Bishop Williamson's Letters
NEW CHURCH "CANONIZATIONS"
December 6, 2002
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The October 6 "canonization" of Msgr. Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of the "Opus Dei", like the September "beatification" of Pope John XXIII, launcher of Vatican II, re-opens an old and hurtful wound - how can the Catholic Church do such things? And if it is not the Catholic Church that is doing them, what is it?
For indeed it is clear beyond any doubt that the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II, when she was still essentially faithful to Catholic Tradition, would never have beatified the Pope who initiated the Council which devastated that Tradition, nor canonized the founder of "Opus Dei", an organization preparing the way for that Council.
There is an abundance of quotes, proudly published by "Opus Dei" itself, to prove that Msgr. Escrivá shared and promoted key ideas of Vatican II. Here are two: Msgr. Escrivá himself said, "Ours is the first organization which, with the authorization of the Holy See, admits non-Catholics, Christian or non-Christian. I have always defended liberty of conscience" ("Conversaciones con Mons. Escrivá", ed. Rialp, p.296). And his successor at the head of "Opus Dei" said about Msgr. Escriva's book "Camino", "It prepared millions of people to get in tune with, and to accept in depth, some of the most revolutionary teachings which 30 years later would be solemnly promulgated by the Church at Vatican II" ("Estudios sobre 'Camino'", Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, ed. Rialp, p.58).
Therefore, for Pope John XXIII to have been truly a Blessed, and for Msgr. Escrivá to have been truly a Saint, the Second Vatican Council would have to have been a true Council, or a Council true to Catholic Tradition. Which is ridiculous, as at least regular readers of this Letter know. Yet are not Catholic canonizations meant to be infallible?
Indeed before Vatican II, Catholic theologians agreed that canonizations (not beatifications) of Saints were virtually infallible, for two main reasons. Firstly, the proposing of model Catholics to be venerated and imitated as Saints is so central to Catholics' practice of their faith, that Mother Church could hardly be mistaken in the matter. This being so, secondly, the pre-Vatican II Popes took such care in examining candidates for canonization, and successful candidates they canonized with such solemnity, that their act of canonizing was as close as could be to a pronouncement of the Popes' solemn and infallible magisterium.
But since Vatican II, firstly the models chosen for imitation are liable, like John XXIII and Msgr. Escrivá, to be chosen for their alignment on Vatican II, i.e. on the destruction of Catholic Tradition, and secondly, the formerly strict process of examination of candidates has been so loosened under the Vatican II popes and there has followed such a flood of canonizations under John Paul II, that the whole process of canonizing has lost, together with its solemnity, any likelihood of infallibility. Indeed, how can John Paul II intend to do anything infallible, or therefore do it, when he often acts and talks, for instance about "living tradition", as though Truth can change?
So this or that Saint "canonized" by John Paul II may in fact be in Heaven, even Msgr. Escrivá, God knows, but it is certainly not his "canonization" by this Pope which can make us sure of the fact. Nor need we then feel obliged to venerate any of the post-Vatican II "Saints".
Which leaves us with the problem we began with: the Catholic Church has the divine promise of indefectibility, i.e. it cannot fail ("Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" - Mt. XXVII, 20). Then how can canonizations, which are meant through infallibility to partake in that indefectibility, fail, by partaking instead in Vatican II? Are we not obliged to admit either that Vatican II was not so bad after all (as the priests of Campos are now doing), or else that the sedevacantists are right after all in saying that John Paul II is not really pope? Sedevacantism would explain any amount of fallibility on his part!
The Society of St. Pius X, following Archbishop Lefebvre (1905-1991), adopts neither the Conciliar nor the sedevacantist solution. It believes that the Second Vatican Council was amongst the greatest disasters in the history of the Catholic Church, yet it considers that the popes who promoted that Council and its ideas (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II) were or are true popes. How can that be? How can true popes so act as to destroy the true Church?
Firstly, God creates all of us human beings free, with free will, because He does not want robots in His Heaven. That applies also to the churchmen, to whom He chooses to entrust His Catholic Church. These have therefore an astonishing degree of freedom to build up or to destroy the Church. For instance, when Our Lord asks if he will find the Faith when he comes back on earth (Lk XVIII, 8), we know for certain that by men's (not only churchmen's) fault, the Catholic Church will be very small at the Second Coming.
However Our Lord also promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail against his Church (Mt. XVI, 18), and so we also know for certain that God will never allow the wickedness of men to go so far as to destroy His Church completely. In this certainty that the Church will never completely fail lies her indefectibility, and since the first function of the Church is to teach Our Lord's doctrine of salvation, then upon indefectibility in existing follows infallibility in teaching. For souls of good will, the Catholic Church and her Truth will always be there.
So the Catholic Church to the end of time will never cease, on however small a scale, to make heard amongst men the doctrine of salvation, the Deposit of the Faith. From eternity this doctrine proceeds from God the Father to God the Son, it was faithfully entrusted by the Incarnate God to His Apostles, and it has been handed down as unchanging Tradition through the successors of the Apostles ever since. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away", says Our Lord (Lk. XXI, 33). In fact unchangingness is so essential to this doctrine, that conformity with Tradition is the criterion of the Church's infallible ordinary magisterium. In other words if one wants to know what cannot be false in the day-to-day teaching of the Church's teachers, the way to tell is to measure what is being said against what the Church has said down all the centuries. If it corresponds to Tradition, the teaching is infallible, and if it does not, it is not infallible. Moreover, the Church's infallible extraordinary magisterium is the servant of this ordinary magisterium, insofar as it provides a divinely protected guarantee that such and such a doctrine belongs within the Church's true doctrine, i.e. within ordinary Tradition.
Therefore Tradition, or conformity with what the Church has always taught, is the ultimate yardstick or measure of the Church's infallible teaching, ordinary or extraordinary. Therefore anything outside Tradition is fallible, and anything contradicting Tradition is certainly false, for instance the new Vatican II teaching on religious liberty and ecumenism. But John XXIII was beatified, and Msgr. Escrivá was "canonized", for their sympathy with these Conciliar novelties. Therefore such "canonizations" are certainly to some extent contrary to Catholic Tradition, and to that extent they are automatically not infallible, without my having to examine any further. "If an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" (Gal I, 8).
So if one asks how it can be God's own churchmen who do so much damage to His Church, the answer is that He gives them great freedom, short of letting them completely destroy His Church, and because out of any evil they do he will bring some greater good. For instance, out of dubious canonizations he can bring to "Traditional Catholics" a still better grasp of the primacy of Tradition.
And to the question how canonizations, meant to be infallible, can instead be Conciliar, the answer is that if God allows a pope to believe in Vatican II, He may surely also allow him to take action and to "canonize" in accordance with Vatican II, and to loosen the strict old rules of true canonization which virtually guaranteed the candidate's conformity with Tradition. If Catholics are misled who blindly follow Church authority when it goes astray, that is their own problem, but Catholics who follow Tradition will, on St. Paul's command, with prudence, "anathematize" any clear departure from it.
So we may absolutely refuse Vatican II and all its pomps and all its works and yet not have to become sedevacantists, so long as we understand that Church indefectibility does not mean that large parts of the Church will never be destroyed, only that the Church will never be completely destroyed. Similarly Church infallibility does not mean that the Church's teachers will never teach untruth by, for instance, dubious "canonizations", only that, amongst other truths, the truth of Christian sanctity will never be totally falsified or silenced.
In conclusion, these more or less Conciliar "canonizations" are correspondingly fallible, and are automatically not infallible. Obviously, Padre Pio was an entirely Traditional Saint, and we need not doubt the worthiness of his canonization. However, it might be advisable not to profit by his Newchurch "canonization" to venerate him officially or in public, insofar as that might be liable to give to other Newchurch "canonizations" a credit which is not due to them.
Dear readers, I must warmly thank all of you whose spiritual and material support has carried the seminary through a remarkably happy calendar year. All September's entrants are still with us, in fact two more have come! Very many thanks.
Let the men sign up for the five-day retreat here from December 26 to 31. And let me wish all of you a happy Christmas free of sentimentalism, but forgive me if I again invite you to send me no cards, because I am abroad until early January. Get sentimental about my poor desk!
With all good wishes and blessings, in Christ,
+ Richard Williamson