The other SSPX bishops think this Pope ‘subjects the Church to the modern world’: in other words, they’re barking
By William Oddie on Monday, 14 May 2012
Bishop Bernard Fellay (CNS photo)
What exactly is going on in the SSPX? On Wednesday last week, a “communiqué” was issued by the SSPX “General House,” which I suppose means its headquarters, condemning the circulation on the internet, two days before, of an exchange of private letters between the Superior General of the Society of St Pius X and the three other SSPX bishops. “This behaviour is reprehensible”, thundered the statement; “The person who breached the confidentiality of this internal correspondence committed a serious sin”.
This means, I assume, that the letters as circulated were authentic; they have been roughly translated (I suppose they were in French), and then tidied up on a site called The Sensible Bond, whose text I will quote here. There has been a very fundamental disagreement between the four bishops of the SSPX over the possibility of an agreement with the Holy See, involving the setting up of the SSPX as a personal prelature, in other words as a semi-independent jurisdiction responsible only to the Pope. On the one side of the divide are Bishops Tissier de Mallerais, de Galarreta and Williamson, and on the other the Superior General of the Society, Bishop Fellay, and his two assistants Fr Pfluger and Fr Nély.
The three dissident bishops seem to me to be not only talking utter rubbish but to be actually barking, positively up the wall (Vatican II, they say, represents “a total perversion of the mind, a new philosophy founded on subjectivism. Benedict XVI is no better than John Paul II in this regard… he puts human subjective fantasy in the place of God’s objective reality and subjects the Church to the modern world”; you see what I mean); Bishop Fellay’s response to this, on the other hand, was (and I never thought I would find myself saying this) measured and sensible as well as being, as one would have expected, absolutely faithful to the Catholic tradition.
I really hope, if there is to be a schism within the SSPX (as looks on the basis of these letters more likely than not) that the overwhelming majority of SSPX adherents will follow Bishop Fellay back over the Tiber; there is, and he clearly understands this, still a battle going on inside the Catholic Church between the Magisterium and the “spirit of Vatican II” secularisers; and we need everyone we can get by the Pope’s side in this great struggle for the renewal of the Catholic tradition and the cleaning up of the Catholic Church. A personal prelature doesn’t need more than one bishop; and the disappearance from the scene of Bishop Williamson would be an unlooked for bonus.
Bishop Fellay’s declaration is not merely sensible, it is positively inspiring, and I therefore quote it at length; this is a bishop whose leadership is needed within the mainstream of the Church. He begins by criticising his fellow SSPX bishops’ analysis for two faults: “lack of a supernatural view and a lack of realism”. Then he goes on, very strikingly as follows:
“Do you still believe that the Church is the Church and that the Pope is Pope? Can Christ still speak through him? If he expresses a legitimate desire or decision, should we not obey, and will not God help us?
“Your all too human and fatalistic attitude implies that we should not count on God’s help, his grace or the Holy Spirit. If Providence guides men’s actions, has it not been guiding the movement back to Tradition? It makes no sense to think God will let us fall now, especially since we only want to do his will and please him.
“Likewise you lack realism, just as the liberals make the Council a superdogma, you are making the Council a superheresy. Archbishop Lefebvre made distinctions about liberal Catholics, and if you do not make them, your caricature of reality could lead to a true schism.
“You blame all the current evils on the authorities even though they are trying to extricate the Church from them (eg the condemnation of the hermeneutic of continuity) [note: I think Bishop Fellay means the hermeneutic of discontinuity] and are thus not all obstinate in heresy. That is clearly false. Hence when it comes to the crucial question of making an accord, we do not come to the same conclusion as you.”
He continues by saying that because of the present Pope’s words and actions a real change is taking place. “Young priests and bishops are supporting us… Now, a combat within the walls is possible, though very difficult.”
Archbishop Lefebvre, he says, “would have accepted what is proposed; we must not lose his sense of the Church”. And then he comes to the central point about the situation in which we all find ourselves: “Church history shows that we only recover gradually from heresies and crises, so it is not realistic to wait until everything is sorted out. If we refuse to work in this field, we fall foul of the parable of the wheat and the cockle in which Our Lord warns us that there would always be internal conflict.” In other words, separating yourself off within a little private world in which everything is conducted precisely to your taste simply isn’t the Catholic way.
These are, it seems to me, wise and courageous words, and the vision which inspired them deserves to succeed. Whether or it does, we will have to wait and see; there are those working within the SSPX against its success. It is clear from this correspondence that, as Bishop Fellay writes to them, the other bishops “have all worked to undermine [him]”. For all our sakes, I hope they fail; and I believe we should pray that they do.
Bishop Fellay is, it seems to me on this evidence, a courageous and inspirational leader; and we could do with him back “within the walls”. This is a crucial time: we are beginning to make, under the Pope’s guidance, real progress. In this country, soon, I hope and pray, Archbishop Mennini will be recommending (when all is as it should be in the Congregation of Bishops) a clutch of new and orthodox bishops to stand by the side of Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury; perhaps Bishop Fellay, as Superior of the new Prelature of the SSPX, will make an official visit to the Shrine Church of Ss Peter and Paul and St Philomena in New Brighton, Wirral. Stirring times, if all goes well. I live in hope; please God, let nothing go wrong.
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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Letters between the SSPX bishops and the SSPX General Council
Some rather high minded people have refused to talk about this. I regard it as too late. The story is out and the material is available in public fora. It is essential that people understand the positions of those involved because too much is at stake, not for those who run high-minded blogs, but for those whose lives are bound up with the interlocutors of those letters and the decisions that they will soon take.
I've been sitting on this story since last night but a quick sweep of the web confirms that this news is leaking out. There has been a sharp exchange of views between the four bishops of the SSPX concerning any possible agreement with Rome.
(L-R: Bishops de Galaretta, Tissier de Mallerais, de Castro Mayer (co-consecrator), Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishops Williamson and Fellay)
On the one side are found Bishops Tissier de Mallerais, de Galaretta and Williamson, and on the other there is Bishop Fellay, accompanied by his two assistants Fr Pfluger and Fr Nély.
There are some rough translations of these documents out on the web. I don't have time to craft a better translation now, so I will attempt to summarize the arguments which they contain. I post JPEGs of them below.
Letter of Bishops Tissier de Mallerais, de Galarreta and Williamson
The SSPX General Council has for months been considering Roman proposals for a practical accord, and this letter is to state our unanimous formal opposition to such an accord.
Of course there are honest folk on both sides, but all must admit that the Church's authorities have separated themselves from Catholic truth and are more determined than ever to continue as such, as recent events (Assisi III) have shown.
The profound problem which Catholics face was characterised by Archbishop Lefebvre as a continuation of the papal fight against liberal Catholicism over the last two hundred years and against the attempt to reconcile the Church and the Modern World. His conclusion was that Vatican II did not just include particular errors but represented a total perversion of the mind, a new philosophy founded on subjectivism.
Benedict XVI is no better than John Paul II in this regard, as Bishop Tissier's study of his thought (La Foi au Péril de la Raison) has shown: he puts human subjective fantasy in the place of God's objective reality and subjects the Church to the modern world. How can a practical agreement sort out this problem?
If Benedict XVI is benevolent towards Tradition, he can afford to be since he is a subjectivist. But if liberal subjectivists can tolerate truth, they cannot tolerate truth which refuses to tolerate erro; and they will not tolerate it if it condemns the Council's doctrine. So no practical agreement can be made which will not involve gradually silencing the Society's critique of the Council and the New Mass. The Society would then cease to oppose the universal apostasy of our time, and who would protect it from the Roman Curia and the bishops? Benedict XVI?
This slide will be inevitable, and already confession of the Faith is the exception rather than the rule. Many decent people begged Archbishop Lefebvre to make an agreement in 1988 and to extend thus his apostolate, but he refused, saying to us that it would be ambiguous and that the Society and Rome would be working in opposite directions and that this would make us rot. How can an agreement be made now and the Society not rot in contradiction?
When Rome later made benevolent gestures, the Archbishop was still wary. He feared that such actions were simply strategies to draw back as many of the faithful as possible and he told us to beware of this very danger: we have not fought for so long against errors only now to put ourselves into the hands of those who profess those errors. More than denouncing errors, the Society's role is to oppose the Roman authorities which spread them. So will the Society now put itself into the hands of those whose obstinacy (in error) we have recent witnessed again?
Beware. You are leading the Society to an irreversible split, and if you make an accord it will have powerfully destructive forces which the Society will not be able to stand. Since the situation has not been changed and the condition of the 2006 General Chapter not met (doctrinal change in Rome), listen to our Founder who was right 25 years ago, as now. Do not make a purely practical accord.
Bishops de Galaretta, Tissier de Mallerais and Williamson.
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Saturday, 12 May 2012
The SSPX Superior in France foments division
I read with interest the latest editorial of Fideliter, the review of the SSPX district in France, signed by Fr Régis de Caquecray. But what I read also stunned and amazed me for two reasons which I intend to unpack here.
We have seen various superiors of the SSPX (Germany, Benelux, South Asia, USA, etc) make encouraging noises about the apparently imminent accord with the Holy See. Of course we still do not know if Rome will accept the latest submission from Menzingen (SSPX HQ), though thanks to the letters leaked a couple of days ago we now clearly know Bishop Fellay's resolve in this direction. In the Menzingen press statement about the leaked letters, the leaker is accused of wishing to foment division among the SSPX. This is diplomatic language. The reality is that the divisions are alread quite deep, as indeed the letters showed.
Well, of course, we understand the division, and so should Bishop Fellay. Anyone whose organisation is based on a conscientious objection to certain orders of the Holy See cannot be surprised if one of his subordinates makes a conscientious objection to his actions. Nor can that fellow be surprised if one of his subordinates makes a conscientious objection to him. And so on, and so on, ad infinitum. The logic of fission is inexorable... But it is the timing and the content of Fr de Caquéray's intervention that has surprised me most.
Fr de Cacqueray's editorial, which asserts that Pope Benedict is suffering from grave illusions, has come out at the start of May, but was probably written at least two weeks ago at a time when Bishop Fellay was about to hand in the last submission to Rome. In other words, what we have here is something of a timebomb, calculated to go off during a delicate period of the negotiations. I'm sure Bishop Fellay appreciates this very much.
Now some people seem to think that allowing public support for Bishop Fellay but condemning opposition to Bishop Fellay require one to apply a double standard. I suppose if we are professed anarchists, it does! But if we still believe in the idea of hierarchy, we should be troubled by this editorial. It is a calculated blow, signalling at this difficult moment that there is serious opposition to an SSPX-Rome accord in what is after all the flagship district of the SSPX. Of course, the editorial says not a word about the accord, so it has what we might call perfect deniability. How, someone might ask, is Fr de Cacqueray's editorial different from many dozens which he or others have written?
Well, ITTS, as they say (it's the timing, stupid!).
All that said, let us be broad-minded about this for a moment and allow Fr de Cacqueray (from now on FrdeC) his intervention. What exactly is he saying in this editorial? It could after all be important.
The thesis of the editorial is that Pope Benedict XVI is suffering from two grave illusions:
(1) that there is any light in the Council for our dark times
(2) that there are any living movements in the degenerate Christianity of the postconciliar Church
Illusion No. 1
FrdeC begins by quoting from the Pope's Chrism Mass sermon this year and, after a brief and rather patronising moment of praise, cites these words of the Pope:
"The texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored."
FrdeC then provides the following gloss:
It is evidently clear that the references to "the words of the teaching Church" mentioned by Benedict XVI remain solely and always those of the Second Vatican Council, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and of the documents of John Paul II. (my emphasis).
What FrdeC wants us to believe is that Benedict's reference points are uniquely and invariably those of the Council and the postconciliar era. What else could 'solely and always' actually mean? So, I went with curiosity to the pope's sermon and began looking at its sources. Now, Vatican II is indeed the only council mentioned, though since it was the most recent general council, that is hardly surprising.
But if FrdeC is trying to convince us that the Catholic teaching Benedict wants to pass on is soley and always that of Vatican II and afterwards, then this sermon is not going to help his case. In the same sermon, we find the following words:
We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as “gift and mystery”.
Whatever one thinks of the last example, Pope Benedict's vision of the Church's past extends well beyond Vatican II. What FrdeC's 'solely and always' actually means then is still not clear.
But there is something more than this in the sermon and astonishingly it comes directly after the passage which FrdeC has cited (as I noted above) about Vatican II. Yes, directly after this citation, Pope Benedict said the following:
All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are.
But, FrdeC might reply, the pope in this sermon restricts this teaching 'solely and always' to Vatican II and after. Well, it's somewhat unfair to expect a whole exposition of his thought from a sermon. If we turn to the pope's apostolic letters or exhortations, we do indeed find references to more recent teachings since the Council but we also find many other sources: St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, the Roman Breviary, St John Chrysostom, St Jerome, St Polycarp, etc.. The pope's research as a theologian focused on St Augustine but also on St Bonaventure. If I turn to Maximillian Heim's Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology, a major landmark in Ratzingerian scholarship, I find the following quotation taken from Introduction to Theology:
[The Council of] Chalcedon represents the boldest and most sublime simplification of the complex and many-layered data of tradition to a single central fact that is the basis of everything else: [Christ is the] Son of God possessed of the same nature as God and of the same nature as us.
Away with the nonsense of Fr Michel Gleize who (following Bishop Tissier de Mallerais) accuses Benedict of thinking that the Church's living subject justifies radical evolution of the deposit of faith. How could that be reconciled with such an understanding of Chalcedon?
Indeed, how could all the holy priests the pope mentioned in his Chrism Mass sermon be a model for Catholic priests unless the former shared the same faith as the latter: not just membership of the same Church but the same contact with God's truth? There are a lot of churchmen guilty of forgetting everything before Vatican II, but that is not an accusation that can in any way be levelled at Pope Benedict. For better or for worse, Pope Benedict knows his pre-Vatican II sources pretty well and directs our minds to them often.
FrdeC then goes on to argue that Pope Benedict, while he has complained about the poor state of the Church, sees some good in the postconciliar landscape. He quotes the following words from the pope's sermon:
"Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit."
FrdeC then goes on to gloss the pope's words in the following way:
We do not know, in fairness, what are these living movements that the Pope perceives in the post-conciliar era. As for us, we instead perceive the extinction, and the scheduled death, due to the lack of vocations, of prestigious congregations and religious institutes. We witness the disappearance of whole parishes and dioceses. Populations have become pagan once again, children are no longer baptized. (emphasis in the original French)
It is hard to know what FrdeC's point is here. He concedes that the pope does not think everything is rosy in the garden, but then accuses him apparently of finding some good out there in the Church! Is it that for FrdeC, if someone has gone wrong, you absolutely must not praise anything about them? Must we be unremittingly negative about them until they reform whatever it is they have got wrong?
Joking aside, what a curious way to criticize the pope: 'we do not know what these living movements are': well ... dear father, why don't you inform yourself before taking the pope to task for acknowledging that the situation in the mainstream is not 100% negative?
In any case, if we again go back to the sermon, we are left in no doubt as to the pope's rather realistic understanding of the current situation in the Church. Near the beginning of the sermon he states:
I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord... Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?
Further on in the sermon, he observes:
At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less.
Dissent and ignorance: these are the Church's enemies, says the pope. But because he finds some good in the contemporary Church, he is suffering from grave illusions, according to FrdeC.
So, after this long and tedious exposition of FrdeC's editorial for Fideliter, what are we left with? You will note that FrdeC's editorial basically moves around two poles: the doctrinal and the circumstancial. Doctrinally, he says, the pope is deluded - well, what else is one if one has grave illusions? Circumstantially, the pope is equally deluded - out in the contemporary Church, there is nothing but heresy, corruption, and wickedness, all amounting to what FrdeC calls 'degenerate Christianity'.
Does anyone else recognise the two tendencies of this editorial? Yes, you guessed it: give yourself a ceeeegar! FrdeC is basically making the same errors as the three SSPX bishops who were told off so thoroughly in Bishop Fellay's recent letter. This editorial was written several weeks before the leaks, but is it possible he saw the letters? We cannot say for sure. But since he is a member of the General Chapter, why would they be kept secret from him? At the very least his view concurs with theirs, but his modus operandi is different: he has declared his views openly!!
Isn't this the coming division in the SSPX's ranks? If Vatican II is a superheresy and there is no good in the Church, then it is logical to stay away from the Church. In this case, let me be the first to wish FrdeC bon voyage and, I sincerely hope, au revoir.
If, however, the doctrinal picture is a lot more mixed, and if there are some sparks of real, tangible goodness in the contemporary ecclesial landscape, then Bishop Fellay's argument about a fight intra mures is all the more plausible. Let him not delay.
And let Fr de Cacqueray and the three bishops take heed also. We need every mother's son of 'em - a view I dare say which is not far distant from that of the current incumbent of the Holy See.
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He sets out to prove how Fr de Cacqueray's editorial has unjustly attacked Benedict XVI sermon (at this years Chrism Mass) by stating that all his (BXVI) thinking on Church issues is based exclusively on concilair teachings and oblivious to all that has went before the council. He highlights one extract from the pope's sermon which Fr de Cacqueray's used to ilustrate his point, but far from showing how wrong Fr. de Cacqueray was in his assessment, he actually proves that Fr. de Cacqueray was right on the money.
He then brings forward as evidence against Fr. de Cacqueray another extract from the pope's sermon that he maintains proves how far off the mark Fr. de Cacqueray was. In that extract brougt forward as evidence we see Benedict XVI throwing in some names of earlier popes as if this is proof that B16 is considering their teachings. However the only teachings mentioned were those from JPii and other conciliar documents.
It is quite obvious (even without reading the Chrism Mass sermon in full) that no reference was made by the B16 of any teaching prior to VatII. If such a mention was made, the blogger would have most certainly used it as more proof of Fr. de Cacqueray's evil intention.
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