Bird’s Eye View of the News
Atila Sinke Guimarães
THE VATICAN & THE CAKE - The correspondence desk of TIA sent me the following letter requesting an answer. Since I believe other readers may benefit from the response, I will address it in this column. The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Guimarães: I am a regular reader of the Tradition in Action website, where I find orientation in these difficult times we live in. I admire the clarity with which you analyze current events in the Church. Taking this into consideration, I ask for your opinion about what is going on in the negotiations between the Vatican and the SSPX. I am hearing all kinds of contradictory reports about, on one hand, possible compromises by the heads of the SSPX and, on the other, the rejection of an immediate agreement and an undefined extension of the present day dialogue with Rome. I would like to know your view, which I believe may help me and others. Best regards, In Christ Jesus, E.J.
This is my response to the correspondent: Dear Mr. E.J., Thank you for the confidence you place in my comments. I will do my best to meet your expectations. The following commentaries are intended to be of assistance to you and others. Cordially, A.S.G.
How to eliminate the traditionalists?
Real politik is a German expression that refers to a politics or diplomacy that seeks the deepest motives moving a party or chancellery to achieve their non-revealed objectives. The expression presupposes that politicians and diplomats normally employ a duplicious language of flattery that does not reveal their true intentions. This surface language is intended mostly to please the audience; consequently, it changes at random according to the latter’s hopes and sentiments.
It is sad that almost all politicians adopt such false and misleading tactics, but it is the reality. Hence, the real politik tries to discover and work with those hidden objectives. However, these aims are not impossible to fathom; a careful political analysis can often expose the real interests of a person, a group or a nation.
Since today we are seeing both the Vatican officials and the SSPX heads using what seems to be duplicious language that is difficult to understand, your question could be translated in this way: What, in terms of real politik, is the plan of the Vatican in dealing with the SSPX? What game are the SSPX heads playing with their members? Let me raise some hythoteses meant to help you.
Mixed acceptations of Vatican II
When one analyzes the acceptation of Catholic Progressivism in the Church, one can distinguish several phases from the Council on.
The stripped altar, a consequence of Vatican II
An iconoclast phase began as soon as the Liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated (1963). It was characterized by the stripping of the churches (the destruction of the Communion rails, pulpits, confessionals, statues and bells), priests and religious abandoning their cassocks and habits, the introduction of pop music in the churches. The New Mass (1969) crowned those novelties and brought them to a paroxysm - masses in the vernacular, altar versum populum, laymen taking the places of the clergy, women on the altar, etc.
In the temporal sphere, in Medellin (1968) Paul VI endorsed the Liberation Theology that would spread Communism in Latin America. His encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), issued in the wake of John XXIII’s Pacem in terris (1963), placed the Catholic Church in the left on the social-political international scenario.
The Catholic public received those changes with various degrees of adhesion. Those who supported Progressivism cheered them. The majority, however, were perplexed and only accepted those changes out of obedience to the Pope and the Church authorities they were accustomed to trust. A germen of dissatisfaction, nonetheless, was growing in the majority of Catholics.
This situation generated a phase of silent distrust, which developed into a position of respectful resistance against the new orientations of the Vatican. This resistance first manifested itself against the Vatican Ostpolitik, i.e., its concessions made to Communist regimes. The landmark of this resistance was the 1974 Declaration of Resistance by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published in many newspapers around the world.
Vatican Ostpolitik: Paul VI receives Communist dictator Tito at the Vatican - 1971
Then, two years afterward, when the public position of resistance was already established and known, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained some priests in Ecône (1976) without the permission of Paul VI. This represented the beginning of a disciplinary resistance and caused his suspension a divinis. Both resistances - in the temporal and ecclesiastical spheres - fed that silent distrust that grew considerably in Catholic public opinion.
As it became stronger and more vocal, this resistance was no longer satisfied with opposing the leftist social-political novelties of the Vatican or seeking permission to say the Tridentine Mass - the first limited goal of the SSPX. Instead, it looked toward the cause of that whole religious-temporal revolution: Vatican II itself.
Now then, insofar as the Council was mistrusted and considered as the cause of all those evils, traditionalist Catholics began to reject it. As long as it was applied, it fed the more advanced tendencies of the progressivists, which in turn fed the suspicion of the traditionalists. This mortal vicious cycle can only be broken when one of the two sides gives up: Progressivism or Traditionalism.
Trying to resolve this dilemma, that is, to make Traditionalism give up, Paul VI and John Paul II attempted many maneuvers. The “conservative” Benedict XVI was elected to remove the traditionalist obstacle from the road and make it possible to apply Vatican II again, or at least to save it from a mounting rejection.
The traditionalist problem for the Vatican
Today traditionalists represents a significant minority of the Catholic public that cannot be overlooked by any serious analyst. Affirming this, I distinguish two realities: the growing segment of Catholics who reject Vatican II, and the organizations representing them, which may or may not take this position. Among these groups, SSPX is the more significant.
Other large traditionalist groups, both ecclesiastical and lay, were broken or silenced. Some of these organizations split and lost their counter-revolutionary significance (the TFPs); others are anesthetized by compromised cupolas (Spanish Carlism, Mexican Cristeros); still others sold out for prestige and careers (Institute of Christ the King, Apostolic Administration of St. John Vianney, Institute of the Good Shepherd), to mention just some. Therefore, as the army’s companies break, sleep or betray, the eyes of the faithful turn to the SSPX, which remains the sole large organization in the battlefield.
This group claims to have one million followers. I do not discuss this number; I believe it may well be real. Nonetheless, at this moment the group is catching the attention of a much larger circle of traditionalist Catholics. I call this ensemble “the cake”: the followers of Lefebvre, plus the frustrated grassroots of other groups, plus the growing number of conservatives who are daily joining the traditionalist ranks in the Church.
Cardinal Levada looking for the largest part of the traditionalist cake
What does the Vatican want in its negotiations with the SSPX? It is to bring the largest possible chunk of this cake to a compromised position. Let me exemplify with just their supposedly one million followers.
If Bishops Fellay, Tissier and Galarreta are able to drag 800 or 900 thousand members to a progressivist position “according to Tradition,” this would be a good deal for the Vatican. But if they can bring only a smaller parcel of the cake, 600 or 500 thousand or less, then it would be better to wait until this percentage grows.
The reason is quite simple: At the moment that the three bishops merge and accept whatever “secret doctrinal protocol” is prescribed – which can only be to accept Vatican II and the New Mass and cease their resistance to the Pope and the Hierarchy – those who refuse to follow them will continue the resistance and repeat the same process again. They will continue to resist these points and, after a time, will find a leadership that will cause as much problem to Progressivism as today’s SSPX.
If this is true, at this present moment both the Vatican and the already-in-the-game heads of the SSPX would be making a careful auscultation of the SSPX grassroots to know whether they will follow the heads in an accord. They would also be doing everything to convince as many as possible to accept the agreement. The result of this auscultation will determine whether the official merge of SSPX into the Conciliar Church will be made now or later.
Preparing a new false-right
At the same time, both the Vatican and the three Bishops would be preparing their fourth colleague, also in the game, to be the leader of the non-compromised slice of the traditionalist public. Doing this, they would maintain control of that piece of the cake as well, and thus prevent any authentic leadership from taking it over after the merge.
Painting an ugly picture of a "Nazi" bishop
In order to make this leader-to-be as unattractive as possible, they would affix some more bad epithets to his name. So, to the rumors already spreading that Bishop Williamson is a Rosicrucian, the accusation of being Nazi has been widely disseminated. The recent threat by Fellay to expel him from SSPX should he not cease posting public comments on the Internet seems intended to present him as a “uncontrollable rebel” as well.
The three Bishops would leave behind their “villain” so that his bad fame would discourage as many traditionalists as possible from enrolling in a branch under his leadership.
In the realm of real politik this is what seems to be the plan for the Vatican and SSPX to play in order to remove the traditionalist obstacle from the progressivist road, save Vatican II and allow it to be applied again.
This hypothetical overview is what occurs to me to answer my reader.http://www.traditioninaction.org/bev/138bev10_26_2011.htm