It seems hardly respectful, with regard to a body as admirable as the SSPX, for an outsider to discuss its 'status'. I write what follows aware that it may seem arrogant to the point of being infuriating; and with very real apologies to readers who find that I am simply making them angry.
The status of the SSPX has, in my reading, always or usually been treated in canonical terms. Thus, 'states of necessity' become points of discussion. I cannot help wondering whether it might be more realistic to discuss it in terms of Ecclesiology.
In the CDF document Communionis notio of 1992, there is a chapter "De Communione Ecclesiali et OEcumenismo". It affirms the existence of a "Communio quaedam etsi non perfecta" with separated Christians. It then goes on to discuss the status of "Ecclesiae orientales orthodoxae", explaining that, although seiunctae a Sede Petri, they "cum Ecclesia Catholica coniunctae esse pergunt".
The reason for this is that they possess "successio apostolica et valida Eucharistia", and, because of this, deserve (merentur) the 'titulus Ecclesiarum particularium'. Quoting Vatican II, the CDF assures us that "per celebrationem Eucharistiae Domini in his singulis Ecclesiis, Ecclesia Dei aedificatur et crescit"; and then adds to the conciliar wording this interesting and thought-provoking phrase "quia in quacumque valida Eucharistiae celebratione vero praesens fit Ecclesia una, sancta, catholica, et apostolica."
I am not suggesting a precise identity between Separated Byzantines, and the SSPX. But the principles which apply in the favour of one can hardly be denied to the other.
The defences often advanced for the position of the SSPX state or imply that it is has the same status as organisations such as, for example, Opus Dei or the Dominican Order. It seems to me that, given the decades which have followed the Econne consecrations,this description no longer ticks the necessary boxes. Indeed, at a human level, one might wonder whether it is appropriate for Roman Pontiffs to fawn upon Separated Byzantines (and even Separated non-Chalcedonians), sometimes (literally!!!) grovelling before them, while maintaining a disdainful distance from a community which is theologically closer to the full Magisterium of the Catholic Church than are the Separated 'Orientals'.
The curious action of PF in not granting formal faculties to absolve to SSPX clergy, while 'giving permission' to the laity to go to them for Confession, seems to me to express perfectly (if unintentionally!) the ecclesiological analysis which, I argue, is offered by Communionis notio.
How 'ecclesial' is the SSPX? I suggest that one litmus-paper here might reside in the Chrism Mass and the use of the Oils of Chrism and of the Catechumens.
If a bishop ... say, Bishop Fellay ... makes available to a presbyter the oils which he has consecrated, and if that presbyter receives and uses them, then the Episcopal Ministry of that bishop becomes most intimately internal to all the rites of Christian Initiation performed by that presbyter.
This, it seems to me, is ecclesial and sacramental.
Inasmuch as clergy and lay of the SSPX do not pray anything a Byzantine rite Christian would object to (assuming here that the anti-Arian exclamation point of the filioque was deployed by orthodox bishops in Hispania as a local means to protect the faithful against those nasty Arian Vandals), why would we be separated?? Unless, of course, that non-liturgical requirements regarding faith and morals supersede anything dogmatic as expressed in common prayer through the ages. Which is precisely the point, and until that which is non-liturgical is brought back to its rightful place, dear Father H., I am afraid you and many others will continue to be let down.
Thank you Fr. Hunwicke, once again we benefit from your insights and considerations.
There are surely many people who welcome your opinion on the SSPX. We are not there yet, but, it seems inevitable. God bless you and Merry Christmas.
Quite right, Magister Johannes,
but having been one of their seminarians, I can only say that apart from the food and the teaching (which, in philosophy was certainly equal to that in my subsequent law degree), my experience with them was pretty dire - which started me on my research in regards to clerical marriage. One day, being exploited as cheap labour in the seminary kitchen garden and feeling, with quite a bit of justification, rather sorry for myself, it occurred to me that no wife I knew ever treated her husband as badly as the SSPX treated its clerics (which obviously included seminarians).
Perhaps the CDF should request that the SSPX accept the validity of Nostra Aetatae and Dignitatis Humanae in the light of Inter Mirifica rather than in the light of 'tradition'. There is plenty of good independent research into the origins and significance of IM. A useful scene setter is available from Frances Stonor Saunders but David Wemhoff has written the definitive study. Fellini's La Dolce Vita also adds a prophetic and sadly Dionysian spin on events.
It occurred to me today that there might be a valid analogy between a battered wife leaving her abusive husband and what happened with the SSPX. In the wife's case, she's no longer (for reasons of physical/psychological/spiritual safety) living in the normal familial way, but we don't consider this a form of divorce as long as she acknowledges her husband as her husband and is open to reconciliation if the husband has a conversion sufficient for her to trust him not to mistreat her again in the future. In the SSPX's case, they're not set up as a normal canonical institute, but they acknowledge the Pope as their superior and are open to regularising their situation if the Vatican can be trusted not to try and squash them again (alas, I fear Traditionis Custodes has done considerable harm in this respect), so maybe we shouldn't consider them schismatics either?
I recommend Michael Davies three volume Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.
The authorities in the Church routinely violated all legal and administrative norms when dealing with the SSPX.
This is especially enlightening when one considers Benedict XVI's statement that the Latin Mass had never been abolished, after hearing that it had been for decades. Apparently, the law and its requirements do matter!
The SSPX has been exemplary, and was being persecuted even before the consecrations, yet we can see heretics, iconoclasts, socialists, perverts, and thieves destroying and looting the Church, and corrupting the faithful, under the benevolent gaze of the Vatican.
The dispute between the SSPX and the Vatican is nothing more than a power struggle- a struggle that arose because of the duplicity and political considerations of JP II.
Communion in the hand, church wreckovation, sexual misconduct, false teaching, to name just a few, were ignored, while an act of desperation by an old man trying to protect his flock gets treated as the worst crime ever.
For those of us who are just ordinary, church going Catholics, you should pay no attention to the dispute. I cannot see a schism, or a heresy anywhere near the SSPX, but the Vicar General of my own diocese was a notorious homosexual predator, until being promoted to a better paying job. I would be more concerned if a member of my family told me that he was going to enroll in our local seminary than if he started attending mass with the SSPX!
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