4 March 2017

Did Archbishop Lefebvre make a big mistake? (2)

I know what you're going to say. Marcel Lefebvre and all the other (except four) Council Fathers made a big mistake by signing a blank cheque. We can, with hindsight, see that. To which I will reply that 'hindsight' is a standard of judgement by which few of us would be happy to be judged. But more: the cheque wasn't blank. Sacrosanctum Concilium deliberately made the cheque unblank by ordering  "There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing." Blame the plotters who acted as if the Council gave them a Sartrean carte blanche, not the Conciliar Fathers.

But does this mean that Eucharists confected with Eucharistic Prayer II ... and Orders conferred according to the new, corrupted Pontifical ... are invalid?

It most certainly does not. There are four reasons for this
(1) Do-it-yourself 'theologians' fail to understand that for mere naked validity, the Church requires very little. I have written about this often before (Search Engine?). That highly iffy Eucharistic Prayer, and that deplorable Prayer for consecrating bishops, do contain all that is necessary for validity. They are deplorable and iffy in our Latin Church because they abandon the theology as well as the ancient and noble traditions of the Roman Church; traditions which are as sacrosanct for us as Byzantine and Oriental formulae are to the adherents of those rites. And because the Roman tradition is, in any case, more ancient and venerable and beautiful. But 'Deplorable' does not in any way feed into 'Invalidity'.
(2) Those formulae (a) had for centuries been used by dissident communities in the East whose Sacraments the Roman Curia had by its very ancient praxis always regarded as valid; and (b) when groups left those dissident communities and entered into Full Communion with the See of S Peter, Rome ordered their ancient rites to continue to be used. Nobody was reordained!
(3) Those rites continue to be used to this day both by dissident and by united (Catholic) Orientals. Can it seriously be argued that when a 'Monophysite' Coptic bishop is consecrated, he is truly made a bishop, but that when the same prayer is used on a Latin Rite consecrand, it doesn't "work"? The 'rigorist' stance so absurdly, so gleefully, adopted by sedevacantists means that when the dissident Patriarch of Alexandria consecrates a bishop, Hooray!! The rite 'works'! But when a Latin bishop is consecrated with the same words, God goes all severe and says No.
(4) If there were radical verbal inadequacies or ambiguities in the forms presented by the post-Conciliar Pontifical, we would need to remember that usage and situation can pinpoint and narrow the referentiality of words. So if it is laid down by a particular linguistic community that the words "governing Spirit" shall henceforth, when used by them, refer to the Holy Spirit by which the order of the Episcopate is conferred, then, when the words are (at least, thereafter) used by them in that context, that is what those words do mean. British Acts of Parliament commonly lay down what particular terms within the Act shall therein mean. And they do so mean.

There are ecclesiological problems for all of us when a pontificate goes off the rails as badly as this one has. But the sedevacantist claim that 'Conciliar Orders' are invalid is a facile and cheap dodge, a short-cut, to avoid the hard work involved in working through the real problems. And to do so by scaring good Christian people. It has more than a little something of the Enemy about it.


Ana Milan said...

This is the best & most concise answer to the sedevacantist position regarding the validity of the Holy Mass & Holy Orders that I have read. Sedes consider their interpretation on VII to be the authoritative one & that they are the only 'true' Catholics. The Holy Mass is evil & harmful but as they have no way to prove God has not sustained His Sacraments (ex opere operato) there is no just cause for them to teach Catholics to avoid them. Their priests are latae sententiae & haven't the faultices to function as priests & their movement hasn't the authority, infallibility or indefectibility to do anything, let alone licence or ordain priests.
They love to feel they are the tiny remnant that is keeping Truth alive. The rest of us are damned if we don't listen to them. They, by their wantonness, have left the Church & have formed yet another sect - the same schismatic attitude of knowing better & having a telephone link to God applies.

Certainly many of us are dismayed by the lack of due reverence the new format has brought together with a general lack of access to the sacraments (as many are now deemed to be unnecessary) & the false mercy propounded by PF & would dearly love to go back to the Old Rite with the fullness it provided, but to say that it has actually made void the sacraments is absurd. As you point out, does this mean that those early Christians were not worshipping God in a manner acceptable to Him because they had a different liturgy, or that Eastern Catholics, who also kept their own rite, are anyways inferior? They never answer such queries as they can't, something like PF can't answer the Dubia. If they do they leave themselves open to ridicule so silence is the only tactic they adopt.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Psalm73: A prayer of the Church under grievous persecutions.

1 Understanding for Asaph.
O God, why hast thou cast us off unto the end? why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture?
2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed from the beginning.
The sceptre of thy inheritance, which thou hast redeemed: Mount Sion, in which thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
4 And they that hate thee have made their boasts, in the midst of thy solemnity.
They have set up their ensigns for signs:

5 and they knew not both in the going out, and on the highest top.
As with axes in a wood of trees,
6 they have cut down at once the gates thereof: with axe and hatchet they have brought it down.
7 They have set fire to thy sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling-place of thy name on the earth.
8 They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land.

9 Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more.

This Psalm sounds like the plain and simple observation of what has been happening every single day since the Hierarchy crammed the Lil' Licit Liturgy down our faithful throats. When the Holiest single act on earth at any time is treated so cavalierly (at best) why are so many Catholics confused as to the source of our problems?

Do they think Jesus is as uninterested in worship as our Hierarchy is?

Lord have Mercy, those in charge think Jesus will pour out His Grace upon the Church He established even though it treats The Holocaust (Holy Sacrifice of Mass is The Holocaust made Sacramentally present in our midst) as though it were of no more consequence than a family picnic.

ABS is convinced that if the Hierarchy who is responsible for the Lil' Licit Liturgy was at Calvary they would have thought a yodeling contest would not have been an improper response to the very long and tedious time it took Jesus to complete His Salvific Self-Sacrifice ...Look, the people grow bored and restless...

PseudonymousposterJohn said...

I think, Fr., you will be familiar with the saying to 'give an inch and they will take a mile'. Perhaps this was unknown on the Italian peninsula

Ben of the Bayou said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for this thoughtful (as ever) exposition. I wonder if there isn't another error behind the criticism of the SVC based on the Rites manufactured after it. Namely, it seems there is an assumption that a Council could conceivably construct those sacred Rites, as if its auctoriatas extends all the way to the constitution of the Church herself. I have been reading this blog long enough to know that I don't have to convince you about how erroneous that proposition is. Yet, it does seem to underlie a good amount of thinking in this area.

Lastly, your comments about validity seem to me undoubtedly true as you have expressed it briefly herein, whereas your assertions about the ability of a communitas to define meaning in the words used in their Rites seem positively Wittgensteinian in their deconstructivist import. Hmm, say I.

Be that as it may, I did wonder whether you might be setting up for another assault against Apostolicae Curae based on the same arguments with which you have here defended the validity (which I do not dispute) of the post-Conciliar Rites. I suppose time will tell.



Stephen said...

One logical consideration is that the vast, vast overwhelming number of prelates were either a) indifferent to the liturgical changes or b) quite happy to embrace them and promote them in their dioceses, and literally a mere handful were c) Card. Ottaviani, Archb. Lefebvre etc

So, if one is more than a wee bit disturbed about the innovations, the more pertinent question would be, Why were so many prelates in either a) or b) to begin with? Were they formed any differently than Lefebvre, Castro de Mayer, or Ottaviani? The answer would have to be, probably not much. So, that would make the c) group the real outliers, with a) and b) in the fat middle of the early 1960s bell curve.

What was in the water in first half of the 20th century, such that so many of them so easily jettisoned, or were agnostic to, the jettisoning of their liturgical patrimony?

John Nolan said...

In a much-quoted passage in Joseph Ratzinger's 'Spirit of the Liturgy' (pp. 165 -166) the future Pope Benedict XVI repudiates the post-Conciliar notion that 'the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council.' On the contrary 'the pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be the humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.'

The logical inference from this is that in imposing a radically different rite of Mass on the whole Latin Church, Paul VI was exceeding his authority and therefore the Novus Ordo, though valid, is illicit.

The idea that there are two 'forms' (three, if you count the Ordinariate Missal) of the one Roman Rite was always a legal fiction. In a talk I attended a couple of years back, Fr Uwe Michael Lang admitted that the consensus was that we have two distinct rites.

Pulex said...

Father, you wrote: "Can it seriously be argued that when a 'Monophysite' Coptic bishop is consecrated, he is truly made a bishop, but that when the same prayer is used on a Latin Rite consecrand, it doesn't "work"?"

One of the arguments of those who question the validity of the episcopal ordination prayer promulgated in 1968 is that the adopted formula is used in the respective oriental rite NOT to consecrate a bishop, but to bless a newly elected patriarch, i.e. one who is already a bishop. This means that the formula should be evaluated on its own merits as to its ability to validly confer the sacrament, and not by its usage in the East.

Athelstane said...

No doubt the Consilium went far beyond the writ of Sacrosanctum Concilium (and always intended to do so) - and they were able to do so because Pope Paul VI supported such a radical program, trimming its worst excesses only at the margins.

But it must be recognized that the Constitution is still a program for a reform of the Roman Rite on an unprecedented scale. Its scope and ambition remain profound; it is in its prescriptions, not just Bugnini's fevered dreams, that the multi-year lectionary was born. It is a program clearly very restless and impatient with the Roman Rite itself, not just its frequent ars celebrandi, that is at work.

Is that a criticism of the conservatives who signed it anyway? I am reluctant to cast it that way; I know something of the difficulties under which these bishops had to work. But it does remain surprising to me that more opposition was not mounted against some of its most radical prescriptions. I think that very few traditionalists today could sign on to it even with the most sympathetic reading they could muster.

Athelstane said...

Hello Stephen,

What was in the water in first half of the 20th century, such that so many of them so easily jettisoned, or were agnostic to, the jettisoning of their liturgical patrimony?

Yours is a very penetrating question.

I think the works of HJA Sire (Phoenix From the Ashes) and Geoffrey Hull (The Banished Heart) give some hints. But I think there is much more that could be written on this question.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Pulex: (1) It was my intention to deal in my point 4 wth exactly the question you raise about discerning the meanings of words.
(2) I would like to get the following clear in my mind: you are saying, are you, that the pneuma hegemonikon Prayer is NOT used in the consecration of Coptic BISHOPS, both 'dissident' and 'uniate'? That is what your words appear to claim. Have I understood you aright?

Stephen said...

Hello Athelstane,
I shall read those books, thank you. What do you think was in the water?

Pulex said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,
(1) I understand your argument in point 4.
(2) You have understood me right. I indeed meant that the formula closest to the new prayer in Roman rite used in the Rite for the Consecration of a Maronite Patriarch. My source in this case is Fr. Cekada's year 2006 article at rore-sanctifica.org. The problem term "pneuma hegemonikon" is also used in the East in the rites of blessing an abbot (hegoumenos) and metropolitan, i.e. non-sacramental rites. To be fair, the term is also used in rites of episcopal conscration, too (here I correct myself), but there it forms a part of lenghty prayers which also name the particular graces of bishop which the new Roman prayer allegedly does not.

There are many other writings on this. Yes, I know what kind of site this is, but let's look at their arguments. At any rate, the problems with the new episcopal ordination formula have been first seen not by sedevacantists, but by some Spanish diocesan bishop and Dom. A. Kroeger, OSB (Gerleve Abvey). The latter's article is in Una Voce Korrespondenz. One should seek their 70s archive.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The Fathers at Vatican Two were convinced their novelties were arrived at by them having been guided to them by The Holy Ghost (see p. 252-258 The Second Vatican Council, an untold story Roberto de Mattei) and Bishop Borromeo, in his Diary, considered such men Modernists and a quote lifted from it , p. 258, does not make for fun reading.

Here is the last part of his observation: Thus today's modernism salvages all of Christianity, its dogmas and its organization, but empties it all out and turns it on its head. It is no longer a religion that comes from God but a religion that comes directly from man and indirectly from the divine element that is in man.

We are not in a sane, healthy, or orthodox situation when novelties opposed to Tradition are claimed to have been arrived at by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and to refuse the proposed novelties are considered opposition to the Will of the Third Person of The Blessed Trinity.

O, and it ought be observed that during the Council, Pope Paul VI delivered a public speech in which he claimed that the Fathers of the Council were the holiest catholics who ever lived and who loved Jesus more than any who came before them.

Athelstane said...

Hello Stephen,

Our kind host here has written a good deal on this subject - I don't have links to his most relevant posts to hand - and I don't want to step on what he might say in response.

Still, I was struck by a passing comment de Mattei makes his The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story, in which he observes that as the Council prepared to convene, so many of the foreign bishops were restless for major reform of the Roman Rite, and the "natives" - er, the Italians - could not be stirred to make a defense of the Rite. There was a real exhaustion with it. I think that conforms with so much I have gathered from mid-century sources.

But that only feeds your question; it does not answer it. Hull's thesis is that two phenomena came increasingly to the fore in the Roman Church after the Reformation, and increasingly debilitated its liturgy: 1) An emphasis on rationality and logic that descends from the Roman legal tradition and which survived in the Latin Church's theological language; and 2) A tendency to imitate the secular forces of the time with regards to internal government and relations with those outside of itself (in this case, non-Latin Christians) (I am indebted to frequent commentator and blogger The Rad Trad for this summation - see his very perceptive review here: http://theradtrad.blogspot.com/2013/08/book-review-banished-heart-origins-of.html ). An excessive rationalism created a certain growing impoverishment in the liturgy, and later on it would feed a growing understanding that the liturgy needed to be reshaped to be a more didactic exercise - an impulse which was given catastrophic form in the 1960's.

And the reality is that perceptions that the liturgical life of the Roman Rite was quite deficient by the 20th century was not unfounded - and that was especially true, I think, in the Anglophone world, heavily dominated by Irish clergy (I except the Oratorian communities, among others, in making this observation). Low Mass Culture heavily dominated; public celebration of the Office had become attenuated, and hymns too often replaced singing of the propers when singing happened at all. When the first traditionalist communities (mostly under SSPX auspices) began to pop up in the 70's,80's, and 90s', especially in North America, this liturgical culture frequently returned, as the older Catholics who formed the core of many of these parishes simply were trying to recapture liturgical life as they remembered it in the postwar era (1945-62) - not always conscious of its deficiencies.

One additional context I might add is the kind of world the Church found itself in as it struggled to come to grips with its liturgy: a world in which the old Catholic heartlands had been utterly, utterly wrecked by the disastrous nationalist struggles of the World Wars, only to be replaced by the highly rationalistic, technocratic and materialist powers which ruled the world after 1945 - the Hoopers of the Anglo-American powers and the commissars of the East. It was, to put it mildly, not an auspicious cultural climate in which a liturgical restoration could take place. I don't think it's at all coincidence that the very first papal conclave of the Pax Americana saw the quick election of a liberal reforming pope - who was in turn merely a foretaste of the pope so many of the cardinals really wanted, Papa Pacelli's protege waiting in the wings in Milan.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...


The seeds of the corruption of the Western liturgy goes back even further - Sigismondo Malatesta's pagan templ- sorry "renaissance"church was the first indication, a turning away from the true indigenous Latin catholic art form - "gothic" - to a barbarous, secular pagan style, which degenerated even further into baroque and then rococo. And this was accompanied by a degeneration of ecclesiastical music from the 17c, and lace albs and fiddlebacks.

It's absolutely no good trying to restore Christendom and yet re-invigorate such abuses.

I would therefore disagree with you about the oratory.

Stephen said...

Thanks Athelstane,

It does put the Pauline reforms in context, such that they are less the result of scheming Bugnini's (which would make a great name for a punk rock group!)who pulled a fast one over the oh-so-easily duped bishops and cardinals at Vatican II, and more a natural result of a the existing flow in the west over the past few centuries.