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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Still Drinking the Neo-Catholic Kool-Aid?

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Neo-Catholic apologists like Dr. Mirus are committed to accepting and defending whatever the current occupant of ecclesiastical office declares at this moment, even if such declaration is in direct contradiction to what the previous holder of that same office declared years or even months previously

Christopher Ferrara with is customary acumen and wit exposed the nonsensical position of the Neo-Catholic party of the Status Quo in his October 15, 2014, Remnant Article “Defending Cardinal Kasper: Another Neo-Catholic Non -Surprise.” As Mr. Ferrara proves beyond even unreasonable doubt, Dr. Jeff Mirus is the most agile and adept member of the Party of the Defense of the Indefensible. Neo-Catholic apologists such as Dr. Mirus are committed to accepting and defending whatever the current occupant of ecclesiastical office declares at this moment, even if such declaration is in direct contradiction to what the previous holder of that same office declared just years or months previously.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI ruled out Communion to the polygamous, but now Pope Francis has entertained the Kasper Proposal and so, as Mr. Ferrara shows, Dr. Mirus has to switch sides and defend the Kasper Proposal as not necessarily inconsistent with Catholic Tradition even though he, Dr. Mirus, would have said the direct opposite under either of the prior pontificates. The problem is that in the Alice and Wonderland world of Dr. Mirus reality has no independent existence outside of the current office holders. Doctrine and practice are not independently existing and depend on the current holder of the papal office to determine their content. Beyond doctrinal and liturgical novelty, justice and law also have no fixed content and must serve the whim of the present.

Having defended the indefensible assault of Cardinal Kasper and his cooperators, Dr. Mirus then turns his Neo-Catholic skills to defend the unjust attack of two bishops against the only organization within the Church that officially and to a man repudiated the Kasper Proposal, the Society of St. Pius X.[1] Why would Dr. Mirus feel the need to defend this latest unjust attack on the SSPX? It must be because the Society will not play the Neo-Catholic game of praising the Emperor’s non-existent new clothes. Because the Society refuses to surrender the principle of non-contradiction, the Society is the adversary of the entire Neo-Catholic position. In the face of one new rupture in the Church after the next, propped up by a cadre of Neo-Catholic “yes” men, the SSPX is the only institution which calls a reversal of doctrine a rupture—no matter how dressed up in pastoral practices it might be. For that reason Neo-Catholics must love and defend any persecution of the SSPX.  

The events which Dr. Mirus feels compelled to defend are the recent condemnations (by Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy and Bishop Óscar Domingo Sarlinga of Zárate-Compana, Argentina) of the SSPX and anyone who approaches them. In the midst of a veritable crisis of Faith, when the Synod in Rome was calling into questions the most basic precepts of the Natural and Divine Law, these two wolves in sheep’s clothing decided not to speak out against the undermining of Catholic doctrine on marriage and the marital act (as did brave prelates such as Cardinal Burke) but rather to issue unjust statements against the Society. Like Dr. Mirus these princes of the Church seem to be taking their cue from Pope Francis who responded to those who unambiguously defended the Truth, like Cardinal Burke, by summarily punishing them for their faithfulness to Tradition. While Cardinal Burke was stripped of his office and relegated to a merely honorary role, the drafter of the scandalous sections of the Synod’s interim draft condemned by Burke was confirmed in his role for the next session.[2] Following the lead of their good friend, Pope Francis, who in addition to demoting Cardinal Burke has also decimated the Franciscans of the Immaculata, these bishops turned their sites on the few in their diocese who attempt to uphold and struggle to live these basic truths.

These bishops attempt to claim that the faithful may not attend Mass nor request sacraments from SSPX priests and that by doing so the faithful become excommunicated and can only return to the Church after some unspecified process of penance (read: reprogramming). To quote the Italian example:

The Catholic faithful cannot participate at Mass, neither request and/or receive Sacraments from or in the Society. Acting otherwise would mean to break communion with the Catholic Church. Therefore, any Catholic faithful who requests and receives Sacraments in the Society of Saint Pius X, will place himself de facto in the condition of no longer being in communion with the Catholic Church. A readmission to the Catholic Church must be preceded by an adequate personal path of reconciliation. . . .

Such nonsense contradicts thirty years of legal statements by the competent Vatican authority regarding this issue. As early as 1984, Cardinal Silvio Oddi, President for the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, on March 17, 1984, replied in the affirmative to an inquiry asking if attendance at a SSPX Mass fulfilled the Sunday obligation.

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has repeatedly stated that the faithful may participate in Masses offered by Society priests and may even contribute to the collection. Speaking for the ecclesiastical organ competent to address the matter, Monsignor Camille Perl confirmed this conclusion in a May 28, 1996 letter and repeated it in Protocol No. 236/98 of March 6, 1998. His letter of September 27, 2002 confirmed that not only participation in the Mass but reception of the Sacraments did not constitute formal adherence to a schism.

In his interview published February 8, 2007, in the German Die Tagespost, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, confirmed that laymen commit no sin nor incur any ecclesiastical penalty by attending SSPX Masses.

On May 5, 2006, an official announcement in the Gazette of the Archdiocese of Salzburg contained an English translation from the Verordnungsblatt der Erzdioezese Salzburg no. 5 page 85, with the headline "Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X : Information." The announcement explained that the diocese had received a reply from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei regarding matters connected with the SSPX.

Regarding the laity, this official response insisted that: “we are dealing with Catholic faithful who — provided they have performed no explicit actions — in no way wish to leave the Roman Catholic Church” and “attending Masses celebrated by priests of the SSPX is not in itself a delict [Ecclesiastical crime] and does not bring about excommunication.” The PCED went on to state practical consequences of this principle: “It is consequently not at all appropriate to regard as non-Catholic the children baptized in the chapels of the SSPX, and to treat their marriages to another Catholic as mixed marriages.”

Thus, the competent Church authority has clarified that no sin or ecclesiastical crime is committed by attending SSPX chapels and that no excommunication is due therefor. Yet, Bishops Semeraro and Sarlinga seek to impose an ecclesiastical penalty. Yet, according to the most basic principles of natural justice which support all manmade law (including ecclesiastical law) a person can be punished only if that person has committed a crime. Since the competent authority in this case has declared these actions do not constitute a crime, no penalty can be imposed.

The declarations of these bishops are thus unjust and, as St. Thomas teaches, an unjust law is no law at all. For this very reason, when the bishop of Hawaii purported to excommunicate six lay faithful for not only attending an SSPX chapel but organizing the establishment and continued existence of that chapel, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the future Benedict XVI, declared these purported excommunications null and void, since the actions undertaken did not merit a penalty. (See Protocol No. 14428; June 4, 1993).

Yet, for Dr. Mirus what does it matter that the faithful have committed no crime? The bishop declares them guilty and so they must be punished, and it is a good thing!

I once heard directly from Bishop Fellay and the priest involved that the Congregation for Religious had attempted to excommunicate a priest for leaving his religious community and joining the Society of St. Pius X. When Bishop Fellay brought this document to Cardinal Levada, then the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence tore the paper in half and through it in the trash, indicating that Bishop Fellay should pay no attention to it. Ah, but Dr. Mirus knows better! For him all that matters is the declaration of a penalty, no matter if no crime has been committed.

What are all these facts about justice and law to Dr. Mirus? The only fact for Dr. Mirus is that these bishops claimed that the faithful separate themselves from the Church by attending SSPX chapels and therefore, even if contrary to justice, Natural Law, the rulings of competent Church authorities and even the former pope himself, these acts must be defended.

Why is it that the Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and one not known to be overly solicitous towards Tradition, can so easily see through the legal nonsense of attempting to excommunicate a priest for joining the Society when Dr. Mirus feels he must rush to rationalize and justify the unjust and invalid scare tactics of these bishops? The answer is twofold. There are two erroneous pillars that support the entire Neo-Catholic edifice of “yes men.” First, they cling to a distorted hierarchy of virtues. Secondly, they refuse to see reality as it is and must pretend that the Church is not going through the worst crisis in her history. Let us explore both of these false foundations.

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Catholic teaching clearly holds that there is a hierarchy of virtues. Theological virtues are higher than moral virtues and the theological virtue of charity is the highest of all theological virtues. When living according to various virtues comes into conflict we must use this hierarchy to resolve the conflict. Thus, although Catholic teaching places a great deal of emphasis on the virtue of obedience (See Romans chapter 13), the first pope was very clear that Faith takes priority over obedience to men. (See Acts 5:29 and 4:19).

Unlike the supernatural virtue of charity, of which we can never have too much, the other virtues represent a mean between two extremes. Each of the moral virtues, including obedience, can be offended not only by defect but also by excess. To take an obvious, although sadly no longer utterly absurd, hypothetical: if the pope ordered us in obedience not to believe in the existence of God, the virtue of Faith requires us to disobey. To obey would be the vice of servility, obedience to excess. The key distinction between vicious disobedience and the virtuous disobedience due by obedience to a higher virtue clearly eludes Dr. Mirus. One who disobeys a superior because he rejects as a matter of principle the lawful possession and exercise by the superior of a legitimate authority acts viciously against the good of obedience. A subject who disobeys an unjust command of a superior without rejecting in principle the nature of the superior’s authority acts virtuously according to true obedience. The former type of person is a base rogue anarchist; the latter is a hero.

The position of the Society of St. Pius X from the first day of its canonical erection has been completely consistent. Archbishop Lefebvre and his successors accept without reservation the authority of the pope and the diocesan bishops as being the legitimate pastors of the Church. When possible without violating any higher virtues, they have obeyed and continue to obey them. Yet, when these legitimate authorities order the Church, or a part thereof, down a path of destruction toward the demolition of the supernatural virtue of Faith, without rejecting their authority as such they justifiably disobey.

Unlike liberals and progressives who disobey the pope because they reject the very essence of the supreme authority of the papacy, the Society members may disobey particular orders of that supreme authority but one would be more hard pressed to find a more passionate defender of the principle of papal authority, properly understood, than the Society of St. Pius X. Yet, the Society knows that the most appropriate defense of that awesome authority is not an irrational idol worship of the holder of that authority that distinguishes the end or good of that authority from its abuse.

Dr. Mirus is completely wrong when he states that “the SSPX constitutes a direct attack on ordinary episcopal jurisdiction in the Catholic Church.” The SSPX in no way attacks or seeks to alter the traditional doctrine on the ordinary authority of a bishop in his diocese. In fact, one of the main reasons Archbishop Lefebvre objected to the dangerous error of collegiality is because it directly undermines the ordinary authority of a bishop in his diocese. Rather than, as traditionally had been the perennial ecclesiology, the bishop ruling his diocese directly under the pope, novel bishops’ conferences have usurped that ordinary authority of the diocesan bishops leaving the bishops mere functionaries of these bureaucratic inventions easily coopted for liberal agendas. When diocesan bishops actually use their ordinary authority for the good of the Church, the Society is happy to support such bishops.

To site just one example: Here is what the SSPX’s U.S. district said about Bishop Slattery’s action against the black mass in Oklahoma (the Society services a chapel in his diocese): “The Society of St. Pius X certainly supports these traditional means that Bishop Slattery has advocated to oppose the public mockery of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Sacrifice that is being planned in Oklahoma City, and likewise encourages its readers to join in the novena of prayer and fasting.” [3]

Does that sound like an organization that poses a “direct attack” on the ordinary jurisdiction of a bishop? The point is that Dr. Mirus seems incapable of making the very simple distinction between attacking the concept of authority and the justified disobedience of an unjust command of a legitimate authority for the sake of a higher virtue.

Yet, for Dr. Mirus the very term “justified disobedience’ is an oxymoron. Obedience and human law are for him an absolute, and there are no exceptions. Unfortunately, Dr. Mirus’ understanding of law, justice and obedience is not the Catholic understanding.   St. Thomas teaches:

Now it happens often that the observance of some point of law conduces to the common weal in the majority of instances, and yet, in some cases, is very hurtful. Since then the lawgiver cannot have in view every single case, he shapes the law according to what happens most frequently, by directing his attention to the common good. Wherefore if a case arise wherein the observance of that law would be hurtful to the general welfare, it should not be observed. [4]

Unlike what Dr. Mirus might wish to believe about reigning popes and bishops, no human being is omniscient and no human lawmaker can make a law that justly applies to every possible contingency. Thus, we can only frame laws for the “majority of cases.” For the exceptional cases, the cases of necessity, the law does not apply and the higher good—the common good which is the end of law—requires the law not be obeyed. This concept is summed up in the ancient legal maxim recognized by all human law, including canon law, that “necessity knows no law.”

It is true that St. Thomas claims that it is better if the lawgiver himself decides when necessity requires an exception to a law but in the case of evident necessity such is not required.[5] Canon 1752 of the 1983 Code of Canon law incorporates the traditional norm that “the salvation of souls . . . must always be the supreme law in the Church.” By the supreme law is meant that all particular laws must in the case of conflict give way to this supreme end of canon law. Yet, for Dr. Mirus, any necessary extraordinary action is ipso facto an assault on authority itself. Due to his distorted understanding of law and obedience, Dr. Mirus is wrong about his alleged simple fact:

The simple fact is that no bishop (let alone an illicitly ordained bishop) can send priests into another bishop’s diocese to administer the sacraments without those priests receiving faculties from the local ordinary. To do so is an assault on the proper authority of the local ordinary, who receives his jurisdiction from the successor of Peter.

No, Dr. Mirus, that is not a true statement as written. A bishop can send priests into another bishop’s diocese to administer the sacraments without written faculties in the case of necessity and for the salvation of souls. In the case of necessity a bishop can, and in the past has done so. During the early days of the Elizabethan Reformation, for example, there were still bishops who had been legitimately installed in their sees under the mini-restoration of Queen Mary. The missionary priests were sent into their diocese without permission (which was never sought, as to do so would have been futile). The salvation of souls required it and it was done.

During the Arian crisis, St. Athanasius not only sent priests but went himself into other diocese to administer the sacraments to souls living under heretical Arian bishops who were still in possession of their sees. In fact, St. Athanasius even consecrated bishops without papal mandate because once again the salvation of souls in the case of a grave danger stemming from mass apostasy in the hierarchy demanded it. So Dr. Mirus the simple fact is that your absolute statement must be qualified by the exception “except when the salvation of souls requires it.”  

Yet, this explanation leads us directly to the second erroneous pillar of the Neo-Catholic edifice. They are completely committed to the Pollyanna position of utterly blinding themselves to the reality of the crisis in the Church. Their obsession with the excess of blind obedience means that they must praise the Emperor’s new clothes no matter how obvious his nakedness. If there is no crisis in the Church there is no state of necessity and they can avoid the hard work of applying the law justly in light of the extraordinary circumstances.

Dr. Mirus knows that most people can see the crisis in the Church. Just before he penned his “defense” of the attack on the SSPX by these two bishops, the Catholic world was still reeling from the extraordinary Synod that attempted to repudiate traditional Catholic doctrine on marriage. How can Dr. Mirus claim there is no crisis in the Church when princes of the Church were drafting and disseminating a scandalous text (the Synod mid-term report) with the apparent approval of Pope Francis? The approach is to admit there was a crisis but it is all getting much better now so no need to worry:

Now clearly the worst excesses of the sixties generation in the Church have faded. The episcopate and the diocesan priesthood have improved rapidly over the past twenty years or so. Liturgical abuses and heterodox catechetical programs are on the wane; schools under parish or diocesan control are becoming spiritually more reliable. But the process is not complete. For example, Catholic universities and many religious communities remain in serious disarray. Catholic politicians continue to advocate intrinsic moral evils with only rare episcopal intervention. Plus the influence of secular schools, secular media and secular government on Catholic formation requires resistance at every turn. So there is no question that every bishop still has much to do in correcting sins against the Church from the secularist or modernist side. . . . I am not knowledgeable enough to assess whether Bishops Semeraro and Sarlinga have been zealous in rooting out Modernism in their clergy and educational institutions, or in rescuing the faithful from—to take an important example—the faulty understanding of human sexuality and marriage which so dominates Western culture. But I do know that their insistence on proper episcopal authority in the Church will be more credible if that authority is exercised vigorously across the board.

This is a very clever approach. First, he admits there has been a crisis in the Church but that was back in the past. The worst is over. Ironically, the Kasper proposal (defended by Mirus in another posting dissected by Christopher Ferrara) is the next step in the Vatican II revolution. So “the worst excesses of the sixties generation in the Church” are still alive and kicking.

Secondly, when those “worst excesses” were being called out by Traditionalists during the pontificate of John Paul II, the Neo-Catholics were doing what Dr. Mirus has done with the Kasper proposal today: minimizing their gravity and excusing and rationalizing them. But since the Neo-Catholic position is to defend the status quo of each pontificate only during that pontificate, it is fine to throw all predecessors of the current administration under the bus.

So whereas during the reign of John Paul II, Neo-Catholics were ready to defend and excuse any abuse (such as altar girls), now that the John Paul II era is over, there is no problem for the Neo-Catholic in admitting that there was a crisis in the past (even though they denied that crisis at the time).

So the good news, according to Dr. Mirus, is that the crisis whose very existence Neo-Catholics denied twenty years ago is happily on the wane. Liturgical abuses are a thing of the past, notwithstanding altar girls and communion in the hand being the norm in practically every parish. There may still be a little mopping up to do to in universities and some religious communities trying to recover from the previously claimed non-existent crisis, but the best way to deal with the stragglers committed to the worst excesses of the 1960’s is not a return to the doctrinal and liturgical tradition of the Church but “insistence on proper episcopal authority in the Church [which] will be more credible if that authority is exercised vigorously across the board.”

So according to Dr. Mirus, the best way to fight Secularism and Modernism’s “sins against the Church” is unjustly, and in contradiction to the prior statements of the competent authority, to threaten punishment for those souls who have sought refuge from one of the few institutions within the Church that has not capitulated to the sins of Secularism and Modernism. Who in his right mind would think that threatening excommunication to people trying to save their souls in the worst apostasy in the history of the Church by seeking the sacraments from SSPX priests is going to make the non-existent measures taken against the likes of Cardinal Kasper more credible? Cardinal Kasper would merely delight in an unjust persecution of the faithful under the care of the Society, whom he demanded must swear allegiance to Vatican II during the aborted talks in 2011-2012.

Enough of this Neo-Catholic nonsense! Faith comes before obedience to the unjust exercises of authority that endanger the Faith. So the Faith was preserved and so souls were saved by St. Athanasius in the Arian crisis. Notwithstanding Neo-Catholic doublespeak and the re-writing of history, the Church has been and remains convulsed by the worst internal crisis of Faith since the time of the opening of Vatican II. This crisis shows no signs of waning when the highest authorities in the Church are openly trying to push the revolution of the 1960’s to its next level.

As the Synod sets its sights on the very foundation of morality, Natural Law, hoping to rewrite its most basic precepts,[6] and as the pope utters such bizarre statements as “God does not exist,”[7] Dr. Mirus tells us all not to worry as the worst is over and then applauds the unjust and tyrannical actions of two diocesan bishops, not against the enemies of the Church, but against her most loyal defenders.

Please, Dr. Mirus, if you want to live in a fantasy Church in which every crisis only exists in a rewritten past, just leave the rest of us alone who are trying to live and save our souls in the universal revolution all around us to which your silence gave tacit approval all along.               


[1][1] See Episcopal action on the SSPX: A basic strategy for unity, Nov 04, 2014 available at http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?id=1246.
[2] See Pope Keeps Leaders in Place for Next Family Synod, Nov 21, 2014, available at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/pope-leaders-place-family-synod-27080296.
[3] See http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/pray-and-fast-drive-out-devil-4590
[4] Summa Theologica I-II, q. 96, art. 6.
[5] Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 97, art. 4.
[6] For a fuller analysis of the Synod’s stated goal of rewriting Natural Law in new language see John Vennari, Dangerous Synod Proposal: “New Language” for Natural Law, available at http://www.cfnews.org/page10/page99/synod_undermine_natural_law.html
[7] See Pope at Santa Marta: What we dare not hope for October 10, 2014 Vatican Radio (“But God does not exist: Do not be shocked! So God does not exist! There is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they are persons. . . .”) available at http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-at-santa-marta-what-we-dare-not-hope-for

 

Read 7480 times Last modified on Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Brian McCall | Remnant Columnist

 Brian M. McCall holds the Orpha and Maurice Merrill Endowed Professorship in
Law
at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. A Professor of Law, he received his B.A. from Yale University, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1991He also received his M.A. from Kings College University of London, Fulbright Scholar, 1992 and his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Summa Cum Laude, Order of the Coif, 1997.  Brian has been a regular contributor to The Remnant since 2004 and his most recent book, The Church and the Usurers, was published in 2012. Along with his wife and six young children, he lives in Oklahoma.

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