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Chiara Lubich, Dependence & SSPX

Focolare & Personal Dependence
People Commenting
Dear TIA,

I heard today that a young woman who was a protege of Chiara Lubich, of the Focolare movement, is going to be beatified soon. I heard that the girl, whose original name I can't remember, was re-named "Chiara", by Chiara herself, as the girl became quite fond of Lubich (it seems to me the girl was idolizing Chiara, who saw fit not to tell the girl to re-name herself "Mary" in honor of our Blessed Mother, but "Chiara", in honor of Chiara).

I am aware that there are cultish characteristics in the Focolare movement, and that it is so "ecumenical" that Catholicism is not even a "preferred religion".

My question is this: if Focolare is indeed a cult, could a member who idolized the cult's founder be validly beatified? Apparently, a miracle has been verified and attributed to this little "Chiara's" intercession. I know the Pope and the Magisterium are infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit, but I have a real problem with this situation. Could you please comment on this?

Thank you so much, and may our Lord, the Good Shepherd, safely shepherd you all at Tradition in Action into the joys of Heaven some day!


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TIA responds:

Dear L.I.,

Thank you for your good wishes for our eternal salvation. Nothing can be more important for us than to achieve the Beatific Vision.

Let us start by distinguishing two points in your letter: first, the goal and orientation of the Focolare movement; second, the personal relation between the founder and one of her followers.

1. The goal of Focolare is to promote religious unity and universal brotherhood. As you pointed out, it is an ecumenical aim and should be criticized for that. We know that the Catholic Church always forbade inter-confessional initiatives (see here, here and here). Following this teaching, true Catholics must resist the ecumenical orientation of the conciliar Popes, who teach an ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue that differs from the past Magisterium of the Church. We are completely free to disapprove of the Focolare movement in this regard.

2. Another thing is the personal relation that you criticize as being cultish.

Certainly we have to be careful not to idolize persons. We are all aware of the terrible influence that great demagogues such as Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini exerted over millions in the last century, and we do not want to see a repeat of such dangers. This is also the case of sects like the Guyana followers of Jim Jones, who committed collective suicide at the order of their idolized leader.

However, there is something very good that always existed among Catholics which is the habitual good influence of superiors over inferiors. Most of the religious Orders were established based on fidelity to their founders. Think about the Benedictine, Franciscan and Dominican religious who honored their founders so much that they named their Orders after them. The Benedictines went so far as to include the name of the founder at the end of the name of each religious: O.S.B., which stands for Order of Saint Benedict. In a certain way each Benedictine adopts the name of the founder.

St. Francis of Borgia and St. Francis Xavier followed the orders of their superior St. Ignatius of Loyola as if he were Our Lord Himself. So, to see Our Lord or Our Lady in a superior is not an act of idolatry per se or something that characterizes a pagan cult. It can well be an act of virtue to be imitated.

This dependence on a superior is not only a religious characteristic approved by the Church, but it is also a reflection of the Natural Order. We have a whole historical era in Christendom that was based on relationships of personal dependence: superior-inferior, suzerain-vassal. This was Feudalism. One thousand blessed years of history were built upon this regime of protection-service. Again, there were no cultish relations in that regime. Those men were models of normality and masculinity.

Two movements appeared that were violently against this natural and religious salutary dependence: they were Protestantism and the French Revolution, both claiming that every dependence was an exploitation. They pretended to liberate men form that 'primitive' feudal stage of History. They created revolutionary myths of independence which at depth repeated the cry of Lucifer: Non serviam - I will not have anyone over me!

Today, the revolutionaries continue to spread that every dependence is bad, without distinguishing the wheat from the chaff.

Therefore, let us be careful not to fall into the error that all cases of religious dependence and all personal relations with superiors are cultish, so that we do not pay tribute to the Revolution.

We hope this will answer your question.


     TIA correspondence desk

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Puzzled inside SSPX
People Commenting
Hello TIA,

May God bless your wonderful work!

I am saddened to hear about Fr. Turco's situation, but at the same time, I'm having some doubts about these expulsions and resignations from the SSPX (whichever came first).

In each instance, the departing SSPX or SSPX-affiliated priest has attempted to portray Bishop Fellay as a tyrant, out to silence any and all opposition to his eventual "sellout" of the SSPX.

Thus far, I've been on both sides of the argument and simply can't make up my mind. I am, to all intents and purposes, CONFUSED.

For me, though, it would help a lot if these priests would simply share the actual letters sent to them by Bishop Fellay so that we could judge for ourselves how they were treated (or "mistreated").

To me, it only adds to the confusion when they simply present their departing letters, making us infer the rest. If they say Bishop Fellay is "this" or "that," fine, show us the first-hand evidence!

Having said that, yes, as an SSPX adherent I've noticed some changes in the SSPX since the lifting of the so-called "excommunications." They may not mean much, but this is what I've noticed:
  1. A lot more caution in criticizing the pope, even when he continues to engage in questionable activities in the name of the "doctrine" of ecumenism. Apparently, gone are the days of the powerful and courageous Lefebvrine "open letters" objecting to such behaviors.

  2. The further silencing of Bishop Williamson, whose photos or witty pieces one couldn't down near escape in the pages of the Angelus magazine BEFORE that infamous interview on Swedish television thundered onto the world scene.

  3. The gradual introduction of the writings of Bishop Sheen, Frank Sheed, and Cardinal Newman, and other selections from Ignatius Press at the Angelus Press website (maybe it's just me over-reacting).
In closing, I admit to being pretty confused and a bit afraid of the unknown. That the SSPX does not let us in on these expulsions and resignations, making the effort to clarify why these priests were "wrong" in leaving, frankly only fuels the fire of disquietude and suspicion. Why not simply take us faithful by the arm and give us a lecture about what precisely is going on? Instead, we are accorded mere silence and simply asked to "trust." I don't think that's enough.

I don't presume to know the reasons behind all this hush-hush.

Maybe there are good ones. I don't know. Yet, from where I stand, I think it would help the faithful a great deal if there were some transparency instead of bits and pieces--coming mostly from priests like Fr. Turco and those that preceded him in the exodus.

Am I wrong for wanting to know?



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TIA responds:

Hello S.K.,

Regarding the first part of your e-mail, although you are correct in saying that some of the priests who left SSPX did not provide evidence for their accusations against Bishop Fellay, others have offered many such documents: letters, magazine articles, interviews. For example, Fr. Juan Carlos Ceriani - in addition to his 5,000-word letter of resignation - also included 11 appendices either in French or Spanish to substantiate his affirmations.

So, the problem is not only that some of them did not present evidence, but also that it is impossible for TIA to translate the number of documents of those who did present evidence. Here are some websites where you may easily request them in Spanish or French: For Fr. Meramo (Spanish & French) ask here, for Fr. Jean de Morgon (French) ask here, for Fr. Ceriani and Fr. Turco (Spanish) ask here.

Thank you for your support and the honesty of your position.


     TIA correspondence desk

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted May 11, 2010

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