Further Thoughts on the SSPX Debacle.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 10:01:09 AM EST
Over the last few weeks I've written a lot about the Pope Benedict XVI's effort to rehabilitate the renegade and excommunicated leadership of the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

Below are some further thoughts on the matter.

Almost a whole month has passed and I remain astounded by the debacle: From the rehabilitation of Holocaust denier (as well as a supporting priest who echoed such rubbish, buttressed by dog whistles of the superiority of Northern Italians over their countrymen in the South).

I previously I speculated about what was behind this move:

Why would the Pope want to reach out to these folks? Simple, this is a pontiff obsessed with supposed schemes of secular moral relativism and nihilism. Quite possibly in an effort to buttress socially conservative support within the Church, he moved towards the reconciliation with this group of traditionalist renegades (No such outreach to a more loyal group such as Call to Action.

And in the rush to add supporters for his often reactionary agenda for the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict failed to consult with others on his outreach to SSPX. The refreshingly forward-thinking Cardinal Walter Kasper (who was not advised of the pope's decision in advance) openly complained, "There wasn't enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise."

Cardinal Kasper's grumblings should matter quite a bit; after all, he is the Vatican's chairman of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Beyond that, there was no discussion of the matter with Jewish leaders, the German Chancellor or other German Catholic clergy.

But perhaps more importantly, this tone-deafness reeks of an arrogance that epitomizes a movement conservatism within the Church that falls victim to own sloppiness. A mere Google search could have easily disclosed Bishop Williamson's The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness. At page 151 the great Christian writer speaks of the need for denominations to practice humility:

But religious humility is no simple moral or political achievement. It springs only from the depth of a religion which confronts the individual with a more ultimate majesty and purity than all human majesties and values, and persuades them to confess: "Why callest thou me good? There is no good but one, that is, God.

I ask as a Catholic, where does the current Pope define such ultimate majesty? Does he find it in the suffering of six million Jews, the legacy of Father Maximilian Kolbe or does he find it in returning the Church to a more authoritarian pre-Vatican II past; one that has no second thoughts about seeing its morality as the model and the goal for all secular states?

Sadly, Niebuhr's concept of humility has obviously been lost on the current pontiff and his inner circle.

...there will be more to come on this matter.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 10:04:17 AM EST
I wonder if Benedict XVI has thought what might happen to the Vatican's bottom line if he alienates a large number of Catholics for the sake of appealing to the SSPX, whose membership remains fairly small at 100,000 (per the Spiegel article.) We lay people forced the Vatican to act when the sex abuse scandals became public as it was hurting their bottom line, and still does. Unfortunately, many bishops have found a way to pass the costs onto lay people (by closing parish churches and schools) and to some religious orders (like the order in Los Angeles whose nuns had to leave their convent because it was being sold as part of the archdiocese's sale of assets to cover civil judgments.)

Apparently public opinion over Richard Williamson and Gerhard Wagner was strong enough in Germany and Austria to force the Vatican into retreat. Somehow, I think Williamson is obstinate enough to still espouse his sexism and anti-Semitism and will refuse to recant his views.

The bishops and curia as a whole are behaving as a whole as if their collective credibility isn't shot. They haven't stopped listening to George Weigel, Michael Novak and the late Richard John Neuhaus, who represent a small number of American Catholics.

by khughes1963 on Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 09:08:59 PM EST

Kathy, I think this whole SSPX affair really woke up a lot of Catholics.  We will start seeing more push-back from the rank and file from here-on in.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 09:23:05 AM EST

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