The conservatives are winning the day. I know that because conversations around the globe concerning the lifting of the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops have everyone using the language of the right. Words like heresy, excommunication, invalid, illicit, schismatic and infallibility. The language of the conversation is being conducted primarily in the terms of Canon Law.
I could kick myself sometimes when I find myself giving legitimacy to terms I truly know have no legitimacy. Excommunication is an impossibility. No one can be cut off from the quantum truth that all are connected to the Divine. Given that truth, the rest of the terminology is tantamount to an elaborate fantasy constructed around a primary false assumption.
JPII excommunicated the four SSPX bishops and BXVI has reinstated them. I'm sure both popes felt perfectly justified. Good for them, neither proclamation has any legitimate meaning. God will determine the state of these four men's souls, and God has always retained that final judgment irrespective of what either one of these Pope's think.
The Vatican under Benedict is forcing people to look these issues in the face, and this may turn out to be the biggest mistake he will have made in his entire Vatican career. When faithful Catholics come to the determination that words like excommunication have no validity, a carefully constructed house of cards starts to come crumbling down. Paul VI most assuredly tried to avoid this when he issued Humanae Vitae. All the retrenchment since then has not stopped huge numbers of people from coming to the obvious conclusion. Excommunication has no validity. No pope and no council has the inherent ability to send one to hell for one's opinions.
Traditional conservatives will dispute me. Fine, I will retort that any of them who actively participated in the SSPX is exactly like me. They didn't believe they were risking their souls by participating in a de facto schismatic church, or being damaged by receiving sacraments from illicitly ordained clergy. Their personal consciences reigned supreme over Vatican authority.
The irony is that they were exercising personal religious liberty, something Archbishop Lefebvre felt to be a major theological failing of Vatican II. How deliciously ironic.
Over on Creative Advance, Gerald Floyd has written a letter to Pope Benedict. It's well worth reading. In it he asks Benedict how it is that Benedict can ignore the critical teaching of Vat II that authority rests not only in the Papacy, but is shared with Bishops through out the world, and also resides in the entire Body of Christ. Good question since Benedict didn't even consult with his own Cardinals in lifting the excommunication, much less bishops or laity. Archbishop Lefebvre would have been proud. How deliciously ironic.
Here's some more delicious irony from Gerald's letter:
Perhaps you could explain where you get the authority to lord it over the other bodies by which the Spirit has chosen to lead the church. Perhaps you could explain what gives you the right to make common cause with those who have spent decades denying the very legitimacy of Vatican II. Perhaps, in short, you could explain how your behavior and actions are anything other than "a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."
The sentence in quotes is taken verbatim from Benedict's famous homily of April 25, 2005 which pretty much secured his elevation to the Papacy. It's a good question, when does Papal authority become a dictatorship of relativism whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires? I think we've found the answer in Benedict. And the truth is neither the right nor the left takes his pronouncements over the dictates of their own personal consciences. Viva Religious Liberty, the Spirit of Vatican II lives on even in it's opponents. How delicious the irony.