Fr. Peter Scott
You will probably have heard of the October 16 Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II on the Rosary, and you may well have wondered if he has suddenly become the Marian Pope that some conservatives claim that he is. And if this is true, you will wonder how could this devotion of the Rosary possibly be compatible with Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, the universal redemption of mankind, and the push for one world religion, all of which ideas have made up the characteristic hallmark of his Papacy. Sadly to say this encyclical does not mark a turning point in this Papacy, and even worse yet, it is in the name of, and under the appearance of, promoting the Rosary, that the worst consequences of the post-conciliar revolution are effectively being implemented. You might think that this is a rash statement, and that charity requires that we give the Pope the benefit of the doubt in such a matter. I maintain that there is no doubt, as you can see if you read the article on the subject on the Seminary website Naturalism and the Rosary - Impossible Bedfellows.
THE ROSARY IS NOW TO BE ECUMENICAL
Suffice it to say here that there is in this letter a manifest re-interpretation of the Rosary in a naturalist sense. "In effect", the Pope writes, "the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation" (§28). As such, he explains, it is not essentially different from non-Christian methods of contemplation, which are likewise aimed "at attaining a high level of spiritual concentration by using techniques of a psychophysical, repetitive and symbolic nature." Consequently, he does not hesitate to state that "the Rosary is situated within this broad gamut of religious phenomena" (§28).
This is an incredible betrayal of the truth: to consider that the supernatural prayer given by heaven and recommended so many times by the Blessed Mother and by the Church, is essentially no different than a natural method of centering attention, such as Yoga. Why have the Catholic Faith any more, a person could then ask. Why practice devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary if other "techniques" work just as well? Is it any wonder that John Paul II does not at all consider the Rosary as unecumenical, but much to the contrary declares that "If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism!" (§4). Any good things that the Pope might otherwise say concerning the Rosary or the Blessed Virgin Mary are by such false assertions reduced to simple platitudes, to calm the Catholic faithful. They really do not mean anything.
If Mary is no longer the Mediatrix of all graces, if she henceforth is not to be honored as the Queen of heaven to whom everyone must submit, then devotion to her is but pious talk. If the Rosary is no longer to be the powerful weapon to conquer heresies and the Church’s enemies, then the beads are reduced to an empty symbol of some persons’ subjective pious feelings, or as John Paul II himself says: "the symbolism of the beads is to let them remind us of our many relationships, of the bond of communion and fraternity which unites us all to Christ" (§36). This is all very human and nice, but it has nothing at all to do with the supernatural order of grace and with the mystery of our Redemption that the Rosary is all about.
Truly the Pope’s proposed revitalization of the Rosary is a denial of its supernatural power. All the changes that he recommends, including even in the Hail Mary itself (§33) - by adding a phrase so as to make it more centered on Christ (and, it is understood, less on Our Lady) - have as their purpose to transform the Rosary into a purely natural "method". The terms Christocentric and Christological which are constantly employed throughout this letter are pseudonyms for naturalism. If he wanted to remain truly Catholic and supernatural he would not be afraid to be entirely focused on the Blessed Mother; he would not be scared of being thoroughly Marian; he would not be hesitant to belong completely to her. Then the Rosary, and his devotion to Our Lady, would most certainly hinder ecumenism.
THE NEW DECADES
However, the greatest shock to the Catholic soul in hearing about this letter is the widely publicized proposal of adding five new decades to the Rosary, the five "luminous moments" or "mysteries of light", as he calls them. What is wrong with the 15 mysteries of the Redemption? Are they not the essential expression not only of our Faith, but also of our Catholic life? How could some episodes from the Gospel, as instructive as they might be otherwise, take the place of the mysteries of our Redemption, upon the meditation of which the whole power of the Rosary rests? This is a denial of ecclesiastical tradition, again in favor of ecumenism with protestants. It is a watering down of the essence of the Rosary, as a meditation of the chief episodes in which Mary was the perfect associate of and cooperator with her Divine Son in the work of our Redemption. Are these not the mysteries that our souls need to be penetrated with in order to be able to go to heaven?
I consequently beg of you, if you want to remain Catholic and if you want to have a true, supernatural, interior life, do not dream of adding these new mysteries. Stick to the hallowed mysteries that have been handed down by Tradition, and stand firm against this tyrannical abuse of power, by which the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, is trying to destroy that which is most sacred in our Catholic Faith after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Reject these novelties, and in particular the omission of the wonderfully supernatural prayer taught to us by Our Lady of Fatima, that we place after every decade of the Rosary, which does not even merit a mention in the Pope’s letter.. Instead he proposes that the people invent a variety of different formulas, that would somehow express more fully or more perfectly than Our Lady’s prayer the fruits to be obtained from the Rosary.
Truly, this letter is beyond the limit of what Catholics can bear, and the destruction that will be wrought if anybody takes it seriously is distressing in the extreme. The only consolation is that finally many folks who are not traditional have seen through this attempt to use our heavenly Mother and her Holy Rosary to bring about the modernist work of destruction. May it open their eyes. Already attempts are being made to apply his ideas to various ecumenical experiments, such as the Ecumenical Miraculous Rosary put together by a Lutheran "to share the rosary with non-Catholic Christians in order to achieve greater unity between all Christian denominations", and in which the Hail Mary has been exchanged for a prayer called the Greatest Commandment, and the 15 mysteries have been exchanged for the 15 miracles, taken out of the Bible. (www.ecumenicalrosary.org). Can we blame him taking his cue in this way?