|Archbishop Di Noia|
Monday, January 21, 2013
About that Letter to the SSPX...
There’s a new report of a letter sent to the SSPX by the Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop Di Noia. (H/T SuperTradMum). The full text is now in English on Rorate Caeli blog.
I read the letter quickly, impatient to get a sense of what’s going on. As usual, it’s not really clear. I'll have to go study it some more. In the meantime, here's my initial reaction:
The letter seems amicable enough, but some parts are a little condescending. In the beginning there are words to the effect that the SSPX (as in Bishop Fellay, and a few others I guess) have spread some falsehoods that “impugn” the Holy Father, and the Vatican may need to step forward soon and correct “certain inaccurate assertions”.
Now, I do not at all pretend to be anything other than a confused lay person when it comes to the ongoing dispute between the SSPX and Rome (a confusion which stems from Rome’s ambiguous statements about the SSPX’s status in the Church…or is it outside of the Church?!). Let me try to work through some of my confusion here.
Early in the letter, the archbishop says:
…[A] review of the history of our relations since the 1970s leads to the sobering realization that the terms of our disagreement concerning Vatican Council II have remained, in effect, unchanged.
Yes. Well. Sorry, but all I can hear is my dad saying “Poop or get off the pot” in less polite verbiage. Yep, we’re going on 40 years here with no resolution. I find that a little disgusting. But then what do I know? Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
The paragraph noted above continues:
With magisterial authority, the Holy See has consistently maintained that the documents of the Council must be interpreted in the light of Tradition and the Magisterium and not vice versa, while the Fraternity has insisted that certain teachings of the Council are erroneous and are thus not susceptible to an interpretation in line with the Tradition and the Magisterium.
Now here is where I get confused all over again. “Documents of the Council must be interpreted in the light of Tradition and the Magisterium and not vice versa”, it says. Well, I guess I thought that’s what the SSPX has been saying all along. I thought they were saying that some aspects of the documents just don’t follow from Tradition. I thought that’s WHY the SSPX says certain teachings of the Council are erroneous. I think that paragraph creates a false dichotomy. But then, what do I know?
There’s a lot about the “unity of the Church” in the letter. That’s an important point, of course. But how to preserve unity is another question. When to speak against erroneous teaching is a question. Just yesterday I listened to a very interesting talk given way back in 2000 in which the speaker, Rod Pead, notes that
…[When a] journalist asked His Eminence [Cardinal Silvio Oddi] if the arguments of the likes of Augustine, Aquinas and Cardinal Newman were correct, that in the words of Aquinas - "if the Faith be in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public," the Pope's close friend and colleague answered: "Absolutely. Without question."
There has to be a place for questioning…doesn’t there? I think that is a difficult question in itself, actually…
Anyway, there’s a lot to this letter; you should really read it yourself. Some of it is, I think, condescending toward the SSPX. For instance, look at this paragraph from the section describing “The Place for the Priestly Society in the Church”:
The authentic charism of the Fraternity is to form priests for the service of the people of God, not the usurpation of the office of judging and correcting the theology or discipline of others within the Church. Your focus should be on the inculcation of sound philosophical, theological, pastoral, spiritual, and human formation for your candidates so that they may preach the word of Christ and act as instruments of God’s grace in the world, especially through the solemn celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (my emphases)
Okay, sure, I can see the point being made here…sort of. I have to wonder, though, how one inculcates sound philosophical, theological, etc., formation when – if you really do a thorough job of that – you can see some glaring discrepancies and contradictions when you get to Vatican II… I mean, there ARE some problems! And if the SSPX and a bunch of other people from all walks of life are WRONG about these problems, then they need to be addressed definitively.
I don’t see that happening; and that’s sad, because if Archbishop di Noia wants to talk about preserving the unity of the Church, he – or someone – needs to be willing to get to the heart of these issues that divide us. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I know that the Church is divided in the US; one need only look at the stats on how many Catholics voted for Obama, how many support same-sex “marriage”, how many think there is some justification for abortion, and how many use artificial contraception.
Here’s what I think: it’s time to stop beating around the bush. It seems to me that the SSPX has been pretty straightforward in their objections to certain parts of the Council. It seems to me that Rome has tended to sidestep the real issues. Why don’t they cut to the chase and actually discuss the real issues?
There can be no doubt that there are real issues. And we can see the fruit – rotten though it may be in many cases – of some of those issues. For one thing, we can see the problems with the way “ecumenism” was presented or at least interpreted after the Council: Catholics have become “Protestantized” as a result, rather than Protestants becoming “Catholicized”. In fact the idea that everyone should be Catholic – one true faith, and all that – seems to have gone by the wayside.
And then there are the problems with the Mass. Let’s just not even go there right now, other than to point out that, as everyone seems to understand, there are egregious liturgical abuses going on every day in Masses all over the world, and no one in authority really seems to care.
There is the decline of the Church in the decades following Vatican II. Some of that decline can be traced to the interpretation of some of those documents from the Council. If there is not a direct causal relationship, surely Rome can at least admit that there’s a strong correlation – and that there are things that need to be “fixed”.
It’s almost as if the powers-that-be (especially the “progressive” and “liberal” powers) are incapable of admitting that there might be some aspects of Vatican II that need to be clarified, and maybe even corrected. Documents that can be so disparately interpreted seem to me to be in need of a little fine-tuning.
But what do I know? I’m just a confused lay person who loves the Church and hates the fact that, at least in my little Catholic world, our “Catholic identity” has been all but forgotten.