Saturday, May 06, 2006

Turning Now to the SSPX . . . (Part 2)

(Part 2 of 2 or 3)

Yes, like a true pragmatic American, corrupted by John Dewey, I'm going to scold Bp. TdeM and his confreres for being impractical. I'm only partially corrupted, though: I don’t hold that pragmatism is a principle that should ever guide a Catholic. I do, however think that pragmatism has tactical value to everyone, Catholic, heretic, or infidel.

I presumptively believe that everything Bp. TdeM says about Fr. Ratzinger's theology papers from the 1960s is correct. I will not suggest that any of the substance of what his Excellency says about the Church in the wake of the Council is wrong. Of course, some of it may be; I'm not wise enough or well-informed enough to say so for sure. I think that, in substance, the Bishop’s criticism of the orientation of Vatican II and modern Rome is directly on target—in substance. But frankly, the Bishop and the Society will never win over modern Rome--they'll never be able to DO ANYTHING about modern Rome by shouting about those errors from the outside in.

Forgive the pedestrian analogy to a business or political committee, but one cannot stand in the door of a conference room while the hopelessly misdirected committee members meet, shouting "You're WRONG WRONG WRONG!" and expect that to do any good. Turn the tables: If you were on that committee, would you be moved by such a rude interloper (even if the interloper was right)? Of course not! One can’t fire criticism into the room thinking that those inside will somehow appreciatively respond by magically finding the correct course on their own. If one wants to successfully, productively intervene with such a group, one has to smile (even if there's nothing to smile about), take a seat and join the group. And when one does sit down, one cannot expect to be handed the gavel immediately and take over as chairman. One must be patient, put up with a little nonsense, work from the committee’s status quo and treat the other members with deference (even if they don’t merit it), and without losing sight of one's objective and without compromising one's principles-- quietly, calmly, and discretely work, over time, to redirect the committee's efforts so that, when the group is moving toward the right goal, and the other members feel that the resolution and redirection is of their own making (even if it isn't).

Your Excellency, frankly, you and your most vocal confreres are now standing at the committee room door and shouting about the heresies written by Fr. Ratzinger under the influence of heady drug of 1960s progressivism, and you're shouting about the evil fruits of Vatican II. The substance of what you’re shouting is probably right, but you will not move anyone by it. You will make no progress, no progress, in restoring and rehabilitating the Church Militant by conducting yourselves in such a manner; you will only make yourself hoarse and eventually, lose your voice completely.

Yes, Fr. Ratzinger may have postulated errors some decades ago in his academic work, and no, neither John Paul's Grand Inquisitor nor the current Holy Father have formally abjured them. But what will your dwelling on that accomplish? You yourself admit that the Holy Father is not currently advancing those same errors, right? The Holy Father is not in the position of making an obstinate denial of religious Truth; he is not a heretic. One cannot expect the Pope, or any other mortal (short of perhaps our Blessed Mother or St. Joseph) to respond positively to the manner of accusations you’ve resorted to. You don’t really expect the Benedict to publicly recant errors he has presumptively long-abandoned based on the denunciation of what most Catholics view as a suspended, disobedient and presumptively excommunicated auxiliary bishop, do you? (If you answered "yes," please keep rereading the question until you answer "no". Remember that being correct in your denunciation is not enough). You're not going to change the Pope or the Curia or the pastoral orientation of the post-conciliar Church by shouting—even by shouting the truth. By being so direct and confrontational, you only raise others’ defenses and reinforce the modern status quo. You’re not going to get any closer to a position where you and your confreres can have any direct positive influence and play a more meaningful role in restoring the church and saving souls in the larger Church Militant. The statements repeated in the Remnant do nothing to advance; and in fact do much to impede, the counterrevolution.

Your Excellency, some saint whom I can't name right now once said one must speak the truth, but always sweetened with charity. This is no time to compromise any of the truths you and the Society have admirably preserved throughout the Modernist storm, but it's a time where there's a particular call for the sweetener of charity. Add some humility and prudence to your truth. It is time for you and your confreres in the Society to start measuring your words more carefully, and picking your battles more strategically, and approaching the current opportunity for reconciliation practically. This may be an opportunity for the Society to take the battle inside and to the heart of modern Rome, as it were. It’s a battle the Society and its friends can and will win, but it will never advance if by denunciations and accusations presented in such a manner as you, Bp. Williamson, and others; it will cause the open door to be slammed in your face.

Your Excellency, the finest theologian may be the worst diplomat and the worst governor. If it is not in your nature to play the role that must now be played, we suggest you remain silent and allow your Superiors, Bp. Fellay and Fr. Schmidberger, play that role, or appoint a delegate who can play that role.

As much as we all dream of a Pope who will stand at the window of the Apostolic Palace and wipe the last forty years away, we cannot expect it to happen. Vatican II will not be abrogated. God willing, it may be abandoned over decades or centuries, but it will not be abrogated. One can point out and maintain the imprudence of Vatican II and the pastoral orientation and disciplinary laxity that followed it, and one can keep the Society and its adherents inoculated against the Council, and one can even participate in moving the church "beyond" the Council and back to a traditional pastoral orientation, but one cannot make the Council go away. By attempting to do so in the same manner in which you attacked Fr. Ratzinger's forty-year old academic work in your recent Remnant interview, you and your brethren actually prolong the post-conciliar storm. By being a little more shrewd, you and your brethren can actually cause the storm to pass over more quickly and be in a better position to clean up the disorder.

So PLEASE, your Excellency, and PLEASE fellow members of the Society, recognize the latest outreach as an opportunity for a strategic reconciliation---and a strategic opportunity to infiltrate the modernist Church. Yes, protect yourselves with guarantees of autonomy and retain control of your assets, in case someone in Rome pulls a "1411" on you, but take the opportunity that may be presented to you now, measure your words carefully, and take your battle for souls to the next stage.


Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head so far with your analysis.

The events of the last couple of months have caused me to reflect that the SSPX has performed brilliantly in preserving the venerable liturgy and a priesthood dedicated to it during the dark times that the Church has suffered. That was, however, purely a defensive effort. Have they not one general among them who can intuitively sense the advantage that comes from the shifting tide and recognize that that advantage must be siezed when it is available? This advantageous situation will not last forever and if it is not siezed upon by the SSPX leadership they will find themselves in the future no more significant than any of a number of small Orthodox communities hyperventilating about how they are the true apostolic church, unlike the one in Rome.

And may God have mercy upon their souls if their obdurate atitudes have the result of backfiring and prolonging the darkness that has gripped the Church.

Anonymous said...

“Forgive the pedestrian analogy to a business or political committee, but one cannot stand in the door of a conference room while the hopelessly misdirected committee members meet, shouting "You're WRONG WRONG WRONG!" and expect that to do any good.”

Ahh … but you see, the SSPX are not shouting into the room. It is shouting to those outside the room or heading in the direction of the room. Perhaps those around the table can hear the clamor but they aren’t listening. There is no seat at the table for the SSPX until they start toning down the warnings. They won’t do it, and thank the Good God because where would we be if they had back in the 90’s … the 80’s … the 70’s?

Only the Pope has the power to undo the havoc. Read that again. The SSPX will never solve the crisis; it was never intended to solve the crisis and it never claims to be the solution. It is a lifeboat: one either gets on or one does not.

Now, I’m not particularly thrilled with Msgr. Tissier’s choice of words, but the only way to get a seat at the table is to back off the defence of the Faith. You see, this is a time of crisis. In a time of crisis it is not sufficient to teach the Faith. One must, must, must defend the Faith against modernists and modernism, where ever we meet them. That’s the difference between the SSPX and all the Ecclesia Dei Communities.

I look forward to Part 3 and I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work!