Perhaps the rumored Personal Prelature proposed to the SSPX is part of a “practical” turnaround for Catholic Tradition towards its capitulation to Modern Rome. And the Year of Mercy, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, is one more step towards a canonical regularization—lifting “in a practical way” the supposed suspension a divinis of those SSPX priests who were ordained by an “excommunicated” bishop from June 30th, 1988, to January 21st, 2009, without an individual statement of forgiveness.
Indeed, there are many priests seduced by a legalistic attitude. With their guilty conscience, they think themselves excluded from the Official Church, so that (lacking the stamp of the Visible Church) they desire to be reconciled with it. So, is Catholic Tradition to be only a part of the Ecumenical Industry, just one more point of view among many, as Pope Francis would have it to be?
For Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the salvation of souls was his primary aim insofar as Canon Law is concerned. Summa lex salus animarum—“The supreme law is the salvation of souls.” As the Church weakens, that aim is undermined. As Vatican II spreads its pastoral approach—even more with the madness of the New Evangelization—the Church’s visible structure shakes with a change that is yet fully calculated. As the Catholic Episcopacy waivers and betrays the Faith to any line of doctrinal reasoning, the saving of the souls in ordinary life becomes less of a possibility. That is why the Archbishop, looking at the crumbling foundation of the Church’s authority, said:
“Well, we find ourselves in the same situation. We must not be under any illusions. Consequently, we are in the thick of a great fight, a great fight. We are fighting a fight guaranteed by a whole line of Popes. Hence, we should have no hesitation or fear, hesitation such as, ‘Why should we be going on our own? After all, why not join Rome, why not join the Pope?’ Yes, if Rome and the Pope were in line with Tradition, if they were carrying on the work of all the Popes of 19th and the first part of 20th century, of course. But they, themselves, admit that they have set out on a new path. They, themselves, admit that a new era began with Vatican II. They admit that it is a new stage in the Church’s life, wholly new, based on new principles. We need not argue the point. They say it themselves. It is clear. I think that we must drive this point home with our people, in such a way that they realize their oneness with the Church’s whole history, going back well beyond the Revolution. Of course, it clearly is the fight of the City of Satan and the City of God. So we do not have to worry. We must after all trust in the grace of God” (We Must Not Waiver, conference to priests, September 6, 1990).
As a matter of fact, in 2006 the SSPX certainly was straightforward in saying that in approaching the Conciliar Church a doctrinal agreement, as opposed to a “canonical” agreement, was imperatively needed. However, the 2007 motu propio Summorum Pontificum conveyed a dialectical distinction between Ordinary and Extraordinary Rite, by which the Conciliar Church wanted us to believe that there is only one and the same doctrine of Mass but two ways to express it in celebrating “Catholic Mass.” Indeed, it was not a liberation of the Latin Mass rather a convalidation of the New Mass. In addition, the 2009 lifting of the “excommunication” of the four SSPX bishops included a sort of canonical agreement regardless of a doctrinal agreement, by which the SSPX emerged in a new status of being not in full communion with Rome. Last but not the least, there came the events of 2012: The three bishops’ letter, the response of the General Counsel, Bp. Fellay’s Doctrinal Declaration on April 15, the 2012 (extra-ordinary) General Chapter, and a continual departure of some SSPX members….
There were twenty-two years after the death of Archbishop Lefebvre before the SSPX’s leadership revealed their vacillating attitude towards defending Tradition as the Archbishop did throughout his life, in particular during his episcopacy. Hence, their General Counsel openly communicated the following through the Superior General’s voice:
“In order to understand clearly the course that we are charting in this situation, it seems to us advisable to provide you with few considerations and observations: (1) Our principle position: the faith first and foremost: we intend to remain Catholic and to that end, to preserve the Catholic faith first of all; (2) The situation in the Church may oblige us to perform acts of prudence relative and corresponding to the concrete situation. The Chapter in 2006 set forth a very clear line of conduct in matters concerning our situation with respect to Rome. We give priority to the faith, without seeking from our part a practical solution BEFORE the doctrinal question is resolved.
“This is not a principle but a line of conduct that should regulate our action” (Bishop Fellay, Letter to the SSPX members, March 18, 2012).
It was openly clear that a shifting and a change of attitude were lurking among the leadership. As a matter of fact, three of the bishops were much concerned about it, to such an extent that they had sent a joint letter on April 3rd to address their concerns. The response from the General Council was in accordance with the new line of conduct and shamelessly belligerent. Therefore, Bishop Fellay, representing the whole SSPX de jure and de facto, formally handed out to the authorities of the Conciliar Church a Doctrinal Declaration, as a step forward for reconciliation, which in their essential elements are not up to Archbishop’s standards. Soon thereafter, the SSPX USA District Headquarters publicly released a video recording produced by the Catholic News Service: an interview with Bishop Fellay in Switzerland, which subtly conveyed the substance of the famous Doctrinal Preamble given by Pope Benedict. It was not up to the Archbishop’s standards either; instead it was a psychological coup d’etat within their ranks!
Among other things, the Preamble contained a proposal of Canonical Regularization for the clergy and religious members, in order to be “in full communion with Rome.” It has nothing to do with the laity. It is a legal structure within the Church in regards to Canon Law—a Personal Prelature. Let us see where the danger lies in such a proposal.
Personal Prelatures were an inspiration during the sessions of the Second Vatican Council in no. 10 of Presbyterorum Ordinis, on December 7th, 1965; and later Pope Paul VI installed this canonical instruction by the motu propio Ecclesiae Sanctae, on August 6th, 1966. In 1983 John Paul II incorporated the Personal Prelature into Canon Law as an ordinary structure by the canons: Can. 294, with the right of incardination within it; Can. 295, to open seminaries and to promote students to holy orders; Can. 296, to enroll lay members; and Can. 297, to define pastoral services with the local bishops, among others.
Thus, a Personal Prelature is a canonical structure of the post-Vatican II Church, which is comprised by a prelate, clergy and laity who undertake specific pastoral activities. Such a Prelature, similar to dioceses and military ordinariates, is under the governance of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. Nevertheless, unlike dioceses which cover territories, a Personal Prelature—like military ordinariates—takes charge of persons as regards to some objectives and regardless of where they live.
However, the 1983 Code’s philosophical approach is one of marked moderation and pastoral activities. Being the new Code, it proclaims an interpretation with a new habit of mind. Many people learned in Canon Law have some reservations about the changes in doctrine and morals adopted after the Vatican II Council. Some proponents of the New Code were antagonistic to the Old, as a juridical way of accomplishing discipline in the Church. Instead they imposed a “spirit of the new canons” (See Jordan F. Hite, Readings, Cases, Materials in Canon Law, 1990). The New Code, they say, should complement the new mind, the novel way of thinking or mindset of the Church since Vatican II (See Canonist E. McDonough, A Novus Habitus Mentis For Sanctions in the Church, 1988). Therefore, to water down the principles of 1917 old Code in teaching doctrine and morals is a fundamental premise of 1983 Code. Their authors hope for an approach based on the Christian Community. For them, Law is not necessarily the work of canonists and primates, but rather it is a reflection of the spirit of the Modern Church, as John Paul II said:
“The instrument, which the Code is, fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in general and, in a particular way by its ecclesiological teaching. Indeed, in a certain sense this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same conciliar doctrine and ecclesiology into canonical language. If, however, it is impossible to translate perfectly into canonical language the conciliar image of the Church, nevertheless the Code must always be referred to this image as the primary pattern whose outline the Code ought to express insofar as it can by its very nature” (Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, AAS 75, 1983).
There is actually only one functioning Personal Prelature, namely, the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross, formerly known as Opus Dei, erected by John Paul II in 1982 through the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit and ratified in 2002. Their members belong to the Modern system.
Consequently, what should Catholic Tradition expect from a canonical structure which is rooted in the false teaching of Religious Liberty, Ecumenism and Collegiality? Would such a “Coming Prelature” be a Trojan Horse for the SSPX and Tradition?
¡Viva Cristo Rey!