You have all heard that there was a proposal from Rome, a proposal that said, “We are ready to recognize you [canonically].” The problem is that there is always a condition. This condition may have varied a bit in its formulation, but basically it is always the same. This condition is: you must accept the Council. One could sum up the current situation by saying: “Yes, you can criticize the Council, but on one condition: it is necessary to accept it first.” Which leaves us saying, “What can we criticize afterwards?”
I think that this is an honest summary of the present situation. And it is not difficult to describe for you our response.
Obviously, the formulas are more and more interesting, closer and closer to what we say. We have arrived by now at a point that clearly shows the depth of the problem. In that famous proposal this is what they tell us: “You commit yourselves to acknowledging that with regard to points from the Council that cause difficulties, the only way to understand those points is to understand them in light of the continuous, perpetual Tradition, in light of the preceding Magisterium.” The light of Tradition is the only way by which one can understand the dubious points. They even go further: “Any proposition and any interpretation of the dubious texts that was opposed to that perpetual Magisterium, that continual Magisterium of the Church must be rejected.” That is what we have always said. But there is a tiny little incidental clause that adds, “as the New Catechism says”. Now the New Catechism adopts the Council.
In other words, concerning the principle we can only agree. As for the application, it is completely the opposite. They claim that they are applying the principle by saying: everything that was done at the Council is faithful to Tradition, is consistent with Tradition, whether it be ecumenism or religious liberty. That shows you the seriousness of the problem. There is a problem somewhere. It is not possible otherwise. The problem is based on the understanding of certain words. And these words are of course “Tradition” and “Magisterium”. Their way of understanding these words is subjective. Certainly there are cases in which one can understand “tradition” in the sense of “transmit”: the act of transmitting is a transmission. But the usual way of understanding this word has bearing on its content. What is transmitted? What is transmitted from generation to generation? The classical definition of Tradition is “that which has always been believed by all, everywhere and at all times” (Commonitorium by St. Vincent of Lerins). Here the expression “That which” designates the object. But nowadays, it is as though we went from the object to the subject, so as to consider only the one who transmits.
That is why they talk to you about “living tradition”, because the one who transmits, when he transmits, is alive. Now life moves, it changes. The popes change… and therefore tradition changes, but it remains tradition. It is the same tradition, but one that changes. The Church has also taken this sense into consideration, but in an altogether secondary way. That is not what she is talking about when she talks about Tradition; what we call the deposit of the faith, the set of truths that the Good Lord has entrusted to the Church so that she might transmit it from generation to generation, so that souls might be saved. This content is what she means. And this is the reason why, with the definition of infallibility at the First Vatican Council, the Church teaches that the Holy Ghost has effectively been promised to St. Peter and to his successors, therefore to the popes. But He was not promised in such a way that the popes might teach something new by a new revelation. He was promised so that, with the help of the Holy Ghost, Saint Peter and the popes might preserve holily and transmit faithfully that which does not change, the revealed deposit.
That is where we are. That is what we are trying to do, since there is in fact a gesture made by Rome toward us, we must recognize it, a surprising gesture after these doctrinal discussions in which we determined that we were not in agreement. In effect it is a situation similar to that of two persons who meet, discuss something and arrive at the conclusion that they do not agree. What do you do then? Rome tells us: “You accept nevertheless!” And we reply: “It is not possible.” And so what we decide to do, besides answering that it is not possible, is to tell them: Wouldn’t you like to look at things a bit differently? Wouldn’t you like to try to understand that the Society is not the one that is a problem. There is indeed a problem in the Church, but it is not the Society; we are not a problem because we are saying that there is a problem. Then we ask them to deal with the real problem. We are ready; we want only one thing and it is precisely to attack the real problem.
You understand very well that humanly speaking there is no great hope that they will agree to change such a position. Maybe the disappointments that the Church has experienced will move them? The fact that currently the disaster, the sterility is more clearly evident: there are no more vocations. It is frightening. I saw, a few moments ago, the statistics for the Sisters of Charity, the nuns who used to be everywhere in France: between thirty and forty years of age I think that there are still three left in all of France. Between the ages of 40 and 50, likewise three. The majority, in other words almost 200, are between 70 and 80 or between 80 and 90. Some of them are more than 100 years old, and they are more numerous than those who are 20, 30, 40 or 50 years old. If you take the ones from 20 to 50 years of age, you have one more than the group of those who are 100 years old or more: 9 as opposed to 8. Those nuns who used to do all sorts of charitable works in all the rural areas!
And it is over. That is one example among thousands. Take the priests. Take instances from whatever area you want: it is a Church that is dying, disappearing. Nevertheless that ought to make people reflect. We think, we hope that some are beginning to reflect. People do get the impression that that is just not enough. Of course, grace is needed. It is necessary to pray.
Pray! Pray that the Good Lord will truly deliver the Church, that the Blessed Virgin will do something. She is the one who promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph at the end to get the Church out of this disaster. For us who are involved in this great battle for the Church, it is an extraordinary honor to be able to be members of this Society today. And so let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that we might be worthy members of this Society. Let us live faithfully according to its statutes. Follow the seminary rules, as it is expected of you, with all your heart, while practicing the great charity that the Statutes of the Society require of us. Let us request it from the Most Blessed Virgin Mary so that really, every day, we might please God, that we might sanctify ourselves and thereby might be able to win souls for the Good Lord, those souls that are entrusted to us, for the greater glory of God, for the honor of the Most Blessed Virgin and that of the Church. Amen.
[Source & translation: DICI, Dec. 15, 2011]