Monday 23 July 2012

What does the SSPX want? What do Liberals want? What do we want? Part 1 of 2

What are the SSPX and many other ‘Traditionalists’ looking for? It seems that they are rightly looking for an adherence to the Faith of All Times in the documents of Vatican II and in the life of the Church of today, for though many folk profess loyalty to Vatican II there remain instances of questionable teaching and disordered practice. Fundamentally, the SSPX seem to seek for:
·         a clear belief in the Sacrifice of the Mass;
·         maintenance of the Church’s Latin liturgical tradition;
·         the Monarchical Church with the Pope at its Head on earth;
·         clarity on the fact that all salvation comes from through the Catholic Church alone;
·         clarification that religious liberty is a pastoral practice not consistent with Traditional Catholic Doctrine and therefore not an infallible dogma.

Liberals, meanwhile, are all-but promoting the opposites to the above, saying that:

·         the Mass is primarily a fraternal banquet
·         Latin in public worship is to be dropped
·         the Pope must act collegially, with the Bishops
·         salvation is not limited in means to the Catholic Church
·         religious liberty is doctrinal teaching and means that one does not need to seek out the Catholic Church for salvation.

For the SSPX there is a danger of falling into Apostasy or formal schism by failing to grow with the Church, as did the ‘Old Catholics’ following Vatican I, while for liberals there is at least a bordering on heresy by their distorting of, rather than a developing of, the Faith. Others, who sincerely remain faithful to Tradition, to Vatican II, and to required disciplines of the Church, often labour under isolation and suspicion. Both the SSPX and the Liberals would be helped by the Church at large reading Vatican II as it must be read: in continuity with Tradition. After all, we can no more abandon Tradition than we can abandon the Scriptures, for both are the word of God. In what follows, which is necessarily cursory due to limits of space, though still too long for a single blog post, bold italics highlight Council fundamentals; my simple thoughts, which take the Council at face value, follow in red.

“...the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defence of the faith handed on once and for all (Jude 1:3). Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.
[Tradition is to be found in Church teaching and in liturgy, so deviations in either from what has gone before are not of God –thus the 1970 Missal must hold the same theology as that of 1962.]
Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.
Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.
(Dei Verbum 8,9,10)
[Scripture and Tradition together are the word of God, so we cannot ditch Traditional teaching; new formulations must be consistent with Tradition which, being the eternal word of God, cannot change; only its pastoral application may differ.]

Vatican II, properly read, should be able to satisfy the faithful Traditionalist and correct the Liberal if the Council is (and no one has denied this to my knowledge) of God. Reading the Council in a hermeneutic of continuity with Tradition, it is possible to say...

·         On the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until He should come again and so entrust to His beloved spouse the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of glory is given to us”. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47)
[The Mass is, as it was for St Paul (1 Cor.11:26) essentially about perpetuating the Sacrifice of the Cross, not the Last Supper. Sadly, it is always the Last Supper our children are taught to focus upon in today’s text books, and what our RCIA catechumens probably get too in places where priests have been formed to think of Supper first, rather than Sacrifice first].

·         On the use of the vernacular in liturgy:

In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 54)
[The use of the vernacular is envisaged for the readings and the General Intercessions, or ‘Bidding Prayers’; its use for the other parts spoken by the people, is moderated. Even when the vernacular is allowed, the people should be able to say or sing their parts (Et cum spiritu tuo; the Confiteor, Gloria, Credo, Suscipiat, Prefatio Dialogus, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei) in Latin. How many have we, faithful to the Council, taught to do this? Have we not wrongly allowed or even encouraged them to think Vatican II abandoned Latin and did not ask this form of participation of them..?]

Is this the liturgy we find in most places today? I think not. There is not only a dislike for Latin (and for facing the Lord in celebrating the Eucharist which has always been part of the rubrics and General Instruction) but a hostility towards them: the language must be vernacular so we can understand it (we aren’t capable of singing ‘Viva Espana’ and ‘Frere Jacques’ with any understanding you see), and we should be able to see the priest as he performs for us. Bishops and those in authority or in positions of influence are at least allowing if not encouraging people to feel a hatred for their own past.

To be continued... (The Pope and Collegiality; Salvation outside the Catholic Church and Religious Liberty).


  1. Bravo, Father! I look forward to the next part.

  2. Father, I think I object to your use of the term 'liberal' since it suggests 'freedom'. I would prefer you use 'progressive', since the faith does move on in proper development.

  3. Father

    There is a more than a little irony in the position of the SSPX. If, as you state, they strongly believe in the monarchical church, they have a funny way of showing it! Vatican I clearly taught that the jurisdiction of the Pope does not simply cover matters of faith and morals, but also extends to matters appertaining to the discipline and government of the Church. The consecration of a bishop is just such an issue that concerns the discipline and government of the church. So Archbishop Lefebvre carried out an act which - as Pope John Paul II declared implied a rejection of the Papal Primacy - in order to defend the doctrine of the Papal Primacy!


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