It seems that SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson is a bit worried.
To his latest piece, which I received by email from a reader, I add my emphases and comments.
Before we start drilling, however, here are a few points to keep in mind while reading Williamson’s letter.
- R.W. of the Anglicans [Archbp. Rowan Williams], feeling the threat looming in the Motu Proprio Anglicanorum coetibus, tried rhetorically to taint the waters for members of the Anglican Church so that they wouldn’t go over to Rome.
- R.W. of the SSPX, threatened by a possible Motu Proprio along the same lines, is trying rhetorically to taint the waters so that followers of the SSPX don’t go over to Rome.
- When Anglicanorum coetibus was issued I said that it was – among other things – a trial run for finding a way/structure to heal the break of the SSPXers.
- Williamson is undoubtedly highly attuned to the vicissitudes of the Anglican Church, since he was once an Anglican.
ELEISON COMMENTS CLXII (Aug.21, 2010) : DISCUSSIONS BLIND-SIDED ?
While the Rome-Society of St Pius X discussions are, by accounts from both sides, running into a doctrinal brick wall, reports from France and Germany together with a rumour [rumour, indeed] from Rome spell danger for Catholics. That danger is a political deal which would simply go round the side of the doctrinal blockage. Politics threaten to circumvent doctrine. ["Political" is, in his view, bad. But is "political" to be so reviled? More on that later.]
From France and Germany, I was told me [a bit more rumor… I grant this this is acknowledged as rumor. He is not hiding the fact that these are things he is being told. Fair enough.] a few weeks ago that a large proportion of Catholics attending SSPX Mass centres are only hoping and waiting for some agreement to come out of the discussions. [This, I am sure, vexes him. I believe it is a good and Catholic desire to desire harmony with Peter.] If – repeat, if — this is true, it is very serious. [read: bad] Such Catholics [Note the disparaging tone.] may get full marks for wishing not to be cut off from what appears to be Rome, [You see… Rome isn’t the real Rome. The present Roman Curia, "Rome", doesn’t match the nearly Platonic idea Williamson is presumably qualified to identify. One could wonder if his judgment in about Rome is as trustworthy as his judgment about other controversial issues.] but they get low marks for not grasping [here it comes] that as long as the discussions remain doctrinal, [note "doctrinal"] there is no way in which the neo-modernist teaching of Vatican II can be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine of the true Church. [Williamson get to determine what the "true" Church is?] Such Catholics [Again. Is he signaling a growing separation between himself and the majority of the followers of the SSPX?] may venerate and love Archbishop Lefebvre as they see him, but they have not understood what he was all about. [But Williamson knows!] They had best wake up if they are not in one way or another to fall into the arms of the neo-modernist Romans. [Not "true" Romans. Who made Williamson the arbiter of what is truly Catholic?]
Agreement in front of doctrine means politics before religion, [I think this means "Giving preference to coming to some practical arrangement over coming to an agreement on doctrine…". But is his statement correct? Is there a sharp contrast between "doctrine" and "politics"?] unity before truth, man before God. God before man means truth before unity, religion before politics and doctrine being more important than any non-doctrinal agreement. Only dreamers could not foresee the Rome-SSPX discussions running into a doctrinal brick wall. Only politicians can wish for any non-doctrinal agreement to come out of them. [Is it not possible for there to be a legitimate "political" dimension to theological discussion?]
Alas, to all appearances Benedict XVI sincerely believes in the Newchurch of Vatican II which is to unite in its bosom all men absolutely, regardless of whether they believe or not in the one true doctrine of the Faith. [That is an unfair reading of Vatican II. But he has misread facts of history before. Consider, for example, Lumen gentium 14: "They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it."] Therefore he sincerely wishes to gather in the SSPX as well [The implication is that the Pope set aside "truth" for the sake of unity.] – and he does not normally have too much longer to live ! [The idea of "normal" here must be, "the Pope is close to the end of the span of normal human life".] So the blockage of doctrinal discussions should not unduly worry him. He must be [And so he veers into pure supposition. He doesn’t really know anything.] looking to cut a political deal with the SSPX, in order to unite it with the rest of the Newchurch. [Again, we must raise the possibility that what he calls "political" might actually be a legitimate course of action when considering the ecclesiological (theological) ramifications of this continued wound to unity.] It follows that he must ask of the SSPX neither too much, or it would refuse the deal, nor too little, because then the rest of the Newchurch would rise up in protest.
The rumour [again] from Rome is precisely [an odd juxtaposition of "rumour" and "precisely", n’est ce pas?] that he is thinking of a "Motu Proprio" which would accept the SSPX "back into the Church" once and for all, [NB…] yet require from the SSPX no explicit acceptance of Vatican II or the New Mass, but only, for instance, the acceptance of John-Paul II’s 1992 "Catechism of the Catholic Church", which is substantially modernist but in a quiet way. Thus the SSPX would not appear to its followers to be accepting the Council or the New Mass, [Note the loose language. What does "accept" mean, here?]yet it would be softly, softly, beginning to go along with the substance of neo-modernism. [And knows what the "true" Church is, not the soft modernist Benedict XVI.]
Thus all seekers of unity would be content. Only not believers in Catholic doctrine.
It may be that Bp. Williamson doesn’t understand clearly what Popes are for.
Popes guard and foster unity.
Bishops and Cardinals can help the Pope do this, but it is especially the Pope’s job to deal with unity. When there is a break in unity, or a chance to foster it, Popes who do their jobs well, seize the opportunity with both hands. When they do, they don’t fail to defend the Faith.
Anyone can put on a miter and say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Only Popes truly provide for unity.
The problem is people rarely like to see the process involved in fostering and guarding unity. They like the language and the idea of promoting unity, but – as in the similar case of making sausage – they don’t like to watch it being done.
Popes pull the sheep into one flock… sometimes coaxing… sometimes using a stick.
When Popes don’t do this, they are not very good Popes. When they do a great job, they can even get the nickname "Great".
What Pope Benedict is doing isn’t about power (politics), it is about unity.
Unity is forged and shaped and at times coerced.
Unity is messy and arduous business. Just look at what Popes Leo I and Gregory I had to deal with.
In the history of the Church there have been many theological/political compromises for the sake of unity. Someone versed in the history of Holy Church’s dogmatic theology will instantly recall the compromises, hammered out after decades of sharp conflicts, over language to describe how, for example, the Son is "homoousios" with the Father. Eventually, and after a lot of fights, a clear teaching emerged and was given voice in a formula. Then there was the long period of work so that the formula would be accepted by more and more people who had different ideas about how to express very hard things. The history of the Church involves constant "political" compromises. All human interactions are, after all, "political".
When there are difficult theological questions on the table, the position of the "other side" must be given its due. Greater precision can be sought down the line and after reflection which has the benefit of time.
Through the history of the Church all major and even minor points have been arrived at through political methods, by debates and tussles and compromises, by messy striving and even conflict.
If there is a Motu Proprio out there – let’s call it SSPXorum coetibus – Pope Benedict – the Pope of Christian Unity – would be providing cover to SSPXers. He would be giving them an honorable escape route out of separation and into greater unity. SSPXers would have honorable cover so they can come into unity with Rome without giving in on the documents of Vatican II.
If what Williamson is describing is accurate, if there is some Motu Proprio for SSPXers coming along the lines of Anglicanorum coetibus (and we don’t know that there is), then Pope Benedict would be saying to SSPXers,
"I won’t require you to sign off on the documents of Vatican II, which you don’t like. Instead, you SSPXers can sign off on just the Catechism. Accepting the Catechism is enough for unity and an ecclesial structure of your own in unity with Rome."
This is why Williamson is spooked.
Williamson is saying that in accepting the Catechism, SSPEXers would actually be accepting the modernism of the Vatican II documents. This is why Williamson paints this alleged deal as "political".
Just what the Pope of Christian Unity has in mind for the SSPX is a matter of conjecture. But it would not surprise me in the least were he to offer something very like his solution for more traditionally-minded Anglicans.
SSPXorum coetibus? We shall see.