Sunday, 16 October 2011

Trouble at t' mill

After a month away from the blogging coal face, it's taken me three days to actually get back in the saddle (though no time at all to mix my metaphors). It's not that I've been busy, I just don't know where the time goes these days.

But I've had to force myself to sit down in the chair (while Mrs Ches feeds the bairn) to report on the trouble unfolding within the SSPX. It's reasonably well known by now that Bishop Williamson received a letter from Bishop Fellay dated 23 September. The former shared it with friends one of whom, we must suppose, leaked the text to traditionalist blogger Maurice Pinay who - fearing this was a major step in a dirty tricks war to get Bishop Williamson expelled from the Society - promptly published it. An update to the original post states that Bishop Williamson has now certified the letter as authentic but claims not to have given his permission for it to be published on the net. In a further development, it is now being said that the letter was sent by mistake, and that a second letter exists (which Bishop Williamson has not received) which does not contain the threat of expulsion from the SSPX to be read in the letter posted on Pinay's blog. This news broke on Friday and was sent to me by an old seminary pal. On Saturday, in the wake of this unauthorised publication, Bishop Williamson's Eleison Comments took up the question of whether Pope Benedict had suppressed an ancient truth in excusing the Jews collectively of the crime of deicide in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth. And there, as far as I know, the matter rests.


So what exactly is going on in the SSPX? The Fellay letter, whether it was sent by mistake or not, contains some extraordinary revelations about the internal atmosphere of the SSPX, not the least of which is the claim that a group of Anglo-Saxon priests (the expression is a classic French one for Anglophones) is planning to break away. It is a strange letter which ranges between a rather conciliatory opening (setting out conditions for Bishop Wiliamson to attend the Albano meeting) and various accusations about Bishop Williamson's disloyalty to the SSPX. It seems to be out of step with Bishop Fellay's habitual poise.

Talk on the traditionalist forums is rife with accusations and counter-accusations in support or condemnation of Bishop Williamson and Bishop Fellay. Bishop Fellay is supposed, by many, to be preparing to 'sell out' to Pope Benedict, while others report senior SSPX clerics denying any possibility of the Society signing the Doctrinal (and still secret) Preamble. Bishop Williamson, who has been in exile for the last few years, has clearly invested this weekend's Eleison Comments with maximum provocative value. He surely knows full well that talking about the Jews is the thing that is most likely to embarras Bishop Fellay at the moment, but in this week's newsletter he has chosen to talk not about the Holocaust but about a common opinion - in his newsletter he scrupulously avoids calling it a dogma because he knows full well that it isn't! - concerning whether the guilt of the Jews in Jerusalem for Christ's death on Good Friday was shared with the rest of the Jewish race. For some people such an opinion is enough to have him thrown out of the Church, not just the SSPX. That said, I dare say it is an opinion one would find thoroughly well attested in the Fathers. It is not for all that a dogma de fide catholica, and dressing it up as an 'ancient truth' and lambasting the pope for overthrowing it looks on reflexion like a sleight of hand.

It becomes more difficult by the day to talk about these topics, as it becomes more necessary to do so. But at the same time, the brass-necked delusions of Bishop Williamson - who defends his continued publication of Eleison Comments on the ridiculous pretext that nobody can stop him as a bishop preaching the Faith - are not in fact that distant, metholodogically speaking, from the rest of the SSPX. Bishop Williamson's rebellion is beyond doubt the logical working out of a position that nobody in the SSPX has examined properly. Indeed, while not all the SSPX will chose to talk about the same controversial questions as Bishop Williamson, they pretty much all to a man follow the same modus operandi: if they decide something is against the Faith, then it is against the Faith, and this claim represents their Joker card which justifies them doing whatever they decide is for the good of the Church. By talking about this 'ancient truth' concerning the Jews this weekend, Bishop Williamson seems to be inviting Bishop Fellay to kick him out of the SSPX for reasons which would enable Bishop Williamson to charge Bishop Fellay precisely with betraying ancient truths. After all, why this subject and why now? I suspect Bishop Fellay knows Bishop Williamson has him over a barrel on this one.

But who decides in the end? We still don't know what is in the Doctrinal Preamble but I'm prepared to bet my last cigar that it is about this question of WHO is the final judge of these questions of Faith.


We must pray for the speedy resolution of this situation, but all the signs are, quite frankly, very bad: this looks increasingly like a proverbial train wreck, as the inner contradictions of the SSPX collide with each other. Here we are needing serious reform in the Church, and here we have a group which could make a massive contribution to the cause. And here we are waiting for the rivers of bullshit to subside before any resolution can be found.

God alone can sort this mess out.


James said...

It seems to me that a schism in the SSPX brought about by the departure of Bishop Williamson and his supporters would not be an entirely bad thing for the SSPX and the Church.
To be sure, in charity, we must pray for a change of heart. It would of course be very much better, were a reconciliation and regularisation of the SSPX to take place, which includes all four bishops, leaving no (significant) rump group.
However, humanly speaking, as long as the "Williamson factor" plays a role, there never be a reconciliation - how much the worse for the SSPX, and indeed the Church.
I speak as an "insider", as someone who attends an SSPX chapel out of necessity, and family circumstances. The sooner the "Williamson" element is gone, the better - it will make a reconciliation so much easier in my opinion. Not plain sailing, to be sure, but easier. I suspect that Bishop Williamson and those who think like him will never accept a reconciliation save on totally unrealistic terms

ggreg said...

I would not underestimate how big the "Williamson element" might be.

For one thing of all the four bishops he's certainly the most charismatic of the four. His writings are well read and well liked. He sees the truth about the problems in the Church and explains them without pulling any punches. He wears his heart on his sleeve and a lot of Trads admire that about the man.

I reckon he could easily take 25-30% of SSPX Trads with him, especially if the agreement struck with Rome is considered dodgy, dangerous or just plain unintelligible.

Ches said...

I agree, Greg. I think this is potentially a disastrous turn of events. WE'll have to wait and see what happens.

Toby said...

Whilst not qualified to comment on the theological differences between SSPX and the Vatican, but nevertheless as one who hopes for unity amongst believers, I was disheartened to note that Bishop Fellay describes the talks currently on-going with the Vatican as a confrontation, i.e. we have nothing to learn from you, only you from us:

"In such a grave moment as the confrontation now taking place between ourselves and the Holy See, the outcome of which will be decisive for our own future and not without consequences for the entire Church"

If this is the mindset of Bishop Fellay then it strikes me that the talks are destined to result in a prolonging of the status quo. It really does seem to suggest the attitude of "SSPX's way or the highway" without compromise. This brings us back to the issue of how agreement with Rome will ever be possible when the mindset that Ches repeatedly emphasises is that of true knowledge of what constitues the faith lying within the SSPX rather than with Rome.

Further clues to the possible attitude in what I had hoped were discussions with Rome, but now characterised as confrontation, are given by the ultimatum laid before Bishop Williamson:

"As for the unity of the SSPX, the one most putting it in danger is yourself, your Excellency! Always in the name of defense of the Faith. In such a grave moment as the confrontation now taking place between ourselves and the Holy See, the outcome of which will be decisive for our own future and not without consequences for the entire Church, I ask you then, once more, to remain silent until further orders."

Unity within SSPX appears to be something which Bishop Fellay thinks warrants Bishop Williamson's silence irrespective of his conscience. So within the SSPX unity is, seemingly, to be valued above all else, whereas in the confrontation with Rome a different value applies and the SSPX cannot possibly be expected to depart from what they have self-determined to be the true faith. This seems an impossible position for any fruitful dialogue with Rome.

Sadly, whilst at totally different ends of the spectrum, the fruits of this attitude towards the Holy Mother Church in Rome are likely to be just the same as the ever-splintering Protestant churches. Once you determine that the way to resolve theological disputes is by schism and locate authority within your splinter group then a precedent is set for all those who dissent at any point in the future to do exactly the same.

This all strikes me as incredibly sad as someone who has little practical knowledge of the SSPX but sees so much to respect in so much of what it stands for.

Ches said...

Agreed, Toby, and sorry not to have been in contact! The Williamson clash may serve to bring to the fore this very contradiction, because what BW+ is doing on the micro-scale is what the SSPX are doing at a macro-scale.

R. Catesby said...

I would not worry too much about the word "confrontation." I suspect that the word is a poor translation of the French word "affrontement," one of the meanings of which is "to face." "To face" is consistent with the dialogues between Rome and the SSPX.

This problem reminds me of the Spanish word "molestar," which means "to bother," not the more suggestive term Americans would infer.

Richard said...

Bp Williamson is just positioning himself to become The Remnant of The Remnant of The True Faith. Any day now I expect he will consecrate more Bishops. The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree, after all.

Colleen Hammond said...

I think things are looking good, especially since this appeared on the SSPX website.

How often does the SSPX applaud NO Bishops?

I pray for the right decision, as I feel the SSPX will have so much more power and influence if they're totally under the umbrella Rome and regularize their situation.

God's will be done...

Colleen Hammond said...

Here's the link:

It was there in the "preview" page, but somehow didn't get posted. ?!?

vetusta ecclesia said...

The comments on the Pinay blog shew a high incidence of paranoia focused on an axis of Judaism and Masonry.