On Relations with Rome
Made In Honour of
Our Lady of Good Counsel
We hold firmly with all our heart and with all our mind to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary to the maintenance of this faith, to the eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth.
We refuse on the other hand, and have always refused, to follow the Rome of Neo-Modernist and Neo-Protestant tendencies, which became clearly manifest during the Second Vatican Council, and after the Council, in reforms which issued from it.
That is why, without any rebellion, bitterness, or resentment, we pursue our work of the sanctification of souls in the spirit of Saint Alphonsus under the guidance of the never-changing Magisterium, convinced as we are that we cannot possibly render a greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to posterity.
That is why we hold firmly to everything that has been consistently taught and practiced by the Church (and codified in books published before the Modernist influence of the Council) concerning faith, morals, divine worship, catechetics, priestly formation, and the institution of the Church.
But now we must ask ourselves if a glimmer of light has not begun to show through the clouds of confusion that for many years have darkened the sky of eternal Rome. For we now have a Pontiff, a successor of Peter, ready to allow us to adhere fully to this timeless tradition of the Church and its complete expression in Catholic life without apparent compromise. He seems ready to "let us do the experiment of Tradition" as Archbishop Lefebvre asked so many years ago.
This glimmer of light has manifested itself above all in recent months in the courage with which the successor of Peter stood up against opposition from many quarters in promulgating his letter motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum". As far as Roman diplomacy could allow, the Supreme Pontiff declared the vindication of all those who for years had been fighting to keep the traditional Mass, since "it was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, always permitted."1 Moreover, Article 3 of Summorum Pontificum foresees the erection of communities like our own that would "permanently" use the Missal of 1962 – it is an invitation to be in recognised communion with the Holy Father while remaining simply as we are.
If, however, Benedict XVI has shown himself ready to allow the "experiment of Tradition" to be done in communion with him and with his blessing, what are we to make of the storm of abuses and confusion that reigns in the universal Church?
If these troubled waters are the very setting for the most important Papal motu proprio letter of the past years, then this document ought to be understood as a call for change. These forty years of crisis, the empty convents, the abandoned presbyteries, the empty churches and the sad state of Catholic education has finally awakened the realisation at the highest level of the Church that we are in a period of crisis. This realisation has produced a visible change in the will of Rome: no longer are the orientations of the 1960's and 70's to be imposed with the uncaring absolutism of "that period with all its hopes and its confusion." Rome is ready to admit that "omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of the blame..." Rome is ready to ask pardon for the "arbitrary deformations of the liturgy (that) caused deep pain..."2
Will we require more than one apology? The Pope wishes to see traditional Catholic life flourish once again in the bosom of the Church, and he has given approval to all the means that will allow this to happen: not only the Mass, but the sacraments, the ritual, the breviary, etc. But it is the Holy Ghost that is at work, guiding the successor of Peter even beyond what he himself may intend, for it will be through the restoration in practice of the traditional life of the Church that will be asphyxiated slowly but surely the modernist theological poison that still circulates in the bloodstream of the Church.
Henceforth, the combat for the Faith finds itself on an extended front: we are called to play a humble part in the revival of traditional Catholic practice in the universal Church for a new generation that no longer cares for the novelties of the Second Vatican Council, but thirsts for the solid Catholicism that is inseparably joined with the Mass of all time. This is the way the Church has arisen phoenix-like from all challenges she has faced in the past: by a resurgence of life in traditional Catholic practice, the doctrinal aberrations that caused decadence are shown for what they are. These are arguments that all can understand: not the intricate subtleties of the modernist mind, but the new spring shoots of the tree whence comes life.
The ambiguities of the Second Vatican Council remain to be clarified, this is certain. But far from denying the bi-millennial tradition of the Church, the Roman authorities seem ever more acutely aware of the need to reconcile the Second Vatican Council with tradition. How exactly to do so remains the poignant question of our day. It is a question that will not be solved easily nor soon – this we can gather from the manner in which the Church has dealt with problematic declarations of councils in the past. But another lesson from these past problems is that false doctrines die out over time, as their fruits are sterile. The Holy Ghost will show where the truth lies, because it is He who guides and gives life. Hence, it is sufficient for us to ask what Archbishop Lefebvre asked: Laissez-nous faire l'expérience de la tradition, ("let us do the experiment of Tradition") and for the rest, the answer shall soon be clear, for by their fruits we shall know them.
Can ambiguities and the confusion and false interpretations to which they give rise be the justification to stop us from accepting visible communion with Rome? As long as interpretations in contradiction to the tradition of the Church are not imposed upon us, these problems do not have to be an obstacle to union. We must simply remain free to preach the perennial doctrines of the Church, while trying to reconcile what can be reconciled "in a positive line of study and communication with the Holy See."3
Ah, but could not these offers from Rome be a "trap"? In answering this, we ought to reflect upon the extent of the liturgical reform granted and willed by the Pope. He reintroduced not only the Mass, but also the sacraments, the ritual, the pontifical, the breviary, etc. If all this were only a scheme to trick the traditionalist communities, this extension would be very dangerous for the progressivists and would ultimately run contrary to their intentions, for it makes possible the return of the entire mindset and life associated with the traditional Mass. We cannot believe that it is a trick, but a sincere attempt on the part of the Sovereign Pontiff to aright a wrong and to remedy the situation of the Church.
Given this situation where we have at least the appearance of Rome's willingness to accept us as we are, there are certain matters of Faith that will not allow us to remain inactive. It is a fundamental principle of the Church and of the Faith that in the person of the successor of Peter is to be found the lasting principle and the visible foundation of the double unity of Faith and communion.4 It is "in his person" that this unity is found, not in the Vatican bureaucracy. This is why we feel particularly touched by the personal intervention of the Pope in our favor.
Also, there is the visibility of the Church that urges us. During these long years of crisis our position – we feel – has not harmed the visibility of the Church because there were visible problems to account for the apparent visible break in unity. We in tradition were the object of visible injustice and of visible abuses of power. But now that the successor of Peter has diplomatically apologised and has extended his hands to us, welcoming us simply as we are, what further visible justification will we find to refuse communion with him? We cannot expect him to solve all of the problems in the Church first, for the Pontiff sadly finds himself deprived of much of the control we would have associated with the Pontiffs of ages past. He rules now more by diplomacy than by monarchical authority. Nor can we ask the Pontiff to change the course of the bark of Peter too rapidly – a rapid movement of the rudder could sweep even more souls off the ship's deck and into the sea. And after all, this is his prudential judgment to make, not ours.
Can we choose to remain where we are under these circumstances? We have argued for years now of our "state of necessity" and of the resulting supplied jurisdiction that the Church supplies to us. But can we continue to argue this when ordinary jurisdiction is offered to us without any compromise in the Faith? Can we choose freely to remain in this irregular canonical situation where we are? In other words, can a state of necessity be the object of a choice without moral fault? Clearly not And on the other hand: are the authorities ready to accord us regular faculties? If the answer to this second question is affirmative, then we are no longer in the same case of necessity!
All these serious considerations, dear friends, move us to go and see what Rome has to say. Let not our contacts with Rome be understood as meaning that we will break off our friendship with the Society of Saint Pius X and the other traditionalist organisations around the world. On the contrary, we positively want with all our hearts to remain in contact, sharing all that we may learn with Bishop Fellay and the other heads of traditional orders for the good of tradition as a whole.
Only time will tell if the moment has come for an agreement with Rome. Prudence requires of us to proceed slowly and cautiously, reflecting well at each step of the discussions. In this, we will rely on the continued support and advice of our traditionalist friends. Our agreement must be founded upon the fundamental principles of the Church and the safeguarding of the Faith.
While asking for your prayers for this matter, we place ourselves under the patronage and protection of our Mother of Perpetual Succour, She ‘who by Herself has crushed all the heresies in the whole world’ qui cunctas haereses interemit. May She, whom St Alphonsus ever invoked as the Mother of Good Counsel, teach us to be "wise as serpents and simple as doves"5, while showing us how to "generously open our hearts to make room for everything that the Faith itself allows."6
In the octave of Our Lady of Good Counsel
28 April, 2008
Fr Michael Mary, C.SS.R.
Fr Anthony Mary, C.SS.R.
1 Benedict XVI, Letter accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum
3 Archbishop Lefebvre, Protocol of May 5th, 1988
4 Vatican Council I, Pastor Aeternus, DS. 3051
5 Matt 10:16
6 Benedict XVI, op. cit.