ELEISON COMMENTS DCCXCIX (November 5, 2022) : 79 SEMINARIANS – II
In these “Comments” last week was mentioned the news of a record entry for the new school-year of 79 young men to try their vocation to the traditional Catholic priesthood in the four major seminaries of what is known as the “Society of St Pius X”. This ought be good news for the entire Catholic Church, because every traditional priest eventually ordained will be a source of traditional sacraments for the benefit of all Catholic souls. But it may not in reality be such good news, for two reasons in particular, both of which call for prayer, only one of which was mentioned last week.
The second reason needs little explanation, but is very real – electronics. When Fr Franz Schmidberger was Superior General of the SSPX from 1982 to 1994, a layman reportedly once said to him words to the effect that electronics would destroy his priests. He was referring of course to the swamp of temptations against holy purity being made so easily available by television and the Internet, and this was even before the invention of the Smartphone, coming a few years later. Indeed, is it not becoming almost superhuman for a young man born and bred long after the invention of such machines, to keep clear of their seduction ? Of course God and His Mother can take a young boy or girl through a maze of sewers and bring them out smelling of roses, but given God’s respect for the free-will with which He endowed each of them, may we not reasonably surmise that such cases will be the exception rather than the rule ? And in that case, how many of the 79 young men may not run into that obstacle on their way to the priesthood? Every single faithful Catholic priest is a great gift of God. We must pray for all 79 vocations…
As for the first reason, introduced in last week’s “Comments”, it is less obvious because it involves not physical purity but, still more serious, the spiritual purity of the faith. A reader had suggested that today’s so-called Catholic “Resistance” movement might have had more success in attracting vocations (like the 79), he argued, if it had been properly structured, as is much more normal for Catholic communities, like the four major seminaries of the “SSPX”. Last week these “Comments” began to answer that, abnormally today, an emphasis on structure is liable to distract from what is more important, namely the Catholic faith, and that one may fear that this is what is happening in the four seminaries mentioned. Here are two separate points, the second of which will have to wait until the “Comments” of next week.
Last week it was stated that the essence of today’s crisis of the Church consists in the Vatican II split between Catholic Authority and Catholic Truth, when the highest authorities in the Church, assembled in Council, officially abandoned Church Tradition for “church” modernisation. This meant that from then on Catholics had to choose : either cling to Authority by “obeying” the modernists and abandoning Tradition, or cling to Truth and defy more or less the apparent Church “authorities”. Or they can choose any one of several possible combinations of part Truth and part Authority anywhere between the two poles.
As for Archbishop Lefebvre, his choice was as much respect as possible for Authority in Rome as would be consistent with not abandoning Tradition (because Catholic Truth can only be in accordance with Tradition). But when in 1988 the Roman authorities backed him up against the wall by their implicit refusal to look after Tradition, then for him doctrine (Truth) finally took precedence over diplomacy (towards Authority, finally truthless). And so he defied the Romans by consecrating four bishops, in “Operation Survival”, instead of “obeying” truthless Authority in what would have been “Operation Suicide”.“Operation Survival” ensured for his Society over two more decades of the primacy of doctrine (Truth), but then by striving to obtain official approval for theSociety, his successors turned the Society into the Newsociety, by preferring Authority (recognition by Rome) to Truth (the defence of the Faith). They were giving up on the Archbishop’s heart and soul – the heroic defence of that Truth which is the heart and soul of the Church. Their Newsociety might be more popular and more comfortable, but it would no longer be the stuff of martyrs.
How can “good” Catholic churchmen go so wrong ?
The modernising influence is too strong.