mainstream Church, in order to create a climate of mutual trust and respect which would facilitate a reconciliation between them, and an end to their unnecessary estrangement. Such a purpose gravely overlooks the importance of doctrine, not necessarily with malice aforethought, of which God is judge, but whatever foolish men may think, doctrine can no more be left out of account than can reality.

In Fr. Lelong’s book on GREC, For the Necessary Reconciliation, he tells how two Society of St Pius X priests and its Superior General “made a decisive contribution to the launching and continuance of GREC.” Even before it was launched, Fr. Du Chalard gave to Fr Lelong a friendly reception in his SSPX priory, and “in following years never ceased to support GREC in a discrete and attentive way.” At the launching of GREC, Fr. Lorans, then Rector of the SSPX Institute in Paris and exercising from Paris a decisive influence from then until now on SSPX publications, welcomed the idea of “dialogue between Catholics,” and very soon obtained from the SSPX Superior General in Switzerland approval for his participation in GREC. From then on Fr. Lorans played a leading part in all of its activities.

Those activities began on a small scale and in private. In May of 2000 was held GREC’s first public meeting to which Fr. Lorans contributed, with 150 people attending. Meetings became more and more frequent, with SSPX priests participating. Church authorities at the highest level were regularly consulted and kept informed. Fr. Lorans for his part made possible “a contact of deepening trust” and friendly exchanges with the SSPX Superior General. From 2004 GREC meetings were opened wider still to the public, and in September of that year a “theological working group” was set up with Fr. Lorans participating, and another SSPX priest and a theologian from Rome, both of whom would later be taking part in the Doctrinal Discussions between Rome and the SSPX from 2009 to 2011. GREC may well have seen in these Discussions the realization of its fondest hopes – at last the theologians were meeting in a climate which GREC had done so much to create “for the necessary reconciliation.”

Thanks be to God, the Discussions gave back to doctrine its proper primacy. They demonstrated that between Catholic and Conciliar doctrine is an unbridgeable gulf. But was GREC’s way of thinking then blocked within the SSPX? Far from it! SSPX Headquarters switched overnight from “We pursue no practical agreement without a doctrinal agreement” to “There can be no doctrinal agreement, so we pursue a practical agreement”! Alas, the springtime uprising of protest last year from within the SSPX was smothered and confused again at the General Chapter of July, but SSPX HQ’s continued pursuit of a practical agreement has hardly been smothered.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord,” in particular in the Consecration of Russia. Nowhere else.

Kyrie eleison.

GREC – II

GREC – II posted in Eleison Comments on March 9, 2013

Before we continue with the story of GREC, namely the Parisian group of laity and clergy meeting from the late 1990’s onwards in pursuit of reconciliation between Vatican II and Catholic Tradition, we must consider the basic attitude of GREC participants. The Church’s future depends on those Catholics who will understand GREC’s error, i.e. how modern minds lose their grip on truth. To illustrate that attitude let us take at random four quotes, typical of dozens and dozens in the book For the Necessary Reconciliationby the Newchurch priest, Fr Michel Lelong, one of the founders of GREC. In a letter he wrote to the Pope in July of 2008 are to be found the first two quotes:—

“We also wish that the excommunications(of the four SSPX bishops in 1988) be lifted and that the SSPX recover its place within the Church to which it has so much to give. That is why we ask the authorities of the SSPX to put an end to the polemical statements and articles criticizing the Holy See.”Comment: (Has that not happened over the last 10 years?) But if polemics are so bad, why were a number of Church Fathers – and Archbishop Lefebvre – so polemical? Polemics are only that bad if unity is that good. But unity is only as good as that around which it unites.

“In our society so tempted by materialism, indifferentism and sectarisms, we think that in response to your request, Holy Father, all Catholics must strive together to be faithful to Christ’s recommendation, ‘Be united so that the whole world may believe’.”Comment: “United” around what? Around Catholic truth, or around the lie that Catholic truth is reconcilable with Vatican II? Then the primary and crucial question for Catholic unity is where Catholic truth is to be found. But GREC leaves questions of truth to the “theologians.” So non-theologians can be saved by lies!?

This letter of Fr Lelong was so well received by Benedict XVI that GREC leaders and sympathisers wrote again a few months later. Here are two more quotes from the second letter to the Pope:—

“For sure we were saddened that the Holy See’s recent proposals were not accepted by the SSPX authorities, but we know that to heal wounds amongst Catholics always requires generosity and patience to restore confidence on both sides and to make reconciliation possible.”Comment: Are wounds only ever to be healed, and never inflicted? Did Our Lord not twice use a lash across the backs of the money-lenders in the Temple? There is a God, his honour is to be defended above all things, and men can be wicked enough to understand nothing but the lash, be it physical or verbal.

“We think that lifting the excommunications would set in motion an irresistible process of drawing closer, with a view to an agreement between the Holy See and the SSPX, or at least an agreement with a large part of the SSPX priests and faithful.”Comment: indeed the friendly contacts between Rome and the SSPX were setting such a motion in process in January of 2009, and only an outburst from within the SSPX of the most horrible heresy of modern times – “anti-semitism” – stopped that process. But either Catholic reconciliation with Vatican II is no problem, or one has to say that that outburst was providential, because it also stopped, at least for a while, the false reconciliation.

In conclusion, GREC, like millions of modern Catholics, above all else seeks unity, non-polemics, reconciliation, agreement, etc. But where does the God of truth figure amongst all these sweet sentiments? Is he a sugar-daddy who blesses all men’s lies, just so long as they lie in unison?

Kyrie eleison.

GREC – I

GREC – I posted in Eleison Comments on March 2, 2013

Just over one year ago was published in France a little book of some 150 pages which has to be a big embarrassment for the leaders of a certain religious Society, because it shows how their promotion of union with the Newchurch goes back many years, at least to the 1990’s. Of course if they are proud of that promotion, they will feel no embarrassment, but if they have for many years been disguising that promotion, then let at least readers of the little book open their eyes.

“For the Necessary Reconciliation” was written by a Newchurch priest, Fr Michel Lelong, no doubt because he for one is openly proud of the leading part he played in GREC’s attempt to bring about the “necessary reconciliation” of Vatican II with Tradition, or of the Roman authorities with the Society of St Pius X. Ordained in 1948, and heavily involved in inter-religious relations even before Vatican II, he welcomed “with joy and hope” (does that ring a bell? – Gaudium et Spes?) the Council that would strive to relate the Church to modern times. One of the lay collaborators in his work was a distinguished French diplomat and high government official, Gilbert Pérol, French Ambassador to the Vatican from 1988 to 1992.

As a professional diplomat and practising Catholic, Pérol believed profoundly in reconciling the truly Catholic SSPX with the assuredly Catholic Vatican. How could there be such a clash between the two? Both were Catholic! The clash was not reasonable. So in 1995 he sketched out a solution in a brief text which would serve like a charter for what became GREC, a Parisian think-tank for Catholics, named from the initials of Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques. Expressing the concern of millions of Catholics torn from the 1960’s onwards between the Council and Tradition, Pérol’s text deserves a moment’s attention.

Not being a theologian, he says, he thinks that the present situation of Church and world requires that the problem of the divisions between Catholics following on the Council “should be stated in entirely new terms.” It is rather as a diplomat that he proposes that on the one side Rome should admit that it has gravely mistreated the Tridentine rite of Mass, and it should suspend the excommunications of 1988, while on the other hand the SSPX must not totally reject the Council and it must recognize that Rome is still the highest authority in the Church.

In other words as a diplomat Pérol proposed that if only there were a little give and take on each side, then the agony could be emptied out of the clash between the Council and Tradition, and all Catholics could once more live happily ever after. Thus he and millions of other Catholics would no longer be faced with having to either abandon Rome for the sake of Tradition, or abandon Tradition for the sake of Rome. Lovely! Back to the comfort zone of the 1950’s! But the 1950’s are gone, and gone for ever. Then where is the flaw in his thinking?

It is at the very outset when he says he is no theologian. True, he may have been no professional theologian, but every Catholic must be an amateur theologian, or, better said, must know his catechism, because only in the light of its doctrine can he judge questions of the Faith. Our Lord’s warning to discern between sheep and wolves (Mt.VII, 15–20) was not addressed only to professional theologians! So Pérol’s renouncing “theology” in favour of diplomacy is yet one more example of modern man’s failure to grasp the importance of doctrine. This failure is the most important lesson to be drawn from this book on GREC.

Kyrie eleison.

Two Errors

Two Errors posted in Eleison Comments on June 30, 2012

Whether or not the Society of St Pius X survives its present severe trial, liberals will keep coming back with false arguments to persuade it to commit suicide. Let us look at two more of them.

The first has come up constantly in recent debates over whether the SSPX should accept some practical (non-doctrinal) agreement with Conciliar Rome. It is simple: a Catholic leader (or leaders) has graces of state from God, therefore he should not be criticized but automatically trusted. Answer: of course God is offering to every one of us at all times, and not only to leaders, the natural assistance and/or supernatural grace we all need to begin fulfilling our duty of state, but we have free-will to co-operate with that grace or to refuse it. If all Church leaders always co-operated with their graces of state, how could there ever have been Judas Iscariot? And how could we ever have had Vatican II? The argument from graces of state is as foolish as it is simple.

The second argument is more serious. It was put forward last month in a ten-page article by a Mr. J.L. in a conservative Catholic periodical in England. It favoured a Rome-SSPX practical agreement. Here it is, abbreviated of course, but not distorted. The Catholic Church is today under heavy attack, from without (e.g. by the USA government) and from within (e.g. by bishops who love the good life but do not know their theology), and at the topmost level by a Vatican administration riddled with scandals and in-fighting. The Pope is besieged on all sides, and he is looking to the SSPX for help to re-establish within the Church the sane influence of the Church’s past, in which he believes, even if he also believes in Vatican II. Monsignor Bux gave voice to the Pope’s appeal: if only the SSPX would respond by accepting a practical agreement, it would immensely benefit not only the whole Church but also the SSPX itself. Fr Aulagnier, a former high-up SSPX priest, clearly sees as much.

Dear J.L., full marks for your love of the Church and recognition of its problems, for your concern for the Pope and your desire to help him, but low marks for your grasp of where those problems come from and of what the SSPX is all about. Like one zillion souls in today’s Church and world, including Fr. Aulagnier, you miss the absolutely basic importance of the doctrine of the Faith.

The USA government attacks because the Church is weak. The Church is weak because the bishops’ poor behavior follows on their poor grasp of the doctrine of Heaven, Hell, sin, damnation, redemption, saving grace and the Redeemer’s ever-present sacrifice in the true Mass. The bishops have such a poor grasp of these world-saving truths because, amongst other things, the Bishop of bishops only half believes them. The Pope only half believes them because the other half of him believes in Vatican II. Vatican II undermines all the true religion of God by the deadly ambiguities planted throughout its documents (as you recognize), and designed to put man in the place of God.

Dear J.L., false doctrine is the basic problem. By the grace of God the SSPX has up till now upheld Jesus Christ’s true teachings, but if it put itself under Church authorities only half-believing them at best, it would soon stop attacking error (as is already happening), and it would finish by promoting error, and with error all the horrors you mention. God forbid!

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – II

Benedict’s Thinking – II posted in Eleison Comments on July 16, 2011

If one divides into four parts Bishop Tissier’s study of the thinking of Benedict XVI, then the second part presents its philosophical and theological roots. By analyzing the philosophy first, the Bishop is following Pius X’s great Encyclical “Pascendi.” If a wine bottle is dirty inside, the very best of wine poured into it will be spoiled. If a man’s mind is disconnected from reality, as it is by modern philosophy, then even the Catholic Faith filtered through it will be disoriented, because it will no longer be oriented by reality. Here is Benedict’s problem.

Like Pius X before him, the Bishop attributes the prime responsibility for this disaster of modern minds to the German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel KANT (1724–1804), who finalized the system of anti-thought, prevailing now everywhere, which excludes God from rational discourse. For if, as Kant claimed, the mind can know nothing of the object except what appears to the senses, then the mind is free to reconstruct the reality behind the sense appearances however it may like, objective reality is dismissed as unknowable, and the subject reigns supreme. If the subject needs God and postulates his existence, well and good. Otherwise, so to speak, God is out of luck!

Bishop Tissier then presents five modern philosophers, all grappling with the consequences of Kant’s subjective folly of putting idea over reality and subject over object. The two most important of them for this Pope’s thinking might be Heidegger (1889–1976), a father of existentialism, and Buber (1878–1965), a leading exponent of personalism. If essences are unknowable (Kant), then there remains only existence. Now the most important existent is the person, constituted for Buber by intersubjectivity, or the “I-You” relationship between subjective persons, which for Buber opens the way to God. Therefore knowledge of the objective God is going to depend on the subjective involvement of the human person. What an insecure foundation for that knowledge!

Yet involvement of the human subject will be the key to Benedict’s theological thinking, influenced firstly, writes the Bishop, by the renowned School of Tuebingen. Founded by J.S. von Drey (1777–1853), this School held that history is moved by the spirit of the age in constant movement, and this spirit is the Spirit of Christ. Therefore God’s Revelation is no longer the Deposit of Faith closed at the death of the last Apostle, and merely made more explicit as time goes on. Instead, it has a constantly evolving content to which the receiving subject contributes. So the Church of each age plays an active and not just passive part in Revelation, and it gives to past Tradition its present meaning. Is this beginning to sound familiar? Like the hermeneutic of Dilthey? See EC 208.

Thus for Benedict XVI God is not an object apart nor merely objective, he is personal, an “I” exchanging with each human “You.” Scripture or Tradition do come objectively from the divine “I,” but on the other hand the living and moving “You” must constantly re-read that Scripture, and since Scripture is the basis of Tradition, then Tradition too must become dynamic by the subject’s involvement, and not just static, like Archbishop Lefebvre’s “fixated” Tradition. Similarly theology must be subjectivized, Faith must be a personal “experiencing” of God, and even the Magisterium must stop being merely static.

“Accursed is the man that puts his trust in man” says Jeremiah (XVII, 5).

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – I

Benedict’s Thinking – I posted in Eleison Comments on July 9, 2011

The “Eleison Comments” of June 18 promised a series of four numbers which would show how “disoriented” is Pope Benedict XVI’s “way of believing.” They present in fact a summary of the precious tract on his thinking written a few years ago by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X. The Bishop’s tract, The Faith Imperilled by Reason, he calls “unpretentious,” but it does lay bare the Pope’s fundamental problem – how to believe in the Catholic Faith in such a way as not to exclude the values of the modern world. The tract shows that such a way of believing is necessarily disoriented, even if the Pope does still in some way believe.

It divides into four parts. After an important Introduction to Benedict XVI’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” Bishop Tissier looks briefly at the philosophical and theological roots of the Pope’s thinking. Thirdly he lays out its fruits for the Gospel, for dogma, for the Church and society, for the Kingship of Christ and for the Last Things. He concludes with a measured judgment upon the Pope’s Newfaith, highly critical but wholly respectful. Let us start with an overview of the Introduction:—

The basic problem for Benedict XVI, as for all of us, is the clash between the Catholic Faith and the modern world. For instance he sees that modern science is amoral, that modern society is secular and modern culture is multi-religious. He specifies the clash as being between Faith and Reason, between the Faith of the Church, and Reason as worked out by the 18th century Enlightenment. However, he is convinced that they can and must both be interpreted in such a way as to bring them into harmony with one another. Hence his close participation in Vatican II, a Council which attempted to reconcile the Faith with today’s world. But Traditionalists say that the Council failed, because its very principles are irreconcilable with the Faith. Hence Pope Benedict’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” or system of interpretation to show that there is no rupture between Catholic Tradition and Vatican II.

The principles for Benedict’s “hermeneutic” go back to a German historian of the 19th century, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). Dilthey maintained that as truths arise in history, so they can only be understood in their history, and human truths cannot be understood without the involvement of the human subject in that history. So to continue the core of past truths into the present, one needs to subtract all elements belonging to the past, now irrelevant, and replace them with elements important for the living present. Benedict applies to the Church this double process of purification and enrichment. On the one hand Reason must purify the Faith of its errors from the past, e.g. its absolutism, while on the other hand the Faith must get Reason to moderate its attacks on religion and to remember that its humanist values, liberty, equality and fraternity, all originated in the Church.

The great error here of the Pope is that the truths of the Catholic Faith on which Christian civilization was built and on which its feeble remains still rest, have their origin by no means in human history, but in the eternal bosom of the unchanging God. They are eternal truths, from eternity, for eternity. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” says Our Lord, (MtXXIV,35). Neither Dilthey nor, apparently, Benedict XVI can conceive of truths far above human history and above all its conditioning. If the Pope thinks that by making such concessions to faithless Reason, he will draw its adherents towards the Faith, let him think again. They merely despise Faith the more!

Next, the philosophical and theological roots of Benedict’s thinking.

Kyrie eleison.