Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent for the London Tablet has a lengthy article on the SSPX saga in this week’s Tablet here.
He also sent us this much more personal reflection, which he has allowed us to post here:
Pope Benedict XVI said at his general audience on Wednesday that the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X (SSPX) -- the so-called Lefebvrists -- will now have to show their "true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II".
What does this mean?
In an interview the next day in the Italian paper "Corriere della Sera", Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, claimed that the head of the Lefebvrists had already recogised the Council and said confidently that he and his group would be eventually welcomed back into the Roman Church. Conservative blogs quoted sources that said 2 February would be the day, though it seems extremely unlikely if not impossible. There have to be some discussions or at least a semblance of them. But...
"Full communion will come," said the cardinal, who heads the commission that deals with the Lefebvrists. "In our conversations, Bishop Fellay has recognised Vatican Council II, he has recognised it theologically. Only a few difficulties remain," he said, "such as ecumenism and freedom of conscience..."
But do not think the Lefebvrists will be made to budge. The Vatican is intent on finding a formula that they sign without denying anything they hold.
A young professor at the Legionaries of Christ’s university in Rome, Fr Mauro Gagliardi, gave a clue of what to expect.
"The Fraternity of St Pius X can offer the Church an important contribution in applying the ’hermeneutic of continuity’ that must be applied to the documents of Vatican II," he said.
This apparent reference to Pope Bendict’s hermeneutic for interpreting the Council is imprecise -- as Fr Joseph Komonchak and others have clearly pointed out -- but it is not altogether mistaken. And Fr Gagliardi is not just any professor in Rome. He was recently named as consultant to the papal liturgical ceremonies office and mixes in the circles that are currently in favour in the Vatican. He said, "The ’Lefebvrists’ have a spirituality and charism that can be a richness for the life of the entire Church." This certainly is the view of Cardinal Castrillon and probably reflects, at least in some measure, the Pope’s thinking, too.
There is no question that Pope Benedict wants the SSPX back in the Church. Up to now he has done everything to accommodate them on their terms. He will do so on the interpretation of the Council, as well. The two CDF documents in 2007 (on the nature of the Church on 29 June and on evangelisation on 3 December ) have already begun paving the way for this. The Lefebvrists will argue, and the Pope will agree, that, in substance, we have the same doctrine after Vatican II as we had before. All "changes" were merely stylistic or operational, but not theogical -- i.e. none of the changes were essential, so none have to be adopted. The Vatican and the SSPX will also say, together, that much of the Council was badly misinterpreted by theologians and bishops in the post-conciliar period, and they will even cite the long list of theologians the CDF condemned to prove that Rome never caved in. Despite everything to the contrary (i.e. the fact that the SSPX does not really buy or live Vatican II), they will find a way together to finagle a formula that helps them profess "true fidelity and true recognition" of the Council (in light of the constant Tradition) but allows them to continue living as if Vatican II never existed. There are already a number of "Ecclesia Dei" communities in communion in Rome (off-shoots of the SSPX like the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) that currently do this.
The formula that is produced will be just as disingenuous as the invented nonsense of "two forms of the one Roman Rite".
You are probably saying this scenario is an exaggeration and that this could never happen. Many have said it before. Not a few people called me strident, hysterical and worse back in 2005 when I started saying that the Pope was intent on issuing a universal indult for use of the Tridentine Mass. The motu proprio finally arrived in July 2007 and then most people tried to downplay it, saying it would have no practical effect in our parishes, etc.. Again I said they were. It has only been eighteen months (!) and the changes are beginning to take place, especially in seminaries.
All of this should be a cause of great alarm to those of us who still believe that something monumental happened at Vatican II, that there were developments, reforms and -- yes -- points of rupture with the past (despite the Pope’s unconvincing arguments to the contrary).
Joseph Ratzinger is completing, as pope, the work he began more than twenty-five years ago as prefect of the CDF. It is no less ambitious than the wholesale reinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council. And no one seems willing or able to stop him." -- Robert Mickens
James Martin, SJ