Damian Thompson has always had an axe to grind with the Bishops of England and Wales and when I first joined his blog I was utterly mystified as to why he would always draw attention to news stories which implied that those selected by Christ to be Shepherds of the Faithful in England and Wales were not being totallly faithful to either the Magisterium or the Holy Father in his role as Prince of the Apostles. "Damian!" I would say, "Surely there are more important things than this to be discussed?! What about the riches of the Catholic Faith!" Over time, it has become more and more clear that there is a very, very good reason why he comes back to the same theme time and time again.
The riches of the Catholic Faith should be openly shouted from the rooftops every day, of course. But what Damian highlights is incredibly important! Day after day, he rightly draws attention to the plain and simple fact that there seems to be not one Bishop in England and Wales who is willing to stand up and be numbered among those who are loyal to the Holy Father, nor his incredibly wise and judicious reforms of the Church. What is more, it seems it does not matter whether it is Pope Benedict's desire to see an element of reform of the liturgy of the Church, at a time when it is often being liberalised to a point of no return, or whether he wishes to see the SSPX return to the True Fold in the Church, rescinding the sanction to the SSPX that basically amounted to their being cast into outer darkness and regarded as anathaema eternally.
The great and very tragic situation appears to be that the Bishops of England and Wales are not in communion with the Holy Father. Yet, it is not the Holy Father's job to be in communion with either the Bishops, Priests or Laity. The Holy Father has declared that it is time to reform the liturgy of the Church to reflect the Mystery of God, the Glory of Heaven, the Communion of the Saints and most of all, the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. So, releasing Summorum Pontificum, the Pope joyfully declared that this is an exciting time of renewal within the Church for restoring reverence for the great Mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass. 'Oh how exciting', many thought, 'this Pope is very radical!' But, his joyful declaration fell upon deaf ears among certain quarters of the Church who to this day still don't quite 'get it'.
Myself and many, many other Laity actually understand what the Holy Father is trying to do because we've seen so much liturgical abuse around the land. So, if the Laity, who are untrained in the formal workings of Holy Mother Church can understand that - why don't the Bishops of England and Wales? They either do understand why the Holy Father is trying to move liturgy beyond the shallow and secular forms which people experience and put up with on Sundays, and are deliberately blocking reform because they fear both Sacred Tradition and Papal Authority, or they do not understand it at all, wish to be loyal to the Holy Father, but the reasons for the Benedictine reform have to be explained again.
The very fact that the Holy Father had to write a long and beautifully written letter to all the Bishops of the World about the lifting of the excommunication of SSPX is, in itself, scandalous. The fact that the letter (while acknowledging a lack of media savviness on the part of the Vatican and regret over timing of the lifting in the light of a Williamson 'Holocaust-denial' interview available on the web) openly rebukes the Bishops who rose up against the Holy Father is deeply troubling. The Holy Father shouldn't have to so publicly but charitably admonish disloyal Bishops, yet he has to at the same time, for if he doesn't, misunderstanding, division and suspicion will fester. He has realised that there is animosity towards him and is once again reaching out to mollify the wounds and heal the rifts.
Now, as Damian so rightly points out, the Bishops of England and Wales have issued a 'summary' of the Papal letter on their website, a letter instructing them on why he has taken the decision of lifting the excommunication on the SSPX. Unfortunately, their summary disregards the admonition to them and ignores the charitable and pastoral reasons for the lifting of the excommunication, dwelling instead on the healing of Jewish/Christian relations in the light of the row. The healing of this rift is of course something to be glad about. But what about the rest of the letter in which he explained his actions and pleaded for the Bishop's support?
Pope Benedict XVI has to explain his decision to them, yet a great many Laity and Priests understand why he took the decision in the first place - Church unity and the healing of wounds within the Church. You don't have to be a 'scholar' or have access to the Holy Father's mind to understand that.
The very fact that they have issued a 'summary' on the Catholic Communications Network, a summary which conveniently leaves out the all important plea to the Bishops to act in accordance with their vow of obedience to Papal Authority, and encourages them to appreciate the great advantages of lifting the excommunication in terms of a much-needed influx of clergy with a huge desire to serve Christ, is an act of disobedience and a scandal in itself.
It is also a cover up of their own errors of judgment. It is a scandal and demonstrates that the virtues and heavenly attributes of humility, courage and wisdom in Pope Benedict XVI's possession are not in theirs at all. It speaks of a crisis at the heart of the Catholic Church, which, if it continues, threatens the authority of the Church, the stability of the Church and the ability of the Church to witness to Christ: Truth and Love Incarnate!
When Christ returns at His Glorious Second Coming those who now threaten to wound the Church, those who rise up against the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and those who deliberately block his message of reform and his desire to repair the wounds which separate the Mystical Body of Christ, will realise that Heaven never was, is not now, nor ever will be, a democracy. Christ rules supreme, the Head of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, maybe describes himself as such, but also he is the Vicar of Jesus Christ and has made his intentions clear. What then, is the problem afflicting the Bishops?
For a link to the Letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Bishops on the lifting of the excommunication on the SSPX Bishops, click here.