27 February 2014

SSPX: IS IT ECUMENISM OR IS IT NOT? (2)

Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II wisely concentrated on what was positive; what the Catholic Church and other bodies could confidently be said to hold in common. (The same attitude was adopted towards non-Christian religions.)

This was rather like looking at the Orthodox wine glass and saying "Goody! It's three quarters (or more) full". But in the dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX, all the time has been spent haggling about whether the SSPX glass might be a milligram or two less than full.

The modern Catholic Ecumenical Industry does not shout at Orthodoxy "You must accept every word in the Decrees of Florence, and the entire post-Florentine papal Magisterium". Or, if it does, it does so too quietly for me to have heard it. One curial official has recently said, of the SSPX, that "they must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff". Is this the way that the Vatican talks about the Orthodox ... or the Methodists ... ?

I think that the situation with regard to the SSPX is urgent. Although Archbishop Lefebvre wisely chose young men to be consecrated bishops, those young men are now 25 years older. The time must come when the problems surrounding the consecration of their successors will have to faced. Must we really, when that time comes, revisit all those bad-tempered  and endless arguments about States of Necessity and Excommunications latae sententiae? Is there any other single ecclesial group for whom the Holy See would prescribe that lugubrious prospect as the Way Forward to a Joyful Reconciliation? Is it to be for nothing that Benedict XVI cut that particular Gordian Knot? And, by doing so, incurred the ranting calumnies of the ignorant and the ill-disposed?

Pope Francis has critics who believe that his openness, his humility, his desire to cut through red tape, his preference for a Church that does something even if mistakes are made, is all PR, all posturing. I do not think that they are right. I think he is prayer-filled and sincere.

But the crisis he faces is greater than is often assumed. If Rome simply cannot achieve an accommodation even with the SSPX, with whom it holds in common all the dogmatic definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils and both the ex cathedra definitions of Roman Pontiffs, what realistic possibility is there that it will ever make progress with more doctrinally distant churches and ecclesial bodies? The very possibility of ecclesial reconciliation, of unitatis redintegratio, is at stake. If Rome can pull it off with the SSPX, then anything is on the cards. But if not ... Clio waits with baited breath ...

I can think of one, massive, reason why Francis is the man to conclude this episode. If Benedict had done so, all the predictable ninnies in the Catholic and non-Catholic Media would have said that this was just further evidence that he was an arch-reactionary. Francis, if he solves it, will create massive puzzlement among the predictable ninnies, but his current Media reputation will enable him, so to speak, to get away with it. This time, early in this pontificate, is the moment, the divine kairos, for such an action, which may very probably not recur. (There is evidence that the more perceptive commentators in the liberal Media are already beginning to see through his persona.)

It is open to the Holy Father to solve the SSPX 'problem' within days. The Roman Pontiff regularly grants an audience, I think on Friday evenings, to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Next Friday, he could give Archbishop Mueller his orders. During the next audience, he could sign the documents*. The following Wednesday, at his General Audience, in between kissing the babies and hugging the cripples, he could embrace in public His Excellency Mgr Fellay and the other Reverend and Right Reverend leaders of the SSPX, in front of all the world's cameras and all its head-scratching journalists. And, just as he electrified the world by his choice of the feet to be washed and kissed on his first Maundy Thursday, Francis could use a dozen young clerics of the Society in his second Maundy Thursday pedilavium. (After all, Paul VI, when they had the junketings in Rome to celebrate the remission of the 1054 excommunications, disconcerted poor Metropolitan Meliton by diving to the ground and kissing his feet ... humility ... you know it makes sense ... )

Then he could deliver an address on Reconciliation. It might go down in History as his Beard of Aaron Address.

Or if the Holy Father is not adventurous enough, or not sufficiently his own master, to be able to do this, the remission of Archbishop Lefebvre's excommunication would be a first and a gracious gesture.

And the more inane or childish you think my remarks and my opinions are, the more I think you ought to stop sniggering and face up to the questions I posed in my previous post: is there a Plan in place, other than the plan of waiting for the decades to change into centuries and the breach to become set in stone? And: is that the Vatican II model of Ecumenism?

Concluded.
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* As Vatican observers have often pointed out, the obvious solution is to 'grant' to the SSPX precisely what, de facto, they already have. This would preserve the Holy See from the indignity of negotiating, and very considerably reduce the risk of a split within the SSPX. There need only be included two extra provisions, both lifted from Anglicanorum coetibus: (1) requiring the SSPX to consult with local hierarchies/ordinaries about developments in their mission without giving the hierarchies/ordinaries any right of actual veto; and (2) providing for the Council of SSPX to send a terna to Rome when an episcopal vacancy happens. A substitute could then at once be nominated  for Bishop Williamson.


13 comments:

Don Camillo SSC said...

It seems to me (ut minus sapiens dico) that a large part of the problem is not that the SSPX will not accept parts of Vatican II, but that it demands that Rome actually repudiates those parts that it finds unacceptable. This is clearly a no-no.

Woody said...

Regarding the thought that Pope Francis is the better situated to effect the much desired reconciliation, one recalls the old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China.

The longer this lack of complete union continued, the more the SSPX begins to look like the Russian Old Believers, or, closer to home, the Nonjurors, with each of which groups I have lots of sympathy and admiration, but the end games for them were not what had been wished for.

Of course the response of the irredentists of the group can sound a lot like that of a well known traditionalist friend whom I dearly love, who said, in response to my analogy to the Old Believers being out of communion with Moscow for 400 years: "Woody, there aren't going to be another 400 years."

Stephen said...

Great point on the Old Believers. They HAVE survived, and can and do and will continue to contribute mightily to the proclamation of the Gospel.

Which only re-enforces the thought that the name of the game at present is survival, and that decentralization is key to survival. Stalin tried to kill all with his New Church, and couldn't because of decentralization. Most people recognize that the claims of the Old Believers WERE legitimate, and the Russian Church ain't hounding them (or certainly should not).

So let the SSPX bloom! Let see who organically is still around in 25 and 50 years. No need to rush to anything. Let's enjoy the Kabuki.

Fr Dickson said...

“The modern Catholic Ecumenical Industry does not shout at Orthodoxy ‘You must accept every word in the Decrees of Florence, and the entire post-Florentine papal Magisterium’.
“If Rome simply cannot achieve an accommodation even with the SSPX, with whom it holds in common all the dogmatic definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils and both the ex cathedra definitions of Roman Pontiffs, what realistic possibility is there that it will ever make progress with more doctrinally distant churches and ecclesial bodies? The very possibility of ecclesial reconciliation, of unitatis redintegratio, is at stake. If Rome can pull it off with the SSPX, then anything is on the cards. But if not ...”

With these words Father, you hit the proverbial nail on the head. If Vatican II did not (as it could not) change infallible teaching, then in what way can the SSPX be in doctrinal error? And if it is a disciplinary matter that excludes it from union with Rome, then why are not those Bishops who have publicly advocated accepting homosexual ‘unions’ or Holy Communion for the Divorced and remarried not reprimanded? Certainly the consecration of Bishops contrary to the express will of the Pope was an act of the greatest magnitude in regard to the unity of the Church, but there is a unity beyond that of union with the Pontiff of the day to be considered, and that is union with all the Pontiffs of the past and all the Ecumenical Councils. Unity is, we might say, is vertical (with the Church in history) as well as horizontal (with the current Pontiff).

AndrewWS said...

Do the Ukrainian, Melkite etc., Greek-Catholic churches "accept every word in the Decrees of Florence, and the entire post-Florentine papal Magisterium"? Just wondering ...

I am not Spartacus said...

If Rome simply cannot achieve an accommodation even with the SSPX, with whom it holds in common all the dogmatic definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils and both the ex cathedra definitions of Roman Pontiffs

Dear Father. I think that is a claim open to contention as regards the SSPX.

Here is Vatican I:

2.Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.


Here is Trent: "No bishop is permitted under any pretext or privilege whatsoever to exercise episcopal functions in the diocese of another bishop, without the permission of the Ordinary of the place and with regard to persons subordinate to the same Ordinary. If any bishop does otherwise, he will be lawfully suspended from his episcopal functions

By its praxis, the SSPX illustrates what it believes; that is, do not listen to what they say, watch what they do.

As an aside, I note that I could post quite a few entries directly from Denzinger which highlights the sspx's rejection of Tradition.

Pope Blessed John Paul II was correct when he noted (in his excommuncation of Mons Lefebvre and those he consecrated:0 The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".(5)
But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.

wintersturme62 said...

As much as I admire your aspiration, Father, I can't help but thinking that you haven't had a great deal to do with SSPX adherents. Don Camillo's assessment is right on the mark.

notionsromaines.com said...

I think Father has pretty much clearly (maybe not enough after all, many seem to have missed the point) demonstrated that there is no need for the SSPX to accept every word of the last Council, and how irrelevent it is given the Vatican's actual ecumenical praxis since 1965. Rome would accept an agreement with the Orthodox without asking of them to accept every word of the Council of Florence let alone an oath to the Vatican II Magisterium and the Novus Ordo.

The point is, there is room withtin the Church to accommodate the SSPX and its criticisms. It seems that the Ecclesia Dei communities are living their criticisms of Vatican II pretty well. Catechesis, catechesis, catechesis.

Stephen Spencer said...

I am not Spartacus, you illustrate the Father's point.

SSPX does NOT reject a single teaching of the Magisterium. But you seek to create a heresy: but looking at actions and their IMPLICATIONS.

But is that what the Church does regarding the Orthodox and Protestants? Do they look at every action, and flesh out all the possible IMPLICATIONS of them? Or do they seek to minimize the problems?

To ask the answer is to answer it!

Jacobi said...

Father,

Unitatis Redintegratio, is concerned with those churches moving towards Christian Unity, that is acceptance that the Catholic Church is the One True Church. As such, it does not concern the SSPX, who are already in full pre-Vatican II, and therefore full post-Vatican II, doctrinal union with the Church.

The fact that they have reservations about some of the wilder post–Pauline Mass variations of the New Mass is hardly important. After all a great many of us, who have no connection whatsoever with the SSPX, do, and rightly so!

As for Cardinal Mueller’s “Sacramental Excommunication”, what on earth is that? I think he is just making things up?

All that has to be done is to declare the all their bishops and those priests ordained by them to be licit, since they are already valid, and the problem is solved.

In spite of any remaining reservations, the SSPX will be fully Catholic, unlike the many overtly heretical “Catholics”, including some I know, who are happily tolerated within the Church.

I am not Spartacus said...

But is that what the Church does regarding the Orthodox and Protestants? Do they look at every action, and flesh out all the possible IMPLICATIONS of them? Or do they seek to minimize the problems?

Dear Mr. Spencer. Your subtext concedes the sspx is schismatic; and the sspx claims that disobedience to the Pope is obedience to God.

Further, your argument ignores the aspect of time.

The sspx clergy and the laity who succor them were all born into the Catholic Church and then left it.

That is not true of the orthodox and protestants now living.

The similarities are less about the sspx and protestants but the sspx and the Donatists.

Spartan Warrior said...

The 'excommunication' of Archbishop Lefebvre AND DeCastro Mayer HAS BEEN remitted by Benedict XVI Decree in a SUBTLE way by declaring that: 'At the same time I declare that, as of today's date, the Decree issued at that time no longer has juridical effect.' SO in other words the WHOLE DECREE OF EXCOMMUNICATION
From the Office of the Congregation for Bishops, 1 July 1988 is now NULL AND VOID! The excommunications - if they existed - HAVE been ANNULLED!

David Joyce said...

It seems to me (ut minus sapiens dico) that a large part of the problem is not that the SSPX will not accept parts of Vatican II, but that it demands that Rome actually repudiates those parts that it finds unacceptable. This is clearly a no-no.

That's not quite right.

In their declaration last June, the Bishops of the SSPX stated the following:

"We mean to do the same: either when Rome returns to Tradition and to the Faith of all time – which would re-establish order in the Church; or when she explicitly acknowledges our right to profess integrally the Faith and to reject the errors which oppose it, with the right and the duty for us to oppose publicly the errors and the proponents of these errors, whoever they may be – which would allow the beginning of a re-establishing of order."

You can see the whole declaration here: http://www.dici.org/en/documents/declaration-on-the-occasion-of-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-episcopal-consecrations-30th-june-1988-27th-june-2013/

Note the important word "or". Is it really too much to ask to be allowed to live up to the norms of Canon law (i.e. Canon 212, §3)? Or are the leaders of the Church unable to stomach that kind of criticism from the inside?