BASIC R.C. BELIEF
Schism occurs when baptized people refuse to be subject to the Pope. The
chief historical schism was in the 11th century when the Eastern Orthodox
Church broke from the Roman Catholic Church. According to strict
terminology, ex-communication is the penalty for schism.
POST VATICAN II
It finally happened! After years of jockeying for position, trying to
maintain a rigid Catholicism that was true to historic Romanism but
unpopular with popes he termed "modernistic", Marcel Lefebvre went too far
even for the conservative John Paul II.
Meetings between the two had generated hopes within Lefebvre's Pius X
society that a true reconciliation with the Roman Hierarchy was possible.
Stances by the present pope that indicated his strong conservatism and even
a leaning toward the use of Latin in the liturgy were found to be
meaningless when Lefebvre, contrary to papal commands, consecrated four
bishops at his seminary in Econe, Switzerland.
Why, you might ask, since both Paul VI and John Paul II had come out
against the Pius X society with their insistence on the Latin Mass, is it
such a landmark when bishops are consecrated? Why was Marcel Lefebvre not ex-
communicated when he insisted that the Mass authorized by the pope was not
valid, and ordained priests at his seminary?
The significance is this. Although Lefebvre had ordained almost 250
priests contrary to Vatican direction, these priests could only function
until the end of their lives. Since Lefebvre is 82 years old, his time on
earth is definitely limited. If he died without consecrating bishops, the
movement would have no base upon which to continue. Priests cannot ordain
priests, and it would only be a matter of time before the movement, one of
many spurious movements from Catholic centrality that had occurred over the
centuries, would disappear. Now the bishops can ordain priests, and the
movement can continue longer, until the hoped-for traditional pope takes the
chair of Peter. As Lefebvre stated, "The Lord may soon call me home. I must
not leave you orphaned."
This caused the first schism in the Roman Catholic church since just
after Vatican I in 1870 when some bishops, denying the infallibility of the
pope, split to form the Old Catholic Church (Church of Utrech). The Society
that had been begun by Lefebvre shortly after the Novus Ordum of Paul VI
suggested the use of the vernacular in the Mass, was named after Pius X, the
pope who condemned modernism in a 1907 encyclical. Lefebvre maintains that
the discarding of the Latin is a form of modernism, and his followers have
uttered many strong statements about the post-Vatican II Church. (See THE
GREAT SACRILEGE by Priest Wathen).
Less than two hours after the consecrations, a Vatican statement
condemned them as an act of schism, a formal break with the Holy See. Even
though one is ex-communicated and branded schismatic (a formal term that
implies a state of disobedience to the papal office), ex-communicated people
are still under obligation to attend Mass, even though they are not allowed
to partake of the sacraments.
I received a statement from the Pius X society. The head of the seminary,
Richard Williamson, was one of the men consecrated bishop by Lefebvre. An
Orlando, Florida priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church (not recognized by the
Archdiocese of Miami as a Roman Catholic church) stated, "Nobody can be
pleased with what is going on, but it is a necessary step. We do love the
pope. He is our father and we do love him. But this was needed."
As is to be expected, Catholics who follow official Vatican teaching have
tried to downplay the significance of these events. Rev. Arthur Bendixen,
chancellor of the Archdiocese of Orlando, said, "We feel saddened about
their split from the church. But they are a small group [about 100,000];
certainly not a large section of the church."
Yet the ability of Lefebvre's seminaries to attract young candidates for
the priesthood is in sharp contrast to the authorized Roman Catholic
seminaries, which are empty or sparsely populated. The youthful vigor of
the outlawed group will be missed in Romanism.
Lefebvre's feeling about the Vatican-controlled Romanism is that the
church has been infiltrated by "wolves and thieves" and is being consumed by
the "cancer of liberalism."
Central to the Traditionalist position, championed by Lefebvre, is that
the New Mass, celebrated in USA in English, cannot be the same Mass as was
authorized by the Council of Trent (the Tridentine Mass). Their position is
well taken both from history and semantics. In promulgating this Mass, Pius
V did state that this form of the Mass would be eternal and could not be
changed. The center of the Mass is the mystery of transubstantiation, which
demands a precise formula for its doing what Catholics say it does, i.e.,
transform the wafer into the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus
Christ. The logical argument is that if the formula is said in any living
language it cannot be entirely precise, as living languages change over the
centuries. If there is a perceptible change over 300 years, there will be an
imperceptible change daily, thus destroying the necessary precision.
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