First, contrary to some reports, the Catholic Church does recognize these ordinations, by which we must understand, though, that 13 more men have taken the priesthood of Christ illegally from bishops acting in a schismatic manner.
This was a schismatic act? This statement begs the question: What canon states that prohibited participation in sacred rites is acting in a schismatic manner?
Peters mentions canon 1364 in the next sentence, seemingly linking his “schismatic manner” remark to this section of canon law, Penalties for individual dilects and Dilects against the unity of the Church. Canon 1364 mentions apostates, heretics and schismatics incurring latae sententiae excommunication, but does not provide in itself or in the following canons what constitutes schism or a schismatic act. This is because that definition is found elsewhere. This section does not deal with defining an apostate or a heretic or a schismatic.
Canon 1364 seems to be the relevant canon that has drawn Peters' attention. Canon 1365 reads: “A person guilty of prohibited participation in sacred rites (communicatio in sacris) is to be punished with a just penalty.” Notice, however, that no mention is made here of prohibited participation in sacred rites being schismatic. It merely states that it should be punished with “a just penalty.” If Peters insists on calling prohibited participation in a sacred rite a schismatic act his logic would have to carry through to the other canons in this section. Thus Peters is forced to conclude that those who throw away or preserve the consecrated species for sacrilegious purposes is acting in a schismatic manner; Catholic parents who baptize their children in another religion are acting in a schismatic manner; a person who commits perjury before an ecclesiastical authority is acting in a schismatic manner; those who utter blasphemy or incites hatred of the Church or religion is acting in a schismatic manner. Indeed, the meaning of acting in a schismatic manner loses all specificity to the point that it becomes meaningless.
Canon law, however, provides a very clear and specific definition of schism: “The withdrawl of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CIC 751). Canon law does not provide a definition of what it means to act in a schismatic manner, but one can assume that doing so would entail acting in a way that demonstrates or appears to demonstrate a withdrawl of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
It is not at all clear that SSPX priestly ordinations are actions intended, with malice or culpability, to be acts that willfully demonstrate or willfully give the appearance of withdrawing submission to the Supreme Pontiff or communion with the members of the Church subject to him. Thus when Peters writes that the SSPX priestly ordinations “seem clearly to be new acts of schism under 1983 CIC 1364” he is completely misconstruing canon law by interpolating into the canon his personal opinion as to what constitutes a schismatic act.
What is clear is that this is Peters’ opinion, and Peters’ opinion doesn’t seem to the be the same opinion held by the Holy Father, as Peters, himself, admits when he wrote: “Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of any canons that Rome appears willing to enforce against the SSPX.”
And this is really the point, isn’t it? Why would the Holy Father slap penalties on the SSPX and at the same time eagerly work to regularize them? The Holy Father isn’t schizophrenic, as so many conservative Catholic commentators seem to be. They will speak from one side of their mouths about how important it is that the SSPX be brought back into the fold, and how important unity in the Church is. Yet from the other side of their mouths they complain that the Holy Father isn’t slapping penalties on them for illegitimate ordinations. These people are, I’m afraid, only paying lip service to the whole idea of ecclesial unity.
If tomorrow the Patriarch of Constantinople would announce his intention of ending the East/West Schism by fully accepting everything that the Catholic Church teaches and by submitting to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff by the end of the year, who would start complaining bitterly that any ordinations of Orthodox priests between now and then would be schismatic acts deserving of ecclesial punishment? Who would call for the Holy Father to re-excommunicate the Patriarch of Constantinople? It should be obvious that such people would be acting in a way contrary to unity.
We all know what kind of illogic and malice fuels the German bishops who are threatening excommunications over SSPX priestly ordinations. They have always been upfront in thier vehemence over the possibility of the regularization of the SSPX. But what illogic and malice drives these conservative Catholic commentators is a mystery I don’t care to delve too deeply. It would appear that they are, under a veneer of faux traditionalism, really of the same mind as the liberals, modernists, and progressivists. I hope this is only an appearance. However, it does seem to me that when Peters wrote, “I thought lifting the SSPX excommunications was meant to bring them closer to Catholic unity; instead, it seems to confirm their drifting more distant,” he is being more than a little... hopeful?