American writer Louie Verrechio recently wrote a blog post about SSPX-Rome relations. Although Mr. Verrechio is to be praised for calling attention to Bishop Fellay’s radio silence towards the errors of Pope Francis, his claim that SSPX “regularization” is “a matter of justice” needs to be refuted.
At the outset of his essay, Verrechio – who was invited to speak at a Society conference in Portland in 2016 – informs us that he does not consider Pope Francis to be the Vicar of Christ. “I am convinced that Jorge Bergoglio has plainly judged himself a formal heretic and therefore no pope at all.” He then wonders if “it makes sense for the Society to accept a canonical recognition from the hands of Francis given his questionable status.”
In answering that question, Verrechio correctly notes that “The Society of St. Pius X has never been anything other than in ‘full communion’ with the Church; their relationship with Eternal Rome unquestioned.” He then states the following:
If Rome changes course and decides to formally recognize that the SSPX has the Faith; granting them regular jurisdiction, doing so will be nothing more than a matter of justice.
The value of that act of governance does not so much rest on the person of the pope (or the man dressed as such) as it does on the objective truth that the Society and its teachings are entirely Catholic.
While locking the SSPX out of the building (denying them formal jurisdiction) had no effect on that objective truth, it did profoundly effect the way in which the majority of undernourished Catholics viewed the Society (e.g., as a “break away” sect, schismatic, with questionable teachings and invalid sacraments).
There are multiple errors present in Verrechio’s thinking.
First, one wonders why he even ponders the question of SSPX “regularization” in the first place. If Francis is not the Pope, then he does not have the authority to grant the Society any “recognition” whatsoever. Moreover, seeing how you cannot give what you do not possess, how can a Pope utterly devoid of justice perform an act of justice? How can a Pope who, according to Verrechio, is not Catholic recognize a group of priests as Catholic and in possession of the Faith? It seems to us that Mr. Verrechio’s own logic undercuts his arguments.
Second, it must be noted that if Rome “formally recognizes” the SSPX as “entirely Catholic” then Rome ipso facto declares that she herself does not have the Faith, thus ushering in a situation whereby a non-Catholic organization has somehow recognized a group of priests as “entirely Catholic.” Indeed, the Conciliar Church, represented by Modernist Rome, and the Catholic Church, which, according to Archbishop Lefebvre, is what the SSPX represents, are two diametrically opposed institutions holding diametrically opposed doctrines, sacraments, liturgies and, well, Faith. Any Conciliar Church “recognition” of the Catholicity of the SSPX that does not involve a rejection of the principles of the Conciliar Church is no act of justice.
Consider the following analogy: A math teacher is hired at a high school. Suppose that that teacher knows that 2+2=4. Suppose that the principal thinks 2+2=5. If the principal says to the teacher that in his classroom he can teach 2+2=4 but that he, the principal, still believes 2+2=5 and will allow others in the school to teach the same, then he is not recognizing in any way the objective reality that 2+2=4. He is simply carrying to its logical conclusion his subjective, erroneous persuasions.
The math teacher who knows that 2+2=4 (the SSPX) should not view the seemingly benevolent actions of the principal who thinks 2+2=5 (Pope Francis) as an act of justice. Rather, he should view the principal’s actions as a profound affront against mathematical truth. The teacher should then devote his time to explain to the principal and to the other teachers that 2+2 does not equal 5 but 4, and that no one can hold to the claim that 2+2=5. Error has no right to exist and no one, not even the principle, can propagate it. Justice would occur when the principal submits to the truth that 2+2=4 and disallows his teachers from teaching otherwise.
Again, the Society cannot look upon a possible Francis “recognition” of them as an objective recognition of the Catholic Faith. Rather, they should understand it as a Pope in error (who thinks 2+2=5) extending ecumenism to Tradition (2+2=4). To repeat, in no way would a Francis “recognition” be a recognition of the “objective reality” that the Society is “in full communion with Eternal Rome.” He would simply be extending his own liberalism to Truth.
Bishop Fellay, it must be noted, used to think like this back in 2002. While speaking about the Campos-Rome deal, he warned that Rome was putting the Society into an ecumenical “zoo.” Moreover, he believed that a Roman recognition of Campos was not a true recognition of Tradition:
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.
On the contrary, Assisi II was extended to include Tradition! Rome is saying: “We have a place for the Zoroastrians, for Jews, for Moslems, for animists, Buddhists, Hindus, …and we have a place for you!” That’s it. Rome has a place in the zoo for Tradition…
Third point. In his essay, Mr. Verrechio says the following:
The plain and simple fact of the matter is that the SSPX finds itself in an “irregular” state for one reason and one reason alone; those in authority, up to and including popes, have abused their power and acted unjustly.
Verrechio should have written:
The plain and simple fact of the matter is that the Conciliar Church finds itself in an “irregular” state for one reason and one reason alone; those in authority, up to and including popes, have abused their power and acted unjustly.
Archbishop Lefebvre insisted, just like Bishop Tissier did in 2012, that the “irregularity” is not that of the Society to Rome but of Modernist Rome to Eternal Rome, and that it is the authorities who, as a matter of justice to God, must return to Tradition.
The chief error of those who claim the Society’s “regularization” is “a matter of justice” is that their starting point is to wonder how things might look from a public relations standpoint to novus ordo Catholics and on-the-fence Traditionalists. What they should be doing is concerning themselves with how things look to Almighty God. After all, does Scripture not tell us that the remnant will be chosen by grace? and not canonical structures? Does Galatians not remind us that we need to seek first the favor of God and not men? Souls are not won to Truth by public relations schemes.
There is a lot of talk in the Society these days that Rome is little by little admitting that one can be Catholic “even without accepting Vatican II” and that Rome is slowly viewing the Society “as Catholic.” No doubt Mr. Verrechio thinks this is a good thing. But to these remarks one can only respond by saying: And yet what if the situation was reversed? If the Romans accept, promote, and espouse Vatican II, are they Catholic? How can we be glad if we are viewed as Catholic by men who promote ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality – principles destroying the Catholic Faith? It cannot be true that ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality are at the same time permissible for Catholics to believe in and at the same time permissible for Catholics to reject. Such a reality would be a mark of liberal Catholicism.
To learn more about the errors of the “matter of justice” argument, we encourage you to read one of our previous posts: “No Justice? No Peace“