Sunday, 6 April 2014

The SSPX


Archbishop
Marcel Lefebvre,
Founder of the SSPX
I have rarely - just in a couple posts - written about the Society of St. Pius X on this blog. Mostly this is because, for all my sympathies with that Society, discussions in that vein often tend to be driven more by politics and emotion than theology, and I have never been particularly interested in politics, ecclesiastical or otherwise. This has become ever more true in recent months. While I have often come to the defense of the SSPX in debates and discussions with other people, and will probably continue to do so, my true interests lie in studying and defending the actual liturgical, theological, and spiritual tradition of the Church itself.

That having been said, I thought I'd give a general summary of my stance regarding the SSPX, just for the record.

(Note: by "SSPX" I mean the order of priests, and not the laity who attend their masses. No layman is strictly speaking a member of the SSPX: they are simply Catholics. What follows applies to the Society itself, which is a fraternity of priests and brothers. Often the laity who attach themselves to the Society hold opinions which are not representative of the Society's actual positions.)

First, the SSPX is not schismatic. Nor do I think their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, was a schismatic. Rather, they are disobedient. There is a quite significant difference between disobedience and schism, as understood by the Catholic theological and canonical tradition. The current Code defines schism as "the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (751). This definition is copied almost word for word from that given by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy” (II.II. Q.39, A.1). For St. Thomas, schism is essentially that sin which is opposed to Catholic unity, and he quotes St. Augustine saying that a “schismatic is one who…takes pleasure in the mere disunion of the community.” Unity, says St. Thomas, consists in mutual communion with the Catholic faithful and subordination to Papal authority. The word “schism” in fact originally means a “rip” or “tear,” indicating a kind of separation or break of unity. Hence, Thomas writes that “schismatics properly so called are those who willfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church.” Now St. Thomas does not extend his concept of refusal of submission to include mere disobedience; for otherwise, as one of the objections claims, every sin would be an act of schism, since every sin is an act of disobedience against the Church. Thus, for St. Thomas, since schism is essentially opposed to Catholic unity, it must consist only in a sin in which one willfully and intentionally wishes to separate oneself from that unity. But not every act of disobedience is of such a nature; therefore, disobedience alone is not enough to constitute schism. Schism consists rather in a rebellious disobedience. "Rebellious," as used by St. Thomas, must not be understood in the loose sense in which it is commonly used. Often, the tendency is to call any act of disobedience an act of rebellion, which is clearly not how St. Thomas understands it, since he distinguishes the two. Rebellion, most properly understood, consists in the rejection of a higher authority as such, a "blanket" refusal to be subject to its jurisdiction, and a substitution of some other authority in its place, usually one's own. This is where the line is crossed. This is the sin which severs Christian unity.

The SSPX do not fit this definition, for they have always admitted the authority of the post-conciliar popes, while still maintaining some strong disagreements with certain recent papal statements and directives which appear contrary to tradition. They dissent, and they disobey, and they are sometimes intemperate in their rhetoric, but they do not deny that the recent popes have jurisdiction over them, and they have not set themselves up as an "alternate Church" with an "alternate pope." That would indeed be schismatic. (Think King Henry VIII, who was a schismatic before he was a heretic.) They are still within the fold, cooperating with everything they can in good conscience (registration of new priests, laicization of fallen priests, communication in the transfer of priests, enforcing internal discipline as requested by Rome, etc.), praying for the Pope and the local ordinary, requesting permission to use diocesan churches and facilities, and desiring open canonical recognition.

So is their disobedience justified? This is a hard question. I am inclined to concede the possibility that they lack prudence in their disobedience, but I think they are probably free of culpability in the long run. Somebody needs to take a vocal stand, in witness to tradition, and in combatting the errors against tradition which have been spread in these times even by members of the hierarchy. Saints in the past have always stood up against error. It cannot be a Catholic principle that this is only legitimate until those errors are finally approved by the authorities in the Church, particularly the Pope. Even the Pope does not get to decide what is true or false. His authority is at the service of truth. The primary rule for determining the truth throughout the history of the Church has not been authority by itself, but authority in the service of tradition. The Church and her magisterium do not consist merely in the authority of whoever happens to be in charge at any given moment. The magisterium must be seen as a continuous entity, and so its most authentic authority must be found in its inner continuity. This principle was expressed with great clarity by the father of the Church, St. Vincent of Lerins, who wrote that when one part of the Church deviates from tradition, then it is to tradition which Christians must adhere. Tradition is a criterion for knowing what is true doctrine in the Church. The SSPX act according to this principle. They operate on the basis of the continuous magisterium, which is exemplified in tradition. When a part of the magisterium falls outside of this continuity, the reasonable thing to do, and they do it, is to adhere to the continuity of tradition. Their "disobedience" then turns out to be obedience in the long run. It is an obedience to the authority of the Church as it most properly exists, that is throughout the entire continuous history of the Church, and not solely in the here and now.

That said, I will admit the possibility that the SSPX have often appeared to be too accustomed to the abnormal situation in the Church which sometimes calls for a combative attitude. While there is a need for combat and the taking up of arms in defense of tradition, combat with the ecclesiastical hierarchy should not become a habitual attitude. Thankfully they have been shaping up in this regard too (they recently published a quite good article on this very subject). I do suspect that whatever bad habits they may have picked up are not intentional, for they do recognize in principle that this is an abnormal situation.

On the issue of the episcopal consecrations of 1988, again I think that Lefebvre is free from culpability. The Archbishop was a sick and dying man at that time, and Rome repeatedly ignored his constant pleas to have a bishop for his society. He became desperate. He wanted anything but to disobey the law of the Church, which he knew well, but he saw no other means of continuing the work which he rightly viewed as necessary for the preservation of Catholic tradition. There was a real state of necessity in the Church. It was anything but a schismatic action, as it normally would have been. Lefebvre forbade his bishops from exercising jurisdiction; their only purpose was for the sacraments. There was no intention to set up an "alternate Church." There was no rebellion - even if there was disobedience. All these facts give me reason to suspect that, at the very least, the Archbishop was inculpable for this action, if not positively justified. 

A common objection to the Society’s and Lefebvre’s dissent is that the First Vatican Council defined the authority of the pope to extend not only to faith and morals but also to discipline and Church governance. This is true, but it is also true that Vatican I defined the infallibility of the pope to extend only to faith and morals, and not to discipline and governance per se (the scholastic idea of disciplinary infallibility applies only insofar as discipline contains doctrinal content). Precisely because the pope is not infallible in discipline and Church governance, he can make mistakes in such matters. Therefore it can never be a principle that every single command of the pope in such matters merits obedience unconditionally; his mistakes cannot always merit such absolute submission. The teaching of Vatican I is simply that the pope has authority in such matters, and therefore that obedience is owed to that authority, generally speaking. In a way this corresponds to the distinction between schism and disobedience: schism is a species of disobedience, being the sin against the general duty of obedience which Catholics owe the pope; and it is this duty which is taught by Vatican I. But there is also that disobedience which is only a violation of particular laws or commands. Such particular laws can indeed sometimes be wrong; and therefore disobedience to them can sometimes be justified. The assertion of this is in no way contrary to the teaching of Vatican I.

Regarding the subject of the Second Vatican Council, the above mentioned principles again apply: where there is something out of harmony with the greater continuous tradition of the Church, then it cannot be said to bind in conscience. The SSPX believe that, due to the influence of Modernism, there is a rupture in the conciliar documents with the longstanding tradition of the Church, particularly in subjects such as ecumenism and religious liberty. In my opinion, this is very possible. Even if the SSPX might be mistaken to see an explicit rupture in the texts of these documents - which I am not sure they are - nonetheless I think it is absolutely true that the "spirit" of those documents is something new, something different than what came before. Just an example of this would be the claim, in the document Dignitatis Humanae on religious liberty, that man has both the natural and civil right to religious liberty; whereas previously the notion of a right to religious liberty has been condemned in principle, while admitting exceptions in practice for a liberty of sorts in religious matters. But never was it traditionally taught that man has the right to religious liberty - if by this it is meant that he has the right to worship according to whatever religion he chooses. Granted, the conciliar document insists on man's duty to seek the truth, but this concept is overpowered by the "spirit" of the document which insists also that man has a right to religious liberty. How are these concepts to be reconciled? The SSPX sees no possible reconciliation, and I suspect that they are right.

The same is the case with the conciliar doctrine on ecumenism, and the relation of the Church to other religions, denominations, and non-Catholic churches. There is a movement towards the denial of the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, or at least towards a weakening of that doctrine. Again, while the SSPX might not necessarily be correct in seeing an explicit contradiction with tradition, nonetheless I think it is clear that the "spirit" of Vatican II certainly moves in that direction. It is also clear that the Popes after Vatican II have moved strongly in that direction - I am thinking specifically of Pope John Paul II's Assisi meetings, by which the SSPX were rightly scandalized. Because of all these issues, I believe that Rome's requirement for reconciliation that the SSPX be silent on the subject of Vatican II is quite unfair. There is a problem, and there is ambiguity, if not error, and it needs to be discussed. This discussion should even be public, because it has caused so much public confusion. Sure, it should also be charitable and polite and all that, and perhaps the SSPX have not always been successful in that regard (they have been shaping up lately, though); but the need for this discussion cannot be ignored, and frankly I see it to be a greater evil to turn a deaf ear to the matter than for it to be discussed with some polemics. Some of the saints far surpassed the SSPX in their aggressive tone against those in error (St. Thomas More contra Luther - look it up. Not that the modern Popes and Vatican II are quite as bad as Luther...). Anyhow, I do not want to go into detail on all of these topics (religious liberty, ecumenism, etc.), as they have been hashed out more than enough elsewhere. Some of the relevant past papal teaching can be found in the archives of this blog.

Moving on now, the general principles of tradition and authority apply also to the subject of the liturgy. The SSPX recognizes these principles in regards to liturgy too, and rightly so; although, in fact, I think they do not necessarily apply the principle as well as they should. In general, the SSPX's views on the liturgy are something of a mixed bag, as I see it. They often put forth the argument that the new mass is destructive of Catholic teaching on the Mass. They get around the problem of the Church's immutability and disciplinary infallibility by arguing that the new mass was not promulgated by Paul VI according to the correct legal norms which are required for it to be protected by disciplinary infallibility. This position is, I think, quite consistent, and not necessarily un-Catholic: for they recognize in principle that the Church cannot produce a liturgy which is intrinsically harmful to the faith. They just think that it was not, strictly speaking, the Church who produced the Novus Ordo, since it was not promulgated correctly. I am inclined to disagree with them on this matter. I have a difficult time denying, as they do, that Paul VI did not intend by that legislative act to officially and authoritatively approve the new rite of mass. So I think that, in one sense, the Church did indeed produce the new liturgy, and I think the new mass is not intrinsically harmful to faith. It can be celebrated well and be quite beneficial. But I also think that this does not free it of all objective imperfection. It is easy to tell that, while it contains nothing directly harmful to faith, many theological concepts have been manipulated so as to speak to the false ideologies of the modern world in an appealing way. It is analogous to how the teachings of scripture, containing nothing false or harmful to the faith, are often manipulated by the Protestants to support their own false notions. Something like that has happened in the Novus Ordo. And just as the fact that Protestants have manipulated scriptural teaching to their own ends does not in any way undermine the fact that scripture is divinely inspired and inerrant, so also does the fact that the new liturgy manipulates the truths of Catholic doctrine to support false ends not undermine the infallibility of Catholic doctrine in that liturgy. Anyhow, this is my opinion. The SSPX are not always quite as careful to make these necessary distinctions, but I think the substance of their argument can be restated as I have just stated it.

In their critiques of the new liturgy, they tend to focus on the theological differences between the traditional and new masses, especially as regards the dogmas of the Real Presence and the Propitiatory Sacrifice, and so they focus on the doctrinal propositions especially in parts of the mass like the Offertory and the Canon. I think their discussions in this regard are not without merit, since, as I have just said, there has indeed been a manipulation of doctrinal concepts in the new liturgy. For example, the old Tridentine Offertory prayers which clearly expressed the propitiatory purpose of the divine immolation were suppressed in the new missal. However, the reform affected much more than just the doctrines of the Real Presence and the Propitiatory Sacrifice. The theology of the liturgy revolves around these two central truths, but it is also much, much more than that. For example, the traditional collects contain a vast wealth of spiritual teaching that has been largely ditched in the new liturgy, and replaced with concepts more appealing to modern ears. Something similar can be said of the lectionary. In fact, I am entertaining the possibility that the damage done in these respects is somewhat greater than the loss in regard to the aforementioned two doctrines (after all, these two concepts are clearly present in some of the new Eucharistic prayers, and historically speaking the Offertory prayers are newer and less essential elements of the Roman rite - not that the new ones are all that great). It surprises me somewhat that the SSPX do not speak much of these other doctrinal elements of the liturgy, such as are contained in the collects, since these are also very essential to the Roman liturgical tradition.

Pope St. Pius X
Thus far I have spoken only of the doctrinal connection of the liturgy. While that is certainly important, I have lately been learning that there is far more to the liturgy than doctrinal propositions. The liturgy is something that is naturally embedded in tradition, which gives meaning and force to the liturgy beyond its doctrinal content. This tradition would make it wrong to invent liturgies on the spot even if they were perfectly orthodox in doctrinal content. It seems to me that the SSPX tend to have a narrower understanding of the liturgy than is actually called for by this tradition, and in many ways I think they are not grounded deeply enough in the actual history of the Roman rite. This has led them to a quite strict adherence to the liturgy of 1962. Recent scholarship has revealed the liturgy of 1962 to be not quite the pristine traditional liturgy that it is often assumed to be, particularly in regards to the 1955 rites of Holy Week, created under Pope Pius XII by a committee consisting of many of the same men who later composed the Novus Ordo. Also, the breviary had been quite heavily reformed back in 1911, by the very Pope whose name the Society bears. That reform was not especially favorable to tradition either. (Don't get me wrong: St. Pius X was very great and traditional in other respects, e.g. his condemnation of Modernism.) Of these facts of liturgical history, the SSPX seems to be somewhat unaware, or else they are simply not bothered by them. But the fact is that in regards to the liturgy, they are not as traditional as they should be. This reflects in their critiques of the Novus Ordo as well. While they make many valid points, in their ignorance of liturgical history they have failed to touch adequately on many of the most damaging and far-reaching aspects of the reform, such as the revision of the orations, the practical loss of the propers, the new lectionary, the practical loss of the Canon, and the new "Liturgy of the Hours." These changes constituted by the far the greatest damage to the liturgical tradition. Instead, the SSPX tends to focus almost exclusively on the less important elements, such as the Offertory prayers and the prayers at the foot of the altar. They could much strengthen their case if they looked to those elements which once defined the very heart and essence of the Roman rite. Some of these elements they would do well to restore to their own celebrations of the liturgy - like the singing of the Mass propers and the chanting of the pre-Pius X Office. (I do realize that some of these suggestions might cast an unappreciated shadow on the name of their patron, St. Pius X, as well as Pius XII, both of whom, again, I too hold in great esteem for reasons other than the liturgy… but still.)

I think the main problem with the SSPX as regards the liturgy is that they do not have a well-defined concept of liturgical tradition. I have learned lately that the liturgical tradition of the Church is in many ways more important even than the doctrinal tradition. Such a notion is somewhat foreign, at least in practice, to the scholastic way of thinking to which the SSPX are so attached. Scholasticism is a very doctrinally centered system of thought, and liturgical practice can be somewhat overlooked. The scholastics tended to view the liturgy primarily as another source for the teaching of doctrine, and so the importance a properly liturgical tradition was somewhat lost. I don't think this is necessary. I myself am very attached to the scholastic method, but I think that, if we are to be fully traditional as Catholics, we need to look at the whole picture of the Church, in which the liturgy as such features no less importantly than doctrine. The scholastic emphasis on doctrine can be reconciled with the primacy of the liturgy in the life of the Church. The SSPX have fallen into the same old scholastic habit of viewing the liturgy first as a source of teaching - which it certainly is, but it is also much more than that. The liturgical mode of communicating the faith goes beyond just the texts and phrasing and the explicit expression of doctrinal propositions. The liturgy is less like a textbook than it is like a piece of artwork, or a piece of music, or even a dramatic play. There is much more involved in a drama than just the script. The failure to recognize this truth results in a very limited understanding of the purpose and proper perfection of the liturgy. This has further resulted in a rather weak critical stance on the Novus Ordo, first of all, and in some liturgical unorthodoxies within the ranks of the SSPX itself as well.

Also, there seems to be a prejudice within the Society against the concepts of liturgical development and diversity. This is an impression I have received from reading some of Archbishop Lefebvre's thoughts on Quo Primum and Bishop Tissier de Malleris' article on The True Notion of Tradition (available on my sidebar), and some other sources. First of all, the rootedness of the liturgy in tradition has never prevented it from being able to develop in an organic fashion throughout the ages. That is how the Tridentine liturgy came to be. Granted, its development came to something of a halt after it had been codified by Pope Pius V, but it is not this relative staticism which followed that defines the liturgy as traditional. The tradition of the Roman liturgy is seen in the remarkable continuity which it exhibits all throughout its long development; but the point is that there was such a development, and there is no reason why it should in principle have ceased just because of Pius V's legislation in Quo Primum. Yes, Pius V forbade changes to the missal, but was this to put a break on organic development or simply to provide the needed stability in that time of rampant liturgical abuse and anarchy? Neither did the tradition of the liturgy prevent it from exhibiting some healthy diversity. In the middle ages, the various Cathedrals and religious orders would often have each their own variant on the same Roman liturgy which was received in tradition. These variations added beauty and stylistic significance to the liturgy, without damaging the tradition. This is to be sharply distinguished from the "do-it-yourself" style variety that exists in the Church today. There is a way to do liturgical diversity without damaging the substance of the liturgical tradition. All throughout the liturgical variants, the same Roman tradition was preserved in its stability in all the major elements. The analogy to a dramatic play might help: the script contains the words for the actors and perhaps some stage directions and so forth, but these might be embellished differently by different actors and directors and in different styles, each very beautiful in its own way. Likewise the liturgy. Pope Pius V actually permitted many of the medieval liturgical variants to survive (on the condition that they were 200 years or older). Sadly, only a few of them did - mainly those connected to religious orders. But the fact that the Tridentine reform did not forbid these liturgies indicates that a genuine adherence the Tridentine reform, such as the SSPX claims to have, does not require a rejection of a certain amount of liturgical diversity within tradition.

All this having been said, I think that if we are honest we must admit that we owe the preservation of liturgical tradition in today’s Church largely to Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX, even if they did not go the full way. The 1962 missal is definitely a much more traditional missal, in my opinion, than the missals that followed it, even if it has its defects. Moreover, if it were not for Archbishop Lefebvre, the traditional mass would probably have almost disappeared from the face of the earth a long time ago. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI recognized the attachment of many Catholics to their traditional forms of worship, and gave us Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum – which, granted, are not perfect, but nonetheless they have established some degree of tolerance for tradition in today’s Church. And this would very likely not have come about were it not for the voice of the SSPX. 

So there's my two-cents. There is obviously still a great deal more that could be said on all of these questions, and more, as lengthy as this post is. I think I have probably left out some important issues in the above summary... But that's the gist of it anyhow. 

11 comments:

  1. Jeff, Thanks for your article, I think you got somethings correct, but others are not quite correct. I hope you and your readers buy and read the following:

    Archbishop Lefebvre's classic, Open Letter to Confused Catholics, read online for free here, especially Chapter 18, True and False Obedience: http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/OpenLetterToConfusedCatholics/ or purchase here:

    Here is a great pamphlet that explains the question of obedience: http://angeluspress.org/Books/SSPX-Modern-Crisis/Where-is-Obedience

    Roman Amerio's classic work examining the 2nd Vatican Council http://angeluspress.org/Books/SSPX-Modern-Crisis/Iota-Unum

    http://angeluspress.org/Books/SSPX-Modern-Crisis/Time-Bombs-Of-Vatican-II

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  2. Thanks for the comment. (As you probably know now, though, I am not Jeff.)

    I am actually quite familiar with most of the sources you've linked, and agree with most of what they have to say. Notice that in my article above, I defend the "disobedience" of the SSPX as amounting, in fact, to true obedience, insofar as it is an adherence to Catholic tradition rather than to the novelties issued in by recent papal authority; so I agree in principle with what the Archbishop writes in his Open Letter, although I may express the matter somewhat differently.

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  3. Maestro,

    Thanks for your response and clarification.

    I wanted to share a sermon I came across just today, the Archbishop explains the difference between Real and Apparent Disobedience: http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/Real_and_Apparent_Disobedience.htm

    "We are incriminated because we have chosen the so-called way of disobedience. But we must understand clearly what this way of disobedience consists of. I think we may truthfully say that, if we have chosen the way of apparent disobedience, we have chosen the way of true obedience.

    Then I think that those who accuse us have perhaps chosen the way of apparent obedience which, in reality, is disobedience. Because those who follow the new way, who follow the novelties, who attach themselves to new principles contrary to those taught us by Tradition, by all the Popes, by all the Councils, they are the ones who have chosen the way of disobedience.

    And this is why we are convinced that in being faithful to all the Popes of yesterday, to all the Councils of yesterday, we are faithful to the Pope of today, to the Council of today and to the Council of tomorrow and the Pope of tomorrow. Again:Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in saecula.- And if today, by a mystery of Providence, a mystery which for us is unfathomable, incomprehensible, we are in apparent disobedience, in reality we are not disobedient but obedient.
    One cannot separate Our Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot say that one obeys the Christ of today but not the Christ of yesterday, because then one does not obey the Christ of tomorrow. This is of vital importance. This is why we cannot say that we disobey the Pope of today and that, for that reason we disobey the Pope of yesterday. We obey the Pope of yesterday, consequently, we obey the one of today, consequently, we obey the one of tomorrow. For it is not possible that the Popes teach different things; it is not possible that the Popes gainsay each other, that they contradict each other.

    And this is why we are convinced that in being faithful to all the Popes of yesterday, to all the Councils of yesterday, we are faithful to the Pope of today, to the Council of today and to the Council of tomorrow and the Pope of tomorrow. Again:Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in saecula.- And if today, by a mystery of Providence, a mystery which for us is unfathomable, incomprehensible, we are in apparent disobedience, in reality we are not disobedient but obedient.

    One cannot separate Our Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot say that one obeys the Christ of today but not the Christ of yesterday, because then one does not obey the Christ of tomorrow. This is of vital importance. This is why we cannot say that we disobey the Pope of today and that, for that reason we disobey the Pope of yesterday. We obey the Pope of yesterday, consequently, we obey the one of today, consequently, we obey the one of tomorrow. For it is not possible that the Popes teach different things; it is not possible that the Popes gainsay each other, that they contradict each other.
    And this is why we are convinced that in being faithful to all the Popes of yesterday, to all the Councils of yesterday, we are faithful to the Pope of today, to the Council of today and to the Council of tomorrow and the Pope of tomorrow. Again:Jesus Christus heri, hodie et in saecula.- And if today, by a mystery of Providence, a mystery which for us is unfathomable, incomprehensible, we are in apparent disobedience, in reality we are not disobedient but obedient.

    How are we obedient? In believing in our catechism and because we always keep the same Credo, the same Ten Commandments, the same Mass, the same Sacraments, the same prayer—the Pater Noster of yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is why we are obedient and not disobedient."

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  4. I don't see any real conflict here. In other places, the Archbishop freely speaks of obedience and disobedience in the same colloquial sense as expressed by our blog host:

    http://sspx.org/en/can-obedience-oblige-us-disobey

    "When an authority uses power in opposition to the law for which this power was given it, such an authority has no right to be obeyed and one must disobey it."

    "Now our disobedience is motivated by the need to keep the Catholic Faith."

    "Hence it is not inconceivable that there could be a duty of disobedience with regard to the pope."

    "They have a right to be disobeyed by us."

    Etc.

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  5. Dear editor, Thanks for the note and quotes, they are good ones! As I said, I think you wrote an article with a number of great points...I just found and still find a couple of sections problematic.

    The real problem with the original article you wrote is this section: "First, the SSPX is not schismatic. Nor do I think their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, was a schismatic. Rather, they are disobedient."

    To leave it at that and not explain that the Archbishop's and the SSPX's "disobedience" is actually true OBEDIENCE...is misleading and incomplete at best.

    The following distinction should be made, that the Archbishop's disobedience is NOT real disobedience but rather ONLY apparent disobedience. Furthermore, the Archbishop's disobedience is actually true OBEDIENCE.

    The Archbishop explains the difference between Real and Apparent Disobedience: http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/Real_and_Apparent_Disobedience.htm

    "We are incriminated because we have chosen the so-called way of disobedience. But we must understand clearly what this way of disobedience consists of. I think we may truthfully say that, if we have chosen the way of apparent disobedience, we have chosen the way of true obedience."

    Also this section of your original article amounts to an inclination to possibly concede something that is incorrect:

    "So is their disobedience justified? This is a hard question. I am inclined to concede the possibility that they lack prudence in their disobedience, but I think they are probably free of culpability in the long run."

    The Archbishop and the SSPX have practiced extraordinary prudence in the very difficult crisis overwhelming the Church for the past 60 years.

    Their heroic prudence is proven and explained here: Archbishop Lefebvre's classic, Open Letter to Confused Catholics, read online for free here, especially Chapter 18, True and False Obedience: http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/OpenLetterToConfusedCatholics/

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  6. The commenter named "Editor" is someone other than the author of this post - that would be me.

    Nonetheless I agree with his point in that comment. In my original article, I did in fact explain that the SSPX's disobedience turns out to be true obedience. So I addressed your concern.

    By calling them disobedient I was merely using a language which Lefebvre himself occasionally used, as the earlier commenter pointed out. In the linked article by the Archbishop, there isn't even an explanation that the disobedience is merely apparent; rather the explanation was that it was justified. I made exactly the same argument in my own article.

    The point being that sometimes the Archbishop spoke as if it was not disobedience in any sense of the word - my explanation for this being that he was using a rhetoric (legitimately) - while other times he admitted it was in fact disobedience, but justified. Both are legitimate ways of making the same argument.

    As to the Archbishop's prudence in his rhetoric and public image, that is harder to argue about. Suffice it to say that what matters most of all is that he got most of his principles right, for which reason I would absolutely defend him for his actions. Frankly, if anti-SSPXers argue that he lacked prudence, I would dismiss that argument, even if it were right, because it is not important. So we can agree to disagree about his prudence or imprudence; it will hardly affect the important points in the least, which are matters of principle and not of prudence.

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  7. Good deal, thanks, keep up the great work!

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  8. Just saw this - My position is not unlike your own at the current moment. I know that if I were asked to sign onto "The Novus Ordo is a legitimate rite" (valid yes), I could not sign in good conscience; hence I can't fault them for not signing the 2012 preamble.

    Just to play devil's advocate - if, hypothetically, +Lefebvre were still alive today and proceeded to consecrate bishops now in 2014, assuming 1988 never happened, would the "state of necessity" justification still hold as it did in 1988? Assume, however, that the FSSP still exists and Summorum Pontificum was issued; does the existence of these two change that state of necessity?

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  9. That's a really good question. I think it is certain, at least, that they would not be able to make such a public stand against the questionable theological trends that the modern hierarchy have followed were it not for their abnormal canonical situation. But that might be a different problem than the consecration of bishops. Lefebvre seems to have wanted bishops for his society for the sake of the sacraments, which Rome was reluctant to grant in 1988. But the FSSP thereafter have managed somehow to do their thing with non-traditionalist bishops providing the sacrament of orders for them. And yet that itself might be due to the FSSP's rather different and less publicly critical attitude toward the crisis of the hierarchy. It seems that, if the SSPX want to be as open as they are, few bishops besides their own would be willing to cooperate with them, even today with the FSSP. And we're talking here about doctrinal issues, less than about liturgical practice; as far as liturgical practice goes, the FSSP and Summorum Pontificum I think have established a measure of tolerance for tradition that was certainly not present in 1988. But the SSPX is not concerned with just doing liturgy rightly; they are also concerned with publicly combating recent errors; and certainly that is still not tolerated in normal circles within the Church today any more than it was back then. And that combat of error is, I think, still quite necessary; the SSPX are a voice that needs to be heard and that Rome and most bishops would prefer not to be heard. So maybe that necessity is still there to some degree?

    I don't know. That's an interesting question...

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    1. "But the SSPX is not concerned with just doing liturgy rightly; they are also concerned with publicly combating recent errors; and certainly that is still not tolerated in normal circles within the Church today any more than it was back then. And that combat of error is, I think, still quite necessary; the SSPX are a voice that needs to be heard and that Rome and most bishops would prefer not to be heard. So maybe that necessity is still there to some degree?"

      I agree entirely. Perhaps it's a flawed question considering the FSSP wouldn't exist had the consecrations not happened, and arguably there would be no Summorum Pontificum or greater "liturgical tolerance" today without the stand +Lefebvre made. I suppose a more pertinent question would be if the SSPX would be justified doing another round of episcopal consecrations given the current situation. The FSSP probably agrees with the doctrinal positions of the SSPX, but is not so vocal about them; does it then come down to one's prudential judgment to remain quiet justifies another's prudential judgment to "disobey" though both are committed to the same cause? Personally, I am inclined to say that there is no current justification objectively from a sacramental view (and if one denies the validity of the 1968 rite of Orders, then one may as well be a sedevacantist and quit this discussion), though I would like there to be more consecrations simply because the FSSP still lacks its own bishop(s) and the SSPX is virtually the only vocal entity focused on the real issues.

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  10. Here are a couple of great articles that tackle some of the things you all are discussing:

    The Difference between the SSPX & the FSSP: http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/question-principles-sspx-vs-fssp-3062

    The State of Necessity: http://sspx.org/en/search/node/necessity

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