Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The SSPX and the Traditional Latin Mass

Father Jeffery Fasching celebrates a Traditional Latin Mass
at Saint Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri
Photo by John Kelly
Vatican City, Jun 27, 2013 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- On the 25th anniversary of the illicit ordination of four bishops by traditionalist Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of Saint Pius X indicated a definitive break of talks with the Catholic Church... read more
I know I'm probably going to step in it with this blog entry, but that's never stopped me before.  Basically it looks like the talks between Rome and the "Society of Saint Pius X" (SSPX) are permanently stalled, with the SSPX bishops saying that Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, was wrong about his "hermeneutic of continuity" verses a "hermeneutic of rupture" and his analysis that modern forms of communication (television and radio) have given the Modernists the valued tools they needed to transform Western civilisation, bring chaos down upon all of Protestantism, and crisis into the Catholic Church.  Instead, the SSPX is insisting that the cause of the current crisis within the Catholic Church is the Second Vatican Council itself, along with the introduction of the new mass.  With this statement, the SSPX is basically saying that the Vatican is wrong.  The popes are wrong, and the entire Western Catholic Church (Roman Rite) is wrong.  It would seem, based on my understanding of their statement, that they are saying talks with Rome will not resume until Rome is willing to admit that the SSPX is right.  In my opinion, their position is now strikingly similar to that of the Eastern Orthodox (minus the filioque controversy of course) and one wonders if what we are witnessing is an attempt to plant a Western Orthodox Church apart from Rome.

What concerns me is how this breaks down locally in my immediate area, which I'm sure many parallel situations exist in many other local communities throughout the United States and the entire Anglosphere.  I know there are many good Catholics, who are part of SSPX chapels, both clergy and laity, and I would not dare question their motives.  If anything I admire their zeal.  What concerns me is our local situation that I'm sure is shared in many communities.  Here in my diocese, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, was banned by our previous bishop for decades, who is currently making news for other reasons.  It was during his reign that a local SSPX chapel was established in our area.  At that time, it could easily be argued that the establishment of this parish was a necessity, due to the ridiculous situation that existed at that time between traditional Catholics and the local bishop.  Many wrote to him, myself included, begging him to reconsider.  He did eventually have a change of heart, in 2007 after Summorum Pontificum was given, permitting the TLM once a month in Springfield and more frequently in a distant rural parish.  However, that bishop retired about five years ago.  His successor and current bishop of our diocese has not only tolerated the TLM, but has made more than generous availability of the TLM, seeing to it that it's celebrated regularly, no less than FIVE DAYS A WEEK!!! (Sunday, Tuesday - Friday).  The priest who celebrates this TLM mass, Father Jeffery Fasching, also hears confession before each and every mass, and is the most dedicated traditional Catholic priest local to this area.  His homilies are consistent with traditional Catholic sensibilities.  His manner of dress reflects this too.  What I am saying here is that our current bishop has more than compensated for the mistakes of our previous bishop on this matter.  To learn more about our new bishop's excellent provision made for traditional Catholics, you can read this website.

One would think with such a generous provision for traditional Catholics in the area, that the need for the local SSPX parish would diminish, and that regular attendance would fizzle.  Such is not the case, and this is the cause of my concern.  Having provided more than adequately for the liturgical and pastoral needs of traditional Catholics in the area, one would think that traditional Catholics would flock to the cathedral for mass.  Many faithful have, but still, many have not.  I personally know this priest who celebrates the TLM mass for the cathedral.  I can assure you he is 100% traditional in his teaching and sensibilities.  He provides a doctrinally safe environment for anyone under his priestly care.  So why aren't more SSPX members flocking to Saint Agnes Cathedral?

I can't answer this question.  All I can do is speculate, and I would rather not do that either.  What I can say is that the leadership's decision to cut off all dialogue with Rome does not help the situation of traditional Catholics here in Springfield Missouri, and if anything, puts them in an awkward situation, especially if they still attend the local SSPX chapel for Sunday mass.

I'll leave it up to the experts to decide if a new schism has been created now between Rome and the SSPX.  What I can say is that based on perceptions alone, a "functional schism" already exists at a local level, even if not yet an "official schism" on the global level.  I say a "functional schism" for multiple reasons.  First, those who attend the SSPX chapel for confession and Eucharist are attending a chapel that is not in any way connected with any recognised authority in the entire worldwide Catholic Church, not to mention no authority recognised at the local diocesan level.  True, SSPX priests are validly ordained, and the sacraments they offer are valid, just like the Eastern Orthodox priests and their sacraments.  However, they are also illicit (meaning "illegal" according to Church law).  Like the Eastern Orthodox, the priest does not have permission to minister by any authority within the Roman Catholic Church.  Speaking as a former Protestant, who converted to the Catholic Church, primarily over the issue of authority, this is a very big problem.  It is a very "protestant" thing to buck the authority of a local bishop who is doing everything within his power to accommodate your needs.  I would say providing a TLM mass and confession FIVE DAYS A WEEK is more than an accommodation!  What more could anyone expect?  An engraved invitation perhaps?  Second,  by regularly attending the local SSPX parish, which is illicit and indeed redundant now, the faithful are separating themselves from the majority body of Catholics in the Springfield area united under the bishop or some kind of approved Church authority.  Again, speaking as a former Protestant, this is a recipe for schism.  After all, as a former Protestant, I ought to know a thing or two about schism, as this is the primary feature of Protestantism.  Who ever heard of "reforming" the Church from an organisation that operates outside of the official Church structure?  I say it's never been done.  Third and finally, there is a clear "attitude" of schism among SOME who do attend the local SSPX chapel and I'm sure this is not just a problem limited to our area alone.  I would not dare mention any names, but I know of some who are outright sedevacantists, and others who frequently accuse the pope of heresy.  Conspiracy theories abound among these types, and other Catholics are frequently looked down upon as "less Catholic" or "barely Catholic at all" simply for attending a regular diocesan parish.  I dare not say all those who attend the local SSPX chapel fit this description.  That would be an unfair generalisation.  I am only saying that I have witnessed these things among SOME who attend the local SSPX chapel, and they know who they are.   These people contribute to a "functional schism" in a more profound way than the other two reasons above.  They should step back and consider what kind of damage they are doing, not only to Christ's Holy Catholic Church, but to the SSPX as well.

The whole crisis in the Catholic Church is rather straight forward and easy to understand if people look at it in a dispassionate way and listen to the wise narrative of the former Pope Benedict XVI.

During the early 1960s the whole Western world was about to be overwhelmed by a tsunami of Modernism and moral relativism. It affected everyone and everything. All of Protestantism was affected by this as well as many within the Catholic Church. So the massive error the SSPX makes, in my opinion, is that they fail to understand the rise of Modernism was universal, affecting the Protestants even more profoundly than the Catholics. To blame all the Modernist problems in the Church on Vatican II is to entirely miss the point. Protestants could care less about Vatican II. It had no bearing on their churches or worldview. It was irrelevant to them. Yet they were more profoundly affected by Modernism than Catholics were. Modernism has gutted the Catholic Church, but in Protestantism it levelled their churches, clearing the way for Evangelical mega-churches, which though currently successful, are built on very unstable soil.

The key instrument of Modernism's torrent through Western society was the creation and widespread distribution of a little device called television. Through this seemingly harmless machine, the agents of Modernism were able to spread their poison far and wide, and as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out in the last days of his papacy, the "Council of the Media," created by the liberal press overshadowed the real "Council of Vatican II." The television, radio and press media, along with willing accomplices in the Church, spread a false notion about Vatican II, which took root in the 60s and 70s, leaving us with the crisis we currently have today.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Modernism ravaged the Church because of rapid modern communication, and the liberal press, giving people a false idea of what Vatican II was all about. The Catholic Church was wholly unprepared to deal with this new media of communication and has consistently stayed several steps behind it.

Some of the documents in Vatican II were left "deliberately vague." We don't know the reason why and we can only speculate -- so let's not. What we do know is that if these "vague" documents are interpreted in the light of previous Church teaching (the "hermeneutic of continuity") then there is no problem. Catholics stay traditional with just a few updates and that is that. If however, these "vague" documents are interpreted outside of previous Church teaching (the "hermeneutic of rupture") then all sorts of wacky things start to happen, which leads to the Modernist crisis in the Church today.

So there you go. That is what is wrong in the Church, and that is what needs to be repaired. We already have the tools and the demographics on our side. The crisis in the Church will correct on its own regardless of any further intervention by the pope, because everything has been put into place by the last two popes. The only thing Pope Francis can do is speed it up, slow it down or leave it alone, and that will be his legacy which we must trust in God's hands.

On a local level, reform can happen in only one way, and that is if, as many Catholics as possible are participating in canonically-approved celebrations of the TLM.  It has become apparent now that is not going to happen with SSPX chapels any time in the near future.  Therefore, I would encourage all those who assist at a SSPX parish to flock to the nearest diocesan or canonically-approved TLM, if one is available nearby.  Your numbers will have NO EFFECT (ZERO PERCENT EFFECTIVENESS) on reforming Holy Mother Church, if you remain separated from her main body within the walls of a SSPX chapel.  I would say your attendance there has effectively neutralised your witness.  If the local bishop has made provision for you, as our bishop has in Springfield Missouri, then your witness is needed there instead.  That is, unless you like your witness being neutralised. As for clergy within the SSPX, their situation is different of course, but thanks to the provisions made by the last two popes, the door is wide open for reconciliation with Holy Mother Church.  I would encourage these priests to strengthen their priestly ministry by incardination under a tradition-friendly bishop, or into the Vatican loyal FSSP, or any of the dozen or so traditional institutes that remain loyal to the Holy See.  Now is not the time for division and stagnation.  Now is the time for reform and renewal!  We need the witness of all traditional Catholics to make it happen in a timely manner.  Indeed, it is now only the division of traditional Catholics that is slowing things down.

I applaud the efforts of the Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on this matter.  He is a shining example for other bishops to follow when it comes to this.  The influx of new traditional Catholics into Saint Agnes Cathedral will only trigger bigger and better reforms in the future.  It can do nothing else.

Originally posted on "Catholic In the Ozarks"
used by permission.