SSPX/Rome Talks – Fallout

Allow me to make a bold, even wild, prediction: Should the officials at the Vatican grant canonical regularization to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), there will still be a contingent of neo-Catholic gripers claiming that “regularization” does not mean “full communion.” If the Pope were to do the unlikely and, say, give Bishop Bernard Fellay the red hat, these same neo-Catholics would declare that being in the College of Cardinals does not entail being in “full communion” with the Bishop of Rome. And if the late, great Marcel Lefebvre were to be canonized a Saint in St. Peter’s Square, those indefatigable neo-Catholic naysayers would confidently assert that the archbishop remains an excommunicate who is, more likely than not, burning in hell.

If you think I’m being hyperbolic, think again. The always absurd Fr. Paul Nicholson, who has no compunction about making a fool out of himself, took the occasion of the SSPX’s recent protest against a so-called “black mass” in Oklahoma to declare that the Society itself is worse than overt sacrilege and Satan worship.

The fun doesn’t end there. Michael Scaperlanda, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma (the same institution where Brian McCall teaches), also took the occasion of the SSPX’s protest in Oklahoma to decry the Society. His reasoning is, to say the least, a bit garbled. According to Scaperlanda, by processing to the location of the “black mass” to pray, the “schismatic” [sic] SSPX “changed the narrative” in the media from reverent prayer to a First-Amendment issue. Maybe that was the narrative that played out on television, but it’s hard to imagine the secular-media narrative ever being about the Body of Christ and His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Scaperlanda points to no act carried out under the Society’s banner which was in any sense “irreverent.” If there is a First-Amendment issue at play here, it’s Scaperlanda’s — and Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Coakley’s — apparent belief that the Catholic religion should be kept behind closed church doors.

Given these types of responses, who can blame The Remnant‘s editor, Michael Matt, for coming a bit unglued in his latest blog post on the SSPX and fidelity to the Church? Thankfully, not all of the news is bad news. As I noted yesterday, Fr. Zuhlsdorf has offered some sober minded thoughts on both the SSPX’s protest in Oklahoma and its renewed discussions with Vatican officials.

Rorate Caeli has graciously translated a commentary by Fr. Claud Barthe on the latest round of SSPX/Rome talks. In it, Fr. Barthe draws the right distinction between being in “full communion” (which the Society is) and being in a state of “imperfect reconciliation.” (Some, such as myself, prefer the expression “canonical irregularity,” though they effectively mean the same thing.)

I seriously doubt, however, that Fr. Barthe’s sane words will prick the consciences of either Fr. Nicholson or Professor Scaperlanda.



  1. Paul Borealis
    September 24, 2014

    “Fr. Barthe draws the right distinction between being in “full communion” (which the Society is) and being in a state of “imperfect reconciliation.””

    Granted. What does it all mean?

    I am still a bit confused by the distinctions and terminologies. For example, a representative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was recently quoted as follows:
    “With the Anglicans, Father Currer said, “we have communion, which we describe as impaired or impartial. An area we have to explore with our dialogue partners is what is sufficient for the full communion we are seeking.””
    (Reportedly, Father Currer is “the staff person for relations with Anglicans at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity”, and “Catholic Co-Secretary of ARCIC and IARCCUM”.)

    1. modestinus
      September 24, 2014

      Well, the term “communion” has been layered with all sorts of muck over the past 50 years. The traditional understanding — the one which Fr. Barthe used in his article — is absolute; there are no shades or degrees of communion. However, through misguided ecumenical overtures, the term has been used in a very relaxed and imprecise sense. This is why people make basic errors, like saying the Orthodox are a “sister church” and so forth.


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