Father Niklaus Pflueger, First Assistant of the SSPX, has said that an agreement with the Vatican will be “very, very difficult”.
Let us read and examine his exact words:
“Assisi III and even more the unfortunate beatification of John Paul II but also many other examples make it clear that the leadership of the Church now as before is not ready to give up the false principles of Vatican II and their consequences […]. Therefore, […] any ‘offer’ made to Tradition must guarantee us the freedom to be able to continue our work and our critique of ‘modernist Rome.’ And to be honest, this seems to be very, very difficult. Again, any false or dangerous compromise must be ruled out.”
It seems to me that this is a bit of a message in preparation of the meeting next week in Albano. Basically, Father Pflueger seems to send the following messages:
1) we are strong enough not to be in need of any agreement, and there will be no agreement for the agreement’s sake;
2) we are ready to achieve full communion, if this means that no limitations to our criticism of the “V II Church” will be imposed on us afterwards. The criticism of V II will go on unabated with or without agreement; and
3) if the Vatican can’t live with this, though.
Honestly – and setting aside for a moment the ascertained inability of most SSPX officials to speak with a modicum of diplomacy – it seems to me that there is nothing new here, beside the further confirmation that the SSPX in not in the mood for autumn sales. They are ready to accept the doctrinal preamble, unless its acceptance means feeling that one has received a practical muzzle. The “very, very difficult” seems therefore to me rather a warning of what the Vatican can expect from the SSPX than a refusal.
Fair enough, says I. The Vatican will certainly emit the right sounds as to whether they can live with it. If you ask me, they would be wise to.
I have the impression that in the weeks leading to the Assisi III trouble – and perhaps, catastrophe – such messages will certainly not become more infrequent.
It would appear that a new consistory is rather probable within the end of the year.
This is not entirely surprising as the vacancies are now numerous. By the end of the year there will be the possibility of appointing 15 Cardinals (if Pope Benedict wants to remain by the number of 120 elettori, that is). Now, this is at least one eighth of the next conclave, probably more – due to the system which sees Cardinals continuously losing electorate – and it is clear enough that every consistory can, in and of itself, radically change the situation at the next Conclave.
Pope Benedict is still in rather good health, but at 84 and with a past of heart problems I’m sure he is not planning for a reign of JP II’s duration. It is therefore rather important that this consistory injects the right energies into the next conclave.
Much is at stake, as both Summorum Pontificum and the relationship with the SSPX and the other traditionalist groups could be seriously compromised in case the next conclave results in a serious mistake. On the other hand, a careful but noticeable shifting of the centre of gravity towards the right wing would give everyone the serenity necessary for long-term hopes.
Ideally – if you ask me – Pope Benedict would appoint only one or two of the liberals to appease them (Nichols’ appointment is this time, alas, very probable) and choose for all other places men of undoubted liturgical and theological orthodoxy, possibly rather young so that they stay around for a long time.
I wish the Holy Father a long and healthy reign of course, but the demographic reality is what it is and it must be clear to us that this might be the last consistory of this pontificate.
Ad multos annos, Papa! But please, please conservative appointments!
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.
An old priest sits on a bench in his garden, and thinks about the past. It seems like yesterday. A “nuChurch” was being born, and there was a widespread hope that this new approach to things would cause the Catholic faith to expand everywhere, facilitate reconciliation with non-Catholics, and increase the number of vocations. Guitars were being strummed, and tambourines beaten to the rhythm of the new times.
He was then starting his priestly activity. How proud he was of himself! He felt the epitome of the “modern priest”, so different was he from his old colleagues. He sees himself again, a young man devoid of any severity of demeanor, fully anti-authoritarian, concerned with social issues, friend of the people, friend – particularly – of the young. The young were, in those times, everywhere, the be all and end all. They were the bearer of a special wisdom, of a fresh, unquestionable truth. How proud was he to be one of them, a rebel like them in his own way; the bearer of a fresh wind, and of a new truth. How could anyone not be comfortable with such a chap? How could such a new priest not greatly help not only the cause of Catholicism, but the explosion of vocations? A priest in sweater and jeans…. what is nearer to the young than that? He felt in the middle of things, shaping a new world, shaping a new Church, making everything new. He thinks of himself in those time and a sudden question freezes him and causes him to shudder on his bench: where was heaven in all that?
He sees himself now, forty years later. He still wears sweater and jeans whenever he can, but he is now old and all that was natural in the past now feels increasingly uncomfortable, out of touch, even weird. The tambourines have started to become silent some years ago, and are now increasingly considered a ridiculous remnant of a very stupid past; and the guitars are so Seventies, only old people who were young in the times of “the Mamas and the Papas” can tolerate them in a church. He knows his parishioners, and knows who are the ones liking the guitars. They are the people like him, who were young in an era of mad, wild dreams and don’t want to awaken to the sobering reality of their utter and complete failure.
He reflects sadly on what everything has become, and must now admit that “nuPriest” was a spectacular fiasco. Many of his colleagues who got out of the seminaries in those years cannot even read Latin, let alone celebrate the old Mass. He can, but is afraid to. Many of his colleagues cannot, but don’t even want to. He sees them now with the eyes of the world outside, and realises that their refusal to come back to the past lets them appear such useless tools, such remnants of a past age of error, such ridiculous dotards as not even the old priests of his youth ever did. The sweater and jeans look increasingly more out of order to a growing number of his parishioners, particularly the younger he once so worshipped, and considered “the future”. The number of parishioners itself has been greatly reduced and consists now largely of grey-haired people; people who were young with him and have become old with him; like him, facing the smiles of the younger generation for whom a guitar in the church is a sacrilege, and a priest must be dressed correctly and according to the rules. The old people still want the guitars, poor souls, and he doesn’t want to embitter their last years. He is an old man, having patience with other old men and knowing that the young think the same of him: a relic of a past age of foolishness, a man whose retirement will be commented with half words of barely concealed satisfaction, and knowing smiles.
He reflects on the paradox of the “youth mania” of his young years. His generation, with its worship of everything young, should in fact be the first to admit failure now that the young clearly refuse their ways. It doesn’t happen, though, and those who were celebrating “the young people” in the Sixties and Seventies now seem to think that the young people are wrong, and the old people right; the same old people who have lived an entire life in the celebration and exaltation of youth. What an irony, and what a tragedy.
His ilk is dying. Not many young men followed the call for the “modern” priesthood. Worse still, a non indifferent number of those who did decided to do so for unspeakable motives, as the word started to go around that modern seminaries were a paradise for homosexuals, and an easy way to make a living whilst enjoying – if one was clever enough not to give scandal – impunity. He has known several of those priests, as they started to get a less and less infrequent appearance in the Seventies and Eighties. He knew, and he knew that they knew, and that they didn’t care of either him, or everyone else suspecting. Nuchurch allowed them to do so, provided they didn’t shout their perversion from the bell tower.
In time worse still emerged, with the explosion of cases of pedophilia, largely among those very same homosexuals who, having infiltrated the Church with one abomination, were now completing the devil’s work by humiliating her with another, even more terrible one. He felt humiliated, but he still couldn’t see the link between homosexuality and pedophilia. He didn’t realise that Satan will not stop half way, but will want the whole enchilada of abomination and perversion and destruction. He now does.
He used to be, and to be called, a “modern priest”; but he has now become old, in all possible meanings of the word. His model of “priesthood” is now considered obsolete and inefficient; not only is he aware of his being considered the same “methuselah” the young people of his generation accused old priests of being; worse still, he is aware of the ridicule now slowly but surely surrounding his way of doing things; a ridicule the old priests of his youth never had to fear, because they were surrounded by an authority he never claimed for himself. He belongs to an ilk who will die with his generation, and will be remembered as an unprecedented catastrophe.
In the meantime, he clearly sees the Church growing in another direction. In the evening of his life, he must acknowledge that those who grow and attract young people to the priesthood are those with a completely opposed model, those who want to create the same type of priest he wanted to destroy. Conservative orders are on the march, whilst those who don’t want to change (the Jesuits, the Franciscans) have transformed themselves in hospices for failed sixty-eighters, pathetic shadows of their former self, echoing a social, feminist message that even to him – a priest in sweater and jeans – now sounds so ridiculously shallow. Even those whom he used to call “schismatics” – with a certain joy, and feeling so superior, and thinking them a small bunch of nutcases soon to be cancelled by the sheer force of time – thrive. He has just learned that the FSSPX is building a new, much bigger seminary in the US as the old one can’t accommodate the explosion in vocations. If they had told him as much when the SSPX bishop were consecrated he would have laughed very loudly. He was just plain wrong. He was wrong all the time.
How things have changed! The SPPX doesn’t know where to put their seminarians, even if all those young priest can count with a certain suspension a divinis the day they are ordained. But they believe in what they do, that much he can clearly see. They do their thing with a conviction and sureness of purpose that he never had, with a faith he has started to lose a long time ago and is now uncertain and almost shameful, with the energy of those who want at all costs to repair to the damage the he, and his, have caused.
He is old now, and will soon retire. The young priest who will substitute him will be, that much he fully realises, very different from him. He will wear clerical garbs at all times, and perhaps even a cassock. He will stop every one of the post V II innovations he is still keeping; soon, there will be no EMHCs – two old ladies, bitter and petulant; he is almost glad at the thought of their displeasure, but then refrains and recites an hail mary for them -, no altar girls – other two old ladies, poisonous old feminists, worse than the first! – no modern hymns; obviously, no guitars; he himself let the tambourines go a long time ago, and the old parishioners complained……
The entire world he wanted to create, the entire church he wanted to re-shape is going to die, one innovation at a time. NuChurch is old, and tired. She looks ridiculous in the eyes of a growing number of faithful, and he knows these faithful are more Catholic than he ever, ever was.
His older parishioners, they don’t see that. They still buy the “Tablet” (that he never had the gut to take away, though he has been long embarrassed by it), wave their arthritic arms, sing their hymns with a feeble voice, desperately want to feel young, and to feel right. They don’t want to understand, and he has no courage to try to make them understand. He must admit to himself that he is too cowardly to tell them that they are all wrong, that they always were, that the whole “spirit of Vatican II” was a huge failure, that – as they have said all their lives – the youth are right, and the methuselahs are wrong.
He reflects on his conduct, and shudders. Is he being charitable, or is he being accessory to their sins? Will they go to hell? If they do, then…… – he will go with them! Most assuredly he will! He who has carefully avoided – even when he started to realise it himself – to tell them they were wrong, how will he be able to escape punishment? He, a priest, the first responsible for their souls!! He is terrified now, and can’t stop the tears.
He must change, that much he now realises. Whatever damage he has done in the past, he must do his best to undo it, even if only for a few months, or a couple of years. He must start to speak clarly, to speak Catholic, to speak….. like the old priests of his youth did! He will have to apologise, to say that in his effort to be charitable, he was being an accomplice. He will have to. He will start to talk of those things he always carefully avoided: the last four things; the works of mercy; the sins crying to heaven for vengeance; the Vesper; the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the Rosary…… – oh Lord, the Rosary!! How could he keep the Rosary from his sheep! And what has he given to them instead? Guitars, talk of social justice, and stupid hymns! He has told them to be nice to the milkman, and tolerant towards the grocer, and a friend of the environment!
The tears are unstoppable now, he almost can’t see when he gets up and runs to his bedroom, kneels in front of the picture of the Sacred Heart – the picture his old mother had given him; accepted from him as an act of patient kindness – and cries convulsively, shattered, now completely surrendered, wrecthed and miserable as he never felt in his life.
And there, kneeling and crying, he slowly feels the sweetness of his wretchedness, and the grace of his sorrow. He understands, whilst still crying, that his worst day is his best too. A new beginning has been given to him, a late repentance, a shot – nay, the last shot at redemption.
He continues to pray, more composed now. As he prays, he begins to see in front of him the new old priest he has now become, and the new parish he will now give shape to. He will ask for his retirement to be deferred and will start to do things properly, old altar “girls” or no old altar “girls”. They can cry and complain as much as they want. He knows that he has now stopped to be a coward, and that God’s grace has given him the gut to be a true shepherd.
He stands up; dries his tears; and smiles.
The Italian blog Messa In Latino – which had published the original rumour – today informs us that Bishop Fellay has denied the existence of a document outlining the proposal of an Ordinariate for the FSSPX and other traditionalist groups.
Messa In Latino confirms that such a solution has been (tentatively) outlined to the FSSPX. The explanations given by the blog as to how reconcile this with Fellay’s words are as follows:
1) Bishop Fellay has denied the existence of a “concrete project” (say: a definitive document of proposal), not the existence of a verbal, in principle proposal to proceed in this way.
2) It would appear that the announcement has caused some discontent within the FSSPX, with the least moderate part predictably opposed to any solution which doesn’t represent a complete backpedaling from Rome.
3) It would appear possible that in light of this situation, Fellay himself may have wished the postponement of the official proposal to a later time, in the meantime hoping to consolidate the approval for such a solution.
4) The proposed Assisi meeting in October is not going to make things easier; again, this might speak for an official proposal after the sandstorm to be caused by the Assisi gathering has settled.
It all makes much sense to me and I do not think that the Italian translation will reveal fundamental changes. Whilst it is predictable that the intransigent fraction will not be happy with the solution, I frankly can’t see why the vast part of the SSPX clergy should refuse it, provided that the ability for the SSPX to continue to operate in complete autonomy (which means: to continue to criticise V II documents ad libitum) would not be compromised. It is not that Lefebvre was any softer regarding V II before his excommunication, so there is no need to fear that return to full communion will mean the necessity to accept the V II documents as pure gold.
What is important to notice is that Messa In Latino boldly confirms the rumours. In this respect, the presence of a written document is in my eyes not really decisive, as after so many years of disagreements there is no real hurry and the idea of waiting until, say, Advent does make sense.
I will keep you posted if further news appear.
Messa In Latino invites the faithful Catholics to pray for the full reconciliation between the FSSPX and Rome.
After consultation with priests collaborating with the site, the following prayer has been published:
V/.Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
R/. Reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V./ Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur;
R./ Et renovabis faciem terrae.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti, da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
My unworthy translation:
V. Come, Holy Ghost,
R. Fill the heart of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love;
V. Send your Spirit, and it will be a new creation;
R. And you will renovate the face of the earth.
Let us pray
O Lord, who with the light of the Holy Ghost instruct the faithful, grant us to taste, through the same Spirit, what is right* and to always enjoy His comfort. For Christ our Lord. Amen.
The prayer should be recited between Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday.
Those who recite the Rosary daily are asked to offer the rosary for this intention.
Priests are asked to add this to their intention during Mass.
* the site’s italian translation of recta is given with “la vera sapienza”, “the true wisdom”.
I have written two days ago about the interviews of Mgr Pozzo and Bishop Fellay.
As you can read here, my impression was that the distance between the two sides was greatly reduced and that particularly Fellay seemed to indicate that now only a decision from the Vatican was waited for, though I thought that the Vatican would prefer to wait for the funeral of the V-II generation before taking action.
If the generally very well informed Messa In Latino blog is right, this might not be the case.
First the text in Italian:
Il Papa sta per proporre a mons. Fellay la costituzione di un Ordinariato, per regolarizzare la situazione della FSSPX e delle sue comunità alleate, lasciandogli la piena (e indispensabile, visti certi epìscopi in circolazione) autonomia nei confronti dei vescovi diocesani. Alcuni membri di una comunità Ecclesia Dei hanno potuto precisare che questa proposta canonica sarà fatta nel corso del presente mese di giugno a mons. Fellay.
My unworthy translation:
The Pope is going to propose to Mons. Fellay the constitution of an Ordinariate to regolarise the situation of the FSSPX and of the communities allied to it, by leaving to the SPPX the full (and, given certain bishops going around, indispensable) autonomy towards the diocesan bishops. Some members of an Ecclesia Dei community were in a position to confirm that this canonical proposal will be made to Mons. Fellay during the present month of June.
If confirmed, this would be huge. It would mean that in one fell swoop not only the FSSPX would be given full communion again, but there would be a ready platform for all those desirous to attend Mass, and to live the Church, in the old way.
Again a commentary of Messa In Latino:
E’ una soluzione win-win, in cui tutti avrebbero moltissimo da guadagnare: da un lato Roma ricucirebbe una dolorosa rottura e troverebbe truppe fresche e determinate per condurre la battaglia del recupero di quanto gli ultimi decenni hanno dissipato; dall’altro la FSSPX si laverebbe dello stigma di ribellione e di ‘scisma’, potendo così svolgere un apostolato ben più efficace e senza subire i mille pregiudizi che l’accompagnano nella mente del cattolico medio, pur conservando appieno l’attuale libertà di movimento e di azione.
Again, my unworthy translation:
This is a win-win situation, by which everyone would have an awful lot to gain: on the one hand, Rome would heal a painful fracture and would find fresh and determined troops to carry the battle of the recovery of what the last decades have squandered; on the other hand, the FSSPX would wash itself from the stigma of rebellion and “scism”, thus being able to carry on a much more effective apostolate, without having to suffer the thousand prejudices associated to it in the mind of the average Catholic, but still keeping the actual freedom of movement and action in full.
If confirmed, this would be in my eyes as big as Summorum Pontificum.
Please, Please God make this come true…
Rorate Caeli has a very interesting double post, in which a recent interview of Bishop Fellay is linked to an interview given by Mgr Pozzo of Ecclesia Dei. Both interviews contain what in my eyes are very interesting points.
Looking first at the interview with Pozzo, there is an expression that will probably make some waves (emphasis mine):
It does not seem conceivable that a call into question of the Second Vatican Council may happen. Therefore, where do these discussions might lead? To a better understanding of this?
Mgr Pozzo’s Answer:
They concern a clarification of points that detail the exact meaning of the teaching of the Council. It is what the Holy Father started to do on December 22, 2005, by interpreting the Council within a hermeneutic of renewal in continuity. Nevertheless, there are certain objections of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X that do make sense, because there has been an interpretation of rupture. The goal is to show that it is necessary to interpret the Council in the continuity of the Tradition of the Church.
Note that Mgr Pozzo says that SSPX and CDF are working together at seeing whether a shared understanding of V II can be achieved. It will not be a dismissal of V II as a cretinous thing to do in itself (shame, ndr), but it might lead to the same thing, that is: the rigorous exam of V II so that every interpretation not in rigorous continuity with the pre-V II Church is clearly and unequivocally rejected. This would lead, in a word, not to a formal dismissal of the V II documents, but to their thorough re-interpretation in light of Catholic orthodoxy. Basically, it means exposing all their shortcomings, misleading formulations and wrong interpretations by still saying that, apart from the shortcomings and the misleading formulations, they were never meant to be interpreted wrongly in the first place.
This seems to me a clear indication that the distances are reducing, as the explicit words of Mgr Pozzo about the SSPX’s objections “making sense” further underscore. In a situation where no word is said casually, I think this is worth noticing.
Even more worth noticing is the interview given some days ago by Bishop Fellay, which Rorate Caeli reports under the same link. Fellay allows himself very interesting words (emphasis mine):
I believe that, at some level, the Good Lord linked us with this crisis, because we work for the restoration of the Church, but this may still last for a decade, maybe two. It is necessary to have lots of courage and perseverance. This can be resolved tomorrow, this may be resolved the day after tomorrow. All is in the hands of the Good Lord.
Unless I am totally mistaken, there are two important points here:
1) Fellay sees something like one or two papacies as the maximum wait before a full reconciliation. He talks like one who can see from the development of the talks that time is on his side. Basically, he seems to imply that there are some toads that have been clearly recognised, but that the Vatican will not be ready to swallow until the Council has been pushed further into a historic (and less emotional) dimension and the generation who has lived it has proceeded to – hopefully – greener pastures.
2) The first point seems to me further stressed by the revealing words that I have emphasised. I do not know about you, but to me these words seem an extremely emphatic assertion that the distance has now become very small, and the Vatican must decide not the if, but merely the when of the formal steps leading to a full reconciliation. At any rate, I can’t imagine Fellay using such words unless he is persuaded that every big obstacle has been removed from the way.
Not for the first time, I get the impression that the only thing now necessary before the SSPX is in full communion again is the death of the generation who has lived the Second Vatican Council, and the possibility to put things straight from a more relaxed, less controversial historical perspective.
From the German site Summorum Pontificum, a communique’ of the German SSPX about Universae Ecclesiae:
Two points are particularly noteworthy:
1. Zur Frage des Papstamtes
Die Priesterbruderschaft St. Pius X. anerkennt Papst Benedikt XVI. als rechtmäßigen Papst und als Oberhaupt der katholischen Kirche. […]
1. On the question of the Papal Office:
The Society of St. Pius X acknowledges Pope Benedict XVI as legitimately reigning Pope and as the Head of the Catholic Church. […]
It follows a clear distinction between them and the Sedevacantists. We knew that already, but I think there is a lot of confusion around.
2. Zur Frage der neuen Messe
Die Bruderschaft bestreitet nicht die Gültigkeit der neuen Messform. Wenn sie korrekt gefeiert wird – was an vielen Orten allerdings nicht mehr selbstverständlich ist – ist sie eine gültige Messfeier. […]
Again, my translation:
2. On the question of the New Mass
The Society doesn’t question the validity of the new form of Mass. When it is celebrated correctly – which in several places is not an automatic occurrence anymore – it is a valid Mass celebration […].
It follows, again, a rather convoluted explanation that the Novus Ordo be valid, but the SSPX has doubt about its “legality” or “legitimacy” or “lawfulness” (Rechtsmaessigkeit), an expression that I can’t explain to you – in my simple world, if you recognise its validity it means that you recognise the right of the Church to celebrate it – and would make a clarification of the SSPX very welcome.
Still, I find it positive that the SSPX in Germany has explicitly intervened making clear that they recognise both the Pope’s legitimacy and authority, and the validity of the New Mass. It is sad to hear incorrect or outright mendacious information about the Society and this kind of intervention is just what is required to deal with it. I wish the SSPX would intervene more often on these points, as otherwise they offer the flank to misinformation or outright calumniation.
I have often read harsh criticism about the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre in consecrating the four bishops after becoming fed up with JP II’s waiting games.
I will readily admit that this was an act of disobedience. But in the simple world in which I live there is disobedience and disobedience. A son may disobey to his father in rebellion at his father’s authority qua authority, or he may disobey to his father because the father himself insists in misbehaving. The first disobedience is out of rebellion, the second out of a higher form of respect for the father’s role and obedience to the God-given commandment. The first disobedience is aimed at making a father out of a son; the second is aimed at making of a bad father a good one. The first disobedience aims at destroying traditional, God-given rules; the second at preserving them.
If your father is drunk and you don’t obey to his damaging – or outright wicked – orders not because you don’t want him to be your father, but because you want him to stop being drunk you are still being disobedient, but you are certainly a good son.
I have therefore not many qualms with the Society of St. Pius X and the only reason why I never attended their mass (whose sacramental validity I do not doubt in the least, nor does the Vatican) is my subterranean terror of finding myself surrounded by a couple of dozens of bony, angry nutcases eager to recruit “the new one” to their poisonous cause with intemperate rants about the Antichrist in Rome and the like. I might be entirely wrong of course; but in these matters I am a rather sensitive, delicate flower who prefers to avoid unpleasant experiences.
In the same spirit, I look with a certain sympathy to those cheeky priests who realise that they have been tested with an uncommonly disgraceful bishop and decide to try to twist his arm on this or that matter (the recent episode or Thiberville having as disgraceful protagonist bishop Nourrichard comes to mind).
In all these cases, I see disobedience as a higher form of obedience. Obedience to the Church as an institution rather than obedience to (say) a liberal baboon; or obedience to what the Church commands rather than to what a bunch of naive (or faithless) bishops wanting to play “cool” and “popular” think is all right and very Catholic indeed.
But you see, all these disobedient priests and bishops still obey to that higher order that is the Church that has always been. They haven’t tailored their beliefs to what suits them; they haven’t come out with a new theology; they have just continued to believe what has been transmitted to them by countless generations of Catholics! “The Bishop’s – or Pope – good servant, but God’s first” could they say paraphrasing Thomas More. Whilst I agree that this behaviour is not advisable bar in the most extreme circumstances, I can’t see in it a menace to the Church, but rather a menace to the liberals and modernists within her. Never can the Church be damaged by those who, confronted with dramatic and sweeping changes, upheld what the Church has always been. To think so is, in my eyes, a contradiction in terms. These reactions should then be properly seen as a useful gauge of a malaise within the Church; a malaise which would then have to be scrutinised in the light of the strictest orthodoxy, not demonised as if the Church of the past had suddenly become wrong.
This is the reason why in my page about Catholic Quotes (see the upper bar) the place of honour is given to this beautiful quote from Robert DePiante:
What Catholics once were, we are. If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.
We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now.
I do hope that the rift (not schism) between the SSPX and Rome will be healed in my lifetime. Until then I will continue to give my allegiance to the latter, and my admiration to the former. I can’t avoid thinking that all that is happening now (from the slow resurgence of proper Catholicism to Summorum Pontificum to…. well, there’ s not much else for now and we might be slowing backpedaling) has been accelerated by the constant work of the SSPX, whose action – sometimes wrongly worded, sometimes a bit ego-driven, but in my eyes always conducted in a proper spirit of Catholic orthodoxy – has exposed the ridicule of NuChurch and helped to shape the resistance to the post-Vatican II drunkenness.
The threatened disobedience of the priest who says that he can’t accept what, in her essence, the Church has always been (find an example here) is not defending Church tradition, but starting his own one. The threatened disobedience of the priest (or archbishop) who says that he can’t accept that the Church may become different from what she has always been is on another plane altogether.
This man is certainly worth 17 minutes of your time and I’d suggest that you do not let your next meal come before having seen this video.
Father Yannick is obviously not an originally trained SSPX priest. He mentions both the formation in a state university and his experience in a (non-SSPX) seminary. He makes examples of what obviously was his life as a diocesan priest. He has nothing of the, let us say, “Williamson” style of being an SSPX member. This is a young, well-prepared, eloquent, sincere priest talking about the problems experienced in his trying to be a good priest.
Forget for a moment that he did become a member of the SSPX. This short document is disconcerting, because the very same words could have been said (were it not for the fear or retaliation) by almost any priest in Western Europe. There is not one word of rebellion to Rome and not one word of criticism of the reality (that is: the documents, not the “spirit”) of Vatican II; there is the constant reference to how Rome says things must be done as opposed to the praxis found in his diocese; there is a simple, calm but determined attitude of looking at the problems in the face rather than just singing the next sugary hymn and pretending that everything is fine.
In seventeen minutes, this short interview covers much of what doesn’t work and at the same time shows that SSPX and the Vatican are much nearer to each other than you’d think. The greatest distance from the SSPX is to be found not in Rome, but in the liberal dioceses with their heterodox praxis and their utter neglect of their duty of care.
You will enjoy this video. Every second of it. It looks at the problems, but it gives hope. It clearly speaks of the thirst for real spirituality among the young and the way this thirst is not quenched. But the thirst is there.
I wish we had more priests like this one, and I wish that they weren’t forced to move to the SSPX to do their job properly.
The SSPX has criticised in a rather harsh way the Pontiff’s decision to hold a new Assisi meeting.
“We are deeply indignant, we vehemently protest against this repetition of the days at Assisi”, declared Bishop Fellay and one can only wonder what Bishop Williamson would say if he were allowed to do so freely without being confined in some remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I have already written about the matter and it seems to me that whilst I agree with Bishop Fellay on the fact that this is not a brilliant decision, the choice of words is not a particularly happy one. In my eyes, Bishop Fellay talks and speaks as if Pope Benedict were another John Paul II. I do not think this is the case. Besides the fact that even Pope John Paul II had to see that things had gone far too far in 1986 and took care that the worst excesses were not repeated during the second Assisi gathering in 2002, it is very clear after almost six years of pontificate that Pope Ratzinger has nothing of the “let’s be hip”-mania, of the desire to be perceived as modern and in synchrony with the times that made so much damage during his predecessor’s pontificate.
During these years we had no Koran kissing, no kissing of the ground, no rock concerts and no search for easy ways to please the crowds. Nothing in Benedict XVI’s demeanour says “I will accommodate your need to be entertained or to feel good in the cheapest possible way”. The Assisi-mentality is clearly not his and this (in my eyes, ill-advised) renewed Assisi-gathering a tribute to the good intentions of his predecessor, whose beatification is clearly imminent and who is still a powerful weapon in the Church’s evangelisation effort.
At the same time I must disagree with the generally excellent William Oddie, who in his reaction to the SSPX’s utterances exaggerates in the other direction and calls the SSPX on their way to the funny farm.
What happened in 1986 must never, ever happen again. It was a damned shame and a show of breathtaking TV-fuelled ecu-maniac orgy of the worst kind. That excellent defenders of Catholic orthodoxy like the SSPX be concerned is certainly understandable, though the way of expressing these concerns might be (and in my eyes, certainly is) open to criticism.
Let us also say that “when the mills were white” Catholics were not allowed to pray with non-Catholics and this for the simple reason that such an exercise generates confusion among Catholics and can easily lead to the perception that what faith one subscribes to is of no great importance. By all talking of peaaace and looove, we should never forget that whoever isn’t Catholic is in the wrong shop , however saintly he may be.
I also disagree with Oddie that an orthodox Catholic should not think that he is more orthodox than the Pope. Of course he should, and he should every time that this is the case. The Holy Ghost guarantees infallibility to the Pope only when he speaks ex cathedra; it doesn’t guarantee at all that the Pope may, in his behaviour, frontally go against Catholic teaching. Pope Benedict IX sold his Papacy, and no one says he is not a Pope for that. The same goes, of course, for the kissing of Korans. A Pope is infallible but nor impeccable. Sometimes, Popes make a mess of things and sometimes they make a huge mess of things (Paul VI comes to mind). To say this is not un-Catholic in the least and doesn’t call for any farm, funny or not.
Assisi 2011 will, I am rather sure, be nothing similar to the catastrophe of 1986. But this doesn’t seem to me sufficient reason to go back there anyway. The risk of awakening ghosts from a shameful past is too big.
You can read on the always excellent The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog the news about the impending closure of Ushaw College, with the Seminary of St. Cuthbert and all related activities. You can click here to sign a petition meant at stalling all decisions until a more reflected study and a more thorough exam of alternatives has been completed.
Being rather conservative in matter of money, I will not speak against the closure with the usual argument about the loss of jobs and the like. I do think that economic realities must always be considered if the Church’s patrimony is to be managed wisely, which I think it must.
Having said that, I do have the following questions.
1) I visited Ushaw College’s internet presence. It appears to me that when they talk about “formation” they mean “formation of priests”, as you can read here. I might be wrong here but if I am right it is not entirely surprising to me that an institution which lists the formation of its student as “human” first, “Intellectual” second, “pastoral” third and “spiritual” at the fourth and last place should have some problem in filling its ranks. If I were an aspiring priest and had the possibility of choosing, I’d avoid this place with some zeal. In general, it is not surprising that with such a mentality the vocations in the region should be scarce. I wonder whether the SSPX (whose number of aspiring priests is simply exploding) would see the priorities in the same way.
Similarly, if you read here you start to understand why these institutions are in crisis. “Spontaneous intercessions” and “sharing thoughts and ideas” are, well, so Seventies. This doesn’t look to me like a place striving to create Christ’s soldiers of tomorrow, but the surrender monkeys of yesterday. I can make at least an example of an organisation calling its seminary St. Michael’s school. Can’t imagine much of “spontaneous intercessions” and “sharing of thoughts and ideas” there but would you believe it? They thrive!
2) Without being informed about the details, I assume that the place is entirely paid for. No mortgages, no interests. Beautiful as the place is (and therefore, probably, not inexpensive in the upkeep), I cannot easily imagine that the costs for the maintenance of the structure are of such dramatic scale as to make the situation beyond remedy. This is one of those situations where it is difficult to understand if one is trying to keep the place open, or to shut the place down.
3) It would be interesting to know what happens of the entire place once the institution is closed down. What happens to the ground and the real estate of the structure? Does it pass in the diocese’s property? If this is the case, are the buildings listed? Is the land valuable? How much of the entire structure can be sold to, say, local developers?
I am not being cynical here. Just drawing from past experiences. If the place were to pass lock, stock and barrel into SSPX ownership I wouldn’t be concerned in the least.
4) I personally would be very curious to have the numbers put into proper perspective, as in: how much the structure is in the red, how much this represents in percentage of the resources of the institution covering the deficit (the archdiocese?); how much this institution spends for tasks which might reasonably be seen as more deserving of cuts than the college (from travel to inter-faith groups and initiatives of various kind to the apparatus of press officers and administrative personnel). A world in which seminars are closed before press offices doesn’t seem to me entirely in keeping with the running of a diocese. I can tell you that there was a time where the seminars were open and no one knew what press offices were, but the Church thrived. Perhaps there is a connection here?
5) I wonder whether in a privately run structure the organisation would be simply “closed”. Rather, there would be a thorough exam of what doesn’t work and why. In a structure with shareholders, you have to account for your own resources. If you have a valuable structure available, the question would be raised what else you can do with that. What is not viable as a seminary can be viable for paid hospitality or the revenues used to try to contribute for the costs of the structure. If the travel business is doing well, perhaps more money could be put in it and enlarge what works already instead of closing everything, and so on. Just some ideas, but I don’t know of any private company who would just say to his stakeholders “we close everything; we don’t tell you why; we don’t tell you what alternative solutions we have examined, we don’t even tell you whether we have done it in the first place; and that’s that”. As I have said before, the Church’s resources must be used wisely. If this is the case here, the wisdom is being sedulously hidden from sight.
6) We are in a situation where not only an Ordinariate is being created, but conservative orders from all over the English speaking world are thriving and needing new space. I wonder why an institution in need of a new orientation could not try to perpetuate its existence offering the structure for the use of others who may have need of it. This would ensure that the sacrifices made by past generations continue to be used to host Catholic activities rather than, say, a residential development.
This route should, I think, at least be tried. I can’t imagine an appeal to all the Catholic world saying “Biggish compound with stunningly beautiful 400-seat chapel available for use from every Catholic organisation offering to pay for upkeep and presenting a valid plan for its Catholic use” being made and the appeal remaining unanswered. I really can’t.
In conclusion, it seems to me that such events should give us reason to seriously reflect whether there isn’t something questionable in the way the faithful’s money are used. It doesn’t mean that the seminary shouldn’t be closed whatever the cost of keeping it open and from what I have read it seems to me that the average quality of Catholic seminaries will be improved as a result. But it means that beautiful, expensive structures created with the sacrifices of past generation of Catholics are not just “closed” whilst – just to make an example – the press offices (used to pay people like this chap) remain open.