SSPX, Pope, Obedience.
Reading on the Internet here and there one gets the impression the SSPX depends on the Vatican’s goodwill to survive. The reasoning goes along the lines of “the SSPX should take what is offered now, because the Holy Father’s patience is now rapidly depleting, and he is the last chance for them to reach an agreement, after which they will be crushed/declared schismatic/ordered to disband”.
It seems to me this kind of comment is made in ignorance of what the SSPX is all about. Let me explain.
The idea at the basis of the SSPX is that the fidelity to the teaching of the Church comes before the fidelity to the Pope. Whilst generally the two coincide, and obedience to the Pope is due every time fidelity to the Church is not in question, when the Pope insists in wanting something that is against the teaching, then the faithful find themselves in the necessity to refuse that obedience they continue to be ready to pay in all other circumstances.
This is not a Sedevacantist position, as the authority of the Pope and his legitimacy in being Pope is not put into question.
It would be very erroneous to think a Pope can never be wrong in doctrinal matters, because the Holy Ghost would strike him dead if he tried. Popes have been vocally and utterly wrong in doctrinal matters in the past (think of John XXII), and the protection of the Holy Ghost only kicks in in that the Holy Ghost will (predictably) strike the Pope dead before he imposes his error as a dogma of the Church. This has never happened up to now (not even with John XXII), and therefore the Holy Ghost clearly had no reason to strike any of the Vatican II Popes dead.
Another famous episode is the way Paul defended received truth (occasionally also against Peter). Paul doesn’t mince words:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:8)
Paul was an obedient follower of the Pope, but not a silent one, nor was his obedience unconditional, in a kind of blind Fuehrerprinzip. In Galatians we read, referring to the incident in Antioch
But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (Galatians 2:11)
Paul opposed Peter every time he thought it necessary, full knowing the latter’s position. He did so publicly when necessary. It’s not that Peter should have been struck dead by the Holy Ghost. Peter simply happened to be wrong on a couple of issues, and not even angels would have persuaded Paul that hey, he is the Pope so that’s what it’s going to be.
A third episode is the painful story of Athanasius, about which I have written already.
The obvious consequence of this is that the SSPX will give obedience to the Pope in everything possible, but refuse obedience whenever necessary. Not one, or one hundred, excommunications are going to stop them. Not any declaration the Vatican could make that the SSPX are Schismatics, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or cats, or dogs; not any order to disband; not even an angel coming down from Heaven and telling them to, pretty please, accept the Vatican II concept of, say, religious liberty. It’s just not going to happen.
Now, I fully agree that if the SSPX had been an organisation of people merely fantasizing themselves the defenders of orthodoxy, the old excommunication would have wiped them out in just a few years. But the fact is, they truly are the defenders of the orthodoxy! Many people see it, and see that far from being rebellious to the Pope, they are obedient to the Pope in everything, except in those things which not even an Angel could persuade them to do, because it would mean to be disobedient to the very Truth from which the Pope’s authority derives. This is why the SSPX grow and prosper, whilst the V II clergy shrink and become old.
Yes, of course the Vatican is wrong, and the SSPX is right. Peter was wrong, and Paul was right! The Vatican was wrong, and Athanasius was right! It has happened in the past, it will happen in the future. It does not mean we do not owe obedience to the Church and to the Pope, it simply means we must recognise we live in one of those periods in history in which a state of necessity may apply in certain circumstances; but again, it is a state of necessity due to obedience, not rebellion.