Saturday, 25 January 2014
Thoughts on why folk may be disappointed and pleased that the SSPX failed to sign an agreement with Rome...
Many people were disappointed that the SSPX failed to sign an agreement with Rome last year because it meant the Church remains divided and suggested Tradition has little or no place in the hearts of some who currently lead the Church –which is worrying since Tradition is the transmission of Divine Revelation which cannot be abandoned. The failure to sign an agreement is worrying also in that it can lead the SSPX to become hardened in their position, maybe even to becoming a separate ecclesial structure as happened with the Old Catholics after Vatican I.
On the other hand many were pleased that the SSPX did not sign an agreement since it leaves the Society as a thorn in the side of all those who downplay Tradition. The failure to sign also serves to remind us that if the Church did not change her Doctrine at Vatican II (and as She cannot have done) there is no reason why the TLM cannot be celebrated or pre-Conciliar catechisms used*, since these must be as consistent with Vatican II as they are with Vatican I, Trent, et al. To claim the TLM and pre-conciliar Catechisms are not compatible with Vatican II is to claim the Council abandoned the Faith as it has been handed on, in which case we would have to abandon the Council (Vatican II may have developed our doctrine, but development is consistent expansion, not contradiction.)
Given that the SSPX denies no revealed Truth and recognises the legitimacy of the post-Vatican II Popes, the Society could be given canonical recognition today. We may wonder what prevents this. Is it that Rome cannot permit the SSPX to see ambiguities in Vatican II texts? Cardinal Kasper has publicly admitted that such ambiguities exist. Is it that the Society sees the Council as having brought about a rupture of the Church from her past? Popes John-Paul II and Benedict XVI both acknowledged that the Church has suffered from a rupture since the Council.
I suspect (though I may be wrong) that at least to some degree the SSPX expected to have certain texts repudiated, while Rome simply expected to have rehashed Vatican II formulas deferentially accepted. If the SSPX and Rome could have demonstrated together how Vatican II ambiguities can (and must) be read in continuity with Tradition, with Rome issuing an authoritative document detailing that continuity, then all division might have come to an end. Such a document could ensure that Traditionalists assent to the fact that our doctrine remains intact, and that liberals read Vatican II in line with Tradition and not as a new beginning.
Since we are now 50 years on from Vatican II, any hope the Society had that Rome would repudiate the Council has gone, especially since it has been accepted by five successive Popes and the by all the world’s bishops over that 50-year period. The only hope now is to have Rome present the Council in a hermeneutic of continuity with Tradition and abandon any activities inconsistent with that Tradition. Such a goal is possible; repudiation of the Council is not. Nor however, is continual marginalising of the SSPX: they retain valid Orders, hold to all dogmatic truths and recognise the legitimacy of the post-Vatican II Popes. Their “sin” is simply that they do not accept the rupture that occurred with Vatican II. The question is, do we accept that rupture? Have we become desensitised to ambiguity and its offspring -error? Vatican II can be read in continuity with Tradition; we must insist that it is. We are blessed with eternal, objective Truth -Jesus Christ- and a doctrine which is always and everywhere valid for man’s salvation. As such our dialogue with others must be a presentation of that Truth; we cannot afford to diminish it by implying there are truths outside the Church that we do not possess: we possess “the fullness of grace and truth”, said Vatican II; not a portion of it.
*Use of the TLM and “Penny” / “Baltimore” Catechisms cannot harm our relationship with other faith communities since Vatican II affirmed the Catholic Church as the one True Faith, stating that other faiths “derive their efficacy [to save] from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church”; which it described as “the one Body of Christ on earth” into which “all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God”. Dignitatis Humanae simply sought to establish good relationships with those of other faiths from respect for them as persons of good will, with “Religious freedom...to do with immunity from coercion in civil society”, which “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ”. Yes we seek dialogue today, but dialogue should be cordial discourse in which non-Catholics speak honestly about all they believe and why, with Catholics doing the same. Truth will win out; it cannot if we simply talk about that upon which we agree and ignore the rest. Truth that is not acknowledged is truth that is hidden –the desire and goal of the father of lies.