I presently have about four posts half-written; so forgive me if I begin another and for a moment indulge my inner fanboy and let loose a cheer for our pope.
As I’ve been writing, there has been a longstanding conflict between Traditionalist Catholics and the Mother Church over the reforms of Vatican II, with the Traditionalist Society of St. Pius X having been out of communion with Rome since 1988. Pope Benedict has been in close, but tense, talks with the SSPX since the beginning of his pontificate. In 2009 he lifted the excommunications of the surviving SSPX bishops. Now, it is rumored and widely believed that reconciliation between the SSPX and the Vatican is at hand.
I think Pope Benedict is brilliant. As much as Pope John Paul II was a voice of reconciliation and healing through love and comfort and welcome — through sheer goodness — Pope Benedict XVI is a voice of reconciliation, healing, and reconstruction through intellect, reasoning, and enlightened leadership. Since the beginning of his papacy, he has sought to return a sharp edge to Catholic doctrine and theology — not the bloody axe many expected from him as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the formal successor to the Inquisition — but the finely honed, elegant sword of precise argument that has made the Catholic Church historically great. He has sought to clarify the points of doctrinal contention stemming from Vatican II, to re-declare the truth of Catholic orthodoxy, and to trumpet the continuity of our tradition rather than the rupture some, like the SSPX, have seen.
David G. Bonagura, Jr. gives a splendid analysis of the SSPX reconciliation in this column: what it means and what it doesn’t mean. As I have been witnessing, Pope Benedict is not rolling back Vatican II, but through everything he does, affirming the continuity of the Council Fathers with Tradition. What the pope is rejecting is the “spirit of Vatican II” through which modernists and liberals have tried to break with the Church’s foundations. Rather than “attacking nuns,” as many in the liberal American media have portrayed the Vatican’s investigation of the LCWR, Benedict is reaching out to both the SSPX, drifting to the right, and the LCWR, drifting to the left, in an aim to restore both to full communion. The restored SSPX, so ardent in promoting the traditions of the Church, will only add to the movement within the Church that is already gaining momentum: the revitalization and reinvigoration of liturgy and tradition and evangelization.
So much in this piece makes me want to cheer, or passionately underline with my blue pen. But this part sums up my joy:
. . . The reconciliation speaks volumes about the nature of Benedict’s pontificate and the character of Benedict the man. . . . Benedict, despite the many contrary voices in the Curia, is personally making reconciliation a reality, at his speed and on his terms.
We have already seen the beginnings of reconciliation with Protestant sects under this pope, and an ever-growing wave in the past quarter-century of individual Protestants returning home to Rome. It is my daily prayer that under Pope Benedict’s leadership, we will see this tide of reconciliation mount higher and higher, toward the reunification of all Christians.