Marco Vervoost complains on his blog about the Cathnews story “Theologians launch Vatican II petition”. Among his complaints is the fact that the oft cited “group of European theologians” behind the Petition for the “For the full recognition of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council” “shall remain without name!”
Well, in fact, if you go to the online petition website you will see several lists of all the people who have signed this thing so far. And there are quite a few people with “DR” in front of their name. But any man and his dog can put his name to this signature – you don’t have to show your theological qualifications before signing. Nor, in fact, do you even have to be Catholic.
Here is the text of the petition, with my comments:
“For the full recognition of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council”
The papal cancellation of the excommunication of bishops from The Society of St. Pius X signifies the reception into full communion with the See of Rome those who have consistently opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. [WRONG. These boys have a long way to go before we can say they are in “full communion” with the Holy See. Their relationship to the Holy See is much like that of the Orthodox Churches. Not excommunicated, but not in full communion either]
Regarding the anti-Semitic remarks and the denial of the German national-socialist persecution of the Jews by Bishop Richard Williamson and his followers, we share the indignation of our Jewish sisters and brothers. Moreover, we state that the SSPX’s attitude towards Judaism does not correspond to the Council’s understanding of and commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue. We support the recent statements of Bishops’ Conferences, and others, all over the world, on this issue. We also welcome the recent statements made on these matters by Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican’s Secretariate of State. [Well, that’s nice. I agree fully. It should be pointed out that the statements by the Pope came before the statements of the Bishops’ Conferences.]
We believe that the close correlation between the excommunication’s cancellation and the 50th anniversary of the calling of a General Council of the Church by Blessed Pope John XXIII gives a clear indication of the direction which the present Papacy wishes to take. [Absolutely. He wanted to say to the SSPX boys: See? The acceptance of Vatican II is essential for your full communion with the Holy See.] We sense a desire to return to a pre Vatican II Church with its fear of openness to the breath of the Holy Spirit, a positive appreciation of ‘the signs of the times’, and the values of democratic institutions. [We sense a sense of paranoia on the part of the authors of this petition.]
We are very concerned that this act of rehabilitation heralds a turn-around on important documents of Vatican II, for example, the decree on ecumenism “Unitatis Redintegratio”, the declaration on non-Christian religions “Nostra Aetate”, the declaration on religious liberty “Dignitatis Humanae” and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “Gaudium et Spes”. [Again. Paranoia. It indicates the exact opposite. There might, of course, be some correcting of the popular misconceptions about these documents in a direction that is more faithful to the Council itself, but why should anyone be afraid of that?] Such an act will have a disastrous effect on the credibility of the Roman-Catholic Church. [What act? The “act of rehabilitation”?] For Catholics who love their Church, the price is too high! [Is that a battle cry I hear?]
The Pope hopes this act will help unify the Church. [Yes. The unity of the Church remains the central concern of the Holy Father’s papacy. The problem for these writers is that the Pope’s ecumenism is the “wrong ecumenism”.] However we think it is particularly outrageous that the Vatican’s renewed overtures to a schismatic traditionalist movement have been undertaken without the imposition of any conditions whatsoever. In June 2008, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Levebvre’s excommunication, the SSPX rejected the invitation of the Holy See towards theological reconciliation. Likewise, the fraternity rejected the invitation to sign a five-topic declaration containing conditions for its re-integration in the Roman Church. [Well, is that quite true? The June 2008 communication from Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos made it quite clear that five conditions in reference to Papal authority would have to be fulfilled for their excommunications to be lifted, and while the SSPX let the deadline go by, a new appeal and expression of loyalty to the Petrine Office was made by Fellay in December 2008 – see Andrew Rabel’s story here.]
A return to full communion with the Catholic Church can only be made possible if the documents and teachings of the Second Vatican Council are fully accepted without any reservations, as requested by the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” on the topic of the Tridentine rite. [Quite correct. As pointed out, these guys have a long road to walk before they will be accepted back into full communion.] It is also imperative that the papal ministries of Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI are recognised and accepted. [Also true. There is no need to petition the Holy Father on these matters. He and his Secretary of State have made it quite clear themselves.]
The Church of Rome, perceived as the Barque of St Peter, lists heavily as long as the Vatican:
• only rehabilitates the “lost sheep” at the traditionalist edge of the Church, and makes no similar offer to other excommunicated or marginalised Catholics [what “other excommunicated” Catholics do they have in mind? I don’t know of any liberal theologians who have actually been “excommunicated” for their ideas recently? Disciplined, yes. Excommunicated? No.]
• persists in preventing progressive theologians from teaching [From teaching what? the Holy See would be more than happy for “progressive theologians” to teach the faith of the Church.]
• refuses dialogue with all movements in the Church. [The Holy See does this? First I knew about it. As far as I know, the Church encourages and blesses all authentic “movements” in the Church for the sake of the New Evangelisation.]
So all in all, not much of a petition, wouldn’t you agree? It is obvious these petitioners have an axe to grind, but they would grind it on any stone they found – the SSPX stone just appears convenient at the moment. And it really isn’t right to compare the Pope’s gesture to the SSPX with the acts of discipline against those who falsify the teachings of the Church in the Church’s name. The SSPX was excommunicated and has now been invited to the table of dialogue. Long way to go still. The disciplined theologians (and really, there are only a handful compared to the hundreds of thousands of SSPX followers) haven’t been excommunicated – they have simply been informed that if they wish to have the right to teach the faith of the Church, then they ought to teach the faith of the Church. Not too big an ask. As far as I know, all these disciplined theologians still have access to the sacraments. In fact most – all? – of them who are in holy orders are still able to exercise their ministry in full communion with the Church. So I don’t really know what their beef is.