“No practical agreement until there is a doctrinal agreement?”
Extracts from an article by Fr Michel Simoulin, SSPX
Published in le Seignadou (France), October 2016, with a few inserted comments inserted by Le Sel de la Terre, doctrinal review of the Dominicans of Avrillé
[Text by Fr Simoulin, in red:] I promised you some objections, and the responses we could make.
Here is the first objection, which is perhaps the only serious one, that of Archbishop Lefebvre’s statements, mainly made after 1988, to the effect that he wished to await the “conversion” of Rome before taking further steps towards reconciliation. This position is usually presented in this way: no practical agreement until there is a doctrinal agreement.
[Comments by Le Sel de la Terre, in white:] This position was defended not only by Archbishop Lefebvre (firmly and on numerous occasions), but also by the four bishops of the SSPX after Archbishop Lefebvre’s death (1991) up to 2012. In 2006, the General Chapter of the SSPX pointed it out again in a solemn way. (See the editorial from the fall 2015 issue of Le Sel de la terre: ‘Satan’s masterstroke’, which is also available as an article on this website.)
[Text by Fr Simoulin:] This is true and well-known, but the Archbishop himself recognized that this would take time, much time, and that it would be necessary to wait for Providence to signal the right moment.
Time, much time: well, then, why the rush? Why not wait peacefully for Providence to signal the right moment? Pope Francis with Amoris Laetitia, with his remarks on Luther ‘who was not mistaken’, etc, scandalized even conciliar ‘conservatives’. Is it the right moment?
[Text by Fr S:] And in this he relied entirely upon the superiors of the Society. He never stopped telling us: “For me, it’s finished… you have your bishops, your superiors, your seminaries, your priories; I gave you everything I had received… it is now for you to continue without me!”
In 2012, three bishops of the SSPX solemnly warned Bp Fellay about the hazards of committing to a practical agreement. This warning led to the expulsion of one of them a few months later.
[Text by Fr S.] Moreover, and those who were the Archbishop’s first companions should not forget it, beyond his sometimes thunderous statements, even in the most tense moments with Rome, Archbishop Lefebvre always acted and reacted as a servant of the Church and of the Pope and as a son of Rome. His heart was more Roman than many of ours, and even in his strongest interventions, those who knew him always sensed beneath them a genuine sadness: a sadness like that of Jesus Christ weeping over Jerusalem, but still filled with the desire to save the holy city, sadness for the state of the Church, sadness at having to act against the authorities of the Church, sadness at being neither heard nor understood.
The word “sadness” (italics added) is repeated five times: appeal to sentiment. But here, it is reason and faith which should guide us.
[Text by Fr S:] He would never have taken the first step towards rupture with Rome, and it was always “conciliar Rome” which took the initiative in the measures of “separation,” which would only end up in separating him a little more from “conciliar Rome” and in pushing him to take refuge ever more in the heart of “Roman Rome!”
The consecrations of 1988 without Rome’s agreement – and even against the pope’s and cardinal Ratzinger’s express intentions – were indeed an initiative of Archbishop Lefebvre, and resulted de facto in a separation from “conciliar Rome”.
[Text by Fr S:] Roman he was and Roman he remained to his last breath. Romanita is not an empty word, were almost the last words of his Spiritual Journey.
Many passages from the Spiritual Journey are very much opposed to an agreement with Rome before its return to Tradition. A single example: “The establishment of that ‘conciliar church’ pervaded by the principles of 1789, by the masonic principles is a hell-fired imposture […]. It is therefore the strict duty of every priest and of every believer who wishes to remain Catholic to separate himself from that conciliar church until it finds its way back to the Tradition of the magisterium of the Church and of the Catholic faith.”
[Text by Fr S:] But let us review history briefly. Firstly the SSPX–which was not founded to oppose the Council or Rome, but rather to give a structure in the Church for priests trained in the seminary of Fribourg-Econe–was recognized and established by and in the “conciliar Church.”
Father Simoulin reviews history his own way. The expression “the conciliar Church” only came into existence in 1976. Archbishop Lefebvre immediately said he did not want to be a part of it. Up to that point, Catholics and conciliars had not been clearly distinguished, which explains why a bishop favorable towards conciliar ideas (Bishop Charrière, a personal friend of Archbishop Lefebvre) could approve a perfectly Catholic society like the SSPX – which surprised Archbishop Lefebvre himself. But today, no bishop could be found with the courage to do that.
[Text by Fr S:] And there also was his proud response to the editorial of the Abbe de Nantes in which he was incited to break with Rome, in February of 1975. It is in Archbishop Lefebvre’s letter to the Abbe de Nantes that he told him: “Know that if a bishop breaks with Rome, it will not be I. My “Declaration” says it clearly and strongly enough.” This letter is dated March 19, 1975!
That letter dates from before the Roman condemnations. Bishop Lefebvre did not want to initiate a rupture with Rome, as Abbé de Nantes1 asked of him, but Bishop Lefebvre did not submit to the dictates of this “neo-Protestant Rome” and, if he accepted the rupture, it was in order to remain faithful to “eternal Rome”.
[Text by Fr S:] The independent bishops of the “Catholic Church” are free to carry out this rupture, but let them not claim a so-called fidelity to the thought of Archbishop Lefebvre for this reason, and let them stop making us laugh sourly by talking of “the treason of the current authorities of the SSPX towards the thought and work of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre”.
Father Simoulin does not name the person he is taking to task here; it is Bishop Faure, who founded a sacerdotal Society last August 22nd, to allow the seminarians in his care to join a structure, just as Archbishop Lefebvre had done in 1970. It is not a rupture. Just like the consecrations of 1988, it is a measure dictated by a state of emergency: the training of seminarians according to the spirit of the Church, without compromising with the errors of modernist Rome.
To avoid making Father Simoulin laugh sourly, we will rather speak of “the recklessness” of the SSPX’s authorities who are jeopardizing Archbishop Lefebvre’s work in moving closer to modernist Rome.
[Text by Fr S:] What did our superiors accept of the things Archbishop Lefebvre refused: the New Mass? The conciliar ideas? Religious liberty?
The answer is simple, and Father Simoulin knows it, since he has just mentioned it: the superiors of the SSPX have accepted the possibility of a practical agreement – of normalization – with Pope Francis’ Rome which has obviously not returned to Tradition, and they are even working to obtain this recognition. Bishop Fellay’s text reproduced above and Father Schmidberger’s in Le Sel de la Terre96 make it clear.
[Text by Fr S:] Instead of criticizing and condemning Bishop Fellay, let these men make positive and constructive suggestions. What do they suggest as a solution? Nothing but denial and rupture
The solution offered is to stick to the line set out by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, which is what the SSPX did until 2012: no agreement with Rome as long as it keeps spreading modernism.
[Text by Fr S:] And there are also these words of the Archbishop to the future bishops: ”I beseech you to remain attached to the See of Peter, to the Roman Church, Mother and Mistress of all churches, in the Catholic faith of all time.”
In the same letter, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote: “I will bestow this grace upon you, confident that without too long a delay the See of Peter will be occupied by a successor of Peter who is perfectly Catholic, and into whose hands you will be able to put back the grace of your episcopacy so that he may confirm it.” Could it be said that Pope Francis is “perfectly Catholic”?
[Text by Fr S:] And we can conclude with the words of the Archbishop himself, faithful to his first position until the end, from his address to the deacons on retreat in Montalenghe in June 1989, and therefore after the episcopal consecrations. He gave them one last time the meaning of the declaration of 1974 [November 21]: “I think that we need nonetheless, a link with Rome…”
The meaning of his words is suggested by the context: Archbishop Lefebvre was sounding a warning against sedevacantism. The “link with Rome” that he talks about consists simply in recognizing the current pope as validly elected. It is not a question of asking for a canonical recognition.
In the conference that he gave shortly after the priestly retreat at Écône, Archbishop Lefebvre said:
“As to the situation of Tradition and Rome, it remains practically unchanged. We can see it is more and more so. The Vatican is committed to maintaining the Council above all, which is nothing but a transposition of the spirit of the Revolution in the Church. This spirit they want to maintain at all cost, and all the concessions they can make, to the left, to the right, the appointments of seemingly traditional bishops, these are political and diplomatic means to be able to keep disseminating the spirit of the Council and the revolutionary spirit, certainly so. Indeed it was the devil’s masterstroke to succeed in using the highest-ranking members of the Church to spread the Revolution’s ideas. Clearly, that has not changed. [Archbishop Lefebvre then gives a few examples here, notably the appointment of Kasper, ‘a formal heretic’, as a bishop, with Cardinal Ratzinger’s blessing.] As long as that spirit prevails in Rome, that spirit of ecumenism, liberalism, modernism, we cannot hope for anything. So let us wait, pray, and work. God will decide, He knows better than we do, (He) who creates all things, He is the almighty, He can change the situation in no time, let us trust in God. But is impossible, absolutely impossible, today, to trust in the Roman authorities in any way.”
We believe that the situation is still the same and that Archbishop Lefebvre’s advice, (viz. “let us wait, pray, and work”) is still relevant.
Abbé de Nantes is the founder of the Contre Réforme Catholique, in France. He accused Pope Paul VI of heresy, schism and scandal, but disagreed with many of Archbishop Lefebvre’s positions, especially his telling the faithful to continue to attend the new mass in the parishes.