Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Celebration Of Faith

A happy St Patrick's Day to you all from Ireland.  As we celebrate the life and teaching of our patron saint, we pray that he will intercede for all your needs, and we ask you to pray for Ireland.

Today is the celebration of the mystery of faith - the Christian faith, which St Patrick taught.  He was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland - we already had Christians here, and even a number of Saints.  Neither was he the first bishop to the Irish - St Palladius was here before him.  St Patrick, however, seemed to have had a particular charism, he travelled around the country preaching the faith, converting and baptising, to an extent which had been unknown up to that time.  He initiated a spiritual revolution among a barbarian people, and for this he is the Apostle of Ireland.

So in our Masses we honour this holy man, our Father in faith, and our celebrations as Christians must first and foremost be founded on faith.  Yet, for many people "Paddy's Day" is not about faith at all.  As I said in my homily at Mass this morning, there are people in Ireland who are trying to wipe out Catholicism, and today they will be raising their glasses in honour of "St Paddy".  Meanwhile the rest of the world are dyeing their rivers green, eating cabbage and downing gallons of alcohol as they celebrate "Irishness".

The marriage of St Patrick and "Irishness" is only a recent phenomenon.  It developed in the 19th century when Irish Nationalists hijacked the feast of the Patron of Ireland to further their cause.  The St Patrick's Day parade was originally a civil rights march, and as for the leprechauns, the diddly dee and the clay pipes, well that's just stereotyping, and it drives some of us Irish crazy.  There are many who think we still live in thatched cottages, have red beards (even our women?) and sprinkle our conversation with "begorrahs".  God help us! 

Even worse than all this is that many of those out "drowning the shamrock" never darken the door of a church, and yet the man they celebrate was a man who wanted to bring the Irish to God, to keep them faithful to the Mass and to the practice of the faith.   There is no doubt that we need to reclaim St Patrick and his feast and begin to divorce it from nationalism.  Ironically, it makes no difference if one is Irish to celebrate this feast, it's all about Christianity.  Indeed today the British may well celebrate, not Irishness or the Irish among them, but that a son of Britain who left his people and his land to proclaim the Gospel among an alien people.  In this St Patrick serves as an important link between Britain and Ireland, a link which is firmly grounded in the Christian faith.  And, it seems, there may well be a church in Britain which was built by the Saint himself - see here for the article.

In other news: it seems it may be the end of the road for the Society of St Pius X: the Vatican has not accepted their response to the doctrinal preamble - it is inadequate for the restoration of full union. A friend said to me yesterday that it is all a game to the SSPX - they think that because the Pope desires reconciliation they can do what they want because they think the Pope will just bring them back in without their having to say they were wrong.  They will still continue to reject Vatican II.  It is an interesting position, and I think there is a level of truth in it.  Traddie blogs are convinced that reconciliation will take place without their having to move an inch because they are in the right, they believe. 

Well, if they do not move an inch, then there should be no reconciliation: they must accept Vatican II or stay where they are.  Many think this row is all about the liturgy and so they think that as Pope Benedict has given greater freedom for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form the way is open.  This row is not about the liturgy, it is about the Church's apostolate and her outreach to the men and women of our time, her holding to the truth, but also seeking to engage with those of other faiths and none.  The Society has until April to clarify its position: the ultimatum has been issued. The Vatican, it seems, may well be tired of playing games.

What could happen here?  Well one commentator said that it could lead to a declaration of formal schism, the reimposition of the excommunication on the bishops and priests, and an interdict on their lay followers.  We must pray for them.


  1. It's important to note Father, that the row is not about liturgy but until quite recently it was. The sort of shenanigans friends of mine had to go through just to get a Nuptial Mass in the extraordinary form were unbelievable. That is, thank God & the Holy Father, firmly in the past but bitterness at ill-treatment can take a long time to heal.

    The doctrinal issues are enough to make lots of people uncomfortable; some time ago I gave a presentation to a group of lay theology students where I laid out the gravamen of Fr (now Cardinal) Becker's l'Osservatore Romano article on Lumen Gentium 8 and was nearly lynched! The obvious difficulty for a certain facile ecumenism from a careful and attentive reading of LG 8 is going to cause more and more liberal Catholics to have doctrinal headaches. Unfortunately while the SSPX clergy generally do have an excellent seminary formation, it has limits. They don't have access to serious high-level theologians and haven't done the theological spade-work needed to support their own position in any serious way. When SSPX leaning clerics have done that sort of work in the past, they have generally come around to the Church's point of view (viz. Benedictines of Barroux, esp. Dom Basile Valuet or the Fraternity of St Vincent Ferrer in their dialogue with Fr Brian Harrison OS).

  2. I don’t agree at all that this is the end of the road for the SSPX. What does unfortunately seem to be a possibility is that the crisis afflicting the Church is far from being consigned to history.
    The last four decades have been far from a “game” for the Society, to put it mildly- treated as outcasts for believing and practicing as every faithful Catholic believed and practiced fifty years ago, while heresy, dissent, and disobedience was tolerated and indulged amongst many bishops, clergy, theologians, religious and laity whom we are led to believe are in “full communion” with Rome. The term double standards, hardly begins to describe the situation.
    I think the fact that the Vatican engaged for the best part of two years with the Society in detailed discussions suggests that nobody thinks this is a game, most especially those who are hostile to the Society. Anybody who has followed these discussions closely knows that the Society made clear from the start that they were not engaging in any sort of negotiations. They have stated for decades that the issues are doctrinal, related to the interpretation and implementation of the teachings of the pre-conciliar Magisterium, and not solely related to the liberation of the Tridentine Mass.
    Our Holy Father, in Summorum Pontificum, made clear that this form of the Mass had never been abrogated. This only confirms the findings of a committee of eight senior cardinals who were asked to examine the issue by Pope John Paul II in 1986.
    I’m not quite sure what parts of Vatican II Catholics are obliged to believe, apart from those teachings that were previously clearly defined as doctrine. The Council was not a Dogmatic Council- unlike Vatican I or Trent it defined no new dogma, issued no anathemas. Catholics were told that it was merely a Pastoral Council.
    After five decades, any well informed Catholic, is, I think, in a position to make a reasonable judgment on the results of this “Pastoral Council”. Bitter, rotten fruits and nuclear devastation are the images that come to this correspondent’s mind. By any measurable, observable criterion of Catholic belief and practice, the Church is in the midst of an almost unprecedented crisis- no doubt about it.
    Religious ignorance, apathy, syncretism, indifferentism and moral relativism seem to have afflicted Catholics like a deadly virus in recent decades. Leaving aside the lack of anything approaching genuine religious for those under the age of forty, can anybody explain the sort of woolly nonsense that many in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s seem to believe. We’ve all heard it. Mercifully, we hear less and less talk of Vatican II being a “New Pentecost” or heralding a “New Springtime”.
    To what extent the ambiguities and lack of preciseness and clarity that were contained in the Vatican II documents are responsible for the present state of emergency is the issue at the heart of the present difficulties between the Vatican and the Society of Saint Pius X. Specifically, the issues of religious liberty, ecumenism, collegialty, and the theology of the Novus Ordo Mass, are grounds for real concern and confusion. The Society has for decades maintained and demonstrated in detail the apparent contradictions with previous Church teaching.

    I don’t believe that Pope Benedict XVI has any intention of declaring the Society schismatic, much as many of the ravening wolves amongst the bishops of the world would like him to. He knows probably better than anyone what is at stake here.
    I suggest that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society he founded have performed a heroic service to the Church, a service that will be recognized one day. Maybe not in the immediate future, but some day when in the Archbishop’s words “the true light of tradition dissipates the gloom, which obscures the sky of the Eternal Rome”.