Please find the original NCR story below.

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Pope Francis and the SSPX:
An Opportunity
By now, many of you have
probably seen the Tony Palmer video last week that was so exciting to many.
At a Protestant conference,
Tony Palmer, an Anglican priest, brought along an iPhone video of greeting from
Pope Francis. The subject of the presentation and of the Pope’s recording was
unity of Christians.
In his remarks, Pope Francis
made the following statements to our separated brethren regarding the
separation: “Separated because, it’s sin that has separated us, all our sins.
The misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that
we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. We have all sinned.
There is only one blameless, the Lord.”
It is certainly true.
Regardless of the truth of Catholic doctrine, the Church has accepted its share
of the blame for the misunderstanding that were allowed to deepen and harden,
leading to centuries of separation.
When I heard this, something
else written by Pope Francis’ predecessor came immediately to mind. In 2007,
along with the issuance of the “motu proprio”
Summorum Pontificum,
Pope Benedict XVI issued a letter explaining his reasoning. In that letter, he
made the following statement.
back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have
rent the body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical
moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s
leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression
that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the
fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes
an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who
truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a
sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth
is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us,
but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts
also!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context,
but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let
us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith
itself allows.
It strikes me that this may
be one of those critical moments in history to which His Holiness refers.
With the breakdown of
discussion between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X at the end of the
previous pontificate, the public mood during this first year of the current
pontificate, and other internal events, traditional Catholics, both inside and
outside the Church, have felt increasingly marginalized. Whether fair or true, I say
without fear of contradiction that this is a prevailing sentiment.
This perception of
marginalization has manifested itself in increasingly strident and frankly
disrespectful rhetoric on the part of some traditionalists and their leaders.
I have great concern that
without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church,
that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact,
without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and
feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those
currently associated with the SSPX.
I have also come to believe
that Pope Francis’ is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the
evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.
So here is what I am asking.
I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize
relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this
even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their
disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly
implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous
toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a
non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our
brothers at home and not with a locked door.
Further, Pope Francis’
commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he
to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection
of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in
the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous
I believe this generosity is
warranted and standard practice in the Church. We do not insist on religious
orders that may have strayed even further in the other direction sign a copy of
Pascendi Dominici Gregis
before they can be called Catholic again. So please let us not insist on the
corollary for the SSPX. Must we insist on more for a group that doctrinally
would not have raised an eyebrow a mere fifty years ago? I pray not.
Give them canonical status
and organizational structure that will protect them. Bring them home, for their
sake and the sake of countless other souls. I truly believe that such
generosity will be repaid seven-fold. Pope Benedict has done so much of the
heavy lifting already, all that is required is just a little more.
Please Holy Father, let us
not let this moment pass and this rift grow into a chasm. Make this generous
offer and save the Church from further division. Do this so that none of your
successors will ever say, “If only we had done more.”