Personal and Corporate Return to the Church|
Traditional Catholics realize there is no quick fix and therefore no one should be in a hurry to put a bandaid on the cancer that is the conciliar church. History proves this point.
"We are therefore the ones who can afford to take our time and get it right. Our time will come, and in the meantime our duties are clear. Save our own souls first with the Grace of God that our authentic and authorized Sacraments alone can provide, and with that salvific Grace in our hearts, labor for souls, both individually and corporately, converting souls one at a time while also supporting the efforts of those (like Bishop Fellay, and presumably whoever will take his place as Superior General of the SSPX, and perhaps even some sedevacantist bishop, once we also get so numerous as to gain and be sought for audiences as well) who labor for the corporate return of large bodies (Vatican, East Orthodox, Anglican), as yet separated from us, into the unity of our One, Holy, Catholic, Roman, and Apostolic Church."
Griff L. Ruby
The return of Catholics to the ancient and authentic fold of Christ of Traditional Catholicism is always a blessed event, celebrated by angels and most pleasing to God. Many of us work hard to encourage the people we know, come in contact with, buy from, sell to, pass in the street, or correspond with, to come to the fullness of the authentic Roman Catholic Faith. And of course it is good and right and praiseworthy of us to be doing just that.
For Christianity in the beginning had to grow one soul at a time. It all began with the Apostles, and from then on individuals one by one saw the truth of it and joined up, being baptized, and beginning a life in Christ. But that Divine Commission of which we traditional Catholics are the lawful and duly-appointed custodians of also called for the conversion and baptism of whole nations, lands, and so forth, clear to the whole world. However far we may be from that goal, that nevertheless remains for us as an obligation.
Large gains seldom occur all at once. At most, some few nations may all come to Christianity within a relatively short time, as for example Ireland when approached by St. Patrick, or large numbers in India by St. Francis Xavier. But there have also been large total gains, corporate rejoinings as it were, to the Church. For example, after the schism of Photius in the 800's, the East was reunited to the Church again for over a century, until again the final great schism of 1054.
One might say of that schismatic East, "What good was it since they soon broke off again, and this time (so far) for good?" But think of those who died in the Church during that time when they were reunited to the Church, and who therefore died with the calm assurance of salvation providing only their own soul was not in a state of mortal sin. As for those who died during the schism of Photius or after 1054, who can say? While one may hope and pray that God has been merciful with their souls, what assurance can be given? It would be blind foolish presumption to assume that everyone meant well and fared well, as if the schism meant nothing against them.
So though the East was lost once again, it nevertheless was worth it to reunite them to the Church for whatever period it could be. And one sees the attempt being made once again, and (briefly) successful, only to fall apart before much good could come of it. That was during the Florentine Council, when again the East expressed an interest in rejoining Rome by attending that Council. The East were on the very verge of returning, but then changed their minds when Rome elected not to send help for the East against the Muslims who were even then laying siege to their cities, and who finally broke in and destroyed the last of Orthodox Constantinople in 1453.
And again, as late as the early-mid-twentieth Century there was considerable rapproachement taking place as the Anglican church, tired of long wandering in the shifting sand of detachment from Peter, was this close to rejoining the Church, only to have Vatican II come along and destroy that progress and convince them that they could find as much stability in themselves as they could in the now schismatic Roman church. Obviously, if only the return of the English Church to that of Rome could have completed before the disaster struck, there is no room to doubt that Rome would have seen to the ordinations and consecrations of their clergy, instructed them in the Mass and Sacraments and all the rest of the teachings of the one Church which cannot change.
Corporate return to the Church, that is, of an entire congregation, group, or even an ecclesiastical body, though difficult and unlikely, is nevertheless a valid and legitimate work of the Church. All of which brings us to the present situation regarding His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay and his "negotiation" attempts with the Vatican Modernists.
I sometimes wonder if perhaps many of us rank-and-file Catholics may have been just a bit too hard on him. So many of us feared that he might "turn over the whole store" to the Modernists, some even suspecting secret back-room deals, no doubt spun in smoke-filled rooms and dens of iniquity. To tell the truth I really didn't think it very likely, but so many fellow Catholics just seemed so sure... And then when we factor in the fact that Bishop Fellay's second and final term as SSPX Superior General is about to expire, and the fact that once Benedict XVI is no longer with us the chances of anyone in the Modernist Vatican being even willing to talk to us or acknowledge our existence are not that great, I have to admit that even I got a bit swept up in the concern, felt by all, that he just might cut just a little more slack than previous and actually get some deal going before the time is ripe.
For, much as the corporate return of the Vatican to the true Faith and Church is most certainly a worthy goal, that goal can only be sabotaged by attempts to rush in and accomplish it with the "quick fix" or as if we had a deadline. The important thing to keep in sight (and which even His Excellency Bishop Fellay, all respect aside, may as yet still fail to realize) is that it is not we who have the deadline but the Modernists. We have nothing (but numbers) to gain from their return, but the Vatican of today stands to gain as much as those caught up in the schism of Photius stood to gain. Furthermore, time is on our side. Still not interested in Tradition as yet? Maybe in another five, ten, twenty years, when we of Tradition are all that much bigger and stronger and have consolidated our efforts while you are all that much smaller and weaker, falling into multiple schisms and shameful decadence, perhaps then you will reconsider. And even if not then, there is always later still, as those same trends necessarily continue.
Let us not be rushed. But still, the wholesale return of the Vatican institution would be a boon for the Church. We may not need them, but we do or at least ought to want them, providing only, of course, that they come in on God's terms. Why? Because the salvation of souls is the highest law. Right now, only a number of scattered individual souls cross over from them to us, and good for them, for they have crossed over from death to life. But many more souls still remain trapped in the Roman schism, dying out of unity with the Church. May God have mercy on their souls.
We need not therefore fear, but instead admire, His Excellency's attempts to bring the Vatican back into the true Church and Faith, even if somewhat on mistaken understanding as to the true relationship between himself and them, as he will not act alone, but in concert with the other bishops. And recall that His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre himself already laid out the terms for any real talking to begin:
"Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council [a realization here by Archbishop Lefebvre that the Council needs to be at least 'corrected' if not altogether revoked], in consideration of the doctrine of these popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless."
So once again, the SSPX-Vatican "negotiations" came to naught? Did anyone notice that at least this time (unlike in 2000 when only "practical" arrangements were even discussed) there was at least some willingness expressed on the part of the Vatican to discuss some of the doctrinal issues? That may not sound like much, but it does show that the Vatican's pertinacity in the errors of Vatican II is starting to show at least some few tiny cracks. While revoking the Council still seems beyond anything they are willing to consider at this point, at least one small baby-step in that direction has been taken. Ten to twenty years from now, when those, whose brainchild Vatican II has been, will have all passed away, and only those who have resented being stuck with this "pastoral" albatross around their collective neck will be left, and finding that it teaches no doctrines, I fully expect that even revoking, or at least reopening and seriously reworking the V-2 texts just might be amenable to them.
We are therefore the ones who can afford to take our time and get it right. Our time will come, and in the meantime our duties are clear. Save our own souls first with the Grace of God that our authentic and authorized Sacraments alone can provide, and with that salvific Grace in our hearts, labor for souls, both individually and corporately, converting souls one at a time while also supporting the efforts of those (like Bishop Fellay, and presumably whoever will take his place as Superior General of the SSPX, and perhaps even some sedevacantist bishop, once we also get so numerous as to gain and be sought for audiences as well) who labor for the corporate return of large bodies (Vatican, East Orthodox, Anglican), as yet separated from us, into the unity of our One, Holy, Catholic, Roman, and Apostolic Church.
More Traditional Bishops are needed
As we know, Bishop Fellay's term is just about up. I vaguely recall him once remarking something to the effect that he really hadn't expected to be standing outside the Vatican for so long as to see this time come (even as Archbishop Lefebvre once expressed the thought that things would resolve themselves within about five years from when he spoke it), and I can only hope that seeing this point will only bring in the sobering reality that this fight is not something that will end quickly, but rather is something meant to go on for the long haul.
I hope this also calls attention to the leadership of the SSPX the fact that they had best begin preparations for that long haul. It's time for some new SSPX bishops. In 1988, four were enough to see to all the episcopal needs of the Society, but now the four, gaining in wisdom and sagacity, but losing in youth and vigor, are increasingly spread thin, far too thin to see to the spiritual needs of Society priests, religious, and attached faithful throughout an entire world.
Yet even more immediately pressing and urgent than that, I strongly hope, pray, suggest, and request (insofar as it is in any way the leastways prerogative of mine, which I realize that it is not), that whoever is elected to lead the SSPX should be himself a bishop. From its founding in 1970 until 1982, Archbishop Lefebvre himself was the Superior General. As he was the only bishop in the Society (Bishops de Castro-Meyer, Mendez, Lazo, and Manat, though supportive, were never members of the Society), there certainly was nothing inappropriate in the election of Fr. Schmidberger to be the Superior General from 1982, which carried clear through two terms to 1994 (the actual term of service is six years, of which two terms are permitted). At any rate, for most of this time, there still remained Archbishop Lefebvre himself on hand to serve as the kind of "elder statesman," the Superior General Emeritus, if you will, to continue a kind of episcopal leadership even though Fr. Schmidberger now held the post.
However, once the new bishops were created in 1988 (with none of them serving as Superior General), and especially after Archbishop Lefebvre's death in 1991, the SSPX existed in its most disordered state, and had more internal problems then than in any other period of its existence. This means no disrespect on the abilities of Fr. Schmidberger as a leader, rather it was the sheer disorder of having a mere priest, of whatever capability, ruling over bishops of the Church.
That would be like putting a mere Colonel in charge of Generals, while still keeping the Colonel as a mere Colonel. It is a total reversal of the hierarchical model of the Church, and of every society, association, union, congregation, order, and group of the Church ever established in which a bishop is placed in charge, except in the case where it has no bishops (e. g. congregations of women religious). Can you see a monk in charge of an abbot? No, I didn't think so.
I know there were some who felt vaguely uncomfortable when in 1994 Bishop Fellay was elected to become the third Superior General of the SSPX. Again, not for any concerns over his leadership abilities, which he has amply demonstrated over the course of the two six-year terms that he has served, but merely because there were some who felt that there would be something somehow "less schismatic" looking were the head of the SSPX not to be a bishop. I state for the record that I find such a concept altogether incomprehensible, and furthermore that even were I to have all the theological wisdom, grace, and knowlege of a St. Thomas Aquinas, that I could never be made to understand such an utterly absurd notion. It also bears mentioning that such a distinction was also as utterly lost on quite literally everyone in the Vatican as it is on me.
It was during this time, actually the summer of 1992 to be precise, that one SSPX priest described (to my face) the SSPX bishops as being mere "sacrament machines." That is no way to speak of Successors to the Apostles which they in fact are. To claim them "jurisdictionless" is a complete misnomer, and even just plain wrong. To be made a bishop of the Church, and to be made so lawfully, is to be given jurisdiction, which the SSPX bishops do in fact rightfully possess. For these reasons it is therefore appropriate and right that the next, and every succeeding Superior General of the SSPX, must also be a bishop.
Either one of the remaining three bishops should be elected, or else if any other cleric (priest) is so chosen, they would do well to see to it that this Father so elected is also made a bishop, either right then, or at least within the calendar year (2006). I trust their judgment (as I wish more of the SSPX attached lay faithful would trust) to choose truly qualified men from among their priestly ranks to be bishops who will continue the Apostolic Succession, and to do so walking faithfully within the Archbishop's shoes. And I trust them to elect someone who will work for the corporate return of the Vatican to the Catholic Faith, if possible, and to be also willing to take that crucial and difficult step in the opposite direction (towards sedevacantism) should things come to the pass where that becomes necessary and binding for all Catholics.
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.