14 December 2013

Franciscans of the Immaculate; more oaths

From 1910 onwards, during the campaign of S Pius X against Modernism, an 'Anti-Modernist Oath' had to be sworn by all office-holders in the Catholic Church. But, in the aftermath of the Council, that Oath was abolished; its doctrinal precision and its evident intent to discipline doctrinal dissent seemed no longer to suit the Spirit of Age; the Spirit of the student riots of 1968. Freedom and Hair and the Age of Aquarius, when All You Needed was Love, sat uncomfortably with Papa Sarto's laudable determination to maintain Orthodoxy in its most precise form.

It's surprising how things creep back. Ordinands of the Franciscans of the Immaculate are now to be required to ... guess what ... to swear a new oath ... but not at all the same sort of oath as the Anti-Modernist Oath. But the context for this novel imposition appears to be a culture just as ferocious as anything ushered in by Pascendi Dominici gregis: refusal to subscribe will mean instant dismissal from the Order. The required undertaking is described as "accettazione formale ... dei documenti del Concilio Vaticano II, secondo l'autorita riconosciuta loro dal Magistero". The problem that I have with this is that either it imposes an impossibly heavy burden upon those swearing it; or it means nothing. Let me explain what I mean, by a particular and precise example; an example which could, however, be multiplied paene ad infinitum from the Conciliar documents. Woods are made up out of trees.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 101 prescribes that in the Divine Office the Latin language is to be kept (servanda) for clerics. It does go on to give bishops power to allow the vernacular to clergy who have a grave problem with this in individual cases (singulis pro casibus). How many clergy say the Office in Latin? How many of those who say it in the vernacular have had an individual dispensation to do so from their bishop? Clearly, nobody takes that piece of legislation at all seriously; Rome doesn't; Bishops don't; clergy don't. Two delicious paradoxes: (1) if there are hypertraddies among the Franciscans of the Immaculate, they probably are among the few who do take seriously the conciliar obligation to use Latin! And (2), those most vocal in their enthusiasm for "the Council" are likely to be those who sit most lightly on SC 101. I wonder which language Basil Loftus says his Office in.

And SC101 became a dead letter within a decade of the Council ... it's not like provisions of Nicaea which, over the centuries, gradually became obsolete. Was it formally set aside by a pope or a Vatican Dicastery? In that case you would expect uebertrendies - Lofti - to be up in arms about the total iniquity of the pope or the Roman Curia in quashing, within a few years, the explicit mandate of an Ecumenical Council. Is it the unwritten 'Spirit of the Council' which has taken this burden off the shoulders of Bishops and clergy alike? Or do we have here an example of how laws can become obsolete and so cease to bind if they are ignored for long enough and Authority does nothing to insist upon them? How are ordinands, required to swear such an oath, supposed to know which of the Conciliar mandates have been set aside by some dicastery and which have been airbrushed out of existence by the Spirit of the Council and which have achieved the comfortable canonical status of desuetude? Or, if they are not supposed to know, how does the giving of such an undertaking have meaning?

An oath requiring subscription to precise doctrinal statements, such as the Anti-Modernist oath or subscription to dogmatic decrees of a pope or council, may be hard enough to parse accurately in hermeneutic terms. But those problems are nothing compared with giving meaning to the concept of "accepting" the body of documents emerging from Vatican II, a "pastoral Council". The Superior of SSPX said that his brethren accepted "95%" of the Council, and asked whether 'liberals' (one thinks of the associations of dissident priests in Ireland, Austria, and elsewhere, and the recent meeting of IMWAC ... International Movement We Are Church) accept anything like as much. Of course they don't. Does Hans Kueng? And Fr Aidan Nichols has said that one particular Conciliar decree "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics". Take, also, the Conciliar decree on the Church in "the Modern [hodiernus = 'of today'] World". The 'today' of 2014 is many ways  very different from the 'today' of 1963. The Holy Father has just pointed this out (EG 84; alluding to the 'naive optimism' of the conciliar period, and adding: "We are more realistic"). So has the Magisterium decided which parts of that document still apply and which do not? Or is everyone free to decide that for themselves?

Where an undertaking or oath is substantially meaningless, the over-scrupulous soul might hesitate to subscribe until someone has resolved all ambiguities. In my judgement, such scrupulosity would be completely excessive and would not in any way represent the obligation placed by God upon a good Catholic. We are expected to get on with living the Catholic life, not to waste our energies in endlessly picking over irrelevant scruples. And the Holy Father Pope Francis has recently and justly urged those in authority in the Church "not to exhaust their energies in inspecting and verifying" (EG 94). If Authority imposes an undertaking which is vague to the point of being meaningless, then one may take that oath. This is not like subscribing to something which is untrue.

At the basis of all this is a very unpleasant implication. Asking these worthy religious men to make these Undertakings is as offensive as it would be to ask a husband to Undertake not to beat his wife. It implies that the exacting of such an Undertaking is necessary. One recalls Pope Francis' words about a "persecution which appears a veritable witch hunt" (EG 100). Apparently the Order has been accused of 'crypto-lefebvreism'. I know no reason to suspect the friars of this. But it would be only human if some of them, given the sort of treatment they are being given, had now started to do an audit of what options they had. Is there some faction in Rome deliberately trying to provoke a schism? And are there people behind the scenes labouring to ensure that an atmosphere is created in which the regularisation of the SSPX is rendered permanently impossible? Let us pray that the Holy Father's reform of the Curia is rapid and radical.

One of the most important initiatives of Vatican II was the encouragement it gave to the work for 'Unity'. In my view, there would be something demonic in an 'Ecumenism' which was preoccupied with bodies deeply sundered from Catholic Truth while at the same time ecclesial divisions closer home were carefully tended, nurtured, extended, and deepened. If not demonic, then certainly hypocritical. It would be like loving all men, especially those a long way away, while fostering domestic hatreds in ones own household. When the Ordinariates were set up, we experienced this mindset: some who had always been so rhetorical in their advocacy of Unity suddenly turned very nasty about an example of Unity actually happening.

I simply do not believe that our beloved Holy Father knows the half of what is being done in his name.

9 comments:

Mulier Fortis said...

Very interesting post, Father. Much food for thought on this horrible situation!

John said...

Very well said, Father, as always!

Melinda said...

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will."
--Screwtape

Physiocrat said...

Perhaps those being asked to assent to the oath should request clarification as regards the meaning and interpretation of the ambiguous documents they are meant to be assenting to or alternatively, they should qualify their assent by the statement that it is subject to such clarification as may be made in the future.

Matthew M said...

Father, concerning "Sacrosanctum Concilium", which is the best translation of the document? I desire to purchase a copy but do not know which is the best. Please advise.
Thank you.

Stephen said...


Apologists for the Papacy claim that Paul VI was too weak and conflicted, that John XXIII was too old, and so on and so forth. Spouses of alcoholics make excuses for loved ones too, though most of what they achieve is the enabling of the addicted to continue the addiction.

The issue is the nature of the modern Papacy. You'll only find the capricious exercise of power.

Patrick Langan said...

Thank you Father for such a concise, erudite and clear explanation of an unbelievable and very troubling situation. I pray this purge is not as you say it could be, a provocation for schism for that would certainly impact on the unity of all Orthodox Roman Catholics.

Jason W. said...

I have never been able to figure out exactly what it is that people are supposed to assent to when it comes to Vatican II. If it is true, that it proclaimed no new doctrine or altered it in anyway, as has been claimed now by multiple popes, what are people required to accept exactly? The only other options are that it did in fact change doctrine, in which case the sedes are correct, or that it is simply one way to express doctrine, which is not binding on anyone. This whole thing stinks out loud.

I absolutely guarantee that if less than 1% of Jesuits write to Rome complaining about the heresy running rampant in their order, nothing will be done. I guarantee that if less than 1% of monks at St. John's in Collegeville write in to complain about the heresy, homosexuality, radical books, etc. that are there, nothing will be done. Is anyone stepping up to the plate to censure Sr. Joan Chittister's books anytime soon? Is anyone shutting down their formation, etc.? Nope? Why not? These are all cases of blatant heresy and outright rejection of Church teaching on a variety of subjects. No one does a darn thing about it.

Oh, and to think that the pope does not know what is going on here is naive in the extreme. He has to know. There is no way steps as drastic as these could be taken, with as much being written about it in the popular media and Catholic media, and him not know.

Newman said...

Dear Stephen,
Since you posted in December 2013 you may have already resolved your dilemma.
There are so many "inclusive" translations that its a nightmare to choose. I am not a liturgist, but I summarised SC to a study group in the year of faith. I can send you my power point presentation which was well received. Including a notable priest liturgist at the London oratory whom we invited to moderate the discussion. My e mail is s.reiss@ic.ac.uk
I used the Vatican archives translation. Which is by far the most faithful translation. You can find it here.
http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

God bless.
Stuart