Monday, November 1, 2010

A Matter of Historical Record

Updated: SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson in his most recent newsletter (Oct 30, 2010) writes,

"The doctrinal problem with the documents of Vatican II is not, mainly, (sic) that they are (sic) openly and clearly heretical. In fact their "letter", as opposed to their "spirit", can seem (sic) Catholic, to the point that Archbishop Lefebvre, who took direct part in all four Sessions of the Council, signed off on all but the two last and worst of those documents, "Gaudium et Spes" and "Dignitatis Humanae"...

That is very curious, because Fr. Brian Harrison O.S. in the 1994 issue of Fidelity magazine, showed quite conclusively that Archbishop Lefebvre certainly did sign both "Gaudium et Spes" and "Dignitatis Humanae". See the actual signatures from the Acta Synodalia below, arrow pointing to Lefebvre's signature....

At that stage all the SSPX officials I myself recall were (presumably in good faith) denying the Archbishop signed the two documents. Fr. Harrison challenged them in the article to either go to Rome and look at the original document, as he himself did, or to stop claiming the archbishop refused to sign them. To my knowledge the other bishops ceased to make it an issue afterwards.

click to enlarge. Fr. Harrison writes, quote: With permission from the Holy See...published ... a photographic reproduction of the original page from the Vatican archives with Lefebvre's signature near the bottom, and the title Declaratio de Libertate Religiosa (along with the titles of three other documents) at the top. We are talking here about the hand-written original, not the list published years earlier in the Acta Synodalia. (A copy accompanies this article, with acknowledgments to Sedes Sapientiae.) End of quote
Is good bishop Williamson familiar with all of this? I simply do not know. But it is clear he is mistaken here. The point is that the Archbishop, whose memory may have failed him in his old age, clearly signed off on the documents showing that he certainly did not detect any "heresy" in them while the Council was in session, whatever the evolution of his thoughts afterwards. He rebuffed the tiny Sedevacantist factions who said the Council was heretical and that there was then no Pope or sacraments in the visible, hierarchical Church.

These signed documents then are simple, hard facts. And it is only what happens in Council which is of dogmatic consequence.

The SSPX and the Holy See are engaged in dialog today. Benedict lifted the excommunications on all four of their bishops. SSPX superior general Bernard Fellay is seen here with Benedict XVI We must be fair in criticism. A document may certainly be problematic from a variety of angles---Cardinal Ratzinger (today Benedict XVI) for instance in 1984 criticized parts of Gaudium et Spes as naive in its optimism about "progress," technology and the modern world; but there is a great gulf between saying that, or deploring certain dangerous ambiguities in Conciliar documents, and accusing a council of heresy; Bishop Williamson I think would agree, though he is often, his critics claim, given to serious ambiguity himself (For instance, read that first paragraph above again).

Today the vast majority of those who would describe themselves as traditionalists are constructive critics and steer far away from that kind of hyperbole. The SSPX voice, to the extent that it remains constructive which it always represented itself as being, is I believe necessary. I think Benedict XVI thinks so too; which is why we must avoid all hyperbole.
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Note on Fr. Harrison: The Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D., a priest of the Society of the Oblates of Wisdom, is an emeritus Professor of Theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce, P.R. Some of his writings is found here... I did a webcast earlier this year with him, found here at BTR...

Marcel Lefebvre and Antonio de Castro Mayer--->Update: See Fr. Harrison's entire Fidelity article on the above-referenced matter here... "The fact that ... four documents were signed together does not mean the bishops were faced with the alternative of signing all or none. The fathers were informed that if they wished to sign one or more documents, but not all of them, they could make a marginal annotation beside their name, specifying which documents they did or did not wish to sign. No such annotation is found beside the names of either Lefebvre or de Castro Mayer, which proves that they were prepared to share in the official promulgation of that Declaration on Religious Liberty which they later publicly rejected." [after the Council was done---SH]--- [This Post above Last Updated: 11.2.10 PM EST]

--->Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on the New Mass... , a summary.
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