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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI invested much of his pontificate in trying to achieve reconciliation with the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X. But after years of negotiations, their relationship with the Vatican remains, as much in Benedict's pontificate, unfinished business.

25 Comments

  1. You pose the idea from one direction: the continued concern (JP2, B16) the papacy (papa) has for the disruptive and disobedient children that form the SSPX, and the attempt to reconcile those children to Mother Church.

    How about from the other direction? SSPX has been offered many opportunities to reconcile, which they have willfully rejected. Are they any different than any other heretical group which has demanded the Church adopt THEIR point of view. If you look at SSPX, it is simply a splinter group…..I use the term advisedly. Their own group cannot formulate a concerted response to the offers made to them. Their only answer is “no”. My point is that SSPX has lost its last real chance for brotherly reconciliation with the resignation of B16. The next pope may not even care that SSPX exists, any more than he offers Lutherans the opportunity for an odinariate of their own.

    In my own personal view, as a life-long, faithful (I hope) Catholic, why do we even care what these wayward children do? Will the Church have to “baby-sit” them for hundreds of years if they do reconcile? It seems to me that, once separated from Mother Church, it is the responsibility of the prodigal to ask for reconciliation. In the meantime, let them stew in their own meanness and obstinacy.

    I can see the new pope acting more charitably than me. So he will wait…..but I don’t think he will fret over SSPX’s rebellion. He will be patient, and kind, and welcoming WHEN THEY RETURN. But he has too many other challenges and duties to spend much time worrying about this tiny group of miscreants.

    Just my (humble) opinion.

    • The church is in a shambles, losing priests and parishioners steadily since Vatican II. The ones that hang on have a false sense of obedience (nay, convenient obedience) to the errant prelates, and don’t understand, or prefer to ignore their duties as Catholics. The church is willing to excommunicate traditionalists who have violated no dogma, but seems powerless against pedophiles and lechery. She tolerates all forms of teaching contrary to Dogma and the Deposit of Faith, but loudly condemns any form of perceived antisemitism. This church is not separate from the world, as is the Society, but of the world, and good Catholics need to understand ,that not only is it their right to reject fallible teaching, but their duty. God strengthen Bishop Fellay!

  2. I’ve always found it curious that a group of so called traditionalists would have a such a problem with authority. It’s so confusing to me…what makes Lefebvre/Fellay any different than Martin Luther in the sense that both were convinced they are right and the Church is wrong. My wisdom is greater than the Church. 100% pure pride.

    My opinion is that the next Pope should make one more push with SSPX leadership using new personalities. If that fails (and it likely will), the next step should be to begin trying to pick off as many SSPX “bishops” and “priests” as they can followed by a direct outreach to their lay members. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter could be a huge help here. Surely there are many within the society that are reasonable??

    • JZ;
      You’ve got that wrong. The “group” that you are criticizing are not saying that the Church is wrong––they are saying the bishops and the popes since the Second Vatican Council are wrong. The error is with the modernists. If St Pope Pius X were standing here today he would once again condemn modernism and Vatican II. If you ever read anything this saint wrote you wouldn’t be so critical with those you call the “traditionalists”

      Sadly, and I mean this respectfully, you are simply uninformed. Like the low-information voters who support Obama, you are simply doing what you’ve been told to do. You would be wise to learn more about what progressive/liberal Catholic priests and bishops are telling you before you blindly embrace their anti-dogmatic views. They are human and can be very wrong. You should know that all of these terrible events that we are now witnessing in the Church today were forecast by Our Blessed Mother at Fatima. Yet, the modernist popes and the bishops of the Church say nothing about that event and even try to hide it. You should read about it some time.

      As for Luther, before you become too hypercritical of him, you might learn that most of the “reforms” adopted by the Second Vatican Council and the later modernists were ideas advanced by Luther. Where do you think those ideas of the bishops to abandon the Latin Mass, have the priest face away from Jesus Christ, and moving Tabernacle off to the side actually came from? REad about it; it was Luther. If you were alert you’d realize the priests and bishops have all but abandoned the use of the word “Catholic”, and use instead the word “Christian”. This is simply a “protestantization” of the Church.

      Order The Catholic News (or pick up anything by John Vennari) and educate yourself a bit. As a Catholic who has been a daily Communicant for many decades, I have no intention of abandoning Jesus Christ who can only be found in the Blessed Sacrament in a Catholic Church. As for those modernist priests and bishops who still provide that Sacrament for me, I’ll continue to pray for them.

      Tom O’Reilly

      • SSPX saying “the bishops and popes are wrong” is exactly just like Martin Luther. Pope Paul VI to Lefebvre: ” But it remains true that some priests and members of the faithful mask with the name “Conciliar” those personal interpretations and .erroneous practices that are injurious, even scandalous, and at times sacrilegious. But these abuses_cannot be attributed either to the Council itself or to the reform that have legitimately issued therefrom, but rather to a lack of authentic fidelity in their regard. You want to convince the faithful that the proximate cause of the crisis is more than a wrong interpretation of the Council and that it flows from the Council itself “

        • It is the ambiguity of the Council that allows for those personal interpretations that Abp LaFebvre predicted, and made the church theocracy into a democracy, powerless against corruption. Abp LaFebvre wasn’t the only soul predicting what we have today. Virtually all of the Popes of the early 20th century declined convening an Ecumenical Council, because they saw a high potential of hijacking.

    • Does a young man who rejects the advances of a homosexual priest, supported by his bishop, have a problem with authority? Or does he obey the sum of church teachings down through the centuries? Indeed, it sounds like you are confused about authority.
      The human element of the church is in crisis. It doesn’t mean the gates of hell have prevailed. It means good Catholics need to get out their Catechism, and review their duties as Catholics, one of which is to discern false teachers, and give them no quarter.

  3. Dear Mr Speciale

    On the one hand the Catholic Church’s relationship with the FSSPX should be normal since, as far as I am aware, the FSSPX has not (yet) preached or taught anything contrary to Catholic Doctrine. On the other hand the FSSPX was founded precisely because non-Catholic tendancies and neo-Protestant, neo-Modernist influences appeared to have taken the driving seat and was ready to jettison authentic, Catholic doctrine in favour of heterodox theological leanings and on this hand a dissonance has these past fifty years been heard between all the theology prior to Vatican II and the (in part) conflicting ‘teaching’ of Vatican II.

    The FSSPX is not, as you state, ‘a splinter group’. The FSSPX is not ‘ultra conservative. The FSSPX teaches nothing that has not always been Catholic Doctrine, as given and promulgated by Rome up to and including most of Vatican II’s promulgated documents. The FSSPX teaches what the Catholic Church has always taught, with neither additions nor exclusions. The Vatican cannot condemn the FSSPX for heterodox teaching of the Faith for it knows to its discomfort that such would be positively the last accusation or charge that it could make against the FSSPX. This fact is, of course, frustratingly inconvenient to the CDF but completely incontrovertible.

    The FSSPX has no wish to make or constitute a ‘new’ Church….It refuses only to teach what is not Catholic. It does not establish a different Magisterium – as far as the Vatican holds, teaches and proclaims the integral and undiluted Catholic Faith the FSSPX must, by its nature, not only submit to that authentic teaching but in pursuit of its Apostolate it must also defend and support that Magisterium’s authentic teaching. The FSSPX would not have been able to reject ‘Benedict’s repeated overtures’ had those overtures been underpinned by sound Catholic teaching and a real understanding and acceptance of the problems with Vatican II that caused the need for the FSSPX in the first place.

    The FSSPX does not threaten the Vatican with anything, at all. To say that it does demonstrates either a profound ignorance of the realities or a sinister desire to pervert the truth and the facts to suit your own agenda, Mr Speciale.
    Which, only you and God will know with certainty. I will not speculate. That said, your article is full of errors and (deliberate?) selective ‘facts’. I can respond to them individually and in the order of their publication but I doubt you would like that, very much, and so you will not invite me to do so for fear of appearing to the world to be the ecclesial dilletante that I suspect you are, in reality.

    • Arrogant nonsense. You cannot on one hand say that SSPX teaches nothing that is contrary to Catholic doctrine and then turn around and reject (even some of) Vatican II. The Church has ALWAYS taught that the teachings of ecumenical councils called by the Roman Pontiff hold the highest level of magisterial authority. If you reject that, you reject the Catholic faith.

      Additionally both Pope Benedict and JPII specifically ordered SSPX officials to stop ALL ordinations of priests and bishops and disbanded the SSPX. Do you claim to be above papal authority? No bishop can be ordained without the consent of the Pope…this is spelled out clearly in Canon law. Do you claim to be above Canon Law?

      You do not get to make up your own faith and rules and then turn around and call it Catholic. What you are claiming is no different than any other Protestant group that claims to be returning to Christian roots that never existed. At least most of our Protestant brothers and sisters have the ability to see the folly of claiming to be the Catholic Church and then outright rejecting her teachings. What SSPX is doing is more similar to “liberal” unorthodox Catholics who claim to hold a true Catholic faith while rejecting Church teachings…the two groups simply disagree on what areas the true faith has erred.

      As for the nonsense that SSPX isn’t a splinter group, here is a statement from Pope Benedict himself in 2009 that should clear this up:

      “As long as the Society [of St. Pius X] does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church…Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers…do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

      • John Rathowen

        Dear jz

        ‘Arrogant nonsense’, is it? Ok, as you wish. I am sure you must be right which means that any and all who disagree with you, your ideas or your opinions must be wrong. You are unable to abide an opinion other than your own. I am sorry that is so but your thunderous – and thunderously ‘arrogant’ – hectoring impress me but a little less than not at all.

        I am fully able to refute your very unconciliar claims but whatever I say will not meet with your approval and will serve only to encourage you to a further paroxism of rage and fury. ‘Dialogue’ means little to you, I perceive, but you are not alone in that. If you refuse dialogue and civilised debate then any response from me is in vain but for that, alone, I am sorry.
        If anyone of average to above average intelligence can only rant and rave then we may only pity their inadequacy and lack of self confidence.

        • LOL…now that’s funny. You sir are on the wrong side of the See of Saint Peter not me. It is not my nor is it your opinion that matters, but the teaching authority of the Church expressed by Popes JPII and Benedict. I have zero self confidence in matters of Church teaching or discipline…I do however have full confidence in the Catholic Church.

          The truly sad part of this is that people like you and me are most likely natural allies in the faith. We both love the faith, traditional spirituality, and see the threat posed by a great many modernist tendencies. I just can’t get past that whole disobedience to the pope thing.

          In an effort to save the Church, SSPX in fact weakened it by pulling many faithful away from parishes that could have really used their influence. At a minimum they could have taken the path of The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and given the faithful a licit way of practicing traditional spirituality. This is very sad and I pray for full reconciliation.

          • Dr John Rathowen

            Dear jz

            You say ‘I just can’t get past the disobedience to the Pope thing.

            I will if, you and the Moderator will permit me, return to question – and the very real problem, let me declare – that both you and I face of ‘obedience’.

            For now, let me but recall the words of St Thomas Moore on the scaffold “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first”. Obedience is first to God, the Blessed and Most Holy Trinity, and to the Faith that God has revealed to us. Even Our Blessed Lady, Mary the Mother of God, is obedient to the Faith of Her Divine Son. If (God forbid – indeed it is impossible) if Our Lady said anything that even appeared to conflict with Christ’s Faith then we may – we must – ignore her. Such a thing is, I believe, quite impossible for Our Lady but a Priest, a Bishop or even the Pope is just as likely to err as you or I , the ‘grace of state’ notwithstanding.

            It is a ‘toughie’, is it not?

            and

  4. JZ––Just standing to the side and observing, John Rathowen makes a good point about gentle discourse. It is important. But you make a good point as well when you say that all of us have more in common than that which might tend to divide us.
    Perhaps, the difficulty here is that you and John are battling over the truth or falsity of the SSPX––of which neither one of you (I humbly presume) are intimately involved. You see, the SSPX only exists because of a firm belief of Bishop Lefevbre (and many others), that Vatican II advanced a number of false Catholic teachings that should be condemned, not followed. Even Pope Paul VI, in 1972, admitted that the “smoke of satin has entered the temple of God”. He could only have been speaking of the Council.
    You seem to have taken the position that whatever the pope and the bishops have to say about Church teaching must be followed. That is both wrong and foolish. St Athanasius could well attest to that. And whether or not St John Crysostom’s supposed quote about the road to hell being paved with the skulls of erring priests and bishops is accurate or not, there is a point to be made––the priests and bishops and popes fall prey to the temptations of the devil just as well as the lay people.
    Be wise by carefully reading what many thoughtful people that love Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church as much as I know you do have been saying on the serious errors of Vatican II.

  5. Dr John Rathowen

    I am on the side and I faithfully follow all the Popes in so far as they faithfully hold and teach the Truth that Holy Mother Church received and passed on to us from Our Blessed Lord, His Apostles and Saints. I stand unashamedly with all the Saints in Heaven in professing one Church, one Faith and one Divine Lord. The Truth is immutable, as is Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Christ does not change and so His Truth does not change. Moreover, it does not appear to change. Linguam Latinam quam docuit me pater meus manet semper idem. The meaning of the words does not change to suit fashion or times – that is Modernism, the very worst that heresy has to offer.The meaning being unchanging it is imprudent, you must agree, to allow it to appear for mere presentation’s sake that the words have today a significance that is not in continuity with what went before. To risk misunderstanding through verbal imprecision or carelessness is not, today, and never has been acceptable to the Catholic Church, agreed?

    I am fully able to take and in good conscience to swear the Anti-Modernist Oath, as formulated by Pope St Pius X. Most of the Clergy of my generation – I am 61 – took that Oath. I wonder how many of today’s Presbyters and Bishops would be able to join me.

    So, there you have my profession of adherence to the authentic magisterium and my ‘caveats’, if you wish to see them as such. I hope you understand my position, which is entirely in keeping with that of a faithful Catholic. If I am less ‘accepting’ of less than doctrinal statements or utterances – no matter how ‘high’ the utterer – I have both a right and a duty to be so, especially in a world and a time when even Prelates play with words, sometimes to the detriment of the general understanding of the Catholic Faith. On the day I received ‘First Tonsure’ I (privately) promised my celibacy to Christ. He has been faithful to me ‘in minimis’ and His Grace has sustained me to this day so that I was enabled to ‘bide my sacrament’, may His Name be praised. I will not, now or ever, willingly or knowingly betray Him or His Faith. No more can I betray what I know as the Catholic Church, no matter who asks me to compromise for ecumenical or allegedly ‘pastoral’ reasons. That way leads to my damnation because that way is not Christ – the sole Way, Truth and Lord.

  6. We have to see what the “Doctrinal Preamble” says first.

    This is the agreement the Society must sign in order to be canonically regularised.

    If in all honesty Bishop Fellay cannot sign to certain principles, written in the Agreement, in good conscience, then it is right he did not sign.

    I am not saying he would be right or wrong

    but,

    After all is it right to lie?

    • Dr John Rathowen

      Dear Dan Hunter

      Bishop Fellay did not see fit to show the Doctrinal Preamble to any of the FSSPX Bishops or to the General Chapter. This seems very stupidly authoritarian to me. Small wonder Tradcats are calling him ‘Dictator Fellay’

      I do not believe there is much, if anything, in it that Bishop Fellay would not eagerly sign but that says much more about Bishop Fellay’s romantic and entirely unrealistic vision of a reformed FSSPX than it does about the FSSPX, as founded by Archbishop Lefebvre. That Bishop Fellay has not already signed is due only to the stance of the FSSPX General Chapter at the Albano meeting. Bishop Fellay’s scheme in forbidding Bishop Williamson to attend was to render acceptance of the unseen Doctrinal Preamble easier to obtain. He was wrong, as we can see. He will bide his time and work his will, later and further down the road. He will betray the FSSPX founder and he will sell out the Fraternity for the mess of neo-Modernist potage whose sweet smell began to entice him, some twenty and more years ago.

      Watch and pray. Watch and pray. Fifteen decades every day……

  7. In Inter Gravissimas, Pope Pius IX that individuals, no matter how learned or devout, are not the interpreters of Tradition. If the Church through her sacred Magisterium is the judge of Trad ition, then, it follows, that the ultimate judge is —the Popee, since the Pope has the primacy over the whole Church,as defined by the First Vatican Council. This does not mean that the Pope is above Tradition; he is rather the servant of it; but from his office he is necessarily the ultimate judge and interpreter of it.

    • Dr John Rathowen

      True, Adoration Servants, but we would have avoided this problem had Paul VI been other than he was, had ++Bugnini been other than he was, had Benedict XVI been other than he was and in each case at the time of Vatican II. The problems of our present day predate the Council by many decades but the 1950s and the immediate post-WWII era are of particular interest since they introduced a degree of entirely false comfort to the psyche of all Catholics (and others) up and down the hierarchy of the Church. Too many of our Clergy became lazy – yes, I mean to use the word ‘lazy’ – and too comfortable in their lives, seeing themselves as sacred characters residing in their presbyteries to whom the laity should come when they felt they needed advice – Sacrament dispensing machines on two legs and really little more. Educating the laity did not really rank very high on the agenda and the tyranny of false obedience to the Priest softened us up for all the neo-modernist abuses that came with and after VII, though the plans for them had been formulated years before. In theological terms, to tolerate ambiguity is no less damnable than knowingly preaching a lie. Tradition has always been a solid safeguard against that sleight of hand but when Prelates and supposedly expert theologians are ‘easy’ with hermeneutics that withstand very little real examination then Holy Church has a serious problem because she declines ever closer to the point where not only do her human leaders not know truth from falsehood but where indifferentism and syncretism become acceptable to the highest ecclesiastical authorities who then, in a fever of ‘ecumenical love’ place the Buddha and the Koran alongside the Body of Christ on Assisi’s altars.

      • Dr John Rathowen,

        What you have written has been very illuminating and I’m thankful for your commentary. Thanks also to Tom. My question is whether it is valid to accept the Holy Sacrament at a SSPX church? Is it still the Body of Christ? Also, what is the difference between attending a SSPX Mass or a FSSP celebrated Mass if any? The Traditional Latin Mass is still very difficult to find in my neck of the woods. I’m not sure the average parishioner even understands the nature of Modernism or has read the encyclicals of Pope St. Pius X mentioned, Pascendi Dominici Gregis and The Oath Against Modernism. This makes it so much easier for us to fall victim to it and incorporate modernism into our lives. The Devil is very smart.

        The average parishioner is simply pushed along like a leaf on water. We accept with utter obedience no more kneeling for communion, communion in the hands, etc. I thank the SSPX for bring to our attention some of the excesses of the post-Conciliar church and encouraging a return to the Traditional Latin Mass.

        • The church considers SSPX mass valid and licit if there are no other TLM’s available in your area. I think we can all agree the church is in a grave crises, and it makes one wonder which sacraments are still valid in any particular RC church. Or are their tribunals judging the validity of prior marriages correct, for example? It puts us all in grave danger, as predicted by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  8. Dr John Rathowen

    I only wish I could memorize every word of what you have spoken here. I am 27 and unfortunately have not been able to live in a world prior to Vatican II. Your points are irrefutable. Bravo. God bless.

  9. Firstly, the Vatican II is not a Dogmatic Council, taking into considerations the earlier Council! Its not necessary we follow its teaching!
    Secondly Papal Infallibility lacks since the council is not dogmatic!
    Thirdly there is enough Doctrinal Evidence that Archbishop Lefebvre was not wrong on what he did!
    “Faith” is greater than “obedience”, Vatican II has got a lot of “Doctrinal Errors” which contradict the Dogmas of the “Catholic Church”.
    Criticism without knowing reality is something really foolish!
    Not here to argue, just to help you know the facts!
    Since just like Vatican II which did not want to define the Conciliar Teachings! Arguments without knowing the real facts is unending!
    You can’t just blindly follow the Church! You need to know the Church Doctrine! Atleast the Basic Catechism!
    May be to everyone who knew the “TEN COMMANDMENTS” well should know there is no salvation outside the Church!
    What does Vatican II teach?

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