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Is recognizing the SSPX questioning Vatican II?

September 03, 2013

A few extracts from Dr. John Lamont compares how the SSPX has been ostracized for questioning Vatican II, while heterodox liberals get a free pass because they accept what the Society contests.

From the recent media flurry about Bishop Fellay’s anticipated (and now given) second response to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the Doctrinal Preamble, there is a general noteworthy item.

Many journalists have recognized that this event concerning the SSPX is of great importance to the entire Church, labeling it a “historic moment”, one “crucial for the Church”, and even a “turning point” which will have long-lasting effects for the Catholic world. One excellent commentary on this aspect comes from the keyboard of Inside the Vatican’s editor, Dr. Robert Moynihan:

But more important than the effect on the historical judgment of this pontificate, the way this matter is resolved will have a profound impact on the Church herself, on how she views herself and her mission in the world, in time, in history, and, therefore, on how the Church orients her activity and life with regard to the secular world outside of the Church."[1] [sspx.org emphasis]

Dr. Moynihan does not merely stop here—he gives the reason why this will occur:

The matter at issue is the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X… but the deeper question is the Second Vatican Council and how that Council should be interpreted."[2]

This gets to the root of the matter: What level of authority does the Second Vatican Council possess? How does one reconcile certain conciliar teachings that are out of sync with the pre-conciliar Magisterium?

Adding to such questionnaires made by Msgr. Brunero Gherardini and Roberto de Mattei, Dr. John Lamont[3] published on Chiesa[4] a careful analysis[5] of the written debate between Rome’s Msgr. Fernando Ocariz[6] and the SSPX’s Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize[7], which also asked similar crucial questions. Dr. Lamont clearly expresses the SSPX’s doctrinal position on Vatican II vis-a-vis the authentic Magisterium:

The first question that occurs to a theologian concerning the SSPX position concerns the issue of the authority of the Second Vatican Council. [Msgr. Ocariz’s article] …seems to claim that a rejection of the authority of Vatican II is the basis for the rift referred to by the Holy See. But for anyone familiar with both the theological position of the SSPX and the climate of theological opinion in the Catholic Church, this claim is hard to understand. The points mentioned by Fr. Gleize are only four of the voluminous teachings of Vatican II. The SSPX does not reject Vatican II in its entirety: on the contrary, Bishop Fellay has stated that the society accepts 95% of its teachings."

With irony Dr. Lamont adds:

This means that the SSPX is more loyal to the teachings of Vatican II than much of the clergy and hierarchy of the Catholic Church."

It is relevant that the texts of Vatican II that are rejected by the SSPX are accepted by the groups [liberals—Ed.] within the Church that reject other teachings of that council.

Continuing his analysis:

One might then suppose that it is these specific texts—on religious liberty, the Church, ecumenism, and collegiality—that are the problem. The rift between the Holy See and the SSPX arises because the Society rejects these particular elements of Vatican II, not because of an intention on the part of the Holy See to defend Vatican II as a whole…

(…)

The latter group [liberals—Ed.] simply holds that certain doctrines of the Catholic Church are not true. They reject Catholic teaching, full stop. The SSPX, on the other hand, does not claim that the teaching of the Catholic Church is false. Instead, it claims that some of the assertions of Vatican II contradict other magisterial teachings that have greater authority, and hence that accepting the doctrines of the Catholic Church requires accepting these more authoritative teachings and rejecting the small proportion of errors in Vatican II. It asserts that the actual teaching of the Catholic Church is to be found in the earlier and more authoritative statements."

Dr. Lamont raises another question: “how can there be any objection to the SSPX upholding the truth of magisterial pronouncements of great authority?

This question really answers itself. There can be no such objection. If the position of the SSPX on doctrine itself is to be judged objectionable, it must be claimed that this position is not what these magisterial pronouncements actually teach, and hence that the SSPX falsifies the meaning of these pronouncements. This claim is not easy to sustain, because when these earlier pronouncements were promulgated, they gave rise to a very substantial body of theological work that aimed at their interpretation. The meaning that the SSPX ascribes to them is derived from this body of work, and corresponds to how these pronouncements were understood at the time they were made.

The author then logically asks these final questions:

This fact gives more point and urgency to the third question that occurs to a theologian: what do these pronouncements actually teach, if it is not what the SSPX say that they teach?

...what is the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on the points that are in dispute between the SSPX and the Holy See?"

Dr. Lamont concluded his analysis with this statement, underlining the universal significance of the SSPX’s relations with Rome:

The nature of the teaching of the Catholic Church on religious freedom, ecumenism, the Church, and collegiality, is of great importance to all Catholics. The questions raised by the discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX thus concern the whole Church, not merely the parties to the discussion."

Certainly it is pleasing to read such reflections about the Council’s teachings and the Church’s future, however, more can be done as suggested by Dr. Moynihan:

[Pope] Benedict now finds himself at the center of many very powerful interests who will wish to sway his judgment as he decides this matter. For this reason, he will need our prayers."[8]

To this end, the providential deadline of our Rosary Crusade (Pentecost Sunday, May 27) becomes more relevant and urgent.


Footnotes

1 Published via The Moynihan Report on April 19, 2012 under the title, “7th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Benedict XVI”. Dr. Moynihan’s piece also included some touching and even supportive points about Archbishop Lefebvre and personal stories of the editor that revealed his longtime interest in the Society of St. Pius X.

2 Ibid.

3 Dr. Lamont attended Oxford University where he obtained a degree in philosophy, then took a degree in theology from Ottawa University in Canada. He currently resides in Australia where he teaches theology by archdiocesan mandate at the Catholic Institute and University of Notre Dame in Sydney.

4 Chiesa.espressonline.it is a Catholic news agency based in Italy.

5 “A Theologian's Questions”, quoted by Sandro Magister in his April 13, 2012 article for Chiesa.it titled "For the Lefebvrists, It's the Last Call to the Sheepfold".

6 An Opus Dei theologian from the Roman side of the Rome-SSPX Theological Commission.

7 Also a member of the Theological Commission who is a seminary professor of ecclesiology at Econe.

8 The Moynihan Report.