Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Unity of the Church: " ... the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See..."

As with the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, I believe that the the text of the "Doctrinal Preamble" provided by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith/Ecclesia Dei Commision to Bishop Fellay of the Society of St Pius X on 14th September is something in which every Catholic has a stake. What it says to the SSPX about the Second Vatican Council, and the attitude that it expects of them towards that Council, will at the same time make a statement about that Council to every Catholic who has in good faith attempted to implement and live the teaching of the Council. If it is conceded to the SSPX that they can in some measure "leave aside" teachings of the Council, then other faithful Catholics are going to be rightfully annoyed, and the purpose of unity that the Doctrinal Preamble seeks to serve will be undermined.

The communique issued following the meeting between Vatican officials and Bishop Fellay is posted here by ZENIT. Before the meeting, there was some talk of Bishop Fellay having been "summoned" to the meeting, but, as the communique describes, the meeting that took place was in reality the outcome of a series of meetings between representatives of the two sides.
While bearing in mind the concerns and demands presented by the Society of St. Pius X about protecting the integrity of the Catholic faith against Vatican Council II's 'hermeneutic of rupture' with Tradition (a theme addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith maintains that the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See is the acceptance of the text of the Doctrinal Preamble, which was handed over during a meeting on 14 September 2011.
The Preamble defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and 'sentire cum Ecclesia'. At the same time, it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later Magisterium.
One blogger titles her essentially sympathetic post about the Doctrinal Preamble Will they submit?, and I think there is something in this choice of title. Another entitles his post SSPX breakthrough in sight. The reality is probably made up of a bit of both sentiments. I think it is important to recognise that, though the Doctrinal Preamble is addressed from the Holy See firstly towards the SSPX itself, it nevertheless has a "reflection back" towards the Church as a whole. I sincerely hope that the Commission Ecclesia Dei has been more aware of this "reflected glance" now than it appeared to have been in preparing the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, which in my view looked only towards those attached to the Extraordinary Form.

An interview given by Bishop Fellay after the 14th September meeting appears to rule out from the Preamble a general distinguishing between the "doctrinal" to which the SSPX will give assent and the "pastoral" which can still be considered still open for discussion. The wording of the communique is very carefully nuanced in this regard.

So I have three thoughts to end with.

1. Since we all have a stake in the content of the Doctrinal Preamble, should it not at some point become the subject of public discussion in the Church rather than just of private discussion between a dicastery of the Holy See and the SSPX?

2. If the rule of faith considered appropriate for those joining the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and so "achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See", is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, why should this same catechism not provide the rule of faith to which the SSPX are expected to adhere?

3. The speculation is that, should the SSPX accept the Doctrinal Preamble, their canonical status in the Church might become that of a Personal Prelature. This might be diplomatically convenient, but I am not sure that it represents the status best reflecting the nature of a priestly society.

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