Galerreta comments on Theological Commission

Bishop de Galarreta’s comments from his sermon given at La Reja seminary on December 19, 2009. DICI, 1-31-2010

At the end of the sermon he gave on December 19, 2009, during the ordinations at the seminary of La Reja (Argentina), Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta provided some information and his judgment concerning about the doctrinal discussions that began last October between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X. These remarks, coming from the person at the head of the delegation of the Society’s theologians, are of particular interest. We herewith provide some lengthy excerpts from his sermon:

Bishop de Galarreta characterized as “good” the atmosphere in which the first meeting with the Roman theologians took place, considering the circumstances and expectations.

Last October 26, the first meeting with the Roman Commission took place, and while obviously I cannot relate certain details, certain circumstances, or certain things that were said, I can nonetheless tell you the outline of what happened and what we did. This first meeting was relatively good; I say relatively, since it pertains to the circumstances in which we find ourselves and the hopes that we may reasonably entertain. So, considering these circumstances and what one might expect, the meeting was good."

Then Bishop de Galarreta explained that the discussions were good because they are exclusively doctrinal and bear solely on the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium.

It was good first of all because these meetings are clearly placed on the doctrinal level. It involves a commission which has as its objective the study of doctrinal questions, and which does not have as its finality the consideration either theoretically or practically of any kind of accord whatsoever of a purely legal, canonical, or practical nature. That question is totally excluded. And this was very clearly stated. It is a discussion situated solely and exclusively on the doctrinal level. Secondly, it is a discussion about the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium; to be precise, on the Council and the post-conciliar magisterium.

The subjects, the themes, of which we shall treat have been well established; they are the ones concerning all the questions, all the themes, we have been critiquing for 40 years, especially religious freedom, the modern liberties, the freedom of conscience, the dignity of the human person—as they say—the rights of man, personalism, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, inculturation, collegiality–the egalitarianism, the democratism, and the destruction of authority that have been introduced into the Church; as well as all the notions of ecclesiology which have totally changed what the Church is: the question of the “self-consciousness” of the Church, the Church as communion, the Church as sacrament, the Church as the People of God; and all these new ideas about the relation between the Church and the world.

Then there is the question of the Mass, the new Mass, the new missal, the liturgical reform…, and still other themes. We agreed to have a doctrinal discussion on all these themes. And the most important thing, which was very clearly established, is that the only common criterion possible for these discussions is the anterior Magisterium.

I repeat: the only common criterion possible, the sole criterion that we accept and that is a condition sine qua non for these discussions, is the magisterium prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Magisterium of all time, Tradition.

The method for conducting the work adopted by the members of the commission is also, in Bishop de Galarreta’s eyes, a guarantee of its seriousness.

I consider that it was a good beginning if we look at the methodology that was adopted. There will be meetings every two or three months: every three months when a new theme is to be taken up, and every two months when the same theme is under discussion. If we begin on a theme and continue it, the following meeting may take place in the next two months; but if we have to prepare a new question, we need three months’ time. And it was decided that the Society, whose delegation I direct, will be first to submit a study of a particular theme…. The Roman experts must answer us in writing, and then, on the basis of these two documents, the oral discussion will ensue, after which a written document will be issued.

Everything is being recorded by their side and by ours, and it is also being filmed. So, though for obvious reasons we cannot relate everything that we are saying and studying, everything will be documented: there will be a testimony that is written, recorded, and filmed—before you, before the Church, before God. At the close of each encounter, we will draft a report showing if there was agreement (on points of view) or not, and where the problem lies. The topic will be defined and greater precision added, and upon completion of each question, we shall compile a dossier to be forwarded to the other members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, if the prefect judges it suitable, and to other Congregations if there is a dicastery interested by the theme under discussion; for example, the one on the Mass will of course be made in collaboration with the Congregation for the Liturgy and for Divine Worship. And then, for each of the themes debated, a dossier, a written summary, as I said, will be given to the pope and to the superior of the Society.

Once again, this commission’s objective is not to reach some kind of doctrinal agreement, which would be deleterious. No. We are simply going to bear witness to the faith, defend it, do the good we can, and at any rate we shall defend the honor of God, the honor of Our Lord, and the honor of the Church, which is the main thing, if you have understood what I said at the beginning [of this sermon] on the mediation and function of the priest, and that is what matters.

The intellectual caliber of the Roman interlocutors enables them to grasp perfectly the objections formulated by the Society’s theologians. But, Bishop de Galarreta reminds us, only Our Lord can enlighten minds.

Our interlocutors—I am referring here specifically to our counterparts in this commission—are people with whom one can speak. They understand our language, they understand what we are saying, and they understand our objections very well. We can speak peaceably and in all freedom, and that is enough. If up to that point everything depended on our corresponding with the grace of God, from now on we might say that everything depends entirely on the grace of God, because God, Our Lord, and He alone, is the inner Master Who can illuminate minds and convert [wills]. Only God can touch hearts. We are going there to preach—as I am doing right now—but touch your mind or your heart, only God can do that, and as we do not know God’s designs, we do not know where this will go. What we do know for sure is that He can do everything. For God nothing is impossible. He can convert when He wishes, as He wishes, and whom He wishes."

If he recognizes the incertitude that exists in every human enterprise, Bishop de Galarreta clearly reaffirms the two-fold certitude the Society possesses in these discussions:

I am giving you these explanations so that you may have some measure of peace and reassurance. If these circumstances, which seem to me absolutely sure, were to change, then we would reconsider whether these discussions, these contacts, should continue or not. We do know clearly what we are not disposed to accept.

If we do not know perfectly how things may evolve, on the other hand we do know very clearly what we have no intention of doing under any circumstance: firstly, to yield on matters of doctrine, and, secondly, to make a purely practical agreement. With these conditions and with the disposition which is theirs to agree for the first time to discuss the Council, for this is indeed the first time they have given us the opportunity to present to them a profound doctrinal critique based on the Church’s perennial magisterium—it’s the first time! —clearly, we must do it. Then, God will tell!

Prudence shows us what we ought to do now but not exactly what we should be doing in three or six months because circumstances can change. Be that as it may, what is clear for us is that the mission of the Society is essentially, before all else, even before going to Rome, to bear witness to the Faith. We must perpetuate, safeguard, transmit, and live the true Catholic priesthood. We must keep, defend, live, and transmit the true sacrifice of the Mass."