Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What will an SSPX reconciliation look like? is reporting what traditionalist circles have been reporting for a week or two:
Pope to meet traditionalist leader
Vatican, Aug. 23 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (
bio - news) will meet with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior-general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), on August 29, to discuss the prospects for reconciliation between the Vatican and the schismatic group.

Of course, the Society, or those close to the Society, are reporting that it's just a sort of courtesy call to recognize and acknowledge the new Pope and no great breakthrough is imminent. That's probably true, but wouldn't it be great if there was real progress being made and the Society was only downplaying the event to "manage expectations," as it were?

Which leads me to wonder what the world would be like if Rome reviewed and withdrew the declarations of excommunication, acknowledged that the Mass of Pius V could be said by any priest without restriction, and maybe even unsuppressed the Society itself and set them up as a personal prelature?

Well, I'd probably stop by the National Catholic Reporter office on Armour to pick up the print edition over the next couple of issues. It's schadenfreude I know, but it would be fun to read about Sister Joan Chittister and her pals writhing in ecclesiastical pain over the matter. The Church neglecting all those women who are ready to serve the church as priestesses and instead caving in to neaderthals who still wear funny hats themselves and "force" women to wear demeaning mantillas in church!!!

In Kansas City, it would not just be a signal shift in the wind for the governance and direction of the universal church. In Kansas City, it's possible one could actually hear those winds blowing from Armour Boulevard (where the NCR is headquartered in an old mansion) to the Paseo(where the SSPX North American headquarters is headquartered in the impressive St. Vincent de Paul church and nearby Regina Coeli house).

But really, what would the change be, especially here in Kansas City? Probably many of the SSPX priests working in and from Kansas City would warm up to the current bishop (the SSPX newsletter recently printed a photo and a positive statement with respect to Bp. Finn's Corpus Christi procession), but maybe a lot of them would leave for other territory. After all, Kansas City (after the addition of the ICK priest and the establishment of the community at Old St. Pats) will have two established options for traditional Catholics besides the SSPX, and there's lots of territory out there that doesn't have a traditional Mass within a day's drive. Is it charitable for us Kansas Citians to hog a half-dozen or more traditional priests for ourselves when people in other parts of the world don't have one, or even a novus ordo a priest who can say the Mass of Paul VI with any reverence?

But even with a canonical reconciliation and with a cordial relationship with the local bishop, there's bound to be a continuing psychological divide for many years. After decades of getting kicked around, lots of Catholic laity who attend Mass with the SSPX will be shy about any reconciliation--there will be understandable mistrust and concerns about assimilation. Bishop Rifan in Campos only managed to make that mistrust and fear of assimilation even greater by participation in lots of novus ordo functions, thereby appearing to "prove" to other traditionalists that reconciliation means assimilation.

And what about a decree allowing any priest to say the old Mass? Do we really want Father Smiley anywhere near a 1962 Missal, maybe using it once in a while to "change things up," when he obviously can't give even the Pauline Missal a straight read? For the good of the old Mass, I have to believe that any priest will still be required to get a celebret before he can say the old Mass publicly, and the priest would have to demonstrate competence and a commitment to the integrity of that rite to get one. Of course, there needs to be a mechanism in place to be sure disobedient bishops can't withhold celebrets from qualified priests. Maybe they would be issued only through apostolic delegates (largely drawn from institutes like SSPX, FSSP and ICK) scattered around the world?

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