Given that many online are going into hysteria at the prospect of the SSPX bishops' excommunications being lifted, I thought it might be worth setting out a few key points to think about from the 'in full communion' traditionalist ('attached to tradition'!) perspective.
Most of the public angst is coming from conservatives and liberals, worried about the implications of a group who don't accept Vatican II's teachings being allowed back in, or some of Bishop Williamson's (and others of his ilk) kookiness.
But it may surprise those groups to know that many traditionalists who have long been in the fold have at best mixed emotions about the SSPX too. Personally, I owe a huge debt to Archbishop LeFevre since it was attending a LeFevrist Mass in France many years ago now that started me on the path to becoming a practicing Catholic. On the other hand, I walked out of the only two SSPX masses I've attended since then because I was so outraged by the sermons.
The reality is that while the organisation as a whole may not necessarily be schismatic or heretical, there are certainly some within it who are. People who attack the indefectibility of the Church for example, in relation to the sacraments. Who don't accept the Church's authority to legislate on things like ecumenism (regardless of our views on whether or not those decisions are prudent or not). Or whose attacks on the Pope and bishops goes far beyond what can possibly be regarded as reasonable bounds.
And then there is the loony tunes factor - no one really wants real traditionalism associated with the sort of nonsense that Bishop Williamson seems to regularly espouse - and for which he clearly has a following.
At the more 'political' level, a lot of people in the Church have endured much, but stayed loyal to the hierarchy. In those circumstances it is pretty hard to turn around and be welcoming to those who have not only basically chosen to desert the ship, but also done a lot of name calling and trouble-making along the way.
Why we should support reconciliation
Nonetheless, there are a number of reasons why I think we should support some form of reconciliation of the the SSPX rather than just trying to work on members one by one.
First, in some places people go to SSPX masses because the alternative is liturgical horrors. Of course, once there, they may well absorb particular attitudes and ideas that are less than helpful, but over time that can be fixed.
Secondly, this is about the salvation of souls. The longer a (quasi?) schism goes on, the harder it is to fix, and the further the group drifts from the guidance of the Magisterium. Then there are the sacraments - SSPX marriages are invalid; their confessions at best doubtful (almost certainly invalid except in extremis). And that has real consequences. Moreover, this is an organisation with leaders and followers - if some of the leaders can be bought back into the mainstream, many (though not all) will follow after them.
The Pope is taking the image of the Good Shepherd to heart here (and in his attempts to bring groups such as the Orthodox and the Lutherans closer to the Church). I think he has more than demonstrated that he isn't going to compromise on doctrine to do this (notwithstanding Rorate Caeli's recent post on the Lutheran issue, which I pretty much agree with in terms of their analysis of the problems with the Declaration, but not the Pope's attitude to it), but if he is willing to bend over backwards to ensure there are no barriers (perceived or real) in people's paths, we should support him!
Thirdly, in the long run the SSPX can help the Church, particularly in this period we are now in where it is finally possible to have real debate on what has and hasn't worked in Vatican II's pastoral initiatives; on what of its teachings can be interpreted in a hermaneutic of continuity and what can't; and what of its ordinary Magisterium (if any) needs to be reformed. They have bought some theological firepower to the table (admittedly of varying quality) and put their views out in public, where others, for whatever reasons, have been reluctant to do so to date.
So what are the implications of the still only rumoured move?
Lifting the excommunications doesn't mean automatic reconciliation
It's worth remembering, as some have pointed out, that the mutual excommunications between Rome and the Orthodox Church were lifted some forty years ago - yet we still haven't achieved reconciliation!
The Pope could of course go further, and lift the suspensions of SSPX priests and give them faculties, or ask Ordinaries to do so - but that seems pretty unlikely at this stage.
More likely a new round of negotiations on theological and canonical issues will take place.
Lifting the excommunications doesn't mean endorsing the bizarre ideas of Bishop Williamson!
Bishop Williamson actually seems pretty intent on sabotaging the whole thing, as a number of blogs have mentioned (have a look at Fr Z and St Mary Magdalen).
But even if he did eventually reconcile, that doesn't imply endorsement of his curious ideas on women wearing trousers, the Sound of Music, or more serious issues such as the Holocaust. Nor does reconciliation necessarily entail giving someone with evident problems faculties or jurisdiction.
I have to admit, it's the Bishop Williamson school that gives some weight to the argument that we need to find a better descriptor for ourselves than 'traditionalists'!
Still, in the end, the Church is (or at least should be) essentially concerned with a person's orthodoxy, not their opinions on things which are not part of the deposit of faith.
Of course, if someone in a position of responsibility continued to make imprudent statements that affect the Church's reputation, or attempted to impose weirdo opinions on anyone he has jurisdiction over (and remember at the moment that is no-one!) sooner or later action will presumably be taken (although it seems to be very much later in a few cases awfully close to home...).
So pray for unity!
So the bottom line I think is, don't panic, and pray for unity!
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