Response to an SSPX Priest (Part II):
By Sean Johnson
Shortly after my article, “Response to an SSPX Priest,” appeared on Cathinfo, it elicited an anonymous response from one writing under the pseudonym “Henry4.”1 As was the case with the anonymous response to my rebuttal of Fr. François Laisney’s letter, “Striking Contrasts,” there is strong evidence to suggest (though not prove) that “Henry4” was sent to Cathinfo (or was already monitoring) for the purpose of attempting a rebuttal, and that both rebuttals were the work of the same person.
What is the evidence that might suggest this?
Firstly, “Henry4,” in his rebuttal, seems to display a familiarity with the French language (as was the case with the anonymous response to the rebuttal of Fr. Laisney’s letter, in which several indicators of French heritage/culture are detected), as he produced a quote for comparison from that language from the French Society journal Fideliter. Certainly, the mere fact of familiarity with French does not indicate one was sent by another to offer a rebuttal. But let us combine this interesting fact with the next piece of evidence:
Secondly, “Henry4” had no previous posting history on Cathinfo: His only response/responses were to my article, and his membership on Cathinfo began only a couple days after my article posted.
Thirdly, “Henry4” has made no subsequent posts on any other topic in the seven weeks that have passed since his initial rebuttal.2
Fourthly, textual criticism also indicates a strong coincidence of opinion between the distorted interpretation of Bishop Williamson’s June 1, 2014 Post Falls, ID (USA) conference/comment (In which it is erroneously alleged by “Ennemond”/Jacques-Regis du Cray on another forum that, since Bishop Williamson is allegedly open to a practical accord with Rome, His Excellency ought not be opposing Bishop Fellay for his openness to the same3), and the same argument made against my article by “Henry4.”
Fifthly, the same argument against the length of my rebuttal to Fr. Laisney’s letter, “Striking Contrasts,” is again to be found in “Henry4’s” rebuttal to my article, “Response to an SSPX Priest” below.
In light of all this, it seems reasonable and probable to conclude that “Henry4” was either already monitoring Cathinfo for content particularly damaging to the new orientation in Menzingen, or, that the article was brought to his attention by another for the purpose of eliciting a “damage control” response.
Lest one find the suggestion outlandish, it should be observed that Fr. Olivier Rioult (USML) alleges that precisely such a function is already exercised (primarily in the French-speaking world, but also in the English) by Mr. Jacques-Régis du Cray (a former member of GREC). Writing under various pseudonyms such as “Ennemond” and “Come de Previgny” for venues like Fecit, Forum Catholique, Credidimus Caritati, Fideliter, La Porte Latine, Rorate Coeli, etc.
Fr. Olivier Rioult writes of him, “He is the voice of his master, the Abbe Lorans, communications officer of the Fraternity.”4
More than this, I was personally told by a US District official during a private meeting in the summer of 2013 that forum threads are sometimes brought to his attention by parishioners, and in such cases he may follow them if there is reason.
Is “Henry4” Jacques-Regis du Cray (alias “Ennemond,” alias “Come de Previgny”)? Or, is “Henry4” some other party exercising a similar function?
The question is interesting, as it would speak to motive. But more important than the identity and motives of “Henry4” are the arguments advanced in his rebuttal.
In order to place the following argument of “Henry4” into proper context, it is first important to know what precipitated his rebuttal (which will follow below in entirety):
I had been told (verbally) that a rebuttal to my article had appeared on Cathinfo by an anonymous poster writing under the pseudonym “Henry04” (Note: My mistake in the spelling of “Henry4’s” pseudonym explains his deliberate misspelling of my name as “Mr. Johnston” in the response that follows), who was claiming that a quote from Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1990 Econe “Address to Priests” disproved my contention that Archbishop Lefebvre refused to consider a practical accord after the 1988 consecrations.
Furthermore, I was told that he seemed to be calling into question the prudence and discernability of the standard Archbishop Lefebvre had set in 1988 as a precondition for considering any Roman proposals for a practical accord (i.e., the conversion of Rome).
That which follows is “Henry4’s” response in entirety.
After passing through it, I will analyze the arguments adduced in favor of his conclusion(s), in order that we may judge of their strength and value.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson writes much but addresses very little, I would suggest the ‘blind spots are with him.’5
1) What he fails to see is this absolute pre-condition, that is, to refuse a priori any agreement with Rome, it matters not one bit how many quotes he can provide, rather, all that is required is for me to provide one, single contrary quote to demonstrate [that] this absolute pre-condition of the Archbishop he advances is false. I have such a quote and he knows it. Further, he sets a straw-man fallacy, I never wrote the Archbishop was willing to accept a practical accord in 1990, only that he was willing to consider the hypothetical one presented to him.
What Mr. Johnson also fails to grasp is that the more quotes he produces, the stronger mine becomes since it is against this back-drop of quotes that the question was asked. In other words the seemingly unyielding comments of the Archbishop led to the question the subtext of which is your excellency, are you really saying you will not come to an agreement with Rome under any circumstances.
It is worth pausing here to consider another quote of the Archbishop made 18 months earlier:
I would indeed have signed a definitive accord after signing the protocol if we had had the possibility of protecting [ourselves from the] modernism of Rome.6
So the Archbishop had previously considered the possibility of an agreement if there was sufficient protection for the Society (viz. local bishops etc.) and therefore understood the question being asked. The Archbishop answered the question “let them first make us such an offer!” – he would consider it, a comment he could not have made if the pre-condition was absolute. No the mere fact that he gives reasons why Rome won’t do it has nothing to bear on the matter, rather, the fact that he was willing to consider it amply demonstrates that the alleged precondition is not absolute. Case closed Mr. Johnston.7
Perhaps Mr. Johnson would care to examine the original French text that has no exclamation mark [which follows here]. The text will simply not stand the translation Mr. Johnston wants to give it.
Suffice to say that the Archbishop clearly entertained the idea and Mr. Johnson’s ‘interpretation’ cannot be sustained. The correct understanding is that given by Bishop Williamson “let them first make us such an offer, then we’ll think about it.”
Furthermore, one must ask would the Archbishop really have painted himself into a corner with no room to manoeuvre?8 It really would have gone against all his diplomatic instinct and experience. In any event, his biographer, Bp. Tissier de Mallerais didn’t think so:
Archbishop Lefebvre always sought to take advantage of favorable occasions to renew the connection with Rome…approbation.9 (Letter from January 6, 2014)
Plus there is the alleged conversation between Bp. Tissier de Mallerais and Fr. Jean, OFMC:
I remind Bishop Tissier that in Fideliter #66 Archbishop Lefebvre had said “I will set out my conditions, etc.” And…letter dated 11th September 2013, “He did say it, but he would not have done it.”
What Mr. Johnston wants everyone to believe is that this absolute pre-condition, which would have been incredibly profound for the Society, was never explicitly expressed by the Archbishop, or promulgated by the Superior General or written into the Society’s statutes, but has to be inferred from a few documents, while ignoring all the rest of the Archbishop’s works. This simply isn’t rational.
2) I’m not sure why Mr. Johnston considers my final paragraph as a second objection i.e., not possible to judge when Rome will have returned to tradition sufficiently to declare that Rome has converted. What I wrote was this “I would ask the conversion from what to what, how is it to be judged and by whom? What are the concrete steps you want to see executed?” I did not suggest it was not possible to ‘judge.’ I asked specific questions which Mr. Johnston avoided answering.
Mr. Johnston did write the following: “When Rome corrects Vatican II in light of tradition.” Well OK, but how and by whom? Allow me to elaborate.
One of the comments in this thread suggests the repeal of Vatican II by the Pope. Neil Obstat claims “The Pope could do this…” Playing devils-advocate I’ll say that Vatican II was a valid Ecumenical Council, legally convened, with deliberations, votes, and declarations. I claim the Pope does not have the power to repeal a Council (I’m sure everyone here would make a similar claim if Pope Francis attempted to repeal Trent). If there’s a claim that it was only a pastoral Council, I reply with it still reaffirmed existing dogmas.
So this is what I’m looking for Mr. Johnston. The practical steps that Rome will have to go through in order for you to judge that they have ‘converted.’ Start with the Council documents, then the N.O. Mass, N.O. saints, etc., what does Rome need to do? And given Unity of Faith leaves room for various opinions in those controversial questions which the Church has not finally decided, what various opinions are/are not deemed acceptable, who gets to judge? And you need to be careful or you could be requesting things (like the example in the previous paragraph) that may not be possible.
A final note, Mr. Johnston writes “Rome will have returned to tradition sufficiently.” This implies a complete [conversion] is not required for an agreement, only a ‘sufficient’ conversion is required. How is this to be measured?
[Henry4 then responds to a Cathinfo post by “Wallflower”]
Wallflower, no you do not follow me. This is not about Archbishop Lefebvre actually coming to an agreement with Rome, but whether or not he would have considered the one posed by the questioner (a hypothetical one). The very act of considering one – irrespective of whether or not it is dismissed – renders Mr. Johnson’s absolute pre-condition false. That is all.
Has there been a time in the history of the Church where there has been no scandal? I came across a quote from Bishop Williamson which I think apt: “If, by some miracle, Pope Francis rang me up next week and said: ‘Your Excellency, you and I have had our divergences, but right now I am authorizing you to found a society. You go right ahead for the good of the Church.’ ‘Holy Father, can I have that in writing? Do you mind if I come to Rome and get that with your signature?’ ‘Yes, of course.’ ‘Alright, then I’d be on the next plane to Rome. I’d be on the next plane to Rome!’
So, if Bishop Williamson is still willing to deal with Pope Francis, that’s fine by me too.”
Let us now pass in review of these arguments, in order that we may judge of the weight and value of each:
“Henry4’s” first argument is that it matters not how many quotes can be compiled testifying to Archbishop Lefebvre’s post-1988 refusal to entertain a merely practical accord with modernist Rome. Rather, he contends that the existence of a single contrary quotation (i.e., one allegedly evincing openness to entertaining the possibility of coming to a practical accord) will prove the falsity of that assertion.
Such a statement would seem to violate the dictates of common sense (i.e., It would imply that the exception can disprove the rule; that a stray comment could stand as the Archbishop’s true position, against a mountain of comments to the contrary). And though we shall demonstrate below that “Henry4” has not understood the meaning of the quote he supplies as allegedly representing this “contrary statement,” nevertheless, we must first demonstrate the falsity of the principle of interpretation he erects.
To accomplish this, we must discover and articulate the exegetical rules and principles by which we can develop an objective methodology for the interpretation of Archbishop Lefebvre’s words, and we need look no further than the SSPX.org article titled “How to Interpret Archbishop Lefebvre” (which is itself taken from the 2008 book of Fr. Gregoire Celier, Benoît XVI et les Traditionalistes).10
To paraphrase Fr. Celier, the proper methodology to interpreting the words of Archbishop Lefebvre include:
- Understanding the quote within its context.
- Permitting that an author’s thought can evolve over the years.
- According to the author an intention to be intellectually coherent in his writings.
So, having discovered our interpretive principles (penned by a probable ally of “Henry4” no less), let us apply them to “Henry4’s” claim that “All that is required [to prove Archbishop Lefebvre was still open to considering a practical agreement after 1988] is for him to provide one, single contrary quote to demonstrate [that] this absolute pre-condition of the Archbishop [Sean] advances is false.”
The quote “Henry4” advances in support of his contention is the following:
Someone was saying to me yesterday, ‘But what if Rome accepted your bishops and then you were completely exempted from the other bishops’ jurisdiction?’ But firstly, they are along way right now from accepting any such thing, and then, let them first make us such an offer!11
Interpretive Criteria #1: Placing the Quote Within Context
The article from which this quote is extracted begins with the Archbishop announcing the subject matter he is about to address: Whether relations and negotiations with Rome are ended. He proceeds to tell a story about a conversation with Cardinal Oddi, in which the latter is proposing for the Archbishop to re-enter negotiations for a practical accord. The Archbishop rebuffs the cardinal, and tells him he must return to Tradition. So, the article begins with the idea that the time for negotiations and practical accords is over with (i.e., He is not willing to consider them, since by the very fact of the consecrations, he has preserved Tradition, and had no more need to negotiate).
Moreover, Archbishop Lefebvre’s rebuff to the Cardinal occurs within a paragraph subtitled “A lightweight solution” (i.e., a practical accord), which is followed by the next section subtitled “The heavyweight problem” (i.e., Which it goes on to explain is that Rome is persisting pertinaciously in the doctrines of Vatican II). It is important to note that these subtitles were provided by SSPX.org, not the Archbishop. This strongly suggests that it was also the understanding of the SSPX at the time this article was posted, that Archbishop Lefebvre had dismissed the idea of a practical accord, and was sticking to the conversion of Rome as a precondition for “reconciliation.”
The next section is subtitled “Ours is an ancient Struggle,” in which the Archbishop equates the battles of the post-French Revolution papacies against the modern errors, with the battle of the SSPX against modernist Rome.12 Having drawn such a parallel, is it conceivable that the Archbishop was open to some sort of “concordat” with the enemy he has just identified and accused of treason? Hardly.
Next, we pass to the section subtitled “We must not waver.” Archbishop Lefebvre leaves no room for doubt that he is absolutely closed to the idea of a practical accord with unconverted Rome, announcing:
Hence, we should have no hesitation or fear, hesitation such as, “Why should we be going on our own? After all, why not join Rome, why not join the pope?” Yes, if Rome and the Pope were in line with Tradition, if they were carrying on the work of all the Popes of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, of course. But they themselves admit that they have set out on a new path.13
Archbishop Lefebvre concludes this section with the words, “It is clear. Hence we must not waver for one moment.” What must we not waver in? In carrying on the faith independent of Rome, so long as it persists in the errors of Vatican II.
The next section is titled “A false charity.” Here, the Archbishop warns against the notion of collaborating with the Ecclesia Dei communities, whom he accuses of “shaking hands with the Church’s destroyers.” Now, if Archbishop Lefebvre is categorically refusing to collaborate with those who are “shaking hands with the Church’s destroyers,” how can any sane interpretation pretend that the Archbishop was nevertheless open to considering collaborating with the destroyers themselves?
The following section is subtitled “We cannot compromise.” But “Henry4” would have us believe nonetheless, that the Archbishop was open to compromise to secure a practical accord. After stating that is was compromise which killed Christendom, Archbishop Lefebvre says:
It was the Liberals, it was those who reached out a hand to people who did not share their Catholic principles.14
Are we to believe that Archbishop Lefebvre, having just spoken these words, is nevertheless open to “reaching out a hand” to the liberals in Rome who are killing the Church (i.e., the very analogy he is making in this section)? Well, in order to accept “Henry4’s” interpretation of the quote in question, that is exactly what one must do! Can one do that without blushing?
Finally, after all this, we come to the subsection in question, titled “No easy solutions” in which “Henry4’s” quote appears. Note firstly, however, that even the title given to this section seems to dismiss the idea of a convenient practical accord; something “Henry4” assures us (despite all the foregoing) Archbishop Lefebvre was always open to.
Immediately preceding the quote “Henry4” furnishes us with, appear these words (and please be sure to see the footnote #15, which explains these words):
“But humanly speaking, there is no chance of any agreement between Rome and ourselves at the moment.”15
Then comes “Henry4’s” quote:
Someone was saying to me yesterday, But what if Rome accepted your bishops and then you were completely exempted from the other bishops’ jurisdiction?” But firstly, they are a long way right now from accepting any such thing, and then, let them first make us such an offer! But I do not think they are anywhere near doing so.16
The address then closes with the Archbishop expressing his gratitude for the perseverance of the SSPX.
What should be obvious to all is that according to Fr Celier’s first rule of interpreting the words of Archbishop Lefebvre (i.e., that they be placed within their proper context), the entire address runs contrary to the sense “Henry4” would give to Archbishop Lefebvre’s words, and would at the very least impute to Archbishop Lefebvre a remarkable sense of incoherence which was never typical of his writings (i.e., an additional violation of Fr. Celier’s 3rd methodological criteria).
We must conclude, therefore, that “Henry4’s” contention that the quote provided evinces a post-1988 openness of Archbishop Lefebvre to entertaining the idea of a practical accord is wholly unfounded, and contradicted in toto, not only by the article he pulls the quote from, but also the preponderance of recorded sermons, conferences, interviews, and writings of the Archbishop from the time of the episcopal consecrations.
He has violated his ally’s first rule of interpretation, and by attempting to hold out the quote in a univocal sense, illegitimately rends from it a meaning wholly at odds with the context in which it is situated.17
Perhaps sensing the insufficiency of his argument, “Henry4” tries to find another post-1988 corroborating quotation, which he thinks he finds in this comment from Archbishop Lefebvre in Fideliter:
I would indeed have signed a definitive accord after signing the protocol if we had had the possibility of protection from the modernism of Rome.18
But what “Henry4” seems not to notice is that, though this Fideliter interview is indeed taken from 1989, the quote is from Archbishop Lefebvre reflecting back in time to before the consecrations. In other words, it is not an example of Archbishop Lefebvre expressing an openness to considering a practical accord in 1989, but a quote of the Archbishop reminiscing back to the days when he was willing to consider such.
So much for “Henry4’s” attempt to augment his erroneous interpretation with yet another error.
Interpretive Criteria #2: We Must Allow That an Author’s Thought Can Evolve Over Time
In support of his unsustainable contention that his quote shows Archbishop Lefebvre still open to entertaining a practical accord in 1990, “Henry4” suggests:
Furthermore, one must ask would the Archbishop really have painted himself into a corner with no room to manoeuvre?19 It really would have gone against all his diplomatic instinct and experience.
But in making this argument, “Henry4” is violating Fr. Celier’s 2nd rule for interpreting the words of Archbishop Lefebvre: That a writer’s thought can evolve over time.
Nobody (least of all myself) is suggesting that Archbishop Lefebvre was never open to a practical accord. What is being argued by me is that, once Archbishop Lefebvre became convinced that Rome was negotiating in bad faith, he decided upon the consecrations as being necessary for the preservation of Tradition. And having accomplished the episcopal consecrations, thereby preserving Tradition, it was no longer necessary for him to continue negotiations. And because it was no longer necessary to negotiate, and because time was now on Tradition’s side, the Archbishop changed his prudential precondition, and required the conversion of Rome before considering the juridical status of the FSSPX.
Fr. Celier also tells us that in detecting such evolution in thought, it is legitimate to cite the author in this regard as acknowledging such evolution.20 Do we have any such admissions from Archbishop Lefebvre evincing such an evolution?
We have several:
So now too, to those who say to me, “You’ve got to reach an agreement with Rome,” I think I can say that I went even further than I should have.21
And again along the same lines:
I can’t speak much of the future, mine is behind me, but if I live a little while, supposing that Rome calls for a renewed dialogue, then, I will put conditions. I shall not accept being in the position where I was put during the dialogue. No more.22
And finally: In response to the question “Why not try and reach out to Rome one more time?” Archbishop Lefebvre responded:
It is absolutely impossible in the current climate of Rome which is becoming worse. We must not delude ourselves. The principles which now guide the conciliar Church are more and more overtly contrary to Catholic doctrine.23
Therefore, we have plain and explicit admission of an evolution in thought in the matter of the prudential precondition.
For “Henry4” not to acknowledge that in fact such an evolution had taken place in 1988, despite his awareness of mountains of quotes from the Archbishop in support of that premise,24 and his post-1988 consistency in this regard, suggests that “Henry4” is either arguing in favor of a partisan position, in violation of the interpretive rules of Fr. Celier, or, that he is somehow unaware of violating them.
In any case, it is clear that in alleging (at least implicitly) that there was no change in Archbishop Lefebvre’s posture towards Rome before and after the consecrations, the spin he would give to his pet quote (and attempting to augment it by citing the Archbishop’s pre-1988 “diplomacy”), “Henry4” has again violated Fr Celier’s rules of sound interpretation, by not allowing that “an author’s thought can evolve.”
Interpretive Criteria #3: “One must accord to an author a personal intention to be intellectually coherent.”
Do we see in “Henry4’s” rending of the quote in question a crediting of the author “with a personal intention to be intellectually coherent?”
In fact we see the exact opposite: That by holding out the quote cited, with the interpretation given it (i.e., That it evinces a post-1988 willingness in Archbishop Lefebvre to entertain a practical accord prior to the conversion of Rome), the imputation of incoherence, in contradistinction to the remarkably consistent and coherent message of the Archbishop evincing an opposite intention (not only in the work from which the quote was extracted, but also in almost all the other works published and recorded by Archbishop Lefebvre treating of this subject, after the episcopal consecrations).
Therefore, once again, the meaning and interpretation “Henry4” would give to the quote he produces in favor of his position can only be maintained at the expense of imputing incoherence to Archbishop Lefebvre, and thereby fails in satisfying this 3rd criteria of sound interpretation.
With Fr. Celier, we must conclude that:
Therefore, if some expressions, some statements penned by an author seem out of tune, then one ought a priori, unless there is a well-founded reason, to reconcile them with the recurring and constant statements of that author. Ordinarily, indeed, it is methodologically sound to interpret what is…novel in terms of oft-repeated thinking, and not vice-versa.25
Therefore, it is utter nonsense to contend, as “Henry4” does, that the existence of a single contrary quote can disprove the mountain of quotes of Archbishop Lefebvre tending to demonstrate his refusal to consider a merely practical accord after 1988, as such a contention can only be maintained by violating all of the sound rules for interpreting the words of Archbishop Lefebvre by his ally, Fr. Celier.
What, then, are we to make of the quote “Henry4” supplies?
I contend that, precisely because “Henry4” has not obeyed these sound principles of interpretation, he has arrived at a false, univocal misunderstanding of the literal words provided.
What About the “Corroborating” Quote from Bishop Williamson? “Henry4” takes the quote in question:
Someone was saying to me yesterday, “But what if Rome accepted your bishops and then you were completely exempted from the other bishops’ jurisdiction?” But firstly, they are a long way right now from accepting any such thing, and then, let them first make us such an offer! But I do not think they are anywhere near doing so.26
…and thinks to find corroborating evidence for his interpretation in similar words uttered more recently by Bishop Williamson:
The correct understanding is that given by Bishop Williamson ‘let them first make us such an offer, then we’ll think about it.’27
If, by some miracle, Pope Francis rang me up next week and said: ‘Your Excellency, you and I have had our divergences, but right now I am authorizing you to found a society. You go right ahead for the good of the Church.’ ‘Holy Father, can I have that in writing? Do you mind if I come to Rome and get that with your signature?’ ‘Yes, of course.’ ‘Alright, then I’d be on the next plane to Rome. I’d be on the next plane to Rome!’28
The argument being made by supplying these quotes is that they allegedly demonstrate that, just as Archbishop Lefebvre was open to considering a practical accord with unconverted Rome in 1990 (i.e., after 1988), so too is Bishop Williamson open to considering a practical accord in 2014.
But then the converse must also be true: That if it can be shown that the quotes taken from Bishop Williamson are wrongly understood by “Henry4”, then so too is the quote from Archbishop Lefebvre wrongly understood.
Which is correct?
The truth of the matter is not difficult to discover for those who really want to discover it: The authentic rules for interpreting the words of an author (whether it be Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop Williamson, or myself) are general and universal principles, and they will apply just as much to the quotes of Bishop Williamson, therefore, as to the words of Archbishop Lefebvre.
Applying these rules to the quotes “Henry4” provides from Bishop Williamson, therefore, yields results as untenable as those he assigns to Archbishop Lefebvre:
- Bishop Williamson has been opposing a practical accord with unconverted Rome since Bishop Fellay expressed his openness to accepting one way back in 2001 (when interventions against such an endeavor by Avrillé and Bishop Williamson were able to avert that course), which represented the first time Bishop Fellay expressed an openness to departing from Archbishop Lefebvre’s principle.29 30
- Bishop Williamson was expelled precisely for his intractable opposition to a practical accord with unconverted Rome in 2012.31
- Bishop Williamson consecrated Fr. Faure a bishop in March 2015 precisely to preserve Tradition independent of Rome, so long as Rome remains opposed to it, and mired in modernism.
It is therefore untenable to contend that the quoted words of Bishop Williamson illustrate an openness to considering a practical accord with unconverted Rome. To construe them as such is to, once again, violate each of Fr. Celier’s three rules for legitimate interpretation: Placing the words in proper context,32 allowing that an author’s position can change over time,33 and to grant to an author the desire to remain consistent.34
However, unlike the case of considering the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, who went to his eternal reward long ago, Bishop Williamson is still among us (Deo gratias!), and we need not rely upon the principles of interpretation, when we may go directly to the source, to inquire as to whether “Henry4’s” understanding of His Excellency’s words are correct.
In that vein, I wrote to His Excellency and asked: Greetings Your Lordship –
Some of your opponents refer to the June 1, 2014 Post Falls conference (in which Your Lordship made the comment that he would only found a religious congregation if he had the approval of the pope, and would be on the next plane to Rome if that were the case) as evincing a willingness on your part to accept a practical accord.
They ask, therefore, “Why does His Excellency oppose Bishop Fellay for pursuing the same?”
My understanding was that, those comments being made within the larger context of a 90 minute presentation to Resistance faithful explaining why Your Lordship did not consider himself to possess the authority to found such a congregation (which could only come from Rome), the purpose of the comment was not to express an openness to a practical accord with unconverted Rome, but to explain to the faithful the importance of authority (which leaves the loose confederation model of Resistance as the only option).
Have I understood Your Lordship correctly?
His Lordship replied: “Basically you have understood me correctly.”35
If therefore I have understood Bishop Williamson correctly, then “Henry4” has not understood him correctly. And if “Henry4” has not understood Bishop Williamson correctly, then neither has he understood the quote of Archbishop Lefebvre correctly (which he mistakenly thinks to be corroborated by Bishop Williamson’s words).36
That being the case, it is manifestly false for “Henry4” to contend his single, misunderstood quote proves that Archbishop Lefebvre remained open to a practical accord after the episcopal consecrations. Rather, the opposite conclusion is rather obvious: Archbishop Lefebvre was not open to the consideration of a practical accord after 1988 (just as Bishop Williamson was not open to one in June/2014, or today).
What About the Alleged Statement from Bishop Tissier to Fr. Jean OFM (Morgon)?
“Henry4” makes one final argument in an attempt to salvage his contention that Archbishop Lefebvre remained open to the possibility of negotiating a practical accord after the 1988 consecrations, with the following quote from an alleged conversation between Fr. Jean, OFM (Morgon), and Bishop Tissier de Mallerais:
I remind Bishop Tissier that in Fideliter #66 Archbishop Lefebvre had said “I will set out my conditions, etc.” And…letter dated 11th September 2013, “He did say it, but he would not have done it.
“Henry4” is therefore making an argument which is capable of being read a couple different ways (and we will address both, that we not be accused of evading one or the other):
- “Henry4” may be maintaining that by the words, “I will set out my conditions,” Archbishop Lefebvre is manifesting a willingness to consider a practical accord.
- Or, “Henry4” may be suggesting that, given Bishop Tissier’s prestige, his long association with Archbishop Lefebvre, and his intimate knowledge of the Archbishop as an unofficial biographer, that Bishop Tissier’s conjecture on this point ought to carry significant weight.
Let us consider these objections in turn:
By Stating “I will set out my conditions,” Archbishop Lefebvre is Manifesting a Continued Openness to Considering a Practical Accord:
Well, let’s see what happens when, obeying the sound interpretive methodology of Fr. Celier, we place those words back into context:
Archbishop Lefebvre: “supposing that Rome calls for a renewed dialogue, then, I will put conditions. I shall not accept being in the position where I was put during the dialogue. No more. I will place the discussion at the doctrinal level: “Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta Cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi Gregis of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these Popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these Popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless.37
Several observations, therefore, can be made with regard to the assertion of “Henry4” that the presence of the words “I will put conditions” evince an openness to a practical accord:
- The “conditions” Archbishop Lefebvre will place are tantamount to the wholesale conversion of Rome back to Tradition;
- Insofar as these “conditions” are tantamount to the conversion of Rome, their nature is not practical, but dogmatic and doctrinal;
- And in that case, the quoted words, unjustly extracted from context, certainly cannot be used to evince an openness to a practical accord.
- As an aside, attempting to use the words “I will put my conditions” in the univocal sense “Henry4” does not only violate’s Fr. Celier’s first methodological rule (i.e., understanding the quote within context, which in this case is a repudiation of the possibility of considering a practical accord), but also the second rule (i.e., Allowing that a writer’s thoughts can evolve over time, as they obviously did in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre, who was no longer open to the consideration of a practical accord), as well as the third rule (i.e., Attributing to an author an intention to be intellectually coherent, which would not be the case in ascribing to Archbishop Lefebvre words allegedly evincing an openness to a practical accord within the very same article – and paragraph – in which he is describing his refusal to consider the same!).
Bishop Tissier’s Conjecture:
And what of the other possible reading of “Henry4’s” quote of Bishop Tissier (i.e., That, given Bishop Tissier’s long association with Archbishop Lefebvre, and his intimate knowledge of the Archbishop as an unofficial biographer, that Bishop Tissier’s alleged statement that Archbishop Lefebvre would not have held such a strong position (“he did say it, but he would not have done it”) ought to carry significant weight?
Presuming the quote is authentic and accurate, several problems present themselves with ascribing to Bishop Tissier’s opinion:
- It is pure, gratuitous, and unsupported conjecture: If we cannot take the Archbishop at his constantly stated word during the period of 1988-1991, how much less persuasive is an unsupported conjecture running contrary to the Archbishop’s oft-stated position?
- Such a contrarian conjecture impugns the integrity of Archbishop Lefebvre (unwittingly, to be sure), by suggesting that the Archbishop would not have followed through with the position he was nevertheless imparting to his priests, Rome, and the faithful all over the world.
- When in Part I of this article, I suggested a problem of integrity on the part of Bishop Fellay (i.e., For preaching to Society faithful for many years why we could not accept a practical accord before resolving the doctrinal issues in Rome, while simultaneously collaborating with GREC to arrive at a practical/political solution to the SSPX’s juridical status), I was able to make that statement without being rash, because of the compelling evidence just mentioned (i.e., the GREC meetings). What evidence did Bishop Tissier offer to back that statement? None is given. Rather, his allies are left to piece it together on his behalf (i.e., as “Henry4” may be doing here).
- The context of Bishop Tissier’s alleged statement is that of a private conversation. When (if) he made it, I suggest he was not expecting to have to defend it. In a private conversation, one has a bit more latitude to conjecture, since he is not thereby offering a pastoral teaching to the faithful.
- Just as Fr. Celier teaches us in his three rules for interpreting the writings of Archbishop Lefebvre, that we must allow that the positions of an author can evolve over time, we can detect precisely such an evolution in the thinking of Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. However, unlike the evolution in Archbishop Lefebvre (which evolved from a former openness and desire for a practical accord, to the eventual and stronger position requiring the conversion of Rome), we detect an opposite evolution, a “devolution” really, in Bishop Tissier, regressing from the former strong position of Archbishop Lefebvre, to the weaker standard of Bishop Fellay’s merely practical accord. For example, here is Bishop Tissier’s strong position, squarely repeating the position of Archbishop Lefebvre (and just days before the disastrous 2012 General Chapter, mind you) in June of that year:
We refuse a purely practical agreement because the doctrinal question is fundamental. Faith comes before legality. We cannot accept a legalization without the problem of the faith being solved. (…) “It is a new religion that is not the Catholic religion. We do not want any compromise with this religion, any risk of corruption, not even any appearance of conciliation, and it is this appearance that our so-called “regularization” would give us.38
- Finally, if the 2013 statement of Bishop Tissier to Fr. Jean reveals the true position of Archbishop Lefebvre (i.e., He would have been open to negotiating a practical accord regardless of whatever he was telling the rest of the world), then why was Bishop Tissier contradicting that position in the 2012 Rivarol quote just above?
The principle of non-contradiction states that two contradictory assertions cannot both be true at the same time, and in the same sense. If in 2012, Bishop Tissier was faithful to the true position of Archbishop Lefebvre (i.e., Archbishop Lefebvre would not have negotiated), then he was not true to Archbishop Lefebvre’s position in 2013 statement to Fr. Jean, OFM.39 He cannot have been right on both occasions.
Now I am told by clerics of impeccable reputation (and in the presence of witnesses whom I can produce) that the same Bishop Tissier, removed from his support base in France, and isolated from allies in Chicago, has gradually come to terms with the eventuality and inevitability of a practical accord. He has accepted that Bishop Fellay cannot be stopped in his drive for a “regularization, but rather than leave in order to maintain his fidelity to the prudence and position of the SSPX’s founder, is instead “preparing himself” for this new reality in the SSPX.
The alleged quote to Fr. Jean, OFM would evince precisely such a “devolution.”
The point being, that the gratuitous conjecture Bishop Tissier is alleged to have imparted to Fr. Jean, OFM (only one year after making the Rivarol quote above) says more about the depressing evolution within Bishop Tissier, than it does about the true position of Archbishop Lefebvre, of which he used to be one of the strongest supporters.
Menzingen is happy to assist with this “preparation” by creating a sanitized Archbishop Lefebvre, to whom SSPX clerics can extend their professions of loyalty (especially useful in stifling any lingering qualms of conscience the imposture of claiming fidelity to the Archbishop may cause, while flagrantly departing from his position, may present).40
No longer is it “Archbishop Lefebvre, the great anti-modernist.” It is now “Archbishop Lefebvre, the great Churchman.”
It therefore must be concluded by any objective reading, that the evidence adduced by “Henry4” (being incompatible with both the equitable principles of textual interpretation, and the personal testimony of Bishop Williamson) is inadmissible, insufficient, and contrary to the reality of the portrait of Archbishop Lefebvre which emerges when Fr. Celier’s methodological rules for interpretation are obeyed.
Equally untenable is the suggestion that the quote from Bishop Tissier de Mallerais evinces a post-1988 Archbishop Lefebvre still willing to negotiate a practical accord (or upon another reading, an Archbishop Lefebvre who, regardless of what he was teaching the world, was still willing to negotiate, regardless of all he said to the contrary).
In what appears to be a thinly veiled rejection of the standard Archbishop Lefebvre had set in place before he would be willing to resume discussions of a practical accord to address the juridical status of the Society (i.e., the conversion of Rome back to tradition), “Henry4” attempts to divert the conversation, and asks:
I would ask the conversion from what to what, how is it to be judged and by whom? What are the concrete steps you want to see executed?” I did not suggest it was not possible to ‘judge.’ I asked specific questions which Mr. Johnston avoided answering.
In fact, that is not true. I responded with the famous Fideliter quote of Archbishop Lefebvre, that the Council would need to be corrected in light of the doctrine of the preceding Popes.41 If those concrete steps are good enough for Archbishop Lefebvre, then they are certainly good enough for me. Failing this, there can be no pretension to a Rome allegedly coming back to tradition, which would nevertheless still teach and promote the false doctrines of Vatican II.
But I suggest that the real problem here is not that “Henry4” rejects Archbishop Lefebvre’s standard because he thinks it too ambiguous and amorphous, but rather that he does not have faith that it is achievable. He (as with all semi-traditionalists of the GREC mentality) despairs of the recovery of the Church. And it is for this reason that he and his allies have instead pushed the requirements of the Faith aside, in favor of a diplomatic solution to a doctrinal problem.42 Evidence of this despair of the recovery of the Church is discovered in the writings and words of all the primary and most influential “accordistas,”43 from Bishop Fellay’s “Letter to the Three Bishops” to Fr. Simoulin’s “Avoiding a False Sense of Resistance,” to Fr. Nely’s response to Fr. Brendan King,44 to Fr. Pflugers alleged conferences to the Brothers in Flavigny.45 All fear the crisis will go on indefinitely, resulting in schism.
But if for these men, this fear of schism exists, it is because they have not understood or embraced the Catholic perspective and teaching of Archbishop Lefebvre:
Question: “Are you not afraid that in the end, when the good Lord will have called you to Him, little by little the split will grow wider and we will find ourselves being confronted with a parallel Church alongside what some call the “visible Church”?
Archbishop Lefebvre: This talk about the “visible Church” on the part of Dom Gerard and Mr. Madiran is childish. It is incredible that anyone can talk of the “visible Church”, meaning the Conciliar Church as opposed to the Catholic Church which we are trying to represent and continue. I am not saying that we are the Catholic Church. I have never said so. No one can reproach me with ever having wished to set myself up as pope. But, we truly represent the Catholic Church such as it was before, because we are continuing what it always did. It is we who have the notes of the visible Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. That is what makes the visible Church.46
This recurring fear of schism (feigned or real) is the hallmark of all who are losing (or have lost) their understanding of the true state of the Church, and “reconciled” to their own demise. I can think of none better than Fr. Violette’s condemnation of practically the same argument being made in 2003 by Fr. Aulagnier:
The solution to this crisis will come from Rome when the Roman authorities come back to the integrity of the Faith. But until then we do well to continue our resistance. How long this will take is not our problem but God’s. But we cannot for the sake of a fake unity join those who promote errors, who reduce the Church to a human institution, or simply one religion among others thus destroying it. So we continue Tradition and continue to denounce those who reject it in the name of a new conciliar church. As Archbishop Lefebvre said: by cutting themselves off from the previous popes, the modern Roman authorities are the ones who are schismatic. When Rome returns to the Faith the only matter for discussion will be who will become a bishop and who will he replace?47
I urge all to read the brief article just cited in entirety, and let the irony not be lost among you, who will observe in all the refuted reasons of Fr Aulagnier for coming to a practical accord with Rome in 2003, the very same arguments being made by Bishop Fellay in 2012-2015!
Let it not also be lost among you that Fr. Aulagnier was expelled from the SSPX for expressing these views in a conciliar newspaper.48
Yet, how can that be: If Fr. Aulagnier was merely taking a posture allegedly advocated by Archbishop Lefebvre (And please don’t tell me it was because he gave the interviews without permission. Why would one need permission, in the SSPX, to give an interview perfectly consistent with the position of Archbishop Lefebvre?)?
And how can it be that in 2003, Fr. Aulagnier was considered a traitor by all those faithful to the principles of Archbishop Lefebvre, and expelled from the Society, while in 2012-2015, Bishop Fellay is considered a hero for doing the same thing (Please, dear reader, read the article cited in endnote 47, and you will find all Bishop Fellay’s reasons for a practical accord roundly condemned in 2003 by Fr Violette)?
Let us speak plainly, then, and simply acknowledge that these men who are promoting a suicidal accord with unconverted Rome would blush to make the statement just quoted by Archbishop Lefebvre (i.e., in endnote 46). Let us acknowledge that, if they are telling us that we need to be “realistic,” this is the same thing as admitting that Archbishop Lefebvre was not realistic. And if one does not believe that Archbishop Lefebvre’s principle of action vis-à-vis Rome was“realistic,” and today is tending to lead us upon a trajectory towards schism, then how convincing is their claim to still be following in the Archbishop’s footsteps?
Would you follow in the footsteps of one whom you believed to have led you along a trajectory towards schism?
Much easier to remake a sanitized version of Archbishop Lefebvre, and profess fidelity to this new creation, then to continue with troubled consciences and fears of schism.
2 As of the date of this writing (12/30/15).
5 In my initial rebuttal, I noted the incredible blind spot evinced by one who would attempt to quote from Archbishop Lefebvre’ 1990 “Address to Priests” in an attempt to show him entertaining the possibility of reaching a practical accord with unconverted Rome, as the entire Address is an exhortation to hold the course.
6 Fideliter #68, March – 1989.
7 Misspelling deliberate by Henry4, as in any forthcoming misspellings.
8 Note the French spelling given to the word “maneuver.”
9 The last couple words of this quote from Henry4 after the word “Rome” were cut off in the copy/paste of his rebuttal which was sent to me, but his argument is substantially made in the portion given.
10 http://sspx.org/en/how-interpret-archbishop-lefebvre When this article first appeared on SSPX.org, it was peremptorily dismissed by many Resistance faithful as representing a blatant attempt to “reinterpret” the writings of Archbishop Lefebvre, and make them consistent with the new orientation in Menzingen. To some degree it was. But originally, it was meant to target the sedevacantists’ misappropriation of certain quotes of Archbishop Lefebvre as evincing openness to their theses. In any case, the principles contained within this article are rock-solid, despite the accordist leanings of its author, and serve to refute both sedevacantist and accordista (i.e., Those favoring a merely practical accord with Rome) apologists, who would desire to arrogate Archbishop Lefebvre to their cause(s).
11 http://archives.sspx.org/archbishop lefebvre/two years after the consecrations.htm
12 “This is the fight we are in the middle of today. Exactly the same fight.” http://archives.sspx.org/archbishop lefebvre/two years after the consecrations.htm
15 Ibid. Neither do the last words “at the moment” give Henry4’s contention any wiggle room. Henry’s contention is that, in the quote which immediately follows, it evinces that, at this time, Archbishop Lefebvre was open to considering an hypothetical accord. But the quote I have just provided above in this footnote says the exact opposite. Can one interpret the words “there is no chance of a practical accord” as evincing an openness to the same? Or, can one bypass the contradiction by asserting that the words I am quoting show that the Archbishop was merely saying an accord is not possible now, but nevertheless, hypothetically, I would be open to one? It is the whole purpose of testing this allegation against the rules and methodology of sound exegetical interpretation to demonstrate such a contention is impossible (and unjust). Only by illegitimately removing the words from the context of the article can one arrive at such a conclusion, which is neither legitimate nor accurate.
16 http://archives.sspx.org/archbishop lefebvre/two years after the consecrations.htm
17 Readers may be familiar with this tendency to remove words from context in the case of the followers of Fr Feeney, who see in John 3:5 incontrovertible proof that baptism of desire and/or blood are heretical. Having dislodged the quote from the corpus of Catholic doctrine, they come to erroneous conclusions.
18 Fideliter #68 (March, 1989).
19 Note the French spelling given to the word “maneuver,” though as one reader pointed out, the spelling given to the word is also the common and preferred spelling in Great Britain.
20 http://sspx.org/en/how-interpret-archbishop-lefebvre “Contrary proof can be, for example, a statement (explicit or implicit) by the author that he was previously wrong, or the revisiting of the same subject matter, long afterward, along radically different lines.”
24 Henry4 says: “it matters not one bit how many quotes he can provide”
27 Henry4 gives no citation for this attribution, but it matters not to the value of our criticism.
29 Bishop Richard Williamson, “Letters from the Rector” (February/2001).
30 As an aside, it was at a January,2001 meeting convened at the SSPX seminary in Flavigny, in which the Dominicans of Avrille presented a study reflecting their opposition to any practical accord with unconverted Rome, which has been the source of their persecution by Menzingen ever since (i.e., Just as Bishop Williamson had to be expelled if an accord were ever to be reached, so too must Avrille be cast into the outer darkness.
31 “Bishop Williamson and Fr. Faure have not been members of the Society of St. Pius X since 2012 and 2014, respectively, because of their violent criticisms of any relations with the Roman authorities.” http://www.dici.org/en/news/communique-of-the-general-house-of-the-society-of-st-pius-x-concerning-the-episcopal-consecration-of-father-faure/ Note: Leaving aside the distortion made here by Menzingen that it is “relations with Rome” which Bishop Williamson rejects, rather than Menzingen’s negotiating a practical accord with Rome before the latter’s conversion back to the true Faith, the quote demonstrates that it was because of his rejection of these negotiations that His Excellency was expelled.
32 In this case, the quoted words took place within the context of a 90 minute conference explaining to Resistance faithful why His Excellency had not the authority to found a proper religious congregation; a demand made by some Resistance faithful and clergy. His Excellency stated that, only if the Pope would say such a thing, could His Excellency found such a congregation. He was not saying by the words quoted that he was open to the idea of a practical accord.
33 Like Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop Williamson was open to negotiations before the 1988 consecrations, and closed to the idea afterwards, so long as Rome remained mired in, and promoted, modernism.
34 The bullet points demonstrate this remarkable consistency.
35 The full text of His Lordship’s response:
That reply of mine presupposed that if the Pope made such an offer, it would be that he really meant it, and that it was not a political trap. In other words there would be a genuine desire of Tradition on his part, in which case true Catholic authority would once more be coming from him, which is by no means the case with the Pope Francis whose good graces BpF is seeking.
Archb. Lefebvre said to the four bishops before consecrating them, put your bishoprics back in the Pope’s hands as soon as he comes to his senses. That moment would have to come which has by no means yet come. I trust this answers your question. Basically you have understood me correctly.”
36 Incidentally, I would recommend Fr. Celier’s three principles of authentic interpretation to certain Resistance critics of Bishop Williamson, who seem to see (or desire to see?) in His Lordship’s June 28, 2015 words on the Novus Ordo Missae an intention to endorse Novus Ordo Mass attendance. To attribute such an intention is so blatantly contrary to the spoken explanations of Bishop Williamson as to not even require a rebuttal. If you won’t believe what the man says he meant, why would you believe me?
37 http://www.ecclesiamilitans.com/2014/02/page/2/ (Note: I cite the Fideliter #66 quote from this site, as it also contains snipets of Bishop Tissier opposing a merely practical accord): – Bishop Tissier
de Mallerais : “We refuse a purely practical agreement because the doctrinal question is fundamental. Faith comes before legality. We cannot accept a legalization without the problem of the faith being solved. (…) “It is a new religion that is not the Catholic religion. We do not want any compromise with this religion, any risk of corruption, not even any appearance of conciliation, and it is this appearance that our so-called “regularization” would give us.”
(Interview in Rivarol, 1st June 2012).
38 Rivarol, 1st June 2012
39 And, keeping in mind Fr. Celier’s rules for authentic interpretation (particularly attributing to an author the intention of remaining intellectually consistent, we recall that Bishop Tissier had, only two months prior to the Rivarol interview quoted above, participated in the “Letter of the three Bishops to the General Counsel of the FSSPX,” in which he (along with the other two bishops) articulated substantially the same position.
40 For an admission that the SSPX’s new openness to a practical accord is a flagrant contradiction with the position of Archbishop Lefebvre, one need only refer to Bishop de Galarreta’s “Reflections on a Roman Proposal,” in which it is admitted that in going down this new path, “To move towards a practical agreement would be to deny our word and our commitments to our priests, our faithful, and Rome in front of everyone. This would have hugely negative consequences ad intra and ad extra. There is no change in the doctrinal point of view from Rome that would justify ours. On the contrary, the discussions have shown they will not accept anything in our criticisms. It would be absurd for us to go in the direction of a practical agreement after the result of discussions and findings. Otherwise, one would think that Msgr. Rifan and Father Aulagnier were right. Such an approach would show a serious diplomatic weakness on the part of the Fraternity, and indeed, more than diplomatic. It would be a lack of consistency, honesty and firmness, which would have effects like loss of credibility and moral authority we enjoy. http://strobertbellarmine.net/Reflections_about_the_Roman_Proposal___Complete_Transcript_with_Quo tes.pdf
41 “I will place the discussion at the doctrinal level: ‘Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta Cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi Gregis of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these Popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these Popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless.” Fideliter, November/December (1988).
42 In this regard, one marvels to read in the “Letter of the General Counsel to the Three Bishops” the latter being upbraided for their alleged lack of faith in the Church, (i.e., that Rome will ever convert back to the true Faith), while in the very same letter, Bishop Fellay says we must be “realistic” (“To require that we wait until everything is regulated before reaching what you call a practical agreement is not realistic.”).
43 A term invented by the Hispanic Resistance to describe SSPX proponents of a merely practical accord with unconverted Rome.
45 “These conditions [= the prior conversion of Rome] are ideal but unrealistic.” http://www.therecusant.com/fr-pfluger-jan14
In fairness to Fr. Pfluger, I should mention that he has denied, in private correspondence, the veracity of the notes of these conferences, which subsequently emerged on the internet. Upon further inquiry, he declined to specify in what respect the “Notes” (as they have come to be known) were inaccurate. Given that the “Notes” were the combined common denominator of several SSPX brothers, it is impossible to accept that they are a total fabrication. More reasonable is it to accept that Fr. Pfluger was using mental reservation to save himself from the charge of dishonesty (i.e., He could have found something in the “Notes” which was not 100% accurate, and used it to honestly make the denial he did), while on the other hand, the “Notes” provided by the brothers are nevertheless largely accurate.
48 http://la.revue.item.free.fr/interview aulagnier wanderer anglais.htm