Agreement with Rome: Is the Society getting cold feet?

SSPX RomeAccording to Vatican Radio:

The Holy See has established new provisions for the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony by members of the faithful who are attached to the Society of Saint Pius X.

Below is a letter [text in boldface] from Cardinal Muller instructing Ordinaries as to the provisions along with my commentary [regular text].

Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,

As you are aware, for some time various meetings and other initiatives have been ongoing in order to bring the Society of St. Pius X into full communion. Recently, the Holy Father decided, for example, to grant all priests of said Society the faculty to validly administer the Sacrament of Penance to the faithful (Letter Misericordia et misera, n.12), such as to ensure the validity and liceity of the Sacrament and allay any concerns on the part of the faithful.

Following the same pastoral outlook which seeks to reassure the conscience of the faithful, despite the objective persistence of the canonical irregularity in which for the time being the Society of St. Pius X finds itself…

Two things stand out: First, the emphasis is in the original (“for the time being”), which suggests that, at least insofar as Rome is concerned, the deal is all but done.

Secondly, given that the stated intent is to “reassure the faithful” concerning SSPX marriages – even as “canonical irregularity” still exists (i.e., nothing has changed in this regard) – this amounts to acknowledgement that these marriages have always had “validity and liceity.”

In other words, the Society’s long held claim of supplied jurisdiction is beyond dispute.

Surely, the vociferous public detractors of the Society (like Michael Voris & Company), who have delighted in telling anyone who will listen that their marriages are invalid, will be issuing a correction at any moment now (as soon as they finish digesting that crow).

…the Holy Father, following a proposal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has decided to authorize Local Ordinaries the possibility to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society, according to the following provisions.

This letter only authorizes “the possibility” of granting faculties; it does not explicitly order anything. Should one expect certain bishops to withhold it?

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.

For the sake of clarity, a “regular priest” is a religious (Dominican, Franciscan, etc.) priest (one who is under a rule, Latin: regula).  

Notice as well the affirmation concerning the Mass as offered by a Society priest.

This indicates Rome’s acknowledgement that the Society’s Masses have also always been valid and licit.

Where the above is not possible, 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.

While some will find cause for concern over the role of the Ordinary in granting faculties; as if this suggests that the Society will be held hostage by the local bishop even after regularization, I wouldn’t make too much of it.

No less than three times, the letter states that the intent is to reassure the faithful with respect to validity; it is not ordered to toward making the sacrament valid. There’s a difference.

Yes, but Rome can’t be trusted! Look at what they did to the FSSP!

I get it, but in the present case, at this moment, the contents of the letter are all we have.

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 Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on 24 March 2017, confirmed his approval of the present letter and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 27 March 2017.

Notice that there is a second intent stated here; namely, to move the process of regularization along.

If find this rather curious…

All indications to this point have been that regularization is imminent. If that is so, why is Rome going to the trouble of issuing these provisions now?

Insofar as the dialogue between the Society and Rome is concerned, all of the concessions have come from the latter; e.g., acknowledging that the documents of Vatican II are neither doctrinal nor binding, and formally granting jurisdiction to hear confessions.

Yes, the Society issued a very weak statement concerning Amoris Laetitia. They chose not to call it by its proper name; heresy. I’ve been very vocal in my criticism of it, but I’m unwilling to call it a “concession;” as if to accuse the SSPX of making a deal with the Devil.

In any case, in these provisions concerning marriage, we have another “concession” on Rome’s part.

Why this? Why now?

Perhaps the Society specifically requested this provision from Rome as a show of good faith before they take the next step. After all, Bishop Fellay did speak of needing reassurances that the SSPX will be accepted “as they are.”

Or perhaps the SSPX no longer believes that a suitable agreement is possible and simply took the opportunity to secure this reassurance for their faithful knowing that they will remain in their present state for the foreseeable future.

Who knows?

If nothing else, this latest development suggests to me that an agreement is not truly imminent, and if that is the case, clearly the reluctant party is the SSPX.

aka 2017-2

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