Catholic Answers June 18, 1996
P. O. Box 17181
San Diego, CA 92117
Dear Karl Keating:
Your Dragnet column has a great many interesting things happening in it. Starting off with the letter from Donald Charles Lacy, a Mason, you seem to be at a bit of a loss to understand what he is up to. One thing which is important in understanding the Masons and their mysterious, dark purposes, is that from a Mason's own viewpoint the Mason sees himself as being a Catholic's Catholic, a Protestant's Protestant, a Jew's Jew, a Muslim's Muslim, a Buddhist's Buddhist, and so on, simultaneously. He thinks that he has distilled the "good" out of all religions and that the secret doctrines of the Masons are what build logically from that consensus of distilled goodness. He believes that this secret doctrine is the culmination of all seeking after Truth (I wouldn't want to guess what their criteria would be for what passes and what doesn't) which any particular religion can only go so far before colliding with its own particular and narrow doctrines.
To a Mason such as Donald Lacy, being a Methodist Minister is merely a superficial quality which happens to a person, just like whether they should be born an Englishman or an African or what name his parents should give him. He would therefore never think of being any other kind of minister than Methodist, but as a Mason he can convince himself that he is only all the better of a Methodist for being one, and a good Catholic as well (at least in some deep sense that we ordinary Catholics know little or nothing about). It is all the secrecy and blood oaths which surround their secret doctrines which drove Pope Leo XIII to condemn Freemasonry as a work of darkness since it shuns the light of scrutiny. What is so secret that only the initiates who have vowed silence can be allowed to know what it is? Obviously it must be either something embarrassingly ridiculous or else something blatantly satanic. I suspect that it is hinted at in the enlightenment (actually endarkenment, to coin a word) that first asserted itself in the days of the French Revolution.
Donald Lacy is a Mason. That is all that is important to him. He has no more interest in becoming a Catholic than he does in changing his name. No matter how much he may appreciate the sound of other people's names, he will keep his own precisely because it is his and no one else's, and ditto for his religious affiliation. If only he knew how Masonry undermines Catholic doctrine, and is most certainly not the friend of truth but the enemy! He needs to convert, not from Methodism to Catholicism but from Masonry to Catholicism.
The article I really want to talk about however, is the one about Fr. Peter Scott's response to Bishop Bruskewitz's vacuous threat to excommunicate certain Catholics (along with various others). Before delving into it, for the sake of comparison and contrast, I want to skip over to the next article about Call to Action's response to the Bishop's threat. You did a very interesting thing: you provided a quote from a letter from Call to Action which itself quotes John XXIII as saying, "In essentials, unity; in other things, diversity; in all things, charity." While the Bishop's reply, as quoted in your article seems good enough, he seems to have left it up to you to deliver the trump card, namely the actual quote in its actual context by John XXIII in which he says "liberty," not "diversity."
What is so great about that is the fact that you demonstrate the scholastic dishonesty of Call to Action, in that their quote of John XXIII is false, twisted, and misapplied. That is an almost universal practice of all sorts of heretics. (The only exception would be those who make no claim of being Catholic nor of using Catholic sources.) For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses misquote Protestant scholars such as J. R. Mantey to "prove" that their rendering of John 1:1 "...and the Word was a god," is acceptable. The very best evidence against any sort of heretic is demonstrating the dishonesty of their scholarship. That is the only kind of evidence which ever really gets through to any sincere truth seeker in their ranks.
With all of that under our belt, I now address your pathetic attempt to ridicule Fr. Scott's letter. Rather than step through each paragraph of the letter itself (the original which I enclose is sufficient for that), I will instead address the fact of what you have done with it. Starting with italics, while you admit that the italics are yours, not Fr. Scott's, I see you have italicized the following phrases (apart from the names of publications or the phrase "Novus Ordo Missae" which are Fr. Scott's italics): I ask and demand of you, I challenge you (5 times), a counterfeit church, and I must ask for a public apology. So emphasizing and drawing attention to these phrases does much to alter the entire tone of the letter, the original of which is a great deal more polite and conciliatory than the selectively quoted and italicized version of it presented in your article.
Further adjusting the tone away from its true character is the omission of the sentence, "I only wish that other US Bishops were so firm in their stand against such groups of apostates which are perilous to and incompatible with the Catholic Faith, as you correctly point out." There is not even an ellipsis (...) to indicate this gap in your text. While all other gaps in the text of this letter are properly designated with ellipses, there is no way to tell which of these is a gap in your copy and which is a gap in Fr. Scott's original. One more omitted passage reads as follows: "Even if Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishops he consecrated had been excommunicated, it would not at all follow that the Society of Saint Pius X and its priests were excommunicated. What was our crime? In what way did we refuse the true teaching authority of the Church?" There is one more omission of importance but I will get to that after just a bit more.
I now move to your comments regarding this letter. This paragraph must be an embarrassment to you, or if it isn't it will be shortly: "Hmmm. Isn't it remarkable that the language of dissidence is always the same, from whichever end of the spectrum it exudes?" No similarity whatsoever has been demonstrated. Indeed, one finds only a startling difference between definitive and indisputable facts brought out by Fr. Scott on the one hand versus the flowery fuzz-phrases of Call to Action on the other. Even more interesting is the contrast between Fr. Scott and Randy Moody of Planned Parenthood, but I will return to that later.
From there however, you move from bad to worse. For one thing, "three" canon lawyers do make a majority. How many did you name who take the opposite position? None. Why? Because there are none. No competent canon lawyer anywhere on the face of the earth takes that opposite position. That's 3-0 in favor of the SSPX. Actually, even as presented in your article, the score should really be 4-0, since the doctorate awarded to Fr. Gerald Murray was itself the final step in his certification as yet another canon lawyer. He is not merely a graduate thesis; he is a person, and was a most formidable and capable canon lawyer as well until his defection from the Faith and his repudiaton of everything he was taught and everything he himself so ably proved.
There are actually many more canon lawyers who agree with these four canon lawyers, but they are never mentioned in Fr. Scott's letter since he is attempting to prove his case only using canon lawyers who are still respected in Vatican circles. The fact is that there are many canon lawyers who have followed the logical conclusions to their study of Canon Law and have gone over to the SSPX and teach Canon Law in their seminaries, such as Fr. T. C. G. Glover, or practice Canon Law privately on behalf of various paying clients (many, but not all, of whom are SSPX priests and parishioners). All of these canon lawyers, whether SSPX or not argue exactly the same case. I will not make their case here; you can consult their writings yourself for that.
There is however, one more witness who has not been brought to the stand, a witness Fr. Scott mentioned prominently in his letter, but for some reason his name never turns up anywhere in your article about it, even in the extensive quotes given from it. And that witness is no less than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The true testimony of this witness requires some background. Schismatic Bishop Joseph Ferrario attempted to excommunicate six parishioners of a SSPX chapel in Hawaii. These parishioners, and in particular Patricia Morley had recourse to the Vatican, and after two years the decision came down, "From the Examination of the case, conducted on the basis of the Law of the Church, it did not result that the facts referred to in the above-mentioned Decree are formal schismatic acts in the strict sense, as they do not constitute the offense of schism; and therefore the Congregation holds that the Decree of May 1, 1991 lacks foundation and hence validity."
The original June 28, 1993 letter from US Apostolic Pro-Nuncio Msgr. Cacciavillan contained some additional statements which came from himself and not from Cardinal Ratzinger, as the follow-up article enclosed indicates, but the statement quoted comes from Cardinal Ratzinger himself, and serves as a clear precedent with which one can readily anticipate what the Vatican, the Rome of John Paul II and so forth, will have to say about schismatic Bishop Bruskewitz and his attempt to repeat Ferrario's fiasco. Fr. Scott therefore writes from a position of strength, fully confident of the fact that Bishop Bruskewitz is in the wrong, legally. That explains why it is that the Bishop could respond with a letter to Call to Action which you print an excerpt of, but he couldn't reply to Fr. Scott. He cannot answer the challenges, and he knows it.
Meanwhile, we have another problem. Your article omits the evidence of Cardinal Ratzinger which utterly demolishes your claim that the SSPX are dissidents of some kind rather than the regular Catholics in full union with Rome which they are in fact. This is very poor scholarship, i. e. the article itself is scholastically erroneous. It is fair to ask whether or not this is deliberate on your part. When you sat down to write it, did you have the entire letter before you or only such excerpts as you printed? I enclose a facsimile copy of the letter itself in order that you may compare it against what you had to work with. Now that you do have it in front of you, you cannot claim ignorance any longer. If the omission is truly an accident on your part (i. e. whoever provided you with a copy of it censored the copy so as to delete all references to Cardinal Ratzinger), then you can remedy your scholastic error by stating in a future issue of This Rock (I would give you until the October issue, or the first issue dated after October 1996 should there be no such issue) that the letter of Fr. Scott, as provided to you was incomplete and omitted important references to a similar case in Hawaii in which Cardinal Ratzinger judged that the parishioners of the SSPX chapel are not schismatic, and that Bishop Bruskewitz has not followed up this "excommunication" with any action or response whatsoever (unless of course he does something about it in the intervening time, something I don't seriously expect to happen at all). If no such annotation occurs, the absence of such in itself would constitute proof positive that you yourself are culpably practicing scholastic dishonesty, and therefore no better than Call to Action whose scholastic dishonesty you yourself have brought to light. Once again, the terrible twins of poor scholarship and anti-Catholicism have put in an appearance, only this time it was on the pages of This Rock, not at all a fitting place for them in my opinion. For your information, I am forwarding a copy of this letter to The Angelus with the idea that if you do not respond to it, then perhaps they will. Supplementary note: Mr. Keating has never bothered to set the record straight on this
The same deplorable paragraph which I have been commenting on ends with a remark which can only be described as an insult, a calumny, and an abuse of language: the preposterous claim that the word "Protestant" could in any way be applied to the SSPX. The word fits better on you than on them. Not that it fits you very well at all (it really doesn't), but it fits you better than them. Their Catholicism is complete and unmitigated; yours seems to have a funny way of suspending itself whenever you discuss any groups of true, practicing and traditional Roman Catholics. There is just no pleasing you. If you can't find anything wrong with someone or something you invent it.
Now that Cardinal Ratzinger has been brought into this discussion, I am now in a position to address the one additional little detail I left hanging from your "Hmmm..." paragraph, namely your attempt to compare the "language" of Fr. Scott and Mr. Moody. The crucial words of his quote are, "I challenge them." To you, that looks just like Fr. Scott's five "I challenge you's." Notice the different third word. Mr. Moody is not talking directly to Bp. Bruskewitz; he is talking to someone else. It is easy "talk big" when one is not actually confronting the person he is mad at. Fr. Scott on the other hand is directly addressing the Bishop. If you refer to the actual text of the letter as I have enclosed, you will notice an annotation at the end of it to the effect that a copy of that letter has also been forwarded to Cardinal Ratzinger.
That is an essential step in having recourse to the Vatican in the event the problem cannot be solved locally, i. e. by having Bp. Bruskewitz simply withdraw his condemnation of SSPX parishioners. If the Bishop refuses, he then becomes a problem for higher echelons to solve. The key thing in all of this is that Fr. Scott takes his case to the Vatican, hoping to solve this problem internally, as all such problems rightly ought to be solved, if possible. His letter, and the copy he sent to Cardinal Ratzinger, is evidence that he has appealed to the local bishop in this case with the hopes that this should not have to go any higher up the ranks and bother anyone else up there. Mr. Moody on the other hand only makes some vague threat about "some court" which you rightly pick up on as a reference to a secular court, the arm of flesh so to speak, and not the Vatican. It is correct that you demonstrate his inconsistency in that he demands the separation of Church and State but then tries to get the State to tell the Church what to do. Actually what he believes is that the State should guide and control the Church whereas the true doctrine is that the Church should guide and control the State. That is why there used to be Catholic nations.
The similarity is, therefore extremely superficial, but it gets worse than that. You, as a lawyer, should have been able to recognize be honest about the fact that Fr. Scott was constrained to use the precise language that he did in order that an appeal to higher Vatican authority than Bp. Bruskewitz might be possible and all the more likely to succeed, should it be necessary. While it is true that canon law and secular law are not the same, there are certain basic principles they both must have in common. To compare and liken his precise legal language to some random words which another man happens to have "blustered" in the course of what is clearly an emotional outburst, owing to an unfortunate similarity which is only two words long is to portray and present yourself as being totally ignorant of you own secular occupation which I am sure you are not. That is why you have cause to be extremely embarrassed about having a paragraph like that anywhere in your publication.
Finally, in your last paragraph, you introduce your sole witness, a witness of great calibre, it is true, but one whose words you have very sloppily paraphrased. This is John Paul II himself in his Ecclesia Dei motu proprio. You have it that he "did declare Lefebvre ... to be excommunicated." This is an ambiguous statement since excommunications come in two basic forms: decreed and automatic. A decreed excommunication is an exercise of authority (in Abp. Lefebvre's case such a thing, were it to have occurred, would be more properly referred to as an abuse of authority), in which the authority figure (in this case a pope, assuming he really is one; those of the SSPX are convinced he is) says by virtue of his authority, "I hereby do excommunicate you this day on the grounds of such-and-such." No further explanation or justification is required. But that is not what happened.
An automatic excommunication on the other hand is not an exercise of authority. When someone (pope, bishop, whoever...) declares that a person has incurred automatic excommunication, that person acts merely as a commentator who points to a fact which exists completely independent of him. He is in effect saying, "Oh by the way, did you know that you have just excommunicated yourself by doing such-and-such?" If one wants to claim that someone has excommunicated himself, they must defend that claim with canonical evidences, taking into account all relevant canons they may need to prove it, and also being able to explain away any other canons which those of an opposing viewpoint could put forth in defense of the individual. John Paul II never did this. In fact, other than to write a short note to apply this to Bishop de Castro-Mayer as well, he has never repeated it, nor commented on it again.
A good way to illustrate this is with a ship in battle. If the Captain shouts, "Fire," to his gunner, the gunner is expected to fire the torpedo. That is the proper functioning of a Captain's authority. He gives an order and the order is obeyed, and there is no need (and often no time) to defend it or explain it in any way (unless the Captain should subsequently be court-martialed for deliberately ordering his crew to attack a friendly target). On the other hand, anyone (be he Captain or anyone else) would be quite capable of saying that it would be a good idea for the gunner to fire the torpedo. The person who does such is not issuing an order nor exercising any authority, even if he is the Captain. If the person merely states, "It would be a good idea to fire off a torpedo now," the gunner is quite free to think for himself along the lines, "but we're facing a friendly target right now, and furthermore I have not been ordered to, so I don't think I will."
The person, if he is the Captain, can go from there into a kind of "authority mode" and order the gunner to fire, or else he can, no matter who he is, attempt to explain why it would be a good idea to fire off a torpedo now. If the reason is good enough, perhaps the gunner might then conclude, "you're right; I should fire the torpedo now, so here it goes." Now imagine a case where the Captain happens to say, "It would be a good idea to fire off a torpedo now," and the gunner thinks to himself, "but we're facing a friendly target right now, and furthermore I have not been ordered to, so I don't think I will," so he doesn't. The Captain does not turn his suggestion into an order, nor does he ever attempt to explain or justify his remark; he doesn't even stick around long enough to see whether or not the gunner fired the torpedo. The Captain himself never again wanders past the gunner, but his first lieutenant does and says, "The Captain says your doing a good job; keep it up!" That illustration perfectly corresponds to the relationship between the Pope (the Captain), his lieutenant (Cardinal Ratzinger), the gunner (ordinary lay Catholics like you and me), and the friendly target (the priests, bishops, and religious of the SSPX. And thus the testimony of your only witness totally disintegrates under cross-examination.
Pope Liberius went John Paul II one better; he actually did excommunicate the Lefebvre of his day, Saint Athanasius, with a decree, and for that reason has the distinction of being the first pope not to be canonized a saint by the Church. No one on earth knows how long the Heavenly Court-Martial took, nor what the result was regarding the disposition of his soul. Thankfully, John Paul II did not go quite that far, but then neither can it be said that he excommunicated Abp. Lefebvre. All he did was happen to make some unfortunate passing remark which was clearly the product of chance, circumstance, and digestion, rather than a cogent, deliberate, and sustained belief on his part. The final score: SSPX, 5; Those who assert that the SSPX is a dissident group, 0.
The four canon lawyers (Cardinal Lara, Fr. Valdini, Count Neri Capponi, and Fr. Gerald Murray) have not merely stated, "I don't think Abp. Lefebvre was either schismatic or excommunicated, and I'm a Canon Lawyer; look at the diploma on my wall." Instead they have all meticulously stepped through the entirety of Canon Law and systematically proved by it that Abp. Lefebvre is neither schismatic nor excommunicated. I invite you and encourage you to study closely the case these four witnesses have made and cross-examine them. If you can prove them wrong (and not with "Pope John Paul II said..." as that has already been ruled out as seen above) from Canon Law, then you are the most capable canon lawyer on the face of the earth and YOU should be the next pope (and may God spare us if that should ever happen).
Against all that, and also the conclusion (albeit not the reasoning behind it) and decree of Cardinal Ratzinger we have only a vacuous warning from some local yahoo Bishop who obviously can't tell a Catholic from a catheter. Even were the parishioners of the SSPX to merit excommunication for some strange reason or other, this is a non-event as it is in fact is for all of the other groups mentioned as well. Here is why the bishop's threat is so vacuous: What did the Church previously do in the case of someone who is excommunicated? Deny them the sacraments. What can they do now? Absolutely nothing. Why? Let us suppose the president of Planned Parenthood is in town in order to help set up an abortion clinic, and everyone knows it, and would recognize him on sight. If he wants the Eucharist, all he has to do is approach any Eucharistic Minister and he will get it. The reason for that is that Eucharistic Ministers, in the course of their training to be such, are taught that they must give it to everyone who comes forth, even known and public sinners. That was voted on by Bishop's conferences; Bp. Bruskewitz cannot change that. Apparently, only the celebrant of the liturgy seems to have retained any prerogative to withhold the sacrament. Again, in the Confessional, if the penitent remains on the other side of the screen, how is the father confessor to know with whom he speaks?
Perhaps you will have noticed that in the course of this letter, I have referred to Bishops Ferrario and Bruskewitz (one time each) as being schismatic. If I were to finish this letter without explaining why I did that, I would be doing precisely what John Paul II did in referring to Bishops Lefebvre and de Castro-Mayer as being schismatic, namely making a comment regarding the status of other individuals and then just moving on without defending it (as if I couldn't and knew it). Well now, I propose to do that which John Paul II didn't do, namely prove that the two bishops I have named and referred to as schismatic are in fact schismatic. I deal here with only the case of Bp. Bruskewitz, but a parallel case applied every bit as much against Bp. Ferrario.
Let us start with the raw meaning of the word "schism." This means division, or feud, a line being drawn amongst a group of people such that some are on one side and some on the other. It is distinct from the term heresy which refers to rejection of some particle or portions of Catholic doctrine. The two are often associated as schism seldom occurs without heresy and heresy never occurs without schism. One good example of schism without heresy is the state of the Church in the fourteenth century when we had two and even three claimants to the papal throne. All factions were Catholic, but only one claimant was really the pope.
The term "schism" actually applied not to any particular faction regardless of whether they followed the correct pope or not, but to the division, the distance, the alienation that existed between the factions. The true schismatics then were not those who adhered to false popes through no fault of their own, nor even the false popes themselves, but rather those who forbade ordinary Catholics of their own faction to have anything to do with individual Catholics of any other faction, or who spoke of all Catholics of any other faction than their own as being reprobate and excommunicated for no reason other than their membership in the rival faction. They cause divisions between Catholic and Catholic, not between Catholic and anything and everything else.
"Anything and everything else" is of the world and there has always been a schism between the Church and the world, a schism decreed by God Himself back in Genesis 3:15 when he put enmity between the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent. But the world is not only schismatically separated from the Church, it is also every sort of heretical as well. Because all three factions avoided all heresy, all three factions were in fact portions of the Church, the disagreements among them being strictly over procedural matters which were not as yet formally settled. That is why all three factions were able to recombine peacefully under pope Martin V. That schism was in fact entirely internal to the Church.
Now, let us look at the present state of the Church under the confused and incoherent leadership of the present day hierarchy. In the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, there are two present day "factions" of the Roman Catholic Church, namely the parish of Saint Michael the Archangel Mission (SSPX) on the one hand, and the parish of St. Mary's Church and St. Elizabeth Hospital Chapel, as serviced by Fr. Karl Pikus (FSSP), on the other. Despite certain tensions existing between these two factions, many parishioners felt more or less free to move back and forth between the two, especially married couples where one partner favored one faction and the other favored the other, so the two of them would trade off alternate Sundays. Fulminations by either side against the other were rightly recognized by such parishioners as being statements of schismatic tendency and quite properly ignored. Everyone involved knew in their heart of hearts that both factions were fully and equally portions of THE Roman Catholic Church.
Suddenly, along comes this Bishop's inept attempt to condemn saints and sinners alike. A wall was set up between Catholics and Catholics, a wall the Bishop himself constructed. It is HE who formally split the Catholic Church in his diocese right down the middle by basically saying, "all of you who happened to sit down on the pews to the right of the aisle are hereby excommunicated, and to those of you who happened to sit to the left of the aisle I give my blessing." If that is not "creating a schism," I sure would like to know what is. Parishioners are now forced to choose and take sides between factions leaving them no way to be Catholic without being schismatic as well, regardless of the faction they choose. Families with members sympathetic to competing factions who were previously able to work out their differences with some compromise may find themselves forced to split up. If so much as even one divorce occurs on account of this, I lay it at the bishop's door. Furthermore, schism as defined in canon law not only consists of adhering to a false pope or rejecting a true pope, but also can consist of "refusal of communion with other members of the Church," communion in this context meaning association or friendship or fellowship, as in the "Communion of Saints," not the Eucharist. By cutting himself off from certain "other members of the Church" and causing others to do likewise, Bp. Bruskewitz makes himself a schismatic who can and should be formally so charged.
If he wants to save himself a lot of trouble (including no doubt a formal rebuke from the Vatican), he would be very well advised to reverse his faux pas of including loyal Catholics among those he sees fit to condemn. And as for you, if you are to retain any credibility at all, you have the duty to put to rights the poor scholarship which caused you to omit any references to Cardinal Ratzinger's relationship to all of this. There is no need to print or acknowledge this letter (unless you wish to), just put the correction in a future issue of This Rock as described above. That would be sufficient.
In Jesus and Mary,
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