The SSPX, the Mamma and the Cake

No poison in the fudge, says the Vatican.

One of the things I love about (us) Italians is the imaginative, colourful language. A beautiful example comes from Don Alfredo Morselli’s brilliant blog post of Messa in Latino, examining the possible content of the Preambolo Dottrinale.

The blog article is very long and I will not even attempt to translate it, but there is a concept (the key message) there that is very interesting.

According to this article (I am very aligned with this hypothesis, as it can be read around the blog in several places) what the Vatican is asking from the SSPX is nothing else than the renunciation of the “poisoned cake theory”, allegedly an image invented by Bishop Williamson. Williamson’s idea is that Vatican II is like a poisoned cake: once you know that there is poison inside the cake, you throw away the entire cake instead of discussing which parts of it aren’t poisoned.

The answer of the author (and very probably: of the majority of the SSPX) is as follows: Mamma (la Santa Madre Chiesa) non fa torte [avvelenate], ma, in virtù delle promesse del Salvatore, può fare solo torte buone (altrimenti prevarrebbero le porte dell’inferno). Certamente però, come a ogni buona mamma, qualche torta o qualche sua parte non riesce sempre al meglio.

My translation:

“The mamma (the Holy Mother Church) bakes no poisoned cakes; on the contrary, in virtue of the Saviour’s promises, she can only bake good cakes (otherwise the gates of Hell would prevail). Certainly, though, as it happens to every good mother, some cake or some part of the cake does not always result in a perfect success”.

I have the impression that truly nothing more than this is required of the SSPX, and I frankly wonder how less than this could be required.

I also notice that:

1) the press release of the 14th was a joint one. I wonder how can it be seriously feared that at least Fellay and his strictest collaborators have worked to the presentation of a dish which they themselves have no intention of eating. If Fellay & Co. hadn’t considered the Preambolo worthy of approval, the tones would have been rather different ones or, more probably, no joint press release would have taken place.

2) Bishop Williamson started to become rather nervous already in June, before the news of the Preambolo Dottrinale but after the news of the invitation for the 14th September. Once again, with the benefit of hindsight we can clearly see that Williamson understood that the Vatican proposal would have cut in the middle between his position and those of the more moderate elements within the SSPX.

We will see how this evolves. Frankly, though, I can’t understand how one can avoid being optimistic in the presence of so many encouraging signals.


Posted on September 18, 2011, in Catholicism, FSSPX and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I fully agree that Mother Church can bake no poisoned cake, but the cake of Vatican II was certainly not her masterpiece. (A great analogy which I will proceed to stretch well beyond any reasonable breaking point….)The question, as I see it, is now which of the following two attitudes will be required of the SSPX:
    1. The SSPX can clearly say which parts of the cake of Vatican II have borne rotten fruit (by the way, cake bearing fruit, one should certainly be very careful with those… :-)) and continue to reject these parts in theory and in practice while recognising that the cake as a whole was not poisoned.
    2. The SSPX has the right to criticize the cake, but, as every good son, still has to eat it, regardless of its legitimate opinion on the matter.
    Both scenarios are compatible with the available information, as far as I can see. We know that the SSPX will have the right to criticize Vatican II and some parts of the magisterium that followed it, but what about the eating of the cake? While the first one would almost certainly mean a successful agreement, the second one would be unacceptable for the SSPX.
    As long as we don’t know which of the two is closer to the true proposal from Rome, we cannot say whether an agreement is likely on these terms or not. Sure, there are some hopeful signs that point to the first alternative, such as the joint press release, and Williamson being nervous. But signs can deceive, and have done so often in the past. Also, there are signs that point into the opposite direction, such as the “religious submission of intellect and will” that will reportedly be required of the SSPX regarding, among others, Vatican II. There are surely fine shades between “religious submission of intellect and will” on the one hand and “acceptance” on the other, but they are a little too fine to amount to a clear distinction, as you can hardly “submit religiously in intellect and will” and openly reject a certain teaching, such as the Vatican II formulations on ecumenism or religious liberty.
    On the balance, signs point a little more strongly towards reconciliation. Optimism would therefore seem to be rationally justified. But as a dogmatic pessimist you can rejoice always: either at being right, or at being proven wrong. 🙂
    Lastly, some of your readers might profit even more, if you kindly provided a link to the blog post at Messa in Latino.

    • Catocon,

      My impression is that in case 2., the SSPX will have to eat whatever parts of the cake are seen as the way cakes have always been baked, as every obedient son who still doesn’t want to be poisoned.

      “Religious submission of intellect and will” is not a novelty. It is, as far as I know, the standard way to describe how a Catholic must interpret the Magisterium. I truly can’t see problem from there only if someone at the SSPX believes that the Vatican is not the source of the Magisterium.

      The way the Magisterium is exercised will be criticised, of course, as it has happened in the past 200 years.

      We would have to read the text, but from what I have read up to now I can’t see how it should not work. Unless one is Williamson and thinks that the Vatican must be converted to Catholicism, that is…



  2. Another great post. I’m praying that this terrible estrangement will soon end.

  3. I’ve always reguarded Bp Williamson as another kind of cake: fruitcake! His careless, dogmatic statements about the holocaust shows what a loose cannon he is. If PX is reconcilied to Rome, if Willy-Boy doesn’t split when it happenens, he will have to be watched very closely to prevent him from causing any grief, or be assigned to do missionary work in some place like Outer Mongolia were his chances of causing any real trouble would be close to zero.

  4. Sorry to comment here, only the relevant post is closed. Here is an article in French which I believe you understand, concerning Norman priests and the Austrian call to disobedience. You may find it interesting, not sure if has spread to other countries too yet.

  5. Catacon,

    The Vatican II documents on ecumenism and religious liberty are incomprehensible. Ecumenism, for instance, “…does not involve any intelligible Catholic doctrine. This is easily demonstrated. Any Catholic doctrine will fit nicely into the template phrase ‘X means that…’ where X is the Catholic doctrine in question…Applying our template phrase to ‘ecumenism’, however, we immediately encounter an intellectual dead end. The phrase ‘ecumenism means that’ cannot be completed. Ecumenism is, so they say, a movement for Christian unity. But movements are by their nature contingent and ever changing things, and no Catholic can be obliged to believe in a movement as if it were a definable Catholic doctrine”. (The Great Facade – Ferrara)

    Interestingly the Vatican document on ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio never defines the word ecumenism. It calls ecumenism ‘a movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians”. The bald fact is that Pope Pius XI already stated quite clearly in Mortalium Animos what is required for the repair of the fracture in Christendom caused by the heresiarchs of the protestant revolution and that is the return of those who have left the Church to her maternal bosom. The Church which is the bulwark and foundation of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15).

    The reality is that the SSPX is unique in being the only group within the Church to hold to the Catholic Faith whole and entire and for this they are persecuted. I sincerely hope that if they agree to regularisation they will still be free to speak the truth and witness unapologetically to the Faith.

    • Gerarrd,

      I frankly don’t think it fair to say that the SSPX are “persecuted.” There is a situation of objective conflict and objective disobedience that can’t be ignored.

      Whilst I do have much sympathy for the arguments of the SSPX (and not much sympathy for JP II who allowed the situation to reach this point), I think it’s fair to say that the imperfect communion and the excommunications were rather the obligatory consequence of the bishops’ consecration.

      The only one who “persecute” the SSPX are, in my eyes, the trendies. But they never had authority to persecute anyone.


  6. If that is the case I can only retort that there are an awful lot of trendies in the Vatican Curia!

    The persecution has been ongoing since the very foundation of the Society when the seminary in Econe was labeled ‘a wildcat seminary’ by the French Bishops. Bishop Fellay spoke recently about a priest who left the Augustinians to join the Society and was written to informing him that he was now a schismatic as he had left the Church! Bishop Fellay took the letter to a Roman curial Cardinal who told him not to pay any attention but to throw the letter in the bin! Carrott and stick I think. On the other hand a Dominican Sister in Australia was recently given permission to transfer to a Dominican congregation set up by Bishop Fellay in the same country and a priest of the SSPX was deputised to receive her! It is all very confused but there are many instances of persecution and now pressure is being put on the Pope to draw back from any regularisation of the Society. Within the last few days Dieter Graumann president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said the following while greeting Pope Benedict at the Reichstag, “Please therefore permit me to tackle those points which really hurt us in the openness that is required of friendship: The topic of the “Pius Brotherhood”*, which in our view still stands for fanaticism, fundamentalism, racism, anti-Semitism, in fact simply for the darkest Middle Ages and for irreconcilability pure and simple, is one which we still find painful. The same goes for the topic of the Good Friday prayers. And the envisioned beatification of Pope Pius XII, which would further hurt our feelings and cause us disappointment”. The persecution may not be overt very often but it is quite real.

    • Gerard,

      if by “persecution” you mean that trendies (even within the Curia) and some non-Christians are very much the enemies of the SSPX, I fully agree and I think that they are soon going to have a fit….


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