(This is Part 1 of 2 or 3)
About a week ago, the Remnant published Stephen Heiner's interview of Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais of the Society of St. Pius X. Mr. Heiner is an occasional correspondent, and so he was kind enough to give me a "head's up" about the upcoming interview with Bp. TdeM. Unfortunately being an amateur Catholic and a professional something else, I couldn't/didn't capitalize on the opportunity he gave and prepare commentary that was more-or-less contemporaneous with the publication of the interview.
Just as well. In the intervening week I've had a chance to reflect upon the interview some more.
Now, over the last few months, as my readers know, I've gone on and on about the neo-Catholic response to a potential reconciliation—specifically about how the Wanderer crowd and the Catholic Answers crowd are doing all they can to poison the well against the Society and keep a reconciliation from coming to pass by erecting obstacles in the path—disingenuous reports from sedevacantist circles packaged so as to reflect on the SSPX, amplification and distortion of certain sound bites carefully picked from larger, less confrontational statements by SSPX leaders, etc—obstacles that aren't necessary, and obstacles that they have no right to erect. I've come to the conclusion that the neo-Catholics' lack of charity and refusal to show any understanding of the complexity of the "Situation" (simply parroting "obedience, obedience, obedience" without really figuring out what and whom one is to obey and how many levels of disobedience are a factor in creating the Situation, and without considering what IS and what IS NOT at stake) is done in bad faith and for bad motives. Otherwise intelligent and insightful people have no excuse for not further exploring the Situation and coming to a constructive understanding of the Society's position, even if they don't ultimately agree with it. These people must have an agenda—and I wonder if it's fear that the traditionalist counterrevolution, when energized by an SSPX regularization, will make their current niche and status in the Church, at least in this country, irrelevant. Simply put, I've come to the conclusion that their irrational and uncharitable attitude towards rapprochement with the Society is based on fears that they'll lose market share.
While I've been ranting and foaming at the mouth at Paul Likoudis, Jimmy Akin, Ed Peters and Company, I've also been looking for the right opportunity to turn the tables a bit, and talk about how the SSPX, or at least certain persons on the SSPX side of the divide, are at fault in their own handling of themselves in light of a potential reconciliation, and where they will have failed if the opportunity presented by the current circumstances does not come to pass. I've wanted to do so, not in any way to lessen the culpability of the neo-Catholics, nor simply to be a curmudgeon, but in the spirit of a thoroughly unqualified mediator, to show each party where it can move towards a resolution without compromising the substance of its position. Bp. TdeM's statements in Mr. Heiner's interview, particularly, towards the end of that interview, are just such an opportunity.
Let me begin with my usual disclaimer (perhaps drawn out a bit more than usual). I am a liturgical philistine who came to the old Mass late, and slowly. I am a public school kid with typically 1970s catechesis (i.e., no catechesis), and with no formal training in theology or canon law. I am a layman and obviously not a member of the SSPX, nor am I a formal or informal adherent or member of one of their chapels. I am one of those naïve and compromising indulters. That being said, I recognize that my indult is precarious, and I would not have it now but for the actions of Abp. Lefebvre in pulling together the remnant and leading traditional Catholics in the shipwreck of the Sixties and Seventies. I also recognize that, but for the continued SSPX presence in Kansas City at St. Vincent de Paul, and at the old Jesuit seminary in St. Mary's, there would be no FSSP apostolate in Wyandotte County or at Maple Hill, and no ICRSS Oratory at Old St. Pat's. I am grateful for the perseverance and love of our Holy Mother the Church that Lefebvre and the Society priests have, and for the fruits that they have brought forth that directly benefit me and my family. I understand their hesitation to come back into a regular canonical situation, given that their brethren who did in so 1988, to form the FSSP, have been double-crossed on several occasions and (to this day) work under disabilities that are inconsistent with the promises they originally received, and given that in the wake of the Campos reconciliation, Bp. Rifan and his men seem to have been neutered and put on a leash. I would not think it outrageous if the Society said, up front, that it fully intended to go back to irregular status, assets intact, if something like Protocol 1411 were attempted against them.
However, just as any adult child recognizes the faults and shortcomings in his own ancestors, even as he gratefully enjoys what they have wrought for their progeny, I recognize the faults and shortcomings in the Society, particularly as those faults have manifested themselves in the last several months. While I have never seen or heard a statement from a responsible member of the SSPX which suggests bad faith or bad motives for their hesitation and their criticism of the status quo, I clearly see that the enemy has his great weapon, pride, at work with the Society as it is with all men. However, since pride is not a remarkable fault, being so common, it is not what I want to focus on in my criticism. Rather, I want to talk about the a basic ignorance of human nature and the basic ignorance of social forces and (yes) politics which the Society has demonstrated.
To be continued tomorrow (or maybe later tonight)....