Response to an SSPX Priest (Part I)
By Sean Johnson
That which follows is a response to an SSPX priest regarding a recent conversation, in which were expressed some rather disturbing opinions. Originally communicated in an email, it has been edited to preserve the priest’s anonymity, and slightly updated to allow for recent events.
This correspondence was originally published publicly because the opinions expressed by the priest in question are more and more common among SSPX clergy, who give the appearance of preparing their minds for the acceptance of a Roman recognition.
These pages are designed to elicit precisely the opposite effect: To expose and refute the sophistries and “accordist” apologetics with the arrow of truth, which alone can save.
This article has since been translated into French, and can be found and downloaded from the USML website, Francefidele.org in booklet form.
Since that publication, I have added some additional information, as well as annotations.
Greetings Fr. Xxxxxxxx-
I reflected for two weeks before finally deciding to send you this email, but felt compelled to respond to some of the opinions you voiced in our private conversation which I found troubling.
Particularly, your comments that:
1) “Archbishop Lefebvre always wanted a deal.”
2) “A deal [with Rome] is what we want.”
3) “The GREC meetings were a good thing.”
4) “There have been no compromises in the SSPX.”
5) “Bishop Fellay won’t make a bad deal.”
To this list, I would add one additional cause of concern:
6) That you were unfamiliar with the SSPX branding campaign.
Regarding the statement that “Archbishop Lefebvre always wanted a deal.”
It is certainly true that for upwards of 20 years, Archbishop Lefebvre tried to negotiate for a juridical recognition of the SSPX. But it is equally demonstrable that in 1988, after having come to the (correct) belief that the Romans had no intention of safeguarding and promoting tradition, he changed his prudential precondition for an accord. That change of position was first publicized in Fideliter (November/December, 1988) in which Archbishop Lefebvre laid out his principle regarding any deal with Rome:
“We do not have the same outlook on a reconciliation. Cardinal Ratzinger sees it as reducing us, bringing us back to Vatican II. We see it as a return of Rome to Tradition. We don’t agree; it is a dialogue of death. 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.
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.‘” [Italics mine –SJ]
Two years later, in the famous January/February, 1991 edition of the same Fideliter, Archbishop Lefebvre reiterated his position regarding any deal with unconverted Rome:
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.”
A little later in the interview, Archbishop Lefebvre adds:
“Our true faithful, those who have understood the problem and who have precisely helped us to continue along the straight and firm path of Tradition and the Faith, were afraid of the approaches I made towards Rome. They told me it was dangerous and that I was wasting my time. Yes, of course, I hoped until the last minute that in Rome we would witness a little bit of loyalty. I cannot be blamed for not having done the maximum. 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.”
And finally, regarding the Benedictines of La Barroux (and others) who capitulated to unconverted Rome:
“I think in any case they commit a serious mistake. They sinned seriously in acting the way they did, knowingly, and with an unreal nonchalance.
I have heard tell of some monks who intend leaving Le Barroux, saying they can no longer live in an atmosphere of lies. I wonder how they managed to stay as long as this in such an atmosphere.”
Now history repeats itself, with Menzingen and Kansas City declaring to the whole world there has been no compromise (and when a unilateral recognition comes from Rome, they will champion it all the more, hoping the faithful miss all the compromises that have already taken place to “win” a unilateral recognition.
In any case, please note this interview of the Archbishop was only two months prior to his death (when he already knew he was terminal, and would find it all the more urgent to preach the truth before meeting his Maker).
Suffice it to say, that while it may be true to say Archbishop Lefebvre always wanted a deal, the preconditions for his willingness to discuss a deal changed fundamentally in 1988: A practical accord (or what is more likely today, a unilateral recognition granted after sufficient compromises have been made to convince Rome of the SSPX’s newfound harmlessness) was no longer on the table. The conversion of Rome was now required.
That Menzingen was willing to depart from the proven prudence of the Society’s founder in such a fundamental matter was the origin and genesis of the Resistance.
Regarding the statement that “a deal with Rome is what we want.”
That this opinion flies squarely in the face of Archbishop Lefebvre’s prudential precondition for an accord (i.e., the conversion of modernist Rome back to the Catholic faith) is sufficiently demonstrated above (particularly if you read the entire interviews, which I spared you in this email, as it will be lengthy enough as is).
But it is interesting to watch the morphing of the SSPX position over time in this regard.
For example, go to SSPX.org, and read this 2002 conference of Bishop Fellay:
In it are contained the following nuggets:
“Well, we absolutely don’t have the impression of “being outside of the Church.” I must say that very clearly. When Rome says, “Please come in!” we say, “We are sorry; we can’t.” Why? – Because we are already in! We exist because of our problems of conscience. It is because we have had to face scandals – things that were impossible to accept without damaging our conscience – tat we have had to say “No!” This is why the Society of St. Pius X has been ready to receive the punishments and sanctions from Rome at several levels – first in 1975 and 1976, then 1988. Every time it has been made clear to us that if we would give in to the injunctions of Rome we would commit suicide, that no proposal would solve our problems of conscience, that is, to avoid any and all sacrilege.”
And this precis:
“This famous “excommunication” which was supposed to be the final blow from the Roman authorities against the Archbishop has been, thanks to God, our protection. They built up a wall around us which was supposed to exclude us from the Church, but this wall has been our protection, at several levels. Firstly, as it was the final blow, they have no spare bullets to use against us. Secondly, by their own action, they have terminated any ways to influence us, to command us, or to oblige us to accept the unacceptable and this, thirdly, has given us a tremendous latitude at several levels.
At the level of saving poor souls drowning everywhere, we are free of the power of local bishops over us by virtue of the “excommunication.” If you are considered “outside the Church” a bishop cannot say at the same time, “I command you to get out!“
Notice that one no longer hears Bishop Fellay talking like this. And even when he was, did he really believe his own words, or was he just being a politician, and speaking in a way he thought we expected him to speak? The question must be permitted, in light of his secret meetings with GREC, in which he was privately negotiating for a practical accord, while publicly speaking the quoted words.
“At another level – which is also amazing – this has allowed us to speak to Rome, to give arguments, to reproach the Roman authorities in such a way that would have been absolutely impossible if we had had normal relations with these authorities [Italics mine – SJ]. In normal circumstances, it is always very difficult for a subordinate to make a remark to a superior, but especially about the pope, about cardinals, about Rome herself. The usual attitude of Rome is “be quiet,” or “obey.” It is still much like that, but now Rome is receptive to the fact that the Second Vatican Council can be discussed! This gives us some leverage.”
But what a different tune is being sung today in Menzingen (and all at a time under the worst pope in history)!
A couple years later, Bishop Fellay was still telling us:
“So when Rome comes to us with a big smile, that is their ulterior motive. That is, we grant you a place, but you must stay very quiet there and not move. So we come to them and we say, “Well, we are sorry, but there is no zoo.” The Catholic Church is not a zoo. This comparison may show you how deep is the difference of vision. As long as things are at that level, it is just unthinkable that we should be able to reach a basic or fundamental agreement. It is impossible.”
So a deal may indeed be what Bishop Fellay wants today (and all the usual agitators: Fr. Pfluger, Fr. Nely, Fr. Simoulin, Fr. Schmidberger, et al), but it is a very different song that used to be sung in Menzingen.
What a shame, that those of us who perceive the contradictions are branded “rebels,” while those who contradict themselves are attributed “graces of state” to be followed without question (just like at Vatican II).
Regarding the statement that “the GREC meetings were a good thing.”
I must admit, Father, this was a rather shocking statement.
One sees Bishop Fellay participating in “discreet but not secret” negotiations for a practical accord, all the while telling the faithful why we can never come to a practical accord with Rome!
Certainly there is a problem of candor and integrity here.
It would seem Bishop Fellay wanted to hide any contradiction with his favoring a practical accord, against the position of Archbishop Lefebvre (which required the conversion of Rome first).
We have here what appears to be an example of a prelate speaking out of both sides of his mouth, to further his personal desire for an accord, without alienating the faithful (who have now been slow boiled for many years, and who are now liking the warm water).
I hope you will read this article from the Avrille Dominicans regarding the GREC meetings, as it will be quite an eye opener for you:
Regarding the statement that “there have been no compromises in the SSPX.”
A statement like that tends to leave one speechless, and seeking always to see the good in others, I can only surmise that if such a statement could be made in good faith, it could only emanate from the mistaken belief that, so long as an accord is not signed in Menzingen, there have been no compromises.
In reality, though Menzingen will try to market the idea that Rome is simply offering a unilateral recognition of its own (alleged) good will, the reality is that Rome would not even consider such a thing, had not the following compromises already been made:
- The expulsion of Bishop Williamson;
- Bishop Fellay’s willingness to have signed the scandalous April 15 2012 Doctrinal Declaration (the very day after having been implored by the other three bishops not to);
- The reduction of the battle for the Faith, from fighting for the integral Kingship of Christ, to simply championing the traditional Mass (a la Ecclesia Dei);
- The refusal to distinguish any longer between the conciliar Church and the Catholic Church;
- The congratulatory notice to the Ecclesia Dei communities’ 2013 priestly ordinations featured on the SSPX Polish District website;
- The Menzingen condemnation of Fr. Pivert’s book “Our Relations with Rome” (In which were offered strident defenses of the Ecclesia Dei communities, and which chastised Fr. Pivert for focusing excessively on the Kingship of Christ);
- Bishop Fellay’s CNS interview, in which he declares that religious liberty was “very limited” (and therefore implicitly acceptable);
- The 2007 Angelus reprint of Michael Davies’ “Pope John’s Council,” in which the SSPX publishes a book including chapters defending Dominus Iesus(and by extension Lumen Gentium), and which also contained an heretical idea of “apostolicity;”
- The branding campaign initiated by Fr. Wegner, in which the confession of the faith is lessened, by refusing to preach against the errors of Vatican II and the Roman modernists, and eliminating the militancy from its periodicals and websites (per the 2009 Angelus announcement of Fr. Higgenberger);
- The diocesan outreach initiatives of Menzingen, designed not to convert the conciliarists to Catholicism, but rather to smooth over decades of former opposition, and eliminate the awkwardness in preparation for an accord or recognition which will have you working shoulder to shoulder with the modernists;
- Bishop Fellay’s scandalous statements that “we accept 95% of Vatican II” and that “Vatican II belongs to the tradition of the Church;”
- The overturning of the 2006 General Chapter Declaration, which declared no canonical recognition before the doctrinal issues were resolved (i.e., the conversion of Rome);
- The sales pitch at that time in the Cor Unum trying to convince you (and indirectly by extension, us) that things had changed to such a degree in Rome that it demanded a new posture from the SSPX with regard to the prudential precondition (a la Fr Simoulin’s “We can’t be ‘88ers Anymore”);
- The revelation of the GREC meetings, in which it is revealed that while Bishop Fellay was publicly explaining to us why there can never be a deal with unconverted Rome (as in his quoted statements above), privately he was working towards that very objective;
- An extension of the Menzingen diocesan outreach program, the preposterous example of SSPX priests attending the 1st Mass of an Institute of Christ the King priest in France;
- The US District Bursar posing for pics with an Ecclesia Dei priest at the Catholic Identity Conference in West Virginia (Can one imagine Archbishop Lefebvre attending the Mass of an ICK priest, or posing for pics with them?);
- The attempt to usurp jurisdiction over the traditional monastic communities (e.g., as revealed in the Steffeshausen Memmorandum), that all tradition might be captured alongside the SSPX;
- ICK priests attending Bishop Fellay’s Mass in Belgium earlier this year (Can one imagine “Msgr” Wach sending his priests to hear an Archbishop Lefebvre sermon?);
- The SSPX participating in “tradcumenical” conferences (contrary to their former condemnations of “tradcumenism”);
- Bishop Williamson banned from participating in the 2011 meeting of District Superiors in Albano, Italy and the 2012 General Chapter 7 months later (under the pretext of punishment for disobedience, but in reality to guarantee he would not obstruct the official reorientation of the SSPX, with regard to making itself open to the acceptance of a practical accord, or unilateral recognition with unconverted Rome).
All of this (and so much more) is most certainly compromise, and the SSPX would not be on the precipice of a back-door accord (i.e., they will call it a unilateral recognition, in which the SSPX did not have to compromise anything……except the 20 compromises listed above, and another 300 which could be listed in a separate article all its own), were it not for these changes already having taken place, and evincing a new attitude (which the GREC meetings show is not so new after all) in Menzingen.
Regarding the statement that “Bishop Fellay won’t make a bad deal.”
Father, how can you not recognize in such a statement the acceptance a priori of compromise, when you are admitting there could be such a thing as a “good deal” with unconverted Rome?
As Bishop Williamson once said, “What good is good paper with bad men?”
If I was the Pope, I would give the SSPX whatever terms it asked for, and then go back and calm down my modernist colleagues by recalling to them Fr. Cottier’s words after his conquest of Campos:
“Reconciliation carries within itself its own internal dynamism (i.e., self-censorship) which will mature….eventually, we must expect additional steps, like concelebration.”
He was made a cardinal for his infidelity to tradition. Meanwhile, Bishop Rifan does indeed concelebrate the new Mass.
What blindness hides suffering this same fate from Bishop Fellay?
In fact, I think he really does not fear this course of evolution for the SSPX; I believe he has secretly been there for 20 years (and he is not alone: I know of one SSPX priest who, as a seminarian during the 1988 consecrations, would not attend them, because of issues of conscience. How long must he have waited for the SSPX to be so close to a recognition!).
There was a time before you were a priest when the SSPX clergy considered it a badge of honor not to be in communion with the conciliar errors, so long as Rome was engrossed in them, and promoting them:
For example: Did you ever read this letter to Rome, signed by all the SSPX District Superiors, begging to be included in the “excommunications?”
I sense you never knew this unbranded SSPX, but in fact it is what we were brought up on.
We were strong in the faith, and never scrupled about being outside the Church, schismatic, irregular, or any of the other phantoms you were taught are so odious (or which Fr. Simoulin trumps up to win sympathy for the not so new orientation in Menzingen; incidentally, you can see my response to him on that score here:
Where Archbishop Lefebvre used to praise us for our concerns about his dealings with Rome, calling us (in the interview cited earlier) “true Faithful,” and crediting us with keeping the SSPX on the straight and narrow path, neo-Menzingen condemns us as “rebels.” Yet we keep being told nothing has changed; we are just the disgruntled fringe the SSPX has always tried to shake out. But that assessment would not match the historical record I have provided in this letter.
That SSPX priests have been made oblivious to the shifting goal posts (i.e., Unconsciously drifting from supporting “no canonical recognition without first settling the doctrinal issues” [2006 General Chapter Declaration], to backing its opposite with “We have laid out six conditions to accepting an eventual practical accord” [2012 General Chapter Declaration], does not give me confidence their fidelity to tradition will last much longer, even in its diminished, compromised form.
Perhaps you can see now that given all these changes and compromises, the priests known as the Resistance are not (as you implied in our conversation) simply leaving because they are “disgruntled about their assignments,” but because they perceive the SSPX has left, or is leaving, them.
Conversely, perhaps you can see now how you (and the others who are going along with all the compromises) remind us of those priests and faithful who, little by little, gave up the integral faith after Vatican II under the pretext of false obedience, and followed the leaders to whom God had given graces of state (which these same leaders rejected).
As Bishop Williamson has observed, the crisis in the SSPX resembles in all aspects the crisis in the Church after Vatican II (or what he calls “Vatican 2B”).
An important question to reflect upon would be to consider whether it is God, or the devil, who wants an agreement (or recognition) between the SSPX and unconverted Rome. Can we not deduce the answer by predicting the likely deleterious effects which will follow upon a recognition or accord (and which are already evident within the SSPX in the examples of compromises already consummated above)?
Can a good tree bear bad fruit?
Do you know the tale of the frog and the scorpion? The scorpion needs to get to the other side of the lake, and a frog is the only one who can make the swim, so the scorpion asks the frog to let him jump on his back. And the frog responds, “But you are a scorpion. You will sting me.” To which the smiling scorpion responds, “Ridiculous: If I sting you, we will both sink and die.” Convinced he had made a safe deal, the frog lets the scorpion get on his back, and when they are in the middle of the lake, the scorpion stings the frog. Shocked and dying, the frog says, “Why would you sting me? We had a deal! Now we will both die!” To which the scorpion responds, “You are a frog, and I am a scorpion. It is in my nature to sting, and I could not do otherwise.”
That parable is directly relevant to any deal with unconverted Rome: There is no deal that can be made (any more than Catholics can dialogue and collaborate with communists): It is in the modernists’ nature to think they save you by killing you, and they have announced their intentions many times to bring you around to Conciliarism.
Archbishop Lefebvre (in the Fideliter interview quoted above, speaking about Cardinal Ratzinger’s intentions in carrying on negotiations) understood this. Menzingen either does not, or does not object to being captured and dissolved into Conciliarism.
Regarding your unfamiliarity with the SSPX “branding campaign.”
I was quite surprised when you expressed your unfamiliarity with the term “branding campaign.”
As much publicity and scandal as its revelation has caused, I can only surmise at this late stage, that to be unaware of this basic Resistance issue presupposes a desire to remain ignorant of it (and all the other Resistance arguments, such as those I have been recounting above).
Perhaps you think the observations of the Resistance (which ought not in the least be equated or synonymous with Fr. Pfeiffer) are of the devil?
Was not the same said of Archbishop Lefebvre after Vatican II?
Was not Rome saying of him: “By their fruits, you shall know them;” “Look at the divisions within them;” “they have sedevacantists among them;” etc.
Along those lines, I will say only this:
That the Resistance should have arisen all over the world, so spontaneously and independently, indicates that what has become known as “the Resistance” is not a delusion based on sophisms, distortions, and exaggerations (regrettably common as those may be in a certain Resistance camp), but rather that observable deviations, scandalous statements, and the reorientation in Menzingen was perceived, then resisted, all over the world.
More than one SSPX priest has told me they have not heard about even the most basic Resistance arguments and issues, and it amazes me that there could be an internal crisis of this magnitude, but which would inspire no curiosity into its causes or merits.
Just imagine one undergoing severe financial distress, but taking no care or interest in investigating the causes!
I hope that when you watch Fr Patrick’s Girouard’s sermon regarding his conversation with Fr Wegner about the latter’s conception and implementation the branding campaign, that you will be as scandalized as the rest of us who have become aware of it.
It is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKAEO1VQCTc
I hope you can appreciate how difficult it was for me to discuss these issues with you.
That said, because you know that I respect you, I hope you will receive it in the same spirit of amity and truth which motivated me to send it to you.
I have no intention of drawing you into a lengthy correspondence or debate. I have said my piece, and I am done.
I have spoken about these matters with enough SSPX priests to know that you will likely agree with very little that I have said, and will feel compelled to rebut these comments. If so, please be assured that I will read what you have to say.
Finally, if there was anything in the tone or tenor of this email which came across as disrespectful, I can promise you it was not intended. Fr. Xxxxxx can tell you that I have a lamentable inability to beat around the bush, and tact has never been my strong point.
For our purposes, it makes no difference that the quote immediately above comes within the context of Bishop Fellay explaining that he must refuse to consider a deal until/unless the traditional Latin Mass is “freed” for the whole Church:
On the one hand, one could debate whether Summorum Pontificum (which declared the traditional Latin Mass had never been abrogated, but then goes on seemingly to place restrictive conditions on its availability) really accomplished this end.
On the other hand, this interview (given in November 2004) occurred at a time when the precondition for a practical accord with Rome was still that of Archbishop Lefebvre (recounted in the Fideliter interviews above), which required the prior conversion of Rome, and which was to be reiterated 19 months later in the 2006 General Chapter Declaration.
The point and applicability of the quote, then, is that Bishop Fellay expressed an awareness that silence was the cost of recognition (and still is, as the branding campaign makes painfully obvious).
 Fr. Andreas Steiner (SSPX media spokesman in Germany): “The decision [to expel Bishop Williamson] will certainly expedite the talks.”
This quote was, in turn, taken from this German language periodical:
In English here: http://www.therecusant.com/sspx-ed-ordinations
 See Chapter 2 of the present work
 http://www.dominicansavrille.us/society-saint-pius-x-visits-prelates/ “According to the November 25, 2014 official communiqué of the Episcopal Conference in the Philippines (CBCP), which published the following photograph, Fr Carlos Reyes, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited on November 18 the SSPX priory in Manila in order to meet with Fr Nely, second assistant to Bishop Fellay, and also with the priests of the priory. They hoped to achieve this goal: To develop cordial ties with this group, along the same lines as the September meeting held in the Vatican, and to reach full communion with the Church. Several canonical solutions were raised.”
 “If the minor premise were to have changed, that is to say, if there were to be a change in the situation of the Church in relation to the Tradition, this could lead to a corresponding change in the conclusion, without our principles having changed in the slightest! As Divine Providence is expressed through the reality of the facts, to know His Will we must attentively follow the reality of the Church, observe it, scrutinize what’s going on. However, there is no doubt that since 2006, we are witnessing a development in the Church, an important and very interesting development, though barely visible.” (Bishop Fellay, Cor Unum, March 2012)
 The “Steffeshausen Memorandum” was published on the internet, and then widely distributed, without the permission of the Avrille Dominicans. As such, I will not link to it here.
 This is the letter “A Charitable Response to Fr. Simoulin” which began this book.
 Fr. Ferrer (Secretary to Cardinal Cadizares) to the SSPX: “Do not agree with Rome, she cannot keep her promises to you.” http://strobertbellarmine.net/Reflections_about_the_Roman_Proposal___Complete_Transcript_with_Quotes.pdf
 For example: ‘For a future recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, the full acknowledgment of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of the same Benedict XVI is an indispensable condition’ (Handwritten letter of Pope Benedict XVI to Bishop Fellay, 2012). http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2012/09/important-with-popes-own-signature.html