SSPX-Vatican Talks: Some Thoughts
Reading around about the SSPX-Vatican talks, I can’t avoid making a couple of small considerations as follows:
1) It would seem there are some people who think if the SSPX does not agree with the Vatican, they will be declared schismatics.
This reasoning – very similar to those of the cave-in Catholics, though in this case some might be in good faith – is in my eyes fundamentally flawed. Being schismatic or orthodox is not something depending from the humour of the Pope of the day, much less – if we have a modicum of esteem for the current Pope – a matter object of emotional handling: if you do not agree with me now, I’ll declare you schismatic. Thank God, even the post-Vatican II Church is much better than this.
The Vatican cannot and will not declare the SSPX schismatic, because the Church cannot declare Herself schismatic. You won’t find any other “flaw” in the SSPX as the iron will to be as the Church always was. No amount of V II blabber can ever go over this point, and the talk of the SSPX beig “schismatic” is, in the essence, V II blabber.
The argument that the SSPX be “disobedient” is also a rather shallow one: the SSPX is obedient to the Magisterium, and obeys the Pope only in the measure in which the latter is faithful to the Magisterium. If the Pope is imperfectly faithful to the Magisterium, he will have to live with the consequences. This has always been so in the past and will always be so in the future: dissolute and greedy Popes have to live with the damage they create, and weak Popes unable to enforce orthodoxy must do the same.
Every properly instructed Catholic (not many of those, I admit) knows a Pope is not infallible, and not even orthodox, qua Pope. A Pope is orthodox in the measure in which he follows orthodox thinking (which is variable), and he is infallible only in certain very limited circumstances.
If you ask me, the talk of schism is pure fantasy thinking, and a comfortable excuse for the friends of the appeasement.
2) Msgr Bux speaks eloquently and at times movingly, but one wonders how representative he is of the real mood within the Vatican. His invitation to join the battle would be flawless if the battle had been successful in the past decades; nay, if the battle were not the disaster which prompted Msgr Bux’s letter in the first place. As it is, the appeal is more of a beautiful call to arms and a rather vague hope things will work out in the end, than a fair assessment of the present situation. As things stand, my impression is the SSPX should, in the end, join a rather drunken army but not be allowed to thunder against alcoholism. I think past the emotional assessment of Msgr Bux’s letter, the SSPX sees this clearly.
3) Personally, at this point I am persuaded the differences are not so much theological as practical. Will the SSPX, after a theoretical reconciliation, be able to be as critical of the V II praxis as it has been up to now? Msgr Bux says, emphatically, “yes”, but one wonders whether this is the case; then were this to be the case, the impotence of the Church towards the forced secularisation of once Catholic masses – people who 100 years ago would have been very well instructed and today can’t even recite the Commandments – would not be so painfully obvious. To persuade yourself of the failure of this conservative battle you need to look no further than at Summorum Pontificum, a beautiful document now a dead letter in vast parts of the planet. Alas, the reality on the ground is that if the SSPX joined the battle inside the Vatican today they would find some Buxes, and an awful lot of Nicholses and Schoenborns. I even wonder if they would be allowed to wage this battle in the first place. Can we really say, for example, that a battle is raging for Summorum Pontificum?
In my eyes, the problem is very simple: what happens after the reconciliation. Look at the FSSP and tell me whether you can say they are as effective as the SSPX in defending traditional Catholic values. I never ever read of FSSP priests taking a courageous stance against some modern error of the Church. I might be wrong, but my impression is on the whole they are content with being allowed to do their own thing, without “meddling” in the matters of the broader Church; and I do not doubt if any FSSP priest would take a courageous public stance against V II the press and blogosphere would adequately amplify his declarations. The fact is, the FSSP has lost in bite (many of them are, I think, ex-SSPX) what it has gained in “official” recognition. They are, so to speak, in full standing but factually not allowed to stand against V II. This is in my eyes not really good (we all agree, I think, the SSPX stance of aiming at the restoration of traditional Catholic thinking is the better, more Catholic approach than the narrow view of being just content with having the Tridentine Mass and being free from the NO) and might well prove their doom in just a couple of generations, whilst the SSPX is thriving and, it seems to me, gaining prestige and recognition as the decades go by.
Beautiful as Msgr Bux’s words are, in my eyes there is a lot speaking for letting things stay as they are. The SSPX should, I think, accept a full reconciliation only of they are allowed to continue their work exactly in the same way as they are doing it now. Until this is the case – and this seems at the moment not to be the case – I would rather prefer to see the SSPX continue the battle than being reconciled but, in the end, silenced.
Archbishop Lefebvre would not have wanted to stay out just for the sake of “staying out”: he signed the V II documents, but he also tirelessly warned about the need to improve them and the danger they represent.
What I think he would never have done is to accept to shut up in exchange for privileges for his order.