"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Watch those trads

It is just as I thought.

In a recent interview, Bishop Bernard Fellay of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X greeted Summorum Pontificum as "very significant historical event in the history of the Church and in post-Vatican II history." All well and good, that—as far as it goes. But that's not far at all. For it also becomes clear that this illicitly consecrated bishop, like his three colleagues, does not accept the ecclesiology of Vatican II and therefore rejects much of what Pope Benedict has in mind in liberalizing celebration of the Tridentine Rite.

Insofar as it addresses the question what bodies count as churches, that ecclesiology is crisply presented and summarized in a CDF document issued almost simultaneously with SP and obviously with the trad audience as much in mind as any other. As a hermeneut of continuity like the Pope, I've already expounded and defended that document. But here's the nub of what Fellay has to say about it:

In the declaration about the motu proprio, we insisted in saying that the confused excerpts of places in the letter show that the need to enter into theological discussions was reinforced very, very strongly by this document which is telling us that a circle is a quadrangle.

You have a perfect illustration of what we have said for 6 years. That is that Rome is continuing in a confusing way because they don't seem to give much care to contradiction and non-contradiction.This document seems to be a clarification of nothing but assuring once again that "Yes" means "No."

Q: Your Excellency, can you give us an example?

A: Sure. One example is precisely the question about subsistit...Why use the expression "subsistit in" and not "est"? [I've answered that. —ML] You read the answer and you conclude nothing. They say it is "est"and that there is an identity with the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church; and there is no change of doctrine. And then the next phrase is precisely a change in doctrine. So... It is a contradiction.

In his sermon in Ecône, Bishop Williamson said that in Rome they say something like two plus two makes four, but maybe it also makes five. And here you have a perfect illustration of that.The only positive thing [in the document] is about the Protestants which are now barred from the title of Church. Great! [Ed. Note: This doctrine on Protestant "ecclesial communities" has already been outlined previously by Dominus Jesus and other authoritative Church doctrinal clarifications.] Besides that, it is a confirmation of what we say. This text tries to tell us that there is no contradiction between the doctrine of the Church of the past and of Vatican II. And we insist by saying that Vatican II is in disharmony — is in contradiction — is even teaching error opposed to the traditional teaching, especially on ecumenism. And here [in this new document on ecclesiology] you have both sides put together; that is, the past and Vatican II.

As I said, it is just as I thought. The motu proprio will do little to bring the trad schismatics back into full communion with the Church because, for their leaders, the obstacle to full communion is not so much liturgical as doctrinal. Like the progressives they despise, such trads believe that the ecclesiological developments of Vatican II, taught and defended by the popes since, are fundamentally incompatible with what had long been presented as the settled and irreformable doctrine of the Church. The difference is that the progs like what they take to be that fact, and the trads dislike it. The progs think with the Church they still hope will evolve in the future; the trads think with the Church they still believe existed in the past. The more radical among both are thinking with chimeras. But that is always the way of schismatics.

As is evident from the text of SP, the Pope hopes that making the Tridentine liturgy—the one he first celebrated as a priest, and which is loved by not a few Catholics—more widely accessible to the faithful will lend momentum to a much-needed reform of that reform which was launched in the 1960s and 70s. Not content with making a theological case for continuity, he wants to foster a palpable sense of continuity. He is right. But that's not what the rad-trads have in mind. They want restoration, not continuity. They want to replace the Novus Ordo, not enrich it. They want to repudiate what is distinctive in the theology of Vatican II, not embrace it.

One must admit they're consistent, though.
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