SSPX reconciliation?

24 01 2009


As much as I hate to comment on stuff that is too “news worthy”, as one of the only bloggers who has a fairly ambivalent attitude towards the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and who has had some personal history with them, I think it only appropriate to write a few words about the lifting of the excommunications against the four SSPX bishops.

Firstly, I will say that I think Archbishop Lefebvre was not in the wrong for doing what he did back in 1988. Regardless of what I think now of the movement he started, I still feel that his actions were necessary for the preservation of tradition and the well-being of the Church. So as far as I am concerned, any canonical action taken by the present Pontiff is a non-issue.

Secondly, there seems to be some controversy going around regarding Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust denial. I am far from being sympathetic to right-wing quacks, and wouldn’t mind if they locked this guy away in a monastery so that he can bark his conspiracy theories to the walls. He came to La Reja for ordinations the year I left seminary there, and he gave some rather bizarre and apocalyptic spiritual conferences, and I thank God everyday and twice on Sundays that I didn’t have to be a seminarian under him. (He took the reins six months after I left.) Nevertheless, his views do not affect the Holy Father’s canonical decision, as many have pointed out.

Thirdly, I think this really does make the Catholic Church into a case of “here comes everybody”. My own feelings of alienation from the Church often stem from the fact that my experiences of the Catholic Church have been so radically different from the typical American Catholic, liberal or conservative. I was raised in a fairly liberal parish with a heavy dose of Mexican charismaticism and underground folk Catholicism. Intellectually and in terms of piety, I was also heavily formed by the SSPX itself, and the way it and other traditionalists function when compared to “normal” Catholics is basically the difference between night and day. While ideology inevitably turns traditionalists into a sect within a larger Church, at least they still do the same things that were on the books in pre-Vatican II Catholicism. That is worth something, at least in my book.

While Pope Ratzinger cannot help having profound esteem for the Second Vatican Council, it is hoped that some day we will live in a Church where it is but one council among others. While the SSPX may reject most of what has happened in the Church in the past fifty years, let us remember that we dwell in a Church now where large sections of people reject what has happened in the Church in the past 2,000 years. One does not get brownie points for good behavior or “loyal rhetoric” to the hierarchy, but rather for keeping the Faith once delivered to the Apostles that is supposed to be preserved and protected by the aforementioned hierarchy. It is clear that in what was once the homeland of Christendom this is often no longer the case. May the Society of St. Pius X, with all its flaws and nutcases, continue to contribute to the restoration of the Church.