Apparently Staples is assuming that the priests of the SSPX, and possibly other Traditional laity, are not united with the Church as a part of Her “visible bodily structure” or bonded to Her by “ecclesiastical government.” But is this true? The SSPX was instituted with full approval from the local bishop in 1970 and its ministers are currently under no censure of excommunication, but simply lack a canonical status. Rome has readily admitted that their situation is not like the Orthodox in that they are still considered subject to the Code of Canon Law and are not schismatic. Pope Benedict even went so far as to say in 2007 that the situation of the SSPX is, “a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.”
Of course, if Staples would look at paragraph eight of Lumen Gentium, he would learn that the “Church of Christ” merely “subsists in” the Catholic Church. Thus, even if the SSPX were not in “full Communion” with the Catholic Church, they could, according to Vatican II, still belong to the “Church of Christ” and thus contain “many elements of sanctification and truth.” Furthermore, even if the SSPX were formally schismatic, as Staples claims the sedevacantists are, paragraph fifteen of Lumen Gentium makes this seem like a pretty good state to be in:
The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power…
Thus, according to Lumen Gentium, even if the SSPX is not “fully incorporated into the Society of the Church” they can still “in some real way” be joined with the Catholic Church in the Holy Spirit, receiving gifts and graces whereby God “is operative among them with His sanctifying power.” If this is the case, what is the real importance of full incorporation “into the Society of the Church?” As this exercise demonstrates, trying to pin any precise definition on the shifting, ambiguous, and contradictory language of Vatican II documents is a recipe for utter disaster; hence, the Traditionalists’ critique of the Council texts themselves.
Editor’s note: There’s much more to this wide ranging article.