Before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, it is well documented that Cardinal Ratzinger sometimes reflected on the fact that orthodox and traditional Catholics have been made to feel unwelcome in their own Church over the past 40 years or so. Even as Pope he has inferred the same. Both the publication of Summorum Pontificum and the Vatican's outreach to the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) witness to the Holy Father's personal desire to make traditional and traditionalist Catholics feel welcome once more within their own Church. His collected writings also suggest that the Pope is aware that many Catholics have been unjustly treated due to an over-zealous application of some of the "spirit of Vatican II" reforms.
Any objective observer of the facts would have to agree that since the implementation of the exaggerated and false interpretations of Vatican II, many (traditional) Catholics have been made to feel like aliens in their own home. Also, it it true to say that whilst it seems every effort has been made since the Second Vatican Council to accommodate the Church's real (internal) enemies, especially those with personal axes to grind against her moral teachings, those who would gladly shed their blood for Christ and the Sacrifice of the Mass have become personae non gratae in many western dioceses.
In an address to the Catholic Bishops of France at Lourdes on 14 September 2008, one year on from the publication of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI explained that one of the primary reasons behind the issuing of this document was the need to let all Catholics know that they are welcome and valued members of the Church. Everyone, he said, especially those attached to the usus antiquior and to the everlasting truths of the faith, should find a home in the Church - including the Lefebvrists as well as those who have always been loyal to Rome. In fact, here is part of what he said to the French bishops when urging them to show pastoral care for those attached to the old Rite: -
"Everyone has a place in the Church, every person without exception should be able to feel at home and never rejected" (emphasis mine).
Recently, I noticed that this very same quote appears on the pro-homosexual Soho Masses website. Although the words are attributed to Benedict XVI on the website homepage, no mention is made of the fact that they were given to the French bishops and were spoken with a specific reference to traditional Catholics and those attached to the usus antiquior.
Taken out of context, as they are on the Soho Masses website, the Holy Father's words seem to imply that he was calling on the Church to provide a place of affirmation within her structures to anyone (Catholic or not), including sexually active homosexuals and / or those with a pro-gay rights' agenda - the Soho Masses group has gained a reputation for promoting the cause of dissenting homosexuals within the Church. In reality, though, Pope Benedict XVI used these words specifically in relation to those traditional and orthodox Catholics who have often and unjustly been made to feel unwelcome as members of the Church since some dioceses appeared to collapse into Modernism during the latter half of the 20th century.
To demonstrate that his words reflected a primary concern for the welfare of those loyal to the truth and the ancient traditions of the Church, as opposed to those with with axes to grind against Catholicism, Pope Benedict XVI even suggested himself in the same address that the Church in some parts of the world had fallen into error. He implied that in some places, the Church's moral and doctrinal teachings had been compromised by so-called members - specifically those who have no qualms in campaigning against Scripture and Tradition from within the Catholic fold.
Quoting St Paul, the Pope emphasized that the French bishops needed to ensure good and correct catechises and liturgy, so that the truth may be preached even when it's not popular to do so, and so they may be able to guard against the appointment of teachers (ordained or lay) who preach a message to "their own liking". Here is what the Holy Father said: -
"'For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own liking, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths' (2 Tim 4:3-4). Recognizing the truth of [St Paul's] predictions, you strive with humility and perseverance to be faithful to his recommendations: 'Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season … be unfailing in patience and in teaching' (2 Tim 4:2)."
From an authentic interpretation of his speech, it would seem that the Holy Father strongly opposes these unorthodox members of the Church - believing that they should be discouraged rather than be given some special place or ministry. In that sense, then, not "everyone" has a place in the Church. By "everyone" the Pope meant every Catholic member. By Catholic, he means all those willing to accept and hold all the Church's teachings - even the ones that are difficult and challenging to live by. In the full context of the Holy Father's speech, then, "everyone" does not include the Church's enemies or those who preach a false gospel.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not so much active homosexuals and progressives who have been made to feel unwelcome by some in the Church's hierarchy, but rather traditional and orthodox Catholics. These are the ones whom the Holy Father wants to Church to embrace and provide with proper pastoral care once more - as opposed to those who "will not endure sound teaching" or who "turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths." Having said that, those who fall into the latter group are welcome to seek reconciliation, to change, to grow and begin living afresh a life wedded to truth and humility. By doing so, even they can discover again their rightful place within the Church.
It is traditional Catholics who have been ignored at best or unjustly treated at worst by some zealously misguided bishops over the past few decades. They have often been badly treated by some members of the hierarchy, whilst those who are engaged in lifestyles that contravene the gospel - like adulterers, fornicators and those engaged in same-sex behavior - have seen some bishops in the Church bend over backwards to accommodate their wants. Those who purposefully choose to live lives contrary to the Church's norms have been granted an insincere welcome, then, at the expense of those who strenuously adhere to the truth "in season and out of season."
Of course, every human being is welcome to attend Mass and seek help from the Church, even her enemies and those who seem to live dissolute or morally objectionable lives. The Church's whole purpose is to save people from sin, so she always embraces those who are searching for salvation and truth - whoever they may be. Having said that, those who want to become members of the Church, and remain within her, need to be willing to convert and amend their lives so as to conform to the Gospel's call to holiness. Just like serial fornicators and adulterers who belong to the swingers' sub-culture, those who live the gay lifestyle or who engage in homosexual sex are called to change and to live chaste lives. In fact, every member of the Church is called to do the same.
So whilst everyone is welcome to attend Mass, those who are members of the Church are not welcome to create their own brand of Catholicism, in which the consequences of sin are negated for socio-political purposes. And, even though anyone can worship God in a Catholic church, not all are able to receive holy communion - dare I say, all are welcome at the Sacrifice, but only those in a state of grace are welcome at the table / altar rail.
With reference to the above, it is also worth noting that in the same address, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that those divorced and remarried Catholics who had not first received an annulment were not normally able to receive holy communion. He also reaffirmed that irregular sexual unions, including non-heterosexual ones, were not to be promoted by the Church. I guess progressives would call the Holy Father's stance on these issues "unwelcoming" or "excluding"?
Of course, the Pope does not mean that these people should be made to feel unwelcome at Mass or their local parishes - it's just that they need to be realistic about the Church's teaching. Yes, everyone is to be made to feel welcome, but let the welcoming be grounded in reality and let it be authentic. Come to Mass; but if you are not in a state of grace, don't come up to receive communion. There is a vast difference between genuine welcome and misguided accommodation.
Isn't it strange that the Soho Masses Pastoral Council didn't refer to the section dealing with irregular unions in the Holy Father speech on its website? Once we read what he actually said, the words seemingly used by the Soho Masses as some form of justification for pro-gay or progressive Catholic movements appear to ring hollow. This is why it is hugely important to contextualize the Pope's words.
Some dissident Catholic movements, it would seem, then, are quite happy to misquote the Holy Father when it suits them - either to avoid dwelling on his message in its fullness or to deceive themselves and others. They can be compared to those liberal or fluffy Christians who often misrepresent or misinterpret the Gospel - overemphasizing Christ's gentleness (and gentle he is) but avoiding his many warnings about the consequences of personal sin, such as eternal Hell and perdition.
To help us truly understand the quote that appears on the Soho Masses website, here is that important section of the Holy Father's address to the French bishops that discussed divorcees and those in irregular sexual unions - as you will see for yourselves, the Pope's words do not chime with the inclusive-at-any-cost philosophy espoused by some militant progressives and homosexuals within the Church: -
For several decades, laws in different countries have been relativizing its [the family's] nature as the primordial cell of society. Often they are seeking more to adapt to the mores and demands of particular individuals or groups, than to promote the common good of society. The stable union of a man and a woman, ordered to building earthly happiness through the birth of children given by God, is no longer, in the minds of certain people, the reference point for conjugal commitment. However, experience shows that the family is the foundation on which the whole of society rests. Moreover, Christians know that the family is also the living cell of the Church.
The more the family is steeped in the spirit and values of the Gospel, the more the Church herself will be enriched by them and the better she will fulfill her vocation. I recognize and encourage warmly the efforts you are making to support the various associations active in assisting families. You have reason to uphold firmly, even at the cost of opposing prevailing trends, the principles which constitute the strength and the greatness of the sacrament of marriage. The Church wishes to remain utterly faithful to the mandate entrusted to her by her Founder, her Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. She does not cease to repeat with him: “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder!” (Mt 19:6). The Church did not give herself this mission: she received it.
To be sure, none can deny that certain families experience trials, sometimes very painful ones. Families in difficulty must be supported, they must be helped to understand the greatness of marriage, and encouraged not to relativise God’s will and the laws of life which he has given us. A particularly painful situation, as you know, concerns those who are divorced and remarried. The Church, which cannot oppose the will of Christ, firmly maintains the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, while surrounding with the greatest affection. ....
Spero columnist Dylan Parry writes at AReluctantSinner.