The Society of St. Pius X recently held a conference in Portland, Oregon. It’s primary purpose was to convince the faithful that were he alive today, Archbishop Lefebvre would accept a deal with modernist Rome, and that Bishop Fellay, in dialoguing with Francis’ Vatican, is in no way betraying the Archbishop. The Society’s website describes the gathering as follows:
Mr. James Vogel’s talk centered around the chronology and happenings of the “Hot Summer,” helping the attendees to better understand what actually happened at that time since the events of 1976 are largely overshadowed by the more dramatic episcopal consecrations of 1988. Following Mr. Vogel’s discourse on the history of the “Hot Summer,” Fr. Jürgen Wegner ascended the podium to speak about the letters written between Archbishop Lefebvre and the rector of the newly-founded seminary in Econe, thus bringing to light more clearly some of the Archbishop’s thoughts and rationale in his interactions with the Holy See.
His Excellency’s discourse compared Archbishop Lefebvre’s situation with Rome in 1976 with the Society’s today and also showed how the SSPX can follow the Archbishop’s good example, glean lessons from it, and apply those lessons and experiences to the way the Society conducts its interactions with the Holy See today…
The Society is focusing on the Archbishop of the 1970s because they know full well that if the faithful’s attention is drawn to “the more dramatic” events of 1988, they will understand that the Archbishop was not, as a matter of principle, in favor of “regularizing” the Society with un-converted Rome.
High ranking Society officials are aware of this. Yet for whatever reason, they continue to press on in their re-education efforts. In their attempt to sell the faithful on their liberal ideas, they engage in three distinct behaviors.
Remind the faithful about the “context” the Archbishop spoke in.
Discredit those who use quotes from the Archbishop from 1988 onward.
Emphasize certain things the Archbishop said during his life that support “regularization” while ignoring remarks he gave that reject “regularization.”
Two articles in particular reveal this three-pronged, long term strategy.
One essay is by Fr. Michael Simoulin, published on DICI.org in 2012. Fr. Simoulin, a liberal, writes, “let us be reasonable…simple good sense and honesty should lead us to consider the current situation with different eyes than in 1988!…we should not fall into ‘eighty-eightism.’”
In another article, “How to Interpret Archbishop Lefebvre” (published on the Society’s website several years ago) the stigmatizing of the Archbishop’s post-1988 remarks was accomplished in a different manner.
“In recent times,” the article begins, “it has not been uncommon for people to claim to know for sure what Archbishop Lefebvre would have done under present circumstances.” The author claims that there is a “war of quotes” that is used by some who “attempt to apply” words of the Archbishop “universally.” This, it is argued, “is a dangerous game.” Therefore, we must strive to “more deeply understand” him so we can see “why the Archbishop said specific things in certain situations and why the same prudential methodology is followed still today by Bishop Fellay and the Society of St. Pius X.”
While context undoubtedly matters, it should be noted that this choice of language mirrors almost exactly the methodology used by the architects of Dignitatis Humanae at the Second Vatican Council.
Fr. John Courtney Murray, an American priest, claimed Pope Leo XIII’s teachings needed to be taken “in their context.” Leo, Fr. Murray argued, was writing against the backdrop of the French Revolution. It therefore is entirely appropriate to disregard certain things he said about Church-State relations. In other words: “He was too mired by the times he lived in. We, the select few, are the only ones who know how to understand him.”
Murray also claimed that the Church in his time had a deeper understanding of the world and that by re-applying certain teachings of theologians during the Middle Ages to present circumstances the Church would be more relevant and be able to save the world from destruction.
Question: Is this not the same endeavor the Society is embarking on today? Are they not taking the Archbishop of 1976, freezing him in amber, ignoring his later remarks, and re-applying him to present circumstances to allegedly save the Church?
Notice also the words used in the Society’s description of the conference itself. Mr. Vogel, Fr. Wegner, and Bp. Fellay all helped attendees “better understand what happened” in the 1970s by “bringing to light more clearly” the Archbishop’s words in an effort to “glean lessons from him.”
Recall that at the Second Vatican Council, modernists and liberals claimed they too were going “deeper” into the faith so that a “better understanding” of the past could be “gleaned.”
In essence, what the modernists and liberals did was ignore the long development of the Church from its infancy to Her beautiful maturation during Christendom. They did this because they know that the more one’s attention is on St. Thomas Aquinas, the great encyclicals of the 19th century, and the teachings of St. Pius X, their ideas would be rejected.
Again, this is precisely what the Society is doing today, albeit in a slightly different manner. What is truly going on with the Society in 2016 is a sort of “archaeologism,” a term Pope Pius XII used to counter those who desired an “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism” in regards to the mass. In the case of the SSPX, they similarly exaggerate the earlier views of the Archbishop towards Rome and fail to highlight the development he underwent until his death in 1991.
The simple fact is that Archbishop Lefebvre of 1976 is not the Archbishop Lefebvre of 1988, at least in regards to SSPX-Rome relations. His decades of experience with the Conciliar Church and their cunning ways provided him with wisdom that cannot be discounted. The Holy Spirit undeniably increased sanctifying grace in the Archbishop’s soul after the ’88 consecrations. Consequently, he could see more clearly the error “regularization” with an un-converted Rome was. To ignore the remarks he gave following the consecrations on the Society’s relationship with Rome and to exalt what he said almost 15 years earlier is quite possibly a sin of omission. Pray that in the future the leaders of the Society preach the words of the Archbishop in their entirety.