THESE NEGATIVE TRENDS IN THE CHURCH!
THESE NEGATIVE TRENDS IN THE CHURCH!
DEFIANCE TO PAPAL AUTHORITY
By Sir Kt Bro Sir Fosuaba Banahene
One phenomenon that has become a pain in the neck of Papal teaching is the ever-increasing spate of defiance to Papal Authority by Catholics, especially highly-placed Church officials. A well-known example of this phenomenon is the defiance of the late Archbishop Marcel-Francois Lefebvre of France to the Pope’s authority. Archbishop Lefebvre, a participant of the Second Vatican Council, rose against the conclusions of the Council especially the Lumen Gentium and Sacrosanctum Consillium, and defied Blessed Paul VI’s teachings arising from the Council’s directions. Archbishop Lefebvre resigned from the Holy Ghost Fathers Congregation when his co-workers criticised him for his stand against the Pope and in 1970 established his own Congregation, Society of St Pius X (SSPX). He became estranged as he went against Pope John Paul II’s instructions, setting his own seminary in Switzerland and went ahead to ordain his own Bishops. The Pope immediately excommunicated him and the four Bishops but the Society did not budge and has continued to grow from strength to strength world-wide. After the death of Archbishop Lefebvre in 1991, he was succeeded by Bishop Williamson who resigned from the Society. Currently Bishop Bernard Fellay is the Superior General of SSPX which has over 1,500,000 members and 400 priests.
Lefebvrites claim the Tridentine Mass is the only valid Rite of Mass. For them, an officiating priest at Mass who faces the congregation makes the faithful more important than Christ. They consider new structures like bishops’ conference, and practices such as saying Mass in the vernacular, local songs, extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, Altar girls, ecumenism, inter-faith dialogue, etc., as invalid. In October 2013 Bishop Fellay was reported to have labelled all the Vatican II liturgical changes as “evil”.
The problem for the Church is that with the growing numbers of Catholic followers of the SSPX, the time is not too far when Papal infallibility will receive further dent to create crisis in the faith. Though it cannot be proved, some scholars opine that the intransigence of the SSPX was one of the factors that precipitated the resignation of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, especially when after the Pope lifted the excommunication placed on their Bishops by Pope John Paul II the Society refused to perform what was expected from them to seal a corcondant. In some African countries, the SSPX has started enrolling priests and lay faithful. Even in our country, there are Catholics who would readily succumb to the Lefebvrites should they show up here, emphasising the use of Latin at Mass, priest with his back facing the congregation, removing Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, etc. Cardinal Sarah of Senegal and Prefect of the Congregation of the Sacraments and Divine Worship was probably singing the song of Lefebrvites when he issued an appeal in July 2016 to priests of the Roman Catholic Church to begin saying Mass ad orientem (facing the East – back to congregation) from the upcoming need to address this negative trend before it becomes too late. But many Church scholars believe that a schism has occurred already and that the time to stop the negative elapsed long ago, But in countries like ours where awareness of the SSPX mantra is currently non-existent, we can prepare the faithful to meet the challenge if ever it rears its ugly head.
There are other instances of defiance to papal authority such as the continued aberration of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). This was founded in 1956 at the request of Vatican and consists of 1,500 Catholic nuns mainly in the US. Many of them are qualified theologians of the Church and occupy or have occupied high positions such as President of the World Theological Commission. Some teach in Catholic Universities and seminaries. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, has challenged church teaching themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Some of their members like Sr. Farley, Professor of Sexual Ethics, have questioned the biblical basis for some Catholic positions such as contraceptives, masturbation and lesbianism. They also support the call for ordination of women and other “radical feminist directions incompatible with Catholic faith”, as given in the Assessment Report from the Vatican. They have connections with various women Religious groups across the world, including Africa. The group is well resourced and it can be surmised the influence they bring to bear on the orientation of local African congregations can create problems for Bishops. There are also individual Catholics that have mounted sustained defiance of papal infallibility. Some of them are Professor Hans Kung of Switzerland, the late Edward Schillebeeckx, Christiana Beattie of UK, Professor Charles Curran, Archbishop Milingo of Zambia.
We should be concerned about these aberrations because of the threat they pose to Church unity and the preservation of an ordered Church.