I’ve floated this idea before. I don’t have any illusions that Francis likes much of anything about the SSPX. The other day I had a chat with a South American journalist who agreed with my suspicions that then-Card. Bergoglio’s impressions of the SSPX in Argentina were not favorable in large part because of Bp. Williamson and Bp. de Galaretta. Not hard to believe at all.
But… just maybe… could Francis be the one to get the job done?
I saw at VIS that SSPX Superior General Bp. Bernard Fellay met with Card. Müller.
Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office has issued a statement to confirm that this morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a cordial meeting took place at the premises of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith between Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X. The meeting was also attended by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., secretary of the same Congregation, Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., adjunct secretary and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, along with two assistants from the Society of St. Pius X, Rev. Niklaus Pfluger and Rev. Alain-Marc Nély.
During the meeting, various problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature were examined, and it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation.
“Gradually and over a reasonable period of time” can mean anytime between now and the Parousia. But this is not nothing. Indeed, given the spectacularly hostile treatment shown by Pope Francis’s Prefect for Religious, Card. Braz de Aviz, to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the meeting caught my eye. But, hey, Pope Benedict brought Braz de Aviz to Rome, not Pope Francis.
Could Francis be the one – defying all expectations – to extend an olive branch to the SSPX?
In my recent interview with Amerika Magazine I was asked:
If you could say one thing to Pope Francis in person, what would it be?
Pretty much everything that comes immediately to mind is cliché. I suppose there is one thing. I might ask him to celebrate a Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or at least be present at its celebration by someone whom he would designate. Catholics who have what St. John Paul II called “legitimate aspirations” and for whom he commanded by his Apostolic Authority that respect must be shown, have over many decades experienced great suffering and disrespect and even persecution, even by priests and bishops. They have suffered because they are faithful, and at the hands of their shepherds, which is shameful. Quod Deus averruncet! They can, at times, admittedly be a challenge to work with, but these good people love Christ and their church and their popes as much as any Catholics ever have throughout the millennia. They would go to the wall for Pope Francis, even though sometimes he does things that make them scratch their heads. These people need some TLC. A little love in their direction could bring about great healing. It’s the next step. And were he to do it, this pope rather than the more obvious Benedict … imagine what a magnificent healing moment it would be.
I can picture a Pontifical Mass celebrated by, say, Card. Burke in the Vatican Basilica, coram Pontifice Romano, but without all the flabella and what His Holiness would surely see as frippery of the long-defunct Pontifical Court. I can also envision Pope Francis sitting there for most of the time wearing his Grumpy Cat face.
The Holy Father seems to have two modes. He is either beaming jovially, or he looks like a man at the gallows. Yes, I exaggerate, but I do think he uses his outward mien tactically. For example, he was all smiles during the first part of Pres. Obama’s visit. Then, as you watched the video coverage, when it was time for the official posed photo out came Pope Grumpy Cat, like switch being thrown. The Holy Father was clearly not pleased to be standing there, but he endured it. That’s what Popes do. Paul VI met with Idi Amin Dada. That’s couldn’t have been bubbly and light-hearted.
Popes do all sorts of things they don’t like personally.
Which leads me back to the dream of having Pope Francis be present at a Traditional Roman Pontifical Mass at the faldstool, perhaps with seminarians of the SSPX as the servers.
I wouldn’t mind if Francis yawned and kept checking his watch during the whole Mass. I wouldn’t care if he fell asleep and loudly snored, provided he was there.
It would be more than Benedict did, God bless him!
Pope Francis believes – if I get him right – that a remedy for the Church’s interior malaise must come from our “peripheries”.
Keep watching for this word in his discourses. For Francis, the “periphery” brings back to the core something that is vital, necessary. The problem is, how to preserve at the core the best that the core has always possessed while at the same time reaching outward to the “peripheries”? The danger is that the core will be forgotten, that a hole or vacuum will open up at the core and we will abandon and forget vast swathes of our identity and identity shaping patrimony.
The SSPX is simultaneously the doughnut hole and the doughnut. They are at the same time the core, preserving tradition and patrimony, and they have become a “periphery”. They are in danger of becoming irrelevant to the rest of the Church, and therefore they have to put their best foot forward, too, to make what they have to offer attractively useful. (Frankly, their “Eternal Rome” versus “Modernist Rome of the Curia” schtick is a bit tiresome. It makes them sound like the Fishwrap or LCWR types who moan about the “prophetic church” versus the “institutional church”. Both approaches, if pushed too often and too far are pretty noisome. No, let me revise that… the Fishwrap and LCWR thing is just plain wrong, whereas there is some kernel in the SSPX thing. But I digress.)
So, I continue to hope for the reconciliation of the SSPX. I know exactly how I would do it. No one has asked me lately.