Bishop Williamson’s Answer Fails To Persuade
Bishop Williamson’s letter in answer to his exclusion from the SSPX has been published. I have read a German translation, and I must respectfully say that I am not impressed. Please note Williamson has many friends within Kreuz.net, and I think the translation accurately reflects his own thinking.
The way I read the document, there are two main themes and the same time explanations for his “rebellious” behaviour: past obstacles put to his work, which forced him to become active with his blog irrespective of the consequences and, more importantly, a progressive deterioration in the attitude of the SSPX under the leadership of Bishop Fellay.
The first argument is of a very personal nature, and it is impossible from the outside to see who is the real cause of which behaviour, and who is responsible for which reaction; I will, therefore, not get into the matter of who has abused whose patience more, or first.
The second argument simply does not stand. Bishop Williamson accuses the SSPX of having started to “melt” in front of Vatican cajoling since the year 2000, and to have officially left the line of the Founder (may he rest in peace, and santo subito….) at the latest in 2008. As evidence, he brings a couple of short sentences without any context, and which really demonstrate absolutely nothing.
The simple fact is that in Bishop Williamson’s view of things, every talk and every attempt to reason with the Vatican is wrong, to the point that even invitations to dinner from a Cardinal – invitation accepted from “three of the four” bishops – might constitute an inappropriate propinquity. It is clear the Bishop sees Rome as a place infected and therefore to be avoided in principle, rather than the centre of Catholicism; and the Pope, wrong as he may be in this or that matter, your ultimate boss and someone with whom you simply do not refuse to reason.
Some time ago, I wrote an explanation of the different positions within the SSPX based on the very imaginatively Italian comparison of the poisoned cake . Whilst, alas, the Vatican cook was proved a bad one, the different approaches to the cake remained and are, apparently, the main cause of this fracture.
Williamson’s position is made even more untenable by the clear refusal of the SSPX to consent to any agreement which might compromise their integrity; this for the good Bishop rather embarrassing circumstance is dismissed as a kind of fortunate last-minute effort thankfully heading in the right direction; a flawed thinking which ignores the simple reality on the ground: the SSPX has remained completely orthodox and faithful to Catholicism because this is what they are, full stop.
There is in Bishop Williamson’s reasoning also another Leitmotiv: that Archbishop Lefebvre would not have wanted any reconciliation until Rome’s full “conversion”. This simply flies in the face of reality, as the saintly Archbishop obviously sought – and obtained – official recognition for his newly created order, remained in full communion for several years and would have happily gone on that way if his wish for at least one bishop had been heard.
The reality of the last days is, I am afraid, a bit different and somewhat more cruel: a passionate but rather un-diplomatic, rather difficult, and rather grumpy old man finds himself increasingly more detached from a truly orthodox, but still intelligently diplomatic leadership and can digest with more and more difficulty the isolation and loss of influence this unavoidably means.
The reality on the ground is that the SSPX is, as I write, every bit as orthodox as Bishop Williamson.
The only difference – but a highly meaningful one – is that the SSPX will always take every opportunity to explore whether a reconciliation made in the proper way and not implying doctrinal concessions is possible, whilst Bishop Williamson considers every contact with Rome as a defilement and a danger for the organisation itself.
You see the – in my eyes – flawed reasoning also in the reproach made to Bishop Fellay to have made a mistake in trusting the Vatican to be willing to dialogue in good faith. Good Lord, if this is the worst reproach that can be moved to Bishop Fellay I hope he stays in charge for a very long time. To pick up again the “Italian” imagery, you talk with the mamma even if you have the strongest suspicion that the cake baked by her will contain poison. You do that, because she is the mamma and di mamme ce n’e una sola (“mothers, one has only one”). Of course, if the mamma orders you to eat the cake, you don’t; but the SSPX didn’t do it, either.
Up to now, I have not known of any official announcement of the creation of a separate group; but if you google around, you will find at least one internet pages created to – supposedly – “save the SSPX”, and I have not heard any confirmation that no secession is going to happen.
We shall see. As I said, I can’t say I am impressed.