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Talks of Society of St. Pius X and Holy See conducted on wrong basis

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Here follows a letter from NCCL’s Executive Director summarizing (some) reasons that the talks between the Society of St. Pius X & the Holy See are being conducted on the wrong basis.

(Endnotes are numbered in the text [in brackets].)

November 29, 2011

Dear S.,

it was the usual pleasure speaking with you on the 16th.

To make sure I hadn’t misrepresented the history of the Society’s woes and the current status of the negotiations which I had recounted in our conversation, I went back to the books, principally Michael Davies’ Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.

To repeat from our chat, I do not, humanly speaking, hold out hope for a reconciliation now, for a number of reasons, without giving up the Christian hope that those reasons can come to nothing should God deign to act extraordinarily to untangle the ugly affairs of men yet again.

So what is the wrong – the unreasonable – basis for the current negotiations, and what is the right, or reasonable, basis?

Everything the Society has done since the event which began the whole mess – that is, the illegal revocation of the Society’s nihil obstat [1] with right of appeal blocked – begins with the logic which the Archbishop explained to Pope John Paul II on November 18, 1978 in their private audience arranged by Giuseppe Cardinal Siri. (Cf. pp. 257 ff. in Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre – Part II, 1977-1979, by Michael Davies, The Angelus Press, Dickinson TX, 1984.)

What logic?

All actions in question today, in the talks, which were taken against the Archbishop and/or taken by His Grace in ‘defiance’ followed the illegal act of suppression of the Society delivered by the Ordinary of Fribourg and then propped up – working outside of or/and around the law – by those who would divide the Archbishop and the Society from the Holy See. (Cf. pp. 57-68 vol. i, ibid.)

As Michael Davies rightly sums up on p. 203-204 in vol. i of the Apologia:

Even his worst enemies cannot accuse Mgr. Lefebvre of a lack of logic or consistency. His position is based on one fundamental axiom: the action [2] taken against him violates either Ecclesiastical or Natural Law, possibly both. If he is correct then his subsequent actions can be justified and the legality or illegality of subsequent Vatican decisions is irrelevant. Those who condemn the Archbishop invariably ignore this fundamental axiom and concentrate upon the legal minutiae of the subsequent actions. Those who support the Archbishop will do so most effectively by continually redirecting attention to the axiom rather than allowing themselves to be diverted into futile endless discussion on these legal minutiae. It is also essential to cite the controversy within the context of the entire “Conciliar Church” [3] where not simply any and every ecclesiastical law can be defied with impunity by Liberals but any and every article of Catholic Faith can be denied with equal impunity. Reduced to its simplest terms, the true problem posed by the drama of Ecône is not whether Archbishop Lefebvre is right to defy the Vatican and continue ordaining priests but whether the Vatican is right to order the most orthodox flourishing Seminary in the West to close.

And more to the point: to perpetuate an illegal act instead of renouncing it.

But all of that is a matter to decide of discipline, not, strictly speaking, of faith.

Don’t get me wrong, of course the liberals deny the articles of faith – when not also reason itself in their madness – but they’ve always done that. The problem is the impunity with which they do it, get away with it.

That is why Archbishop Lefebvre once said in a conference that one cannot expect an institution like the Holy See to recant everything it has done or overseen poorly in the last couple decades of unbridled experimentation. But, he said with a cheshire-like grin, maybe they could be prevailed upon to allow a little experiment with tradition!

In about 90 minutes of Papal audience, as I said, the two Prelates got down to the basis of the problem, and resolved it.

What problem? What resolution? What basis therefore?

Here are the Archbishop’s own words:

I continued (speaking to the Pope): “As to the Council, there are certainly things in the Council which are hard to admit; but I should be ready to sign a sentence like this: ‘I accept the acts of the Council interpreted in the sense of tradition’. That is a sentence which I think I could eventually accept and sign, if you so wish.” “But [interjected the Pope] that is fine, fine! But that is ordinary and obvious! Would you really agree to sign such a sentence?” I replied: “Certainly, I am ready to sign it, provided it contains the phrase ‘interpreted in the sense of tradition’.” (pp. 261-262, Apologia, vol. ii)

Moments thereafter, with repeated assurances from His Grace the Archbishop, His Holiness called in Cardinal Seper to map out the needed, thought-simple solution. And right before the Pope, His Eminence hemmed and hawed, stalled until the Pope was called by other duties to leave the room, finally blocking His Holiness’s command.

Schisms sometimes arise inadvertently, at least initially. At the time, few people realized that the disagreement in the year 1054 would turn into a major schism with the Orthodox. At the time it was thought to be a mere temporary ‘sacristy fisticuffs’ between a temperamental (one part temper and one mental!) Patriarch and an over-zealous Legate (with higher-than-usual levels of testosterone), imposing in July, 1054 a censure in the name of a Pope who had died in April of the same year.

Both ruptures – in 1054 and 1975 – started over something simple. But it is proper to the dynamics of schism that they escalate in proportion to hardening positions. In the case of the breach which the Society now finds itself, they, like the Orthodox, have taken to justifying their past decisions, after the first illegal act against them, by appealing to other reasons – now faith – for doing what the Archbishop did and they with him.

So you see, it is hardly a matter of faith that alienates the Society from the Holy See. Rather it is lack of faith by modernists, many in the Curia, combined with their shenanigans to push the faithful to the margins of the Church and keep them from the Pope (see p. 263, ibid.), who alone can guarantee the catholic Faith. Of course, it is understandable for people who are pushed, to be and to feel alienated, and to find themselves marginalized. But what sense is there in remaining there, as if that is the place one preferred all along? Especially when the way back is clear, and the one from whom the other has been marginalized is seeking the ‘interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church’ [4]?

What must the Society and all of us then ask for?

First, to be confirmed by the Faith of Peter. For that, one does not expect (still less ask) the shifty faithless – for example, the Curia – to affirm let alone accept the faith. Rather, one asks the one rock of faith – Peter alone – to accept his own faithful, and not to allow others to separate them from him.

Second, to have concrete assurance that the Society will not be further alienated from the Holy See by others, no matter whom. And instead will have right to unhindered access to the Supreme Pontiff in disputed matters, including full and unmanipulated appeal to the norms, canons and courts of the Church.

Third, that the theological commission promised by Protocols of Agreement of 1988 be established so that the documents of the Second Vatican Council and especially those parts which are hard to admit can be studied line by line, phrase by phrase, and word by word in order to accept interpretation of them in the sense of tradition.

That – “the Council teachings in the sense of tradition” – is precisely the sum which the Society even to this day need say on its side of the talks.

But I dare say that they in serious numbers and acts have departed somewhat from that position of their blessed Founder, and do not by and large wish to return to it.

It is particularly ironic that they wish the Curia and the rest of the modernists to return to the faith – which few Society members suppose they ever had in the first place – when so many members of the Society themselves remain hardened against returning to their own roots, by which I mean the Archbishop’s position stated plainly to the Successor of Peter himself.

I should enumerate the four or five signs of the Society’s departure from the Archbishop’s Catholic position [5] since his transitus, but shall leave that for the next conversation, dear S., which will please God come sooner than later.  [See Endnote no. 5, below.]

For now, the above explanation is a very abbreviated account of the reasons I said the current talks are without a reliable basis, and for that reason are likely, humanly speaking, to fail. The members of the Society are no longer united enough to fill in the breach which in the current talks and crisis only tradition can.

S., in every battle there comes a time – often when least expected and in the most desperate moment – when someone, a single corps, must fill the breach lest the enemy penetrate, divide and overtake the entire army.

Please pray, asking the Holy Ghost if the moment be now, and if so to give Our Blessed Lady leave to use a small corps of Her little spiritual family, united in a personal Apostolic Administration, to be the light cavalry who, by her grace, fill the breach. Should reconciliation with the Society not be had before he dies, perhaps the Holy Father will wish to accomplish hoped-for reform using others.

In the words of Blessed St. Paul, preached Sunday to inaugurate the advent of the Christ:

Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.

And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences. (Romans, xiii, 10-14)

For Christ Jesus! Strength and honor!


1. That is, the canonical institution.
2. That is, illegally revoking the juridic basis of the Society and blocking appeal thereof by means outside of the law.
3. A term coined by Cardinal Bea, and used by him to command obedience of Archbishop Lefevbre to the decisions of those who were demanding he acquiesce to the magisterium of what today the Successor of Peter calls the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” following the Second Vatican Council. It is thus a shame that so many traditional Catholics use this term, often imperiling by confusion their own faith in the Church, when opposing the same wrongs which the Archbishop defied only on the basis of the perennial Roman magisterium.
4. Confer the letter to Bishops attached to the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, 7 July 2007.
5. What are some of the signs of the Society’s departure from the Archbishop’s Catholic position?
a. The establishment of quasi-tribunals to judge marital cases.
b. The election of a bishop to head the Society.
c. The casting, publicly, of doubts and aspersions on certain of the canonizations declared by the Roman pontiffs.
d. The publication by clerics of the Society of doubts and aspersions on the validity in principle of the novus ordo missae.
e. The expulsion of Fr. Paul Aulagnier, practically a co-founder with Archbishop Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X.

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