Where Now for Rome and the SSPX?

James Martin at America, commenting on Robert Mickens in The Tablet.

Mickens quotes from Bishop Fellay’s letter of request that got the excommunications lifted.

But in a note to his followers on 24 January the bishop revealed another section of his December letter to Cardinal Castrillón that the Vatican decree does not mention. “We are ready to write the Creed with our own blood, to sign the anti-modernist oath (and) the profession of faith of Pius IV,” he quoted from the letter. “We accept and make our own all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations.”

Vatican II is mentioned nowhere in the decree that remits the excommunications, and Fr Lombardi would not comment on whether the society was asked to adhere to the council’s teachings. However, French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, a member of the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, said in a statement: “At a certain moment the question of the text of the Second Vatican Council, as a document of the Magisterium of primary importance, must be faced.” This will evidently be discussed during talks aimed – as the decree states – at resolving “the still open questions, in order to quickly arrive at a full and satisfactory solution at the origin of the problem”.

But will the talks really resolve the impasse? Archbishop Lefebvre (who is also not mentioned in the decree) rejected several important teachings of the Council, including those related to religious liberty, ecumenism and liturgy. And his followers have remained in defiance of those teachings. The official SSPX website for the US region says the Fraternity rejects the teaching on the “right to religious freedom” and a number of other statements in contained in the Vatican II declaration Dignitatis Humanae because they are contrary to Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors. The assertion in the Council declaration Nostra Aetate that the Catholic Church “rejects nothing of what is good and holy” in non-Christian religions, it says, is contrary to tradition. And it also flatly rejects ecumenism as found in the decree Unitatis Redintegratio because it holds to the belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the “unique ark of salvation” and that “Protestants and other non-Catholics do not have the faith”.

Martin quotes from a personal note that Mickens sent to him:

There is no question that Pope Benedict wants the SSPX back in the Church. Up to now he has done everything to accommodate them on their terms. He will do so on the interpretation of the Council, as well. The two CDF documents in 2007 (on the nature of the Church on 29 June and on evangelisation on 3 December ) have already begun paving the way for this. The Lefebvrists will argue, and the Pope will agree, that, in substance, we have the same doctrine after Vatican II as we had before. All “changes” were merely stylistic or operational, but not theogical — i.e. none of the changes were essential, so none have to be adopted. The Vatican and the SSPX will also say, together, that much of the Council was badly misinterpreted by theologians and bishops in the post-conciliar period, and they will even cite the long list of theologians the CDF condemned to prove that Rome never caved in. Despite everything to the contrary (i.e. the fact that the SSPX does not really buy or live Vatican II), they will find a way together to finagle a formula that helps them profess “true fidelity and true recognition” of the Council (in light of the constant Tradition) but allows them to continue living as if Vatican II never existed. There are already a number of “Ecclesia Dei” communities in communion in Rome (off-shoots of the SSPX like the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) that currently do this.

He concludes:

Joseph Ratzinger is completing, as pope, the work he began more than twenty-five years ago as prefect of the CDF. It is no less ambitious than the wholesale reinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council. And no one seems willing or able to stop him.

One thought on “Where Now for Rome and the SSPX?

  1. Now, am I a great admirer of Joseph Ratzinger. I think he is a fantastic theologian and his writing did much for my return to the Church (and Christianity). I think he is right to remind us of the many traditions of the Church which were forgotten by faulty interpretations of the Council. I agree we need a hermeneutic of continuity. Vatican II does not in substance alter the doctrines of the Church. As I heard a Protestant complain recently: Rome is an elastic, she bends but never breaks.

    That being said, the Council was not superflorous. I don’t think Ratzinger believes it was either. It truly intended to re-invigorate the Church and, in its actual content, I think it continues to have the power to do so. It’s ecumenical stance is wonderful in my eyes. It remains true to our conviction that the Church governed by the See of Peter is indeed the Ark of Christ’s salvation, but now we can acknowledge that the means of sanctification and salvation which were entrusted to Her are found beyond her visible boundaries. The Protestant churches are ultimately derivatives from the Catholic Church (in our eyes) so they have derived from her also many of the treasures of the Deposit of Faith and are therefore rightfully brothers and sisters.

    While I have some Liturgical sympathies with the Traditionalists- my sympathies essentially end there. I am starting to become more apprehensive about this SSPX. Anyone who can not accept the documents themselves in their clear meaning- that God does not refrain from using Protestant churches and communities as tools of his salvation- that Judaism is above all to be respected as our living ancestor in faith- should not be considered in communion with the Holy Catholic Church.

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