Over the past several months, there has been a coalescence around the idea that the Society of St. Pius X has, as a matter of justice, the “right” to be canonically “regularized” by the Conciliar Church.
Louie Verrechio, First Things editor Eliot Milco and Catholic Family News editor John Vennari are all in agreement on this (see here, here and here).
Others are yet to express support for such a position.
Michael Matt from the Remnant has been one of the most skeptical Catholic voices out there regarding a possible deal (of any kind) between the Romans and the SSPX. While commenting on Bp. Galarreta’s sermon from the 2016 ordinations in Winona, Matt wrote the following:
The question many concerned friends of the SSPX are asking now is: What has changed since 1987…other than that the situation in Rome has become much worse? Was Archbishop Lefebvre hasty in 1988, perhaps lacking in due prudence and patience? Or was he right not to trust Rome farther than he could throw Rome?”
While the Abp. undoubtedly stayed in touch with Rome up until the ’88 consecrations, his most mature thought on the matter comes from his 1990 book Spiritual Journey:
“It is a strict duty for every [any] priest who wills to remain Catholic to separate off from the conciliar church, as long as she does not recover the Tradition of the Magisterium of the Church and of the Catholic Faith!”
What, then, are we to make of the argument that this so-called “regularization” is a matter of “justice”?
It’s a question that should be open to discussion, one where charity and ideas – not labels, accusations or vindictiveness – should take center stage. I make no claims to infallibility and am genuinely interested in the views of others. Getting this question right is of the highest importance. If I am wrong, I will recant my position. Countless souls are at stake and I only wish to humbly add my voice to the debate, even though there are some who have grappled with this issue longer than I have been alive!
The first thing that comes to my mind is Louie Vueillot’s book The Liberal Illusion. Vueillot was a 19th century French anti-liberal. Among the many excellent points raised in his book, the ones most pertinent to the “regularization” of the Society of St. Pius X are his comments on Liberal Catholicism.
Liberal Catholics, Vueillot writes, “glorify prudence to the point of madness.” They also clamor for “a free Church” in “a free State.” Additionally, they speak of “independence for the Church from the state” but, in reality, they wish to make Catholicism reliant upon “the goodwill of her enemies.”
As I reflect upon these points, what comes to mind is the following analogy, taken directly from Vueillot’s book :
Imagine a King deposed from his throne, the last, best hope of his conquered fatherland, who was suddenly to declare that he considered himself justly deposed and that he only aspired to enjoy his personal possessions according to the laws governing all citizens, beneath the protection of the very men who were plundering his subjects.
The King, we would imagine, would disgrace himself in vain. No one would believe him. Those to whom he offered to sell his rights and his honor would tell him: “Are you mad, you are King!”
How does this example apply to the Society of St. Pius X? Well, if you believe that the Society is Tradition, if you believe that Tradition is Catholicism, and if you believe Modernists are the enemies of Tradition, then you can say that in the analogy above, the Society of St. Pius X is “the King” and the modernist progressives now occupying Rome are “the revolutionaries” who at Vatican II unjustly deposed the King from his palace. If this is accurate, then true justice can only be served when the occupiers reject their doctrinal errors, embrace Catholicism (Tradition) and restore the King to his throne. Such an act would fulfill the right all Catholics have to a modernist-free Church. It would not, as far as I can tell, be an act of justice for a King (SSPX) to be granted the status and rights (a practical, non-doctrinal deal) that come with life as a commoner under revolutionaries still convinced of their errors.
From what I can gather, and I may be wrong, Louie Vueillot would have also considered the desire to “regularize” the SSPX with the revolutionaries in Rome as an instance of Liberal Catholicism, as he may well have viewed it as nothing more than a wish for “a free Society of St. Pius X” in “a free Conciliar Church” – which is simply an updating of the Liberal Catholic mantra “a free Church” in “a free State.”
It should be noted that Abp. Lefebvre’s focus was not so much on getting the modernist progressives to recognize he himself as Catholic, but rather, on getting them to re-instate “the King” to his rightful place. Here are his thoughts while speaking with Fideliter in late 1988:
Supposing that Rome calls for a renewed dialogue, then, I will put conditions. I shall not accept being in the position where I was put during the dialogue. No more. I will place the discussion at the doctrinal level: Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these Popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless.
Lefebvre believed that anything less than a full conversion by the Romans would spell doom for Tradition, as it would be akin to placing Catholicism into the hands of the revolutionaries. Or, as Veuillot would say, it would be akin to making Catholicism dependent upon “the goodwill of her enemies.”
Abp. Lefebvre also seems to have been given the great blessing to understand that his fight was precisely the one Veuillot was engaged in in the 1800s. In 1990, His Excellency acknowledged that reality when he said the following:
In the last few weeks (since I am now unemployed!) I have been spending a little time re-reading the book by Emmanuel Barbier on liberal Catholicism. And it is striking to see how our fight now is exactly the same fight as was being fought then by the great Catholics of the 19th century…
Well, we find ourselves in the same situation. We must not be under any illusions. Hence, we should have no hesitation or fear, hesitation such as, “Why should we be going on our own? After all, why not join Rome, why not join the pope?” Yes, if Rome and the pope were in line with Tradition, if they were carrying on the work of all the popes of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, of course.
So we do not have to worry. We must after all trust in the grace of God. “What is going to happen? How is it all going to end?” That is God’s secret. Mystery. But that we must fight the ideas presently fashionable in Rome…
Now, it may be said that Abp. Lefebvre was never promised what the Society is (allegedly) promised today – a unilateral, one-sided “recognition” with no strings attached. That proposal may be offered to the Society at some point in the future, but to the best of my knowledge that is not what is on the table at present.
Moreover, the past several months suggest that Rome has no intention of simply “recognizing” the Society as they are. As Cdl. Muller’s remarks as well as Pope Francis’ words indicate, “the revolutionaries” have no desire to let “the King” be recognized as King. “Vatican II,” the Pope believes, “has its value.” It is obvious that the occupying powers have always had for their end game the aim of bringing “the King” over to their revolutionary ideas.
As a closing comment, allow me to suppose that some sort of deal will be struck between the Society and the revolutionaries in the near future. What will be said then? Will it be an instance of Rome “recognizing” Tradition?
I want to provide you a quote from Bp. Bernard Fellay from March 2002 regarding the Campos-Rome deal. Granted, the Campos-Rome deal will likely be different from anything the current SSPX leadership would ever agree to with Rome, but still, the good Bishop’s words do provide us with some insight:
What kind of Rome do we have when it can sign an agreement with Campos and in the same week can do something like Assisi II? They definitely will not say “We recognize Tradition” in any universal sense. But Campos is contented because Rome has recognized Tradition in Campos. But has it, really? If Rome truly recognized Tradition anywhere it wouldn’t be able to have an Assisi II, the very contrary of Tradition. It is impossible to see in the recognition of Campos a recognition of Tradition.
Let’s update that with what could be written if Rome and the Society come to some sort of an arrangement in 2016:
What kind of Rome do we have when it can sign an agreement with the Society of St. Pius X and in the same year can do something like celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? They definitely will not say “We recognize Tradition” in any universal sense. But the SSPX is contented because Rome has recognized Tradition in the Society. But has it, really? If Rome truly recognized Tradition anywhere it wouldn’t celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the very contrary of Tradition. It is impossible to see in the recognition of the Society a recognition of Tradition.
Does that sound like a reality where “justice” has been served?