An open email to Ann Barnhardt

Ann Barnhardt is a financial industry type who is also a Catholic blogger of sorts at http://barnhardt.biz.  Today she wrote about the SSPX and got it so wrong that I just had to reply.  Here is my open-letter email to her.

Subject: It's okay that you don't understand what the SSPX is about: that's not necessary for salvation.

Dear Ann,

It's clear from your website comments that you don't understand the nature and mission of the SSPX.  You state:

"The Society of Saint Pius the Tenth (SSPX) is a group of traditionalist Catholics who broke away from Rome in 1970 after Vatican II when they were told by evil Marxist infiltrators inside the Church that they were forbidden from saying the Tridentine Latin Mass. They were led by an Archbishop named Marcel Lefebvre, hence the term "Lefebvrists" sometimes used to describe those in the SSPX."

Woah cowgirl... this isn't correct.  You don't even get points for being close because you're not.  From its inception, the only people "being led by the SSPX" (technically, just Archbishop Lefebvre at that point) were a handful of seminarians through their academic and spiritual formation to become priests.

The SSPX was formed in about 1970 with the sole purpose of training priests in the ancient and accepted traditional methods (you knew Archbishop Lefebvre started and ran seminaries in French-speaking north Africa, right? He was kind of an expert and forming and coaching up them priest-candidates).  All future priests trained by Archbishop Lefebvre were to be incardinated in dioceses in Europe (presumably in those dioceses in France and Switzerland whose bishops were so supportive of Lefebvre at the beginning).  Having been himself a diocesean bishop and former head of the Holy Ghost Fathers, he knew the SSPX would need canonical approval and the SSPX was approved by both the local bishop and by Rome (like he would roll any other way?). The tone from Rome began to change as the first class of seminarians approached their ordination date in 1976. 

"The legalisms are EXTREMELY confusing, but as I understand it..."

You got that right, sister! It's like you have to be a canon lawyer to make sense of it... and would you believe it? Archbishop Lefebvre was a canon lawyer too (bona fide and everything!).  You have written some notes on your website that there is practically no rule of law in the financial markets these days; it was worse in Rome after Vatican 2, especially for those attached to tradition.  The suspension "a divinis" of 1976 was not done according to the rules on the book so Lefebvre -- being a canon lawyer and all -- immediately appealed.  By the rules, censures are automatically void while an appeal is pending.  Rome never ruled on that appeal (that's right... the case is still pending).  The seminarians were ordained and the legal standing of the SSPX has been a point of confusion and calumny ever since.

"There have been steps toward reconciliation over the last 40 years, and as I understand it, SSPX Masses are indeed valid, but they are still not in full communion with the Church."
If you count 'since before the suspension of 1976' as being when the SSPX sought to avert any real or apparent ruptures with Rome, then yes.  

[Sidebar: the term 'full communion with the Church' is so eloquently in the spirit of Vatican 2; it suggests there can be such a thing as impartial communion when in fact one is either in communion with the Church or they are not.  I think I will start referring to my wife as being 'fully pregnant' until she gives birth to what I hope will be a being in 'full attainment of human nature.' It's not like you to speak their language, Ann, and it feels weird... like you're thinking about becoming a minister in the universal life church or something. It makes me wonder if perhaps you are unwell.  I would send you some herbal teas but you don't strike me as a tea drinker (and the good stuff can't be mailed).]

I'm not going to counter your assertion that Williamson wears a tin-foil hat (because, as he once pointed out, an aluminum foil hat is dangerous because the aluminum can cause alzheimers -- ironic, because who would notice?) or that a lot of the people who follow the SSPX are nuts.  But, if you really want to see crazy, you should check out the groups that spun off from the SSPX because they thought the SSPX was too liberal!  If you doubt me, check out the Society of Saint Pius V or the CMRI.  Or check out the website Traditio or whatever "father moderator" is writing these days.  They make Bishop Williamson look well-adjusted by comparison!

God works in mysterious ways.  He allows the Church to be eviscerated (awesome word, btw... I'm totally adopting it for my own uses) by malicious men "in the spirit of Vatican 2" and He raised a new Saint Athanatius in the name of Marcel Lefebvre to help the Holy Father restore the light of Truth whenever the Holy Father gets around to calling on the SSPX to do so (notice I didn't say the SSPX is the Truth and will act on their own... neither Lefebvre nor Fellay ever said this).

Case in point: consider the consecrations of 1988. The church was in crisis (it was before that and still is, btw).  The problem facing tradition wasn't a lack of vocations but the uncertainty that priests could continue to be ordained so that the work of tradition might carry on after Lefebvre's death.  In providing this guarantee of continued ordinations (ie: making four new bishops) a double-blessing was made to the church: a handful of priests and seminarians left the SSPX (bad from a certain SSPX point of view) to become the nucleus of the new FSSP (good from the view of people who use the phrase 'full communion').  This created a multiplication of force effect and allowed all those Catholics who sympathized with the SSPX but were too timid/unsure/chicken to directly support them to now attend a 'fully approved' Mass according to the old rite.  And the FSSP was only the first of several (many?) "Ecclesia Dei" groups devoted to the old rite of Mass and the Sacraments which were formed after 1988. Some in the SSPX circles thought (and still think) the FSSP is a tool by modernist Rome to get loyal followers of the SSPX to pulled back into the new Mass crowd.  If that was really the plan in Rome then it was a failure and I hope they keep repeating this failure over and over and over and over and never learn from their mistake.

Bottom line (a little financial-lingo for you): you don't *need* to be an SSPXer or even have an opinion about them in order to be a good, Latin-Mass attending Catholic. That and there must be some insecure idiots among my fellow SSPXers, thinking they need your endorsement in order to feel good.  But if you're going to offer opinions or even commentations against the SSPX would you at least research and get the historical facts right before you unload, reload, rinse, and repeat?  It seems you're one of those "cuddly cholerics" who don't let anything get in their way when they've made up their mind about something; please don't neglect facts before your next trip to the traddie safari.

"Yea though I walk though the valley of the shadow of doubt, I shall fear no un-researched opinion by a market analyst on the topic of religion because my God is an awesome God who set up the Catholic Church to show me the way."

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