... there will be some unfinished business. After all, Mercy will itself not be just shoved back into the freezer and forgotten next November ... if Mercy is not even bigger, more prominent in the Church than it was before the Jubilee Year, the Year will have been a failure, a farce. Or is there something I'm not spotting?
During this Year, by the Holy Father's personal and gracious say-so, either the clergy of the SSPX have faculties to absolve, or the laity of the Church have faculties to go to confession to clergy of the Society (I'm a little unsure which of these the Holy Father said it was, but it doesn't make a lot of practical difference). Will those faculties be unavailable in November?
I venture to suggest that such an unmerciful possibility is inconceivable. I devoutly hope I am not wrong.
Perhaps a canonical solution will have been found. That would be the first prize. But one can comprehend some of the difficulties: because they are not totally unlike some of the problems which beset the Ordinariates at their inception.
Clergy who have built up a going concern in their local pastoral environment can be nervous about taking a step in which their laity, or a lot of them, may quite simply not follow their pastor. This is understandable. That is why there are priests still in the Church of England who have longed for Unity all their lives but cannot bring themselves to walk out on their laity. I understand the arguments for gentle pastoral caution, even though I believe that things are, in reality, well beyond that point.
I can't see that the Holy See would lose much face if it simply granted the clergy of the Society faculties to absolve and marry (after all, the Ministers of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony are the spouses); and then embarked upon a gradual, gentle process of de facto lowering the barriers.
And the legal framework of the Ordinariates includes some very good ideas. "If the Ordinary wishes to do X, he shall first consult with the Bishop of the place" ... " ... shall first hear the views of ...". That sort of stuff. In other words, officials of the mainstream Church are not given vetoes over the development of the other body, but a situation is created in which it is in everybody's interest to behave consensually. It has, so far, worked well for us.
And I think we should all remember that the Bishops of the Society, already down to three, are a generation older than they were when they were consecrated. The time will come when new consecrations will be needed. Yes, I know, the Society could again just do it and then just wheel out again all the same old arguments about States of Necessity ...
But it would be a crying shame if we had to go back to all that. The Church as a whole needs a robust, active, noisy, SSPX. The Society insisted for years that the Old Mass should be available to every priest of the Latin Church, until, in the end, Pope Benedict did it. I bet there were SSPXers who never really believed that Rome would ever in a million years respond to such an "extreme" demand! Their praiseworthy insistence was surely the result of their determination not to be fobbed off with the status of an isolated ghetto for grudgingly tolerated eccentrics. Tradition, the Archbishop had always insisted, must be given free rein, allowed to run unfettered; which is, after all, the Gamaliel Principle. Again and again he asked "Please try the Experiment of Tradition!". How right he was! But an unreconciled SSPX, getting ever older in habits of isolation, with an ever-decreasing influence on outsiders, is surely just what the Archbishop was so anxious to avoid. Merci, Monseigneur.
Looking through his telescope from his lofty vantage point in distant Broadstairs down at us lowly NewMortals, Bishop Richard Williamson has been insisting recently that he can discern elements of Catholicism left in what he chooses to call the NewChurch. Even to those who cock an ear at this somewhat grudging analysis, isn't it at least arguable that those 'elements' will be strengthened, not weakened, if the voice of the SSPX is heard, loud and clear, within the main-stream Church?
Generous Mercy is called for; and I think this means that it has to come mainly, but not entirely, from the Holy See.