Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Fr. Christian Thouvenot, Secretary General of the SSPX concerning the Fourth General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X which will take place from July 11 to 21.
Many Catholics are concerned by the changes in the Vatican. The discussion centering on the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia and the attacks on priestly celibacy in the perspective of the synod announced for the Amazon region have left the faithful perplexed.
They see cardinal against cardinal, bishop against bishop. The number of Catholics of goodwill who recognize that Archbishop Lefebvre was quite right is not small. This is why the eyes of many—even those outside of Tradition—are turning to the General Chapter.
The newsletter of the German district, Mitteilungsblatt, was able to obtain an interview with the secretary general of the SSPX, Fr. Christian Thouvenot, who is responsible for preparing the Chapter.
Mitteilungsblatt: We would like to inform the faithful about the General Chapter of 2018. Could you begin by introducing yourself and explaining the nature of your duties at the General House?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: I was ordained in 2000, and I have been secretary general since 2008. My work is to keep records of the correspondence of the General House with the seminaries and the districts, as well as with individual members, and to maintain the files of our members, priests, oblates and seminarians. I am responsible for taking minutes at the General Council and informing the superiors involved of decisions that have been made. I am also involved with the archives and the communications of the Society.
Mitteilungsblatt: The Society is led by a Superior General, aided by two assistants, all three of whom are elected, are they not?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: Yes, the Society is led by three superiors, elected for a twelve-year period. Their duties are to keep the Society working smoothly, to organize the apostolate by assigning priests throughout the world, and so on. According to the Statutes, they must take care to maintain and develop in the hearts of all the members, “a great generosity, a profound spirit of faith, and an ardent zeal for the service of the Church and of souls.” They live in Menzigen, where they can rest between apostolic activities, but also work, pray, and study…
Mitteilungsblatt: The Society has flourished over the last few years. You recently published some statistics. Could you tell us more?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: The SSPX is growing slowly but steadily. Everywhere, our projects need more support and more manpower. This is why it is important to pray a great deal and ask for many priestly and religious vocations, and especially many holy priests.
Mitteilungsblatt: Let us speak of the Chapter…
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: This July we will hold the fourth General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X. This meeting is important because it elects the superior general and his two assistants for twelve years, and evaluates whether the Society has remained faithful to its statutes and its spirit. It is an opportunity to examine the apostolate, the development of projects and institutions, community life, and the means of sanctification for our members. It will take place at the Seminary Saint-Pie X, in Econe. All the district superiors will be present, the seminary directors, the bishops, and the senior members. It will be preceded by a priests’ retreat so that the Chapter members are well prepared.
Mitteilungsblatt: What is the purpose of a Chapter?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: As I said, the Chapter’s purpose is to elect the superior general and his two assistants and to examine whether the statutes are being applied. All the members are invited to write to the general secretariat before the Chapter to share their opinions and their wishes as well as their difficulties. All these opinions will be included in reports and discussed at the Chapter.
Mitteilungsblatt: Who is eligible to become Superior General?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: Any senior member who is a priest, at least 30 years old, and who has made his perpetual engagement with the Society, can be elected. The list of the eligible is 462 names long! The Superior General is elected by two-thirds majority, and the Assistants by absolute majority. The 41 members of the Chapter elect them by secret ballot.
Mitteilungsblatt: The statutes written by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre require the Superior General to seek out papal recognition of the Society of St. Pius X. Will the issue of a personal prelature raised?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: Indeed, our statutes require the Society to take “the necessary steps to become of pontifical right.” This was, moreover, Archbishop Lefebvre’s concern when faced with the unjust and illegal suppression of the Society in 1975, and when he formulated a proposal for canonical recognition in 1987. But this question of our legal status is a consequence of the abnormal situation in the Church and the unfounded allegations made about us. We are Catholic, Roman, profoundly united with the Pope and the hierarchy of the Church, but in the Catholic Faith. We follow the Pope, Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, and not of Luther or Lamennais. We recognize the Magisterium, the authority of the Roman Pontiff and of the councils, but in continuity with Tradition, not in novelties that corrupt the Faith, the liturgy and the doctrine of the Church.
To answer your question, it is certainly possible that the issue of the status of a personal prelature should come up during the Chapter. But it is the Superior General alone who leads the Society and who is responsible for relations between the Holy See and Tradition. Archbishop Lefebvre, in 1988, was careful to insist on this.
Mitteilungsblatt: In your opinion, what other important issues related to the life of the Society will the General Chapter examine?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: The Chapter will examine all aspects of members’ daily life; it will look into the management of assets; it will certainly study the issues of recruitment, perseverance, schools and missions, the development of our projects and institutions, and the application of the statutes in our communities.
Mitteilungsblatt: The Society’s heart lies in its seminaries. What problems exist there that must be resolved? You used to teach in postsecondary education, so you were involved with students.
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: The seminaries are indeed at the heart of the life of the Society, which is primarily directed toward the restoration of the Catholic priesthood, hence towards a formation that will give the Church the priests She so badly needs. The priority is to provide a high level of formation, and therefore to assemble a staff of competent professors. The professors must also be capable of supporting vocations as they climb the steps of the altar one by one and grow in the priestly virtues.
Mitteilungsblatt: The Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X are also holding their General Chapter this year.
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: The Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X will indeed hold their own Chapter in spring. They serve magnificently at the side of the priests, and their religious life brings much to the priories and schools to which they devote themselves.
Mitteilungsblatt: What can the faithful do with regard to the Chapter?
Fr. Christian Thouvenot: The faithful are invited to pray from now on for the intentions of the Chapter, and more generally for the development of the Society as an institution of the Church, as its venerable founder wished. I am thinking in particular of the members of the Third Order who are especially close to our spirit and our intentions, who often help in our priories and bring the merits of their prayers every day to this work of Providence.