After twenty-eight years of close or more distant association with the Society of St Pius X, I cannot remember a seven-day period of such extraordinary news - such mind-boggling developments - as the one we have just seen.
Late last Thursday night I became aware of the letters between the bishops which brought to the surface a serious division in the analysis of the current situation among the SSPX's leaders and figureheads. It cast light on the previous week's publication of an editorial in Fideliter, the SSPX's French magazine, in which Fr Régis de Cacqueray, SSPX superior in France, accused the pope of operating under grave illusions. Its correlations with the letter of the three bishops was so strong that it makes one wonder if he was not singing from the same autocue regarding doctrinal matters and the state of the Church. Its timing at such a delicate moment in the Rome-SSPX negotiations was significant: it was at the very least hostile.
The reactions to, and condemnations of, the leak were small beer in comparison to the remarkable interview which Bishop Fellay gave to CNS which came out the same day the leaks hit the internet. And the write up of the interview was nothing in comparison to the video which came out late on Tuesday night (London time) in which Bishop Fellay said the following:
I may say in the discussions, I think, we see that many things which we would have condemned as being from the Council are in fact not from the Council but the common understanding of it. [...]
The Council is presenting a religious liberty which in fact is a very, very limited one, very limited. In our talks with Rome they clearly said that [thinking] it means that there would be a right to error, a right to choose [one’s] religion, is false. [...]
The video is in English, which is Bishop Fellay's third or fourth language, but there is no doubt he says what he means to say.
Then came the meeting yesterday of the CDF and an announcement that has taken everybody by surprise ...
Regarding the positions taken by the other three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, their situations will have to be dealt with separately and singularly.
... an outcome which has been sharply condemned by the SSPX superior in Italy as a tactic of divide and conquer.
I have been talking to friends and bending my brain trying to get around the implications of all this. Here are the meagre results:
1. The consequences of such a segregation of the three bishops are massive for the internal regulation of the SSPX. All of the bishops have spent years travelling around the SSPX missions and are all well known.
2. Due to these consequences, the CDF would not have been so diplomatically gauche as to make this announcement without Bishop Fellay's cooperation.
3. Bishop Fellay must feel he has the support of most of his superiors if he has agreed to this public segregation of the three bishops.
4. The CDF may have acted in this way now for a variety of reasons:
a. A separate resolution for the bishops might always have been envisaged, first, because of their hierarchical rank, and second because Archbishop Lefebvre intended for them one day to put their episcopacy into the hands of the Holy Father.
b. The reaction to the scandal of Bishop Williamson's holocaust denial was so severe that Rome will not countenance a repeat.
c. If Bishop Williamson or any of them goes AWOL now, nobody will blame Bishop Fellay for it.
5. One friend has argued that the price Bishop Fellay is paying - in terms of the segregation of the three bishops with all the risks it involves - suggests the deal he is going to get from Rome is gold-plated.
ON THE OTHER HAND ...
If Bishop Fellay did not know that the CDF were going to make that announcement ... this whole process could very well collapse. But is that possible now?
Yes, what an extraordinary week. I don't know what will happen next but frankly nothing would surprise me.