On Negotiations with Rome and the
Society of Saint Pius X
A Joint Statement from
The Remnant and Catholic Family News
by Michael J. Matt, Editor, The Remnant
and John Vennari, Editor, Catholic Family News
Rumors and more rumors now ricochet throughout the press and internet about present negotiations between Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X. Some individuals broadcast alleged authoritative statements about these negotiations when it is obvious they do not have full possession of facts.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, has publicly stated that contrary to various allegations, there is no immediate reconciliation in the works.
Most SSPX supporters breathe a sigh of relief at this news, as do many non-SSPX adherents who are cognizant of the fact that the SSPX is the counterweight to the entire “approved” traditionalist movement. Other Catholics are chagrined that Bishop Fellay appears to be passing up an olive branch extended by the Vatican.
The writers of this document, as editors of two widely-distributed traditional Catholic journals, wish to go on record in support of Bishop Fellay and the Society of Saint Pius X exercising utmost caution in any negotiations with present-day Rome at this most perilous moment in history. In this Statement we intend to present our reasons for concluding that, alas, the time has not yet come for the SSPX to make a deal.
“To Guarantee our Future”
Three years ago, Bishop Fellay advanced wise criteria for negotiations with today’s Vatican. In his January 3, 2003 “Letter to Friends and Benefactors”, Bishop Fellay cautioned:
“To guarantee our future, we must obtain from today’s Rome clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday. When the Roman authorities have re-stated with actions speaking louder than words that ‘There must be no innovations outside of Tradition’ then ‘we’ [the SSPX] shall no longer be a problem.”
Based on this prudent criteria, we fail to see how any present-day negotiations will guarantee the future of the Society of Saint Pius X, since today’s Rome provides no clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday; no evidence by actions that speak louder than words that “there must be no innovations outside of Tradition”. We see, in fact, the contrary; so much so that many who initially celebrated Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to the papacy, including a number of Novus Ordo Catholics, are now crestfallen at Pope Benedict XVI’s first nine months of office.
Pope Benedict XVI, whose first allegiance has always been to the modernist New Theology, appears to be no different from the Cardinal Ratzinger who praised Vatican II as a counter-syllabus, and who stated emphatically, “there must be no return to the syllabus”. This was particularly evident in his December 22, 2005 speech to the Roman Curia where he continually praised Vatican II’s religious liberty as the new gold standard for Church-State relations. The allegiance to Vatican II’s new world view is also evident from other papal addresses in which he calls for a “healthy secularity”, which could not be more repugnant to the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ as advanced by the pre-Vatican II Papal Magisterium.
The fact that this December 22 speech denounced the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” is nothing on which to pin much hope. For years, Cardinal Ratzinger has lamented various bad interpretations of the Council. But Cardinal Ratzinger’s solution has never been a return to pre-Vatican II tradition. Rather, time and time again, his answer is to go back to discover the “true” teaching of Vatican II. Cardinal Ratzinger’s —and now Pope Benedict XVI’s — solution to the present upheaval is to return Catholics to the same liberal, ambiguous Vatican II documents that produced the crisis in the first place.
A return to Quas Primas, a return to the Oath Against Modernism, a return to Blessed Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors plays no part in any “restoration” Pope Benedict may advocate. The Benedict XVI of today is the same Cardinal Ratzinger of yesterday. The New Theology of Vatican II is still the center of his universe.
Thus, the question forms on the lips of concerned Catholics: How would a “reconciled” SSPX be able to operate freely under the aegis of the modernist New Theology, when the entire reason for the SSPX’s existence is to publicly oppose this destructive New Theology?
This indeed is a sticking point, and one that would be fatal for the SSPX to compromise on in any way. Yet there seems little doubt that the SSPX would be expected to “give a little” to the Vatican regarding acceptance of the Council.
There can be no question that the SSPX (which is not in formal schism as even admitted by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and which is not sedevacantist) cannot maintain its “irregular” canonical status indefinitely. Ultimately, the SSPX will return to Peter’s full embrace, presumably after Rome has abandoned the failed policies of Vatican II, something we are convinced must (and will) happen in God’s good time.
It is our considered opinion, however, that the “state of emergency” at this point, far from having subsided, has become so firmly entrenched in the human element of the Church that nothing short of Divine intervention can restore Holy Mother Church. We are, as the late Michael Davies noted shortly before his death, “beyond crisis” since the Church is no longer even able to generate the priestly vocations necessary to provide the faithful with the sacraments. The rise in the number of “priestless parishes” is a grim reminder of this reality.
After Bishop Fellay’s August 29 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Francesco Pompedda, the former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, told the Italian daily La Stampa that the Society of St. Pius X could only be reconciled to the Holy See if it recognizes the validity of Vatican II decrees.
Likewise National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen — somewhat inaccurately — listed the “four conditions posed by the leadership of the SSPX for reunion: 1) Wider permission for celebration of the pre-Vatican II Mass; 2) lifting the excommunications for the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988; 3) recognizing a right to criticize certain aspects of Vatican II, especially its teaching on religious liberty; 4) a canonical structure to provide traditionalists with some autonomy, such as an apostolic administration.”
Regarding the first two points: the Society of Saint Pius X is not requesting a more widespread “permission” for the Tridentine Mass, since no such permission is necessary. The SSPX merely wants, as does every true Catholic, the Vatican to admit the truth that the Tridentine Mass has never been forbidden and all priests are free to celebrate it without a special “indult” from the bishops.
In similar vein, the SSPX is not asking the Vatican to “lift” the excommunications of 1988, since the SSPX does not recognize any such excommunications exist. Again, the SSPX only wants Rome to admit the truth of the situation and declare the excommunications null.
Further, the SSPX does not pose these first two points as a condition for reunion, but only as a condition for starting negotiations that may lead to regularization. But the SSPX first asks that the Vatican speak honestly about these two important points. If the Vatican is not willing to admit the truth — and if any organization has a duty to admit truth, it is the Vatican — then negotiations are rather useless.
Regarding the all-important third point, which would be an absolute condition of the SSPX for regularization, John Allen wrote, “One Vatican Cardinal who spoke to NCR February 2 said he doubted the Holy See could accept the conditions posed by the Society for returning, especially a right to disagreement with elements of Vatican II. ‘That would have very serious implications for the unity of the church,’ the Cardinal said. The unnamed prelate further stated he believes the Pope ‘understands this very well’ and would thus be cautious about moving forward.”
Attachment to the Rome of Yesterday?
Pope Benedict XVI, however, has not been cautious about moving forward the post-Conciliar revolution. A brief review of some of the most poignant moments of his pontificate shows him as a man with little “attachment to the Rome of yesterday.”
● At Pope John Paul II’s funeral Mass, eleven days before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger gave Communion in the hand to Brother Roger Shultz of Taizé, a man whom he knew to be Protestant. Subsequent news stories reported that this was not the first time Cardinal Ratzinger practiced intercommunion with non-Catholics.
● During the same Mass, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of John Paul II “standing at the window of the Father’s house”, indicating that John Paul II is already in Heaven, thus virtually bypassing Purgatory and providing a kind of instant canonization;
● In his first Papal homily, Benedict XVI said, “Therefore, in preparing myself also for the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, I wish to affirm strongly my determination to continue the commitment to implement the Second Vatican Council ...” He pledged to continue the ecumenical dialogue championed by Pope John Paul II.
● In May 2005, Pope Benedict appointed the liberal Archbishop William Levada as Prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Not only has Levada a history of covering up clerical-homosexual activity in his respective U.S. dioceses, but he was one of the most ecumenical prelates in the United States. He was the first U.S. bishop to visit a synagogue after Pope John Paul II’s initial 1986 synagogue visit. Levada also sponsored “spirit of Assisi” events in his cathedral, which included Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other sects. This is the same Archbishop who told Father Eugene Heidt that Transubstantiation is a “long and difficult term” and “we don’t use that term any more”. Yet Levada is the man hand-picked by Pope Benedict to be the alleged “doctrinal watchdog” of the Church world wide. Levada was also allowed to name his own successor in San Francisco — Bishop George Niederauer — a man who just recently praised the homosexual film Brokeback Mountain.
● On May 13, 2005, Pope Benedict placed the beatification of Pope John Paul II on the fast track by bypassing the prudent five-year waiting period. This can only serve to “canonize” Pope John Paul II’s disastrous pan-religious policies; the revolution is preparing to canonize its own.
● On August 17, Pope Benedict practically canonized the murdered Protestant Brother Roger of Taizé in a public speech, calling him a “faithful servant” of the Lord who is now “in the Hands of Eternal Goodness”.
● On August 19, Pope Benedict visited a synagogue in Cologne for the purpose of interreligious relations, not for the purpose of exhorting Jews to convert to Jesus Christ; this he did in Cologne while a million young people from around the world had converged on that city for World Youth Day. (How does one begin to evaluate scandal on such a scale?)
● On the same day, Pope Benedict gave an address at an ecumenical meeting in which he spoke of ecumenism as a good thing that does not have as its goal a “return” of non-Catholics to the one true Church of Christ, thus undermining the infallible Catholic dogma, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”;
● Pope Benedict, in October of 2005, lauded Father Hans Urs von Balthasar at a conference honoring this liberal theologian. Von Balthasar taught, contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, that a Catholic may “hope” that all men are saved. Thus the Pope gave unqualified praise to the man who, in effect, was one of the world’s foremost proponents of universal salvation;
● Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic doctrine of Limbo is being “re-studied”, and is likely to be jettisoned as outdated teaching. This undertaking by a Commission of theologians under the Sacred Congregation for the Doc trine of the Faith enjoys Pope Benedict’s full support. This comes as no surprise, since Cardinal Ratzinger himself previously indicated his own disbelief in Limbo, saying he would “let it drop”. News of Pope Benedict’s Com mission on Limbo even rattled conservative Novus Ordo priests.
● On November 29, 2005, Pope Benedict issued a pathetic document on Seminary formation that, for the first time in Church history, said that those who engage in homosexual activity should be “profoundly respected”; the document allows a homosexual to become a priest provided he has been celibate for three years. This led a number of Novus Ordo Catholics to regard Pope Benedict as even more liberal than Pope John XXIII who in a 1961 document banned homosexuals from the priesthood because of their “evil tendencies”.
More examples could be given but we think the point is made. To repeat Bishop Fellay’s wise criteria, for any reconciliation of the SSPX with Rome to be possible, Rome must give “clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday”. Pope Benedict XVI has shown that this criteria for a return to Tradition does not exist. Even non-Traditionalist publications lament this aspect of Pope Benedict’s pontificate.
Dale Vree, editor of the New Oxford Review, did not conceal his disappointment with the Pope’s first nine months:
“This document [on homosexuals in the seminary] is Pope Benedict’s defining moment, and he flubbed it. Likewise, his appointment of William Levada to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was the most important appointment Benedict would make, and he flubbed that, too.”
After noting that Pope Benedict’s cordial four-hour visit with Hans Küng only served to give respectability to Küng’s heretical ideas and projects, Mr. Vree said:
“The latest outrage is Benedict’s appointment of Bishop George Niederauer to be Archbishop of San Francisco. Niederauer is clearly ‘gay’-friendly. He pastored a parish in West Holly wood with a large ‘gay’ congregation, where he said that homosexuals are ‘wonderful’. As Bishop of Salt Lake City, he opposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He denies that there is a link between homosexual priests and the molestation and rape of boys. He helped found the Coalition of Concerned Religious Leaders in Utah, which supports ‘tolerance’ for homosexuals. Topping it off, he has been praised by Sam Sinnet, head of Dignity-USA, and Francis DeBernardo, head of New Ways Ministry — both groups being composed of proud ‘gay’ lesbian Catholics.”
Mr. Vree’s complaint is all the more warranted when we consider that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for twenty-four years and must have known the history of this gay-friendly bishop! Yet Bishop Niederauer is the man he appointed to head — of all places — the diocese of San Francisco.
Thus at a time when even conservative Novus Ordo Catholics see the downward spiral of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, it behooves the Society of Saint Pius X to proceed with extreme caution in any negotiations with a Pope who has failed to show “with actions that speak louder than words that there must be no innovations outside of Tradition”. Under such a Pope, it seems clear that the future of the SSPX could not be guaranteed.
Let us make one thing clear: Our position vis-a-vis rapprochement between the SSPX and the Vatican is here premised on the presumption that the SSPX is not in schism. Were the SSPX in schism then their bishops and priests would, objectively speaking, be guilty of the mortal sin of schism and we would have no truck with that. As has been vigorously contended since 1988, however, the canonical standing of the SSPX, though admittedly “irregular”, has never risen to the level of formal schism. The priests of the SSPX pray for Pope Benedict as well as their respective local ordinaries in every Mass they offer; the bishops of the SSPX have no territorial jurisdiction and so have gone to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of establishing the “petite eglise”; the SSPX has never denied the Pope’s authority, but, rather, citing provisions out of the new Code of Canon Law itself for legal recourse that can be taken in the case of necessity, the so-called “state of emergency” clause, have chosen to withhold obedience to that which would compromise the Faith itself. In addition to this, however, there has been no stronger defender of the modern popes against the charges of the so-called sedevacantists than the Society of St. Pius X. That there is not (and never was) formal schism in the SSPX has been borne out many times since 1988, most notably, perhaps, by Cardinal Ratzinger himself in 1993 with respect to the case of Pat Morely and the Hawaii Six, and, most recently, by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei president himself, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos.
This fact notwithstanding, it is a cause of no small concern that the Pope’s chosen instrument for conducting negotiations with the SSPX happens to be the very same Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, a man who, in many cases in his dealing with traditional Catholics, seems to have gone out of his way to demonstrate himself as untrustworthy.
Enticing Words, But Can the Cardinal Be Trusted?
Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos serves as both Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which oversees (without doing much) local implementation of Pope John Paul II’s “indult” for use of the traditional Latin Mass.
It cannot be denied that Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has recently made some very telling admissions concerning the true canonical status of SSPX and the traditional liturgy. For example, in a recent interview with 30 Days magazine the Cardinal stated that the situation of SSPX is “not a formal schism,” that the traditional Latin Mass “has never been abolished,” and that concerning Vatican II and the post-Conciliar changes in the Church “we are all free to formulate critical observations on what doesn’t concern dogma and the essential discipline of the Church itself.” The Cardinal even went so far as to say that “critical contributions of that sort that can come from the [SSPX] can be a treasure for the Church.” One may ask, why didn't they say so before?
We cannot fail to be grateful for such admissions. But there is also serious cause for concern that beneath these enticing words is an intent to embrace SSPX only in order to suffocate it. Consider the fate of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, which is composed of priests who left SSPX after the consecration of the four bishops by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. The Vatican assured these ex-SSPX priests that their right to offer the traditional Mass and to pursue a traditional priestly formation in the seminary would be respected. But that is not exactly how it has worked out.
In June of 2000, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos took swift and little short of brutal disciplinary measures against the Fraternity after the Vatican received a complaint from a group of sixteen dissident liberal priests in the Fraternity's French apostolate. These sixteen priests complained rather petulantly that they would like to be free to offer the Novus Ordo Mass “occasionally” to show “unity” with the local bishop, and that the Fraternity’s seminary formation was “too rigid”.
The complaint of the Petulant Sixteen received immediate Vatican attention. In June of 2000 Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, acting as head of Ecclesia Dei, suppressed the election to be held at the Fraternity's general chapter, thus blocking the certain reelection of Father Josef Bisig as Superior General. Father Bisig had been opposed to any offering of the Novus Ordo by Fraternity Priests. The Cardinal also personally imposed on the Fraternity a new Superior General more to his liking, and ordered the removal of the rectors of the Fraternity’s two seminaries and their replacement by more liberal-minded priests. These measures followed upon the Commission's issuance of the now-infamous Protocol 1411, which provides that not only may the Petulant Sixteen (or any other Fraternity priest) not be forbidden by Fraternity leadership to celebrate the Novus Ordo, but also that Fraternity priests “must celebrate with the postconciliar missal if, by chance, a celebration takes place in a community which uses the modern Roman Rite.” By these measures — imposed with a lightning-like rapidity that has not been seen in the disciplinary realm since Vatican II — the Cardinal destroyed, at least in principle, the Fraternity’s claim to be entitled to the exclusive use of the traditional Missal and methods of seminary formation.
Cardinal Hoyos justified this heavy-handedness in his letter of June 29, 2000 to the Fraternity:
“You know quite well that your seminary is observed by many people in the Church and that it must be exemplary in all respects. In particular, it is required to avoid and combat a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church, which spirit easily finds followers among the young students, who like all young people, already are included to extreme and rigorous positions.”
In a later statement to 30 Days, the Cardinal further defended his actions as necessary “to strike a balance between their original charism and the outcome of their insertion within the ecclesial reality of today.” Whatever “the ecclesial reality of today” is supposed to mean, it cannot possibly mean traditional Roman Catholicism, for if it did, there would have been no motive for the Cardinal to intervene.
Now, the absurdity of the Cardinal’s statement that the priests of the Fraternity exhibit a “spirit of rebellion” could not be more manifest. There are countless seminaries in the United States and throughout the world percolating with rebellion, apostasy and homosexual corruption which Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos — for seven years as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy — has never addressed in any way approaching his swift and decisive intervention against the Fraternity. (On the contrary, the Cardinal and his Congregation have shown great solicitude for due process and the rights of the accused when it comes to such matters as the homosexual predation of young boys by homosexual priests.)
On the other hand, since Vatican II a wholly traditional Roman Catholic priest would indeed be perceived by some in authority as having a “spirit of rebellion” against the “ecclesial reality of today,” precisely because “the ecclesial reality of today” represents the abandonment of Roman Catholic tradition. But, in any event, it is a cold, hard fact that the Fraternity of Saint Peter has never been a force of public resistance to Vatican II and the New Mass. On the contrary, we have been told by certain Fraternity of Saint Peter priests that a fundamental principle of their diocesan apostolate is “not to make waves”. A go-along-to-get-along approach has been central to the Fraternity’s policy since day one of its existence — much to the chagrin of many of the younger priests and seminarians of the Fraternity who are prepared to take a much more active role in the Catholic counterrevolution, but who as yet are not being permitted to do so. Yet, even though the Fraternity does not rock the post-Conciliar boat, the mere suspicion that some of its members might do so prompted the Cardinal to come down on the Fraternity like the proverbial ton of bricks.
The Cardinal’s own words and actions reveal that he views his role not as a defender of traditional belief and practice among the clergy, but rather as an enforcer of what could rightly be called Post-Conciliar Correctness in the Church, or PCC, the ecclesiastical equivalent of Political Correctness, or PC, in the realm of secular politics.
But let it not be thought that the Cardinal’s enforcement of PCC has been limited to the Fraternity or the SSPX. In his attempt to browbeat Father Nicholas Gruner into submission to the “ecclesial reality of today,” the Cardinal has
● Unjustly threatened Father Gruner with disciplinary measures if he does not retract certain articles in The Fatima Crusader that were legitimately critical of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
● Falsely accused Father Gruner behind his back (in secret communications sent by Vatican diplomatic pouch) of forging an ecclesiastical document — an absurd and demonstrably false accusation which the Cardinal has refused to retract after being confronted with proof of his libel.
● Further threatened Father Gruner with excommunication if he did not withdraw a perfectly permissible civil suit against an official of the Toronto archdiocese. When Father Gruner sought a meeting with the Cardinal to discuss possible resolution of the suit, however, the Cardinal did an about-face and declared that he must “maintain strictly the distinction between the civil and ecclesiastical forums”. So, after making an extortionate threat of excommunication in an effort to extract dismissal of a civil suit, the Cardinal admitted he had no business meddling in the suit in the first place.
All of these abuses of power have been detailed in the canonical complaint Father Gruner filed with Pope John Paul II himself on December 20, 2000. The abuses reveal a prelate who will not hesitate to use his power to crush any priest who too effectively opposes the reign of PCC.
This is the man who now smiles at the Society of Saint Pius X, assuring them that they have nothing to fear in trusting present-day Rome. With such a man at the levers of negotiation, the Society of Saint Pius X has ample reason to question whether its future after “regularization” will truly be guaranteed.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s Former Contempt for Traditional Catholics
The scorn displayed by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos is worrisome enough, but, as was previously reported in each of our journals, Cardinal Ratzinger has, in the past, shown himself less than favorable to Traditional Catholics — at least to those who go beyond a mere “preference” for the Old Mass and publicly oppose Vatican II. In his 1984 Ratzinger Report, he said:
“It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I, but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two Councils and there by detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called ‘traditionalism’, also in its extreme forms.”
The so-called “extreme forms” of “traditionalism” certainly include Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his Society of Saint Pius X. In 1975, Archbishop Lefebvre clearly enunciated the need to resist the Vatican II revolution:
“Defending his Faith is the prime duty of every Christian, all the more of any priest or bishop. Wherever an order carries with it a danger of corrupting Faith and morals, disobedience becomes a grave duty.
“It is because we believe that our whole faith is endangered by the post-Council reforms and trends that it is our duty to disobey, and to maintain the Traditions. The greatest service we can render to the Catholic Church, to Peter’s successor, to the salvation of souls and of our own, is to say ‘no’ to the reformed liberal Church, because we believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God made man, who is neither liberal nor reformable.”
Cardinal Ratzinger would have no such resistance. His 1984 statement failed to make the distinction about Vatican II made by Council Secretary Cardinal Pericle Felici.
At the end of Vatican II, the Council Fathers asked Cardinal Felici for what theologians call the theological note of the Council. In other words, what is the status of the Vatican II documents? Cardinal Felici replied, “We have to distinguish according to the schemas and the chapters those which already have been the subject of dogmatic definitions in the past; as for the declarations which have a novel character, we have to make reservations.”
Thus, Cardinal Felici recognized that Vatican II contained novelties no Catholic is bound to accept. These novelties, such as ecumenism and religious liberty, are contrary to what the Church has always taught, and have proved disastrous for the Church and for souls.
How could the Council be anything but disastrous when progressivist Cardinal Suenens, one of the primary architects of the Council, rejoiced that “Vatican II is the French Revolution of the Church”; and when Protestant observer Robert McAfee Brown gloated that the Council effectively did away with the demand for non-Catholics to convert to the Catholic Church for salvation.
Cardinal Ratzinger returned to his defense of the Council against Traditional Catholics in his 1986 Principles of Catholic Theology:
“Was the Council a wrong road that we must now retrace if we are to save the Church? The voices of those who say that it is are becoming louder and their followers more numerous. Among the more obvious phenomena of the last years must be counted the increasing number of integralist [traditionalist] groups in which the desire for piety, for the sense of the mystery, is finding satisfaction. We must be on our guard against minimizing these movements. Without a doubt, they represent a sectarian zealotry that is the antithesis of catholicity. We cannot resist them too firmly.”
In 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger said likewise of traditional Catholics:
“It is inadmissible; one cannot accept that there be in the Church groups of Catholics who do not follow the general way of thinking of the bishops of the world.”
What right-thinking Catholic would want to follow “the general way of thinking of the bishops of the world”, when the majority of these bishops received their episcopal elevation due to their commitment to the liberal reforms of Vatican II? Yet in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, opposition to Vatican II represents a “sectarian zealotry” that “we cannot resist too firmly.”
It must be noted that Pope Benedict XVI and the SSPX both agree that the Church is in crisis. The root of their disagreement is the cause of the crisis. Pope Benedict insists that Vatican II is good in itself, but badly interpreted and implemented. The Society of Saint Pius X insists (and we say, rightly so), that Vatican II is a pile of flawed documents that can only produce bad fruits. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Council’s history knows the documents were drawn up by radical theologians with revolutionary intent.
Unfortunately, Father Joseph Ratzinger was one of these radical Council theologians. He does not admit the inherent dangers of these double-minded texts. For him, resistance to Vatican II itself is not an option — a reality which pits him at odds with Archbishop Lefebvre and his stated reasons for resisting in the first place. In I Accuse the Council, Archbishop Lefebvre writes:
“... It is nonetheless certain that the Council was deflected from its purposes by a group of conspirators and that it is impossible for us to take any part in this conspiracy, despite the fact that there may be many satisfactory declarations in Vatican II. The good texts have served as cover to get those texts which are snares, equivocal, and denuded of meaning, accepted and passed.
“We are left with only one solution: to abandon these dangerous examples and cling firmly to tradition, i.e., to the official Magisterium of the Church throughout 2000 years.”
Not so, says Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict —the Council must be saved. Its richness must still be “discovered” — again, constituting irreconcilable differences with the Society of St. Pius X. What, then, could possibly constitute grounds for negotiations, unless the Vatican moves far to the right or the SSPX moves equally far to the left?
For Traditional Catholics, there is no shaking the revolution from the Council texts. Resistance to Vatican II, ridding the world of its curse, and returning to Catholic Tradition is the only way out of the current upheaval. This Traditional Catholic position is embodied by the Society of Saint Pius X, and will find no welcome with today’s hierarchy.
Our Lord warned His Apostles that certain men will “kill you ... thinking they are offering worship to God.” (John 16:2) It is thus likely that today’s Vatican leaders, despite their current smiles, will try to kill the anti-Modernist resistance of the SSPX, “thinking they are offering worship to God”. No doubt, today’s Vatican has convinced itself that the Hegelian amalgamation of the SSPX into the modernist “ecclesial reality of today” is a holy mission for the good of the Church. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos clearly displayed this attitude in his dealings with the Fraternity of Saint Peter.
Part of this insertion into the “ecclesial reality of today” is for the Vatican to grant traditionalist groups “regularization,” provided these groups do not publicly oppose the New Mass and Vatican II’s ecumenical orientation. It is a kind of Vatican-Moscow Agreement for Traditional Catholics.
In the early 1960s, Pope John XXIII made a pact with Moscow that in exchange for Moscow allowing Russian Orthodox observers to attend the Council, Vatican II would not criticize or condemn Communism. Archbishop Lefebvre believed this pact with Moscow was, in and of itself, enough to condemn the Council:
“The refusal by this pastoral Council to issue any official condemnation of communism alone suffices to disgrace it for all time, when one thinks of the tens of millions of martyrs, of people having their personalities scientifically destroyed in the psychiatric hospitals, serving as guinea-pigs for all sorts of experiments. And the pastoral Council which brought together 2,350 Bishops said not a word, in spite of the 450 signatures of Fathers de manding a condemnation, which I myself took to Msgr. Felici, secretary of the Council, together with Msgr. Sigaud, Archbishop of Diamantina.
“Need the analysis be pushed any further to reach its conclusion? These lines seem to me to be enough to justify one’s refusing to follow the Council, these reforms, these trends in all their liberalism and neo-modernism.”
This Vatican silence was pleasing to the Communists, of course, since the Communists do not really care if you are against them, providing that you do not publicly oppose them. Likewise, the modernist Vatican does not care if Traditional Catholics dislike the new Mass and the new ecumenism, providing they do not criticize them. Up until now, this has been the Ecclesia Dei agreement with “Catholics attached to the Tridentine Mass.”
In fact, this is precisely what one of us was told when visiting Rome’s Ecclesia Dei Commission in 1994. An Ecclesia Dei official explained that a central condition for “regularization” is that the traditional group agrees to voice no public opposition to Vatican II or the New Mass.
We believe that to make such a deal, trading silence for recognition, is immoral. Medical doctors should not merely promote good health, but fight killer disease. Pro-life activists do not just “choose life”, they vigorously oppose abortion! Even more so, Catholic priests are bound not only to teach the truth, but combat error. Yet, up until now, the Ecclesia Dei compromise tells priests there are certain errors they are not allowed to combat. And these errors are the most prevalent in our day.
Such an approach is ludicrous. It is like telling Saint Thomas Aquinas he is free to celebrate the Old Latin Mass providing he says nothing against the Albigensians. Or it is like telling Saint Ignatius that he and his Jesuits are free to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, providing they say nothing against Protestantism.
We can only imagine how far these modern-day Quietists who trade silence for “regularization” would have gotten with Saint Athanasius, had they even so much as suggested that he concentrate on what Catholics are “for” and leave off criticizing what they are against — namely, Arianism! He would have laughed in their faces.
Trading Vatican recognition for silence against Vatican II’s errors has resulted in many good Ecclesia Dei and Indult priests not voicing criticism of the post-Conciliar changes since they are terrified to upset the local bishop who may then take away their weekly Indult Mass. Too often, those who make this deal lose the sense of Catholic militancy that our present time demands. This is particularly evident in the quick collapse of Campos.
The priests of Campos, Brazil, once a body of opposition to Vatican II, are now a spent force. Campos’ Bishop Rifan takes part in the New Mass and the clergy’s public resistance to post-Conciliar modernism has fizzled. On this point, Father Peter Scott, Rector of the SSPX’s seminary in Australia, wrote in late 2004:
“How is it that these 25 priests from Campos, who for 33 years refused all collaboration whatsoever with the New Mass, who put together these famous reasons for re fusing to assist at or collaborate in the New Mass, who so well defended the canonical status of traditional priests, persecuted precisely because of their refusal to celebrate the New Mass, have suddenly changed their tune? It was not the death of Bishop De Castro Mayer, 11 years before this compromise took place, nor the need of a bishop, for the Society of Saint Pius X had provided them with one. It was quite simply the political exchange, the compromise required in return for the recognition of their Apostolic Administration. It truly was the devil’s tail. Not only were they forbidden all missionary work outside the diocese, not only were they subject to the diocesan bishop in all their apostolates in Campos, but now they are forced to positively cooperate in the New Mass, and to justify it as well.
“Father Cottier, O.P., personal theologian of Pope John Paul II, had predicted this more than two years ago, at the time of Bishop Rifan’s consecration, when he stated: ‘We must wait a little before asking for other acts indicating that they have come around to our way of thinking: for example, participation in concelebrations in the reformed rite. Here, we must show patience … Unity rediscovered in the bosom of the Church contains in itself an internal dynamism that will bear its fruits’. Prophetic statements indeed. It is sad to note that it took the Fraternity of St. Peter 11 years to accept Protocol 1411, obliging them to celebrate or concelebrate the New Mass if called to do so by the Novus Ordo bishop, but that it only took the Campos priests 2 years to arrive at the same position. Rome’s politics are very clear: Bring them back in with a canonical status, and then exercise sufficient pressure to get them to cave in, and even to justify themselves. This is nothing less than a complete victory for modernism.”
There is no reason to believe that “Rome’s policies” have changed regarding the proposed regularization of the Society of Saint Pius X.
There were rumors that the SSPX was going to have a “deal” with Rome in place by Easter, or by the end of Bishop Fellay’s term as Superior General this summer. We never believed these rumors, as it seemed unlikely that the leadership of the SSPX, after doing so well in holding the SSPX together for 18 years since the episcopal consecrations, would suddenly commit an imprudence bordering on madness. One can only imagine the havoc wrought if the present-day Vatican were to have a hand in the upcoming election of a new Superior General.
This rumor, as with various other rumors, was shown to be false.
The Society of Saint Pius X, in imitation of its founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, will continue to keep some lines of communication open with the present-day Vatican. They will also obey the Fatima exhortation to “pray a great deal for the Holy Father”. But based on the observations presented in this document, it seems the time is still not right for serious negotiations towards regularization.
To repeat Bishop Fellay’s wise criteria, the Vatican has not shown any “clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday,” has not “re-stated with actions speaking louder than words that ‘there must be no innovations outside of Tradition’.” We see little evidence that a regularization orchestrated by today’s Vatican would guarantee the future of the Society of Saint Pius X or in any way benefit the worldwide traditionalist movement.
Lest this Statement be viewed by some as a partisan effort engineered by certain forces inside the SSPX, we wish to make clear that neither The Remnant nor Catholic Family News is an SSPX publication. Further, this Statement is being co-authored by one who attends an Indult Mass regularly and who is convinced that, were it not for the great counterweight that is the Society of St. Pius X, there would be no Indult Mass, no Fraternity of St. Peter, no Institute of Christ the King and no burgeoning international traditionalist movement. If the SSPX is removed from this precarious balance, what guarantee do any of us have that Rome will continue to extend its “generosity” on our behalf?
All traditionalists, therefore, have a vested interest in this. The question we must ask ourselves, regardless of where we attend Mass, is this: How will traditionalism benefit from rapprochement between the SSPX and the Vatican when even the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei makes it clear that there would be no Indult Mass were it not for the SSPX? Even some of the highest-ranking curial Cardinals in Rome are openly admitting that the SSPX has never been in formal schism. So, clearly there is no danger to souls, as there certainly would be were this a case of formal schism. Added to this is the fact that liberal bishops regularly grant permission for Indult Masses purely out of protest of the SSPX. The SSPX is growing exponentially throughout the world, as is the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, etc. In fact, it seems obvious that at this point in time, the entire traditionalist movement benefits from the SSPX remaining exactly where it is. Where, then, is the urgency for rapprochement? For us, there is none. For Rome there seems to be a great deal. Why?
As we were completing this Statement, news emerged from Rome that only confirms the need for great caution. Reports claim that Pope Benedict desires to “advance gradually and in reasonable time” toward a resolution to the “Lefebvre issue”. Simultaneously, the Vatican’s Cardinal Arinze stresses that the Pope “cannot disown Vatican II in order to make the Lefebvrites happy. The Pope cannot reinvent everything, or act as if Vatican II did not take place.” This is a curious comment, since the architects of Vatican II reinvented everything and subverted traditional Church teaching in order to make the modernists happy.
Clearly, we are at an important crossroads. The aging Roman establishment is losing confidence that their conciliar Revolution will survive. Tradition is storming back into the lifeblood of the universal Church as the churches of the Novus Ordo empty out and are sold to the highest bidder. This is obviously no time for traditionalists to back down, nor is the time right for the SSPX to end its standoff in the name of holy Tradition or to agree to anything less than a deal based on Rome’s promise to recall Vatican II.
In the meantime, we must pray for Pope Benedict XVI every day, that he will come to recognize the urgent need to restore the Church, not in accordance with a more traditional interpretation of Vatican II, but rather in the light of holy Tradition itself — the only answer to the cataclysmic chaos unleashed by the post-conciliar revolution. We must also pray that the SSPX will continue to resist the Council and its new Mass with all of their resources. Why? Archbishop Lefebvre answered that for all of us many years ago:
“… The conclusion is inescapable, especially in the light of the widespread turmoil which the Church has experienced since the Second Vatican Council: This destructive occurrence for the Catholic Church and all Christian civilization has not been directed nor led by the Holy Ghost.”
Compromise With Vatican, SSPX Leader Says”, Catholic World News, February 7,
2006 (www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=42289) See also “Press
Conference of Bishop Fellay to the Journalists for Religious Information”,
posted by DICI, February 2, 2006 (www.dici.org/actualite_read.php?id=747&loc=US).
2. As the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei makes perfectly clear — no SSPX, no Indult!
3. On web at: http://www.sspx.org/Superior%20Generals%20Ltrs/supgen_63.htm
4. Jospeh Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 391.
5. See “An Interview with Bishop Williamson on Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Address to the Curia”, Catholic Family News, February 2006. On web at: http://www.cfnews.%20org/bw-dec22.htm See also, Christopher Ferrara, “‘Holy Revolution’ or Wholly Revolutionary”, The Remnant, Jan. 31, 2006. On web at: www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/archive-2006-0110-whollyrevolution.htm
6. “The Word from Rome”, John Allen, February 4, 2006. Emphasis added. On web at: http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/word020306.htm .
7. “Pope Benedict XVI and Eucharistic Sacrilege”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, Sept., 2005. On web at www.cfnews.org/RatzRoger.htm The author also demonstrates that contrary to various false reports, Brother Roger did not convert to the Catholic Faith, but died a Protestant. This was confirmed by the author by means of two telephone calls to the community of Taizé, one before Brother Roger’s death, and the other after his death.
8. “Cardinal Ratzinger’s Homily at John Paul’s Funeral Mass”, Zenit, April 8, 2005.
9. Zenit news, April 20, 2005: www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=69626.
10. “Ecumenical Archbishop Levada to Head Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, June, 2005. On web at: www.cfnews.org/LevadaCDF.htm. See also “New San Francisco Archbishop Thinks Gay Propaganda Film Brokeback Mountain is ‘Very Powerful’ ”, Lifesite, February 13, 2005. On web at: www.lifesite.net/Idn/2006/feb/06021306.html.
11. See Priest Where is Thy Mass? Mass Where is Thy Priest?, (Kansas City, Angelus, 2004), p. 64.
12. “Pope Mourns Murder of Taizé’s Brother Roger: Founder ‘Has Attained Eternal Joy,’ Says Benedict XVI”, Zenit, August 17, 2005.
13. Pope Benedict said, “On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!” Ecumenical Meeting: Cologne, August 19, 2005. Address of the Pope on Vatican webpage: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/august/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ spe_20050819_ecumenical-meeting_ en.html.
14. “Pope Praises Von Balthasar and His Theology”, Zenit, October 10, 2005.
15. For example, see “Can Limbo Be Abolished?”, Father Brian Harrison, The Remnant, Dec. 31, 2005. On web at: www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/archive-2005-1215-limbo.htm
16. In a painful irony, Pope Benedict released this appalling document on the centenary of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (Born November 29, 1905).
17. “Homosexuals in the Seminary: Why the Priesthood Will Continue to Become a ‘Gay’ Profession”, Dale Vree, New Oxford Review, February 2006, p. 4.
18. “Rapprochement by unhasty stages, but not too slow either,” 30 Days Magazine, No. 9, 2005.
19. Letter to the General Chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, June 29, 2000.
20. 30 Days, No. 11, 2000
21. Letter to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, May 16, 2001. See web site: http://www.fatima.org/apostolate/defense/may16docinx.asp
22. “Cardinal Must Be Deposed,” The Fatima Crusader Issue 66, Winter 2001. On web at: www.fatimacrusader.com/cr66/cr66pgs1.asp, See in particular Section II: “The Wrongs Committed by Respondent” for more than is here published.
23. The Ratzinger Report, [San Francisco: Ignatius, 1985]. pp. 28-29.
24. Archbishop Lefebvre, Letter to Friends and Benefactors, No. 9, 1975
25. Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, (Kansas City: Angelus, 1992), p. 107.
26. Ibid., p. 100.
27. The Protestant McAfee Brown applauds Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism: “The document makes clear how new is the attitude that has emerged. No more is there talk of ‘schismatics and heretics’ but rather of ‘separated brethren’. No more is there an imperial demand that the dissidents return in penitence to the Church who has no need of penitence; instead there is recognition that both sides are guilty of the sins of division and must reach out penitentially to one another. No more are Protestants dismissed merely as ‘sects’ or psychological entities alone; instead it is acknowledged that there is a measure of ‘ecclesial reality’ to be found within their corporate life.” The Ecumenical Revolution, Robert McAfee Brown. (Garden City: Doubleday, 1967 — 2nd Edition 1969), pp. 67-8.
28. Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, pp. 389-390.
29. Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican, (Kansas City: Angelus, 1999), p. 222.
30. See “Vatican II vs. the Unity Willed by Christ”, J. Vennari Catholic Family News, December 2000. On web at: www.cfnews.org/V2-unity.htm
31. Archbishop Lefebvre, Letter to Friends and Benefactors, No. 9, 1975.
32. Southern Sentinel, from Holy Cross Seminary, Letter from Father Scott to Friends and Benefactors, December 1, 2004. On web at www.holycrossseminary.com/2004_December.htm.
33. “Pope Presides at First Meeting with Curia” Zenit, February 13, 2006. Concerning a meeting Pope Benedict XVI conducted on this date with the Cardinals in charge of the Roman Curia in which a resolution to the “Lefebvre Issue” was discussed.
34. “Vatican Official Says Pope Will Fix Liturgical Abuses, Firmly, Gently. Catholic News Service, February 10, 2006. On web at: www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0600806.htm.
35. Archbishop Lefebvre, Preface to the French Edition, I Accuse the Council.