08 June 2012

My Own Provincial Take on the Recent DICI Interview with Bishop Fellay

A little context is in order to prevent any misunderstanding on a potentially sensitive subject.  Regular readers will know this already, and may skip ahead.

I am a traditional Catholic who very much supports the work of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  This Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right was founded in 1990, two years after the cataclysmic episcopal consecrations and excommunications of 1988.  Two years after the failed attempt at an agreement between Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre of the SSPX, two years after the founding of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which started as a group of former SSPX priests who broke off in response to the illicit consecrations.  Unlike the Fraternity, the Institute was not a break-off group of the SSPX, but rather formed independently of the drama of 1988.  The founders of the Institute were proteges of the late, great Cardinal Siri of Genoa, a Bishop near and dear to the hearts of traditional Catholics for many reasons.

In charitable moments, SSPX members and their supporters refer to the Institute, the Fraternity, and other such Vatican-approved groups of traditional Catholics as "Ecclesia Dei" communities, after the motu proprio of John Paul II in 1988 that, among other things, formed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), to oversee the so-called "indult" for the traditional Mass (that was really not an indult at all, as was confirmed in 2007 in Summorum Pontificum-- but I digress).

With this in mind, DICI, the media-arm of the SSPX, published an interview with Bishop Fellay, the General Superior of the Society.  In it, His Excellency discusses the current situation.  As always, I am impressed by Bishop Fellay, who seems God-sent to lead the Society in this hour.  He is intelligent, thoughtful, and measured, as usual.  I strongly encourage everyone to read this interview here, as it gives news and real reason for hope.

But.

There is just one thing, one discordant note, that I cannot let pass without comment.  Here it is:

DICI: Will there be a difference in your relations with the Ecclesia Dei communities? 

Bishop Fellay: The first difference will be that they will be obliged to stop treating us as schismatics.  As for future development, it is clear that some will draw closer to us, since they already approve of us discreetly;  some others, no.  Time will tell how Tradition will develop in this new situation.  We have great expectations for the traditional apostolate, just as some important personages in Rome do, and the Holy Father himself.  We have great hopes that Tradition will develop with our arrival.

Now, of course, I suppose there are some persons who support the Ecclesia Dei communities who may consider the SSPX to be in schism, despite the lifting of the excommunications by Rome, and even statements to the contrary by Vatican dicastery officials before then.  And I suppose that there are some persons who support the SSPX who consider the Ecclesia Dei communities to be traitors or sell-outs, or not traditional at all, despite the often heroic effort to preserve the ancient liturgy and Catholic doctrine in a spirit of humble submission to the Church's lawful pastors, without much support from those same pastors.

However, I personally know many, many people on both sides of this coin who who see the opposite groups as complementary, on-the-same-side-of-tradition, brothers-in-(spiritual)-arms who are two separate movements of the same great cause.  I will not venture to give percentages to those who view our counterparts positively, as opposed to negatively, and perhaps I am naive.  But I will say that most people I have met within the Vatican-approved groups, and most people I have talked with in the SSPX camp, take the positive view.  We have enough enemies without poking each other in the eye.

Furthermore, as any regular reader of this blog knows, I fully support the reconciliation already under way, and apparently so close to fulfillment, between the SSPX and Rome.  The Church would benefit by their unbesmirched status, and, just as importantly, so would they.  I often hear from SSPX supporters that "if it weren't for the SSPX (or Archbishop Lefebvre, or both), there wouldn't be any traditional Mass, any "indult", any Summorum Pontificum, any maintenance of Catholic tradition," etc.  Well, in a sense that is likely true, but it does leave a lot out of the equation, and also presumes a bit that can never be proven.  How do they know that, for instance?  It is a supposition.  

We can guess, but never know, what would have happened if Archbishop Lefebvre had not consecrated the bishops without permission. Who knows, but some greater thing would have happened?  Perhaps profound humility, and obedience to an inexplicable or even unjust prohibition, would have lead to a quicker resolution, or quicker restoration.  We simply cannot know.  Christ in Gethsemane submitted His will to that of the Father, though it cost Him everything.  And His disciples whom he accompanied on the way to Emmaus were scandalized at His apparent defeat.  But we know how that turned out.  I believe that those of the SSPX acted in good faith as they saw it.  I believe those of the traditional groups who disagreed also acted in good faith as they saw it.  If we are in the Fatima times, as I think likely, what better proof of the diabolical disorientation within the Church than that of brothers who ought to be natural allies but instead are estranged?

And here is one speculation that may not have occurred to SSPX supporters:  Perhaps one of the reasons why reconciliation is so close is due to the twenty year apostolate of these Ecclesia Dei groups, who provided an example to those within the official Church structure (and I mean Bishops and priests, as well as the faithful) that the Mass-- and the practice-- of tradition is nothing to fear and is even a draw to conversions and to vocations.   That it remains not just alive, but vital and relevant (and, as is obvious to anyone not on drugs, far superior to the Mass made by committee that was foisted on us in 1969).  Perhaps the fact that it scares the you-know-what out of liberal bishops, priests, "nuns" and laymen made it a very good thing to attract well-meaning Catholics beyond the reach of the SSPX?  Maybe, the very obedience-without-doctrinal-compromise of groups like the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest showed the hierarchy that such a situation was possible?  Scoff if you will, but I can make assumptions as well as anyone else.  What pull would the traditional Mass have had on the Church if no one "inside" the Church was actually celebrating it?  If it had been the sole property of the so-called "schismatics" of the SSPX?  I think to ask that question is to answer it.

And so, though I get the perfectly understandable "pride" (in the good sense) of the SSPX'er who says, hey, give us some credit for preserving the Mass of all ages, it must be noted that there is danger of Pride (in the bad sense) if by that one means that the SSPX saved the Mass in a fundamental sense, denying God's sovereignty, or even worse if the SSPX "saved" the Church.

Because, as Monsignor Wach often says, "We do not save the Church.  The Church saves us."

Along these lines, as I have written before, there is a great need for humility on all sides as we pray for a good understanding between the Holy Father and the SSPX.

The "traditional apostolate", as Bishop Fellay calls it, began in A.D. 33.  But even in its more recent form, it was carried on in many places since 1962, 1969, 1984, 1988, 1990, 2007, or whatever other date one may select.  The restoration of the Mass, the liturgy, the Sacraments, and the Church has only one author, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

18 comments:

birmto said...

Insightful post.

As a further thought, whose to say that Summorum Pontificum would have happened if it weren't for the Ecclesia Dei communities? If there had been no groups on the inside of the Church, successfully preserving the mass and all the other aspects of tradition, who knows if the pope would be of a mind to bring the Society in? Or, even if the pope brought the Society in, maybe the traditional mass would have been though of as only for the Society - for one, small, marginalized group within the Church - rather than as a universal Latin rite for any priest to say. In short, who knows with all the "what if" questions. Let's just join the fight as it stands now.

Rory said...

I agree that we do not know what would have happened if Abp. Lefebvre had refrained from consecrating the bishops. We also do not know what would have happened if St. Francis Xavier hadn't gone to the Orient. But God chose St. Francis for the moment. My point is that for the work of every great activity in the Church, we can always say that God could have accomplished the work without the chosen human instrument. But that never stops an evaluation of the influence of the instrument, whoever it may be.

As it played out in 1988, there is every indication that forces in Rome, hostile to Tradition, were waiting for Abp. Lefebvre to die. Even if he trusted Cardinal Ratzinger, Abp. Lefebvre, after weighing the alternatives, decided that God's will was to move forward with consecrations to provide a certain future for Tradition. We now find ouselves, with bishops approaching their 25th anniversary, with what appears to be the imminent approval of the continued work of the founder of the "wildcat seminary", suspended priests, and excommunicated bishops. It is a wonderful turnabout. With the acceptance of the SSPX, Rome is tacitly accepting criticism of the New Mass. The Society priest is not going to suddenly recommend a Novus Ordo Mass to fulfill your Sunday obligation. We also see that we are entering into an era where the whole Church can happily reevaluate publicly what it might mean to "accept" the Second Vatican Council, as the SSPX has been doing for forty years.

I don't have any experience of the Ecclesia Dei groups. I have doubted that they are free to counsel parishioners of the dangers to the faith that is posed by the formally vaild, but defective rubrics and prayers of the New Mass. Can they say publicly what you say publicly, Timman, about inorganic liturgy "by committee"? Even in St. Louis, where I am confident that Abp. Burke had a genuine concern for the continuation of the Traditional Mass, the Ecclesia Dei priests and the SSPX are geographical neighbors. In many cases, the bishops have stipulated that the Ecclesia Dei priests must be located in an area that is already being ministered to by the SSPX. The bishops aren't ordinarily eager to provide their flocks with Tradition; they only tolerate an Ecclesia Dei option to the SSPX. This is one of the major practical reasons that the Society speculates that without the SSPX, these episcopally approved Ecclesia Dei apostolates would be very few indeed.

---to be continued

Rory said...

continued...

This general practice on the part of the bishops has led to some unfortunate competition if you will. This will be remedied sooner or later, but hitherto, instead of an eagerness to mutually work for the salvation of souls, as did the Apostle Paul, "not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation," we find Tradition "bunched up" and tending toward sheep stealing. You object (mildly) that Bp. Fellay seems to think that the typical Ecclesia Dei priest might think of the SSPX as schismatic. Of course they are not necessarily saying this publicly, but what else do the faithful understand if they are counselled that the SSPX administered marriage and confession is invalid? The Ecclesia Dei faithful will understand that the SSPX and their faithful are Traditional Catholics who are outside the Church. Who has ever retained their baptismal purity? To teach that there has been no emergency which justifies an SSPX presence in any diocese apart from episcopal approval, is not necessarily to say the SSPX is schismatic, but it is to say that one is deceived to think they are in a state of grace after seeking a needed absolution from an SSPX priest. Is that any better than schismatic?

There have been tensions, and will continue to be for a while. I think that is the context of Bp. Fellay's remarks to which you drew attention. As for speculation about the fruit of the consecrations, I suppose I doubt that any of us who have loved Christ's Church according to our different lights, can be objectively impartial now, me least of all. However, if the good Lord tarries, I admit that I expect that the Church will wait a few generations to canonize Abp. LeFebvre. By that time, our grandchildren, God bless them, will hopefully appreciate that heroic sanctity was practised among many who adhered to and loved Holy Mother Church through this crisis, no matter on which side they laboured as regards the consecrations of 1988.

Rory

Enoch said...

Rory wrote, "In many cases, the bishops have stipulated that the Ecclesia Dei priests must be located in an area already being ministered to by the SSPX."

How many cases are there, and which bishops have stipulated this?

I should mention, too, that there are not Ecclesia Dei priests, but priests who belong to groups and fraternities under the Ecclesia Dei umbrella.

Anonymous said...

What does SSPX stand for?

Robert

Hootiecootie said...

Thank you. I wanted to say something else but all that came to mind is: thank you. Oh, and on your tombstone will read: Here lies [thetimman]. Traditional Roman Catholic, devoted husband, father of seven, best known for the phrase "But I digress". Thank you.

Rory said...

Enoch writes:

Rory wrote, "In many cases, the bishops have stipulated that the Ecclesia Dei priests must be located in an area already being ministered to by the SSPX."

How many cases are there, and which bishops have stipulated this?

Rory replies: You caught me! Good work. I know of only one certain case personally, involving the archdiocese in which I worship, and that is based on hearsay. To reveal the bishop involved does not seem prudent to me. My concession should suffice. But mine is a common perception among those affiliated with the Society with which you apparently disagree.

Enoch says:
I should mention, too, that there are not Ecclesia Dei priests, but priests who belong to groups and fraternities under the Ecclesia Dei umbrella.

Rory replies:
Your correction here is also acceptable to me. I would be abhorred to think that someone might understand me to have intended any kind of disrespect. If my expression was imprecise, there should be no mistaking the meaning. If you would favor me with me with an acceptable equivalent expression to "priests who belong to groups and fraternities under the Ecclesia Dei umbrella" of fewer than twelve words it might expedite discussion, I would have no objection to using it.

Enoch...let us be friendly. Assuredly, if you are attached to Catholic Tradition, I am your brother. I am convinced without the documentation and evidence that would be necessary to condemn anyone in a law court, that many bishops at this time despise Tradition.

If you think I am wrong, that's okay with me. I have no wish to vilify the bishops of the recent past or present who seem to me to have been seduced by modernism. Indeed, I hope you are right if you think that I am the one who is deceived!

God bless,

Rory

thetimman said...

Rory, I have heard, from the pulpit, comments about the new Mass such as you state in yours. In fact, how could they be off limits when they were made by the Pope himself. Though "Spirit of the Liturgy" is waaaaaayyyyyy too complimentary of the new Mass to my notion, it does contain many very just, critical observations.

And I know you know that I respect your position on these things, so trust me that I get the perspective of His Excellency. I don't think he is hostile, but I do think that now is the time to mend fences all around. Hence my post.

Hope all is well.

Enoch said...

I was not thinking of deception, Rory. I thought that probably you sincerely believed the rhetoric put out by some in the SSPX that the Ecclesia Dei groups are mainly tolerated in a diocese as a form of competition for the SSPX. And this may indeed be the case in some diocese, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. But I didn't see how it could be all that many, really; hence my questions regarding this. Thanks to all of the groups under Ecclesia Dei, the TLM is making a comeback - slowly but surely.

Rory said...

Tim...Hi...Thanks for the reply. Don't post this please. It's a little too radical!

All is well here. My defense of Bp. Fellay's characterization of the Ecclesia Dei communities was perhaps a little too strenuous. I understood your quibble was merely that.

I just today finished reading Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Msgr. Klaus Gamber. This is the book in which Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the famous words in the preface to the French addition about the Novus Ordo as a "banal, on the spot product."

I think this book gives some excellent background as to the liturgical wars that were already brewing previous to Vatican II. He takes pains not to criticize the Vatican II document on the liturgy, but to show how the New Mass violates in very serious respects the reforms that were proposed.

Additionally, he demonstrates how liturgical development has always occurred over the centuries, and even has a chapter asking the question as to what degree a pope has the authority to alter a traditional liturgical form. He does not seem to allow carte blanche authority even to the pope. I found that idea very intriguing. It would be similar to when Pope John Paul II proclaimed that he had no authority to ordain female priests.

For me, this book opened some horizons that allows me to better understand the strategy that Pope Benedict may be following with regards to how to repair the mess that we find ourselves in, with two Roman liturgies, one of which is open to severe criticism. Traditionalists are still very wary of acknowledging even the slightest need for any litugical adjustments. But Msgr. Gamber very effectively shows how and why some adjustments have often been legitimately called for.

It reminds me that Abp. Lefebvre was not quite a liturgical neanderthal himself. I am sure I recall for instance, that he allowed without any objection for the possible suppression of the reading of the biblical texts in Latin.

Fence mending all around is indeed called for. I am also hoping eventually for a less suspicious approach to the reform movement which Pope Benedict seems to be inaugurating. I personally look forward to legitimate liturgical development that can eventually take what is acceptable from the New Mass and adapt it to the Traditional Mass.

In addition, we are in an era when new ways are being learned as to how to better categorize the authority attached to different proclamations of not just Vatican II, but all ecumenical councils. The Catholic Church is a living organism that will never stop developing until that marriage day when she is permanently united with her Heavenly Spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I know there are many Traditionalists who view all development as corruption rather than growth. If I correctly understand how things are supposed to go, those of us who want what is best for the Church, cannot insist that the Society of St. Pius X be a changeless museum piece. We must realize that the Society is a growing member of the ever-maturing bride of Christ.

Keep the faith. I hope all is well with you, but when it isn't may our Lady be your help and protection.

In Jesus and Mary,

Rory

Rory said...

Enoch, Hi.

Yes. I am pretty sure that most of us tend to sincerely believe that most of the bishops are hostile to the SSPX, not because of canonical injunctions, but because the Society represents a kind of Catholicism that they imagine to be an unenlightened relic of an embarrassing past.

I find it hard to believe that very many bishops are praying for canonical regularization. It is for more fundamental reasons than canon law that they have opposed the SSPX in their dioceses. Believing that it is our traditional doctrine and practice that causes the opposition, it is also difficult for me to see how these kinds of bishop would be joyful about having the Ecclesia Dei communities except for the reasons I have submitted.

But as I hinted at, I have no wish to convert anybody to my pessimism about what I think is still a clear majority of the bishops. Although I am pessimistic about present evaluation, my optimism about the future knows few limits.

I was also most sincere when I said truly that I hope you are correct and that I have misperceived the present reality.

A very blessed Lord's Day be yours on the morrow, Enoch.

Regards,

Rory

Long-Skirts said...

Robert asked...

"What does SSPX stand for?

The WHOLE Catholic Faith! Schools, retreat houses, convents, monasteries, seminaries!

BEFORE THE OTHERS

Before the others
One man stood
Before the others
Spoke the truth

Before the others
For the good
Before the others
Yes, forsooth,

Before the others
Gripped his staff
Before the others
Sailed the sea

Before the others
Net and gaff
Before the others
All for thee.

Anonymous said...

I asked a simple question: What does SSPX stand for. I want to know what the letters stand for. Is it too much to ask those who use the acronym to provide an answer?


Robert

Anonymous said...

ouch long skirts. I am not Robert, but if I were, I would crawl in a hole.

angela

thetimman said...

Robert,

SSPX stands for the Society of St. Pius X. In France or Italy, on the other hand, it would be FSSPX, which is the Latin or French acronym including the term "fraternity", as in Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, the official name (in those languages, the construction puts the words in different order).

Long-Skirts either misunderstood your question to mean "what do they as an organization 'stand for', as opposed to the acronym, or else (more likely) she used a play on words to show her enthusiastic support for them.

thetimman said...

Robert,

SSPX stands for the Society of St. Pius X. In France or Italy, on the other hand, it would be FSSPX, which is the Latin or French acronym including the term "fraternity", as in Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, the official name (in those languages, the construction puts the words in different order).

Long-Skirts either misunderstood your question to mean "what do they as an organization 'stand for', as opposed to the acronym, or else (more likely) she used a play on words to show her enthusiastic support for them.

Anonymous said...

... And there is always wikipedia.

/s

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thetimman for the information.
Since I did not know what the acronym means, I had no idea what Long-Skirts is writing about.

Robert