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« Benedict's Letter Regarding the Lifting of the Excommunications | Main | Bishop Bernard Fellay responds to Benedict's letter »

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Jeff Grace

Carl, I was very happy to see Benedict clarify the question a lot of us had ... what, exactly, is the canonical status of the SSPX. If I may quote from Benedict's letter,

The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

Jordan Luong

In light of the Pope's own insistence upon a "hermeneutic of continuity" apropos of Vatican II, should not IgnatiusInsight at long last make certain it is *in no way* complicit in advancing a hermeneutic of rupture? For it is the indeed latter that appears to be the case – at least when it comes to your site's unqualified, implicitly approving citations of George Weigel.

The rupture which I worry IgnatiusInsight may be indirectly supporting concerns a more or less obvious espousal of _de jure_ neutrality as regards the supernatural on the part of the world's diverse secular structures (e.g., the denial of any _de jure_ obligation on the part of the State as regards religious and moral truth of WHATEVER order). The fact is, however, that you risk support for such rupture each time you cite (without any qualification) the likes of American thinkers such as George Weigel.

As is well-known, there was at the Council no more overt instance of dissent from the Church’s own teaching regarding a *principled* (albeit often morally impracticable) obligation of the State "toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ" (DH, 1) than that of the famous (and infamous) John Courtney Murray, S.J. Sadly, however, it is almost as well-known -- and found acceptable! – that Murray continues to have his very public champions and disciples, and George Weigel remains one of the most popular among this dubious brood.

So, why is all of this so pertinent to the Pope's recent letter? Quite honestly, it could hardly be MORE pertinent!

Your website and the rest of the "conservative Catholic media" continues to quote Weigel as some undisputed authority on the issue of the Church's process toward a more open position with those whose main goal is naught else than a more overt and obvious harmony of the present-day Catholic Church with that of its pre-Conciliar counterpart. Yet Weigel remains, at least in view of the above facts, one of the most OBVIOUS obstacles TOWARD such a "greater openness"!

After all, Weigel remains unashamed and unabashed in his apparent DISSENT from the immemorial position of the Church apropos of the _de jure_ duty of all worldly, secular structures and bodies toward acknowledging and giving due honor to both Christ and His Church. To PROMOTE WEIGEL IS -- INDIRECTLY -- TO PROMOTE SUCH DISSENT. It is to promote, therefore, THE VERY HERMENEUTIC OF RUPTURE that serves as the greatest OBSTACLE towards RECONCILIATION with those groups and those persons to whom the Pope is OVERTLY REACHING OUT! In a word, it is to work proactively _against_ the very efforts of our dear and holy Pope.

The Pope's most recent letter gives another rebuke to those who appear oblivious to doing AT LEAST as much as what the Catechism has done (by way of what it said and what it cited) to ensure our own beliefs as formed by Vatican II and what follows it are in holistic conformity with the Magisterium of all-time. Now, said conformity is something which logically entails acceptance of the firmly-worded teachings of a Gregory XVI, a Blessed Pius IX, a Leo XIII, and a Pius XI -- all of whom, interestingly enough, are cited in the CCC as regards this very topic!

If IgnatiusInsight is as unaware as it would appear to be regarding those aspects of Weigel and company which gravely evince a carry-over of Murray's theology of rupture, then perhaps the website's main contributors would do well to take a look at the sound criticisms so charitably executed AGAINST Murray, Weigel, et al by none other than David Schindler -- a Communio theologian of first rate, someone in the mold of de Lubac, von Balthasaar and Ratzinger.

Of course, just as in the case of the _subsist in_ controversy, the Vatican will undoubtedly get around to issuing -- however belatedly -- an overt reiteration of the need to interpret Vatican II's _Dignitatis Humanae_ in full accord with the immemorial principles of the pre-Conciliar Magisterium as regards the obtaining, for each of one of the structures of _this_ world, of a duty (in principle and where morally possible) to acknowledge the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. But why should we wait when our calling in this regard is already clear?

It would be great if George Weigel would recognize for himself that there is indeed such a duty -- contra the disputations of his dubious mentor, John Courtney Murray. However, as long he fails in this (and instead implicitly embraces a hermeneutic of rupture), why must the undoubtedly intelligent Catholics at IgnatiusInsight serve to promote such an unnecessary _scandalon_ for those people (those oft-criticized "Traditionalists") to whom the Pope is specifically reaching out? After all, is not said people’s precise worry, intellectually and affectively, the extent and nature of an interpretation of Vatican II that is – at least materially – in rupture with previous teaching?

You at IgnatiusInsight are each quite capable of opening the CCC (and its Companion of citations) and, hence, READING what the Church still professes in this regard. Doing so (along, perhaps, with the help of disciples of de Lubac and Ratzinger, the likes of David Schindler) will render totally perspicuous how UTTERLY SILLY AND SCANDALOUS it is to promote defenders, like Weigel, of a DE JURE secular neutrality toward the supernatural: a neutrality contrary to what the Church (including Vatican II, John Paul II, et al) has always taught -- a neutrality which is based upon an obviously WARPED appreciation of AUTHENTIC worldly autonomy, an autonomy which is OPEN to a non-invasive supernatural illumination and purification coming from the Church, the “_diakonia_ of the truth”.

Jeff Grace

"Oh well, Oh well" (fromLittle Cream Soda, by The White Stripes)

Jordan Luong


Okay... :-) So, perhaps I was less than prudent in my choice of sites for "letting lose" my ever-growing pent-up frustration regarding the ubiquitously manifest, terribly misdirected enthusiasm -- as shown by even largely orthodox Catholic websites -- for George Weigel.

Nevertheless, Weigel *does* evince a grave (albeit unintentional) misunderstanding regarding a proper hermeneutic of DH, a misunderstanding that can lead to grave practical consequences in the public sector. Indeed, the self-same misapprehension oft-causes Weigel to falsely characterize and/or treat as trivial the very legitimate concerns (even if oft-articulated with insufficient precision) of the very people the Pope is so ardently reaching out to in charity.

And, for what it's worth, those of you who love IgnatiusInsight are almost certain to love the aforementioned David Schindler. Maybe just maybe, you might even come to the same conviction as I expressed regarding, say, the insidiousness of the errors of John Courtney Murray and his disciples! The book of his of which I speak is _Heart of the World, Center of the Church_ -- and, though published by Eerdmanns, it might even be available through Ignatius Press.

Again, my apologies for any "going overboard" in my earlier posting! This IS an important issue, however -- especially for the project of reconciliation with those groups and individuals Papa Benedict is so earnestly hoping to fully integrate within the bosom of Holy Mother Church.


S. Murphy

I kind of think the canonical status os SSPX was knowable or at least inferrable to those who are thus educated. Much of what the Pope's letter said is what the bishops should have said on his behalf. His 'brother bishops' should have had his back. To my knowledge, few, if any did -- and some, especially in Germany and Austria, piled on.


Jordan, see Strunk & White, Rule 17.

Jordan Luong

Having re-considered the reasons behind my new level of "Weigel worry", I'd summarize the problem as follows:

In terms of the Faith writ large, George Weigel is certainly an above-average source of solid Catholic commentary. This fact is why I'd never previously any need to emphasize his deficiencies. Nevertheless, holding to certain common but incorrect positions on definitive social doctrines of the Church, Weigel can not be considered _entirely_ safe. While this lack of full-blown safety is rarely an issue, but it CAN be.

Enter my more recent "beef" with Weigel. It is largely a function of his being popularly construed as a "must read" for gaining perspective on the SSPX affair. Now, this IS unfortunate -- for, ironically, the relatively FEW doctrinal weaknesses of Weigel touch upon some of the SSPX's own substantive concerns. As a result Weigel will unintentionally trivialize objects of scandal for the Society which are, absent the Society's drawing of overblown conclusions, quite legitimate. This can only be counter-productive: both for the cause of reconciliation AND for the cause of promoting an understanding of Vatican II which is of a piece with all that has already been taught.

Bottom line: in the case where you're wanting to help bring back to the fold an ecclesial body specifically concerned about understandings of Vatican II that unnecessarily pit the Conciliar documents with past teaching, it's generally a good idea to avoid using as your authority someone who promotes some of the self-same problematic understandings.


George Weigel sits in on board meetings for First Things which last summer publicly slandered Pope St. Pius X(1 of only 2 Pope-Saints in the last 700 years!) as an anti-Semite. Weigel or First Things has not publicly retracted such slander nor did Fr. Richard Richard Neuhaus before he died.

Weigel is no Catholic.

Carl E. Olson

Ted: Specifics, please.



Keep in mind: once a Catholic, always a Catholic.

Whether of not you agree with him, whether or not he thinks something which is contrary to the faith, Since Weigel has been sacramentally brought into the Church, he is a Catholic.

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