SSPX await “yes” answer from Pope

The process for the Society of St. Pius X’s return to full communion with Rome is expected to be concluded by the end of May

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican city, From Vatican Insider

The Lefebvrian leader, Bernard Fellay

The response sent to the Vatican on 17 April by Bishop Bernard Fellay will be examined in the next few days by the cardinal and bishop members in Ordinary Session of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, commonly known as Feria Quarta; their decision will then be submitted to Benedict XVI. The process which should lead the Society of St. Pius X – founded by Mgr. Lefebvre – to return to full communion with the Catholic Church is expected to conclude by the end of May. Twenty four years have passed since the illegitimate consecrations that led to the split from Rome and the excommunication of the traditionalist archbishop and four priests whom he ordained bishops without the Pope’s approval. When the final decision is announced, the content of the doctrinal preamble – that the Holy See presented Fellay and the Fraternity with and which the Fraternity’s leader sent back to Rome proposing some minor modifications – will also be published.

In recent days, statements by some authoritative figures of the Society of St. Pius X have multiplied, particularly from the Lefebvrian wing that is more favourable towards the Society’s return to full communion with the Catholic Church. In a public conference in Hattersheim, Germany, Fellay’s First Assistant Fr. Niklaus Pfluger, said that under the current circumstances, the Fraternity’s superior does not “believe it is possible to turn down the Pope’s proposal.” He said that straying from the Pope’s wishes would lead to Sedevacantism.  Pfluger pointed out that there is still some disagreement between the Holy See and the Fraternity and the latter claims the right to freely criticise certain points contained in the conciliar documents. He recalled how in 1988, Lefebvre had signed a doctrinal agreement with the Holy See which contained “many more (doctrinal Ed.)concessions by the Fraternity than those Benedict XVI is asking for today.”

The former superior of the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Franz Schmidberger, wrote an equally important editorial in the May issue of the Fraternity’s monthly magazine which says: “The fact that Rome is now calling us back from the exile we were forced into in 1975 – with the abrogation of the” Fraternity’s canonical “approval”, and “set in stone in 1988 with the degree ordering the excommunication “ of consecrating and consecrated bishops” – “is an act of justice and undoubtedly an act of authentic pastoral care by Benedict XVI.” Even more important, is the editorial of another historical member of the Fraternity, Fr. Michele Simoulin, which was published in the May issue of the Seignadou bulletin published by the Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes priory. Fr. Simoulin also talks about the agreement reached between Lefebvre and Ratzinger in 1988, explaining that the version of the doctrinal preamble presented at the time was not the reason for the split; the real reason was a more practical one. Indeed, Lefebvre did not trust the Vatican’s reassurance regarding the possibility of consecrating a bishop as his successor: “The reason has nothing to do with doctrine or the statute presented to the Fraternity,” Fr. Simoulin wrote. “The reason why the process came to a halt was to do with the date of consecration of the conceded bishop.”

About the objections among Lefebvrians who do not want an agreement with Rome,  Fr. Simoulin recalled that when Ratzinger “became Pope he told us that the Tridentine mass has never been abrogated (7 July 2007: “Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated”); he reinstated our four bishops (21January 2009); he allowed us to hold doctrinal discussions for two years, things which Mgr. Lefebvre did not demand back in 1988. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mgr. Fellay obtained more than what Mgr. Lefebvre had asked for, despite not having the status or moral authority to do so. So should we demand more of Mgr. Lefebvre and Mgr. Fellay?” Simoulin concluded stressing that today’s situation is different from what it was in 1975 and 1988 and those who claim the opposite do so because they reject “any form of reconciliation with Rome” perhaps showing “alack of faith in the sanctity of the Church.” “The Society of St. Pius X is not the Church and cannot respect the legacy of its founder who by conserving its spirit shows his love for the Church and his wish to serve it as a loving son.”

Reading over the doctrinal part of the “protocol of accord” signed by Lefebvre on 5 May 1988, is useful in understanding part of the content of the doctrinal preamble frequently discussed in recent months. The content of this preamble has remained confidential because of the potential need for modifications or alterations to the expressions used within it – changes which were foreseen from the start. The founder of the Fraternity promised loyalty to the Pope, stating that he “accepted the doctrine on the ecclesiastical magisterium contained in point no. 25 of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council and adherence to it.” In relation to the dissent on certain conciliar passages, he stated: “In relation to certain points that are taught by the Second Vatican Council or that relate to later reforms of the liturgy and the law which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with tradition, we are making efforts to adopt a positive attitude and to communicate with the Apostolic See, a voiding any controversy.”  Lefebvre also stated that he “recognise[d] the validity of the sacrifice of the mass and the sacraments celebrated with the aim of following what the Church does, according to the rites described in the typical editions of the Roman missal and the rituals for the sacraments promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.” Finally, he promised “to respect the Church’s common discipline and ecclesiastical laws.”

 As was also the case in 1988, the agreement reached with then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger set down in black and white that there were “certain points” which Lefebvrians considered as not “easily reconcilable with tradition”. But this dissent should not have prevented full communion. Forty four years ago, events took a different path: a schism formed and there were some excommunications. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, this wound could finally be healed.

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8 Responses to SSPX await “yes” answer from Pope

  1. ClassicalTeacher says:

    Well, it is all in God’s hands now.


  2. toadspittle says:

    Isn’t everything?


  3. ClassicalTeacher says:

    Of course, Toad!! 🙂


  4. JabbaPapa says:

    I am very hopeful that an end to this state of rupture is forthcoming, and that a new dialogue with the traditional values and the traditional understandings of the Faith will rejuvenate the Church into a more orthodox and fruitful direction.


  5. kathleen says:

    Well said Jabba! Hear, hear!


  6. Laura Sedivy says:

    Ditto, Jabba!


  7. JabbaPapa says:

    Letter of the General Council of the Society of Saint Pius X

    The following is a translation of the internal letter sent by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX /SSPX), and the other two members of the General Council, First Assistant Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Second Assistant Fr. Alain-Marc Nély, on April 14, 2012 – we have received implicit consent from competent source to make it public. We vouch for the authenticity of the letter and the French text from which the following accurate translation is derived.



    Menzingen, April 14, 2012

    The Most Reverend Tissier de Mallerais, Williamson, and de Galarreta

    Your Excellencies,

    Your collective letter addressed to the members of the General Council received our full attention. We thank you for your solicitude and charity. Allow us in our turn, with the same concern for justice and charity, to make the following observations.

    First of all, the letter indeed mentions the gravity of the crisis gripping the Church and precisely analyzes the nature of the ambient errors that pullulate in the Church. Nonetheless, the description is marred by two defects in relation to the reality in the Church: it is lacking in a supernatural spirit and at the same time it lacks realism.

    The description lacks a supernatural spirit. To read your letter, one seriously wonders if you still believe that the visible Church whose seat is at Rome is indeed the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Church horribly disfigured, to be sure, a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis, but a Church that in spite of all still has as its head Our Lord Jesus Christ. One gets the impression that you have been so scandalized that you no longer accept that it can still be the true Church. For you, it would seem to be a question whether Benedict XVI is still the legitimate pope. And if he is, there is a question as to whether Jesus Christ can still speak through him. If the pope expresses a legitimate will concerning us which is good and which does not order anything contrary to the commandments of God, have we the right to neglect or to dismiss this will? Otherwise, on what principle do you base your actions? Do you not believe that if Our Lord commands us, He will also give us the means to carry on our work? Now, the pope has let us know that an abiding concern for the regularization of our situation for the good of the Church lies at the very heart of his pontificate, and also that he knew very well that it would be easier both for him and for us to leave things as they stand now. And so it is indeed a decided and legitimate will that he is expressing.

    With the attitude you recommend, no room is left for the Gideons or the Davids or for those who count on the Lord’s help. You reproach us with being naïve or fearful, but rather it is your vision of the Church that is too human, and even fatalistic. You see the dangers, the plots, the difficulties, but you no longer see the assistance of grace and of the Holy Ghost. If one grants that Divine Providence leads the affairs of men while safeguarding their liberty, it is also needful to admit that the gestures in our favor over the last several years are also under its guidance. Now, they trace a line — not straight — but clearly in favor of Tradition. Why should this suddenly stop when we are doing our utmost to be faithful and to intensify our prayer? Will the good God let us fall at the most critical moment? That does not make a lot of sense, especially as we are not trying to impose on Him the least self-will, but are trying to examine events closely so as to discern what God wants, and being disposed to all that shall please Him. At the same time, your description is lacking in realism as regards both the degree of the errors and their extent.

    Degree: Within the Society, some are making the conciliar errors into super heresies, absolute evil, worse than anything, in the same way that the liberals have dogmatized this pastoral council. The evils are sufficiently dramatic; there is hardly any reason to exaggerate them further (cf. Roberto de Mattei, Une histoire jamais écrite, p. 22; Mgr. Gherardini, Un débat à ouvrir, p. 53, etc.). Needful distinctions are not being made, whereas Mgr. Lefebvre did make the necessary distinctions on the subject of liberals several times. i This failure to distinguish is leading one or the other of you to a hardening of your position. This is a grave matter because this caricature no longer corresponds with reality and in future it will logically end in a real schism. And it may well be that this fact is one of the arguments that urges me to delay no longer in responding to the Roman authorities.

    Extent: On the one hand, you saddle the current authorities with all the errors and evils to be found in the Church while leaving aside the fact that they are trying at least partly to disengage themselves from the most serious of them (the condemnation of the “hermeneutic of rupture” denounces real errors). On the other hand, you act as if ALL of them are implicated in this pertinacity (“they’re all modernists,” “all are rotten”). Now that is manifestly false. The great majority are still caught up in the movement, but not all.

    So that, coming to the most crucial question, the possibility of our surviving in the conditions of recognition of the Society by Rome, we do not reach the same conclusion as you do.

    Let us note in passing that it was not we who were looking for a practical agreement. That is untrue. We have not refused a priori to consider, as you ask, the Pope’s offer. For the common good of the Society, we would prefer by far the current solution of an intermediary status quo, but clearly, Rome is not going to tolerate it any longer.

    In itself, the solution of the proposed personal prelature is not a trap. This is apparent from the fact, first of all, that the present situation in April 2012 is quite different from that of 1988. To pretend that nothing has changed is an historical error. The same evils afflict the Church, the consequences are even worse and more obvious than before; but at the same time we have observed a change of attitude in the Church, helped by the gestures and acts of Benedict XVI toward Tradition. This new movement, which began at least ten years ago, has been growing. It has reached a good number (still a minority) of young priests, seminarians, and even includes a small number of young bishops who clearly stand out from their predecessors, who confide in us their sympathy and support, but who are still pretty well stifled by the dominant line in the hierarchy in favor of Vatican II. This hierarchy is losing speed. This perception is not an illusion, and it shows that it is no longer illusory for us to contemplate an “intramural” struggle, the difficulty of which we are not unaware. I have been able to observe at Rome that however much the talk about the glories of Vatican II we’ll be dinned with is still on the lips of many, it is no longer in people’s heads. Fewer and fewer believe it.

    This concrete situation, with the canonical solution that has been proposed, is quite different from that of 1988. And when we compare the arguments that Archbishop Lefebvre made at the time, we conclude that he would not have hesitated to accept what is being proposed to us. Let us not lose our sense of the Church, which was so strong in our venerated founder.

    The history of the Church shows that recovery from the conflicts that beset it usually occurs gradually, slowly. And once one problem is resolved, something else starts up… oportet haereses esse. To require that we wait until everything is regulated before reaching what you call a practical agreement is not realistic. Seeing how things happen, it is likely that it will take decades for this crisis to come to an end. But to refuse to work in the field because there are still weeds that may crowd out or hamper the good grain is a curious reading of the Biblical lesson: It is our Lord Himself who gave us to understand by the parable of the wheat and the cockle that there will always be, in one form or another, weeds to be uprooted and grappled with in His Church…

    You cannot know how your attitude these last months — quite different for each one of you — has been hard on us. It has kept the Superior General from communicating and sharing with you these weighty matters, in which he would have so willingly involved you had he not found himself before such a strong and passionate incomprehension. How he would have liked to be able to count on you, on your advice and counsel at such a delicate passage in our history. It has been a great trial, perhaps the greatest of his superiorate. Our venerated founder gave the bishops of the Society a precise function and duties. He made it clear that the unifying principle of our society is the Superior General. But for some time now, you have tried, each in his own way, to impose on him your point of view, even in the form of threats, even publically. This dialectic between truth and faith on one side and authority on the other is contrary to the spirit of the priesthood. At least he might have hoped that you would try to understand the arguments that have moved him to act as he has these last years, according to the will of Divine Providence.

    We do pray for each one of you, that in this battle which is far from being over we may find ourselves all together for the greater glory of God and for the love of our dear Society.

    May our Risen Lord and our Lady deign to protect you and bless you,

    +Bernard Fellay

    Niklaus Pfluger+

    Alain-Marc Nély+


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    This is a stunningly brilliant letter !!!


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