It is rare that these posts include theological musings, however, the news that Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication of four bishops ordained by renegade Bishop Marcel Lefebvre may create waves that are felt not only in Poland but France (birthplace of Lefebvre) and all the Catholic countries of the world.
Lefebvre Speaks Out
Marcel Lefebvre was a controversial, traditionalist Catholic bishop who made the headlines when he publicly opposed the liberal reforms of Vatican II, spearheaded by the then Pope John XXIII. In particular Lefebvre resisted the idea of ecumenism, rejected the introduction of the Mass of Pope Paul VI instead of the Tridentine Mass and supported the view that the Pope is the sole authority in the church (as opposed to sharing power with the bishops). In other words, Marcel Lefebvre supported traditional, orthodox views.
If one follows the ‘calm and collected’ Papacy of Benedict XVI one cannot help noticing a marked turn to the right. Benedict XVI is not only following in the orthodox footsteps of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, but is taking the church in a decidedly more rightist direction. The first whiff of orthodox traditionalism was when Pope Benedict XVI ‘reinstated’ the Tridentine Mass, used primarily by orthodox members and, significantly, the Society of St Pius, a traditionalist Catholic group established by… Marcel Lefebvre.
Back in the Fold
So why is all this significant? The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to lift the excommunication of four bishops who were previously ordained by Marcel Lefebvre without pontifical consent has, in effect, given the traditionalist Society of St Pius the thumbs up. By lifting the excommunication of the so-called Ecône consecrations, the Pope has opened the Catholic Church to orthodox influences and in doing so has publicly given a statement of intent: no reform.
Perhaps this swing is a sign of the times. The global crisis could spell the end of open-minded politics and could create more hard-line and uncompromising opinions. The United Kingdom is likely to swing right in the next election, France has a President from the Christian conservative Union for a Popular Movement, Germany’s Angela Merkel is from the conservative Christian Democratic Union, Italian PM Berlusconi hails from the Christian conservative Forza Italia and Poland is dominated by Civic Platform and Law and Justice, both supporters of the Roman Catholic Church.