Pope to SSPX: No Worries on Vatican II

The Society of Saint Piux X which has been not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church precisely because they don’t agree with some changes that have taken place as a result of the Second Vatican Council said today that “Rome no longer makes total acceptance” of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council a condition for full reconciliation with the church.

Here’s a clip from CNS:

In the interview on the SSPX website, Bishop Fellay said, “We are still not in agreement doctrinally, and yet the pope wants to recognize us. Why? The answer is right in front of us: there are terribly important problems in the church today.”

The reconciliation talks, he said, are a sign that the Catholic Church has begun to recognize it needs to recover traditions and traditional teaching eclipsed by the Second Vatican Council. If the SSPX were to reconcile fully with the church, Bishop Fellay said, its members would continue to denounce “doctrinal difficulties” in the church, but would do so while also providing “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition” in its growing membership and vocation rate.

Speaking to members of the SSPX who are wary of reconciliation, Bishop Fellay said “one of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the church.”

“Some claim that in order to work ‘safely’ in the church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work,” he said.

OK, so here’s my take: It seems that some in the Vatican are backtracking on whether the Second Vatican Council is an ecumenical council (which is binding on everyone) or just a local one (which isn’t necessarily binding). That distinction will make a big difference. They’ll probably point to confusion of some sort because one Pope started it and another Pope finished it (John XXIII and Paul VI). It’s ridiculous if that’s the case. It surely was intended to be an Ecumenical council and many traditionalist were up in arms at the time because it was precisely an ecumenical council.

Is the church changing in this regard? Regrettably, some would say so. Even the SSPX’s Bishop Fellay says in his article that they have not changed as a group but Rome has.

An interesting point to consider is that often on matters of belief and tradition many will say that the church must consider how change might effect the entire church and not just some small faction of it. For example, how would ordaining women to the diaconate be received in Africa? But by the same token, how would saying that the tenets of the Second Vatican Council need not be accepted, be received in the United States?

In fairness, because I’m the king of fairness, the issue at hand is really one of media literacy (again!). How many nominal Catholics or even Catholics who attend mass regularly can even name the tenets of Vatican II? I’d presume not a whole lot. How many people under the age of 50 even have had an experience of what Vatican II meant for the church? For most, Vatican II is the only experience of church that they’ve had. They haven’t had an experience of what the church was like before the council, so they have no experience of a Pre-Vatican II church. Even those who esteem things like a Latin Mass, it’s not nostalgia that they seek. Perhaps it’s more curiosity than anything else in these cases or a desire for silence in a world of noise or engaging with mystery.

With this in mind the Vatican is gambling that Americans, in particular won’t put up much of a fight about eschewing with some of the tenets of Vatican II. This may in fact be at the heart of Benedict’s “smaller and more pure” view of the church. They’ll assume that most will just go along with them because it doesn’t effect their lives all that much. For most, just attending mass is their only participation and it doesn’t seem like the Pope is going to change having mass in the vernacular, but rather will make the option of Latin mass for those who want it more available (which has already been done).

I doubt that this will go smoothly, especially since the SSPX are so controversial, but more importantly, it seems like they are back-pedaling on Vatican II and that we should not stand for as an informed laity. The informed will be the ones who need to stand up against this. The only question I have is “Will they?” and “How many will?”

Regardless, this should be interesting as we move into the summer months.

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  1. Have we heard from the Vatican that this indeed is the case? I’m skeptical as to trusting Fellay’s word on this.


  2. I’m with Mike E. on getting Vatican verification. If this is the case, it would be a major breach of the position up to now that Pope Benedict (and Cardinal Ratzinger before him) is not rolling back Vatican II, but merely standing up for an authentic interpretation of the Council. This move would also be supremely ironic coming from a pope who has denounced a “dictatorship of relativism,” i.e. it’s now okay for some Catholics to reject an ecumenical council… I think this would also have major ramifications for the next conclave. Most Catholics may not be able to articulate the value of Vatican II, but the College of Cardinals is (God willing) another story.


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