sisinono title

December 2004 No. 61

Reflections on The Case of Fr. Somerville

Fr. Stephen Somerville


The case of Fr. Stephen Somerville represents yet another abuse by an authority, Cardinal Ambrozic, Bishop of Toronto, in his dealings with a priest who asks nothing more than to be faithful to the Church of all time and to fulfill his own obligation towards the supreme law of every Catholic and priestly apostolate: the salvation of souls.

We have not used this term lightly; we mean to underline explicitly that what Cardinal Ambrozic has done constitutes, strictly speaking, an abuse of authority. Cases such as that of Fr. Somerville, like that of another American priest recently suspended a divinis, or that of Archbishop Lefebvre and many others, are often considered from a purely canonical point of view. One merely asks whether the persons in question have offended against specific articles of canon law, rendering a purely juridical judgment. Cardinal Ambrozic takes this approach with Fr. Somerville:

It is my understanding that you have not "formally" affiliated yourself with the Society of Saint Pius X already mentioned. Such formal affiliation to that Society, whose founder's ipso facto excommunication was declared by the Apostolic See on July 1, 1988, would, as you are probably aware, according to Canon 1364, likewise result in your own immediate de jure excommunication from the Church.

On the other hand, your ongoing association with and celebration of the Tridentine Mass for members of the Society of Saint Pius X give external recognition to their illegitimate claims and their lack of submission to our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, to Bishops appointed by him, and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Your actions are also a potential source of scandal to clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

In light of all the foregoing, with due observance of Canon 1342, 1, and Canons 1717-1720:

Given your flagrant disregard for my previous warnings to cease and desist from your disobedient behaviour (cf. Canons 1330; 1347, 1);

Given the existence of the condition for grave imputability of your actions (cf. Canon 1321);

Given the absence of extenuating circumstances (cf. Canons 1322-1324);

I hereby decree, in your regard, the imposition of the censure of suspension as laid down in Canon 1333, 1, 1-3.1

In vain did Fr. Somerville attempt to remind his bishop of a fundamental truth: the Faith is the foundation of canon law, and not the contrary. Therefore canon law cannot be applied to the detriment of the Faith. Fr. Somerville cites two important quotations in support of this principle: "A state of emergency requires emergency measures, during which the normal restrictions are suspended for...the care of souls. The present state of the Church is such an emergency"; "it is wrong to obey a command contrary to justice and damaging to faith for the sake of the lesser virtue of obedience." He adds:

These words, written to vindicate Archbishop Lefebvre in ordaining the four bishops, as so maintaining Catholic Faith and sacraments, also seem to justify my alleged disobedience to yourself in supporting the ensuing pastoral work of Lefebvre in the SSPX. About obedience itself, which Your Eminence laments my alleged falling short of (par. 2), I am striving, especially these last three years to affirm obedience to all the Popes and Toronto Archbishops (up to 1958) and to the Catholic Tradition they supported and embodied. I do this because Tradition as the co-source of Revelation, comes from God, whom it is better to obey than man.2

It is precisely the relationship between positive canon law and positive divine law, the pre-eminence of the latter over the former, and the basis of the former in the latter that make it possible for us to understand and commend the painful stand Fr. Somerville has taken. Many others before him have already suffered all the persecutions consequent on choosing to "obey God rather than men," as will many after him.


The Function of the Law and its Limits

Every law, by its nature, is framed in universal, general terms, insofar as it is posited in view of the common good.

Every law is directed to the common weal of men, and derives the force and nature of law accordingly....Now it happens often that the observance of some point of law conduces to the common weal in the majority of instances, and yet, in some cases, is very hurtful. Since then the lawgiver cannot have in view every single case, he shapes the law according to what happens most frequently, by directing his attention to the common good (emphasis added).3

In another passage St. Thomas reinforces this point:

General precepts are framed according to the requirements of the many. Wherefore in making such precepts the lawgiver considers what happens generally and for the most part, and he does not intend the precept to be binding on a person in whom for some special reason there is something incompatible with observance of the precept (emphasis added).4

Thus a law, by its very nature, cannot foresee exceptional and extraordinary cases, which may nevertheless arise. How should one behave in such extraordinary circumstances? The Angelic Doctor addresses this as well, in his treatment of the virtue of prudence:

Now it happens sometimes that something has to be done which is not covered by the common rules of actions.... Hence it is necessary to judge of such matters according to higher principles than the common laws, according to which synesis [right common sense -Ed.] judges; and corresponding to such higher principles it is necessary to have a higher virtue of judgment, which is called gnome [the faculty of discernment or discretion -Ed.], and which denotes a certain discrimination in judgment.5

In the course of our argument one should to keep in mind that in exceptional cases-in cases that the law cannot foresee-it is necessary to have recourse to principles superior to those of ordinary and common law. If by synesis is understood the virtue of correct judgment concerning those things that do not follow from ordinary rules, gnome indicates the virtue of correct judgment in accordance with higher principles in those extraordinary circumstances where it is necessary to depart from common rules. Now, canon law is "a complex of laws by which the Church is ordered and directed, by the authority of Christ Himself and His vicar, so that the faithful may be led to the proper end of the Church."6 As a "complex of laws," canon law has that generality which is characteristic of law. It is nonetheless clear that cases can be verified that have not been foreseen or legislated by ecclesiastical law. In such cases it would be necessary to have recourse to higher principles, such as divine law, whether natural or positive.

From the classical definition of canon law just given we glean a further consideration, namely that the constitutive feature of law is its end. Let us look back at a Thomistic text we have already cited:

Every law is directed to the common weal of men, and derives the force and nature of law accordingly....Now it happens often that the observance of some point of law conduces to the common weal in the majority of instances, and yet, in some cases, is very hurtful.... Wherefore if a case arise wherein the observance of that law would be hurtful to the general welfare, it should not be observed (emphasis added).7

What follows is a clarification which should be read carefully:

Nevertheless it must be noted that if the observance of the law according to the letter does not involve any sudden risk needing instant remedy, it is not competent for everyone to expound what is useful and what is not useful to the state [i.e. to the common good]: those alone can do this who are in authority....If, however, the peril be so sudden as not to allow of the delay involved by referring the matter to authority, the mere necessity brings with it a dispensation, since necessity knows no law (emphasis added).8

To summarize: in cases of extraordinary [in the literal sense of "not ordinary" -Ed.] necessity, cases which the law, by virtue of its universal character, cannot foresee or about which, more simply, it does not legislate in order to avoid complications, it is possible not to obey ordinary law by having recourse to higher principles. In such cases it is a matter of observing that a law cannot be applied in a specific case, because its enforcement would be contrary to the very purpose of law, which is always the common good.


"Indiscreet" Obedience

To apply a legal norm or to obey it in the exceptional case in which its observance conflicts with higher principles is not obedience, but rather the negation of the principle of obedience. And this in so far as:

1) If it is true that obedience is the highest moral virtue, nevertheless it is not the greatest of the virtues. In fact "the end is greater than that which is directed to the end" and so

...those, namely the theological, virtues whereby [man] adheres to God in Himself, are greater than the moral virtues, whereby he holds in contempt some earthly thing in order to adhere to God.9

It is therefore clear that the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, having God as their immediate object, are superior to every other virtue, including obedience, which is in the service of these virtues and not to their detriment. Therefore one is never, in any manner and for any motive, permitted to stop believing in God and in all that He has revealed, nor to stop hoping in Him and even less to stop loving Him with one's whole self.10 To exchange the means (obedience), however sublime, for the end (theological life), is to subvert the order willed by God. More simply put: to use obedience contrary to the purpose for which the Lord established it is to go against obedience itself.

2)Every man is obliged to obey God in everything:

It is written (Acts 5:29): We ought to obey God rather than men. Now sometimes the things commanded by a superior are against God. Therefore superiors are not to be obeyed in all things.11

For this reason, St. Thomas synthesizes, there are three kinds of obedience:

...[O]ne, sufficient for salvation, and consisting in obeying when one is bound to obey; the second, perfect obedience, which obeys in all things lawful; thirdly, indiscreet obedience, which obeys even in matters unlawful (emphasis added).12

St. Thomas Aquinas is even more explicit when he discusses matters of scandal. He affirms:

Passive scandal implies that the mind of the person who takes scandal is unsettled in its adherence to good. Now no man can be unsettled, who adheres firmly to something immovable. The elders, i.e., the perfect, adhere to God alone, whose goodness is unchangeable, for though they adhere to their superiors, they do so only in so far as these adhere to Christ (emphasis added), according to St. Paul: "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 4:16).13

Therefore, since the will of God is the first law,14 there is no legitimate motive which could make it licit to distance oneself from it, not even in order to obey one's superiors.


Resistance to Authority as Obedience to God

We have now seen that it is illicit to obey a legitimate authority or its norms when, in a particular situation, they contradict higher obligations. In cases of public danger to the Faith and to the salvation of souls, there is not only a right but even an obligation to resist them publicly. Again it is St. Thomas who points the way.

It must be observed, however, that if the Faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith.15

Nor can one prescind from public resistance on the grounds that one is no better than the object of reproof:

To presume oneself to be simply better than one's prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault.16

With regard to St. Paul's resistance to St. Peter, St. Thomas writes:

...especially when the danger is imminent, the truth must be publicly preached, nor should one do the contrary out of fear that someone be scandalized....The correction was just and useful, and its motive was of no little importance: it had to do with a danger to the preservation of evangelical truth.17

And here St. Thomas cites an admonition of St. Gregory the Great: "If people are scandalized at the truth, it is better to allow the birth of scandal, than to abandon the truth."18 This can easily be understood if one reflects that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).

For the sake of completeness, other citations from illustrious authors can be brought to bear. Vitoria, a theologian of the 16th century, legitimizes resistance to the supreme ecclesiastical authority by evoking the right to self-defense:

One must resist to his face the pope who publicly destroys the Church...[Consequently, if he should wish to give all the treasure of the Church or the patrimony of St. Peter to his relatives, if he should want to destroy the Church, or do anything else of this kind, one should not permit him to act in this way, but one would be under the obligation to offer him resistance. The reason for this is the fact that he has no power to destroy; therefore, on observing that he does so, it is licit to resist him....We do not make this affirmation so as to imply that every individual can judge the pope or have authority over him, but in the sense that it is legitimate to defend oneself. Everyone, in fact, has the right to resist an unjust act, to seek to impede it and to defend oneself.19

It should be noted that Vitoria underlines that the pope, like every authority, does not have the "power to destroy." This passage brings to mind another in Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council:

The Holy Ghost has not been promised to the successors of Peter that they might manifest...a new doctrine, but that with His assistance they might in a holy manner keep and faithfully expound the revelation transmitted by the Apostles which is the Deposit of Faith.20

Thus when it is observed that the teaching of the pope is in some way contrary to divine revelation, every Catholic is obliged not to adhere to such a teaching, and to impede the diffusion of this teaching and its spiritual harm to the faithful. The pope is indeed the vicar of Christ; accordingly his authority is limited from on high by Jesus Christ himself. Therefore, when there is a contrast or even merely a divergence between that which the pope teaches and that which Christ has taught and entrusted to His Church over the centuries, the faithful must follow Christ without hesitation. They must do everything possible so that their brothers and the Vicar of Christ himself return to the obedience of the One Lord. St. Robert Bellarmine confirms this principle:

It is licit to resist a Roman pontiff who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist by not obeying and by impeding that his will be executed.21


The State of Necessity

In view of what has been set forth, it is clear that the fundamental question is now that of determining whether such a state of danger to the Faith and to souls now in fact exists, and in what terms. Readers of this journal probably have no need of further proofs of the gravity of the situation that we are now living in the Catholic Church. For over 30 years we have not ceased to denounce, in spite of everything, abuses, heresies, doctrinal errors and every sort of danger to the integrity of the Faith. We can synthesize the crux of our resistance in Fr. Somerville's own words:

I have come to know with respect and admiration many traditional Catholics. These, being persons who have decided to return to pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass and Liturgy...have taught me a grave lesson. They brought to me a large number of published books and essays. These demonstrated cumulatively, in both scholarly and popular fashion, that the Second Vatican Council was early commandeered and manipulated and infected by modernist, liberalist, and protestantizing persons and ideas. These writings show further that the new liturgy produced by the Vatican "Concilium" group, under the late Archbishop A. Bugnini, was similarly infected. The New Mass is especially problematic. It waters down the doctrine that the Eucharist is a true Sacrifice, not just a memorial. It weakens the truth of the Real Presence of Christ's victim Body and Blood....

Let us enumerate some of the most important grounds for our resistance:

1.) The doctrine on religious liberty, which pretends to affirm a direct right of the personal conscience independent of the truth and the rights of God. This doctrine has been repeatedly condemned by the popes, up to and including Pius XII. In this regard it is enough to recall the intervention of His Eminence Cardinal Quiroga y Palacios, who criticized Cardinal Bea's schema De Libertate Religiosa in the following terms: "All this is totally contrary to Catholic doctrine as transmitted by everyone and expounded and defended by the supreme pontiffs up to today."22

2.)The New Mass, deemed not invalid but guilty of obscuring all those elements that differentiate the Catholic Mass from the Protestant meal. This brings it about that the faithful who participate in it gradually lose the Catholic sense of the Mass as a true sacrifice and adopt dangerous attitudes and ideas. It is no secret that the New Mass was brought about in order to bring us closer to our Protestant "brothers." In regard to this new Mass, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci wrote that it "represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass"23

It is obvious that the New Order of Mass has no intention of presenting the Faith taught by the Council of Trent. But it is to this Faith that the Catholic conscience is bound forever. Thus, with the promulgation of the New Order of Mass, the true Catholic is faced with a tragic need to choose.24

3.) Ecumenism, understood by the current pope and the hierarchy as an irreversible path, a duty not to be renounced. It is enough to behold the fruits that it has produced: disorientation and confusion among the faithful, loss of faith in the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation, the failure to distinguish between the one true religion and false religions.

Clearly it is not possible here to elaborate on each of these points in this space; we limit ourselves to referring to what we have already written and to the abundant available material.25 Nonetheless, we should like to address one objection. Sometimes it is conceded that we may be perfectly right about all these matters, but that the fact remains that neither the pope nor the official hierarchy recognizes this state of necessity. We respond that a state of necessity exists regardless of who may recognize it. Objectivity derives from correspondence to reality, and not from consensus. The agreement of the pope does not constitute the objective reality of a situation, but merely confirms it. If, however, the pontiff does not recognize the extraordinary gravity of the situation, that does not mean that such a situation does not exist. Nor can it then be objected that we agree with the pope when he thinks as we do, and disagree with him when his affirmations contradict our own.... We, like the pope, are all obliged to conform our minds, thoughts, and deeds to that which God has revealed and transmitted through Holy Mother Church. We all owe obedience to her unchanged and immutable teaching; and the pope is at the service of this teaching. When, however, the pope is in disagreement with the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium of his predecessors, we must resist him and attach ourselves forcefully to Tradition.

Thus the fact that many today in fact fail to recognize the grave state of necessity is a further proof of the crisis, since this failure shows that the larger part of the Catholic people and of the hierarchy no longer have a Catholic mentality, and do not judge by the parameters of the Faith. We cannot fail to sense that Jesus' admonition is addressed also to our own generation:

You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time? And why, even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just (Lk. 12:56-57)?

One must nevertheless note that the most recent pontiffs have themselves denounced the gravity of the situation, even while they have continued to pursue ruinous paths, refusing to turn back. Pope Paul VI spoke of the "self-destruction of the Church"26 and of the "smoke of Satan in the temple of God."27 Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of a congress on missions, denounced the profound and disconcerting disorientation of Christians by the wide circulation of ideas contradicting the truth.28 In his recent encyclical Ecclesia in Europa this same pope does not hesitate to speak of a "silent apostasy!" Apostasy, confusion, disorientation, tepidity, etc., are words also on the lips of current bishops.

In the midst of this generalized apostasy, we must insistently reaffirm that each Catholic has the right and the duty to defend the Faith when it is menaced. This is because to defend the Faith is to defend the salvation of one's own soul, the irrevocable duty of every baptized Catholic.


The Consequences of the State of Necessity

According to the common classification of theologians, the current situation can be defined as a grave and general spiritual necessity. To this category belong those situations in which the Christian people, because of the insistent action of heretics or unbelievers, run the risk of losing the Faith.29Contemporary circumstances assume even more gravity when the following factors are taken into account:

1.)A large part of the Christian people has already lost the Faith [apostasy] to the point of not knowing what the Faith is; it is all too often likened to a natural religious sentiment or to philanthropic behavior.

2.) No single heresy is being disseminated, but rather what Pope St. Pius X famously called the "synthesis of all heresies," that is, modernism, appearing in a different, more seductive and alluring guise and, above all, with the support of Authority.

3.) Pastors not only do not watch over their flocks, but many of them are the foremost promoters of such errors.

At this point we may raise the legitimate question: what are the consequences of such a situation of total disorientation, where not only is no help forthcoming from the pastors, but they are leading their flock astray? In a situation of grave necessity the duty of helping one's brothers in danger is incumbent on everyone, according to their abilities. This obligation weighs especially heavily on those who are invested with the sacrament of Holy Orders. In fact, the power of orders makes the duty of charity towards one's neighbor-even when it is not a duty of office and thus of justice-into a true duty of state.30 If indeed "someone can remove another from a state of grave spiritual necessity... he sins mortally by omitting to do so."31 A priest "is obliged to risk his life in order to administer the sacraments to persons who would otherwise be in danger of losing the Faith."32

It is precisely this duty that Fr. Somerville feels incumbent upon him:

Now it is surely clear in the deplorable state of the Church today that a profound and widespread necessity for holy Catholic sacraments and faithful Catholic teaching is pressing upon us.33

And further:

May Jesus lead the bishops and priests of the Toronto Archdiocese to make this rediscovery, as urgently as possible; the salvation of multitudes depends on it. May the thought of an awesome Judgment Day add compelling motivation to this most pressing task.34

The grave and general necessity of souls confer the power of administering the sacraments even on an excommunicated priest, just as it confers validity on sacraments that would normally require jurisdiction. In the Church solus animarum suprema lex-the salvation of souls is the supreme law. For this reason the Code of Canon Law ordains that every priest can validly and licitly absolve penitents in danger of death,35 even if the priest should be excommunicated.36 In fact,

every priest by the power of the keys (the power of orders) has the faculty over all and for all sins, and the fact that he cannot absolve everyone from all sins depends on the limitation or privation of jurisdiction, ordained by ecclesiastical law. But, since "necessity has no law" [Decretals 3,46,2], in a case of urgent necessity the disposition of the Church does not impede that he absolve sacramentally, from the moment that he has the power of the keys.37

It is common doctrine that "grave common necessity is equivalent to extreme necessity [of an individual]."38 Therefore the extreme necessity of an individual and the grave necessity of many mean that the power of orders can and ought to be exercised in all its fullness, independent of the dispositions of the hierarchical superior.

This can also be understood from a different point of view. The Code of Canon Law normally contains norms based on positive or natural divine law as recognized by the ecclesiastical authorities, and ecclesiastical laws, which are norms established by the Church in the person of the legislator.39 As we demonstrated in the first part of our article, extraordinary cases can arise, not foreseen by the law which by its nature looks to general and ordinary cases. It is clear that, in such extraordinary cases, ecclesiastical laws, being of human origin, cannot in any way contradict laws of directly divine origin. Therefore if such a contradiction should appear, the human law must be abandoned in favor of divine law.


The Position of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X

In the epistolary correspondence relating to the suspension a divinis of Fr. Somerville, the Bishop of Toronto and Msgr. Camille Perl both insist on defining the Society of Saint Pius X-with whom Fr. Somerville has begun to cooperate in assisting the faithful with Holy Mass and the unchanged sacraments-as "schismatic."

We have already addressed the absence of such a schism, as have others.40 In this place we would simply like to point out the implications of our arguments for the subject. Let us summarize the conclusions we have reached up to now:

1.) No law, from whomever it might emanate, can oblige insofar as it contradicts the common good and revealed or natural law.

Every law is directed to the common weal of men, and derives the force and nature of law accordingly...if a case arise wherein the observance of that law would be hurtful to the general welfare, it should not be observed....41

2.)A law which is just in ordinary circumstances can be applicable in extraordinary situations, when its application might contradict higher and binding obligations.

Now it happens sometimes that something has to be done which is not covered by the common rules of actions.... Hence it is necessary to judge of such matters according to higher principles than the common laws.42

3.) In such cases he who "acts beside the letter of the law, does not judge the law; but of a particular case in which he sees that the letter of the law is not to be observed."43

Once these sacrosanct principles are clear, it is possible to understand the action of Archbishop Lefebvre and the current situation of the Society of Saint Pius X. As is well known, Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops on the basis of the grave situation in the Church. It is clear that, had he not taken this step, souls faithful to Catholic Tradition would soon have found themselves without bishops and thus, in a short time, without seminaries, priests, or the Mass. When the Archbishop proceeded to the consecration of the bishops without papal mandate he did not in any way call into question either the power of the Supreme Pontiff, or the fact that ordinarily such consecrations would constitute a schismatic act. He simply maintained that, in the current situation (1988), the material obedience ordinarily due the Supreme Pontiff would have entailed grave harm to the Church and to souls. This is clearly expressed in the declaration he made on the occasion of the consecrations:

It is not indeed in a spirit of rupture or of schism that we conduct these episcopal consecrations, but in order to come to the aid of the Church: we affirm our attachment and our submission to Holy Church and the Pope.44

And in fact Archbishop Lefebvre did not confer that which he could not confer-the power of jurisdiction-but only the fullness of the power of orders.

If some day, I had already said, it should be necessary to consecrate bishops, the only episcopal function they would have would be to exercise the power of orders, but they would not have the power of jurisdiction, not having a canonical mission.45

No one, not even the pope, can legitimately impede an action that is indispensable for helping souls that run a grave risk to their Faith and, therefore, to their eternal salvation-the first end (together with the glory of God) of every faithful and of the whole Church. The pope is not a tyrant; if his power is indeed absolute within its domain, it is not superior to that of God. Once again St. Thomas reminds us that

...there is that [good] to which we are bound of necessity, for instance to love God, and so forth: and by no means may such a good be set aside on account of obedience (emphasis added).46

By the "and so forth" is evidently meant that commandment which, in accordance with the evangelical lesson, is "similar" to the love of God, namely love of one's neighbor. To love one's neighbor means above all to love his soul, to will and effect everything possible for his eternal salvation. Archbishop Lefebvre did precisely this.

In his case, however, the benevolent comprehension and openness, so often invoked in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogues of the Vatican, has not been forthcoming. Excommunication was ruthlessly undertaken, notwithstanding the fact that the 1983 Code of Canon Law exempted Archbishop Lefebvre from this penalty. Fr. Somerville brought this to his own bishop's attention:

Yet here Msgr. Perl fails to mention what he surely knows, that Canon 1324 exempts from all penalties one who breaks a law out of necessity, even if the person disobeying is mistaken.47

A corollary of the argument made up to now is that the excommunication leveled against the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X is simply invalid. The validity of an excommunication does not in fact derive from the simple fact of having been pronounced by a legitimate authority (in this case, the pope); this is a necessary but not sufficient condition. It is also necessary that the measure be just and founded on the truth. To deny this would be to justify a tyrannical use of authority in the Church, something that the Church has never accepted. Some episodes afford concrete illustration of this. Let us only mention three of the best known names: St. Athanasius, Savonarola, Padre Pio. The first was excommunicated by Pope Liberius; but such an excommunication, even if pronounced by a legitimate pope, could not be valid, insofar as it was not founded on the truth. The second was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, but we know that the rehabilitation of Savonarola has been promised. In this regard Fr. Umberto degl'Innocenti, O.P., dean of the philosophy faculty at the Pontifical Lateran University, recalls that "a most exceptional situation" is not to be judged by "the criteria of ordinary administration," and that

one must above all distinguish men from institutions, and persuade oneself that it can be licit and sometimes necessary to scold the first without involving the second; that the conscience of all is obliged to resist iniquity, especially when it is publicly manifest and has thus become a snare to souls.48

The third, Padre Pio, was suspended for years from confession and from celebrating Holy Mass in public. With what justice the Church has judged by canonizing him.

It is clear that the Church has never understood law in a purely formal and legalistic sense. Accordingly, the excommunication of 1988 was no more valid than any other action against justice and truth would be.



We hope and pray that the example of Fr. Somerville may lead other priests and bishops to take the same courageous step. The glory of God and the salvation of souls demand it. How can souls survive in the anti-Catholic jungle of this world if it is not possible for them to nourish themselves and drink from the pure sources of Catholic sacraments and dogma? Let us behold the sad everyday spectacle: a multitude of faithful who have lost the immutable Faith, who exchange the Holy Mass for a gathering of friends, to which each one brings his own contribution; faithful who see the priest as a kind of human psychologist from whom they no longer seek the means to have eternal life; who have lost sight of the ultimate realities and been charged with building a pacifistic, environmentalist "better world." Let us also look at all those who have separated themselves from the Catholic Church, deceived by those who tell them that there is no need to return to the sheepfold, that the Catholic Church has abandoned the ecumenism of "return" for that of "unity in diversity." Let us also look to the masses of people who do not believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, people immersed in the darkness of error, duped like gullible little children by those who sing the praise of false religions, following which they will not find salvation. Let us look to all these brothers and let us ask the Lord that He impress us with His own sentiments: "I have compassion on the multitude" (Mk. 8:2). This was the grounds of our

Lord's compassion: "they were as sheep not having a shepherd" (Mk. 6:34).

We believe that all who have the true good of souls at heart, who burn with apostolic zeal, who are conformed to Christ in charity towards their neighbor will be able, with the grace of God and the support of the Most Holy Virgin, to turn decisively to Catholic Tradition, overcoming the fear of being unjustly persecuted: "The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:20). Of those who will have this necessary courage, as of those who have already had it, we affirm, together with St. Thomas:

The spiritual man, by reason of the habit of charity, has an inclination to judge aright of all things according to the Divine rules; and it is in conformity with these that he pronounces judgment through the gift of wisdom.49


Translated exclusively for Angelus Press (SiSiNoNo, Oct. 31, 2004). Edited and abridged by Miss Anne Stinnett and Fr. Kenneth Novak.

1. Letter of Cardinal Ambrozic (July 15, 2004).

2. Letter of Rev. Somerville to Cardinal Ambrozic (Aug. 9, 2004).

3. Summa Theologica, HI, Q.96, Art.6. [All quotations from the Summa are taken from the English edition prepared by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benzinger Bros., 1948; reprint, Christian Classics, 1981). Hereafter abbreviated ST.]

4. Ibid., II-II, Q.147, Art.4.

5. Ibid., II-II Q.5I, Art.4.

6. Cocchi, Commentarium in Codicem luris Canonici (1925), I, 19.

7. ST, MI, Q.96, Art.6.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.,II-II,Q.I04,Art.3.

10. Cf. ibid., ad 3.

11. ST, II-II, Q.104,Art.5, s.c.

12. Ibid., ad 3.

13 ST, II-II, Q.43, Art.5.

14. Cf. ST, II-II, Q. 104, Art. 1.

15. ST, II-II, Q.33, Art.4, ad 2.

16. Ibid., ad 3.

17. Super Epistolam S. Pauli Apostoli ad Galatas, c. II, lect. III.

18. In Ez. hom.7, cit. in Summa Theologica, II-II, Q.43, Art.7, s.c.

19. De Vitoria, Obras, pp.486-487.

20. Denz. 3070.

21. Bellarmine, De Romano pontifice, II, c.29.

22. Acta et Documenta Concilia Oecumenico Vaticano II Apparando. Series II Praeparratoria II. 4, cit., p.728.

23. A. Bacci and A. Ottaviani, The Ottaviani Intervention.

24. Ibid.

25. A variety of such material is available from Angelus Press. (Ask for a catalog.)

26. Discourse of Pope Paul VI to the Lombard Seminary in Rome (Dec. 7, 1968).

27. Cf. discourse of Pope Paul VI (June 30, 1972).

28. Cf. L'Osservatore Romano (Feb. 7, 1981.

29. Cf. E. Genicot, Institutiones theologiae moralis (Brussels, 1936), 217b.

30. Cf. St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Theologia moralis, 16, tratt. 4. n.625.

31. E. Genicot, Institutiones..., cit. 217b.

32. Cf. St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Theologia moralis, 1.3, tratt. 3, n.27.

33. Letter of Fr. Somerville to Chancellor Murphy (May 29, 2004).

34. Ibid.

35. CIC, 976.

36. Cf. C/C (1917) 2261.

37. ST, Suppl, Q.8, Art.6.

38. P. Palazzini, Dictionarium morale canonicum, I, 571.

39. Cf. Genicot, Institutiones, cit. 85.

40. E.g. Michel Simoulin, 1988: Lo scisma introvabile.

41. ST, I-II, Q.96, Art.6.

42. Ibid., II-II, Q.51, Art.4.

43. Ibid., I-II, Q.96, Art.6, ad I.

44.Cited in Simoulin, 1988: Lo scisma, p.31.

45. Fideliter, May-June, 1988.

46.ST, II-II, Q.104,Art.3, ad 3.

47. Letter of Fr. Somerville to Chancellor Murphy (May 29, 2004). Article 1323 of the CIC reads as follows: "He is not liable to any penalty who, when he violates law or precept...acts under the constraint of grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or out of necessity or because of some grave inconvenience." The following article then says: "The author of the violation is not exempt from the penalty established by the law or by precept, but the penalty should be mitigated or substituted by a penance, if the delict was a person constrained by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or by necessity or by grave inconvenience...; through an error, of which he is culpable, believing that one of the circumstances of canon 1323, n. 4 or 5 applied [the canon previously cited]."

48. Umberto degl'Innocenti, O.P. La normadella Fede secondo ilSavonarola (Rome, 1969). Cf. Fr. Tito Centi, O.P., La scomunica di Girolamo Savonarola (Milan, 1996).

49. ST, II-II, Q.60,Art.l, ad 2.


Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)

December 2004 Volume XXVII, Number 12

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