August 7, 2012
The word “church” is described in the Catholic Doctrinal Guide of the Catholic Action edition of the Holy Bible (Imprimatur, 1953, Abbot Vincent Taylor) as the “kingdom of God on earth governed by the apostolic authority.” It states further that “Our Lord … chose St. Peter to be the head of the Apostles and gave him the power to rule the whole church … with subjects and superiors, and visible to the eyes of all ..”, hence the “visible” church. And finally “The church is, therefore, the union of man with Christ in a social form.”
The Council of Florence (1438-1443) stated “We also define that the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy over the whole world, and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of Blessed Peter, truly the Vicar of Christ, head of the entire church …”
Here we have a definition of the Visible Church, the Pope, and of the relationship of the Pope to the Church. So is it possible to separate the church from the faith? The fact that the Society of St. Pius X is estranged from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church via an illicit suppression is the result of an action initiated and accomplished through the local Ordinary in 1974, aided by or perhaps even at the behest of a Vatican Cardinal. It was not an action sought by Archbishop Lefebvre, nor did he welcome nor celebrate it. On the contrary, he fought to correct it, for to be estranged from the hierarchy did not appeal to him. I dare say it much too readily appeals to many of us.
In this discussion, I am assuming that the doctrinal preamble eventually reaches a point where it is acceptable. I admit that it is not the case today and that an acceptable prelature arrangement is of little value without an understanding of how the SSPX will practice the faith and proselytize the faithless, including the hierarchy. I also believe that the current Superior General is not capable of agreeing to a compromise of the Catholic faith. If a regularization was all he sought, he could have joined the Fraternity years ago and would probably be the Cardinal in charge of Ecclesia Dei by now.
Can we separate the church from the faith ~ in other words, can we profess to desire to belong to the Roman Catholic faith and refuse to be part of the Visible Church, due to its propensity to modernism and the accompanying ills and heresies it engenders? The opinion of this humble blogger is “no”. If one accepts the definitions of the church as previously presented, one cannot adhere to the faith and reject the visible church , rife as it may be with corruptions. Mind you, it will always be required that the Society, and all faithful Catholics, call out the hierarchy, even up to the Vicar of Christ himself in matters of the corruption of the faith.
Unfortunately, what is happening is what we have denied for the past 40 years. That is, that we have developed a schismatic attitude. Those who will leave the SSPX over this, clergy and layman alike, will continue to swear that Benedict is the Pope. But the reality is that it is now sinful to be affiliated with the Pope. Let’s face it, we have not had a “boss” for 40 years to answer to. Life is so much easier just living in our chapels and practicing our faith as best we can. But there is and will always be something missing, as virtuous as those intentions are, and that is that we are separated from the ‘visible’ church. When that separation was the only way to practice the faith, then maintaining the faith was paramount. If one can practice his Roman Catholic faith and be joined to the visible church, it is imperative that this course be pursued.
I listened to an internet sermon commenting on the conditions that would have to be met for the SSPX to accept a regularization. The homilist centered on the unacceptability of the SSPX asking for “permission” to speak out against the error of the Council. How can one ignore the fact the entire Code of Canon Law (1917 and 1983) is predicated on granting permission to preach and offer the sacraments. The control of such faculties has been the object of Canon Law since the time of Pope St. Pius X. To the heart of the “permission” issue, though, I wonder what would present a more profound witness to the aim and goal of the SSPX in refuting the Conciliar errors: that Rome would agree to ‘tolerate’ criticism of the errors, or that the Pope gave his permission for the SSPX to be critical of the errors?
He also spoke of Archbishop Lefebvre’s famous speech on neo-modernist Rome, which was cited in the summary of the 2006 General Chapter of the SSPX. So many appear to know what the Archbishop would do today. It is easy to take snippets of sermons and make them into what serves us. What can we discern from his actions in regards to a regularization? The Archbishop attended the council and was aligned with a group of 200 traditional bishops who attempted to sway the discussions in favor of the traditional faith. To the best of our knowledge, none refused to sign the council documents. In 1984, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote “I Accuse the Council”. On May 5, 1988, he signed a Protocol which would have regularized the SSPX. At the time, he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger “Eminence, Yesterday it was with real satisfaction that I put my signature on the Protocol drafted during the preceding days.” He did not, according to his own published correspondences, lament that the Rome of the 1986 Assisi scandal had not converted. He did not cite the heresy of many Bishops and the kissing of the Koran. There was no “Roman Conversion” demanded by the Archbishop. He did not put it up for a committee vote. Indeed, there were few protections for the Society against modernist Bishops. In fact, that is the reason, in the Archbishop’s own words why he changed his mind on the Protocol.
Subsequently, Archbishop Lefebvre recalled to a reporter “During the night between May 5 (when he signed the Protocol) and May 6 (1988), I said to myself:’ All this is impossible. I cannot accept (Cardinal) Ratzinger’s answer, which avoids fixing the date of the (Episcopal) ordination.’ “
Weighing into the fray, the senior SSPX bishop who was recently excluded from the General Chapter echoed similar remarks of those who apparently oppose an agreement with the Pope at any cost. His Excellency remarks that the fact that the conditions were leaked was ‘not unreasonable’ given how many souls are presently entrusting their faith and their salvation to the guidance of the SSPX. His Excellency surely understands that one of the most prominent anti-agreement YouTube homilists used the same reasoning last month in a fiery sermon to leak the ‘conditions’ which he was told by some priest who “really knew” were the final conditions of the agreement, which turned out to be untrue. So the danger in leaking anything that is not published is that it still has the potential to change or be an important point of counter-negotiation which can certainly be undone to the detriment of those same souls mentioned above.
His Excellency then wonders what has happened to the Society as he compares the Declaration of 2012 to Archbishop Lefebvre’s Declaration of 1974. I continue to wonder why His Excellency and all those of the same mindset in this regard hasten to hark all the way back to 1974 when they can much more easily compare it to the signing of the 1988 Protocol? The Archbishop’s opinion on Roman relations had an extra decade to ‘cure’ since the illegal suppression, through the sedevacantist ouster, his publication of “I Accuse The Council” in 1984, and finally the Assisi fiasco of 1986. This very same Archbishop Lefebvre, after the tumultuous times from the early 70’s to the late 80’s had at last decided that a Roman accord was going to be beneficial. The Archbishop tells us in his own words why he changed his mind and it was not about Rome repenting of and burning the Council documents.
‘Does the SSPX now think that the Conciliar Popes represent no serious problem?’, His Excellency now asks. One wonders at his agility to leap from here to there!
He closes by observing, somehow, that the demand made by the SSPX’s 2006 General Chapter for a doctrinal agreement prior to any practical agreement seems to have gone completely by the board. Once again, a bit puzzling since this lack of a doctrinal agreement was the very thing that caused the latest round to fall apart.
The sedevacantists seem very gleeful at all this and are licking their chops at the prospect of some potential “new Episcopal blood” in their ranks. The sedevacantist site that a while ago distanced itself from all things SSPX seems to have kissed and made up with His Excellency and now, once again, happily promotes his books and recorded conferences. There are even hints of a meeting this week in the Washington, D.C. area between His Excellency, some disaffected priests, and sponsoring laity. However, I don’t believe that His Excellency aspires to become a modern-day Pierre Thuc.
It would finally appear that the only acceptable situation for an SSPX-Rome agreement would be subsequent to a papal repudiation of the documents of Vatican II, abrogation of the Novus Ordo Missae, signing of the Oath Against Modernism by the Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops, the Consecration of Russia, The revealing of the Third and Fourth Secret, and the re-formation of all priests. If my analysis is too far-fetched, I would wonder what, if any of these items, the anti-agreement camp would be willing to omit as a condition. I personally would love to see this entire list enacted tomorrow. His Excellency and those in his camp are certainly most practical men, and as such, certainly understand that these conditions will not be met by the current hierarchy. And assuming that the successors of the current church leaders will come from the same hierarchy, it is unlikely that any of these conditions will happen within a generation (unless of course there were SSPX bishops and priests in the mix). So the underlying position of the “anti-“ camp must be that the SSPX will ever in the lifetime of the current priests and Bishops, be separated from the “visible church” and be excluded, at least, from that avenue of evangelization of it.
Archbishop Lefebvre died less than three years after tentatively signing an agreement with Rome with significantly less favorable conditions and protections than those being currently considered. If he was as totally against a regularization as some would have us believe, why must we always be reminded of what the Archbishop did and said prior to 1988? Surely, his most adamant criticisms against an agreement with Rome should come after he signed the Protocol, not before, since he clearly was ready to accept an agreement long after 1974, 1975, and 1986. If one were to continue to use the Archbishop as the posthumous anti-agreement standard-bearer, one should certainly rely primarily on his reasons for rejecting the penultimate agreement negotiated by the Archbishop and Rome in May of 1988. Those reasons are plainly documented in his published works.