Some profess respect for separated heretical brethren, but hate unseparated traditional brethren

Fr. John Hunwicke has an interesting comment about the FSSP over at his excellency blog Mutual Enrichment.   This is the second of a short series.  He has a penchant for chain-posts, it seems.  You can find the rest over there.  Meanwhile, here is what he offers in the 2nd post on “Intolerance of minorities” (his emphases and my comments):

The Priestly Fraternity of S Peter, FSSP, was erected with lightning speed after the uncanonical episcopal consecrations performed by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. The promise was that the participants would be given, within the canonical unity and structures of the Church, the ‘deal’ which had been agreed with Archbishop Lefebvre; the ‘deal’ which he had signed, but had thought better of overnight, and had repudiated the next morning.

Broadly, this is what the FSSP was given … although the most significant item in that package, the provision for them to have a bishop, never materialised, and, to this day, never has.

Little more than a decade later, things, apparently, were not well. In the middle of 2000, the Fraternity priests learned that their canonical election of a new superior had been suspended, a new superior was to be parachuted in, and the Rectors of the Fraternity’s seminaries were replaced. A letter referred to “a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church” among the seminarians. And one (otherwise generally sympathetic) Cardinal later explained to journalists that the “Fraternity’s members must be helped in their endeavour to strike a balance between their original charism … and the outcome of their insertion within the ecclesial reality of today“. Mark that phrase!

It is not easy to see how the ecclesial reality of today can mean anything other than the prevalent ethos of Novus Ordo Catholicism. “Striking a balance” looks to me horribly like the old “Latinisation” as it used to be applied in a “uniate” context: the intolerance of the majority towards a culturally different minority, of which, for some reason, they feel dreadfully fearful. Or is the problem that Traditionalists are not humble enough? That they continue to address reasoned questions to the ecclesial reality of today?

Ecumenism is fashionable in some Catholic circles. I have long suspected that ‘liberal’ Catholics, who profess a sympathy for Ecumenism, favour it because their real desire is to change their own Church so that it conforms to the paradigms of Liberal Protestantism. [NB] Be that as it may, there is something strange about Catholics who have a professed warm ecumenical enthusiasm for ecclesial bodies which have been separated from them for half a millennium … but who yet have a visible and vocal visceral intolerance towards fellow Catholics living loyally in canonical structures confirmed by the Church.
To be continued.

See what I mean?  It was a continuation and it is to be continued.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. kiwiinamerica says:

    Oooh, oooh……I know who he’s talking about when he says ….

    “………who yet have a visible and vocal visceral intolerance towards fellow Catholics living loyally in canonical structures confirmed by the Church.”!!

    The person in question (who shall remain nameless because I’d like this published) refers to those with a love of Catholic Tradition as “self-absorbed, Promethean, neo-Pelagians”, (among other things) and glad hands with those of other faiths and atheists and tells them not to worry about converting.

    What do I win?

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    Father Hunwicke’s commentary this morning exhibited, as it always does, brilliant clear sightedness and fortitude. He is extraordinary. His perspective is honest and surely kinder than mine.
    I have commented elsewhere that my experience has led me to believe that protestant communities have no interest at all in unity with Roman Catholicism. They hold us in contempt at best, but tragically far more frequently we are termed a joke. They have no interest in us beyond the deconstruction of Roman Catholicism and the concurrent justification of their own historical aberrance – theological and moral. Many Catholics engaged in this endeavor appear to share that goal and are duplicitous, others are simply delusional or naïve. Having spent ten years working in a trans-denominational seminary of great repute, I assure you, this is the “oikoumene” reality.
    Mainline protestantism has devolved into some sort of “ethical” cultural society with no regard for the Creed. Roman Catholic theologians burdened with an academic inferiority complex acquired in the late nineteenth century, metastasized through the first half of the twentieth, vested themselves in speculative academic inquiry rooted in skepticism, abandoning authentic theological reflection rooted in religious fidelity sustained by prayer. To the extent Roman Catholicism has collapsed into this quagmire, we have advanced toward unity in disbelief. To the extent we have resisted this grievous gravitational force we are farther afield from each other than we were fifty years ago.
    I suspect ecclesiastics and theologians “in the know” have entirely abandoned Roman Catholicism and have yet to let any of us groundlings in on the secret. The spectrum of ecclesiastics presently holding the reigns makes me think this the likely scenario. The odor of sanctity is not to be detected here, rather the opposite. Pastoral care with benefit of the “wink and the nod” is fraudulent and the work of the Adversary. Accountability, something woefully absent in the post-conciliar Church, starts at the top.
    Does Pope Francis wish to confront and correct the protestant trajectory by which the Church is presently propelled, or is this agenda his, was it his mandate from the conclave? I know what I hope to be true, but the evidence appears to undermine this hope of mine. May the future find my fears unfounded and my hope affirmed and fulfilled.

  3. Justalurkingfool says:

    Interesting times, indeed.


  4. Charles E Flynn says:

    From “A Deeper Vision” reveals the abandonment of the Catholic intellectual tradition, by Russell Shaw, for The Catholic World Report:

    Catholicism, Robert Royal writes in his new book, is “no longer a significant part of the cultural dialogue, as it was in the first half of the twentieth century.”

    In one of his informative dispatches from Rome during the Synod on the Family last fall, Robert Royal remarked with regret on the extent to which the synod fathers appeared to have taken their prescriptions for families from a secular playbook instead of from their own Catholic tradition.

    Most synod participants, Royal wrote, “seemed to look at problems of marriage and family from the kind of thin rationalist standpoint of politicians in democratic countries….That shallow rationalism is precisely what gave us contraception, abortion, no-fault divorce, gay marriage, and much else that threatens the future of our societies.”

    Dismayed though he may have been, Royal, a notably astute observer, nevertheless was hardly surprised. As his important new book A Deeper Vision (Ignatius Press) makes abundantly clear, the secularizing of the synod that he observed last fall was only a symptom of something that’s been happening for over a half a century now—the shunting aside of the Catholic intellectual tradition by people in leadership positions and academic life who ought to have absorbed that tradition and worked to promote it.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    “See what I mean? It was a continuation…”
    I’d love to see more blogging with closures, lambdas, currying, monads, etc.

    Wait, that’s not what you meant?

  6. Rich says:

    I have often had the same thoughts about much of the leadership in the Church. Though the analogy isn’t perfect, I compare the Church’s leadership in my mind to a teacher who is constantly providing instruction and guidance to the lowest group of students in her class. These students are disengaged and it continually shows in their low performance in school. Yet, the teacher is so constantly focused on this low group that the majority of middle and high performers get very little out of the instruction and even seem a burden to the teacher when she must shift her focus to serve the needs of that majority. Meanwhile, the performance in the low group may only grow a little and the middle and high performers drift and grow despondent for the sore lack of support.

  7. Uxixu says:

    I have it on good authority that the Fraternity WAS offered a Bishop… The prospect declined. One, diocesan Ordinaries have proven amicable making it unnecessary and two, it is a true Fraternity without any one preeminent cleric. Why X and not y or z?

  8. Gratias says:

    There are also good news for the FSSP:

    His Excellency Archbishop Gomez will offer a Solemn High Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and will administer Confirmation on Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend, May 31st, at 7 PM at St. Victor’s, 8634 Holloway Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069. Those to be admitted to Confirmation need to be approved by Fr Fryar, and ideally should be attending the Confirmation preparation that Father is giving every two weeks at St. Victor’s. Very Rev. Fr. Saguto, the District Superior of the FSSP, will also be present as well as seminarians from the FSSP. All are welcome to attend the Mass.

  9. Gratias says:

    It is shameful that the Traditional Latin Mass orders do not have a single bishop named by the ordinary procedure do the Church. There are 5000 bishops and many are Opus Dei, Franciscans and even Jesuits. This is a great injustice that should be fixed.

  10. moon1234 says:

    This is, in my opinion, the sole reason the SSPX continues to grow in numbers. They have Bishops who will be there to guide the members. Bishops who they will implicitly trust have the best interests of the society at heart. They have a leader who is willing to expel those who would harm the members of the society.

    I firmly believe that the only reason the FSSP, ICRSS and others exist as organized societies is because of the SSPX. They “official” orders exist by the grace of God, but without the SSPX and their Bishops, what is to stop Rome or those working within rome from quietly dissolving these orders? Look at the FFI. They have been destroyed as an order by the very same people who claim to support SP and the traditional societies.

    Without Bishops that support it how long does an order last? 50-60 years? With Bishops, it lasts indefinitely. That is the problem for the SSPX. Eventually the SSPX will need new bishops. Without a resolution to the canonical authority issues the SSPX currently suffers, they will either need new bishops within the next 30-40 years or the order will die within the next 60-70 years (no more Priests).

    This was Pope Benedicts gift and curse. Without a public structure for them in the Church, they will be forced to take action that they KNOW will then render them excommunicated. With the current trajectory in the Roman curia I think it is more likely the Orthodox will return to full communion than the SSPX.

    It is very depressing times we live in. The Church, in many areas, appears to be tearing her official structure apart.

  11. oldconvert says:

    I listened to (and watched) an excellent talk given after last Wednesday evening Mass at St John the Baptist, Westerham, England. You can find it on The priest made and emphasised the elementary point that in order to be ecumenical, to reach out to other Christians and to non- Christian faiths,we have first to be grounded in our own identity as Catholics. Secure in our own beliefs and practice. He held that by letting go of aspects of Catholic belief and practice that differ from other churches (and mosques and temples come to that) is precisely the wrong way to go.

    I was brought up an Anglican and I can see how that church is an Awful Example (although Father, also an ex Anglican, was presumably too polite to say so directly). Much less than a century ago the Anglican church, even the “lowest” variety, did not recognise divorce, did not agree with contraception, abhorred abortion, assumed a Sunday Obligation, regarded homosexual behaviour as a sin, and if you had suggested women on the altar, let alone as bishops, they would have thought you crazy mad. Well, following the example of the more extreme Protestants, even the “highest” Anglicans have shifted their ground on all of these and more (apart from those who have fled home to Rome) and at the same time their church has haemorrhaged membership and, if it weren’t for all those priestesses, would have a vocations crisis besides which ours would pale to insignificance.

    I cannot understand why certain leaders of the Catholic Church cannot see this example and avoid it; or rather, I don’t want to think of reasons why.

  12. Peter in Canberra says:

    The title says it all. I’ve thought this for a long time – complete pagans who want to destroy the church are more welcome in the ‘spirit’ of openness than those attached to Tradition. We are the liturgical ‘boat people’ of the modern Catholic Church, and for some the only place for us is in a detention centre / re-education camp.

  13. Imrahil says:

    And for those that would like to understand – I shall not say “agree with”; understand – that other half-legal priestly society which the Holy Father recently equipped with Confession faculties…

    the whole article could have come, word by word, straight out of an SSPX priest’s feather.

  14. Eonwe says:

    I was talking with my wife (more like ranting) about this very same topic the other day. It is amazing how traditional groups within the body of the Church are so tightly regulated and come under so much scrutiny if they step outside of their small 5 by 5 box. They are called pharisaical, are often looked down upon by priests and bishops of the diocese, and are often labeled by libral and conservative Catholics alike (though it seems conservatives have warmed a bit due to Pope Benedict). Yet, the last 6 decades has been riddled with priests and bishops who disobey Church law on a regular basis, teach heresy (or at least something so fluffy that you cannot distinguish it from one of my daughter’s children’s books), and resemble social activists far more than a priest. This is one of the biggest reasons why we have the SSPX, independant chapels, and many Catholic who are trying to be faithful to what the Church has taught but go outside the official body of the Church. That is what happened with my parents and siblings. The diocese let them down, our bishops let them down, and the confusing messages of the hierarchy let them down. I dont agree with them and their reaction to go outside the body of Church. One starts to personalize the teachings of the past popes and theologians in a manner similair to how Protestants interpret the bible. However, they still do a better job then many of these libral priests who are in good standing. Maybe if the hierarchy was more ecumenical with its own members there wouldnt be so many divisions with traditional Catholics.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear moon1234,

    I’d disagree and be a bit more hopeful. I’d certainly disagree to your statement that a reunion of the Orthodox is more likely.

    The Orthodox have some – small, it is true, but existing – differences in doctrine (doctrine, that is, on a dogmatic level) and have (I am told) imbibed a deep antagonism towards Catholicism in their culture. For example, the Irish certainly stay in their Catholicism out of faith and by grace, but – which is the point here – even setting faith and grace aside and looking on the natural byproducts, could one possibly think of an Irishman becoming Anglican? It is an obstacle such as that one that we have to overcome.

    They may all discuss a lot of filioque (which the theoreticians among them seem to have declared as at least in accord with Nicea and Constantinople), canonical territory (*) and so forth. But what we really have to deal with is the Fourth Crusade (which the historicists may say was condemned by the Pope at once) and the fact that Western relief came to late to hinder the occupation of Constantinople. I wonder how much of that attitude was fostered by propagandistic efforts of the Sultans (under whose rule the Patriarch of Constantinople was, in effect, the viceroy of Christians within the Turkish Empire, and thus in a more powerful position than previously under the Basileus).

    On the other hand, the SSPX attendership is not only in agreement with the Church on everything actually dogmatised, and canonically Catholics (with their priests suspended), but what is on a practical point perhaps more important, they share the same culture.

    As for “how will it go on” etc.: Abp. Lefebvre (in a somewhat overlooked further breach of applicable canon law) consecrated some strikingly young bishops (Bp. Fellay had barely passed his 30th birthday which was the canonical age 1917 but not 1983). There’s going to be a bit of time still; and then nothing in theory stands in the way of a repetition of the first days of May, 1988. Except that time has passed in between; but that might also have a positive effect:

    The responsible Vatican prelates will, of course, hold to Vatican II as to a Council of the Church; but it will no longer, for them, be the fascinating event of their own youth. And the time is still also time to be friendly to each other: as the Pope was with the canonical faculties, the Archbishop of the Pope’s home diocese was with representing it towards state authorities, and some bishops and, more so, local parish priests have been with use of churches), until granting a bishop might seem like just one other friendliness.

    Indeed something makes me think that chances are best when someone occupies a prominent position who, say, entered his noviciate under the Old Rite but was not an actor of the Council itself, who leans entirely to the “other direction” (hence lacks the subconscious “but we have managed to stick that through without resorting to disobedience” factor) and has a liking for affable and convinced persons, not excluding those of other opinions.

    Chances, curious though this is, might not seem so bad under Pope Francis.

    (* In this there is a curious parallel, though. One particular grudge of the SSPX against the FSSP and others is not the fact that they obey the Pope, but that they, as they perceive, “hunt on their grounds” as it were, often with vicinity of chapels and so forth… one might say they perceive them, mutatis mutandis, as “uniate traditionalists”.)

  16. Spade says:

    I thought that, due to their status as a Society and the nature of their establishment by a Pope, as Wikipedia puts it a “Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right” that essentially the Pope was their Bishop as they’re answerable to him (and his offices).

  17. moon1234 says:


    It’s true that the FSSP, ICRSS and a few others have the Pope as their head (I can’t see how the current pontificate is something they will be petitioning much from). They are still reliant on the permission of the local ordinary in order to even have a chapel, much less an oratory. They are dependent on the local ordinary for confirmations. They must rely on Bishops and Cardinals who are not members of the order for minor and major orders.

    Should a Pope choose NOT to involve himself in the order (which has been the case since all of them have been erected), the orders must rely on other Bishops and Cardinals especially for ordinations. Those ordinations have since relied on a handful of Bishops worldwide. When those Bishops retire, die or are persuaded that no more ordinations should occur in the old rite, then what? These orders die simply from a lack of an ordinary.

    This is what Archbishop Lefebvre foresaw. His act of consecrating new Bishops he knew in his heart was against the law. He saw, many would argue correctly, that without Bishops Rome would let those who cling to tradition wither on the vine. It is why Rome denied the society official Bishops and a canonical status. The intention was to tolerate these “rebels” until nature took her course.

    The statement of seeing the orthodox return to full communion before the SSPX was to draw attention to the amount of hostility there is towards traditional orders in Rome. Meaning that I don’t see a reconciliation between Rome and the SSPX during this pontificate.

  18. Traductora says:

    Well, just got back from mass, and I want to congratulate a certain Argentinian on the speed with which he has destroyed the very concept of “ecumenism.” We were told today in the homily that once upon a time the Church celebrated the week of Christian Unity between the feasts of the Chair of St Peter and the conversion of St. Paul, during which time we all prayed that Protestants would find the truth and become Catholics – here Father stopped and rolled his eyes and waited for the appreciative titter – but we don’t do that anymore because it’s not necessary. There’s only one church, you see, the church of the Spirit (he didn’t say exactly what spirit) and we no longer quibble about things like who goes to Communion or the Eucharist or doctrine because we’re all one big church.

    Amazing. Francis only did this last week, and it’s already become “doctrine,” spirit-style, of course.

  19. Prayerful says:

    At least the FSSP have not been pushed into saying the Novus Ordo Mass. That would have been the threat implied in things that happened in the past. Perhaps the FSSP know that to get a bishop from Pope Francis, they might be forced into a hazardous quid quo pro, ie even closer cooperation with Novus Ordo parishes, perhaps even saying that New Mass. Pope Francis, going on what he has said and done including when he was an Archbishop in Argentina (offering the Mass of Ages in the most awkward and deliberately shoddy so it could be cancelled), seems to dislike the Mass of Ages, and, at best, despises Traditionalists. Bishop Fellay would be taking an unacceptable risk in entering full unimpaired Communion with Rome now, even if Pope Francis offered very generous terms on the foot of past contacts.

  20. Ann Malley says:

    …I personally cannot see any solid Catholic, in light of this revealing article, taking further issue with SSPX leadership in being hesitant in moving forward with any perceived ‘agreement’ with Rome. The rigorist claim of , “They’re just being disobedient,” is and always has been far too shallow.

    As one poster declared, it was obviously an act of disobedience to consecrate Bishops without papal mandate. Absolutely it was. And yet, Canon law provides for doing what one perceives as necessary in times of crisis.

    And who can legitimately claim that there is not a crisis with Holy Mother Church or that the knives are out with regard to protecting/promoting the fullness of that which is Catholic.

    The idyll painted around the FSSP is not what it seems. Their superior was removed/replaced. Their seminary rectors removed/replaced. Imagine the same occurred in one’s family home wherein CPS declared that the parents were too rigorous in their beliefs and needed to have the children reared to modern sensibilities regarding the “realities” of state practice.

    Now, one might argue that the FSSP did what was necessary, capitulated to this remove/replace. True enough. Just like a family may have to submit to the rigors of CPS because of the strictures of the law. But just as that homeschooling family from Germany fled to the United States to pursue the freedom necessary to rear their children in the truth, the SSPX sought what means were available, extraordinary as they may seem, to do what is necessary for the children. But these are extraordinary times.

    So whereas one may claim that the FSSP was indeed offered a bishop whom they declined, the question begged is why. It is no joy that the FSSP is marginalized by many a bishop. So, why would the FSSP decline having it’s own bishop? Perhaps for the same reasons that those candidates for bishop were continually declined by Rome prior to Archbishop Lefebvre’s so-called disobedience in consecrating those he did.

    Again, using the analogy of CPS, the authority chosen to form the children is critical. Obviously Rome understands this or else there would’t have been the remove/replace at the FSSP. And the FSSP must know this or else there wouldn’t be a so-called rejection of having their own bishop.

    “….having their own bishop,” isn’t quite the clear cut statement it appears to be.

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