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"Full Communion" Update...

Removing the Vatican II Impediment

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 9/2/11

He kept the Faith when

millions were abandoning it but

was he in full communion?

( Following the publication of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970, Vatican bureaucrats under the command of Anibale Bugnini, mastermind of the catastrophic “liturgical reform,” assiduously promoted the fraud that the traditional Latin Mass had been banned: abrogated, obrogated, objurgated, expurgated, extirpated, reprobated, incarcerated.  Whatever. In response to the lunatical contention that the received and approved Roman Rite was now illegal, many Catholics promptly repaired to independent chapels or the chapels of the Society of Saint Pius X to await the day when the Vatican came to its senses.

It took nearly forty years for that to happen definitively.  At long last, on 7-7-07, Pope Benedict XVI declared openly to the universal Church, for the first time since the liturgical shipwreck began, what we traditionalists had always known about the Missal in our hands: “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”

As for Bugnini, it took far less than forty years for the Vatican to come to its senses concerning him and his “work,” even if the ruinous results were left intact.  In 1975, within days of reading a dossier on Bugnini that had landed on his desk, Pope Paul VI sacked the Master of Disaster, dissolving his congregation and packing him off to Iran to serve as a papal nuncio.  As Bugnini admits, speaking of himself in the third person, the dossier reportedly “proved that Archbishop Bugnini was a Freemason.” (Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy, 91).   Whatever the dossier proved, Bugnini himself noted the causal connection for the historical record: the Pope read a dossier on Bugnini, and then Bugnini was sacked.  As Bugnini further admitted, the sudden demise of his career as the Great Reformer could not have been “the stuff of ordinary administrative life. There must have been something more earth-shaking.” (Ibid).

For decade after decade, the promoters of post-conciliar correctness—you know who you are—piously assured us that “obedience to the Pope” required us to believe and to act as if the Pope had forbidden the traditional Mass. Now the Pope himself has declared that this is nonsense.  But another nonsensical proposition of post-conciliar correctness remains in vogue: that the Society of Saint Pius X lacks “full communion” with the Church even though its bishops are no longer deemed excommunicated.

Here fairness requires me to note that it was also Pope Benedict who stated (albeit in passing) that his intention in lifting the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops “was to remove an impediment that could hinder the opening of a door to dialogue and thus invite the four bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church.”

So, the Pope himself used the phrase.  But what does it mean? Consider the language of the decree lifting the excommunications, issued by Cardinal Re of the Congregation for Bishops by Pope Benedict’s authority on January 21, 2009:

In virtue of the faculties that have been expressly conceded to me by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present decree, I lift from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of excommunication latae sententiae declared by this congregation on July 1, 1988, and declare void of juridical effects beginning today the decree published then.

Void of juridical effects!  And what are the “juridical effects” of excommunication now considered void?  According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:

1/ to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;

2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;

3/ to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance.

So, the effects of excommunication are essentially three: (1) forbidden to administer sacraments, (2) forbidden to receive sacraments, (3) forbidden to exercise any office or ministry in the Church.  From which it follows that the lifting of the excommunication of the four Society bishops should mean—if words have meaning—that the four bishops are now able to administer and receive sacraments and exercise offices and ministries in the Church, as are the Society priests, who were never excommunicated in the first place.

So what is the problem? Here we must read very carefully a key passage in the Pope’s Letter to the world’s bishops on the remission of the excommunications:

The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers—even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty—do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

Surprisingly enough, the Pope is saying here that the only impediment to the canonical status of the Society is doctrinal, and that the posited doctrinal impediment involves, not heresy or dissent from doctrine below the level of defined dogma, but questions that need to be clarified. The statement also specifies, quite portentously, that as individuals the priests and bishops of the Society are no longer under any canonical penalty that would prevent them from exercising their ministries as priests and bishops. The only impediment is an unspecified clarification of unspecified doctrinal questions.

I must confess that I have no idea from reading this statement what exactly the Society must do in order to achieve “full communion” and thus attain “canonical status” and the ability to “exercise any ministry” in the Church. If, as individuals, the Society’s clerics are no longer under any canonical disability as such, what is the basis for a collective impediment of the Society consisting of doctrinal questions that need to be clarified? None seems apparent. It is self-evident that the Church today is filled with clergy and laity whose doctrine is in dire need clarification on fundamental points of faith and morals, such as contraception. Yet there are no Vatican pronouncements on the inability of these people to administer or receive the sacraments, exercise a ministry, or even conduct canonical missions in the Church unless their doctrine is clarified.

It is fair to ask: Has this impediment of a need for clarification of doctrinal questions—meaning, of course, questions about Vatican II and nothing else—been erected ad hoc for the Society and only the Society? Is not the impediment itself in need of clarification? In particular, what propositions must the Society affirm in order overcome the nebulous impediment of a need for doctrinal clarification? Are we not dealing with, quite literally, the Vatican II impediment, whatever that might mean? And that is the ultimate question: Does it have any real meaning at all?

We have just received an indication that the answer is in the negative. Rorate Caeli has reported that on May 28, 2011 Father Daniel Couture, the Society’s District Superior of Asia (whom I had the privilege of assisting during a pilgrimage in Japan), was delegated by Bishop Fellay to accept the vows of Mother Mary Micaela, who has transferred from the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of New Zealand, a Novus Ordo congregation, to the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, established by Bishop Fellay. The report notes that Mother Mary “had special permission from the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes in Rome to do this.”

Obviously, the approval of this transfer implicitly recognizes the ministry of Bishop Fellay in establishing the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, the ministry of Father Couture in receiving the vows of the Novus Ordo nun who transferred into that order, and the canonical mission of the Society at large in delegating one of its priests, through one of its bishops, to admit a nun into an order with which the Society is affiliated and whose superior is Bishop Fellay.

The doctrinal talks between the Society and the Vatican on the clarification of doctrinal questions concerning Vatican II having been  concluded, we are reading reports that Bishop Fellay and two assistants have been summoned to the Vatican for a meeting on September 14, the anniversary of the effective date of Summorum Pontificum, for the ostensible purpose of delivering the Society’s final statement concerning the talks.  Is the “Vatican II impediment” about to be removed?  Will it join the nonsense about the banning of the traditional Mass in the dustbin of Vatican II mythology? Will the Vatican finally admit that the Council changed nothing, and required nothing from Catholics, concerning what they must believe and practice in order to be in “full communion” with the Church?

It would seem that, given the development with the Sisters of Wanganui, these questions may already have been answered in the affirmative. Of course they will be answered in the affirmative sooner or later, just as we always knew it was only a matter of time before the Pope himself would admit that the traditional Mass was never abrogated and was always permitted.

So much nonsense has been dispelled during this pontificate.  The neo-Catholic polemic on the "schism" of traditionalists is now in tatters.  When the Society is finally "regularized" de jureand it is already regularized de facto, who's kidding whom?what will be left of the neo-Catholic position?  Exactly nothing.  And when exactly nothing is left of neo-Catholicism, when its claim to be the moral and theological high ground is finally extinguished, then the restoration of the Church can proceed everywhere. Let us hope the date of extinction is on or about September 14, 2011. 

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