Despite the incorrect, but nevertheless prevailing conviction that the SSPX is in schism, from time to time, news items crop up that stir a little interest in the question. Is the SSPX in schism? Will it be “regularized”?
The blogosphere is abuzz with the non-news that the SSPX is Catholic. This is because in Argentina, Pope Bergoglio’s own country, Cardinal Poli has decreed it so. See Rorate Caeli for the full article. The Rorate post explains that Mario Aurelio Poli, the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires has formally recognised the Society of St. Pius X in Argentina, a fact which was then officially confirmed by the Argentine government.
Back in May, 2014, a similar incident prompted Rorate to conclude that the Cardinal’s intervention to assist the SSPX may indicate both the SSPX’s resolve not to be an independent Church, not to be seen as outside the Catholic Church; and, evidently, Rome’s recognition that the SSPX is essentially Catholic. The whole article can be accessed at Rorate, see here.
The latest news from the Society itself is a statement that, “Cardinal Poli’s document has no canonical authority, for he cannot substitute himself for the Roman authority that alone can settle the Society’s canonical status. It is simply a procedure that allows the State of Argentina to make an administrative decision until “a definitive juridical framework is granted (to the Society) in the universal Church. .., it is nothing more than a strictly administrative procedure in the restricted context of the Republic of Argentina.” Source: dici.org.
In a way, the discussion over whether the SSPX is Catholic or schismatic is ludicrous because it is difficult to see how someone who adheres to every single dogma of the faith and maintains the practice of the faith in the same way as it has always and everywhere been understood and observed for two millenia, can yet be accused of schism by the very people who reject so many of those same tenets of the faith.
How sad to see faithful Catholics assume the stance of arm-chair canonists and start parsing canon law to declare whether the sacraments of the SSPX are valid.
Here are a few facts. Note, these are all readily available facts, not my opinions:
- In Hawaii, Bishop Ferrario excommunicated some followers of the Society of St. Pius X in May, 1991. The attempted excommunication was overturned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 28 June, 1993. For details, see here.
- In May, 1994, the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Edward Cassidy replied to an inquiry about the status of the Society of St. Pius X: “”The Directory on Ecumenism is not concerned with the Society of St. Pius X. The situation of the members of this Society is an internal matter of the Catholic Church. The Society is not another Church or Ecclesial Community in the meaning used in the Directory. Of course, the Mass and Sacraments administered by the priests of the Society are valid. The Bishops are validly, but not lawfully, consecrated.”
- Monsignor Camille Perl, Secretary of Ecclesia Dei Commission, in a letter of January, 2003, “”You may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.”
- When he was head of the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, Dario Castrillon Cardinal Hoyos, in an interview in Die Tagepost, 8 February, 2007 stated: “The Bishops, priests and faithful of the Society (of St. Pius X) are not schismatics … The priests and faithful of the Society have not been excommunicated. They are not heretics.”
There are many more similar citations. So why is there so much disagreement? Why is it that when this wonderfully vibrant and renewed Church of Vatican II (forgive the sarcasm!) finds it necessary to close down yet another Church, they refuse to allow the SSPX to purchase it and keep it in the service for which it was intended? Why does the post-conciliar church insist on selling the “surplus” churches to protestant (that is, heretical) sects or to developers of secular enterprises such as apartments, art galleries or even beer halls? Some have even become mosques. Why not sell to the SSPX??
Why do various Vatican prelates continue to disparage the SSPX and label them as schismatic? Pope Francis told his friend Tony Palmer, who was a protestant minister that he did not need to become Catholic, and even had him given a Catholic Requiem Mass and burial. So what’s so objectionable about the SSPX?
For the Vatican, it can only be a matter of money and power. Or, if you will, power and money. When faith is gone, there is naught else. The persons who are presiding over the demise of the Church do not give a fig for dogma. They are not therefore, concerned about any actual schism, which would mean heresy. If the dogma of the faith were the important thing, why would Pope Francis kneel to receive a “blessing” from a heretical minister of some protestant sect?
The Post-Vatican Church possesses one marketable item, the brand name “Catholic”. If the Society only identified itself as the “Lefebvrian Traditional Church” or some such, Rome would probably want to dialog them to death and pander shamelessly to them, as they do with the Jews and Muslims. But for the Society to claim that it is truly Catholic, well that will not do. It damages the brand, doesn’t it?
Regarding the money component, Rome was shortsighted and overconfident in the Springtime effect they were anticipating. Rome’s attempt to nip Archbishop Lefebvre’s budding traditional movement backfired. Far from stopping the Archbishop’s new movement, the attempted excommunications freed Archbishop Lefebvre to seek and receive funding, quite generous funding from supporters. Many, many supporters. Just in the United States, the Society has grown far beyond expectations. The resultant foundations are completely beyond the reach of the Vatican. Understandably, neither the Vatican nor the Society would want to discuss the financial aspects of their negotiations. But clearly, official reunion with Rome will entail control of not only dogma and practice, but also finances.
This has been borne out in many parishes in the country, when the Bishop’s efforts to sell off church properties were contested by groups of parishioners who wanted to retain the churches. Often, the parishioners demonstrated that they had significantly contributed to the maintenance of the disputed properties. But nevertheless, the Bishop always wins, because the Church owns the property no matter how much parishioners donate.
Should the SSPX allow the Vatican to assume control over their foundations, their properties? Think about the Franciscans of the Immaculate before you answer. Money. Power.
The Society of St. Pius X has one purpose and that is to sustain the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by raising up priests to offer it faithfully. They haven’t showed much interest in politics and their interest in social welfare seems to have been limited to nurturing healthy, faithful Catholic families, that is, in growing the Faith. The Society’s constant need for money appears due solely to the ever-growing demand for their services, which requires continuous fundraising for their building needs. Even as the Vatican II Church diminishes, the Society is growing exponentially.
And so the interests of the Society of St. Pius X and those of the post- conciliar Church are not congruent; on one side, power and money; on the other, maintaining the traditional dogma and practice of the Faith and perpetuating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Any resolution with Rome would need to respect the valid interests of the Society. It seems unlikely that the Society would risk what they have in their current “irregular” state for whatever Rome could give them, since as Rome admits, they are Catholics, after all.
Do you remember when it was commonplace for someone, when asked if something was true, to say emphatically, “Is the Pope Catholic?” You don’t hear that much any more. Perhaps more correctly, we could say, “Is the SSPX Catholic!” It would be more certain, for sure!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Rosary, pray for us!
St. Joseph, protect us, protect our priests!
Remember, pray the Rosary and confound Satan!