Rorate Caeli

What now?

[The SSPX and the Holy See: what now?]

by Alessandro Gnocchi & Mario Palmaro

[Il Foglio, January 27, 2012]

Will the agreement be made or not? The dialogue between the Holy See and the Fraternity of Saint Pius X [FSSPX / SSPX], founded by Mons, Marcel Lefebvre, has entered a decisive phase. The outcome of this dialogue is, above all, of great concern to Pope Benedict XVI, who has personally encouraged and nurtured it; it is also of great concern to all the priests, religious and lay faithful who are with the Fraternity; it is of great concern to all of that vast part of the Catholic world which is not of the SSPX, but which is set on the part of Tradition. For different reasons, progressive Catholicism and the secular world are observing (the situation) with great attention and some nervousness.

In other words: the match that is being played is important and difficult, but an agreement is not impossible. A lot of the resistance might fall away though, if one considers that when discussing the doctrinal questions, it is done through diplomatic means, also because the Fraternity’s canonical resolution is in question. We are moving here on mixed ground where it is fundamental to distinguish the levels, a process, which objectively, is not always so easy.

This is the shaky ground on which the case proceeds. If you can understand the disorientation of Rome with regard to the hesitations of the FSSPX, you also have to understand the perplexity of the Fraternity when it complains that Rome asks of them something that has not been asked of any other in order for them to adorn that tricky ecclesial category called “full communion”.

At this point, neither of the two sides can expect the other to pay an unpayable price: on the one hand, Rome cannot ask the Fraternity of St. Pius X to disown its identity; on the other, the Lefebvrians cannot expect Rome to lose face, with an unconditional surrender and a fairytale return to form in the present Catholic world, which objectively, is an accumulation of many contrasting things.

The success of the talks requires an awareness that knows how to hold faith and realism together. On the one hand, supernatural vision: the belief that the Church is in Rome ( it is in any case) despite the fact that it is going through one of the gravest crises in Her history; on the other hand, the narrow path of realism, that aims to give the Fraternity of St. Pius X the possibility of “having the experience of Tradition” according to a formula that was coined by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre himself.

Even if it seems out of proportion, most of the responsibility lies with the heirs of Lefebvre. In the history of the Church the figure of the dwarf who carries the giant on his shoulders is a recurrent one. It is a task that, besides moral and doctrinal rigour, requires humility and charity, and the understanding that Rome is helped by staying with Rome. But as time passes, there is a greater risk of thinking that only one alternative between two (ways) exists; the siren that invites no resolution because the conditions in the Church are far too serious; and the siren that invites a resolution without discussion because in the end ‘all is well.’ In the deepest sense, neither way sits well with an institution like the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which was born as a result of the unquestionable crisis that hit the Church after the Second Vatican Council.

Besides the two alternatives mentioned above, a third alternative exists and in this case, it goes like this: the question must be resolved as soon as possible precisely because the situation is grave, for the good of the whole Church.

In this endeavor, the Fraternity of St. Pius X, cannot be left alone with such a great responsibility. Pope Benedict XVI is the guarantor of this. It cannot be denied that this Pope has characterized his pontificate by giving back honour to the Gregorian Mass, by revoking the excommunications of the Fraternity’s bishops and by initiating the doctrinal discussions on the hot issues. These are all of the conditions requested by Mons. Lefebvre’s heirs. This fact cannot be ignored by the FSSPX nor the negotiators that represent Rome. The latter are very much aware that there is more Catholicism in the Lefebvrian community (even though they are canonically irregular) than in many regulated communities within the Catholic world. The time has come to bring this paradox to an end, through an act of good will accompanied by common sense. From both sides.

[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana. Gnocchi and Palmaro, traditional Catholic authors, wrote, "Report on Tradition - In conversation with the successor of Monsignor Lefebvre"]