The Pope versus the SSPX

This post from Fr. Z. has some good insights into the conflict between the SSPX and the Holy See, including Pope Benedict XVI’s view on reconciliation between the SSPX and the Church.

An SSPX priest talked about the Pope and the Holy See’s requirements for the SSPX to return to the Church, which include:

(1) accept the licitness of the Novus Ordo form of the Mass
(2) accept “the uninterrupted continuity between Vatican II and all former councils and doctrinal statements of the Church.”

The Pope was asked by SSPX bishop Fellay if these requirements were his will, or only the will of some of his subordinates. Pope Benedict XVI replied that these requirements are his own will.

My view on these points:

The Church has the authority to change the Mass, and so such changes are licit. The faithful can legitimately criticize certain elements in the form of the Mass, since the decisions of the Church on the exact form are judgments of the prudential order, not dogmas. For the Mass is not perfect; rather, it is an imperfect anticipation of eternal life in Heaven. But if anyone speaks or acts as if the form of the Mass, chosen by proper authority in the Church is not licit, he commits a schismatic sin by rejecting the temporal authority given to the Church by Jesus Christ.

The Church is indefectible. So it cannot be true that an Ecumenical Council, and all the Popes since its inception, and all the Bishops in communion with those Popes and that Council, have gone astray from the true Faith. Nor can it be true that they have all lost their teaching authority by teaching grave error, as the SSPX alleges. For the Pope is the head and the seat of the Magisterium, and only those Bishops in communion with the Pope can exercise the Magisterium.

Since Vatican II, some of the Council’s teachings have continued to be taught by the Popes and by the body of Bishops dispersed through the world, as one position on matters of faith and morals, definitively to be held. So these teachings of Vatican II are now infallible under the ordinary and Universal Magisterium. It simply is not possible for a faithful Catholic to reject these teachings without committing the grave sin of heresy.

The SSPX is not indefectible. The bishops of the SSPX are unable to teach infallibly. No SSPX Bishop can exercise Papal Infallibility, nor can the SSPX as a body exercise Conciliar Infallibility. Neither can they participate in the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. For the bishops of the SSPX, in breaking communion with the Popes and the body of Bishops, have entirely lost their authority to exercise the Magisterium, whether infallibly or non-infallibly. They are the ones in error, not the Council, the Popes, and the body of Bishops. They are the ones who need to be corrected, who need to repent and to change. They are the ones who need to be led out of crisis, back to the fullness of faith.

The bishops of the SSPX are not so different from many liberal priests and laypersons who insist that the Church must change Her doctrines and disciplines to accord with their understanding of the Faith. May God correct them all. And if they refuse to be corrected by the Church or even by God, may they be punished by Jesus Christ for all the harm that they have done to the poor and weak flock of Jesus Christ.

{1:12} And I turned around, so as to see the voice which was speaking with me. And having turned around, I saw seven golden lampstands.
{1:13} And in the midst of the seven golden lampstands was one resembling the Son of man, clothed to the feet with a vestment, and wrapped to the breast with a wide belt of gold.
{1:14} But his head and hair were bright, like white wool, or like snow; and his eyes were like a flame of fire;
{1:15} and his feet resembled shining brass, just as in a burning furnace; and his voice was like the voice of many waters.
{1:16} And in his right hand, he held the seven stars; and from his mouth went out a sharp two-edged sword; and his face was like the sun, shining with all its might.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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