A terrible crisis in Faith has shaken the hierarchy and members of the Catholic Church these past 40 years, and as a result there has been increasing and general confusion amongst them as to what must be believed and done for salvation. This gradual and, indeed, diabolical disorientation of Catholics away from the Church’s supernatural mission of eternal salvation has only been possible through the failure of so many pastors of souls to understand, prevent and dispel the climate of silent apostasy which is the true story behind the façade presented by the Church today, seemingly at peace with the world, and nominally a billion strong.
It has been the devil’s masterstroke, as Archbishop Lefebvre repeatedly pointed out, “to have succeeded in sowing disobedience to all Tradition through obedience.” From the point of view of Tradition, that obedience has not been in accord with the true virtue of religious obedience, just as, conversely, any disobedience to pastors commanding through the spirit of innovation has been in truth fidelity to the Magisterium, or teaching authority, of the Catholic Church, which, even in its ordinary form, must be universal over both space and time in order to be infallible.
We live in an age of paradox. Thus, through obedience to the agents of change, many Catholics have been led unwittingly into (at least material) heresy and schism. On the other hand, those who, through no merit of their own, have been given the wonderful grace to keep the Faith in its entirety, have preserved their Catholic unity in the heart and mind of the Church through a resistance to the dilution of doctrine and worship which some have called schismatic, but which, in reality, is a necessary duty.
It has been the sad but inevitable consequence of all this confusion that Catholics have become increasingly divided amongst themselves, and will remain so until the Pope himself begins to command orthodoxy with the authority he has from God. Where faith is weak, there true charity must grow cold. Every Catholic faithful to Tradition knows the pain of this division from sad experience. Family relations and friendships have been strained or broken as different paths have been chosen in response to all that has happened. Religious families have been no exception, and we have seen communities split, and the sorrow of division has been shared by all who know and love them.
And now, as is perhaps common knowledge, that family division has come to the Transalpine Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, founded 20 years ago with the blessing of Archbishop Lefebvre, a division which has surely surprised and saddened many.
Since the initiative was taken unilaterally by Fr Michael Mary and the majority of the members of our community to seek regularization from the Roman authorities this year, a parting of the ways with the Society of St Pius X was inevitable, even though unprovoked by the latter body. The Society and its allies believe that no integration into the official structures of the Church can take place until there is some satisfactory resolution of the serious doctrinal problems which have caused the crisis in the Faith.
Hence also the divergent paths within our community. Of course, as its members have had to choose which path to follow there has been much soul-searching and examination of conscience before taking the grave step of either breaking with the Society of St Pius X, to whom we owe so much, or splitting from former superiors and confreres, who have been fathers and brethren in God. Yet no community can exist without a unity of hearts and minds, and whilst charity may overlook many minor differences of opinion, it cannot make light of fundamental principles. There is no unity worthy of the name which is not a unity based on truth. Such true unity–be it in the Church as a whole, or in a particular religious family–means, paradoxically, that truth, or differing views as to what is true, are sometimes the occasion of division, just as Our Lord Himself warned that acceptance of Him would not only unite, but also inevitably divide (Mt. 10:34-35).
In my own case, my difference of views concerns a matter in which no-one can remain neutral, or merely “agree to differ”; it is one of principle. There are many aspects to this problem (and this statement is not the place to argue them, important though they may be) but, in essence, the cause of rupture is this.
Up until recently our community held that there exists a crisis of Faith so great that it has created a state of emergency which has justified, and even urged us to work as Redemptorists outside the official framework of the Church for the last 20 years. Its superiors and many of its members have now chosen to see in recent developments in Rome an indication that this state of emergency no longer exists to the extent of justifying such a position, but rather that integration into the official structures is now both possible and imperative.
Others – and this is my own position – believe that the situation has not changed substantially even since the Motu Proprio of 2007 (which is nevertheless clearly a step in the right direction), and that the primary cause of the state of emergency is not liturgical, but doctrinal and still unresolved. For my part, I shall continue to support, and work with the Society of St Pius X whilst endeavoring to remain faithful to, and persevere in, my Redemptorist vocation as and where Providence indicates.
Addressing my dear Redemptorist confrères, I should like to make my own the words of Dom Lourenço Fleichman, O.S.B., (a Brazilian priest who left the Benedictine monastery of Le Barrou in France in 1988 when his community sought a similar regularisation of its status by the Vatican authorities whilst the doctrinal questions remained then, as now, unresolved) to his superior, the late Dom Gérard Calvet. These words he repeated to the priests of Campos, Brazil when they too sought to put their own good above the common good of Tradition in 2001:
“Thousands of the faithful anxiously wait for you to confirm them in the Catholic Faith, in the combat that Divine Providence requires of us, without our succumbing to fatigue, weakness, or the siren song of legality. What our Lord requires is martyrdom endured drop by drop, and a clear and simple profession of Catholic Faith without compromising with the modernists in the Vatican. The Pope, yes; legality, yes; but above all, respond to God’s clear call to the combat of the Faith.”