50 South Franklin Tpke.
Ramsey, NJ 07446
September 23, 1999
Dear Fellow Catholic:
I am writing this note to register my respectful disagreement with certain opinions expressed in the accompanying video tape entitled "What We have Lost", produced by the In the Spirit of Chartres Committee, Inc. (ISOC). Although I am quoted for background in the video, I was not asked to review or approve the script or the text on the box. However, ISOC has been good enough to allow me to provide this statement to you.
The video expresses the opinion that changes in the rites for the sacraments after Vatican II, including Holy Orders and Holy Communion, "have raised serious and legitimate questions of validity", that "a reasonable doubt as to the validity of any sacraments is sufficient cause to avoid it," and that "any other course of action creates a danger to one's faith and ultimate salvation."
I strongly disagree with this opinion because it calls into question the very existence of the priesthood and the Mass in nearly the entire Catholic Church since Vatican II. However damaging the changes in the post-conciliar rites may have been, I do not doubt that they remain essentially valid and still communicate the grace of the sacraments. The problem with certain of the new sacramental rites is not one of validity, but of a failure to convey certain truths of the faith as clearly as the pre-conciliar rites. The changes have (as forewarned by Cardinal Ottaviani) contributed to a loss of belief in what the Church teaches, but despite the changes the new rites are valid.
The text on the box asks: "Is the Church still Catholic?", "Has She lost the faith?" and "Can we count on today's Church to lead us to salvation?" These questions imply that the postconciliar Church is not Catholic ¾ a suggestion I vigorously reject. It is impossible for the Church, as such, to cease to be Catholic or to lose her ability to save souls, even if many of her members lose the faith or her hierarchy makes errors of judgment. A careful distinction must be maintained at all times between the acts and omissions of individual members of the Church and the Church herself. The postconciliar Church remains the Catholic Church, despite the grave crisis in faith and discipline that now afflicts and disfigures her.
In conclusion, I would caution all traditionalists to confine their views to what is clearly demonstrable and to avoid theological judgments on such matters as sacramental validity, on which the Magisterium alone can pronounce authoritatively. If we traditionalists venture beyond our limited competence, we risk losing all credibility in the struggle to restore what we have lost. Infinitely worse, we risk spreading error ¾ with eternal consequences for ourselves and those who might believe us.
Yours in Christ,
Christopher A. Ferrara
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