In the Daily Telegraph of November 4 this year appeared a very jolly story about an Austrian woman who had incurred excommunication for purporting to have been ordained to the Priesthood (God bless her, she has retaliated by now claiming the Episcopate!!). The journalist began his story thus: "Excommunication is traditionally reserved by Catholicism for the very worst of sinners and is a sanction rarely invoked today".
Well, the dear old Torygraph has failed to keep herself up-to-date on that subject. Excommunication is, for some bishops, the Fashionable Fad in today's caring, compassionate Catholic Church of Pope Francis! Excommunication, even, just for going to Church!!! But enough of my vulgar slapstick. Let me get serious and simply remind you that only a few days ago an Italian bishop seemed to suggest, uncanonically, that lay people, even minors, attending SSPX chapels were excommunicated latae sententiae. Now an Argentine bishop, perhaps with a tadge more respect for the CIC, has threatened such "very worst of sinners" with penalties ferendae sententiae.
As a recent 'convert' without much experience of the Catholic Church and with very little theological training or understanding, I have to say that her current practical* ecumenical policy seems to me to be ... er ... magnificently inexplicable. Unity, we all agree, is a Good Thing, but SSPXers (even children!!) are to be threatened with bell, book, and candle. Popes and Bishops are elaborately kind to schismatics who are doctrinally distant from the Church, but they are distantly pedantic (at best) towards the SSPX, which accepts every single dogmatic definition and anathema ever published by a lawful Ecumenical Council or by a Roman Pontiff. The SSPX is required to make the most precise submission to Conciliar and Papal Magisteria, while 'our ecumenical partners in dialogue' are invited to sit down at a table and work out together verbal doctrinal fudges which are then declared to be acceptable by Roman dicasteries (e.g. ARCIC). Have Roman ecumenists ever explained frankly to Orthodox and Anglicans that they also will, ultimately, have to accept every syllable of 'the Conciliar and post-Conciliar Magisterium' before Unity is consummated? If not, why not? I do not mean those as rhetorical questions.
IF Catholic ecumenists cannot even manage a settlement with a group as close to them as is the SSPX, THEN it will be obvious that 'Ecumenism' with communities separated from Rome for centuries by serious formal dogmatic disagreements as well as by deep-rooted cultural rancour, is nothing more than the pursuit of a pie-in-the-sky; a fine-sounding but meaningless Game. Remember the
PARABLE OF THE FINANCIER AND THE TWO BEGGARS.
The Ecumenical Policy* of the Catholic Church is like unto a Financier, who went down the street one morning with his pen, his cheque book, and a 50 pence coin. At the first corner, he met a Beggar who humbly knelt and called out to him "For the love God, guv'ner, give us 50p for a cup of tea". But the Financier passed by on the other side, offering him only some wise advice about how much more profound his self-abasement would need to become. At the next corner he met a Second Beggar, who did not kneel, but greeted the Financier with the easy familiarity of an equal. This man the Financier warmly embraced and kissed, and then gave him a post-dated dud cheque for £2,500,000; which the Beggar received with exclamations of great delight. And the Financier praised the Second Beggar, because he understood the Game.
*This article does not question any Magisterial pronouncement, and its author ex animo accepts the teaching of Unitatis Redintegratio, Ut unum sint, Communionis notio, and Dominus Iesus.