This week, an interview with Bp. Athanasius Schneider was published on the Spanish blog Adelante la Fe. Much of the interview covered the current state of the Church and the world, with considerable discussion about the Society of St. Pius X. I will not summarize again what he said, as the link above should explain the pertinent points sufficiently. Our readers should agree that Bp. Schneider made many excellent statements in this interview, and that His Excellency continues to do good in the “official” Church structures as one of the most traditional-leaning bishops. However, with much respect, there are a few statements from this interview that stand out as a bit concerning.
Now, to briefly review, where does the situation with the SSPX and Rome currently stand? Bp. Tissier de Mallerais, who was arguably the priest in the Society closest to Abp. Lefebvre, explains: http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/bishop-tissier-interview-la-porte-latine-14983
Now, 25 years after the death of Archbishop Lefebvre, where is the future of the Society?
Things are becoming clearer. During our pilgrimage to Rome in the year 2000, we were charmed by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who urged John Paul II to recognize the Society unilaterally. Then Benedict XVI granted us two “preliminary requirements“: the recognition of the freedom of the traditional Mass and the lifting (more or less fortunate, for us and for him) of the 1988 excommunications. In 2010-2011, we had planned doctrinal discussions: in total disagreement! Our Superior General Bishop Fellay pursued the negotiations and caused some worry, until it became clear, in May and June 2012, that Benedict XVI still required as a condition, as he had said plainly at the start, that we accept the Council and the legitimacy of the reforms. It was a failure. But now there is very clearly a disposition on Pope Francis’ side to recognize us without these conditions. We say “Prudence! ” For things are moving and progress is still needed.
Archbishop Lefebvre never laid down as a condition for us to be recognized by Rome that Rome abandon the errors and the conciliar reforms. Even if he did say something like that to Andre Cagnon in 1990, he would never have done so, because that was never his line of conduct, his strategy with modernist Rome. He was strong in the Faith, he did not yield on his doctrinal position, but he knew how to be flexible, patient, and prudent in practice. To achieve his ends, his prudence told him to push the adversary, to harass him, make him step back, persuade him, but without blocking him with conditions that he still finds unacceptable. He did not refuse dialogue and was disposed to take advantage of every door opened by his interlocutor. It is in this sense that a certain opportunism, a certain “pragmatism” has been seen in him, and it is true: it is a small virtue annexed to the cardinal virtue of prudence. Sagacity, practical wisdom, is the neighbor of solertia, mentioned by Aristotle, St. Thomas (2-2, q. 48) and the Gaffiot, which is a skill in finding means to obtain one’s ends. Archbishop Lefebvre requested with acumen “that we at least be tolerated”: “this would be a major advance,” he said. And “that we be recognized as we are,” that is, with our practice that follows from our doctrinal positions. Well, today we see in Rome a disposition to bear our existence and our theoretical and practical positions. I say “bear” because one tolerates evil!
Already, doctrinally, they no longer force us to admit “the whole Council” or religious liberty; some of the errors we denounce are on the point of being considered by our interlocutors as open for free discussion, or continued debate. This is progress. We discuss, but they have to admit that we are not changing and it is unlikely that we will change. And in practice, we ask these Romans: “Recognize our right to reconfirm the faithful conditionally,” and “Recognize the validity of our marriages!” You see, these are serious bones of contention. They will have to grant us these things. Otherwise, how could our recognition be livable?
It may take some time, but there is a God!
And an all-powerful Mediatrix!”
The last paragraph is especially important and it seems that many Traditional Catholics may not be aware of this part of the Society’s position. Rome must recognize that the Society will continue just as it has always been. Rome must specifically acknowledge the Society’s right to reject not only the errors of Vatican II and the New mass, but everything that they have often found contention with such as accepting the Society’s right to perform marriages, conditionally re-confirm, baptize, and ordain (when necessary), for the faithful to receive their sacraments at SSPX chapels exclusively from SSPX priests and bishops, etc.
Bp. Fellay elaborates on this position in his recent conference in New Zealand here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oKWpVGirL0 (at approximately 6:30). Virtually the entire Society is unified on this position. It is clear that this position might be quite a “pipe dream” at the moment, but we shall see! The Society wishes to have as many protections as possible; it recognizes the gravity of the situation. None of our positions will be compromised! We are Catholic and will remain Catholic!
Concerning the interview of Bp. Schneider, these statements would appear to be the most concerning:
“I am convinced that in the present circumstances, Msgr. Lefebvre would accept the canonical proposal of a personal prelature without hesitation”
If sufficient protections are not in place, would Abp. Lefebvre risk true doctrine for recognition? Abp. Lefebvre never compromised on Tradition and did not accept the back-and-forth wavering of Rome during the Society’s 1988 Discussions. There is still wavering now; the recognition for the Society to continue as they are is not yet clear. To simply proceed with “faith” and “trust” is dangerous. How many have proceeded with just a “trust” in Rome (e.g. Campos, FSSP, etc.) and have been forced into submission and compromise? In these present circumstances of necessity, it is all the more important for the Society to be firm.
“If the Fathers of Vatican II witnessed a Mass like the one we know today and a traditional Mass, the majority would say that the traditional Mass is what they want, and not the other…The traditional liturgy is the liturgy of Vatican II, perhaps with small changes.”
If the majority of Council Fathers would truly prefer the Traditional Mass, then why did they accept the New mass so easily? It is also debatable whether the majority of Council Fathers were tradition-minded. After it became abundantly clear that the Council was being infiltrated by Modernism, how many of the 2,400 bishops joined the group of Council bishops fighting for Tradition (the Coetus Internationalis Patrum)? 250, at the most. Yes, Modernism had begun to infiltrate the hierarchy well before Vatican II.
Also, is the traditional liturgy really the liturgy of Vatican II? And are the “few small changes” really that minor? Many “conservative” Catholics see the principles of Vatican II implemented best in the 1965 rubrics, which supposedly is only slightly different from the Traditional Missal. In reality, however, these 1965 changes opened the door to compromise (especially in opening up to the vernacular!) and very easily paved the way for the full-blown Novus Ordo Missae. Many priests and bishops also started to experiment even more with the 1965 rubrics and did most Council Fathers do much to stop them?
Those bishops in the “mainstream” Church who are doing their best to oppose abuses do very well in diagnosing the symptoms, but have yet to come to the full realization of the problem. Until they recognize the full extent of the errors of Vatican II and the New Mass, their fight will be incomplete. We most certainly applaud these prelates, however, for all the good they do. We pray that they continue to be faithful in their stand and continue to grow ever more in Tradition! May God bless them for their abundant good will!
~ Steven C., “The Knight of Tradition”