Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Council, the Society, and the Pope

The big news out of Rome last week was the lifting of the excommunication of four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). I know that there are a couple of people (hi Mom) who actually read my blog, and they might not be aware of the history behind the excommunications or the SSPX.

In brief, there were a lot of Catholics who thought (with the aid of the press) that the Second Vatican Council represented a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. They took advantage of the chaos following the council to run amok, pushing a lot of changes that the Council documents never authorized. In the midst of this craziness, Pope Paul VI revised the rite of the mass. I was born in 1969. I don’t have any personal memory of any of this, but it was a painful time for a lot of faithful Catholics. Many of them had their faith damaged.

A group of French seminarians really didn’t like what they were seeing, and they gathered around Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. They formed the Society of St. Pius X in 1970 and established their own seminary in Sweden Switzerland. By 1974, Lefebvre was challenging the authenticity of both the Pope and the Council. In 1975, approval of the SSPX was withdrawn and the seminary ordered closed by Rome, with the approval of Pope Paul VI. The SSPX ignored the Pope. The next year, 1976, the Pope reminded Lebebvre that under Canon Law, he could not ordain his seminarians. Lefebvre ordained his seminarians anyway. The Pope suspended Lefebvre’s faculties, to no effect. By its refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope, the SSPX had placed itself in schism.

By 1986, Pope John Paul II was seeking a way to end the schism and bring the SSPX back into union with the Church. An agreement was signed in May 1988. Under the agreement the SSPX would get one bishop, to be consecrated from among its own priests. The day after signing the agreement, Lefebvre backed out. After announcing that he would ordain four bishops, the Pope warned Lefebvre that, should he do so, he would incur excommunication latae sententiae, per canon 1382. Lefebvre consecrated his four bishops and all five received upon themselves the penalty of excommunication.

Archbishop Lefebvre has since died, but the four SSPX bishops ordained by him have had their excommunications lifted. Pope Benedict XVI hopes that this step will renew discussions with the SSPX, with an aim toward reuniting them with the Church. However, it does not appear that any of the four bishops has expressed any contrition or willingness to submit to the authority of the Holy See, and one of the four is now enjoying media scrutiny for denying the holocaust in an interview on Swedish television.

The old Latin mass of 1962 is now widely available for those who wish to attend it, although some travel might be required. There are approved apostolates within the Church devoted to practicing and preserving the old mass. The issue, for the SSPX, is whether they are willing to accept the primacy of the successor of Peter. At the moment, it looks as though the traditional Anglicans are closer to reunion than is the SSPX.

See Holier Than Thou in the April 2003 issue of This Rock. Be sure to read the angry letters from SSPX fans in the July-August 2003 issue as well.

5 comments:

Russ Martin (AKA "Steeple Chaser") said...

Nice history lesson, I was wondering what all the hub-bub was about. Thanks.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

They formed the Society of St. Pius X in 1970 and established their own seminary in Sweden.

That is were they make Swedish chocolate like Toblerone and Swedish watches too, right?

I am a Swede and have been also to Switzerland. These are two different countries. Confusing them is a bit like confusing Kansas and Maryland, when it comes to geographic location.

They established their seminar in SWIZERLAND. It is a Confederation of Republics known as Cantons with a lot of direct democracy. It is also confessionally divided between Catholics and Reformed and the Catholics are very Catholic and sometimes even the Reformed are very Refomed.

SWEDEN is:

* a monarchy (constitutional since 1809, after loosing Finland to Russia);
* Lutheran, but not one in ten of our Lutherans is as conservative as Augustana Synod (hear that Russ Martin?), indeed, to Swedish Church adherence of Bertil Gärtner to Augustana synod is a fair parallel to Mgr Lefèbvre (I was pro-Gärtner during my brief time as a Lutheran and have been more or less pro-Lefèbvre for about half my life or more now);
* a country which has been run by both Freemasons and Social Democrats into a very totalitarian mold, where it would have been impossible to make the seminary of Écône.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

However, it does not appear that any of the four bishops has expressed any contrition or willingness to submit to the authority of the Holy See, and one of the four is now enjoying media scrutiny for denying the holocaust in an interview on Swedish television.

This time, it really is Swedish, not Swiss.

Reason he was there in the first place is that some converts from Lutheranism in the Northern countries are very interested in SSPX. Mgr Williamson speaks best English of the four, Swedes are very seldom good at French or Spanish, so he was the bishop who visited us.

As you may have noted, he has been displaced from service in SSPX. The other three didn't like his reservations about number of dead in the camps.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

deretour : YOU do the mathematics.

This is not about existence of camps, but about functioning of gas chambers.

Mgr Williamson was not contesting that people died in camps from typhus (Anne Frank seems now to have been identified as such a case) or in executions (famously Blessed Maximilian Kolbe) or by starvation and overwork etc.

Kurt H said...

Thank you for the correction, Hans. I do know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland, and I regret the error. My very fallible brain must have auto-filled as soon as I typed "Sw..."