REPRINTED FROM OCTOBER 2017
Speaking only on my own, individual, behalf, I have to say that I feel very let down by PF's apparent decision not to reply to the Correctio Filialis which I together with others sent to him at the Domus Santa Marta last August. I retain to the full my feeling of the proper respect due to the individual who currently occupies the Petrine See, but in human and affective terms, his apparent view that I and so many others are not worth bothering with introduces a sense of hurt and pain, if not alienation. I am sure that there is a providential purpose in all this, and I pray that I may be enabled ever more profoundly to embrace the humiliations permitted by the Divine Will.
The decision of PF not to fulfil the mandate to confirm (sterizein) his brethren, is a striking event not easily paralleled. And a refusal to respond to formal requests can hardly not itself constitute a formal act. So I turned, as surely we in the Ordinariate instinctively do, to our beloved Patron Blessed John Henry Newman, quo quis doctior, quis sapientior?
"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."
I am testing in my thoughts (doing what we colloquially call "sleeping on it" or "thinking aloud") the possibility that PF's decision to ignore the cries for help which are sent to him, whether by Eminent Fathers of the Sacred College or by nonentities like me, may be seen as formally constituting the beginning of a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in "temporary suspense"; in a vacatio which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally returns from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith.
If readers want an expansion of my way of thinking, I refer them to the masterly address on Apostasy delivered last week at the Buckfast Fatima Conference by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. "The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church's pastors in the matters of Worship, teaching, and moral discipline ... ". His dear Eminence always puts things so much better than I could! Incidentally, I suspect that the Conference ... and, not least, Cardinal Burke's powerful address ... may go down in history as one of the significant moments in the recovery, the 'fight-back', of orthodoxy.
As if to confirm my thoughts, in the last few days PF is reported to have contradicted another of the Church's teachings: the teaching with regard to Capital Punishment; and to have done so not obiter or in an airliner but formally, reading a written text to one of those "Pontifical Councils" which absorb so much money and effort. This suggests to me that PF has himself consciously stopped even bothering to remain within the parameters set by the Magisterium to which he is as much under an obligation to submit as is anybody else. The current careful formulation of the Church's teaching with regard to the Death Penalty, which PF said he wants changed, is precisely twenty years old. A "Magisterium" which contradicts itself every twenty years is not a Teaching Authority to which many people are likely seriously to consider themselves obliged to give assent. (I say this as a strong opponent of the use of Capital Punishment in modern states; as a barbarism.)
I can see no present grounds plausibly to speculate that PF's divagations from orthodoxy will in future tolerate any restraints. It is as if, having discovered himself at the bottom of a hole, he has decided that the only thing to do is to keep digging with redoubled energy. Or, like the Duke of Wellington in the Fifth Act of the Battle of Waterloo, perhaps he is saying to the world "In for a penny, in for a pound"! Or does he think that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb? Will his parting gift to the Church Militant be a ringing endorsement of the homoiousios? En pote hote ouk en?
By joining with Newman in this analysis, I do not, of course, in any way suggest that PF and the silent or heterodox bishops have lost the right or capacity to use the Magisterium of his and their office. Precisely as Newman did, I am simply observing that, as a matter of fact, he is not and they are not using it. I am certainly not suggesting (and I do not believe) that this Suspense makes any difference whatsoever to the status or powers of the current occupant of the Roman See or of other bishops. Those who argue that PF has forfeited his See, or that his Election was for any reason void or voidable, are, in my judgement, talking piffle. (Quae sit huius verbi etymologia quaero. Num verbi 'pontificale' depravatio est?)
I shall not consider comments which ignore the paragraph immediately above this.
Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So ... not applicable to Vatican II!