Rorate Coeli has a strange letter from Bishop Williamson, the well-intentioned but at times rather eccentric Bishop of the Society of St. Paul X.
In his latest newsletter, apparently received (see the comments to the entry) with some surprise within the SSPX itself, several alleged facts are rather clearly hinted to:
1) that SSPX and Rome are getting nearer to a full reconciliation;
2) that this reconciliation would require from the SSPX nothing else than some token concession, probably to acknowledge the Catechism of JP II, with no other conditions attached;
3) that this would be a bad development, and one to refuse without hesitation, because this would mean to “go along with the substance of neo-modernism”.
We all knew that Bishop Williamson is a chap, so to speak, sui generis, but this really takes the biscuit. Bishop Williamson’s assumption seems to be that the SSPX’s duty is to remain in imperfect communion until the Church has cleansed herself of all the toxins of Vatican II. He says explicitly that those Catholics who accept the compromise he describes “have not understood what [Archbishop Lefebvre] was all about”. But this is illogical as if JP II had consented to the appointment of the four bishops the SSPX would never have been in a state of imperfect communion in the first place. Bishop Williamson seems therefore to consider a probably necessary, but painful decision – and the painful consequences it unavoidably created – as if they were the defining trait of the SSPX’s mission.
We do not know whether 1) is true. The fact that Bishop Williamson feels it necessary to warn from it may indicate that it might not be very far from reality (still, knowing the man it is fair to say that no one can really say), but it certainly is an extraordinary piece of information.
Extraordinary seems also 2), as to pose such mild conditions as the acceptance of the JP II’s Catechism would in my eyes mean that Rome is so eager to have the SSPX into full communion again that it would be content with a merely symbolic gesture. I doubt whether this would even be enough to save the Vatican’s face (and JP II’s face, to say it as it is) as the practical results would be that the SSPX would be still able to fire from all cannons, but this time from a position of full legitimacy. To me, this is frankly difficult to believe.
Not very difficult to believe is, alas, 3) even if Bishop Williamson’s idea that such a token gesture would be unacceptable is, in my eyes, illogical and untenable.
I remind here my readers of the fact that a Catechism is not infallible and not a doctrinal instrument, but merely a didactical one. By “accepting” JP II’s catechism the SSPX would merely acknowledge that… they are not sedevacantists.
Bishop Williamson’s idea, that the Catechism is “quietly neo-modernist” is beside the point, as he himself does not question the authority of the Pope whose name the Catechism carries. Therefore either Bishop Williamson draws the consequences and tells us that JP II was a Modernist and he, Williamson, a sedevacantist or he has a logical problem.
Still, if what Bishop Williamson hints at proved to be true it would be, in my eyes, fantastic news for the SSPX and for the Church.
I wish Bishop Fellay the best of luck. I am confident that he will act in an orthodox but reasonable way.