On an Experiment of Tradition–PART TWO

(Posted on other forums as “Bishop Fellay and the General Council–PART TWO”)

Would Archbishop Lefebvre approve of the present readiness of the Superior General and the General Council–May, 2012–to make an “as is” canonical agreement with Rome in the near future? It would seem no.

Objection 1. Three of the four bishops he ordained have expressed opposition to a near-future agreement (so-called “Letter of the 3”).

Objection 2. It is recalled how in 1988 the Archbishop strongly rejected an agreement due to the gulf between the Society and Rome on matters of doctrine. An agreement would have meant suicide for the Society. (so-called “Letter of the 3”).

Objection 3. The Archbishop was not vigorously opposed to sedevacantism (Mr. Sarto’s list of quotes, Ignes Argens forum). He would not unite with a conciliar pope of questionable validity.

Objection 4. The argument presented by Ite ad Thomam–in Angel Queen, Fish Eaters, CatholicInfo, and Ignes Argens forums, regarding Bishop Fellay and the General Council following the spirit and policies of the Archbishop—is a serious misuse of the Thomistic method (responses in Ignes Argens and CatholicInfo). A point of doctrine is not being argued, the objections are manufactured, the objections are without reference, and the main argument does not begin or end with principles.

On the contrary, Archbishop Lefebvre, even after 1988, was hopeful for an “experiment of Tradition” (Biography, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais).

I answer that, the Archbishop’s mind on the matter can be understood by examining his character, temperament, and pastoral approach in all he did, said, and wrote as a bishop (see Benedict XVI and the Traditionalists, Fr. Celier). The Archbishop had an extraordinarily balanced and practical disposition, for which he was so well known throughout his life. He deliberately avoided extremes between: modernism and rigorism, heresy and schism, conciliarism and sedevacantism, and a canonical agreement based doctrinal compromise and an “all-or-nothing” position on a canonical agreement. The Archbishop was the par excellence of a Bishop-Saint for these modern times. He extraordinarily possessed the cardinal virtues of prudence and temperance.

Equally, the Archbishop possessed a holy indifference to persons. He did not seek respect from persons, nor give worldly respect to persons based on compromises to the Faith. With likewise indifference, he approached Paul VI and John Paul II always looking hopefully for signs these popes were favorable to the work of Tradition, always accepting them as the legitimate Vicar of Christ on Earth. He had the supernatural spirit. He did not see a solution to the Crisis coming primarly through human persons, such as himself or individual popes, but rather through Christ Himself by means of the Papacy.
After 1988, the Archbishop still remained hopeful that one day the pope would allow the Society an “experiment of Tradition,” in which the Society would be recognized as a traditionalist Citadel within the approved structures of the Church, though in his mind he believed that Rome would not allow this at that time (Letter to Cardinal Gagnon). The essence of this approved Citadel would be established in the form of a canonical document in accord with the spirit and policies of the Archbishop and Society, and approved by the Pope.

Today the relations between Rome and the work of Tradition are substantially improved. Since then, Rome has recognized that the traditional Mass is a universal right, recognized the Catholic identity of the Society’s bishops, priests, and laity, and respectfully and formally discussed the doctrinal problems presented by the Society. Pope Benedict is the first pope since the Council to truly show a positive commitment in the work of Tradition, in his support of the traditional Mass, traditional movement, and Society. If Pope Benedict will accept and recognize the Society as it is, as a traditionalist Citadel within the approved structures of the Church–secondary to his subjectivism and whether or not he begins restoring Tradition directly within the mainstream of the Church–then the pope as Vicar of Christ, as Supreme Pontiff, would be beginning to restore Tradition and to correct the conciliar errors—by means of the prelature of the Society of St. Pius X. In the hierarchical order, this supreme act, forthcoming we pray, would be greater than all of the interventions of Archbishop Lefebvre, yet in thanks to him.

It seems then, considering the Archbishop’s saintly character, temperament, and all he said, did, or wrote as bishop and Founder of the Society up until his death, that he would very likely approve of the present readiness of the Superior General and the General Council–May, 2012–to make an “as is” canonical agreement with Rome in the near future.

Answer 1). This was a private letter unjustly leaked which is not a call for resistence to the Superior General. It is in the same vein as natural disagreements shared between these same bishops and the Archbishop before the 1988 consecrations, regarding the legitimacy and wisdom of consecrating bishops without papal mandate. Yet, they were able to achieve a consensus based on truth and to unite for the good of the Universal Church, as we pray they will continue to do now as they have always done since the Society was founded.

Answer to 2). Bishop Tissier de Mallier’s biography of the Archbishop clearly and in detail shows that it was never the policy of the Arcbishop to refuse a priori a practical agreement.

Answer to 3). The Archbishop was consistently and strongly opposed in spirit, and as a matter of policy as Superior General, to sedevacantism. Conflicting quotes can be presented. But what matters in understanding the Archbishop’s mind is his consistent stance. With regards to the sedevacantists, the Archbishop’s policy was that the sedevacantists should “go there own way.” Time and time again he expelled sedevacantists from the Society.

Answer to 4). The critical responses to part one of the argument, especially from members of CatholicInfo and Ignes Argens forums, are mainly directed at the author rather than the substance or details of the argument. St. Thomas did not always argue doctrinal questions, did not always reference the objections, nor did he always begin and end his argument with principles. The objections in the first part of the argument were not fabricated. They were taken directly from the so-called “Letter of the 3.”

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