Our friends at Rorate have put up an English translation of an interview by KNA (Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur) with SSPX Fr. Franz Schmidberer. Fr. Schmidberger was once the Superior of the SSPX and he is presently the SSPX Superior for Germany. At you probably know, there is tension in Germany right now especially among the bishops, regarding the SSPX’s intention to ordain priests soon.
Here is Rorate’s translation with my emphases and comments. Be sure to go visit them and see what others are saying there as well.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
"Similar to Opus Dei?"
Schmidberger responds: "Somewhat."
Some ordinations of new priests by the Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) took place in the United States last Saturday. New ordinations are expected for next Saturday in Germany – despite the overreaction of several German ordinaries. Amidst the controversy, the German Catholic News Agency (KNA – Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur) interviewed the former Superior General of the SSPX and current Superior for the District of Germany, Father Franz Schmidberger (source: DomRadio):
The German Superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, Franz Schmidberger, has defended the ordination of new priests planned for the coming weekend. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), Schmidberger also commented on his assessment of the Second Vatican Council and what he expects from further discussions with Rome.
KNA: Herr Schmidberger, are you a priest of the Catholic Church? [This question strikes me as being provocative, even hostile, from the onset.]
Schmidberger: Of course. I was ordained to the priesthood in 1975 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in Econe.
KNA: You say that without any qualifications? [See?]
Schmidberger: Yes. I live and work in the heart of the Church.
KNA: What does the Second Vatican Council mean to you? [More.]
Schmidberger: There is no doubt that it was an ecumenical council, but among the 21 councils it possesses a unique status as a pastoral council. [A classic distinction. I think this is often used when people don’t want to pay attention to the Council.] Both popes of the council declared that they wished to define no new dogmas. Therefore, the Second Vatican Council does not have the same status as the other councils.
KNA: What about its content?
Schmidberger: The spirit of the council has been described as an evil spirit, even by Pope Benedict XVI. There are ambiguous statements in the documents, and many others that do not agree with traditional doctrine. [I guess that would be a "no" vote, then.]
KNA: What should the theological dialogue between the society and Rome regarding the council look like?
Schmidberger: As far as the external form goes, it could be both oral or written, but primarily it should be written. We have selected representatives from our side and Rome also has chosen its people. [Some good information there.] The discussions will consider: what is ambiguous in the council? What contradicts the traditional doctrine of the Church? [I would love to see the SSPX’s list.]
KNA: Frankly, do you believe that the old and new rites can continue to coexist over the long term?
Schmidberger: Well, we will have to see how things develop. There are profound differences between the two rites; for example, the direction of the celebration. The old rite is God-centered. The new is man-centered. Many of the gestures, symbols, and rituals have been fundamentally changed. Today, the old rite is like a solid rock amidst the pounding surf, that must remain unchanged. The new rite requires radical reworking so that the sacrificial nature is once again explicitly expressed. [Well… I don’t that last observation was entirely accurate. I think the sacrificial nature is explicitly expressed. While it is certain that in many places the Novus Ordo is celebrated with little concept of the sacrificial dimension of Mass, the newer form can be offered in a way consistent with tradition.]
KNA: What does the Society think of the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism [Unitatis Redintegratio]?
Schmidberger: It says that other [Christian] denominations are means of salvation. If that is true, then there is no longer any point in engaging in missionary activity. That needs to be cleared up. [Perhaps we need a little thought experiment: Since one of the effects of baptism is that the one baptized becomes a member of Christ’s Body, the Church, and since many non-Catholic Christian denominations used valid baptism, it seems that the way to salvation is open to non-Catholic Christians even though they are not formally Catholic, though that way is much much more difficult. But, in the main, this all has to be "cleared up".]
KNA: What about Nostra Aetate, which concerns the relationship with the Jews? [A hot button question for this German news agency conducting the interview.]
Schmidberger: Not only the Jews, it also concerns Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. These non-Christian religions are heaped with praise. This has encouraged the expansion of Islam, for example. Today there are 4.3 million Muslims in Germany. The Church has a mandate to work for their conversion, but I do not know of a single German bishop who has made any plans to do so. As far as the relationship with the Jews goes, the statements of the Council cannot be criticized in their essence. But, since the Council, the idea keeps popping up that the Jews have their owns path to salvation. That is completely opposed to the missionary command of Jesus Christ.
KNA: And you also have problems with the description of the Jews by Pope John Paul II as the older brothers of Christians.
Schmidberger: Certainly Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets are. [The forerunners of the New Covenant.] But the Jews of today are not, because they do not recognize Jesus Christ as the one and only redeemer. How could they then be older brothers?
KNA: Is the impression correct, that you, with your positions, wish to set the price for unity with the Catholic Church. [A fair question, though the interviewer still seems somewhat hostile.]
Schmidberger: We want the truth to triumph. It has nothing to do with subjective opinions, it is all about the truth.
KNA: As you define it. [Fair enough. The SSPX leadership seems not to want to submit their minds and wills to the Church’s teaching authority unless the teaching already coincides with what they want to hear.]
Schmidberger: No, we read all of the previous statements of the Councils and the popes. Pope Pius IX spoke out against religious freedom, for example. The question is: do these false religions possess natural rights? The Second Vatican Council answers differently than Pius IX. That is a rupture. [And that needs to be cleared up.]
KNA: Canon law requires priests to submit to the local bishop. Why is that difficult for you?
Schmidberger: It isn’t difficult at all. But we are our own society, [Get that? Thus, they don’t have to submit to the local bishops.] that was even praised by Rome in 1971. [Well, that was then and this is now. Whatever permissions the SSPX originally had were removed.] Afterwards, we developed our own life. Then tensions developed because we refused to participate in the destructive protestantizing reforms. We have questions about the faith of the Church and the bishops only respond by demanding obediance. [Indeed, the SSPX has not been properly treated in this regard. The doctrinal discussions should have been engaged long ago.] But faith is superior to obediance. [This would be a good point for discussion.]
KNA: In connection with the Williamson scandal, Pope Benedict XVI accused the SSPX of arrogance and urged you to refrain from provocations. But the opposite has happened. How can you help to put the pieces back together?
Schmidberger: Naturally, every man has his weaknesses and unfortunate things have been said. But we want to live together peacefully. I have written a private personal letter to the chairman of the bishops conference, Archbishop Zollitsch, but the bishops are not willing to engage in discussions. They reject any dialogue with us. Why do they demand that we obey canon law to the letter while at the same time they assert that we are outside the Church? [I should think that is clear. If you don’t admit that teachings of a Council, obey the law that is in part shaped by that Council and promulgated by proper authority, if you don’t obey the Pope who promulgated the law or the bishop designated to guide a diocese, then… well… why would anyone get the idea that the SSPX is outside the Church?]
KNA: In 2005 there was a conversation in Castel Gandofo, in which, in addition to the Pope, curial Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, and Traditionalist Bishop Bernard Fellay, you also took part. What was agreed at that time?
Schmidberger: We discussed the entire situation with the Society and agreed on the path which we are now following. The Motu Proprio of 2007 and the lifting of the so-called [I love that part. I never tire of it.] excommunications were the first steps. Now comes the theological dialogue. Next, we have to find a canonical structure for the Society with its 500 priests. We are satisfied with the solution that Rome is considering. [This is an important part of the interview.]
KNA: Which is?
Schmidberger: In the direction of a personal prelature. [There it is.]
KNA: Similar to Opus Dei? [I suppose there would have to be some work to figure out how the SSPX functions within dioceses.]
KNA: More ordinations are planned for the coming weekend, although Rome has said that they are illict. Why do you insist on these ordinations?
Schmidberger: The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. The faithful have a right to the celebration of the traditional form of the Mass. The point is making priests who desire to proclaim the Gospel available. The ordinations are not meant to be an affront to anybody. They are actually being done to help the Pope and the bishops. But it like dealing with patients who do not see what medicine does for their health. [sigh… with this attitude… oh well….]
KNA: And so you claim the role of physician.
Schmidberger: Yes, that is true. Tradition is the only guide to bringing the Church out of the present crisis. In 1950, 13 million Catholics went to Sunday Mass. Now it is just under 2 million. That is a drop of 85 percent. In ten years, all of the Churches will be empty. [He can’t, of course, know that.] Is that what the bishops want? What is going to happen to our children? It is about preserving Christianity in the West.
A good interview, though I think the interviewer sounded a little hostile from time to time.
Fr. Schmidberger kept his cool and only stumbled into an unfortunate turn of phrase a couple times. I think he was trying to be careful, but some things must be pretty ingrained over these years. That business at the end about the Pope and bishops being sick and not knowing that they need the medicine that the SSPX is going to force on them for their own good was a bad stumble in my opinion. The SSPXers would do well to avoid saying this sort of thing.