This past weekend, Brother Joseph and I were at the Catholic Identity Conference in Weirton, West Virginia. This is the conference which has been described as a traditionalist “unite-the-clans” event. In that regard, as in many others, it did not disappoint in the least. Among the priests who spoke, there was quite a variety of backgrounds (Institute of the Good Shepherd, Society of Saint Pius X, Fraternity of Saint Peter). Among the faithful, there was perhaps a wider divergence still, but there was a wonderful unity of purpose and spirit at the event.
We met some old friends and made new ones as well. That sounds pat, but it’s true. I met many readers of this Ad Rem column, and listeners to Reconquest. One thing that impressed me was that extra ecclesiam nulla salus lay at the heart of a few of the talks, seemingly taken as a given by the speakers.
Mike Church spoke, introducing yet another Catholic traditionalist audience to the informative and entertaining methodology he’s mastered as a seasoned talk radio host. Mike blamed Chris Ferrara (another speaker) and others, including yours truly, for “ruining his life” as a successful SiriusXM talk radio host. If you don’t know how we ruined Mike’s life, he explained it in his talk at our SBC Conference.
Our friend, Father Hugues Beaugrand, gave a manly and priestly presentation in his wonderful Breton accent entitled, “What Are We Doing? A New Community for a New Focus on the Current Crisis.” His talk was an invitation to armchair theologians to man up. (Among many other things, I am grateful to Abbé Beaugrand for introducing me to the useful descriptive, “Marshmallow Men.”)
Diane Montagna, a LifeSite News journalist, gave a riveting talk called, “Inside the Vatican Wall: V Is for Viganò,” which dealt with the recent revelations of the courageous Archbishop Viganò, but mostly covered the unspeakable chicanery on display at the 2018 Youth Synod, where she was a credentialed member of the press with many “informed sources.” Her presentation — about grave and horrible things, yet delivered with charm and humor — was a conference high-point for many.
This is not intended to be a write-up of the whole conference. But there is one talk I would like to consider here at some length, because for me, it epitomized what the conference was about, at the two related levels of good doctrinal content and inter-traditionalist unity. With no offense intended to any of the other speakers, the high-point for me was the talk given by a young priest of the Society of Saint Pius X, Father Jonathan Loop. Father’s manner was very understated and forthright. He made very powerful arguments with little pomp and fanfare (though, being a Texan, he did include a few ya’ll’s).
His talk was entitled, “Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: The Exoneration.”
I know what some are thinking. “Surprise! An SSPX priest making yet another effort at defending the Archbishop. Yawn.” Others might ask why I would hitch my wagon to that horse. Still others are probably thinking, “I knew you were a schismatic all along, Brother!” To all those, I make one recommendation: Listen to the talk yourself, with an open mind. (The organizers may put the talks on YouTube, as they did with last year’s, but I do not know.) The talk was less about the Archbishop and more about Catholic doctrine, and the progressivist agenda that “developed” Modernist ecclesiology into Modernist doctrine on marriage.
One does not have to think everything Archbishop Lefebvre said or did was perfect in order to honor him as a great man who truly loved the Church. For me, to acknowledge this is a simple matter of justice.
Back in 2014, I wrote an Ad Rem entitled, “Revolutionary Doctrines on the Family.” In it, I showed how the decades-old heresies and erroneous theologumena in ecclesiology (e.g., indifferentism, partial/full communion, and the subterfuge surrounding subsistit in) were the inspiration behind the more recent heretical doctrines on marriage that were coming out of that year’s Synod on the Family. These errors continued into the next year’s Synod, and were found in concentrated form in Amoris Laetitia. The earlier errors, which concerned the Church, were showcased by the progressivists before, during, and after Vatican II. (Before Vatican II? Yes, indeed! Father Leonard Feeney was fighting the progressivists, liberals, and neomodernists in the 1940’s, and their ecclesiology was just as radical then. These errors did not simply descend from the æther in the 1960’s.)
Putting the matter in the language of the theological manuals, the earlier errors, De Ecclesia, have resurfaced in the new errors, De Matrimonio. The reasoning, if such it may be called, goes like this: If “full union” in the Catholic Church is not necessary for salvation, but a sort of “close-enough” union with Christ’s true Church suffices, why must we be so hidebound and rigid about Christian matrimony? Why not allow the “imperfect unions” of those divorced and civilly remarried to be “close enough” to sacramental Christian matrimony? Indeed — and here is where it is leading — why not bless the union of two sodomites or unnatural women as less perfect, yet still genuinely loving and Christian?
My term “close enough” would not enter into the lexicon of the theological Modernist, since it lacks the essential notes of faux sophistication and supercilious verbosity that characterize his doctrinal doublespeak. But “close enough” is, of course, exactly what he means.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is Cardinal Kasper, from September 18, 2014, interview with Vaticanist, Andrea Tornielli:
Church doctrine is not a closed system: the Second Vatican Council teaches us that there is a development, leading towards an eventual enrichment. I wonder if a deeper understanding similar to what we saw in ecclesiology is possible in this case [that of divorced Catholics who have remarried civilly]: although the Catholic Church is Christ’s true Church, there are elements of ecclesiality beyond the institutional boundaries of the Church. Couldn’t some elements of sacramental marriage also be recognized in civil marriages in certain cases? For example, a lifelong commitment, mutual love and care, Christian life and a public declaration of commitment that do not exist in common-law marriages.
And here are excerpts from the scandalous Relatio post disceptationem delivered in synod hall on October 13 of that same year by the Synod’s General Rapporteur, Cardinal Péter Erdő:
17. In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).
18. In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.
19. In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.
Father Loop made the argument that the erroneous ecclesiology that Archbishop Lefebvre combatted many years ago provided the theological foundation for the current errors on marriage. I believe that his argument is unassailable, and the statements of Cardinals Kasper and Erdő are proof. I also believe that in exonerating the Archbishop on this point, Father Loop indirectly exonerated Father Feeney. I am not saying that was the good Father’s intention, but — and here is the key — this earnest young priest, who is himself a convert from Episcopalianism, clearly professed that there is no salvation outside the Church, and bemoaned the loss of the Church’s missionary spirit consequent upon all this erroneous ecclesiology. And for that, I was grateful.
Yes, let us unite the clans! In good doctrine, in a spirit of missionary conquest — for Jesus Christ our King and Mary our Queen!