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Vatican tells SSPX: your response is not good enough

By on Friday, 16 March 2012

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the SSPX, ordains a priest in Econe, Switzerland (Photo: CNS)

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the SSPX, ordains a priest in Econe, Switzerland (Photo: CNS)

The Holy See has said that a statement by the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is “not sufficient” to overcome the doctrinal problems that keep it estranged from Rome.

In a communiqué published today the Holy See asked Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior of the SSPX, to “clarify his position in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI”.

The SSPX statement had been a response to a “doctrinal preamble” issued by the Vatican outlining principles that would form the basis of any further discussion between the SSPX and Rome. The preamble, issued in September, had come at the end of years of talks.

Last November Bishop Fellay said that the preamble needed changes before it could be accepted as the basis for reconciliation.

He said the preamble was “a document which can be clarified and modified, as the accompanying note points out. It is not a definitive text.

“The proposal that I will make in the next few days to the Roman authorities and their response in turn will enable us to evaluate our remaining options. And whatever the result of these talks may be, the final document that will have been accepted or rejected will be made public,” he said.

In its communiqué the Holy See said that the SSPX response had arrived in January.

  • Parasum

    The use of authority (what sort are we talking of, BTW ? Mgr. Cormac Burke wrote a very good book on Church authority, carefully distinguishing the different kinds of authority, some not “Churchy” at all. It really is a “must-read”) is not enough. Not if by the A-word is meant “power to command”. The question of RL and the Church’s teaching about it is a theological question – it needs an appropriate solution. That is, a theological solution. So to say there is continuity between (say) the 1864 Syllabus of Errors, and Dignitatis Humanae, both of which speak about religious liberty, is not good enough: the continuity – if it exists – needs to be shown. If continuity is to accepted as a reality purely because it is said to be a reality, there is an end of intelligent theology: belief becomes a matter of accepting doctrinal assertions, merely because they are asserted. That is a recipe for chaos.

    It is cruel to teach one thing, & then to turn around and teach somethimg that looks remarkably like a contradiction of the former teaching. It is conceivable that the continuity exists, but not where the SSPX theologians are looking for it. In that case – where is this continuity ? To say ther is continuity, imp[lies knowledge of where it is to be found – so, where might that be ? For traditionalists, SSPX or not, to ask this question, is entirely justified: they are asking, because if those who represent the Church’s theological & doctrinal authorities know the answer, they should tell them ? So why do they not tell the traditionalists (and the rest of the Church for that matter), & explain that the stated continuity is to be found in X & Y & Z ?

    If, OTOH, the continuity is alleged to exist, not because the Church’s theological & doctrinal authorities know in what it consists, but because they think that because both the Syllabus & DH contain teaching on religious liberty, *therefore*, there must be continuity, even if they have not worked out in what it consists – if that is the case: should that not be made perfectly clear ? Then all of us in the Church, where traditionalist or not, would know where we stand & where the Church stands. Is it wrong to ask for these questions to be answered ? If so – why ?

    If there is no continuity between the two teachings, or a different kind of continuity from that which has previous characterised teachings – if IOW the continuity is derived from a different notion of doctrinal development from that familar before V2 – that too needs to be made clear. It would go far to help people to understand why the Church teaches on the subject what it now does. And that could do a great deal to clear up the doctrinal & theological disagreements between the Magisterium & the SSPX.

    This issue may seem absurdly trivial to many – it is not, because the tension between the pre-conciliar doctrine & that of DH is agonising for many Catholics. It is a serious pastoral problem, and they ought to be met with sympathy and compassion & geat gentleness – not told to shut up & believe what the Church says. That kind of roughness does not help them, or the rest of us.

  • John Byrne

    If there is a God who made “me” and who “one day” will decide what to do with “me”, then there is absolute truth.
    But I believe that my mind, brain and body, and those of my fellows, are pitifully inadequate in comprehending it.
    We know only the “heap of broken images” and we are prisoners in a world we do not understand.
    Our languages, imagination and thoughts, and all our abilities in respect of these things, evolved to cope and survive in a cold and cruel world, and nothing more.
    The meaning of the Church’s teaching can be said to not change, but the way this meaning is expressed must change in order to make sense, as the world changes.

  • Parasum

    OK, but – what is the solution to the objection that there is a discontinuity ? Or – what are the solutions ? (In case there are several complementary ones.) So far, the Magisterium has not explained *how* there is a continuity in teaching – it has (AFAIK) simply taken for granted that there is one. What is lacking is any showing of the working – if it exists – by which the Church moved from the earlier teaching, to the later.

    If it is right to speak of “our flawed interpretation of the past and present Tradition” – by what right, & on what grounds, can we be sure that the current interpretation of the Tradition is not flawed – perhaps even more seriously flawed ? Did previous Popes & Councils think their teaching was flawed ?

    If there is a solution, and the Magisterium knows there is one – why does it not give it, and thereby give peace of mind to many conscientious Catholics, among others ?

  • Parasum

    If doctrine is not involved, why did Congar’s book, of 1976, against Abp. Lefebvre have much to say about the Abp’s rejection of DH ?

    If DH is not doctrinal – then the case against the Abp. collapses in tatters, and he turns out to have been rejecting a non-Magisterial document. Which was not described  at the time (1965-1991) as not Magisterial. There are issues of justice here, because no-one can be justly accused of rejecting Council teaching that was not Council teaching. STM that if DH was not doctrinal, this needs to be said, by the highest and weightiest authority in the Church. And that if the Abp. was unjustly dealt with as a result of rejecting a non-doctrinal text, an apology is in order. Archbishops who do not teach error should not be treated by the Church as though they have. Nobody should be treated that way.

    ISTM BTW that you may be describing, not Dignitatis Humanae, but Nostra Aetate.  (Which may have the least memorable title of all 16 documents.)

  • Thomnickels1

    Williamson denied the Holocaust as a private individual, not as a Church leader.
    SSPX has nothing to do with denial of the Holocaust. The fact is, the SSPX is the true Catholic Church, not the one in Rome with lay ministers, altar girls, Protestant hymns, nuns in secular dress, and to top it off: a Protestant hybrid Mass. SSPX is the guardian of Catholic tradition. For that they should be elevated to “sainthood.”

  • MaureenOtwell

    Excellent post. The SSPX preaches and practices the religion I was brought up in as well. Vatican II is the problem. It is time for Catholics and the Church to rethink that Nuclear Winter Council that caused so mauch damage.

  • JoshuaFrySpeed

    The Vatican II sect or the Novus Ordo Catholic Church IS the Protestant Sect, NOT SSPX. You have it backwards. SSPX protects and defends Tradition; the Vatican II Sect has destroyed much of it. Get it right!

  • MercerMuseum

    God bless the Orthodox. They have preserved sacred tradition and have not thrown half of it away like their Western counterparts. Rome needs to heed the wisdom of the East. There is much grace in Orthodoxy.

  • Anonymous

    Williamson denied the Holocaust as a private individual, not as a Church leader.

    Finally, if we are to apply this same logic of yours to the argument then surely it must apply to the views of priests such as Hans Kung, which “JabbaPapa” (below) points out only “licit personal opinion” by saying the things they say!

    The parallel is not entirely pertinent — Küng can be described as having made some dubious statements that seem to be overly liberal in scope ; Williamson has borne false witness.

    The first is possibly in error, certainly outside the mainstream ; the second has arguably committed an objective sin by promoting lies about the realities of a genocide, and he has done so persistently.

    There is, clearly, an objective difference between having an opinion that it is doctrinally licit, no matter how dubiously, on the basis of the truth of whichever doctrinal matter NOT having been established by some incontrovertible revelation(s) — and publishing opinions that are directly incompatible with and falsifiable by historic reality.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a fairly good post, I do have some doubts about the following, though -

    The reality that was not spelled out, is that although the Orthodox have valid orders and sacraments, because of the schism they are not efficacious, i.e. not a means of grace, until orthodox believers are reconciled to the Universal Church.

    It seems to be inaccurate. The Orthodox *are* considered to be reconciled with the *Universal* Church per se, and they are specifically singled out as being the principal group of non-Catholics whose religion is efficacious towards salvation (as demonstrated by the Church’s clear acceptance of the validity of their orders, sacraments, theologies, and eucharists) — but it is taught as being less efficacious, due to the scandal of the schism — BUT it is the only schism in history that the Catholic Church recognises as being partly of its own doing. (ALL of this is BTW pre-Vatican II)

    The desire is less that the Orthodox be reconciled with the Catholic, but that we be reconciled with each other — and that desire is clearly very hard to achieve, because whilst the theological divergence is very small in scope, it is centrally definitional in nature.

  • Anonymous

    Well, sorry — but that’s a pretty great big “IF” !!!

    In the philosophically abstract sense, any historical interpretation must necessarily be imperfect, due to being provided by imperfect people.

    In the more practically hands-on sense though, there REALLY is no rupture of continuity in the teachings of the Magisterium (you should listen to the Magisterium and your Pope when they expressly deny the existence of any such rupture !!) — there are instead some false teachers who are trying to convince you that there has been such a rupture.

    That Vatican II has changed the contents of what the Magisterium teaches, mainly by adding to those contents, is obviously true — but it is not true that Vatican II has provided any such changes by abolishing any existing teachings of the Church, though there may possibly be some minor detail exceptions to this general principle.

    The teachings of the Council of Trent, for example, have NOT been swept away like so much dross — no matter what some of the more extremist liberals might desire to believe, and even teach…

  • Jae

    This is the fatal mistake of “traditionalists” by saying a good catholic could disobey a Council because of it’s pastoral nature which by the way is NOWHERE found in Tradition. Let me ask you this, where in Tradition does it say a catholic can refuse obedience to any Council of the Church if it’s pastoral in nature? Where does it says it’s non binding? Can you please quote us?

    Are you also aware that there were more than 5 Councils in the past that were pastoral in nature? Should a catholic have the option to refuse them too? Luther did it once of “cherry picking” which he considered as orthodox, are we also falling in the same fashion?

  • Jae

    Cardinals by their own are entitled to their own opinion just like you and me, which can be fallible. However, when the Pope and Bishops in communion with him solemnly declare and promulgate a teaching to the Universal Church (not to a group or audience) like in a General (Ecumenical) Council, which is the highest form of Magisterial Authority, she is protected from error quaranteed by God Himself.

    That is the reason why the SSPX has to examine its position and conscience of where her loyalty stands, is it to the Vicar of Christ with his bishops or it’s own ability to discern what tradition truly says?

    And please don’t say they only stand for the tradition that were just handled down to them…because even the Sedes, Conclavists and a few hundreds more have claimed the same from the same catholic tradition (PRE Vatican2) and a BIG part of that Tradition saying to obey All the Councils of the Church and not to any liberal or traditionalist bishops.

  • Benedict Carter

    Vatican II is readily admitted to be a complete first in the Church’s history even by its fanatical adherents. Your grasp of Church History is either very dodgy or you are simply dissembling, which wouldn’t be a first for the “liberals”, now would it?

    Vatican II was a robber Council and should be abrogated urgently. The Church must turn around from the cul de sac She is in. 

  • Jae

    This is another example of a fatal mistake done also by Sedevacantists, old Catholics, Conclavists etc by MIXING acts of personal sins by the liberal clergy and the Teachings of a validly ratified Council of the Church….they are NOT related! If we go with this logic, we should also blame the Councils of Trent and Florence by bearing fruit the BADDEST and most liberal clergy of all time, Martin Luther!

    It’s like blaming the trees for the forest fire started by arsons.

  • Jae

    Whose version of Tradition are you referring to? The Sedevacantists, Conclavists, old Catholics and a few hundreds more shared the same catholic Tradition with you and SSPX but yet arrived at diametrically opposing beliefs, so are ourselves now be the judges of what “Tradition” truly says?

    Protestants used the same arguments with the same Bible yet they scatter, are we the same?

  • Benedict Carter

    A truly excellent post, Parasum.

    Even this Pope has refused to open a debate about Vatican II, a debate called for by Bishop Schneider of Kazakhstan, by a large of Italian catholic intellectuals, by many, many laity. Why? 

    Because the “hermeneutic of continuity” would be proved just to be a phrase: the continuity does not exist. 

  • buckle

    I read the first the first reading at the NO Mass yesterday as in an incomprehensible extract from the Book of Chronicles where mention is made (out of nowhere) of a Persian King – Cyrias. Do Novus Ordo theologians and their apologists seriously believe that the laity can follow all of this? I spoke to one of the concelebrants about this and he quoted from Martin Luther to justify this ‘development’. The whole conversation was ridiculous and I know for certain that my experience is far from unique. In short, conversing with a NO priest is an exercise in the irrational.

  • Jae

    While I totally symphatized with you and the agony the SSPX have been undergoing but the great compassion and gentleness you mentioned explaining the tension are to be found in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church and it’s compendium, ratified and promulgated by the last 2 Popes. Please read and listen to the proper and only Voice of Living God and not to any liberal nor traditionalists clergy. God bless.

  • Benedict Carter

    No point in them wittering on that “There is no discontinuity!” if (a) there manifestly is; (b) they refuse to tell us where the continuity is. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Jabba, you clearly have never known what Catholic teaching on the question of religious liberty actually is, so your “hard work” is so much wasted effort.

  • Jae

    Why should we believe in any “fanatical adherents”? They are not the Magisterium. My statement and question still stands for the SSPXs assertion that a catholic can cherry pick, where is that in Tradition so as to support its case. Please don’t use circular reasoning and ad hominem attacks in our discussion, doesn’t do your cause any good. God bless!

  • Benedict Carter

    Kung is totally heterodox. He has at various times rejected the priesthood, the Holy Sacrifice of of the Mass, the Magisterium (he believes it should be replaced by “prophetic” theologians like himself) etc etc. He is no longer a Catholic, though for some utterly bizarre reason he has managed to remain a priest. 

  • Jae

    Where does it say in Vatican IIs teaching that all religion is equal? Can you please quote. The seeming “contradiction” is just due to the SSPXs flawed interpretation of tradition on Ecumenism and religious liberty. Look for my post above.

  • Anonymous

    As I said above, I’ve yet to see any hard evidence of heterodoxy — he’s certainly at the very extreme fringe of liberalism, but if you have any evidence that he’s actually beyond that limit, I’d certainly look at it …

    He *does* have the right to give his personal opinions — but he’s such a skillful and well-informed theologian, that he seems to know exactly where to stop, and avoid actually being manifestly heretical.

    That’s my impression of him, anyway…

  • Anonymous

    This tactic again ?

  • Anonymous

    I must say — I too am a little nonplussed by the mention of these “fanatical adherents” …

    Are you confusing liberal extremism with the Church Council ? Liberal extremism certainly does have its fanatical adherents, but I cannot see that it would be at all useful to let them pure and simple hijack the Council for themselves…

  • Anonymous

    An article by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of the Prelature of Opus Dei, published in l’Osservatore Romano on 2nd December 2011 purports to present an orthodox understanding of doctrinal continuity — but I must say, I find it to be flawed by an excess of undesirable abstraction, as well as far too much hand-waving.

    There *are* some more useful contents, such as :

    Documents of the Magisterium may contain elements that are not exactly doctrinal—as is the case in the documents of the Second Vatican Council—elements whose nature is more or less circumstantial (descriptions of the state of a society, suggestions, exhortations, etc.). Such matters are received with respect and gratitude, but do not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense (cf. Instruction Donum Veritatis, nos. 24-31).

    … but the article generally proposes that the non-doctrinal contents of the Council documents should be received as if they had a doctrinal status, which I would view as being a flawed position.

    And I would very much doubt that this is the position being argued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its ongoing dialogue with SSPX !!!

    Intellectual assent with the Authority of the Council does not require any sort of uncritical agreement with the entire contents of every document that it provided.

    I am unimpressed with Mons. Ocáriz’ attempt to reserve to the Magisterium the sole right of proper interpretation of a Council that explicitly recognised “the Vocation of the Laity to the Apostolate” (Apostolicam Actuositatem) !!!!!

    It is extremely ironic that this self-appointed defender of submissive adhesion to the Second Vatican Council is doing so in such a pre-Vatican II Roman Curia -centric fashion.

    To simply deny that the Laity has any right to publicly disagree with some contents of the Vatican II documents (that he himself admits can sometimes be of a non-doctrinal and non-dogmatic nature !!) is a clear contradiction of the rights of all Catholics to disagree with any teachings or commendations that are not provided with the charism of infallibility that he mentions.

    All in all, I find the article to be a clumsy one, because the real questions and issues that are related to the imperfect reception of Vatican II by the Church are concrete and definite ; not abstract and wishy-washy.

  • Jae

    The continuity does exist. Those who believed otherwise are greatly mistaken and there is no need to debate, it’s over with for years already, just read the Catechism of the Catholic Church ratified by the last two popes on the position of the Catholic Church on these issues.

  • Jae

    The Council was definitely right about calling those separated brothers as ‘eccleasial communities’ because of the reasons it outlined however, don’t put the blame to the Council for the schismatic, proud and stubborn attitude of people. It’s like you made every effort to make your house guests feel welcome yet they rejected you still….”dust off your sandals and move on” – Jesus Christ.

  • Jae

    Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church ratified by the last 2 popes and you’ll find the “continuity” you are looking for.

  • buckle

    Even Summorum Pontificum was contradictory in so much as it was accompanied by a letter expressing the Pope’s ‘sensitivity’ towards the feelings of the bishops. This letter was openly intepreted by the latter as a mechanism to ignore the SP itself. Farcical.

  • Benedict Carter

    As usual, you miss the point.

  • Benedict Carter

    Read his books for goodness sake!

  • Benedict Carter

    Come on then – the challenge for you is to reconcile Vatican II’s document on Religious Liberty with the constant teaching of the Magisterium until that point. 

    Many have tried, and failed. Doctors of Philosophy, of Theology, eminent Canon Lawyers – all have admitted defeat. 

    You can do it?

    I await breathlessly your attempt! 

  • Benedict Carter

    Not a tactic, merely an accurate observation. And how would you know? You were catechised five years ago by nu-Church.

  • Benedict Carter

    That’s no response at all. Please counterpoise the teaching on religious liberty pre-Vatican II with the Council’s document on the subject and the total rupture (in fact, reversal) of teaching is manifest. 

    They are opposites! There is no continuity between irreconciliablle opposites!

  • Benedict Carter

    The article is not only clumsy, it’s plain wrong. He inverts subject for object and reverses the traditional meaning of “Magisterium” and “authority” to reach the conclusion that Vatican II needs to be judged not by Tradition but only by itself. 

    His thesis has already been demolished. See this two links.

  • Mdfutschik

    What do you mean ‘out of nowhere’?  The reading stated that the Jews that were not killed by the sword were taken captive to Babylon; i.e., since God’s chosen people had been unfaithful (adding infidelity to infidelity, practicing abominations, polluting the Lord’s temple, etc), God was using one of their enemies to punish them.  It says that they remained captive to Babylon until the kingdom of the Persians took over, and how this was to fulfill a prophecy.  NOW, the king of Persia is introduced (not out of nowhere) but precisely because now the Persians are in charge.

  • buckle

    What’s this got to do with my 84yo mother?

  • Jae

    Benedict, benedict brother! you have the same name as our beloved Vicar. WHO are those Doctors and Canon lawyers  are you referring to? Can you name them? Yes, we must admit that there is a space to argue some non-doctrinal aspects of Vatican II however for your charges of false ecumenism, religious liberty by the Council is so unfounded and unwarranted, if you just read the latest Catechism of the Catholic Church and its compedium you’ll see the reconcilation and the position of the Church.

    Unless otherwise, you just deny this again as with other “traditionalists” out there not related to SSPX.

  • Jae

    Like what I said before, you rely on your own abilty to determine what Tradition truly says! No offense Luther did that too.

    The problem is, you are asking for the “reconciliation” of the present Magisterium with the past teachings which we gave you to be found in the Catechism expounded and have deepen the previous traditional teachings yet as again you reject without even reading.

    In reality it’s you sir, who is the one  not providing  any evidence whatsoever, all you have is just unsubstantiated personal assertion and charges.

  • Jae

    Yes brother Benedict, from what I read of your comments, all you have is just unsubstantiated assertions , charges and plain denial with a little bit  of circular reasoning and red herrings.

  • Jae

    Can you answer my question? I have asked this to all the “traditionalists” adherents I encountered whether they may be Sedevacantists, Conclavists, old Catholics , SSPX etc., but none so far have answered coherently…just plain cognitive dissonance.

  • Jae

    These dici articles you provided was a clear case of “Private jugment”,  the Church had already outlined the parameters and proper interpretation of the past Tradition regarding,  say Ecumenism – between Lumen Gentium, Unitatis Redintegratio and Mortalium Animos by Pope Pius XI.The Council of Vat2 DIDN”T say that all religions are equal or false religion can lead to Salvation that Mortalium Animos had condemned.So how in the world would explain and exegete the teachings of  Trent about “Invinsible Ignorance”, “Baptism by Desire” and “Eastern Orthodox churches have valid Eucharist and Sacraments”? (which by the way is the position expounded by Vat2)  Are they not  means of Grace and Salvation for those pagans and non-catholics who are clearly outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church?

  • Anonymous

     I tend to agree with you but I remember reading this some years ago. “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus,” is as valid today a it was hundreds of years ago. Don’t forget that it was the choice of the Eastern Church whether to remain in communion with the Universal Church or go their own way, they chose the latter.
    Whether someone is saved or damned is a matter for God alone. However, in the external forum if you are not “Intra Ecclesiam,” then you are not among the saved.
    If, because of the minimal differences between Orthodox and Catholic it makes no difference, then the Churches would be reconciled yet they definitely are not.
    Of course, no genuine, Orthodox believer could ever be considered among the damned on account of the ancient teaching of the Catholic Church concerning invincible ignorance.

  • Benedict Carter

    The documents if Vatican II are well-known to be dodgy in the extreme, and you know it. The Hierarchy knows it too, of course: unfortunately the catastrophic Great Apostasy that has resulted from this Robber Council has to run its full course before the source is finally recognized and dealt with by them, who are currently blind and deaf.

  • Benedict Carter

    Of course I can bloody well name them, having read their articles and books. But I will direct you to one only, a man who taught at an Italian university for 60 years, a periti at Vatican II, a Doctor of theology and man who is seen by some eminent thinkers as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. 

    Read Romano Amerio’s “Iota Unum”.

    When you’ve read that, come back and I’ll give you some others. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Ah, now the ad hominems start, as they always do, because you Vatican II-ites cannot answer the questions asked of you. 

    But you are far too proud to admit it, sadly.

  • Benedict Carter

    No evidence? Please don’t be dishonest.