This is the continuation of Psalm 129’s three-part commentary on Fr. Robinson’s article titled SSPX and the Conversion of Rome to Tradition:
The wait for Rome to convert position
It has been argued by some that a canonical recognition, while providing advantages in some respects, would yet ultimately be disadvantageous for the restoration of Tradition. The argument contends that the SSPX should hold out for Rome to make a doctrinal declaration condemning the errors of Vatican II and I will refer to it as the ‘doctrinal declaration’ argument…
1. Canonical recognition ‘as is’ hindering traditional doctrine
It has been argued above that a canonical recognition of the SSPX would deal a severe blow to the doctrinal status of Vatican II. The doctrinal declaration argument, however, holds that a canonically regularized SSPX would only be seen as just holding one opinion on Vatican II among many others. From this view, it is better for the SSPX to appear to be outside the Church, for then it is able to stand out more clearly and attract more attention to its viewpoint.
Yes. Refer to the previously cited quotes from Bp Fellay about the ecumenical zoo and of the Archbishop about wanting nothing better than to be called separated from Conciliar Rome.
In addition to failing to recognize that the SSPX’s stance is already seen to be just another opinion—and is most often seen as being a false opinion—this position seems to ignore the normal progression of the restoration of the Church in times of crisis. Normally, there are three stages: persecution, then tolerance, then privilege. For instance, Catholicism was persecuted by the Roman Empire, then moved to being tolerated under Constantine, then moved to being the privileged religion of the state under later, Christian emperors. For Catholics who were being put to death and who could not meet publicly to practice their religion, a state of religious tolerance was something to be desired. It was not an absolute good, but a relative good, and a stepping stone to the best situation, one in which the Catholic faith would be the privileged religion of the State, as is its right.
We have considered this before, but the comparison does not hold up. Why? Because Constantine legitimately had a personal progressive conversion as well. He experienced the vision that In Hoc Signo Vinces and saw that vision come to fruition. This led to his change in heart which was actually a true sign of progress by Constantine. We have seen no such sign of conversion on the part of Francis. We continue to see many signs to convey the opposite, that he is as pertinaciously Modernist as ever. This is what enables us to evaluate that a unilateral recognition does not presently pass the smell test.
We do not deny that the conversion of Rome could come about progressively, even through the phases which Fr. Robinson describes. What we do deny is that such a staged progression is taking place now. It is clearly not taking place in Rome.
Catholics are permitted to demand protection, under the law, from a pluralistic, religious liberty style government. They do not have to insist on being persecuted until the State converts to the Catholic Faith and establishes Catholicism as the state religion.
Another example is the Arian crisis, and this example is more apt than the first, because it concerns a situation where much of the persecution was coming from within the Church. For a certain period, Catholic bishops professing the Catholic Faith instead of the Arian Faith were exiled by the Arian emperor and Arian bishops. Then, Julian the Apostate came to power and brought all of the Catholic bishops back from exile in an attempt to introduce more chaos into the Church. This strategy failed, because it created an environment of tolerance for the doctrine of Our Lord’s Divinity, which was then later restored to its rightful privileged position of being recognized by the Catholic world as Catholic teaching.
There are some details missing here. Let’s consult the Catholic Encyclopedia about Julian the Apostate:
Hitherto outwardly a Christian, he now let himself be portrayed as under the protection of Zeus, who in his opinion possessed with Helius the same undivided creative power. He commanded all towns to reopen the temples for pagan worship, restored animal sacrifices, and assumed the duties of a Pontifex Maximus. The Christians were united in fighting their enemy. Julian issued a decree that all titles to lands, rights, and immunities bestowed since the reign of Constantine upon the Galileans, as he contemptuously called the Christians, were abrogated, and that the money granted to the Church from the revenues of the State must be repaid. He forbade the appointment of Christians as teachers of rhetoric and grammar.
Does that sound like a scenario where Christians accepted a deal from Julian the Apostate? No. Sounds like a situation where Julian tried to suppress the Christians and failed. They were “united in fighting their enemy.” Is the Society united today fighting Francis the Apostate?
The doctrinal declaration position wants Tradition to transition directly from being persecuted to being privileged. It wants Rome to move from persecuting Tradition to privileging it, without passing through the intermediate stage of tolerating it. Moreover, it sees the toleration stage as injurious to Tradition rather than helpful for it. In short, the best here is the enemy of the good. Because the best outcome (privilege) shines so brightly, the goodness of the lesser outcome (tolerance) can no longer be recognized.
Fr. Robinson makes a fallacious assumption that all conversions are progressive and phased. This is clearly false. Some people are converted slowly, over time. Others are converted instantly (St. Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, Alphonse Ratisbonne). Was Mexico converted from paganism to Christianity slowly, over time? The intercession of our Lady by her miraculous apparition at Guadalupe led to the conversion of over 9 million Aztecs in roughly a decade. The country went through no such phases of progressive tolerance to total acceptance.
What’s more, a reading of the numerous prophecies about a great chastisement before a period of great conversion and peace give us the sense that the restoration of the Church will not be some diplomatic, progressive restoration through phases. Fr. Robinson would surely accuse us of being all “doom & gloom” for such a statement, but let him provide us with even one prophecy that suggests the restoration will happen as he is suggesting.
Bottom line is that Almighty God knows how He will effect the restoration of the Church. For someone to claim we know how that will happen is vain and presumptuous.
It might also be mentioned in passing that, while the marginalization of the SSPX for the past 40 years has protected it to some degree, it seems quite difficult to argue that it has been beneficial for spreading the position of the SSPX. On the contrary, the SSPX has to a large degree been ghettoized by its enemies so that its position might not spread, and that strategy has been quite successful.
This contradicts countless reports on Society web sites about the growth of the Society and of Tradition. Sometimes environments of persecution of the truth lead to more convicted martyrs (red or white) than times of peace in which people become complacent.
2. Canonical recognition ‘as is’ endangering the faith of the SSPX
A second stance of the doctrinal declaration position is that the SSPX, when incorporated into a Conciliar Church that favors heresy, would find it difficult to hold on to its opposition to the errors of Vatican II. A troubling aspect of the way this stance is taken is that it is supported by a quotation of the Archbishop, wherein he says,
What concerns us above all else is to hold on to the Catholic Faith. That is our combat. The purely external canonical question, having public status in the Church, is secondary. What is important is to remain in the Church… in the Church, that is to say, in the perennial Catholic Faith, with the true priesthood, the true Mass, the true sacraments, the catechism of the ages, the Bible of the ages.
The reason that this citation is troubling is that the Archbishop was clearly in favor of an ‘as is’ recognition. Consider, for instance, the words from his 40th episcopal anniversary sermon in October, 1987:
If Rome really wants to give us true autonomy, the one that we have now, but with submission, we would want this, we have always desired to be subject to the Holy Father.
Out of justice to the Archbishop, the first quotation must be reconciled with the second. If he is saying, in the first quote, that the faith is more important than a canonical recognition, he is surely referring to a situation wherein the SSPX would have to accept the New Mass or religious liberty or some such in order to receive canonical recognition. He is not saying that, if the SSPX were granted recognition ‘as is’, then it would be in danger of losing traditional doctrine, and so it would be preferable to remain in a state of secure marginalization rather than accept a canonical recognition wherein the SSPX would be able to hold onto all of its doctrinal positions.
The second quote needs to be reconciled with even later ones! Like those which have been cited here, notice that Fr. Robinson cannot point to any quotes after 1988 in which the Archbishop still maintains that this recognition is desired. Reading “One Year After the Consecrations” and “Two Years After the Consecrations” are sufficient to understand how the Archbishop’s position toward Rome shifted in the last years of his life.
In the first quote, the Archbishop is saying that the SSPX must maintain the Catholic Faith first over a canonical recognition, if it has to choose between the two. In the second quote, he is saying that IF it can maintain the faith, the true priesthood, the true Mass, the true sacraments, the true catechism, and so on, AS WELL AS have canonical status, then it should take both.
Another problem with doctrinal declaration stance is it does not seem to recognize the dangers of faith that the SSPX runs from being decades without canonical recognition.
This claim is easily refuted:
1.) The Japanese held on to the Catholic faith for over 400 years without priests and without the sacraments. God always provides what is needed to survive. There are no time constraints placed on God.
2.) Public Canonical recognition has nothing to do with preservation of the faith. Rome is schismatic, not the Society. The Society already has Canonical status, even if not publicly recognized.
We are against the Conciliar Church which is virtually schismatic, even if they deny it. In practice, it is a Church virtually excommunicated because it is a Modernist Church.I think we should have no hesitation or scruples with regard to these episcopal consecrations. We are neither schismatic nor excommunicated, and we are not against the pope. We are not against the Catholic Church. We are not making a parallel Church. All that is absurd. We are what we have always been – Catholics carrying on. That is all. Salvation is in Tradition and not in the Conciliar Church which is more and more schismatic. – Abp Lefebvre (1 Year After the Consecrations)”
3.) The irregularity is not ours. It is that of Rome. A Modernist Rome. A Liberal Rome that has renounced Christ the King. A Rome that had been condemned in advance by all Popes up until the eve of the [Second Vatican] Council. On the other hand, the experience of the priestly societies that have joined current Rome is that all, the ones after the others, included Campos and the Good Shepherd, have been constrained to accept the Vatican II Council. – Bp Tissier de Mallerais, 2012
4.) Let us reject the false reasoning of some Catholics among our friends, false friends, who say – I quote some of our friends, hear well – “with the time going on because we are separated from the visible church,” they say, “we are little by little becoming a sect.” They say. “From which one never comes back to the church.” This is horrible reasoning…I could not believe my ears, hearing such a reasoning! – Bp Tissier de Mallerais, 2015
If one could divide the priests who have left the SSPX into two camps, with those on one side running to the Resistance and sedevacantism and those on the other running to the Novus Ordo, the former priests would vastly outnumber the latter. The disproportionate number of ex-SSPX priests who have lost faith in the visibility and authority of the Church should be a clear indication that the SSPX’s abnormal situation, of itself, poses a danger of loss of faith in the Church. The supposed security for the faith in canonical irregularity, then, would seem to be, on the contrary, quite insecure.
We are the visible Church! Who practice visibly the True Faith. We have the unity of the Faith. – Bp Tissier de Mallerais
Fr. Robinson is only further revealing the division amongst those who are still formally part of the Society. Bp. Tissier would identify Fr. Robinson as a false friend of Tradition based on his claims about visibility and authority of the Conciliar Church.
The Society is, little by little, inching toward the Novus Ordo. It has already shown its growing indifference to the countless scandals of Pope Francis and other prominent churchmen by virtue of its silence and watered down news articles in which they cite neo-conservative figures. This is proof that the concern about coziness with Modernists is dangerous. The Society is becoming imbued with Modernist, non-polemical ideas and does not even realize it.
The frogs are in the pot, and the burner is on.
For a particular instance of this, let us turn to the third point.
3. Canonical recognition ‘as is’ morally indifferent…
An image—one that surely limps in many respects—might be made for illustration. Say a child has a drunken father and that father habitually commands the child to do things that are wrong. Then, one fine day, the father commands the child to do something that puts some order into the house. It would be incorrect, on such an occasion, for the child to say, “Because of your habitual drunkenness, the command you have given me is morally indifferent. As long as you do not correct your bad habit, it is more advantageous for me not to accept your acts of authority—even good ones that rectify things in this house—because I am better able to bear witness to the goodness of sobriety and to pressure you to become sober if I am in a state of non-acceptance.”
The Society claims this is all just “a matter of prudence.” In the scenario above, we would need to insert the father as Rome and the child as the Society. In which case, the Society is already – like a dutiful child – regularly working toward order in the home. It does not need the father to instruct it to work toward order. Let us take it a step further, however. Imagine the child referenced is only one among many children. Over time, the father keeps instructing the children to come into the basement and clean up. When they go down, the father beats them senseless until they agree to share in his drink. Eventually, all of the other children either become themselves alcoholics or at least stop caring about his abusive and scandalous actions. The father invites the last child (the Society) to the basement, promising just to want to clean up.
What is prudent on the part of the child? The answer is beyond obvious. Stay out of the basement! It is the superiors that form the subjects.
On the contrary, the father still has a right to command obedience in all that is good. Canonical recognition of the SSPX is not something indifferent, but is something good, in that it rectifies an unjust abnormality in the Church. Bishop Fellay stated as much in the April 2014 Cor Unum, “In itself, canonical recognition is a very great good.” The fact that it is a moral good puts the SSPX under a moral obligation to accept it, when it poses no danger to the faith. The duty to keep the faith is a higher duty, but the duty to have proper relations with the successor of Peter is not optional…
In short, the doctrinal declaration position errs when it shifts the canonical recognition criterion from ‘the SSPX being able to keep the traditional faith’ to ‘Rome professing the traditional faith’. The reasons it puts forward to show that canonical recognition ‘as is’ would hinder the restoration of Tradition fall to the ground when scrutinized and, by that fact, the argument loses its force.
Unfortunately, that is absolutely not true.