Rorate Caeli

Grace of state or bargaining?

A guest-post by Côme de Prévigny
In recent times, some have bet, some have wagered, some have speculated. Will they sign? Will they not sign? Will they refuse? Some "Progressive" or Sedevacantist commentators, with graying hair, filled with animosity, believe they can whip up a rupture, and even surmise to image the reactions of the priests of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X regarding the preamble presented by Cardinal Levada on September 14. They go even to the lengths of presenting - with conditional clauses, naturally - estimates, in percentages, of what would have been the result of a hypothetical internal referendum, on the acceptance or non-acceptance of the Roman text.

The first problem with this is that this form of polling does not exist in this kind of religious society. It belongs to the Superior-General - who certainly takes into account opinions, advices, and the situation, but who is above all endowed with the graces of state for it - to undertake every important decision related to the life of the Fraternity. He was legitimately placed as head of the work founded by Abp. Lefebvre by the statutes put in place by the latter. The second problem with their scenario is that the Preamble, known by so few people, is modifiable, according to the words of both parties. What is there to sign when the text can change? What is there to refuse when the terms have not been fixed?

Outside commentators are often daydreamers. On the one hand, some cannot help but pretend to find within the Fraternity priests who would refuse the very principle of a regularization of their society, which would thus reveal itself as filled with Sedevacantists to the brim. On the other, their kindred find no limits to exaggerate the proportion of tired members, begging them to reach an agreement regardless of the price. The work founded by Abp. Lefebvre has been sufficiently swept, in its sides, by the winds of agreement at any cost and by those of despair so that both classes of men have already found the occasion to leave it in years past.

Those who have resisted both temptations  - and that is the totality of those whom we know - find themselves, consequently, in the state of mind that animated Abp. Lefebvre. They all ardently wish for a regularization of their society. This would make their daily chores easier! At the same time, they do not agree with obtaining it regardless of the price. The ability to profess the faith, without fears of unpleasant repercussions on the apostolate, poses a problem. Indeed, the confidence expected of the Fraternity cannot but be compromised every time one hears of a recently-named bishop who blesses remarried divorcees or who establishes a parish specifically for homosexuals. Prudence thus demands that the work should enjoy complete independence from a clergy that would allow their flock to pasture amidst thorns and nettles.

What situation will thus ensure the Fraternity that its apostolate does not risk weakening if it finds itself linked to these men currently named by the Apostolic See? Abp. Lefebvre used several expressions to name this phase: "when the situation returns to normalcy"; "when Tradition regains its rights in Rome"; "when Rome makes a strong move in favor of Tradition", etc.  And it belongs to Bp. Fellay, amid the graces of state which he receives, to determine this moment in which the Fraternity is perceived as a driving force for restoration in the Church, and not anymore as a caboose of laggards to be slowly placed on the rails of reformation. Since the situation remains complex, one will always find observers ready to remark, when that moment comes, that, from their subjective viewpoint, all has not changed and that, even in Spring, there is some wintry weather. Conversely, untill that moment comes, one will always find spirits with similarly subdued opinions, who will not understand that one cannot find Spring in each passing swallow. It belongs to the Superior-General to judge if the Motu Proprio and the removal of excommunications contitute this strong move, or rather if they are not enough to establish an atmosphere of confidence.

What is at stake is considerable, because regularization can open actual apostolates for souls who would never approach the Fraternity due to juridical obstacles. Preventing them from acceding to the graces delivered to this work by excessive prudence may be a grave error. Conversely, imprudently taking a road that would put in danger the integrity of the faith would be another mistake, with dramatic consequences. One can imagine the dilemmas of conscience with which Abp. Lefebvre was confronted and which the current Superior-General has inherited. The Archbishop, animated by a missionary spirit, adapted himself to complex and diverse situations. "It is this same road that his successor, Bishop Fellay, follows, after our founder was called by God," the superior of the South American District said recently. Whatever his decision may be, let us pray that it - an act that is prudent and uncompromising on the Faith  - will be understood by the largest number of people. Let us fervently pray that all may view, in the decision of the authority, the hand of God expressing itself through it, despite misunderstandings, in one sense or in another.