Daily Archives: February 25, 2017
Read on the Eponymous Flower about the new real estate purchases of the SSPX in the Esquilino hill (this is one of the seven hills, a very central and prestigious location, though yours truly prefers the Aventino by far). As always, I read these news for signs of “ceased alarm” (it’s not that I am really worried; it’s that we live in times when even organisation endowed with Sovereignty poop their pants at the first sign of FrancisAnger). The translated article has two messages for me, one good and one bad.
The good one is that the SSPX is buying the real estate. This is clear sign of, cough, independence from a rich and self-assured order. Instead of asking the Vatican “could you allow me to rent, for a very low price, some nice structure?” the approach seem to be “hhmmm, the agreement is approaching. We’ll need a pad in Rome with all the accoutrements. Let’s go shopping!”
The less good one is that Matzuzzi seems to consider it a given that there will be a cost in the form of “painful losses” among his “faithful and priests”, and I wonder what this means.
Firstly, is this a generic expression of things that might happen, or direct knowledge of things that will happen? Of course some isolated Williamson-style hardliner will walk, but does this qualify as “painful”?
Secondly, last time I looked the situation was that any agreement would have to be approved by the General Chapter of the SSPX. Not only this is an extremely strong guarantee that the order will not be sold, as you can’t this is also a strong indication that the agreement will be approved by a vast majority of the priests, it being inconceivable that a cabal of, say, 21 or 22 people decides to split the SSPX into two on this. Rather, the 40 voters will only support the agreement if they are aware of vast support among the ranks and files. I even seem to remember Bishop Fellay promised a direct vote on this, but I might be wrong.
A last point that I think should mention: whether the SSPX is incardinated in the Vatican hierarchy as a Personal Prelature or Apostolic Administration is not as important as the actual legal situation the SSPX will find itself in. It would appear a Personal Prelature would give the SSPX complete freedom from the authority of the bishops, but this is a moot point as every Personal Prelature could be shaped as the Vatican sees fit.
The important thing is to keep the control of a) the hierarchy and b) the assets. This way, in case of bullying the SSPX could walk away from the paws of the Pope en bloc, intact, and with the coffers full.
The news that a Personal Prelature in Opus Dei style would have been offered, and the Vatican’s demand that the V II documents be considered intrinsically “dogmatic”, or in any way binding, to all Catholics in all their aspects now set aside, clearly show that the controversy – at least the official one – is not about doctrine anymore.
Here is a big Vatican spider, inviting the fly to take place in the inclusive, very merciful net prepared for it, and perhaps expecting the fly to make itself at home in the net in the name of, I don’t know, “unity” or “reconciliation”, or however you want to call the fly’s assured destruction.
Not going to happen, says the SSPX. We are going to talk to the spider, and all; we are going to even hover near the spider if the spider has this desire. But we are not going to fly in any net, thank you very much.
This is, put in rather blunt terms, the reason why the SSPX is now apparently working on the “clarification” of some points. Points which – you can bet your last shirt on it – pivot around who controls the order and its assets, and in which way.
As they (almost) say, reconciliation is nothing without control. No amount of pretended “autonomy” is worth anything, if this autonomy can be taken away at a moment’s notice. No “guarantees” are worth anything, if the Pope retains the factual ability to renege on them. No terms of reconciliation can be accepted, which leave the SSPX in any way, shape or form unable to protect itself from, well, the spider.
The SSPX must keep control of its own hierarchy and of its own assets. It must keep self-regulation independently from a Pope’s ukase. Most importantly, it must keep control of its assets in a way unassailable by the Vatican hierarchy.
If these conditions are met, of course the SSPX will obey the Pope. They already do, actually. They are already subject to the Pope in everything that does not undermine Catholicism or their own proper function. Therefore, if the SSPX would become “institutionally” subject to the Pope without losing control of their assets and chain of command, it would be impossible for Francis or any of his successors to subvert the organisation by, say, deposing their leaders, changing their statutes, and taking control of their assets.
Most people forget that the SSPX was, in fact, recognised and in perfect standing for several years, and became “rebellious” only when they were ordered to close their (at that time, only) seminary and – having control of their assets – plainly refused. This episode is far more enlightening than the more famous episode of “disobedience” with the appointment of the bishops, because it shows that if you have control over your chain of command and assets you have nothing to fear from the spider: you can walk away, intact, anytime.
This has happened once, and can happen again. Let the SSPX be formally subject to the Pope, and let them have the factual and legal ability to disobey if the Pope gives wrong orders; for example rescinding their organisational autonomy, ordering them to hand assets to the Vatican, deposing their leaders and so on.
Vatican saves face. SSPX saves autonomy and safety from the spider’s net. Everyone is happy.
Or at least, they should be.