April 15th is an unpleasant day in the United States and we await its arrival with dread. But in Rome and in Écône, Switzerland and around the world thousands upon thousands look upon the 15th with fear and hope all mixed together. April 15th is the deadline. And if you are smart, you should be paying attention too.
By April 15th the Society of Saint Pius X will give their response to a “Doctrinal Preamble” outlining “certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine … (while also) leaving open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later Magisterium.”
The Holy See and the SSPX have been in discussion for a few years and have been going back and forth on this document for months and it all comes down to the 15th.
If they refuse to sign, it may well lead to a permanent schism which would be a disaster for all the souls involved, the Pope, and the Church as a whole.
If they do sign, it opens the door to regularization of the Society and an end to ...
Actually, if they do sign, it is not an end to anything. It's a beginning of, well hold on to your hats. It's gonna a be a bumpy ride.
If they do sign and the Pope offers them a Personal Prelature or some such thing, all hell is gonna break loose. Progressive forces within the Church will freak and then they will freak some more. To them, this is will be a clear sign that the Pope is repudiating Vatican II, dusting off the torture devices in the Vatican basement, and lacing up his Nikes preparing to chase down some Jews with a baseball bat. There will be no limit to the hyperbolic nonsense they will be spewing.
But speaking of hyperbolic nonsense, there are dark forces within the Society who will likely reject any reconciliation and may figure that they are now unbound from their imposed silence. I speak, of course of Bishop Richard Williamson, who has for years done everything he could to sabotage any prospect of reconciliation**. There is almost no limit to the problems that this holocaust denier can cause.
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth all across the spectrum.
But after all that, the Church will be in a much better place. We are better off with the SSPX within the fold.
So, will they or won't they?
There are several indications that they may very well sign. Louie Verrecchio speculates:
Fr. Franz Schmidberger, District Superior of the German District of the SSPX (who had stated just last February that the Preamble is “unacceptable”), for example, penned a statement to be read in the Society chapels under his care on Sunday, March 25th, which stated in part:
We have thus arrived at a crucial point. Even if the letter (of the Preamble) strikes an unpleasant sound, there are legitimate hopes for a satisfactory solution. If this solution would be reached it would considerably strengthen all the orthodox forces in the Church. If not, it would weaken and discourage these forces. So it is not primarily about our brotherhood, but for the good of the Church.
On March 29th, the General House of the SSPX issued a statement of its own relative to this situation, saying in part:
Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, has urgently been inviting the faithful to redouble their fervor in prayer… that the Divine Will may be done.
The Society of St. Pius X, which wants only the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, turns with confidence to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that she might obtain from her divine Son the lights necessary to know His will clearly and to carry it out courageously.
It appears to me that the Society is preparing its faithful for reconciliation under terms that may be less than perfect, but that nonetheless represent a pathway to healing for the Church as a whole.
I think that is right. Were I a bettin' man, I would bet they sign.
Buckle up kids!
** I have revised this post to remove some name calling I did. It wasn't proper, even in describing Bp. Williamson.