Bending Over Backwards?
I have read, and wholeheartedly agree with, a blog post on Ars Orandi pointing out that it is not true that Pope Benedict “bent over backwards” in an attempt to reach a reconciliation with the SSPX.
In my eyes, it is important to insist on what really happened in order to avoid a narrative that is becoming very spread, as in time the details are forgotten and the only concept more and more people remember is “Pope Benedict tried so hard”.
Well no, he didn’t. He didn’t at all. Rather, it appears to me very evident from the proceedings – richly documented and commented upon on this blog, so I will not get into it – that Pope Benedict first engendered the impression he would accept the SSPX opposition to the “innovations” of V II as a legitimate one, and at the last minute changed the content of the document (mind: he did it himself; not the wolves, or the gremlins come to that; he did it himself) at the basis of the reconciliation, asking the Society to accept the unacceptable. It is only some time later that the SSPX received the confirmation that the changes had come, let us write it once again, from the Pope himself.
I do not see in this any “bending over forward” whatever. The final phase of the proceedings rather left the very unsavoury impression the Pope first created the hope the SSPX might get their way – at least in the sense of being allowed to freely criticise V II – and then backpedaled at the last moment in order to cause strife and possibly a revolt within the society. In case your innocence made it difficult for you to contemplate this hypothesis, you might want to know the very same (then) Cardinal Ratzinger used exactly this strategy when he was the engine behind the creation of the FSSP, which in fact managed to cause numerous defections among the SSPX priests, and worked after the same principle: make them quarrel.
What I think was from the start the principal effect desired from the “negotiations” (the splitting of the Society) has clearly failed; but the second hoped for effect (letting the SSPX appear the stubborn ones) is getting traction, and frankly I think we should react to this.
The opposition to the novelties of V II is the reason why the SSPX exist in the first place. Pope Benedict and all those involved within the Vatican knew this perfectly well. As a consequence, negotiations aimed at seeing how the SSPX may continue its work after a reconciliation – and be it in the presence of disagreements concerning the Council – are perfectly legitimate, but three years of talks at the end of which, suddenly, the cards on the table are changed and the SSPX is asked to deny the reason why they exist is a behaviour that can be only be called, on a good day, disingenuous.
Let us remember this as the months and years go by and more and more people will confusedly remember, or will be told, that Pope Benedict “tried so hard”.
Oh, he tried hard all right. To cause strife among them and split them, that is (I know, many of you don’t believe me; alas, I suspect not a few do). Divide et impera.
If Pope Francis undertakes nothing in the matter of the SSPX, I will think this a more honest behaviour than the talks set up by Pope Benedict, very probably without any serious intention from the start, unless it was to test the SSPX’s cohesion. Please, please let us stop with the usual legends about the wolves, or the foreign governments forcing a Pope to behave badly, or the German bishops threatening schism, & Co. Besides being lame excuses with not a shred of evidence for them, they are deeply insulting of a Pope seen as not in control of his actions, and remote controlled by his own bishops, or even by foreign Governments.
Long live the Society. May they bury all the V II Popes until the glorious day when sanity returns in the matters of the Church, and true orthodoxy is defended in its fullness and not only when it is popular. We will, most probably, not live to see that day, but I personally prefer to die with open eyes.