14 February 2011

Articles LIke This Expose the Problems Inherent in the SSPX Position

Rorate Caeli has posted a link to an article in the "Pastor's Corner" page of the SSPX's United States District website, wherein an unnamed SSPX priest purports to "call out" the "false brethren"-- all those persons and groups which he claims have betrayed the traditionalist movement, by which term he means the SSPX and none other.

full Pastor's Corner article is here.

I cannot let this post go by without comment, because in addition to some fairly presumptuous and inaccurate observations about priestly societies other than the SSPX, the tenor of the article highlights the biggest danger of the SSPX position-- the tendency to equate "SSPX" with "the Catholic Church". Of course, this is not the official position of the SSPX and I have not read of Bishop Fellay having said such. But this article appears on an official SSPX website, and thus they are promoting it. The danger to the SSPX, existing as it does in an irregular canonical status and fearful of unfair treatment, is the danger of espousing the bunker mentality that it alone is the only possible manifestation of the remnant of Catholicism.

First some excerpts, then some of my own observations:

“1,000 soldiers fall to the left, 10,000 to the right”

This Scripture quote from Psalm 90 reminds us that false brethren (those on the right) are more dangerous than true enemies (those on the left). In the guerrilla war which the traditionalist world has had to wage against the forces of apostasy, it is quite understandable, if tragic, that there be division from among the ranks of those who “uphold the traditions of their forefathers”.

[...]...when the sun of the Church’s magisterium goes down, when the source of truth and morality gives an unclear message, when we are all enveloped in the dusk of ambiguity and uncertainty, where can we turn? The best way home is to return where we came from and retrace our steps back, because these are at least secure and familiar grounds. And this is what a little remnant has done.

[...] But then the enemy came and sowed cockle where wheat was growing unchecked; division and chaos ensued, following the always successful strategy of "divide and conquer". Had the development of Tradition been steady, and presented a united front against the onslaught of modernist Rome , there is little doubt that the process of auto-demolition of Holy Mother Church would have been largely slowed down.

[...] After the betrayal of the cowards and the weak, there came the defection of the sedevacantists who tended to divide themselves indefinitely. Then came that of the children of Archbishop Lefebvre, their own spiritual father, who left him for the mirages of the roses and lilies of modernist Rome . These are as so many tombstones strewn in the cemetery of the “War Veterans of Tradition”; tombstones of mute dogs, forever forbidden to bark at the madness of our poor Church authorities for the sake of a meager place in the sun and a piece of paper proving them to be “inside” the Catholic Church. Their name is legion: The monastery of Le Barroux, the Fraternity of St. Peter, Bishop Rifan and Campos , the Institute of Christ the King, the Institute of the Good Shepherd...

Then, to complete the picture, you have half-traditional priests, operating under the Pope’s gracious
motu proprio liberating the Mass of all time. These priests are unfortunately halfway between the old and the new in more things than liturgy, and this reality does not make them so palatable to us.

OK, deep breath. I was amazed at the hubris of this picture, and the broad brush that painted it. This priest labels any priest who is not a member of the SSPX as either a "false brother" or a "true enemy". I may not be sufficiently subtle, but this position sounds a lot like extra societatem nulla salus--outside the Society there is no salvation. Is this priest saying that the Catholic Church is co-extensive with the Society of St. Pius X? If he does not intent to imply this, then he should be much more precise. Monsignor Wach, the Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, has a well-known saying, "We do not save the Church; the Church saves us." I have quoted that saying here before. The point is that the proper attitude of any Catholic to the Church is one of faithful submission to her-- to her teachings, to her sacraments, and to her lawful authority. The Church is the vehicle Christ has given us for salvation. She has been attacked throughout her history. She has suffered under bad, and often sinfully bad, pastors throughout her history. She has been challenged by heresy and the world throughout her history.

She always survives.

The second paragraph I excerpted above further highlights the essential problem. The author asks where one can turn when "the sun of the Church's magisterium goes down". This is an empty question, because the sun of her magisterium can never go down. To look elsewhere for the solid foundation of truth, outside of the Church, is foolishness.

The Church has, throughout her history, seen the development of many movements, orders and societies whose differing charisms have added to her fullness. These many charisms have assisted her work, not destroyed it. But this author sees them instead as a means of the enemy to divide and conquer. Why? Must all orders be the Jesuits, or the Society? Must we abandon the young and growing traditional orders and societies just because they don't pay allegiance to Bishop Fellay?

He even gets his history wrong. He refers to "mute dogs" whose names are "legion" (legion-- there is a very loaded term), whom he calls the spiritual children of Archbishop Lefebvre. Yet among these legions he includes not only the FSSP, IBP and Campos priests, but also the Institute of Christ the King. The Institute was never affiliated with Archbishop Lefebvre and came into being in 1990, two years after the illicit episcopal consecrations and excommunications of the SSPX and Campos Bishops, and the same two years after the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei and the creation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

The founders of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest were proteges of the late, great Cardinal Siri of Genoa. The Institute was not created out of the rupture of the SSPX and was never in an irregular canonical situation. It began as a Society if diocesan right and later was elevated to a Society of Pontifical Right.

Any reader of this blog knows that I am greatly supportive of the Institute. Hence, I am focusing on its work, yet one could say similar things about the other groups and priests with good canonical standing who are working for Catholic restoration. The Institute is not "muzzled" so that it avoids speaking the truth. I know of no muzzling of the FSSP or IBP, for that matter. These groups have different charisms. The Institute is a "traditionalist" society in the sense that it celebrates the traditional Mass and sacraments exclusively. But in a greater sense, it is not "traditionalist", but "merely" Catholic. Catholic-- in the Salesian, Benedictine, and Thomistic tradition.

I have been and am sympathetic to the SSPX; I believe it did much to preserve and guard the Mass and Catholic teaching in a time of great upheaval. It was treated unfairly, in my opinion, and I give it and its members credit for good faith. But it is this kind of article that points out that it is its own worst enemy. Isn't the multiplicity of different societies with different charisms a cause for thanksgiving? Why the complaint?

And after fighting for so many years for the recognition of the right of every priest to celebrate the traditional Mass, why would this author complain about secular priests througout the world who are learning and celebrating it in their parishes? Isn't this one of the goals of the motu proprio? It greatly and unfairly demeans the real steps being taken, often at great personal sacrifice, of diocesan priests who are advancing the cause of restoration.

Instead of labelling their leaders "mute", perhaps a better term might be "prudent", or "charitable". One could say that a little more "prudence" out of at least one SSPX bishop might have resulted in the canonical faculties of the Society already having been given. Prudence is not cowardice, though of course one can call cowardice prudence. It just seems like a little more prudence would be called for before resorting to the general tactic of name-calling.

The danger to us all is pride. And when your existence and mission is defined--not by the Mass, because Summorum Pontificum settled this question-- by being the "fact-checker" for the Church's teaching authority, there is a danger of equating yourself with the Church.

I pray more than ever for a reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy Father, because this kind of attitude, left unchecked, cannot do anything but bring disaster.


Andy said...

I currently attend an SSPX chapel. I find the opinion expressed in the article 1)rare, 2)extremely damaging to the current discussions with Rome, and 3)extremely annoying.

thetimman said...

Andy, thanks for the comment. And I will second your point that such an opinion is rare in any official source I have read from the Society. I hope if Bp. Fellay is made aware of it that it gets yanked.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Andy on #2 and #3. Unfortunately at the chapel I attend the priest has the attitude that the SSPX is the only trustworthy source of tradition in the Church. It makes me sick every time I hear it. Bishop Fellay needs to reign in his priests - or are priest who write like this the real voice of the SSPX?

Anonymous said...

This is not what i have heard from the mouths of society priests in st. louis nor of bishop fellay himself. i credit the icrsp with bringing myself and my family to the beautiful and timeless traditions of the church. i also am very sympathetic to the position of the society and have personally only received from the people attached to the society a warm and sincere welcome and a strong and resolved disposition to live their lives in a way that demonstrates the timeless traditions of the church. thoughts such as these perhaps come from those who do not wish to be reconciled with rome and only serve as a tool of opposion and discontent towards the current doctrinal talks which the society as a whole have claimed to be a huge and monemental breakthrough and miracle. in the words of Bishop Fellay, " what a mystery."

Anonymous said...

I see nothing imprudent about unmasking one of the great lies of the 20th century but it certainly is inconvenient, try it sometime and you'll find out just how inconvenient it is. Cowardice, on the other hand, is always convenient, some might say prudent. Who will speak for the murdered, the maimed, the bombed, the burned, the raped, the pillaged, the tortured the plundered? There will never be peace in the Church and no restoration of Western Civilization so long as the great lies of the Second World War persist.

thetimman said...

Thank you all for your comments. I understand that the article is not representative of the experiences of most in the SSPX, and that is why I found it so noteworthy. If it were on a private blog or letter I would chalk it up as one man's opinion, but I was mystified to see it on an official SSPX site.

As for the last anon, regardless of the rectitude of the comments, or even your opinion of the bravery of the speaker, it was imprudent. This is so because it had nothing to do with his ministry and office as Bishop, and the imprudence was proven because of the disastrous fallout it produced, not only for him, but for the Society and the Holy Father. Prudence is indeed a virtue, and is not always to be taken as a euphemism for cowardice.

X said...

Oh Prudence, what crimes are committed in thy name?

Mark said...

He even gets his history wrong. He refers to "mute dogs" whose names are "legion" (legion-- there is a very loaded term), whom he calls the spiritual children of Archbishop Lefebvre. Yet among these legions he includes not only the FSSP, IBP and Campos priests, but also the Institute of Christ the King. The Institute was never affiliated with Archbishop Lefebvre and came into being in 1990, two years after the illicit episcopal consecrations and excommunications of the SSPX and Campos Bishops, and the same two years after the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei and the creation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Just a comment on this part ; the connection between Arch Lefebvre and the Institute is not so distant as one would like to make...the bishop who just so happens to have raised the Institute cononnically, Bishop Cyrique Obamba, just so happens to have been trained by Archbsp Lefebvre himself...



Anonymous said...

I know this is a little late timman. I have been looking at Evelyn Waugh when I click favorites for your blog since Dec. 30th. Finally, today March 5, I called my sister to ask what happened to St. Louis Catholic. I was informed that nothing has happened. It appears that I had somehow done a computer thing that had made this one thread from Dec. 30 always show up. Anyway, sis had disappointedly wondered why I hadn't commented about a couple of SSPX threads and following this blog, or so she thought. So for Sis, and Timman...allow me to say, belatedly, that I agree with pretty much everything St. Louis Catholic says against this post from the Pastor's Corner. There is certainly salvation outside the SSPX. I would be pretty sure that even the author of the article would admit as much in principle. Our SSPX priest preaches hard once in a while against the heresy of "No Salvation Outside the SSPX". There is also Tradition outside the SSPX. We can't just want everyone to come to us . Let Tradition increase and the SSPX decrease. Sure, there is a danger of a "schismatic mentality" that can attach to an exaggerated association/importance to the role of the SSPX in our times. Maybe that Pastor's Corner is an example. But where and when in history has God placed his servants in situations that presented no dangers? The average Novus Ordo Mass and parish presents no danger to the faithful?ady Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.