Priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter silenced by +Bishop Steven Lopes?

father_treco

Fr. Vaughn Treco

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.

16 thoughts on “Priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter silenced by +Bishop Steven Lopes?

  1. Hey Erick Yt Barra. There is a Catholic on an online chatting app(its kinda like skype) called discord where on a server, she is debating trying to leave the Church.I need help.

    She basically denies papal supremacy; papal infalliblity; etc and there are a lot of Orthodox trying to make her joing the Eastern Orthodox Church. Could you join it?

  2. Here is the app: https://discordapp.com/

    You’ll have to create an account. When you get an account, there is an id(it starts with a # then 4 numbers so for instance an id would be: #1234that you get. You can email it to me(through my email) then I’ll tag you a friend, and try to get you into the server.

  3. One of the important issues concerning this homily, one to which you do not allude, is that it really is not a sermon or homily. The theoretical and personal speculations of a priest should not be in a homily. Nor is a homily about giving a one-sided debating speech on controversial matters. Bishop Lopes is clearly right in intervening here. Theologically this priest is not sufficiently well-formed or he would not have made the egregious error re soteriology, not to speak of ecclesiology.

    • For me, the question is not so much where intervention might be warranted (though I’m going to disagree with you about his soteriology), but the draconian nature of it. This is a level-the-walls-and-salt-the-ground response.

      Remember, this is the Ordinariate. These priests are, every single one of them, converts from Anglican churches. They were, especially the first wave, put on “rocket dockets” to race them through to ordination for these incoming communities, and required to continue on for years with additional theological formation in selected diocesan seminaries. And in my experience in the Ordinariate, formation varies a fair bit.

      I can certainly see that a sit-down meeting was in order, at least. But if this kind of treatment were the norm in jurisdictions where more is expected of clergy, the United States would be awash in excommunicated priests.

  4. Pingback: Priest Suppressed: “DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE OBVIOUS VII ERROR!” – Forge and Anvil

  5. Hello Erick,

    “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.”

    I think “poorly worded” is the farthest I can go. I would have worded things somewhat differently here, and added a couple of clarifications, if I had been writing this section of the homily. But I disagree that it is “demonstrably wrong.”

    The one thing I will say in Lumen Gentium’s defense (sort of) here is that it restrains itself in LG 16 to referring to Muslims as those who are merely “*professing* to hold the faith of Abraham,” which is a step short of what Nostra Aetate says, more exuberantly, “They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men.” A subsequent qualification that Muslims do not recognize Jesus as God hardly repairs the theological damage here. Fortunately, NA has a good deal less authority than does LG, though it remains an open question just what level of authority a specific passage like the one in LG 16, which declines to employ any of the traditional markers of a doctrinal definition, actually has.

    The difficulty is that LG, even more than documents of older councils, really does read like a committee written document, and a committee barely on speaking terms with itself at that. What LG 14 seems to taketh away, LG seems to work hard (albeit not quite as hard as NA) to giveth back. And when the overwhelming emphasis of curial and episcopal discussions post-1965, to say nothing of discourse in most Catholic universities, schools, periodicals, and parishes is on the, er, soteriological generosity of LG 16, it really does raise the question how much the texts themselves matter at this point. Consistent reception at some point becomes a tough trump card to beat. Dominus Iesus might as well be an echo in the drainpipe now.

    At any rate Fr Treco does not seem to be denying the validity of the Council, or the New Mass. I do concede that he characterizes it in terms that he had to know would at least generate a phone call from the Ordinariate chancery once it hit the Remnant’s Youtube page – fairly or not.

    • Richard,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I agree with the statement that LG sounds in conflict with itself. It is very much the same conflict that we see in St. John Paul II’s message to the Curia in December of 1986 where he further apologizes (in the traditional sense) for the Assisi pray meetings taken place just prior. There, he asserts that he rejects syncretism, indifferentism, and religious relativism/pluralism, etc,etc. and then wants to merge as close as possible the worship-activity of pagan religion with Christian. What the former taketh away, as you put it, the latter may bring it right back. In fact, Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI, in his 20 year anniversary document of Assisi, claims precisely the same sort of thing. On the one hand, a rejection of relativism and indifferentism, and then yet, this awkward and bizarre merging together of worship in this pluralistic meeting between pagans and Christians. If I were Pope, I would definitely deal with this far less delicate. If I were ever myself to think that the “spirit of Assisi”, which JP2 thought was nothing else but the spirit of the 2nd Vatican Council fulfilled, were an act of heresy and apostasy, then I would most likely welcome not just a call from the Chancery, but also an acceptance of my resignation, for how could I support actions which fight against Christ and pretend they are consistent with the gospel? I couldn’t.

      For the time being, there is this “technical” consistency that one needs a high powered microscope to see which keeps these things from becoming full blown heresy. But as you make clear, this is now the general interpretation of the masses, and it is quite clear the ambiguous nature of LG and NA were crafted to yield unorthodox interpretations.

      I know, we all want this resolved. In +Bishop Lopes’ defense, he may not have went hunting for Fr Treco himself, but the issue may have been pressed by someone in the Ordinariate which now has +Lopes against the wall, perhaps, and feels the need to act against Fr. Treco. Such is unfortunate
      , but I feel I’ve given what I think may have been the criticisms that +Lopes would put his finger on.

      • Hello Erick,

        Thank you likewise for the reply. I think we disagree less than I believed at first.

        And time and mental energy being limited, I’d like to just pick up on one point you made, which is really much more about Fr. Treco’s prudence (or lack thereof) rather than the theological issues in play: “Would it not have been more fitting to discuss that matter with the Bishop prior to a public homily?”

        My instinctive answer is “probably.” I know I would have proceeded more cautiously. But to ask the question is to raise others, too:

        1) How often do conversations with ordinaries about homiletics actually happen? In my experience, “not very.” And this is assuming your ordinary is even accessible in the first place to his clergy. And this is doubly so for the Ordinariate, where a continent-wide jurisdiction and severely limited resources limits the bishop’s interaction even more. Still, I concede, this is a bold way to work out your theological discoveries, as you put it above.

        2) Would it likewise not have been more fitting for Bishop Lopes to have a serious discussion about this first prior to dropping the ecclesiastical hammer on him (removal and suspension a divinis, combined with a 60 day demand for recantation on pain of excommunication)?

        3) In an age in which theological discipline for clergy and theologians approaches a zero point, especially for those on the left, what is the appropriate way to handle a first time offender, especially in a new jurisdiction where the paint is not even dry on the seals, and most clergy are converts ordained on condition of continuing theological formation?

        I have other questions, but I think those will do for now. Neither of us might have perfect answers for them yet, but I find it deeply frustrating that the good bishop seems not to have asked them in the first place. It’s precisely because I have some respect for Bishop Lopes that I actually have occasion to be disappointed in the first place.

      • P.S. Re: “St. John Paul II’s message to the Curia in December of 1986.” You spurred me to go read that once again. And I am even more depressed than I was the first time.

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