Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thoughts on PCED and the CDF

The big news in the SSPX excommunications in the past week and a half is that Pope Benedict has placed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The liberal media has been trumpeting this as the Pope disciplining a commission-run-wild, at which he is angry over the Bishop Williamson debacle.

But what I wonder is this: has it been stated anywhere by anybody with any authority that the decision to place Ecclesia Dei under the authority of the CDF was in fact a disciplinary one? The popular take on this is that this was Benedict's way of disciplining a commission that was a loose cannon, as if Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was doing all the footwork in preparation for the lifting of the excommunications without Benedict's knowledge. In the secular mindset, being placed under somebody else is always an insult because everything is about a power struggle. But has anybody in the Vatican actually said this was a disciplinary move by the Pope?

I think it actually could be strategic. By placing PCED under the jurisdiction of the CDF and not the CDWDS, Benedict has connected issues relating to the Traditional Latin Mass with doctrine, not discipline. This is interesting, because it says two things to me (1) This may be a move to show that the Pope is serious about addressing the deeper theological issues that still divide the SSPX from the Church, and (2) It may prove an occasion for a broader, more general (and I think more important) explication of Vatican II itself.

How long have faithful Catholics been wishing for the Pope to give some sort of authoritative interpretation of Vatican II to the Church to put an end once and for all to all the anarchy? I think the SSPX situation could provide Benedict with the opportunity and pretext to have this discussion about this elephant in the room. It seems that positioning PCED under the CDF could be the first move in preparing the Church for addressing the real question that has begged resolution for the past forty years. Therefore, I am not entirely buying the idea that the movement of PCED is punishment, though I may of course be completely ignorant and mistaken.

Think about the possibility for important clarifications that could arise from a doctrinal discussion with the SSPX - the Church could clear up confusion about ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, liturgical issues and the role of the Church in the world and the true interpretation of the documents of Vatican II. I dialoguing with the SSPX openly on the level of doctrine the Pope would have to address these issues, and knowing Benedict, the statements he would make would be concise and unambiguous affirmations of tradition with an emphasis on righting errant interpretations of Vatican II, both those which reject it and those which treat the Council itself as a super-dogma.

I am glad the PCED is now under the CDF and I hope this is laying the ground work for an important doctrinal clarification of Vatican II, which could happen in the context of a SSPX dialogue.

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