Michael sat at his kitchen table, perplexed. He put down his copy of Fr. Yves le Roux’s ‘Letter to Friends and Benefactors,’ with his left hand and rubbed his head with his right. Fr. le Roux sounded like such a good and holy man, his letter was jam-packed with pietistic sentiment and pious-sounding vocabulary, the piety almost dripped off the page, reading his words it sounded as though he cared about nothing but the spiritual welfare of his children, and yet... and yet there was something not quite right. He could not say what it was, but something about Fr. le Roux’s letter troubled him.
He had barely even heard of “the Resistance” before. But now, thanks to Fr. le Roux, he now wanted to find out more. Why, after all, if important men in the SSPX such as Fr. le Roux were devoting so much time to attacking these people, then the matter must be very serious indeed! Come to think of it, he could not remember the last time he had heard or read such a strong attack on conciliar Rome by Fr. le Roux or the other superiors. It really did seem almost as though these “Resistance” people, whoever they may be, were the main culprits responsible for the crisis in the Church. And Fr. le Roux in his letter had said that they had been at it for two years, perhaps three..! What on earth would possess people, Michael wondered, and not just any people but Traditional Catholics as well, to maintain such a course of pure, destructive evil in the face of all evidence to the contrary? Was it a case of spontaneous mass hysteria? Diabolical possession? Could such people really exist? Worse than that, according to Fr. le Roux, it was not just laity who were involved but priests, religious and even a bishop too! This was very unusual. It was time that he found out more.
He stood up and, with his right hand, he opened his laptop, a sure sign of action and with a look of determined resolve on his face. A very quick internet search for some key words mentioned in Fr. le Roux’s letter (“resistance” “Fellay” “Rome” “betrayal”) brought him to three or four websites. There he began to look for the baseless rumours to which Fr. le Roux had referred. Here was a text, supposedly the work of Bishop Fellay, which seemed to declared that the SSPX accepted Vatican II, the new code of Canon Law and the new Mass. The footnotes were full of references to Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum and other Vatican II documents – Bishop Fellay quoting them favourably. He read the document a second time. Nowhere could he see where it actually condemned Vatican II or the new Mass. Was this one of Fr. le Roux’s 'rumours'?
On the same website was what purported to be a letter from Bishop Fellay to Pope Benedict XVI, in June 2012, just over two years ago. The letter had a wounded, complaining tone. “Cardinal Levada presented me with a doctrinal declaration which I could not sign,” it read. “The new text resumes almost all the points that caused difficulty in September 2011...” That fitted with what he had heard already from the SSPX authorities themselves. But what was this? “Unfortunately, in the current context of the Society, the new declaration will not get through.” What on earth could that mean? Was he going mad, or was Bishop Fellay saying that the new, even-more-modernist Doctrinal Declaration, the final draft which the Romans had presented to him, was only bad because he, Bishop Fellay, would not manage to get it “past” the other SSPX members under him? Surely not. This warranted a closer look. He read that last phrase again. On the webpage was a link to the original French. Michael’s schoolboy French was rusty from lack of use, but he concentrated carefully until he had found that same sentence in French. “Malheureusement” – that must mean unfortunately – “dans le context actuel de la Fraternite” – with the way the Society is at the moment, or something like that – “le nouvel declaration ne passera pas” – the new declaration will not pass. What did that mean, if not to suggest that Bishop Fellay was on the side of the Pope and would happily have signed any text, even the final, more openly modernist declaration, but that the need to keep his own followers from guessing what he was up to had held him back?
Michael sat there staring in front of him. For some unaccountable reason his mind kept returning to many exasperating discussions with his extended family. Every time the elections came around, his uncle and cousins would insist on dutifully turning out to vote for the local representative who was supposedly a ‘conservative.’ In vain Michael and his wife would try to show them that the man was really nothing of the sort, that like every slimy politician he had voted for every immoral anti-family law going, and that it was only the need to keep some of his own voters happy so as to get himself re-elected which made him put on the pretence by saying some conservative-sounding things every five years when voting day came around. Of course, no matter how hard Michael tried to show them, it never did any good. His uncle and cousins, he suspected, were the sort of people who liked feeling that they were ‘making a difference,’ and who went to some effort to persuade themselves that things weren’t quite as bad as all that. Ah well. What an odd way his mind worked! How had he ended up thinking about them now, he wondered?
If this letter from Bishop Fellay to the Pope were genuine, it presented a problem, and a lot of questions needed answering. Of course, that was an “if”, and there was always the possibility that it wasn’t genuine. And yet the website claimed that both the Doctrinal Declaration and the letter to Benedict XVI had been taken word-for-word from Cor Unum, the official internal bulletin for SSPX priests. Could it really be? That must mean that it was genuine, unless the people behind this website had invented the text and lied about it coming from Cor Unum! But then that would be such a big, open lie that Michael wondered why Fr. le Roux did not denounce it specifically!
Here was another website which discussed current goings-on in the SSPX. He quickly found one article claiming to have news of the movement of priests and the appointment of new District Superiors. Now that surely would fit into the category of rumours, thought Michael to himself. But wait, what was the phrase Fr. le Roux had used several times? “Unverifiable rumours”. Well, when the transfer of priests took place in a few days’ time on August 15th, he would be able to see if what they claimed was true. This was certainly not “unverifiable”! So it must be that Fr. le Roux had been thinking of something else...
Here was what one website claimed to be a press release from the SSPX last year, when Pope Benedict XVI resigned. It was full of thanks and praise for him for his “strength” and “constancy”. Not one word of criticism for this mastermind of Vatican II. Could this be real? He followed the link to DICI, the press agency of the SSPX. Yes it was real enough; it was no rumour, and it was most certainly verifiable. The same thing happened with the SSPX press release full of hope and encouragement a few months into the Pontificate of Francis, and full of condemnation for the prophets of gloom who were not so encouraged by this new Pope. Surely there had been a mistake: this must have been a Fraternity of St. Peter press release which the ‘resistance’ people had mistakenly thought was a SSPX press release! Again, he followed the link to DICI. It was from the SSPX after all. The source checked out: there it was, fully verified.
Michael began to feel very uneasy indeed. He had been looking for only fifteen minutes and yet he had so far come up with several very worrying documents. And what was worse, they were no more “rumours” than they were “unverifiable.” Just one such document would be bad enough, but several? And there were more which he had not yet looked at! He decided to look at just one more website for today, to give himself time to mentally digest the matter before continuing.
The final website which Michael looked at carried several declarations by priests and religious. Here was an article by Fr. Hewko, here was another by Fr. Faure (the website claimed that Fr. Faure had been the right-hand man and close confidant of Archbishop Lefebvre – could that be, or was this another outrageous resistance lie? Either way, it ought to be verifiable), and another by the Traditional Dominicans of Avrille in France, and another by Dom Tomas Aquinas OSB, the Benedictine priest who had resisted the sell out of both Le Barroux in 1988 and Campos in 2001.. and another, and another... All sorts of different priests and religious, and from all the four corners of the globe. And what was more, they all seemed to say the same thing.
What could possibly be the answer to all this? There was absolutely no rational way of explaining it. None. Except, that is, if..? But no. No, that was unthinkable. Could it possibly be? But if that were so, what could then could explain Fr. le Roux's pious, fatherly concern for the 'peace of mind' of his faithful, his concern for them going on the internet and finding “unverifiable rumours”? What could explain the curious story about a man who, after looking online, concludes “There is no proof in the accusations...” and finds inner peace as a result? Could Fr. le Roux be honestly mistaken? But that would have to mean that he was unaware of all those documents, a mere fraction of which Michael had just seen for himself. How could a man as prominent as Fr. le Roux not be aware of them? How could he write about a subject of which he himself were blissfully ignorant? If a fraction of what those websites claimed were true, then it might even look like Fr. le Roux himself had an interest in keeping people from looking, in keeping people ignorant of what was really a matter of great importance.
For a little time now, Michael’s feeling of uneasiness had been growing. How ironic, he thought to himself, that the character in Fr. le Roux’s story had started off uneasy and had ended feeling calm. Yet here was he, who had started off calm, feeling increasingly uneasy as a result of all this. But after all, he thought, uneasiness can be a good thing, can’t it? What was the name of that 1950s film where the agitated people turn out to be right all along, and the calm people who urged everyone to pay no attention, turn out to be the bad guys? Invasion of the Body Snatchers, that was it! It had always been a favourite of his as a boy. And after all, thought Michael, if there really is something worrying going on, I don’t want to feel at peace. How did that old joke go, about grandpa dying peacefully in his sleep unlike the passengers in the back of his car...
Michael decided that there was one final thing to do to settle the matter. He would give it one last chance, so that he could say he had tried if nothing else, and if he received anything less than a fully satisfactory reply, he would know for sure.
He sat down and began to write: “Dear Fr. le Roux...”