Bishop Fellay’s Letter to Friends & Benefactors, No.83
This appeared shortly before Christmas and can be found here. We will not quote the entire letter at length here. Apart from the fact that it would send any red-blooded Catholic to sleep, it is in one sense nothing new. Its purpose is transparently to reassure those faithful still unfortunate enough not to be “reassurable,” and thus it comprises about 90% platitude. So that the reader does not have to plough through the whole turgid epistle, I have read it for you and have written a handy little summary. I have paraphrased, somewhat, in order to shorten the letter’s length. (For those of you who object to my poking-fun, the tongue-in-cheek tone, the sarcasm, etc. I’m sorry! I just can’t help it! It is the only way to preserve one’s sanity! If you really don’t believe me, just try reading the letter for yourself and see if I've got it so very wrong...)
(Summary of Bishop Fellay’s Letter)
Things are really, really bad in the Church. I mean really bad! Cardinal Ratzinger once said that things would get really bad and, wow, he must be very wise, or maybe he’s read the third secret. But anyway, he was so right! Things are bad, believe me. They all have different opinions about morals and stuff.
Now as for us, we, on the other hand, are just amazing. The SSPX is doing a really good job. Catholic Families are just so important today. Same goes for Catholic schools. Our schools are doing a really great job. We put just so much effort into our schools. The other thing the SSPX is doing a really great job with is the Spiritual Exercises. I just really hope that young adults in the SSPX keep a strong Faith. Ignatian retreats are important too. And our seminaries: we really care a lot about priests and the formation of priests too. I mean, just look at the big seminary we’re building in Virginia! If that doesn’t tell you how much we care about priests, then I don’t know what will! As everyone knows, Archbishop Lefebvre was all about the Mass, and therefore he was all about priests too. The same goes for us.
So there you go: it’s onwards and upwards for the SSPX! And if you want a final proof of that, just look at all the fancy churches we’re building. It proves we’re “dynamic”!
Thanks for your generosity,
Now, apart from the fact that it is extremely trite, apart from the fact that it lacks fight and is short on detail (nothing about Vatican II or the conciliar errors) and long on emotional appeal, and that it might well have been written by the leader of any indult or even “conservative” congregation, what else can be said about this latest barometer of where the XSPX is at? I would say that it is instructive, if nothing else, to take some of those platitudes and see how they hold up to scrutiny. Even not-very-close scrutiny shows them to be empty and hollow. Not only does Bishop Fellay not practice what he preaches, in many cases he practices the exact opposite.
Here are a few examples. (All quotes are taken from Letter to Friends and Benefactors No.83, unless otherwise stated)
1. Catholic Families
“For a long time we have realized that very special attention must be paid to the Christian family … Considering the number of large families who serenely cultivate virtue and seek the glory of God, without neglecting their duties toward their neighbours and society – quite the contrary! – we can only bless Our Lord and marvel at such mighty workings of grace!”
Words are cheap. It is easy to say that “Christian”(!?) families are a good thing. But how do the actions measure up to these fine words? Does this “special attention” involve telling parents that “having children is not a race”? Does it involve promoting so-called “Natural” Family Planning, which can only result in smaller and more worldly families? Does it involve preaching on a priests retreat that families today ought not to have more than five or six children? Does it involve allowing and approving of mothers going back to work and putting their infants into child-care, a practice which is alarmingly widespread amongst SSPX families in France? Could it possibly involve the reports of cult-like interfering in marriages so as to break them up, getting one spouse away from the other if he or she is less than enthusiastic about the neo-SSPX? (If any of our readers can confirm or deny what we hear about this, we would be most grateful…) How much do we really care about families?
“Yes, dear families … you give proof that this life is still possible today, and that those who abandon God’s commandments to seek other ways that cater to the modern world are defeatists who have lost the spirit of faith that ought to animate every Christian.”
Err… yes. But is that all that one ought to say on the subject? There is the bit about sin and hell, and virtue and heaven. The bit about anyone who wants to follow Our Lord being required to first of all pick up his own cross. The bit about the modern world being controlled by what Fr. Fahey calls “the organised forces of naturalism” who constantly seek to destroy married life and the family…
2. Catholic Schools
“This life of faith needs to be protected, and in order to develop, it needs the Catholic school.”
Does it, though? The right school can be a huge help, but does the “life of faith” really need a Catholic school? What about homeschooling families, do they not manage to develop “this life of faith”..? After all, does not Pius XII reaffirm the constant teaching of the Church when he says that the primary educators of children are the parents? The letter continues:
“This is a serious, very specific concern: where nowadays are we to find authentically Catholic schools where the teaching of the Faith truly imbues all the subjects that are taught? Where do we find institutions that prepare future fathers and mothers for the battles that must be fought in this world in order to conquer Heaven?”
Notice that Bishop Fellay uses rhetorical questions here. He does not actually answer them, though he wishes you to think that he has. The effect is that he appears to have said something which he has not actually said. Perhaps he has a little scrap of conscience left after all? At any rate, the answer to the question “Where are we to find authentically Catholic schools…? (etc.)” is emphatically: “Not in the XSPX!”
“This is why one of our major efforts concerns schools. Throughout the world we dedicate to them most of our resources, both human and material. And in fact a hundred or so schools of different sizes are forming thousand of staunch Christians for tomorrow.”
Notice how vague this is as to the detail. What are the schools really there for? For “forming staunch Christians for tomorrow”. Staunch in resisting what, in holding on to what, in fighting for and against what? He doesn’t say. Many of us have met and are acquainted with many of the products of SSPX schools, and can judge for ourselves how “staunch” they are. To be sure, some of the alumni of SSPX schools are devout Catholics. But they are, it seems, increasingly becoming the exception which proves the rule. Look at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Tynong, for example, the largest of the Society’s schools in the southern hemisphere, the Australian St. Mary’s Kansas. As reported in previous Recusants, this school proudly proclaims on its website that it promotes “equality,” “tolerance,” and religious liberty. In their it was said that they were required to say that by the government; but then it turned out that the government only required it in return for funding - they did it for money in other words! More recently, the school was organising its children to donate to a charity which funds protestant “missionaries” in third world countries such as the Philippines. Now we hear that this same school, as a fundraiser, has recently been promoting “prizes” such as “girls day out shopping tour in Melbourne” and a “sending the kids off [to a party] in a limo.” Somebody ought to ask Bishop Fellay how such things, by any imaginable measure, will help to “...prepare future fathers and mothers for the battles that must be fought in this world in order to conquer Heaven”! We have only mentioned one school, but the examples of open liberalism coming from SSPX schools across the globe are legion. “This is a serious, very specific concern,” writes Bishop Fellay. Indeed it is. What’s more, some very specific concerns regarding his schools have been brought to his attention. And what specifically does he intend to do about it? What can be said to constitute “our major efforts”..? When SSPX schools promote the so-called “luminous mysteries” of the Rosary, when the girls finish school and join the armed forces, when pupils are taught that John Paul the Great is a Saint (this was even before his pretended “canonisation”!) - what sort of Catholics are really going to come out of such schools? When the television is no longer considered an enemy of childhood formation and of family life, and when it is fine for the mothers and their daughters to go about in jeans, what exactly counts as “staunch” these days? And yet Bishop Fellay says that “we dedicate to them [SSPX schools] most of our resources.” Does that mean that this sort of thing is intentional? Is the SSPX really paying attention to what goes on in its schools after all? Who can tell.
3. Ignatian Retreats
But what happens when the young people leave SSPX schools and go out into the world, how will they survive? This is where Bishop Fellay’s enthusiasm for Ignatian retreats comes in:
“We are greatly concerned about the perseverance of these young adults on the path of good and virtue, keeping their souls in a state of grace in the midst of such a perverted world. And so we can find no stronger antidote than the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius”
Wonderful. But again these are only words. And words, as we know, are very cheap. Many people have expressed their dismay that the retreat house which once was so welcoming has, in recent years become a business run by jobsworths; that where once you were encouraged to go on retreat no matter what, now it is pay up or else! The way the SSPX organised and ran its retreats was once a very edifying thing to see: you were encouraged to attend, no matter what. If you couldn’t afford it, you were encouraged to attend anyway; money should be no barrier to the spiritual benefit gained from the Ignatian Exercises.. SSPX retreats in the past must hardly ever have broken even, much less turned a profit. That was then. Today things are different. How enthusiastic are we really about Ignatian retreats? I suppose if all the families practice “Natural” Family Planning and all the SSPX schools alumni go on to be worldly successes who make lots of money in their godless secular jobs, then it will make people more able to cough up on such occasions… Whether this is a deliberately thought out plan or merely a by-product of a spiritually barren lack of trust in God’s Providence shall remain to be seen.
“In the United States their [i.e. seminarians] growing number obliges us to build a new seminary, in Virginia. It should have a roof over it by next spring.”
Enough has been said already about the folly of the new Cluny-esque seminary being built in Virginia. (By the way, next spring - that’s in only a few weeks, isn’t it?) We will only comment further to point out that whatever the SSPX feels “obliges” it to build this monstrous white elephant, it cannot be “growing numbers” since there were only seven young men who made their engagement in the SSPX recently. Recall, furthermore, that these young men are still near the start of their time in the seminary. By the time priestly ordination comes around, not all of them will necessarily have remained throughout the intervening years. It would not be unusual, for example, for a dozen or more seminarians making their engagement to produce six or seven ordinations a few years later. But if one starts with only seven…
This might not be the lowest number ever, but if it is not, it is the lowest number in many, many years, since the very early days of the SSPX in fact. If one of our diligent readers would like to make some enquires and get back to us, we would be most grateful. Suffice it to say that Fr. Le Roux and Bishop Fellay must be hoping and praying that this does not continue. If it does, their justification for building the White Elephant in Virginia will vanish very quickly. Not that that would have stopped them - many of us suspect that the White Elephant is being built for motives of vainglory and only on a pretext of numbers.
5. The Prophetic Ratzinger
As mentioned in our brief summary, this is something for which we would have been derided had we imagined it. In fact, Bishop Fellay opens his Letter to Friends and Benefactors with the following words:
“Seventeen years ago now, the future Benedict XVI presented his vision of the future of the Church; at the time it seemed very pessimistic.”
After describing the then Cardinal Ratizinger’s vision (“a collection of small groups…” though “...still lively” floating in a sea of unbelievers), Bishop Fellay goes on to comment:
“Is this vision the product of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s personal wisdom, or is it inspired by some other source, such as the Secret of Fatima?”
Notice the two alternatives with which Bishop Fellay presents you. Please choose from: either a) Cardinal Ratzinger is right because he is so wise, or b) Cardinal Ratzinger is right because he has read the Third Secret of Fatima.
What is worse, when one reads what Cardinal Ratzinger actually said (and this too is included by Bishop Fellay in the Letter), one finds that he suggests that this development may not be such a bad thing or that it ought not necessarily to be resisted. The then-Cardinal comments on the destruction of Christendom in the following terms:
“Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring the good into the world...” (Joseph Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, Ignatius Press, 1997)
Perhaps. Maybe. Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps we are duty bound to fight for God, His Church and His Catholic civilisation, and not to simply roll over merely because the enemy appear to be advancing. This sort of thing might be Bishop Fellay’s cup of tea, but to my mind there is something very wrong here. The destruction of Christendom did not just happen. It has been long in the planning and hard fought for by those who have an interest in seeing it come about. And to view the result of this evil and conclude from it that that was what God wanted all along anyway (“...so why bother?”) is at best defeatism. I have heard this sort of nonsense before, in the conciliar church. “The shortage of priests is God’s way of telling us that he doesn’t want priests/parishes/Mass like we had in the past, it’s God’s way of telling us that we should have more lay-led communion services, married clergy, women priests, etc., etc.
One would hope that nobody in the SSPX would fall for this kind of rubbish. As for Bishop Fellay, he goes on to describe the crisis in the church in rather superficial terms: firstly in terms of the externally visible signs, then those that are less visible such as a loss of unity. At no point does he say what caused any of these things. For example, the post-conciliar drop in the number of priests he describes as “bewildering”. That he finds it bewildering is what has me bewildered! What could possibly entice any red-blooded young man (or even middle-aged man) to become a Novus Ordo priest is another thing I find bewildering. But there must be still some who do become Novus Ordo priests, albeit a smaller number. Bishop Fellay would have expected it to be a larger number, and finds it “bewildering” that the liberalism, modernism and heresy of Vatican II have led to such a decline.
He also laments the lack of unity of Faith, unity of government and liturgical unity. Unity, as we know, is a fruit of the one true Faith. The Faith brings about unity. Heresy (and remember, modernism was described by St. Pius X as the synthesis of all heresies) causes a loss of that unity. Therefore, once again, Bishop Fellay is lamenting not the cause, but only the effect; not the illness, only the symptoms. Ask yourself this: if, for argument’s sake, the conciliar church had a liturgical unity whereby every priest and bishop said exactly the same super-liberal novus ordo Mass, if they all taught the same heresy, if the conciliar church were governed in a totally consistent way, a unity of government towards the same evil ends: would all be well, would that be to Bishop Fellay’s satisfaction? What matters is the Faith. All else flows from it. Bishop Fellay does not discuss the attack on the Faith, nor where that attack came from, namely Vatican II. For then he would say something which might offend his Roman friends. Perhaps he was hoping that Cardinal Ratzinger himself would read this letter of his. Perhaps he was right. Either way, he once again manages to try to sound “conservative” and “traditional”, making all the right noises, without actually saying anything of real consequence. Consummate politician and deceiver that he is, he yet cannot quite hide his real thinking:
“No serious measure has been taken to check this catastrophic disappearance of the Church from society,”
he laments, and as a result, says he,
“...we are no longer very far from the almost prophetic vision of Cardinal Ratzinger.”
What “measure” would that be, that does not involve going back to the question of doctrine and firmly rejecting the Council in its entirety once and for all? That is what we stand for. What Bishop Fellay and his neo-SSPX stand for, whether all of them realise it yet or not, is a less radical, more cosmetic approach. You can keep your council, but please do something to stop the total disappearance of the Church; keep your liberalism, but just make it look a bit more conservative in some places so that we can get a few more vocations through the conciliar seminaries and keep things going a bit longer. Keep your heretical teaching on religious liberty, but just allow the few priests who want to say the Latin Mass.
Thanks but no thanks. With such an attitude, it is no surprise that the SSPX is dying throughout the world. In the meantime, what it can do to mask the decline is embark upon ambitious projects involving money and advertising. Usually these involve building fancy new churches. But although the church may look fancy, ask yourself how many Mass centres have shrunk or closed in other places. Whereas once the SSPX grew and spread, saying Masses in garages and rented halls, but covering great distances with a zeal for souls, now, if current trends are taken to their logical conclusion, it will soon become a small collection of very fancy churches with vast spiritual wastelands in between. Pray and work so that more people wake up before that days arrives.
St. Pius X, pray for us!
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"Viva Cristo Rey!"