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 "Fortes in Fide" Fr. Noel Barbara - Part II 
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New post "Fortes in Fide" Fr. Noel Barbara - Part II

To that end, despite the authoritative formulas which conclude both texts, they attack either the declaration of Vatican II or the earlier texts of the Roman Pontiffs. In the first case, the conciliar document is held to be lacking in the force of constraint, on the pretext that the council had been declared to be "pastoral". In the second, the teachings of the magisterium are themselves audaciously called "pastoral", and consequently subject to change. Both arguments are the products of closed minds: they see the contradiction, they will not draw conclusions from it and they seek to suppress it.

Let us reply particularly to the first argument. On the one hand, one can oppose to a text possessed of the force of constraint, as "Dignitatis Humanae" most certainly is through its concluding formula, only a text or a principle of at least equal weight. Now the concluding formula in question has against it no bull of indiction and no constitution overturning its authority in advance. Besides, the declaration of intent made at the time of the opening of the council, which placed its work on the pastoral level alone, in no way contradicts a text of obligatory value. It contented itself, in fact, with assigning a general object. As we have said above, to call Vatican II a pastoral council is to say only that the council was not called to deal with a particular point of doctrine or to formulate some new dogma, but to refound the message of the Gospel according to the world's method of thought. In doing so, Vatican II touched on a number of subjects on which it was unable to express itself without teaching a doctrine, and by so doing engaging the doctrinal authority of the Church and of the Roman Pontiff. Cardinal Garrone's words on the subject seem to us to be worth quoting, since they are full of good sense: "Like all the others, this council in the order of doctrinal authority was a peak and a supreme value. This has been discussed. From the fact that the council wished to be - and in the formal intention of John XXIII - a "pastoral" council, which refrained from formulating dogmas or announcing canons, people have sometimes concluded that this council was in fact not a council. Some have thought that by declaring itself "pastoral", the council meant that it did not wish to be doctrinal. That is an absurdity" ("50 ans de vie d'Eglise", Desclee 1983).

As for those who pretend to relativize the past, they are playing a dangerous game. In order to save the Declaration on Religious Liberty from the anathemas pronounced by the popes, they are engaged in undermining the most formal authority of the magisterium. They risk falling in the end into a classic heresy: the heterogeneous evolution of dogma. For there is not one truth for the 19th century and another for the 20th, one truth for the communist world and another for the West. There is only one unchanging truth, even if it can be set out in terms which take account of the diversity of times, places and sensitivities.

Such is not the case with "Dignitatis Humanae" and "Quanta Cura". The two texts deal with the same subject and in, very similar language. But they are fundamentally and unyieldingly opposed to each other.




From the height of Peter's Chair and in the name of the Apostolic authority, Paul VI thus approved, fixed and decreed what Pius IX, from the height of the same Chair and by virtue of the same Authority reproved, proscribed and condemned. Paul VI thus demonstrated clearly that he was not or was no longer the pope. He has broken with the unity of the Church or shown that he had previously broken with it in secret.

In so doing, he presided over the birth of an institution distinct from the Church. Because Vatican II imposed itself without arousing real reactions on the part of Catholics, especially the bishops, and because its promoters had no intention to create a sect but rather to transform the Church from within, the institution directed by Paul VI found no difficulty in retaining some of the appearances of the true Spouse of Christ. However, this institution whose heads teach new doctrines is necessarily distinct from the Church. What is more, its supporters very often call it by such names as "the conciliar church, the church of Vatican II or the new church".

The successors of Paul VI were elected by this new church to direct it according to its own doctrines. They have in no way departed from these and on the contrary have taken care to refer themselves to them from the first day of their reign. Obviously, all these things are very hard to listen to, but they are facts. If we reject them, we find ourselves forced to admit that contradiction can exist within Catholic doctrine itself or that a pope can teach error in the exercise of his magisterium. In other words, how can we reject these facts without at the same time rejecting one or other of these two Catholic truths: the irreformability of dogma or the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff? Many people, however, still find it difficult to accept the truth: they do not understand how it could have happened. Is it in fact probable that Paul VI, regularly elected by an uncontested conclave, was in reality not the pope? Is it possible that the assembly of the bishops united in council should be led astray to the point of pronouncing themselves almost unanimously in favour of texts which cannot be accepted by Catholic consciences?[3]


In the first I place, is it truly unthinkable that the see of Peter might one day find itself occupied by a heretic? This is both a question of law and a question of fact.

Let us examine the question of law. Can the cardinals of Holy Church elect a heretic to the highest office? It must be said that there is no charism which protects them from such an error. Can a man fall into heresy once he has been elected pope? We must remember that the infallibility which goes with the office does not preserve its holder, as a private person, from sin against the faith. Though pious opinion likes to brush aside the hypothesis of a pope falling into heresy, the majority of theologians admit that it is possible in itself, while immediately drawing the conclusion: the vacancy of the Apostolic Chair. In law, the possibility therefore exists that a heretic might be elected by the conclave or that a pope might fall into heresy.[4]

There remains the question of fact. We know, since he manifested it by teaching new doctrines, that Paul VI fell into heresy. How and when did he do it? That is God's secret, and we leave to the biographers the task of formulating hypotheses. It is a matter of little importance. From what we know with certainty, we can only say that the fact is hardly surprising. Paul VI in particular displayed a lively fascination with the modern world. This fascination was already apparent in his homilies as archbishop of Milan and was expressed in its fully developed form in his discourse at the U.N, two months before the vote on the Declaration on Religious Liberty: "We are tempted to say that your characteristics in some way reflect in the temporal order what our Catholic Church wishes to be in the spiritual order: unique and universal. It is impossible to conceive anything more noble, in the natural plane, in the ideological construction of humanity ... That which is most beautiful in the U.N is its most authentic human face; it is the ideal of which humanity dreams in its pilgrimage through time; it is the greatest hope in the world. We dare to say: it is the reflection of God's plan, a plan transcendent and full of love, for the progress of human society on earth, a reflection in which we see the message of the Gospel, of heavenly things made terrestrial".

Here another difficulty arises. In permitting a matter as grave as the election of a heretic to the papacy, or even the fall of a pope into heresy, might God have submitted His Church to irresistible temptation? To take this question seriously would be to doubt His superabundant grace. It is also permissible to point out that Providence has willed that none of the members of the Mystical Body could be ignorant of the usurpation or defection of its visible head: the enormity of the proclamation of "Dignitatis Humanae", to mention only this text which Paul VI himself called "major", allows the humblest of Christians to recognize with certainty the breach of the new church and to hold himself aloof from it.

Undoubtedly the Church today is undergoing a trial, but that is as much as to say that she is obliged to exert herself in heroic acts in order to triumph over error. Our Lord has the right to exact from His friends these meritorious acts of faith: "Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it" (I Cor. X, 13).

If finally we find ourselves regretting that the trial may also be the occasion of their fall for many, it is fitting to ask ourselves if these falls are not merited and salutary. This is of course what the attitude of the fathers of the council suggests.


That a man, even when promoted to the sovereign pontificate, could slip into heresy, might perhaps be accepted. But that a conciliar assembly thought of as representing the whole Church could follow the same path by a very large majority, that is something more difficult still to accept.

Much has been said and written concerning the role played by certain pressure groups inside and outside the council. In fact all this was very important: we know now all the means which were used to impose a certain procedure, a certain text, a particular word in order to influence the decisions of the assembly. Faced with these manoeuvres, how did those bishops still capable of reacting behave?

In the first place it is clear that these bishops were completely taken by surprise by events. It seems that until then they had never understood the state of mind of those who surrounded them and the danger which threatened the Church. For all that, the encyclical "Humani Generis", warning against "false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of the Catholic Church" had appeared not many years before. And in 1957 Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Holy Office, declared: "We see with fear the deviation of some among us who, instead of reviving reason through faith, corrupt the faith by a false culture placed in some way in the place of divine revelation". Thus the bishops were forewarned, but when a wind of revolt began to blow over the conciliar aula, at the first session, they found themselves completely unprepared. The subversive vanguard could easily seize every opportunity offered to them to foil the preparatory work of the Curia and of the Holy Office and to set up structures which would be helpful to themselves. The collapse of all resistance surprised even many of the innovators.

Then, when the new schemas which departed from Catholic doctrine made their appearance, the minority, most of which was now grouped into the "Coetus internationalis patrum", found itself edged out. It also allowed itself to be intimidated and manipulated. Paul VI, who wished to avoid a split, knew when to make a small necessary concession in order to achieve his ends. Thus at his express request, restrictive amendments, called for by the minority but previously resisted, were added to the schema on ecumenism with the intention of obtaining the greatest possible unanimity at the final vote. The text, which in spite of these last minute amendments, and in the words of its promoters themselves, remains one of the most revolutionary of all, was finally adopted by 2137 votes against 11.

Generally speaking, the bishops of the minority played the game of amendments. Their only effect was to make secondary modifications to texts which were already basically unacceptable. What is more, without intending it, they helped in this way to give them a better appearance and to confer on them an ambiguity which made them appear more acceptable. An author favourable to the conciliar revolution could write: "We must expect that here and there corrections (modi) will be inserted in the form of genuine compromises to try to obtain an almost unanimous vote. These compromises, which in many ways it is permissible to regret, will have good reason for their existence: they will serve to pass over a difficult and perhaps long stage, during which recalcitrant minds will supple and adapt, and those problems still too acute will find their best solution". (M. Villain, "Vatican II et le dialogue oecumenique", Casterman 1966)

It seems that at last, once the vote had been obtained in favour of the scandalous texts, these bishops lowered their arms too easily, as though thunderstruck. But on a number of points, the faith was at stake: it would have been normal for conclusions to have been drawn at once by the fathers of the minority. Either their disagreement with the majority showed that they were gravely mistaken in letting it be understood that the council was going to separate itself from Catholic doctrine: they ought then to correct their views and retract at least some of their statements. Or the assembly was indeed in error, in which case it would have been better to withdraw from the council and to cast an anathema on it, rather than to continue to give Catholic support to the erection of a new church. At Vatican II, however, there was no Saint Irenaeus or Saint Athanasius. They preferred to speculate on the future, while clutching at straws: modifications and addenda to detestable texts, rumours in the corridors about the intentions of Paul VI, declarations of pure form concerning him, it was all a pretence to reassure themselves for better or worse, and above all to avoid having to question themselves on the responsibility of Paul VI.


It might be said that there were many reasons why reactions were delayed. It needed a certain time for reflection before resolutely taking countermeasures against what appeared to have come from an ecumenical council regularly convoked by a regularly elected pope. There were many reasons for being very disconcerted for a while.

On the other hand, the time spent in reflection and planning should have brought some result. After a few months, and still more so after several years, the Catholic protest, headed by bishops, ought at last to have been made. Nothing at all has come of it. The most conservative of the bishops returned to their particular ministries where, each working separately, they devoted themselves to delaying the effects of the council, trying to preserve their dioceses from subversion. In fact the series of post-conciliar reforms then began, which occupied all their attention and at the same time nullified all their efforts. What effect could their personal action have in reminding the faithful of doctrine and morals, in the formation of priests, etc, when over their heads a new wind was blowing and new structures were being erected? The reign of the commissions was instituted and things moved further and more quickly than the letter of the council required. We saw bishops trying to interpret the orientations of the council in a traditional way. We saw the bishops of the conciliar minority appealing to Vatican II in order not to be swept beyond Vatican II.

One more stage was thus passed by these bishops and all who followed them: the conciliar revolution acquired at least subjectively the value of a norm, of a legality, against still greater excesses. It was going to become even more difficult to attack the orientations of Vatican II properly so-called. The most consistent Catholics - were there still many consistent Catholics? - were going to find themselves completely isolated.

At the same time preposterous explanations for the state of the Church were heard on all sides.

Some favoured the theory of a plot: Freemasonry (or the K.G.B.) had placed their men where it mattered and had stage-managed the whole affair. A useful explanation: there is an external enemy, which spares each and everyone from self-questioning; he is shrouded in darkness, so one cannot be expected to name him; he is all-powerful or nearly so, which explains the collapse of the "good" and absolves them from the need to act, while they await some saving miracle.

Others were bent on justifying everything which came from Rome, which only became bad in their eyes as a result of bad translations, of deformations of intention, the perverse work of some irresponsible "bureau". As we have seen, such assertions drew a certain appearance of probability from the struggles between factions which rent, and still rend the new church. Paul VI himself gave them some support in his pessimistic words on the infiltration of the Church by "the smoke of Satan" and again on "the auto-destruction of the Church". This semblance of a diagnosis hardly worried the marching troops of the conciliars, but the expression was seized upon by the conservatives. The pope, they said, is the prisoner of his entourage, and the commissions are a screen. They dissected even his most explicit orders to prove by hook or crook that their author did not intend it to convey either significance or obligation. An example of this was the institution of the new "Ordo Missae". They denied all authority to the Roman directives, under the pretext that the original meaning might have been more or less altered. The council more than ever served as a cover for everything, no matter what.

As for the Catholic bishops, scandalous as they are by reason of their silence, they are almost totally absent from the debates which mark the post-conciliar torment. An extraordinary confusion marked the spontaneous development among the faithful and a few priests of a multifarious movement of resistance to the liturgical reforms, and particularly to the new mass. There was no bishop behind this abundance of energy: Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci agreed to sign a "Brief Critical Examination of the new ‘Ordo Missae’", but only to relapse at once into shadows and silence. As for the twenty others expected to sign the document, they all carefully evaded it. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded a seminary, but the initiative did not in reality come from him: men sought him out, and he agreed to emerge from his isolation in response to the request of the faithful and to answer the need for the formation of the vocations which were appearing. However legitimate it may then have appeared in Catholic eyes, his action, in his own mind, was never explicitly a fundamental questioning of Vatican II and the new church. It contained an ambiguity which did not surface until some years later and which was to add to the general confusion over a long period. Marcel Lefebvre, by anchoring himself in what he probably thought was a position of moderate opposition, has today locked all those who follow him into a schismatic attitude. He has made them incapable of a genuine Catholic leap, and what is perhaps even worse, his action has the effect of repelling the other bishops; not visualizing anything other than a "new Econe", they prefer to abstain. For how long?

* * *

The story depicted here in broad strokes has its own logic. It seems that by rebound each event finds its cause in those which preceded it. In fact, like all revolutions, Vatican II is only the critical, point of a process begun long ago. The silence of what remains of the Catholic bishops to this day is less astonishing when we examine their attitude during the council. Conversely, the tragic defeat of the Catholic cause is only too easily explained by the tepidity and lack of sagacity of its defenders.

However, in spite of appearances, not everything was inevitable in this deplorable evolution. Depending on the will of a few, it might have been altogether different. From some among them no more is to be expected: either because they are dead, or because they have clearly passed into the schism of the new church. It is upon the others that Providence must surely rely, directing all things and most often through the medium of men. It is on these bishops, so negligent until now, that our hope rests, solidly based on the hierarchical nature of the Church and the eternal promises of Christ to her.

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity". (2 Cor XII, 9)




If many Catholics remain as though intellectually numbed, not daring to identify even the clearest of realities and even more hesitant in drawing conclusions from them, it is largely because of a fixed idea. They have the impression that if matters have really reached the point which we say they have, then the situation of the Church as a hierarchical society has reached a dead end. At bottom, what sometimes prevents them from thinking the problem through to the end is that they see quite quickly that there is an unavoidable necessity to restore the hierarchy, and in conditions of particular difficulty. THE BEHAVIOUR OF CERTAIN TRADITIONALISTS HAS SCANDALIZED THEM, AND NO WONDER: THE ATTITUDE OF BISHOPS M. LEFEBVRE AND A. DE CASTRO MAYER HAS LEFT THEM WITH THE DISTRESSING IMPRESSION THAT IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO ACT FOR THE CHURCH WITHOUT AT THE SAME TIME BETRAYING HER LAWS. Since they have usually seen the resistance to the new church as a war game, they cannot conceive of the possibility of a positive restoration of order in the Church. However, if they would study the matter seriously, they would realize that things are not at all what they imagine them to be.


It is faith and hope, not the painful impression left by scandals, which must guide us here. In the first place by giving us the courage to tackle these problems, by assuring us in advance that there are solutions within the order willed by Our Lord for His Church. Though He allows His Church to be tested, He does not allow us to doubt His promises nor the help which He always gives her, and which He is ready to give to these timorous Catholics who today do not dare to take action.

It is faith also which allows us to discover Catholic solutions to this unprecedented crisis, and to avoid falling into aberration. In fact what is at stake is not the restoration of some work or society whose constitution and fundamental laws depend on the will of men, who could lawfully modify them according to circumstances. What is at stake is the Church, founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ and of which He remains the Head. It is then impossible for Catholics worthy of the name to have recourse to improvisation and approximation. Impossible also to escape from the duty of working without rest to restore the hierarchical structures, since it is the will of the Divine Founder that such structures should always exist, and without them, in the end, the Church would no longer exist on earth.

HOWEVER, THIS INDISPENSABLE ACTION TO RESTORE A CATHOLIC HIERARCHY MUST RESPECT THE DIVINELY ESTABLISHED CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH, IN AS MUCH AS IT HAS BEEN IMMUTABLY FIXED BY JESUS CHRIST. It must equally respect everything in the positive laws laid down by the Vicars of Christ that still retains the force of law. It is fashionable in some circles to despise what they call legalism. However, it should not be forgotten that the power of jurisdiction in the Church, as much as the power of order, is derived from the authority of the Word Incarnate: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven". (Matt. XVI, 19) To abandon religious respect for law in the Church would not only be disobedience, it would be to depart from Catholic unity.


Once these fundamental needs are admitted, which leave no place for inertia or activism, those fruits of despair, how are we to sum up the situation? It is true to say that none of the crises which shook the Church in earlier times are comparable with it in gravity. It came about that vast regions of the world passed into heresy or schism; but the Sovereign Pontiff remained and with him a number of faithful bishops. During the Great Schism of the West, three men claimed to be pope at the same time, each supported by several nations of Christendom; but not one of them then strayed in dogma. The unparalleled phenomenon which we are experiencing today is very different: it is the occupation of the See of Peter by men who profess false doctrines; it is the building of a new church in the forms and under the appearances of the true Church.

The Spouse of Jesus Christ, however, has not disappeared from this earth. She lives still through those who in the turmoil, by the grace of God, have kept the faith and the sincere desire for Catholic unity. Among those very few who proclaim this faith and desire in spite of everything; but also among those, ensnared in the new church, who do not truly belong to it because they have not in fact rejected the true faith. Among the latter, there are doubtless many of the simple faithful, cheated and misled; priests and religious, often torn between their deep faith and a false conception of obedience; some bishops too, devoured by the same scruple and inexplicably slow to action.[5]

Now this Church, the true Church, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, in spite of her deplorable condition, in spite of all the weaknesses of her members, has not changed her constitution. She is and she will always remain, in accordance with the will of her Founder, a hierarchical Church, in which sacred doctrine and the life of grace reach the faithful through the medium of other men, chosen to guide them towards salvation. It is therefore not a simple eventuality but an absolute necessity: THE CHURCH WILL NOT BEGIN TO EMERGE FROM THE CRISIS INTO WHICH SHE WAS PLUNGED BY CORRUPT PASTORS UNTIL WHAT REMAINS SOUND IN THE HIERARCHY ARISES TO BRING HER SUCCOUR; IN OTHER WORDS, UNTIL THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS AT LAST DECIDE TO DO THEIR DUTY. In fact the duty is theirs, today as yesterday, to guard the Deposit of Faith, to transmit it, to defend it, to be the channels of all the sacramental graces, and finally to direct the faithful on the way of salvation. These terrible responsibilities fall on them by divine law, with the single reservation of their submission to their head, the pastor of the whole flock, Vicar of Christ on earth, who is free to define the exact scope of their powers.

There is one important point: the necessary submission of the bishops to the (legitimate) Sovereign Pontiff must not conceal the fact that it is not merely a part of the flock, but the care of the universal Church which has been entrusted to them. Although it is in fact true that the bishop is usually the doctor, the sanctifier, the pastor of a particular Church, he must always remember that this charge was given to him in the heart of the universal Church, with which it is bound up in every way and outside which it is meaningless. It is for the benefit of the universal Church that he has been charged with watching over a particular diocese or with occupying some more restricted office. This is expressed in the ancient phrase "hierarchical communion", which denotes membership of the legitimate hierarchy and the vocation to the service of the universal Church, prior to the attribution to a particular function. This is also expressed in the term "Roman communion" and of course the adjective "Catholic". Therefore, although it is true that this participation of the bishops in the government of the universal Church is ordinarily exercised within the precise limits set by the pope for each of them, it is also true that it can operate outside these boundaries in exceptional circumstances. This is what happened at the beginning of the propagation of the Gospel and the establishment of the Church by the Apostles and by the bishops of the earliest times. Much later, whenever Churches found themselves in extreme peril, the neighbouring bishops did not hesitate to come to the aid of the faithful. There is even more reason for it to be so when it is the entire Church that is threatened. In ordinary circumstances, the bishop who contravened the limitations placed on his powers by the pope would commit a grave fault. However, we must bear in mind that these restrictions are set with a view to the good of the Church, which usually requires that tasks should be shared out between a number. Obviously the spirit of the law, its intention, take priority over the letter whenever circumstances arise which cause the letter to break down. Consequently in troubled times the power of the bishops for the universal propagation of the Gospel, a power fundamentally immutable because it is essential to the episcopate, can be brought into use again. It would be pharisaical in these circumstances to invoke the law to justify abstention.[6]

Whenever the express authorization of the Sovereign Pontiff cannot be obtained (and how can it be obtained today?) it is sufficient to be able reasonably to presume it. Some holy bishops have illustrated this by actions of this sort (Saint Eusebius of Samosate, for example, against the Arian heresy). Yet the situation of the Church in their day was less serious than it is now: Catholics are waiting in extreme anguish for their successors, "pressed by the charity of Christ" (II Cor. V, 14) to do their duty.


Thus help is not to be looked for in some breach of good order. When they call upon the bishops, Catholics are not asking them to be disobedient, to do evil that good may come of it. THEY THEREFORE EXPECT NOTHING FROM PRELATES WHO, REMAINING IN OBEDIENCE TO THE NEW CHURCH, AGREE AS SOME HAVE DONE TO PROVIDE MORE OR LESS FOR THE SACRAMENTAL NEEDS OF TRADITIONALISTS WITH FEW SCRUPLES: ordinations and confirmations conferred in this spirit appear as shameful schismatic practices which nothing can justify in the sight of those who cling firmly to the Catholic viewpoint in the defence of the faith. It is only in the constitution given by Our Lord to His Church that the hope of Catholics can be supernaturally founded. What they await from these bishops is the help of God Himself who willed for all time that His grace should reach men principally through the channel of the Apostles and their successors: BISHOPS IN RUPTURE WITH THE SUPREME MAGISTERIUM OF THE SUCCESSORS OF PETER CANNOT BE CONSIDERED TO BE THE SUCCESSORS OF THE APOSTLES, NOTWITHSTANDING THE TRANSMISSION OF THE POWER OF ORDER WHICH MAY SURVIVE EVEN IN INFAMOUS SECTS.

To these absolutely necessary dispositions on the part of the Catholic bishops, there must be added corresponding acts which manifest them. BEFORE ALL ELSE, IT IS NECESSARY FOR THESE BISHOPS TO REJECT PUBLICLY THE FALSE DOCTRINES OF VATICAN II, in the name of fidelity to the sacred Deposit which they are charged with guarding. Let them break in startling fashion with the "de facto" occupants of the Apostolic See, and denounce the usurpation of the ecclesiastical structures by the heresiarchs. Let them make amends as much as they can for their long silence on this subject, and for their compromises. By doing this, they will pay to the Church and to the entire world the debt which they owe to them from their episcopal duty: the witness that the Church still lives, and that the ways of the new church are not God's ways. They should not deceive themselves on the success among great numbers of people of such a move; silence, mockery and persecution will not be able to conceal from a great many Christians a fact which was too easy for them to ignore until then and no one knows how many conversions are waiting for this day. IT IS ALSO NECESSARY THAT THESE BISHOPS REJECT THE LITURGICAL AND SACRAMENTAL REFORMS WHICH UNTIL NOW THEY HAVE ACCEPTED AND PRACTISED. Let them cause to flow again the graces of which they are the stewards and of which so many of the faithful are deprived today.

Moreover, though the faithful cannot wait for direct help to be brought to them, these bishops also have the duty of making possible an even more fundamental work, the coronation of their witness to the faith and the guarantee of the endurance of their work: the complete reconstitution of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The immediate needs of the faithful and the present emergency must not conceal the profound scandal which would be constituted by the installation of a number of Catholic bishops in a situation of juridical vacancy. Our Lord has permitted the See of Peter to be sometimes vacant for longer or shorter periods, but it is more conformable to His will that a Vicar visibly exercise authority in His Name and feed His lambs and sheep. It is therefore the duty of the Church to give herself again this visible head whenever she is deprived of him. This need, common to every case of vacancy of the Holy See, assumes the most extreme urgency and the highest gravity when the supreme office is usurped as it is today.

The restoration of the Catholic episcopate can therefore be considered as only the first step towards the complete restoration of the hierarchy. The reestablishment of jurisdiction requires the election of a pope. The bishops are confronted there with a problem whose difficulties it would be vain to minimize, but for all that it does not appear to be insoluble.

The difficulties arise from the fact that the positive laws in force in the Church seem not to permit of the election of a Catholic pope in the present state of affairs. Although in fact the discipline of the election has varied considerably in the course of the Church's history, the last legitimate popes fixed the precise method, the last authoritative document being the Constitution "Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis" of Pius XII. This document laid down a basic arrangement, enforced since the 17th century: "The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs solely and personally to the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, while "absolutely excluding and rejecting every intervention from no matter what ecclesiastical authority or from every secular power, of whatever degree or condition it may be".

But it appears not at all impossible today that quite soon legitimate cardinals will have ceased to exist (those named by the heads of an institution which is not the Church have no claim to this office) or that the legitimate cardinals might unanimously refuse to elect a pope. In this case, would the situation be totally blocked? It is not a question to be answered lightly: the election of a pope is an extremely grave matter in itself, and the election of a juridically doubtful pope, whatever the personality of the man elected, would be very harmful to the Church, exposing it to new divisions and risking the aggravation and prolongation of the crisis. That is why decisions taken in this matter must be solidly based in law and as incontestable as possible.

Supposing the absolute impossibility of obtaining the vote of the cardinals, it is necessary to emphasize that in spite of the absence of explicit positive arrangements, the general principles of canon law permit the Church to emerge from the apparent stalemate. The law cannot foresee every situation. Even the law imposed by Pius XII in "Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis" did not foresee the present state of the Church, which was obviously almost impossible to imagine forty years ago. It aims in fact to serve the common good of the Church by assuming certain conditions, among them particularly the existence of cardinals qualified to vote. When these conditions are lacking, the law cannot survive against the good which it was thought it must effect; it then ceases to be binding, in accordance with the general principle that "the law ceases to be binding when there is a disadvantage greater than its importance". We cannot oppose a law impossible of fulfilment against the need for the Church to have a pope. It therefore appears that the absolute defection of all the cardinals cannot be considered to be an insurmountable obstacle. The theologians who have considered this subject unanimously accept the intervention of the Church. It goes without saying however that the other provisions of the Constitution "Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis" which remain applicable must be scrupulously observed for example, the prohibition of the intervention of every civil power in the election. It would then be for the Catholic clergy, with the bishops in the front rank, to fix the exact method of a pontifical election which would certainly be extraordinary, but necessary.

* * *

It is useless to attempt here to foresee in greater detail the precise conditions for such an event: it is enough to know that the law requires it and that it is therefore possible. No doubt one can have the impression that it is an improbable dream. For all that, it must be admitted that the election of a Catholic pope is not only possible: it is strictly necessary, strictly required for the survival of the Catholic Church, which cannot disappear. No doubt it would be naive to think that a Catholic pope would at once put an end to the crisis: the new church will not disappear as if by magic. Once its schism and heresy have been denounced by the Magisterium, however, men of good will will again be able to see where the Spouse of Jesus Christ truly is and will find once more the source of eternal life. Certainly the end seems today to be difficult to achieve, but "no word shall be impossible with God" (Luke I, 37), to this God whose blessed Mother, who is our Mother also, proclaimed for ever:

"He hath received Israel his servant,
Being mindful of his mercy.
As he spoke to our fathers
To Abraham and to his seed for ever"

(Luke I, 54-55)


[1] "I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the Apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously."
Oath against Modernism prescribed by Saint Pius X


Some people admit the contradiction:

IMPLICITLY, with the following arguments:

1. From its foundation, the The argument does not stand
dignity of the human person, up to the examination of
the liberty defined by the two texts, which both
Vatican II must be different have religious liberty in
from the liberty condemned the public external forum
by Pius IX. as an object. Examination
of the conciliar document
shows that the religious
liberty taught by Vatican
II rests on a false concept
of the dignity of the human

2. The conciliar document True, but it must also be
contains some Catholic recognized that these are
truths (liberty of the act linked with doctrines
of faith, duty to seek for previously condemned by the
truth and to adhere to it, Church.

3. The Declaration on This argument does not
Religious Liberty must have survive a simple reading of
been made for the sake of the text: religious liberty
those countries that is claimed as a universal
persecute the Church, principle, valid everywhere
and always. What is more, it
attacks the dignity of the


either by reducing the They say they have a
meaning of this contradiction, speculative doubt but defer
in such a way as to not draw its solution for the future.
any conclusion, In the meantime, they act
well and truly in doubt,
which is immoral.

or without being offended by But this is to adhere
it. openly to the conciliar
heresy and consequently to
the heterogeneous evolution
of dogma.

Others deny the contradiction: by petition of principle "This is impossible; you do not
believe it!"), or through ignorance: they have not even read the texts.

[3] "If God permitted a pope to be notoriously heretical and contumacious, he would then cease to be pope, and the Apostolic Chair would be vacant. But if this pope were heretical only in secret, and did not propose false dogmas to the Church, in that case the Church would suffer no harm by it".
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, "Les verites de la foi", Vives 1876, tome 1.

[4] "The Church will repeat to the world her wise words of human dignity, of loyalty, liberty, love, of serious things, of courage and sacrifice. To that end, as they say, she will take care to bring herself up to date by shedding, if need be, one old royal garment or another remaining on her sovereign shoulders in order to assume the simpler clothing required by modern tastes".
J. B. Montini, Archbishop of Milan, Pastoral Letter of Easter, 1962

[5] "In our mortal organism, when one member suffers, all the others suffer with it, the healthy members lending their aid to the sick ones, in the same way in the Church each member does not live only for himself, but he also helps the others and all aid each other reciprocally for their mutual consolation as well as for the better development of the whole body" ("Mystici Corporis"). Now are the bishops not, in truth, "the most eminent members of the universal Church, those who are bound to the divine Head of the whole Body by a special and particular bond and for this reason are justly called the first members of the Lord (ibid.)?"
Pius XII, encyclical "Fidei Donum", 21 April 1957.

[6] "Although each bishop must exercise a particular supervision over his particular flock, nevertheless if a bishop should see some heresy begin in another Church, he would be bound to prevent the evil as best he could; for all bishops are bound to watch over the good for the benefit of the universal Church".
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, "Les verites de la foi", Vives 1876 tome 1.

In Christ our King.

Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:13 pm
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