Thursday, May 6, 2010


Cardinal Kasper has apparently stated that, "The SSPX had to accept the Council Reforms, the 'sine qua non' of any accord."

This is extremely troubling, as we don't even know what "the Council Reforms" were! I've discussed this before.

Were they merely disciplinary reforms? If so, discipline is flexible, and the SSPX could certainly be given a dispensation to not, internally, follow them (as they obviously already would be with the Liturgy). And they (like all Catholics) are already free to disagree with any disciplinary reforms and vigorously advocate and work for their reversal, as long as they do not disobey them for as long as they do, in fact, remain in force. So I don't see why disciplinary reforms would be a 'sine qua non'...

Or, are we supposed to believe that there were substantial doctrinal reforms? I can’t swallow that. Doctrine is not reformed, only defined. I don’t see any dogmatic statements coming out of Vatican II, and things like ecumenism and religious liberty are merely prudential questions and I think both sides need to admit that. Vatican II’s teaching on them wasn’t dogma, but neither was the Syllabi’s. It is not a dogmatic kind of question; if it were, we’d be stuck with the problem of two equal authorities (a council and a previous pope) teaching opposite dogmas.

There is no doubt that the institutional Church, after Vatican II, approached these questions on a practical level in a new (and much more modern) way. Which was well within their rights (the situation changed, the prudential approach could change). But the SSPX is also within its rights to vehemently disagree with that and advocate against those decisions and to not believe they were the most prudent approach for our times. If anything, we need that sort of open debate and dialogue about non-dogmatic administrative and disciplinary policy questions in the Church. The lack of that discussion is what caused the whole crisis with the cover-ups and everything.

Sadly, both sides seem to be ideological about these questions instead of admitting that different opinions on non-doctrinal matters can co-exist. There are certain unchangeable principles (like, on the one hand, that error has no rights and, on the other, that conversion by nature cannot be coerced) that as a prudential matter can be applied differently based on different practical circumstances. But the best application for the current situation is up for debate. Certainly, if the Church has tried a model in the past (however successfully or unsuccessfully) it cannot be considered intrinsically wrong, even if you think it would be extremely imprudent for our present world, and so people are free to advocate returning to it (even if to do so seems foolish in the contemporary situation).

I think Benedict himself is actually rather moderate in this regard and recognizes this fact, which makes it all the more frustrating that he doesn't just go (to both Kasper and his ilk and the SSPX-types) and say it, say that both of their opinions are acceptable and that, while Vatican II may have set the practical agenda toward these issues that the current administration still uses, the SSPX is free to believe that it is a highly imprudent agenda and advocate for changing it. It's not that hard to express this, I have been able to do it in just a few simple paragraphs. Why can't the Pope?

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