On behalf of the purity of faith Saint Paul resisted the first Pope, Saint Peter, to the face. This is to be found in Galatians 2:11 "But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (DRV). Here Saint Paul made the first public statement of Catholic resistance to the teachings of the Council and of the Popes that are objectively opposed to the Magisterium. The Epistle to the Galatians is a piece of passionate writing, and a note of indignation runs throughout.
Today, being the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, i.e. the liturgical feast in honour of their martyrdom in Rome, we think it is appropriate to show how a progressive Maltese priest (René Camilleri) follows the example of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and traditional Catholics, as far as dissent in the Church is concerned.
Who is Fr René Camilleri
Rev. Dr Camilleri read Theology and Philosophy at the University of Malta between 1972 – 1978. In 1979 he furthered his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome obtaining his Doctorate in Systematic Theology under the tutorship of Profs F. A. Sullivan SJ. In 1988 he took his teaching post in the Department of Fundamental & Dogmatic Theology in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta. He teaches Systematic Theology and his main areas of teaching and research are Ecclesiology, Anthropology, Faith and Culture. In 1994 he was Visiting Scholar at Heythrop College, University of London. He had various assignments on the Diocesan level and is a regular contributor in papers and on the media. He is currently the Archbishop’s Delegate for Catechesis. (Source: University of Malta)
In 2012 Camilleri was perceived as a ringleader in an apparent ‘priest’s revolt’, something that he denied, arguing that dissent is sometimes necessary. Fr Camilleri himself refused (along with other priests) to read out the pastoral letter on IVF during Mass.
Fr Camilleri on crisis in the Church and dissent
In an interview around 10 years ago, Understanding Malta 2003: a church odyssey, Fr Camilleri had argued that the Church has to come to terms with today’s reality. He stated that:
|Fr René Camilleri|
"Institutionalised religion in Malta is also in a crisis as it is the rest of Europe. Less people attend mass, less will probably get married through the church, less will give importance to the church’s teachings.
... In the recent past the Maltese church has rested on its laurels just because the majority of people went to mass and participated in religious celebrations.
... I believe that the church has to come to terms with certain things. It needs to deeply reflect on certain issues. We cannot continue to believe that the church is a self-contained reality, as if it were a mother telling its flock what to do. That age has come to an end."
Interestingly enough, the Maltese theologian believed that the Church in its first millennium of existence was very up to date with spiritual and cultural pluralism:
"The church’s mystics were not the yes-men we often portray them to be. There were mystics who were rebels. However, the age of secularisation and today’s culture has thrust into crisis spirituality imposed from above."
In a more recent article, A different Church, Fr Camilleri admitted that there was a rift opening up within the Church in Malta and spoke openly about it. Relevant quotes follow:
"There is and I am not surprised. As I see it, what is happening is that we have a traditionally monolithic Church being confronted with a fast-changing society. It is quite natural for there to be internal dissent under these circumstances. Hopefully, we will mature as a result.
... You should have internal dissent; it is not something to be afraid of. It is in fact healthy; apart from being in the nature of the Church as an institution. Many might not be aware of this, but without internal dissent there would be no Church at all. It would be dead. There was dissent among the original 12, who were chosen directly by Christ Himself. Look at the history of the Church, with its heresies and its persecutions... what was this, if not dissent?
... when obedience amounts to shunning personal responsibility, then it is no longer a virtue at all. I am a priest. I know I have a vow of obedience. But it does not mean we are puppets. Many people believe we should keep our mouths shut at all times. But that is not obedience...
... The irony is that the Church herself celebrates so many people who were disobedient... Christ was the first to be disobedient: he openly challenged the religious authorities of his time...
... the fact that the Church is not democratic does not mean it should be dictatorial. Vatican Council Two makes it clear that even bishops should listen...
... I've been struggling for over 30 years now to have a different Church. I still believe it will happen one day... though it's not around the corner. The bedrock of this Church are those who believe in spite of everything. Fortunately there are still people who retain their faith in spite of the Church, rather than because of her. I rejoice for these people. They are the Church's hope."
Whether one agrees or not with the Maltese priest, some of his words can easily be applied to the work done by Archbishop Lefebvre, albeit originating for opposite reasons.
Archbishop Lefebvre never argued that nothing in the Church is subject to change. He argued (as did Blessed John Henry Newman in his Essay on Development) that authentic developments must be consistent with what preceded them, and since the Second Vatican Council was not consistent with the pre-conciliar Magisterium on several points, it could not command the assent of Catholics. That is a very different argument. Traditionalism (even of the SSPX variety) is therefore not the same thing as integralism.
|Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre|
Another important point of difference is the fact that the dissent of Lefebvre is based on the teaching of several doctors of the Church (whose teachings on this subject were more recently gathered by Blessed Newman) which claim that it is a matter of obedience to God to oppose a pope whose actions tend to destroy the Church.
Thus, if we are to believe the doctors of the Church rather than some self-appointed new 'doctors of apologetics', we really must ask if the dissent of Lefebvre, the SSPX or other traditional Catholics was legitimately trying to avoid the auto-demolition of the Church or if it was merely a desire to be one's own authority.
In connection with this Archbishop Lefebvre said "I do not want to be the head of a movement. I merely want to do what every Catholic bishop is created to do: transmit the same faith that was transmitted to me."
Further, it's very hard to see what mainstream Catholics mean when they say that traditional Catholics deny Vatican II when so many non-dissenting traditionalists have likewise affirmed that the Council is pastoral rather than dogmatic. In fact several of the major seminaries in Rome have approved such conclusions being made as doctoral theses.
At this stage, it is worth repeating (ad nauseam perhaps) that there are traditionalists who accept the Council, are in union with the Church, and are not part of the SSPX. Criticism of the Council from a traditional perspective is valuable, even necessary, for the Church to remove itself from the post-conciliar disaster.
All disunity, whether canonical or ideological, is bad. But to present the existence of an extremely small minority who are in an irregular canonical situation as an equally grave threat as the ubiquitous presence of liberalism in almost every corner of the Church, even in the hierarchy, is just not accurate.
Ironically, since the retirement of Benedict XVI many have implied that he was wasting his time in dealing with the SSPX. There are also those who want Summorum Pontificum to be consigned to the dustbin of history as if the Pope's motivation had nothing to do with wanting to restore liturgical sanity in the Church and was simply to appease some radical traditionalists.
Liberalism and expressions of traditionalism that deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council are both errors. But they are not errors of an equal sort, nor does the Church stand with equal distance from each, nor are the threats from each equivalent.
The hope in Malta is that the more the Tridentine Mass expands, the more souls are exposed to the beauty, the elegance, the glory of more traditional Catholicism.