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.
What follows is the integral text of a statement from Archbishop Lefebvre, published in 1988. As always, this good man of God surprises with his ability to explain complex concepts in a simple, easy to understand,but always extremely clear way. The contrast with the usual anodyne statements trying to please everyone by at the same time endeavouring to not openly contradict Catholic teaching, typical of our time, is more than evident.
Note the similarities between the situations then and now: Rome seems to want peace, and then turns out to be exclusively interested in the neutralisation of the SSPX. Where I live it’s called duplicity, and deception.
In my eyes, one of the main keys to a proper understanding of every apparition is one simple but at the same time very difficult word: obedience. Obedience is what we saw when the Fatima apparitions were initially – as it was very natural – seen with scepticism from the local clergy and obedience is what we saw when the apparitions to St Faustina Kowalska were considered not authentic by the Vatican. Obedience is, therefore, not only an obvious element of sainthood, but the path clearly indicated by many (perhaps: all) approved apparitions. Most certainly, no approved apparition ever incited to disobedience. In fact, it has never been prescribed by the doctor that an apparition be immediately recognised as authentic, but it has always been prescribed by the Church that Her decisions in the matter be accepted and obeyed.
God doesn’t need disobedience to have His will recognised; on the contrary, he will use obedience as a way to have it recognised.
It must be clear to every sensible Catholic that no alleged apparition can ever authorise disobedience, and that the Blessed Virgin would never ever suggest disobedience to the Church. Therefore, when the bishop (well, two bishops, really) says that there is nothing supernatural happening in Medjugorje, that’s that. To say that one wants to wait for the Pope is already disobedience; there is no need for the Pope because the cleric responsible for the verdict on apparitions is not the Pope, but the bishop. “Oh, but the Pope could reverse the decision”. Well I am sorry to say that, but you’ll have to wait and hope, and obey in the meantime.
With the train of thought of the Medjugorje crowd, I could wake up one morning and say that I am the Second Son of God; I could receive a message from papi every day at 6:30 pm and give it to the adoring crowds; and these crowds would feel free and authorised to believe that I am The Second Son – even after the Bishop has said that I am no supernatural phenomenon at all – because the Pope hasn’t pronounced himself on the matter (which would, very probably, never happen). Of course I’d have God encourage people to communion, confession, and the like, and I’d have Him talk a lot about peace, understanding among the Peoples, and all that jazz. “Thank you for listening”, I’d have God say every day. It pleases the ego of the public, so it can’t be bad.
To think in this way is not devotion. No it isn’t. Superstition and rebellion, that’s what it is.
It follows from this that even if people arrived in Medjugorje and started to fly it would still not be an authentic apparition, because no authentic apparition can incite to disobedience. You have converted? Good for you! God can convert you in the middle of a dump, but a dump it will remain.
The idea that the Blessed Virgin would go against the Church is worse than unorthodox; it is diabolical.
Unsurprisingly, disobedience in matters of authenticity leads to disobedience in all other matters. A lady on twitter informed me that God leaves every person free to choose, after death, to decide whether he really, really wants to go to hell or would, rather, not choose paradise (oh, you chose the latter? you don’t say?). I kid you not. I answered to her that this is an error. The Blessed Virgin in Medjugorje said it, was her answer.
We are at this point. Basic Christianity counts for nothing, a daily fax is the new God. But hey, an army of poor deluded devils go to communion and confession, so it must be fine. With this reasoning Jansenists were fine, too.
So let us recapitulate: forget the alleged “good fruits”, because an entire orchard of poisoned fruits is clearly visible; forget the alleged healings, because they are available in quantity at every pentecostal mega-gathering; forget the number of confessions or communions, because they are available everywhere outside of Medjugorje; forget how many people get inspired or converted, because this is something Protestants manage to do every day. The key here is the matter of obedience. It can’t be that the Blessed Virgin is disobedient, this is the purest oxymoron you’ll ever encounter.
Every “follower” of Medjugorje must seriously ask himself what he would have to abandon, if he decided to obey the Bishop. If the answer is “nothing, I am completely orthodox anyway”, there is no reason whatsoever not to obey the bishop. If the answer has any other content whatsoever (cue the lady who wants to believe that one can choose between hell and heaven after death) then what keeps one linked to Medjugorje is heresy. And I would like for the rhetoric of the “good simple people who are deceived” to be abandoned once and for all. For twenty centuries, countless illiterate peasants have accepted their bishops’ decisions in matter of miracles without any problem. This is not so difficult that every person could not, after examining his conscience, have it right in five seconds; ten seconds, tops.
The bishop is responsible. The bishop has spoken. You either obey the bishop, or you make the work of the devil.
P.s. The comment box is closed. These are matters of elementary truth. Truth is accepted, not discussed.