Forty Years of the Society of St. Pius X

Bishop Bernard Fellay, FSSPX

This is an edited transcript of a lecture given on October 16 at the SSPX’s 40th Anniversary Conference in Kansas City.

The Ignorance of Jesus Christ

We are here to celebrate 40 years of fidelity. I do not think we can understand this period of history unless we see the crisis of Vatican II and the emblematic figure of our venerated founder, Archbishop Lefebvre. So I would first like to look at certain principles of this crisis because, if we want to heal and protect ourselves, we need to know the evil and its cause. I would thus like to say some words about two sentences from Archbishop Lefebvre which are certainly strong and surprising. Then we will look at the solution given by the Archbishop to the crisis. By looking at this, we will see if and how far we are faithful. We hope we have been faithful to the line given by the Archbishop. At the same time, we will understand that there is a challenge for the future. Finally, we will consider a more historical part with theological objections and try to see how far we are in the present developments.

The two sentences of Archbishop Lefebvre that I want to quote are both taken from a very precious treasure, Spiritual Journey. There is something about this book. When our founder presented this book to us, it was at a priestly retreat. Why did he present this little book to us? He said “Now I have finished my work. God can call me.” It was not a joke; it was very serious. He presented his Spiritual Journey as his testament to us. If you want to learn the soul of Archbishop Lefebvre, what animated him, read that book. Don’t read it like a novel; read it phrase by phrase. More than reading, meditate on it. He wanted to transmit a treasure to us with this book.

The first quote is taken from the very first words of the Preface, dealing directly with the Council. “The evil of the Council is the ignorance of Jesus Christ and of His Kingdom. It is the evil of the bad angels, the evil which is the way to Hell.” You may say this is strong. The second quote which is closely connected to this one is: “It is because the reign of Our Lord is no longer the center of attention and of activity for our prelates that they lose the sense of God and of the Catholic priesthood, and that we can no longer follow them.” This also may seem like a strong statement at first. But in addition to being strong, they are deep. I would like to reflect on them.

Here we touch one of the brilliant insights into the crux of the matter. When you look at the Council as a Catholic, somewhere you don’t feel good. You feel that there is a disease, that there is something wrong. And this is difficult to describe because the obvious error is very rare. All the time you find the right expressions, true and genuine Catholic expressions in the Council. But, then, nearby, you will find something which almost says the contrary or is ambiguous. If you wear rose-colored glasses, you will see a rose text. If you wear red, you see red; if you wear green, you see green. If you read it with liberal eyes, you see a perfectly good text. If you come as a Catholic, as Archbishop Lefebvre did, you would try to read it in a Catholic way. But as he said, the only way to do this was to filter it through the criteria of Tradition.

This very clearly means that we accept what is Catholic. We have always said that. What is ambiguous, we try to understand in a Catholic way: this is the only option for a Catholic. You have to look at previous Catholic teaching and understand curious phrases in the way the Church has always understood them. We reject whatever does not make it through this filter. It is painful.

Here, we remember: the evil of the Council is the ignorance of Jesus Christ. So we are dealing with the Faith. Behind, or in the background of the Council and the crisis, there is a matter of faith. So from the start there is a big problem with this Council. And it touches the Faith. It is not only one problem or question; it is the whole Faith which is at stake and the principle of faith itself: God. There is a problem with God.

You will not find this directly expressed in the words of the Council. It is in the background. But to understand the Council, you have to look at the background. We may call it modernism or liberalism. In both of these, there is a problem with God. Whichever perspective you choose, God is not in the right place. From there, you see that we try to rebuild everything. It starts with God. Look at the way they behave; look how, for 40 years, the leaders and bishops, the priests and faithful, deal with God. At least they still believe there is a God. But He is seen as a nice grandfather, very good, who doesn’t condemn people.

But what about offenses to God? What about sin? Sin today: what is it? Maybe there is still sin when you hurt your neighbor. But with God? Look at the first table of the Commandments. These commandments which deal directly with God are gone. The first three commandments are no longer of any concern. Sin is always a lack of goodness. There should be something good and it isn’t there. It is a privation of goodness. So, to understand evil in itself, it is not a thing; it is a lack of something. Sin, in some sense, is the contrary of God. If you don’t know God, you can’t know what sin is. If there is so much sin today, it is because they have forgotten God. If people remembered even a little bit about God, many sins would cease, if only because of the chastisement sinners prepare for themselves by offending God, the most terrible of which is hell.

Now, even the Holy Father, who thanks God for 40 years of not even using the word hell, says that we see, as a reality, some people where you find no inclination towards God or goodness. This is in his encyclical on hope. Of course, beyond these very evil men, he says that this would be hell. So maybe there is a hell for some of these people who are so bad that there are no good inclinations in them. Then he continues by saying there are some people in history whose inclinations are so inclined towards God or goodness; and this would be Heaven. But where are the majority of people who are in-between? They all have to pass before our Lord and go through purgatory. So this is how the Pope himself describes hell.

His great friend, Hans Urs von Balthasar, said one year before dying: if there is a hell, nobody is there. Recently a bishop passed away in Switzerland; one month before his death, he said the devil does not exist. I think now he probably has a different opinion about that. But we have gone so far. Let me give you one more example so you can see how far this crisis goes. It concerns this understanding of sin. We are discussing something very important and interesting. You can only properly understand sin if you properly understand God. If your conception of God is damaged, your idea of sin is affected. Consider the problem of AIDS and how it is propagated. There are several cardinals and bishops’ conferences, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have dealt with the problem of condoms and its use in stopping the spread of AIDS. A now common statement in the Church is that, when we have two evil choices, we must advise and choose the lesser evil. What are the two evils? One is sin, the very use of condoms. The other evil is a sickness, the transmission of AIDS. We even have cardinals, such as Danneels and Vingt-Trois, in addition to many bishops’ conferences, who see human life as a lesser evil than sin. I am sorry, but this is wrong. Obviously they have lost the understanding of sin. They no longer know who God is. If they knew, they would not talk like this.

It is scary to see such error and heresy spread on such a large scale. It is everywhere. These may seem like obvious questions: “Of course we have to protect human life!” But what about God’s glory? What about His honor? One sin, the sin of our first parents, opened death to all mankind. One sin! A little apple meant death for all mankind. All the suffering of every human being is a consequence of the first sin. And they say life is the lesser evil? They have really lost this understanding.

I do not say they have totally lost the Faith, but they are not far from it because if you know no longer know who God is, where is the Faith? The evil of the Council is the ignorance of Jesus Christ. They no longer know who Jesus is. In theory, they may still attribute to Him the Godhead, divinity. In practice, they refuse to draw the conclusions.

One of these is His Kingship. He is the Lord. For them, He is no longer the Lord; look at the way they handle the question of society and the State. They say that now we have a plurality of religions so we can no longer request States to recognize the Catholic Church as the only true religion. We must deal with this very pragmatically now. And that’s the end of it. The very popes themselves believe this. Archbishop Lefebvre was told by the nuncio in Switzerland, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, that Pius XI would no longer write his encyclical on the kingship of Christ today. Now,times are different; the State is different. The Holy Father agreed with him! The Kingship of Christ is gone. They may keep our Lord, but His power is gone. It’s worse than the Queen of England, or other monarchs who have no power. The King of Kings, Lord of Lords: they don’t want Him.

They have become so pragmatic that they refuse His Kingship to Him. When you speak of religious liberty, when you claim the State must recognize all religions, you are asking our Lord to step down. You are treating Him as one among equals. You find the same thing in ecumenism. In Assisi II, they invited many religions. They admitted that some practices from Assisi I, like the Buddha on the tabernacle, were too strong. So, at Assisi II, they gave every religion a different and separate room and asked what they needed. The Zoroastrians needed to have a fire for their religious ceremony so they needed a room with a window. The Muslims needed a room oriented towards Mecca. The Jews needed a room that had never been blessed; how they found that room in Assisi, I don’t know! But in the whole building, there was something noticeable: all the crucifixes were taken down. To build a certain kind of unity, you don’t need much. But you do need to remove something: the crucifix. Then, everything goes better.

But if there is no crucifix, there is nothing. He is our God, our everything, the beginning and the end. He is our all. And they made the crucifixes disappear for that occasion. Where is their faith? There is no sin, no hell, no false religions. False religion was a technical term used to speak of other religions all the way down through Pius XII. I challenge you to find this term in any official text since the Council. Are they or aren’t they false? If they are, why don’t we say it?

Recently, in Dominus Jesus, there has been an attempt to make things better. In this document, we find that there is only one religion which has the whole truth: the Catholic Church. What about the others? Are they false or not?

Let us suppose the Assisi meeting was an airport and every religion is an airplane. Which airplanes work and which ones don’t? Only one plane can fly: the Catholic airplane. Those who come closest are the Orthodox; the plane itself has everything it needs to fly, but it has no pilot. They refuse a pilot. If you’re sitting in a plane that has everything but a pilot, you wouldn’t stay on that plane. If you look at the Protestant plane, there is a problem with the engine. The sacraments have been so reduced that it can’t even fly. Some planes have no wings, or are missing a tail. The Buddhist plane is only on paper. Only one plane can fly! Only one has all the elements strictly necessary for flying. This is why we call one true and the others false. They pretend to be something they are not. A religion claims to bring you to your final destination: Heaven. And only one has the means for that: our dear Catholic religion. The others simply don’t.

We are living in a time where we like to dream. So we say that the other religions have much good in them, even if they don’t have full communion. What does partial communion mean? Nothing! It is like saying 2+2=3 and 3 is almost 4! It doesn’t matter if you have the answer “almost right.” Nevertheless, when discussing the most important things, matters of salvation, they truly lead people into error. It is terrible. And this is common. Everywhere you have the same problem: God is no longer in the right place. There is a loss of faith somewhere. And this loss of faith is centered on the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why so many priests no longer believe in the Real Presence. How many priests no longer believe in this physical and real presence in the Eucharist after the consecration? Some years ago I dared to say 40 percent, but a Novus Ordo priest then told me I had it backward: it was 60 percent! In 2010, in Germany, a Mother Superior of a religious congregation was talking with the chancellor of the diocese of Trier. The chancellor told her 80 percent of the priests in the diocese of Trier no longer believed in the Real Presence. The Mother Superior was horrified and said we must do something. The poor chancellor said there was nothing to be done.

You see the drama. Modernism can be even trickier though. There was a bishop who wrote a book about the Creed who recently became a cardinal. In this book he explained that we believe Jesus is God. He says the apostles believed in the divinity only at the time of the Resurrection. And he continues by saying that, in the first few centuries, Christian communities started believing in His divinity from the time of His Baptism. And, then, later on, as philosophy developed and the understanding of the person deepened, the Church believed that Jesus was God from the beginning. I am sorry, but such a person does not have the Faith. Our Faith teaches us that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity and that, “in the fullness of time,” as Scripture says, he assumed human nature. But He is God from the start. It is not the Church which came to this conclusion after much reflection.

This is pure modernism! This faith is not real. It is not reality. It is something which men invented. It is the god of the modernists. When you read modern texts about the Jews, for example, you read that the Christian communities of the first few centuries invented our Lord’s words of condemnation against the Pharisees. What is this? What happened to Holy Scripture? These are official texts. So they are inventing a faith that has nothing to do with our religion. It is modernism.

This is the background in which we see the crisis in the Church develop. It is not only the Mass which is at stake. It goes down to the roots. And this surprising phrase, “the evil of the Council is the ignorance of Jesus Christ and of His Kingdom” is perfectly correct. It is the exact problem. They ignore Jesus. They no longer know who He is.

These people are lost in themselves. They are merely inventing. It is the problem of modern philosophy. Real philosophy is objective, but the moderns are subjective. They have closed up reality into their thinking, which leads them to believe they can create reality. One day I had a surprising question asked of me by a student after a conference: “But, finally, did God create man or did man create God?” It’s a very good question to describe modernism; it cannot be both. At the root of modernism is an invention of God. They make a god who corresponds to their needs. They don’t want to hear about the real God; they think He doesn’t exist.

This is why the other religions are all more or less equal. They are all fruits of the invention of man. Thus, you have to accept all of them. This is modernism. Of course, not everyone is a modernist, but it is still the background which explains the crisis in which we find ourselves. Certain day-to-day behavior can only be explained by this.

The Center of Priestly Activity

Let us now take a look at the second, very interesting quote from Archbishop Lefebvre: “It is because the reign of Our Lord is no longer the center of attention and activity for our prelates that they lose the sense of God.” The first quote dealt with knowledge, with the Faith. In this second quote, our dear Archbishop talks about more than just the Faith considered speculatively. This time he is speaking about activity. Here, we are discussing the will. It is not only the Faith, but the Faith with charity, with action. This is something very striking; a profound psychological analysis. There is a gap in their action which means they lose the sense of God and of the Catholic priesthood. By acting badly, they finally think badly.

It is one of the tricks of the Communists to have them do something against their principles. They knew, for instance, in better times, that if they said something against the Church to a Catholic, they would provoke a reaction. So, instead, they would invite Catholics to do something with them that involved going against their principles. That was the start: by action. It is interesting and important to understanding the interaction between the Faith and action.

Everyone has a conscience. You cannot act all the time against your conscience. At a certain time, either you correct your actions or you make your conscience follow your actions. You can try to justify yourself. But the conscience is too strong to constantly do something against it. You either have to stop doing something or you twist your conscience.

Our Lord is no longer the center of their preoccupation. Look at the bishops today! Simply ask: Is our Lord the center of their preoccupation? Look what they say and do. It is very clear: He is no longer the center of their preoccupation. I remember the cardinal of Naples saying there were three problems in Naples. I don’t remember the third, but two were the traffic and the garbage. What about sin? What about religion? What about Catholic education? Apparently these weren’t problems. What is the center of their preoccupation? One day I gave a conference where a priest told me it was the first time he heard a bishop talk about the salvation of souls.

At first glance, the statement of the Archbishop was very strong. But the more we reflect on it, the more accurate it appears. You don’t hear such sentences every day. But they are so true. Of course, it already indicates for us where we have to go if we want to get out of this crisis.

This crisis is a crisis of the Faith. If we see a problem in the liturgy, it is only because liturgy is linked to the Faith. Liturgy is an action by which we honor God. Obviously, whenever we deal with God, the Faith is implied somewhere. The liturgy has to express the Faith. In theology we learn that the liturgy is one of the sources, one of the references, for theology. We look at what the Church does in the liturgy as a valid expression of the Faith. It is a proof of what the Church believes.

That’s why, when we go to the traditional liturgy, it nourishes us in our faith. It perfectly fits the Catholic Faith. And this is why we are so opposed to the New Mass; it is no longer fitting. It does not express the Faith. It can express a lot of things, but not the Faith. This is why most of the faithful are hurt and come to a point of reflection through the liturgy. It’s the point where they encounter the Faith, and when it isn’t working right, they have to confront questions which demand solutions.

During the audience with the Pope in 2005, it started like this: the Holy Father, Cardinal Hoyos, myself, and Fr. Schmidberger were all together. The Pope started by asking, “Where do we stand? What is the relation between Rome and the Society?” Cardinal Hoyos said: “Holy Father, today is the day you can recognize the Society. Everything is fine. I have presented to you a model for their organization which you can grant them.” The Pope answered: “Yes, I received it, and I entrusted it to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts to see if this proposal is in agreement with the rite and spirit of the Church.” Which means what has been proposed for us is new or there would be no need to check. This was the first time I had heard about that. I haven’t heard much more since then.

After that, the Pope turned to me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “Holy Father, the situation in the Church today is such that the normal traditional Catholic life has been made impossible. Things need to be improved before anything else can be done. Every day priests, religious, Sisters, Brothers, faithful, come to us and prefer to be sanctioned and punished rather than to stay in the situations in which they find themselves obliged to act against their consciences.” And this is still the situation. It is unbelievable, but true.

So what will be the solution presented by someone who has such an understanding of the situation? We can find it in these lines from the very beginning of Spiritual Journey:

If the Holy Ghost permits me to put in writing the spiritual thoughts which follow, before entering—if it please God—into the bosom of the Holy Trinity, I will be allowed to realize the dream of which He gave me a glimpse one day in the Cathedral of Dakar. The dream was to transmit, before the progressive degradation of the priestly ideal, in all of its doctrinal purity and in all of its missionary charity, the Catholic Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, just as He conferred it on His Apostles, just as the Roman Church always transmitted it until the middle of the twentieth century.

It is a peculiar way of writing. Let’s try to understand what is being said by reading on:

What appeared then as the only solution of renewal of the Church and Christendom was the necessity, not only to transmit the authentic priesthood, not only healthy doctrine approved by the Church, but the deep and immutable spirit of the Catholic priesthood and of the Christian spirit, essentially bound to the great prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, eternally expressed in the sacrifice of the Cross.

What is necessary to get out of this crisis? Not only the Faith. Not only the priesthood. Something more is needed. Our dear founder calls it a spirit, a deep and immutable spirit. It is the spirit of the Catholic priesthood and the Christian spirit, which is the same spirit. What we need to notice in his quote is the meaning of his phrase, “the great prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is unusual but it has a meaning.

He continues by saying “the priestly truth is in total dependency on this prayer.” Of course he is speaking of the Mass. He says here that the truth about the priesthood and the meaning of the priest is found in the Cross. He goes on, “That is why I have always been haunted by the desire to describe the ways of the true sanctification of the priest, following the fundamental principles of Catholic doctrine and of the sanctification of the Christian and the priest.”

We touch here on the crux of the matter. We must pay attention since we live in a world which is superficial. Too often we content ourselves with superficial things. You might say that, if you have the Society, the Faith, the priesthood, you have everything. In some ways this is true. But it’s only true under one condition: that we find this spirit. If this spirit described by the Archbishop isn’t there, we only have a beautiful, empty castle.

The castle of the Society needs to be inhabited. There must be something inside. The exterior is absolutely necessary but insufficient. Look at the 1950’s and ’60’s: we had the Faith and priests. The Church was glorious just before the Council. Several bishops had so many priests they didn’t know what to do with them. I remember our parish priest in the Valais, telling me his bishop didn’t know what to do with all the priests. Fifty years later, you need a microscope to find priests in some places.

So despite many priests, and even the old Mass and the Faith, the crisis still came upon the Church. How can it be? Granted, there is a mystery. It is always so in the Church. Nevertheless, something was fading and already going. Obviously, Archbishop Lefebvre perceived this and said “That’s it.” He knew a certain spirit was necessary for a restoration.

There is only one way to find this spirit: at the foot of the Cross. A very simple way to express this is that the virtues, supernaturally speaking, need a form. Technically, we say they are “informed” by charity. Someone can have the Faith, but his faith is dead if he is in the state of sin. But he can still make acts of faith. The Council of Trent and Vatican I both say that when such a person makes an act of faith, the Holy Ghost switches on the light. This faith remains without fruit, though. Charity and sanctifying grace are lacking.

What I want to insist on is that the remedy to the crisis is definitely in transmitting the true Faith, in having good priests, but the truth and goodness of the priest need this spirit. Look at the book The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard. The soul of the apostolate is prayer, and the only way to get it is contemplation. The great danger of the modern world is activism. We are always “doing” something. It is like driving a car but never filling the gas tank. And the only way to fill the tank is to stay in front of our Lord and the Cross, meditate and contemplate, developing the spirit of prayer. It is the only way. If we want the Society to continue and to do truly good things for the Church, this is needed. God does not bring good things to the Church any other way except holiness. Every time, God finishes a crisis by sending saints. What we hear and read here so delicately expressed is a real call for holiness.

It is not only for priests; it is also for the faithful. You find holiness when you first look at Jesus on the Cross. Why did the Church put crucifixes everywhere for centuries? Any Catholic country has crucifixes not only in homes and in churches, but on roads and in public. This was to keep in the minds of Catholics the remembrance of the sacrifice of our Lord, so we could unite ourselves to it.

The liturgy gets all its sense there. Archbishop Lefebvre, in Spiritual Journey, says that the liturgy is the source and most sublime expression of mental prayer. If we want to pray in the silence of our hearts to God, what should we say to God? Where will we find ideas and words? In the liturgy! The Mass is the end of our prayer, the accomplishment of it. At that moment, we are no longer alone; our Lord Himself takes our hearts, our beings, our sufferings, offerings, and sacrifices—everything. He makes them His. Then these words become true: “No longer I live, but Jesus lives in me.”

Do we realize that, although we all have trials and contradictions, pains and sorrows, it is the way that Jesus wants to continue His Passion? We are His! In baptism, we are one body with Him. Even though He is in heaven, He wants the Church to continue His mission of salvation through His cross. So He assumes and takes what we give Him. This is why Christian sufferings are so precious.

What I am going to say is totally against modern thinking. When we are reduced to nothing, when we think we are useless, it is then we can do the most. Then it is not we who are doing something but Him, our Lord, through us and in us. This is why those who suffer are so mighty in the heart of God. It is why St. Paul says, “When I am weak, I am strong!” These are hard words. It is painful to have these words enter us. It goes so against our understanding and the world in which we live. It even goes against human reason. We deal here with divine wisdom, which is considered foolishness and scandal by human reason.

If we want the restoration of the Church, there are not a hundred ways to do this. We need to unite with God, and this union with God can be fostered only in His precious time called prayer. There is another excerpt from our dear Archbishop from the same book where he talks about the virtue of religion and its link with holiness. There, he shows and explains that we ought to be constantly united with God. “This spirit, if we would miss it one instant, the spirit of God would have abandoned us.” This means not only during prayer.

It is a modern tendency to divide one’s time between one’s daily prayers and everything else. But this is not Catholic life. God dwells in us! In those who are in the state of grace, He lives in us. He is completely there, the whole Trinity, all Three Persons, dwelling in us. He is our guest. Imagine having a guest in your home whom you ignore all day besides saying “Hello” in the morning and “Good night” in the evening. Is that how we treat our guests? Is this Christian life? Definitely not. If we have a guest, we take care of him. Well, we have a divine guest who wants to share with us His treasures. He will be our eternity. What are we doing with our lives here on earth?

You see how far it goes. There is much to do if we really want the Church to be restored, to exit this crisis. The crisis is deep. That means the remedy must be mighty. It must not be a homeopathic remedy, where the medicine is so diluted that it can’t be detected. If we are here, it is because God loves us. God wants us to be His instruments in the work of restoration. There is no doubt about this. So let’s not go halfway.

Distraction from the Essential

There are so many ways to be distracted from the essential. I may say that, because of this distraction, we have Vatican II. We no longer put God in His right place and were distracted by the world. God is all; He is our Creator. There is nothing good in us that does not come from Him. We can’t even have a good thought without a push from Him. We can’t have one good desire. This shows how dependent we are on God. When we say we are totally dependent, it is total.

This requires some reflection. We have the impression that, since God made us free and, to some extent, autonomous, we can do many things without God. But this is not so. We can’t even move a finger if God doesn’t give us the strength to do it. If God would not, we would be like a car without an engine; we would not move. Neither for activity, nor for existence can we stand without God. It shows our dependency on Him. We need to put this first. In Spiritual Journey, you see it is the start of his reflection. He says when we put ourselves in front of God and reflect on how He is everything and we are nothing, we put ourselves in our place and reach humility. In this, we find stability.

We are superficial and are subject to many things. If something hurts us, our whole heart is thrown into jeopardy with so many emotions. But this is all on the surface. We must go deeper within ourselves where we will find the eternal God, who is always at peace. In this peace of God we can remain even if, at the surface, there are storms. We can be in storms but at peace this way. When you make good prayer, you lose track of time. You don’t realize it. The closer you are to God, the closer you are to eternity. If you make time for God, you lose reference to time. It is challenging and demanding, but do we want salvation? Do we want the restoration of the Church? Then we must take the right means.

We have a blessed person to tell us the means: Archbishop Lefebvre. He tells us the way and what to do. Let me tell two little stories before moving on. I met an Italian nuncio in Austria, who was then in Vienna. He was the blessed successor of Archbishop Lefebvre in Dakar. He said, “Archbishop Lefebvre was totally different from any other bishop. Not only was he a great bishop, wherever I would go, I saw what he had done. We have to rehabilitate this man, at least for the first part of his life.” This is someone with an official function in the Church who recognized his extraordinary work, at least during the first part of his life. And I say the second part is even more extraordinary.

Another one who expressed his thoughts on the Archbishop is Pope Benedict XVI. Twice during our audience, he mentioned our dear founder. The first time he referred to the “venerated Archbishop Lefebvre.” The second time he said “Archbishop Lefebvre, this great man of the universal Church.” You can imagine what I thought at that moment.

How is it that such a work, by such a founder, turns into the most controversial thing in the recent history of the Church? How can it be? Isn’t it amazing? It is an interesting point. We are in the midst, not of a contradiction, but of being attacked by two sides. These two sides see what we do as bad. One side is the modern Church, including a certain number of the Ecclesia Dei people. On the other hand, we have the sedevacantists.

What is interesting is what inspires them. It proceeds from the same principle: when we try to understand something, we reason. Usually this reasoning goes from two premises to a conclusion. The first premise in logic is called a major premise. The second is called a minor premise. The major premise for both sides is “Everything the Pope says is true.” They both agree with this principle. But they have different minor premises based on their analysis of the reality of the situation. Both will say something true about this reality but, with this, they come to absolutely opposite conclusions. The sedevacantists say “But everything that this Pope says is not true.” And this is right. When you see a Pope kissing the Koran, it cannot be true or good. So they conclude that it isn’t the Pope doing it.

For the Ecclesia Dei groups or the modern Church, their minor premise is that everything since Vatican II has been done by the Pope. And this is true also. So, if everything the Pope says is true, and the Popes have done these things, Vatican II and what has followed must be true.

Isn’t it amazing? The same principle, in addition to two true observations, with two radically different conclusions. One side says there is no Pope; the other say we must follow the Pope in everything. If you look closely, there is a link between the major and minor premises, a word found in both: “true.” The question of truth is the basis of their analysis. For the sedevacantists, the focus is on the object of the truth, the Faith. For the Ecclesia Dei groups, they are looking at the Pope who speaks the truth. It is more subjective.

If we look at things only like this, the sedevacantists would be closer to reality. But if both start from the same premise, but come to such radically different positions, there must be something wrong somewhere. Thus, the problem is with the major premise.

Many of these errors come from a lack of distinction. We must distinguish. The major premise is not always true. Everything the Pope says is true when all the conditions for infallibility are met. If they are not there, he can easily be not infallible. And if he can be not infallible, he can say wrong things. So we must distinguish the major premise and thus distinguish the conclusion. In such a way, the problem is solved.

Too many people take the major premise through ignorance or easiness. By this way, they fall into error. It is a big problem today. Granted, it is tricky. So many people think that whatever the Pope does or says is infallible. But this isn’t the teaching of the Church! If you look at the very definition of infallibility in the texts of Vatican I, just a few lines before the definition says that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of St. Peter so that, by a new illumination, they may teach something new. There is no infallibility in such cases. Vatican I says He has been promised so that, by His help, the Pope may conserve and transmit faithfully the deposit of the Faith. There is no promise of infallibility to do something new. We are not bound to believe the Pope outside the conditions where God’s help has been promised. God’s help has been promised to help give this treasure to future generations of the faithful.

It is the same with the question of obedience, which is linked to the same problem. Ingrained deeply in Catholic hearts is the notion that we are bound by obedience. And this is true, my dear brethren! When we say Catholic, we say obedience. There is no doubt about this. In the very understanding of a Catholic, there is the idea of obedience. God wanted to use instruments for our salvation, which we better go through: Jesus, His Church, the bishops, the Pope, priests, etc. It is the way God wants it to be. So obedience is absolutely necessary.

But we must have the right understanding. Obedience is not absolute. Those vested with authority are human beings, instruments entrusted with this power by our Lord who will answer to Him. They are not free to make any kind of use of it. There is a frame in which their authority may be used. This is a universal law; any organization or society has the same pattern. This means any time there are people organized, there is a head, boss, or leader, who gives orders. It is of the nature of any organization. The same is true for the Church. God gave the Church a head. The purpose of the head is to unite the will of the members to get to the end of the society. Every organization has a purpose, and the purpose dictates the way in which commands and obedience are ruled. This means that obedience and power are strictly conditioned by the purpose and the nature of the organization.

Thus, if someone in leadership misuses authority by missing the point, there is no obligation to follow. In fact, it would be wrong and perhaps even sinful to follow. This is the case even in the Catholic Church. The problem is that we are so used to holy people in command that, when something is wrong, we no longer know what to do. Fr. Le Floch once said that the great heresy of the 20th century would be the exaggeration of the infallibility of the Pope. There you have it. It is in the name of obedience that all the errors of Vatican II have been put into action.

Even the new Code of Canon Law speaks about this. The very last Canon says the highest law, the one which dictates all others, is the salvation of souls. This means that, if there is, by misfortune, any law in the Church, by itself or by circumstance, that goes against the salvation of souls, we cannot follow. If we follow we may harm ourselves and even lose our salvation. This is the new Code. There are so many examples of bishops and priests who give orders harmful to souls. When bishops choose the lesser of two evils, and choose sin over sickness, they push souls into hell.

It is the same with the New Mass. It is the same with Communion in the hand. We could go on and on. Priests invite people to live together before marriage to make sure they get along: this is pushing people into sin! I am aware of several dioceses who have invented rituals to bless people who cannot marry. They give them a special “blessing” which is blessing sin! The Valais in Switzerland is one of these examples. Usually they hide these things since they’re controversial. They have truly invented a new religion. It is no longer the Catholic Church. The problem is that there is a real mixing of both.

Crisis in the Church

Let me say some words about our current relations with Rome. We must be very precise. We have a tendency of making a schema which simplifies things too much. By going to the principles, we abstract things, but they are no longer fully the reality. Something is missing. When we deal, for instance, with our relations with Rome, we must not be abstract, but realistic.

In this crisis, we have people like Paul VI, John Paul II, and even our present pope. All of them acknowledge a certain crisis in the Church. On the one hand, they cause or allow it; on the other hand, they see the crisis. Paul VI spoke of the “auto-demolition of the Church” and that “by some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” On another occasion, he said the Church was self-destructing. John Paul II said that within the Church, heresy was spread with full hands. Of course, what did they do against these things? On the contrary, we saw Assisi and kissing the Koran. This is all part of the same reality. We must keep all this in mind even if they don’t all fit together. It is a mixture.

When we deal with the Society, there is something similar. There is not only condemnation although there is much of that. At the same time, there is something on the contrary. There is some admiration and happiness for the Society. They are forced to admit that there is something there. We met Cardinal Hoyos for the first time after the pilgrimage in Rome in 2000. He invited us to meet him, but Bishop de Galaretta had already left. The three other bishops met with him. On that occasion, he said that the fruits of the Society were good. Hence, the Holy Ghost is there. Not bad for a condemned and legally non-existing organization! But how can it be both bad and good? Are we evil or is the Holy Ghost with us? I asked him where these fruits came from but he never answered.

During all of this time of the condemnation, the excommunications, and even after, there are official documents saying we do not exist, and that our sacraments are invalid, etc. But at the same time, in Rome, in practice, things are different. They deal with us as if we are totally Catholic. It complicates things. For example, Rome deals with priests who leave us in a particular way. There is a principle of action in the Catholic Church that if a Catholic is ordained, whether to the diaconate or the priesthood, in a schismatic movement (for instance, the Orthodox or anyone else with valid orders), when he returns to the Catholic Church, he can never exercise the powers he stole outside the Church. It is a general principle applied until now.

Now, when we were supposedly schismatics, when priests received orders in the Society but went to Rome, if we were really schismatic, they would have had to prohibit the exercise of their powers. But the fact that they allow them to return as priests proves they do not see us as schismatics. This has continually been the policy of Rome. In one case, someone had been ordained by Bishop Rangel, who had been consecrated a bishop by Bishops Tissier, Williamson, and de Galaretta. In Rome, when this priest came, they realized that he had been ordained by a bishop consecrated by “schismatic” bishops. They sent the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The answer they received was that he was to be treated as the others. So, again, practically, there is no schism.

Another painful but real situation is the case of people who commit certain grave sins. These sins involve censures, and even excommunications. Some are reserved even to the Pope, which mean only he can forgive them. For example, sacrilege against the Eucharist is one of these. And sometimes it happens that a priest has to handle such cases. What do they do? In the confessional they give absolution but, according to the current policy of the Church, we have one month to send the case to Rome to the Penitentiary. Guess what? Every time—absolutely every time this has happened—we have received the answer that the priest did well, that things were in order, and that it was licit and valid. Finally, there would be a note saying that the penance was sufficient or needed something added to it. So why do they officially say our confessions are invalid while they deal with us differently in serious matters? We see this kind of contradiction all the time.

It is not easy but we must deal with it. If you look at the crisis, you see that, at least before 2000, certain people in authority dislike what has happened. There is something but not much. In 2000, there was clearly already a change of attitude towards us. It was not much, but we were allowed to enter the basilicas, even if we weren’t allowed to say Mass. At least we were able to preach and pray. At the end of our pilgrimage, at St. Peter’s, a priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter came to me and said “I congratulate you. You did better than we did; we were forbidden to enter as a group this same year!”

In 2003, something almost unnoticed happened. In May, a certain number of more conservative cardinals met to discuss the crisis which was accelerating. They all agreed that something had to be done in favor of Tradition. They saw how the bishops dealt, not only with us, but any Ecclesia Dei group. Many modern bishops simply crush them. They may use them politically against us. So the cardinals raised the idea of something like an apostolic administration for Tradition. There were two positions: one sought to make the Society the spine of the new organization and place the other groups around us. The other position was to forget about the Society since we would never accept an agreement and to simply work with the others.

One of the people who worked the most on this project was, at the time, Cardinal Ratzinger. Two years later he was pope. Almost immediately he tried to put into practice what was prepared. You can verify all of this by yourself. In France, in the spring of 2006, during the meeting of the bishops’ conference, there was a public declaration from the president of the conference absolutely denouncing the idea of a special jurisdiction for those who wanted the Tridentine Mass in France. Of course, it would be outside of the control of the French bishops. The project was rejected through the French bishops.

There are a certain number of people who are not happy with what is happening in the Church and who at least partially see something good in Tradition. You very well know about the motu proprio on the Mass, which was very important, even if up to now there is not much fruit since the bishops block it openly. Talk about obedience!

A priest in Italy told me that his bishop told him that the day the Pope says the Tridentine Mass is the day he leaves the Church. Be certain that this Italian bishop is not alone. This might be the reason we have not yet seen the Pope say the old Mass. We know the Pope dislikes the New Mass and prefers the old Mass. We know that even, from time to time, he says the old Mass privately although no one can know it.

There is already a big problem which came to light strongly when the excommunications were “lifted.” The Pope said, in the very last sentence that “all the effects of the previous decree are taken away.” This means it refers not just to the four SSPX bishops, but all six. They don’t have the courage to name the names, so they only mention it in passing. No one is excommunicated anymore.

This decree is a landmark in our story. It is a very interesting point. The devil knows it as well as the enemies of the Church. It was not by chance that such an enormous storm was launched at the time. One newspaper article sums it up, published the very day when I received the decree in my hands. It announced a broadcast of a Swedish television interview with one of our bishops. The title of Der Spiegel was “The Pope is Going to Have Trouble.” He was their target. Of course, we were also, but primarily the Pope. We were only the banana peel on the ground.

Why attack the Pope? Because they see that he wants to reverse and change things. At the same time, he does new things; he is totally in favor of ecumenism and religious liberty. But he doesn’t want many of the consequences. Granted, it is a mixture and contradiction, but it is the fact. The fact that he wants to make some reforms are sufficient to provoke a storm. It is very interesting.

So how does it work between them and us? I am constantly facing contradictions. I constantly need to read between the lines. What do they want or not want? What do they say or not say? As an example, during the storm against the Pope, there was a decree from the Secretary of State. This decree said that the Society does not exist, so it’s not Catholic. And, in order to be Catholic, the Society must recognize absolutely everything: all of the Council and everything promulgated after it by all the popes. It was very clear. Nothing would happen with the Society unless we bowed down and accepted everything. This was an official statement.

Two weeks before Easter, I received an intervention from Rome. I was about to do the ordinations to the subdiaconate. The German bishops wanted to excommunicate us again and prohibited us from doing so. They put pressure on the Pope, so pressure was put on me not to do these ordinations. So we made a gesture to the Pope since we know that the relationship between the German bishops and him is not great: we decided to do the ordinations in Ecône on the same day, instead of Germany.

So I received three interventions in one week asking me to stop this. The last one came on Thursday evening before the Saturday morning ordinations. The cardinals told me I was acting against the Pope and that I must stop. But they gave me some advice: ask for permission from the Pope. They guaranteed that almost immediately I would receive permission and that the Society would be recognized until Easter. So I was taken aback in light of the recent note from the Secretary of State saying there was no recognition until we recognized the Council. And I pointed out that they knew what we thought about the Council. The answer was that the note from the Secretary of State was merely political and that it wasn’t even signed by the Secretary—and, by the way, it’s not the Pope’s opinion.

So whom should I believe? I am stuck. Should I believe an unsigned official text or the voice of a friendly cardinal? You see the contradictions we face. Concerning the doctrinal discussions, officially the hope is that we will accept Vatican II. I hear that they expected great things for the Church from these discussions. I don’t think the condemnation of the Society would be a good thing for the Church.

We do what we can. What is interesting is that these discussions have already borne fruits, even if they are indirect. Don’t expect immediate fruits. The situation in the Church is too difficult. The Pope has too much opposition. There are too many bishops against him.

Even if he would like to, even if he would be strong, he is blocked. The opposition is enormous. As an example, there was a letter which said the translation “for all” in the Mass was wrong. The letter, from November 2007, said we must return to “for many.” Recently, in 2010, the conference of the German bishops said that “for all” would be retained since it has been used for so long, it has become tradition!

So the Pope faces whole conferences of bishops, including those who oppose the old Mass. The bishops persecute priests who wish to say it. It is rare to see a bishop who really follows the orders of the Pope on the Mass. They create real obstacles.

Finally, in all these things, we really have the impression that the progressivists think the Pope is on our side! Not that we are on the side of the Pope, but the opposite. Recently someone was nominated to be the head of the Congregation of the Clergy. As far as I know, he only says the New Mass. But he is a conservative. And he is labeled an “ultra-conservative”! He has been chosen by the Pope against tremendous opposition in the Vatican. We must pray that the good side of the Pope may triumph in himself, in the Vatican, and in the Church.

For us, there is only one way: to continue. We speak of fidelity. A line has been given which is clear. Our dear founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, was given a special grace to see what was going on and how to get out of it. He has given us all the lines and means necessary to stay faithful. We are not to be independent, or do something for ourselves; we do this for the Church. We must keep our hearts as big as possible. The mission given by our Lord to the Church remains true for every Catholic. We must desire the salvation of everyone on earth. The more we do, the more souls will be saved. It is absolutely certain. If we don’t do what we have to do, we lose souls entrusted to us by the good Lord.

Let us have then a burning spirit, a missionary spirit. We must have it and must not fear tremendous crises. God is above–as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary. What of our crusade? As usual, I brought it and tried to make sure the Pope got the message. I am humanly certain that he did, but I never got an answer. Of course, I never received an answer. We are too controversial. Those who come too close to us are burned. It is a mystery but a glory.

It is a glory to be able to carry in us the sign of contradiction of Jesus. It belongs to the blessing our Lord gave, a special beatitude, to those who suffer because of His Name. I am sure that we are on that side. Thank you.