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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

October 1998

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

By now, with the approach of Fall, we have had time to accustom ourselves to the transfers of priests which took place this summer. This time of change is always a difficult one, both for the priests and for the faithful, and you can be assured that such transfers are not done on a whim or lightly, but only after lengthy reflection as to the common good of the Society’s work, for the salvation of souls and the restoration of all things in Christ.

To keep you informed, allow me to list the principal changes which have taken place: Fr. De Lallo has returned home as the new prior of Our Lady of Sorrows retreat house in Phoenix, and Fr. Tague is prior of Jesus and Mary in El Paso. Fr. Patrick Crane is assigned to Arcadia and Fr. John Peek to Los Gatos, CA. We have two experienced priests who are new to this district in Post Falls, ID. Fr. Morgan is the prior and Fr. De Champeaux has come as his assistant. Fr. Boyle, on completion of the construction of the new six bedroom priory building in Post Falls, is transferred to England, and Fr. Philippe Pazat to St. Ignatius Retreat House in Ridgefield, CT. He will continue to direct the Third Order from Ridgefield. Fr. Zendejas has joined us from Mexico and is also assigned to Ridgefield. Fr. Thomas Scott has been transferred to St. Louis, MO and Fr. Steven Soos to Richmond, MI, while Fr. Kenneth Dean has come to Kansas City as Assistant to the District Superior and pastor of St. Vincent’s.

These changes of assignments do not, however, change the work of the Catholic priest, entirely directed as it is towards the sanctification of souls. All our priests will teach the same traditional doctrine, without veering to the right or to the left. In this context, it must be with great sadness that you have certainly heard of the tragic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification approved by the Lutheran World Federation Council on June 16 and by the Vatican on June 25 (just calling for further discussion of three minor points). This declaration, which will be formally signed in the Fall, is nothing less than a direct and explicit overturning of the decree of the Council of Trent On Justification, of January 13, 1547, which is a document of the infallible, extraordinary Magisterium of the Church.

For, "the understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics...Therefore the Lutheran and Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding basic truths" (§40). The conclusion of this is that, although the Lutherans have admitted to no change in their doctrine, "the teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent" (§41). How is this possible, you may well ask. How can there be a "consensus" or "common understanding" between two contradictory opposites, without either of them changing? The answer is that "the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification" (§13). This has been done by putting aside all the dogmas which are infallibly defined in the 33 Canons of the Council of Trent’s decree On Justification and replacing them with "basic truths", or vague ambiguous general ideas which do not exclude heresy and do not express adequately the Catholic Faith. This is the consensus which "shows that the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations" (§5). Thus, for example, the Lutheran ideas of justification by faith alone and that the Christian is at the same time righteous and a sinner are declared "in agreement with Roman Catholics" (§26 & 29).

The tragedy of this betrayal of Catholic doctrine, and consequently of the entire spiritual life, is immeasurable, as any Catholic will realize if he reads the document of the Council of Trent. Amongst other things it has this to say: "this Catholic doctrine of justification, which unless he faithfully and firmly accepts it, no one can be justified..." (Dz 810), and "If anyone shall say that by faith alone the sinner is justified...let him be anathema" (Canon 9, Dz 819), and likewise for being a sinner and righteous at the same time: "if anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy...let him be anathema" (Canon 12, Dz 822).

However, the most damning of the condemnations of this decree of the Council of Trent, and the most necessary for our time, is the very last one. For the very least that the Joint Declaration can be said to do is to state that the "doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century do not apply" (§13), and that they are no longer (if ever) for the good of the Church, providential and helpful for making the Church and the Faith more clearly known. And yet it is this very statement which is condemned by a solemn, binding, infallible anathema. Even those who accept the Catholic teaching on Justification, but refuse to accept that the clear definitions of Trent are truly for the good of the Church, are anathematized. This is the sense of Canon 33, Dz 843:

If anyone shall say that because of this Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the Holy Synod in this present decree, there is in some degree a detraction from the glory of God or from the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that the truth of our Faith, and in fact the glory of God and of Jesus Christ are not rather rendered illustrious; let him be anathema.

Horror crawls up our spine at the thought of Catholic prelates falling under such an explicit anathema, and attempting to officially bind the Church itself to be condemned by its own anathema. Yet we must face up to this sobering reality if we are to understand the gravity of the present crisis in the Church, which is truly a crisis of Faith in the most profound way, and not just of discipline. May the Blessed Mother grant to us all the interior life, a life of prayer budding forth from sanctifying grace, to see through this confusion and keep up the combat of Faith for the kingdom of truth and life, the kingdom of holiness and grace, which Our Lord pours into our souls from the Cross.

Yours faithfully in Christ the King,

Father Peter R. Scott

 
 

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