Saturday, 3 December 2011

SSPX and "the preamble"

Regular visitors to this blog will recognise that is author is not a "traditional" Catholic. Well, he is traditional, but he isn't that sort of "traditional", he is the other sort of "traditional".

I therefore look at the discussions taking place between representatives of the Holy See and the Society of St Pius X with a certain detachment. The interest that I do take in those discussions is not so much for their consequences for the Society of St Pius X but for their implications for the Church as a whole. The confidential nature of the "doctrinal preamble", understandable when seen solely in the context of the dicussions between the Holy See and the said Society, is problematical in this latter context. If we all have a stake in the content of the preamble and in the outcome of the discussions based upon it, then surely we should all be allowed to contribute to the discussions in the Church about it, rather than the Society of St Pius X having some kind of exclusive access to the discussion while "non-traditionalists" remain excluded.

In saying this I am not at all suggesting that the confidentiality of the "doctrinal preamble" should be breached. However, that the Society of St Pius X appear to be not accepting it is something that I learn with a certain sense of relief. I had not gained the impression when it was first proposed to the Society that there was room for re-negotiating its content, though the Society seem to be suggesting that "clarification" may in effect offer opportunity for some re-negotiation. Also very helpful in my view is the publication of the article in L'Osservatore Romano, and carried at EF Pastor Emeritus, by one of the participants from the side of the Holy See in the discussions with the Society of St Pius X. This article addresses the question of assent to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and I think that we can take it as an "indicator" of the negotiating position of the Holy See in its discussions with the Society of St Pius X. Together, Bishop Fellay's interview and Mgr Ocariz's article can be seen as part of a process that allows the wider Church a stake in the discussions between the two parties. One can speculate on how far Mgr Ocariz's article it is representative of the content of the "doctrinal preamble"; one might also see it as a reply to the remarks of Bishop Fellay of the Society of St Pius X, and a careful comparison of Bishop Fellay's interview with Mgr Ocariz' article shows at least one specific point of rebuttal (with regard to whether or not Vatican II is seen as offering doctrinal teaching).

What I find encouraging in the article by Mgr Ocariz is its clear indication that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, including that on its "controversial" points, and that of the four pontificates since the Council, is not going to be sacrificed in the discussions with the Society of St Pius X. The boundary to the "space for legitimate theological freedom", from the point of view of the Holy See, appears to be quite tightly defined.

It is my own view that it is the Catechism of the Catholic Church that should provide the practical "rule of faith" required by the unity of the Church. This sufficed for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham as former members of the Church of England entered into full communion with the Holy See. Why should not the same "rule of faith" apply to the Society of St Pius X?


Frederick Oakeley said...

Surely the difference between the Ordinariat and the SSPX is fundamental. The Anglicans who have recovered unity with the Holy See have recognised that, despite the undoubted value of their particular tradition, there was something fundamentally lacking because of their divorce from Rome. The followers of Archbishop Lefebre seem to believe that, in the absence of their definition of the faith, there is something seriously lacking in Rome!

Joe said...

This post at Vatican Insider offers some explanation of the idea of "clarification", and the understanding from the side of the Holy See that the substantial content of the "preamble" is not open to alteration:

"The interview published by Fellay in the Society’s official online bulletin ( reveals that attached to the Preamble, was a note, explaining that Lefebvrians could ask for clarifications in order to suggest any modifications. However, the heads of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada and Mgr. Guido Pozzo, are of the opinion that no substantial changes can be made to the document."

Darren said...

Totally agree with you concerning the CCC etc, but am not sure what you mean by your comments regarding our own participation in the ongoing discussions(?)

I find your 'relief' at the failure of these discussions, if I understand you correctly, to be incredibly sad.