A Look Back: Why did the SSPX put aside the principle of “No practical solution without doctrinal agreement” - May 5, 2012
I rediscovered this on Rorate and concluded that it is important to provide context for some other articles that I'll be posting in the next few days.
Nothing new – that is how one could describe the first half hour of the conference given by Fr. Niklaus Pfluger at this year’s Spes-Unica-Sunday: the First Assistant of the Superior General of the SSPX recalled once more how the relationship with Rome has developed in recent years.
But then the conference hall in Hattersheim (Germany) got more and more excited as Fr. Pfluger unexpectedly started to unveil the events of the past years up until now. And he also announced that these events prompted Bishop Fellay to place aside the principle that guided negotiations with Rome.
The Pope’s desire of a solution
“No practical solution without doctrinal agreement” – such was the principle upon which the Society had started the talks with the Holy See. But the negotiations of the past years have revealed that the different positions regarding central questions of doctrine cannot be bridged.
Recent weeks have revealed that the Pope is so much interested in a canonical solution for the Society that he is ready to seal a deal, even if the Society does not recognize the disputed texts of Vatican II and the New Mass. Would the Society, however, refuse an agreement even under these circumstances, then new excommunications are a possible outcome.
The freedom to continue working in freedom
Under these circumstances the Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, does not consider it possible to reject the Pope’s proposal. It would be tantamount to a lapse into Sedevacantism if one would still isolate oneself from the Pope’s wish, if this wish does not entail acknowledging false doctrine. It also is a matter of prudence/wisdom not to cut all connections with Rome. One should keep at least one door open, even if at this moment there seems to be no proximity in doctrinal matters.
It is, of course, a pre-condition that an agreement will cover the assurance that the Society will be able to disagree from Rome’s positions in disputed matters and that it will have the freedom to continue her work in her entire apostolate. Part of an autonomous status would also be the right to criticize the Council and Modernism.
The offer to Archbishop Lefebvre and historical parallels
By way of support for Bishop Fellay’s decision Fr. Pfluger recalled the way of action of Archbishop Lefebvre in 1987 and 1988. At that time the Archbishop proposed a far-reaching proposal for an agreement with which he wanted to arrive at a pragmatic interim solution which would have benefited the whole Church. The arrangement that the Archbishop was willing to sign at that time demanded far more concessions from the Society than what Pope Benedict demands at the moment.
Moreover, one has to realize how much false doctrines have spread throughout the Church. Even if a theological conciliation between Rome and the Fraternity would have been achieved, it could not be expected that by a word of command from the Pope all false doctrines would suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Fr. Pfluger points to parallels in the history of the church: after the condemnation of Arianism, this false doctrine was still spread widely for quite some time, in some regions even for many decades. And even fifty years after the Council of Trent, the Archishop of Milan asks Rome for advice, for almost all of his clergy have wives and children. What is he to do? – The response from Rome shows how the church reacts with wisdom and common sense in such situations: if he cannot replace the clergy, then he simply has to keep it.
The relentless reinforcing of Tradition
The acknowledgement of the Society would, after all, be an official confirmation of the importance of Tradition, something that would be very important and influential throughout the Church. And it would rectify the injustice of her stigmatization. Is there not a danger of hostile local bishops using the arrangement to fight and impede further working of the Fraternity? – Against this foreseeable argument the First Assistant holds the development of recent years: the movement in the direction of Tradition – and mainly the wish of young priests to say the Old Mass – has become unstoppable, despite intimidation and oppression. In fact, this movement is now so strong that the Fraternity will be able to resist such claims from modernist Bishops.