Rorate Caeli

The Epoch-making speech - the Audience

Seven days after the Pope's breathtaking December 22 speech to the Roman Curia (see here and here), it is still quite embarrassing to see the almost silent reaction of the English-speaking media and weblogs, with few honorable exceptions.

Fortunately, at the center of the Catholic world, the most influential Church commentators have written important articles on this epoch-making speech, including Vittorio Messori in Corriere della Sera, Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale, and the already-linked Sandro Magister, in L'Espresso.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this remarkable address, which is historic (mark this word), was directed towards those of us who identify themselves as "Traditional" Catholics, those intimately attached to the Traditional Roman Liturgy, many of whom also have some problems with the documents of the last Ecumenical Council.

Why do I believe Traditional Catholics, especially those in a somewhat "uncertain" situation, were the pope's audience? First, a simple view of the speech shows that its most important part is incoherent with its beginning, which is a mere retrospective of the events of 2005, as if it had been inserted later, for a specific purpose and a different audience. Second, because, after presenting the different hermeneutics of the Council (one, acceptable, the "hermeneutics of reform and continuity"; the other, unacceptable, the "hermeneutics of rupture and discontinuity", the self-avowed "Spirit of the Council"), the pope presents two issues that are of adamant importance to Traditional Catholics: (1) relations with the people of the Old Covenant and (2) Religious Liberty.

Now, these are only two among the dozens of issues present in the Conciliar documents. They are certainly important, but there is only one reason why the pope would isolate these two issues, among so many others, in his speech: he was speaking to a specific audience, an audience which was not simply the one present in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Beyond the Vatican walls, the Pope was speaking to the Catholic world at large and his "niche audience" were those who have faced personal, conscience-bound, problems with some of the terms and concepts used by the Conciliar documents. The Pope spoke to them and wanted to reassure them that he knows their problems and wishes to ease their concerns.

The Challenge for Traditional Catholics

Peter has given the first step. We must not simply reject him, because he has not offered all that we expected. He has extended his hand; will we reach him or will we live in a world of unrealistic expectations and uncharitable condemnations? The challenge for Traditional Catholics is to reach the Petrine hand.

I intend to present the papal view of these two main issues in the next few days. The American, Latin-American, and European (non-Italian) media may want to silence the pope or drown his crucial words among the several messages he has spoken in this Advent and Christmastide period, but it is our duty to listen to the DIFFERENT words he has spoken, to those which address the critical moment through which the Church is going.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Perhaps there has been little reaction (with the noted exceptions), because so far it is only a speech.

    I, for only one, am not going to comment on speeches or writings of the Pope, and certainly not comment on his apparel. The second is superficial. The first is empty and without fruit, unless accompanied by action.

  3. Good policy.

    But the battle is also waged in the realm of simple ideas and concepts. The "Spirit of the Council", the feeling of an ever-changing Church, began to corrode the foundations of Church life in 1963-5 even before there was any clear action other than the words of the Council themselves.

    Just as in the Council, words came before deeds, in the Post-Council, words should also come before deeds.

    But I may be absolutely wrong, I will grant you that.

  4. Two things are required to heal the traditionalist schism. First, a definitive interpretation of the council that is consistent with tradition. Second, some kind of ecclesial structure that protects traditionalists from unsympathetic Latin Rite bishops.

    I believe that Benedict is starting to lay the groundwork for this.

    The real barrier to progress is the heterodox interpretation of the council that dominates much of the Western Catholic world. Much work has to be done to prepare the Church for this.

    If Benedict issued a "Catalog of Misinterpretations" document tomorrow, this would be seen as a repudiation of the council by many, many people and would be widely resisted.

  5. If Rome has repeatedly rejected the term "schism", as Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has made clear in his interventions in his past few weeks, why should the lay faithful keep its undiplomatic use?

    I completely agree with you on the other points.

  6. Just as in the Council, words came before deeds, in the Post-Council, words should also come before deeds.

    The words have been said or written already (The Ratzinger Report, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Salt of the Earth, the speech to the bishops of Chile). Anyway, like many things, it's not either-or.

    I suspect, without any 'inside' information, that he wonders whether the termites have done such damage in the past forty years that abrupt change might cause a collapse. But how to deal with the gangrene?

  7. Certainly there are multiple groups involved in the traditionalist "whatever". Some of them are clearly in schism and some of them are clearly not. Some of them, well, who knows?

    To say that this or that group is in schism is not to say that this or that person is guilty of the sin of schism.

    Shall we adopt some kind of Anglican double-talk for the situation of, let's say, the SSPX? Shall we call it "impaired communion"?

    The Vatican may find it useful to avoid terms like "schism" to describe the SSPX situation but I would be interested in why the Cardinal rejects the term outright.

    Will Cardinal Hoyos receive communion at a mass celebrated by Bishop Williamson? If the answer is yes, there is no schism. If the answer is no, what else can it be but schism?


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