Sean Johnson



For those who have been following the long, incremental process of canonical “regularization” of the SSPX, it can surely seem as though a deal is just around the corner:

The Society has already “regularized” its sacramental life by accepting the grant of conciliar jurisdiction to administer the sacraments of confession and marriage; it has received the tacit approval for priestly ordinations; in a few select dioceses, it even has the permission of the local ordinary to celebrate public Masses.  It has received canonical authority to try its own priests.  It has jettisoned the only one of the four bishops who would not support an accord with unconverted Rome.  It has made contacts and established relations with the local ordinaries in which Society chapels are situated, and participated in “tradcumenical” initiatives to convey its willingness to work shoulder to shoulder with their overtly modernist brothers.  It has to a large degree silenced itself with regard to criticizing the continuous outrages emanating from Rome (both moral and doctrinal), and prohibited its priests from doing so.

It would appear, therefore, that the stage is set.

Or is it?

In our previous post, we made an interesting observation:

If a deal with the Roman modernists is imminent, why the need for Rome to promulgate the recent SSPX marriage guidelines?  That is to say, if a deal with Rome is just around the corner (which would grant ordinary jurisdiction to Society priests), why promulgate these “pastoral guidelines” which seem to presuppose SSPX priests will not have ordinary jurisdiction any time soon?

I have written many times that, were I the modernist Pope, I would grant the Society canonical “regularization,” immediately, requiring absolutely nothing on their part, and let the process of “internal dynamism” work its magic (i.e., self-censorship, so as not to lose what they have sought and gained).

On the other hand, it has also been observed that Rome could benefit at least as much by holding out indefinitely, seeing that their incrementalist strategy for the regularization of the SSPX is a safer bet, insofar as it requires the compromises ahead of the deal.  This not only has the benefit of camouflaging the totality of the compromises which have been extracted over a period of several years (i.e., people have short memories in the internet era), but also for this reason enables a greater sum total of compromises to be extracted.

Like falling into a school of piranhas,  no one bite in and of itself proves fatal, but rather the cumulative damage is what fells the beast.  

It seems, therefore, that it is this latter strategy which Rome has opted for.  It learned its lesson in 2012, and opted for the more patient approach, and the promulgation of the SSPX marriage guidelines seem now to telegraph that it will continue along the same lines for the indefinite future.

What is implied here is rather ironic, in that Rome seems to have adopted the exact opposite condition for the “regularization” of the Society (i.e., When the SSPX comes around to the Council, there will be no need for any agreements.), which the Society used to have for “regularization” with Rome (i.e., When Rome returns to the traditional faith, there will be no need for any “regularization”).

Maintaining the incrementalist strategy would seem to benefit Rome in the following ways:

  • Bishop Fellay is well-hooked, and there is no chance of him changing course (now, or at the 2018 General Chapter, given the makeup of the capitulants).  Rome senses this.  He has passed the point of no return, so more compromises are certain.
  • The Society loses priests with each incremental compromise, so tradition continues to be “purified” from their perspective, with those who will not bend being forced to leave;
  • The longer the death of the SSPX drags out, the longer the birth/growth of the Resistance is stunted.  As the incremental compromises rob many Society priests of the “watermark” compromise a signed deal would represent, it keeps them in a state of tension and suspense…and away from the Resistance;
  • It gives the clergy and faithful time to psychologically adjust to change (think Bishop Tissier de Mallerais), thereby representing a safer strategy than abruptly announcing a new ecclesial reality, which would surely end by populating Resistance chapels;

Think of the strategy (of both Rome and Menzingen) this way:

The individual compromises and disturbances deemed necessary by Rome for a “recognition of tolerance ad tempus” of the SSPX are much like a jet airplane heading into turbulence: It rocks the cabin (sometimes more than others), distresses some of the passengers, and creates uncertainty (“When will it be over?”  “How bad will it get?”  And if severe enough, “Will we make it through this?”). 

But in almost every case, the jet makes it through the turbulence back into calm air.  Until the next round of turbulence is encountered.  And when this turbulence is again encountered, the passengers and crew compare it to the previous turbulence: “I Guess I can live with this turbulence.  After all, it is not so bad as that which we just passed through.”  Or if worse, “We have made it through bad turbulence before, and we can make it through this.”

A similar process happens with the compromises Rome has been exacting of the SSPX:

The marriage guidelines were bad, and created quite an uprising.  But after all, the priests (all but one!) accepted their punishments, and relative calm has been restored, despite a few lingering bumps.  Calm air has returned until the next round of turbulence/compromise.

In fact, Rome will see to it that there is no more turbulence prior to the July General Chapter.  Oh, there may arise a ripple here and there from individual priests awakening to the game being played, but nothing coming from Rome of the magnitude of the 2012 Doctrinal Declaration, marriage guidelines, or expulsion of Bishop Williamson.  Rome/Menzingen understand they must be very tactful in heading into those turbulent jet streams, and only go there very occasionally, when absolutely necessary. 

Much better to maintain the “death by 1,000 papercuts” strategy, which has returned such handsome dividends.  

There is no other way to make sense of the recently promulgated pastoral guidelines governing SSPX marriages: If a deal were imminent, there would be no point in issuing them.  

Consequently, we can forecast that the slow bleeding will continue:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain.  It looks like a beautiful day for flying, and we expect a smooth ride.  Thank you for flying Air Italy!”