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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.

  • Dr. Carlos Diaz Lujan

     

    Those who approve of the Vatican Council II and are committed to implementing its pastoral concepts, violate both the letter and the spirit of
    the Council when they to use the Council to inflict division, discord and scandal
    within the Church or when they attempt to force brothers that disagree with the Council
    to accept it in violation of their informed conscience.

    We reaffirm the wise axiom of the great St. Augustine that
    should always guide us as Christians: “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials,
    freedom; in all things, charity.” Thus, in fidelity to the mind of the Church
    and to the Council itself, we oppose, be it one side or the other, using Vatican
    Council II as a reason or excuse to sow division, disunity or discord between
    Catholics faithful to the Magisterium and who love the Church.

  • JabbaPapa

    No — as I have already pointed out, if SSPX had been “suppressed”, these current negociations would quite simply not be possible — to use that word is an exaggeration of what happened.

    And there was certainly NOTHING unlawful about Rome’s reaction to the unauthorised ordinations, but the ordinations themselves were unlawful. Whether those ordinations were generally justified outside that law remains debatable, though at this stage I’d be prepared to agree that Monseigneur Fellay’s episcopal ordination, at least, seems to have been justified notwithstanding its clear irregularity.

    Of course the SSPX clergy and the laity that attends SSPX masses remain Catholics, nobody with any sense is doubting this, especially not at this late hour…

  • Dr. Carlos Diaz Lujan

     Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and other Catholic theologians rejected attacks on Catholic doctrine emanating from the texts of Vatican Council II.

  • JabbaPapa

    Ah — thanks for the clarification concerning Bishop Castro de Meyer.

    The word is too strong — a “suppression” would mean not just the abrogation of certain privileges, which is a matter for the diocesan bishop alone in this particular case, which is why Rome quite naturally supported the bishop’s sovereignty in this matter — it would mean a formal and clear condemnation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or by whichever sitting Pope, whereas no such condemnation has ever occurred. Quite the contrary in fact, as we can see for ourselves by looking at these reports of these powerful efforts by Rome towards reconciliation and return of SSPX to full communion.

    The so-called “Old Catholics” were *surpressed*. Nothing so drastic has ever been levelled against SSPX !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    Unless the whole thing is all of it infallibly true, parts may be (&
    in fact are) infallibly true, but the  thing as a whole can’t be. X
    cannot be infallible, if it is in part not infallible, or is wrong.

    What you’re saying is logical — but it is inaccurate.

    The reality from the point of view of the doctrinal theology is that the whole of any ex cathedra Act of the Church is infallible — notwithstanding that any specific Act may include some detail or details that may not be infallible in a finer analysis.

    No Catholic may deny any Council of the Church unless the Church herself has already done so (a VERY rare occurrence) nor any ex cathedra declaration such as the CCC, but Catholics must affirm the infallibility of such Councils or declarations.

    Only *after* one has accepted their general, overall, and collective infallibility does it become possible to examine the more precise detail of their contents and discuss if any of them can be seen as somehow contradictory to the overall doctrinal infallibility of the Church in these matters.

    I mean — to make a parallel, it is the *entire declaration* of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary that is infallible — NOT the words that happened to be used for the purpose of making that ex cathedra statement.

    Doctrines, not words, are provided with infallibility, but that does not mean that documents describing those doctrines cannot sometimes include words or particular phrases that might be confusing, or sometimes even appearing wrongful when they are interpreted in certain ways, even in certain justified ways.

    Doctrinal truth transcends the words that are used to describe it. And wherever any of those words appear to be dubious or wrongful, then it is the words that need to be doubted, but not the doctrines that they are attached to.

  • JabbaPapa

    I reject this statement of rebellion and apostasy.

  • JabbaPapa

    Thousands upon thousands of post-Conciliar novelties exist, which have never received any kind or form of approval whatsoever, apart from the approval of certain extremist liberals.

  • JabbaPapa

    Well spoken !! (dear Benedict doesn’t himself do any of those naughty things, just FYI, though he is rather fond of the associated rhetoric)

  • JabbaPapa

    Monseigneur Fellay has spoken in Salzburg of the Devil at work both in Rome and within the SSPX to try and halt this process of reunion, and has asked all Faithful to pray the Holy Mother Mary for her help for the accomplishment of God’s Will in this matter.

    Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis !!

  • A_papist

    “Over forty years have gone by already since the SSPX broke away from Rome…”
    The SSPX was only founded in 1970. When did it supposedly “break away”…? 1971..?!?

  • Alan

    What you are saying is that, because you find the teachings of Vatican II uncongenial, you choose to ignore them and to pretend that “true” Catholicism lies in some mythical golden age which you find more congenial. . You are of course entitled to that view, but you are not entitled to claim that the Catholic Church is somehow not the Catholic Church.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    If that is the sort of doctrinal assent required by Pope Benedict then who is going to be the next to be “reconciled”? Ian Paisley perhaps?He could certainly affirm “I, Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, absolutely, and without reservation, declare my assent to the entirety of the faith as taught in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church insofar as it is in agreement with infallible Biblical truth as I understand it.”

  • Alan

    You are very fond of throwing around words like “neo-protestantised” to describe what you don’t like.  If you think the doctrines of Vatican II are contradictory to, rather than developments of, what has gone before, you have to explain why the earlier, and not the later, ones are correct.  I suspect it is simply a case of what you find more congenial.

  • Benedict Carter

    Dear Alan, there are many people, including a certain Joseph Ratzinger, who have used the phrase. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Jabba, you are well out of order: such errors are absolutely unforgivable in the main Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

    As Parasum has noted above, these are not simple typographical errors!

  • Benedict Carter

    Neither is your “People of God” canard found there. 

  • Benedict Carter

    “Welcomed by almost the entire church”.

    What total nonsense. Most Catholics to this day don’t know what Vatican II says. And the rest have walked out. 

    Of which planet are you currently a resident?

  • Benedict Carter


    Ecclesiology, ecumenemism, collegiality, questions concerning the Jews …” do not contradict earlier teraching, some of which is infallible. 

    They bloody well do!

  • Patrick_Hadley

    So Fellay thinks that the devil is at work in Rome and in SSPX. No surprise that he thinks that Rome is infested with the devil, but as far as the SSPX is concerned presumably he means the devil is among the three bishops who are opposed to the deal he is negotiating. I suppose that he could be well right about his fraternal bishops, but accusing those who oppose your deal of being under the influence of the devil sounds a bit desperate to me.

  • Alan

    Not, I hope, with reference to the teachings of Vatican II.

  • Jae

    This is just outright misguided and false assertion. The supposedly “recognition” of false religion by the Pope is actually the same “recognition” as you would have for the Muslim mosque across from your house, you also allow them to worship in their false religion, right? therefore do you Mr. catholic can safetly say that all religion is equal?

  • Jae

    What separates this logic and set of thinking from the Mormons, Jehovah’s, Old Catholics? Nothing much. They all claim to be the holders of the “true” faith or “remnant” church apart from the living Apostolic Catholic Church, brother, where Peter is there is the Church. The true Church of God can’t survive without Peter at the helm, even our Lady of Fatima and Sister Lucia is against your position, so why do you still believe in yourself?

  • Jae

    Well said, parties who sought division between Catholics, fitting the past and present Magisterium against each other, the novel idea of “superiority” of Latin rite over other rites is very foreign in the Mind of the Church, such ideas can only be found in the Protestant minds, including the “old Catholics” who protested against the Councils of Trent and Vatican I because of their supposedly liberal doctrines of “baptism by desire” and “papal infallibility”. Expect every Council that is convened in any generation, there will always be protesters.

  • Jae

    Benedict, do you realized when you said this, “MODERN CHURCH HAS BETRAYED CATHOLIC TEACHING”, that you just made three grave assertions? Who is to JUDGE the Church today is a “modernist” Church? You? Who is to JUDGE the Church betrayed the Catholic Teaching? You? Who is to JUDGE the correct interpretation of Tradition? You again?

    Hopefully you don’t fall in the same hole as Luther where he really believed that all the answers in the three questions belongs to him (though he didn’t realize it).

    Luther held the novel idea of “Sola Scriptura”, meaning Bible Alone apart from the Magisterium….old Catholics also believed in the novel idea of “Sola Tradicio”, meaning Tradition Alone apart from the living Magisterium.

  • Jae

    Vatican II didn’t change any doctrines of the Church, NO COUNCIL has the power to change what the Church has taught before. Anyways this is by itself self contradictory, a Council is a part of the Church, so in other words, the Church contradicted herself? Preposterous.

    Probably it could happen, IF WE ARE A PROTESTANT CHURCH but we are not just some church like the prots, WE ARE THE CHURCH promised by God Himself to be “guided into ALL Truth until the end of time”.

  • Jae

    Sorry Benedict but I understand what Vatican II says, very Catholic. Anyways, I must admit there exist some ambiguities, well even the Scripture is ambitious sometimes, just look at the Protestants and orthodox churches….well even in your own backyard the SSPX where more than 3 splintered groups came from, ultra traditionalist movements just 50 years old-very young but already have hundreds of splinter, bunker style groups already compared to the 500 years old Protestant movement, I guess ultra traditionalist movement is moving much faster.

  • Jae

    Right on the mark.

  • Jae

    Where in VII says all religion is equal?Nowhere, where in VII says “error has rights” or man can worship in false religion? Nowhere. Where in VII says that Jews can be saved without the salvific grace of Christ? Nowhere. Where in VII says that non Catholics can be saved “outside” the boundaries of the Catholic Church? Nowhere? Where does it say that VII teach “salvation to all”? Nowhere!

    The rest are just hearsays and fallible human opinions.

  • Jae

    It should read, “Scripture is ambiguous sometimes”, no document can interpret by itself.

  • Jae

    The late Archbishop Lefebvre rejected the things he THOUGHT contradicted past tradition of the Church.

  • Jae

    Correction please, what they THOUGHT or they seem to think what tradition truly says, in other words, those who agree with their interpretation are right and those who disagree with them are all heretics including the 5 popes.

  • Jae

    Mr. Joe Spencer, There is no contradiction here between CCC canon 847 and Baltimore catechism besides the points of Jabba, here are some conditions that you seem to overlooked: 1. There is always exception to the rule or verse, e.g. In the Bible it teaches that, “ALL men fall short of the glory of God”….all have sinned”. Clear exceptions, Jesus Christ is a man, yet He is exempted from the verse, how about the Virgin Mary? clearly human but never sinned, how about the unborn and mentally retarded? Clearly humans but exempted.

    You see even the Council of Trent taught that pagans, non Catholics who were never baptized in the Church nor heard of Jesus Christ can attain salvation through the “baptism of desire” which is I think where the CCC explained it more deeply.

  • Jae

    A Sedevacantist, are you part of the 20% sedes of the SSPX? Or the SSPV? Conclavist perphaps? One thing is for sure, you really believed in just your own ability. Even sister Lucia of Fatima proved you wrong about the pope, so again who are you?

  • Jae

    I REJECT this strongly by saying that the Church can promulgate errors in her validly ratified Catechism!!!! WHO ARE YOU MR. BENEDICT CARTER to say that? You dont even have the slightest apostolic authority to pass such judgments, just nonsense opinion of a protester.

  • Jae

    The letter to ARCIC is just a letter not a doctrine of the church regarding the Blessed Mother. However it supports the unique Catholic perennial teaching and reverence to the Holy Mother that others who are in the process of converting to the catholic church still find it troublesome though accepted that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ….like the conversions of great modern thinkers, Newman, Chesterton, Dr. Hahn, Marcus Grodi etc. The idea is, it takes time, prudence and careful instruction to digest all the Teachings of the Church specially coming from the outside seeking in, sometimes you have to explain to them in analogy to understand better regarding the doctrines of Assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary which are really not explicit found in Scripture, can’t blame them, they only have it as their sole authority.

    We don’t bash the books of the Bible and Tradition on the heads of those who wanted to convert.

  • Jae

    Secondly, Mr. Joe Spencer, how do you reconcile Trent’s teaching that pagans and Orthodox churches outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church can be saved which contradicts earlier teaching of “Extra Nulla” or “Outside the Church there is No Salvation?

  • Jae

    Mr.Joe, please try to distinguish between the willful and free act of sins of humans and clerics against the Teaching of the Church, THERE IS NO relation.

    Don’t blame the trees for the forest fire started by arsons, PLEASE, because it is a clear case of logical fallacy spread by the Sedevacantist movements.

  • Joe Spencer

     

    Everyone, I was responding to Patrick_Hadley’s question,
    directly.  I will no longer try to fit
    what I need to say inside that box.  Here
    goes:

     

    Alan, it has nothing to do with time, it has to do with
    revealed truth.  Truth/dogma, cannot change.  Revelation ceased with the death of the last
    apostle.  The Church has spent the rest
    of time defining and defending this truth. 
    If doctrine has changed (let’s take a more clear example than my
    previous one), let’s say… Jesus was truly man, but not truly God.  Let’s say the Pope proclaimed this at an
    ecumenical council in agreement with the bishops.  Doesn’t matter, revealed truth cannot
    change.  The pope, when not speaking ex
    cathedra, is only infallible insofar as he teaches/says what the Church has
    always said/taught.  If speaking of something
    new, he is not/cannot be infallible.  I
    agree with you that contradiction does not exist.  In fact, I might go further to say
    contradiction cannot exist.  Is the
    different phraseology confusing and open to different, new
    interpretations?  Yes, which is why
    definition is needed.

     

    JabbaPapa, you got my point, exactly.  It wasn’t about salvation, it was about
    confusion and false interpretation being possible in the new catechism.

     

    Jae, agreed.  A
    problem with the soft language approach today, though, is that since we no
    longer state the issue the “traditional” way, in this example nulla salus ex ecclesiam
    – no salvation outside the Church.  Human
    nature being what it is, we sheeple go overboard the other way and “everyone is
    saved.”  The new catechism defines this
    issue by the exception (those who can attain salvation by baptism of desire or
    blood, for example), and through soft language, many laypeople, priests and
    religious draw the conclusion that everyone is saved.  They miss the fundamental principle of the
    necessity of baptism with water.  We
    softpedal so much that people no longer believe in the requirement of baptism
    with water, in this case, to the detriment of many souls. Another example – how
    many times have you been to a catholic funeral (ordinary form) where any
    mention was made of praying for this person’s soul, of God being their judge,
    of Purgatory, or Hell…

     

    Patrick_Hadley, read the above.  If you don’t get it, I cannot help you.  Find a good priest, and he’ll keep you in
    good shape until you and I meet in glory, should we do it right down here.

  • Jae

    The logically fallacy I was referring to is, “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”, same hole as the where the Sedevacantism have fallen. Google it.

  • Joe Spencer

    I have to disagree, Jae.

    The ambiguity in the current teaching (new catechism, for example) opens the door to false interpretation.  False interpretation leads to false belief.  False belief leads to “willful and free act of sins of humans”.  There is not only a relation, but a direct causality that leads from ambigous teaching to ignorance (real presence example) and sin (contraception).  The proof of this is that most couples do not think it even possible that they are sinning by practicing birth control. 

    I am not a sedvacantist, whatsoever.  This is not a sedevacantist position, but a catholic one.

  • Jae

    I REJECT THIS NONSENSE STRONGLY, that the Church can promulgate errors from a validly ratified Catechism, just amounts to an appeal to a fallible opinion borned by recalcitrant behavior that one is infallible right of what Tradition truly says and not the pope nor the Church.

  • Greg

     Isn’t all the controversy really related to semantics and linguistics? Many church documents are abstract in nature and can be interpreted in different ways. Can anyone name one concrete contradiction of VII with previous doctrine?

  • Alan

    Truth cannot change, but doctrinal formulae, expressed in words, can change in meaning.  Jae gives the example of “no salvation outside the Church”.  And, as Newman famously remarked, there is “development of doctrine”.

  • Alan

    You refer to the “Baltimore catechism”, of which I had not heard.  I looked it up, and it is clearly the product of those way-out characters who claim that there has been no true Pope in Rome since 1958.  This  “catechism” therefore has no validity.

  • Sweetjae

    Though I pretty much agree with you Mr. Spencer here are the caveats:

    1. I didn’t say you’re a Sedevacantist, what I said was, the logic you and SSPX have been using is the same logical fallacy the Sedes had used before.

    2. Yes, I must agree that some passages of VII are ambigious, same could be said of Bible, eg. Paul said, “We hold a man is justified by faith apart from works of  law” (Eph 2:8) compare that to the prior verse which he also said, “The doers of the law will be justified”. (Romans 2:6).

    Is there a contradiction here of St.Paul? NO! There are so many more ambiguity in Scripture, so its no surprise.

    Where there is an ambigious text whether it means “X” or “Y” there can be a discussion and we choose the one that does not contradict Tradition or should we say must be interpreted in the Light of Tradition….a clear warning to the modernists who try to experiment their own agenda.

    3. The “willful acts of sins” I was referring to some traditiopnalists who attribute the twisted and false principles and free acts of catholic politicians, liberal clergy for their support of abortion, gay-marriage, women priests etc then associate them with the Teachings of Vat II, a clear case of logical fallacy of “Post hoc ergo”. 

  • Sweetjae

    Mr. Spencer good that we agree that there is NO contradiction between past and present Magisterium, only those people who just believed in themselves like the protestants do.

    “Softpedaling” were being done by free acts not by the Teachings of the Council which actually brought us deeper to the Salvific action of God by wisely saying, “God has bounded salvation to the sacraments but He Himself is NOT bound to His sacraments.” 

  • Joe Spencer

     Just when I think we’re getting close to agreement… :)

    Regarding the “willful” acts/sins thing… the ambiguity in the documents and teachings DIRECTLY coming from the council, allowed for people through the great new “non-judgemental” open attitude (stemming from their beliefs and not contradicted by said ambiguity) to cement their errors and ideas that are completely incompatible with the Church… the result?  Kathleen Sobelius. 

    You say there is no connection. 

    I say there is direct causality…  VII ambiguity led to incorrect interpretation, led to bad beliefs, led to willful acts/sins that are incompatible with being a practicing Catholic, and leads others to willfully accept error, putting their eternal souls at risk. 

    And I believe this is what you are referring to that is the same as the sedevacantists? 

    If this were true, and I’m not convinced that it is, I would say the sedevacantists, like any protestant group, has a shred of truth upon which their error rests.

  • Joe Spencer

     Alan, you’ve got to be kidding me… OK, not me talking here, but hit google, to wikepedia… here’s the opening paragraph on the Baltimore Catechism…  I guess those “way out characters” to which you refer are not just sedevacantists, but ALL US Catholic Bishops before Vatican II. 

    A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore (or, simply, the Baltimore Catechism) was the de facto standard Catholic school text in the United States
    from 1885 to the late 1960s. It was the first such catechism written
    for Catholics in North America, replacing a translation of Bellarmine’s Small Catechism.
    In response to criticisms, various editions include annotations or
    other modifications. The Baltimore Catechism remained in use in nearly
    all Catholic schools until many moved away from catechism-based
    education, though it is still used up to this day in some.

    Alan, stop typing.  You are embarrassing yourself.

  • Jae

    Right on the dot! The blanket assertion that one can refuse obedience to any Church or papal encyclicals just because he perceived as “contradiction” of what he think is right, is actually nowhere found in Scripture and the very Tradition he espoused. They are threw the baby with the bath water so to speak.

  • Joe Spencer

     There can be no contradiction, you are right.  I do not understand your barb at those “who believed in themselves like the protestants”.  What?

    However, if the catechism is not a teaching of the council, with all the council references, then I’ll eat my hat.  The catechism softpedals many questions (including the example of nulla salus ex Ecclesiam), to the potential demise of the souls of multitudes who, because of this softpedaling, justify themselves in error.

    Let me guess, Jae, you are someone who was raised in the light of the council, that it’s not possible that the council contain error. 

    Wake up.