This article has been doing the rounds. The Impossible “Road Map” of Peace with the Lefebvrists. I usually lack interest in this flogged and sterile subject. The Novus Ordo conservatives tell the SSPX to submit as if the current Pontiff were still Pius IX or Boniface VIII. On the other side, what does one have to submit to?
Apart from the old minority sedevacantist breakaways and Bishop Williamson, the SSPX has been remarkably stable and apparently united over the forty-four years since its foundation in Switzerland and spread to every country where it has seminaries, schools, churches, chapels, religious communities and traditionalist laity. That is quite an achievement. To what can we attribute this stability and constancy?
It might seem to be incoherent to claim the Pope is the head of the Church, with the old papal ecclesiology – and then disobey him. But, for all that incoherence, they stay together and avoid the fragmentation known by the sedevacantists who claim a more rigorously cogent intellectual position.
Over the fifteen odd years I spent in the RC Church, I appreciated (as I became informed about the issues) the notions of religious freedom and “emancipation” of the Jews along with other matters intended to make it possible for a medieval autocratic monarchy to enter into dialogue with the modern world or die from lack of finance. On the other hand, the style of Vatican II is vacuous, clerical and verbose. I noticed that way of talking in order to say nothing, and the Anglican clergy, the clergy of any institutional church are specialists at a certain type of verbal expression.
One thing I can say for the present Pope is that, theologian though he is, his expression (at least as translated from German into English) is clear and comprehensible. He talks as clearly as any ordinary non-clerical educated person. At the same time, he is caught between the idea of handing everything to the traditionalists and “saving” something of what John XXIII, Paul VI and Jean Paul II sought to do. On one side, Vatican II is not negotiable, and on the other side, it is an obstacle motivating that kind of conservatism that resists the correction of anything, fostering a “new orthodoxy”.
This article shows causes for criticising Vatican II itself, and not merely the implementation and the well-kn,own catalogue of liturgical and pastoral abuses along with abusive ecumenical activities and heterodox theology. Daring to criticise an Ecumenical Council (“ecumenical” only for the RC Church) is really impertinent, especially if you are in the “official” Church!
What sort of language should have been used? Thomism? I lapped up Thomism as a young convert, as it all seemed so logical and wholesome. It brought certitude, condemning everything to the contrary, but it took the catholicity away from the Church. We hear about “pastoral language”. What is “pastoral language”. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. Is it the post-modern idea that language and words should not mean anything objectively, and only convey “feelings”? Of course, I was a very little child during the Vatican II years, and in an Anglican family that was quite estranged from the Church. But I was alive throughout the 1960′s, and was learning to express myself in English – the language people spoke – at school, at home and in the shops, everywhere – seemed to be clear enough to understand. Should not the Church be close to the people by speaking in clear language?
The bottom line seems not to be language but clericalism. A friend of mine quipped, saying they had made priests take off the cassock, bowdlerised the Mass, but they had kept the important thing: authority and the means of collecting money to finance it. The continuation of clericalism reveals how superficial the conciliar language really was. The clergy are pre-conciliar with only a different appearance. I don’t like the SSPX either for the same reason. They have cassocks and the old liturgy, but they are just as arrogant and pig-headed. Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the snake eating its own tail!
It’s interesting to look at the conditions required of Rome – if peace with the traditionalists is desired:
- that Rome would guarantee to the Lefebvrists the right to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments exclusively according to the rite of St. Pius V;
- and that the obedience required for Vatican II would be brought back within the limits of its “false-pastoral” language, and therefore be subject to criticisms and reservations.
These two conditions would be on the fulfilment of two other conditions:
- the first, advanced in December of 2011 by the bishop of Astana in Kazakistan, Athanasius Schneider, is the publication on the part of the pope of a sort of new “Syllabus,” which would strike with anathemas all of the “modern-day errors”;
- The second, already proposed by the theologian Brunero Gherardini to the supreme magisterium of the Church, is a “revision of the conciliar and magisterial documents of the last half century,” to be done “in the light of Tradition.”
Those are quite interesting ideas. The exclusive use of the old liturgical books is already a reality with most of the Ecclesia Dei clerical institutes. I haven’t heard of any of them being required to use the Novus Ordo. At least that was so when I was at Gricigliano. We even had pre-1962 things like folded chasubles and bits and pieces from the pre-Pius XII Holy Week services! We could prance around just as if we were in the 1920′s or the 1720′s for that matter!
There is a sense of disappointment that Benedict XVI is unwilling to put his Church into a neo-Thomist cocoon after having seen the stimulating developments of ressourcement theology, often labelled as “neo-Modernist” by the Roman School. At the same time, we seem to have entered a period of sclerosis and inertia like in the final years of John Paul II. Nice things are said, but very little of interest is done, at least as far as it should go.
Can this thing be resolved by compromise as Archbishop Hepworth had hoped for the TAC at a different level? The sedevacantists are accusing Bishop Fellay of “selling out”, but the SSPX still plays a deal-killing game of maintaining the old theories concerning the fault of modern Jews for the death of Christ and the question of whether Judaism still has any salvific validity! What would happen if both “sides” did lay down their weapons? What the SSPX would want would be the capitulation of Rome, which might seem preposterous, but it is the only outcome for those fostering pre-concilar Catholicism as incompatible the two systems are with each other.
The idea would be to get Rome back to the nineteenth century, or the 1900′s at the zenith of anti-Modernism. That is why it is the Society of St Pius X. All criticism of Vatican II would be through this perspective, and perhaps it would all be scrapped and anathematised. But the “restored” Church would not be like it was before, but would become über-integralist in its ideology, ever shrinking and ever more unpleasant.
One bishop really does want to go back to Quanta Cura and the Syllabus! Is this really the kind of Church we want even if we prefer the traditional liturgy? A triumph of the Roman School and the condemnation of all the good theology along with the bad theology of the twentieth century? We would be back to the triumphalistic apologetics on a wider scale and an ever reinforced clericalism.
In my thinking, this is an aspect of dystopia, as sure a Big Brother, telescreens and people being tortured with their worst fears because they fell in love. Some readers of this blog might lap it up like a cat licking the cream, until they find themselves on the receiving end of their system that can only work with a two-bit dictator at its service making the right people “disappear”.
Between the restored two-bit Piuspäpst Church and the free-for-all of the present liberals and so forth, it really is a choice between Scylla and Charybdis – because the ship gets just as wrecked on one or the other.