The consistently cranky Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX has once again displayed his dependable dyspepsia. This week’s derogatory dig is aimed at the post conciliar papacy.
Bishop Williamson takes issue with the sedevacantist notion embraced by a minority of radical traditionalists which holds that the Papal See has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. So far so good. Williamson contends that in order for the seat to be vacant, the Popes would have to be firmly and formally heretical. Williamson quips that these conciliar Popes are clearly and truly legitimate Popes. Why? Well, because these moderns Popes are too stupid to be actual heretics. Yes, too addled to be heretics, so therefore they are legitimate Popes.
I have never believed any of the Conciliar Popes not to be truly popes. Modern thinking turns minds into mush, and I have always held the Conciliar Popes to be too modern to be capable of the clear firm thinking in matters of Faith necessary to make them such clear firm heretics as could no longer hold their high office in the Church.
Yes. Pope Benedict’s thinking is manifestly muddled while Williamson’s thinking is as unclouded as a Saharan afternoon. Right. After all, it was Williamson who alerted us to the hidden danger of the Sound of Music. He also displayed his preternatural prescience when he picked up on the Jews plot to dominate the world and that the Twin Towers were brought down not by terrorists in planes but by controlled explosions. What has Pope Benedict ever done to display his intellectual prowess? Hmmm…Can’t think of a thing,
Yet, in a way akin to a broken clock giving the right time twice a day, Bishop Williamson might actually be onto something. If one displays obvious mental impairment, you cannot fairly judge them to be a heretic.
True Enough. I will never call Bishop Williamson a heretic again.
May 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm
“I feel that I really can’t do justice to this question in the context of this blog.”
Then consider sending it to me, and I’ll post it. If a contrarian view would round out the subject, I will find someone who can be the other guest writer. Think about it, because this topic does not get enough coverage in the Catholic press.
May 2, 2008 at 10:36 pm
Dear Mr. Alexander:
A posting on phenomenology would be a major undertaking, one that I’m just not prepared to do right now. Also, this is only one of several philsophical positions which have become popular in recent times and are discounted by most traditionalists. For the purposes of this blog, suffice it to say that there are several philosophical and theological trends (e.g. on the meaning of transubstantiation: a matter directly addressed by Fr. Ratzinger in one of his books) which are rejected by most traditionalists.
May 2, 2008 at 10:56 pm
Several S.S.P.X supporters on this thread and others on this blog have recently continued to insist that the state of necessity perdures, since there is still a crisis in the Church. I would like to address that charge.
I agree that there remains a very serious crisis in the Church. However, not every crisis can trigger a state of necessity to permit a rightful disobedience. Only some crises have that effect. The question is whether or not Rome is today offering traditionalists a way to fulfil their mission to teach the truth as it has been handed down to us, to save souls, and to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. Secondly, given that some of us reject certain non-infallible teachings in Vatican II and question others, are we being forced to accept said teachings? Archbishop Lefebvre didn’t think so when he signed all the Vatican II documents.
I note that, according to Fr. Laguérie, the I.B.P., when it reconciled, was not forced to compromise on any doctrinal matter. It was not even required to study the Vatican II documents (as are the Campos priests); it is only required to be respectful when discussing such doctrines. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with requiring the Campos priests to study Vatican II documents: to study something is not to accept it.)
Since 2000, Rome has offered the S.S.P.X a structure that would be exempt, international, personal, and ordinary: a Rolls Royce structure. This would entirely protect the Society’s mission from episcopal interference. As for protecting the Society’s property, this can be done in existing law by having the real property controlled by a separate corporation which would lease it to the Society for a nominal fee.
Given Rome’s offer, plus “Summorum Pontificum”, there is no state of necessity to justify any disobedience. There may be still a crisis or several crises (and there are, which is why we could use a regularised S.S.P.X to help combat them), but they are not the sort that can justify disobedience to the Vicar of Christ. Therefore, Moral Law absolutely binds Bishop Fellay to seek a reconciliation. It is high time that the Pope withdrew his requests to them and substituted a command for them to submit.
If Fellay is still worried about the influence of Vatcian II, he could ask that a new society of apostolic life for the S.S.P.X be made provisional, able to be dissolved at the pleasure of either party during the period of discussions. He could at least ask for that. But he has not done even that. It follows that he is now acting exactly as a Protestant.
Objectively, at least, he is acting immorally. As to the subjective aspect, I make no judgements, but I note that others in his Society will come to different conclusions. If he loves his own Society, at least, he should act to protect it from the increasing competition from “Summorum Pontificum” Masses, now spreading like wildfire. This is just like the distinction between perfect and imperfect contrition: if Fellay cannot act out of love of the Church, he can at least act out of the fear of the consequences. But he is doing neither. He is entering a state of rebellion against Christ Himself. Those who oppose the divine power are eventually cast down from the heavens.
May 3, 2008 at 2:39 am
Wow…I missed all the fun.
Mr. Perkins. Very interesting analysis on the possible internal issues and strategery going on in the SSPX.
What is the deal with this emergency meeting on Monday? Where did you get such scoop?
May 3, 2008 at 8:12 am
Dear Mr. Archbold:
The rumour about the meeting is from a very unreliable source, although they have been right before. It may very well be entirely untrue, I’m not sure. If it is true, we’ll probably hear about it soon, but we shan’t likely find out what they are discussing.
I imagine that they might simply be discussing the departure from them of the Transalpine Redemptorists. Naturally, I am hoping that Rome is preparing to grant the personal archdiocese or apostolic administration for all of us, but that is just wild hope and speculation at this point. Still, if the Pope did confer it, it would likely force the S.S.P.X to accept a place in it.
Frankly, I think that the Transalpine Redemptorists won’t be the last to reconcile with Rome. Others will do likewise, possibly including a faction from the S.S.P.X itself. The I.B.P. set a precedent, no?
May 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm
While much in Mr. Perkins’ explanations is good, there are some gaps to fill; I shall try a few words to do so. Having been one of the Bishop’s seminarians for several years, I’ve had the opportunity at length to understand the subtext of whatever he says about things.
The essential issue the SSPX has with all modern philosophies lies in their subjectivist basis: i.e., in contradistinction to Thomist Aristotelianism, which asserts that being (=reality) is external to the mind and imposes itself thereupon. All the systems derived from the Cartesian-Kantian pedigree start with the mind, the subject (as it were), which in effect “creates its own reality” through its perceptions of whatsoever lies outside it. In such systems, “truth” is not an correlation between mind and external thing (as it is for the Thomist), fixed and unchangeable so long as the external being remains what it is, but merely a subjective judgment call that can and does change with circumstances. The notion of an “absolute truth” is anathema to someone adhering to a subjectivist school of philosophy.
The certitude and authority with which Popes Pius XII and his predecessors taught, condemned, and governed, is a direct consequence of their being grounded in an absolute truth that they had no power or authority to change. The subjectivist’s instinctive aversion to absolute truth, argues the Society, has shown itself all too clearly with the Council and its aftermath, at which time the leadership of the Church disassociated itself from Leo XIII’s dictum that Thomist Aristotelianism must be the “official philosophical language” of Catholic theology, so to speak. For the SSPX, this shift undergirds all of the changes in understanding and emphasis that amount to so many breaks of continuity with what the Church has taught for centuries.
Hence, for Bishop Willamson, the conciliar-era Popes aren’t capable of clear thinking because, due to their inability, due to their subjectivist philosophical orientations, to have a real grasp of truth — that is, to correlate their minds to reality. The Thomist, being what is called a “realist,” will naturally be more assertive in contending what is “true” than any subjectivist will. He, with the SSPX generally, asserts that the Church cannot begin to right itself without returning wholesale to a Thomist basis for philosophy and theology; for them, all other schools are worthless. Pope Benedict may indeed know the Thomist paradigm, but he has ever been known to believe that it should not be the exclusive point-of-reference for theology. It is that deep level from which the Society judges a canonical regularization as not yet opportune.
Where the Bishop diverges, oddly enough, is in the subjective realm. The Thomist believes in the external reality of things, but the state of “truth” requires the mind to be clear enough to apprehend those real things as they truly are — with all the nuances, subtleties, and complexities that really do exist. The Bishop, for whatever reason, is all too prone to simplified classifications, and in certain cases, dichotomies: e.g., masculinity vis-a-vis femininity; “Newchurch” vis-a-vis “Eternal Rome.” In such cases, for him, it is an “either-or” proposition. This tendency to oversimplification and dichotomy accounts for a good number of the more controversial conclusions he reaches in the social, cultural, and political arenas.
May 5, 2008 at 8:37 pm
I emphatically agree with every single word of the previous post. I also commend the writer of it for his clarity. If you look to my earlier posts on this, you will see that I did mention the ‘subjectivism’ of Roman prelates that the Society rejects. However, I did not want to get into the particulars of the philosophy, particuarly in the case of phenomenology.
I do have something to add to this. Despite the Society’s adhesion to Aristotelian Thomism–to objectivism–this does not change the essentials of my argument. The problem is that, while the Church certainly is in a state of crisis today, not every crisis constitutes a state of necessity which invokes supplied jurisdiction.
As objectivists, the Society members hold that, despite a subjectivist perspective on the part of Benedict XVI, he either is or is not the true Pope. That is because it is God who makes him Pope. No man can make himself pope; but a pope can unmake his papacy by formal adhesion to heresy.
Now, some in the Society are sedevacantists, I think, but the Society and all four of its bishops reject sedevacantism. In fact, they have ejected some sedevacantists and have disciplined or threatened others.
So, if Benedict XVI is a true Pope, one can only reject obedience to him in a real case of necessity, to save souls and build up the Mystical Body. One may not decline obedience to him owing to any conceivable crisis but only when necessary to save souls.
Since 2000, the Holy See has offered the Society exemption from episcopal control and a means of fulfilling its mission without risking unduly the loss of its property. While there is no such thing as perfect security under the moon, the offer delivers a strongly probable means of protection. Therefore, the Society must accept this. This is also true because the Society is not being asked to subscribe to any belief which its members must reject. We are not permitted to wait until all problems in the Church are solved before we obey her.
My comments on the errors of judgement of some Society figures, particularly Bishop Williamson, stand. But I think that the previous poster has made an important contribution, showing, as I have argued, that Williamson is not saying that the Pope is unintelligent but that he sees the world through an unCatholic lens, though unCatholic subjectivist philosophy. As I pointed out earlier, two brilliant people can disagree on fundamentals. Only one of them can be right and yet neither of them is stupid. Williamson is not saying that the Pope is too stupid to be a heretic. He is saying that the Pope has imbibed a false philosophy which distorts his perspective in an unCatholic way.