There is a report going around, of which I have no further confirmation other than a post from a blog site entitled “The Stumbling Block” (access the post here), which states that +Steven Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, has made an intervention into the ministry of a certain Ordinariate priest, Fr Vaughn Treco, in order to request a recantation of the content of a certain homily he gave in the recent past. Bishop +Lopes insisted he renounce or he would lose his position as Pastor of the parish and would require Catechesis on the theology of the 2nd Vatican Council. I encourage all of you to listen to the sermon for yourself, and then read my take away below.
Overall, Fr. Treco’s sermon, very much exhilarating and empowered by zeal, had good intentions and certainly fills one with enthusiasm for Tradition, while also fostering a very negative attitude towards the 2nd Vatican Council (arguably for both right and wrong reasons). For him, the 2nd Vatican Council is where the Popes of the Conciliar period changed the spirit of Catholicism from one that concerned itself with meticulously submitting all things to the concern, will, and kingship of Christ to that of one overly concerned with the felt needs, concerns, sensitivities, and judgment of human beings. Instead of sailing the Vessel of Peter around the compass of God’s rule, there is replaced therein the compass of man and his will to manage things best for himself. Moreover, the spirit of indifferentism as to how one gains access to God began during this time, and this was one of the fatal consequences of the former upheaval.
These observations, prima facie, are quite undeniable. The question will turn on whether the Council and the Conciliar Popes were explicitly the direct cause of this by way of intention (making clear a suspicion of heresy), or whether something else is being claimed. Keeping that in mind, there are a few things which Fr. Treco stated quite emphatically which open him to criticism. Before I give my list of these, I want to be quite clear that the energy which one can sense coming from the homily is appreciable. What I gather from listening to the homily, and as one who has never met Fr. Treco, is that this man is not an enemy of Catholicism, but is rather out to wage war for the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Church (see his powerful testimony of conversion). All that I write below should be read knowing that my instincts are more in favor of this priest than against.
In the first place, Fr. Treco openly states that the modern fall out from Catholic orthodoxy, such as the doctrines of human sexuality, the indissolubility of marriage, “same-sex” ideology, etc.etc., are the result of the Council and the Conciliar Popes. Perhaps, if allowed to elaborate, he would install certain mediums in between the Council, the Popes, and the doctrinal fallout which followed, but from his homily, it very well appears as though he sees a *direct* result. In one place, he accuses Paul VI of entrusting the safeguarding of basic morality dictated by natural law which pertain to the well-being of society and the moral order to the secular realm (i.e. the United Nations). While Paul VI used the wording that the state and its identity (UN) is endowed with such entrustment, I sincerely doubt he intended to deny that it had been entrusted superiorly to the Church (which Fr seems to presume he did not, c.f. Credo of the People). After all, is it not Catholic doctrine that the state has the obligation that the citizens in the realm are cared for and ordered unto God? If this includes the temporal order, how much more the spiritual order? The state very much is obliged in that matter. I think it is best to interpret St. Paul VI in that manner.
Secondly, he accuses John XXIII, Paul VI, JPII (and I think B16 as well) of breaking the Petrine vow of feeding and governing the sheep. Of course, there are all sorts of reasons to agree with this (I won’t venture to defend the episode of the Quran-kissing, the Assisi prayer meetings, the prayers offered up in the Roman synagogue), but a parish priest might be careful with naming the names of Popes. While I do not have a problem with this, +Bishop Lopes might think such a broad and general condemnation by a priest for the parish is misplaced, and perhaps overly presumptuous of motive and intent. No objective citations from either three Popes indicted which spell out the implications Fr. Treco publicized are provided, and this would serve as the least requirement in the description of accusation. As far as I know, all three Popes (Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI) were quite adamant against religious indifferentism, moral relativism, and universal tolerance. I would have much rather preferred a more detailed criticism of the rationale of these Popes for the certain questionable events conducted under their auspices, along with citations, but such a thing would require, I believe, a short book length. Yet again, the question of propriety of the Lord’s day pulpit (if that is where this homily was delivered), once again, comes to the fore.
Thirdly, Fr Treco seems to interpret the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” as if it teaches the allowance of persons who are unlawfully “re-married” after divorce, and therefore living in perpetual adultery, to receive Holy Communion with repentance or an annulment. While it is abundantly clear that this what Pope Francis intended with the exhortation, as is seen in his confirmation of the guidelines drawn up by the Bishops’ synod of Buenos Aires, later codified in the Acta Apostolicae Sede, it is certainly not the interpretation of +Bishop Lopes, whose letter to the Ordinariate, “A Pledged Troth”, quite explicitly bans those who refuse to rectify their adulterous situation from communion. +Bishop Lopes undoubtedly doesn’t read Amoris Laetitia the way Fr. Treco, nor Pope Francis, does. It would be no surprise, then, that this might be one of the issues that drew the Bishop’s attention. Would it not have been more fitting to discuss that matter with the Bishop prior to a public homily?
Fourthly, Fr. Treco comes out and says that the hermeneutic of continuity, popularized by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, cannot logically be sustained, and that, with the 2nd Vatican Council, comes the unavoidable conclusion that a rupture has occurred in Catholic tradition. This, right there, more than anything, would have put a red dot on the forehead of Fr. Treco. This is no different than the conclusion which the late +Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre came to, and which is held by the Society of Saint Pius X to this day. One may wonder, therefore, what he is doing in the Ordinariate? Herein lies a hotly debated subject. As testified by Cardinal Ludwig Müller, when he was head of the CDF, the differences between the contemporary Vatican and the SSPX is one of the doctrine of the 2nd Vatican Council. Can they be reconciled? Whatever might be the case, one thing is for sure: the SSPX do not believe the 2nd Vatican Council can be harmonized with the perennial doctrine of the Catholic Church as existing in her bosom, unchanged, down through the Apostles, the proximate Magisterium, and all the way up unto the present time. There is no hermeneutic of continuity. Such is a dream, says the SSPX, in the imagination of men. Again, whatever the strengths or weaknesses of this there might be, this is overtly antithetical to the commitments of the clergy in the Ordinariate, which is under the obedience of the Holy See, and according to its dictation. Without a doubt, that includes fidelity to the decrees of the 2nd Vatican Council. I won’t venture to give a detailed analysis of the question, but I will say that I am far more on the side of continuity, and those areas which raise questions for me, I know to remain as such. Quite frankly, there are things allowed pastorally by the Council which, unto this very day, remain a trouble for me. But if I were to come out and insist that such troubles inform me that the Council fathers of the Vatican, along with the Pontificates of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, have committed theological errors or heresies, then I would first want to consult with my superiors as to what options I have, instead of making a homily on my “discoveries”. There may not be a logical coherence between my “discoveries” and being a loyal Catholic. If there isn’t, then blowing off steam is a waste of time. One would find far more fruit in investigating another form of Christianity, and then, in the form of a charitable argumentation, point out the “errors” formerly held.
Fifthly, one of Fr. Treco’s indictments concerns a question of traditional soteriology. He thinks the Vatican Council taught that Muslims and members of other religions can enjoy the final end of eternal life with God the Father even while rejecting the only begotten Son of God. Here, at worst, he is demonstrably wrong; at best, poorly worded. Mind you, I say this as one reluctant to defend the Council. However, prima facie, Fr. Treco’s deduction is just plain wrong. On the matter of the possibility of attaining to salvation for persons outside the Catholic Church and/or those who have never heard of the gospel, there are 3 paragraphs in Lumen Gentium devoted to this speculation (paragraphs 14-16). In paragraph 14, LG states plainly that Christ made entry into the visible Catholic Church just as obligatory as the command to believe and be baptized. LG quotes mark 16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned“. Knowing that this verse promises condemnation to those who disobey the summons of the Son of God unto faith and baptism, LG14 says that any human creature which knows the Catholic Church and the demand of the Lord and has it revealed to them they must join, and does not obey that summons, cannot be saved. The next two paragraphs (15-16) go on to speak about the possibilities of non Catholics and non Christians to attain salvation, but the conditions of these two paragraphs come on the heel of paragraph 14, and thus, all exceptions to the rule are based upon one’s invincible ignorance of Christ and the Church. Thus, one cannot “reject the Son” and have the Father, as the Ordinariate Priest claims V2 taught.
Lastly, am I then saying there was no merit to the homily? Absolutely not! I admired the exposition of the dreadful consequences of what occurred following the events of the Council, and how, in many ways, the Council can be seen to be somewhere in the causal arena of relationship. The text of the Council, in many places, is worded in such a fancy way as to allow two or more interpretations, particularly, ones more liberal and others more traditional. With this dynamism, the Council did not objectively *close the way to heresy*, which is the wording of past Councils in efforts to propagate the faith. On this, Fr. Treco is absolutely spot on. Detailed histories of the Council prove that there was a liberal faction vs. a conservative faction. However, the doctrines outputted in the form of text are not necessarily proving a rupture-theory. After all, the more speculative points on the possibility of salvation of pagans, even, was not objectionable to +Archbishop Lefevbre, nor the contemporary SSPX. In fact, that thinking stretches back to the Pontificate of Pope Pius IX, whose encyclical Quanto conficiamur (1863) speaks of the possibility of salvation and eternal redemption of those who labor under the auspices of grace, yet with invincible ignorance of Christ and the Catholic religion. If we want to find the root of that irreconcilability, we need to go far back before Paul VI. Moreover, Cardinal Ratzinger published Dominus Iesus (2000) which sought to clarify some of the errors being committed in the realm of religious indifferentism. This document makes it clear that the objective situation of those outside the Church endangers them, in a severe way, of the coming judgment, and thus solidifies the imperative to evangelize all nations.
In conclusion, +Bishop Lopes is more likely to be one of those who utilize the ambiguity of the texts of Vatican 2 and steers them in the course of traditional, conservative, and authentic continuity, and sees this as the faithful hermeneutic, as opposed to one of suspicion and rupture. +Lopes might understand the possible tendency which exists in the schools following the Council of steering the ambiguous texts in the direction of rupture, but doesn’t think this is necessitated by the Council itself, nor by the teaching Magisteriums of the Popes indicted in the homily. I’ve not attempted to share my opinion about the disciplinary intervention, and so I am not on the record here after Fr. Treco with a pitchfork. I am, however, attempting to give a possible rationale for why the homily was identified by the Bishop as problematic, and requiring renunciations or a loss of post with additional Catechesis.