Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Society of St. Pius X and reconciliation

Rumours are flying around — as they have been doing on a regular basis since 2001 — of an impending reconciliation between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. Melancholicus does not pay much attention to these rumours, since he does not believe that the SSPX will ever return to full communion with the Church en bloc, any more than, say, the Lutheran or Anglican churches will reconcile with Rome in such fashion. Schism may hurt in the beginning, but one grows accustomed to it after a while, and ultimately it begins to feel comfortable and natural. One of the perks of schism is that one is free to do one’s own thing without having to worry about the approval of ecclesiastical superiors, diocesan ordinaries, or the Vatican.

Nevertheless, although the prospects for the regularisation of the SSPX seem unlikely, Melancholicus has chosen to reproduce this Catholic World News story on Infelix Ego, even though the original report in Il Giornale has not yet been verified, not because he wishes to address the predicted regularization, but because this story makes reference to a subject that claims his interest, and upon which he feels drawn to comment.

It concerns Vatican II, and the authority thereof. The reader will easily spot the words in question. Emphasis in the story below is my own.

Vatican proposal to regularize SSPX?

Rome, Jun. 24, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Italian daily Il Giornale reports that Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) has approved an offer to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that could heal the breach between the Holy See and the traditionalist group.

The Vatican’s offer requires a response from the SSPX by June 28, Il Giornale says. The offer was apparently explained by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (bio - news), the president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, during a recent meeting with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX.

[Note: CWNews has been unable to confirm the report in Il Giornale. Rumors of Vatican efforts to regularize the status of the SSPX have persisted for months.]

Il Giornale says that the accord proposed by the Vatican has two stipulations: the SSPX would be required to recognize the authority of Vatican II teachings and to affirm the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass. The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the SSPX, had accepted both of those terms before his break with the Vatican in 1986.

The Vatican proposes the erection of a traditionalist prelature, Il Giornale reports. This prelature would allow the SSPX to continue its work and to train its own seminarians.

So let’s get this straight. At least according to Il Giornale, the two conditions of regularization are that the SSPX 1) “recognize the authority of Vatican II teachings” and 2) “affirm the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass”.

The second of these conditions is straightforward. The Novus Ordo is a valid rite of Mass. End of story. Archbishop Lefebvre himself regarded it as such, and so have the Roman pontiffs from Paul VI down to the present incumbent of the Apostolic See. Unless they wish to come out of the sedevacantist closet, the adherents of the SSPX should have no problem affirming it also.

But it is the first condition that Melancholicus finds particularly interesting — and due to its inherent ambiguity, most irritating. What, exactly, does recognizing “the authority of Vatican II teachings” mean? And what teachings, precisely, are intended in this stipulation?

It is a standard rebuke levelled against Traditionalists—even those of us in perfect communion with the Church—that we are “against Vatican II” and that as a consequence we are schismatic and disobedient. But can those who reproach us with this charge explain to us precisely wherein the schism and disobedience lies? Does “recognizing the authority of Vatican II teachings” imply that the council is, for Catholics, beyond criticism? Does a less-than-rosy view of the council and its after-effects imply disobedience or a schismatic attitude in the mind of one who holds it? Is resistance to the flood of radical novelties and the disastrous opening to the world sufficient to put one outside the Church, even if one only thinks it?

In the eyes of some, it would seem so.

Now Melancholicus himself is “against the council”, at least in the sense that he regards it as the worst disaster to have befallen the Church since the days of the Reformation, but he is nevertheless in perfect communion with the Church, having denied no doctrine of faith or morals that has been defined as de fide for the Catholic faithful. It is incumbent upon those who would charge him with schism to answer the following two questions:

1. What does Vatican II require me to believe that I would not have been required to believe before 1965?
2. What does Vatican II require me to do that I would not have been required to do before 1965?

If the answer to both of those questions is nothing, as I firmly believe it is, then there is no case to answer, and the issue of obedience to Vatican II is a party political matter rather than a doctrinal one. If the answer to either one of those questions is anything other than nothing, then I for one would dearly love to hear it.

Now the SSPX may be in schism, but this is due to illicit episcopal consecrations which occurred in 1988, and not because of anything their bishops, priests or other adherents may have said or written about Vatican II. As far as their attitude to Vatican II goes, it should be sufficient for them—and for all Traditionalists—simply to profess that Vatican II was an ecumenical council of the Church, validly convoked by lawful authority, whose documents were validly promulgated, and which taught no formal heresy.

This much Melancholicus himself believes concerning the council.

But he does not, nor will he ever, believe that Vatican II was a good thing, let alone a blessing; and there does not exist an office in the Church, not even the Papacy itself, which has the authority to make him so believe.

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