A [Subversive] Word from the Superior General
Cor Unum – June/2017
Dear members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X:
A few troubles have broken out in our dear Fraternity in recent months. Some members felt that they had to take a position publicly to express their point of view, using the pulpit or their bulletins for that purpose. In this they have acted in disregard of the elementary rules of every organized society, and also of our internal statutes and rules which require that relations with Rome be reserved for the Superior General. This is a provision of our venerated founder. Any article on this subject must therefore receive the approval of the Superior General, after having been submitted to the judgment of the Superior of the district.
We therefore condemn these untimely initiatives, the most serious of which have been sanctioned. Is it necessary to recall that the General Chapter of 2006 included among the grounds for dismissal of the Fraternity rebellion and the public dissemination of a dispute with the authority? Let this warning be taken seriously.
As always, these confreres imagine they are defending Tradition. But in fact, the means they use weaken it by seriously attacking the unity of our fraternity, sowing discord and causing confusion among the members and the faithful. Moreover, they pretend to dictate to the authority what should be its conduct. Whatever the good intention or the quality of the arguments, it is impossible to use an evil and unlawful means without causing damage to the common good.
Once again, we take this opportunity to recall the nature of our relations with Rome, since that is what it is all about.
- The Church is experiencing one of the most terrible crises in its history, both in its intensity and in the extent of the errors spread at all levels of the hierarchy and the Catholic universe. This internal crisis began well before the Second Vatican Council; it goes back at least to the pontificate of Leo XIII and was strongly denounced by Saint Pius X under the name of modernism. It is experiencing a dazzling development on the occasion of the last Council which introduced a number of new principles and “pastoral” attitudes in order to open up to the world. The latter was able to diffuse its spirit in the favor of compliant texts which were matured. If today voices are heard to deplore a false reception of the Council, speaking of a para-council, a council of the media, we must note that the door open to these errors, called false interpretations, is found in the texts and the very atmosphere of the Council. If it is difficult to define exactly “the spirit of the Council,” it is in its name that the Church has been gravely wounded a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis …
- Faced with this terrible reality, Archbishop Lefebvre reacted by taking the means that had to be used to get out of it. He was able to form priests, while rejecting the new orientations, faithful to all the truths and all that had been transmitted by our Mother the Holy Church;
- That’s what saved us! Moreover, it is this firmness which has allowed us to develop and manifest to the world and to the Church that attachment to Tradition is not a nostalgia for the past; but on the contrary a prodigious manifestation of the action of grace today;
- Obviously, this way of acting contrasts with the general spirit which reigns in the Church. The Roman sanctions as well as the will of the authorities to impose the postconciliar reforms, have forced us to live in a certain autarchy. This is the meaning of the operation survival of Tradition …
- Monseigneur Lefebvre, however, never wanted to separate himself from the Church. It is with great precaution that in the sermon of the sacraments and in other writings he manifested our attachment to the Church by refusing any schismatic spirit. Both his actions before the consecrations and his remarks afterwards show that for him there was no alternative: the pope remains the pope, the bishops of the bishops, with their prerogatives, even if they make mistakes , even heresies. That is why he always demanded that we appoint them to the Canon of the Mass.
Here we touch on the crux of the problem that affects us all, for it involves our future, and even our existence. How can we concretely hold the principle of obedience to the Church when in the very name of obedience we must reject everything from the errors that destroy it?
A line of action has been defined, in particular at the Chapters of 2006 and 2012. It emerges from a set of principles and practical applications. The principles do not change, but the circumstances in which they must be applied are modified and require adjustments or clarifications, which was done in 2012 or last year in Anzère.
The fundamental principle that we follow from the beginning is that of fidelity to the Church and its perennial teaching. For the Church can not change either the faith or the commandments of God. The accidental modifications, the new dispositions which it applies prudently throughout the centuries, must correspond to this first principle: “nihil novi nisi quod traditum est.” That is why we cry out loud and clear that we remain Catholic, even if we do not follow the reforms of the last fifty years, and that we refuse to follow the ecclesiastical authorities whenever they wish to impose them. For nothing in the world we do not want to distance ourselves from this line of conduct.
This may give the impression of a certain contradiction: we affirm our submission to the legitimate authority and we almost systematically refuse to follow it. However, with helping time and human nature being what it is, some of us adopt erroneous attitudes, either by exaggeration, by simplism, or by intellectual laziness. If we are to remain in the Truth, we must also respect the reality and verify that our affirmations of the moment really correspond to the facts as they unfold before our eyes.
It is imperative that the justification of our line of conduct strictly respects all Catholic principles. We can not free ourselves from it. For example, it is a false and very dangerous approximation to say: “We do not need a delegation for marriages”; “The substitute jurisdiction for confessions is enough for us …”; “The acceptance of a delegation for marriages signifies acceptance of the novelties of the Council,” etc. I am afraid that some will end up “dogmatising” a prudential action. It is not because we are struggling in an interminable crisis that we should a priori refuse any advance in favor of Tradition, free ourselves from any rule, was it established at the Council of Trent, or disregard the power of the keys given to the successor of Peter. We have never refused in principle to recognize the acts of the Pope when they are legitimate.
Much good, much work to bring priests or faithful to Tradition, are thus prevented by cerebral and abstract reasoning that does not correspond to reality. I wonder how some consider the “conversion of Rome,” the return of the Church to its Tradition, while they carefully avoid any action, any contact with the official Church, not to mention the Ecclesia Dei mobility. Saint Francis de Sales already understood that one did not catch flies with vinegar …
It is a fundamental mistake to think that there is nothing better to expect from the official Church, purely and simply identified with the modernist or conciliar Church. While we receive everything from the Church even today. All the means of sanctification, all that we bring to the faithful, we have from this Church with its hierarchy, its pope, its bishops, a very real and concrete Church, the one we have before us. To want to identify it with the conciliar Church inevitably leads to a sterile refusal of all initiative, even good, under the false pretext that it would corrupt our work. It is like wanting to convert sinners while avoiding them!
We must maintain the principle according to which we receive from the Catholic hierarchy, especially from the pope, but also from the bishops, the means of sanctification. The axiom ecclesia supplet is valid only in the event of the failure of the authorities for various reasons, the main one being the salus animarum, the transmission of integral faith, the communication of grace through sacraments certainly valid. Even in cases where it is outside the normal exercise of authority, the principle of legislative intent must nevertheless be carefully preserved. We are not free to do what we want in the regime of the Church’s substitution of jurisdiction – and I fear that we have taken a liking to this false appearance of freedom.
We mistrust the official Church because of the grave deficiencies of disastrous reforms for the good of souls, and rightly so. But to come to the conclusion that “everything is bad” is necessarily exaggerated and false. Especially since there exists today, though imperfectly, a movement of resistance and reaction to the conciliar disaster.
For several years now, we have witnessed a slow evolution in conservative circles. There is today a real realization of the gravity of the widespread errors, a questioning of certain reforms of the Council. In liturgy as in theology, there is a real desire for a return to much more serious. The fact that the dominant line remains strongly progressive and does its utmost to neutralize conservative efforts no longer allows universal assertions such as “everything is corrupt”, “they are all modernists”, and so on.
The same is true of the Ecclesia Dei movements, including in the Fraternity of St. Peter, where there are a number of Nicodemes, convinced that the analysis of Bishop Lefebvre on Vatican II is the right one.
This does not mean that all the prerequisites and requirements for canonical recognition are already met. Nevertheless, progress in this direction is undeniable. Here is, for example, what Pozzo wrote to me in March/2017:
“I underlined [with Pope Francis] that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X longs to preserve the spiritual, theological, disciplinary and pastoral identity desired by Archbishop Lefebvre, that is, experience and life of Catholic Tradition prior to the reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council. The pope has not expressed any reservation on this subject. Similarly, with regard to the two points discussed (the possibility of consecrating auxiliary bishops among the clergy of the Prelature and recognition of the clerical state from tonsure and commitment to celibacy as early as sub-diaconate), His Holiness stated that he had no objection to this.”
In conclusion, we believe that it is right to say that we are gradually seeing an improvement in the conditions imposed on us by Rome, that this is part of a more general reaction to the objectively more serious situation of the Church in its aggregate. But as far as Rome and ourselves are concerned, this situation is not yet satisfactory to conclude. After a short period of exaggerated optimism on the part of Bishop Pozzo, who was pushing, even as probable, the date of recognition of May 13 this year, we heard in turn Pope Francis and Cardinal Müller announce that things would still take time. “To walk, to walk, and then we shall see” the papal will of not rushing. In the same way Cardinal Müller: “We must take the time, (…) it takes a deeper heart conversion”.
In the present phase, therefore, we need to know whether the Roman authorities will confirm the “relativization” of the Council in spite of the pressure of the Progressives, and whether the Pope is prepared to concretize in either specific or universal laws what was reported to us by Bishop Pozzo.
As for us, we see no other option than to continue to treat with great caution with the Roman authorities, who for the moment have shown benevolence. We have much to gain, both Tradition and the whole Church. Time works for us, and we discern every day in an evident way the hand of Divine Providence.
Let us look at the history of the Fraternity sub specie æternitatis. And then the serene and all-powerful protection of the God of peace which it has enjoyed hitherto, should calm the minds of the troubled people of the Church.
Deign Notre-Dame, his Immaculate Heart, to grant all the members of the Fraternity peace of hearts under his benevolent protection.
On the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Menzingen, June 11, 2017
+ Bernard Fellay