Principles & Directives of the SSPX
In the Present Situation of the Church
The General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X took place at Ecône, Switzerland, September 13-16, 1982. During the previous week, a retreat was preached by His Grace the Archbishop to seventy-three of the Society's priests who were gathered from around the world. After the retreat, thirty-one members of the Chapter met to consider all aspects of the Society 's work during its first twelve years of existence and to plan for its future. What follows is a statement of the position of the Society of St. Pius X with regard to key questions which are most frequently asked.
THE CHURCH , Mystical Spouse and Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was instituted by Him to continue and perfect His work of Redemption. To this effect He endowed her with an hierarchical government, a Magisterium and a ministry destined to illuminate the intellect with the light of faith and sanctify souls by the communication of His divine life. Thus souls are destined to eternal life, the object of Divine Love accomplished in the Creation and the Redemption. These wonderful means are therefore destined to transmit the precious deposit of faith and to communicate the precious gift of grace. The hierarchy of the Apostles possessed these means which were already essentially and substantially perfect. No truth or any means of sanctification was wanting to the Apostles.
Anything which can be given greater precision in the deposit of faith is implicitly contained in it. All that manifests the richness of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments only serves to highlight the sacramental graces, to enlighten the faithful, and dispose them to receive the Divine gifts. The continuous and infallible teaching of the Church and the exercise of her public life during the course of the centuries constitutes Tradition which is truly divine and therefore unchangeable. If, in its presentation, it can undergo certain adaptations, these adaptations of language or rites cannot but better transmit Tradition and never obscure it or even less, alter it.
The Church has always dreaded novelties, even in her vocabulary and that is why she has held on so strongly to the Latin language in the principal form of Tradition, viz. the Roman Church. For it is by a tendency to novelty that heresies, schisms, and errors have come about. This spirit of novelty, mutation, and change has succeeded in entering into the Church. It necessarily tends to destroy Tradition.
The Second Vatican Council, which wished to be the Council of "up-dating," opened the door to this spirit of change and novelty. The consequences and fruits are before our eyes; they are what allowed Pope Paul VI to make allusion to the auto-destruction of the Church.
One of the changes which affects the Church in that which is most essential to her is the liturgical change for it affects the very work of the Redemption: the Sacrifice of the Saviour, and as a necessary consequence, the priesthood of the Saviour and all who participate in it.
The self-defense of the Faith and the priesthood could not but manifest itself throughout the entire Catholic world. The Society of St. Pius X itself had also to make a sad choice either to follow the new reforms or to maintain the true sacrifice and the true priesthood. There was no hesitation: One does not sacrifice the greatest realities of Tradition to a false ecumenism. The Mass according to the traditional rites and the traditional priesthood would be jealously conserved, priestly formation and priestly life inspired by the best sources of tradition following the example of holy priests such as the last canonized Pope, Saint Pius X.
It is evident that the reformers could not tolerate a fidelity to the Church and to Tradition which placed their infidelity in evidence. Persecution was unleashed all the more that the effects of these reforms were terrible, especially in regard to the priesthood which was gravely affected.
This first stage of the active resistance of the Society was relatively easy, until 1974. Then came the second stage, that of canonical penalties which, being unsuccessful, were followed by a persecution of controversy.
"Your resistance places you in opposition to the Pope himself and puts you in a state of grave disobedience."
I deny the assumption that the Pope can oblige us to abandon the tradition of the Church on an essential point. If the Pope takes up a position in this sense it is because he is subject to pressures and he is all the more disposed to submit to them insofar as he himself is liberal.
The corruption of ideas in the Roman Curia is such that certain of its members arrogate illegitimate rights to themselves, especially the Secretariat of State. Rome is invaded by Modernists.
In the face of this state of affairs of which it is difficult for those who have not frequented the Roman Curia to have an exact idea, the defenders of tradition are divided. Some say that the Decrees of Rome, signed or carried out by the Pope, are so bad that the Pope cannot be a legitimate Pope, he is a usurper. There is therefore no Pope, the See is vacant. Others affirm that the Pope cannot sign decrees which are destructive of the Faith and therefore these decrees are acceptable and one must submit to them. The Society [of St. Pius X] does not accept one or the other of these two solutions, but supported by the history of the Church and the doctrine of theologians, thinks that the Pope can favorize the ruin of the Church by choosing bad collaborators and allowing them to act, by signing decrees which do not engage his infallibility, sometimes even by his own admission, which cause considerable harm to the Church. Nothing is more dangerous to the Church than liberal Popes who are in a continual state of incoherence.
On the other hand, we think that God can allow the Church to be afflicted with this misfortune. Consequently we pray for the Pope but we refuse to follow him in his folly in regard to religious liberty, ecumenism, socialism and the application of reforms which are ruinous for the Church. Our apparent disobedience is true obedience to the Church and the Pope as successor of Peter in the measure that he continues to maintain Tradition.
"By your attitude of refusal of the New Order of Mass and the new rites, you give the impression that these rites are invalid. "
It is one thing to say that they are invalid, and another to say that they are bad. We say that they are bad because the intention which governed these changes is bad. It is that expressed by Mgr. Bugnini in the L'Osservatore Romano of 19 March 1965. The modifications introduced into the rites are also opposed to the doctrine of the Holy Mass and the Sacraments. Our pastoral attitude which refuses these reforms follows from this.
The facts confirm our pastoral action. We are witnessing the loss of faith among the faithful and the clergy. When the Faith runs the risk of being changed or perverted nothing must be neglected to avoid this perversion. This is an elementary moral principle.
With regard to validity, moral theology and Canon Law indicate the necessary conditions: A validly ordained minister, the correct matter and form, and the intention of doing what the Church does, i.e., what she has always done and has the intention of doing and that which she will always do.
It should be noted that the study of this validity should especially be made from now on with the translations which are in use, given that Latin is no longer used. In this case it is easy to reveal the wrong ideas of the liturgical commissions which profit from this to use Protestant terminology. The confusion is total, and the danger of invalidity is very great. In this domain "auto-destructions" causes havoc.
This is yet another important incentive to refuse the reforms and to draw one's inspiration for pastoral action from the attitude of the Church with regard to schismatic and heretical sects.
"Are you among those who say that it is impossible to assist at the New Order without committing a grave sin?"
Evidently not. Those who speak in this way do not know what a grave sin is and forget the laws of moral theology which require a concrete act to be judged in the circumstances which modify the morality of the act. Many of those who assist at the New Order of Mass have not sufficient knowledge of the danger to their faith. They find themselves in a situation similar to that of large numbers of Catholics in the 16th century who allowed themselves to be drawn into Protestantism by their priests or bishops, especially in England and Germany. They saw their mentality and their faith being transformed little by little by their participation in the reformed liturgy with which the New Order of Mass has much in common.
This is why we must make them realize the danger to their faith while treating them with indulgence.
The adherence of bishops and priests to the reforms is much more grave. Many suffer from this dilemma which puts them either in opposition to authority or in opposition to their faith in their priesthood. Few have the courage to remain faithful and many prefer to retire or submit unwillingly. They do not have the gift of fortitude of the martyrs.
"Is your attitude assumed in a rejection of the Council from which the reforms have come?"
The Council should have been the occasion of the reaffirmation of the Truth of the Church and the necessity of the social reign of Jesus and Mary against the errors of Protestantism and Teilhardian naturalism and against socialism and communism. Ordinary Protestants would have been converted en masse. They were disposed to it and their debacle was profound on the eve of the Council. But the Modernists, traitors to the Church, used the Council to favor their compromise with all the modern errors, profiting from a weak pope and a pope disposed to radical changes. All of the commentators on the Council recognize the triumph of the liberals who did not hide their satisfaction and who neutralized or drove from the Roman Curia all of the conservatives and who took the reins of government, centralizing power in the Secretariat of State in order to be certain of managing the ecumenical revolution so much desired by the enemies of the Church.
The work was quickly carried out in all fields. Destruction also followed quickly.
In this pastoral Council the spirit of error and lies was able to work at its ease, placing time-bombs everywhere which, in due course, would destroy the institutions. One must therefore understand "accept the Council in the light of Tradition" in the sense of "correct the Council in the direction of the eternal principles of Tradition." This is, moreover, what Pope Paul VI began to do by placing in the acts of the Council the nota explicativa for the document Lumen Gentium. Let us admit that this is something new for a Council.
Such has always been the attitude and the thoughts of the Society on the Second Vatican Council; a pastoral Council as it defines itself (notification of 16 November 1964). The Council is an act of non-infallible teaching and consequently susceptible to being influenced in a bad sense. It is therefore a question of applying the criterion of Tradition to the different documents of the Council in order to know what is to be retained, what is to be clarified, and what is to be rejected.
"Your practical attitude in the apostolate puts the members of the Society in constant opposition to Canon Law."
In frequent opposition to the letter of certain laws, it is true, but not with the fundamental laws of Canon Law, the principal of which obliges all pastors of souls: Prima lex, salus animarum. 1
On the other hand, Canon Law itself foresees numerous exceptions to the law, authorizing in particular cases that which is generally refused. Thus it is for jurisdiction of different sacraments. Is not the essential duty of the bishop to perpetuate the priesthood? That which is permitted in the natural order in exceptional situations, i.e., cataclysms, conflagrations, wars, etc., in virtue of general laws is all the more so in the order of the salvation of souls in analogous situations. When this exceptional situation comes to an end, everything will return to order without any problems. All of the members of the Society have only one desire: To be subject in filial obedience to Rome which has returned to Tradition.
This line of conduct has been that of the Society—which in no way pretends to substitute itself for the Magisterium of the Church—since the beginning of its existence and it has never varied. Many strive to radicalize us or to liberalize us. Because of these opposing efforts a certain number of young priests, seminary lecturers and seminarians have preferred to leave us. However, the great majority of priests and seminarians are faithful to the spirit of the Society which strives on all points to be faithful to the spirit of the Church and to follow her indefectibly in her consolations and in her trials, in the footsteps of all those who, during the course of the centuries, have professed that the Jesus of yesterday is the same as that of today and of tomorrow. Jesus Christus heri, hodie, ipse et in saecula.
Virgo fidelis ora pro nobis!
1. The first law is the salvation of souls.
(Issued by the General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X,
Ecône, Switzerland, 13-16 September 1982.)