Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lefebvrists snub Pope's call for unity

Having seen bishop Fellay in action a few months ago when he came to Gateshead for the opening of the SSPX church there, this comes as no surprise to me. He did not give the impression he was a man about to seek reconciliation with the Holy See. I was quite disappointed by him: having been led to believe he was the moderate face of the SSPX, he appeared no less extreme than bishop Williamson. At least things are becoming more sharply defined with the SSPX now as they call for the rejection of the Second Vatican Council. Clearly this cannot going to happen. How can the Church reject a General Council? What happens to the indefectibility of the Church? The best way forward is that outlined by pope Benedict on December 22nd 2005 when he called for the council to be understood and interpreted according to a `hermeneutic of continuity`. It appears that the schismatic nature of the SSPX is clearer now.

However, of course, many will agree with some of bishop Fellay`s points about Summorum Pontificum. It is true that there has been in some quarters an underwhelming response: in some places in the world bishops have arranged for a Extraordinary Form Mass to take place in their cathedral, in others it has been generally ignored and swept under the carpet. I was speaking to a young Polish student recently who spent a year in a seminary in Poland. He told me that the Polish bishops have done very little to expedite Summorum Pontificum and that if a seminarian expresses an interest in the Extraordinary Form this counts against his progress in the seminary. Clearly this is wrong: it should now be the task of seminaries to ensure that all students are trained in the Extraordinary Form.

On a brighter note there are rumours flying about that the extravagantly named Transalpine Redemptorists, a body under the aegis of the SSPX, are seeking reconciliation with the Holy See.

Here is the article from the Catholic Herald:

Lefebvrists snub Pope's call for unity

By Mark Greaves

25 April 2008

The head of the Society of St Pius X has said that full communion with the Catholic Church cannot happen until Rome rejects some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, ruled out the reconciliation sought by Pope Benedict XVI in a letter to his estimated one million followers last weekend. He said that "the time for an agreement [with the Vatican] has not yet come". His announcement ends hopes that Benedict XVI's liberation of the traditional Latin Mass would clear the way for reconciliation after more than two decades of near-schism.

The Pope's Motu Proprio, published in July, granted priests everywhere the freedom to celebrate the "extraordinary form of the Mass in the Roman rite".

It was hoped that this would pave the way towards unity with traditionalist groups which had strongly objected to the suppression of the "Tridentine" Mass in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

But Bishop Fellay said in his letter that a change to the Church's liturgy needed to be accompanied by a substantial reversal of its doctrine.

The Motu Proprio was "not accompanied by logically co-related measures in the other areas of the life of the Church", he said in a French-language letter.

"Nothing has changed in Rome's determination to follow the Council's orientation, despite 40 years of crisis, despite the deserted convents, abandoned rectories and empty churches," Bishop Fellay said.

"The Catholic universities persist in their ramblings, the teaching of the Catechism remains unknown at the same time that the Catholic school does not exist anymore as particularly Catholic," the Swiss-born bishop wrote.

He also complained of "brutal resistance" to the Motu Proprio from whole groups of bishops. It is understood that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of Ecclesia Dei, believes the statement is only a modest setback and is determined to bring the SSPX back into the Church.

But other Vatican officials are much more pessimistic about the prospect of reconciliation. One Vatican source said he believed the society was a sect closer to Calvinism than Catholicism.

One of the main doctrinal obstacles to re-union is the refusal of some in the society to accept that the Jews cannot be blamed for the death of Christ - a declaration made by the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate.

Bishop Fellay made clear in his letter that the SSPX would not end its dialogue with the Vatican and would continue "on the path defined in the year 2000" when its bishops met Cardinal Castrillon on a pilgrimage to Rome.

He also said that the SSPX would continue to appeal to Benedict XVI to overturn the excommunications of its leaders in 1988 after its founder, the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against Rome's wishes.

His letter will disappoint many Catholics who believed that the Pope's Motu Proprio would lead to the SSPX becoming re-united with the Church. The Motu Proprio allowed priests to celebrate the traditional Mass without the permission of a bishop and was partly aimed at bringing traditionalist groups back into the Church.

On the day it was made public Bishop Fellay expressed his "deep gratitude" to the Pope and said he had created "a favourable climate" in which to consider disputes over doctrine.

However, signs that the SSPX did not feel ready to re-join the Church emerged in February when it accused Benedict XVI of caving in to "foreign pressures" by amending the Good Friday prayer in the extraordinary form of the Mass.

The Pope removed a reference to the "blindness" of the Jews and an appeal that they "be delivered from darkness" and that God "may take the veil from their hearts".

Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four excommunicated bishops of the SSPX, said he believed the amendment was "anti-Semitic".

Fr Arnaud Sélégny, the general secretary of the SSPX General House in Menzingen, Switzerland, confirmed that the SSPX was not ready to be reconciled with Rome until the Church repudiated some parts of the Second Vatican Council.

He said that the society was "satisfied" with the Pope's Motu Proprio, but added: "On all the points where we have special difficulties, there is no change. These novelties [of the Second Vatican Council] are continuing to infect the body of the Holy Church."

He admitted that it might seem "optimistic" to expect the Church to reject some of the Council's documents.

However, he said it was impossible to conceive that the Church would not eventually reject teaching that was "against its tradition" - and predicted that it would do so in 10 or 20 years.

He said the post-conciliar era was a crisis period in Church history similar to the Great Schism, when the removal of the papacy to Avignon, France, led to the election of more than one pope.

"These big crises in the Church always last for 70 years," he said. "That's why I think that in 10 or 20 years - at about 2030 - [the current crisis] will be finished."


Anonymous said...

No surprises here. Lefebvrism is not about liturgy but rather a peculiar mix of Jansensim and Gallicanism with some of the worst aspects of each.

To suggest Bishop Fellay is somehow more liberal than Bishop Williamson is to shew only a peripheral understanding of those involved. Underneath the bluster Williamson is far more pro-Rome than Fellay. If the SSPX does split, which I very much doubt, one thing is for certain - Bishops Fellay and Tissier will stay where they are.

To me the more interesting question is whether the provisions Summprum Pontificum will now start to be roped in by varying degrees. The idea of reconciliation with the Lefebvrists hasn't worked so what of its primary raison d'etre? Perhaps we will soon see the long-awaited clarification?

Fr Michael Brown said...

An interesting question indeed old believer. The latest from the English bishops` conference about Holydays seems to be a move in that direction.

Adulio said...

I would trust anything written by the Catholic Herald, on matters dealing with the SSPX. Time and time again, they show that they have not bothered to do some background reading and understand what the separation is all about.

All the DICI website makes it clear that Bishop Fellay has not and will not rule out reconciliation. All he said was that the time for it has not come now.

Volpius Leonius said...

Perhaps you might answer my post Father given that you are meant to teach the laity, and if we are error correct us.

If I was wrong in what I said then please show me.

You can contact me by email if you would rather do it in private.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Volpius Leonius which post was that? I don`t think I have your email address

Volpius Leonius said...

The post a wrote about the seeming difference on the teaching concerning salvation and who and who is not a member of the Church. My emial address can be gotten from my blogger profile.

It is:

I look forward to your teaching on this subject.

Unknown said...

Old Believer,

Could you please post an example or two or three of what you see in the SSPX as a peculiar combination of Jansenism and Gallicanism?

Thank you,

Steve Sanborn

PeterHWright said...

Yes, I see what Old Believer means, but I don't see how they can rope in Summorum Pontificum, whatever Bishop Fellay says or does, and I can't see Pope Benedict letting them do it.

I myself am highly critical of the latest announcement from the Bishops' Conference about Holidays. But I don't see how it can affect the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

What they can do is to muck up the old calendar to no purpose (and I can't see the traditional communities or even the Latin Mass Society agreeing to it).

I think there is a lot to be said for a liturgical calendar common to both "old" and "new" Missals. The present sitation is confusing, to say the least.

But the two Missals enjoy parity.

Therefore, in the matter of observing Holidays in common, I can't see why the 1962 calendar should be changed to conform to the 1970 calendar.

If anything, surely it should be the other way round. Here was an opportunity for the "new" calendar to conform to the "old", thus reversing the recent and controversial transfer in England & Wales of Holidays to the nearest Sunday.

But what of other Feast days ? Is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God going to replace the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord ?

And what about Sundays ? Will Sundays of the Year replace Sundays after Pentecost ?

Why not the other way round ? Thus the Last Sunday after Pentecost with its Gospel from Matthew 24 would end the liturgical year. I never understood why this Sunday was excluded from the 1970 Missal. It is a most useful reminder of the last days, a fitting end to the liturgical year and a fitting introduction to the season of Advent when the Church's liturgy prepares for the coming of the Lord.

Of course, we've not yet seen what exactly Ecclesia Dei actually said in its response to the bishops' dubium.

I would only say that if this is the way they are going to rewrite the calendar, then they are going the wrong way about it.

Do they want people to desert in droves to the SSPX ? It could happen.

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately it is all too easy to give examples of both Jansenist and Gallican attributes in the SSPX.

A decade ago a couple who were married (?) by the SSPX were told that when the bride was past child-bearing age marital relations would be sinful. The obsession with what people wear, particularly women, and watching TV spring to mind. Indeed for people who are so obsessed with what other people wear it is amusing to see the four bishops dress according to the current rules rather than those from the pre-Conciliar period. A perusal of Fr. Scott’s writings will give other examples and makes for amusing reading ( Fizzy drinks and slavery are two of my favourites.

As to Gallicanism does not the very title of this blog entry speak for itself? Lefebvrists make a great show of having pictures on the wall of the pope but only pay lip service to the concept of him having any real authority over them. Examples would be the rejection of the revised Good Friday oration for the Jews; informing the faithful that certain days have an obligation of fast and abstinence when they no longer are such days; the UK district website having the Circumcision, the Annunciation and the Feast of St. Joseph as holy days. (The last two were not holy days in England & Wales before the Council. In regard to the liturgy there is a classical Gallican attitude of doing things in a French way rather than that described in the (Roman) liturgical books:
the Confiteor before communion is universally used although it is not part of the 1962 rite, likewise bows to the altar Cross, Holy Week has a mixture of the pre-1955 practices dependant on the views of the celebrant with a majority using the pre-1956 ‘perfidious’ version of the prayer for the Jews. Despite the claim on the USA web site that ‘The priests of the SSPX pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and the welfare of the local Ordinary at every Mass they celebrate’ many clergy do not in practice name either. In my experience a decade ago it was intereting to see which cleric would miss the pope’s name out of Litany of the Saints during the Quarant’ Ore.

It is really like a form of High Anglicanism. Vociferous support for the idea of the pope combined with ignoring his directives when they do not suit.

Clare said...

"How can the Church reject a General Council?"

Constantinople II?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Do please tell us the problems with Constantinople II, Clare! The Catholic Enyclopedia has an article here:

It seems to me the logic of the SSPX position is to deny the indefectibility of the Church and they will end up as another kind of liberal body.

Tribunus said...

Dear Forest murmurer,

Some of the comments on this blog are very poorly informed.

SSPX are not calling for the rejection of Vatican II but for the clarification or re-shaping of the non-infallible parts, especially Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes, the two most controversial (but entirely non-infallible) decrees.

That is not a schismatic viewpoint, still less heretical.

The decree Frequens of the Council of Constance was decreed by the Council and signed by a true pope (not an antipope) but was later rescinded completely by a true pope.

It is the infallible teachings of a Council (or pope) which cannot be changed.

Thus, when you write this:

"Clearly this cannot going to happen. How can the Church reject a General Council? What happens to the indefectibility of the Church?"

you are well wide of the mark and simply do not understand how the infallible Magisterium works.

This is one of the problems with modern theological disputes. Half the people engaging in them don't understand the subject.

Old Believer is another person pontificating without knowing his subject.

He confuses Gallicanism with Gallican rites, a classic solecism.

I think he is right that there is some tendency to Jansenism among SSPX members but his ramble about Gallicanism is way off the mark.

Gallicanism was indeed associated with Jansenism but it rather more reflected the Febronian view that General Councils outrank popes in doctrinal matters and that the the Church in each country should be nationalised.

SSPX could not be more opposed to such a doctrine.

Before one pontificates upon a subject it is a good idea to get your definitions and terms right.

Please can we have some accuracy and precision on these important subjects?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Tribunus, you are the first person to ever address me as `Forest murmurer`. If you are interested in accuracy then the normal term of address for a priest is Father. Unless you don`t believe that Novus Ordo ordination is valid in which case I apologise but then you are not a Catholic in any meaningful sense.

The post on which you left a comment was written ten months ago. Since then, in recent weks we have heard bishop Fellay say he is rady to accept Vatican II interpreted according to tradition, which is how the Holy Father said it had to be understood in his address of December 2005.

If I got the impression that supporters of the SSPX rejected Vatican II and all its works it may have come from reading such declarations as this of bishop Tissier de Mallerais who once said:"You cannot read Vatican II as a Catholic work. It is based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. ...I will say, one day the Church should erase this Council. She will not speak of it anymore. She must forget it. The Church will be wise if she forgets this council".

I`ll alert Old Believer to your criticisms.

Fortunately it now seems that the SSPX have a more constructive attitude and I hope we will see an accord with the Holy See before long.