|Vatican Explains Communion Scandal|
|Sedevacantist mill grinds on|
Christopher A. Ferrara
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, New Jersey|
In my last web column I noted the scandal of the late Brother Roger of the Taizé Community being given the Blessed Sacrament by Cardinal Ratzinger at the funeral of John Paul II. I also noted how events such as this are grist for the sedevacantist Enterprise. And, sure enough, the event was cited by the Enterprise as yet more “proof” of the “manifest heresy” of the currently reigning Pope, on account of which, so the argument goes, Benedict XVI is but the fifth in a line of impostor heretic popes that began with John XXIII and shows no signs of ending.
But, as always with this argument, the “manifest heresy” turns out to be less than manifest. As reported by Catholic News Service on August 24, “Because the questions about Brother Roger's taking Communion would not go away, the Vatican made available in July an informal, unsigned statement of explanation. The bottom line appeared to be: It was all an unfortunate mistake. Brother Roger, it seems, had been moved to a closer vantage point at the start of the Mass and had unwittingly ended up in the section reserved for those receiving Communion from the chief celebrant, Cardinal Ratzinger. When he was wheeled forward, ‘it did not seem possible to refuse him the most Blessed Sacrament,’ the Vatican said.” Vatican officials insist that “the Catholic rule against shared Communion still holds, and inter-Communion is not practiced at Taize.”
Here we see the peril involved in the sedevacantist habit of leaping to conclusions about inward intent based upon outward actions. We can all agree the outward action of giving Holy Communion to a Protestant was objectively condemnable. What we cannot do, however, is judge the issue of malice. In this case, the Vatican says Cardinal Ratzinger was caught by surprise, that he did not act with premeditation. The same may be true even in the case of the infamous Koran-kissing incident. For all we know, John Paul II acted impulsively and without any evil intent to validate the errors of Islam—indeed, we ought to presume as much in charity. And the same can be said for the rest of the litany of actions by prelates and recent popes which the sedevacantists insist are “proof” of an evil intent to deny dogma—provided we are willing to put the worst possible interpretation on every action. None of this is to say, obviously, that any of these actions are in themselves defensible. Again, the question is one of subjective intent. All the sedevacantists can say is that they “presume” the intent is evil, but their “presumption” merely begs the question.
But even if we assume the Vatican’s explanation of the Brother Roger incident is insincere—a matter we cannot judge, but let us assume it for argument’s sake—an insincere explanation would still undercut the sedevacantist case. Let me explain.
That the Vatican thought an excuse was necessary means it recognizes that it must acknowledge the validity of the protests against administering Holy Communion to Brother Roger. Thus, the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s action was excused as the spontaneous impulse of the moment, indeed a mistake. It was not even defended as in keeping with current “ecumenical” practice. This line of conduct does not square with the sedevacanist theory of an evil faux Church occupying Rome, full of culpable heretics who subjectively intend to deny dogma. Yet the sedevacantists cling to their sweeping judgment of group intent, justifying it with increasingly outlandish scenarios.
In my critique of sedevacantism, now running in Catholic Family News and Fatima Crusader, I noted the patent absurdity of the basic sedevacantist claim that the last five popes have been “manifestly heretical” impostors, and that virtually the entire hierarchy, both Eastern and Western, is likewise composed of impostors who have lost their offices due to “manifest heresy” (or “invalid” ordination or “invalid” episcopal consecration—take your pick). The claim is absurd because it would mean that the Church has failed, as there can be no Church without a Pope and governing hierarchy. In response, leading sedevacantist theorist Father Cekada has written the following on his website
So, to Mr. Ferrara’s unproven assertion that it is “absurd” to believe that the overwhelming majority of Catholics might one day end up adhering to a false pope, we respond with the teaching of the theologian Father Sylvester Berry:
“The prophecies of the Apocalypse show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition to the Church of Christ. Antichrist will assume the role of Messias; his prophet will act the part of Pope, and there will be imitations of the Sacraments of the Church. There will also be lying wonders in imitation of the miracles wrought in the Church…. There seems to be no reason why a false Church might not become universal, even more universal than the true one, at least for a time.”
So, for the endlessly inventive sedevacantist Enterprise, with its seemingly bottomless library of obscure theologians, the apparent absurdity of their position is easy to explain: this is the time of Anti-Christ and the last five popes have been his prophets. Simple, no?
Of course, poor Father Sylvester Berry himself would hardly agree with this ridiculous contention, as he speculated about only one false pope who would reign in the Last Days, at the same time Anti-Christ performed his lying wonders to simulate real miracles. Berry said nothing of five successor false popes/prophets of Anti-Christ. And we have not yet seen Anti-Christ in any case, nor any lying wonders by him. Moreover, Father Berry’s theory acknowledges that the true Church would continue to exist alongside the anti-Church of the Anti-Christ. He never said that the true Church would be without a pope or a governing hierarchy while Anti-Christ was on the scene.
At any rate, this misuse of Fr. Berry’s speculations completely overlooks the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, which must happen before the reign of Anti-Christ, as Mary’s triumph can hardly happen after the Last Days, when there will no longer be any Russia to convert. One wonders: has the sedevacantist Enterprise dispensed with the Fatima Message in its fanatical drive to make its case at all costs?
Now to the point: If, as Fr. Cekada suggests, Benedict XVI is a prophet of Anti-Christ, why would he allow the Vatican to deny that Brother Roger was deliberately given Holy Communion. Would not the prophet of Anti-Christ—the fifth in succession, no less—be intent upon getting the faithful precisely to accept such intercommunion? What sort of blundering prophet of Anti-Christ would immediately run away from his own subversive actions if, as the sedevacantists would have it, he is the very head of an anti-Church whose very mission is to destroy the Faith? Would not the prophet of Anti-Christ seek at all times to justify his actions as perfectly Catholic, rather than conceding a mistake? What prophet of Anti-Christ would be an uncertain trumpet for the cause of his Master? On the other hand, we can certainly see how mere humans, out of weakness or fear of the loss of human respect, might—just as Saint Peter did in refusing to eat with the Gentiles—cause scandal by gravely erroneous actions, thus being uncertain trumpets in the cause of the Gospel, as Peter was on the day he was rebuked by Paul.
Once again, sedevacantist arguments don’t add up. The misuse of Father Berry is just another of the ad hoc inventions of a polemic that seems to be driven by the latest book plucked from the shelves of the sedevacantist library.
A Catholic Funeral for a Protestant "Ecumenist"
(Posted Thursday, August 26)
As noted in my piece in this week’s Remnant, despite the election of the new Pope “ecumenism” is still running amok, as Catholic churchmen from the Vatican on down continue to pursue the fantasy that there can be “Christian unity” without all Christians joining the Catholic Church.
The latest scandal spawned by this fantasy is the Catholic funeral provided to “Brother” Roger Schutz, founder of Taizé Community, who lived and died a Protestant, having been stabbed to death by a 36-year-old Romanian woman in the middle of a Protestant ecumenical “Vespers” at his inter-denominational religious “community” last week. Catholic funerals for Protestants who request them are now permitted, according the 1993 Ecumenical Directory.
Zenit reports that the funeral rites in the Church of Reconciliation (the inter-denominational “church” Schutz headed) “were presided over today by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He concelebrated Mass with four [Catholic] priests of this ecumenical community, and read a message from Benedict XVI.” The message from Benedict, read by that still-ubiquitous nemesis of Fatima, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, “stated that ‘numerous generations of Christians, respecting their own confessions,’ have undergone ‘an authentic experience of faith, in the encounter with Christ, thanks to prayer and brotherly love, responding in this way to his invitation to live unity by the bond of peace.’”
What the Pope meant by “an authentic experience of faith” is a matter of conjecture. Certainly Protestants can have an “experience” of faith, so far as that goes. But did the Pope mean to say that this “authentic experience of faith” sufficed unto salvation for the followers of Brother Roger? As usual in the postconciliar epoch, all is ambiguity.
The New York Times was happy to report the funeral as “Brother Roger Has An Ecumenical Dream Fulfilled (NYT 8-24-05).” By this the Times meant that “communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination.” Kasper, obviously delighted with this sacrilege, declared: “Yes, the springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taizé.”
So, a deceased Protestant “monk”, presiding over a “community” composed of objective heretics and schismatics from “virtually every Christian denomination” (NYT) receives a funeral Mass complete with Vatican cardinals and a personal message from the Pope. On the other hand, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose Catholic orthodoxy was beyond question, was treated as an outcast at his funeral. And now Bishop Fellay must go, hat in hand, to Castel Gandolfo to see if the Pope will give “permission” for the Church to use her own traditional rite of Mass. As Archbishop Lefebvre once said about the current state of affairs in the Church: “Is this real?”
Of course the event was an outrage that would have reduced the preconciliar popes to a state of apoplexy. And, naturally, the sedevacantist enterprise will use the event as yet more “proof” of the ridiculous thesis that the last five universally recognized popes were all impostors, and that there are no longer any bishops in the world with ordinary jurisdiction, so that the visible Church with its pope and hierarchy has virtually ceased to exist. Only the sedevacantists, we are supposed to believe, have noticed these developments.
I am informed that the “big guns” of sedevacantism are preparing “devastating rebuttals” to the recently published introduction of my lengthy critique of sedevacantism which is running in Fatima Crusader. While the rebuttals, if they are indeed forthcoming, are premature—I am only just getting started—I hear they will attack my use of an historical example, that of Pope Honorius I, to demonstrate how even a doctrinally condemnable pope, posthumously anathematized by a general council, remained pope so far as the judgment of the Church is concerned. This ought to be a lesson to those who, looking upon events such as the scandal at Taizé, declare the last five popes to be “manifest heretics” who lost their offices. My critics, it seems, will take the position that I have “libeled” poor Pope Honorius, who was really a sterling example of the papacy. Sure.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia observes of Honorius, who subscribed to a heterodox formula that lent itself to a denial of the two wills (human and divine) in Christ, the decree of Constantinople III (680-681) “anathematized the heretics by name, Theodore, Sergius, Paul, Pyrrhus, Peter, Cyrus, ‘and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things’…” Further, the emperor’s official letter to Pope Leo II denounced Honorius as “the confirmer of the heresy and contradictor of himself…” Worse still, “Honorius was subsequently included in the lists of heretics anathematized by the Trullan Synod, and by the seventh and eighth ecumenical councils without special remark; also in the oath taken by every new pope from the eighth century to the eleventh in the following words: ‘Together with Honorius, who added fuel to their wicked assertions’ (Liber diurnus, ii, 9).”
Thus, history provides us with an example of a pope anathematized as, at least, an aider and abettor of heresy, and listed in a veritable canon of anathematized heretics condemned in a papal loyalty oath! No wonder the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes: “It is clear that no Catholic has the right to defend Pope Honorius. He was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact; and he is to be considered to have been condemned in the sense in which Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died in Catholic communion, never having resisted the Church, have been condemned.”
And yet, for all that, Honorius validly reigned as Pope. He was a heretic in fact but not in intention. This is the very distinction present-day sedevacantists overlook, even if they could prove heresy in the assorted papal utterances they declare to be “manifest heresy”—and they have not proven it.
So let the sedevacantists tell us what a wonderful pope Honorius really was in their “devastating rebuttals.” Sensible Catholics, however, will continue to recognize the important difference between heresy and being a heretic. This is the lesson we learn from the case of Honorius—a lesson that ought to be kept firmly in mind during the current “ecumenical” confusion.