A few days after refusing the Society of Saint Pius X pilgrimage group, Knock Shrine made a press release clarifying its position. The salient part was as follows:
As the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) has an irregular canonical relationship with the Catholic Church, they are not allowed to celebrate Mass publicly at the Shrine or on Shrine grounds. They are most welcome to pray the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other prayers […]
Despite the claim that the SSPX is “most welcome to pray the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other prayers”, this is apparently not what was conveyed to the priests and laity on the day, who understood that they were not allowed to perform any public act as a group… Be that as it may, what is certain is that Knock Shrine will not permit the SSPX to celebrate Mass on the site. Why? Because it “has an irregular canonical relationship with the Catholic Church”.
But, does Father Gibbons really care about canonical irregularity? Clearly not. In August 2014, he performed an ecumenical service with the Church of Ireland “Bishop” of Tuam and Athenry in the basilica at Knock. During this ceremony, “Bishop” Rooke was the leader, with Father Gibbons acting as assistant. Furthermore, the same Rooke was a guest speaker at the 2017 Knock Novena…a matter of weeks before the Society of Saint Pius X was refused permission to celebrate Mass there! The Knock website announced his participation in the Novena as follows:
To mark 500 years of the Reformation, Rt Revd Patrick Rooke (Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry Diocese- Church of Ireland) will be welcomed for the ceremonies on Friday 18th…In the context of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Bishop Rooke will speak on ‘Reformation, Remembering and Reconciliation’, which will take a reflective look at relations between the churches and explore paths to reconciliation.
But, “Bishop” Rooke is a prominent representative of the Church of Ireland, which itself is a part of the “Anglican Communion”. As such, the CofI traces its roots to Henry VIII, who, by refusing the authority of the Pope, placed the Church of England outside of the Catholic Church. As a result, the CofI has been in an irregular canonical relationship with the Catholic Church for over five hundred years now! Not only that, but it is officially and permanently determined to remain outside of the canonical structures of the Catholic Church, it refuses the authority of the Pope in principle, and it rejects many other of the infallible Teachings of the Church. To cap it all, Anglican orders were definitively declared invalid by Pope Leo XIII.
On the other hand, the SSPX’s “irregular relationship” was never of its own making, but was imposed by Church authorities largely because it wasn’t going along with the new ecumenical charade which the Church had always previously condemned. Furthermore, the SSPX recognises the authority of the Pope, and is 100% faithful to the Church’s constant Teaching in all matters.
So, Father Gibbons clearly considers some canonical irregularities to be more equal than others. Perhaps he thinks that, like wine, they improve with age!
On the contrary, Pope Pius XI taught us what the attitude of Church authorities should be towards non-Catholic groups, such as the Church of Ireland. In his encyclical Mortalium Animos, he says:
[…] The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it […] Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated by their blood; to that See, We repeat, which is “the root and womb whence the Church of God springs,” not with the intention and the hope that “the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” will cast aside the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they themselves submit to its teaching and government. Would that it were Our happy lot to do that which so many of Our predecessors could not, to embrace with fatherly affection those children, whose unhappy separation from Us We now bewail. Would that God our Savior, “Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”, would hear us when We humbly beg that He would deign to recall all who stray to the unity of the Church! In this most important undertaking We ask and wish that others should ask the prayers of Blessed Mary the Virgin, Mother of divine grace, victorious over all heresies and Help of Christians, that She may implore for Us the speedy coming of the much hoped-for day, when all men shall hear the voice of Her divine Son, and shall be “careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
While we must deplore and protest the injustice of Father Gibbons’ exclusion of the Society of Saint Pius X and the equally unjust and uncharitable inclusion of heretical Church of Ireland representatives, we must also pray that he will soon return to the Church’s Traditional Teaching on and attitude towards non-Catholics, as repeated by Pope Pius XI.
Our Lady of Knock, pray for us!
Saint Patrick, pray for us!