An interview with Father Schmidberger about the Society of St. Pius X-Rome talks
On September 18, 2012, Father Franz Schmidberger, Society of St. Pius X Germany district Superior and former General Superior, gave an interview to the site pius.info. You can also see it here in english subtitles.
Pius.info : It has grown quiet around the talks of the society St. Pius X with Rome. The last major event was the general chapter at Ecôn. As a district superior, you have participated. How would you judge the impact of this general chapter inside and outside of the society?
P. Sch.: To begin with, this general chapter has strengthened the unity in our own ranks which has suffered a bit in the last few months. I see it as a great grace that we were able to find a common ground. This will help us to continue our work for the church with renewed strength and resolve. This would be the impact on the inside. On the outside, I think we could concentrate on those issues that we absolutely have to ask of Rome in the case of normalization. These issues can be formulated in three points: Firstly that we can continue to point out certain errors of the II. Vatican Council, which means that we can speak openly about it. Secondly, that we may only use the liturgical books from 1962, especially the Missal, and thirdly that there will always be a bishop in the ranks of the society that is chosen from the ranks of the society.
Around Pentecost, it seemed that a legal recognition of the society was imminent. Now, it seems, the solution has moved into greater distance. What happened in the last few weeks? How and when did this change occur?
This change happened when our general superior, Bishop Fellay, met the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, Cardinal Levada, on 13th June in Rome. There, Levada presented Fellay a new doctrinal document, which on the one hand accepted the text offered by Bishop Fellay, but on the other hand contained significant change where it poses a real problem from our perspective – and an entirely new situation.
There is talk about a letter which the pope had personally written to the general superior.
This happened most likely due to the fact that we asked the pope if these new demands were truly added with his approval, if this really was from him or rather from some of his assistants. He assured us that it was his own wish that these demands were met.
And what are these new demands from the 13th June ?
Especially, this is about us recognizing the permissibility of the new liturgy. I think what is meant is the legitimacy of the new liturgy. Also, that it may be possible to continue discussions about a few nuances of the Second Vatican Council, but that we had to be ready to basically accept its continuity, meaning to see the Second Vatican Council as a part of the unbroken chain of other councils and teachings of the church. And this simply will not do. There are inconsistencies in the Second Vatican Council that cannot be denied. We cannot accept this hermeneutic of continuity like that.
How will the society react to these new, unacceptable demands ?
I think we will tell the roman institutions that we have our difficulties with them and that they will have to abandon these demands if they truly wish normalization.
It has become evident in the talks that took place since October 2009 until April 2011 that there are significant differences of perspective concerning the second Vatican Council, certain texts of the council and the postconciliar magisterium. Everybody had agreed that it would not be easy to find an agreement between the views of the postconciliar magisterium and the view that we support along with the Popes of the 19th century and the constant teachings of the church. And I think as long as these wounds are not healed with the correct medicine, and that would be to talk openly about those points that do not fit together, there will be no real solution for the crisis in the church.
Bishop Müller has been appointed prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He is known for his antipathy towards the society. Also, his very debatable opinions concerning dogmatic questions come into play. What position does he take concerning the negotiations of the society with Rome?
Yes, the recently appointed Archbishop Müller is now prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which makes him, after the pope, the man carrying the final responsibility for these negotiations. Of course Archbishop Di Noia is our direct person of contact, appointed personally by the Pope, perhaps as a balance to Archbishop Müller, who has in fact demonstrated a constantly hostile position toward us. But what I see as even more problematic are his heterodox teachings concerning certain issues, for example transsubstantiation, the change of substance, that happens in the mass, that bread and wine are made into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. He more or less replaces this with something called “transfinalisation”, which means that bread and wine become a new purpose. You can read this in his dogmatics.
Or another example: He does not clearly support the fact that the consecration is actually happening through the words said. Concerning Mariology, he does not appear to have a clear picture of the constant Virginity of our Lady; at least it does not appear that way when reading his dogmatics. On the contrary: It is possible to claim that he, in certain parts, leaves the opinion the church has ever believed, or at least he allows some ambiguities. And this is in fact very grave and very regrettable because the prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of the faith truly has to be the supreme guardian of the faith; a guardian of the purity of Faith, the intactness of the faith, the virginity of the faith. He also has to try to convey this faith in all its beauty, depth and greatness to the faithful. Here should never be any doubt or ambiguity concerning what the church has always believed and preached.
On the one hand, the society is constantly asked to accept the papacy, which has never been an issue, and also the continuity in doctrinal teaching. On the other side, Protestants are invited into the churches without any precondition in the name of ecumenism even though Protestantism is rejecting the papacy as a whole. How would you comment on this?
Of course this is contradictory. You practice ecumenism with people, who deny catholic dogma, deny the papacy, who from the basics have an entirely different position.
We accept the full catholic doctrine, the entire catholic faith. We would love to sign the credo with our own blood, the faith of our church. And we are charged that we do not accept this or that. Do Protestants accept the second Vatican council? That is the way one ought to ask. If today everyone can do whatever he likes in liturgy, why not generally allow the old one?
Of course, there has been a renewed openness with the current pope, and we thank God this happened with 2007’s Motu proprio, but now, for example, a new secretary has been appointed to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Bishop Roch from England, who is a known adversary of the Motu proprio and has tried everything to hinder, not support, the old mass in his diocese.
Things like that are very strange.
If the society answers to these two points, meaning permissibility of the new mass and the continuity of doctrine, and answers them negatively, saying there has been a change with the Second Vatican Council, how will Rome, in your opinion, react to that? Thinking of the worst case: Could a new excommunication be possible?
I personally do not think that. Since the pope himself took back the excommunication of the society’s four bishops in 2009, it would imply inconsistency in his thinking and in his actions. That would not really work for the welfare of the church. Also, one has to realize that the society is not only a community of 560 or 570 priests and some sisters and brothers, with even some schools. It also has widespread influence and – perhaps it is insolent to say so, but I believe it – it is, in a way, the backbone, the point of reference, of all those supporting tradition in the church. If this reference point were discredited in such a way, it meant a tremendous demoralization of all restorative and conservative forces in the church. This would be a catastrophe. Not so much for the society, but for the church. I would see this as a great detriment.
There is also some criticism. Some say that the negotiations have failed because of the stubbornness and rigidity of the society. Others question the talks as a whole, saying: “It is no use anyway. Why talk to Rome at all ?”
So our last question is: Was there any gain from the talks with Rome, and if there was, what is it?
They had great use. In my opinion, they have shown that we have an interest in a normalization of the situation, that we see our situation as a result of the crisis in the church as an abnormal situation. We have shown that this drives us to aspire a settling of matters, but also that this situation is not our fault. We really want to highlight this.
It is necessary because of the current situation, if you want to keep the old doctrine, the old Liturgy, the old discipline of the church as a whole and if you want to live a catholic life out of this wealth.
This would be the first point.
Also, the talks have demonstrated that we do cling to Rome, that we, too, accept the pope, that this is self-evident to us. On the other hand, the talks have made clear that there are doctrinal differences and that these differences do not come from our side, but – unfortunately one has to say it – form the side of the current official representatives of the church, who organize Assisi- meetings, who practice what has been prohibited by the church, popes and councils of the past. And explicitly so!
That is the second point.
The third use of the talks: They have shown us some weaknesses in our own ranks. We humbly have to admit that. So we have also experienced a process of clarification on the inside. We do not agree with those completely rejecting any talks with Rome. I would put it this way: The society never has worked for itself; has never seen itself as an end in itself, but it has always desired to serve the church, to serve the popes.
This is what Archbishop Lefebvre has always said. We want to be available to the bishops, to the pope, we want to serve them, and we want to help them lead the church out of its crisis, to renew the church in all its beauty, its holiness. But of course this can only happen without any compromise, without any false compromise. That is of great importance to us. We did indeed try – this is all we wanted – to officially re-establish this treasure in the church, to give it back its rights, and maybe we even achieved that to some degree.
The society has contributed by these talks to establish a thought-provoking impulse about Vatican II and some of its declarations.
(Sources: pius.info – DICI no. 261 dated September 28, 2012)