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.


Posted on May 7, 2013, in Catholicism, FSSPX, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I thought there was evidence for the German episcopacy’s ultimatum? Also, you neglect to mention Summorum Pontificum; its promulgation shows he’s can’t be completely portrayed “as not in control of his action”.

    • I’d be glad if you could find something, Alan.
      I’ve only read rumours and hints and allegations.

      I do believe Benedict was fully in control of his actions. This is why I believe he was never honest with the Society.


  2. Thank you for this post. It is as courageous as it is accurate. It’s not fashionable these days to bring Pope Benedict into proper focus. If you read the monumental de Mattei work on the Second Vatican Council, one is confronted with the inconvenient reminder that Ratzinger plotted with Rahner, Kung, Schillebeeckx, et. al. the coup de etat which brought the Modernists into ascendency at that deplorable Council. If one desires to know the thinking of Pope Benedict as a theologian at the Council, read his 1966 work, “Problem and Results of Vatican Council II.”

    Another thing comes to light in R. de Mattei’s work. At the Council, the leftists (which included Joseph Ratzinger) used the Fourth Estate to destabilize the Council and then to push their agenda to the Council Fathers. So the remarks by Pope Benedict about not getting the Council that was expected because of the media are more than just a bit disingenuous.

    Thank you, Mundabor. Your post articulated that which needed to be said.

    • I have read disquieting things about Ratzinger in “100 years of modernism”, and the fact that he was a part of the movement shows his reluctance to distance himself from it. I had hoped the first Pope who did not take part in the Council would have less investment in it. Alas, once again the appointments of JP II and Benedict have taken care that this was not the case.


  3. Thank you for another excellent post on your outstanding blog (a unique combination of insight, wit and brutal honesty). It is impossible to find anything about the doctrinal discussions, which isn’t grossly biased against the SSPX. Like others in canonical limbo, I awaited the outcome of the doctrinal discussions with a mixture of hope and fear. In order to keep my grounding in reality, I referred back to Cd. Ratzinger’s speech to the bishops in Chile (July 13, 1988). Here is where Cd. Ratzinger called for the defence of Vatican II against Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers (a Crusade against the Lefebvrist infidels?). The outcome didn’t come as a surprise, although it was still a disappointment. There was a sincere desire on the part of the SSPX to trust Pope Benedict’s intentions (had the chance to speak with one of those involved around the time of the preamble) . Thank goodness reason prevailed!

    • Thank you for the compliments, particularly the one about the brutal honesty (it also keeps the V II sissies away, you know…).

      I always thought it was right for the Society to talk. I think it would have been right, in fact, even if they had known all along the Pope had no serious intentions. The Pope is the Pope, and a priest obeys the Pope in everything he can, unless he is asked by the Pope to betray a higher loyalty.


  4. Thank you, Mundabor, for your insightful posts supporting SSPX and groups that offer the Traditional Mass of all time.

    I do not believe there was genuine charity in the acts toward “reconciliation” from the Vatican. Rather, these were Vatican II-style forked-tongue “dialogues” to create confusion – just as their gag order was that reprimanded SSPX Bishops and priests, forcing them (particularly Bishop Fellay) into not revealing to anyone how these talks were going. They created fear, hope, and pain in one fell swoop to destroy SSPX from within. As Bishop Fellay submitted to them in total obedience, like he is wont to do, the entire Society was taken advantage of. Just like innocent victims of VII sexual assaults have been. I blame Vatican II crimes against Christ for the whole mess. Trusting that VII emmissaries always represent Christ’s will is a big mistake. Often, satan’s minions are in charge.

  5. While you may be right about Pope Benedict’s intentions, I do not think there is any hard proof that these “negotiations” with the SSPX were just a ploy to divide the Society. I think
    Benedict’s motives were probably sound, if generated from a different perspective than what we as traditionalists hold. I think he truly saw the SSPX — in some form — as an ally in
    his admittedly moderate efforts to restore dignity to the liturgy and thus toward some kind of
    restoration of the Faith, albeit in a Vatican II dressing. Benedict — as Cardinal Ratzinger — at least recognized the crisis in the Church and fingered the “collapse of the liturgy” as being largely responsible. I don’t think those statements were insincere or cynical. He simply refused to accept the reality that the Council itself was to blame, rather than “mis-
    interpretations.” This is undoubtedly self-denial and self-deception, but I believe he is sincerely mistaken in this view. I don’t think he would have spent so much of his pontificate
    on this issue of the liturgy and the SSPX ( including fighting enormous resistance to SP )
    just to try and divide the SSPX. That just isn’t credible. That his motives were not exactly our
    motives, yes, but I really think you do the poor man a grave injustice by attributing the worst
    intentions to him.

    • I hear what you say, but if this had been the case would have been not more natural to allow his “natural allies” to hold their convictions and respectfully disagree with the V II course?

      The SSPX was not asking the Pope to accept V II was a failure, so there was no compromise or loss of face in allowing them to hold to their conviction.

      But again, the whole point is: Pope Benedict knew they would hold to their convictions. He knew it perfectly well. A logical man, he must have known what the logical end of his request that they abandon their opposition to V II would be.


  6. I think if it had merely been a ruse to trap the Society, Benedict would have agreed to any
    formulation the SSPX gave him, gotten them to sign an accord, and then chopped their heads off once they were “mainstreamed” inside the Conciliar Church. That would have been the intelligent ( albeit sinister and crafty ) way to do it. And Benedict is an intelligent man. But, by turning tail, and asking the SSPX to sign the same preamble they had previously rejected, he knew they would walk away and all he did was hurt himself and his pontificate by looking inconsistent and confused. And, I do not discount massive pressure at the end from the German and other episcopates and governments NOT to sign with the SSPX. I had heard the same pressures were brought to bear at the time of the 1988 protocol, especially rumors about the French government, the candidacy of LePen, etc.

    • I think the strategy you devise would never have worked for various reasons:

      1) the SSPX will not allow any Pope to chop them anything. Not their finances, not their seminaries, not their bishops. Not in the best of days, certainly not because a Pope has signed a piece of paper.

      2) Had Benedict so done, he would have lost face in the most sinister of manners. So the SSPX would not have obeyed, and he would have been there like the village stupid.

      3) I think Benedict sees the difference between a positively evil behaviour and a deception which he must have thought, as in 1988, for the greater glory of the (post-Conciliar) Church.

      The other theory you make is, I think, far more realistic, but not very flattering. “Inconsistent and confused” applies to it, I think, perfectly. Again, I have seen no evidence of this. If such evidence were to come out, I don;t know how much flattering it would be.


  7. Oh, I agree that the strategy would never have worked but it might have split the SSPX, which has already happened, to a limited, though hardly crippling, effect. However, I think
    the better strategy had it been a trap would have been hoping for a sort of FSSP neutering
    or at least silencing. But, to have walked the SSPX right to the door and then closed it in their face makes me believe something else was going on. I still do not understand all these references by Bishop Fellay and his associates about assurances from “sources close to the Pope.” Who are these sources? What was their credibility? Why were they talking to the SSPX anyway? Why would Bishop Fellay take these sources at their word and give them more importance than declarations from the CDF??

    • Well, the matter here is whether one believes in the SSPX’s honesty or not. I do, and therefore think that the SSPX would not abuse of expressions like “close to the Pope” unless the source is really close to the Pope. In my eyes, this can only have been Gaenswein or Mueller. I also cannot imagine the SSPX would have accepted talks without a very near connection to the Pontiff. If Benedict doesn;t talk to the SSPX directly – as it is natural – then the SSPX would only communicate through a direct channel, one who talks to the Pope as a matter of course.

      If this is true – and I think it is – and considering the SSPX would be even more prudent in mentioning “sources close to the Pope” when their statement do apportion a grave responsibility to the Pope, it follows that the SSPX can only have confirmed the latest changes came from the Pope because abundantly assured this was the case.


  8. radjalemagnifique

    Well, all these exchanges are of evident interest, though it takes time to digest them. (I’ll try tomorrow.) In the meantime, what do you think about this (in French, concerning France)? I could translate it but it would need so much explanations about the personage and about France and about the political state of this country that it would me take hours to do so.

    Radja le Magnifique

    P. S. Dear Mundabor, sometimes you have a contradictor (a very few times indeed), like the one here above, who – in my very little understanding of matters concerned – would, or could, or should be taken with a little more “souplesse” by you (sorry!). “Souplesse” is not weakness, nor abandon of principles… Sometimes I agree with them. No offense!

    • I feel very strongly, Radja, and write accordingly. Many like me in my country. I hope whoever reads my posts and writes in my blog will take account of this.


  9. radjalemagnifique

    That’s why I love your “coups de gueule”! (Which is described in a more distinguished manner [euhm…] by another blogger as your “insight, wit and brutal honesty.)

    Radja le Magnifique

  10. radjalemagnifique

    SHOCKING!!!!!!!! Sir! I am a LADY, the Mistress of Radja le Magnifique, a poor soul of a cat who has been ill treated the very first years of his (= a male cat) existence. So, please, let’s not beeing confused about Genders!

    Radja le Magnifique

    (= in fact my Mistress which I follow every step she does. In French we call this “un pot de colle”: a pot of glue. That means litterally sticking to something/someone without any chance of that person to get rid of it.) – Like the plaster of Capt. Haddock, if you know about “Flight 747 to Sidney” from Hergé.

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