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.  


Posted on January 19, 2013, in Catholicism, FSSPX and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. ‘Good [relatively] cop bad cop’ diversionary divide and rule tactics again! BXVI’s inability to exercise Petrine Powers [Vatican II collegiality?]. ++Muller implies Lutherans more Catholic than SSPX and a plethora of other nonsense. With whom does SSPX negotiate?

    • … and I would add, why?

      the idea is that the SSPX is seen as a legitimate religious order within the Church, and the doctrinal discussions continue whilst the SSPX is deprived of the Vatican “stigma” of this strange “imperfect communion” thing.

      Even if the SSPX were to get along famously with DiNoia, they would not do it with Mueller, and their position is simply not accepted by the Holy Father, who seems to like the strategy of trying to put discord among the SSPX clergy much more.

      I do not even thing these initiatives are really taken with the hope of something happening. More likely is just a way to let the SSPX appear, in time, bigoted fundamentalists. A strategy attempted this last quarter of a century, which has seen a brutal growth of the SSPX.


  2. Time is on the Society’s side. Panic is unnecessary. In time the Church will come to see that what the SSPX is defending is the Catholic Faith whole and entire and not the prejudices of one Archbishop twenty years dead. The chaos currently reigning in the Church makes reality hard to grasp for a lot of people – even senior clerics.

    • … Particularly considering the senior clerics are the ones responsible for the chaos currently reigning..

      Paraphrasing Blessed J H Newman, to be deep in history is to cease to be one who thinks the SSPX is anything else than a perfectly worthy Catholic order.


  3. I’m sure the problem here is that there are so many quotes in Christendom that praise obedience and certainly fewer-known quotes that praise “disobedience”.

    Most quotes I’ve seen for instance say something like St. Ignatius would: “”See God in your superiors; so shall you learn to revere their will and follow their commands.”

    The saint here (and this applies to every other obedience quote) seems to say that “on the condition you have a person who occupies a superior office, then you should see God in them, and since you revere God’s will then you should revere his”. This is different from saying “on the condition that you both have a superior and a good superior, then you should follow his commands”.

    One could say that superior offices automatically imply superior people, yet if that were the case, then why would sayings on obedience seem so earnest?

    I know it’s not your way to debate a question, but do you have any answers?

    • Yes I do. Actually, I have severals.

      1) Obedience quotes say (explicitly or implicitly) that there is a superior obedience (to God), so it is only a matter of logic, after which the bigger loyalty prevails over the lesser one.

      St. Paul didn’t see God in Peter, I am sure. In Peter he saw Peter, and was smart enough to understand Peter wasn’t God.

      2) The state of necessity is, forcibly, an extraordinary situation. Only very bad apologetics writers would list every possible exception ervery time they explain the rules. For example, we say the Holy Ghost would strike a Pope dead before he proclaims a false dogma, but we do not mention every time the Church’s reasoning on what is happening if the Pope is just not struck down. Still, Catholicism does have an answer for that, too.

      3) The Bible for sure, and many writings of saints, use highly poetic or figurative expressions to express a concept. Until the industrial revolution, everyone understood the meaning besides this kind of language, and this was the language they expected to be used with them. In the last two hundred years the rapid increase of education, numeracy and reliance on written knowledge has made everyone more exact, and more literal. Jesus never suggested you really grasp for the next best machete and cut your arm off, but in those days this was the proper way of communication.

      4) The beauty of Catholicism is that everything has its own wonderful logic, in a system which is immutably coherent because it is Divine. Therefore, everytime I read the writings of a saints, I always read them in the way the Church says it must be understood, because the Saint cannot have told something in contrast with the rules, even if today’s reading may appear different to us. Also, in those times everyone would have picked the right meaning because most were much better instructed, and therefore many things did not need to be explained. Therefore, I read everyone in harmony with the doctrine, and the praise or extolling of obedience is also interpreted in that way.

      Others may have other answers.



  4. Reblogged this on Mundabor's Blog and commented:

    The Obedience Reblog

  5. There is emerging a pattern of planted questions on widely followed ‘Blogs’ [SSPX & Confession being one] and statements from a varied selection of individual bishops and ‘Conferences’. Therefore, there appears to be a coordinated big PR exercise which is anti-SSPX. with the same orchestrated by ++Muller, his CDF cohorts, the German Bishops’ Conference. The latest evidence, per Inside The Vatican – Andre Tornelli, reports the Bishop of Geneva Lausanne and Fribourg stating that SSPX clergy are banned from using churches in his Diocese. As far as can be ascertained, SSPX have not and have never sought to utilise churches within that bishop’s jurisdiction. He is ‘flying-a-kite’ to generate anti-SSPX sentiment and comment, which it certainly has on one particular ‘Blog’.

    I had put my faith in BXVI, it appears I may have been duped!

%d bloggers like this: