Rorate Caeli

News analysis: "Has the SSPX leadership changed sides?"

What we may be seeing this moment, from some quarters, is an example of a voluntary desire to just look away from what was always there. Let us go back to April 2006.

At that time, as a comment to an article by the Superior of the French District of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Father Régis de Cacqueray (The One-Two-Three Strategy, April 5, 2006), Rorate presented the following words on the "doctrinal discussions" (which, more than one year before the motu proprio and almost three years before the lifting of the excommunications, seemed almost impossible):

Some may also believe that "doctrinal discussions" are unacceptable -- but that is preposterous. The Holy See has been hopelessly dialoguing, since the Council, with the Anglican Communion, which lost any sign of faith sometime between 1860 and 1960... Honest and topical discussions with the Fraternity would be far more objective, since there is no dogmatic issue involved, and could set the basis for a very useful definition of the "hermeneutics of continuity" proposed by Pope Benedict. Such discussions could also happen after a clearer canonical framework is established, since they are not among the "preconditions".

Therefore, one could envision a situation whereby the creation of a "Doctrinal Commission" -- which would then be the institutional "locus" of the debates between the Fraternity and the Holy See -- serves as the fulfilment of this step ("the resolution of doctrinal questions"), allowing for the complete canonical regularization of the Society even though not every controversy is actually resolved before the establishment of the new canonical framework. [Emphasis added]

The One-Two-Three strategy reached its end today, as, after all preconditions were achieved by the SSPX and following the doctrinal discussions, the final matter officially reached the Pope's desk. Not a single person was deceived in the process - but there is a problem, certainly. The problem is undoubtedly that there were, and remain, some people on both sides (the widows of Vatican II on the liberal side, for one example), who for some reason thought this moment would never come. And now they are appalled that it is here...


Vernet, Roman landscape at sunset (1782)
 "Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?" (Mt. xvi, 3)

It is not the Superior General of the Society, and certainly not the Bishop of Rome, who should be blamed if others have difficulty in understanding the nuance that every step of the strategy indicated (though we in Rorate certainly tried to disentangle any misunderstandings and unclear declarations, as our 2006 comment above indicates, trying to understand "the signs of the times"). The resolution of doctrinal questions never meant that Pope Benedict XVI would become the ventriloquist puppet of the Society of Saint Pius X... but rather that some composition on some level would take place at some moment following the fulfillment of the actual two preconditions.

The current product of this doctrinal resolution is what was officially delivered to the Pope today.

Following two years of serious doctrinal discussions, a "Doctrinal Preamble" - the draft of a statement, in plain English - was delivered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to Bishop Fellay in September 2011. This preamble was duly presented by Fellay to the highest authorities of the Society in an extraordinary meeting in Albano, in the outskirts of Rome, in October 2011 - the group rejected the preamble. After one new draft was presented in December 2011, and some clarifications of the draft in January 2012, the final draft was delivered by Fellay in April 2012.

This final text is evidently an exposition of the doctrinal position of the Society, what they consider to be a reasonable resolution of the matter. It was analysed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (obviously, since it is the Pope's advising body for all doctrinal matters) and delivered to the Pope today.

What about the canonical framework? As we said in 2006, it does not matter if every single doctrinal disagreement is solved; what was sought, then as now, was some level of resolution - which simply means that the Pope accepts the doctrinal position of the Society as freely presented by its Superior General. It does not mean that the Pope will proclaim the content of the doctrinal statement from the loggia of Saint Peter's, but that he will present a canonical framework if he finds that the doctrinal statement is a reasonable doctrinal resolution of the matter. A doctrinal resolution, and not an attempt by the parties involved to forcibly enter into a "merely" practical agreement.

All steps were always clear: in 2006 as in 2007, in 2009 as in 2012, "God restoreth that which is past" (cf. Eccles. iii).
[Posted on May 18, 2300 GMT]