While waiting for the day…

I have written several postings about the Society of St Pius X, and have expressed my disagreement with many of their doctrinal and political positions. I have also deplored, in the light of books and statements from the 1970’s and 80’s, the way they have been treated by Rome – and the utter lack of understanding of each other’s culture.

The Society’s promised declaration to the Holy See has just been made public: Rome-SSPX: Declaration of the General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X sent to the Holy See.

I find the most significant passage in this entire text is the following:

The Society finds its guide as well in the constant Tradition of the Church, which transmits and will transmit until the end of times the teachings required to preserve the Faith and the salvation of souls, while waiting for the day when an open and serious debate will be possible which may allow the return to Tradition of the ecclesiastical authorities.

Some may find it preposterous that anyone should say that the “ecclesiastical authorities” should “return to Tradition”. The meaning of tradition has been hashed out between the two “sides” for years. Tradition is either something fixed, like a book, like the Bible or a liturgical rite – or it is a “hermeneutic of continuity” or a “development” as in Newman’s thought. There is still a problem in distinguishing a “hermeneutic of continuity” from one of rupture. It’s all so tiring. It could all go on until hell itself freezes over!

The problems aren’t the same with the Anglicans, the TAC, the ordinariates and all the rest, but a parallel is to be seen. It cannot be denied. The summer holidays seem to be over and winter seems to be returning – and I’m not talking about our bad weather in northern Europe! I am talking metaphorically about the “seasons” in the Church.

Some say the Pope has brought the ship about to sail on the other tack, and is now appeasing the hard-line “liberals”. I find that idea just as preposterous. Or is it?

The fact remains that many of us have “missed the train” and can only wait and carry on with our lives as best we can. There, the SSPX clergy talk sense. Who can blame them when push comes to shove?

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6 Responses to While waiting for the day…

  1. From an Orthodox perspective, there is a great contradiction at the heart of the “traditionalist” Roman Catholic position. This POV correctly raises the question of what is supreme, the Tradition, as is the understanding within Orthodoxy, or the magisterium, as taught by the Roman Church, culminating in the decrees of the First Vatican Council. The contradiction, however, lies in the fact that the “tradition” embraced by the RC traditionalists includes the notion that the magisterium is supreme, IOW, “magisterial positivism”. Because this is the case, one can draw a straight line between Vatican I and Vatican II, the latter being the fruit of this magisterial positivism at a specific time in the history of the RCC. The SSPX does not recognize this, of course, and in many ways, its position, of all the traditionalist groups and trends, is most precarious because it seems to be trying to have its cake as well as to eat it. Sede vacantists sidestep the question by denying the presence of a valid pope since, usually, Pius XII. Other groups, accepting the sede premise, have, however quixotically, elected a pope of their own.

  2. ed pacht says:

    I think the insuperable problem here is that the tradition invoked by Rome does indeed include the definition of “Catholic” as “in communion with and under the authority of the Pope”. This is, indeed, the authoratative definition since the counterreformation. Since SSPX does not fully accept the authority of the Pope, and is not formaslly in communion with him, their protestations to be the only truly authentic expression of RCism is lacking an essential ingredient and rings rather hollow.. While one can sympathize with their discomfort with much of what the RCC has been doing, and deplore some of the ways in which the RCC has handled the changes, the fact remains that the actions and claims of SSPX at least give an appearance of opposing some of the core principles of both Trent and V I.

    • I agree with you. The SSPX is incoherent in affirming a Tridentine and Counter-Reformation ecclesiology whilst refusing to obey the very system it upholds. This is the reason for sedevacantism – like Continuing Anglicans saying that the Canterbury Communion is no longer Anglican because… Sedevacantism is essentially a Roman Catholic form of Continuing Anglicanism, except that it affirms the absolute necessity of the Pope – and this in some cases leads to conclavismdo-it-yourself Popes like Michael I in Kansas and others.

      The problem is cognitive dissonance between a certain conception of traditional Catholicism and the reality of the modern Church.

      I don’t envy them, and so I adhere to Gallican ecclesiology. The highest authority of the Church is the College of Bishops and the Ecumenical Council whose teaching has to be received by the body of the Church. The Pope simply has a primacy of honour and his authority is (or should be) for the bene esse of the Church.

      • Fr. Anthony, what you term “Gallican ecclesiology” is essentially that of the Orthodox Christian faith in both its iterations, Chalcedonian and non-chalcedonian. The role of the Pope as primus inter pares is spelled out in Canon 34/35 of the so-called Apostolic Canons as applied to the universal Church:

        “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.”

        The Church, as icon of the Blessed Trinity, is counciliar from bottom to top, from top to
        bottom.

        “Peter, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.”

  3. Fr. Bobby C. Hall says:

    “The problems aren’t the same with the Anglicans, the TAC, the Ordinariates and all the rest, but a parallel is to be seen. It cannot be denied”

    The problem that exists is that while the Church supposedly made provisions to receive those in TAC, we now find those same aspiring faithful communities, along with their clergy, left standing on the station platform as the juggernaut of the Ordinariate train rushes by.

    • It’s an old analogy, used by Cardinal Kasper back in the dark old days of November 2009.

      I went sailing this afternoon, lovely fresh breeze of about 12 knots and a bit of a choppy sea for a tiny dinghy. I went quite fast when I was in a broad reach (wind two-thirds behind you on one side or the other and sails well open). I thought to myself that this is really “as good as it gets” without a bigger boat to go further out to sea.

      It certainly puts other things into perspective, wouldn’t you say?

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