SSPX: General Council Is Completely Right On The Reconciliation
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.