In one of his eleison editorials, (it's number 355; no independent link) Bishop Williamson states that the Vatican is thinking of doing what, in fact, Benedict should have done in 2012: recognise the full legitimacy of the Society without any condition or demand.
The statement seems absurd, and it probably is. One simply struggles to see why the Bishop of Rome would do something like that, and at the same time persecute the FFI. Yes, Francis might try to spin this as a move toward “inclusiveness”, particularly if he plans something very scandalous on the other side of orthodoxy, like paving the way for sacrilegious communion. A way to, so to speak, try to make everyone happy and show he is the Saint Protector of Absolutely Everyone: Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Heretics, Sodomites, even Catholics.
One could think he might make such a move, but let us reflect: is this the way he has operated up to now?
No. What he has done up to now has been consistently belittling, insulting or persecuting decent Catholics whilst he panders to the emotional needs of all kind of wrong people, who in turn build his personality cult. Why would he change direction now? Has there been a scandal too big for him, short of officially overturning Church teaching? Does he think if he gives the SSPX a “certificate of conformity” they will stop their rather ferocious, if always respectful, criticism of him? Has he been persecuting the FFI for, basically, no reason at all? Is he not afraid that this might backfire mightily, destroying the image of liberal icon he has been building for himself?
No, I cannot see this working. Rather, it seems to me that the Bishop is receiving third-hand rumours from sympathisers within the SSPX, and that he tries to make the argument of how little orthodox the SSPX must be, if Francis is even thinking of receiving them into his ample, inclusive, Catholicism-free bosom.
Don't believe the rumours.
Believe the facts.
If you want to have a laugh, go on Father Ray Blake's blog and enjoy the press release sent to him about an imminent coup of the friends of Bishop Williamson, apparently ready to oust Bishop Fellay and, one must conclude, at least 80% of the Society. More, actually.
The problem with the stupid is that they can't think. If they can't think, they will publish whatever rubbish they think serves their cause, or at least gives them some notoriety; or slanders those they dislike.
These people obviously do not know how the Society is organised. If they knew, they would avoid making asses of themselves. But again, asses generally do not know they are making asses of themselves.
Enjoy the press release on Father Blake's blog.
I have already reported about the circumstances and the implications of Bishop Williamson’s exclusion from the Society of St Pius X. On that occasion, I had imagined that he might create a separate group, though due to age consideration he might have preferred to simply retire. Rumours of an alternative “SSPX Mk II” had briefly circulated in the few days after his exclusion, after which the matter had remained rather silent.
It would now appear a new organisation of priests alternative to the SSPX is being created, and you will find the details on a sedevacantist site here.
It is early days to see what line the new organisation will fare. For the moment it seems it will not even be able to dent the SSPX; of course things might change in the next months or years, but I wouldn’t bet my pint. Hopefully, the new group will not slide into sedevacantism, and will in fact constitute merely a more aggressive version of the SSPX. As I cannot imagine this initiative will seriously harm the SSPX either in vocations or funding, I am still unable to see any big downside from this new creation. What might well happen is that conservative Catholics will get, so to speak, two for the price of one, but with a bigger presence of traditional Catholicism particularly on the Internet. The SSPX also achieves the aim of getting rid of the very smart, but at times frankly embarrassing Bishop Williamson and of some of his most colourful followers, without selling out to the Neo-modernists in the Vatican.
This new group, if it survives, will also be not without some irony as the clear manoeuvring of the Holy Father to plunge the SSPX into disarray by splitting them down the middle would fail twice, and instead of a weakened SSPX he will now be confronted with a SSPX as strong as ever, and a second (if small) thorn on the Vatican’s VII side as a very special “thank you” from the Members of the Society.
If, on the other hand, the new organisation will slide into overt or covert sedevacantism, it is not difficult to predict it will soon – at the latest a few years after the death of his rather litigious but always entertaining founder – sink into irrelevance and then oblivion; which would be a pity, because I cannot avoid thinking two SSPX-like organisations (though the first will remain the truly important voice) shoot better than one. Let us hope they do not start quarrelling with each other, though, and that the new organisation takes a name acceptable to the SSPX and does not make of criticism of the latter the main reason of its existence.
For the moment, it looks they are so few (they talk of around twenty members, with hopes of enlarging the group; the SSPX alone has more than 500 priests) the SSPX might even afford the luxury of ignoring their existence, but again you never know how these things evolve.
I wish those who felt they could not remain under the banner of the SSPX well, though I cannot say I approve the decision or the thinking behind it. They will have some trouble in creating a strong organisation, as most people will see the SSPX as strong and uncompromising enough for any reasonable human standard; therefore, this new organisation runs the risks of becoming a refuge for cranky priests at war even with the SSPX – and then they will very probably slide into sedevacantism, and won’t live long – or a slightly more aggressive but loyal to the Papacy alter ego of the SSPX, and then the pressure to the reunification will become strong when they have understood the SSPX has no intention whatsoever to sell out to the VII troops and Bishop Williamson has died.
What, I think, is the interesting news is that at the moment it appears certain that the Vatican attempt to split the SSPX in the middle has failed parlously now, as it did when the FSSP ( a sound organisation, no doubt, but created with the aim of maiming and possibly killing the SSPX) was created.
Bishop Williamson’s letter in answer to his exclusion from the SSPX has been published. I have read a German translation, and I must respectfully say that I am not impressed. Please note Williamson has many friends within Kreuz.net, and I think the translation accurately reflects his own thinking.
The way I read the document, there are two main themes and the same time explanations for his “rebellious” behaviour: past obstacles put to his work, which forced him to become active with his blog irrespective of the consequences and, more importantly, a progressive deterioration in the attitude of the SSPX under the leadership of Bishop Fellay.
The first argument is of a very personal nature, and it is impossible from the outside to see who is the real cause of which behaviour, and who is responsible for which reaction; I will, therefore, not get into the matter of who has abused whose patience more, or first.
The second argument simply does not stand. Bishop Williamson accuses the SSPX of having started to “melt” in front of Vatican cajoling since the year 2000, and to have officially left the line of the Founder (may he rest in peace, and santo subito….) at the latest in 2008. As evidence, he brings a couple of short sentences without any context, and which really demonstrate absolutely nothing.
The simple fact is that in Bishop Williamson’s view of things, every talk and every attempt to reason with the Vatican is wrong, to the point that even invitations to dinner from a Cardinal – invitation accepted from “three of the four” bishops – might constitute an inappropriate propinquity. It is clear the Bishop sees Rome as a place infected and therefore to be avoided in principle, rather than the centre of Catholicism; and the Pope, wrong as he may be in this or that matter, your ultimate boss and someone with whom you simply do not refuse to reason.
Some time ago, I wrote an explanation of the different positions within the SSPX based on the very imaginatively Italian comparison of the poisoned cake . Whilst, alas, the Vatican cook was proved a bad one, the different approaches to the cake remained and are, apparently, the main cause of this fracture.
Williamson’s position is made even more untenable by the clear refusal of the SSPX to consent to any agreement which might compromise their integrity; this for the good Bishop rather embarrassing circumstance is dismissed as a kind of fortunate last-minute effort thankfully heading in the right direction; a flawed thinking which ignores the simple reality on the ground: the SSPX has remained completely orthodox and faithful to Catholicism because this is what they are, full stop.
There is in Bishop Williamson’s reasoning also another Leitmotiv: that Archbishop Lefebvre would not have wanted any reconciliation until Rome’s full “conversion”. This simply flies in the face of reality, as the saintly Archbishop obviously sought – and obtained – official recognition for his newly created order, remained in full communion for several years and would have happily gone on that way if his wish for at least one bishop had been heard.
The reality of the last days is, I am afraid, a bit different and somewhat more cruel: a passionate but rather un-diplomatic, rather difficult, and rather grumpy old man finds himself increasingly more detached from a truly orthodox, but still intelligently diplomatic leadership and can digest with more and more difficulty the isolation and loss of influence this unavoidably means.
The reality on the ground is that the SSPX is, as I write, every bit as orthodox as Bishop Williamson.
The only difference – but a highly meaningful one – is that the SSPX will always take every opportunity to explore whether a reconciliation made in the proper way and not implying doctrinal concessions is possible, whilst Bishop Williamson considers every contact with Rome as a defilement and a danger for the organisation itself.
You see the – in my eyes – flawed reasoning also in the reproach made to Bishop Fellay to have made a mistake in trusting the Vatican to be willing to dialogue in good faith. Good Lord, if this is the worst reproach that can be moved to Bishop Fellay I hope he stays in charge for a very long time. To pick up again the “Italian” imagery, you talk with the mamma even if you have the strongest suspicion that the cake baked by her will contain poison. You do that, because she is the mamma and di mamme ce n’e una sola (“mothers, one has only one”). Of course, if the mamma orders you to eat the cake, you don’t; but the SSPX didn’t do it, either.
Up to now, I have not known of any official announcement of the creation of a separate group; but if you google around, you will find at least one internet pages created to – supposedly – “save the SSPX”, and I have not heard any confirmation that no secession is going to happen.
We shall see. As I said, I can’t say I am impressed.
Punctually on the day in which it was expected, the announcement of Bishop Williamson’s exclusion from the SSPX has arrived. I have already written about how I personally see things and will not bore you a second time; I do hope, though, that the tones remain halfway courteous – I do not mean sugary and hypocritical, but not openly insulting- at least in public.
Strong minds will have strong opinions, and passionate people will unavoidably have strong feelings about this. But even the Italian Commies managed to split without a public and open war of insults.
Let’s hope and pray.
Below is the translation of the press release of the SSPX South American Superior. Translation courtesy of Catholic Church Conservation.
Superior de Distrito.
This appeared some days ago on the generally well-informed (and said to have very good contacts within the SSPX) Kreuz.net.
The news matches rather neatly with another one, always from the same sources, concerning the Bishop having celebrated some confirmations in Brasil without authorisation from the SSPX.
It is now irrelevant to decide whether Bp. Williamson will (would; might) be excluded because of his Brasil confirmations, or whether he decided to fly to Brasil because he had decided to secede in the first place. What I think is relevant is that the news comes from a generally very informed source, and as far as I know has not been denied by the SSPX yet.
Those of us who think that the Holy Father started the entire exercise to try to see whether he could provoke divisions within the SSPX (I am among them) might think that with this development the Holy Father has reached his objective, but I am not persuaded the action will be of any use to the Pope either during the rest of his pontificate or afterwards.
Williamson will – if the exclusion/secession really happens – carry with him a part of the SSPX, but not a very big one. We know this, because we have seen Bishop Fellay carrying with him the vast majority of the Fraternity in the past months and we know that his leadership was not challenged in any significant way. It is reasonable to assume enough supporters and – importantly – wealthy donors will remain with the SSPX to allow it to continue its work undisturbed, with the added advantage of getting rid of the at times embarrassing presence of Bishop Williamson.
At the same time, it is difficult for me to believe Bishop Williamson would have decided to (or encouraged the) split without being assured he will have an organisation at his command with enough supporters and enough means to be of some permanence. I might be wrong, but if this secession is going to happen I think the newly created organisation is going to stay with us for a long time, and to be a voice heard within the Catholic world.
If, therefore, the split was the objective of the Holy Father, what has he obtained? Has he managed to weaken the SSPX, or to undermine its authority and prestige among sanely thinking Catholics? By no means. Has he then at least managed to defuse Bishop Williamson? Improbable.
Of course, the Holy Father might now proceed to excommunicate (again) both Williamson and the SSPX bishops after the clear failure of the negotiations (which I am now persuaded were meant to fail from day one from the Vatican, it being rather illogical that a Pope who placidly tolerates schismatic movements or currents in Austria, Switzerland and Germany would see himself unable to allow the SSPX to continue their perfectly orthodox work), thus striking them when they are, allegedly, weak; but again, I doubt this would lead to any meaningful results, as the SSPX fare best when the Post-conciliar Vatican is against them, as the past decades have abundantly shown.
Therefore, as a result of what I think were rather Machiavellian machinations from the Holy Father, the Vatican will – if the secession happens – be now confronted with not one SSPX but, so to speak, two; of which one rather as strong as ever, and the other possibly destined to become rather strong, too.
I have often thought, and become more and more persuaded, that this Pope is too clever by half, and his policy of deception is not bearing any of the desired fruits.
Pope Benedict gave conservative Catholics Summorum Pontificum to make them believe he was on their side and would (slowly and prudently, but steadily) steer the Church in their direction. In reality, though, he was only giving some food to the pigeons whilst he continued the Vatican-II policy of appointment of modernist bishops, and toleration of almost every form of dissent (not the orthodox one of the SSPX, of course; perish the thought…). As a result, conservative Catholics are now more and more aware of the deception and will (particularly after he has died; alas, many Catholics can just not conceive a reigning Pope might be wrong) soon realise the “hermeneutic of continuity” is nothing more than an attempt to perpetuate the Neo-modernist horrors by getting rid of the Modernist tones.
Concerning the SSPX, the same politics was observed: the lifting of the excommunications – a fact which might have been embarrassing for the Vatican, but was certainly not decisive for the SSPX – was the prelude of “talks” meant to divide them in the middle, and possibly strike them separately afterwards. It seems clear to me this policy will fail, too, and the traditionalists will now grow stronger rather than getting weaker.
Make no mistake: Williamson will do fine, and so will the SSPX. The only one who will be disappointed is the one who wanted to beat or destroy them, and whose machinations are now all too clear to see. Just reflect how free the neo-modernist forces are to operate, and how inflexible the Vatican is with the SSPX, to realise on which side this Pope stands.
Again: too clever by half.
There is no doubt Bishop Williamson is an embarrassment, to himself and to others. Whilst the video you see above seems to be not “official” in any way, considering the Williamson’s camp is widely suspected for the leaks of the past months it doesn’t take a genius to understand that if one goes on ranting against Fellay & Co, sooner or later this will be on the internet. In this case, it appears to me the event had to be rather sooner.
Now, apart from the contradictions of a man not entirely lucid in his reasoning (he says that only a miracle could help the Society to get rid of Fellay & Co, but goes on saying that many of them will leave anyway, leaving the SSPX purified; with which he should rather hope that no miracle happens), I wonder whether the calls to kick the man out are justified.
First of all, he is clearly talking in little circles and among friends or students; we do it all the time, and when we are in private our words are also not always the most chosen. The video on youtube gives what might have been a momentary rant an air of definitiveness that might not have been wanted. Old men will have their rants, though the bishop’s audience should certainly be asked to keep smartphones out of sight (or switched off) whenever he feels like ranting.
Secondly, by all embarrassment I cannot avoid seeing in this man’s rants the fear of one who, as it seems to me, loves the Church and the SSPX tenderly and is afraid – seeing conspiracies everywhere, as many old men do – that the organisation might be on its way to be infiltrated and go to the dogs. I wish we had, in the Conciliar church, more bishops as attached to the cause as bishop Williamson.
Thirdly, I would still prefer this man to the Nicholses, Schoenborns, Woelkis and Muellers of the world without any hesitation as he is at least, and with all his shortcomings, a sincere Catholic. If he were, say, at the head of the CDF he would still put Archbishop Mueller to shame for doctrinal integrity. Not difficult, I am sure, but still he would do it in a grand way.
Having said that: an embarrassment, and someone should talk to him in private and tell him he does not do himself any favour by not measuring his words and not insisting more on the necessity that the perhaps unavoidable rant remains in camera caritatis.
I have said many times by all his human shortcomings Bishop Williamson easily puts into shade (and into shame) every English bishop, bar none, for clarity of message and purpose, let alone orthodoxy and sincere love for the Church and the flock.
In the last days, there have been in the Catholic blogosphere some disturbing discussions about homosexuality.
Well, thinks I, let us see whether at the SSPX someone has some clear exposition on the matter, avoiding yours truly to spend an entire night with the adrenaline over the roof and the persistent suspicion of living in a world so blinded by stupidity not even the worst abominations can be seen anymore.
I have, therefore, looked and have found a letter of said Bishop Williamson which, like many other articles I have read of him (when he talks about Catholicism, that is), is simply exemplary.
The comment section will be closed, because life’s too short.
The letter is here reproduced in its entirety, with emphases and the odd comment mine. The original is here.
Regarding: “Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children”
October 8, 1997
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The Catholic bishops of the U.S.A., more precisely their Committee on Marriage and Family, have just come out with a “Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children”, which is a lamentable piece of work. Since this Pastoral Message is liable to make people, already confused, even more confused, let us re-state some Catholic principles, because the question bears directly on Faith and Morals, and on people getting to heaven or falling into hell.
Homosexuality means the misuse between man and man or between woman and woman of those functions and parts of the human body which God designed for use exclusively between a man and a woman within a lawful marriage, for the primary purpose of the reproduction of the human race. The Law of God governing use of the reproductive functions can be broken in a variety of ways even between man and woman, but these sins, e.g. fornication or adultery, are at least natural to the extent that they observe the basic duality of man and woman. On the contrary sins of homosexuality violate even this basic natural structure of the reproductive function, rendering it necessarily and utterly sterile, void of its intrinsic purpose. That is why homosexuality is sometimes called “the sin against nature”.
In fact the sin is so unnatural that Mother Church ranks it alongside murder, defrauding the worker of his just wage, and oppression of the widow or orphan, as one of the four sins “crying to Heaven for vengeance”. However, God did not wait for the founding of the Catholic Church to instill in men the horror of this sin, but he implanted in the human nature of all of us, unless or until we corrupt it, an instinct of violent repugnance for this particular sin, comparable to our instinctive repugnance for other misuses of our human frame, such as coprophagy.
That is why St. Paul in the famous passage on homosexuality in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, verses 24 to 27, lambastes the Gentiles for practising this sin even though they had no revealed religion, and he does so in terms chosen to re-awaken that natural repugnance, e.g. verse 27: “And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error”.
Therefore to speak of homosexuality as an “alternate life-style” is as perverse as equating the violation of nature with its observance. It is as foully corrupt as to make no difference between recognizing God the author of nature, and defying Him.
Therefore what is “innate”, or in-born, in human nature concerning homosexuality is a violent repugnance. Therefore to speak of homosexuality, or even just an inclination to it, as being “innate” in certain human beings, of course to excuse them, is to accuse God at least of contradiction, if not also of planting in men the cause of sin, which is implicit if not explicit blasphemy.
The very most that can be innate in a man of, for instance, homosexuality, is the raw material for his temperament which may be sensitive in one man, rough in another, but whether that sensitivity or roughness is molded into the compassion of a saint or the vice of a homosexual depends on a series of good or evil choices made by each individual. Homosexuality is a vice, or sinful habit, created by nothing other than a series of sinful acts, for each of which the individual was responsible. Homosexuality is a moral problem, which is why, fascinatingly, St. Paul in the same passage derives it from idolatry! (No space to quote, look it up!)
“Oh, but Our Lord had chawity, (unlike thumwun we know who wath tho nathty to Pwintheth Di!). Our Lord loved thinnerth, and faggotth, and tho thould we!!” So runs the objection! [this is fantastic!!]
Yes indeed Our Lord loved sinners, but not in their sirs, rather despite their sin, which he hated. When Our Lord protected the unrighteous Mary Magdalene against the righteous Pharisees in a way which can bring tears to our eyes each time we read Luke, Chapter 7, he was protecting not her sin but her repentance. God will, as He has told us in the Gospel, go to almost any lengths to help the sinner who is trying to get out of his sin, but He abominates the sinner who wallows in it, and upon these modern cities that flaunt their perversity in annual homosexual parades, He is preparing such fire and brimstone as may make what fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah look like a fall of dew, because at least those cities never knew the Gospel (cf. Mt. XI, 20-24).
Woe then to the sinner who instead of casting away his sin, hugs it to his bosom, as do a mass of today’s homosexuals, and as the Bishops’ Pastoral virtually encourages them to do. God’s patience is long, but if the sinner insists upon welding his sin to his soul, then one day God’s patience runs out, and He hates sinners with sin, crying out to both, “Depart from me, ye accursed, into everlasting fire”(Mt.XXV,41). Therefore real charity, which wishes everlasting salvation to homosexuals, will, with all due prudence, not put a cushion under their sin, but paint it to them in its true colours to help them to get out of it.
But what does our American Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family do? They dangerously down-grade the sin and dangerously up-grade the sinner, putting in effect a cushion beneath the sin.
As for the sin, they do still – to their credit – say that homosexual activity is intrinsically wrong. However, in at least two ways they diminish the wrongness. Firstly, they suggest homosexuality can be innate when they quote a Newchurch document from Rome to the effect that some homosexuals are “definitely such because of some kind of innate instinct”, and when they say that “Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen”, because “a common opinion of experts is that there are multiple factors – genetic, hormonal, psychological – that may give rise to homosexuality”. Of course whatever is innate is not sinful.
Secondly, they make a true but in this respect dangerous distinction between the habit (“orientation”) of homosexuality and the act (“activity”), saying there is nothing wrong with the orientation as long as it does not turn into activity. True, only the act and not the habit is a sin, but since when did habits (especially in this domain) not incline to acts? There may be even much virtue in resisting a bad habit, but am I helped to resist it by being told the habit is not bad? If the orientation is not so bad, why should the activity be so bad?
As for up-grading the sinner, watch how close the Committee come to saying that God loves the sinner with his sin (which is blasphemy). I quote: “… God loves every person as a unique individual. Sexual indentity helps to define the unique persons we are. One component of our sexual indentity is sexual orientation ….Human beings see the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart (I Sam XVI,7).” How is this quotation to be interpreted other than as saying that God loves the homosexual in and with his orientation to homosexuality?
And if God loves the sinner with his sins how must men love him! From start to finish the Pastoral Message drips with honeyed words to prescribe how we must behave towards homosexuals. Let me reconstruct the general idea: (my own words in the quotation marks)
“With supportive love we must accept the homosexual persons challenged by the hurtful humour and offensive discrimination directed against their kind. We must reach out with honesty and commitment to help in the overcoming of their painful tensions. We must not be exclusive or judgmental but by significant communication as caring persons we must enable them to take a fresh and healing look at their dignity as human persons so they can learn to cope with their feelings. Sensitive to their authentic needs, and unconditionally supportive of their tender self-awareness, we must reach out and embrace them in intimate community” – oops! – it’s dangerous to get in the honeyed groove!
And this stuff goes on for eight pages uninterruptedly! What other purpose or effect can such words have than to dismantle the individual’s and society’s instinctive defence mechanism against a sin stinking to high Heaven that wrecks them both? And all this in the name of the Catholic Church??
Such a false love blurring sin and sinner has nothing to do with Catholicism! As St. Paul traced homosexuality back to idolatry, i. e. the breaking of the First Commandment, so the true remedy of the sin is for those practising it to return to the true worship and love of the true God. But what chance do they have of being led back to it by churchmen who virtually promote such corruption as in this Pastoral Message? Almost none.
“Pray”, said Padre Pio, who died in 1968, “there is nothing else left”. But prayer, said the Cure of Ars, “is the powerlessness of the All-powerful, the all-powerfulness of the powerless”.
November will be the month to enlist the prayerful aid of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. A card is enclosed for you to return if you wish by November 1st to the Seminary, where it will go on the altar once a month for a sung Requiem Mass for all souls inscribed. But please send any stipends for Masses separately from the cards.
And please be supportive and compassionate towards the sensitive feelings of the Seminary’s cash-box, presently hurt by a painful sense of rejection and emptiness, always in need of fulfillment! So do let yourselves be challenged to nurture it and fill it full with a healing flow of greenbacks, and it will not stop thanking you for your co-operation.
Dear readers, forgive me, the Bishops’ Committee’s language is getting to me! On the contrary, may the Lord God sustain every one of us in the real religion!
Most sincerely yours in the month of the Holy Rosary,
The photo above shows the participants to the recent meeting in Albano. We now have more detailed information, as diffused by both Rorate Caeli and Messa in Latino:
1) Bishop Williamson was not present at the meeting. Not a logistic problem, apparently, but he was either not willing to participate, or not invited to. Bishop Williamson had already expressed his misgivings about the possible attempt at reconciliation, I have reported here.
2) The non-rejection is very good news in itself. Messa in Latino reports that it is the habit of the SSPX to make public any serious reservations immediately. It seems improbable, therefore, that the SSPX considers the documents not a valid basis for further talks.
3) Fellay and his strictest aides have been authorised to go on. Always according to Messa in Latino, the General Counsel of the Fraternity authorised to continue the talks is actually composed of Fellay and his two strictest aides, to whom one or two people may be added in special circumstances. This means that the participants in the Albano talks have enough confidence not only in Fellay, but in the possibility of success of the entire exercise to allow his small team to continue the negotiations.
Whilst none of these news is of an exceptional nature, it seems to me that a picture slowly composes itself, of cautious progress and will to further negotiation. In addition, please consider that the text of the Preambolo Dottrinale being open to modifications, the discussions will not be of a “take it or leave it” sort.
Encouraging signals, methinks, which should allow the moderate elements of the Fraternity to survive the harsh criticism very probably linked to the Assisi exercise.
Further prayers are certainly in order.
One of the things I love about (us) Italians is the imaginative, colourful language. A beautiful example comes from Don Alfredo Morselli’s brilliant blog post of Messa in Latino, examining the possible content of the Preambolo Dottrinale.
The blog article is very long and I will not even attempt to translate it, but there is a concept (the key message) there that is very interesting.
According to this article (I am very aligned with this hypothesis, as it can be read around the blog in several places) what the Vatican is asking from the SSPX is nothing else than the renunciation of the “poisoned cake theory”, allegedly an image invented by Bishop Williamson. Williamson’s idea is that Vatican II is like a poisoned cake: once you know that there is poison inside the cake, you throw away the entire cake instead of discussing which parts of it aren’t poisoned.
The answer of the author (and very probably: of the majority of the SSPX) is as follows:
..la Mamma (la Santa Madre Chiesa) non fa torte [avvelenate], ma, in virtù delle promesse del Salvatore, può fare solo torte buone (altrimenti prevarrebbero le porte dell’inferno). Certamente però, come a ogni buona mamma, qualche torta o qualche sua parte non riesce sempre al meglio.
“The mamma (the Holy Mother Church) bakes no poisoned cakes; on the contrary, in virtue of the Saviour’s promises, she can only bake good cakes (otherwise the gates of Hell would prevail). Certainly, though, as it happens to every good mother, some cake or some part of the cake does not always result in a perfect success”.
I have the impression that truly nothing more than this is required of the SSPX, and I frankly wonder how less than this could be required.
I also notice that:
1) the press release of the 14th was a joint one. I wonder how can it be seriously feared that at least Fellay and his strictest collaborators have worked to the presentation of a dish which they themselves have no intention of eating. If Fellay & Co. hadn’t considered the Preambolo worthy of approval, the tones would have been rather different ones or, more probably, no joint press release would have taken place.
2) Bishop Williamson started to become rather nervous already in June, before the news of the Preambolo Dottrinale but after the news of the invitation for the 14th September. Once again, with the benefit of hindsight we can clearly see that Williamson understood that the Vatican proposal would have cut in the middle between his position and those of the more moderate elements within the SSPX.
We will see how this evolves. Frankly, though, I can’t understand how one can avoid being optimistic in the presence of so many encouraging signals.
Firstly, some background information for the readers. When you have your own blog you have the possibility of seeing, from a “background page” not available to the public, which other internet pages have linked to you causing readers to land on your internet site from the site who carried the link. Every now and then, one clicks to see what is going on and is then carried directly to the internet site that has posted a link to one’s own site.
It was thus that I landed, some days ago, on this site. As you can see, this is not a very liberal site and is actually far more on the conservative site than yours truly; it appears to be either very near, or a mouthpiece of the SSPX (or FSSPX, if you prefer the abbreviation of its Latin name) itself. In particular, on this same thread another post was placed, equating the possible “peace proposals” of the Vatican to the Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (“I fear the Greeks, even when they are bearing gifts”) many of us will remember from our schooldays.
I found the comparison indelicate, as whilst I do not think that along the corridors of the Vatican everything is made in a spirit of disinterested saintliness I do believe that the attempt to reach a reconciliation with the FSPPX is a sincere one, and a great concern of the Holy Father. If memory serves, I saw this “Greeks fearing” comment (possibly also posted elsewhere) mentioned in Rorate Caeli, with reactions generally not far away from mine.
It turns out now from Messa in Latino that:
a) the Timeo Danaos comment is lifted from here and therefore clearly from Williamson himself.
b) that, coming from Williamson, this would be a clear indication that, however concrete or advanced, some form of proposal is really in preparation.
What Messa in Latino is thinking is that possibly on the 14 september we will not have the official announcement of an agreement with the FSSPX, but the presentation of a proposal, that would be examined by the SSPX in all tranquility, particularly in view of the unfortunate Assisi-III gathering still scheduled for October.
Messa in Latino finds the events momentous enough to justify the title “Rome-FSSPX: decisive moments ahead”. I am obviously pleased, but cannot avoid noticing that if no agreement is being finalised, the (mere) proposal of a structure similar to an Ordinariate for the SSPX and other traditionalists would not be anywhere near the historical moment perhaps hoped by many within the SSPX (and dreaded by the liberal troops), but rather the beginning of a painful – if hopefully salutary – phase of conflict within the SSPX itself, with the likes of Williamson refusing a priori every kind of contamination with Rome’s “Greeks” whatever the gifts, and the coming Assisi “event” not contributing at all to the serenity of the discussion.
Please also note that, in an unprecedented move, a religious sister from New Zealand has been authorised to be transferred to a convent dependent from the FSSPX. I can’t imagine such a decision unless if dictated from the persuasion that a reconciliation is not so very far away. The news relating to the sister has been published and then taken offline, but it is still available in cached version, with the link on the Messa in Latino site. Whilst I understand Messa in Latino’s reasons to publish it I prefer not to do it for obvious reasons, but take it from me.. ;).
From the outside, we can’t do anything else than pray of course. Still, one can’t avoid thinking that if such a proposal is on the table, it would have been perhaps wiser to wait until after the Assisi-III gathering – provided that such an event must really take place – and start the discussion, say, before Christmas or around Easter, in a different and less controversial environment.
I find some positions within the SSPX frankly difficult to digest, and the entire Danaos-attitude not helpful. But from what I have read around – on the internet, and from the leaflets-booklets I have picked from them on several occasions – the desire for reconciliation is very vivid among the majority of the members and supporters of the organisation, and the idea that Rome should be “converted to Catholicism” (rather than, say, persuaded to rephrase and reformulate questionable statements and attitudes of the past) rather in the minority.
Let us hope and pray for the best. Even if on the 14 September nothing should happen, this might be a good sign as it might – just might – indicate that a proposal for reconciliation is ready, but its official presentation wisely postponed to a less controversial time.
The video above is a collage of fragments from lessons given by Bishop Williamson to his students at the SSPX’s St Thomas Aquinas seminary in Minnesota.
You might crack an easy joke and say that these less than six minutes are all the sensible talk that his students could assemble out of many years of teaching, but in my eyes this would be more than a tad ungenerous. What comes out of this video is a man profoundly Catholic and able to make his point in a very eloquent manner. As an Italian, I find his southern-European gesticulating the more interesting… The beautiful Karl Jenkins music accompanying his words is in my eyes too loud, and I can’t understand every word he says. There might be another joke lurking here….
I heard this video and thought of what I have written often from pre-blog times: bishop Williamson is certainly a man with his own idiosyncrasies, not all of them pleasant or reasonable. But I’d rather have him as bishop than everyone else in England & Wales.
Strange things happen these days at the FSSPX. I have already written about the potential offer of a worldwide ordinariate for Traditionalists, and of the subsequent clarification from Bishop Fellay that no formal offer has been made. On this second occasion, the Italian blog Messa In Latino insisted that the news (Ordinariate on its way of being offered; formal document not ready yet) are authentic and from credible source.
We now have, from the same blog, two pieces of news; the first rather, the second very interesting.
The first is that Bishop Williamson has criticised the offer of Ordinariate (which was clearly expected), at the same time confirming that he has a source of information directly inside of Ecclesia Dei. He adds the definition “Apostolic Ordinariate“, with the adjective not mentioned by Messa in Latino. This sounds like one with one ear inside Ecclesia Dei, and not particularly pleased at what he hears.
The second is that Bishop Fellay has been summoned to Rome, together with his two assistants, for the 14th September, 4th anniversary of the day Summorum Pontificum came into force.
Fellay is supposed to deposit the SSPX’s final relation about the doctrinal talks, but the date is a sensitive, directly relevant and historical one and it is not difficult to imagine that something might be in the making here. What day would be more apt for this second historical step, than the anniversary of when the first came into force…
Against this datum of 14th of September would, on the other hand, speak the fact that in October we will have the questionable “Assisi III” gathering, and it is easy to imagine that the spirits at the SSPX will be rather excited. If, therefore, a formal offer is presented mid-September, the discussion within the SSPX will develop in the weeks leading to the Assisi gathering. Not good for them, and not good for Rome. Good, actually, only for Williamson and the other opposers of full reconciliation.
We will see out this pans out. In the meantime, the clear nervousness of Bishop Williamson and the symbolic date for Bishop Fellay’s meeting with the Pope do give some reason to hope.
Those of you who understand French will certainly enjoy this hour-long documentary about French Traditional Catholics produced from France 3 and appeared on Gloria TV. The documentary is obviously not without faults, but one must say that the effort to understand French Traditionalism and accurately transmit its values to the viewers is, for a secular sender, remarkable.
There are small parts you won’t like (a stupid reference to alleged “Islamophobia” comes to mind; one also notices that secular people are unable to discuss Traditionalism without mixing it with the private opinions of Bishop Williamson), but in general I think that many lukewarm French Catholics who have seen this documentary have been left with a lot to think about.
Those who do not understand French (no subtitles, unfortunately) will enjoy the period footage of Archbishop Lefebvre and the beautiful music in the first part of the documentary.
He will also enjoy the masses. Both on the impressive footage from the Sixties and on the parts dealing with contemporary traditionalism, one can’t avoid noticing the numerical impact of an organisation numbering 150,000 in a country with around the same inhabitants as the United Kingdom. Since Vatican II France has been disgraced with bishops among the worst on the planet, but it is also the country where the reaction to “Catholicism easy” is strongest and best organised.
You’ll notice (and this is correctly put in evidence in the documentary) the strikingly low average age of the French Traditionalists. In addition, the entire editorial cut of the documentary makes at least an honest effort to portray them in their daily lives and as normal people rather than deluded nutcases, as the BBC or Channel Four would most certainly do.
These are young people, young mothers, families with children; they are listened to in the course of their daily life, in the kitchen, the reception room, at lunch, in a brasserie or bar; they smoke and drink beer, are dressed correctly but like everyone of us and are evidently not living in a parallel, alternative world like a hippy or an extremist biker. These are people with normal jobs and normal lives, whom every lukewarm Catholic could easily have as friends.
I recommend the viewing to the french-speaking readers, but even those who don’t will probably find the initial part – with the period footage and the music – rather interesting.
Gun powder smell at the SSPX after the controversial newsletter of Bishop Williamson reported here
The Remnant has an exclusive interview with Bishop Fellay, interesting under several profiles. First of all, Bishop Fellay denies having knowledge of a motu proprio as described by Williamson. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t one in the offing of course and Bishop Williamson’s sources could simply be better informed; still, one doesn’t find it very probable that Bishop Fellay would be kept in the dark whilst he is leading the talks with the Vatican. Bishop Fellay’s dismissal of the rumour as “gossip” shows that he is pretty confident that he is not out of the loop.
Secondly, Bishop Fellay issues a clear advice to Bishop Williamson to, well, mind his own business and not intervene in such a way in matters not concerning him in his duties as SSPX Bishop. Of course Williamson would say that it is his own business, but you get the drift.
Thirdly, Bishop Fellay says that the talks are going “smoothly and according to plan”. One would like to know a bit more about that, though understandably we are not allowed to get further details on the matter. On the other hand, this obviously diplomatic statement would have been issued even if the negotiations were not going absolutely anywhere, so take it with a pinch if salt….
From the Remnant article further interesting elements emerge; I will mention them only briefly.
1) The SSPX needs a new seminary. Vocations continue to be massive, money is clearly not a pressing problem.
2) The SSPX is talking to various Church authorities in the US to sound the possibility of acquiring one of their own unused structures or land (say: a now-closed seminary, or some land they own). It would appear that in the past the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) has encountered refusals to sell property to them because of their “ideological” stance, and besides being in full communion the FSSP are certainly “moderate” compared to the SSPX. I suppose that for many Bishops if you are in favour of the Tridentine Mass you are anathema anyway.
3) Dulcis in fundo: Bishop Fellay confirmed that when Summorum Pontificum was issued, an unnamed “high-ranking prelate” gave the Novus Ordo not more than another 20-25 years. Whilst one doesn’t know how high the prelate ranks, it is highly indicative that he said so to Fellay, clearly sending the message that as soon as the ’68ers have gone the Novus Ordo will follow them rather fast. As we all know that lex orandi, lex credendi the idea that Vatican II ideology may survive after the Novus Ordo has gone is rather naive.
Better days ahead.
Rorate Coeli has a strange letter from Bishop Williamson, the well-intentioned but at times rather eccentric Bishop of the Society of St. Paul X.
In his latest newsletter, apparently received (see the comments to the entry) with some surprise within the SSPX itself, several alleged facts are rather clearly hinted to:
1) that SSPX and Rome are getting nearer to a full reconciliation;
2) that this reconciliation would require from the SSPX nothing else than some token concession, probably to acknowledge the Catechism of JP II, with no other conditions attached;
3) that this would be a bad development, and one to refuse without hesitation, because this would mean to “go along with the substance of neo-modernism”.
We all knew that Bishop Williamson is a chap, so to speak, sui generis, but this really takes the biscuit. Bishop Williamson’s assumption seems to be that the SSPX’s duty is to remain in imperfect communion until the Church has cleansed herself of all the toxins of Vatican II. He says explicitly that those Catholics who accept the compromise he describes “have not understood what [Archbishop Lefebvre] was all about”. But this is illogical as if JP II had consented to the appointment of the four bishops the SSPX would never have been in a state of imperfect communion in the first place. Bishop Williamson seems therefore to consider a probably necessary, but painful decision – and the painful consequences it unavoidably created – as if they were the defining trait of the SSPX’s mission.
We do not know whether 1) is true. The fact that Bishop Williamson feels it necessary to warn from it may indicate that it might not be very far from reality (still, knowing the man it is fair to say that no one can really say), but it certainly is an extraordinary piece of information.
Extraordinary seems also 2), as to pose such mild conditions as the acceptance of the JP II’s Catechism would in my eyes mean that Rome is so eager to have the SSPX into full communion again that it would be content with a merely symbolic gesture. I doubt whether this would even be enough to save the Vatican’s face (and JP II’s face, to say it as it is) as the practical results would be that the SSPX would be still able to fire from all cannons, but this time from a position of full legitimacy. To me, this is frankly difficult to believe.
Not very difficult to believe is, alas, 3) even if Bishop Williamson’s idea that such a token gesture would be unacceptable is, in my eyes, illogical and untenable.
I remind here my readers of the fact that a Catechism is not infallible and not a doctrinal instrument, but merely a didactical one. By “accepting” JP II’s catechism the SSPX would merely acknowledge that… they are not sedevacantists.
Bishop Williamson’s idea, that the Catechism is “quietly neo-modernist” is beside the point, as he himself does not question the authority of the Pope whose name the Catechism carries. Therefore either Bishop Williamson draws the consequences and tells us that JP II was a Modernist and he, Williamson, a sedevacantist or he has a logical problem.
Still, if what Bishop Williamson hints at proved to be true it would be, in my eyes, fantastic news for the SSPX and for the Church.
I wish Bishop Fellay the best of luck. I am confident that he will act in an orthodox but reasonable way.