Now that Summorum Pontificum has gone into effect, there are some interesting battle-lines being drawn. One of the most perceptive comments I’ve yet seen regarding the Holy Father’s motu proprio comes from Mr. Edwin Faust, who likened it to the Battle of Milvian Bridge and the Edict of Milan. That victory and that law did not make Rome Catholic, but they safeguarded Catholic liberties in the Empire. It was not until the reign of Theodosius the Great (379-395) that the Faith became Rome’s state religion. Mutatis mutandis, similar events have just occurred in the Church. Tradition is not the rule of the day, but it has been decriminalized. That is an important beginning. It is up to us who love tradition in all its fullness to avail ourselves, respectfully, prayerfully, gratefully, and zealously, of the tremendous “teachable moment” Pope Benedict has given us. A future “Pope Theodosius” can advance the cause of tradition to the next level.

In our own diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, the first episcopally approved Traditional Mass of recent memory was offered this past Sunday by Father Martin Kelly at St. Patrick’s Church in Nashua. On a personal note, I can say, with Mr. Oliver McMahon, “Thank you, Father Kelly. Thank you, Bishop McCormack.” (See “Everything Old Is New Again.”)

So far so good, but what do I mean by “battle lines”? Here’s one: Right in Italy, in the Pope’s back yard, the Bishop of Caserta, Most Reverend Raffaele Nogaro, is in open defiance of the Supreme Pontiff. (See “Italian Bishop to Pope: Take a Flying Leap!”) Could the aging bishop be offering a test case for the progressivists — much as, say, some feminist organization tries to force the Boy Scouts to admit a girl, or a pro-buggery organization forces them to accept a “gay” scout master? Maybe, but Bishop Bagnasco obviously disagrees with His Excellency, Monsignore Nogaro (see “Summorum Pontificum Seen as Unifying, Italian Bishops Back Letter on Latin Mass”).

Things are not exactly quiet on the doctrine front, either. There is the case of the theologian, Father Peter C. Phan, a one-time president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Recall “the Latin Footnote?” It appears to have stepped on the theologian’s toes.

The excerpts below are from an article by Sandro Magister (whose styles are retained) with my emphasis and comments.

The theologian is Peter C. Phan, and the book, released in the United States in 2004, is entitled “Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interreligious Dialogue.” Clever name, eh?

As the book’s title implies, question in dispute is that of the “unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church,” the Christological doctrine reaffirmed in 2000 by the declaration “Dominus Iesus.”

Phan is the fourth leading theologian to go under review after the publication of “Dominus Iesus.” Before him, and for the same reasons, the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith issued notifications against three Jesuits: Jacques Dupuis, in 2001; Roger Haight, in 2004; and Jon Sobrino, in 2006.

In July of 2005 Phan received, through the then-bishop of Dallas, Charles Grahmann, a letter from the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith, signed by archbishop Angelo Amato, the second in command at the congregation, which until three months before had been headed by Joseph Ratzinger.

The letter listed 19 observations, grouped under six headings, about six passages from the book “Being Religious Interreligiously.”

The points in question concerned, above all, the doctrine of Christ as the only savior of all men, the necessity of the Church for salvation, and the salvific value of non-Christian religions.

In the congregation’s judgment, Phan’s book was “in open contrast with almost all the teachings of the declaration Dominus Iesus.”

The congregation asked Phan to write an article correcting his theses, and not to have the book reprinted. Phan responded with a letter in April of 2006, in which he posed objections to the measures taken and asked for monetary compensation for the writing of the requested clarification. Wow, what hubris! Imagine Arius charging Pope Saint Sylvester and Constantine for his address to the Council of Nicea!

No other letters came to Phan from the Vatican after this. But in the meantime, a second inquiry about him had begun, this time carried out by the doctrinal committee of the U.S. Bishops. It’s not only Rome. The U.S. Bishops are on him. (…)

The doctrinal committee includes, as consultants, two cardinals in close agreement with Ratzinger: Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, and Avery Dulles, a Jesuit theologian. Dulles, once a disciple of Father Feeney, may recall some things about the necessity of Christ and the Church for salvation. One can always hope.

And as the reader can see, the controversy very much concerns “our issue.”

All friends and benefactors will be remembered in our prayers on the Pilgrimage for Restoration next week. On my own behalf and that of my fellow pilgrims, I ask you — please — to pray for our souls… and our soles!

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