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The “Position of the Society” as Substitute Magisterium

Saints? The “position of the Society” says otherwise.

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

THE SOCIETY OF St. Pius X’s flawed theology of papal authority has led it to promote countless errors, but one of the more obvious ones emerges in its position on canonizations made by the post-Conciliar popes.

The standard pre-Vatican II theological teaching was that canonizations are infallible — otherwise, said the theologian Salaverri, it could happen that the Church would solemnly propose and order the perpetual veneration and imitation of men who were in fact depraved and damned. (De Ecclesia, 724) Indeed,  the very language that Pius XI and Pius XII employed in their canonization decrees made it abundantly clear that their acts were infallible. (“”…infallibilem Nos… sententiam,” “”falli nesciam hanc sententiam…”)

Yet despite SSPX’s insistence that the post-Conciliar popes are true popes, and despite the language in post-Vatican II canonization decrees reserved for infallible papal pronouncements (“by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ… we declare and define“), the Society rejects the canonizations of  José-Maria Escriva, John XXIII and John Paul II, as well as the beatification of Paul VI.

One can see why the Society would find these particular canonizations distasteful. Escriva, John XXIII and Paul VI were enemies of Archbishop Lefebvre, and John Paul II excommunicated him. So too, the beatification of Paul VI, whom Bergoglio has slated for canonization later this year.

But if you recognize the post-Conciliar popes as true popes — Successors of St. Peter and Vicars of Jesus Christ on earth — there is no room whatsoever for you to challenge the validity of the canonizations that they solemnly promulgated.

The illogic in the SSPX position is not lost even on simple lay people. Just a day or two ago, I was talking to a Catholic mother who teaches her kids religion out of the standard high school text My Catholic Faith — a pre-Vatican II work, incidentally, republished by SSPX in the United States.

“Don’t people see the contradiction?” she asked me. “How can you possibly say that you recognize the pope or are subject to him if you reject the saints he makes?”


Rev. Paul Robinson SSPX

The incoherence of the SSPX position was highlighted the very next day in the Society’s promotional material for a new book, The Realist Guide to Religion and Science, by Rev. Paul Robinson SSPX.

Fr. Robinson invited Rev. Paul Haffner, a priest from the Novus Ordo establishment who has written extensively on religion and science, to review his manuscript and to contribute a Foreword to the book. Fr. Haffner was happy to help. There was, however, a problem. In his Foreword, Fr. Haffner not only recommended Fr. Robinson’s work, but also praised the “realism” of Paul VI and John Paul II, and referred to them, respectively, as “Blessed” and “Saint.”

Well of course Fr. Haffner regards JP2 as a saint — because when a pope says someone is a saint, that’s what he is! It’s standard pre- and post-Vatican II doctrine.

But not so in the theological Bizarro World of SSPX. So, on the SSPX site promoting Fr. Robinson’s book, we find the following disclaimer:

In the foreword, Fr Haffner makes reference to the support of the Conciliar Popes for realism. In doing so, he assigns to Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II the titles of ‘Blessed’ and ‘Saint’ respectively. As Fr Robinson was not provided an opportunity to read the foreword before the publication of his book, he was not able to express his adherence to the position of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) on the doubtful nature of the canonizations, because of the many changes in the canonization process. In addition, he was not able to reiterate the particular concerns about the canonization of Pope John Paul II that he expressed in his Nov./Dec. 2013 Angelus article ‘The Difference between a “Saint” and a “Saint”’. [My emphasis.]

The irony here — a non-trad clergyman takes for granted a traditional teaching that SSPX explicitly rejects — should be obvious.

But there’s an even bigger problem underneath. Note the phrase I have highlighted: “adherence to the position of the Society of St Pius X.

As I explained to the inquiring mom, the reason why SSPX is able get priests and layman to swallow such an obviously false position on canonizations and countless other doctrinal questions is that SSPX presents itself as a substitute for the magisterium of the Church. The “pope” may speak and issue decrees, but the Society is the final arbiter of “tradition.”

And boy, if you’re an SSPX priest and seem to have (gulp!) contradicted one of its “positions,” you need to make it very clear that you are — heh heh — really, truly a Society loyalist. So, the promo for Fr. Robinson’s book goes on to say:

Thus, the appearance of ‘Blessed’ and ‘Saint’ beside Paul VI and John Paul II in the foreword of The Realist Guide should in no way be construed as an acceptance by Fr Robinson of the modern canonizations or a deviation from his publicly expressed opinions on that subject or the position of the SSPX. Nor should the foreword be construed as implying that Fr Robinson believes that the Conciliar Popes have been realist in their philosophical outlook. [My emphasis.]

Since “deviation” from the party line is always a crime, whether in Mao’s China or the SSPX, this profession of faith was intended, no doubt, to head off a phone call from Menzingen, announcing to the good Father that he’d been selected to found a mission in Sudan, so could he please get his malaria and anti-dysentery shots topped up.

And this is how it’s always been in SSPX: You follow the “line” of the Society — as enunciated by Abp. Lefebvre in my day, or Bp. Fellay in our own — as the correct position on any one of dozens of the difficult issues that faithful Catholics face in the post-Vatican II era. You affirm when the Society affirms, deny when it denies, and if its position zig-zags on one day to contradict what it said the day before, you pretend not to notice — knowing that those who show loyalty to any principle beyond the “position of the Society” du jour soon find themselves on the outside.

But there is no substitute for the Magisterium. And those thousands and thousands of souls who now blindly follow the “positions of the Society” and have checked their brains at the door will end up preserving not Catholicism or the Church, but the mentality of a cult, where Il Duce ha sempre ragione — the Leader always knows best.

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