Certainly there is a crisis in the Church, but how should we go about resisting it? What is the Catholic spirit for such circumstances and how has this been consistently practiced by the SSPX in recent years?
Image above: Archbishop Lefebvre leads the Credo Pilgrimage of 1975.
We are happy to feature another editorial of Fr. Michel Simoulin from the April issue of Le Seignadou (The Sign of God), newsletter of the SSPX's priory in Montreal de l'Aude, France. [see the last editorial: Why I love the SSPX]
The great question that we, and above all our superiors, have to face is doubtless the following, as a friend so well put it:
Is there no danger for the Faith if we accept to place ourselves under an authority, be it a Pope or a bishop, that for the last 50 years has worked unfailingly for the destruction of this Faith, without first coming to terms on the doctrinal questions at stake?"
The first answer is obviously: of course, the danger is great and real, we are all aware of this, and we have always said so and even insisted upon it. It is easy to refer to all the studies we have done on the Council, the New Catechism, John XXIII and John Paul II, for example. It is very obvious that if no “agreement” has yet been concluded, as Bishop Fellay so clearly explained, it is precisely because we do not wish to submit unconditionally to an authority without being sure that it wishes our good and will allow us to continue serving the Tradition of the Church without forcing us to accept Vatican II unconditionally.
That being said, can we really consider this authority as working for the destruction of the Faith? It would seem more accurate to call it an authority that does not profess the Faith, or does not confess it in its integrity, and that professes notions that are dangerous or even against the Faith. For there is a distinction to be made between an intention to destroy the Faith and an effect that was not directly wished for. It is clear that this loss of the Faith is a consequence of the conciliar doctrine that has been professed for the past 50 years, but can we say that this was and still is the intention of its promoters? If such were the case, these authorities would no longer have the Faith and would no longer be formally Catholic, and to believe this would be implicitly sedevacantist. Absit.
As for the need to “agree on doctrinal questions first”, we all agree that it is an ideal that we desire with all our heart. It is the ultimate goal of our resistance and of all our procedures. We can call it the “conversion” of Rome, or Rome’s return to the full and integral Tradition. Yes, “as far as the end is concerned, there is no limit to be respected,” but this limit must be respected “in all that is relative to the end, says Aristotle.” (St. Thomas Aquinas—IIa IIae, 184, 3) And it is prudence that inspires the choice of the means to be used to obtain this end. So we must be realistic or pragmatic! Is it not utopic, for example, to imagine (and demand) that today’s Rome re-establish today the obligation to take the anti-Modernist oath, renew the condemnations proclaimed by Quanta Cura and the Syllabus, Pascendi, Humani Generis, or reaffirm the doctrine of Quas Primas on the kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Can we imagine these things being done immediately?
Of course, it would be ideal, and we all desire it, but can we hope for it to happen before several generations, or even for it to happen at all if the movement is not kept up by members whose faith and obedience are in no way doubtful? We cannot put our hope in the Ecclesia Dei communities, for they have accepted Vatican II in order to be recognized, and they have promised to raise no doctrinal objection to the current theses. We remain the only and last witnesses to the Tradition of the Church in its integrity, but we cannot keep this treasure for ourselves alone. We must rather aspire to placing it in the hands of the Church, and therefore of the pope, as soon as possible.
This desire is the meaning of the decisions and declarations of our General Chapters in 2006 and 2012:
If, after (the two conditions) are fulfilled, the Society waits for the possibility of doctrinal discussions, it is again with the goal of letting the voice of the traditional doctrine resound all the more loudly in the Church. Indeed, the sole purpose of the contact that it occasionally renews with the Roman authorities is to help them to reclaim the Tradition that the Church cannot reject without losing her identity, and not to seek any advantage for itself, or to conclude an impossible purely practical ‘agreement’. The day Tradition is restored to all its rights, the problem of a reconciliation will no longer exist and the Church will be restored to a new youth."
The condition of doctrinal discussions was added in 2001-2002 to the two other conditions decreed by Archbishop Lefebvre, when contact was renewed with Rome. Begun after the realization of the first two conditions in 2007 and 2009, these discussions, that lasted a year, did not come to any agreement. Without any doubt, the conditions necessary for establishing a normal relationship are still far from being fulfilled, and there is still a real danger, it is true, in a canonical agreement without a doctrinal agreement first. But must we wait for a miracle without doing anything to restore a new youth to the Church? And what can we reasonably expect and demand at present as far as a doctrinal agreement goes? The only thing that we can hope for and ask for, it seems, is the freedom to discuss Vatican II.
Let them stop trying to impose upon us an unconditional acceptance of Vatican II as a condition. Let them admit that this council was and still is “pastoral” and not dogmatic, and that it can therefore legitimately be disputed. By ceasing to impose upon us a complete acceptance of Vatican II, and by granting us this liberty, they would already be making an important step, for they would be implicitly recognizing that our arguments are not worthless. An authority that consents to this would already be an authority that is not hostile to Tradition, and maybe even desirous of reestablishing it in the Church, and that would already be a true conversion for Rome. We are not there yet, and that is why nothing has been done. But if Rome accepted to no longer make of Vatican II a super-dogma, it would already be a great victory of grace, and could allow us to imagine reestablishing a certain canonical connection. When will this day dawn? No one knows, but we await it with confidence.
And now we must open our eyes to another danger, that is not hypothetical, but very real: that of no longer wishing to return to our legitimate place among the societies recognized by Rome, of losing the desire for the Church and for Rome. No longer desiring a normal relation with Rome and the Church is a shadow of the schismatic spirit. We have been living in independence from the pope and the bishops for a very long time, as if that were normal. We pretend to defend the doctrine, but we all run the risk of establishing a chosen doctrine, abandoning certain dogmas, those that bother us, especially those concerning the primacy of Peter. We all run the risk of becoming accustomed to the abnormal, of living in a comfortable situation, as if it were right and in conformity with the spirit of the Church. The pope and the bishops are little by little confined to the realm of the beings “of reason”, with no influence on concrete life; Rome is no more than a pilgrimage site, and the Church is a Mystical Body with Jesus Christ for a head, the Holy Ghost for a soul, and the “Trads” for members. Our priests can quickly become gurus. Everyone could be a pope with his Denzinger in hand, and every father of every family could be the pope of his family. In these conditions, our children would no longer have any idea of what the real Church is in its full incarnation, from head to members, in all the realities of daily life.
As for authority… recognized in principle but not admitted in fact as far as the pope is concerned, it risks no longer being recognized at any degree whatsoever. Every superior runs the risk of being challenged, criticized even publicly… and even families will fall apart. Why obey a father who does not obey the pope, the bishop, the priest?
A summit implies danger on both sides. That of an unsafe recognition is one; the internal danger we have just described is another. While the former remains very hypothetical, the latter is not imminent; it is not even knocking at the door… It has already entered into our city and our families!
Are we right, then, to fear the first danger? Certainly, but without going so far as to lose hope and faith in the grace of the Church. And we will be able to face and conquer it only if we are able to unite our strengths instead of dividing them, to face it under the wise and prudent direction of the leaders God has given us. “A kingdom divided against itself will fall,” and the dialectics diffused by the “resistance” only weaken us in our true resistance against the sickness that eats away at the Church, and in our fidelity to the path wisely laid out and followed by Archbishop Lefebvre. One would think that the resistance has no other enemy than Bishop Fellay and the Society. They have obviously rejected any reference to Rome, and all that is left to justify their resistance is us! And if we are told that these “resisters” have been treated unfairly, we can suggest reading and meditating the lives of the saints and the great figures of the Church, who knew what the virtue of obedience is, and knew how to present their difficulties to their superiors without calling the entire planet to witness, on the pretext of saving the Faith, justice and truth. Who is more unjust: an authority that can be severe, perhaps even too severe, or a subordinate who diffuses all his resentment without the slightest prudence, and does not hesitate to publicly dishonor his superiors?
Read and meditate the example of Archbishop Lefebvre. When he left his congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers who were falling apart, how many fathers did he call to follow him? Not one. How many pamphlets and books did he write to denounce his congregation’s decline? Not one. He did not return to the General Chapter and he left with a simple suitcase. And read the life of St. Therese Couderc, founder and first superior of the Sisters of the Cenacle, who was deposed and replaced by a rich widow, who had only just entered the congregation, and who was named founder and superior. St. Therese, who had done nothing wrong, withdrew without a murmur against this flagrant injustice, while the congregation fell to pieces little by little. (It would revive after this trial, see complementary text.) How different from the noisy departures of the last few months that show clearly that the preoccupations of some have little in common with those of the men and women in love with God.
On the pretext of the crisis in the Church, must we resign ourselves to no longer trying to imitate the saints? Must we let this crisis behead the hope in our hearts?
Our Lady of Holy Hope, convert us.