The aims and history of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
(For Church and Pope)
In the last thirty-five years, many Catholics have become increasingly concerned about the growing crisis in the Church. This "genuine crisis" has repeatedly been acknowledged by the late Pope John Paul II, but especially in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendour of Truth - section 5). It has manifested itself in this country in the following ways:-
- Mass attendance in free fall
- lack of belief in and reverence for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
- a declining number of Catholics frequenting Confession
- far fewer baptisms, confirmations and marriages
- a reluctance to encourage non-Catholics to convert to the Faith coupled with an increasing prevalence in false ecumenism
- failure to teach the authentic Catholic Faith in Catholic schools, resulting in a staggering 90% lapsation rate among school leavers
- a deliberate shelving of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
disregard of virtually all Vatican directives
- open dissent from the Magisterium at all levels in the Church
- a drastic reduction in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life
- a conspicuous lack of forthright preaching on faith and morals
- the spread of radical feminist, pagan and New Age ideologies and practices within the Church.
All these have been confirmed by various reports and official statistics and they demonstrate only too clearly that, if nothing is done, the Catholic Church will virtually cease to exist in this country in 20 to 30 years time.
Formation and Emergence of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice:
In 1981, members of a number of established lay initiatives, loyal to Church and Pope, came together to form an 'umbrella' group to co-ordinate an organised orthodox response to the crisis within the Church by making representations to the Bishops of England & Wales and to the Vatican. Under the banner Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, a national committee of individuals representing all the member organisations was formed. This organisation would act as a focal point for gathering and disseminating evidence to illustrate how the Faith was being undermined, thus giving a voice to the 'silent majority' of practising Catholics who were particularly concerned about the lack of sound Religious Instruction being imparted in schools. This work continues today at a local level in dioceses throughout the country. Two national meetings - in Preston in 1981 and at Porchester Hall in London in 1982 - brought Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice into the spotlight.
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice's continuing emergence was given added impetus in 1985 with the convocation of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops called by Pope John Paul II to examine the impact and implementation of the Second Vatican Council in the Church throughout the world. The bishops' decision to authorise a Universal Catechism of Catholic teaching in the light of Vatican II appeared to endorse the concerns of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and other concerned Catholics throughout the English-speaking world. It was hoped that a new Catechism would help to combat the widespread ignorance of the Faith among ordinary Catholics, many of whom had been educated since the Council. In many cases, parents were victims of modern catechesis and in consequence were themselves unable to pass on the Faith to their children. Such problems were exacerbated by the continuing problem of Catholic schools being unable - and in many cases unwilling - to support parents who were sufficiently knowledgeable about the Faith and who were worried about what their children were being taught. In anticipation of the Synod and as its own response to the preliminary period of consultation called for by the Bishops of England and Wales, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice held the first of a series of weekend seminars featuring distinguished clerical and lay speakers, at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon. These would continue on a bi-annual basis until 1997, highlighting the magnitude of the crisis within the Catholic Church in general and the Church in England & Wales in particular. These meetings collected a nucleus of well informed concerned lay Catholics who were eager to resist any false interpretation of Vatican II documents and to challenge the vague, so-called 'spirit of Vatican II' invoked to justify all kinds of dissent.
Development of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice:
It became clear that to resist heresy and dissent within the Church's infrastructure - whether it be schools, parishes, seminaries and diocesan chancery offices - it would need to take more effective action to get its message across to the Catholic population at large and to the bishops. Coinciding with the start of the Decade of Evangelisation announced by Pope John Paul II, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice re-evaluated its role to concentrate on three key areas of concern to all Catholics which are not being addressed by any other organisation:
· Religious Instruction
· Dissent from Catholic teaching
· Abuses of the Liturgy and Sacraments
It was further decided to raise its public profile by publishing a regular newsletter called The Flock for the thousands of bewildered Catholics of all ages throughout England and Wales, who had made known their support for the organisation. The Committee recognised the importance of making the 'Catholic-in-the-pew' aware of the serious, and often surreptitious, undermining of the Faith that was going on around them. To help achieve these aims, it was decided to encourage the distribution of recorded talks, the publication of leaflets and booklets on issues of current concern, and to hold study days and conferences to focus attention on specific issues. Attendance at parish and diocesan meetings, coupled with direct approaches to priests and bishops, would challenge examples of any blatant opposition to the teaching authority of the Church.
The appearance of the English version of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1994 was a wonderful answer to the prayers of faithful Catholics. The Holy Father described it as "a sure norm for teaching the Faith". The Catechism is also a wonderful riposte to the agents of dissent, and it provided Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice with the perfect focus for its activities in resisting that dissent.
With the publication of the Catechism and the Papal encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which attacked the notion that objective truth in religious matters did not exist, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, responding to these clarion calls from Rome, mounted the first of the series of conferences known as Faith of our Fathers.
The Faith of our Fathers Conferences:
The ground-breaking 1996 conference - the first of five over as many consecutive years - was held at the Westminster Central Hall on the feast of the English Martyrs. It was attended by well over 2,000 faithful Catholics from all over the United Kingdom and was also a showcase for over 50 various Catholic apostolates. The keynote speaker was Mother Mary Angelica, the dynamic Poor Clare nun from the USA, whose spectacularly successful EWTN Global Catholic Network was already helping to promote the Faith and combat dissent. Along with Mother Angelica, the Chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, Mrs Daphne McLeod, received a prolonged standing ovation for her devastating exposé of the agenda behind modern catechetics and its total ineffectiveness.
The Holy Father called for the three years before the Great Jubilee of 2000 to be dedicated respectively to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. In response to this, we dedicated the 1997 conference to Jesus Christ, the 1998 conference to the Holy Spirit, and the 1999 conference to God the Father. Each year, the theme of the conference reflected the dedication, with the year 2000 itself being dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. Following her spellbinding performance in 1996, Mother Mary Angelica returned as keynote speaker in 1997. In 1998, Professor Alice von Hildebrand was the keynote speaker, with the indomitable scourge of dissident feminists Donna Steichen speaking in 1999, along with the international President of Una Voce, Michael Davies. The keynote speaker in the year 2000 was Rod Pead, Editor of Christian Order magazine, whose powerful and inspiring talk made a fitting climax to this series of conferences. In the space of five years, well over 7,000 people attended Faith of our Fathers to hear 26 talks from top Catholic speakers, including four from the U.S.A and six priests. Five hours of video footage and 25 hours of audio-tape have been recorded and widely distributed. The conferences have also given a showcase to around 100 different Catholic apostolates - both large and small - all loyal to Church and Pope. People have attended not only from all over the U.K. and Ireland, but also from Europe and, indeed, from all over the world.
From its inception Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice has been placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Walsingham, St Thomas More and St John Fisher. Also, it has taken as its "motto" St Paul's exhortation to the Church of the Thessalonians to "hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21) Responding to that plea, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice maintains that true loyalty consists not in sycophantic platitudes, but in working for the Church and using every endeavour to advance and propagate the Faith. "If our bishops are failing to do that …", said the late Fr Paul Crane at Hoddesdon in 1991, "…then it is our duty in charity and loyalty under God … in season and out of season … to reproach our bishops as often as is necessary." His words echo those of St Thomas Aquinas when he said "Fraternal correction, including that of prelates by their subjects, is a precept of Charity. If the Faith were in danger, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate - even publicly." Summa Theologica II, (ii) Q.33
Such work requires courage and perseverance. It is necessary not only in defence of the Faith but as part of the overall objective to restore to our country a truly Catholic culture - the birthright of this and future generations.
For further information, please contact our Chairman:
4 Fife Way,
Tel/Fax: 01372 454160.
E-Mail: proecclesia @ hotmail.com __ [Please delete the spaces straddling the @ sign]