SSPX: General Council Is Completely Right On The Reconciliation

Spot the one who is right…

If I were inclined to see conspiracies everywhere, I would say that this is an attempt of the former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to split the SSPX in the middle.

The fact is, I am entirely convinced this is not the case. I have read today with sadness the letter sent in April to the three (alas, all three of them) dissenting bishops. The tones of the letter are, I am afraid, harsh enough to let it appear improbable there is space for a “reconciliation about the reconciliation”. As it stands, I think some form of split appears rather probable.

Still, I think the Holy Father was right in proposing the reconciliation on the terms proposed, and was moved by a sincere desire to put an end to the controversy. As to the reaction of the three bishops, I can’t understand the attitude of not wanting to accept a gift because the giver is supposed to be not good enough; particularly when the giver is the Pontiff, and the gift is big. 

I have read (though I should not have 😉 ) the leaked letter of the three bishops, and everyone can read on Rorate the General Council’s answer. The letter is so full of sane orthodoxy and practical common sense, that I wonder at what type of person has been running along the corridors of the SSPX houses for now many years.

I will not publish any excerpt from the leaked letter. Let us see the most important points of Fellay’s reasoning:

 To read your letter, one seriously wonders if you still believe that the visible Church whose seat is at Rome is indeed the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Church horribly disfigured, to be sure, a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis, but a Church that in spite of all still has as its head Our Lord Jesus Christ. One gets the impression that you have been so scandalized that you no longer accept that it can still be the true Church. For you, it would seem to be a question whether Benedict XVI is still the legitimate pope. And if he is, there is a question as to whether Jesus Christ can still speak through him.

The reasoning informing the letter of the three bishops is, in a word, the main reason why I was always afraid to attend Mass in a SSPX chapel: the uncomfortable feeling of knowing more than some (perhaps many) around me consider the Pope almost the Antichrist, others are Sedevacantists, other still morbidly grumpy about everything in Rome.

But Bishop Fellay is right. The Church is undoubtedly ill – a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis, as he beautifully says -, but ill as the Church is, she is still the Church, and whilst it may be absolutely necessary to disobey to the Pope when the Pope wants to impose to the faithful a behaviour in contrast with Catholic faith and morals, a Catholic is not allowed to refuse the Pope’s stretched hand merely because he doesn’t like  his policies.

I have made very often the comparison of the SSPX and the Vatican with the dutiful son who refuses to obey his drunken father when the latter orders the former to buy alcohol for him. But this is different: the attitude of the three bishops is the same of the son who refuses the embrace of his father, because the latter is not entirely sober yet.

A loving son will in this case embrace his father, gratefully and lovingly so, and will continue the work towards his father’s complete recovery from drunkenness.

Let us see another argument:

If the pope expresses a legitimate will concerning us which is good and which does not order anything contrary to the commandments of God, have we the right to neglect or to dismiss this will? Otherwise, on what principle do you base your actions?

This is, I think, the most enlightening passage: there’s simply nothing seriously wrong with the offer. Yes of course an Ordinariate would have been preferable to a personal prelature, but I can’t see in this the reason of the three bishops’ dissent. It is not that. It is that they refuse the reconciliation purely because of the person it comes from, and the – alas, still partially V II-inebriated – Church he represents. I find this simply inconceivable. This is not even pathological grumpiness; this is outright Sedevacantism. 

Within the Society, some are making the conciliar errors into super heresies, absolute evil, worse than anything, in the same way that the liberals have dogmatized this pastoral council.

Another pearl. The three bishops have so much criticised V II, that they simply forget the Church of Christ existing before, during and after it. This is like denying the existence of the sky behind the clouds, because it has been grey and cloudy for so long. 

In itself, the solution of the proposed personal prelature is not a trap.

Firstly, this is a practical criticism, which is different from the fundamental problem – Rome being “not Catholic enough” for their liking – expressed by the three bishops. Secondly and examining the criticism itself, I cannot imagine, not by a long stretch, the SSPX being slowly strangled by an army of – basically, dying – liberal bishops. One must trust the simple fact that an organisation which had the guts of doing the right thing for so many years will not have any hesitation in disobeying again if they notice Rome is planning a mortal embrace. The reasoning of the bishops is in my eyes so naive as to think the character and nature of the SSPX would be fatally undermined just because they are not in the waiting room anymore. But wait: the SSPX has been in full communion for many years already! They do not need to be in “imperfect communion”! This is not what Archbishop Lefebvre wanted it to be! Neither the doctor nor Archbishop Lefebvre have ever prescribed the SSPX never to be in full communion until every little trace of V II has been annihilated! In fact, the SSPX was in full communion during several years of the worst V II madness!  

More practically, Fellay & Co. seem to me perfectly sound: there are already enough allied bishops to make place for whatever expansion the SSPX may desire; control over seminaries and organisation is maintained; practically, I want to see which bishop will dare to ask them to move an existing chapel out of his diocese, and which Pope will side with the bishop when the SSPX invariably refuses.

An organisation which maintains its leadership,  its seminaries and its character will always be able to react to murderous attempts in future, as it has been in the past. I really can’t see what is to be feared there.

I rather see Bishop Fellay made a Cardinal and one day, perhaps, Pope.

We will see how this pans out. I am afraid this won’t be pleasant. But unpleasant as it is, it is probably salutary and necessary, because at this point it is necessary that those who were disobedient for love of the Church are separated from those who were disobedient because they think they are the Church.


Posted on May 11, 2012, in Catholicism, FSSPX and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Well said – a great summary.

  2. Good post, Mundy. I am surprised that the formula is 3:1, but perhaps this was always likely to be the case.

    So drilled are these three in the dialectic of criticism that they cannot rise above it, and see that the Church, dirty, bedraggled and pale from loss of blood, still lives and always will.

    If they do split, then sod ’em: they’ll be schismatics then, and no Catholic can or should have anything to do with them. Anathema sit.

    • Ben,

      I am as surprised as you are at the 3:1 situation, though I cannot imagine three quarters of the SSPX will refuse to accept the reconciliation.

      I thought Williamson would have barked a lot but in the end accepted the solution, and the other two would have had minor reservations at the most. What is happening is simply inconceivable to me, they have the reconciliation offered to them on a silver plate and still bicker…

      Alas, the tones (very harsh, I must say) used by Fellay let me think he sees there is no possibility of reconciliation, and the bridges are burnt already. Therefore, since mid-April they have probably been counting who is with whom.

      We shall see, but I echo your thoughts; I will have no more sympathy for those who refuse the reconciliation than I have for sedevacantists.


  3. Mundabor,
    let me state firstly that I am still in favor of the proposed reconciliation. But things are beginning to look a bit “fishy” to me:

    – Three of the four bishops chosen by Lefebvre himself are strongly opposed to it. What do they see or know that I don’t? I respect at least two of them very greatly (Williamson is a special case, as we know).

    – We know from experience that other “reconciled” traditional groups have been effectively silenced. The FSSP is a great organization, we should be thankful for them, but where is their criticism of Vatican II? The same goes for the other “Ecclesia Dei” groups and also for Campos. Their contribution is of great value, but the contribution of the FSSPX must be of a different kind: Not just living the traditional faith, but also boldly proclaiming it for everyone to see and hear. The other “reconciled” groups were not allowed to do it, despite also having promises out of Rome. Why do we think, this time will be different?

    – The harsh way Bishop Fellay rebukes the three other bishops seems to me strange. It reminds me of the attitude many “conservatives” in the Church exhibit towards the FSSPX. I have read their letter, as you have. It has its problems and deficiencies. But they are accused of sedevacantism, of lacking the supernatural spirit, and so on, which are accusations they do NOT deserve. This is, as far as we know, unjust. To believe that however serious the Pope may be about the offer, neither his probable successors nor the rest of the Roman Curia (and certainly not the diocesan bishops) will tolerate the FSSPX unless it greatly moderates tone and content of its message, may be totally wrong. But it entails neither sedevacantism not lack of supernatural spirit. It just shows that the other bishops have come to a different prudential conclusion about the wisdom of the offered terms, whatever they may actually be.

    – Bishop Fellays Interview with CNS, in which he appears to endorse the “hermeneutic of continuity” looks just fishy to me. Why all the opposition, all the fight, for forty years and more, if the Council was okay, but just wrongly interpreted? *This* view was always tolerated within the Church.

    – Lastly, the modernists have been strangely silent about the possibility of an agreement. It has been mostly token resistance, at least as far as we know. Again, what do they know, that I don’t? Where’s the catch in the agreement?

    Again, it does not mean I oppose the agreement. I still trust Bishop Fellay as I trust our Holy Father.

    • Catocon,

      reading the letter I found strong tones of sedevacantism if not in the letter, certainly in the attitude. Whilst the answer is certainly harsh, I donot find it unjustified.

      My opinion is that the SSPX is intrinsically different from the FSSP; that, if you want, the “culture” within it is different. Also, they are very strong and rather rich; and they have been in a state of “disobedience” for very long, so I can’t see why if necessary they should not do so again. They will keep their structures intact, so there’s no danger on that side, too.

      Like you, I trust Fellay. If he says it works, then I believe it does. He is being prudent but wise and when he says that there are no traps, I can’t see why I shouldn’t believe him. He is not gullible, for sure.


  4. + Fellay is showing himself to be worthy of much greater high office. I agree with your assessment that the man is Pope material.

    As to the other three, the harsh tone of the letter please God will make at least two out of the three pause, reflect and find some humility. + Williamson has always been a loose cannon; Tissier de Mallerais is prone to hysterical outbursts and about Bishop de Galaretta I know next to nothing.

    My selfish thought now is “I am living full-time in Kenya in one week’s time. I do hope the SSPX Priory with its three priests is with + Fellay and not the others”.

    • Ben,

      I seriously doubt a SSPX bishop can be bullied into obedience, not by the pope, let alone by Fellay.

      My reading of the letter is that the fracture is probably definitive, Fellay accepts this and uses harsh word to say to the others members (the three are obviously not the addressee of the letter) “make your choice”.

      I do hope you’ll be lucky with your SSPX Priory 😉


  5. Your last sentence is particularly insightful. Please pray for those families who have relocated after much effort that they will not be left high and dry. The personal consequences for individuals and families as a result of any split is potentially great.

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