Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Nixon goes to China: 'Pope Francis, you are the man to regularize the SSPX'"

In a post subsequently removed by EWTN's National Catholic Register minutes after it was posted by the author, a post now available on his personal website, Patrick Archbold, "Pope Francis and the SSPX: An Opportunity" (Creative Minority Report, February 25, 2014), writes, in his concluding paragraphs:
With the breakdown of discussion between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X at the end of the previous pontificate, the public mood during this first year of the current pontificate, and other internal events, traditional Catholics, both inside and outside the Church, have felt increasingly marginalized. Whether fair or true, I say without fear of contradiction that this is a prevailing sentiment.

This perception of marginalization has manifested itself in increasingly strident and frankly disrespectful rhetoric on the part of some traditionalists and their leaders.

I have great concern that without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church, that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact, without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those currently associated with the SSPX.

I have also come to believe that Pope Francis' is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.

So here is what I am asking. I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our brothers at home and not with a locked door.

Further, Pope Francis' commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous moment.

I believe this generosity is warranted and standard practice in the Church. We do not insist on religious orders that may have strayed even further in the other direction sign a copy of Pascendi Dominici Gregis before they can be called Catholic again. So please let us not insist on the corollary for the SSPX. Must we insist on more for a group that doctrinally would not have raised an eyebrow a mere fifty years ago? I pray not.

Give them canonical status and organizational structure that will protect them. Bring them home, for their sake and the sake of countless other souls. I truly believe that such generosity will be repaid seven-fold. Pope Benedict has done so much of the heavy lifting already, all that is required is just a little more.

Please Holy Father, let us not let this moment pass and this rift grow into a chasm. Make this generous offer and save the Church from further division. Do this so that none of your successors will ever say, "If only we had done more."
New Catholic comments (Rorate Caeli, February 26, 2014):
In our Quinquagesima Editorials, repeated more than once (Ecce Ascendimus Ierosolymam, 2006 and other years), we insisted that "this is the time" -- and by "the time" we meant not a specific moment, but, generally, the pontificate of Benedict XVI. We have always believed that, though negotiations are important to smooth details, only a generous and kind unilateral settlement by the Supreme Legislator could get things done -- that was the only way Summorum Pontificum was promulgated as well; if Pope Ratzinger had tried to negotiate with French and German Bishops, we would still be waiting for it... Well, Mr. Archbold is very optimistic in suggesting what is an unexpected outcome for the moment. Let us pray for the unity of the Church, and for peace inside the Fraternity of priests founded by Abp. Lefebvre.

Charity and the path up to Jerusalem and Calvary (cf. Epistle and Gospel for next Sunday, Quinquagesima): those are the only paths to salvation, peace, holiness, and unity, in the Church and in life everlasting.

*Update (0130 GMT): In an amazingly intolerant attitude, EWTN's National Catholic Register removed the post above minutes after it was posted by Patrick Archbold. This reminds us of the pure words of Benedict XVI exactly on this same affair, in a letter fully written by the Pope Emeritus personally:
Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.
In this case, not the Pope Emeritus, but poor Pat Archbold. EWTN's National Catholic Register and their intolerance just proved Benedict XVI right - one more time! It cannot be that Pentecostals have full presence in their paper, and their own Catholic brothers and sisters (whose priests are in an irregular situation, but are still priests, celebrating Catholic sacraments every single day) do not. How can unity ever be achieved thus? Curiously enough, we are pretty confident that Francis would be the first to reject this demeaning level of servility and sycophancy.
[Hat tip to JM]




The reaction I always get to any call of unity involving the SSPX is that the SSPX isn't "worthy" of "returning to the fold."

People cite Fellay's comments about Pope Francis's "modernism," and his gratitude that the SSPX wasn't brought "back into the fold" under the chaos of his administration, or the Society's entanglements with Williamson's holocaust-denials, etc.

What such people are almost never willing to concede, however, is that the Church's "own house" is in shocking disorder. Sure, the hierarchy is formally in place. But from same-sex scandals and financial corruption in the Vatican Bank, to parish-after-parish that is allowed to meander in the swamps of doctrinal confusion and rot, the Church is far from being in good shape.

In fact, anyone who doesn't experience some level of cognitive discomfort over the discrepancy between the Church's cold shoulder toward the SSPX and its warm embrace of Pentecostal yahoos, not to mention the "pass" it gives to the Charlie Currans and Hans Kungs and Richard McBriens, must be either ignorant or lacking in the most basic sentiments of filial charity.

Michael F.


I thought you might like to see this positive resolution, Phil. Miscommunication was partially responsible for the problem.




[I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. ]

It is not true that the Second Vatican Council is "non-dogmatic" even if the nature of the Second Vatican Council in some respects was not like many of its predecessors. See this thread for more details:


Pertinacious Papist



I think your point is well-taken. For myself, I agree that if an ecumenical council like the Second Vatican Council makes declarations that bear doctrinal implications, these need to be treated as magisterial teachings.

The difficulty I encounter is this: I see several different new emphases that emerge from the Council's declarations and constitutions that go beyond re-affirmations of previously-defined doctrines, but I'm not sure I could state in unambiguous terms what the new content of those emphases is.

For example, I see a new emphasis on openness towards "ecumenical" dialogue with our "separated brethren," as well as on dialogue with non-Christians (Jews and Muslims and atheists). I see a new emphasis on religious freedom of conscience in Dignitatis Humanae and in Nostra Aetate.

If asked to state in propositions what the doctrinal development in these new emphases might be, however, I am at a bit of a loss. It's not as if all of this isn't in seed form in St. Thomas Aquinas and earlier Church documents already.

I am not making these points in order to be pugnacious or divisive. I'm simply at a loss to know exactly what the point of the Council was beyond this: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2005/08/why-second-vatican-council-was-good.html. But I'm not sure even this altogether solves the question as to what is new in terms of what can be stated in propositional content. Maybe you can help?