Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Our collection of past issues of both Approaches and Apropos never fail to offer views that, though written sometimes nearly 30 years ago, are still as timely as ever.  And as one of our stated goals here at The Eye Witness is to be a "reminder" of things sometimes forgotten we like to mine often the treasures found in those two invaluable periodicals.  We take this opportunity to remind our readers that some back issues of these excellent publication are still available and can be obtained by contacting the Editor of Apropos.

In Approaches No. 84, 1984, editor Hamish Fraser (1913-1986) takes note of the real spectre of material schism which many Catholics both lay and clerical found themselves in.  He quotes Cardinal Eduoard Gagnon (1918-2007) who admitted to an American publication with commendable frankness that the Church is tolerating material schism in many countries, including America.

Hamish Fraser writes:

"Archbishop Gagnon later admitted:

'Even in Rome you have people who block things.  Many things which have happened in seminaries and in theology would not have happened had there not been someone in Rome to help them.'

"In effect therefore, qua Roman prelate, Archbishop Gagnon finds it necessary to admit that 'material schism' is a characteristic of the universal Church not merely in the USA, but also in Europe, and 'even in Rome'.

"In saying so, Archbishop Gagnon did not tell us anything we did not already know.  But it is nevertheless significant and most useful to have this admission.  For whereas whenever we say what has now been said by Cardinal Gagnon, it is automatically contested by Romolatrists as the libellous exaggeration of extremism, this is no longer possible.  For now it is a Roman prelate who has said the Church is now everywhere in a state of material schism.

"Nor did this state of 'material schism' begin with Pope John Paul II.  It first became sensationally manifest in the immediate wake of Humanae Vitae to which various national episcopal conferences reacted by making clear that the Encyclical's teaching could be disregarded in practice.

"The episcopal formula by means of which Humanae Vitae was defied by the then (1968) most dissident episcopal conferences - France, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, Scandinavia, etc. - was that the encyclical would be interpreted 'pastorally' and with full respect for 'the primacy of conscience'.

"However, since the Bishops involved refused to make it clear to their flocks that, as Catholics, they have the inescapable duty of informing their consciences as to what always has been, still is, and always will be the authentic moral teaching of the Universal Church; since on the contrary they gave the impression that Catholics are free to obey or disobey even the infallible teaching of the Ordinary Pontifical Magisterium (as exemplified by Humanae Vitae's teaching concerning contraception 1) these bishops not only presented 'primacy of conscience' in absurd caricature; by doing so they also made it clear that they themselves were in schism with the authentic Pontifical Magisterium.

"If this was not immediately obvious it was because, instead of condemning or disciplining such bishops, Paul VI accepted their defiance without demur, even going so far as to commend the pastoral solicitude of the most outstanding 'material schismatics', such as the episcopates of France and Canada.

"Moreover, whereas he proceeded to suppress the Mass of all time by a most savage abuse of authority, and to impose in its stead the valid but Protestantizing Novus Ordo Missae, the same Pontiff did nothing whatever to implement the teachings of Humanae Vitae.  And in this respect, and also in respect of his suppressing the unequivocally Catholic Mass, Paul VI was himself to that extent also in schism with the authentic Pontifical Magisterium which it was his duty to defend and uphold.

"Such papal behaviour could not but have disastrous consequences.  In particular, even such episcopal conferences as had initially demonstrated exemplary obedience in the wake of Humanae Vitae - particularly those of Scotland and Ireland - soon capitulated to the 'pastoral' consensus of the more dissident hierarchies.  Consequently, the 'people of God' as a whole were soon dragged into 'material schism' with Rome which resulted in a plummeting birth rate which derives from the fact that the immense majority of Catholic women of child-bearing age no longer respect the Church's moral teaching.

"That this sad state of affairs derives from material schism is quite incontrovertible.  The simple truth is that with a few - very few - outstanding exceptions, nothing has been taught concerning the Church's authentic moral teaching for two decades."

Hamish Fraser wrote that nearly thirty years ago.  The "plummeting birth rate" he talks about could not possibly be better illustrated than in the number of Catholic schools and Catholic churches closing down.  And his observations concerning the contempt shown to authentic Church teaching by its own Bishops are now sensationally corroborated by merely looking around us.  Of course nothing need be said about the selective governance of our recent papacies, who say many fine things which are rarely if ever backed up by actions.  Paul VI's near-psychotic suppression of the Ancient Rite Mass as opposed to his non-disciplining of dissenters and other wayward Churchmen was continued under subsequent papacies until Benedict's sense of simple justice finally overcame him when he published Summorum Pontificum.  That selective governance still reveals itself in such situations as Rome tolerating materially schismatic prelates like Mahony or Schonborn while coming down harshly on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

Hamish Fraser's article is therefore a timely reminder, indeed a solid history lesson, that it would be worth our while to contemplate.

NOTES(from Hamish Fraser):

1. While Humanae Vitae is not a formally infallible document - i.e. all that it contains is not infallible - its teaching concerning contraception, being fully in line with that of all previous Pontiffs, is integral to the infallible teaching of the Ordinary Pontifical Magesterium.  Cf 'Authority of the Church's Social Doctrine' by Arnaud de Lassus in Approaches No. 83.


Been there. Done that. said...

Those bad bishops can only be blamed so far. I don't care what kind of impression they gave. EVERY Catholic has enough grace of conscience to know whether or not someone is blowing smoke up their backside. They knew it then and they know it now. They simply chose to ignore the proddings of their Guardian Angels and choose instead to use the intentional lack of clarity by certain bishops as an excuse to offend God while hoping they can get away with it. They think they will escape God's punishment because He will blame the bishops instead. Sort of a "But the bishops said...." excuse or "The Devil made me do it." Well, it didn't work for Eve and it isn't going to work for them. Nobody escapes personal culpability with the excuse that those in authority over them gave the greenlight on something they well knew was wrong, or thought it even might be wrong. The sheep of Jesus surely know His voice but often turn away because of a lust for sin.

We have a duty to know the truth of what the Catholic Faith teaches. The bad bishops will receive their own just punishment. But if you choose follow a bad bishop...or pope...into Hell you still go to Hell.

Aged parent said...

I couldn't agree more, been there done that.

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