Society of St. Pius X “Regularization”
Not as Easy as You Think
By John Vennari
New Editor's note: I make no secret of my hope that the SSPX will proceed very slowly in any 'agreement' with post-Conciliar Rome. And yes, I fully understand the pressure on Bishop Fellay at this point. If the Pope apparently 'gives' the SSPX everything it asks, how can the SSPX refuse? The sticking point, of course, is the question: is Rome really giving the SSPX everything it needs in detail? That is what the article below attempts to address. This brief article (written last September but still relevant) lists just the 'tip' of 1001 points that I believe need to be ironed out ahead of time before any signing-on-the-dotted line can take place. I don't see these questions as quibbling, but as vital points to be addressed for the very survival of the SSPX. I'm sure that Bishop Fellay and the SSPX can think of hundreds more. - JV
The September 14 letter from the Vatican to the Society of St. Pius X has launched a wave of premature celebration.
Though the contents of the “doctrinal preamble” sent by the Vatican are still under wraps, Bishop Fellay indicated in his September 14 interview that it contains some sort of doctrinal statement the SSPX will be expected to sign, and an invitation to proceed to the next step toward canonical recognition.
The proposed recognition for the SSPX appears to be that of a personal prelature along the lines of Opus Dei.
When Bishop Fellay requests at the end of his interview that we increase our Rosaries and prayers for the SSPX for “the graces of light and strength that we need more than ever”, he is not uttering a mere pious platitude. In the court of public opinion, the pressure on the Bishop Fellay and the SSPX is colossal.
From all sides, we hear calls for Bishop Fellay to take this “deal” and run with it, on the false premise that it is now-or-never for the SSPX, as conditions may never be so favorable again in the foreseeable future for “regularization”.
Those who urge this hasty approach have not thought the matter through. The last thing Bishop Fellay and the SSPX will sign is an Obamacare-styled “we have to pass the bill so we can see what’s in it” agreement. No, the steps towards proposed regularization have to be approached with great caution – a caution that will necessary take more than a couple of months of deliberating.
The SSPX will have to make sure it has examined the matter thoroughly, scrutinized all the implications of regularization, and be prepared to say ‘no’ – against tremendous pressure – if all details are not sorted out in advance.
We should not be surprised if Bishop Fellay approaches any type of canonical proposal with caution and reserve. I speak as one who has been directly involved with the traditional movement for over 30 years, and who has seen a number of regularization agreements turn sour. Though Catholic Family News does not represent the Society of St. Pius X in any way, we fully support Bishop Fellay in this cautious approach.
Here are just some of the 1,001 questions that need to be answered before any canonical agreement is reached:
• How will diocesan bishops react in the long term to SSPX bishops regularly stepping into their dioceses to perform the sacrament of Confirmation, especially when the bishops knows the congregation wants the SSPX prelate because it trusts neither the new rite of Confirmation nor the diocesan bishop himself?
• What about opening new Chapels and Mass centers? New schools? New seminaries, as the seminary soon to be constructed in Virginia? Will the Society have to first receive permission from the diocesan bishop – who in many cases is hostile to Tradition? And if so, does this not greatly endanger future growth for the Society?
• How will a Vatican hierarchy, still weakened by modernist thought, withstand the complaints of diocesan bishops – who will see the SSPX as a threat to their power – without compromising the SSPX?
• What about the independent chapels the SSPX are now friendly with, and for whom the SSPX performs Confirmations?
• Will Rome expect the SSPX to cease performing Confirmations in these independent chapels? Will the Vatican expect the SSPX to effectively shun those who have been life-long allies? What kind of guaranteed freedom and protection will the Vatican give the SSPX to continue administering Confirmation to those chapels, the chaplains of which believe in conscience they cannot yet make a canonical agreement with the local bishop?
• How will autonomy of education in SSPX schools be absolutely guaranteed?
• How will autonomy of the counter-revolutionary formation in SSPX seminaries be absolutely guaranteed?
• What are the exact provisions for Consecration of future SSPX bishops?
• What about the religious orders connected with the Society of St. Pius X? What about the SSPX’s relations with the traditional Benedictines? The traditional Dominicans? The traditional Capuchins? The traditional Carmelites?
• Under the proposed “personal prelature”, will the SSPX still be able to support and ordain men for these groups?
• Will these SSPX-affiliated Orders have to change their names and cease calling themselves Dominicans, Benedictines, Carmelites under such an agreement? (When the traditional Transalpine Redemptorists accepted regularization three years ago, the first thing they were forced to do was change their name to “The Sons of the Most Redeemer”, since the Novus Ordo Redemporists would not allow them to use the name “Redemptorists”. Rome immediately backed the modern Redemptorists against the Transalpines).
• What about the Dominican Sisters who teach at SSPX-affiliated schools, two of which are in the United States? Will the SSPX be allowed to continue this affiliation? Will these Dominicans be permitted the same autonomy with the local bishops as the SSPX supposedly will have, and will the traditional Dominican nuns be allowed to retain the “Dominican” title?
• Do not the same questions apply to the SSPX’s affiliation with the Franciscan Sisters in Kansas City?
• Does not the SSPX’s affiliation with the traditional religious orders also entail getting the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Religious involved, which will further complicate regularization?
• What about possible insurrection in the ranks if many believe the Vatican is proceeding with a regularization agreement too quickly?
• Do we really believe that any sort of discussion about the legitimacy of the Vatican II will continue after the SSPX is regularized, when the Vatican may then say to itself: “The chase is over, we’ve bagged the game”?
• In any election of a new Prelate for Opus Dei, the Pope must confirm the appointment. If an SSPX prelature is modeled along the lines of Opus Dei personal prelature, will a pro-Vatican II Pope approve a new SSPX leader that most resembles Archbishop Lefebvre, or rather hold out for a leader after his own heart?
• Will a “regularized” SSPX be expected to obtain an Imprimatur for any books it publishes? How will an Imprimatur be obtained for books such as John Paul II – Doubts About a Beatification which questions the beatification of Pope John Paul II; Father Dominique Bourmaud’s superb 100 Years of Modernism; or even yet-unpublished writings of Archbishop Lefebvre that sharply criticize Vatican II and the progressivism of the post-Conciliar hierarchy?
• France’s District Superior of the SSPX just published an honest, necessary and blistering critique of the upcoming pan-religious Assisi meeting – a critique squarely based on the traditional teachings of the Church. Will such public critiques actually be tolerated by Rome if the SSPX is regularized?
• Archbishop Lefebvre said, “If Rome wishes to give us a true autonomy, the one we have now, but with submission, we would want it.” What happens when the SSPX’s understanding of “true autonomy” conflicts with the Vatican’s understanding of “true autonomy”?
• Is there a danger of the SSPX ending up as just another Ecclesia Dei group that is directly or indirectly coerced into just keeping to the Old Mass and shying away from publicly defending the Catholic Faith “whole and entire” against the present modernist onslaught unleashed within the Church for the past 50 years?
• Can Tradition fully operate under a Novus Ordo hierarchy?
These and countless other questions will have to addressed by Bishop Fellay and the SSPX before any sort of realistic canonical agreement can be reached.
The Society of St. Pius X has never taken a pragmatic approach, but has always argued from doctrine, which means it argues from a position of strength. I believe the SSPX will continue its discussions along this strong, doctrinal line.
Bishop Fellay knows the charism of the SSPX is that of its founder: to defend the Faith “whole and entire” without compromise, especially regarding the current errors of the day. He knows the duty of the priest requires nothing less.
It is primarily the priest’s obligation to lead us in the battle to defend the Faith. Saint Thomas Aquinas did not leave it to the laity to combat the Manichees. St. Francis de Sales did not leave it the laity to combat Protestantism. We laity have our part, but it belongs to the nature of the priesthood to publicly defend the Faith.
This is why we loved Archbishop Lefebvre. He led us in the battle.
Of course, every sermon does not have be an assault on Vatican II and the New Mass, but it is the priest’s responsibility to warn his flock against prevalent errors that undermine the Faith and destroy souls. And tragically, the greatest assault on the Catholic Faith in our day comes from Vatican II, the contemporary hierarchy, and the revolutionary Polish Pope whom Benedict just beatified.
How will a “regularized” SSPX be guaranteed the ability to fight this counter-revolutionary battle unimpeded?
This myriad of questions now weighs on Bishop Fellay and on the Society of St. Pius X. A consideration of these questions helps us better understand why Bishop Fellay closed his interview requesting increased prayers and Rosaries for the SSPX for “the graces of light and strength that we need more than ever.”
- Originally posted September 19, 2011.