According to an SSPX news release:
[The meeting] lasted 40 minutes and took place under a cordial atmosphere. After the meeting, it was decided that the current exchanges would continue. The canonical status of the Society was not directly addressed, Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay having determined that these exchanges ought to continue without haste.
Details, as expected, are few, but Rorate Caeli is reporting:
“We have learned that it was a very positive meeting.” [Emphasis their own]
No doubt, any news of a very positive meeting between Bishop Fellay and Pope Francis will elicit a very negative reaction from two groups in particular; the liberals and the “resisters.”
Let’s begin by talking about the latter first…
Look, I appreciate all of the passionate responses to the post Resistant to what?
In all of them, however, I didn’t find one, single, solitary thing that would justifying the calumnies that are being leveled against Bishop Fellay as cited therein.
As I said, one can charitably debate the wisdom of certain prudential decisions (e.g., the wording of the proposed doctrinal declaration, the dangers such a document may have invited if ratified, the best way to protect and propagate the treasures of the Church moving forward, etc.), but accusing Bishop Fellay of harboring nefarious motives, as Bishop Williamson has, is simply beyond the pale.
Is it really so difficult to follow after the example of Pope St. Pius X in leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul of which God alone is the judge?
That out of the way, let’s talk about the liberals; i.e., those who treat the Council, not only as if it is “an integral part of the tradition of the Church” (the condition for regularization set by Benedict XVI in 2012 and the same that Bishop Fellay rejected), but the “super dogma” that supersedes everything prior.
Setting aside for the moment the valid concerns that all of us have with respect to the Society’s protection, the question is, why do the liberals fear the canonical regularization of the SSPX so much?
The answer should be obvious; it is because “regularizing” the SSPX by granting it ordinary jurisdiction is essentially admitting that Archbishop Lefebvre’s positions, the same held by the Society today, on such things as Vatican II – in particular, ecumenism, relations with the Jews, religious liberty, collegiality – and even the rejection of the Novus Ordo, are entirely legitimate.
In other words, it is as if the pope himself is conceding that there is nothing whatsoever about adhering to these positions that would place one in schism, or otherwise impair their communion with the Church.
This is obvious enough to most readers of this space, but it’s no small concession just the same!
Many “resisters” take the irrational position that Rome must convert entirely to tradition before the SSPX can even enter into discussions with the Vatican apparatus, much less “accept” any regular canonical status.
To embrace such a claim is tantamount to insisting that those religious orders and other groups that are officially recognized in the Church have ever had a duty to renounce their canonical standing and their regular jurisdiction whenever they may have perceived that the preponderance of the hierarchy has fallen into error.
Martin Luther would probably agree with this manner of thinking, but Archbishop Lefebvre never made such a claim, nor did he ever act to withdraw from Rome prior to being censured.
If he had believed as much, the Archbishop wouldn’t have had any discussions with Rome himself. Clearly the hierarchy in 1988 was thoroughly hostile to tradition, and even more hostile to the Traditional Latin Mass than it is today, and yet he obviously still recognized jurisdiction as something to be valued.
It seems where many “resisters” err in large degree is in losing sight of exactly who primarily benefits from the Society’s regularization.
HINT: It’s not the Society.
SSPX bishops, priests and faithful (as well as those in agreement with them) already see the Roman apostasy for what it is. They already strive to embrace tradition in its fullness; they already recognize the validity of the Mass and the Sacraments as offered in Society chapels, and they are already quite clear about the dangers associated with the Council and the Novus Ordo Missae.
For such persons as these, canonical regularization does little or nothing either to enhance, or to endanger, their faith. (We’ll have more to say on potential dangers momentarily.)
Rather, the primary beneficiaries of the Society’s regularization, should it come to pass, will be the “confused Catholics” to whom Archbishop Lefebvre wrote his famous open letter, and for whom he had great concern.
In other words, it is the sincere yet confused Catholic who today finds himself unduly influenced by the arguments of Council-worshipping “full communion” profiteers, both in the hierarchy and in Catholic media, who for far too long have gotten away with making baseless claims about the SSPX in an effort to discredit them; furthering their careers and building their burgeoning franchises by exploiting the naiveté of those innocent souls who wish only to remain obedient to Holy Mother Church.
It may also be the case that some among those who benefit from denigrating the Society today are themselves genuinely confused, but either way, once the Society is regularized, we will know for certain.
The Roman “stamp of approval” that comes with regularization of the SSPX will also greatly benefit what we might call “anonymous sons of Archbishop Lefebvre,” those priests and bishops who fully agree with the Society’s positions, and yet, rightly or wrongly, feel compelled to hide in the shadows for fear of repercussion.
This brings me to potential dangers.
As Bishop Alfonse de Galarreta recently said:
“So you are going to tell me: ‘In these cases [of regularization] there is a risk!’ – Yes, of course. In life there are many risks; in war there are even more. We are at war. So it will be as God wishes. But I have trust in Providence; I have complete trust in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ for His Holy Church.
If anyone thinks for a moment that the Society can do God’s will, in service to the Church Militant for the good of souls, without inviting risk, he deceives himself.
There will be many concerns that will require careful attention if and when a process of regularization begins in earnest; among them will be the conditions for incardinating diocesan clergy, the freedom to open new priories, chapels, and schools without interference, the ability to preach openly about the Council’s errors and the deficiencies of the new Mass, etc.
It remains to be seen how these details will be addressed, and all talk about an approaching “sell out” or a “doctrinal compromise” is pure speculation that in no way justifies hurling invectives at Bishop Fellay or any other individual priest or bishop in the Society’s leadership.
Moving on, let’s remain very clear about what concerns us most in this matter and why.
According to Archbishop Lefebvre, the Society’s raison d’etre and its motivation for persevering in tradition are simple:
“We are persuaded that we can render no greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign Pontiff and to posterity.” (cf 1974 Declaration)
In other words, the Archbishop’s primary concern wasn’t so much for the preservation of the Society, per se, but rather the good of the Church and the salvation of souls.
In my humble opinion, one would be hard pressed to demonstrate that the status quo best serves that cause, but please feel free to argue otherwise if you wish. As always, I genuinely appreciate all of your contributions to these discussions.