|While Pope Benedict courts celibate male SSPX priests, that whole notion of priesthood is taking a nose dive in importance for the People of God.
SSPX leaders have rejected Vatican statement, says superiorBy Mark Greaves - CatholicHerald.co.uk - 11/2/2011
Leaders of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) have agreed that the doctrinal preamble presented to them by the Vatican is “completely unacceptable”, according to the society’s district superior in Britain.
In a newsletter posted online and subsequently removed, Fr Paul Morgan said SSPX superiors had rejected the doctrinal principles set out by the Vatican as the basis for further discussion.
The superiors met last month in Albano, Rome, but said they would only issue a response to the Vatican after further study.
In an official statement today the SSPX said that “only the General House of the Society of St Pius X is entitled to make public an official communiqué or authorised commentary on this matter”.
In his letter Fr Morgan said it was “disappointing” that the doctrinal statement, handed to SSPX leaders by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “failed to acknowledge the break between traditional and conciliar teachings”.
“Instead,” he wrote, “it insisted upon the ‘hermeneutic [interpretation] of continuity’, stating that the new teachings included and improved upon the old! (Well, I'm not entirely convinced Pope Benedict himself actually believes this line.)
“So it was perhaps not surprising to learn that the proposed doctrinal basis for any canonical agreement in fact contained all those elements which the Society has consistently rejected, including acceptance of the New Mass and of Vatican II as expressed in the New Catechism. Indeed, the document itself conveys the impression that there is no crisis in the Church…(The Vatican does consistently behave as if this is true.)
“Hence the stated consensus of those in attendance was that the doctrinal preamble was clearly unacceptable and that the time has certainly not come to pursue any practical agreement as long as the doctrinal issues remain outstanding.”
The Vatican statement listed several principles that the SSPX had to agree with in order to move towards full conciliation with Rome.
It came after two years of doctrinal talks between leaders of the SSPX and officials at the Vatican.
To be honest, I've never been sure what Pope Benedict actually hoped to accomplish with his overtures to SSPX. Perhaps he truly thought he could bridge the gap between believers in Vatican I and the rest of the Church. He's certainly bent over backwards to accommodate Catholics who are more comfortable in the Vatican I Church. Part of this accommodation has been to muster Vatican resources to utterly squash any reform movements or thinking that came from the pastoral documents of Vatican II. This has resulted in lifting the excommunications of SSPX bishops, who utterly rejected the totality of the conciliar teachings of VII, while excommunicating Catholic priests, nuns, and removing bishops, who had disagreements with one or two particular Catholic disciplines. This has left me concluding that traditional Catholics will be welcomed back even if they reject authoritative Catholic teaching in toto (VII), but progressive Catholics can be eliminated over one particular teaching over one particular discipline. (Fr Ray Bourgeois) This is known as a double standard.
SSPX can be counted on to support Pope Benedict and the Vatican in three critical areas, none of which have a thing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Catholic profession of Faith: an all male celibate hierarchical priesthood wielding total control of Church assets and teaching authority, the Aquinan/Augustinian approach to sexual understanding and morality, and the status of women, most especially reproductive rights and women's secondary status. SSPX certainly has no issues with the Vatican over these three areas---at least until one gets to the very top of the hierarchical pyramid.
If these three areas are indeed the most critical areas for the Vatican, that of maintaining the rights and privilege's of the Trentan clerical system, natural law sexual morality, and the secondary status of women, it becomes much easier to see why a priest like Fr Roy Bourgeois, or a Bishop like William Morris become such threats that they must be humiliated, expelled, and dismissed like errant children. Their big sin was to threaten some aspect of the BIG THREE. Virtually everything Benedict has done with his notion of the 'reform of the reform' is to underscore some aspect of one of these three, especially the BIG ONE--the Trentan clerical system and magical sacramental power of the priesthood. SSPX is the flag carrier for this understanding of the Catholic priesthood. SSPX leadership obviously understands their trump card in this 'discussion' between them and Pope Benedict's Vatican is the fact they have seminaries full of these kinds of priests.
I wish Pope Benedict was able to process the fact that very few people in the developed world believe in his kind of priesthood any longer. The recent Survey of American Catholics certainly underscores this fact. Although 63% of American Catholics rate the sacraments as very important to their faith, the clerical priesthood is rated as important to only 21%. In fact the importance of the clerical priesthood comes in last across the board. Vatican authority is rated only slightly higher. These two trends spell disaster for the Trentan priesthood and I don't think this is entirely due to the abuse scandal. I think it actually has more to do with the fact the Vatican has forced this prioritizing on Catholics precisely because it refuses to consider any other options to deal with the priest shortage. What's a Catholic to do if the Sacraments are very important to them, but the rules of the clerical priesthood are such that priests are not available to deliver the Sacraments? The answer seems to be to dump the importance of the priesthood. There's another shocker.
So while Pope Benedict dithers with SSPX, the People of God are moving on. Eventually both SSPX and 'Roman' Catholicism will be left in the dust of this movement, clutching their own idiosyncratic pieces of what was once a truly global Church.