Jubilee year: indulgences and ecumentical celebrations

February 6, 2000

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

For the calendar year 2000, Rome is organizing both a Holy Year Jubilee, which is Catholic, and a series of ecumenical celebrations, which are not Catholic. For early August the Society of St. Pius X is organizing a Pilgrimage of Tradition to Rome for the Jubilee, not for the ecumenical celebrations! Let us turn to the Old Testament to think about what the Society is doing.

The word "Jubilee" comes from the Hebrew "yobel", meaning trumpet. Amongst laws laid down by the Lord God for the Israelites in the Old Testament and transmitted by Moses (Leviticus XXV), there was the command that every seventh year was to be for the Israelites a sabbatical year in which all debts were forgiven, and all work on the land was forbidden, the land’s natural produce then belonging to and sufficing for all. After seven such sabbatical years, every 50th year was to be proclaimed — by trumpets — as a year of special forgiveness: besides all debts being cancelled, all property that had been sold since the last Jubilee came back to the original owner (so that all property sales must have been like leases, decreasing in value as the next Jubilee Year approached), and all Israelites that had been sold into slavery since the last Jubilee recovered their liberty.

At first sight these Jubilee laws of the Old Testament can seem shocking to our modern way of thinking. However, like all Moses’ laws they were inspired by God to prepare His people for the coming of the Messiah, and so not only were they materially wise for the Israelites, but also that material wisdom pointed to the spiritual significance of Jubilees under the New Testament. Let us consider that wisdom of Moses as to slavery, debts and real property.

As to slavery, modern minds will have no difficulty in grasping the wisdom of its grip being broken every 50 years. Perhaps some of the slaves liberated in this way will have immediately sold themselves back into slavery, just as some convicts released today from prison immediately act to get themselves back into prison, but if one wished to get out of slavery at least there was no hopelessness of the prospect of being endlessly trapped in it. The Lord God placed limits on human bondage so that men would not forget that 'the children of Israel are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt’ (Lev. XXV, 55). Children of God are not meant to be in chains.

However, debts and usury are another way of reducing men to slavery. How many marriages and homes today can be broken up by either spouse blaming the other for letting the family fall into a debt trap by, for instance, those tempting credit cards with their usurious rates of interest? (In this connection, Catholic families might contact "Financial Foundations for the Family" at PO Box 890998, Temecula, CA 92589-0998, for a recipe of prayer and common sense to get them out of debt trouble). Now not all debt is unjust, but it is often used as a means of enslaving one’s fellow men (or whole nations!). By regularly dissolving all debts, Moses’ sabbatical law breaks such chains, and if one thinks such a law is unjust, notice how today’s bankruptcy courts are nevertheless tending to fulfil the same function.

Finally the Mosaic Jubilee law cancelled the enslavement of land to money such as we have everywhere today. In modern cities nobody has a stable environment wherever there is more money to be made by tearing the city buildings down, and in the country money uproots every farmer who can be replaced by more or less poisonous chemicals and machines. Moses law cut this stranglehold of money and put people back on their land where God meant them to be, for "the land is mine" (Lev. XXV, 23).

In brief, the Mosaic Jubilee broke various kinds of chains by which men will always tend to enslave one another materially. As then the Old Testament points to the New Testament far surpassing it, so the essence of the Catholic Jubilee is that it breaks various chains of sin by which men enslave themselves spiritually. For if the remission of material debts, perhaps foolishly or unintentionally incurred, can be a weight off a man’s mind, like a new start in life, an immense natural relief, how much greater will be the supernatural relief, if it is properly understood, of there being lifted off a man’s spiritual life the crushing expectation of all the temporal punishment still due in Purgatory to his sins, punishment which he can see little normal chance of paying off in this life!

That is why down all the Christian centuries Catholics made penitential pilgrimages to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome. In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII regularized this practice by pronouncing that year a Jubilee Year. In other words he pronounced that by his power as Pope he was opening up the Church’s treasure-chest of merits and graces to make available to all pilgrims fulfilling certain conditions in their pilgrimage the full remission, or plenary indulgence of all punishment in Purgatory still due to their sins once a valid sacramental confession had obtained remission of the eternal punishment due to them in Hell.

Popes following Boniface VIII proclaimed Jubilees at various intervals until 1475, since when they have been given to Catholics by the Pope every quarter century. Thus Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were in line with Catholic Tradition when they proclaimed Jubilees for 1975 and 2000 respectively. In 1975 Archbishop Lefebvre led all his seminarians from EcĂ´ne down to Rome to take part in the Jubilee, although Rome turning neo-modernist gave us a cold welcome. In August 2000 Bishop Fellay will lead all Society members available and willing to Rome, although Rome with 35 years of the Council now behind it risks giving us an even colder welcome.

This is because the Newchurchmen organizing this millennial Jubilee are doing what they can to dilute and distort its Catholic character. The dilution is achieved in a way typical of the "reforms" following on Vatican II: to the classical disciplinary requirements of a Jubilee are added conditions so loose and Imprecise that they can mean almost nothing.

Thus in the November 29, 1998 decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, laying out what works one must do to obtain the Jubilee indulgence, the first two sections prescribe the visits normal for a Jubilee to one of the four patriarchal basilicas in Rome, to which are added two more basilicas and a shrine and the catacombs near Rome, and three basilicas in the Holy Land. These two sections clearly specify the places to be visited and the prayers or acts of piety to be performed there. So far so good.

The third section is looser and less demanding. In any Catholic diocese of the world, the diocesan cathedral will serve the same purpose as the basilicas mentioned above, and so will any other diocesan church or shrine designated for that purpose by the diocesan bishop. Also it will suffice now, in addition to a Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Creed, to do "for a certain time a pious meditation". However, such extended conditions for a Jubilee are still traditional.

What is not traditional is the fourth section. Anywhere in the world it will be enough to visit a brother in need or difficulty, such as "prisoners, the sick, old people, the handicapped, etc"! The usual conditions of Confession, Communion and prayer are still mentioned, but the penitential character of a pilgrimage is gone. As if to make up for that, the last paragraph is penitential, but then it is even looser! - the Jubilee Indulgence can be obtained by merely going without anything superfluous for a day like tobacco or alcohol, or by fasting or abstaining for a day, or by some "proportional" alms given to the poor, etc., etc. But what does "proportional" here mean? It can mean all or nothing. Such vagueness destroys law. Is not the Sacred Penitentiary dissolving the Indulgence?

As for the Newchurch’s distortion of the Jubilee, that is of course by ecumenism. Here are three examples.

At the end of this month they are organizing a "Study Convention on the implementation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council", in other words how to push into effect even more the revolutionary principles that have been devastating the Church for the last 35 years.

On Ash Wednesday, March 8, they mean to hold a "Request for Pardon" ceremony in the Coliseum in which the Pope himself (health allowing? — health?) will apologise to all the world for Catholic features of the Church’s past, like the Inquisition, or the condemnation of Galileo, or the condemnations of the Synagogue. But the Inquisition rendered extraordinary service to Western civilization" (then called Christendom) by picking out those heretics who were its worst enemies. The condemnation of Galileo was designed to block not scientific truth but his personal arrogance in the name of science which has been giving "science" a bad name ever since. And the condemnations of the Synagogue, which is the religion not of Abraham and Moses, but of Anas and Caiphas, have been elementary self-defence on the part of the Catholic Church, because the spiritual descendants of those two judicial murderers of Jesus Christ have for 2,000 years been continuing their work of hatred against the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church.

This Pope may mean well, God knows. It looks like it. But he lost his Catholic head, when, in his own words, he ‘discovered" it at Vatican II!

Finally they promise us for the Holy Year in Rome on Sunday May 7 an "Ecumenical service for the ‘new martyrs"’. The media tell us that these are to include numerous non-Catholics. But it is of the essence of martyrdom in the true sense that the martyr is being killed because of his Catholic Faith. "Martyr’ in Greek means witness. He is witnessing to the Faith by the testimony of his death. If he does not have the faith, how can his death witness to it? Madness! These Newchurch men are dissolving the Catholic Faith!

However, Catholics need not content themselves with the loose conditions diluting the Jubilee, nor need they attend the ecumenical happenings that distort it. The Society of St. Pius X is making the Pilgrimage of Tradition to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome in order to pray for the Church (and for the Pope), to gain the Jubilee Indulgences in the normal way, to attach themselves more firmly to eternal Rome and to give witness to the true Faith. Despite our failings, we and all who share our Faith are the Roman Catholics. Despite their virtues, the Newchurchmen are Roman Protestants. Rome, its Basilicas and its Jubilees belong to us, not to them. Call Mr. or Mrs. Bob di Cecco at (203)261-1133, fax (203) 261-3355, to join the American District’s participation in the Society’s Jubilee Pilgrimage, from August 6-12.

Dear readers, please pray for my stricken mother approaching death without the Catholic Faith. She has led a good life in the eyes of the world, but she will need much grace to die a good death in the eyes of God. I thank you in advance.

Most sincerely yours in Christ