First, the letter makes it known at the outset that the Pope is motivated by a desire to “reassure the conscience of the” SSPX faithful about their marriages. At the end of the letter, this alleged motivation is repeated:
Certain that in this way any uneasiness of conscience on the part of the faithful who adhere to the Society of St. Pius X as well as any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage may be alleviated, and at the same time that the process towards full institutional regularization may be facilitated, this Dicastery relies on Your cooperation.
The Society’s response gleefully repeats this as the reason for the Pope’s actions. Twice.
We at Psalm 129 do not feel the Pope truly wishes to “reassure the consciences” of SSPX faithful regarding their marriages. Perhaps we are mistaken, but we see no evidence that there is or ever has been concern among SSPX faithful about their marriages. It seems to us that pretty much everyone who has been married at a Society chapel by a Society priest knew exactly what it was they were getting into, canonically speaking.
It is likely that Francis was told by SSPX top brass that the SSPX faithful needed “alleviating.” But again there appears to be no evidence that SSPX faithful are asking for it. Rather it is the paranoid authorities who are worried. Thus, “alleviating the consciences of the faithful” is emerging as a new argument for the SSPX. We believe it is being used as a catch all because of its flexibility to serve as a reason to do anything SSPX leadership wants. In other words, it is a clever way of a) placing blame elsewhere should anything go awry in the future with the Romans and b) not having any real principled arguments about why a deal with Rome must happen. All the SSPX has to say is “well, it is for the laity that we pursue this” and they can dispose of all previous arguments against a deal and paint anyone against regularization as “against the faithful.”
But more than that it is nonsense to say “the faithful” are why this should be done. The fact is that the laity are, to put it bluntly, stupid. Our worries, our desires, our consciences, are, generally speaking, riddled with poor thinking. We need to be catechized, told what to do, instructed as to what is the objective reality. Put another way, so what if the faithful are “worried” about their marriages? Objectively they are fine, and the faithful need convincing of that if they are scrupulous.
The strange truth of all this is that none of this is being done for actual SSPX faithful. It is being done for public consumption by non-SSPX’ers. As we’ve said before on Psalm 129, the SSPX is more concerned with marketing gimmicks and PR campaigns that speaking truth to power.
Second, the letter says:
Insofar as possible, the Local Ordinary is to grant the delegation to assist at the marriage to a priest of the Diocese (or in any event, to a fully regular priest), such that the priest may receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite, followed, in keeping with the liturgy of the Vetus ordo, by the celebration of Mass, which may be celebrated by a priest of the Society.
This might as well have been lifted from Vatican II. It is a time bomb meant to explode in the decades ahead. For now, it is meant to get the camel’s nose under the tent. The phrase “Insofar as possible?” is used. Well, what stands in the way of making it possible? The SSPX priest? The couple wishing to marry? Who gets to decide if the delegate is present? What if my conscience is already at ease without this delegate present? Will the Diocese acknowledge that I was married if it is I who reject their delegate? Will the local Bishop lodge a complaint against my priest if it is my priest who disallows this delegate to officiate my wedding? Such a refusal will surely be looked at as an act of real schism. If the SSPX priest refuses to let the novus ordo-trained delegate enter his chapel, will Bishop Fellay remove him from the chapel or worse expel him altogether? It’s not unlikely.
Moreover, what sort of hybrid Frankenstein will this marriage ceremony look like anyway? Will the novus-ordo trained priest give the opening sermon, marry the couple, and then just slip away and change back into his t-shirt and jeans as he drives back to Diocese headquarters? It seems to us that this letter establishes an ecumenical nuptial mass with the novus-ordo priest presiding and then giving way to the Traditional priest later on. Who has ever heard of such a thing? And the SSPX says it wishes to convey its “deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his pastoral solicitude”? This letter is in no way a concession. It puts enormous pressure on SSPX priests individually and involves the Diocese directly in the dispensation of sacraments at their chapels. This is not being recognized “as we are.” It is a full-frontal assault on the heart of the SSPX priest, who is formed Traditionally and in exclusion to the novus ordo priesthood.
Furthermore, it may turn out to be the case that the local Bishop will simply say that he wishes to be his own delegate. Imagine the headlines if a SSPX priest refuses entry of the local Bishop into his chapel. How can the Society issue such a joyful response to this totalitarian decree?
One needs to also wonder if this delegate will have any control over how SSPX marriage preparation takes place. Will SSPX faithful have to take the Diocesan approved preparation? No doubt the Diocese will put pressure on SSPX faithful over the course of the next decade to adopt their own marriage prep courses. If this delegate is to marry SSPX faithful, does he understand how the man is the head of the household? Does he even understand what it is he is officiating? He may well stand at the pulpit and rant about feminism and how the local Bishop believes how men and women are partners. Even supposing he is a “conservative” or even “Traditional” delegate he is nothing more than a false friend of the Society.
Far from putting anyone’s conscience at ease, the presence of a novus ordo priest, doubtfully ordained by a novus ordo bishop, and educated in the novus ordo religion, should make the couple truly apprehensive. Might the delegate even be a Freemason with malicious intent? That so few Traditional commentators on this matter have considered any of this on their blogs is indicative of how few understand the crisis and what it is Archbishop Lefebvre stood for and why he did what he did.
The letter also says if a delegate cannot go or “if there are no priests in the Diocese able to receive the consent of the parties, the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society who is also to celebrate the Holy Mass, reminding him of the duty to forward the relevant documents to the Diocesan Curia as soon as possible.”
Does this mean that the couple now has to seek future marriage issues with the novus ordo Diocesan tribunal? Who is in charge of issuing annulments? Dioceses these days hand them out like tic-tacs.
Perhaps specific answers to these questions will come out in the days ahead, but as of right now this appears to be if not the death blow for the Society then the dress rehearsal for that. The Society has been successfully checkmated by the Romans and positioned into a corner where they really can’t fight back. All they can say is “please” and “thank you.” That they consider this a wonderful thing shows just how far gone their leadership is.