On What Rests The Pope’s Authority?
Papal authority depends on keeping fidelity with the teachings of Christ and the infallible pronouncements of previous Popes and Doctrinal Councils.
This fact needs to be borne in mind when considering the landmark statements made by Pope Benedict XVI in the past 48 hours. He has made several important points regarding his views on interfaith relations and Catholics whose religious practice is more traditional than his own (namely the Society of Saint Pius X).
Most noteworthy was his letter on the Society of Saint Pius X, published on 12th March 2009, where he shows apparent surprise at the protest against his lifting of an (invalid) excommunication:
… Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment.
If only it were true that the Pope was interested in revising his views on the Second Vatican Council, out of which has come the downfall of Catholicism! The avalanche of protests was most audible outside the Church in the paid media, which seems to hold the greatest sway in the Vatican these days. Quoting passages from the Council of Trent, or the Holy Bible, or Thomas Aquinas, or some other approved Catholic source of Divine Truth, just doesn’t seem to have the same “oomph!” in the Vatican as the words of some atheist editor in the London Times or the New York Post. The protests are not about fear of rejecting the Second Vatican Council, but about rejecting the heresy of Modernism, which the Pope has very nearly done, by the fact that he chose to act on what he thought was right for all time and not, as Modernists would say, what was right at the present time.
Pope Benedict regrets that Bishop Williamson’s comments on the Holocaust coincided with the revocation of excommunication:
…The discreet gesture of mercy towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path.
Actually, it rather appears that Benedict has somehow been whacked over the head so that suddenly he cares more about how things look from the outside rather than their inner meaning. Jesus Christ spoke about this of the Pharisees, using the well known washed-exterior-dirty-interior analogy.
I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility. Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which — as in the days of Pope John Paul II — has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.
This is exactly what is wrong with the situation. The Jews, like the Muslims and anyone else, act purely in their own interest, period. Their only aim is to improve their own standing in the world, even more so in the light of the crimes that are committed daily in the Holy Land in their name. They don’t care if the Pope has recalcitrant bishops, rebellious cardinals and faithless, hedonistic parishioners. All they care about is recognition and respect for their own religion. It’s perfectly understandable. Nothing strange about it all, so why pretend that it is otherwise? Does the Pope think that somehow they are on the edge of conversion?
The Pope should not place external relations above internal family conflict. Forget everyone else’s false religions and their idols, forget the false ecumenism, forget the mass media, forget stinking diplomacy. Deal with what is killing the Catholic Church – heresy, apostasy, crimes against children, fraud, sacrilege and more, all coming from the Church’s own prelates!
Benedict does show that, deep down, he is more intelligent and commendably logical than those below him, by recognizing where the root cause of the problems between the SSPX and the broader Church lie:
… 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 …
… 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.
And this is the point. If Benedict carries this statement to its logical conclusion, he will soon find that many things contained in the documents of the Second Vatican Council contradict Sacred Tradition. Much of what has been sanctioned, even promoted, by recent Popes has been erroneous for the same reasons. The Society of Saint Pius X might come across as extreme, on the fringe, or eccentric, but they have merely been standing still whilst the drunken post-Vatican II party has raged on in the greater Church. Everybody looked like they were high on the Devil’s Great Bong and its Smoke. Who can say what a multitude of souls has damned itself since 1962 as a result of the errors which have persisted under the noses of the Popes?
It’s natural that, in a dispute, both sides are invariably to blame in some way. The SSPX and other traditionalist groups will need to make compromises insofar as they can be made in keeping with the “entire doctrinal history of the Church”. But this time the Pope has to eat some humble pie himself so that the kind of mistakes that were made in the past are not repeated. The Catholic Church lost something like a third of its faithful when it mishandled Martin Luther by rejecting everything he said instead of accepting that corruption was rife and needed purging. The Church stands to lose much more on this occasion if it fails to see its own, present-day mistakes.
The Pope must recognize that his Church has drifted from Tradition in its informal embrace of Modernism and its failure to reject numerous other errors. If he himself fails to adhere to the “entire doctrinal history of the Church”, then history may show that the Sedevacantists were right all along.