(1) Do you see Pope Benedict’s meeting last August with the SSPX Superior General as reason for hope?
Hope for us or hope for the Church? Our hope is more for the Church than for ourselves. It has always been our prayer and desire, from the time of our foundation by Archbishop Lefebvre, that Rome return to its perennial teaching. The meeting last August was requested by the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, (and not by the Holy Father, as many believe). The intention of this meeting was to make Rome see that, especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has, with the “aggiornamento”(bringing up to date) wished for by Pope John XXIII, radically changed her stance on doctrinal, liturgical and disciplinary issues; e.g.: the liturgical reform, ecumenism, etc. Obviously, we hope that the meeting would also be beneficial for the Society in the sense that she may more effectively be an instrument in the Church to bring about the conversion of souls.
(2a) Are you also hoping that Rome officially and formally accedes to the belief that SSPX was never in schism from it?
Although Pope John Paul II declared in his Motu Proprio, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, (2 July 1988), the six bishops involved in the Consecrations had incurred excommunication, the Pope has never spoken of schism. On the contrary, since that time, both in words, and more importantly, in acts, Rome has said quite the opposite. At the time, Cardinal Castillo Lara declared, “The consecration is not in itself a schismatic act”. In 1994 Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the head of the Congregation for Unity of Christians, wrote, “The Society of St. Pius X is not subject to the Congregation for Unity of Christians, their situation is an internal affair of the Catholic Church”. In 1995 the Canon Lawyer Dr. Gerald Murray wrote as part of his doctorate dissertation for the Papal University, “They are not excommunicated as schismatics, the Vatican has never said so. It can be proven that Mgr. Lefebvre was never excommunicated and therefore no-one else either”. Most recently in the 30 Days magazine (No.9 2005) H.E. Card. Castrillon, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy clearly th states that the Society is not in schism. He said the same on Italy’s channel 5 on 13 November, 2005. The local clergy, priests and even bishops, however, continue to speak of the Society in a negative way. To this the same Cardinal, said the following, “Unfortunately there is proof that within the Church, even at high levels, knowledge of the Society is not always very accurate. The Society has always recognized in John Paul II, and now in Benedict XVI, the legitimate successor of Saint Peter. That is not a problem... There is no need to hope in an accomplished fact.
(2b) That official declarations to the contrary have no real canonical foundation?
The consecration of a bishop without Papal Mandate would normally be contrary to Canon Law, and strike the perpetrator with the censure of excommunication. Such an act, in itself, does not necessarily produce a schism. Schism is accomplished when a group formally breaks away from and renounces the Papacy, something that the Society has never done. Indeed, an act of excommunication, schism or heresy may play a role one upon the other, but do not necessarily involve each other.
We have always held that John Paul II was the successor of Peter as is the present Holy Father, Benedict XVI. Moreover, the Society has never denied any article of the Catholic Faith. Examples of schism in history would be the Orthodox and the Anglicans. Now, given the modernist crisis in the Church and the history between Rome and the Society up to 1988, there is no question of an excommunication and less still of a schism.
Canon law is not above the faith. On the contrary, it serves the faith (can. 1752 “…the salvation of souls, which is always the supreme law of the Church.). One can never be struck by any ecclesiastical censure for keeping the faith or doing any act in conformity with the faith. If a Pope declares an excommunication, such a declaration does not fall under infallibility. A typical example is the excommunication of St. Athanasius by Pope Liberius. Because St. Athanasius was holding on to the true faith, renouncing the heretical creed of the Arians, he was excommunicated. History, and the Church Herself, has always shown that his “excommunication” was not valid.
(2c)That the breach with Rome occurred mostly over obedience-related issues and not the Latin Mass?
We categorically deny that disobedience is the cause of our problems with Rome. The real problem lies with the dogma of the faith. Rome has espoused new doctrines, doctrines replete with modernism; doctrines that have always been condemned by the Church are now accepted. The New Order of Mass is just one of the many innovations of this new church.
The Society of St. Pius X has invariably sought to defend the truths of the Catholic faith and of the Mass. For this and for no other reason have we been persecuted and labelled as “revolutionaries”, “disobedient rebels” etc.
(3) The Vatican has held that SSPX militates against the ideal of liturgical unity within the Church and against the spirit of Vatican II, which is intended to bring the Church more in touch with the modern era. Do you agree with this position? Explain.
There is an idea that being more in touch with the modern era, with wholesale abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality and the concomitant general immodesty in dress, etc. is a desirable thing. Our Lord certainly did not think so, for He warned his disciples that though they may be constrained to live in the world they most certainly must not adopt its maxims and immoral practices. If the spirit of Vatican II includes winking at the faithful using contraception in marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and immodesty in dress even for Holy Mass, then the Society definitely wants nothing to do with it. That’s not being nostalgic or not wanting to get more in touch, that’s simply following our Lord’s teaching.
The liturgical question is more complex. It should be an expression of the Faith and since we have one Faith the liturgy should be one too. This of course was the case before Vatican II. Wherever you went in the world the Mass was the same (barring the sermon on Sunday). Since the liturgy performed by the Society still holds to that ideal Masses at our chapels are the same the whole world over one really should ask if it is not in fact rather Vatican II which introduced disunity resulting in the lamentable fact that depending on where you go to Mass, even in the same town let alone worldwide, you will be subjected to the whims of the presiding minister and very often not even him but a committee of ‘experts’ who struggle to make the unbloody immolation of our Lord more ‘meaningful’.
(4) Some see SSPX as a divisive element. Are you hoping that such perceptions may change, and how?
There’s nothing evil in being despised for holding on to the Truth, in fact it is very often a consequence of following our Lord. In St. John’s gospel, he says that the world will despise us if we follow him (St. John 15; 18-19: If the world hates you, know that it hath hated me before you. … but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.). In the gospel of St. Matthew, (10; 34) he claims he came to bring a sword quite a divisive instrument to wield! What is odd is that our most vociferous critics are the local clergy. Archbishop Denis Hurley publicly criticised the teaching of the Church with regard to the celibacy of the clergy, the use of contraception and other serious issues. The Church remained silent (though she didn’t give him the red hat) yet she has always taught that such acts are mortally sinful. What we do hope changes is the perception that what the Society is doing is somehow against the Church or that people feel they couldn’t follow the perennial teaching of the Church because we happen to be the ones principally preserving it now.
Another most interesting extract from the interview with Cardinal Castrillon mentioned above, may serve
as a closing note to all we have said:
Do you think, asked the 30 Days editor, they represent the legacy of a past which in any case is on its
way to extinction?
CASTRILLÓN HOYOS: At the World Day of Youth in Cologne there was a considerable group of young
people attached to the traditional Mass. The echoes have been positive. And it shows how short-sighted
it is to consider the traditionalist phenomenon as on its way to extinction. Not least because in the
traditionalist world, proportionately, the number of priestly vocations is decidedly higher than that of
many dioceses in the Church.