I allow myself nonetheless to specify that the redressing of the difficulties of a doctrinal nature does not mean that the reservations of the positions of the FSSPX on certain aspects that are not related to the domain of the Faith, but that concern themes that are pastoral or are of the prudential teaching of the Magisterium must be necessarily removed or annulled by the Society. The wish to pursue discussion and deepening of such issues that create difficulties for the FSSPX, in view of ulterior clarifications and specifications, is not only always possible, but - at least in my opinion - desirable and to be encouraged. It is not demanded of them, consequently, to renounce to this demand that they manifest regarding a certain number of issues.
…While, for their part, the declarations on religious liberty [Dignitatis Humanae], on non-Christian religious [Nostra Aetate], the decree on ecumenism [Unitatis Redintegratio] have different and lesser level of authority and constraining character.
Then yesterday, November 3rd, Bishop Oscar Sarlinga in Argentina, mirroring the October 14th letter of Bishop Semeraro, stated the following:
-It is not licit for the Catholic faithful to take part in the celebration of Mass in these conditions, neither to request nor to receive sacraments from the priests of the aforementioned "Society of Saint Pius X", including in private places turned into places of worship, without excluding, in case of obstinacy, also the ferendae sententiae penalties that may apply, according to the ecclesial spirit and that of protection of the faithful.
- In the case of the rupture of ecclesiastical communion by the above-mentioned founded motives, in order to be later readmitted to the Catholic Church, a personal path of reconciliation (and eventually of removal of the canonical censure) will be required, according to the discipline advised by the Holy See and the [diocese's] own, established by the diocesan bishop.
What does all of this mean? Although individual bishops have issued statements against the SSPX in in the past, these statements seemed to die down around the time of the SSPX’s renewed dialogue with Rome under Pope Benedict XVI. In addition, no bishop has proposed the excommunication of Catholics who receive sacraments from the SSPX in over 20 years.
The last bishop who attempted such excommunications was then Bishop of Honolulu, Joseph Ferrario in 1993. Bishop Ferrario issued a letter formally declaring that six Catholics who procured a confirmation performed by an SSPX bishop were ipso facto excommunicated. Cardinal Ratzinger himself judged the case as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He ruled the following:
…Since Mrs. Morley did not, in fact, commit the crime of schism and thus did not incur the "latae sententiae" penalty, it is clear that the Decree of the Bishop lacks the precondition on which is founded.
This Congregation, noting all of the above, is obliged to declare null and void the aforesaid Decree of the Ordinary of Honolulu.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
It should be noted that in 1993 Rome considered all SSPX bishops to be excommunicated. This means that according to Cardinal Ratzinger’s decision, Catholic faithful who asked for and received the sacrament of confirmation from even an excommunicated bishop had not committed the crime of schism (i.e. “rupture in communion” or “no longer being in communion with the Catholic Church.”) This decision still stands unrefuted by the CDF. Thus, how can a bishop today declare that Catholics who receive sacraments from non-excommunicated SSPX priests and bishops are in a worse canonical state than those who participated in a sacrament administered by an excommunicated bishop in 1993? Good question.
To date, neither the CDF nor the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED) has ever officially ruled that Catholics who frequent chapels of the SSPX are de facto schismatic or excommunicated. In fact, Msgr. Camille Perl, former Vice President of the PCED, stated the opposite as recently as 2008:
“Catholics who frequent the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X do not incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so.”
So why are certain bishops now warning of excommunications for Catholics who receive sacraments from the SSPX? One reason may be the change in pope. Knowing that Pope Benedict himself delivered the decision in the “Hawaii Six” case, bishops under his pontificate may have suspected that issuing similar excommunication threats were futile. Now, under Pope Francis, a pope who has given free rein to the tormentors of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, bishops may be feeling a lot freer to act.
After all, what does Francis (and his CDF and PCED) have to lose by failing to publicly correct these bishops? The bishops’ warnings serve as useful scarecrows. For they help scare away scrupulous faithful Catholics from finding refuge in the assuredly Catholic chapels of the Society, thereby forcing them to stay in their often abusive and heretical parishes. Because today’s conciliar parishes of the New Springtime are bleeding membership, which also means bleeding money, the last thing these bishops want is the time and resources of their most devoted faithful leaving for a more attractive alternative.
In addition, Francis, the CDF, and the PCED must know that the illegitimate warnings from these two bishops, if not corrected, are likely to be used as a template and copied by other bishops. This presents a fortuitous opportunity for them. Why?
First, although they cannot officially declare the SSPX or their faithful to be in schism, the misguided letters of the bishops still present this negative appearance to the faithful. This, in turn, acts as pressure on the SSPX to strike a deal to “regularize” sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the SSPX will face a growing number of excommunication and schism warnings as bishop after bishop is allowed to arrogate to himself the Vatican’s power to rule upon the status of the SSPX and its faithful.
Second, this “stick” can be coupled with the “carrot” of a less demanding “reconciliation.” One can imagine Cardinal Pozzo telling Bishop Fellay, “See? All of this diocesan confusion will go away if you just sign on the dotted line and regularize your standing. Just imagine how your Society will grow, unimpeded by this cloud of excommunications of your faithful. In addition, we are no longer insisting on agreement in matters of pastoral practice or prudence. You should take the deal while you still can!”
The problem is, as Cardinal Pozzo states in his interview, “doctrine” is non-negotiable. But, what the Cardinal and Pope Francis consider to be Catholic “doctrine” is precisely the problem. Exactly what “doctrines” did Vatican II make binding on all faithful that were not binding before Vatican II? Unless Bishop Fellay receives a bulleted list of said doctrines, explained in detail, how will he know precisely what it is he is agreeing to? He won’t. Yet this is the perennial problem with Vatican II. One is asked to sign on to a series of ambiguous and apparent contradictory documents that can be interpreted in various ways. In other words, one is asked to sign over everything. In exchange, one is offered freedom from a canonical chaos, stigma, and confusion fostered by the very people with whom one is negotiating. This type of dealing should not be called a negotiation, but extortion.
The son of the famous British novelist, Evelyn Waugh, had it right in a Remnant article from July 31, 1977. Pope Francis, like the popes before him, faces a dilemma. He knows that he cannot excommunicate the SSPX on doctrinal grounds without excommunicating the Church’s own Tradition, and thus himself. For the only thing the SSPX adheres to is the Traditional doctrine and worship of the Catholic Church. Yet for him to leave the SSPX “as is” is to risk its continued growth and public resistance to his agenda, which is the same path of “auto-demolition” the Church set upon in 1965. Thus, the only apparent option for a “progressive pope” such as Francis is to somehow entice the SSPX to agree to come into “full communion” which, in reality, means neutralization.
For how in the world can a Society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who believed the SSPX would be performing “operation suicide” by signing a deal with John Paul II, somehow believe that signing a deal with Francis would be anything less? I hear some of my Traditional friends say that Francis is the man to bring about the Society’s reintegration. That his “openness” and “tolerance” will ironically provide the necessary conditions whereby the SSPX can finally be “reconciled” and operate freely within the Church. With all due respect, I’d like to ask these friends precisely what alternate universe they’ve been living in since March 13th of last year?
All one has to do is look at the hard persecution of the semi-Traditional Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate by Francis himself, or the soft persecution of the Ecclesia Dei communities by the majority of bishops to get a hint of what lies in store for the SSPX under Francis. Yes, Francis will make nice overtures and gestures towards the SSPX, Cardinal Pozzo will propose more and more illusory concessions, and more and more bishops will fraudulently begin to de facto excommunicate the Society’s faithful. But this is precisely the same game of carrot and stick coercion that has always been played with the Society. It’s just that now, with the bishops and priests of the aggiornamento nearing the end of their earthly lives, the time to permanently implement the revolution is growing short. Thus the “problem” of the Society, the never-ending “thorn in the flesh” of the Neo-Modernists, must be dealt with, and dealt with quickly. For as long as the SSPX continues to exist in any substantial form outside of the Neo-Modernists’ control, the seed of Tradition and restoration in the Church continues to exist. As Archbishop Lefebvre well knew, the Society is a living time capsule and blueprint for the future restoration of the Church. In the meantime, it serves as a sign of contradiction and a prick to the conscience of all conciliar Churchmen. For somewhere deep in the old liberal prelates’ hearts there is a memory of the beauty of the Church of their youth and the knowledge that they helped bring about its destruction. It is this memory that the SSPX continually forces them to confront and it is why they hate the Society with such disproportionate ferocity.
As the Archbishop concluded his historic sermon on consecrating the four bishops in 1988 he said the following words regarding his Society and those faithful attached to it. I believe his words are as true today as they were then:
We place ourselves in God's providence. We are convinced that God knows what He is doing. Cardinal Gagnon visited us twelve years after the suspension: after twelve years of being spoken of as outside of the communion of Rome, as rebels and dissenters against the Pope, his visit took place. He himself recognized that what we have been doing is just what is necessary for the reconstruction of the Church. The Cardinal even assisted pontifically at the Mass which I celebrated on December 8, 1987, for the renewal of the promises of our seminarians. I was supposedly suspended and, yet, after twelve years, I was practically given a clean slate. They said we have done well. Thus we did well to resist! I am convinced that we are in the same circumstances today. We are performing an act which apparently... and unfortunately the media will not assist us in the good sense. The headlines will, of course, be "Schism," "Excommunication!" as much as they want to - and, yet, we are convinced that all these accusations of ;which we are the object, all penalties of which we are the object, are null, absolutely null and void, and of which we will fake no account, just as I took no account of the suspension, and ended up being congratulated by the Church and by progressive churchmen, so likewise in several years - I do not know how many, only the Good Lord knows how many years it will take for Tradition to find - its rights in Rome - we will be embraced by the Roman authorities, who will thank us for having maintained the Faith in our seminaries, in our families, in civil societies, in our countries, and in our monasteries and our religious houses, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.