been some repercussions in the press to a decree by His Excellency
Clemente Isnard, Bishop of Nova Friburgo (RJ), forbidding his clergy to
give Communion to TFP members when they present themselves in a group or
with their insignia. The prelate alleges three reasons to justify his
attitude against the TFP: defamation of Cursillos in Christianity;
contempt for authority and for his person; and support of a “schismatic”
book about the new Ordo Missae.
start with the third allegation, certainly the most important. And I say
from the outset that Bishop Isnard’s allegation does not embarrass me in
* * *
all, the document by the Bishop of Nova Friburgo gives me the opportunity
-- and what a decisive one! -- to show how a recent accusation against the
TFP by Bishop Lorscheiter, the Secretary General of the CNBB, is
understand what happened we need to go back in time a little. When the
bishops held a meeting in São Paulo in February, certain sectors of
Catholic opinion were eagerly hoping for a total condemnation of the TFP
and an approval of the Cursillos. With that they hoped to significantly
diminish the impact of the TFP’s large campaign to spread a new and
already well known Pastoral Letter by Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer.
was blatantly misplaced. If Cursillo members or sympathizers wanted to
save their organization from the harm the Pastoral Letter caused it, the
only loyal and noble way would be to refute the impressive document of the
Bishop of Campos. But keeping silent and then resorting to a
sleight-of-hand (in this case through the CNBB) to try and crush our
campaign was a blatantly sinuous and tasteless move.
as it may, the fact is that during the CNBB meeting a commission of
bishops proposed a resolution whose wording made it seem necessary, but at
the same time useless, to address to the TFP a word of reproach or
guidance. One reason for this alleged uselessness was that issuing a “text
with a doctrinal explanation would mean opening a controversy, something
so fitting the group’s [i.e., our organization’s] taste."
CNBB assembly did not accept this motion, clearly derogatory to the TFP.
So, for one reason or another, the TFP’s name is not mentioned in the
CNBB's final communiqué. Also, the communique makes a polite reference to
the Cursillos which falls far short of the outright praise they expected.
these facts with all self-assurance, certain that no one will contest
CNBB assembly was over, in order to mitigate the disappointment of the
Cursillos, Bishop Lorscheiter very contradictorily stated to the press
that the CNBB did not make a statement (implying a censure) about the TFP
because that is precisely what the TFP would want the bishops to do. In
other words, the bishop thinks the TFP likes to engage in polemics for no
reason. Bishop Lorscheiter was trying to revive, in different terms, the
accusation that the CNBB’s plenary assembly had rejected.
now prove to Bishop Lorscheiter how the TFP, far from liking controversy
for its own sake, avoids disputes when it deems them at variance the with
the good of the Church and of the country. Bishop Isnard’s own violent
decree is what leads me to do so.
* * *
quite true that in 1970 one of the TFP’s directors, Mr. Arnaldo Vidigal
Xavier da Silveira, wrote a thorough study, based on solid documentation,
about the new Ordo Missae. The TFP approved this study.
certain doctrinal implications of the sensitive issue which it addresses,
this study would likely raise a number of theological and canonical issues
the Brazilian public is not familiar with. The book’s publication could
give rise to serious factors of division and disruption in the country’s
already highly troubled and divided religious horizon.
liked to have people talk about us at all cost and polemicize over
anything, as Bishop Lorscheiter imagines, we would have published the book
from the outset. We decided not to do so, but only distributed some copies
of the work to a limited number of elite personalities, asking for their
the recipients of the study — a top-ranking ecclesiastical personality who
has disagreed with us more than once – was so impressed with the books’
possible impact on public opinion that he wrote a mutual friend asking “on
his knees, if need be” that the TFP not publish the work. For this reason
we have kept the most scrupulous silence about it from June, 1970 until
sua fata libelli -- each book has its
history, one would say in plain English. From that date to this day, the
book by the brilliant TFP director has made its way. But we have kept a
most persevering silence about its discreet journey.
Meanwhile, in a large number of churches, priests who were probably
unaware of all this kept tirelessly subjecting our members and volunteers
to public invectives and humiliations of all kinds, regarding our attitude
towards the new Ordo Missae. But no one in our ranks ever opened
his mouth to defend himself with the arguments contained in the book,
because we continue to consider the request by that top ecclesiastical
authority “on his knees” as well-founded. In all humility and patience, we
chose to keep silent.
to assume that Bishop Lorscheiter – who fancies we are so fond of fame and
controversy – was unaware of much of these facts and of just how unfounded
his accusation really was.
Bishop Isnard publishes an official ecclesiastical document fulminating
canonical penalties against the TFP for adhering to Mr. da Silveira’s
book, which he brands as “schismatic." One would say this is a lot more
than the straw that broke the camel’s back.
this step we will not come out and publish the book’s contents. This is
what the TFP has established, with the full consent of the book’s author,
because we do not believe that the damage the Bishop of Nova Friburgo’s
decree inflicts on us is considerable. We will change our direction only
if other events emerge which absolutely compel us to speak.
words, if something happens which we would see as causing truly serious
damage to the TFP’s reputation we will come out in public with the whole
subject. Not out of self-love, but because serious damage to the TFP’s
reputation would so favor the left that the spiritual and temporal common
good would require us to break our silence.
happens, responsibility for it will fall squarely upon - mind you – those
who have forced us to do so.
book, Mr. da Silveira expressly affirms his unwavering fidelity to the
doctrine and discipline of the Church. And while he raises some delicate
issues of theology or canon law, he does so by declaring in advance that
he defers to the full extent required by Canon Law to whatever the Church
herself eventually decides. This is precisely the position of the TFP. Our
consciences are therefore entirely at peace with regard to our perfect
union with the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
lived our whole lives in the Church and for the Church. In her we intend
to die; and also for her, if Divine Providence so decides.
Isnard’s accusation of schism does not disturb us.
space in this article, I will analyze the remaining parts of his
statement, God willing, in my next one.