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It is time to reconcile the SSPX with the Holy See

Bishop Fellay has made courageous steps towards ending the 40-year division

By on Monday, 21 May 2012

Bishop Bernard Fellay CNS photo/Paul Haring

Bishop Bernard Fellay CNS photo/Paul Haring

If we really want reconciliation between the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and the Holy See, now is the time to pray about it.

According to a report from CWN, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) met on 16th May to discuss such a possibility. The meeting concentrated on the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, to a proposed “Doctrinal Preamble” that is hoped could form the basis of a reconciliation. Bishop Fellay signed the Preamble in April, but had suggested some amendments. The CDF’s observations on these will go to Pope Benedict who is expected to make a final decision by the end of this month.

Leaked reports within the SSPX suggest that Bishop Fellay is at odds with his three fellow bishops in the Society over his openness to the Vatican overtures. Could it be that Bishops Tissier de Mallerais, Alfonso de Galarreta and Richard Williamson would rather remain in splendid isolation than return to the fold? Acknowledging these internal tensions, a Vatican statement on May 16th said, “Regarding the positions taken by the other three bishops of the Society of St Pius X, their situations will have to be dealt with separately and singularly.”

Bishop Bernard Fellay CNS photo/Paul Haring

who has himself alluded to the possibility of a split in the ranks of the SSPX over this question, seems a courageous and humble man. Interviewed at his Swiss headquarters on 15th May by the American Catholic News Service, he admitted that certain things “we would have condemned as coming from the [Second Vatican] Council were not in fact from the Council.” Those who have stayed loyal to Rome during the upheavals following the Council have always known that its conclusions and official documents were sometimes wilfully misinterpreted on the ground by liberal churchmen. But for the superior general of the SSPX to accept that the Council itself and what followed it were two separate events is quite something – at least this is the first time I have heard it.

It is also noteworthy that although Bishop Fellay admitted in the interview that he himself would rather “have wished to wait for more time to see things clearer” he accepts that Pope Benedict “wants it to happen now.” In all the years of the “Rome v SSPX” saga, this is the nearest the two sides have come to a firm and lasting agreement. It is understandable that the Holy Father would like to bring reconciliation about before his pontificate comes to an end. And would waiting any longer make things clearer anyway?

Over forty years have gone by already since the SSPX broke away from Rome and records of the dispute must run to volumes. There is something to be said for deciding on closure.
What finally struck me at this interview was Bishop Fellay’s appreciation of the Pope’s purposeful and charitable outreach to the Society. He seemed almost overwhelmed by the Holy Father’s gesture. If the long-lasting fissure is brought to an end, “it [will be] thanks to him and to him alone” the Bishop said. What a wonderful tribute to Pope Benedict: so often portrayed in his time at the CDF as the “Vatican enforcer” and the “Panzer Kardinal” – yet this is the Pope who sanctioned the setting up of the Ordinariate to invite back separated Anglican brethren and who now wants full reconciliation with the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre. This is certainly something to pray about right now.

  • Joe Spencer

     I agree.  Your “far more interesting” portion of your reply is exactly why I posted it.  Again…  to quote myself, “And to think, there were so many people, both religious and laypeople
    who took flack for having the gall to think that they had the right to
    the traditional mass.”

  • Joe Spencer

     I agree… and Jae will someday have to come to grips with the fact that something terrible happened in the 1960′s, the effects of which were devastating for the entire Church.  Sticking the head in the sand of “Nothing Changed!  It’s just a few bad apples misunderstanding the wisdom of the Council!” does not change the devastating effects on faith, belief, and practice of the Faith.  (done with rant…)

  • Sweetjae

    While I agree with you of the scandal of putting a statue of Buddha placed on the Altar however, this is an old item deliberately misinterpreted by some. The fact that some Buddhist monks not knowing the Catholic views on the Altar had placed an effigy on one. One of the Pope’s assistant, a Franciscan saw that and immediately asked them to remove it after explaining why. Which they did.

    You see guys, this is not what the good Pope wanted, planned or even allowed, so we can’t condemn the whole mission of Assisi or his Pontificate because of this negative “incident”. We tend to forget his great contributions on the downfall of the greatest scourge man has ever known without firing a single shot (Atheistic communism), destroyed liberal theology, going to every nook and cranny of the world to spread the Gospel of Christ to his very last breathed and with every bit of pain and suffering unprecedented by any pope in history, aside from the fact that he restored the devotion of the greatest devotion, The Divine Mercy Sunday! Blessed JPII pray for us!

  • Sweetjae

    I didn’t say “Nothing Changed”, what I object about is putting the blame to  VII as the cause and instigator of secularism  which in reality started decades back prior to the Council,  it’s like saying the one responsible for the murder is the handgun not the criminal. Do you get the drip, brother?

    If you keep blaming the VII for the “bad fruits”, then why should you stop blaming the Council of Florence for bringing the “baddest fruit” of all time? Luther and Protestantism. WHY?

  • Sweetjae

    It should read, “he destroyed Liberation Theology” spreading across catholic countries.

  • Sweetjae

    Joe, I agree with you…this is the agenda as I told you not in accord with VII.

  • Joe Spencer

     Jae, the scandal of Assisi goes well beyond that incident.  It is absolutely unprecedented in the Catholic Church to invite in other religious leaders, putting them on the same plane as the Church established by Jesus, Himself.  In the process, Catholic identity of the place was intentionally suppressed (removal of crucifixes from the cells, for example, so as not to offend the temporary resident).  The whole thing gave great scandal.  The conclusion the world came to was now the Church acknowledged the other religions as equal!  Hooray!  All the church did is confirm Millions of people in their error.  And the Holy Father was the architect of this.

    It is one black mark on his pontificate, and not the only one. While I acknowledge he did some great things, I question putting him on the level of Pope St. Pius V, St. Paul, St. Thomas More, and the rest.

  • Joe Spencer

     The pressure was building behind the dam before VII, that is for certain.  You are right.

    But VII, itself, through it’s ambiguous pronouncements blew the dam.

  • Sweetjae

    This is your fatal mistake my friend when you said, “putting them on the same plane as the Church established by Jesus, Himself.”
    WHO said putting them all in same plane? WHO said that all religion is equal? VII? NO. Pope JPII? NO! Did you really read the sole purpose and objective of the Pope and what really had happened and not from some bias sources? Did you read how JPII strongly proclaimed, even lectured the people there about the great salvation of Jesus Christ? Did you read about the popes message right off the bat about how great is our God? Did you?
     Whether you like it or not other people from different faith affiliations think of us as the same or even lower than their beliefs, so what are you going to do about it? How are you going to get your Message across the table? Bash their heads with the Bible? Yah right, we have a bloody  history (literally) of that in both sides.

  • Sweetjae

    If your only reason is being that some are “ambiguous” then WHY stop there? WHY not blame the Holy Scripture as well? The Bible is certainly ambiguous too in some important aspect on Justification, imputation of grace, assumption and Immaculate conception  of Mary, Theotokos doctrine, praying to dead christian people etc, etc.

    Oh, also don’t stop the blowing  the dam by the SSPX of splintered groups coming from her, who said that SSPX is too liberal and ambiguous in its interpretation of pre-Vatican II tradition.

  • JabbaPapa

    There is little doubt that there is a great deal of confusion spread about — but it will not go away by adding to it, nor by preaching that because of Vatican II it’s perfectly OK and do your own thing off in the corner ; which has been a mistake made both by some traditionalists and by even greater numbers of liberals.

  • JabbaPapa

    what you’re leaving out … is canon law’s clear acknowledgement
    for just and legal catholic resistance to unjust, sinful, anti Catholic,
    etc direction

    erm no, I have in fact specifically alluded to that question. Granted, you may have easily missed that fact in the hefty volume of prose discussions that this web page seems to have attracted … ;-)

    I would neither approve nor contradict your own position, but I would still reiterate that the Pope has every right to make sovereign decisions of this nature.

    This does not of course mean that another Bishop would have any right to command priests to disobey canon law, nor to provide teachings or practices incompatible with the Faith — though there are also bound to be some more fringe cases where a Bishop may be ordering nothing that’s illicit nor forbidden, but this or that priest might be in a licit state of personal disagreement with the Bishop’s views.

  • pagnol

     “…but I would still reiterate that the Pope has every right to make sovereign decisions of this nature”.

    Such a “sovereign” decision is irrelevant, inapplicable, and invalid if it’s in error, and obviously can’t even  be accepted Ex Cathedra because God cannot contradict himself. So how can a pope have a “right” that can’t exist?

    I am not doubting the rock of Peter in Mathew 16:18, but rather recalling the gates of Hell that will not prevail, false prophets, by their fruits, etc. One truth cannot contradict another truth but must be understood in their context. The pope is supreme head of the Church but only in truth, unless you feel that Christ meant His vicar’s word will always be done in heaven as on earth even when he’s not telling the truth.

    No offense intended.

  • Jae

    You were been never push away by Rome however, maybe by some misinformed or disobedient local clergy. Sad but this is the cross you have to bear. I’m a Novus Ordo parishioner and fortunately one from a very orthodox, solemn and reverent in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice though I greatly loved TLM too!

  • JabbaPapa

    Just a quick reminder (from a story in yesterday’s morning reads) of the *liberal* view of Vatican II :

    Liberal voices in the Church have been under attack ever since Vatican
     II. A number of vocal Catholic women, including nuns, have been among
     the most persistent and influential leaders of the fight to save the
     church from what they see as soul-crushing conservatism. This has
     galled the hierarchy, which has responded with silencings, firings,
     excommunications and public denunciations. Seeing that picking their
     targets off one by one wasn’t working, the Vatican, in taking on LCWR,
     decided to go for broke.

    Can’t you see a problem when the extremist liberals reject the Council just as strongly as the extremist conservatives — except for diametrically opposed “understandings” of the Council ?

    It’s high time that the true emphasis on orthodox continuity that the Council Fathers provided became the focal center of our own Catholic understanding of Vatican II !!!

    The hermeneutic of continuity — NOT the hermeneutic of rupture that’s proposed by both extremist camps.

    Let’s remember, and here is an unusually overt expression of that fact, that the post-conciliar liberal innovations and abuses are all of them entirely contradictory of the V2 documents and all the other work of the Council !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    “…but I would still reiterate that the Pope has every right to make sovereign decisions of this nature”.

    Such a “sovereign” decision is irrelevant, inapplicable, and invalid
    if it’s in error, and obviously can’t even  be accepted Ex Cathedra
    because God cannot contradict himself. So how can a pope have a “right”
    that can’t exist?

    You are confused — the so-called “inability of God to contradict Himself”(**) has precisely NOTHING to do with this entirely disciplinary matter.

    Nor is it a matter that can possibly considered as a doctrinal “error” — because an excommunication is pure and simple NOT a doctrinal statement.

    Papal Sovereignty in this matters means, no more and no less, that the Pope does not actually need to submit to any Court nor any other judicial procedure before saying that that so-and-so is excommunicated — nor can anyone licitly censure the Pope in such matters — oh except for CH blogger “pagnol” apparently.

    (**) God being, among other things, Omnipotent — it is of course well within the limits of His incomprehensibly vast Power to make a simple, easy verbal self-contradiction.

    As, by the way, is scripturally evidenced by Jesus’ extensive use of paradox as reported in Scripture — paradox being a rhetorical form of deliberate self-contradiction for various different purposes.

    The notion that God should be incapable of what even our children can do of is patently absurd.

  • JabbaPapa

    The online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia is not only hopelessly out of date, but it is also not a volume of doctrine nor of canon law, and its use is limited to that of a handily accessible rough reference work ; somewhat like Wikipedia, and with the same sorts of inherent limitations.

    My understanding of the term “ex cathedra” comes from personal explanations to me by our Archbishop, as well as from various other sources that I’d have a harder time remembering for you, and from my understanding of the Latin language and of doctrinal theology generally.

    The definition that you refer to is the normal, common, widespread understanding of the phrase as used in ordinary conversation — however, discussions concerning the various degrees of doctrinal Authority that are provided by various different Magisterial documents describing dogmata and doctrine require a more technical definition of the word, in such cases where clarity is needed instead of a more general approach.

    And the *technical* meaning of ex cathedra is as an adjective qualifier denoting Authoritative statements made by Bishops from their Episcopal Chair (cathedra) as opposed to other forms of statements.

  • JabbaPapa

     Otherwise :

    So… there must be two worlds of Catholic Canonical verbiage.

    oooooooh … there’s a LOT more than just two !!!! ;o)

  • pagnol

      I give up (not really). At this point I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing any more. But I will still say that you are missing pieces which make your treatise on the (non) excommunication of no legal significance not only in canon law and scripture but in the common sense God gave little green apples.

  • JabbaPapa

    Finally : from the grammatical point of view, the long adverbial section “that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter” is a qualifier not a definition.

    The Constitution is defining a particular *kind* of ex cathedra statement that the Bishop of Rome (ONLY) is empowered to provide.

  • Jae

    Perfectly said, right on the mark!

  • steve5656546346

    Good article.

    What is simply unbelievable is that this is still an issue at a time when dissenters concerning even the most fundamental doctrine of the Church are still in full communion.