Go Deal vs. No Deal Revisited — Again

Go Deal vs. No Deal Revisited — Again

The latest analysis of the pros and cons associated with a possible canonical regularization of the SSPX vis a vis Modernist Rome has been offered by Fr. Paul Robinson. It can be found here in an article titled The SSPX and the Conversion of Rome to Tradition.

In the mere opinion of the present writer, this analysis is very intelligently, carefully, and even insightfully laid out. There are many statements in it that seem to me entirely correct and valuable. The Go Deal vs. No Deal debate, however, seeing that it deals with a particularly confusing bramble patch of interrelated issues and principles, has no easy answer. Add to this that it deals with a question of prudential decision that must adjust to circumstances that periodically change, and I would say that, although a definitive answer is possible for the present, that answer is subject to revision in future. I offer some thoughts on Fr. Robinson’s article in the hope simply of contributing more information that should be considered in the total equation for the present situation.

Full disclosure: I am not sedevacantist. I am not with the so-called Resistance. I am not a member of the SSPX, but I have been in its milieu for over 30 years.

Fr. Robinson:
“The question is no longer ‘What should we do when Rome opposes us?’ but ‘What should we do when Rome favors us?'”.

Respectfully, I would say that this is only half right. The fact is that BOTH questions should be before us, in the past, in the present, and in future. The fact is that Rome has and does, and shall, both oppose us and favor us. To consider only the first question is to assume that we must always be antagonistic towards Rome. To consider only the latter is to assume that Rome always means well to us. Holding to only one attitude can lead either to schism on the one hand or modernist apostasy on the other.

Fr. Robinson:
“…[T]he noted Catholic writer George Weigel looks upon a possible recognition of the SSPX ‘as is’ with horror. For him, it would enshrine, for Catholics around the world, a ‘right to dissent’:…While we do not agree with him that it would enshrine a right to dissent from all Catholic teaching, we do agree that it would enshrine a right to dissent from Vatican II.”

Weigel and Fr. Robinson are both half right. Objectively, the SSPX’s position is correct. The recognition would only enshrine a right to dissent from authorities who themselves dissent from immutable Tradition. However, subjectively, for the vast majority of modern, bad-willed, brainwashed or ignorant CINOs, Weigel is perfectly right that a recognition will confirm for them a “right” to dissent from anything they want to dissent from. What must be emphasized is that *we Traditionalists are not dissenting from anything Catholic at all*. NO ONE has a right to dissent from immutable Tradition, and most especially, neither the popes and the hierarchy in general have such a right.

Fr. Robinson’s ‘Lefebvreology’ is gravely deficient. Of the quotes he puts forward concerning the Archbishop’s position on a canonical recognition, he notably leaves out that famous one used by the Resistance, wherein the Archbishop said that the superiors form the inferiors, not the other way around, and that if he (the Archbishop) were to make a deal with Rome while Rome was still anti-Catholic in spirit, the SSPX would be overwhelmed. Now Fr. Robinson does give two quotes, as follows:

1) “What concerns us above all else is to hold on to the Catholic Faith. That is our combat. The purely external canonical question, having public status in the Church, is secondary. What is important is to remain in the Church… in the Church, that is to say, in the perennial Catholic Faith, with the true priesthood, the true Mass, the true sacraments, the catechism of the ages, the Bible of the ages.”
2) “If Rome really wants to give us true autonomy, the one that we have now, but with submission, we would want this, we have always desired to be subject to the Holy Father.”

Fr. Robinson then says:
“In the first quote, the Archbishop is saying that the SSPX must maintain the Catholic Faith first over a canonical recognition, if it has to choose between the two. In the second quote, he is saying that IF it can maintain the faith, the true priesthood, the true Mass, the true sacraments, the true catechism, and so on, AS WELL AS have canonical status, then it should take both.”
Well and good so far as it goes. But he is leaving out of account that, given the Archbishop’s recognition that superiors form inferiors, the second quote means that Archbishop Lefebvre held that “true autonomy”, while being subject to a MODERNIST Holy Father, was *impossible*.

Fr. Robinson also sets up a straw man argument when he says:
“Another problem with the doctrinal declaration stance [i.e. doctrinal agreement must occur before a practical agreement can occur] is it does not seem to recognize the dangers of faith that the SSPX runs from being decades without canonical recognition. If one could divide the priests who have left the SSPX into two camps, with those on one side running to the Resistance and sedevacantism and those on the other running to the Novus Ordo, the former priests would vastly outnumber the latter. The disproportionate number of ex-SSPX priests who have lost faith in the visibility and authority of the Church should be a clear indication that the SSPX’s abnormal situation, of itself, poses a danger of loss of faith in the Church. The supposed security for the faith in canonical irregularity, then, would seem to be, on the contrary, quite insecure.”
He clearly attempts to equate/conflate the Resistance with sedevacantism, when everyone knows that most Resistance priests are not sedevacantist, and in fact many are strongly against that position. He also makes a petitio principii (a begging of the question) when he says that “a disproportionate number of ex-SSPX priests have lost faith in the visibility and authority of the Church”. He assumes without proof that the Resistance (supposed sedevantist) priests have lost faith in the visibility and authority of the Church. But where, pray tell, is there any proof that they have?
His conclusion therefore, that no canonical recognition = danger to the faith, does not follow. And even assuming that it did, there is an easy solution: teach proper ecclesiology to the priests and faithful, and continually keep present to them the abnormality (but also the necessity) of our situation.

Fr. Robinson:
“The fact that it [the canonical recognition] is a moral good puts the SSPX under a moral obligation to accept it, when it poses no danger to the faith. The duty to keep the faith is a higher duty, but the duty to have proper relations with the successor of Peter is not optional.”
Absolutely agreed. But “when it poses no danger to the faith” is a key clause. As I have pointed out, the Archbishop did in fact think that a canonical recognition under authorities who objectively do not have the Faith did indeed poses a danger to the Faith, and therefore, the thing that is “not optional” is to make such an agreement with unfaithful authorities.

Fr. Robinson continues:
“This is implicit in the following words from the Archbishop:
‘The fundamental principle of the thought and action of the Society in the painful crisis that the Church is going through is the principle taught by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica: not to oppose the authority of the Church, except in case of immediate danger for the Faith.’
In short, the doctrinal declaration position errs when it shifts the canonical recognition criterion from ‘the SSPX being able to keep the traditional faith’ to ‘Rome professing the traditional faith’”.
The problem with Fr. Robinson’s assertion is that, according to what I’ve said above, Rome professing the Traditional Faith, is a *prerequisite* to a canonical recognition that would *safely* allow the SSPX to keep the Faith. The two are, IMHO, inextricably linked, and thus for the purpose of the argument, essentially identical. I don’t mean to say that a canonical recognition with authorities who do not possess the Faith will *guarantee* a defection of most or many of the adherents to the SSPX. I do mean to say that it poses a very grave risk of defection, and correct moral theology forbids taking unnecessary spiritual risks of this sort.

Fr. Robinson:
“What must be avoided in this consideration is isolating a few quotations from the Archbishop and then building a case on the basis of those quotations. Much better is to discover the principles which motivated the Archbishop and how he followed through with those principles in the course of his entire life.”
Absolutely agreed. But of course, Fr. Robinson has to, and has, quoted Arb. Lefebvre in order to try to establish those motivating principles. And unfortunately, Father does not seem to have followed his own advice against cherry picking, for as I have shown, concerning the principles by which a canonical recognition can be safely achieved, Father has left out the key quote which states the principle that ‘inferiors do not form superiors, it is the other way around’.

Fr. Robinson:
“Those of the doctrinal declaration position…see the immediate purpose of the SSPX as the restoration of the Church and so do not consider a canonical recognition ‘as is’ to be favorable for that restoration. They would like to use the SSPX’s state of canonical suppression as a means to put pressure on Rome so that Rome will condemn the errors of Vatican II. By taking this position, they have a vision that is different from that of the Archbishop, a vision in which the SSPX does not seek to contribute to the restoration of the Church primarily by the formation of priests who profess the faith, but rather primarily by pressuring Rome to profess the faith.”
I suppose all I can say is that this characterization does not fit the present writer, who has been quite familiar with, and heavily involved in, the SSPX since about 1976. Is this another straw man? I would only ask this question: How does the SSPX suppose that it will continue fulfilling its object of forming good priests if the SSPX itself compromises or loses the Faith? And while thinking of that, let us remember that, of the many Traditionalist groups that have made a “regularization” deal with Rome, NOT ONE has failed to compromise to some degree. Pride goeth before a fall.

Fr. Robinson refers to a talk given by Archbishop Lefebvre, on an Easter retreat, of 1988, wherein the Archbishop speaks of how he envisioned the manner in which Rome would come back to Tradition:
“…the founder of the SSPX envisions how his priestly society would be placed in a position to effectively drive forward the restoration of Tradition. It would all begin with canonical recognition ‘as is’. Then, because of that recognition, the SSPX would later be granted an office in Rome. After this would come, at some point, an SSPX church in Rome, chosen from among the many Roman churches not in use. Then, an SSPX Roman seminary, which would attract many vocations from around the world. And since the majority of the bishops of the world are taken from priests trained at Roman seminaries, many of the ordinands of the SSPX Roman seminary would become bishops and would occupy dioceses around the world.
And the restoration of Tradition? At some point, because of the spreading of the influence of Tradition by means of the SSPX Roman presence, the SSPX Roman seminary, the SSPX Roman priests and bishops, Rome would take up once again its own Tradition.”
But one must ask: If there is canonical recognition, but the SSPX and Rome are still at total loggerheads as to their doctrinal principles, how does Fr. Robinson suppose that the SSPX will be granted an office at Rome, or a church at Rome, or a Roman seminary, or episcopal consecrations? Does he really expect that all this can be done, and that only *afterward* “Rome would take up once again its own Tradition”. The cart is before the horse here.

Under Fr. Robinson’s article is a link to that talk given by Archbishop Lefebvre. Father picked quotes from this talk to support his position. In the interest of a broader view, I will do likewise.
“For the return of all Christendom to Tradition will only take place with the help of Rome. We can do all that we can and we surely do all that we can for the return of Tradition. But it is necessary that Rome finish the work by taking up her own Tradition back into her hands. It is not possible otherwise.”

Now this was said in the context of the scenario envisioned above. And given the Archbishop’s principle that ‘superiors form the inferiors’, and my questions as to how a Rome that is doctrinally opposed to Tradition will see any sense in favoring it, the meaning of this last quote should be clear. The said help of Rome will only come *after* she has taken “her own Tradition back into her hands”, and that means Rome converting doctrinally.
And so I argue for the “doctrinal declaration”, or the No Deal position.

One last thought:
It seems to me that all this abstruse argumentation, while legitimate, is superseded by a simple, sensus communis Catholicus. Birds of a feather flock together. Every society — and the Catholic Church is of course a society — functions well to the extent that all its members are on board with fundamental principles (i.e. doctrine). Dissidents to the party line *will* be pressured to conform, and marginalized to the extent that they don’t. Eventually they will even be cast out. Finally, while dissidents (in this case Trad “dissidents”) can possibly reform the superiors, this only happens by subterfuges, infiltrations and schemings, all things which are not worthy of the sons of light, and which tactics are in themselves revolutionary, and used by revolutionaries. Feigned obedience is not a virtue. That should be left to Liberals and Modernists.

A few last words:
“Look to yourselves, that you lose not the things which you have wrought: but that you may receive a full reward. Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you. For he that saith unto him: God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works.” (2 Jn. 1:8ff)


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