Some thoughts about the SSPX, Rome, and unity

People of good will can differ on theological points and still remain in unity. 

People of good will can attain unity even when they disagree on matters which are by no means clear.

The history of the Church’s great Councils underscores this fact.  Time and time again, Fathers of this Council and that Council or Synod would affix their signatures to creeds or symbols which contained carefully worked out compromises of expression.  Both sides would have to give here and there until the language was acceptable to both sides.  Slowly but surely, brick by brick, Council after Council the Church’s doctrines on the hardest questions became clearer.

I call to mind also the situation of the late Fr. Leonard Feeney, SJ, and his "wildcat group" the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  They took a black and white position on the Church’s true teaching that "outside the Church there is no salvation".  This got them in hot water with the Holy See.  Eventually an understanding was hammered out.  The so-called "Feeneyites" were able to be in union with the Church but without having to abjure their position about extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

The theological problems the SSPX has with the Second Vatican Council or the Holy See or anything else, don’t necessarily need to be the absolute obstruction to unity.  Questions of the role of the Church in the modern world or religious liberty are really hard.  There is room for debate and disagreement.  It is possible for people of good will to disagree about whether or not the fruits of Vatican II were all wonderful.  It seems to me that there is a precedent for closer union even when we consider the theological concerns some SSPXers might be harboring.

Moreover, last September in Rome at a conference held in honor of the first year of Summorum Pontificum, the Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei made an astute observation applicable to what has happened with the SSPX and these excommunications.  He said that Pope Benedict and Summorum Pontificum there has been a change in the "atmosphere".  We hope, he continued, that a change in the "climate" will follow.  Our weather changes rapidly and can vary in this place or that place, even if they are close.  But climate is a larger concept.  We hope that gestures such as Summorum Pontificum, request of Bp. Fellay that the followers of the SSPX pray the rosary for the lifting of the excommunications, the exchange of Bp. Fellay and Card. Castrillon last June, and now the lifting of these sanctions indictate not just a shift in the atmosphere, but also the whole climate.

The liturgical issues can be, in fact were already to a great extent, solved with the stroke of a pen.  Sure some study went into Summorum Pontificum, but before it was really just a signature that was lacking.  The lifting of the excommunications was preceded by some study and reflection, but it was in the end a signature or two that completed the act.  Regularizing the canonical state of the bishops and priests of the SSPX, or the Society itself, is a matter of a stroke of a pen. It’ll take some planning, of course, but the actual acts will be simple.  Hammering out the theological difficulties to the point where there can be some sort of Protocol will take some elbow grease on both sides, but in the end it will be a matter of signing something and then moving on. 

What it all depends on, to my mind, is the attitude of both sides, the Holy See and the SSPX leadership.  If they really want unity, then they must make these concrete gestures, such as that which we saw today, and then get into the same room, roll up the sleeves, and work things out.  They have to open their minds and hearts and keep in mind that we don’t have to be in lock step about the putative glories of Vatican II, or the efficacy of the Novus Ordo, etc.  It is time to let go of the Council or its "spirit" as some sort of super dogma. 

It is also time to start obeying the Roman Pontiff and tone down the language. 

There is a whole generation of young people who have grown up in these SSPX chapels, listening to their parents and priests, for whom a state of conflict with Rome, with the bad feelings and attitude of superiority and intractability is normal.  They have never known union with Rome and the local bishop.  A clear path for walking this division back to real and clear union with Rome is going to become weedier and narrower and harder to find if this goes on much longer.  The clock is ticking.

In effect, people on both sides have to stop behaving like jackasses and get to work… if they really want union.

I sure do.  I can hardly wait to hear about SSPX priests regularly attending deanery meetings and having a voice on presbyteral councils.

So let the arguing begin in earnest civility. 

In both Rome, and in chanceries and in the rank and file of the SSPX people must open their hearts and not just their minds.

It is possible for people of good will to disagree on very hard questions and still be in union.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andreas says:

    Dear Father Z:

    In my humble opinion, this is one of your best comments ever. Amen, Amen, Amen.

  2. Malta says:

    Fr., very well said. The only thing dogmatic in the documents of Vatican II are reiterations of previous dogma. In this sense, in my humble opinion, one can ignore Vatican II and still be a solidly formed Catholic, maybe more so. Ala the Feenyites, SSPX and the Vatican could agree to disagree on, say, religious liberty, as taking one position or another on that subject is just not that important.

  3. Woody Jones says:

    It is very interesting and encouraging in this new situation that recently an important book, named something like “Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition”, edited by Matthew Lamb and Matthew Levering, has come out. From the few portions I have read, it really presents some good points: the discussion of Gaudium et Spes (a big hang up for the SSPX, along with Dignitatis Humanae) is quite interesting as it seems, in good Roman style, to select and emphasize the good points, rather than dwell on the questionable ones, so, for example, in discussing human dignity, the author points out the places in which GS states or alludes to the perfecting of one’s dignity, or in some cases, actions being below one’s dignity, and so forth. Very interesting in view of human rights discussions going on in some quarters, including the probable new Moscow Patriarch (KIRILL)’s doubts about a one size fits all universal human rights regime.

    The book is available from Amazon

  4. Ed Mechmann says:

    It would be a fiting irony if the ultimate answer for the SSPX would be to establish it as a personal prelature — a canonical status created by the Council.

  5. DMWallace says:

    The remission of the excommunications causes one to ponder the existence of the FSSP, which was founded by members of the SSPX who wanted to be in union with Rome following the 1988 consecrations. The FSSP and the SSPX have no discernible spirituality or charism, other than saying the traditional Mass and celebrating the sacraments. I would argue that saying Mass is not a charism. If the SSPX is regularized canonically, they will be identical to the FSSP, more or less, at least empirically. (Other clerical societies such as the ICRSP et al. have specific charisms, apostolates, and spiritualities.) I don’t wish to stir up controversy in this post; I am simply concerned about what will happen now within the Fraternity. For years the FSSP pridefully (and rightly so!) displayed their adherence to Rome, their fidelity to John Paul II and now Benedict XVI is contradistinction to the SSPX from whence they arose. Now, if all is well for the SSPX, if indeed its priests join the ranks of diocesan priests in the presbyteral councils and deanery meetings, what becomes of the Fraternity? [It strikes me that adherence to the See Peter is pretty important in this whole sphere of consideration. Perhaps that has, for the time being, been enough?]

  6. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    In other words: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis…

  7. irishgirl says:

    Excellent commentary, Fr. Z!

    Now if other ‘schismatic’ groups could follow suit….

  8. “I can hardly wait to hear about SSPX priests regularly attending deanery meetings and having a voice on presbyteral councils.”

    I can hear the squeals of pain already, “no more tie-died ?, what do you mean no dancers ?, I just bought these crystal chalices!! aaaggghh.

    Anyway we have many beautiful churches here in Southern Mercer county, (the northern most part of the Cincinnati Diocese) with intact altars and some still have the rails in storage, wanting for a Priest, several Priests currently serve 4 to 5 parishes each, surely one could be given up for a SSPX priest, I pray daily, I am so tired of trendy happy-clappy Masses

    God Bless Our German Shepard

  9. Fr. Dennis Duvelius says:

    I wonder if the four SSPX bishops will be included in the Annuario Pontificio and whether they will be given titular sees. [Of course not. Not until they are regularized. Lifting the excommunication is just a first step.]

  10. SARK says:

    Dear Father Z

    “and in chanceries and in the rank and file of the SSPX people must open their hearts and not just their minds.”

    In our house we will, in addition to hearts and minds, also be cracking open a botle of post-Vespers bubbly and toasting two brave and holy men, and then we will open our mouths in prayers of thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus Christ and his Sorrowful and Immaculate Mother.


  11. Aquino says:

    This really is excellent news and, like others, I agree that Fr Zs wise words are wonderful.

    I am not well-versed in Canon Law, but I would guess that, since the excommunications are now lifted, the episcopal status of the bishops is no longer in doubt and hence the ordinations they have carried out are now judged to be licit as well as valid.[Absolutely not! All the ordinations past and present – future too unless they are reconciled – remain illicit. All the clerics of the SSPX are still suspended a divinis and not yet canonically in harmony with the Church.] However, I wonder if this is jumping the gun at this early stage.

    On a practical level, I just wonder what the situation is for those Catholics who have hitherto consciously avoided attending Mass at an SSPX church because of the canonical situation. [NOTHING HAS CHANGED in that regard.]

    Does the lifting of the excommunictaions mean that the bishops (and hence their priests) are now in de facto communion with the Holy Father and, therefore, in good-standing with the Church, [NO! It does not.] notwithstanding that further dialogue is needed, as the statement clearly says? If so, does that mean that Catholics who wish to attend the Extraordainary Form of Mass, but without the ability to do so in their local parish or diocese, can now do so with a clear conscience at a nearby SSPX Church? Or do we have to wait for further agreements to be made? [More is needed.]

    It’s not a particularly burning issue for myself, as I can attend the EF Mass easily where I am (and there are no SSPX churches near here anyway), but it might mean that other Catholics, deprived of that ability, may well be able to find their spiritual nourishment at a nearby SSPX church. Has anyone any advice? [Pray and make sure you know the score.]

  12. Andy K. says:

    Fr. Z,
    I’ve been trying to figure it out… but….
    Can we now, as Catholics, in good conscience go to Mass at an SSPX chapel (or receive Communion)? [No. Not in my opinion. There is a long way to go.]

    Or will that hopefully come in the future?


  13. Jason says:

    I think your point about Church history is very important. The Church is not a cult where everyone is required to think the same. We have disagreements, and the Church deals with them over the centuries. The important thing is to think with the Church, and to respect her authority and her final judgment when she does intervene in disagreements. And of course, we must have charity in all things.

  14. vox clamantis says:

    What a joyous day this is!

    God bless and grant many more years to our dear Pope Benedict XVI. What a good shepherd he is!

    The decree is silent as to Archbishop Lefebrve and Bishop Castro de Mayer but surely the lifting of the these excommunications vindicates their actions, done in good faith, given the circumstances of the times.

    I remember reading so long ago in The Remnant a quote attributed to the late John Cardinal Wright. When asked about Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers, he was stated to have replied, “Leave them alone and they’ll come home,” presumably, as the line goes on, “wagging their tails behind them.” This struck me then and it strikes me now as a callous and not very pastoral attitude.

    There are no tails wagging (or dragging) that I can see.

    Ut unum sint.


  15. Creagh says:

    well put Father, i think what remains to be seen now is the SSPX reaction to this. Not only the bishops but also the priests, seminarians and faithful. I know this will be a challenge to many so we must continue to pray for them.

  16. Tom Ryan says:

    [i]There is a whole generation of young people who have grown up in these SSPX chapels, listening to their parents and priests, for whom a state of conflict with Rome, with the bad feelings and attitude of superiority and intractability is normal. [/i]

    The most perceptive thing I’ve read today!

  17. Fr J says:

    I am sure a reverend colleague will correct me if I’m wrong, but… the Fraternity is still “irregular” even if the Bishops excommunications have been lifted. The Fraternity currently enjoys no Canonical status within the Church, it is therefore not strictly “in communion” with the Holy See.

    The final outcome will, hopefully, be the Canonical regularisation of the Fraternity with the Holy See.

    Until such time, the Fraternity’s Bishops and Priests do not have faculties and their Canonical status has not changed (much) despite the lifting of the excommunications.

  18. Joan Ellen says:

    Deo Gratias. And thanks to the Blessed Mother. And, thank you Father, for your good comments.


    1. Isn’t the SSPX a canonically established religious order? [No.] If it is, doesn’t that mean that the priests do not sit at diocesan tables?

    2. If the SSPX is a religious order, is it a pontifical order? [No.]

    3. If it is a pontifical order, does that mean that it does not come under the jurisdiction of the local
    Bishop? [Doesn’t apply.]

    4. Isn’t the mission (charism) of the SSPX that of providing a Traditional Order of Priests worldwide? [Right now, whatever mission they have, they are not doing it in harmony with the Holy See.]

    5. If the SSPX mission is a Traditional Order of Priests, wouldn’t the SSPX have no need to further file their custom with Rome…i.e., (isn’t that done in a dubium?) so that they are free to live in agreement with their custom, their Traditional Order of Priests? [No.]

    [Friend.. you are all over the place here. The status of the SSPX hasn’t changed.]

  19. Fr J says:

    Joan Ellen: I refer you to my comments above re your first question and the Canonical status of the SSPX.

    Ref your other points, as the SSPX does not have any Canonical status at present, all that has yet to be decided.

  20. hopeful says:

    Excellent post Fr. Z. You said exactly how I feel.
    Please know that there are many SSPX faithful who have been waiting and praying for this day and are hopeful of reconciliation. Sadly, there are many who will dig in their heels and not be brought back. They have only known separation and like it that way. The \’independent\’ and sedevacantist chapels will swell with the dispossessed ex-SSPX goers.

    This reconciliation (pray it should happen) will not be without great upheaveal in the SSPX chapels and schools. There will be a great influx of Catholics who stayed away because of the irregular status but agreed with the SSPX doctrinally. IMO, there will be a not insignificant number of families that leave the SSPX chapels. This will pull apart communities and dare I saw even families as SSPX throw in their caps with one camp or the other.
    That which is right, is often difficult. Please pray for the SSPX rank and file and that pride and comfort do not keep the Faithful from full unity and for peace among neighbors and family members.

  21. toomey says:

    Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine told me that if the TLM grows much more, and/or if the Church lifts the excommunications against the SSPX, she would end it all. Today I sent her an e-mail asking if I could have her Cadillac.

  22. Patrick says:

    Great comments, Fr. Z!

    One of the biggest challenges for the SSPX will likely be the requirement to work with and not against the current hierarchy. We must remember that a personal prelature or apostolic society of pontifical right operate within a diocese only with the approval of the local ordinary. They are not free to function anywhere as they please. It is in this area that the SSPX will need to be humble and obedient, as they may have to leave some of their apostolates behind, and will have to maintain good relationships with brother bishops in order to carry out their work. Are they up to the task? Only time will tell.

    Father Z’s first comments on the nature of councils remind me of one of my favorite quotations pertaining to ecumenical councils:

    “The first part belongs to the devil, the second to men, and in the third the Holy Spirit straightens everything out.” -Pius XI

  23. jj says:

    Brilliantly written Fr Z.

    Let us pray for open hearts and minds on all sides.

  24. Jackie says:

    Does this change anything regarding the Bishop Bruskewitz excommunications in Lincoln? [Not as far as I can tell. Read today’s decree. It doesn’t speak about anyone but the bishops. What the Bishop of Lincoln did is a separate issue.]

  25. TJ says:

    The FSSP and SSPX should merge into a new entity: The Fraternity of Benedict XVI. [Can I join?]

  26. Somerset '76 says:

    This is where things stand right now: in essence, we are back to the situation that prevailed from May 1975 – June 1988. [Sort of… but not quite. There are now four illicitly consecrated bishops in the SSPX. There weren’t before.]

    Yes, the status of the Society itself remains irregular. They were canonically established on All Saints’ Day 1970 in the diocese of Fribourg (Switzerland) on an ad experimentum basis for six years. After the controversy following an official visitation to Ecône in November 1974 (which included Archbishop Lefebvre’s first public formulation of a conflict between “eternal Rome” and the Rome of the then-present day in a statement issued the 21st of that month), a very dubious process led to the suppression of the Society by a Roman dicastery in early May 1975, an act given retroactive validation by Paul VI at the end of the following month. It has not had legal status since. Since that same time, or at least since June 1988, every one of its priests is also suspended a divinis. This remains the case currently, including with the four bishops.

    The heavy-handedness (if not an outright violation of justice) accompanying the 1975 suppression served only to foster a sense of self-assured rectitude that was already emerging in November 1974. It impelled Archbishop Lefebvre and his priests to believe that they must continue, even entrench themselves if need be, along their existing path. Hence began their appeal to the principle of epikeia and the notion of supplied jurisdiction. They view all the canonical sanctions incurred since as nothing but consequential to the original injustice of the 1975 suppression, against the backdrop of an entrenched postconciliar ethos in the Vatican that they did not recognize to be Catholic, and thus to be of likewise no value before the Eternal Throne.

    It is this sense of certitude of being in the right that has driven everything they’ve done since May 1975, including the curious stretches to the notion of supplied jurisdiction that are integrally bound up with their work. (Including the supposition of their very existence after their original six-year term expired in 1976, since it was of course never renewed.) It is on that basis of “being right about everything” that they must be challenged, even as they will certainly challenge Rome regarding aspects of the Council and the postconciliar era. And, like Fr. Z., I certainly think that both sides will need to make difficult concessions at the levels of doctrine and evangelizing strategy to make the negotiations work.

  27. So, let’s do something practical.

    This afternoon, in the pouring rain, I climbed up the multitudinous steps leading from the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes to the house up the hill owned by the FSSPX, and rang the bell.

    I was greeted by a very friendly, very young priest who brought me on a little tour of the house and offered me some refreshments. We had a wonderful chat about the days events, about the documents coming from all sides, and wound up solving all the worlds problems together.

    There was no denial of difficult opinions of Bishop Williamson, etc. There was great hope.

    All very friendly, all very encouraging, all very… well, you get the idea.

    What a great day.

  28. Scholastic says:

    Excellent post, Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

    On a side note, Fr. Feeney was excommunicated for disobedience, not for his doctrinal mistakes. He refused to meet with Pius XII to discuss the issue. [The SSPX bishops were excommunicated for disobedience also, not doctrine. However, there is some question about how Fr. Feeney was excommunicated. But let’s leave that aside. They situation provides, in my mind, a precedent.]

  29. Jason Keener says:

    When negotiations are carried out between Rome and the SSPX, it has to be remembered that the Catholic Church allows for a legitimate diversity of opinion in both theological and disciplinary matters.

    For example, our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters who are fully Catholic and in communion with the Roman Pontiff have a different understanding of the Sacrament of Matrimony. In Eastern Catholic theology, the Sacrament of Matrimony is conferred through the placing of crowns on the bride and groom’s head and through the priest’s blessing. In our Latin Church, the Sacrament of Matrimony is believed to be conferred through the mutual exchange of vows. There are diverse theological opinions on all sorts of matters between Eastern and Western Catholics who manage to remain in full communion: the exact meaning of the doctrine of Purgatory or the Final Theosis, the exact moment of Transubstantiation, the appropriate age for the first reception of Holy Communion, the merits of allowing married men to become ordained priests, and on and on…

    If Eastern Catholics can legitimately hold theological opinions quite different from the Western Latin Church and still remain in full communion with the entire Catholic Church, I do not see why the SSPX cannot also be accommodated. The SSPX also has to realize that not every newer understanding of a theological matter is harmful or contrary to the Traditional Catholic Faith. As time goes by, the Holy Spirit can lead the Church to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of a doctrine.

    In sum, the Catholic Faith is a jewel with many facets. Let us not look at someone else in the Church as a stumbling block because they may emphasize a different facet of the same jewel. Being open to another person’s understanding often opens us all up to appreciate more fully the diverse richness and nuances of the Catholic Faith.

  30. SARK says:

    Dear Patrick,

    ” We must remember that a personal prelature or apostolic society of pontifical right operate within a diocese only with the approval of the local ordinary. They are not free to function anywhere as they please. It is in this area that the SSPX will need to be humble and obedient, as they may have to leave some of their apostolates behind”

    I am sure the Society will never agree to a situation whereby local Bishops (many Modernists among them who hate Tradition) have the power to undermine their mission. This would not because they proud or disobedient but because they do not want to abandon those souls who depend on them. The Holy Father will be our protector.



  31. Andy K. says:

    Fr. Z,
    Thanks for the speedy answer!

    Here’s to praying the SSPX are normalized soonish!

  32. Patrick says:


    The SSPX will have to begin to learn how to work WITH bishops and not against them. The FSSP, ICRSS, IBP, etc. all do it, so can they.

    There really is no precedent, short of a sui juris church, whereby the SSPX could operate outside the jurisdiction of local ordinaries, setting up wherever they like. This, in fact, may be one of the sticking points in all of this. The Holy Father will most likely not allow them to operate with out regard for the existing hierarchy of the Church.

    Let’s pray that the SSPX embraces the mercy of the Holy Father and acts wwith great humility towards Holy Mother Church.

  33. I also broached the topic of apostolate when I went to the FSSPX house here in Lourdes.

    The response? What humility! What eagerness!

    I wish everyone had that enthusiasm. Hint, hint!

    What a great day!

  34. Nan says:

    Jason, please don’t compare the Eastern Catholics to the SSPX! There are over 20 Sui Juris Eastern Catholic churches, each having come into communion with Rome for different political and religious reasons. Do not create more trouble.

    Eastern Catholics didn’t start out as disobedient Roman Catholic groups whose bishops were excommunicated! This is not at all analogous; lifting the excommunications is only the beginning for the SSPX. Coming into communion with Rome was the end, and Rome knew and accepted Eastern Catholic beliefs and rites as they existed.

  35. Hugo says:

    I find it hard to believe “religious liberty” is open to disagreement: no, the magisterium has spoken, and one group’s nostalgic attachment to the rack and sword is not gonna change that.

  36. Jason Keener says:


    A person certainly can compare the SSPX with the Eastern Catholic Churches in SOME REGARDS. If you will re-read my post, you will see that I did NOT say the entire situation is analogous. I also never said or implied that Eastern Catholic bishops started off as disobedient bishops. I love Eastern Catholicism and have worshipped often in Eastern Catholic parishes. Unfortunately, Eastern Catholics have suffered much by being forced at times to abandon their own rich theologies and practices in favor of western ways. This has been a great impoverishment for the Universal Church. A healthy Church needs both lungs, East and West.

    The main point of my post was to demonstrate that if the Universal Church can make room for Eastern Catholic theology, it is not far out to think the Church can also make room for the SSPX\’s theological opinions. Often, our differences in theology are a matter of a difference in emphasis rather than a difference in essentials. There is room for a legitimate diversity of theological opinion in the Church.

  37. Nan says:

    Jason, I still disagree with you; the theological differences pre-dated the communion with Rome. The SSPX’s theological disunity is more analogous to Martin Luther, who started out in communion with Rome and ended up in a different place altogether. He did, at one point, have the ability to reconcile with the church but chose not to. We don’t know the outcome yet of the SSPX situation.

    I’m well-aware of the suffering that took place among Eastern Catholics; however, many Roman Catholics are unaware of the history of Eastern Catholics, because of which your analogy could imply that Eastern Catholics were dissidents on the way to communion with Rome.

  38. Warren says:

    “People of good will can differ on theological points and still remain in unity.”

    Not to put too, too much of a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm… . Assuming that differing theological points are consonant with apostolic Tradition, perhaps that statement is justifiable. However, if the differences cannot be reconciled with Tradition and one position demands rejection of other (erroneous) doctrine(s), then truth must trump heterodox belief and practice.

    We are witnessing the disintegration of many “churches” that have employed a democratic polity and has resulted in the elevation of sinful behavior (homosexual acts) to the same status as God intended design (matrimony). The phrase quoted above, without the qualification provided by Fr. Z, is exactly what members of the TEC hierarchy have repeatedly used to invent doctrine and thus further divide Anglicans from historical Christianity. While I trust completely in the promise of Christ made to Saint Peter, that the Catholic Church enjoys the protection of the Holy Spirit, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit under the guidance of the Magisterium lest we assume our position is God’s will, when in fact it may contradict that most basic of Catholic understandings – i.e., that christians are most fully Christian when in communion with the Holy See. TEC has made such an assumption, i.e., that they are the diviners of God’s will only to arrive at a place where heterodoxy has ascended above orthodoxy resulting in further fragmentation, hostility to the Gospel, tradition-minded Anglicans who are exiled from their parishes and dioceses, etc.

    As Fr. Z commented: “It is also time to start obeying the Roman Pontiff and tone down the language.” Obedience – yes! The SSPX can learn a lot from those faithful sons, the FSSP.

  39. Jason Keener says:

    I agree that the Eastern Catholic theological differences were legitimately present from the start. After all, Eastern Catholicism “grew up” and matured in certain cultures among certain peoples. On the other hand, Western Catholicism “grew up” and matured in another culture and among another set of people. Both Eastern and Western Catholicism remain valid approaches to the Catholic Faith.

    I don’t think the SSPX is in a different place altogether from Rome. The SSPX claims to hold on to the very same Faith and understanding of that Faith Rome once held. The problem, as I see it, is that the SSPX looks with too much suscipicion on the legitimate development of doctrine. This approach seems a bit short-sighted, because as time goes by, the Church grows in understanding of Herself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This growth does not negate the past. It just builds upon the past and further clarifies it. Development of doctrine also brings out nuances to a doctrine that at first might appear confusing or even contradictory to a doctrine’s earlier and perhaps more simplisitic formulation. These more nuanced understandings are not always modernist errors. Sometimes these nuanced understandings are the legitimate result of theologians and saints contemplating the Faith and drawing deeper riches from the Deposit.

    Also, development of doctrine has occurred throughout the history of the Church. We do not understand the Church now exactly as the Church understood Herself in the First Centuries or in the Middle Ages. Also, the Church is not going to formulate every teaching today exactly like She did in 1940. The Church in 1940 did not formulate every teaching exactly like the Church did in 1620. Vatican II and JP2 did do SOME good things to advance our understanding of doctrine for our times. Not everything was perfect, however. I realize that.

    I hope the SSPX and Rome can work it out.

  40. Adeodatus says:

    Father Z,

    The Feeneyites, who hold that absolutely only Catholics can go to Heaven, still exist and flatly deny the CCC. To obstinately deny that their teachings gravely contradict the Catholic Faith manifestly savors of heresy. [I think you may have missed the point.]

  41. It seems to me that each time Pope Benedict was moving toward reconciliation with the FSSPX, Bishop Williamson would pop up with some strange and destructive comment. Note, this time, some comment came out about, there were no gas chambers or something to that effect, hugely radioactive. Isn’t that curious?

  42. Joan Ellen says:

    Thank you Fathers Z and J.

    I’m learning alot here.

  43. EricG says:

    No, Father Z; with all due respect, I think it is you who might be missing the point.

    Many of us view the situation of the “reconciled” Feenyites the same way we view the fact that Father McBrien, Sister Joan Chittiser, Father Hans Kung, most of the Call-to-Action gang, Cardinal Mahoney, and others are “in communion” with the Church. It’s a false communion, for each of these figures (in word and action) deny the Church’s Magisterium, as do the Feenyites and the Lefebvrists.

    We don’t see the “reconciled” Feenyites as a model, but as one more symptom of how confused and confusing the Church has become: anything goes in Catholicism! High church, low church, conservative, liberal: whatever! We’re Episcopallians-with-a-Pope.

    I personally don’t give a darn that the Feenyite sect in Massachusetts is juridically in union with Rome. Their theology is schismatic, and I for one do NOT pray for full communion with anti-Semitic, flat-earther rad-trads when such a “unity” would be just so much facade. It’s conversion I pray for, not some meaningless signature on a piece of paper. [Still missing the point, I see.]

  44. EricG says:

    Hey, while we’re at it . . .

    Maybe Rome is looking at the liberal Protestant notion of “full communion”. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is in full communion with the Episcopal Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and even some Moravian denomination. Yet, all these churches have radically different theologies, and before agreeing to enter into full communion neither of them had to deny anything from their theological heritage, not their sacramental theology, not the doctrines of the ministry: no, not not a darn thing!

    That’s EXACTLY what Rome is doing with the Modernists and the Traditionalists from the looks of things. The fact that the Feenyites and Hans Kung can both count themselves good Catholics, in good standing with the Holy Father is proof of this, no?

    Maybe Father Z can send a query to the CDF on this matter?

  45. Athelstane says:

    Andreas said: In my humble opinion, this is one of your best comments ever. Amen, Amen, Amen.

    I completely agree. A home run.

  46. Jo says:

    I’m a bit confused. So the SSPX status hasn’t changed yet, valid but illicit, even thought the bishops are not excommunicated anymore? If not, what else is their to be done for them to be in full communion with Rome?

  47. Dominic says:

    Thank you, Father! Excellent considerations here!

    On the other hand, in another post today, you do seem to lack the sense of analogy and understanding of what one is allowed to do in the case of a crisis. Unity with the Pope is NOT the highest law in the Church. [I never said it was!] It’s rather the salvation of souls. If an unfortunate conflict were provoked in which one had to make an apparent choice between the two, then one would sacrifice the apparent unity for “salus animarum”, for such could never be contrary to the correct will of the Sovereign Pontiff. If his actions do not further that goal, then he is engaging in an abuse of power. [Alas… people like us don’t get to make those determinations.]

  48. Sharon says:

    “They took a black and white position on the Church’s true teaching that “outside the Church there is no salvation”. This got them in hot water with the Holy See. Eventually an understanding was hammered out. The so-called “Feeneyites” were able to be in union with the Church but without having to abjure their position about extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. ”

    Maybe I am missing the point too so could you please explain father, or direct me to a site which explains, how the Feeneyites were able to be in union with the Church without having to give up their position that one must be in visible union with the Catholic Church in order to obtain salvation.

  49. Adeodatus says:

    I too would like to hear how one can repudiate the Catechism and not have to “abjure” that position, father.

    When I brought the black and white text of the Catechism to a Feeneyite, he went so far as to imply that the Catechism was at odds with the Church Fathers. So he’s basically a Protestant. I suppose there’s a lot of that going around these days. The Libs don’t have a monopoly on Cafeteria Catholicism.

  50. Joan Ellen says:

    Thanks be to God for 07 07 07. Look at this wonderful
    dialogue here for us all to impress upon our souls, reflect, and then, hopefully, emerge with more clear thinking.

    Without 07 07 07 we wouldn’t be this far…would we?

  51. Paul says:

    A practical observation regarding an entirely different aspect of the question:

    If the SSPX is regularized, what will become of the numerous SSPX properties? Integrating them into the diverse diocesan corporate structures will present a logistical headache and may cause the SSPX or the dioceses to incur gift and property transfer taxes. There would probably be some such paperwork even if the SSPX remains an autonomous juridic entity. Just something for property attorneys out there to consider.

  52. TerryC says:

    Very interesting question on SSPX properties. I also think that some SSPX priests will resist being placed under the authority of modernist bishops who they can fully expect will not have their best interests at heart. Both theological and personal interests I mean.
    This will, I believe, be the biggest obstacle to full reconciliation. Bishops who are hostile to Summorum Pontificum are not likely to be supportive of SSPX groups in their diocese. Were I members of a SSPX church in a diocese which is looking for property to sell off to pay abuse lawsuits I’d be less than anxious to turn property over to control of the bishop, without some kind of guarantee.
    While Fr. Z states quite correctly that at present the SSPX is neither a religious order nor a pontifical order it may well be that reorganization or recognition as one or the other may be a way that SSPX priests and bishops could be integrated into the Church hierarchy.

  53. Earl Sigurd says:

    Juridically FSSPX posseses no propriety: the immobility belongs to lay people associations and foundations which invite priests to celebrate.

  54. Joan Ellen says:

    What about the comment by Terry C, Father?

    Could the Holy Father decide to grant them a Pontifical Right to exist, with licit Mass and Sacraments, while they continued to ‘argue’ (debate is a nicer word, maybe) for the implementation of Tradition (i.e., what the Church has always believed and taught) in the Vatican II documents?

    But maybe the FSSPX would not want the Canonical sanction before having both sides agree on the Documents.

    Either way, in my little mind, it seems we should be asking our Blessed Lord and His Blessed Mother for God’s will in these two areas…the Canonical Status of the FSSPX and an agreement on the implementation, as well as the needed clarifications, of the words in those documents in question. And, don’t we need to ask God’s protection for the Roman Rite…the Latin Rite…and for legitimate unity?

    I don’t know quite how to express this Father. It’s the best I can do.

  55. Matt says:

    The Holy Father will, subject to certain restrictions, allow the FSSPX to operate without permission of the local ordinary, as unprecedented as that is, it is the only way that regularization will occur, and that JUSTICE will be served to those who are attached to the EF. That doesn’t mean that the FSSPX will not have to learn to get along with the local ordinary, it just means they won’t need to beg and grovel. The only alternative would be for the Pope to put an unprecedented smack-down on all the bishops who are not cooperating with “Summorum Pontificum”, a much less likely proposition.

    As to merging the FSSP and SSPX, I don’t that would be a good idea unless it started to come about organically, doctrine aside there is just too many personal issues there.

  56. I think the canonical details are just that… details. The deeper problems need to be resolved first. Other things can be resolved with some elbow grease and a few strokes of a pen.

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