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.
The 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.