After my conversion to the Roman Catholic Church some 20 years ago, I purchased three books written by Cardinal Ratzinger and, after reading them, concluded that one of us was not a Catholic. My first 10 years as a Catholic were spent wandering, like the exiled Jews, from parish to parish, questioning what I heard, looking for sound Catholic common sense which I at last found in the SSPX, or more correctly in the teachings of the founder, Archbishop Lefebvre.
Then 2 years ago, the exile restarted after reading the June 8, 2012 DICI Interview. Of course there were hints before 2012, but I gave the benefit of the doubt and politely kept silent. But history tends to repeat itself. After reading the 2012 DICI Interview, I made the same mistake I made 20 years previously: I started questioning.
This time I thought I was on safe ground (after all, I was with the SSPX and they could handle all sorts of tough questions), and so I asked why was Bishop Fellay seeking a canonical status. A bomb hitting the chapel would not have caused a greater stir than my naive question! I was immediately labeled disobedient, rebellious and scurrilous (I had to look that one up in the dictionary).
So, after 10 years of attending an SSPX chapel (a round trip of 320 km), I was declared ‘persona non grata’ and I came to the full appreciation of just how many jocular terms for scurrilous the English language actually has!
And so, my conversion to the Roman Catholic Church ended up with a small group of us sitting – not in the pew – but on the ground in a park one Sunday afternoon. Today I am part of what is commonly called the Resistance (although I would really prefer to be called simply a Roman Catholic).
Recently I happened to fall into an email discussion about the SSPX situation with a kind SSPX supporter. I stress ‘kind’ because he was surprisingly kind (unlike my former SSPX friends) and patiently stated: “He [Bishop Fellay], as the leader, is looking ahead, trying to find options to keep Tradition alive and in the visible Church”.
I confess that when I read that statement, memories of Cardinal Ratzinger’s Hermeneutics of Continuity hit me with full force. I then spent not a little time doing my best to explain to the SSPX supporter that the “visible” Church is not the Conciliar Church, but rather is the Roman Catholic Church without which there is no salvation; that “Tradition” is synonymous with Roman Catholic Church; that the Roman Catholic Church does not need us to keep it “alive” – rather the Church keeps us alive; that as Catholics our only “option” is to keep the Faith; that we must “look ahead” to Heaven; and that seeking regularization/recognition is about as futile and dangerous as trying to understand how the Hermeneutics of Continuity can save souls. I believe that I did not get the chance to explain that the April 15, 2012 Doctrinal Declaration and Cardinal Ratzinger’s books must both be interpreted in the light of Tradition and are therefore poisonous to our Catholic common sense.
The sad reality is this: The SSPX has essentially lost the fight for Tradition. The older Trads are tired; they have their chapels and they do not want to think. Obedience has replaced all analytical thinking and they have forgotten why they started attending the SSPX in the first place.
The younger SSPX generation is worse, as the rule of entropy intensifies with time. Fighting is a foreign concept to them; they want to get along. They probably think that their parents over-reacted (because the world really is a nice place after all!!). They whisk their children to the nifty SSPX schools; what more could they want, because, after all, they have the true Mass, and Traditionalism is all about the Mass, is it not? They forget that the pre-Vatican II Catholics also had the true Mass and they woke up in the Conciliar Church!
Further, adherents of the SSPX are told that they must seek regularization/recognition because the SSPX suffers from an irregular canonical status (with proper canonical status, the SSPX would then be granted proper jurisdiction rather than supplied jurisdiction). The SSPX always used to teach that there is a state of necessity which creates supplied jurisdiction. The Indult environment was created to keep people away from the hardline position of the Archbishop. Now, by joining the Indult environment, the SSPX is saying that there is no longer a state of necessity, which implies that there is no longer supplied jurisdiction, therefore canonical recognition is necessary. The SSPX now claims that it must fight for the Faith from within the Church as did the early Roman martyrs. But the Roman martyrs never accepted 95% of the Roman religion! They died rather than compromise their Faith! And once the SSPX is given the proper canonical status, would the SSPX then teach the entire Catholic Doctrine with Vatican II new theology, as a bonus perhaps? What Faith will they defend and preserve once they are within the Conciliar Church?
The tragedy is that today’s SSPX adherents (and priests?) have relegated Archbishop Lefebvre to the dustbin of history. The SSPX leadership has paved the way by giving us a re-branded image of the Archbishop as merely a keeper of the true Mass. What an insult to the memory of the Archbishop! The younger SSPX supporters no longer know that Archbishop Lefebvre founded the SSPX in order to properly form the priests who would transmit the Faith, completely and accurately. The Archbishop understood that the fight was on the Doctrinal level.
Should we be discouraged? By no means! History repeats itself. Thank God we are not asked to invent new ways of preserving the Faith – we are encouraged to look to the past and learn from others how they kept the Faith. Read St Thomas More. Read WT Walsh. Read H Belloc. Read especially Archbishop Lefebvre. And then go and fight!
Sr Constance (TOSF)