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John Allen on “Healing the Lefebvre 'Schism'”

John Allen on “Healing the Lefebvre 'Schism'”

(excerpt from Allen’s May 3
National Catholic Reporter column: “Four fronts where the Vatican isn't the real problem” - with brief commentary)

Allen writes:

To broaden the focus, there are four quagmires I've come to regard over the years as the Vatican's “Neverending Stories.” They are:

• Negotiations with Israel over the Fundamental Agreement
• The prospect of formal diplomatic relations with China
• Efforts to end the Lefebvrist schism
• Hopes for a papal visit to Russia and an ecumenical spring with the Russian Orthodox

In each case, there's a highly predictable boom-and-bust cycle. Every six months or so, somebody will report momentum toward breaking the logjam, which causes a brief flurry of excitement. Before long, something else happens to suggest that promise was false or overheated, and we all go back to waiting for Godot.
My policy now with regard to purported turning points is, "Wake me up when it's over."

While there's little hard news on any of these fronts, there is nevertheless an interesting observation to be made. In each case, blame for failure to move the ball doesn't belong exclusively, or even primarily, in Rome.

The clearest example is relations with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, popularly known as the Lefebvrists.

Short of standing outside their headquarters in Econe, Switzerland, in the snow and begging forgiveness like Henry IV at Canossa, Benedict XVI did everything possible to heal the split, and yet the society balked. In an Easter letter to friends and benefactors, Bishop Bernard Fellay asserted that Rome has imposed acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as a sine qua non -- a prerequisite, Fellay wrote, "to which we could not and still cannot subscribe."

Many observers believe it's now "game over," at least for the foreseeable future and barring some surprising concession on the Lefebvrist side. (Here's a prediction: Rejection of Benedict's overtures will go down as the ‘Camp David’ moment for the Lefebvrists, comparable to Yasser Arafat turning down a 2000 deal that would have given the Palestinians basically 95 percent of what they wanted).

Comment from JV:

I remember at the ordinations in Winona (around 2006 or 2007) I heard Bishop Fellay say, “We cannot negotiate the Faith,” but what the Vatican recently offered, and what Bishop Fellay rejected, was a kind of ‘negotiated’ truce.

It’s been interesting that in the present climate, is it common for various Catholic commentators to claim Pope Benedict literally bent over backwards, making all kinds of concessions to regularize the SSPX, but the group remains unbendable, unpleasable and unreasonable.

Now perhaps this is how Pope Benedict sees it, as he is a true believer in the Council’s new program, so I do not presume to question his sincerity. And perhaps it is how most in today’s Church presently see it, but it is not an accurate assessment.

All the SSPX insists upon is maintaining what Vatican I and the Oath Against Modernism propound, the Catholic Faith “
in the same meaning and in the same explanation” of what the Church always taught, and by extension; maintaining the full moral teaching and sacred liturgy of what the Church always practiced.

Maintaing the Catholic Faith "in the same meaning and in the same explanation" of all time should be not be considered a special concession that a generous Pope gives to a small group, but his general policy of teaching and governing the Church worldwide, as had been the clear-headed program of all the Popes up to and including Pius XII.

Ultimately, the SSPX does not ask for special concessions, it only asks that the Popes return to what should be normal.

- J. Vennari

Daily Blog - 2016 Catholic News