So, unless you've been pretty much living under a rock in the Catholic world lately, you are aware that the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, or SSPX, has been in the news extensively. If you have in fact been living under a rock, it has pretty much gone down something like this: last Saturday, on January 24, the Pope released the much anticipated decree formally remitting the latae sententiae excommunications against the four SSPX bishops who were illictly consecrated bishops by Archbishop Lefebrve in 1988 not only without papal mandate, but in direct contravention of Rome's orders to His Excellency.
Naturally, just as they do everytime the Pope does something in violation of the Almighty "Spirit of Vatican II," just about everybody had a little tantrum about the Pope readmitting true Traditionalists to the fold. Granted, Bishop Richard Williamson ruffled more than a few feathers with his rather imprudent remarks concerning the Holocaust, but in classical Modernist style, the press, like a small child with a severe case of ADHD, is completely incapable of focusing on why the penalty of excommunication was imposed in the first place, let alone why it was lifted. Instead, it sees fit to run pieces fully based on nothing more than their very poorly formed opinion of the Catholic Church as long as the words "Pope" and "Holocaust denier" are in the headline.
And, like a cat waiting to pounce, many Modernists have not yet ceased in their shrill cries of "foul!" ever since word of the remission has came down. I say "waiting to pounce" because many Modernists have already expressed grave concern about Pope Benedict and his program of "reforming the reform," but have not yet seen an opportunity to show their true colors in regard to how they feel about Tradition. Naturally, they hated it when Benedict was elected in 2005, because they knew what he stood for. They hated it when he published documents from the CDF proclaiming the Catholic Church the sole "Church of Jesus Christ." And they definitely hated it when he finally refused to tolerate any further illicit suppression of the Traditional Mass by bishops in the publication of Summorum Pontificum. But, as any clever enemy, they have been patient; now they feel the time has come, however, to openly denounce His Holiness for the "backwards, medieval, mean" person that he apparently is. Moreover, however, I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end to the modernist pretence that they are even remotely interested in preserving any shred of authentic Catholicism as transmitted by the Apostles. I believe the following article from America magazine epitomizes what I am trying to express here: (my emphases and [comments])
Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent for the London Tablet has a lengthy article on the SSPX saga in this week's Tablet.I think I can safely rest my case here.
He also sent us this much more personal reflection, which he has allowed us to post here:
Pope Benedict XVI said at his general audience on Wednesday that the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X (SSPX) -- the so-called Lefebvrists -- will now have to show their "true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II". [SSPX has always accepted the fullness of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope. Vatican II, on the other hand, does not really have any authority because it made no definitions which can demand the assent of faith from Catholics.]
What does this mean?
In an interview the next day in the Italian paper "Corriere della Sera", Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, claimed that the head of the Lefebvrists had already recogised the Council and said confidently that he and his group would be eventually welcomed back into the Roman Church. [Soon!!] Conservative blogs quoted sources that said 2 February would be the day, [Not quite, obviously. I thought this was overly optimistic from the start.] though it seems extremely unlikely if not impossible. There have to be some discussions or at least a semblance of them. But...
"Full communion will come," said the cardinal, who heads the commission that deals with the Lefebvrists. "In our conversations, Bishop Fellay has recognised Vatican Council II, he has recognised it theologically. Only a few difficulties remain," he said, "such as ecumenism and freedom of conscience..." [These have pretty much always been the primary SSPX sticking points on VII]
But do not think the Lefebvrists will be made to budge. The Vatican is intent on finding a formula that they sign without denying anything they hold. [That would be ideal, yes.]
A young professor at the Legionaries of Christ's university in Rome, Fr Mauro Gagliardi, gave a clue of what to expect.
"The Fraternity of St Pius X can offer the Church an important contribution in applying the 'hermeneutic of continuity' [This would be perfect for them.] that must be applied to the documents of Vatican II," he said.
This apparent reference to Pope Bendict's hermeneutic for interpreting the Council is imprecise -- as Fr Joseph Komonchak and others have clearly pointed out -- but it is not altogether mistaken. And Fr Gagliardi is not just any professor in Rome. He was recently named as consultant to the papal liturgical ceremonies office and mixes in the circles that are currently in favour in the Vatican. He said, "The 'Lefebvrists' have a spirituality and charism that can be a richness for the life of the entire Church." This certainly is the view of Cardinal Castrillon and probably reflects, at least in some measure, the Pope's thinking, too.
There is no question that Pope Benedict wants the SSPX back in the Church. Up to now he has done everything to accommodate them on their terms. He will do so on the interpretation of the Council, as well. The two CDF documents in 2007 (on the nature of the Church on 29 June and on evangelisation on 3 December ) have already begun paving the way for this. The Lefebvrists will argue, and the Pope will agree, that, in substance, we have the same doctrine after Vatican II as we had before. [Actually, John XXIII said this when he told the Council that their mission was purely pastoral in nature, and that no doctrinal definition ought to take place. Moreover, even if Vatican II was a dogmatic council, no doctrine can contradict that which precedes it, and so any notion of "change" of doctrine is out of the question completely.] All "changes" were merely stylistic or operational, but not theogical -- i.e. none of the changes were essential, so none have to be adopted. [SSPX will probably insist on this and they will probably get it.] The Vatican and the SSPX will also say, together, that much of the Council was badly misinterpreted by theologians and bishops in the post-conciliar period, [Is there anyone who isn't excommunicated or shouldn't be who honestly still believes that it wasn't?] and they will even cite the long list of theologians the CDF condemned to prove that Rome never caved in. Despite everything to the contrary (i.e. the fact that the SSPX does not really buy or live Vatican II), they will find a way together to finagle a formula that helps them profess "true fidelity and true recognition" of the Council (in light of the constant Tradition) but allows them to continue living as if Vatican II never existed. [This is the crux of the piece. This is what truly has the author so upset. How dare they go on with their lives without submitting to the superdoctrine of Vatican II Modernism?] There are already a number of "Ecclesia Dei" communities in communion in Rome (off-shoots of the SSPX like the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) that currently do this.
The formula that is produced will be just as disingenuous as the invented nonsense of "two forms of the one Roman Rite". [He hates Summorum Pontificum too.]
You are probably saying this scenario is an exaggeration and that this could never happen. Many have said it before. Not a few people called me strident, hysterical and worse back in 2005 when I started saying that the Pope was intent on issuing a universal indult for use of the Tridentine Mass. The motu proprio finally arrived in July 2007 and then most people tried to downplay it, saying it would have no practical effect in our parishes, etc.. Again I said they were. ["I told you so..."] It has only been eighteen months (!) and the changes are beginning to take place, especially in seminaries. [Well, we can't have young Priests being faithful to Tradition, can we? That would set back a lot of work by a lot of people.]
All of this should be a cause of great alarm to those of us who still believe that something monumental happened at Vatican II, that there were developments, reforms and -- yes -- points of rupture with the past [!!] (despite the Pope's unconvincing arguments to the contrary).
Joseph Ratzinger is completing, as pope, the work he began more than twenty-five years ago as prefect of the CDF. It is no less ambitious than the wholesale reinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council. [Hopefully!] And no one seems willing or able to stop him." [That's the beauty of the primacy of Peter, but he probably doesn't like that either...]-- Robert Mickens
James Martin, SJ