According to Williamson, here is what he thinks the Holy Father wants to achieve:
The problem for these discussions is that, objectively speaking, as on either side there may be some reluctance to admit, we are in the presence of an irreconcilable clash between the religion of God and the religion of man. Vatican II mixed the two together, which was too much of the religion of man by half. Let us then say that Benedict XVI wishes to combine Vatican II with Catholic Tradition. That is still too much of the religion of man by a quarter. Let us now suppose that the SSPX and Benedict XVI were to agree to come half-way towards each other. That would still represent one eighth of the religion of man mixed with seven eighths of the religion of God, which for the purposes of Almighty God would still be one eighth too much. (Emphasis mine.)
The parts that I have bolded are clearly the most important parts of Williamson’s thesis: the discussions will reach an inevitable impasse because we are dealing with two absolutely different conceptions of the Catholic Church. On the one hand, we have the post-conciliar Church that has thrown out tradition and then the SSPX which has preserved the Church’s traditions for all to see.
The problem is that the post-conciliar Church has always remained the one and same Catholic Church founded by Our Lord on the rock of St. Peter. The Church has stayed true to the articles of the faith as professed in the Athanasian (Nicene) and Apostolic Creeds. Although Williamson and other traditionalists would like to believe that things have, they haven’t. The dogmas of the Church have remained the same and have not been changed. Once something has been dogmatically defined, it has been set into stone.
Yet there are other things that have changed and it is precisely with these that Bishop Williamson takes issue. The Gregorian Mass, for example, was changed into the Novus Ordo. According to the traditionalist Catholics such as the SSPX and the sedevacantists, the Novus Ordo Mass represents “a new Mass for a new religion.” This religion, according to these traditionalists, is a new religion that is centered on man rather than on God. Therefore, these persons will say, that the Novus Ordo Missae is the harbinger of a “New Order” that will be centered on Rome. Alas, I have only one thing to say to those: “Heaven help us if it is true!”
If the SSPX is right and we are dealing with “a new religion,” then why is it that the SSPX bishops should at all negotiate with a man whom Dr. Thomas A. Droleskey, a chief apologist for the sedevacantists, has said had departed from the Catholic Church forty years ago when he became a manifest heretic? Why should they have anything to do with a Vatican that is tainted by modernism? Why not go back to their old position and leave things be?
It seems to me that Archbishop Lefevbre had a good head on his shoulders when he decided not to become a sedevacantist. By recognizing and resisting, he was able to denounce the problems in the Vatican for what they were while continuing to pray for the Holy Father and that things would turn around.
With the “in communication,” the Archbishop’s hopes are clearly coming true. Rome is changing and so is the Church. While it may take decades and even centuries for us to fully understand the impact of Vatican II, one cannot deny that the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI has produced a great deal of good fruit that will be with us for a long time to come. Indeed, “Summorum Pontificum” may be the Holy Father’s greatest achievement in striving to achieve unity with the traditionalists.
It seems to me that the negotiations between the SSPX and the Holy See will be interesting to watch. Although many people already know the issues that are at stake, it is important that we finally find out what exactly it is that they do not agree on. Even if it be a matter of semantics, it is still important for us to know since “knowledge is power.” Additionally, the negotiations will clearly show us what separates the Holy See from the traditionalists and how these issues can be resolved. Of course, there will also be the question of what the Holy See will do with the SSPX once it has been re-integrated into the Church. That, however, will come after the doctrinal negotations.
As for Bishop Williamson, it seems to me that the man has already caused a great deal of embarrassment to the Holy Father and the SSPX by the recent brouhaha. His recent comments on his blog clearly show that his participation in these negotiatoins would be a stumbling block to the CDF. Perhaps, the other three SSPX bishops will decide to exclude him from the negotiations. Of course, this is my own idle dreaming and I’m sure that Bishop Williamson will be allowed to negotiate at some point or other.
It seems that the SSPX-Holy See story has entered a new phase and it is now time for us to re-double and triple our prayers for the unity of traditionalists and the Holy See.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Pius X, pray for us!