Saturday, January 24, 2009

SSPX is Back - JP2 heading out? Implications for Unity

The so-called Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is back. Their excommunication has been lifted by Rome. This is an interesting development on several levels.

1) SSPX seems to teach that Vatican II was not infallible

From their website (link):

  • Not by reason of the extraordinary magisterium, for it refused to define anything. Pope Paul VI himself, in an audience on January 12, 1966, said that it “had avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas affected by the mark of infallibility” (Cf. the declaration of the Theological Commission of Mar. 6, 1964, and repeated by the Council's General Secretary on Nov. 16, 1964: "In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so." It never did.).

  • Nor by reason of the ordinary universal magisterium, because this is not a defining power, but one of passing on what was always believed. The “universality” in question is not just one of place (all bishops) but also of time (always) (cf., Vatican I and PRINCIPLE 6).

  • Nor even by reason of the simply authentic magisterium, because the object of all magisterium is the deposit of faith to be guarded sacredly and expounded faithfully (Vatican I, Dz 1836), and not to adopt as Catholic doctrine the “best expressed values of two centuries of ‘liberal culture,’” even if they are “purified” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Gesu, Nov. 1984, p. 72. Cf. Gaudium et Spes, §§11, 44).

Before the excommunication was lifted, people scoffed at the idea that the SSPX points had any merit. As far as I know, their re-union with the Roman communion was not conditioned on their denunciation of the points above, and those points are currently (as of 24 January 2009) on their web site.

I found this comment, attributed (here) to Cardinal Ratzinger (now pope):
The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of super-dogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

That raises the question: should we be considering those positions stated in the documents of Vatican II to be "the" Roman position, "a" Roman position, or simply the work of private theologians?

It also raises the question of whether Benedict XVI is trying to undermine the changes his former mentor John Paul II put into place. The SSPX viewed JP2 as a neo-modernist, and JP2 excommunicated them. Benedict XVI doesn't seem to be as concerned about SSPX, which makes it appear that he at least partly agrees with their criticism of JP2.

Either way, we have an interesting paradox: there is unity of communion now between SSPX and folks they view as modernist or neo-modernist heretics. There is unity of communion between the most traditionalist of the SSPX bishops and Joseph ("Joe the Vice-President") Biden - one of the highest-ranking pro-murder politicians in the world. There is organizational unity - but there is obvious lack of unity of belief (or practice) on vast number of issues.

Question for Romanist readers: do you think that it is hypothetically possible that JP2 could turn out to be, in the judgment of Rome in 100 years, an anti-pope?



Anonymous said...

Well a consistent Catholic almost has to profess that JP2 (and VII itself) were anti-Catholic...

Turretinfan said...

One wonders ...

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

Some observations from my colleague Carlos Antonio Palad should answer some of your questions:

1) The decree simply lifts the censure of excommunication and deprives it of any effect as of January 21, 2009. This implies that the original excommunications imposed on July 1, 1988 were valid. Take note that the decree rescinding the penalty of excommunication neither declares the excommunications null and void from the beginning, nor does it mention any posthumous rehabilitation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Casro Mayer. Thus, the Pope has struck a middle course: lift the excommunications as desired by the SSPX, without declaring the excommunications to have been invalid from the beginning (as the SSPX had originally requested).

Had Pope Benedict XVI declared the excommunications invalid from the beginning, that would have been a massive slap to the face of the late Pope John Paul II. Of course, he did not do that.

2) The decree mentions that the Pope did this out of his "paternal sensitivity" to the pain suffered by the four bishops because of the excommunications, and in the hope that by thus lifting the burden of excommunication from the four bishops, the SSPX will be moved to reconcile with the Holy See. It is clear that the Pope is now applying the medicine of mercy, hoping that it will be stronger than punitive measures.

3) The lifting of the excommunications on the SSPX bishops does NOT signify that the SSPX is back in full communion with the Holy See. This is clear from the wording of the decree:

"It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity."

Basically, what the Pope is saying is: "Ok, SSPX bishops, I've removed your excommunications. It is now up to you to reconcile with the the Church".. It will be interesting to see what the SSPX will now do. The ball is in their court now. So, the SSPX bishops are NOT YET bishops in good standing; but they are now Catholic bishops, not schismatic bishops, that is for sure.

4) Interestingly, the Holy See is referring to:

"..trusting in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter of not sparing any effort to deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin..."

This signifies that the Holy See is now willing to open talks with the SSPX to resolve the SSPX's difficulties with Vatican II, provided that these discussions will touch only on "still open matters." This refers to the SSPX's demand for "dialogue" on doctrinal matters with Rome.

The SSPX has always made clear that it will not reconcile with Rome unless Rome rejects Vatican II's "errors and ambiguities" . However, in the SSPX's response to this decree, Bishop Bernard Fellay has considerably toned down his position, simply stating that the SSPX has "some reservations" on Vatican II. I find this to be very hopeful. I hope that, after a long and thoughtful dialogue, the continuity between Vatican II and the pre-Vatican II Magisterium could be demonstrated with clarity and finality, thus benefiting the faithful everywhere.

There is actually a precedent for this. In 1988, the Traditionalist Benedictines of Le Barroux, who were with Marcel Lefebvre, reconciled with the Holy See. However, since they had difficulty accepting Vatican II's teaching on Religious Liberty, one of their monks -- Fr. Basile Valuet -- decided to study the question. He went to Santa Croce in Rome (yes, the Opus Dei university) and, after several years of careful study, produced a 6-volume work demonstrating how Vatican II's teachings on religious freedom is a legitimate development of the Magisterium of the pre-Vatican II popes. At present, the former SSPX priests who have formed the Institute of the Good Shepherd are in the same process of careful discernment regarding Vatican II.

Turretinfan said...

I agree that the way chosen has been a middle course ... and I agree that it is significant that the original excommunications have not been declared invalid ab initio.


Robert Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Brown said...

And therein lies your, JPII will NOT be declared an anti-pope.