Sunday, July 27, 2008

Philip Lawler and Canon Law

"There's a lot of controversy among people who study the so-called Holocaust..There's a misperception that Hitler had a position to kill all the Jews. It's all a fraud. Six million people..it didn't occur." - Douglas Bersaw of the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, quoted in The Boston Globe article "Cherishing an Older Catholicism."


Fr. Edward Arsenault, Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Manchester, wrote a letter to Mrs. Terri O'Rorke in which he stated that Bishop John McCormack has asked the faithful "to refrain from participating in any of the spiritual exercises at the Saint Benedict Center [in Richmond, NH]." To which he added, "For my part, I will continue to make it clear that Saint Benedict Center has no affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church in any way.."

Now canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law makes it clear that, "The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church."

And canon 223 of the Code of Canon Law states that, "In exercising their rights the Christian faithful, both as individuals and when gathered in associations, must take account of the common good of the Church and of the rights of others as well as their own duties toward others."

As part of a recent Blog post, "I wrote: "It is very troubling that Mr. Philip Lawler will be attending the 2008 Saint Benedict Center Conference which is to be held in Nashua, New Hampshire next month. This because the Center has no relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and has been listed as an anti-Semitic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center."

I stand by this statement. And I would still like to know why Mr. Lawler attended the 2008 Saint Benedict Center Conference as a guest speaker. Especially since The Most Reverend John McCormack had previously asked the faithful "to refrain from participating in any of the spiritual exercises at the Saint Benedict Center."

Was Mr. Lawler aware of Bishop McCormack's stance relative to the faithful participating in the spiritual exercises and activities of the Saint Benedict Center? If so, why did he ignore the Bishop on this matter? Would such an attitude constitute compliance with canon 212? Isn't it true that Bishop McCormack, as both a representative of Christ and a leader of the Church, should have been obeyed in this matter?

And what of canon 223? Again, the canon states that: "In exercising their rights the Christian faithful, both as individuals and when gathered in associations, must take account of the common good of the Church and of the rights of others as well as their own duties toward others."

If Mr. Lawler was aware of the Bishop's stance regarding participation of the faithful in the spiritual exercises and activities of the Saint Benedict Center and chose to ignore His Excellency, can we honestly say that he was he taking into account "the common good of the Church" and his own "duties toward others"?

In a comment left at this Blog, Mr. Lawler wrote (in part): "I do not endorse or support anti-semitism or Holocaust denial. Anyone who knows me realizes that those charges are outrageous." To which I responded (in part): "Mr. Lawler, it is good to know that you are not supportive of anti-Semitism. And no one here has accused you of such. Therefore, kindly refrain from suggesting otherwise...

You write, 'If I had been aware of the statements attributed above to the St. Benedict Center, I would have reconsidered my appearance (which has already taken place). And if anyone can demonstrate that those quotes are accurate I will denounce them.' If you had taken the time to familiarize yourself with the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond before agreeing to appear as a guest speaker at their Conference, you would have learned that the local Ordinary, The Most Rev. John B. McCormack, has referred to statements issued by the Center as being offensive to all people of good will. You would have familiarized yourself with the article published by The Boston Globe and entitled 'Cherishing an older Catholicism' which states that, 'The St. Benedict Center has no relationship with the Diocese of Manchester, and Bishop [John B.] McCormack has not given them permission to do ministry in New Hampshire," said Diane Murphy Quinlan, the diocese's vice chancellor. "They are not in union with the church.'

If you had taken the time to familiarize yourself with the Center, you would have learned that the television program Chronicle devoted an episode to the anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of the Center. Perhaps in the future you should exercise some common sense and good judgment before associating yourself with an organization which is so questionable. The Saint Benedict Center is not in communion or affiliated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church. A simple google search would have revealed this to you. If you're still not satisfied, why not contact the Diocese of Manchester yourself?"

Let's hope that Mr. Lawler will provide us all with some clarification.

22 comments:

Meredith said...

In his book, which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way, Philip Lawler doesn't hesitate to make certain observations about Bishops who were negligent in their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. But it would appear that he considers himself above any questioning as to his own character or motives. Isn't this a double-standard? I thought his comment here was arrogant. It's as if he were saying "How dare you even question me." Questions do not equal charges. I think you hit a nerve Mr. Melanson.

Alzina said...

Perhaps we should add an eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not question Phil Lawler.

Ellen Wironken said...

Where does Mr Lawler stand with regard to the Church's interpretation of EENS? Does he accept the Church's understanding or does he embrace Feeneyism? Why has he suddenly gone silent? You either accept the Church's teaching or you do not. Which is it Mr. Lawler? Are you committed to the Church's teaching or the private opinion of an organization which has no relationship with the Church?

Marie Tremblay said...

Ellen, that's really the $64,000 dollar question isn't it? Although I enjoyed the book as did Meredith, now I have serious and substantial concerns about Philip Lawler. I would also like to know where he stands on "Outside the Church there is no salvation." Does he accept what the Catechism teaches on this matter?

I agree with Paul. I would like some clarification on these issues.

Michael Cole said...

Feeneyism has been repudiated by the Church. And it's time to for those unfortunate and deluded souls who embrace it to move on. In the words of Fr. Neuhaus, "..can anyone really believe that the likes of Gary Wills, on the left, or the Society of St. Pius X, on the right, are the future of the Catholic Church? The extreme discontinuants of the left are angry because their understanding of Vatican II's promise of their preferred future has been broken. The extreme discontinuants of the right are angry because they believe Vatican II broke the Church's promise to maintain a preferred past. Both promises are the product of imaginations in different orbits. Both parties live off their anger; both live off the Church that they condemn." (Catholic Matters, pp. 198-199).

It is the same with the Feeneyites. They live off the Church that they condemn as teaching "heresy" or of being "in error."

These spiritually cramped misfits will continue to argue that the teaching Church is wrong and they alone are right even as they struggle to understand why the faithful (for the most part) aren't interested in their peculiar logic or why they cannot authentically ordained priests to serve the needs of their "community."

Feeneyism is dying by the grace of God. It is not the way of the future. The Holy Spirit will never bless infidelity.

Anonymous said...

I think that Phil Lawler spoke at the Saint Benedict Center Conference for the money. He has a wife and seven children to support.

Matlee said...

Lawler wrote, "If I had been aware of the statements attributed above to the St. Benedict Center, I would have reconsidered my appearance...And if anyone can demonstrate that those quotes are accurate I will denounce them."

The quotes are accurate and this has been demonstrated. Where is his denunciation?

There is an old axiom: You are known by the company you keep. Other speakers at the Conference were Gary Potter who, (as Paul has shown), has referred to the Holocaust as the "so-called Holocaust" and Tim Ehlen of Building Catholic Communities. Recently Catholic University cancelled a lecture series organized by Ehlen because of his views and associations with anti-semitic individuals. Ehlen's website - www.buildingcatholiccommunities.org - has a link to the infamous IHS Press which is also deeply anti-semitic.

I'm not convinced Lawler was totally unaware of the anti-semitism of the Saint Benedict Center and some of the other guest speakers. I remain suspicious of him at this point. And his silence only makes matters worse in my opinion.

Amanda said...

Anonymous says, "I think that Phil Lawler spoke at the Saint Benedict Center Conference for the money. He has a wife and seven children to support."

Jesus said it profits us nothing to gain the whole world if we lose our soul in the process. Since when does monetary gain justify wrongdoing? And surely the proceeds from his book have been more than ample to supply his immediate needs?

I'm with Matlee. His silence on this matter is suspicious.

Ted Loiseau said...

Amanda and Matlee, I couldn't agree with both of you any more. Also disturbing is the fact that Stormfront - one of the most venomous white supremacist hate groups - has publically defended the SBC. Doesn't this trouble Mr Lawler at all? I guess not judging by his refusal to address any of the real concerns expressed here. He's probably hoping that this will just "go away."

Since he hasn't denounced the anti-semitic statements issued by SBC leaders, I think there is real reason for concern here. But then, Mr. Lawler didn't hesitate to ignore the Bishop's statement that Catholics should not participate in SBC activities. Is he that unconcerned with following the Church?

Michael Cole said...

A discussion thread was initiated at the HCCNS website merely questioning why Philip Lawler would attend the 2008 SBC Conference in Nashua when the SBC has been listed as an anti-semitic hate group by the SPLC and leaders of the SBC have engaged in Holocaust denial. That thread was deleted. It would seem that Philip Lawler has friends who are most anxious to see that he is not even questioned, this as people are allowed to post one discussion thread after another bashing liberal dissident groups and individuals.

Is the HCCNS website anti-semitic? Why aren't Catholics even allowed to question Philip Lawler?

I think it's a good thing that the Vatican has recognized the growing problem of anti-semitism in the Church. It's possible that SBC sympathizers have infiltrated the HCCNS website.

John Ansley said...

Michael, while THAT thread was deleted, another titled "I am psychologically disturbed" and purporting to have been written by Paul has not been deleted. The anonymous - and uncharitable person - who posted in Paul's name (while using his email address) wrote: "Somebody help me. I'm so hooked on Vatican II and quoting totally obscure magisterial documents that I should receive therapy."

I find this very alarming. If Vic Melfa deleted the thread on Mr. Lawler, one has to ask why. Mr. Lawler's association with the anti-Semitic Saint Benedict Center which is based out of Richmond, New Hampshire, an organization which has been defended by the likes of Stormfront, is, to say the least, very unsettling. That this thread would be deleted while the post attacking Paul's character is allowed to stand is even more unsettling.

What is going on at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society?

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to note that the Saint Benedict Abbey in Still River (Harvard) Mass. *is* in good standing with the Diocese of Worcester. They were also an offshoot of Feeney, but have been reconciled to the bishop for a long time, and the activities/Masses there are "kosher." (I called the Diocese of Worcester office at 508-791-7171 to make sure, since I go to their Latin Mass.)

Mary-Louise

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Mary-Louise, but of course. As a matter of fact, I used to attend Holy Mass there from time to time in the 1990's as did my parents.

I would urge those who are looking for a Latin Mass to avoid the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire and instead attend Holy Mass at St. Benedict's Abbey or any place else which is in communion with the Church.

Obedience in all things. God love you Mary.

Jesuit John said...

I don't know ANYTHING about Lawler or the Saint Benedict Center Conference.

But I noticed some of y'all seem to have added a bit when quoting the Bishop: At first it seems the Bishop bans participation in "spiritual exercises" but then y'all question Lawler's noncompliance with the Bishop's ban on "spiritual exercises AND activities" - maybe y'all can clarify. It seems the distinction may be important.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Jesuit John,

You wrote, "I noticed some of y'all seem to have added a bit when quoting the Bishop: At first it seems the Bishop bans participation in 'spiritual exercises' but then y'all question Lawler's noncompliance with the Bishop's ban on 'spiritual exercises AND activities' - maybe y'all can clarify. It seems the distinction may be important."

Actually, it isn't. According to Fr. Arsenault, Moderator of the Curia, Bishop McCormack has asked the faithful "to refrain from participating in any of the spiritual exercises at the Saint Benedict Center." The word "any" speaks for itself.

You have no argument here. Engaging in semantics is fruitless. The Diocese of Manchester has also stated that the Saint Benedict Center has no permission to do ministry in New Hampshire. No permission.

Since the Diocese has stated plainly that the Saint Benedict Center has no relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and no permission to do ANY ministry in the State of New Hampshire, obviously the Bishop is asking the faithful to avoid any and all spiritual exercises and activities of the Saint Benedict Center.

Your use of semantics in a poor attempt to provide wiggle room for Mr. Lawler speaks for itself. Interesting too is the fact that your comment was left on the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I don't think he would approve. The great Saint was big on obedience.

lowdenclear said...

Surely the phrase "spiritual exercises" calls for some elucidation. Would a Mass celebrated by an SBC priest count? Surely. Benediction? Equally surely. A lecture, opened with a prayer? Probably. A public debate on Extra ecclesiam? Maybe but maybe not. Has the bishop or his curia clarified whether a meeting or lecture counts under this heading?

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Obviously you haven't read my comment above. The Diocese of Manchester has stated clearly that the Saint Benedict Center has no permission to do any ministry in the State of New Hampshire. Therefore, the Bishop's meaning is crystal clear.

However, since you suggest that, "the phrase 'spiritual exercises' calls for some elucidation," I submit the following: The word "exercise" is defined as "The discharge of a duty, function, or office."

The Saint Benedict Center Conference qualifies as a "function."

Your attitude toward the Bishop's authority is, in a word, perverse. Much as Fr. Feeney's attitude was perverse.

RC said...

Oh, pshaw. The whole argument about a canonical fault in this matter sounds strained. Have you actually discussed this with a trained canonist?

I can't insist on my rightness, since I'm not one either, but there do seem to be a few weak spots in the argument.

The bishop's directive in an unpublished letter to an individual wouldn't by itself have force vis-a-vis Catholics in general. Or did the bishop publish it? I couldn't tell from your commentary.

The idea of including conferences under the category of "spiritual exercises" is questionable. That term refers to devotional acts and retreat talks, not to instructional lectures on religious subjects. Even the term "ministry" refers to the celebration of the sacraments and the celebration of the liturgy, not to educational events.

But perhaps you can fill these gaps in the argument by finding a published statement from Bp. McCormick whose language forbids Catholics to attend any event organized by the SBC.

Anyway, my acquaintance with a couple of canonists reminds me of one principle they often cite: burdens are to be interpreted narrowly and privileges broadly. That is to say: in matters of interpretation, doubts are always to be resolved in favor of individuals.

It's appropriate that you should write about a disaffected group such as the SBC on this blog, where the reconciliation of sinners is a prominent theme. Sad to say, the more they wander into crazy ideology, the harder that reconciliation becomes.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

RC, it's good that you have recognized that the Saint Benedict Center has wandered into "crazy ideology."

However, your argument from Canon Law doesn't wash. Fr. Arsenault, speaking on behalf of the Bishop, stated clearly that: "As you know, the Saint Benedict Center has no permission or authority to exercise any Ministry on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire. Bishop McCormack has and will continue to do all that he can to encourage people to refrain from participating in any of the spiritual exercises at the Saint Benedict Center."

Again, the word exercise is properly defined as,"The discharge of a duty, function, or office." And the Saint Benedict Center Conference is just that, a function.

But this is a moot point. If you were familiar with Canon Law, you would know that it deals specifically with the erection and suppression of religious houses and that, for example, Canon 609 states clearly that: "Houses of a religious institute are erected by the competent authority according to the constitutions with the previous written consent of the diocesan bishop." But this consent has not been granted.

The same Canon stipulates as well that, "In order to erect a monastery of nuns the permission of the Apostolic See is also required." Where is this permission RC? Kindly provide me with a copy of this permission if you have it. I will provide you with my post office address.

You cannot. Why? Because the Saint Benedict Center has no permission from the Apostolic See to erect a monastery of nuns. The are not affiliated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church. They have absolutely no canonical status in the Roman Catholic Church. This according to the Diocese of Manchester.

Elizabeth said...

The Saint Benedict Center is not a bona fide religious community. This is what Fr. Edward Arsenault meant when he said they are not affiliated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church.

Legitimate religious follow Canon Law. And Canon 678 says that: "Religious are subject to the authority of bishops, whom they are obliged to follow with devoted humility and respect, in those matters which involve the care of souls, the public exercise of divine worship and other works of the apostolate."

If the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond were a legitimate religious community erected canonically with the consent of the diocesan Bishop, they WOULD have permission to do ministry within the Diocese of New Hampshire. But they are not.

And so, the questions remain: Mr. Lawler, were you aware that the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire has no permission to do any ministry in the Diocese? Were you aware that the local Bishop asked the faithful to avoid any of their spiritual exercises? And if you were aware of these facts, why did you attend their conference as a guest speaker?

We are still hoping for some answers Mr. Lawler.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

RC, I have decided not to publish your last comment. You have an unhealthy desire to argue and defend the Saint Benedict Center. The SBC has no permission to do ministry. The Bishop asked faithful Catholics to avoid participating in their spiritual exercises but Mr. Lawler did so anyway. Perhaps you should take up your argument with the Diocese of Manchester. They're in the phone book.

By the way, my copy of the Code of Canon Law (prepared by the CLSA) translates Canon 609 (2) thusly: "In order to erect a monastery of nuns the permission of the Apostolic See is also required." The passage makes no mention of regulating only cloistered contemplative nuns.

But you strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel. Mr. Lawler's association with the Saint Benedict Center is troubling because the Center is not in communion with the Church, has no permission from the Bishop to do any ministry, has engaged in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and proposes an interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus which contradicts the Church's understanding and teaching of the dogma.

Again, your argument is not with me. It's with the Church.

Good luck to you.

Roger Vaste said...

Paul, I agree with you that RC is playing games. Thanks for sharing his last attempt at a comment. He wrote, "..if they [the SBC in Richmond, NH] ever claim falsely to be a canonical religious community, then that's an imposture and it's wrong. I won't go so far as to accuse anyone of doing that because I don't know what canonical status they claim for their MICM group."

While the SBC is now saying [at their website] that they have never said they have canonical status in the Church, they sure seem to have implied it in the past.

For example, Eugene R. De Lalla, one of the group's more vocal members in the past, stated the following at the Keene Sentinel Talkback forum on January 5, 2007:

"Funny, how liberals and the anti-Catholics (and let's face it, that's what is going on here!) seem to "tolerate" the bizarre and their own twisted views, but when it comes to SBC -- a Catholic organization in good standing with Rome (surprise!) catering to ALL those of good will, the true intolerance surfaces.."

How can the SBC be "a Catholic organization in good standing with Rome" without having obtained canonical status? In order for an organization to be able to claim that it is both "Catholic" and "in good standing with Rome," that organization must have canonical status.

That would seem to represent imposture. But don't expect RC or his associates to acknowledge this fact.

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