Pope Francis is to invite the world’s bishops to consecrate Russia (and Ukraine) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

If he withhold the waters, all things shall be dried up; and if he send them out, they shall overturn the earth.

And the letter was sent on the feast of Purim, which commemorates how the Queen saved her people from destruction.

Pope Francis has deposed a bishop with no process while making no charges against him. Perhaps there is some secret explanation for this but there does not appear to be. This seems to be an almost insanely arbitrary use of ordinary universal jurisdiction.  

St Gregory the Great, pray for us!

“My honour is the honour of the whole Church. My honour is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honour, when it is denied to none of those to whom honour is due.” St Gregory the Great, Ep. ad Eulog. Alexandrin. (Letter to Eulogius of Alexandria), VIII 29 (30) (MGH, Ep. 2, 31 28-30, PL 77, 933).

Can the Pope Just Fire a Bishop?

The Council of Trent anathematizes those who say that any pastor of the churches whatsoever may transform the rites wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments into ‘other new rites’. This has been interpreted in two different ways. Some read it as a very weak condemnation which rejects only the idea that any person exercising pastoral ministry may alter the Church’s rites. On this reading a bishop or an archdeacon or a liturgist might do so, just not anybody. This is certainly a possible reading but it is very weak and would render the definition virtually pointless. It would be a bit like a slippery politician condemning those who support abortion on demand up to birth and then presenting himself as pro-life even though he actually supported abortion in almost all circumstances. the other reading is that this is quite a ferocious canon defining that no cleric whatever may create new rites. This interpretation is supported by paragraphs 1124-1125 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which read:

“The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.”

Often this interpretation of Trent is rejected because of the Council’s words elsewhere in the Decree on Communion Under Both Species, and the Communion of Infants,

“It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, it may ordain, or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places.”

this objection assumes that the ‘substance’ of the sacraments means only the matter, form and intention. This would be rather like saying that a man who had had his arms, legs and nose cut off was ‘substantially unharmed’. It is a sort of absurd reductionism which assumes that all sorts of sinful practices (such as consecrating under only one species, not consuming the consecrated elements, baptising a healthy child against its parents wishes, suppressing the sign of the cross) which the pope certainly has no power to authorize, because they would not compromise the validity of the the sacrament, do not pertain its ‘substance’.

In this context, Joseph Ratzinger, made some uncharacteristically severe remarks in 2004 on this very point which are very well worth reading.

“It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The ‘rite’, that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis — the handing-on of tradition.

It is important, in this connection, to interpret the ‘substantial continuity’ correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a neo-scholastic sacramental theology which is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the ‘substance’ to the material and form of the sacrament, and say: Bread and wine are the material of the sacrament, the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary, everything else is changeable.

At this point Modernists and Traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly ‘pastoral’, around this remnant, this core which has been spared, and which is thus either relegated to the realm of magic, or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of tradition which had taken concrete form, which cannot be torn apart into little pieces, but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.”

In Chapter 43 of the Holy Rule St Benedict famously admonishes his monks “nothing is to be preferred to the Opus Dei” meaning thereby the Sacred Liturgy and the Divine Office. And yet, in Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to St John Our Lord himself tells us “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He hath sent.” There is no contradiction here, the liturgy is the deposit of faith, the celebration of the liturgy is the tradition. “As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”

Canon 3

“It has come to the notice of the sacred synod that some of those enrolled in the clergy are, for sordid gain, acting as hired managers of other people’s property, and are involving themselves in worldly business, neglecting the service of God, frequenting the houses of worldly persons and taking over the handling of property out of avarice. So the sacred and great synod has decreed that in future no one, whether a bishop, a cleric or a monk, should either manage property or involve himself as an administrator of worldly business, unless he is legally and unavoidably summoned to take care of minors, or the local bishop appoints him to attend, out of fear of the Lord, to ecclesiastical business or to orphans and unprovided widows and persons in special need of ecclesiastical support. If in future anyone attempts to transgress these decrees, he must be subject to ecclesiastical penalties.”

It was 15th September, 1870.  The French had lost the battle of Sedan a couple of weeks before (Pope Pius IX, a witty man, remarked that France had lost ses dents).  Just five days ago, on September 10th, King Victor Emmanuel II had written to the pope telling him that he intended to march into Rome and take it over.  The following day, the 11th, the Italian armies had entered illegally into the papal domains.  By the 20th, they will have taken Rome and the patrimony of St Peter will be no more.

But to the south, in Sobriano of Calabria, strange things were afoot.  The town had a famous shrine to St Dominic.  It dated from the 16th century; for, on 15th September, 1530, the friars of the convent had received a miraculous image of St Dominic, not painted with human hands.  In memory of this favour, a papal bull allowed them to sing Mass at two in the morning every year on that day, since this was the hour when the painting had been received.

In 1865, a large new statue of St Dominic had been sculpted and placed inside the church.  It was made of solid wood, weighing more than twenty stone, and had needed five men to put it into place.  A single man could only with great difficulty move it even a little on its base. 

At two in the morning, on the 15th September 1870, the Dominican provincial sang Mass.  He lived by himself, near the church, since the ‘laws’ of the time had dissolved all religious communities.  After the Mass, a few women present in the church thought that they saw the great statue of St Dominic moving by itself.

At eleven in the morning a solemn Mass in honour of St Dominic was sung.  Normally there would have been a procession afterward, but this year for some reason it was cancelled.  The people are disappointed.  So they remain in the church to pray.  Again, the statue is seen to move of itself, and by more people this time.  It goes back and forwards, left and right, in the form of a cross.  Not only this, but the face of St Dominic is clearly to seen to change expression: he looks alternately severe and peaceful.  Often he turns to the statue of our Lady of the Rosary, with a tender, confident gaze.  The colour in his face comes and goes.  His lips open “like those of a man about to speak”.  His right hand, which had been closed, opens and gesticulates.  The lily in his left hand moves in all directions; so do the star and halo above his head.  Wrinkles appear on his forehead, which is bathed in sweat, and his eyes move in all directions.

By noon, the fact has become public in the town.  A large crowd, both of locals and of visitors, come to look.  Some stand afar off, some go close to examine, all marvel.  The platform on which the statue rests does not move.  There are no cords attached to the statue, nor is it moved by some concealed person.  The movements are not caused by the wind, for neither the draperies of the canopy which overhangs the statue nor the candles on either side of it are moving.   In any case, the church door looks north, and there was a strong west wind that day.  The bolder folk go to take hold of the statue, and they find themselves being moved by its motion.  It rises some inches above the surface on which it rests.  Above all, though, it is the head of the saint that moves, and his expression that changes – severe, threatening, then gentle once more.

On 19th January 1871, the bishop, Philippe Mincione, announces an investigation.   Sixty-one witnesses depose under oath to what they have seen, including Fr Thomas Sarraco, the Dominican provincial.  Many more people had wished to testify, but the bishop decided to call a halt.

On 11th February, the episcopal verdict is pronounced.  There is no natural explanation for what has happened.  Further proof of this, says the bishop, lies in the many graces, and even temporal blessings, received in Sobriano since.  The moral effects on the diocese have been excellent.  “Having invoked the holy name of God, we declare that everything is supernatural and miraculous in the movements of the statue of St Dominic on 15th September, 1870”.

{from Fr Pie Marie Rouard de Card, Le Miracle de Saint Dominique à Sobriao, Louvain (C. J. Fonteyn) and Paris (Poussielgue Freres), 1871}

“O God, who wert pleased to enlighten Thy church with the merits and teaching of blessed Dominic Thy confessor; grant, at his intercession, that she may not be wanting in temporal helps, and may always increase in spiritual growth.”

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay — no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.

Domine, Quo Vadis?, C. 1602' Giclee Print - Annibale Carracci | Art.com

But can the Roman Pontiff juridically abrogate the Usus Antiquior? The fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) of the Roman Pontiff is the power necessary to defend and promote the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is not “absolute power” which would include the power to change doctrine or to eradicate a liturgical discipline which has been alive in the Church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and even earlier. The correct interpretation of Article 1 [of Traditionis custodes] cannot be the denial that the Usus Antiquior is an ever-vital expression of “the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” Our Lord Who gave the wonderful gift of the Usus Antiquior will not permit it to be eradicated from the life of the Church. It must be remembered that, from a theological point of view, every valid celebration of a sacrament, by the very fact that it is a sacrament, is also, beyond any ecclesiastical legislation, an act of worship and, therefore, also a profession of faith. In that sense, it is not possible to exclude the Roman Missal, according to the Usus Antiquior, as a valid expression of the lex orandi and, therefore, of the lex credendi of the Church. It is a question of an objective reality of divine grace which cannot be changed by a mere act of the will of even the highest ecclesiastical authority.

https://www.cardinalburke.com/presentations/traditionis-custodes

It is obviously very concerning that some Catholics who adhere to the Roman Rite of Mass question the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council or the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs (which, of course, bears no resemblance to the Novus Ordo Missae). However, it is even more worrying that 69% of Catholics attending the Novus Ordo Missae do not believe in Transubstantiation and thus ‘eat and drink condemnation upon themselves’. In fact, it is probably the case that the inspired word of God and the solemn definitions of Lateran IV, Florence and Trent have even more authority than the prudential judgement of Vatican II. Following the wisdom of the pontiff now gloriously reigning, it would seem that existing groups making use of the Novus Ordo Missae should only be allowed to persist in so doing once it is ascertained that they accept the doctrine of the Real Presence and that care should be taken that no new groups of this kind are established.