Rorate Caeli

Aidan Nichols on Benedict XVI and his "Noah's Ark"

Over the past weekend, the Ordinariate Portal published Fr. Aidan Nichols' lengthy address to the Anglicanorum Coetibus conference in Canada (March 24-26, 2011): The Ordinariates, the Pope, and the Liturgy. Part 1 and Part 2.

Nichols characterizes the Pope's reach-out to four specific groups -- conservative "Catholic" Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, the Society of St. Pius X, and Anglo-Catholics -- as an invitation to them to board the "Noah's Ark" that is the Catholic Church in the face of the flood of relativism, secularism and militant Islam:
Noah’s Ark can stand for more than the indefinitely pluralistic ecclesiastical zoology of the Anglican Church. It can and should stand, as it has in the Liturgies and among the orthodox divines down the ages, for the ship of salvation set on chaos waters by the hand of God. Catholics identify that ship with the Barque of Peter, since, they maintain, the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ subsists in the (Roman) Catholic Church. Certainly, Pope Benedict has behaved as though the vessel onto which he was inviting so many otherwise possibly reluctant passengers was a true Ark of Noah, raised on the waters of relativism, secularism and (we may add) militant Islam which, in so many parts of the world, threaten to engulf the Christian faithful. I believe that a good deal in various policies the Pope has initiated or at least sustained can be illuminated if we suppose him to regard himself as (despite his humility) a Noah-figure, placed by Providence in a unique office at a singular cross-roads in human affairs.

Lutherans, Lefebvrists, Eastern Orthodox

Who are those whom he is seeking to bring into solidarity with the Great Church whose centre is at the site of the final witness of St Peter and St Paul? Some examples come readily to mind. To begin with: Pope Benedict is reaching out to Lutherans of a particular kind, specifically to those whose fundamental orientation is toward what Lutherans share in common with Catholics...


A second sort of passenger on the Ark to which the Pope has turned in invitation can be found among the clergy and people of the Society of St Pius X (sometimes called ‘Lefebvrists’, from the name of the Society’s founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre...
The papal Noah’s Ark also stands ready and prepared to receive the Eastern Orthodox if and when they are willing to restore their broken unity with the First See. It is for the sake of reunion with the Orthodox, and notably with the Moscow Patriarchate, that the Pope is willing to disappoint the members of the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Ukraine, in not conceding to their Archbishop-Major the coveted status of Patriarch in the way so many Ukrainian Catholics desire.

The schism between Rome and Constantinople (and, through Constantinople, with the latter’s most flourishing daughter, the Church of Russia) has often been, over the centuries, bitter and, in consequence, intractable. The historical memories remain painful for many; and the nationalism of Orthodoxy’s self-governing churches does not help. But at any rate the Pope can nurture justified hopes of securing a strategic alliance of Catholics and Orthodox in defence of the fundamental moral and cultural ethos of Christianity, especially in Europe. The Russian bishop responsible for the external relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, is a key-player here. And meanwhile on the Bosphorus the Ecumenical Patriarchate, subject to jurisdictional disputes among the Orthodox and highly vulnerable in a still secular but potentially Islamist Turkey, turns anxious eyes to the future horizon, looking for succour not least to Rome.

And Anglicans…

This then is the geopolitical context in which I would place Pope Benedict’s concern for Anglicans. In the crisis which overcame English Anglo-Catholicism in 1992 when the General Synod voted for the admission of women to the ministerial priesthood and many who had voted ‘No’, or supported those who had so voted, turned for aid to the Latin bishops in England, the then Cardinal Ratzinger exhorted the national hierarchy to show generosity to Anglicans. That was coded language for finding a corporate solution for the reconciliation of groups of Anglo-Catholics, as distinct from the individual reception of Anglican clergy and laity into full communion with the Catholic Church...


  1. Anonymous1:05 PM

    The invitation is dubious if your ark has been taking in water and is beginning to keel over.

  2. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Isnt it the other way around?

  3. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Good job this ark isn't, then.

  4. Dear "Anonymous":

    You got another Ark?

    Your ilk are forever in the hull drilling holes, endangering the only vessel between you are the deep, blue sea.

  5. Hieronymus2:42 PM

    I think it is interesting that more or less orthodox and traditionally inclined people most often paint the Holy Father's actions in an archtraditional light.

    I personally don't see any inviting going on, unless the metaphor is drastically changed. He does speak out against the flood of radical secularization. He does not, though, propose the barque of Peter as the only hope of salvation. So it seems that in his mind Noah's boat should be identified as 'The Ark of Some Religious Sentiment'. Within it are various altars, shrines, meeting halls, meditation rooms, etc. Perhaps he thinks the Catholic chapel is on the top floor, but I really don't get the impression that he identifies the ark with the Catholic Church.

  6. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Yeah, but it's the only ark there is.

  7. Anonymous3:05 PM

    The ark may be damaged, but it's the only ark there is. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

  8. Anonymous6:18 PM

    I have not seen anyone comment on the Pope's book, Volume 2, Jesus of Nazareth. It is possible that I am mistaken but his discussion of the incident where Jesus attacks the money changers in the temple leaves me wondering. Benedict XVI says that one of conclusions we can draw from the incident is that God will not protect the Temple if the Temple [and it hierarchy] has fallen into the hands of scoundrels, robbers, money changers.

    If one considers the Temple as symbol of our Church, then the Pope is saying something new and very interesting at the same time. For example, the SSPX could point to it as evidence that the Pope's own arguments about the Catholic Church supports their opposition non-traditional novelities introduced into our "Temple" by Vatican II reforms. Furthermore, Benedict XVI should chase out the scoundrels to ensure that the Holy Spirit will protect the Temple from its enemies.

    I am probably wrong, but that is how the Popes exposition mentioned above strikes me.

  9. Tom the Milkman7:26 PM

    Perhaps he thinks the Catholic chapel is on the top floor, but I really don't get the impression that he identifies the ark with the Catholic Church.

    Unfortunately too true. You touch on what is surely without contest the defining mark of post-Conciliar life - the inability to think and speak Catholic. A kind of gloss-speak has killed not only Latin, but the vernacular as well! We all THINK gloss-speak. Sad thing is, the Church was one of the first to drink from its wretched stream. I love the Holy Father and believe he seeks the good of the Church, but you look at the popes since the Council and that dread mark of incoherence is there, a true hermeneutic of discontinuity. In post-Conciliar Rome ambiguity, even in an ambiguous world, exhibits an ever morphing release day after constant day for 40+ years. It's enough to say Ark, pursuance beyond the archtypal not only is no longer necessary, it's discouraged in the interest of convergence and at the expense of truth, the better to recommend gloss-speak for all time. One tires of it. For sure.

  10. God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict. It is the height of arrogance to question how the Pope should run the Church.

  11. Anonymous8:11 PM

    I have to agree with the Hieronymus. If the Holy Father was really serious he would have ensured that the Sons of the Holy Redeemer had been canonically erected months ago. Instead they are still waiting in limbo with Seminarians waiting to be Ordained. Actions speak louder than words.
    While it maybe our only ark it does not appear to be too seaworthy.

  12. oremusrob8:15 PM

    When one's ark or home is in disarray, one should get it fixed and in order first, before inviting others to move in.

  13. Anonymous9:04 PM

    On the Sons of the Holy Redeemer, I see this problem differently. The Pope could have regularised them more than two years ago now. That's how long they have been waiting patiently. Has the Pope betrayed them? Not a chance. He doesn't operate like that. I suggest a different interpretation: they wait for something more than a canonical structure. They wait for their shiny new structrue to be part of an international and personal diocese or apostolic admin. or ordinariate for the Latin Tradition. In other words, I see this wait as a sign of hope.


  14. Anonymous9:21 PM

    While the post-conciliar popes waste time inviting people from other beliefs to join forces against secularism the other religions are explicitly inviting people from other faiths to join their beliefs and convert. And the lame liberals don't see this while their churches are running empty and / or meaningless.

  15. When one's ark or home is in disarray, one should get it fixed and in order first, before inviting others to move in.

    On the contrary, the Gospel instructs us to make disciples of all nations -- NOT make disciples of all nations only if there is no sin or disorder or division plaguing the Church.

  16. Anonymous9:55 PM

    Pascendi said...

    God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict. It is the height of arrogance to question how the Pope should run the Church.

    Pascendi, does this mean that you have no problems with the Novus Ordo or the other changes authorized and promulgated by the Popes? Logically and honestly, would you not have to answer "yes"?

  17. P.K.T.P. re: the Sons of the Holy Redeemer

    You seem to have changed your tune on this issue. When did this happen?


  18. Anonymous11:16 PM

    From Part II, Father Nichols declared the following in regard to the Society of Saint Pius X:

    "...its laity, if they consistently attend only the Society’s own churches and chapels, are in, to say the least, an irregular situation."

    Is that the teaching of the Church?


  19. Anonymous11:28 PM

    I would like to believe that but I have become too disenchanted. This holy, kind Order have been let down by Rome. They answered the Holy Father's call after the MP and look how they have treated. The SSPX should be very wary if this example is anything to go by.

  20. Anonymous11:59 PM

    The Pope's strategy resembles that of the Habsburgs in that loyalty the arch-house became more and more the touchstone of unity in the emergent tide of divergent nationalisms. Minorities like the Jews increasingly regarded the Habsburg monarch as a haven in that stormy sea. But neither the Habsburgs nor Jews survived. Indeed, Hitler ended up declaring the Habsburgs to be Jews when they failed to support his annexation of Austria. The moral is that unity can only be based on faith in Jesus Christ just as He said given in the paradosis or traditio St. Paul evokes in 1st Corinthians. Aidan Nichols is a convert from the Anglican sect and has never believed in traditional Roman Catholicism, i.e. Jesus Christ as far I am concerned. And the same goes for his fellow sectarians.

  21. Interesting analogy.

  22. Anon. 23:16 said:

    "Father Nichols declared the following in regard to the Society of Saint Pius X:

    "...its laity, if they consistently attend only the Society’s own churches and chapels, are in, to say the least, an irregular situation."


    Oh, to be Buddhist,
    Sought after, most wooedist,
    By men who excuse
    Much that’s lewd.

    I’ve only a broodist,
    Ten souls, who aren’t Buddhist,
    Once again, booed, screwed
    And tattooed!!

  23. John McFarland2:55 AM

    Noah's ark was the means by which, as St. Paul recalls in the Epistle to the Hebrews, eight people survived the Deluge. All the rest of the sons of Adam perished.

    The absence of any reference to that fact in Fr. Nichols' remarks tells all one needs to know about his value for a traditional Catholic. His ark is a symbol not of salvation and damnation, but of ecclesiastical politics.

    His analysis of the SSPX is also worth noting. It is an exercise in the historical relativism that he affects elsewhere to oppose. But in that regard as in others, he is the Holy Father with an English accent.

    P.S. The fate of the Sons of the Holy Redeemer is that of all small traditionalists groups that surrender to Rome. They have been kicked into a corner and left there.

  24. Anonymous10:41 AM


    Until the retiral of the present Bishop of Aberdeen the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer will not gain full faculties. He, and he alone, is the stumbling block. He only granted them partial/restricted faculties as a way to get the heat off himself; most certainly not because he truly wanted to progress their cause.

    The Bishop has offered his resignation on reaching 75 and we should all pray that his successor will be a truly orthodox pastor loyal to His Holiness. May this be one the new Papal Nuncio's first official decisions.

  25. Intriguing that Bishop Fellay, musing on ecumenism, also uses transport metaphors.

    Speaking plane-ly.

  26. Benedict Ambrose5:31 PM

    I am led to believe that the bishop of Aberdeen has been in very poor health for some time. You might think to pray for him.

  27. Anonymous6:04 PM


    I have not changed my tune on this. I have made a similar prediction from time to time over the last year or so.

    What may cause a bit of confusion is that I do sometimes express great exasperation that the Sons have had to wait so long. For this reaason, in some posts, I have dubbed them 'the Orphans of the Most Holy Redeemer'. However, I don't think that this Pope is the sort of man who would welcome a group of traditionalists and then stab them in the back. So if the wait is excessive (and this one is very much so), there is likely a good reason for it.

    That does not take away the exasperation, however. So the two are not incompatible.

    Let us consider this logically. The Sons are Redemptorists and this group of them, in particular, wishes to emphasise both a missionary and a monastic charism. So they need a canonical arrangment in which they can establish houses freely under a bishop who shares their Rite. So far, there is no international diocese or series of ordinariates or apostolic administrations that could help this process... Hence the wait?


  28. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Anon. 10.41:

    His Holiness does not depend on the Bishop of Aberdeen in Northern Scotland. Under present circumstances, yes, that is the obstruction. But the Holy Father could end that problem pronto and make the Sons of pontifical right. No, they are waiting for a reason.


  29. Anonymous6:16 PM


    That is actually a wonderful admission by Fr. Nichols! We have always known that their situation was irregular. The fact that he avoids the s word speaks volumes. That's right: they are not in schism and they are not apostates and they are not heretics. If only most of the liberals were as 'irregular' as the S.S.P.X, we might call those liberals 'Catholic'!!!

    This must be killing the old liberal prelates, like De Rogue of Victoria. If they try to call the Society 'schismatic', they are now directly contradicted by Rome. Remember the statement from Rome in 2008?: 'The 1988 Consecrations were a schismatic act but not one sufficient to cause a formal schism.' So the most the liberals can say is that they 'tend' towards schism.

    Meanwhile, should a prelate teach a class of children that the Mass is a supper but not a Sacrifice, as a certain liberal prelate did in Canada, we can show that that man is an outright heretic. I'd rather be 'irregular' than a heretic! Being irregular normally only refers to recourse to the washroom. Being a heretic refers to recourse to error.


  30. Anonymous6:27 PM

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Bishop Moran of Aberdeen turns 76 years old TODAY and is known to be in poor health.

    So he cannot be the obstruction for the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer. Why hasn't the Pope replaced him?

    No, again, the Sons are waiting for something larger. I've just checked Mr. Cheney's statistics site: Moran is 76 this very day. So he cannot be an excuse for this situation. I suspect that H.H. is working on creation of a universal structure. There was a recent rumour on Francophone blogs that he has asked his canonists to devise a solution of this kind. The Pope could 'find' that the S.S.P.X holds 'tolerated positions' regarding a 'non-infallible' Vatican II and then unilaterally removes the suppression of 1975 and the suspensions of 1976, making the Society regular whether its members want this or not. What could they do? Reject a regularisation imposed by a man whom they recognise as the Supreme Pontiff? Not possible. They could continue to behave as if they had not been regularised but, gradually, they would have to submit to the 'just and gentle rule' of Christ's Vicar, no?

    Pray that this Pope's health continues to be good. We might not have to wait much longer for real freedom from these liberal heretics. Free! 'Ma Gawd, we free at last!


  31. Anonymous6:58 PM

    "Perhaps he thinks the Catholic chapel is on the top floor, but I really don't get the impression that he identifies the ark with the Catholic Church."

    Right - the Catholic chapel "subsists in" the ark.


  32. Anonymous5:11 AM

    Cardinal Pell has just called the SSPX "schismatic":

    "The charges against the Holy Father do not amount to too much e.g. instituting a special year to honour priests (which was well received by priests and people), continuing with a new translation of the Roman Missal, and encouraging the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated. He did not receive back the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, but only lifted their excommunication. They are still in schism."


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