An Interview With Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz

Author: Paul Likoudis

An Interview With Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz

by Paul Likoudis

In the weeks since Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln issued a formal warning to Catholics who belong to groups which are opposed to the Catholic Church that they are in danger of excommunication, the flurry of national press attention to this unprecedented action has not abated.

Newspaper, television, and radio reporters are still requesting interviews with Bishop Bruskewitz, and THE WANDERER joined the queue last week to ask the bishop questions about what implications his action might have for other dioceses.

Q. How are you and the Diocese of Lincoln coping with all the national attention you've both received recently?

A. I think we are coping quite well. The national attention was unexpected and unintended, but we are able to manage our lives well notwithstanding it all.

Q. Did your action create as much controversy in Lincoln as it did outside the diocese?

A. My impression is that it did not. The national uproar was disproportionate to whatever attention was paid within Lincoln. I thought the Diocese of Lincoln was extremely supportive of the extrasynodal legislation that was passed, and I have the impression that the priests of the diocese are in accord with the legislation. The overwhelming majority of the lay faithful are in accord with the legislation as well.

We have found some of the national attention to be a source of amusement. said we were "floundering in an atmosphere of fear." When I mentioned this to the priests of the diocese for the Chrism Mass, it evoked prolonged laughter.

Q. Do you think the warning you issued was "extreme" or drastic?

A. No. I think it was serious. It was serious because we are dealing with serious issues, that is, putting in peril one's Catholic faith, or being a member of an organization whose principles are incompatible with the Catholic faith.

Q. Isn't it true that the excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre did not apply to his followers or individual members? Is your decree, by including Catholics who belong to the St. Pius X Society, going beyond what the Vatican decree does?

A. The sanction of interdict and excommunication that is in the legislation of the Diocese of Lincoln applies to membership on the part of people who are in or of the Diocese of Lincoln in the Society of St. Pius X and/or the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel. Both have been fraudulently advertising themselves in Lincoln as "in full union with Rome," causing confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty on the part of many of the faithful in Lincoln, and giving rise to many serious questions which the legislation was intended to answer.

Q. Are you surprised that none of your brother bishops have publicly supported you?

A. No. I am not surprised and I don't expect any nor have I asked for any. I am reassured, however, by many private communications from bishops of their support.

Q. Would you agree that there are reasons for the ordinary Catholic to be confused by your action, since you have warned your flock that involvement in certain groups is dangerous to their faith, but other bishops have endorsed those same groups, such as Call to Action?

A. The legislation that I enacted for the Diocese of Lincoln is not meant to apply to other places where other pastoral situations exist which may be quite different from those in the Diocese of Lincoln.

I don't see how legislation which is meant to apply only to Lincoln should cause undue consternation for people who live elsewhere and whom I would urge to follow the legislation that exists in their own diocese.

Q. What advice would you offer to rank-and-file Catholics who might become confused because your actions differ so much from what their own bishop might allow?

A. Once again, I would say that a bishop is a legislator for his own diocese, and therefore his legislation applies only to that diocese. I would not pretend to legislate for any place outside of Lincoln; nor do I have any desire to. Catholics should follow the legislation that applies to their own diocese.

I am not in a position to determine whether some of these organizations are different from one diocese to another, although I suspect they are not. I would also point out that legislation for the universal Church regarding Masonic organizations seems to be for all Catholics everywhere. On Nov. 26th, 1983, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a Declaration on Masonic Organizations said that Catholics who join these organizations are in a state of serious sin and may not receive Holy Communion. And this declaration was approved and promulgated by the Holy Father.

Q. What would you do if a Catholic in the Diocese of New Ulm, Minn., asked you for your opinion on joining the local chapter of Call to Action?

A. I would say that I have no jurisdiction over any action in New Ulm. I do not know what is going on in New Ulm and would make no statement at all about the situation there.

Q. Isn't it a fact that it is a fundamental duty of bishops to maintain the unity of the Church? How does an individual bishop address the obvious disparities in the Church in regard to discipline and teaching from diocese to diocese?

A. I certainly agree that bishops have a duty to maintain unity in the Church. This unity is basically maintained by full and obedient communion with the head of the college of bishops, the Successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Holy Father.

Diversity of pastoral situations and problems can certainly allow for a diversity of diocesan legislation regarding such issues as groups or organizations which pose a danger to the Catholic faith or which are actually contradictory to the Catholic faith.

Q. To what extent do differences within the Church in one particular country, say, the United States—in discipline and teaching —affect the fundamental unity of the Church?

A. If these differences are about those matters on which Catholics must and should be in agreement, then obviously these differences will be harmful. However, pastoral approaches sometimes can be different and not be harmful to basic unity.

Q. In chapter 1, paragraph 6 of the Pastoral Office of Bishops issued by Vatican 11, it clearly states that bishops "should be solicitous for all the Churches.... They should be especially solicitous for those parts of the world in . . . which the faithful are in danger of falling away from the obligations of the Christian life or even of losing the faith itself."

Doesn't that mean you have a responsibility to show solidarity with Catholics in other dioceses where bishops are actually engaged in deconstructing the faith?

A. I certainly hope that I show solidarity with all Catholics everywhere. However, it would seem to be presumptuous of me to judge that bishops are, as you say it, "deconstructing the faith," particularly when I haven't made a thorough study of these matters or these places and have not been authorized by the Holy Father to make any such study.

I hasten to add that it is the duty of all lay Catholics to bring to the attention of the pastors of the Church their needs, their desires, and their views of ecclesial matters. This duty is set forth in the chapter on the laity in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, . So those lay Catholics who see "deconstructing" going on, it seems to me, should exercise their right and duty to make this known to those who they feel are engaged in such activities.

Q. You told that your action was not intended to touch the jurisdictions of other bishops in other dioceses, but once your action was publicized nationally, you have touched on their jurisdictions and competence, haven't you? To put it simply: How can one be a bad Catholic in one diocese for belonging to a certain group, and a good Catholic in another diocese for belonging to the same group?

A. I certainly have no ability or desire to interfere in the jurisdictions or competence of other bishops. I don't believe a national media uproar does that. I think that it is clear in my mind, as a conscientious bishop, that the 12 organizations that I listed are not able to be anything else in the Diocese of Lincoln than a danger or peril to one's Catholic faith or even a contradiction to one's Catholic faith.

It seems difficult to me to understand how they would be different for Catholics in another place unless the nature of the organization is different from place to place.

I already used the example of the Masonic organizations which are prohibited everywhere on earth. Certainly they are prohibited under an implicit interdict, since the declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that Catholics enrolled in them are guilty of serious sin.

Q. But Catholics all over the country know that Call to Action is composed mostly of priests and nuns, ex-priests and ex-nuns, and people who work for the Catholic Church in chanceries, schools, and so on. If belonging to Call to Action is an excommunicable offense in Lincoln, aren't you telling Catholics everywhere that CTA Catholics are not really Catholic?

A. That may explain why I received some letters with a lot of invective and obscenities from that outfit.

I must say that the overwhelming majority of the letters I received are very supportive. They are running in the hundreds-or-thousands-to-one. I am overwhelmed by the positive response.

Call to Action has as one of its proclaimed purposes the ordaining of women, and that is to go against the Catholic faith. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that this teaching is part of the infallible teaching of the Church. I don't know how anyone can hold a position contrary to the Catholic faith and maintain membership in an organization that is in contradiction to the Catholic faith.

Number 25 of says we are to give religious submission of mind and will to the Supreme Pontiff. I don't know how this organization can be said to do this.

Furthermore, when it met here in Lincoln, CTA violated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy by inventing a totally different Mass text than any that had been approved by any bishop or Pope. They recited a creed which was at variance with the Creed of the Catholic Church, and which bore little or no resemblance to what Catholics recite or believe.

Q. What are you going to do with all the letters, faxes, and telegrams you received?

A. We are going to keep them on file here, and make them available to those who have a good reason to read them. I have to cry when I read some of these letters. Some are extremely moving, particularly those from parents and devout nuns and wonderful priests who have written letters of remarkable spiritual depth.

Q. Is there a common theme or thread to the letters?

A. Almost all are congratulatory and supportive. Many are also very suspicious of, or antagonistic to, the media presentations. There is also a common theme in almost all the letters warning me of the persecution and suffering I will have to endure for enacting this legislation, but [these messages are] also accompanied by words such as "don't waver," "don't give up," "hang in there."

This article was taken from the April 18, 1996 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.

Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN