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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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On August 3, 1965, just before the end of the council, at the age of twenty-eight, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church in St. Patrick’s, Soho Square. Would it have happened if there had never been a Pope John or a Vatican II? Humanly speaking, the answer must be no.
So what am I to feel now when Pope Benedict XVI unconditionally lifts the excommunications of the four bishops ordained illicitly by Archbishop Lefebvre? Lefebvre held that after fighting the principles of the French Revolution tooth and nail, the church had succumbed to liberalism and modernism at Vatican II and had let all these enemies in: liberty (religious freedom), equality (collegiality of pope and bishops, and the church as the people of God), and fraternity (ecumenism). Such a marriage with the French Revolution was an “adulterous union,” he declared, from which could only come “bastards” such as the new rite of the Mass.
The pope has asserted that the Lefebvrist bishops, who remain suspended from celebrating the sacraments licitly, must now show true acceptance of Vatican II. But how could they ever do that? The only practical possibility would be an ambiguous formula that would allow them to sign while continuing in the same belief and practice as before. It would not matter so much if this brought these bishops back within the embrace of the church universal. It would matter a great deal if it brought the church universal closer to them.
Were those like me deceived when we saw a vision of what the church truly was at Vatican II and followed it? Was the council a flash in the pan, a hiccup in the church’s life, as it were, before the Catholic organism, challenged, closed back in on itself? I could never believe that. The currents of renewal have affected the river of Catholic belief too deeply and strongly to be denied. But what has happened to the wholehearted affirmation of the council that Joseph Ratzinger memorably expressed in his brilliant little book Theological Highlights of Vatican II, published in 1966 just after the bishops had finished their work?
I do not want to feel an orphan. And there are so many like me.
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