On the SSPX-Vatican Discussions

What was all the fuss about?

Christopher A. Ferrara

(Posted 10/31/09 www.RemnantNewspaper.com)
The historic theological discussions between representatives of the Society of Saint Pius X and representatives from the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” (now part of the CDF) have begun.  The first meeting of the parties took place October 26, 2009, on the Feast of Pope St. Evaristus (the fourth successor of Peter), following which the Vatican press office issued an extraordinary bulletin. For the attentive reader, the bulletin is filled with words and phrases of immense significance:

On Monday 26 October 2009 in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” the study commission made up of experts from “Ecclesia Dei” and from the Society of St. Pius X held its first meeting, with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See.

In a cordial, respectful and constructive climate, the main doctrinal questions were identified. These will be studied in the course of discussions to be held over coming months, probably every other month. In particular, the questions due to be examined concern the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions, and religious freedom. The meeting also served to specify the method and organisation of the work.

One can be certain that every word of this bulletin was carefully vetted by the CDF before publication. The profound implications of what it says become clear if one “diagrams” its contents:

· theological experts from Ecclesia Dei and

· theological experts from the Society

· have formed a joint study commission

·   that will study and examine

·   outstanding doctrinal differences between the Society and the Apostolic See.

Moreover, at the first meeting of this joint study commission, the members of the commission, acting together, have

·   identified

·  constructively and cordially

· the main doctrinal questions to be examined.

Finally, the “questions” to be examined are every single question raised, not only by the Society, but by traditionalists in general since Vatican II:

·    the concept of Tradition

·  the Missal of Paul VI

·   the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition

·   the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism

·  the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions

·    religious freedom.

Consider the implications: Forty-five years after the Council closed, and more than twenty years after the episcopal consecrations of 1988, the Society of Saint Pius X, its bishops no longer “excommunicated,” has been given an exclusive invitation—extended to no other person or group in the Church—to discuss doctrinal “questions” with Vatican representatives, without any precondition that the Society be prepared to submit to given propositions as doctrines of the Faith.

Most tellingly, the Society has not been given a profession of Faith including the “teachings of Vatican II” and asked to subscribe to it as the eventual outcome of the discussions. Quite the contrary, it is clear from the entire tenor of the press release that the very purpose of the joint study commission is to determine whether Vatican II has actually enunciated any doctrinal proposition in the first place that would require an assent not required of Catholics before the Council.

What all of this means is that nearly half a century after the Council the Vatican is still unable simply to declare in so many words what the Council requires Catholics to believe beyond what has always been taught by the Church.  It remains a matter for cordial examination and discussion by a joint study commission—and who knows what the results of that study will be!  Meanwhile, there is not the slightest suggestion by the Vatican party that the Society’s adherents are heretics, theologically errant, or even guilty of temerarious propositions in their opposition to the post-conciliar changes in the Church.

For decades we traditionalists have been marginalized, mocked, and denounced as “dissenters from the Magisterium,” if not outright schismatics, on account of our adherence to propositions that were no more than statements of the obvious. Let us recall the principal ones in light of the recent words and deeds of Pope Benedict XVI and the former Cardinal Ratzinger:

·  Vatican II was only a pastoral council that expressly disclaimed the note of infallibility and did not impose new doctrines on the Church. Check.

· The Council’s ambiguous and novel pastoral pronouncements are open to criticism and discussion.  Check.

·  The Council must be read in light of Tradition, and if any of its pronouncements would appear to be contrary to Tradition, it is the Council that must yield to Tradition, not Tradition to the Council. Check.

·  Paul VI never legally prohibited the traditional Mass, and priests were never really prohibited from offering it.  Check.

· The New Mass is the banal product of a committee, and its de facto imposition in place of the traditional Missal was a break in the history of the liturgy whose consequences were tragic for the Church. Check.

· “Pro multis” means for many, not for all, and the scandalous English mistranslation should be corrected, along with the nonsensical “and with you also.” Check.

·    The only way to Christian unity is the return of non-Catholics to the Catholic Church and submission to papal authority. Check.

·   The Society of Saint Pius X is not in schism.  Check.

·  The excommunication of the Society’s bishops was unjust and should be rescinded. Check.

·    The Society and traditionalists in general should be given an opportunity to state their objections to the post-conciliar novelties, and the Magisterium should clarify with a definitive pronouncement what, if anything, the Council and the post-conciliar liturgical “reform” have added to the obligations of the Faith—and if the answer is nothing, really, then the Magisterium should finally say so and put an end to all the confusion on the matter.  Check.

No reasonable Catholic today would seriously dispute the freedom of the sons and daughters of the Church to maintain these propositions. Further, it is perfectly obvious that the SSPX-Vatican discussions now underway presuppose precisely that freedom, and that the Pope himself presupposes it.

That being so, let me put this rhetorical question to all the critics of the traditionalist movement over the years, especially those in the neo-Catholic establishment: Now, what was all the fuss about?