More Rumors from Rome

Technically, from Australia—but pertaining to Roman doings…

NLM is passing along a report from The Record that:

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed, it is understood.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard this, of course, and it may well not be the last, but hearing this in such close proximity to action in regard to the SSPX is intriguing.

Let’s be clear on what the whole SSPX thing is about. It’s not fundamentally about 4 bishops. Yes, the bishops are the key to it, but I think it’s more about the people. B16, it seems to me, is doing part of what the church ought to be doing—engaging in the ministry of reconciliation—and is working to repair rifts.  (And, of course, I’m sincerely hoping that he exercises his episcopal role to discipline at least one if not more of the said 4 bishops if and when full reconciliation occurs.)

Looking at it from this perspective, it’s not hard to see the TAC in the same way.

If these rumors were to be true, if this were to be accomplished, it might well open the door for a mass (npi…) return of traditional Anglo-Catholics from outside the TAC. As we’ve noted in the past, while American Anglo-Catholics have grabbed on to this Gafcon/FOCA thing, that’s not the case in England and elsewhere. Even now there are rumblings that even within those Americans who drafted documentation for Gafcon, there are some who may choose to swim the Tiber and return to Rome rather than remain in the FOCA.

37 thoughts on “More Rumors from Rome

  1. Christopher

    And in reconciliation has caused a major rift with the Jewish Community. The high rabbi of Germany has cut off all ties to the Vatican, and I think rightly so. The drift that this pontificate has taken has some troubling aspects.

    So it’s about some people and reconciliation with certain types of people and not always being forthright about historical blindspots in the life of the Church. Let us be clear that bishops who hid child molesters have been dealt with kid gloves. I await to see if heal deal with a Holocaust denier with more clarity.

  2. Chris

    What confuses me about this – and I’ve only read Washington Post and heard NPR reports on the matter – is that I haven’t heard of any discipline or apology/confession made by the Pius X guys. So if I understand this correctly, the Pope is bending over backwards to bring in some guys who thumbed their nose at the Church . . . and giving them a special status a papal prelature, without any repentance? I’m having trouble seeing how this serves the church . . .

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    Let’s be clear what has happened.

    SSPX has not reunited with Rome. A lot of folks seem to either forget this or don’t realize it.

    What has occurred is that two of the SSPX’s publicly stated requirements for reconciliation have been met: the motu proprio allowing the 1962 mass and the lifting of the excommunications.

    That’s *all* that’s happened. The SSPX bishops were not excommunicated because of their stance either way on the Shoah. Furthermore, these bishops have never been (as bishops) under Roman episcopal authority. I do not believe that a Roman Catholic bishop could say the things said by Williamson and get away with it. Nor do I think they will tolerate it now. In fact, I imagine that discipline of several will be necessary for this to occur and that’s part of why everyone’s dancing around with kid gloves.

    Chris, I do know that there was a letter from Fellay beseeching that the excommunications be ended but don’t know if repentence was involved in that particular communication.

  4. brian m

    +Fellay has issued a statement regarding +Williamson’s comments on the Holocaust:

    As for the matter of “repentance,” perhaps there will be some sort of apology or statement of good faith if Rome and the SSPX actually resolve their differences over the force and effect of Vatican II. I’m not sure I’d want to see the Society bishops coming biretta in hand, full of apologies for their defiance; I am sure that history will absolve them.

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    I don’t like a lot of the things that Vatican II did to the liturgy—but overall I’d say the Council was both necessary and did what it had to do.

    Vatican II was where the Roman Catholic Church finally engaged Modernity instead of following the fundamentalist route of sticking fingers in ears, shouting “LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” and pretending that sciences had not made the strides forward that they have. Too, it means acknowledging and engaging the historical record instead of embracing a history-like narrative of self-congratulation where your side is always right and does no wrong and all beliefs to the contrary are propaganda from Jews or Masons.

    Just one example of the benefits of engaging reality: Releasing Roman Catholic biblical scholarship from doctrinal straight-jackets (fully at odds with the Tradition to my mind) proved and is proving a tremendous boon to all Christians.

    Unfortunately, a great deal of what I hear from the SSPX is retrogressive fundamentalism that in complaining about “capitulation” to Modernism is objecting to the simple recognition of its existence.

    In short, I don’t think history will absolve them.

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    Ok–I realize I’m painting with a big brush there… Let me say up-front that I don’t know what their specific problems are with VII with the exception of allowing the vernacular and changing the text of the Mass. That having been said, from the kinds of things I see from them and Angelus Press, they act like they’re doing a blanket reject of modernity.

  7. Paul Goings

    In short, I don’t think history will absolve them.

    And yet… I’m not at all sure whether liturgical traditionalism would have survived in the Latin church without them. To be sure, until quite recently things were very, very bad in most places in terms of how the traditional rites and ceremonies were viewed. The Society provided–and continues to provide in many place–a continuity which, at least to an extent, saved traditionalism from complete oblivion.

    That said, there are far too many extremists in the S.S.P.X., and this can be seen on a number of notorious web sites. If Dr Fellay engages the Holy See in a process of rapprochement, which I expect he will, and the Motu Proprio continues to extend its influence while that occurs, then I believe that Dr Williamson (and perhaps one other of the bishops) will break off from the Society, taking, in my opinion, a minority of the laymen who now attend Society chapels with them. The Holy See will then have reconciled a majority of the Lefebvrite schism, and the remainder will soon have all the cache of the P.N.C.C. (That assumes, of course, that Dr Williamson is available to create his own schism, and is not a guest of the Bundesrepublik by that time!)

  8. The young fogey

    There are all kinds of views that are not formally heretical. Bishop Williamson’s on history and politics, however abhorrent they may be, are irrelevant in this matter.

    The bishops were excommunicated for consecrating/being consecrated without Rome’s permission but they didn’t intend to start another church (and Rome has never said they did). They did it because they thought there was a state of emergency in their church.

    Nothing to do with anybody’s opinions on the Holocaust as Derek pointed out.

    The real sticking points with the SSPX are the V2 decrees on religious liberty and ecumenism, which they fear favour indifferentism/relativism. The liturgical matters are secondary but in America that’s about all they’re known for in the circles that have even heard of them.

    There is no reason for the SSPX to apologise or recant because it believes every jot of RC doctrine and V2 is not doctrine. That is, it is a valid RC council but it defined no doctrine. It is not responsible for Bishop Williamson’s views.

    Yes, TAC going under Rome IMO is far better for ACs than Gafcon/FOCA, which is reconstituted Protestant Anglicanism.

    English ACism is far more RC-orientated than its American cousin. (Anglo-Papalism is almost exclusively English.) IMO RC national parishes (Roman Rite and under the local bishop but keeping some of Anglican culture) are its future as a Catholic movement.

    American ACs can go that route – it already exists as a few Texan parishes using the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite (a Novus Ordo/1979 BCP hybrid done with nice Benedict XVI ceremonial) – or be Western Rite Orthodox in the Antiochian Archdiocese (there are four times as many WRO parishes as AU RC ones).

    As American ACism tends to be non-papal I can imagine more WRO parishes being started.

  9. The young fogey

    One more thing: for those who don’t know, WRO is about 90 per cent Prayer Book Catholic parishes and 10 per cent English Missal/Tridentine Mass ones, all with varying amounts of byzantinisation.

  10. Derek the Ænglican

    Yes, the SSPX and Rome have a number of issues between them.

    Completely apart from his participation in Lefebvre’s schism, Williamson’s views are *not* irrelevant when it comes to Rome accepting him back into the fold. Separate but equally serious.

    I agree with Paul’s prediction, though, and I doubt that Williamson will go back home.

  11. The young fogey

    Of course, which is why ACs opposed apartheid many years ago. (I knew a late priest who was deported from Namibia for that in the ’60s and ended his days supplying at a Continuing church.)

    Bishop Williamson presents his views as a private person. The SSPX didn’t consecrate him as a way of making a doctrinal statement about them, unlike a certain mainline denomination and its leader in a certain New England state.

    Same with the official RC Church receiving him back. (BTW the orders of the SSPX clergy and the status of the society itself are not yet regularised. If he shoots his mouth off again Richard Williamson may well remain a suspended – inhibited in Anglicanspeak – bishop.)

    Bishop Williamson’s views have roughly the same status in the church as one’s crotchety uncle’s.

    Nice try though.

  12. The young fogey

    Paul: interestingly Bishop Williamson’s statements so far on the lifting of the excommunications don’t seem to say he’s about to start another sedevacantist schism, which he’s often suspected of trying to do.

  13. Derek the Ænglican

    Yes, there was a certain lack of charity about it that moved me to remove it. That having been said, I’m not sure I’d quite agree with this:

    Bishop Williamson presents his views as a private person. . . .
    Bishop Williamson’s views have roughly the same status in the church as one’s crotchety uncle’s.

    As a bishop, having and expressing the views that he does with the volume he does makes the organization he is an officer in party to his words.

    I suppose W’s nephew could say the same–“He’s just my crotchety uncle. What’s the harm?”

  14. Paul Goings

    Paul: interestingly Bishop Williamson’s statements so far on the lifting of the excommunications don’t seem to say he’s about to start another sedevacantist schism, which he’s often suspected of trying to do.

    Very true. However, if Dr Fellay actually does make concrete overtures to the Holy See, it’s my guess that Dr Williamson will repudiate both Dr Fellay and the nascent reconciliation. But I’d never heard that Dr Williamson would embrace formal sedevacantism; although some of his writings appear to suggest that he believes that the only indefectible portion of the Church–apart from the formaliter papacy of Benedict XVI–resides in the Society. Formal sedevacantism is a very small niche market, which will grow increasingly disreputable with the passage of time.

    All of that said, I think that it would not be unjust to require Dr Williamson to refrain from discussing these issues if his episcopacy is to be regularized after an eventual reconciliation. But, in my opinion, that’s about all that you could justly require. Thus, I don’t think that there’s a need for Dr Williamson to repent (in the external forum) of anything except for the scandal that he’s caused by his rash and–scientifically–unsound proclamations, which are “offensive to pious ears” (as the moral theology manuals put it). He may well actually believe that all Jews are evil, and that the National Socialists were doing good in their attempts to exterminate them, and, if so, this is monstrous, and should be repented of and confessed. But, at least to the best of my knowledge, he has done no such thing.

  15. Paul Goings

    Shoot me now….

    Which reminds me, I hear an awful lot of, “I refuse to be in the same church with *those* sorts of people!” in connection with the removal of the excommunications, and the renewed hope of full reconciliation. It’s interesting to me that these types of sentiments are now coming from the parties which would have vehemently denounced the reverse, and still would.

  16. Derek the Ænglican

    Few right-thinking people will deny the presence of absolutes. The far sticker question is to what degree we can know and enact them. And that leads to the infallibility issue which we have already discussed and will not attempt to tackle again on this thread.

    I’d rather argue about liturgy now…

  17. bls

    Actually, the remark was only referring to the teeth-grinding aspect of attempting to follow these bizarre discussions about the latest bizarre doings amongst the far religious right.

    But count on ol’ Paul to read an extensive “culture wars” analysis into three short words! Although I admit I can’t make heads or tails of his comment; I simply have no idea what he’s talking about, or even what he’s trying to say….

  18. brian m

    Here is an apology of sorts from +Williamson:

    BLS, are you looking for us to unpack our comments, or, and I mean to clear the air and not poison the well here, are you looking to dismiss the comments out of hand? I read Paul as saying that if the tables were turned, and there were conservative Anglicans or traditional Catholics loudly inveighing against being in the same church with an ostensibly oppositional group, like women priests or LGBTQ people, this would be decried as unacceptable by many parties. But when the Holy Father makes overtures to the SSPX and possibly the TAC, well . . .

  19. Paul Goings

    But count on ol’ Paul to read an extensive “culture wars” analysis into three short words!

    Really? Because I tend to devote fairly little effort to the “culture wars” phenomenon, and don’t write about the issues on the ‘net very frequently.

    Although I admit I can’t make heads or tails of his comment; I simply have no idea what he’s talking about, or even what he’s trying to say….

    My fault. I was trying to be oblique, and it failed miserably. So, more directly, there are a number of Anglicans, many of whom are willing to go into schism over it, who have said–and this is a paraphrase, of course–since 2003:

    “I am appalled at the thought of Gene Robinson serving as a bishop in my church.”

    Now, in the wake of the S.S.P.X. rapprochement, it seems that a number of people are saying:

    “I am appalled at the thought of Richard Williamson serving as a bishop in my church.”

    Note the eerie similarity of the two statements. Also, I’d suggest that many of those who have some sympathy for that latter, would strenuously object to the former.

    I hope that’s more clear.

  20. bls

    Oh, well, Paul. Maybe you only do it to me every time. (Last time it was an assumption that I was bashing Catholics, alongside the assumption that I must certainly be an defender of Muslims in the same circumstances. I’m sure you can understand how easy it would be for me to draw that conclusion. Or perhaps you simply don’t realize exactly how “culture wars” these comments actually are.) In any case, it’s still kind of strange that 3 words evoke that kind of reaction.

    No, it’s the absolute incomprehensibility of most of the comments on this thread that I was referring to. Who knows what TAC and FOCA and AU RC and WRO are?

    (And from my point of view, of course: who cares?)

  21. bls

    (Perhaps you guys don’t realize how byzantinely opaque these discussions and acronymns are – and how sleep-inducing for anybody not “in the know.”

    Which is, of course, most of humanity. Thus, shoot me now….)

  22. bls

    (But in any case, it was just a joke, and I assumed one that everybody would immediately understand. I guess I was wrong, so I apologize for the misunderstanding.)

  23. bls

    Oh, yes, Brian M.: that’s an excellent analogy, give the awful, heartrending culture wars going on over hymns and chant….

  24. brian m

    My point is that each of these matters can be “opaque” to people “not in the know,” not to denigrate either discussion. That’s the nice thing about blog culture; we can talk about these matters with like-minded people, and not put non-interested people to sleep with them.

  25. bls

    Well, as I said, it was a joke – one I assumed would be be understood instantly.

    Obviously not….

    (And FYI: when I write about chant, I post lots of links, images, audio files, expressly so that people who don’t know the topic can understand it, or at least learn more if they wish to.)

  26. bls

    (But I must say it is interesting that the religious right-wing seems very big on cryptic acronyms and byzantine forms of organization. I can’t ever follow what’s going on with the so-called “orthodox Anglicans” in the U.S., because I can’t ever figure out what the latest acronym refers to, who belongs to the group, or what its philosophy is. And new groups spring up daily, it seems. Maybe sometime I’ll try to go gather the acronyms of all the splinter right-wing religious groups and see exactly how many there are.

    You don’t see this much on the other side.)

  27. brian m

    Well, TEC, who was once ECUSA has those MDGs, but also some SSBs, which didn’t sit well with certain AAC members who were then deposed by the HOB at the behest of the PB, which adds to the pressure on the ABC . . .

  28. bls

    My favorite lately is the scare-quotes method: TE”C”, for instance! Or sometimes it’s TE”c”, just for an extra expression of contempt.


    Gay “marriage.”

    (There’s also the substitution method: TEO, CGC – or maybe even “C”GC or “c”GC.)

    Of course, I do it with “orthodox,” too, I must admit – but at least that’s real word and not something you have to squint at….

  29. bls

    “MDG” belongs to the “UN.” And “SSB” doesn’t come from the progressives; it’s pure “AAC”-speak.

    And the “ABC” isn’t ours, either; he belongs to the UK.

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