Friday, September 21, 2012

The Clear and Distinct as Gift

With a genuinely upright enthusiasm, I wish to thank RORATE CAELI for posting the YouTube video interview in German with Fr. Schmidberger. This priest has always distinguished himself for his clear and distinct ideas, for the noble and profound way he makes his analysis. This video is no exception.

As much as it pains me to hear him step back from the path of full communion with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, where only it is to be found, Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia, I can deal with and appreciate his level-headed-ness.

As I was listening to the interview, however, it came to me that the possibility of renewing the excommunication and extending it to all who adhere to the brotherhood if they refuse the Holy Father's extended hand, ought perhaps to be excluded for another reason and that on ecumenical (within or without the Church) grounds. Excommunication, as an imposed penalty today, should be salutary in its intent and working. Excommunication should work for the Church today like it did in the words of St. Paul. I turn the man (cohabiting with his father's wife) over to Satan in hopes of saving his soul and in the meantime eliminating a cause of great scandal within the body of the Church. After so many years away from us, you would have to find arguments for convincing me that a renewed or extended excommunication would bring the brotherhood to its knees and home to Peter, or that the brotherhood's continued separate existence through scandal, by reason of our acquiescence to the separation, risks the kind of scandal among Catholics which could put the eternal salvation of members of the Catholic Church at risk. 

Ecumenical, I say, because I doubt if the penalty of excommunication could be effectively used today to return anyone who is still separated from us to full communion.

 The question for me and I think for Fr. Schmidberger is always the same: What happens when that clear-headed elite of which he is the stellar example passes from the scene? Who will steer the course? Whence comes the indefectibility or infallibility? 

We must redouble our prayers for the unity of Christ's Church cum et sub Petro.


  1. Your Excellency, I think that it would be very difficult to say that the continuance of the SSPX as it is would cause grave scandal.

    I would expect a general excommunication - may it never be necessary! - to weaken the society. Some priests and seminarians would leave, some affiliates might leave, and some donors might give up. The bigger effects might well be seen int he huge loss of sympathy for the SSPX from non-SSPX-aligned traditionalist clergy and lay people. The excommunication would have to come only after it was pretty definitive that 'normalization' was not going to occur. There are - at least online - a lot of traditionalists (myself included), even those who attend SSPX chapels (among who I am not and never have been), whose sympathy and support for the SSPX is at least primarily contingent on them actually being 'normalized' at some point and their movement toward that normalization. A general excommunication would dramatically weaken the SSPX's influence in broader traditionalist Catholicism, as it were, and would, I think, really harm its potential for growing both in terms of new seminarians and in terms of new lay people in the pews. Right now it's 'ok' to go to their Masses, give them a bit of money, give them verbal support, etc. Were the entire society excommunicated, well, it wouldn't be any more.

    In short, a full-out excommunication after it was settled that the SSPX were not going to be normalized would make the SSPX into an island unto itself, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that come with that. Of course, were such a thing to be settled, it would be a lot easier, I think, to argue that not excommunicating them all would be scandalous. Compounding the issue, in such a situation, I think that it would disproportionately be the 'clear heads' in the SSPX who would leave in favour of normalization).

    That's my two cents, anyway, however off the mark I actually am.

    1. Thank you, Hidden One! Your formulate some things for me that add much to my appreciation of relationships today.
      I repeat, however, that from my own canonical background I cannot see the urgency of the Church moving to excommunicate. What will happen is that if the brotherhood does not decide to risk the divisions in the group which many think will arise from a return to full communion, the four bishops or the survivor or survivors among them will proceed to new ordinations of bishops incurring automatically excommunication for themselves and the illicitly but validly ordained.

      At that point it will not be the same as when Archbishop Lefebvre did it almost in desperation and I think the Church will have to teach.

      Other canonists may have another reading. Other shepherds might see their role of nurturing and defending the flock differently.

    2. Your Excellency, I think that if we came to a point where it was quite apparent that the SSPX was not willing to come in corporately, something would have to be done. Some provision (perhaps informal) to sift out those who really do want normalization (for which they would have realized the futility of) would need to come into effect and then I think that there would need to be something definitive and basically inarguable that sets out that the SSPX 'are not ok' to support anymore (if I am right and a lot of Rome's present tolerance comes from a hope for 'normalization' and the SSPX's ostensible willingness and even desire for its occurrence).

      Perhaps an excommunication would not be necessary, but I don't know what could replace it. Their clergy are already suspended a divinis, if I recall correctly. I really can't think of anything short of a blanket excommunication that would get the message through convincingly (not to the SSPX, but to its supporters).

      Once new episcopal consecrations are on the table - may it not come to this! - things get more complicated. Among other things, SSPXers may deny the validity of excommunications for consecrating new bishops, but a blanket excommunication on other grounds (perhaps the refusal of a direct papal command to submit or something along those lines) could be a lot harder to deny the validity of. I really hope that my theorizing is all for naught.

      It would be quite a miracle were the SSPX to come in as a body, without losing anyone or anything of real significance. I hope for it nonetheless.

    3. Dear Hidden One! Thank you! I see your point and if we were dealing with heresy, as was the case a few years ago with adherents to the errors of the so-called Army of Mary (those claiming 5 persons in the Godhead), your solution would go. Here the issue is neither heresy nor gross immorality; we are dealing in many cases with people who have grown up and discovered their vocation to priesthood exclusively within the framework of the SSPX.

      The question for me is why should we offer them a Church structure when we have examples of other groups which have already entered in or have come to be within the Catholic Church and are making a great contribution? Why can't the SSPXers pick a group already existing and join them while offering let's say their seminaries in Econe or Winona to one of the existing groups? If they receive a form of personal prelature, what will happen to others who have born the "heat of the day"?

      I'm not saying that the path the Holy Father has chosen is wrong, but perhaps that he could have been less generous with deference to others who have never separated themselves from us?

  2. (Warning written after comment below: I meandered. Please forgive me.)

    Your Excellency, I provide in reply the examples of the Transalpine Redemptorists (Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer) and the Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans. The Sons of Most Holy Redeemer were once a religious group affiliated with the SSPX; now they are a canonically recognized religious congregation in union with Rome. (That it took so long after their reception is a scandalous disaster that made many traditionalists suspicious and was genuinely injurious to the return of others.) Meanwhile, if the Anglican priests received via Anglicanorum Coetibus did not grow up and discover their vocation to the priesthood exclusively outside of any framework in communion with Rome, I don't know who would qualify! Along with the first Ordinariate came a small congregation of Anglican nuns, as I recall. I do not, therefore, think being generous to the SSPX either out of character or problematic (compared to not being generous) given the above examples of how other groups have been treated.

    On a more practical level, if the Holy Father denies they SSPX the ability to return as a body, they will not return.

    As to those who have born the heat of the day: it is my impression that most of them either want the SSPX to be normalized so as to strengthen the Church or they don't much care for the SSPX (often considering their members schismatics). Of course, many in the SSPX believe that it is the SSPX that has born the heat of the day - that, for example, they are responsible for Summorum Pontificum.

    I would rather have generosity than its absence, and am already sufficiently tired of personally dealing with problems caused by the SSPX's disconnect with Rome that I would relish the opportunity to put those efforts toward comforting the old guard who really did fight the good fight and remained with the Church (and who are responsible for this youngster convert appreciated the ancient tradition of the Church in which he was not raised). Let's remember, too, that the SSPX would not be getting off scot-free. There are spiritual implications of being in their present position, and they are not positive.

    As to why they cannot join another group: what group is large enough not to be swamped if even a quarter of the SSPX presbyterate jumped ship and swam home? The FSSP isn't big enough to handle such an influx (although I imagine they'd be up for the challenge) and the second largest group, the ICRSS, has something like 60 priests altogether, which is (I think) more than every other EF-only group outside of Campos has combined. (As long as the Church admits the reality of a charism for the FSSP et al., I could hardly 'condemn' an ex-SSPX priest to saying the Novus Ordo against his will.) Blending a large number of ex-SSPX priests into dioceses would be problematic both in having to find dioceses that would take them and in the fact that SSPX priests would lose the community that they presently have. I know that a number are posted solo or go on Mass circuits and suchlike, but deanery meetings don't make up for losing the fraternal aspect of a life such as theirs (at least, according to every diocesan priest I've ever talked to about it, which admittedly is a very small percentage of all of them representing a very small percentage of deaneries in a very small number of countries).

    I wouldn't be surprised if a normalized SSPX offered spots to non-SSPX seminarians in its seminaries (if they have room). I believe that the FSSP does that, at least in principle. Handing them over would be another matter.

  3. The FSSP was founded by ex-SSPXers; if another good group of SSPX priests/seminarians wants to come in (ahead of the SSPX or if the SSPX gives up on normalization), they'll be apt to found a new community different from the old in as little as possible, and I don't see why they should be stopped. And if the superior of the SSPX wants to come in with a bunch of other members of the SSPX and keep the name, websites, etc., that's fine by me. Give them native-to-Rome episcopal oversight in the person of His Eminence Cardinal Ranjith and everyone should be happy. For one thing, His Eminence will have more seminary staff! :-) Actually, that's probably an archdiocese that would be quite willing to absorb a fair number of SSPX priests if it came down to it.

    I think that the bigger problem is not too much generosity with those who have separated, but not enough with those who have not. But that is several decades of history that is hopefully coming to the end.

    On a different note, but not one unrelated to the reconciliation of the SSPX, it would be a nice surprise - and useful and cunning move - if a member of, say, the FSSP were suddenly selected as a titular bishop and appointed to some role in Ecclesia Dei and if said bishop continued to only offer the EF (and was consecrated using it, too).

    1. Thanks, Hidden One! I am most grateful for your insights! Too bad this is not my field of competency at curial level, I'd make an effort in your direction at least in some points.

      Personally, that many people have suffered over these decades for their faithfulness to Rome does not trouble me. There is merit in their suffering in unity with the Cross of Christ. This side of heaven we will never know fully all that has been given for the salvation of the world and the upbuilding of the Church thanks to their long-suffering.

    2. Your Excellency, I am have just been pleased and surprised that you have appreciated my remarks. I hope one day to have the pleasure of meeting you (in this world, but I'd settle for a joyful meeting in the next).

      Without their long-suffering, I do not know what would have happened to me when - still pre-RCIA - already convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, I was suddenly confronted with the present liturgical situation of the Church (which would undoubtedly be much worse than it is) and its history.

    3. Communion in a formal way while in every other way..doctrinal and liturgical actually not being in communion?
      The truth is in your average Catholic diocese clergy do as they want with impugnity. In my own diocese the Archdiocese of Adelaide clergy still make up the Mass as they go without using the liturgical books. They canonise personal theology and opinions inflicting them on the laity.
      Our ancestors knew the need for CLEAR definitions and clear discipline particularly after the Counter Reformation. Authority the Papacy has allowed itself to be an instrument of confusion after Vatican II. Why should it be any different than history? The Papacy in previous centuries through ommission and commission has made many mistakes. Simony, concubinage, silence, and being conformed to the times> The Church has to be bigger than this and that is why Tradition is so central. So when the centre losses its way the Church counter balances the mistakes!

    4. Dear John Fisher!

      I know what you are saying and have been confronted with the scandal of such, notably liturgical abuse as you refer to it in Adelaide, in other places I have been assigned.

      Each of us, however, has to contribute especially through prayer to the recovery through reform. Without the Holy Father I cannot just stake out a territory of my own as faithful and orthodox. Yes, I separate myself from evil and wrong-doing, but I cannot create my own hierarchy, establish my own "church" or society separate from the Successor of Peter. In a word, I have to be as tenacious as St. Catherine of Siena.

  4. Your Excellency,

    I simply don't understand why the SSPX is being to a different standard from others, both left and right (for lack of better terms), who remain in full communion.

    The SSPX professes the Deposit of Faith, while others in the Church question or reject some very basic tenets in the Creed, even.

    Basically, the SSPX position can be boiled down to three points.

    1. Jesus Christ is the founder of the Catholic Church.
    2. Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father except through me."
    3. There are ambiguities in the Council which seem to conflict with the first two points.

    I agree with all three points, yet if you asked two Archbishops whom I know (one is a friend, the other a good acquaintance) they would tell you that I'm a Catholic in good standing.

    I simply don't understand.

    1. Dear FranzJosef!

      The issue has never been faith, as in adherence to the Creed. The issue is one of discipline. The SSPX is a priestly fraternity which is not anchored within the institutional Church.

      Archbishop Lefebvre brought automatic excommunication upon himself and the 4 bishops he ordained because you can't ordain a bishop without a Papal mandate. The lifting of the excommunication was a conciliatory gesture on the part of the Pope in hopes of achieving a full reconciliation and a place for these bishops within the Catholic Church.

      According to church law, you cannot absolutely ordain a priest: he must either be a religious ordained for his religious congregation with letters from his legitimate superior or he must be ordained for the service of a diocese by the bishop himself or with letters from him. Right now, in contrast to the ancient laws of the Church they are something not allowed, if you will "priests at large".

      The Holy Father wishes to see the priestly fraternity with its bishops as part of the Catholic Church.

  5. Thank you, your Excellency, for your prompt response.

    So the lack of canonical status is the main thing?

    I'm guessing there are some in the Roman curia who don't want them to have official status because they refuse to stop talking about ambiguities in the Council documents. Yet, before he was pope, the Holy Father said (or wrote) that he could understand people having problems with some things in Gaudium et Spes (which inspired neither in me when I read the document; some of the statements are quite shocking and naive in a '60's kind of way). Probably those same curial officials don't much care for the Pope either.

    Best to you. Please pray for me as I will for you.

  6. My family and I have been associated with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) for many years. We thank Our Lord and Our Lady for bringing us to the Faith, and to Tradition. Many of us truly hope for canonical recognition someday, and so we pray for our Holy Father, that he not "flee for fear of the wolves" within his own Curia.

    We are what you once were.
    We believe what you once believed.
    We worship as you once worshipped.
    If you were right then, we are right now.
    If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.
    - Traditional Catholic Motto (since 1965)

  7. Where are the calls for excommunication for all the leftists in the Church? The pro-abortion, pro-homosexual etc groups that openly reject the Church's moral teaching. The Church has also exteneded a hand out to them and they continue to reject it. Surely those that claim to be Catholic but support the mass murder of babies are far more dangerous than the SSPX. And yet its seems a double standard clearly exists, there seems to be different rules for tradtional minded Catholics than liberal ones.

    1. If the Church is 'kinder' to "the leftists" than to traditionalists, is it not because the traditionalists are being held to a higher standard? Who is held to the higher standard: the child with little potential, or the child with great potential?

      If one man is in great error and another man's error is little, is it not the case that both men are in error? And is it not the case that the man whose error is the lesser cannot excuse himself before a judge by saying that another man is in more grievous error?

    2. Dear KnightofChrist!

      I'm not calling for anyone's excommunication, but if the SSPX believes it is Catholic, it has to understand that Church Law considers certain crimes punishable with automatic excommunication: abortion and for those who cooperate in the crime; ordaining a bishop without a Papal mandate.


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