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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Our humble, peaceful Holy Father

The big news today is the Holy Father's letter of clarification concerning the lifting of the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops. It is a moving, honest, humble and fatherly letter. Here is the link to the official English translation.

I will draw attention to one or two significant points but encourage you to read the letter in full.

The Holy Father has announced that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is to be joined to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is something of a surprise since many people expected that it would be joined to the Congregation for Divine Worship. The Holy Father explains:
This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes.
I think that it is reasonable to draw from this the conclusion that the war over the older form of the Mass is, as far as the Holy See is concerned, over. Summorum Pontificum is not intended as a restrictive enactment but something that serves the unity of the whole Church. Those of us who struggle at ground level to implement the Holy Father's wish for genuine reform and mutual enrichment can legitimately draw some consolation from the Holy Father's recognition that the remaining work to be done with the SSPX is not liturgical but doctrinal.

Regarding the doctrinal issue, the Pope makes the following important points:
The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.
The Holy Father generously refers to the numbers of priests and religious involved with the SSPX and the work that they do, and asks
"Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity?"
His reference to some of the faults of the Society is all the more authentic in the context of a letter in which he acknowledges mistakes and takes responsibility for them. Given the impeccable responses of the Society in general and Bishop Fellay in particular over recent weeks, I think that there are good grounds for hoping that the process of full reconciliation will continue successfully.

In one of the most poingnant observations in the letter, the Holy Father says:
At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.
For those of us who write regularly on the internet, one of the earlier points that Pope Benedict makes is of great interest. With regard to "the Williamson case", he says:
I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.
For Catholic bloggers and journalists, this is very welcome. Many of us, I think, would want to be at the service of the Holy See, promoting the teaching of the magisterium, defending the work of the Holy Father when it is unjustly attacked, and furthering the mission of the Church in general.

God bless our Pope!
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