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The Legislating Church

‘Vatileaks’ and Other Iceberg Tips

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 6/11/12

“My authority ends at that door…”

-Pope Benedict XVI-

Mass Facing the People
Novelty in the Name of the Pope

( In his historic Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict declared with the full authority of his office what traditionalists had always known: that the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, representing the immemorial Roman liturgy, was “never abrogated” by Paul VI (numquam abrogatam). In the accompanying letter to the worldwide episcopate, Pope Benedict was at pains to draw “attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”

Always permitted. And yet for forty years after the first public celebration of Pope Paul’s New Mass on October 24, 1967—a Biblical epoch of suffering—the Church groaned under the burden of the falsehood that the traditional Mass had been abrogated, or “obrogated” (eliminated by substitution) as the neo-Catholic establishment now contends in a hasty revision of its discredited propaganda. Concerning that propaganda, we must never forget that neo-Catholic apologists for the post-conciliar revolution insisted for decades that “celebration of the Tridentine Mass is forbidden except where ecclesiastical law specifically allows it.” (Likoudis and Whitehead, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, 1982, 16, 67-68; 2000, 68) (my emphasis). The Church’s received and approved rite of Mass, the very substance of the living Faith of our Fathers, forbidden.  So they told us, until Pope Benedict exposed the lie.

The Rise of the Legislating Church

Since Paul VI never actually abrogated the traditional Mass—an act that would have been “quite alien to the spirit of the Church,” as the former Cardinal Ratzinger put it—whence did this monstrous fraud originate? The answer lies in the bureaucratization of the Roman Curia and the Church at large during the wave of “reforms” following the Second Vatican Council. As Michael Davies observed in his landmark study of the liturgical revolution, “the Conciliar Church could well be termed the legislating Church… It has become a bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy and has given up any pretense at evangelizing the de-Christianized masses in Western countries in favor of producing an endless stream of legislation to regulate a diminishing number of the faithful.” (Pope Paul’s New Mass, 21-22).

Communion in the Hand

Novelty in the Name of the Pope

Note well the paradox Davies identified: more and more legislation for fewer and fewer faithful. Over the past five decades the Church has suffered the decomposition of the human element of the ecclesial commonwealth in a manner paralleling that of the fall of Rome, with its proliferation of laws accompanied by a loss of societal integrity.  Cardinal Ratzinger called it a “continuing process of decay.” (L’Osservatore Romano, November 9, 1984). As Chesterton famously observed of this sort of process: “When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.”  The post-conciliar “reformers” broke some very big laws indeed, first and foremost the law of the Church’s organic liturgical development, thus producing what the former Cardinal Ratzinger has called “a break in the history of the liturgy, whose consequences could only be tragic.” (Milestones, p. 148). Thereafter followed the endless stream of little laws by which the Legislating Church has systematically ruined the Roman Rite.

The destruction of the Roman Rite was entirely a bureaucratic operation that Pope Paul VI allowed to run amuck before he finally sacked the infamous Bugnini on suspicion of Freemasonic affiliation and packed him off to Iran in 1976. But the ill-starred Pope acted far too late to undo the incalculable damage Bugnini had done in the process of what he himself had called “a  major conquest of the Catholic Church” two years earlier. (Davies, “How the liturgy fell apart: the enigma of Archbishop Bugnini,” AD2000 Vol. 2 No 5 (June 1989), p. 17).

As Davies showed, there are only “two papal acts included among the plethora of over 200 post-conciliar acts of liturgical legislation.” (Ibid., 23). Those two papal acts were the Motu Proprio Sacram Liturgiam (January 25, 1964), which opened the floodgates to optional vernacular translations of the New Mass that the bishops soon made de facto mandatory, and Missale Romanum (April 3, 1969), the Apostolic Constitution by which Pope Paul promulgated the Latin typical edition of his new Missal, but without abrogating the old Missal.  In fact, every single particular of the vernacular Novus Ordo, including the de facto abolition of the Latin liturgy, is the work of Bugnini, his bureaucratic collaborators, and their successors down to the present day, toiling away in the new congregations, pontifical commissions, national bishops’ conferences, and local liturgical commissions created during the post-conciliar “reforms.” A careful study of the matter reveals that not one of these liturgical innovations was ever imposed upon the Church by an affirmative papal act binding the faithful to embrace it. The entire liturgical revolution—from vernacular translations to altar girls—has proceeded by way of optional novelties approved by hierarchs and bureaucrats at various levels of the Legislating Church.

Altar Girls:
Novelty in the Name of the Pope

The altar girl debacle is a prime example of the consequences of the rise of the Legislating Church.  The permission for altar girls came by way of advice from the newly constituted Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) in 1994. The CDW resulted from the unification of the Congregation for Divine Worship, newly created by Paul VI in 1969, with the previously existing Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments.  (It was Pope Paul’s decision to place Bugnini in charge of the CDW that led to the liturgical vandalization of the Church.) In approving altar girls, the CDW passed the buck to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (PCILT), created by John Paul II in 1988 to replace the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council, created by Paul VI in 1967.

According to the PCILT, the newly adopted Canon 230 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law permits altar girls pursuant subsection 2, which provides: “…. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.” (Cf. Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences from Pontifical Council for Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Prot. n. 2482/93, March 15, 1994, Notitiae 30 [1994] 333-335).  Notice that the authorization of altar girls, which overturned 2,000 years of traditional practice, was found to be lurking in a provision of the Code of Canon Law apparently construed as if it were a civil statute containing broadly permissive legal language with no mooring in ecclesiastical tradition.  Here we see the peril involved in the promulgation of “codes” of Church law as if they were civil statute books—a peril Brian McCall has explored on these pages. Demonstrating precisely the positivistic peril of canonical codes, which are subject to legislative modification and repeal, an article in The News York Times hailing the advent of altar girls quoted a Manhattan priest and canonist to the effect that “Canon law changes by some people being out on the cutting edge… The practice may not be congruent with the regulations, but regulations catch up with custom.” (NYT, April 15, 1994).  That is, the Legislating Church, like any civil legislature, will modify or repeal its laws to keep pace with the times.

According to the CDW’s 1994 advisory, “Pope John Paul II confirmed the [PCILT] decision and ordered its promulgation,” but there is no written evidence or other particulars concerning this “order,” such as the date it was purportedly given. Further, the papal “order” approving altar girls contradicted the papal order reflected in Inestimabile Donum, the 1980 instruction by which the CDW advised that “Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers” and that “[t]his instruction… was approved on April 17, 1980, by the Holy Father, John Paul II, who confirmed it with his own authority and ordered it to be published and to be observed by all concerned.”  No explanation has ever been offered for the Pope’s purported reversal of his own prior order.  Evidently, it was deemed sufficient merely to report that the Legislating Church had repealed its prior legislation, and that the Pope had endorsed the repeal.

The Luminous Mysteries:
Novelty in the Name of the Pope

So, it is the Legislating Church, not papal commands as such, that has produced the “auto-demolition” belatedly lamented but never undone by Paul VI or John Paul II. Only Benedict XVI has attempted to overrule something of what the Legislative Church enacted during the prior two pontificates. He has liberated the Latin Mass from its bogus prohibition by the Legislating Church; and, at long last, he has ordered correction of numerous blatant errors in the vernacular translations of the Novus Ordo that the Legislating Church, acting through the Vatican bureaucracy, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the bishops’ conferences and other organs, had foisted on the faithful for decades. Those errors include tampering with the very words of Our Lord Himself at the first Mass, when He declared that the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice are offered “for many”—that is, for the elect unto salvation as the Council of Trent declared—not “for all,” as the Legislating Church would have it.

The Pope as Captive of the Legislative Church

But it seems Pope Benedict feels he can do little to enforce his will against opposition by operatives of the Legislating Church both within and without the Curia, including bishops who resent any infringement of their legislative prerogatives under the “new model” of collegiality. Hence the traditional Mass continues to be hermetically sealed off like anthrax in most dioceses, despite the Pope’s clearly expressed will that every priest in the Western Church have recourse to the 1962 Missal without need of episcopal permission. And the national hierarchies of Italy and Germany are openly defying correction of the defective vernacular translations of the New Mass.

The Pope’s letter to the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, regarding the pro multis issue is a prime example of papal impotence before the Legislating Church. The Pope advises Zollitsch that “the Holy See has decided that in the new translation of the Missal, the words ‘pro multis’ should be translated as they stand, and not presented in the form of an interpretation.” That is, the Pope presents as a mere “decision”—a decision of the Legislative Church—that there should be a return to the correct rendering of the words of Our Lord at the first Mass, thereby rectifying an error not found even in Protestant versions of the Bible.

The Pope also expresses concern aboutthe danger that… some parts of the German language area will keep the translation ‘for all,’ even though the German Bishops’ Conference had agreed to use ‘for many’, as was desired by the Holy See.” There is not the slightest suggestion that the Pope has any authority to command correction of the error as required by fidelity to the Gospel and his own duty as Vicar of Christ. Rather, this is all a matter of agreement between organs of the Legislating Church: the Holy See on the one hand, and the German Bishops’ Conference on the other.  Nowhere in the letter does the Pope express his own will as Roman Pontiff, adverting only to what the Legislating Church has decided and agreed.

The depth of the current ecclesial crisis is reflected in the Pope’s subsequent comment in defense of the “decision” to translate Our Lord’s words correctly:

If this decision makes a great deal of sense, as I hope it does, in terms of the fundamental relationship between translation and exegesis, I am also aware that it poses an enormous challenge to those with the task of explaining the word of God in the Church, since to the ordinary church-goer it will almost inevitably seem like a rupture at the heart of the sacred. They will ask: did Christ not die for all? Has the Church changed her teaching? Can she do so? May she do so? Are there reactionary forces at work here to destroy the heritage of the Council?

Liturgical Dance:
Novelty in the Name of the Pope

Notice how the Pope, writing in tones almost apologetic, implicitly accepts the premise that the “heritage” of the Second Vatican Council is somehow at variance with the bimillenial “Tridentine” theology of the Mass as a sacrifice that avails only the elect, not all men, unto salvation—which is why Our Lord said “for many” and not “for all.” And it is breathtaking to see the Pope seriously pose the question whether a return to a faithful translation of Our Lord’s words reflects the influence of “reactionary forces” seeking to “destroy the heritage of the Council”—forces that would repeal what the Legislating Church has enacted to update her teaching in keeping with the all-important conciliar aggiornamento.  The Pope appears to cater to the idea that the Council is exactly what he said it should not be when speaking as Cardinal Ratzinger: “an end of Tradition, a new start from zero.” (Address to Chilean Bishops, 1988).

Even more disturbing is the Pope’s subsequent rhetorical question: “The question immediately arises: if Jesus died for all, then why did he say ‘for many’ at the Last Supper? And why do we retain these words of Jesus for the institution?”

Why do we retain the words of Jesus? The Church “retains” them, of course, because they are His words and she has a divinely imposed duty not to tamper with them. The Pope does go on to say that the Church employs the phrase “for many” out of “deference for Jesus’ own words, in order to remain literally faithful to him. Respect for the words of Jesus himself is the reason for the formulation of the Eucharistic Prayer.” But surely this is not a matter of mere “deference” to or “respect” for Jesus.  The Church has a sacred obligation to obey the Godhead by conveying His Gospel without alteration.  “Deference” and “respect” connote discretion not to defer or respect. It is precisely this discretion that the Legislative Church has claimed for itself and to which—irony of ironies—Benedict now defers by pleading for acceptance of the Holy See’s “decision” to return to what Our Lord actually said versus what opposing elements of the Legislative Church would prefer Him to have said.

The Pope continues with an observation whose irony could not be more exquisite; and one wonders how the irony could have been lost on the Pope:

We all know from experience of the last fifty years how deeply the alteration of liturgical forms and texts touches people’s souls. How greatly perturbed people will be, then, by a change in the text at such a key moment. This being so, when the decision was made to opt for the translation “many”, in view of the difference between translation and explanation, it was established at the same time that a thorough catechesis would be needed to prepare the way for this translation in the various language regions: the bishops would have to help the priests, and through them the lay faithful, to understand exactly what this is about. Prior catechesis is the essential condition for adoption of the new translation.

But where was this concern for the effect of liturgical changes upon the souls of the faithful during the pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II, when the entire Roman Rite was dramatically altered with patently disastrous results and without the least attempt at “a thorough catechesis… to prepare the way”? And notice that here again the Pope reduces the duty to convey faithfully the words of God Himself at the first Mass to a mere “decision… to opt for the translation ‘many’”—another nod to the prerogatives of the Legislating Church versus the Church of Sacred Tradition.

Yes, Prime Minister!

Cardinal Bertone

Master of Novelty in the Name of the Pope

I will conclude by noting another layer of the problem of the Legislating Church. A key element in the bureaucratization of the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Paul VI was the elevation of the Vatican Secretary of State to the status of virtual prime minister of the Church—that is, prime minister of the Legislating Church, for the Secretary of State is no part of the divine constitution of the Church founded by Our Lord on the Rock of Peter.

In 1967-68, under the authority of Pope Paul’s apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, the Curia underwent a dramatic restructuring designed and implemented by then Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot, another suspected Mason. The aim was to eliminate, as much possible, what we are now told is the old “monarchical model” of the Church in favor of the new “model” of collegiality.  Before the Council, the Curia was indeed structured along monarchical lines. The Pope was Prefect of the Holy Office, to which all other Vatican dicasteries were subordinated, while the Cardinal in charge of the day-to-day business of the Holy Office was the Pro-Prefect, reporting directly and only to the Pope. The Pope, as Vicar Christ on earth, was thus at the head of a chain of command over which he wielded his authority directly or through the Holy Office.

Under the “reform” engineered and carried out by Villot, however, the Holy Office was renamed, becoming the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)—the name “Holy Office” being far too old-fashioned for the Church’s “new orientation” after the Council. The Cardinal Secretary of State was placed above all the Vatican dicasteries, including the CDF. Worse, the Pope was no longer Prefect of the former Holy Office, which (as the CDF) would now be under a Cardinal Prefect organizationally subordinated to the Secretary of State. In short, Paul VI “enhanced the powers of the Secretary [of State], placing him over all the other departments of the Roman Curia.” (Cf. “Cardinal Secretary of State,” /wiki/Cardinal_Secretary_of_State).

Since the Council the Vatican Secretary of State has been constituted a kind of Vicar of the Vicar of Christ, with a resulting functional detachment of the new Legislating Church from direct papal control. This decidedly unfavorable development was only exacerbated by John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, which declares broadly: “The Secretariat of State provides close assistance to the Supreme Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme office.”  The First Section of the Secretariat of State is accorded sweeping authority, including the authority

·   to draw up and dispatch apostolic constitutions, decretal letters, apostolic letters, epistles, and other documents entrusted to it by the Supreme Pontiff;

·   to prepare the appropriate documents concerning appointments to be made or approved by the Supreme Pontiff in the Roman Curia and in the other institutes depending on the Holy See…

·   to prepare for publication the acts and public documents of the Holy See in the periodical entitled Acta Apostolicæ Sedis;

·   through its special office commonly known as the Press Office… to publish official announcements of acts of the Supreme Pontiff or of the activities of the Holy See;

·   to oversee the newspaper called L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Radio Station, and the Vatican Television Centre.

·   to collect, organize[], and publis[] all data, set down according to statistical standards, concerning the life of the whole Church throughout the world.

Thus the Secretary of State, as Prime Minister of the Legislating Church, has been vested with all but total control over the flow of legislation and other information emanating from the Vatican, including the very acts of the Pope himself.  “Yes, Prime Minister!” is the new order of things in the post-conciliar Church. Indeed, as John Vennari has noted, the episodes of that hilarious British comedy series furnish a remarkable allegory of the state of the Church today, in which politics takes precedence over reality. We have even seen the Secretary of State asserting control over publication of the Third Secret of Fatima, arrogating to himself—in an utterly surreal development—authority to “interpret” the vision of the “bishop dressed in white” as a mere depiction of events in the 20th century, culminating in the failed attempt on the life of John Paul II in 1981. In the Vatican’s official booklet accompanying publication of the vision on June 26, 2000, the former Cardinal Ratzinger defers repeatedly to the “interpretation” of the vision by former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano:

·   “an interpretation, the main lines of which can be found in the statement read by Cardinal Sodano” 

·   “In this regard, Cardinal Sodano stated: “[the vision] do[es] not describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize[s] and compress[es] against a single background facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration.”

·   “the interpretation offered by Cardinal Sodano in his statement of 13 May was first put personally to Sister Lucia….”


·   “First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: ‘... the events to which the third part of the ‘secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past.’”

We must affirm with Cardinal Sodano?  What authority does Cardinal Sodano have over the Message of Fatima? None but what the Legislating Church purports to give him, which in reality is no authority at all, as the Legislating Church is not the Church that Our Lord founded, but rather a collection of bureaucratic fiefdoms which in no way participate in the Church’s charisms of indefectibility and infallibility in matters of faith and morals.

Yet Sodano was absurdly vested with the status of the oracle of Fatima—and this at the very moment he was facilitating the cover-up of the Father Maciel scandal, as he had been throughout the 1990s. (See the damning report “The Allegations Against Cardinal Sodano” in Catholic World Report, May 4, 2001). For the Legislating Church and its Prime Minister, the Fatima event is a public relations problem to be managed, not a heaven-sent prophesy and warning for the Church and mankind. And Sodano’s successor, Cardinal Bertone, continues unswervingly in the Secretary of State’s party line on Fatima: that the Message of Fatima in general and the Third Secret in particular “belong to the past.” Our Lady of Fatima, the Secretary of State assures us, had nothing to say about the ecclesial disaster of the past half-century.

The “Vatileaks” Scandal

The 'Spirit of Vatican II' Set UP

a Regime of Novelty in Peter's Name

The dominance of the Secretary of State over the affairs of the Legislating Church has been revealed to the whole world in the scandal now raging over the contents of private correspondence to the Pope leaked from the papal apartment by the Pope’s majordomo (head of household), Paolo Gabriele. Among the leaked items is a most revealing letter to Cardinal Bertone from Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke, who is head of the Apostolic Signatura (the Catholic Church’s highest tribunal) and is also a member of the CDW.

In an article dated June 3, 2012, the Italian daily La Repubblica quoted excerpts from Burke’s letter, which protests the recent (January 2012) approval by the Pontifical Council for the Laity—yet another of the proliferating organs of the Legislative Church—of “those celebrations contained in the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way which do not appear by their nature to be regulated already by the liturgical books of the Church.”  What precisely this ambiguous approval covers has been the subject of controversy ever since—a result all too typical of post-Vatican II pronouncements by Vatican departments.  Seizing on the ambiguity, the two founders of “the Way”—that famous pair of neo-Catholic kooks, “Kiko” Arguello and Carmen Hernandez—are claiming approval of the neo-Catechumenal liturgy as such.

But, quite tellingly, the CDW, which has jurisdiction over the liturgy, was not involved in this “approval.” Hence Cardinal Burke’s letter to Secretary of State Bertone objects to an invitation Burke had found on his writing desk, announcing a ceremony marking the “occasion of the approval of the liturgy of the Neocatechumenal Way.”  Wrote Burke: “I cannot, as Cardinal and member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, fail to express to Your Eminence the astonishment the invitation has caused me. I do not recall ever having heard of a consultation [with the CDW] regarding the approval of the liturgy as such of this ecclesial movement. I have received in recent days from various persons, including a respected bishop in the United States, expressions of concern regarding such a papal approval. This news had been for me pure rumors and speculations. Now I have discovered that they were correct.” As reported by La Repubblica, the letter ends with Cardinal Burke’s declaration that “As a faithful student of the teaching of the Holy Father on the liturgical reform that is fundamental to the new evangelization, I believe that such liturgical innovations, even after the correction by the Prefect of the [CDW], do not seem consistent with the liturgical magisterium of the Pope.”

In a further revelation, John Allen of National Catholic Reporter reports that the Pope read and then attached a handwritten note to Burke’s letter, stating:  “Return to Card. Bertone, inviting Card. Burke to perhaps translate these very correct observations in the Congregation for Divine Worship.” Yet these “very correct” observations by Cardinal Burke concerning the Pope’s teaching on the liturgy have not impeded what is now being trumpeted as “Vatican approval” of the bizarre liturgy of the Neocatechumenal Way, which includes dancing around an altar table, consecrated Hosts the size and consistency of personal pan pizzas which crumble and leave numerous particles on the floor, lay preaching in the form of “resonances,” standing throughout a “Eucharistic Prayer” accompanied by guitar music, and the reception of Holy Communion while standing in the pews.

A Revealing Incident

How is it that the Vicar of Christ is reduced to the suggestion that Cardinal Burke’s “very correct observations” concerning the abuses of the Neocatechumenal “liturgy” be translated for the benefit of the CDW?  Why does the Pope himself not intervene directly to put a stop to the liturgical atrocities of “the Way” of Kiko and Carmen? Indeed, why does the Pope not simply govern the Church directly, restoring good order in keeping with the Power of the Keys that is his, and his alone?

The answer is revealed by an incident of which I was reliably informed during a recent Ignatian retreat at the Retreat House of the Society of Saint Pius X in Ridgefield, Connecticut. During an audience with the Pope, Bishop Fellay found himself alone with the Pope for a moment.  His Excellency seized the opportunity to remind the Pope that he is the Vicar of Christ, possessed of the authority to take immediate measures to end the crisis in the Church on all fronts. The Pope replied thus: “My authority ends at that door.” (Castel Gondolfo August, 2005)

Today it appears that the Vicar of Christ has become a captive of the democratization of the Church according to a model of “collegiality” that purports to replace the monarchy which the papacy established by Christ the King really is.  It seems that the Pope views himself as but a cog, albeit the biggest and most important cog, in the vast clockwork of a Legislating Church whose “decisions” must be allowed to operate autonomously and by consent of the governed in keeping with the collegial and democratic mechanisms of the new model. No longer seeing himself as a monarch with the prerogatives and peremptory authority of a monarch, the Pope of the Legislating Church feels constrained to rely on mere suasion and appeals to procedural due process in the hope of effectuating what he wishes to see done.

“They have uncrowned Him,” as Archbishop Lefebvre so famously observed of Christ the King. And thus have they uncrowned His Vicar as well. A crownless Vicar of Christ stands at the turbulent center of the still-reigning chaos in the Church.  Only when the papal crown is restored will the good order of the Church be restored with it.  Pray, then, that the Pope will have the courage to replace the crown that Christ has given him to wear.

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