I was on the receiving end of the “crypto-lefebrvist” charge yesterday – a neat trick considering that the originator of that term is now sentenced to pay hefty restitution for defaming the founder of a religious order. Still, it would seem that in the minds of some, the charge bears a certain sting. And I suppose it does. I’m a long-standing devotee of the traditional Mass. We go to great lengths to ensure that our children are baptized in the old rite (because what kid these days couldn’t use a double-exorcism upon arrival?)
I came across yet another online discussion this morning about the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (there seems to be a new one all the time) and those who attack them. Sadly, they are always under fire from pretty much all sides, which must only deepen their sense of isolation.
Reading the back and forth, I have to admit that I do not know what to make of the SSPX situation. I have always carefully avoided becoming involved with them, because it feels like a trap. I know there is good being done there. I know good faithful people who are involved. I refuse to accept asinine arguments like the one made by Fr. Paul Nicholson about how Satanic “masses” are less offensive to God than those offered by the SSPX in good faith. But there are questions that demand consideration:
Does anyone here think it’s possible to disagree with the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre but still agree with the theological positions he put forth?
Does anyone believe that Rome has been in any way clear about the canonical status of the SSPX, or whether or not people can attend their Masses, support them financially, or even receive other sacraments from them?
Does anyone believe, after taking into account ALL the various pieces of documented evidence which so frequently seem to contradict each other, that they can say with 100% certitude they know that the SSPX is a) in schism or b) not in schism – based solely on the statements of popes, cardinals, and the relevant persons in the appropriate dicasteries and commissions in the Vatican?
Is there a single person reading these words who does not believe that the very existence of the SSPX serves as a perpetual indictment of the Church’s post-conciliar liturgy and ecclesiology, and that any validation from Rome provided to the SSPX beyond the occasional vague updating of the semantics of their status or the lifting of the excommunications would absolutely decimate many of the precepts upon which the current Catholic edifice stands?
Subsequent to this last point: can anyone think of a reason why, considering the modernist/gnostic/neo-pagan political machine that the Vatican has sadly become, we could reasonably expect there to be sufficient interest in Rome to accomplish reconciliation or at least offer sufficient clarification to pull us out of this morass?
It seems undeniable that we (faithful Catholics) are being manipulated by at least some of the Roman officials who should be dealing with this, and quite possibly actively being lied to. The SSPX remains a stigma-by-association deathtrap for all those traditionalists who take pains to maintain clear communion with Rome. If you show any sympathy to the SSPX and their arguments or positions, you, like me, will be branded a “crypto-lefebvrist” or a flat-out schismatic. If you cite any of the clearly-articulated theological arguments made on their websites as part of a discussion, you will be instantly dismissed and the citations disregarded. They are, for all intents and purposes, radioactive. And while they have done things over the years that demonstrate that they share the blame for this, they appear to be intentionally kept in the outer darkness by those whose very job it is to make them a full and licit part of the Church.
Perhaps most important is this: if it is schismatic or somehow un-Catholic to believe the things that they believe, then this means all of our ancestors in the faith should be similarly condemned for believing and worshiping the same way. As an institution, they do not hold a single theological position that is not clearly and unequivocally Catholic. They cannot be condemned because of their theology – it is simply not possible to show it to be in error. They even believe in and promote submission to the Petrine office. (One could cogently argue that they have more respect for the institution of the papacy than even the last few popes have – because those last few have been willing to make changes that no pope, if he desired continuity with his forebears, should have made.) Even the infamous act of disobedience has been presented with a very explicit canonical justification. Agree or disagree that this justification is valid, they do not appeal to their own authority, but to the law of the Church.
Their isolation has damaged them. I have no doubt pride has crept in in some areas, which can be very off-putting to those on the outside looking in. The act of disobedience remains a scandal to many. They are most certainly not perfect.
And yet…and yet they are what the Church was before it abandoned its patrimony. They give every appearance that they are doing their best to be faithful to an authentic Catholicism. Should any of us be surprised that there are many in the Vatican who want to keep them as far away as possible, and keep us confused and wary about them in the process? They represent, to Rome at least, the sort of problem that would by its very solution create more problems than it alleviates. Thus, I cannot accept that the confusion surrounding them is entirely an accident. Too many contradictions in official statements exist; too many distinctions without differences are made. Meanwhile, nothing moves forward, and the majority of Catholics associate all traditionalists with the black legend of SSPX schism.
What do you think?
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.