Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Whatever happened to ecumenism?

For the record, I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X. I've never assisted at any of their Masses or attended one of their chapels, nor to I plan to. I think they're right in many of their diagnoses of the crisis in the Church, and I pray that they are successfully reintegrated into mainstream Church life. That said, I've always found it bizarre that it is the SSPX alone that can prompt otherwise happy open-minded prelates to go off on red faced, spittle flecked, neck bulging, vein popping hell-fire-and-damnation tirades about schism and heresy and "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus." For example:

The St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in a rural area of Buckingham County is operated by the Society of St. Pius X, a schismatic sect which is not in communion with the Holy See.

Catholics who attend Sunday liturgy there do not fulfill their Sunday obligation and the sacraments offered are not valid in accordance with the Vatican.

There is an element of confusion among some Catholics about the validity of the liturgy and the sacraments at the seminary which opened a year ago.

Father Anthony Morris, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Farmville, says that his church office frequently gets calls from people, some of whom express excitement, and want to know if the seminary Mass is an alternative to the regular Sunday Mass at a Catholic parish. It is not.
I can understand their excitement perfectly. I pray Fr. Morris does too and feeds their spiritual hunger accordingly. Whatever one's personal opinion about the SSPX may be, as a juridical matter they are not schismatic, though that may change in the future. However, even if the Church eventually rules that the SSPX is formally schismatic, is it too much to ask that they receive the same treatment as the Eastern Orthodox? If SSPX sacraments are invalid as the bishop of Richmond believes then I fail to see how we can hold that Eastern Orthodox sacraments are valid. SSPX ordinations are illicit but they are not invalid as their bishops have apostolic succession just as any other Catholic bishop does.

I admit that modern ecclesiology occasionally strains my credulity. The SSPX is considered schismatic while these people are not:

On Wednesday, June 27, the United States Supreme Court handed down two decisions—on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Amendment –that eviscerated legal marriage in the United States. The following Sunday thus offered Catholic priests a matchless opportunity to articulate the Church’s definition of what marriage is, and what it is not. Indeed, since the decisions had such civilizational import, such articulation was less an opportunity than an absolute obligation.

One priest did choose to address the issue. At San Francisco’s St. Ignatius Church, the 9:30 AM Mass on Sunday, June 30 was celebrated by the church’s pastor, Fr. Gregory R. Bonfiglio, SJ. But rather than presenting Church teaching to his audience, rather than, for instance, stating the simple truth that properly ordered sexuality leads to the creation of new life, while sodomitical relations lead, as San Franciscans know all too well, to physical death and to spiritual death, Fr. Bonfiglio chose to read a letter written by Fr. John D. Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph’s Church in Seattle. In the letter, which is titled “Why Am I In The Parade?” and which runs to 1,098 words, Fr. Whitney justified his presence in Seattle’s “Gay Pride” parade. The letter was published in St. Joseph’s June 23, 2013 parish bulletin. Given the content of the letter (Fr. Whitney absurdly equated Church teaching on homosexuality with Old Testament dietary restrictions, and ignorantly repeats the long-debunked assertion that the word “faggot” derives from “faggots” of wood), and the timing of Fr. Bonfiglio’s homily, the Sunday immediately after the legalization of counterfeit “marriage,” the homily can be seen as nothing less than support of homosexual “marriage.”

During Fr. Bonfiglio’s reading of the letter, the Church was eerily quiet. At least one parishioner was seen leaving the church in tears. When queried she said “It’s not his church! It’s the Catholic church! I should be able to just go to Church! I want to go to a Catholic Church!”
Me too ma'am, me too.

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