Fr. Paul Robinson of the SSPX’s Australia Seminary has published yet another article on the need for ‘regularization.” The essay can be found here. Psalm 129 wishes to comment on his remarks in the form of a three-part rebuttal. We apologize for the lengthiness of our response. For the sake of brevity, we have omitted parts of Fr. Robinson’s already long winded essay. Our analysis is given in blue:
At the conclusion of the General Chapter of the SSPX in 2006, the chapter members issued a declaration, as is customary. Among other things, the declaration stated the following:
The contacts made from time to time with the authorities in Rome have no other purpose than to help them embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing her identity. The purpose is not just to benefit the Society, nor to arrive at some merely practical impossible agreement.
This statement clearly indicates a twofold purpose in the SSPX’s dealings with Rome: the restoration of Tradition and the benefit of the SSPX. It also indicates that the remote or ultimate purpose of the restoration of Tradition takes precedence over the proximate purpose of benefitting the SSPX.
The quoted declaration seems to state the opposite – that the proximate purpose of discussions is “to help [Rome] embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing her identity.” The ultimate cause would be the benefit of the SSPX by virtue of the benefit of the universal Church. As Bishop Fellay said in 2003:
To guarantee our future, we must obtain from today’s Rome clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday. When the Roman authorities have re-stated with actions speaking louder than words that “there must be no innovations outside of Tradition”, then “we” shall no longer be a problem.
Since 2006, however, there has been much debate about the proper means by which the SSPX is to assist the restoration of Tradition in Rome. The main focus of the discussion has been whether the restoration is to take place firstly at the practical level or firstly at the doctrinal level. Specifically, is it better for the SSPX to accept a canonical recognition ‘as is’, or is it better to refuse such a recognition as a means to pressure Rome into taking up traditional doctrine? Would a canonical recognition ‘as is’ favor or hinder the restoration of Tradition that the SSPX seeks?
Prior to 2006, there was no debate. In fact, the position up until then was crystal clear:
That is why what can look like a concession is in reality merely a maneuver to separate us from the largest number of faithful possible. We must absolutely convince our faithful that it is no more than a maneuver, that it is dangerous to put oneself into the hands of Conciliar bishops and Modernist Rome. It is the greatest danger threatening our people. If we have struggled for twenty years to avoid the Conciliar errors, it was not in order, now, to put ourselves in the hands of those professing these errors. (Abp. Lefebvre, 1989)
For as long as the Vatican continues their apostate ecumenism we can affirm that they remain in open, official rupture with the Church’s entire past and with its official Magisterium. It is therefore, a strict duty for every priest wanting to remain Catholic to separate himself from this Conciliar Church for as long as it does not rediscover the tradition of the Church and of the Catholic Faith. (Abp. Lefebvre, Spiritual Journey)
This article proposes to consider two different positions on this question, one which is against canonical recognition ‘as is’ and another which is for canonical recognition ‘as is’. The purpose of the article, as with the “Unity of Faith with Pope Francis” article, is not to settle when and under what circumstances it is prudent for the Superior General of the SSPX to accept a canonical recognition ‘as is’; rather, its purpose is to defend the General House’s public position that being accepted ‘as is’ is the essential criterion for accepting a canonical recognition. As such, this article understands an ‘as is’ recognition in the same sense as the General House, and especially as a phrase that include freedom for the SSPX to profess openly its doctrinal stances, to maintain its liturgical practices, and to retain its properties and places of worship.
Bishop Fellay used to have a clear, strong position about this “come as you are” idea:
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. (The Angelus, May 2002)
Two preliminary notes
Before delving into the details, two preliminary notes must be made. The first is that the SSPX has been attempting, since its contacts with Rome were established again in 2000, for a restoration of Tradition at both the practical and doctrinal levels. Bishop Fellay asked for doctrinal discussions with Rome and also requested that two practical pre-conditions be fulfilled before the discussions would commence. The conditions were freedom for the traditional Mass and the rescinding of the decree of excommunication of the SSPX’s bishops. The Declaration cited above mentioned how the fulfillment of those conditions “would greatly benefit the Church by re-establishing, at least in part, her rights to her own Tradition.”
The pre-conditions were more or less fulfilled and the doctrinal discussions took place. The success at the practical level, however, was not matched by a parallel success at the doctrinal level. The Roman hierarchs involved in the discussions did not agree with the position expressed by the SSPX—the position that Vatican II is, in three aspects (religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality), a break with the constant teaching of the Church. Despite this lack of agreement, Rome wanted to move ahead on the practical side, putting forward the plan of a personal prelature for the SSPX, a plan that was first proposed back in 2011.
This just shows how mentally ill Rome has become. They disagree with the Society on fundamental doctrinal issues but still want to invite us to “accompany” one another and to continue “fraternal dialogue.” A sensible response to an invitation to dialogue with manifest agents of Lucifer is clear: NON POSSUMUS! Back to the Bishop Fellay of old…
Their perspective in Rome is pluralism. Their thinking goes something like this: Oh, look, if we have progressive people who do silly things as members of the Church, then we should also have a place for those who like tradition – a place in the middle of this circus, of this zoo, a place for dinosaurs and the prehistoric animals that’s our place! – “But just stay in your zoo cage,” they will train us, You can get your food – the Old Mass; that’s for the dinosaurs, but only for the dinosaurs. Don’t give that food to the other zoo animals; they would be killed! That is why we cannot reconcile where this mentality is prevalent. (2002 Conference)
Since then, other practical steps have been taken towards the restoration of Tradition. The priests of the SSPX have been granted ordinary jurisdiction for the hearing of confessions and a framework for obtaining authorization to perform marriages with due canonical form.
Who is blind enough to believe that these concessions were motivated by goodwill on the part of the Romans? The devil has a big bag of carrots which he dangles in an attempt to seduce us. Rome is willing, little by little, to give the Society whatever it thinks will suck them into the fatal snare.
The day will come, we are sure and certain, when Rome will come back to Rome’s own Tradition and restore it to its rightful place, and we long with all our hearts for that blessed day. For the time being, however, things are not yet at that point, and to foster illusions would be deadly for the SSPX. (Bp. Fellay, 2003)
It is clear that Rome today, 14 years later, is still not at that point. And to foster illusions would indeed be deadly. Anyone who suggests these are legitimate signs of progress or goodwill to Tradition is blind, to which we must heed the words of our Lord:
Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.
It would be well to recall, for those who refuse to admit that anything is different in today’s SSPX-Rome relations from what they were in the past, that Rome did not concede anything to the SSPX during the long period spanning from 1975 to 2007. Since then, however, Rome has budged from the line that it was holding and started moving towards the line that the SSPX maintained, the “canonical recognition ‘as is’” line. The fact that Rome’s concessions have been almost exclusively on the practical level is what started the doctrinal vs. practical debate. Let not that debate, then, obscure the obvious reality that those concessions introduce a new situation. The question is no longer “What should we do when Rome opposes us?” but “What should we do when Rome favors us?”.
Neither of those has ever been the question. The question has always been “What should we do when Rome apostasizes?” That is how the Society was born. Its essential purpose was to ordain priests to preserve the faith. Today, certain members of the Society would lead us to believe that the question is, “What should we do when Rome is in apostasy but is being nice to us and invites us to be partakers in their One World Religion?”
18 Keep thee far from the man that hath power to kill, so thou shalt not suspect the fear of death. 19 And if thou come to him, commit no fault, lest he take away thy life. 20 Know it to be a communication with death: for thou art going in the midst of snares, and walking upon the arms of them that are grieved: 21 According to thy power beware of thy neighbour, and treat with the wise and prudent. (Ecclesiasticus 9)
Only in such a context can our primary question be posed, namely, should the SSPX move ahead with a restoration at the practical level or hold out for a restoration at the doctrinal level?
This brings us to the second point, which is that the practical steps for the restoration of Tradition cannot be wholly separated from the doctrinal steps, and vice-versa. Every practical step leading to the regularization and spread of Tradition will necessarily be a step leading to the restoration of traditional doctrine; every doctrinal step taken for the correction of the errors of Vatican II will necessarily cause the spread of Tradition in practice. The only difference is that some steps will be directly practical and indirectly doctrinal, while others will be directly doctrinal and indirectly practical. In the end, it is impossible to isolate traditional belief from traditional praxis; they are a complete package. Thus, when one part of the package is favored, the other part is also necessarily favored.
Archbishop Lefebvre boldly declared that “Rome is in apostasy” and that it is “impossible to collaborate.” They do not have the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are working in “a direction diametrically opposed…toward the de-Christianization of society.” He made it very clear that so long as Rome clings to these Modernist errors, there can be no practical restoration of the Society:
We have never wished to belong to this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church…We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. To be publicly associated with this sanction which is inflicted upon the six Catholic Bishops, Defenders of the Faith in its integrity and wholeness, would be for us a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful. (Open Letter to Cardinal Gantin, 1988)
Consider, for example, the possibility of the SSPX receiving a personal prelature that would leave it ‘as is’. On the day of canonical recognition, there would exist, within the canonical structures of the Church, a worldwide organization of traditional priests and religious whose official position is that the Second Vatican Council contains errors against defined dogmas of the faith. By the fact that Rome would be approving such an organization and allowing it to continue its well-known opposition to aspects of the Council, the Council would suffer a terrible blow.
This is wishful thinking, bordering on delusional. Rome is sick. The Conciliar Church is sick. A unilateral “as you are” recognition of the Society with full acknowledgment of doctrinal differences would only further prove this sickness. It goes against the mark of “one” to which the Catholic Church alone has claimed. Even if there were some kind of public declaration of formal unity between Tradition and the apostate Conciliar Church, this declaration would not be rooted in reality. Again, Rome is in apostasy. There can be no accord between light and darkness.
This is why the noted Catholic writer George Weigel looks upon a possible recognition of the SSPX ‘as is’ with horror. For him, it would enshrine, for Catholics around the world, a ‘right to dissent’:
To restore SSPX clergy to full communion with Rome while letting them cross their fingers behind their backs on religious freedom (and ecumenism) when they make the profession of faith and take the oath of fidelity would, by a bizarre ultra-traditionalist route, enshrine a “right to dissent” within the Church.
While we do not agree with him that it would enshrine a right to dissent from all Catholic teaching, we do agree that it would enshrine a right to dissent from Vatican II.
Weigel is actually correct in his assessment. Rome believes Vatican II is doctrinally sound and continues its persistent promotion of the conciliar errors. Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, Collegiality and the New Mass cannot be both wrong and right at the same time. Rome thinks they are right. Therefore, a recognition of the Society “as they are” and a tolerance of disagreement on these points would indeed be tantamount to a “right to dissent.” And that is not Catholic.
As such, it is impossible that an ‘as is’ recognition of the SSPX would not be a step closer to the condemnation of the errors of Vatican II, though, in itself, it is not a doctrinal step towards the restoration of Tradition but a practical one. If the SSPX were recognized ‘as is’, its position, or its profession of faith, if you will, would also have to be recognized as Catholic.
So if Rome recognizes the Society “as is” and then, at the same time, continues with the 500 year commemoration of the Protestant Revolt, and continues to preach that Jews, Muslims, and even atheists can be saved, and if some of the rumors of things like the overturning of Humanae Vitae, communion for divorced and remarried, and a potential ecumenical co-celebration liturgy for Protestants and Catholics to participate in together all come to fruition…it is impossible to say that we are not one step closer to the condemnation of Vatican II? This is clearly false.
Let me put it a different way. Josef Stalin is spreading Communism throughout the Soviet Union. Anyone who condemns Communism is imprisoned or killed. Things get to a point where there is only one formal group of resistors left. Stalin agrees not to kill or imprison them and extends a formal invitation for their group to be recognized by the Soviet government. The group accepts the invitation and continues to protest Communism. Meanwhile, Stalin orders the remaining prisoners to all be executed. He has all of the churches in the USSR burned to the ground. Have Stalin and the USSR come “one step closer” to condemning Communism?
With these two points established, we can now return to our main question: should the SSPX move ahead with the directly practical and indirectly doctrinal step for the restoration of Tradition, which is canonical recognition? Or should the SSPX make its immediate focus the achievement of a directly doctrinal and indirectly practical step toward its restoration?