8 February 2014

witch hunts and name-calling

The great Fr Zed has published on his Blog information about a new appeal which has been launched, calling for justice for the Franciscans of the Immaculate. I have decided to publish a piece I drafted quite a time ago, but left unpublished in the hope that the New Year would being us news which rendered it superfluous.

Indeed, there is some good news. It was hard to suppress a nagging suspicion that the measures taken against the FI might have had, in some minds, the intention of driving part of the FI into uncanonical action, which could then have been represented as proving that they did have a schismatic mentality and were rightly subjected to extraordinary discipline. This elegant strategy, if it did exist, has failed. The Friars have conducted themselves with exemplary submission and humility. They are an example to the dissident movements which are running riot, unchecked, in some European countries. (In Britain, there is still in post a diocesan Director of Liturgy who, exactly like writers belonging to the SSPX, has publicly and formally called the lawfully imposed liturgical forms in this country "illegitimate". Sauce, geese, ganders?)

Here is my earlier draft.
Witch hunts are commonly associated with what happened in Stalinist Russia and in Maoist China and in Germany after the 1944 coup attempt; and, we are told, Senator McCarthy ran a pretty competent witch hunt in the U S of A. I do hope that we are not moving into a period in which the Catholic Church revives the ignoble art of the Witch Hunt. I am moved to say this because of the tone in which the Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate expresses himself. His correspondence contrives to insinuate a suggestion that his dealings with the Institute became necessary because of 'Cryptolefebvrianism' in the management of the Order by its Founder ... which reminds me of the habits of the Marxist tyrannies and has a certain flavour of George Orwell's 1984 about it. And he refers to the Superior of the SSPX purely by his surname ... another rather nasty totalitarian habit, in which one attempts to strip a disapproved person of all dignity. This is contrary to the practice of the Holy See, which has invariably addressed H E Mgr Fellay with proper respect for his episcopal office.

The antidote to witch hunts can, I suspect, be found in the pontificate of S Pius X, the Pontiff who put in place the anti-Modernist oath. Surely, as in every other age of the Church's history, heresy was thus and therein defined, caught in words. Si quis dixerit ... ... Anathema sit. Her dogma, too, was caught in words, in definitions, which expressed the minimum, the broadest formulation compatible with orthodoxy. So ... if you avoided an anathema, if you subscribed a definition, you were in the clear. You were thus protected from the malevolence of the tale-teller and of the Little Bully Up The Road who had it in for you. The precise definition of Orthodoxy and Heresy is a right that every Catholic has; a right that protects him, or ought to protect him, from random abuse of power. By a bewildering, Diabolical, paradox, Vatican II, a Council which desired to threaten nobody and so defined no dogmas, issued no anathemas, has been twisted into a pretext for the issuing of unjusticiable arbitrary condemnations.

The heart, I might even say the essence, of Arbitrary Power, of totalitarian tyranny, is the name-calling; the opprobrious epithet which is never properly defined; which, conveniently, is always left vague; vague enough to provide an effort-free charge on which to get somebody. It cannot have been easy, under Mao-tse-tung, to prove that one was not a lackey or a running-dog of reactionary Capitalism. Ergo ... off to the Re-education centre. More recently, it was reported that the Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, referring to the execution of his uncle, has said that his country is much stronger following the elimination of "factionalist filfth". No wonder the legal proceedings had been so satisfactorily brief. What possible defence can there be against such a crushing indictment? And I do not see that to deploy an innuendo about 'Cryptolefebvrianism' (particularly at a time when one Roman dicastery appears to be manoeuvring the terms 'schism' and 'excommunication' closer to the SSPX) is so much better. What does it mean?

If the Church were to define what such a term meant in a formal, precise, anathema, one could prove ones innocence (or be compelled to adjust ones position vis-a-vis the Magisterium). Undefined, it is unrebuttable. Those in the FI who have leadership roles or a munus docendi have already (or else can reasonably be asked to do this) subscribed the oath prescribed in Ad Fidem tuendam and embodied in Canon Law. More than this is a McCarthyite outrage.

The safeguard against witch hunts and abusive innuendo is Law and Dogma. This is what the FI, like every other Catholic in the world, have a right to.

8 comments:

GOR said...

Well said, Father! Not being privy to the internal details of what precipitated this rough handling of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, I can only reflect on what we know from public sources, which may not be the whole story - or even the half of it. But a number of things strike me about this:

1. The advisability of appointing as Commissioner someone from another ‘breakaway’ branch of the Franciscans (the Capuchins).
2. The difference in how the FI Order is being treated versus how the Legionaries of Christ Order is being handled. If one were cynical, one might conclude that with the Legionaries vast amounts of money and property are involved – much less so with the FIs. The Legionaries, too, had friends in high Vatican places to defend them – who succeeded in postponing for decades the uncovering of the truth.
3. The whole process seems very much at odds with Pope Francis’ oft repeated calls for a merciful and pastoral approach. Can he be unaware of what is happening? Does he really approve?
4. As you pointed out many worse things are happening with assorted groups of clergy and religious throughout the Church, which appear to get little attention or correction.

I agree that the FIs have reacted with admirable humility and restraint – very much on the order of how Padre Pio responded to a similar ‘persecution’ decades ago. It is hard to comprehend and we can only pray that in the end justice will be done…

…and be seen to be done.

Genty said...

Oher branches of the Franciscans seem to be doing rather well under this pontificate. The current Secretary of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, twice elected as General Minister of the OFM and raised and appointed to his current post in April last year, within a month of the papal election.

Stephen said...

A downside of the lack of ecclesial subsidiarity.

viterbo said...

'"Show me the man and I will find the crime." Lavrenti Beria, the head of Joseph Stalin’s KGB, once quipped to his boss.'

Jacobi said...

Father,

You talk about how Vatican II has been twisted, into a pretext for arbitrary condemnations.

Those who do this twisting, are I suspect, the aging survivors or successors of the factions who manipulated the Council, now seen as perhaps one of the more unfortunate in the history of the Church.

The naivety of the vast majority of bishops, during and after the Council was in stark contrast to the cold calculation of the liberal/Modernist periti and bishops.

They had a clear strategy, and that was to dilute and dissolve dogma and Truth. Their tactics were to do it by phasing out Catholic education and Apologetics, but above all, they sought to achieve their objectives via the liturgy.

It is only now, some fifty years later, that this is not so much being realised, as being admitted.

You rightly give the solutions as law and dogma. I would add one other major factor – the expression of Truth by means of re-sacralised liturgy, in whichever of the various forms accepted by the Church.

M. Prodigal said...

Perhaps if enough people will pray for the FFI and offer sacrifices, the truth of all of this matter will be made known sooner than later. Only a few--6%--it is now known have brought all this about. And since there is nothing new under the sun, the Church does indeed at times persecute the most faithful as is happening here. The slanderous charge of embezzlement made by the commissioner against the founder and his family has had to be publicly renounced but only after an attorney had to be hired. And this poor Institute must pay the Capuchin over 5000 Euro a month so that he can have the funds to do what? Destroy the Institute? Close the seminary? Close Marian shrines? Stop the Marian apostolates? Scatter the holy friars? Meet privately with the dissenting ones? Shut down the lay apostolates? Cut off the Sisters? Stop the ordinations of holy men? Etc.

We have not seen such behavior in our lifetimes and still no formal charges, no heresy, no schism. Public dissenters are given a pass and this holy Institute is being suppressed. But that shows also that it is indeed the one pleasing to God because this is what happens to His specially chosen ones. Pray for the full exoneration of the founders and the restoration of the Institute according to their direction. The dissenting can go their own way.

Cordelio said...

I don’t necessarily think Father Hunwicke is doing this, but it is inaccurate when people attempt to draw a contrast between Archbishop Lefebvre and various saints of the past who have quietly endured unjust persecution.

First, Archbishop Lefebvre quietly endured all kinds of unjust persecution. He was targeted many times for his uncompromising orthodoxy by his liberal confreres in the years before he founded the SSPX and never complained. His treatment at the hands of the French episcopate upon his return from Africa – being assigned to the relatively inconsequential diocese of Tulle, instead of an archdiocesan see – comes to mind. Later, when he was effectively disempowered as Superior General by the Holy Ghost Fathers, he simply resigned.

Second, he did not even found the SSPX as a reaction to some perceived slight. He was begged to do so by seminarians who despaired of receiving a traditional priestly formation. He even refused them the first time, and tried to make other arrangements for them. He later expanded the SSPX in response to the cries of the faithful throughout the world for traditional priests. When his conflict with Rome came to a head, it was not merely a question of his enduring some personal humiliation – which past history had shown he was more than willing to do. Instead, it was a question of abandoning the priests, religious, seminarians and faithful who came to rely on him.

Would “humble obedience” be praiseworthy in a mother who submitted to her husband’s command to feed her children rotten food?

Cordelio said...

I don’t necessarily think Father Hunwicke is doing this, but it is inaccurate when people attempt to draw a contrast between Archbishop Lefebvre and various saints of the past who have quietly endured unjust persecution.

First, Archbishop Lefebvre quietly endured all kinds of unjust persecution. He was targeted many times for his uncompromising orthodoxy by his liberal confreres in the years before he founded the SSPX and never complained. His treatment at the hands of the French episcopate upon his return from Africa – being assigned to the relatively inconsequential diocese of Tulle, instead of an archdiocesan see – comes to mind. Later, when he was effectively disempowered as Superior General by the Holy Ghost Fathers, he simply resigned.

Second, he did not even found the SSPX as a reaction to some perceived slight. He was begged to do so by seminarians who despaired of receiving a traditional priestly formation. He even refused them the first time, and tried to make other arrangements for them. He later expanded the SSPX in response to the cries of the faithful throughout the world for traditional priests. When his conflict with Rome came to a head, it was not merely a question of his enduring some personal humiliation – which past history had shown he was more than willing to do. Instead, it was a question of abandoning the priests, religious, seminarians and faithful who came to rely on him.

Would “humble obedience” be praiseworthy in a mother who submitted to her husband’s command to feed her children rotten food?