1P5 Podcast – Episode 18: Bishop Schneider and the SSPX

E18

The following is a general transcript of today’s podcast:

The Catholic Church has completely lost its ability to prioritize.

In the midst of a global crisis of faith, where belief in the Real Presence is a minority view for Catholics but contraception use isn’t, we are spending our time talking about the environment and the material needs of the poor.

We have bishops facilitating gay marriage. Bishops proposing that people living in adulterous relationships should be admitted to communion. Bishops who want to legitimize cohabitation and in vitro fertilization. Bishops who have mostly been silent on the horrors revealed in the Planned Parenthood videos. And when a few HAVE spoken out, they’ve made moral equivocation between dismembering children alive and selling their parts to the highest bidder and racism and joblessness, of all things.

We have heretics — actual, open, obvious heretics who flaunt their opposition of Church teaching — being given favored status by the Pope, who is inviting them to have a seat at the table to help determine the Church’s future course of action as regards her moral teaching.

And yet the only enemy everyone can seem to agree on is that thriving island of traditionalism known as the Society of St. Pius X. You may have heard of them – they’re the guys who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, hold Traditional Catholic doctrinal positions, and last year they ordained more priests than any diocese in the United States. They believe Pope Francis is the pope and they pray for him. They desire in every way to be fully and completely Catholic.

Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? We should really beat those guys to a pulp. Clearly, they’re the problem.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who I really believe is God’s gift to a Church that has all but completely lost its mind, was made an official observer of the SSPX by the Holy See. I’m not sure how he got the job, because he actually believes in what the Church teaches and is not afraid to say so, but again, God works in mysterious ways. I’ll take it.

And after his most recent visit to the SSPX seminary this past February, he came away with a positive impression. Asked about it in an interview this month, he said he saw “no weighty reasons” that the SSPX shouldn’t be reconciled as they are.

But lest you think I’m paraphrasing, here’s what he said:

“To my knowledge there are no weighty reasons in order to deny the clergy and faithful of the SSPX the official canonical recognition, meanwhile they should be accepted as they are. … When the SSPX believes, worship and conducts a moral live as it was demanded and recognized by the Supreme Magisterium and was observed universally in the Church during a centuries long period and when the SSPX recognizes the legitimacy of the Pope and the diocesan bishops and prays for them publicly and recognizes also the validity of the sacraments according to the editio typica of the new liturgical books, this should suffice for a canonical recognition of the SSPX on behalf of the Holy See.”

He’s not putting the impetus on the SSPX. He’s saying it’s Rome that needs to fix this. There’s no significant reason they shouldn’t have this status. In fact, he says that if Rome doesn’t do this, “the Church of our days will manifestly loose its credibility and the history will one day reproach to the ecclesiastical authorities of our days that they have  ‘laid on the brothers greater burden than required’ (cf. Acts 15:28), which is contrary to the pastoral method of the Apostles.” I think we can all agree that the Society is far from perfect, and has made plenty of mistakes in their internal governance and even their approach to the Church. But if there is no significant obstacle to their reunion with the Church, why aren’t they already reconciled?
I’ll tell you why: because their existence is an indictment of the entire post-conciliar experiment. If the SSPX really are fully Catholic, if everything they believe is what the Church believes, if the disobedient consecration of the bishops in 1988 has really been taken off the table by Pope Benedict’s lifting of the SSPX excommunications, what’s left to keep them out?
I’ll tell you what’s left. Nothing. Nothing except that Rome wants to make them bow and scrape to the new paradigm. Rome wants them to embrace the Novus Ordo, which even a cursory study will tell you was created by men with no love of the Catholic Faith, and which has coincided with the single largest decrease in the Catholic Faith in 2,000 years. Rome wants them to embrace the new ecumenism, which, if many in positions of power within the Vatican are to be believed, does not entail evangelization with the intent to convert people to Catholicism. Rome wants them to embrace a concept of religious liberty that treats the True Faith as simply one option among equals, not giving preference to civic obeisance to Christ the King, which Pope Pius XI said in his encyclical Quas Primas is the reason “that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.”
If the SSPX is Catholic, full stop, if they believe the truths of the faith in exactly the same way all of our grandparents and great grandparents did, if they can be reconciled without having to retract their doctrinal positions, their objections to the new liturgy, or their reservations about changes in pastoral practice, then it means something absolutely unthinkable about the Catholic Church of the late 20th and early 21st century: it exists in a state of divergence from its own patrimony so severe that the new Catholicism and the old Catholicism appear to be different religions entirely.
But I want to encourage all of you to let that sink in. Because it really is the crux of the matter. If I had to guess, I’d say that not a few power players in the Vatican hoped the Society would just die off, since they were convinced that the stodgy old way of doing things was long overdue for being thrown out. But they didn’t. They grew.
I know that even tradionally-minded Catholics have had bad experiences with the society. I know I have. Their isolation, the bunker mentality that followed, the rantings of Bp. Williamson, the sense of smug superiority that crept into the minds and hearts who believed they were the only guardians of the true faith – it’s all predictable. I’ve seen it before in other groups. The rift that opened between the Church and the Society damaged both sides. It’s like ripping an arm off a body, but only keeping it attached by a few strands of muscle, nerve, and circulatory system. Both are part of the same body, both are still attached to each other, neither is whole.
But the buck stops with Rome. They brought about changes that led to a Mass exodus of Catholics, laity and religious alike, in the 1960s and 70s. That the SSPX objects to those changes seems hardly worse than any of us who have observed the devastating effects they’ve had. Rome has also chosen to keep the Society in their inexplicable status of “canonical irregularity” without any clear explanation of why. They’ve issued confusing instructions to the faithful on involvement in Society chapels. They’ve placed deliberate obstacles to reconciliation in the path, even when the Society indicated a willingness to make things work.
Bishop Schneider has said it’s time for that to stop. That the Church risks losing her credibility if she continues this way. He also says that
One has to have enough intellectual honesty and objectivity as to admit that the SSPX makes some theological criticism of some not strictly dogmatic affirmations in the texts of Vatican II and of some postconciliar documents, which have to be taken seriously. Unfortunately their criticism lacks sometimes the due respectful form. Nevertheless, some theological objections of the SSPX can be a constructive contribution for a more mature theological explication of certain themes, as for example the collegiality, religious liberty, the liturgical reform
That last point came from a “clarification” issued by a Catholic apostolate that has invested a great deal of time and effort in vilifying the Society. Considering that the “clarification” in no way contradicts what Bishop Schneider says in his original interview, I can’t help but see it as an attempt to co-opt him. And a not very effective one at that.
This isn’t helping anyone.
The enemies are inside our gates. That’s not a metaphor. They hold positions of power, and are even now seeking to destroy the Holy Faith from within. We need allies, and the SSPX, for all their obstinacy, have at least been fighting to preserve the things Catholics have always believed in.
Maybe it’s time we did the same.
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