Are we surprised when Church Militant (CM) attacks someone who (horrors!) defends the
SSPX? Goodness, there's a bushel full, and now one more, a good and holy bishop, Athanasius Schneider.
Voris and company recently featured a Catholic World Report article by disgruntled former SSPXer Andrew Bartel. Bartel is not a canon lawyer and has pretty slim credentials to challenge a bishop with a doctorate in theology and patristics.
According to his profile on Catholic World News:
Andrew Bartel is a lay Dominican of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. He lives with his wife and their three children in Montana, where he works as a glazier. He is also pursuing a degree in English and Philosophy.
It's not the first time Voris has used a lightweight to attack those with whom he disagrees. But I was appalled that he titled his latest hit piece Refuting Schneider. The bishop doesn't even merit the courtesy of his title! But that fits with the Voris smear machine. He is now cancelling Bishop Schneider. Will Bishop Strickland be next?
Do I sound a bit angry?
And it's interesting to see that almost all the comments take CM to task. Readers aren't exactly enthusiastic at the hit piece on the bishop.
So now let's take a brief look at Bartel's article. Here's his first accusation:
the SSPX and its adherents do not give the full assent of both intellect and will to the Church’s doctrine of the papacy, nor do they submit to the Supreme Pontiff in important matters of faith, discipline, and governance. They profess faith in the papacy and recognize the reigning pope, but in their public works of teaching, government, and sacramental worship they deny the primacy of Peter’s successor, and the authority of the apostolic bishops in whose territories they have erected independent chapels.
Is this true?
Speaking for myself I give "full assent of both intellect and will to the Church's doctrine of the papacy" and every other doctrine -- with one caveat. They must conform to Sacred Scripture and Tradition as passed on through the millennia. There was, in fact, a Church before Vatican II and hundreds of popes. I will not bend the knee to the creativity and novelties of modernism imposed on the Church in the recent era. I'm an old lady; I lived through the horror of it all, and I'm not going back. No Pachamama and hordes of "extraordinary" lay ministers in the sanctuary for me!
Like Archbishop Lefebvre I wish to pass on what I received to my children and grandchildren. I refuse to put lipstick on the proverbial pig and call it the paschal lamb!
What does it mean to give "full assent" to the papacy? Are Catholics required to accept and put into practice everything stated in papal encyclicals, especially when they turn past doctrinal teachings upside down? Pope Francis made it clear, when he wrote to the Argentine bishops, that their interpretation of Amoris Laetitia allowing Communion for those in invalid marriages was what he intended. Does Bartel accept that? If he does, he's embracing a heretical position. If not, is he in "full assent" with the pope?
And that's just one example.
Does Bartel give assent to venerating Pachamama and to the pope's statements that all religions are a path to God, a violation of the First Commandment and one that, once again, contradicts Catholic doctrine! Are we to accept it because the pope said so? Were all of us who refused to submit to the experimental "vaccine" not in "full assent" with the papacy since Francis said we were uncharitable if we refused? Were those who attended the SSPX Masses before the Ecclesia Dei commission, when no other TLMs were available, not in full assent? Was Benedict wrong when he said the TLM was never abrogated and could not be?
The SSPX gives full assent to the doctrines of the Church as passed on through the millennia in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. They put obedience to God's law above the novelties and dissent fostered, even by popes, since Vatican II. They follow Canon Law but recognize the reality, stated in Canon Law, that the law is at the service of the faith and for the salvation of souls. That's the supreme law of the Church.
I'm not going to go through all of Bartel's arguments. He has no authority. He is expressing a layman's opinion. A priest commenting on the CWR article wrote this:
Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R.
MARCH 15, 2023 AT 8:52 AM
Please note: the author is not a theologian or canon lawyer. He in no way speaks for the Church nor does he have the qualifications to do so. Publication of this article is irresponsible on the part of CWR.
Several people accused Fr. Bailey of an ad hominem attack which is silly. When you are addressing complicated canonical issues and serious accusations (schism!), credentials matter. Definition of terms matters. It doesn't mean one can't have an opinion. The combox discussing the article certainly demonstrates that. But if CWR is a serious Catholic publication, refuting the position of a theologian and patristic scholar should involve a voice of authority. Let's hope they get one to publish a response to Bartel.
My biggest objection to the article is its lack of charity and rash judgment. Bartel uses the fallacy of the straw man identifying the SSPX with both the sedevacantists and the Old Catholic Church. He then says of these men, whose actions have shown exactly how sacrificial they are:
Their actions proclaim what is in their hearts, though their lips bring forth concealing lies.
Wow! All of these devout, young priests and numerous seminarians have a nefarious purpose in joining the SSPX. Bartel doesn't tell us what it is.
As for Bishop Schneider and other ecclesial authorities who support the SSPX, they are clearly knowo-nothings who just haven't paid enough attention to experts like Bartel:
From what has been presented thus far, it should be evident that Bishop Schneider and other SSPX defenders have not diligently or impartially assessed the situation of this independent clerical organization in light of the Holy See’s past and recent statements, nor have they fully considered the ongoing behavior of its members and adherents. Yet they do not hesitate to give it their full and unqualified praise and approbation. Many souls are now flocking to the SSPX and embracing its tenets and attitudes as a result of this scandalous irresponsibility.
Wow! Only those canonical authorities and members of the hierarchy who embrace Bartel's opinions are to be trusted. As for we who are "adherents" of the SSPX, our "ongoing behavior" offends him. What, pray tell, does he know about any of us?
The fact is that what is happening is exactly what Our Lady warned of when she appeared to Sr. Agnes at Akita in 1973, an apparition approved by the Church. Needless to say, Bartel doesn't quote Our Lady. I will:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres … churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord … Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.
Who are the priests today being "scorned and opposed by their confreres?" It is those very priests (the SSPX and other defenders of orthodoxy) most faithful to Church teaching as handed down through the millennia.
The end note posted by the CWR editor is eye-opening and indicates that the lack of charity was even greater in Bartel's original piece:
(Editor’s note: This essay has been edited for content and tone since being posted. While Mr. Bartel’s arguments in response to the six objections are reasonable and well-stated, I have concluded that some of the language in the final section was problematic and contentious, so it has been removed. I apologize to Mr. Bartel and to readers for the editorial lapses on my part.)
Lack of charity is a serious defect and the SSPX has experienced it over and over again. Their response? They advise their "adherents" to be silent when they are attacked, to pray, and to act in a spirit of charity. They warn us not to "recruit," a common accusation. Their actions speak volumes about their charity in imitation of Christ who, when attacked by the religious authorities of His day, "opened not His mouth." I follow that admonition with the people in my circle who oppose the SSPX. I presume they are people of good will and I respect their consciences. I wish only to receive the same favor from them. But I will respond to unjust attacks on the Society, because part of charity is to defend the innocent, and these priests are good and holy men concerned only with the salvation of souls as was Archbishop Lefebvre.
Whenever I see the lack of charity as evidenced by CM and by Bartel, I take their opinions with a grain of salt (or less). My husband and I are among the "adherents" of the SSPX but relatively new ones. We attended fairground Masses during COVID when our bishop closed our churches. We were so edified by the Society, we decided to join the mission chapel when it formed. We do not dispute the validity of the Novus Ordo (NO), but we believe the fullness of the faith is found in the TLM. For those who want to see what's been lost, read Dan Graham's book Lex Orandi which compares the NO and the TLM side by side.
One commenter responding to Bartel's article offered a number of sources for further study which are worthwhile. I echo what he writes. Study for yourself. Make your own decision, but don't just accept the slanders against the SSPX. I did for years. I'm glad the Holy Spirit woke me up at the fairground in Front Royal:
For those honest and fair-minded people who want to look more deeply into the SSPX situation and arguments in opposition to the position of Mr. Bartel, I urge you to carefully and honestly read the following articles:
A. Insights and comments by Bishop Athanasius Schneider (see Life Site News: March 8, 2022):
B. “Ask Father: What’s the Truth about the SSPX?” (see Fr. Z’s blog: April 16, 2020)
C. “Letter from Rev. Dr. Denzil Meuli, S.T.D., U.J.D., Ph.L., LL.B., Advocate for the Holy Roman Rota. “A Compelling Defense of the SSPX” (see The Catholic Monitor. December 3, 2022). ***
D. “When is it Okay to Go to an SSPX Mass?” (see Cathy Caridi’s Canon Law Made Easy: September 16, 2021)
–Also see the following YouTube Video: “The SSPX is NOT in schism or schismatic. Here’s why.” (See the Kennedy Report: February 12, 2023)
***This letter by Reverend Dr. Denzil Meuli (a recognized super canon lawyer who died just a few years ago), is fascinating in part because he points out that Pope John Paul II was ill-served by his canon lawyers regarding the SSPX case, and as such he applied wrong parts of the canon law to wrongly find the SSPX guilty of schism when a different penalty was more appropriate based on what the SSPX actually did. Meuli does point out that a finding of schism was possible under that part of canon law that the Pope was actually obligated to use under the circumstances, but such would not be applicable to the SSPX situation, again based on what it actually did, and so a lesser penalty was appropriate under canon law. This should be taken very seriously into consideration when people like Mr. Bartel cite the action of Pope John Paul II that was itself a violation of canon law. Meuli offered to discuss his conclusions and rationale with anyone who cared to challenge him, but it appears that nobody wanted to match wits, at least in public, with the redoubtable Reverend Dr. Meuli over a roughly 20-year period of time that they could have done so.
Just a bit more on this by way of an example: Imagine you are accused of X wrongdoing, and based on the nature of what you did, your alleged crime falls under law ABC with possibile penalties 1 and 2. However, the judge in the case, relying on his crack law clerks’ opinions, wrongly tries you under law DEF with 1 penalty. You are found guilty by the judge of committing a specific crime you actually did not commit and the penalty imposed was unjust. Had you been properly charged under law ABC, penalty 2 was the same as the one penalty under DEF, but based on what you actually did, only penalty 1 that is lesser than penalty 2 was the just result. In essence, this is what happened to the SSPX and the wrongful judgment of Pope John Paul II influenced many others to come to the same conclusion and perpetuate the claim that the SSPX is and remains in schism.