In an October 2007 column I featured Father J. Patrick Wissman, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Bolivar, Mo., who's no fan of Catholic orthodoxy.
The good Father John Trigilio sent me the following e-mail (slightly edited):
"Father J. Patrick Wissman made the preposterous assertion in October 2007 that 'the use of Latin as partly responsible for the rise and success of Hitler.' He also claimed that Pope Benedict 'was out of touch with the ordinary Church.' In his most recent rant, Father Wissman exposes his schismatic tendencies. He crosses the line between showing dissent from papal teaching and demonstrating open defiance of the Petrine ministry itself. In other words, he sees no need for the papacy.
"A church without a head is a decapitated corpse. Our Divine Lord Himself instituted both the Catholic Church and the papacy when He substantially and integrally connected 'church' (ekklesia) and 'rock' (petra). Elsewhere, Christ made it clear that a house built on sand cannot and will not stand. But a house built on rock will endure. Likewise, the Savior built His Church on the rock of Saint Peter and his successors.
"Vatican I defined papal infallibility a century before Vatican II reaffirmed the dogma in Lumen Gentium. That same Second Vatican Council, in the very same Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, taught about the necessity of the Petrine ministry (papacy) — and not just to make rare ex cathedra infallible statements. 'The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme, immediate and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.' The council fathers went further and quoted Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis) and said 'religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra.'
"Hence, Father Wissman's imprudent and disrespectful attack on Pope Benedict (calling him a 'white-washed sepulcher') is a public repudiation of his authority — pastoral and magisterial. He seems to reject the pope's authority to govern and to teach. Is this not the essence of schism? Anyone who openly challenges papal authority is a schismatic and quite likely a heretic as well, since it is Church doctrine that the Roman Pontiff possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal authority. Papal primacy is not the same as papal infallibility, but the bishop of Rome possesses both charisms and exercises them as he sees fit. No council is superior to a pope (canons 331-332, 336-338, 1372). Only an ecumenical council convened, presided and confirmed by the reigning pontiff has legitimacy, and only those decrees he personally approves.
"Father Wissman seems to think Vatican II can exist extra Petram which would be extra Ecclesiam since, as Saint Ambrose aptly put it, ubi petrus ibi ecclesia. Yet for faithful sons of the Church, it is not a matter of either the council or the pope. It is both the council and the pope. It is also both the ordinary form and the extraordinary form (vernacular and Latin).
"Father Wissman seeks to divide, whereas Pope Benedict unites."
© Matt C. Abbott