Rorate Caeli

Journalists are not canon lawyers - Fellay speaks once again

When we presented Andrea Tornielli's article in Il Giornale, in which he mentioned a project for a "prelature", we immediately remarked:

We do not know exactly who was Tornielli's source, but we believe that the canonical structure of the "Prelature" (or, in this case, the "Personal prelature") is not exactly what the decision-makers have in mind.
After receiving a couple of e-mail messages regarding this, we wish to add a few obscure comments. Sometimes, we cannot be too clear -- and Father Gabet's warning in his interview to Brian Mershon holds true: "Those who really know, don't say anything; and those who say, don't really know". Andrea Tornielli is not a canon lawyer, so he used the word which was forwarded to him.

In the second report, published by La Stampa the same day, the picture of the possible plans of Cardinals Castrillón and Herranz was much clearer and consistent. We knew then as we know now and as we mentioned a long time ago that a personal prelature was not, to our knowledge, seriously considered in the Sacred Halls.

Now, though the Pope is not a dictator and the Code of Canon Law (CIC) binds him, unless he first changes it (or establishes a particular canonical structure for a concrete end), it is obvious that he can enact specific measures which make use of familiar names without the restrictions those names entail -- there are several advantages, as many legislators know, of using familiar names with modified concepts... (sometimes, it is the best way of getting measures through...).


The FSSPX/SSPX official news agency, DICI, has released today an interview with Bishop Fellay, in French. The bishop insists that there must first be a period of experimentation and doctrinal discussion (he declares that, at this time, a "doctrinal discussion is not possible", along the lines of the Matt-Vennari February statement) and that a "canonical solution" will come only at the end (if it comes at all -- "only on the Greek calends?", the interviewer asks, and Fellay does not deny).

In a sense, it is the same argument presented to Cardinal Castrillón almost two years ago, in the very revealing letter bishop Fellay sent him. We believe most answers to those who are curious about what may happen to the SSPX are contained in this 2004 letter. [DICI's official translation of this interview will probably be released in the next few days.]

P.S. I will also be away for the next few days. Have a nice week.


  1. So it would appear.

    I understand all of Matt/Vennari - why then, am I so dismayed by an intransigence of which I ought in principle to approve? I broke off from the SSPX some time after the consecrations, and went back five years ago with my tail between my legs, admitting they'd been absolutely right all along. You can do this credibly once, perhaps, but not twice.

    Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

  2. Al,

    I think it is premature to say "Game over".

    Fellay said he is considering writing the letter asking that the decree which spoke of excommunication be rescinded.

    Plus, the Holy Father, would not have gone to the lenght of discussing with a plenum of the College Cardinals the need for a via libera for him to do what is necessary (i.e. he politely told them to keep their opinions to themselves and let him proceed on his own).

    As much as I do not share so many of the theological "views" of Joseph Ratzinger the man, I do believe that he has a political sense for comprimising on ideological questions, that can grant a place for the SSPX, without resorting anyone to accept a relativistic approach. He is after all a theologian, and even if he does not usually say so, he knows that Vatican II does not bind anyone in matters of novelty.

  3. Could someone explain to me why the current hierarchy has to be perfect, or even better, before the SSPX regularizes?

    It's one thing to demand protections for the SSPX's portion of the flock, and for the SSPX themselves, ie-some sort of canonical structure that will prevent all the awful territorial bishops out there from wreaking havoc upon the SSPX and with their mission. That, I think, is not just reasonable, but necessary. (It also goes to the heart of why Abp. LeFevre consecrated bishops, indeed, why he founded the society.)

    But demanding that the current hierarchy get its act together doctrinally ... don't anyone hold his breath. The Church hierarchy has never been all on the same correct page, and it ain't gonna happen now.

    There will always be good and bad guys fighting within the Church. The SSPX should get all the canonical cover it can and then fight WITHIN the Church. (I'm not saying they're without right now; I'm just saying, seize this opportunity as a chance to move your troops into the heart of the battle.)

  4. I think you exaggerate Charles, to this extent, the SSPX are not asking that the whole hierarchy renounced the errors of Vatican II, as they see them; but rather than any reconciliation not require the SSPX to say that there are no errors, or worse that the errors are the truth, and the opposed traditional teachings errors.

    I think the SSPX understand better than most clergy, the profundity of the immorality and errors of the clergy, as so many non sspx clergy, religious and laity over the last 35 years have turned to them for help and shared their stories of persecution at the hand of modernists, appointed by Rome.

    This situation seems incomprehensive to most, because they lack a good sense of the history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century, and are not aware of what when on at Vatican II and thereafter.

  5. Thank you, Brother, for your response. It does seem to me that certain members of the hierarchy are demanding that the SSPX make certain doctrinal concessions (what a lovely metaphor for "apostacize"!). The SSPX can do nothing about that except refuse.

    From what I've read, though, the SSPX, on its part has demanded that "Rome" (I think "the hierarchy" is a better term) make certain doctrinal clarifications and corrections. I think these clarifications and corrections would be a great thing, but cannot understand why the issuance of them is a sine qua non for regularization. So what if many of our bishops are heresiarchs! It has ever been thus. Argue with them, plead for them to change, pray for them; but don't put a gun to your own head and threaten to pull the trigger if they don't recant and repent.

    As to your second and third paragraphs, Brother, I'm sure you are correct, which is why I think canonical protection is a valid, indeed necessary, demand. But doctrinal purity? We weep, but we stay close to Peter and try to drive the heretics out. We don't let them keep us on the margins.


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