Let's carefully think our way -- one step at a time -- through this rather outlandish little story from The New York Times, the one that ran under the headline, "Funeral for Ex-Nazi in Italy Is Halted as Protesters Clash."
It would be hard to imagine a more controversial figure in the context of modern Europe than an unrepentant Nazi. Thus, using the logic often associated with the powers that be at the Times, this man must have something to do with the hard-right Roman Catholic Church. Here's the top of the story:
ROME -- To shouts of “assassin” and “murderer,” the hearse bearing the corpse of Erich Priebke, the former Nazi who died under house arrest in Rome last Friday, wound on Tuesday through the streets toward a church in a tiny hilltop town 20 miles south of Rome. Police officers in riot gear had to hold back enraged citizens who kicked and punched the vehicle as it passed.
Eventually, the funeral was halted, Italian news media reported. Afterward, protesters and hard-right sympathizers battled in the streets. It was unclear when -- even whether -- it would actually take place.
For a while, it did not seem as if the former SS captain, associated with one of the most gruesome massacres of civilians in World War II, would find anyplace to rest in peace. The Diocese of Rome refused Mr. Priebke a public funeral in a church.
So, step one. The Diocese of Rome -- as in the real local Catholic diocese -- said "no."
Let's continue -- carefully.
... (Up) stepped the Society of St. Pius X, a Roman Catholic group that rejects the church’s modernizing overhauls -- in particular, the teaching that absolved Jews of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus -- and agreed to celebrate a furtive funeral in the town of Albano Laziale.
Now you remember the Society of St. Pius X, of course. This is a group of radical traditionalists that has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
In this case, strangely enough, we know that because of the very next statement in this Times report.
The Society of St. Pius X is no stranger to controversy. During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI devoted considerable energies to bringing the group into the fold, and the church has never fully abandoned that effort.
Logic! Perhaps it is best to paraphrase the wise Professor Digory thoughts in "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," in the classic C.S. Lewis series "The Chronicles of Narnia."
If (a) Pope Benedict XVI devoted considerable energies to bringing The Society of St. Pius X back "into the fold" and (b) the Roman Catholic Church has "never fully abandoned that effort," then it is logical to conclude that (c) The Society of St. Pius X is not "in the fold" and, thus, not part of the Roman Catholic Church.
Thus, it is hardly logical for America's newspaper of record to refer to this schismatic society as "a Roman Catholic group."
Logic! What are they teaching these days at the copy desk of The New York Times?
Yes, there are complicated facts involved in this story. Quality newspapers often have to deal with complicated facts and it helps to get the details right.
Meanwhile, here's a bit of church history, and a key URL, from the Catholic conservatives at the Eternal Word Television Network:
Within the Traditionalist movement, which is certainly dominated by the Society, other branches developed. For example, the SSPX uses the 1962 Missal, which includes changes made by John XXIII. Some in the movement reject any changes, and thus will use only the Missal from Pius XII's time. Others argue that the See of Peter is vacant since Pius XII (sedevacantists). Others have elected their own popes (there were, at last count, at least 3 antipopes). And so the fracturing natural to schismatics has its way.
In 1989, Archbishop Lefebvre, fearing that he would soon die and leave no one to ordain priests for the SSPX, sought an agreement with the Holy See for the lawful continuation of the Society. After first reaching one, with Cardinal Ratzinger acting for the Pope, Lefebvre reversed himself, and in an act which was ipso facto schismatic ordained 4 bishops without a papal mandate and incurred an automatic excommunication, confirmed a few days later by Decree of the Holy See.
Thus, class, what is the status of The Society of St. Pius X as a whole?
Correction please. Post haste.