As a sense of anticipation grows concerning the possibility that the Holy See may soon grant canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction to the Society of St. Pius X, so too does the anxiety of many so-called “traditionalists” (aka Catholics), and not without reason.
With this in mind, I’d like to address some of the more common objections and concerns:
– In dealing with Rome, Bishop Fellay is dealing with modernists! One does not deal with the Devil! He cannot be trusted!
First, it must be said (for the sake of readers unfamiliar with Archbishop Lefebvre’s manner of speaking) that “Rome” in this case does not refer to what the Archbishop often called “Eternal Rome” – meaning, Holy Mother Church against which the gates of Hell will not prevail; the indefectible bulwark of truth protected by the Holy Ghost from all error.
“Rome” here refers to the human element in the Church – those who occupy the highest places of ecclesial authority, and who all-too-often abuse it by teaching error while giving the innocent and the naïve among us the impression of speaking in her name.
With this in mind, let’s dispatch with generalities. “Rome” is not some nameless, faceless less-than-human organism; rather, it is most clearly manifested in the all-too-human person of Pope Francis. Sure, we can name other names of those who exercise authority, but the buck stops with the pope.
It can hardly be denied that Pope Francis is a modernist. We must also admit (as Bishop Fellay has) that a relationship of trust does not exist. This does not mean that no relationship exists; rather, it indicates the need to proceed with caution, to anticipate the real possibility of deception, and the potential for serious conflict moving forward.
It can also hardly be denied (though it is duly noted that our sedevacantist friends would disagree) that the Good Lord is allowing the modernist Francis to exercise the authority vested in the Office of Peter.
We are Catholics. That means that our reliance upon the pope remains even when he is derelict in his duties. The relationship may lack trust, but it can never truly be severed.
That said, we must be clear: Francis, and indeed all of the popes, are but custodians of the treasure entrusted to the Church; they do not own this treasure, but rather are they called to safeguard and to dispense it in justice. This is the nature of our reliance upon the pope.
– But how can the SSPX ever submit to such a pope’s authority?
Every Catholic, including the SSPX, is already under the authority of the pope and fully so. The Society has never denied this. The granting of canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction is not such that the Society will suddenly find itself under greater authority than it already is, and that includes those who serve in Rome at the pope’s pleasure.
They key qualifier is, always has been, and will remain that no one is obligated to obey unjust authority. The pope has never had the power to bind anyone to error, or to require one to deny the true Faith, or to demand that one engage in that which represents a danger to souls, etc. The Society has always operated according to this understanding and can well be expected to do so moving forward, no matter what the future holds.
– Rome must convert back to the true Faith before the SSPX negotiates or enters into any agreements with respect to regularization.
The flaw in this position is that it mistakenly (even if inadvertently) views Rome (i.e., the present pope) more as the author and master of the treasures of the Church than as a custodian who is called to exercise governance justly.
Like it or not, Our Blessed Lord established His Church in such way as to allow those who occupy positions of ecclesial authority, the pope chief among them, to regulate such matters of governance as canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction.
These men are obligated to do so justly, but clearly the Lord allows them to err; e.g., the pope may withhold that which justice requires him to dispense. Why He allows this is a mystery, but trust in His providence we must.
When this happens and a state of necessity exists, as in the case of the Society, the Lord Himself provides for His people via supplied jurisdiction; in spite of the injustices committed by His churchmen.
Herein lies a crucial point: Jurisdiction for the Society, as noted, already exists. Should Rome decree formal jurisdiction, this simply means that reality is rightly being acknowledged.
One can hardly object at such a thing; rather, “love rejoices in the right.” (cf 1 Cor 13:6)
– The SSPX has no need of recognition from modernist Rome.
The focus in this case is entirely inward and runs counter to the mission of the Society, and indeed the Church herself; namely, the salvation of souls.
Similar to the previous discussion, it is crucial to recognize that canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction do not belong to the pope (or to Rome); nor do they speak of one’s relationship with the pope (or Rome). As noted previously, simply being Catholic defines one’s relationship with the pope.
Properly speaking, it can be said that canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction justly dispensed acknowledge in a formal and public way one’s relationship with Eternal Rome.
Those who know the SSPX well realize that the Society has always belonged to Eternal Rome! She is fully Catholic, as a matter of justice, therefore, the Society of St. Pius X is due canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction.
Indeed, it can be said that this is a matter of justice for the SSPX, but it is even more so an act of justice toward God’s people who deserve to know that the Society of St. Pius X is fully and entirely Catholic.
Again, one can hardly claim to love the Church and have genuine concern for the salvation of souls and yet fail to rejoice in this right.
– To accept canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction from Rome, such as it is in our day, is to lend credence to their errors.
This is exactly backwards. By acknowledging the reality of the Society’s true relationship with Holy Mother Church, Rome will be acknowledging, even if only tacitly, the truths of the faith as so diligently preserved and preached by the Society since its founding.
Again, the focus must remain on the good of souls. While it is true that the ultimate good for the salvation of souls is the conversion of Rome, even short of this it is only right that the status of the Society, and by extension the tradition it preserves, be acknowledged and thus made widely known via canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction.
– Rome wants to convert the SSPX to their modernism!
There can be no doubt that the modernists would like nothing better than to see the Society become infected with their conciliar errors, but this has always been the case. Up until this point in time, canonical recognition and regular jurisdiction were dangled as a carrot upon a stick to this end, but it appears that this may no longer be the case. (Besides, Bishop Fellay has been clear – there will be no concessions on matters of faith.)
The truth is there have always been, and there will always be, temptations to abandon the true Faith. Rest assured that the Evil One will see to it that this remains so until the end of time. The Society has always placed its trust in the Lord and Our Lady for the grace of perseverance. This has never failed in the past, and there is no reason to believe that it ever will in the future.
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