The Thing With The Guts

Around the Catholic blogosphere there is a lot of writing about orthodoxy, and rightly so. Orthodoxy being at the very core of Catholicism, it is perfectly fitting that it should receive the first place in the discussion.

Still, I seem to notice that not every orthodoxy is born equal; that, so to speak, this beautiful quality may be found in a shiny, resplendent way, or in a more opaque one.

In my eyes there are, broadly speaking, two types of orthodox Catholics: the silent and the vocal one.

The first one does everything right; if he is a priest, he can be very conservative in his priesthood, and liturgically unexceptionable; if he is a layman, he is a credit to his religion, and at all times aware of the example he wants to be for others. He is, in a word, perfectly sound, but that’s that.

Then there is the second type, the vocal one. If he is a priest, he is one of those priest who can’t shut up, or one of those bishops who end up in the viewfinder of the IRS; if he is a layman, he is the one likely to take fire every time heresy and negation of Christianity is discussed among his circle of friends or acquaintances.

I do not make any observation here as to the personal quality of the two archetypal “orthodox catholics”; for what I know, it can be those of the first kind are, on average, better able to live a Catholic life than the representatives of the second kind. But the fact remains, the second ones probably do more to advance sound Catholicism among the masses.

I am, for example, rather impressed by the difference in public behaviour between the Society of St. Pius X and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I do not doubt the members of the second order are perfectly orthodox Catholics, strictly obedient to the Magisterium and intent on advancing the cause of Catholicism through spotless orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Still, I notice it is rare that priests of this order are in the line of fire when something really controversial happens (like the Assisi gathering, say) and whatever the position of the one or the other of their members might be, their collective profile is far more subdued than the one of the SSPX.

The latter are, as religious orders go, a completely different animal. They do not limit themselves to talking the talk, or to walking the walk. They go beyond these very laudable traits, in that they fight the fight. You see this not only in matters concerning internal disagreements with the Vatican (disagreements on which it is to assume the members of the FSSP must often be of exactly the same mind as their cousins at the SSPX; they just don’t say so), but matters of faith and morals in general. As every blog writer, I roam the internet seeking proper events and news which might make a blog post an interesting and possibly instructive reading, and I must say the presence of the SSPX whenever controversial matters are discussed is far more noticeable than the always unexceptionable, but rather less incisive FSSP. I cannot avoid thinking those members who left the SSPX to join the newly created FSSP knew from the beginning this would be the case, and were happy to proceed on this basis.

I do not think much will change after the Vatican-SSPX reconciliation. I expect the SSPX will proceed to some small adjustment in volume, but without any change in the tone. If you ask me, they will continue pretty much the same battle they have fought up to now, limiting themselves to only those small adaptations dictated by elementary common sense and proper behaviour.

They will do this also because they will be subject to intense scrutiny from their own members, of course. But in the end, I think they will continue to do it simply because they have guts, and see their role in fighting the fight.


Posted on May 6, 2012, in Catholicism, FSSPX and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I both agree and disagree. It is easy to claim this, but looking at the preaching of the priests they speak out equally harshly against the wrongs and scandals of the Vatican and the modern Church. In fact, I know and can find more sermons and such spread around with sharp commentary from FSSP priests than the SSPX priests (except now Bishop Williamson, who’s material is common).

    However, actual and direct criticism towards the Pope and especially the New Mass is much more common in the SSPX, and it is often very harsh, even mocking (which is imprudent and immodest, but not false), but this is natural concerning that this is what the SSPX is all about and because of its free reign that gives it liberty to do so with fear of Vatican reprecussions. I believe this is not as good as it sounds, because an order / fraternity shouldn’t be allowed to speak whatever they want about the hierarchy, however wicked and lost it may be. In the long run I believe this has or will hurt more people than a more balanced speech would have. As for what will happen if the SSPX is regularised, I leave that for the future.

    On another note of guts, today (yesterday) one of my Novus Ordu parish priests preached against “false ecumenism”. Basically against the false idea of the vine where the Church is the stock and the branches are all the different Protestant congregatioins. It was a very good sermon, and I haven’t enjoyed something so much in a long time as when the gray-haired women looked around with shocked faces and their gray-haired men shook their cuckolded heads in disapproval. Then he even headbashed the state church! It was beautiful. Isn’t it amazing was good preaching does to us? There’s lots of graces being lost today from the lack of pure and clear preaching of the Truth.

    • I am glad you have a different perception than I have concerning the FSSP, Fugerunt, and I will in future pay more attention to detect signals from them.

      Yes, in a way the particular situation of the SSPX may encourage them to be somewhat unsparing in their criticism, though I personally find them (at least, in what I have read) charitable even when they are harsh. I notice, though, that even normal parish priests do not hesitate to say things openly when they think it is the charitable thing to do. If you follow Father Ray Blake’s blog, you will find there the open call to the resignation of no less than a Cardinal. One could say that it is not for a priest to make such calls, but I think he knows exactly what he is supposed and not supposed to say. In this, the SSPX is, as you say, much more outspoken.

      I am glad your NO priest (and possibly many others) start to speak clearly. We need more like him. Whenever I attend anywhere else than at the Brompton Oratory, I must say I don’t hear much of this plain language.


  2. I think that camparing FSSP to SSPX is an “apples to oranges” comparison. The SSPX is more like an Ordinariate and has its “own” bishops while the FSSP is an Order and has no bishops. The words of the SSPX Bishops are widely reported in Catholic press but one rarely sees quotes from SSPX priests. FSSP priests serve in local dioceses and are accountable to the local bishops. Quite often the local bishop is not too accomodating to the FSSP priests within the diocese. My understanding that the Pope had to intervene in order for the local FSSP parish to purchase its own church. I’ve also have read about the FSSP parish that was shut down by the Bishop in Little Rock, AR. FSSP priests are in a difficult situation.

    I’ve never attended an SSPX Mass nor I have I heard a sermon given by a SSPX priest. As I attend the local FSSP parish, I have heard numerous sermons given by the local FSSP priests. I can’t imagine anyone who has heard their sermons would accuse them of being gutless. In the past 12 months that I have attended the FSSP Mass, I have learned more about Catholic History, Catholic Culture, Catholic Doctrine and the Catechism than I ever learned in the homilies I heard at NO Masses as an adult. Almost all of the sermons given by the two priest at the local FSSP parish are available online at Audio Sancto if you are interested in listening.

    • Thanks Kevin, but don’t you think you are contradicting yourself?

      You say that the FSSP are “in a difficult situation” because they “are accountable to the local bishops”, but then you resent the word “gutless”.

      I have not questioned the orthodoxy of the FSSP priest, merely the fact they do not seem to be so vocal as the SSPX; which in part can be traced back to the fact they do not have their own bishops; but hey, if they had remained within the SSPX then they would have them, wouldn’t they?

      The fact is, the FSSP had in its own birth the cause for a limited possibility of being vocal concerning the Church’s problem. You seem to see the problem yourself.

      Once again, this without taking anything away from the beautiful work they do. It merely seems to me the SSPX does the same work better, and to say “I can’t do things as well as they do, because I have left the SSPX and have put myself in the position of being shot at by the modernist bishop” isn’t really an answer.

      I also notice some of the most assertive bloggers around are in no better position than the FSSP priests; and some of them ( I make no names as it’s not fitting) are particularly laudable because their bishop is particularly dangerous.


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