SAJM Statutes: Part II (An Unauthorized Commentary)

SAJM Statutes: Part II (An Unauthorized Commentary)

In the first installment, we published the newly promulgated Statutes of the SAJM, based as closely as possible upon Archbishop Lefebvre’s SSPX Statutes  of 1976 (modified by the General Chapter of 1982).  We highlighted in red font any modifications to those Statutes.  In this installment, we will comment upon these specific changes.

  1. Why the 1976/1982 SSPX Statutes as a Basis for the SAJM?

The first consideration is to answer the question of why Bishop Faure chose to use the 1976/1982 SSPX Statutes as a basis for the SAJM.  The reasons are both obvious and practical: His Excellency explains in the Preface which accompanied the promulgation of the Statutes that he desired to “keep intact the spirit of the Statutes given by Archbishop Lefebvre to the FSSPX.”  His Excellency’s starting point, is therefore, the desire and determination to retain fidelity to Archbishop Lefebvre’s proven model.

His Excellency, therefore, very obviously rejects the suggestion of a “post-Lefebvrian Resistance,” organized upon some other basis.  

Yet, His Excellency also realizes that some of the provisions within these Statutes were used to help facilitate the reorientation of the SSPX (e.g., Lengthy terms in office; lack of provisions for the removal from office of the Superior General outside of the General Chapter; etc.).  Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, His Excellency amends the provisions which helped to contribute to the ralliement process with unconverted Rome.

As for the selection of the 1976/1982 Statutes themselves (i.e., As opposed to some other year), there seems to have been a desire to return to the original Statutes (i.e., 1982 was the SSPX’s 1st General Chapter), in order to avoid incorporating provisions made to subsequent editions of the Statutes after the 1994, 2006, and certainly the 2012 General Chapters.   

But the overriding implication in the choice of implementing the SSPX Statutes as a basis for the SAJM is the clear conviction that Archbishop Lefebvre’s model is not only proven, but still the best guide forward amidst deteriorating conditions.  Implicit in this conviction is an aversion to novelty, and a spirit of humility.

2. Section II (On the Ends or Purpose of the Society), Clause 5:

Clause 5 represents an addition to the SSPX Statutes, and stands as an immovable bullwark against any possibility of ralliement with modernist Rome, stating “the Society rejects any possibility of canonical regularization…in any way whatsoever.” 

The addition of the words “in any way whatsoever” are more significant than might appear at first glance:

Clause 5 had just explicitly precluded “bilateral agreements” and “unilateral recognition.”  The addition of the words “in any way whatsoever” are taken, therefore, to refer to the manner in which the SSPX is currently being subjected to diocesan authority, even in the absence of any canonical “regularization,” by receiving what can only be described as an anomalous “extra-canonical” jurisdiction to administer the sacraments.

The implication, therefore, is that the acceptance of any such grants of jurisdiction are rejected a priori.

3. Section 5 (The Administration of the Society):

Provisional Norms, Subsection A:

This provisional norm declares that Bishop Faure will retain the position of Superior General “for the duration he decides.”  It is important not to see in this clause the establishment of a permanent Generalship.  The directive is contained in the section titled provisional norms (i.e., temporary).  And of course election procedures are outlined elsewhere in the Statutes. 

The temporary provision is necessitated by the very newness of the SAJM itself: There are currently no Chapter members (other than Bishop Faure); there is no way to satisfy the election processes outlined elsewhere in the Statutes; etc. 

Consequently, it is foreseen, in this same subsection, that this provisional norm will be abrogated once the SAJM has at least 50 member priests (i.e., Implicitly, this number seems to be chosen as it will be at this point that a full General Chapter can be convened?).

Neither ought it be implied that Bishop Faure necessarily remains Superior General until/unless the SAJM reaches 50 member priests: This same provisional norm extends to the bishop the right to appoint a new Superior General if the SAJM remains under the 50 member priests required to convene a General Chapter.  For Bishop Faure to have included this temporary provision, he makes clear that, should the SAJM not attain 50 priests for an extended period, it may be advantageous for the SAJM for him to appoint a successor. 

The obvious spirit of this transitory provision is to demonstrate a willingness to transfer authority (an interpretation corroborated by several other new provisions in the SAJM statutes, such as shorter terms in office, and the implementation of removal procedures for officeholders).

Provisional Norms, Subsection B:

By declaring that the election of Assistants to the Superior General will be deferred until such time as the SAJM comprises 50 member priests, the implication is that such elections are the proper role of the General Chapter (and in fact, this is explicitly stated in the very next sentence, in Section 5, clause 1).

Section 1: A Reduction in the Term of Office for the Superior General and his Assistants

Here we see another modification to the SSPX Statutes, severely curtailing the term of office for the Superior General (and his two Assistants) from 12 years to 4.  

The reduction of term seems to reflect an acknowledgement that much of the damage done to the SSPX throughout its sustained ralliement was a consequence of long terms in office, without opportunity to recall/remove wayward officeholders.

Shorter terms mean greater accountability, and less opportunity for the same type of deleterious gradual/ incremental changes over time, such as has characterized those in the SSPX.

Section 2: The Supreme Council:

It is interesting to note that the Supreme Council, “composed of three clerics who, as far as possible, should be members of the Society” need not, apparently, necessarily be such.  This wording seems to leave open the possibility of non-SAJM members sitting on the Supreme Council (e.g., Bishop Williamson or Bishop Thomas Aquinas, etc).

It seems the Supreme Council does not refer to the Superior General and his Two Assistants (i.e., It is not to be confused, by analogy, to the SSPX’s General Counsel), but rather to a new, distinct office to whom is granted the awesome power of dismissing the Superior General -without possibility of appeal- and appointing another in his place as Acting Superior General (who will then have one month to convene a General Chapter, and three months to take place, and elect a new Superior General).

It seems that such a Dismissal Decree requires the vote of two of the three members, and can only be issued in the case of a “Superior General who would divert the Society to liberal positions or adopt a behavior requiring such measure.”  The inclusion of “or adopt a behavior requiring such measure” seems to leave the door open to the possibility of a Dismissal Decree for other reasons (e.g., moral, etc.).

The effect of Section 2 is, therefore, to considerably lessen the power of the Superior General, who will, to a certain extent, serve at the mercy of the Supreme Council.

Meanwhile, the power of the members of the Supreme Council is considerable: They are “irremovable,” and they designate their own successors (the first three of whom will be appointed by Bishop Faure). 

It would seem the members of the Supreme Council execute no other function in the SAJM than to serve as “watchdogs” of the Superior General and his Assistants.  

It is curious that such power is invested in a role whose appointees need not even be members (“as far as possible, should be members of the Society…”) of the SAJM, but who could depose its Superior General nonetheless.

Section 3: The General Chapter:

Another amendment of the SSPX Statutes increases the frequency of the General Chapter from 12 years to 4 years.

The obvious intention is to make the governance of the SAJM more responsive, and not have to wait 12 years for the chance to address major issues, as circumstances dictate.

Section 6: The Superior General and his Assistants:

A provisional amendment: So long as there are no Assistants, the Secretary General will be Vicar General of the Superior General.

Another necessary measure stemming from the newness of the SAJM.  The selection of the Secretary General as Vicar General is logical, as in the absence of the two Assistants, it is he who will be most abreast of the Superior General’s business, will, positions, etc.

Section 10: The District Superior:

Consistent with the theme of greater accountability and distrust/fear of potential abuse of office which more often coincides with longer terms of office, the term of District Superior has been shortened to 3-year renewable terms.

The 3-year term seems sufficient time for new leadership to implement desirable change, without being so long as to leave the Society helpless should any given District Superior not govern according to the best interests of the Society.

4. Section IX: Reform of the Statutes

Bishop Faure retains the right to reform/amend the Statutes at any time.  Presumably, this mean he retains this right so long as he is Superior General.  

The General Chapter can also amend the Statutes, presuming they obtain a 3/4 majority vote, and the additional approval of the Superior General.  

Effectively, this provision places the power of the Superior General above that of the General Chapter (i.e., Even if the General Chapter obtain 3/4 majority vote, but the Superior General refuses, the proposed amendment of the Statutes fails), at least as regards amending the Statutes, yet it bears repeating that the authority of the Superior General itself seems conditional on the continuing approval of the members of the Supreme Council (as described above).