Williamson, SSPX, And The Vatican.
I like Bishop Williamson. I like him, so to speak, even when I do not like him. His passion and energy resonate very much with this emotional Southern European; and his beautiful, utterly politically incorrect sense of humour is a fresh breeze in a world dominated by the cowardice of pretty much every institutional outlet on the planet, perhaps a couple of Eastern European governments excepted.
It is, therefore, with sadness that I am now waiting for the official announcement of the secession/defenestration of Williamson and the extremely likely creation of a dissident group.
At the same time, one must – leaving for a moment personal sympathies aside – admit the Bishop’s positions had become rather an embarrassment for the Society herself; not so much – I hope – for the man’s singular opinions about the Holocaust (opinions to which he is perfectly entitled everywhere but in those countries tainted by PC-Neonazism; like, well, Germany) , but for his singular insistence in seeing in Rome something very similar to the “Whore of Babylon” so dear to the Protestant imagination.
I do not think, though, that this was in the end decisive in this now imminent split; if I know this kind of dynamic sufficiently well, this is rather one of those situations where differences in theology create more and more pronounced personal differences, and in the end separation becomes an outcome that cannot be pinned down to a single event, though no doubt both sides will certainly be tempted to do so (he did not take down his blog; they wanted to humiliate me; he is disobedient; they want to sell to Rome, and so on…).
What I do not think will happen is that the SSPX will get out of the story weakened or less credible. Setting aside for a moment the disagreeable taste of a split, it is probably for the best that Williamson and his followers get their own outlet: this will allow them to freely express their own opinion, whilst the SSPX will gain much credibility in presenting herself to the public exclusively with the Fellay and Schmidberger of this world rather than having to endure the ceaseless static of a group of people who have been making their own foreign policy ( and, realistically , leaking like a sieve) for a long time anyway.
I might be the eternal Pollyanna, but I think the Traditionalist front will get out stronger – provided the two organisations do not start quarrelling with each other – out of the split.
You see, traditionalism is not a cake which can only be divided in so many slices. Rather, I would compare it to a growing market, destined to expand massively in the decades to come, and able to accommodate both Williamson’s “ultras” and the in my eyes more reasonable and ultimately wiser SSPX.
If Pope Benedict’s intent in dangling the carrot of the reconciliation – save eating his word at the last moment – was to split the SSPX in the middle (as I am persuaded was his aim from day one) I think he will soon be disappointed with this outcome.
The Vatican proved untrustworthy and deceitful, giving right to Williamson who had smelled a rat from the start; and the SSPX discussed seriously with them without making any compromise, giving right to Fellay that the organisation is not compromised in her integrity just because they do not refuse to talk to Rome. But seriously, the idea that the SSPX should even refuse to talk to the Pope – even knowing beforehand he will be deceitful – sounds outlandish to me, and utterly unjustified. I think someone among those of the SSPX allowed their own zeal for purity to carry them a bit too far.
In an ideal world, the two souls of the SSPX would have found a way to coexist and pull together at the same rope. Alas, we do not live in an ideal world. Unpleasant, yes. A tragedy, certainly not. Perhaps, even an advantage in the long-term.
I am persuaded the Holy Father started the entire procedure to make a “FSSP 2.0” attempt at divide et impera, and his intentions were no better than the ones the Williamson wing of the SSPX ascribes to him. Still, he is the Pope, and you talk to the Pope when he asks to. If he proves deceitful you refuse – obviously – to obey him as the Church has no Fuehrerprinzip and the last Peter has no more right than the first Peter to be obeyed when he is just plain wrong; but to refuse to even talk to him, to write the head of the Church off even as an interlocutor, this in my eyes means to institutionalise, to cry from the roofs a total separation from the Only Church. I know this is not the intent of Williamson & Co., but I think their mistrust and anger prevents them from seeing the ultimate consequences of this stance.
As to the Pontiff, I doubt he will be satisfied with the outcome, with the SSPX largely untouched and rather more credible now, and a new organisation which, if it survives its founder, will probably prove to be solvent and combative enough to be a permanent part of the Traditionalist landscape for as long as – perhaps after the death of the founder – a milder counsel prevails.
This looks to me like a win-win scenario for the SSPX, and a lose-lose scenario for the Vatican.
Again, someone was too clever by half.