Brick by brick in Groningen-Leeuwarden

Last Friday, Fathers Arjen Bultsma, Victor Maagd and John de Zwart led some 150 of their parishioners on a pilgrimage to the German Marian shrine at Kevelaer. The website of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden presents this as the revival of an old tradition, and it would seem that the three priests plan another pilgrimage next year. There is a photo report of here, One photo struck me. Taken from the choir loft it shows people coming forward to receive Communion at the communion rail.

While not unknown in certain parishes in the diocese, this way of receiving is rare enough to be remarkable, certainly on a pilgrimage like this, which included people of all generations.

I happen to know the three priests in question as liturgically fairly sensible men (some more than others, but name me any group of three people in which all are identical), but it was certainly nice to see. And yes, I do notice that not everyone in the photo receives kneeling. But, as they say, brick by brick, and as long as reception on the hand is a valid way of receiving I won’t tell anyone off for doing it.

Stretching the definition of Catholicism

Bishop Richard Williamson – indeed, he of the Holocaust denial – has shared some more of his wonderful thoughts with the world. This time it is about the ongoing discussions between Rome and the SSPX fraternity, of which Williamson is a member. The SSPX does not accept the Second Vatican Council, with some adherents even being sedevacantist: they do not accept the authority of any pope since Venerable Pope Pius XII. The SSPX has placed itself outside the Church by believing they, instead of the Church, have the authority to decide what is true Catholicism.

Williamson’s entire text is available here, but I want to focus on the following paragraph:

“The rumour from Rome is precisely that [the pope] is thinking of a “Motu Proprio” which would accept the SSPX “back into the Church” once and for all, yet require from the SSPX no explicit acceptance of Vatican II or the New Mass, but only, for instance, the acceptance of John-Paul[sic] II’s 1992 “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which is substantially modernist but in a quiet way. Thus the SSPX would not appear to its followers to be accepting the Council or the New Mass, yet it would be softly, softly, beginning to go along with the substance of neo-modernism.”

Still a bit mad then.

I wonder if Williamson is even involved with the talks with Rome – if the SSPX is smart, he is not – so where he gets these ideas is anyone’s guess. But suppose it’s true. Suppose that the otherwise intelligent Pope Benedict XVI would welcome the SSPX back into the fold of the Church while not asking anything of them but some acceptance of the latest edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That means allowing a schismatic group to continue being schismatic while at the same time presenting themselves as part of the unity of the Church. Something doesn’t fit there.

The Second Vatican Council is not dogmatic. It does not contain anything new that was not part of the faith before. The expression of many aspects of the faith was adapted and changed, that is true, but the faith itself was left unchanged, as of course it should have been. But it is a fact that it happened, that it is part of the recent history of the Church. Denying it is then much more then denying cosmetic changes, it is a denial of truths of faith. Cosmetic changes can be debated and accepted or not accepted. The Fraternity of St. Peter did exactly that: it chose the older form of the Mass exclusively, but does not deny the Council. Again, denying that is denying the authority of the popes and bishops, of the Church, an authority that Christ Himself gave. It is denying Christ.

And if we take our faith seriously, we must continue to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things, also in the things we may not like very much. If the SSPX denies a Church council, they indirectly deny the Holy Spirit.

If such a group is allowed back into the fold, it opens the door for other schismatic and dubious groups as well. No, if you want to be Catholic, you’ll have to be Catholic, not some arbitrary form of Catholicism containing only those bits you like.

Pope Benedict XVI is undeniable smarter than to do this.