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The Recusant

An unofficial SSPX newsletter, fighting a guerilla war for the soul of Tradition!

“Interivew [sic] with Father Niklaus Pfluger 
on the challenges of our time – English edition”

 This is the title under which this interview was published online, on 17th February 2015, and which can be found at the following address:

 

http://dergeradeweg.com/2015/02/17/interivew-with-father-niklaus-pfluger-on-the-challenges-of-our-time-english-edition-the-straight-path/#more-1549

 

It is a very poor translation of the German, making it rather difficult to understand on a first reading, but we have done our best. A certain amount has already been said and written by others about this interview, and it includes many things worth noting, especially by those concerned over the direction and future of the SSPX. Perhaps the first thing which we ought to take note of is the fact that this was a “friendly” interview, that is to say it was an interview between two fellow-travellers, two men who already know each other and know that they agree, meaning that Fr. Pfluger could feel comfortable and say what he really thought without feeling any need to justify himself excessively or guard against hostile questions. This might in part account for the commendable frankness of Fr. Pfluger’s comments, although he is known for being a man who makes no effort to hide what he really thinks in any case!

 

The interview will further be of interest because its main subject is the Resistance and the SSPX. The purpose, it seems to was to belittle the former, whilst praising the virtues of the latter. Question 1 therefore kicks things off by asking about whether the Resistance have got it right about Archbishop Lefebvre. Or it tries to ask that, but in comically blinkered fashion, the interviewer just cannot help himself, and ends up asking whether Archbishop Lefebvre was really a stubborn fanatic as the Resistance say.

 

It almost seems as though even Fr. Pfluger too is embarrassed by the way this question is put, because he appears to begin his answer by saying that that is not the right question to ask. He then goes on to say that the Resistance are “trying to exploit” the Archbishop, but also that “[they themselves] are already divided” on the issue, with some denouncing Archbishop Lefebvre as being too weak. Well, I know of no Resistance priest who would say such a thing, but I do know of one priest who left the SSPX in 2012, perhaps initially for the right reasons, who went straight to sedevacantism. One of his newsletters last year denounced Archbishop Lefebvre’s “erroneous declaration” of 1974, his main thesis being that since the Archbishop was not a hard-line sede like himself, he got it totally wrong. Because the priest in question is German, this will not be widely known outside Germany. But to return to the question, what has that to do with the Resistance? It is perhaps an interesting lesson in the madness to which sedevacantism can lead, but the question was not about sedevacantism...

 

Question 2 asks about “insults” and “calumny, directed against the Society” and asks whether this is because we are modern men who have lost the notion of authority. Once again the question, laughably one-sided, basically is fishing for a “yes” answer and inviting a denunciation of the character of those in the Resistance, in other words, it is fishing for and inviting… insults and (possibly) calumny! Once again, as so often before, not one single example is given of how any of the articles or sermons over the last three years, or any of the main arguments made against what has been going on, are in any way insulting, much less calumnious.

 

Again, Fr. Pfluger appears not fully to agree with his interviewer, preferring to attribute the Resistance’s “insults” and “calumny” (which are taken for granted!) to the fact that the Resistance “practice with great zeal a religion which they do not understand”. He also says that we are moralisers and Jansenists and that we have a Protestant notion of the Faith.

So there you go… …no insults there, then!

 

Question 3 asks about “passive (non-open) Resistance” and specifically that this is marked by “social and ecclesiastical isolation”. The theme of “social isolation,” the reader will recall, already came up in another article from Der Gerade Weg, one regarding those crazy people who believe conspiracy theories. What I find interesting about this is what is left unsaid. The clear implication is that it is one’s bounden Catholic duty to have as many friends as possible and be as popular as possible. Given what is known of the interviewer, it might come as no surprise that making one’s peace with the world by whatever means possible is regarded as a desirable goal whereas being at war with the world is something to be avoided at all costs. Now, what does Our Lord tell us about the world hating you just as “it hated Me first.”…? The martyrs in the reign of Diocletian, the recusant English Catholics in the reign of Elizabeth I, the Catholics who remained faithful in the wake of the French revolution, or who persevered behind the Iron Curtain… all these (and many more) might be called “socially isolated.” And it is part of their glory. One suspects that the interviewer thus betrays more about himself than he realises! We shall pass over the assertion by the interviewer that “The Resistance does not operate in German-speaking areas,” since this is demonstrably false. Some half a dozen Resistance Mass centres exist in Germany and Austria, including one in his own town of Munich!

 

Question 4 is the first straightforward question in the entire interview. Brief and to the point, it asks: “In 2012, did the leadership of the Society betray its mission, the Catholic Faith and the General Chapter of 2006?” The answer is either yes or no, and anyone who has done their reading will realise that the answer is, in fact, yes to all three! A brief study of the declaration of the 2006 Chapter, for example, compared with, say, Bishop Fellay’s CNS interview of 2012 will suffice to show the third betrayal beyond any doubt. More important than the betrayal of the Chapter or the mission of the SSPX (which was only ever a poor instrument in God’s hands) is the betrayal of the Faith. And to judge this question one ought really to start by looking at the problem of Vatican II, what the SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre always used to say about it, and then look at what the Doctrinal Declaration of April 2012 said about it.

 

Fr. Pfluger, in his reply, makes no reference whatever to any of these vital points of reference, or any other reference to doctrine. Instead he contents himself with a sophism:

 

“...Some say that we betrayed them because we did not immediately make an accord with the Vatican, others because we are in talks with the Holy See. Both sides are totally convinced that they are right. This fact alone shows that we have not betrayed anything, or anybody…”

Spot the fallacy! Some people say we’ve become liberal. But because there exist others who still think that we’re not liberal enough, that alone proves that we’re not liberal. Or, to use another example: some people say that the government went too far when it legalised abortion. But because others think the government did not go far enough, it must prove that the government did nothing wrong. The question thus becomes entirely relative, a mere matter of opinions, and not something which can in any way be tested against an objective standard. Most of us hitherto would have hesitated to accuse Fr. Pfluger of moral relativism in his thinking, but this interview is there for all the world to see.

 

He goes on to note that participants of the General Chapter of 2006 could not foresee the wonderful accomplishments of 2007 (the so-called “freeing of the Mass” which was really nothing of the sort) and 2009 (the so-called “lifting of the excommunications” which was a nonsense too, since one cannot “lift” something which never existed to begin with!). In saying this, Fr. Pfluger clearly seeks to justify Menzingen’s change of policy from that laid down by the Chapter of 2006. And in seeking to justify the change of direction, does he not implicitly admit that the change of direction took place? For, had no betrayal taken place, had Menzingen been totally obedient and abided by the direction laid down by the 2006 Chapter, why the need to seek to justify anything? Another case of a man’s words betraying more than he intended perhaps…? He further says that the decisions of the General Chapter are not dogmatic or infallible, which is true but entirely beside the point. They are decisions which the Superior General and his Assistants are bound in conscience to obey, just as their own subordinates obey them. For one so keen to denounce the “disobedience” and “rebellion” of those below him, like so many in the upper-echelons of the SSPX Fr. Pfluger seems to take a remarkably carefree view of his own disobedience and rebellion to the decisions of the 2006 Chapter in the months leading up to July 2012.

 

Question 5 is about “autonomous pastors and priories” (priests who are not in the SSPX, in other words), and it is not clear what the relevance of this is. There seems to be something or someone being referred to here, understood by both the interviewer and Fr. Pfluger, but not by any casual reader not “in the know.” In response, Fr. Pfluger talks once more about how we cannot be “narrow minded” “legalistic” or “moralistic”. And that: “it is precisely the youth who should commit themselves to a Catholic liberality...” - by which, in his own words, he means the following attitude:

“ 1. For us, this is what we always do; 2. Live and let live.”

From what we have seen of the magazine for German-speaking SSPX youth (Der Gerade Weg), there doesn’t seem to be much cause for him to worry there! The question of whether this attitude is Catholic, whether it is the attitude of Our Lord, is something else.

 

Question 6 prompted the longest answer, and it concerned whether there are “spiritual fruits” to be found in “groups and communities” outside the SSPX. From the way the question is framed, the context of the interview, what is known about the interviewer and interviewee, and the answer which it prompted, it would seem the Indult Mass, the Fraternity of St. Peter and the like may have been what the interviewer had in mind. One also suspects that, to his mind, the answer is a simple “yes,” and that that is what he was (not very subtly!) fishing for. He also asks about “co-operation” with such “groups”.

Fr. Pfluger’s answer is long and rambling, much in the manner of one who wishes to say something controversial but cannot quite get himself to say it and who consequently dances around the topic for far too long. As mentioned above, the fact that the English translation is rather poor quality does not help matters. His main point, however, appears to be that the “Traditional Movement” (ugh!) is bigger than the SSPX, and the Church is bigger than the “Traditional Movement” :

 

“We are part of a movement of reform drawing on Tradition, from where comes its vigour. […] We can have the impression sometimes that the reform movement is failing because unfortunately it is not united. Others did not really cooperate with us because in their eyes, we are on the “outside” and our Resistance does not want to cooperate with them because they are on the “inside”. Division is never the work of Christ.”

 

He also says that because in some far flung regions of the world men wear something which looks like a dress, this shows that “traditions” can be different but equally precious. He asks: “Are we not tempted to label “modernist”, “liberal”, “Masonic” anything that does not conform to the routine of the 19th and 20th centuries?” In this particular case, one suspects the answer is no, far from it!

 

Question 7, the final question of the interview, asks how “we” should behave towards “the sowers of division,” who are identified as “mistaken laymen and disobedient priests”.

In response, Fr. Pfluger explicitly rejects the main premise of the question, that the SSPX has been undergoing any kind of difficulties. After talking for a little while about how “we are no longer living in that time [the 70s and 80s], the situation has continued to evolve, (etc.)”, Fr. Pfluger opines that what good, loyal Catholics such as he and Mr. Schäppi need to do is “convince and argue.” Having forced myself now to plough through the entire interview, I wholeheartedly agree. That is what they need to do. Enough of the empty rhetoric about “disobedience” “rebellion” and “discord,” gentlemen! How about some actual arguments, please, if that’s not asking too much?

 

“I hope that we refute more clearly these spokespersons mentioned above … These people are not zealous believers but devout fanatics,” he says. Well, I don’t think a real refutation very likely, but then they have not yet even begun to attempt one. An entire interview, more than 3,000 words, and not one real argument put forward of any substance. Just lots of adjectives lots of generalisations, lots of sweeping statements. (Ironically, Fr. Pfluger himself says at one point, “Clichés and sweeping statements are not constructive.” Again, I wholeheartedly agree. Would that he practiced what he preached!)

 

***********

Well, assuming of course that Fr. Pfluger really means what he says, we intend to take him up on his word, and request our own “interview” with him, by distance if necessary, or in person, as he prefers. Our questions will be less sycophantic and more to the point, and will seek to prompt answers far more illuminating and useful to the reader. If what he says is true, and if we laymen really are only “zealous but misguided” then it is surely his duty to set us right, or at least to give it a try. It would be an ideal opportunity to “convince and argue”, as he says.

 

Readers who have any questions which they wish to be put to the First Assistant are encouraged to send their question to us at: recusantsspx@hotmail.co.uk and we will consider it and possibly edit it in the interests of clarity, and put it to him if and when he agrees to be interviewed for The Recusant. In the meantime, we will let you know in subsequent issues how this intention has progressed and what response we have received from him.