The SSPX & Anti-Semitism
In your New Oxford Note "Pope Benedict's Tightrope Act" (Mar.) about Bishop Richard Williamson of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), you admit that the Holocaust of six million Jews is a "generally accepted estimate." However, it has become a dogma for the mainstream media; the law in some countries prohibits any criticism of this estimate.
It is the mainstream media that generated the real heat on Bishop Williamson's opinions. This in turn was used by many to question the "competence" of Pope Benedict XVI. The object of the media campaign was to undo any initiatives of the Pope in favor of Tradition.
Your New Oxford Note buys into the politically correct position: Don't question a received secular dogma. Your resource is the liberal National Catholic Reporter. For you, Bishop Williamson is a barking-mad crackpot. You then heap charges of anti-Semitism on the SSPX. Bishop Williamson should be sent to Siberia to tend sheep, you say. Paradoxically, this may happen to the NOR. You can't have one foot in political correctness and one foot out.
Don't you believe in academic freedom, critical thinking, and freedom of expression?
Edward F. Harrington
New York, New York
Regarding your New Oxford Note "Pope Benedict's Tightrope Act": It would be nice if the NOR could use such words as "barking mad," "crackpot," and "repugnant" in defense of Christendom against those who deny the historical reality of Christ, His deity, and His resurrection. But such would appear to impede your apparently Unitarian desire for better relations with non- and anti-Christian peoples. As the state now elevates questioning the Holocaust to the level of blasphemy, imprisoning those who dissent, so the NOR apparently advocates its elevation to a creed.
I hope that one day my faith, history, and Church will be defended from its enemies on earth as well as the NOR defends the dogmas that support the dying empires of World War II's victors. Till then I intend to use my charity in support of those who do. Please cancel my subscription and refund to me the unused portion.
How dismaying that you find such a ready target in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his SSPX. Apparently, his many years as an obedient missionary in Africa shepherding his flock around the truths of Holy Mother Church mean nothing to you. All you choose to see is that bottom-line bogeyman, the "anti-Semite." Do you really believe that any antagonism he might have expressed toward Jews was not driven by a desire to save souls?
Lake Station, Indiana
I was extremely disappointed by your New Oxford Note "Pope Benedict's Tightrope Act." I have always read the NOR and enjoyed its articles without feeling I was being deceived by a personal agenda applied in a slick fashion so as to lead me away from truth. But your New Oxford Note did just that.
I know enough about the SSPX to know they are as much our Catholic brothers and sisters as the next guy in the local Novus Ordo parish, and should never be disparaged by the use of such unprofessional terms as "Lefebvrist." Whoever coined this term did so for the purpose of giving the impression that these people have a different leader, or a separate church, and are worthy of cautious interaction at best, as if they could brainwash you into heretical ideas.
Your New Oxford Note was so full of lies and innuendo that I'm not going to go into any more details. I pray you do not continue to write in a way purposely to deceive.
I'm sorry that I recently renewed my subscription; I would appreciate a full refund. I would like to buy my reading from a source where I'm not left wondering if what I read was truth or fiction.
Bishop Williamson has apologized for the remarks he made about the Jews. Can't we just put this behind us and not dwell on it anymore? The SSPX ministers to about a million people worldwide, providing them with the Traditional Latin Mass, sacraments, and solid orthodox teaching. What would all these people do without them? If it weren't for Archbishop Lefebvre, the traditional Mass, sacraments, and doctrine might have been completely lost. Only he had the courage to preserve these things by founding the Society of St. Pius X.
You write that the SSPX bishops were validly but illicitly consecrated, that they cannot establish parishes, exercise ministry in the Church, or licitly ordain. Even though the SSPX bishops are illicitly consecrated, I'm sure they would never allow any of their priests to give Holy Communion to so-called Catholic politicians who openly support abortion the way most of the "licitly" consecrated bishops do.
With regard to the discussion concerning the Society of St. Pius X, I would like to contribute the following thoughts:
1. The lifting of the excommunications is the second major intervention of Divine Providence answering the prayers of the SSPX faithful. The first was the Pope's 2007 motu proprio liberating the extraordinary form of the Mass. Both of these actions of the Pope followed "rosary crusades" by the SSPX in which over one million rosaries were prayed each time for these actions. I believe that the responsibility for the motu proprio lies in large part with the SSPX.
2. Despite obvious contradictions noted in speeches and writings of the SSPX, the group as a whole is Catholic compared to many in the Church who call themselves Catholic. The Pope cannot deny these individuals membership in the Church if they hold fundamental Catholic beliefs.
3. On a more human level, the Pope may have acted based on an observation that the only semblance of Catholicism left in France is the SSPX. I can definitely state that, until recently, that case could be made in our Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, at least with regard to a decent Mass. My wife and I are grateful and will always be appreciative that the SSPX has had a presence in this diocese so that our children could attend a reverent Mass. When one compares any shortcomings of the SSPX with the vast array of goofiness seen in this diocese the ordination to the permanent deaconate of a thrice-married and divorced man is just one of the latest it's not hard to understand why the SSPX exists. Worldwide, the SSPX has also preserved many churches and artifacts that were discarded "in the spirit of Vatican II."
4. Also on a human level, the pressure on the SSPX to reconcile with the Vatican is significantly increasing as the Tridentine Mass becomes more widespread, and traditional parishes are allowed to grow and prosper outside SSPX chapels. We have been able to participate in this development on a local level.
5. The "media circus" created around Bishop Williamson is indicative of the world despising not so much a wayward bishop as the world hating the Church. This travesty has also been fueled by some in the Church disgusted by Tradition. Is he any worse than a myriad of other bishops, many whose antics have been reported in this periodical? Some have suggested that this recent piling on the Pope may be in anticipation of literally hundreds of thousands of traditional Anglicans coming into the Church. Could the issue then be devout Catholicism? I believe so.
6. The SSPX is a response, not an answer, to what many of your readers are familiar with an abject loss of faith and knowledge of the faith among those who call themselves Catholic. In our household, we rejoiced in the actions of the Pope. We believe that full communion of the SSPX and the Vatican will occur. We have been very blessed to have met many wonderful Catholics through our interactions with SSPX faithful, and they will bring many blessings to the Church as a whole.
I found your New Oxford Note "Pope Benedict's Tightrope Act" curious and disturbing, but not all that surprising.
The SSPX has been providing my family with the sacraments for 30 years. Not so Joe Ratzinger. Not so the NOR. I can't do without the continuity of faith provided by the SSPX. I won't do without the intellectual stimulation provided by the SSPX and people like them. The NOR, I can do without. Catholic/Jewish relations, I don't care a whit for.
It is not only Ratzinger who is walking a tightrope; there have been plenty of flash-in-the-pan traditionalist magazines before the NOR. They have all faded away. The SSPX is still here.
Cancel my subscription. I want to be ahead of the curve and contribute to your fading away.
Ed. Note: To describe the NOR as a "flash-in-the-pan traditionalist magazine" is to express true ignorance about our history and mission. The NOR has never claimed to be a "traditionalist" magazine; we are a Roman Catholic magazine whose mission is to defend the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, not the loopy ideas running around in the heads of recalcitrant anti-Semites. That kind of "intellectual stimulation" we can do without. The NOR was established in 1977 a mere seven years after the SSPX. We're not going anywhere.
By now, certainly, nearly all Catholics have long understood that the Nazi policy toward persons of Jewish background, and the consequent Holocaust, has been an enormous evil that has greatly wounded Our Lord, and that Our Lord and His Apostles were themselves of God's chosen people. But why exactly is it that good relations with the Jewish community and other faith communities (however good in themselves), and mass public opinion of the day, should take precedence over matters that are integral within the heart of the Church herself? What are the great forces that drive this desire to "get along" and "collaborate" to the extent that there is so little regard for the souls of the hundreds of thousands of faithful in the SSPX and their not unreasonable concerns? Why do so many chanceries and perhaps even parts of the Roman curia bend over backwards for the separated brethren and the Jewish community yet seem to dismiss out of hand Catholic dogma and doctrine, and the clarity with which such dogmas and doctrines were always enunciated? I quote Rabbi David G. Dalin, the author of The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis: "The Holocaust is simply the biggest club available for liberal Catholics to use against traditional Catholics in their attempt to bash the papacy and thereby to smash traditional Catholic teaching."
If His Holiness is truly walking some sort of balancing act and "the controversy may prove to be the greatest challenge of his pontificate to date," as your New Oxford Note states, then it might be incumbent upon the NOR to be more precise in its reporting of this matter, and choose its words more thoughtfully. For example, the excommunications were not "lifted"; their juridical effects were remitted by the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops. It is disingenuous to fall back on the authority of Peter and at the same time suggest he is walking some sort of tightrope. It is disingenuous to treat the Vatican II documents as if they were the Decalogue or the Sermon on the Mount, when the Council was declared by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI to be merely pastoral, introducing no new dogma or doctrines, and when the Council documents are unnecessarily equivocal, ambiguous, ambivalent, unspecific, and riddled with loopholes.
Perhaps all is not heavenly within our Church, so that if we canvassed the candid opinions of many of our own cardinals and archbishops we would be in for a rude awakening. Yet they manage somehow or another to remain in regular, legal communion with the See of Peter to happy retirement and Christian burial, which they routinely disobey, sabotage, and contradict. Perhaps our own "crackpots" with "bizarre worldviews," or even worse, anti-Catholic doctrines, are more cunning and stealthy than the outspoken Bishop Williamson, and more dangerous. If we can listen to and learn from the Vicar of Christ and the Magisterium, why should we pay much attention to the self appointed "opinion-makers" of the world, who I would argue are not so much opinion-makers as propaganda cogs.
San Francisco, California
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR REPLIES:
Tom Blair suggests that it would be nice if the NOR would "use words such as barking mad,' crackpot,' and repugnant' in defense of Christendom against those who deny the historical reality of Christ, His deity, and His resurrection." Blair apparently believes that, since we would criticize a Holocaust-denying bishop of the Society of St. Pius X, we somehow would not criticize anyone else. One type of criticism does not preclude another: Just because Bishop Williamson is dubbed a "crackpot" in our pages and we maintain that he is a crackpot does not mean that other clerics, especially those "in the fold," are not "barking mad" in their own right. No one familiar with the NOR's history and mission could honestly contend that we overlook the chicanery, deceit, and buffoonery of bishops, priests, monks, and nuns whether they are of a liberal or conservative bent. After all, it was the NOR that invented the characters of Sister Snakebite, Father Flapdoodle, and Bishop Bubbles. It was the NOR that spoke out against neoconservative Catholicism.
To be sure, over the past dozen years especially, the NOR has been a staunch critic of the various factions that have abused Christ and His bride, the Church that includes abusive priests, deceitful bishops, New Age nuns, proponents of the so-called "historical Jesus," ecumaniacs, fanatical feminists, and homosexual agitators, to name but a few. Add to that anti-Semitic traditionalists. Furthermore, we've offered extensive critiques of Vatican II both the letter and the "spirit" of the Council, as well as all the resulting wackiness in liturgy, sacred music, church architecture, and ecumenical overtures. To suggest, as does Reynaldo Miranda, that the NOR has ever treated the documents of Vatican II as if they were the Decalogue is just plain silly.
Most letter-writers seem content to dismiss the NOR's criticism of Bishop Williamson simply because of his status as a "traditionalist." This is known as a "no enemies to the right" policy. Should we overlook grievous faults simply because a bishop is a traditionalist? Should we refuse to be introspective when it comes to traditionalist communities? Should we simply turn a blind eye at any hint of scandal? Just look at what happened to the Society of St. John, a group of priests who left the SSPX to start their own Church-sanctioned traditionalist community near Scranton, Pennsylvania. After hoodwinking many good traditionalist Catholics by their outward signs of piety and traditional devotion, the group devolved into homosexual misconduct, alcohol abuse involving minors, and financial fraud on a grand scale. Traditionalists are not immune to the ugliest of scandals. Would that they were! And to suggest, as does Krista Hager, that criticism of any traditionalist amounts to nothing more than spouting "lies and innuendo," and without naming even one lie, is to commit a grave injustice. The facts, as stated in our New Oxford Note, are well-documented and a matter of public record. Why should Hager be suspicious that we have a "personal agenda" when it comes to Bishop Williamson or the SSPX? The NOR is not beholden to any foundation or other financial source that would require us to vigorously defend Jews against racist ideologies. The NOR is, however, committed to the truth and believes that churchmen ought to be of the highest moral integrity.
What many letter-writers fail to understand is that the NOR stands with the Holy Father. We applaud Pope Benedict's many and sustained overtures to traditionalists and liturgical tradition. We have come out again and again wholeheartedly in favor of Pope Benedict's motu proprio. In fact, our website has an entire dossier of material that has been published in the NOR devoted to "The Latin Mass and Trad Renaissance" nearly all the articles are laudatory in nature. The NOR is an enthusiastic advocate of tradition. That does not mean, however, that we will support anti-Semitism when it rears its head in traditionalist circles. We do not and will not in any way, shape, or form! Anti-Semitism is un-Christian, un-Catholic, and a grave offense against God. And no, Nicholas Cisar, serving as a missionary in Africa does not justify antagonizing Jews, nor does "being driven by the desire to save souls" mitigate the immorality of racism.
Again, just because a priest or bishop says the Traditional Latin Mass each day does not give him license to harbor or propagate hatred against the Jews or any other ethnic or religious group. Does he have the "right" to do so, as some letter-writers suggest? Of course he does. But the right to do so is not an issue. Once he chooses to exercise his right to free speech as a public figure, he opens himself to the possibility of public criticism and rebuke. As his superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, explained in a March 2 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Bishop Williamson is "a free human being. Sure, he has a superior, but he is free in his decisions. But he has to bear the consequences for that."
In fact, Bishop Fellay, head of the SSPX, has been making a determined effort to "clearly distance" his traditionalist society from Bishop Williamson and his Holocaust comments. In the same interview, Fellay told Der Spiegel that he would eject Bishop Williamson from the Society if he denies the Holocaust again. "It is probably better for everyone if he stays quiet and stays in a corner somewhere. I want him to disappear from the public eye for a good while." In response to a question asking if Williamson will return to his full duties, Bishop Fellay responded with some sharpness: "That is impossible under the current circumstances. He has damaged us and hurt our reputation. We have very clearly distanced ourselves. He was not ordained as a bishop for his own personal purpose but for the common good of the Church, to spread the revealed truth." And here, Bishop Fellay has hit the nail on the head. A bishop is ordained to spread revealed truth, not to spout cockamamie theories that have nothing whatsoever to do with the mission of the Church.
Our detractors can have Bishop Williamson if they like. As for the NOR, we choose to support Bishop Fellay in the course of action he's taken in this affair; moreover, we stand with Pope Benedict XVI, who no doubt has the best interests of the Church at heart and yes, that includes traditionalists, too.
Democratic Strategies & Catholic Voters
Regarding the guest column "Lost Sheep in the Voting Booth" by Brother Bruno (Feb.): Catholic voters in America are way past the need to feel assimilated. In 2008 they were swayed by Democratic Party strategies and the lack of leadership from U.S. bishops.
Brother Bruno indicates that voters in 2008 were focused on the weak economy and moving past the Bush years. A majority of Catholic voters (54 percent) were in that group and voted Democratic. Those Catholic voters were also likely influenced by a successful Democratic Party public-relations effort launched after the Kerry loss in 2004. This campaign involved emphasizing the Party's social programs as an offset to the prolife influence on the Republican side. In effect, the Democrats created the impression that their social policies reflected a moral force equivalent to or exceeding the conservative natural-law value system. At the same time, they used a related ploy of talking extensively about the need to reduce the number of abortions.
The bishops never met this new Democratic challenge of moral relativism against the natural-law standard of morality. Their lengthy voter guide, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," was confusing and open to wide interpretation because it lacked a clear central message. There was no defining statement about the priority of issues of intrinsic evil over other obviously important social issues. Moreover, the bishops said nothing about any consequences for Catholic politicians (and still haven't) who publicly dissent from Church teaching, which added to their mixed message. As Brother noted, the bishops have lost credibility in the eyes of Catholic voters.
These Democratic Party strategies and the lack of an effective episcopal response, coupled with a weak Republican ticket, are what swayed the majority of Catholics into the Democratic column.
John J. Van Beckum
Where Were They?
Much is being written about FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) in our diocesan newspaper and our local parishes. This is as it should be. The concept of freedom of choice as it applies to abortion is nothing short of murder, far exceeding the deeds of the Holocaust of World War II. The Catholic Church is correct to push for its rejection, and all Catholics should and must take a stand against this federal license to kill.
But is this nothing more than trying to close the barn door after the horse has run off?
During the recent campaign, our newly elected president very clearly and on many occasions spoke of his support of women's "right to choose," even going so far as to profess his support directly to one of women's rights most visible vehicles, Planned Parenthood. Obama made it perfectly clear that he would do all in his power to continue the killing of the unborn. (And he made good on his promise by canceling the Mexico City policy as one of his first official acts.) During the campaign, which covered nearly two years, little was said or written by the local diocesan newspaper about the abortion issue. Hardly anything came out of the diocese, and virtually nothing came out of the local parishes. It is as though the word "abortion" had been blacklisted by our clergy.
We are currently providing over $330 million per year to Planned Parenthood through our federal budgeting process, much of which is used to kill babies. The stimulus package recently formulated in Congress includes a similar amount to Planned Parenthood for the purchase of condoms and funding for abortion. At a time when this country is in deep financial stress, we continue to pursue contraception and the act of killing. Not a word about this from our clergy. Where are they? There has been more communication from our pastors on the subject of financial commitment during the past few weeks than on abortion during the past two years.
If we and the clergy were more vocal during the recent political campaign, we very well may have a more prolife president and Congress. Instead, the clergy selected silent hope over positive activism. The Sunday before the national election was the perfect time for local priests to remind their parishioners that voting for an avowed abortion supporter was tantamount to accepting abortion as a moral and righteous act. Instead, the silence on this subject was deafening.
Currently, we are being told to increase our contributions so that the local diocese can better help the needy, further education, etc. Literature is being mailed and homilies preached reminding us of our duties as Catholics to support such programs. But during the presidential campaign, the clergy said hardly a word about supporting the right to life and abolishing abortion. So I ask: Where were they? This includes the bishops, priests, deacons, and all who might have had a voice. So often I saw cars in the local church parking lot on Sundays sporting Obama/Biden bumper stickers. Were our priests so reticent to mention the abortion issue for fear of some kind of reprisal?
In addressing this issue with other Catholics, I was told that we have to look beyond the single issue of abortion to others such as the economy, war, health care, etc. My answer to this position is very simple: What is more important than life? All other issues are secondary to life itself.
Time to Take the Gloves Off
For quite some time I have been thinking about John 2:13-25, when Christ demonstrated righteous anger by cleansing the temple. And then today, Sunday, March 15, it was the Gospel reading at Mass. I thought this might be a sign of sorts to drop a letter to you and your subscribers.
I am a Catholic from birth who has, over the past few years, finally heard and realized the wonderful truth of Catholicism. I am 60 years old! It is outrageous that it took this long to learn the truth. It was the direct result of orthodox shepherding from our local Catholic radio station and EWTN. Not the local parish priests or bishop. For some reason, they have had spiritual duct tape over their mouths for the past 40 or so years. I am reading Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed, Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating, the Catechism, and of course the king of them all, the Bible.
I fully believe that Satan has successfully played his hide n' seek game so well that even our bishops are blind to his activities. It is time for each one of us to take the gloves off and bring Catholic truth to the public square. We need to be on the offensive spiritually and implement the victory Christ gained for us on the cross. As St. Paul said, "May the God of peace soon crush Satan under our feet" (Rom. 16:20). We need to learn our faith and proclaim it boldly as St. Peter did. We need to enter the battle armed with the truth, we need to put on the "full armor." We are born to be in the battle. We need to get involved in all facets of our local communities, from politics to the cub scouts. We need to spend at least an hour in prayer every day and ask God to send us forth. He will do it! He will give us specific instructions. We need to go to confession at least once a month and receive the Eucharist worthily. We will then have the grace-filled enlightenment and power to be successful.
The NOR's primary mission should be to organize the country in every little community through its readers across our land. We need to enter our communities fully and boldly. The NOR can offer guidelines, encourage us, and orchestrate this mandate. This will keep this wonderful publication alive and flourishing.
Seneca Falls, New York
Ed. Note: While it is clearly beyond our capacity as a small publication to organize Catholics in every community across the country, we do have a vehicle in place by which local NOR readers may meet to discuss the topics presented in our magazine: New Oxford Reading Clubs. See the notice on page 15 of this issue, or contact Reading Club coordinator Carmelo Fallace by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 631-588-7495, for information about starting or joining a Reading Club in your area. Doing so just might be the spark that emboldens Catholics to stand tall in our communities and give a defense to anyone who calls us to account for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).
Just Do It
With regard to the letter-writer in your February issue who was reluctant to teach CCD ("How Can I Serve?"), I would encourage him and any other readers who feel an inclination to teach to volunteer at his local parish. Before and during my seminary career, I had occasion to teach CCD at three different parishes under directors of religious education (DREs) who ranged from orthodox to unorthodox. I never had a bad experience with any of them. Most DREs are glad to get someone who will teach a class. The problem with most textbooks is not that they teach bad things, but that they don't teach enough good things. It's a simple matter for a teacher who knows his faith to supplement the text he is using. At any rate, the worst they can do to you is tell you not to come back.
Fr. Michael Moore, Pastor
St. Brigid Church
Why Give Space to Unglodly Theses?
While the review of Sr. Barbara Fiand's Awe-Filled Wonder was well written by the highly esteemed Anne Barbeau Gardiner (Mar.), I take exception to such an un-Catholic and marginally valuable book finding space and recognition in the NOR. Some of your naïve and unsuspecting readers, which includes yours truly, may be tempted to submit to curiosity and buy Sr. Fiand's book, thus financing her mumbo-jumbo agenda. Even more serious is the potential for swaying such readers to find sympathy for some, if not all, of her ungodly thesis.
Andrew S. Erdelyi
Merrick, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The reason we occasionally publish reviews of "un-Catholic and marginally valuable" books like Sr. Fiand's Awe-Filled Wonder is to protect the deposit of faith from seductive yet destructive attempts at revision. Sadly, there are elements even within the Church that seek to do just that. Such reviews serve as salutary warnings to "naïve and unsuspecting readers" that certain books present a gospel other than the one handed down to us by tradition and preserved by the Magisterium of the Church. As St. Paul warned, "There are some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ . If any one [even an angel from Heaven] preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:7,9). As Prof. Gardiner ably demonstrated, Sr. Fiand's fanciful theory that "quantum fields of light" took flesh and dwelt among us is just such a perversion of the Gospel of Christ. Indeed, Prof. Gardiner notes that Sr. Fiand has "difficulty with Christianity," and calls her bizarre theology "madness" and "a betrayal." Prof. Gardiner closes her review with a plea for rosaries for the conversion of Sr. Fiand and other wayward sisters. We find in her review no room for "sympathy" for Sr. Fiand's thesis, and would truly be surprised if anyone else did either. As for those who might be tempted, out of curiosity, to further explore Sr. Fiand's benighted notions, we can't say they weren't warned of the dangers to their faith should they choose to do so.