The debate within the SSPX

The debate within the SSPX

More than one friendly reader has advised me to keep my blog positive. They have a point. The secular media can be relied on to cover “the bad news.” I would do better to give “the good news” some coverage for a change.

Be that as it may, I do want to comment on “the bad news” of the debate currently occurring within the SSPX. When I received the following dialogue last week, I assumed “the three with one do not agree” referred to three of the SSPX bishops agreeing to reconcile with Rome, while one was opposed.

Sadly, it seems the opposite is true. Bishop Fellay, who has led the dialogue with Rome, is in a minority. He is for the agreement; the other three are against it.

The following dialogue is purportedly written by Bishop Williamson. I have no idea if that is true. But whatever of that, it is an informative exposition of the debate within the SSPX.

SL = SSPX soft-liner. HL = SSPX hard-liner.

SL Outside the Church is not where we should be!
HL Who left the Church? Vatican II! Not we!
SL Once in the Church, we could do so much more!
HL If we detested error, as before.
SL Why should we stop detesting error, pray?
HL Because we would be joining in their fray.
SL We need to live within the Church’s law.
HL Not if it is not serving God any more.
SL The Catholic Church is visible. We’re not there.
HL The Church is holy. Do we see that? Where?
SL But things have changed since the Archbishop’s day.
HL The modernists still hold exclusive sway.
SL What Rome now offers, he would have approved.
HL Never, once Benedict to Assisi moved!
SL The SSPX stands strong, need fear no fall.
HL Let all who stand fear falling, says St. Paul.
SL But our Superiors have grace of state.
HL Did leading churchmen never prevaricate?
SL Our leaders to the SSPX belong!
HL And does that mean they never can do wrong?
SL But, Pre-condition One, Rome freed the Mass.
HL And left in place the “bastard rite”, so crass.
SL Rome also lifted the ban on bishops four.
HL But did that make them more free than before?
SL Yet Benedict is calling for our aid.
HL To make Truth prosper, or to help it fade?
SL Of harming Truth, how can the Pope be accused?
HL His modernist mind is hopelessly confused.
SL Yet truly, Benedict wants us all back in.
HL As a modernist, yes, but modernism is a sin.
SL Then do you still believe that he is Pope?
HL Yes, but we must for his conversion hope.
SL What can you mean by, “As a modernist, yes”?
HL Our true Faith he can only harm, not bless.
SL Our welfare is his genuine concern.
HL Not our true welfare, if our true Faith he spurn.
SL A lack of supernatural spirit you show!
HL If woe I say there is, where there is woe?
SL Not everything in the Church is gloomy, dark!
HL Where do you see of true revival a spark?
SL A movement towards Tradition is under way!
HL While fully in control the modernists stay?
SL Then is the official Church still God’s own Church?
HL Yes, it’s the churchmen left us in the lurch.
SL But surely Pope and Rome have both meant well.
HL So? – “Good intentions pave the way to Hell.”
SL But evils worse that Vatican Two can be.
HL The Archbishop – remember? – called it World War III.
SL You’re harsh. Your attitude to schism will lead.
HL Better than undermine the entire creed!
SL Not all the Church authorities are bad.
HL The good ones have no power. It’s very sad.
SL Priests should not say, authority is untrue.
HL But bishops were the cause of Vatican II!
SL Still, Catholic instincts seek their Catholic home.
HL Today, for Catholics, that’s no longer Rome.
SL Then where is the Church? Just in Tradition? Where?
HL “One, holy, catholic, apostolic” – there.
SL You want to solve this problem overnight!
HL No, just that a start be made to set it right.
SL We trust in God. We trust in his Sacred Heart.
HL Bravo! But humans too must play their part.
SL That part is not for us just to complain.
HL Tradcats work hard, Tradition to maintain.
SL If we went in with Rome, we could turn back.
HL No. More and more we’d follow in Rome’s track.
SL Why stop the Romans making restitution?
HL Because they’re set upon our destitution.
SL Back in the mainstream Church we’d set to work!
HL Rather we’d lose our way in all their murk.
SL But we are strong, with bishops one and three.
HL Alas, the three with the one do not agree.
SL We’re firm in the Faith. Modernists are no threat!
HL We’d easily slide. You want to take a bet?
SL Strong in the Faith, we can afford to agree!
HL But that Faith says, from heretics to flee.
SL But Gott mit uns! We are the SSPX!
HL Not if we choose to ignore all prudent checks.
SL Were we approved, Romans would learn from us!
HL O Heavens, no! They’d throw us under the bus.
SL Were we approved, the earth of Rome could quake.
HL But not before to pieces we would shake.
SL Our leader has graces of state. We must obey.
HL Was Paul the Sixth given graces to betray?
SL Rome is now weak, meaning, we could stay strong.
HL For right, Rome’s feeble. Mighty it is for wrong.
SL So what’s the answer, if you’re always right?
How can the Church be rescued from its plight?
HL The Church belongs to God. In his good time
We’ll see his answer, stunning and sublime.
Till then we grieve, and thirst for right, and trust.
That which we cannot cure, endure we must.
From error and the erring stay away,
Even while for their immortal souls we pray.
And tell God’s truth, however few will hear –
As close as the nearest door, his help is near.

  • Joel

    Sounds more like Dr Seuss.

    • Dan

      LOL! Actually… Joel has a point!
      What an entertaining read, a mighty piece of prose.

      • To change tack here for a monmet, let us consider where the ball is. It is now in Bishop Fellay’s court.There is just no way that the Pope will accept Williamson’s two apologies. Even if he wanted to, the liberals in the curia would go wild, and the Pope has made it clear that he puts unity before doctrinal resolution: he seems to feel that, to save souls, he needs to keep the liberals in the Church, where he can affect their beliefs. He will not purge the Church of the liberals.Cardinal Re and Kasper, Daneels and Mahony, and above all, the Stalinist liberation theology Cardinal Hummes, to name just a few, will scream bloody murder if the Pope does ANYTHING, even an extension of faculties, to reconcile the S.S.P.X now–unless Fellay expels Williamson.If Fellay does not expel Williamson, the result will be a continuation of juridical irregularity for the foreseeable future. Talks on doctrine may certainly begin but we shall die of old age before they end.If Fellay does expel W., he’ll likely lose others too, but the Pope can then instantly at least grant them faculties, and this can lead to regularisation within three months to three years, I’d say.I must say: W. has put everyone on the spot. To the McFarlands and company, he is no doubt a guardian angel sent from Heaven to protect the Church. To many others, he has marginalised the S.S.P.X for the next twenty years.The Pope might respond by founding his own Rolls Royce apostolic administration for obedient traditionalists. Then he could invite Society priests to join the I.P.B. as part of it, and then proceed to put the S.S.P.X right out of business (or at least reduce its reach considerably–to irrelevancy).From my studies of the figures, the S.S.P.X is not converting the world. It is now growing at a very slow rate. Tradition with the Pope would sell better. (I apologise for the commercial terminology, which I use only for economy of expression here).But the Pope will need to do more than to clarify S.P., which is already a dead letter, thanks to episcopal obstruction. He will need to create an international diocese for tradition.P.K.T.P.

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    Oh Boy. Fr John, are you aiming to try and break the comm. record on blogs? If so, this is the way to do it.
    Here’s my 2c. I wonder how many SSPXers are behind Bp Williamson?
    It would be a grave mistake to think all SSPXers are of like mind. They are not.
    I can’t remember where I read this quote: “Schism is notoriously difficult to heal”. And also, “Schism is a breach in charity”.

  • Stephen K

    As someone who sat many a time at the refectory table next to or opposite Richard Williamson and Tissier de Mallerais and was myself fully enchanted by the charisma of Archbishop Lefebvre, I can only say that my guess would be that the SSPX is probably not appreciably less united than in those early days. Then as now, there were those who worried about the Catholicity of their ecclesiological logic. I was, myself, one of those who felt increasingly uneasy about the rigidity and independence of the conclusion. But, to be honest, in the beginning, I was no less zealous, and my best recollection is that by and large, we all had implicit trust in the Archbishop. I am of course light years away in many respects from that outlook, and I was never overly impressed by Richard Williamson personally, but I find myself harbouring an inner admiration for their endurance and persistence over the long course and I wonder whether the SSPX actually does more good for the Church by being aloof from it, excluded by it or in constant warring tension.

    • but give credit where it is do: wiuhtot them, the Catholic Church would have literally lost all of its traditions. And we ARE NOT protestants! Traditions ARE important to us! In this respect, FSSPX has done our Church an invaluable and immesuarable service. I love Catholic tradition; the more times I go to the NO, the more I realize that every true argument for a healthy Catholicism is better fulfilled by the traditional Mass.And the article is certainly slanted, and does nothing to distinguish between true and false ecumenism.However, I fail to see where the Church’s traditionalists could not have retained knowledge of her traditions wiuhtot a bishop ordaining more bishops wiuhtot permission and the lot of them labelling Catholicism en masse heretical merely because abuse of a vague idea of ecumenism was rampant, unless there was some burning in Rome of all copies of the old missal and I haven’t heard of it, or unless knowledge once unknown to common Catholics cannot be made known to them again (which I sincerely hope nobody seriously believes; it would require, what, that Catholicism be biologically inherited, like a oneupmanship of Calvinist predestination?); and furthermore wiuhtot such true necessity the argument that this need justified disobedience (already questionable at the fundamental, theoretically-ever-possible level!) is worthless rubbish.Credit where credit is due: the SSPX bishops have wrongly disobeyed Church authority and unnecessarily reinforced the stumbling-block aspect of traditionalism. They are probably right on the whole about the NO and certainly right in theory on false ecumenism (though they would do well on that last one to watch the generalized accusations!); and it is good to denounce claims that the Spirit of Vatican II is the true Faith that they are obviously in rejection of. However, they do not help the Church or her members by acting like a second Church needs to be set up to rectify this, regardless of any appearance on the surface to the contrary. I say this as a Catholic striving to live in obedience to the tradition and the magisterium that God has ordained will (not should) pass it down.I should also note that I would be perfectly happy if the Church threw back out every abusive false notion that snuck in under Vatican II’s sloppiness and perfectly happy to have the SSPX canonically functional in the Church; I only maintain that the past action on their part was anything but heroic and was an act of damage, not aid.

  • + Wolsey

    Ah – Stephen Kellett. Contemporary with Gerard Hogan.

    I thought it was you!

    But I wonder how you can write such tosh about philosophy?!?

    (cf. your comments re: Dork-, er, sorry, Dawkins.)

    • Stephen K

      Goodness gracious, independent verification! So it wasn’t a dream after all! Descartes would have been happy.

      Wolsey, you have the advantage of me. However this is not the forum in which to take ancient history further, and I’m not sure I want to in any case. My briefest reminiscence about the SSPX was only prompted by a concern to shed some first-hand perspective on an issue vulnerable to sweeping statements.

      Where Dawkins is concerned, I can only protest that I think my position about criticism of him was reasonable. I have seen him at some good moments and see his humanity and fallibility, which resembles, in certain respects, everyone else’s.

      As to philosophy, if you think I speak and think ‘tosh’ even though I think I take care with the argument of my opinions, then there’s not much I can do about it. I can only say that I think the matter is ultimately one of some elusiveness and dissatisfaction, that is, the kind that makes one want to keep trying. We do indeed keep on trying to pin things down to neat capsules of certitude – even what I’m saying now is such an attempt, I guess – but I sense that this tendency is deeply anti-wisdom for at many moments I feel much more in sympathy with Lao Tzu than Thomas Aquinas (or else feel I should be!)

    • + Wolsey

      Descartes was not happy.

      I suggest he was insane.

      Are you certain of your incertitude??

      Can you state for a fact that I have the advantage of you? Or that you were a seminarian at Econe?

    • Stephen K

      Well, they’ll have to do as working hypotheses, then. But seriously, Wolsey, I’m beginning to be concerned. My occasional solipsistic moods are one thing: your apparent readiness to certify so many as insane is quite another, and may leave you rather lonely!

      • + Wolsey

        Stephen, Stephen,

        you’re falling into epistemological difficulties again.

        Two people, Dawkins and Descartes, in anybody’s book, is not realistically “so many”. But at least, so far as Descartes goes, I’m in the excellent company of Etienne Gilson.

        I’m starting to feel concerned too – about you.

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    This blog is beginning to resemble Pseuds’ Corner from the late Private Eye.

  • Fr Brendan Arthur

    As someone who was a member of the Society for seventeen years (until the beginning of 2011), I have a keen interest in seeing my past confrères coming in out of the cold.

    Even if the other three bishops refuse the proposed solution, I don’t think they will take the majority of the priests. The reality is that day to day activity for the priests will be unlikely to change. On a very human level, all properties are held under the name of the Society and registered in Menzingen (SSPS HQ in Switzerland) so dissidents will have nowhere to go.

    My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that the vast majority if their priests in Australia will follow Bishop Fellay and the General Council. The Germans, the Swiss and the Dutch are a pragmatic lot and will follow as will the English (though not all). Italy, Spain and South America may have some difficulties, carrying some bitterness in the face of a somewhat still existing Catholic culture in their respective countries. Asia will do as it’s told. America has its hard-liners (thanks to Bishop Williamson’s formation) so is a bit hard to gauge. France is hopelessly polemical, and I would expect the biggest battle will be there.

    It will be very interesting to see the final tallies, but I hope and pray that all will take this last opportunity to take up their plaother the Church.

  • Fr Brendan Arthur

    By the way, that is classic Williamson!

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    Thanks for that, Fr Brendan. Can you explain how the SSPX voting will work? How can Bp Fellay obtain a majority vote of the GC if the other three bishops don’t vote in favour? And what did you mean by “classic Williamson”?
    An observation: This attempt towards humble and charitable reconciliation on the part of the Holy Father is bound to bring across some clerics and laity from the Society anyway.

  • Fr Brendan Arthur

    By “classic Williamson” I mean it’s in his own inimitable style: hard hitting and very witty (even if I don’t agree with the point he’s making).

    I’m not entirely sure it would go to a vote, though Bishop Fellay and his assistants might like to involve the General Chapter (consisting of Fellay, his two assistants – Pfluger and Nely – the heads of the districts and autonomous houses and the heads of seminaries) out of prudence. From what I’ve read from the District Superiors (provincials), the vote would favour the rapprochement).

  • MuMu of St Kilda

    Bp Fellay gives CNA an exclusive interview yesterday. A rather impressive character. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t return and bring the creme de la creme of the SSPX with him.

    • Fr Brendan Arthur

      I sincerely hope you’re right, Mu Mu!

  • Cathy

    Quite an amusing post. I having grown up with both elements of modernism, and traditionalist attitudes I have concluded that if one is disobedient and fails to trust the Holy Pontiff on matters such as this, one closes himself to the truth and promise Christ proclaimed, and can be found in scripture, “upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”.
    Also if one is talking about tradition, Sspx in their somewhat antisemetic attitude have failed to see that it has always been tradition to pray for our Jewish brothers. I hope and pray that the Sspx swallow their pride and actually admit that breaking waway from the Church was the wrong thing to do, and like the prodigal son return to his father so we may rejoice and celebrate, as I do believe this is the Popes intention. But as the Pope he has shown us, he has stood fast in what he must do in defending and proclaiming the Church position. When Marcel LeFebvre incurred upon his own head Automatic Excommunication according to Canon Law, Pope John Paul II was overcome with emotion and cried tears, and had to be comforted, because he knew the serious nature of what this whole saga entailed. And like Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict also holds those same concerns, let us hope that the church can get somewhere with the Sspx.

  • vlad

    Bishop Williamson talks about things that no one else will go near. In the twenty first century Christians have lost their minds – everything is thrown away supposedly so that we can become closer to those who hate Christians. Nothing is gained, Jews still loathe Christians, Muslims loathe Christians, all this “outreach” has achieved is more Christian persecution in very nearly every country. Kissing up to those who deride and persecute Christians has only made matters worse.

  • vlad

    And Cathy “Also if one is talking about tradition, Sspx in their somewhat antisemetic attitude have failed to see that it has always been tradition to pray for our Jewish brothers”, isnt it a little odd that the only people ever to experience Christs angry raised hand were the Scribes and Pharisees? Are you aware that these people were the Jewish leadership back in the noughties, and the same group still leads the Jews now?
    You can pray for those who mock you at every turn but l suggest it might be a better idea to pray for yourself, since it is your first duty to get yourself to God. Kissing up to Christs enemies doesnt win you any brownie points on thise temporal plain – or any other

    • Stephen K

      Vlad, I’m going to suggest that your final sentence reveals the fundamental flaw in your approach: winning “brownie points” – in any direction – is not what Christian faith and religion is about, and to think it is, is an arrested version of it. Though Christians have allowed themselves to become divided over verbal renditions of their understanding throughout history, thoughtful holy people from all the traditions appear to have come to insight and agreement that in the economy of “salvation”, or in the kingdom of God properly understood, human endeavours and meritocracies are incapable of “winning” anything. God is supposed – and I believe more correctly understood – to have saved us by divine grace and love, not human virtue. Each person’s faith response and the way an inter-relationship works is something of a mystery, but “brownie points” have no place.

      Thus, rather than rail against people who hate you, my sideline understanding is that the Gospel – and Jesus – asks you to love them even if you get no return on your investment. (And that includes the Jews, the Muslims and the secularists with whom you appear to have difficulties).

      We all have our challenges in the arena of love: mine include believers who think they have a special and superior creedal connection with God who also happen to vote for the Coalition. Gosh, it’s hard to love them! I’m not sure I’m a Christian to anyone else’s satisfaction, let alone my own, but if I am, I must not be so egocentric. I exhort you to soften your stance, and I promise to do so too.

      • Cathy

        Vlad, your attitude is the perfect example as to what my post is referring. Hatred does nothing but isolates one from Christ. It is Catholic tradition to pray for those who have hardened themselves to Christ and the Truth. And having said that I will continue to pray for our Jewish Brothers, and also you, as you have displayed some very harsh attitude toward the Jewish people. Just remember that Christ himself was a Jew, as is His Mother, and I am sure God desires the Jewish people to turn to Him and acknowledge Christ as the Messiah, but one has to pray this may come about. Also if you are anti Pope John Paul II, I suggest you be a little more forward about it, as many extreme traditionalist loathe him. The Church is progressive, “shock I used the word Progressive” it is the world that is regressive. Also Sspx and the like want to be stuck in 1962 and not have any more knowledge about how to apply their faith to today. we live in the world of today, build a bridge and get over it, for God made the day present, and has revealed to us over time the nesessary knowledge to apply the Gospel alongside Catholic Theology to combat the present day evil.

  • Marita

    Archbishop Lefebvre never left the Church he only ever wanted to hand down what was passed onto him in its entirety. The Church left…. Have a look at this link if you get a chance, it’s a bit hard to listen to but it fills in all the blanks and explains why the church is in the state it’s in today.
    I am a member of the SSPX and I long to be reconciled with Rome but never at the expense of truth.

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