Sunday, June 02, 2013

Trads, the official church, and the SSPX's founding

Bishop Williamson on the SSPX’s founding — it is not and never was a separate church — and why he’s not interested in founding another more hardline rival to it.
A number of good souls wish that a Congregation were founded to replace the Society of St Pius X. But while I share their fear that the SSPX is presently well on its way to disabling its formerly glorious defence of Catholic Faith and life, and while I therefore sympathize with their desire to see another Congregation like it to take its place, I do not believe that that is possible, and I think it is worth explaining why.

When in 1970 Archbishop Lefebvre wrote the charter of principles in line with which the future SSPX would be founded and would function, namely its Statutes, it was for him of great importance to obtain the official approval of them by the bishop of the Catholic diocese in which the original house of the SSPX was situated. As far as he was concerned, obtaining or not obtaining that approval meant all the difference between founding a Congregation of the Catholic Church and launching a private association of his own. He had every interest in founding a Catholic Congregation, far less interest in launching a private institution.

In fact when he went to see Bishop Charrière of the Diocese of Geneva, Lausanne and Fribourg to obtain that approval, he was not hopeful. The Conciliar Revolution was by then well under way, and it was directly contrary to what the Statutes projected. Providentially however, Bishop Charrière gave his approval, perhaps because he knew he was to retire soon afterwards. In any case the Archbishop returned exultant to Écône, and one report even tells of him waving the Statutes triumphantly in the air.

What that meant to him was that from then on, as far as he was concerned, he had the Church’s authority to build a Congregation of the Church, and while a few years later Rome might attempt to take back that authorisation, the attempt was so intrinsically unjust according to Church law that the Archbishop never hesitated to continue exercising inside the SSPX all the authority of a classic Superior of a Congregation. That classic Catholic authority has such power that by harnessing it to lies the Conciliar Popes have been able virtually to destroy the Universal Church, and by its being harnessed to a practical agreement with Conciliar Rome it is now virtually destroying the SSPX. On the other hand, as for authority over priests, nuns and laity outside the SSPX, Archbishop Lefebvre never arrogated to himself any other than that of a father, adviser and friend.

But the days of a Bishop Charrière are long since gone. How many sane bishops are there left in the mainstream Church? And how could any of them today approve of Traditional and anti-Conciliar Statutes? It is as though, just after the Archbishop got out of the Catholic castle with the Catholic Statutes in his hand, the Conciliar portcullis crashed down behind him. “They are mentally sick, but they have the authority,” as one of the four SSPX theologians said about the Roman theologians after the Doctrinal Discussions of 2009-2011. The SSPX is surely the last in line of the classic Congregations to be founded, at least until after the Chastisement. And it has not lasted long.

That is why, in my opinion, “What cannot be cured must be endured.” And that is why, right now, I envisage being little more than father, adviser and friend for any souls calling for a bishop’s leadership and support. Even that is task enough. May God be with us all.
The society’s real issue with ‘Conciliar Rome’ isn’t Latin. It’s two issues, religious liberty and ecumenism. Like an American old rightist (not the SSPX’s European rightists: monarchists and fascists, just a description, not a condemnation) and a 1950s American Catholic (default trad but live and let live, grateful for this country as a good home in which to practice the faith; SSPX hardliners would denounce this as the Americanist heresy, only a jump removed from the mainline), just like conservative Novus Ordo I have no problem with what the council actually says.

That said, the society and the bishop are right to be suspicious. The council was a mistake; it did the church much harm; lots of official churchmen hate traditionalism. I’m in the official church for the same reason Lefebvre got the diocesan bishop’s approval; it’s Catholicism 101. But I know many in it aren’t my friends. Sure, it’s like Anglo-Catholicism vs. the rest of Anglicanism again. (The truth wasn’t that the ACs were right; the denomination is semi-congregational so the mainstream put up with them.) Except rather than wishful thinking, all the the teaching of the Popes is on our side.

Until a few years ago mainstream society didn’t know or care who Bishop Williamson was. Then he spoke about the Holocaust, going against the Christian heresy of our age, political correctness trying to be just and charitable. I believe it happened and was wrong, but I watched on YouTube the TV interview that got him in trouble and it doesn’t offend me. He makes a good case: the Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands but it was physically, scientifically impossible for the Holocaust to have happened the way the narrative says. Irrelevant because it’s not about doctrine. And I’m against the mainstream, which calls anybody who questions the narrative, such as the magic number six million, a Nazi, and still makes excuses for the Communists, the real winners of the war, who killed far more people.

My differences with the bishop are his integrism vs. what he would call my Americanism, his wariness of the official church goes too far, and he’s broken with the ’50s church by recommending The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta, condemned by the Holy Office. So he only speaks for himself now.

I met him once, before he was a bishop. Said something true about learning Latin disciplining the mind.


  1. [i]The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta, condemned by the Holy Office. [/i]

    I didn't know that Rome had ruled negatively (or one way or the other) about POTMG. Fr. Benedict Groschel, C.F.R., in one of this books ("A Still Small Voice"????) discussed it in an appendix . . . overall a negative review of it.

  2. The SSPX (and others) are correct about one problem of expression in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church. It says that the fullness of Truth subsists in the Catholic Church rather than saying the Catholic Church is the True Church. Yes, I know this seemingly smacks of triumphalism but the two expressions are not exactly the same even though there is truth to the CCC expression, although incompletely stated which IMHO makes it defective.

    The Orthodox Church calls itself the "One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic Church." The Roman (not limited to Roman Rite) Catholic Church says exactly the same thing of itself. Two competing and irreconcilable claims right now because we are two separate Churches even though we are not supposed to be! This is the One True Church claim that the "fullness of Truth" wording does not express strongly enough IMHO and apparently in the opinion of the SSPX, et. al.

    I have encountered the Orthodox expression about "We know where the (True) Church is. We just don't know where it isn't." I suppose the "subsistit" statement in the CCC is the RC equivalent, but both do not say the same thing as the One True Church claim that both Churches make. And to the best of my knowledge, Orthodoxy does not hang its hat on the "We know where . . . ." expression. In fact this expression may be the Orthodox equivalent of the DH without all that loose wording!

    It's time for a little honesty instead of dilution of the faith in the CCC. Yes, this will cause hurt some feelings and provoke charges of triumphalism. Nonetheless, as you have stated before, YF, the Orthodox (particularly the RO) understood Papa Benedetto when he made his One True Church statements--of course not agreeing with him--but the RO knew exactly what he meant and were not all that upset by those claims unlike the wishy-washy statements that too often have been promulgated by the Conciliar RCC. Of course this will piss off CBS News, but who cares what those talking heads say???

    Disclaimer: I am not in favor of a return to the polemics in RC apologetic publications that existed pre-Vatican II especially vis-a-vis Orthodoxy. This is something the SSPX does not appreciate in what the Council Fathers intended Dignitatus Humanae to convey, the elimination of polemics and the practice of charity when dealing with non-Catholic Christians. Of course, I realize that DH also is so loosely written that it gives room for Catholic indifferentists to operate. This is wrong IMHO.

    1. Jim,

      See (inter alia):

      but I agree, in general, with your comment.

    2. Exactly. The council couldn't drop the true-church claim. I have no problem with subsistit in. It only expresses what the church has always taught: the East has bishops and the Mass; Protestants baptize. With Jim and the SSPX I agree that the council was so injudicious and inopportune (in other words, a mistake) that no wonder the anti-Catholic media jumped on this and distorted it: 'Catholicism gives up the true-church claim', which is how Catholic involvement in ecumenism was reported.

      Arguably the only development/new interpretation, which I agree with, is that never-Catholic Eastern bishops, not being personally guilty of schism and getting the benefit of the doubt because their churches have never dogmatized against Catholic defined doctrine (so in other words, Orthodoxy is estranged Catholicism), are considered to have apostolic authority over their never-Catholic faithful, implicitly part of the Catholic Church. (So the Eastern churches are sisters to Catholic regional churches/patriarchates/metropolias while Catholicism of course has no sisters; it's the true church. The little Russian Catholic Church: 'We have bishops. They just happen not to be Catholic right now.') The SSPX might say no, the non-Catholic Easterners have valid orders but their use of them is a sin. (Which is not hypocritical: they're not a separate church in principle and they claim the state of emergency in the church justifies their having bishops who don't have formal jurisdiction, which they believe only the Pope can give.)

    3. Thanks for the link, Dr. Tighe. I have read it and IMHO it basically says the same thing as DH, perhaps with much needed clarification. It is amazing however that the Orthodox can make with their simple claim regarding "where the Church is" to be a more concrete and concise statement equivalent to the "subsistit in" without the attendant confusion. This reminds me of what I think is one of the main problems with VII's documents. They are so prolix compared to other Council's documents--Yes, I am the last one who should say this given my customary prolixity! Heh heh heh--that they introduce loose & less precise language even though perhaps inadvertently so.

      The big disagreement I have with the SSPX is their now trite expression, "the errors of Vatican II." Errors of a Council that is a pastoral Council even though dogma/doctrine explicated therein does not introduce new or even changed dogmatic theology?" Oh, I still think V-II was a huge mistake and not just to inadvertent timing of the Council itself.

      I also consider the SSPX insistence that Catholicism be protected in each country, not just traditionally Catholic countries, with other religions perhaps not surpressed, but also not encouraged to be a boner of enormous magnitude. It is, first of all, naive and wholly unrealistic and second (something I know you, John, have agreed with before), "Error may have no rights but persons do. Unfortunately, error attaches itself to persons." IMHO, this is a good argument for the religious-adherence to or support of the secular First Amendment. Besides, what of the Dogma of Free Will? :-)


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