We wish to approach you, in a spirit of charity, in order to bring before you certain concerns that we wish to address to you as the Superior General of the SSPX.
For some time now we have been hearing reports regarding a practical arrangement with Rome. We are concerned at the potential danger that this might pose to the integrity of the Faith—which is our Faith, and the Faith of our children and grandchildren.
Rome's intentions regarding an SSPX agreement
Several high-ranking SSPX clerics (Frs. Pfluger, Schmidberger and others) have stated that Rome is prepared to give the SSPX “carte blanche”—in other words, to accept the SSPX as it is, without compromise. However, in contradiction to that we have the published words of several high-ranking individuals in Rome, including the Vatican Press Spokesman, who make it clear that they view this as a question of the acceptance by SSPX of the “Vatican II” version of religion in order to achieve a ‘return to Rome’. At the same time, we are warned that we ought to pay no heed to ‘rumours’. Since there exists a contradiction between the two reported versions of what is being offered to the SSPX, and since a Vatican press announcement is not a rumour, are we to conclude that we ought to pay no heed to the words of Fr. Pfluger, for example?
Your own position regarding the Second Vatican Council
We are also scandalized at your recent remarks, published across the world by CNS, that:
“[thanks to the doctrinal discussions with Rome] we see that many things which we would have condemned as being from the Council are in fact not from the Council, but is the common understanding of it”.
“The Pope says that the Council must be put within the great Tradition of the Church... these are statements we agree with, totally, absolutely.” (CNS, May 2012)
We, the signatories to this letter, wish to point out that when you say “we” you do not speak for us. Furthermore, we wonder how you can reconcile this idea that the Council was misinterpreted, with the words of Archbishop Lefebvre (in his books “They Have Uncrowned Him” and “I Accuse the Council!” for example), or even with your own statements from not so very long ago, such as:
“Ratzinger should prepare for a direct revision of the Council texts and not just denounce their incorrect hermeneutic (interpretation)”. (CNA, 30 October 2007)
From certain quarters we are being urged to show loyalty, obedience and unity. Leaving aside the awkward memory of how these very same words were used to silence opposition to conciliar teachings and the New Mass some 40 years ago, we feel compelled to ask: which Bishop Fellay are we expected to obey? The Bishop Fellay of 2007, who declared that Vatican II must be revised, or the Bishop Fellay of 2012 who thinks that Vatican II was merely misunderstood and can be accepted? Furthermore, which Bishop Fellay is more consistent with the example of Archbishop Lefebvre?
Your attitude towards Benedict XVI
We also must confess ourselves confused, to say the least, regarding your recent statements about Benedict XVI. It has been said that nobody in the SSPX has a right to refuse if the Pope insists on a canonical accommodation. You yourself have spoken of him in terms of his being our leader in the fight for Tradition:
“But we are not alone in working to defend the Faith … It’s the Pope himself who does it; that’s his job. And if we are called to help the Holy Father, then so be it.” (CNS, May 2012)
May we remind you that this is the very same man (as Cardinal Ratzinger) whom Archbishop Lefebvre felt he could not trust in 1988? That this is the same man who has professed heresies that he has never retracted, as Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has pointed out on several occasions? That in the mind of this same Benedict XVI, the idea ‘defending the Faith’ appears to include speculating about the non-existence of Limbo, about the possible moral probity of contraception when used by the depraved, and that he appears to believe that conversion, baptism or the confession of Christ are not necessary for Jews to be saved?
Given that a person as prominent as yourself is not normally ignorant of these things, is it unreasonable for us to conclude that you are consciously and deliberately overlooking the heterodox teachings and leadership of Benedict XVI? The SSPX USA District website currently carries an article purporting to show that, following the example of St. Basil of Caesarea, the correct attitude of Catholics when faced with heterodoxy and heresy in high places might often have to be one of silence in the face of apostasy, in order to accommodate themselves so as to continue to do good. We cannot for one minute imagine that Archbishop Lefebvre would have agreed that this should be the strategy of the Society at this particular time, nor that he would have tolerated for one moment such an idea being published in or by his SSPX in these circumstances. The reaction of your fellow Bishops of the Society would indicate that rapprochement (or more than that) with Rome at this present time is, to say the least, taking a hasty and overly perilous step.
We find that in remaining faithful to the legacy of the great Archbishop Lefebvre, remaining faithful to Catholic Tradition, we are placed at odds with you and your leadership. We neither desired this nor asked for it: the cause lies with you, therefore with you also lies the solution. We, the sheep adhering to Holy Tradition gladly gathered around the Society, because the Society spoke with the Voice of the Eternal Shepherd, and we recognized His Voice in what the Archbishop and his faithful followers proclaimed. Whatever the result of the present circumstances, we—the Flock faithful to Holy Tradition and to the Faith of the Eternal Church—we shall not be the ones to change. We will remain faithful to Tradition, whatever the consequences.
Rumours, information, openness and honesty
Finally, we wish to express our very deep concern that amidst this turmoil, amidst what appears to be a huge upheaval affecting the SSPX—therefore all of us and, by implication, the future of Tradition and the whole Church—there appears to be a reticence on the part of the leadership of the SSPX, a reluctance to come forward with information in a spirit of honesty and openness.
We are told on the one hand that we ought to pay no attention to rumours or internet gossip, and only pay heed to information which comes to us from the official sources of the SSPX. On the other hand, when solid facts come to light (such as the letter of the three Bishops, or your recent interview with CNS, or the Vatican press release about the SSPX) we are supposed not to look at that either.
On the one hand, we are told that we should get our information solely from the official organs of the SSPX (dici, sspx.org, pius.info etc.). On the other hand, these same news organs have been demonstrably hiding from their readers any facts that do not help the cause that they are trying to advance (namely, the argument in favour of reaching a practical agreement with Rome). Nowhere on DICI.org, or on SSPX.org, or on pius.info will one find the May press statements from the Vatican, nor any reference to the fact that a majority of the Society’s Bishops, as well as a large proportion of the Priests of the SSPX and of the Faithful adhering to the SSPX—quite possibly the majority—would be against the idea of a practical agreement with Rome at this time.
We are castigated for reading what is termed “private correspondence”, when our only desire is to put an end to rumour by making ourselves informed of the facts. The letter which the three SSPX Bishops sent to you last month did not contain any personal information, and treated only of public matters affecting the future of the SSPX, therefore it is surely somewhat disingenuous for it to be termed “private correspondence”. What is more, it does appear that there is a double standard in allowing clerics who are in favour of reaching a practical arrangement to express their personal opinions from the pulpit, whilst at the same time requiring absolute silence from those who are against such an arrangement. We therefore feel that we are justified in both reading and circulating that letter to other faithful Catholics who, like us, are concerned for the future of the SSPX, and who—except for seeing that letter—might feel themselves alone and confounded.
In short, if Your Excellency wishes the Faithful to trust the leadership of the SSPX, if the Faithful adhering to the SSPX are exhorted to pay no heed to rumours, then we feel you ought to take steps to dispel the current climate of fear and distrust, and allow all opinions on the matter to be stated openly, all information (regarding, for example, whether the Rome of today has converted from its Modernism to any significant degree) to be circulated openly, and it is in a spirit of honesty and openness that we write this letter to you, in genuine concern for the future of Tradition throughout the world.
The future of the SSPX and the future of Tradition
When you became Superior General of the SSPX in 1994, you took your place at the head of a Society that was strongly united, fervent, devout and unworldly, which knew what it stood for and why, and which had a clear vision of where it was going. Our Lord entrusted this Society into your hands. Were He to ask you now to render an account of what you have done with that same Society, what would you be able to show Him? What sort of a Society will you bequeath to your successor?
It is abundantly clear to us that Rome has not converted, that Rome is as steeped in Modernism as ever it was. What is not clear to us is what the leadership of the SSPX is doing or why—i.e. your own attitude, beliefs or motives. Archbishop Lefebvre taught us admirably well, both through his writings and in the personal example that he gave to the world, that the duty of Catholics is not one of merely believing in a passive way. It is also apostolic, of converting the world, and of pointing out and denouncing error when one sees it. In his own day, Archbishop Lefebvre denounced the various errors spread by Church authorities, including the Pope. He founded the SSPX not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end: the end being the continuation of Tradition and the denouncing of error. He did not found the SSPX in order for it to “... not be provocative [or] aggressive,” to use some more of your recent words. We are perplexed and dismayed that certain members of the SSPX appear to see a motive, an end, which outranks that of preaching the Truth and denouncing error in season and out of season, and are thus willing to fall silent in the face of the many errors and evils of our day.
It is our fervent hope that the future of the SSPX and the future of Tradition are, as in days past, one and the same thing. Whatever may be the case, however, we will do all within our power to believe and spread the Truth, to denounce error, and in so doing to remain faithful to Our Lord and His Church, to Tradition, and to the legacy of Archbishop Lefebvre—whatever the cost, and whether Your Excellency chooses to abandon us or remain with us.
St. Pius X, ora pro nobis!