This explanatory article was first published on 7-9-2012 in conjunction with the SSPX's 2012 General Chapter.
The General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X
The General Chapter is the supreme and extraordinary authority of the Society of St. Pius X. The ordinary authority is the Superior General assisted by his council. The General Chapter is the only entity able to amend the Statutes. The “ordinary” General Chapter meets every 12 years. Additionally, the Superior General is allowed to convene an “extraordinary” Chapter for exceptional reasons. After his re-election at the head of the Society in 2006, the Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay announced that he will convene an “half-mandate” Chapter to review the current affairs in 2012.
The General Chapter is composed of 40 people designated by their “office,” that is to say, their function in the Society’s work. By office they are the standing Superior General and his two assistants, the bishops, the former superior generals, the Secretary General and the Bursar General, the district superiors, the rectors of the major seminaries, and the superiors of the autonomous houses. It also includes in its number the most senior priests who do not hold the above mentioned charges or offices in number equal to one-third of the number of members by office. These Chapter attendees are called “capitularies”.
At this Chapter, the delegation from the SSPX’s United States District will number four.
The Secretary General sends to all of the capitularies the Chapter agenda for their personal study and reflection. During a preparatory novena, special prayers to implore the inspiration of the Holy Ghost over the future Chapter have been offered by all the Society members, as well as one day of abstinence and fasting. Upon their arrival for the Chapter, in order to dispose themselves to act according to the Holy Ghost, the capitularies made a spiritual retreat of five days (July 3 to 8). This chapter's retreat was preached by Fr. Lorans, spokesman for the SSPX, former rector of Econe as well as the Institute of St. Pius X in Paris, and the current editor of DICI.
After these spiritual preliminaries, the oath required by Canon Law is taken, followed by the verification of the credentials of the members present to take part in the Chapter. Then follows the deliberations of the Chapter studying the questions compiled by the General House. During the Chapter itself, each member can suggest at any time a matter to be discussed. A simple majority of votes is required for passage of any resolution which will have force of law for the SSPX.
This 2012 Chapter will examine how the SSPX’s Statutes are applied, by assessing the situation, analyzing the weaknesses that ought to be improved, establishing rules in order that the priests might always live their priesthood better according to the statutes, and thereby obtaining more effectively grace and Heaven’s gifts.
The present relationships with Rome will occupy also the deliberations of the Chapter. In the today’ situation, the resolutions or recommendations of the Chapter will be especially important.
Ordinary authority in the SSPX: the Superior General and his Assistants: the General Council
According to the Statutes, the Assistants are meant to assist. Their first duty is to advise. Together with the Superior General, they form the General Council. They must help in the direction of the Society. The Church, on the one hand, insists very much on personal responsibility. The Church is not only hierarchical, but monarchical.
There is, therefore, a responsibility that falls upon one person. On the other hand, the Church is also prudent and knows very well that the person in authority must be surrounded by protections, aids, and helpers for his government. It is well known that four or six eyes see better than two. In religious societies like the SSPX, for the important decisions, the Church demands a decision of the Council. On those occasions, the Assistants have a voice, their own voice, which counts for the validity of the acts.
As for the specific function of the Assistants in the Council according to the law, there is little specification. They must assist, and that is a very wide charge, leaving a great freedom of action, of interaction, between the Superior General and his Assistants for the good running of the Society.
General Chapter schedule
- The General Chapter will take place at the International Seminary of St. Pius X in Econe, Switzerland.
- The capitularies reside in the cells of the seminarians, who have been on vacation as of the June 29th ordinations—the chapter members also use the common bathrooms located on each floor.
- The meals are taken in the refectory where a long table is set to enable all the chapter members to sit side-by-side in family style. The few seminary priests and seminarians who have remained to assist with the chapter’s practical matters have their own refectory in a room behind the kitchen.
- The chapter members rise daily at 6:00am and pray in common the office of Prime at 6:30am in the main chapel. Then the priests celebrate their Masses at the multiple altars available in the seminary. The first group of priests offers their Masses at 6:45am, then the second at 7:30am. Breakfast follows at 8:15am.
- At 9:00am, divided into various commissions, the chapter members go to the conference room or a seminary classroom to discuss their assigned topics in preparation of presenting their conclusions during a general session.
- In the room where the general session is held, tables are set up in a U-shape formation opposite of which is a desk where the General Council sits: Bishop Fellay, the Superior General; Fr. Pfluger, the First Assistant; and Fr. Nely, the Second Assistant.
- After lunch and a recreational period, the chapter continues at 3:00pm.
- Each chapter session will end about 7:00pm and then follow the seminary’s schedule: dinner at 7:30pm, recreation at 8:00pm, followed by Compline chanted at 8:45pm.