Courting Schismatics?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s June 29 statement on the ecclesial status of Christian communities outside the Catholic Church contains little that wasn’t already affirmed in Dominus Iesus and earlier declarations. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the major question raised by the document is simply “Why now?” In the statement, the CDF explains that many new “contributions” in the area of ecclesiology have given rise to “confusion and doubt,” but it does not specify which new contributions it has in mind. The statement was released only a few days before the motu proprio permitting wider use of the Tridentine rite, and some observers have speculated that there was a connection between the two. It has been suggested that the CDF’s emphatic statement was meant to rule out any accommodation with the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, that tiny but vocal group of integralists who have made a symbolic totem of the Mass of St. Pius V.

This interpretation suggests a prescience on the part of the CDF that Catholics can only applaud. Its statement “regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the church” indicates that Rome is not about to embrace the Lefebvrists. And surely it is reasonable to suppose that the well-informed members of the CDF, like thousands of Catholics worldwide, have become increasingly aware of the countless publications sponsored by Archbishop Lefebvre’s Society of...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Justus George Lawler is author of Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust (Continuum).