Is there a duty to seek canonical recognition for the SSPX?


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Originally published in the quarterly journal of the Avrille Dominicans, Le Sel de la Terre #102 (December/2017), and subsequently published on their English-language website HERE:

Is it not a duty to seek official recognition from the Pope?

By Maubert

published in Le Sel de la Terre 102

1. Reasons for a Positive Response

Yes, it seems that it is a duty to seek official recognition by the pope.

*** First reason**

Indeed, if the Roman authorities, and especially the pope himself, call us to join our efforts to re-christianize society, we cannot do anything but rejoice in it, while ensuring that we remain as we are. Or, with good reason, the pope sees in the SSPX a force that can have a part in the new evangelization demanded from all corners. He appreciates that we are moving towards the “existential peripheries,” that is to say, that we help souls wherever they are, which goes in the direction of his program. Finally, he sees that everything falls apart, while we on the contrary represent a living force for the Church. Do we have the right, therefore, to refuse a recognition and to keep for ourselves all these treasures?

*** Second reason**

Among the conservatives, we have sympathizers – even some cardinals – some of whom need our help. This could counterbalance the influence of the progressives.

*** Third reason**

Any abnormal situation leads in itself to normalization. It is in the very nature of things. We must go in this direction and look to restore us to a normal situation.

*** Fourth reason**

In the coming years, we will urgently need new bishops. It is certainly possible to consecrate without a pontifical mandate, in case of emergency, but if it is possible to consecrate bishops with Rome, this permission must be sought.

*** Fifth reason**

It is not through ecumenism that the Pope comes to us, but as Catholics. He tells to whoever wants to hear that we are Catholics. Moreover, the discussions that we have with our Roman counterparts or with those mandated by the Holy See, are discussions between Catholics. What’s more normal than being officially recognized as Catholics?

*** Sixth reason**

Our canonical recognition would cause a healthy disturbance within the Church: the good would be encouraged, the malicious would suffer a defeat.

*** Seventh reason**

Moreover, with reason, our enemies (the modernists and others) oppose it: this is a sign that it would be a good thing.

*** Eighth reason**

St. Pius X himself shows us the example. Indeed, the anti-clerical forces, taking advantage of the disunity of their opponents, had seized power in Venice. In the following elections, Cardinal Sarto resolved to change the situation. “ He laid the foundation for an honorable alliance ,” says his biographer (Fr Dal Gal), “ between the members most representative of the Catholic party and those of a moderate party, an alliance contracted under the sign of the most ample trust .” There was total victory. Thus, the popes of the late 19th and early 20th century gave the example of appeasement with secular countries to reinvigorate an influence of the Church. And on this road of pragmatism, with his back to isolation, one of the pioneers is St. Pius X, as famous for his reforms as for his attachment to principles.

Likewise in the crisis of the Church: after the Council, it was important to distance oneself, as Archbishop Lefebvre did, to show our disapproval of certain novelties. Now the danger is isolationism. It is necessary to reach a peace with the moderates, to reinvigorate in the Church the principles of Tradition, and that happens necessarily with a canonical solution.

*** Ninth reason**

Archbishop Lefebvre, moreover, has always sought a canonical solution for the SSPX. He continued his efforts even after the consecrations, although, in his realism he had little hope of success.

*** Tenth reason**

Today, we are not the only ones to criticize the excesses. At Rome itself, voices are heard. This freedom that is left to them is the guarantee of the one left to us, after the canonical recognition.

2. Opinions on the other side

Against the preceding reasons, let us note what follows:

*** On July 14, 1987, Archbishop Lefebvre said to Cardinal Ratzinger** :

Eminence, see, even if you grant us a bishop, even if you give us a certain autonomy relative to the bishops, even if you grant us all of the liturgy of 1962, if you grant us to continue the seminaries and the Society, as we are doing now, we will not be able to not collaborate, it is impossible, impossible, because we work in two diametrically opposed directions: you, you are working on the dechristianization of society, of the human person and of the Church ; yet us, we work for their christianization. We can not get along .” ( Le Sel de la Terre 31, p. 194).

*** In December 1988, he said again** :

When we are asked when there will be an agreement with Rome, my answer is simple: when Rome shall recognize our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot agree with those who dethrone Our Lord. The day when they will recognize again Our Lord, King of all peoples and nations, it is not we who will have joined them, but the Catholic Church in which we remain .” ( Fideliter 68, p.16).

*** Finally, in his Spiritual Journey , which is like his testament, he writes** :

As long as this Secretariat [for Promoting Christian Unity] will keep false ecumenism as their orientation, and as long as the Roman and ecclesiastical authorities approve of it, we can say that they will remain in an open and official rupture from all of the past of the Church. It is therefore a strict duty for priests wanting to remain Catholic to separate from this conciliar Church, as long as it does not find the Tradition of the Magisterium and the Catholic faith .”

3. Answers to the objections

— To the first objection: the pope calls us to the new evangelization

The pope, being the authority, is the efficient cause for this society which is the Church. If he calls us, we must carefully examine whichever final cause he intends to lead us to. What is this “new evangelization”? Does this term mean the same thing for him and for us? Is Francis looking for the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? (We have seen otherwise). If it’s not the case, we cannot answer his call; that would be to endorse his program, falsely suggesting that we agree on the terms. Now, as we have seen, since the Council, the men of the Church lead to an end quite opposed to that set in place by Our Lord.

As for the “existential peripheries”, he is not afraid to look into divorced remarriages, homosexuals, etc., with a complacent look on their moral disorders. Is this what this term also means for us?

— To the second objection: with the conservatives, we could act as a counterbalance

More than ever, we must help these sympathizers. But is canonical recognition the right way? In fact, what they need to do is open their eyes to the errors of the Council. At this time, they do not see its errors. Indeed, according to them, the thing that we lack is canonical recognition: said another way, they have not understood that the problem is not with us, but with them.

Our real way of helping them is to provide them with all the materials that will enable them to understand the crisis we are experiencing, and to pray for the Holy Ghost to enlighten them. This is what some priests did about Bishop Lazo, bishop emeritus of San Fernando de la Union in the Philippines. What a magnificent conversion they obtained! It was not only signs of sympathy they got on part of the prelate, but also he became a confessor of the faith. “ Why did you become a traditionalist? ” they asked him. “ Well, here [is why] ,” he answered, “ it’s because I rejected the new Mass! ” ( Le Sel de la terre 21, p.163). But it is not only the Mass; the fight for the faith is even more important. In 1998, he sent to John Paul II a Declaration of Faith, in which he denounced conciliar errors. “ I am for Catholic Rome ,” he said, “ the Rome of Saints Peter and Paul. […] I am not for Rome controlled by freemasons who are the agents of Lucifer, the prince of demons .” ( Le Sel de la terre 26, p.166; extended text on pp. 162-167). And he himself became an apostle to other bishops, sending them documents. “ I have given this you as I think it is up to this level of ideas in which we must engage in this battle .” ( Le Sel de la terre 21, p. 167, see his autobiography in issue 34, pp. 89-112)

— To the third objection: any abnormal situation leads to normalization

The expression is ambiguous. It can mean that any abnormal situation must be made normal again. For example, after the Eastern schism, the Church has made every effort, for centuries, to bring the dissidents back to the fold.

However, the obvious meaning seems to be that, ineluctably, things must move in the right direction. Now, our poor human nature, delivered to itself, can only roll from abyss to abyss, if no one comes to help her. To use the example of schismatics, despite the numerous efforts of the popes, very few of them have returned to the Church for a thousand years.

In addition, the expression used implies that we are in an abnormal situation. What is actually abnormal is that the authorities spread modernism. To make a comparison, if a father forces his children to steal, under the threat of grave punishment, they are bound to disobey him and resist him; certainly it is abnormal that children resist their father; but the first disorder is indeed that of the father; and if it becomes untenable and dangerous for their virtue, it is prudent for them to get away from him. As this disorder remains, the children are forced to resist, or to stand aside. It would be incomprehensible for the children to resume normal relations with their father, because they know that he is obstinate in his vice.

In our case, we keep our distance from modernist Rome for the reasons mentioned above, and for others we will see in the following articles. As these reasons remain, we are obliged to stay in the situation we find ourselves in and to be qualified “abnormal” by the objector.

— To the fourth objection: the urgent need for new bishops

One must distinguish the two questions: the canonical solution and the consecration of a bishop. Each is resolved by its own principles. (Note that, in 1987-88, the occurrence of these two problems confused the matter. All was clearer in 1991, for the consecration of Bishop Rangel, where only the question of the consecration was in play.)

For the first (the canonical solution), we will number the principles in the next issue. As for the second (the consecration of a bishop), it is resolved by the principle of the state of necessity. Let’s hear how Archbishop Lefebvre spoke about it shortly before his death.

In 1990, having learned that the health of Archbishop de Castro Mayer was declining, Archbishop Lefebvre sent him a letter proposing to him the consecration of a successor in the episcopate. “ Why consider such a succession ,” he asked, “ outside the usual canonical norms?”

  1. Because the priests and faithful have a strict right to have pastors who profess in their integrity the Catholic faith, essential for the salvation of their souls, and priests who are true Catholic pastors .

  2. Because the conciliar Church is now universally spreading errors contrary to the Catholic faith and, because of these mistakes, has corrupted the sources of grace that are the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments. This false church is in ever deepening rupture with the Catholic Church. The absolute necessity of continuing the Catholic episcopate to continue the Catholic Church results from these principles and facts. […].

That is my opinion; I think it’s based on the fundamental laws of ecclesiastical law and on Tradition. ” ( Fideliter 82, pp. 13-14).

It can be added that Archbishop Lefebvre had made contact with the Roman authorities for all the steps of the episcopal consecrations for the Society before 1988. He had concluded that “recourse to Rome, always physically possible, is rendered morally impossible by the spirit which has penetrated the Holy Father: communion with false religions, the spirit of adultery which is [alive and] breathing in the Church; this spirit is not Catholic. For twenty years, we have strived with patience and firmness to make the Roman authorities understand this need for a return to sound doctrine and tradition for the renewal of the Church, the salvation of souls and glory of God. But they remain deaf to our pleas, and furthermore they ask us to recognize the legitimacy of the whole Council and the reforms which ruin the Church.” (Quoted in Mgr. Tissier de Mallerais, Marcel Lefebvre, a life, Clovis, Étampes, 2002, p. 570).

If, therefore, the need for episcopal consecrations is felt, it suffices to retake these principles and apply them: the faithful always have the right to true doctrine and the true sacraments; the conciliar Church is still in rupture – even more than in 1990 – with the Catholic Church; finally, the Holy See does not seem to have questioned the legitimacy of the Council and cannot stand being attacked on this question. By this we can easily see “if it is possible to consecrate bishops with the permission from Rome.” As for knowing when to consecrate bishops, this falls within the “royal prudence,” that of the leader. It is up to him to apply the principles to the reality of the moment.

— To the fifth objection: it is not ecumenism

Truly, relations between the Holy See and those faithful to Tradition is not ecumenism. Indeed, ecumenism is the search for a certain union between Christians (Catholics and non-Catholics) without conversions. But here, both sides are Catholic, so it is not ecumenism.

However, the principle that is at the root of ecumenism is pluralism: indeed, in ecumenical relations, everyone respects the convictions of the other, accepting them as valid.

However, this is the same principle that the Holy See wants to impose for their relations between us. Hence, it does not suffice to say that it is not through ecumenism that the pope comes to us – which is true – yet it should not be in a pluralist perspective, which is not the case.

— To the sixth objection: the healthy disorder which will lead to our recognition within the Church

Everything that is of traditional tendency gathers sympathizers and opponents (some more or less virulent). For example, some show their discontent with the founding of the Good Shepherd Institute , saying that “ these people should have stayed out “; others showed their support, seeing it as a step towards “ reconciliation “. In the same way, the Franciscans of the Immaculate were appreciated by many and hated by others. Yet it does not suffice to say that Institute of the Good Shepherd was right and that the doctrinal position of the Franciscans is irreproachable. It is not on the reaction of others that we must judge an act, but on its intimate nature. We examine the moral nature of a canonical recognition with the neo-modernist authorities. That’s enough to judge its merits.

— To the seventh objection: our enemies oppose this recognition

The reason we have just given suffices to answer the present objection. Let us add simply that it is not enough that an effect be good to justify the act which produced it; in other words, the end does not justify the means. It is not permitted to steal money to build a church. Here, likewise, the good effect (besides being very limited) would proceed from a bad means: adding to conciliar pluralism.

— To the eighth objection: St. Pius X has given us the example of union with the liberals

Certainly, there was a meeting with the liberals to expel the Freemasons. Yet, as Father Dal Gal says, let us observe, moreover, that in this alliance between Catholics and moderate liberals, it was not these who had drafted the program of common action to conduct in the election period and after the elections. It was not the Catholics who had attenuated their principles to adhere to the moderates, but the moderates who had adhered to the program of the Catholics. Now, in our case, it is the neo-modernists who intend for us impose their principles.

Let us note that in the case of the separation of the Church and the State, St. Pius X resisted the French government which wanted to impose the cultural associations, which would have led the Church of France to schism. His firmness pushed back the sectarians. It is therefore wrong to say that the pontificate of Saint Pius X is part of an inescapable logic of reconciliation and appeasement. That is reading events in the light of the sense of history.

In addition, isolation is not an evil in itself: God had even prescribed it to the people of Israel. If Archbishop Lefebvre distanced himself, it was to preserve his priests from modernist influences. It is not clear why, by the mere fact that thirty years have passed, it is necessary to go through a canonical solution to reintroduce the principles of Tradition to Rome.

— To the ninth objection: Archbishop Lefebvre had always sought a canonical solution

Let us begin by pointing out that Archbishop Lefebvre had long sought a canonical solution. But it is absolutely clear that after the consecrations, Archbishop Lefebvre until his death no longer sought a canonical solution.

Yet it is not useless to say why Archbishop Lefebvre first sought a solution on the canonical level. It is because he has long hoped and believed that the authorities were capable of sincerely desiring the good of Tradition. “ I have hoped until the last minute” , he said, “ that in Rome there would be a little loyalty .” ( Fideliter 79, p. 11). This will to favor Tradition was undeniably the same as that of Bishop CharriÀre when he approved the SSPX. But later, Archbishop Lefebvre had to realize that it was not at all that of the Roman authorities. “ They want to have us under their heels directly ,” he said, “ and to be able to impose on us precisely this anti-Tradition policy of which they are imbued. {…] I realized that Rome wanted to impose their ideas and ways of seeing . “( Fideliter 66, pp. 28-30). “ We quickly realized that we were dealing with people who are not honest. […] We, we wanted recognition [the will to help Tradition], Rome wanted reconciliation (that each one make concessions) and we recognized our mistakes.” ( Fideliter 70).

Cardinal Gagnon himself said to L’Avvenire of June 17, 1988: “ We have, on our side, always talked of reconciliation, Archbishop Lefebvre, on the other hand, of recognition. The difference is not small. Reconciliation presupposes that both parties make an effort, that past mistakes are reconciled. Archbishop Lefebvre only hears that it is said that he has always been right, and that is impossible .” (Quoted in La Tradition excommunique , a publication of the Courrier of Rome , Versailles, 1989, pp. 40-41). “ The desire of Rome of not helping Tradition” , said again Archbishop Lefebvre, “ and of not trusting it, is evident .” ( Fideliter 68, p. 9 – see pages 4 and 7). Finally, he writes to John Paul II that “ the moment of frank and effective collaboration had not yet arrived because the purpose of this reconciliation is not at all the same for the Holy See as it is for us “. ( Le Sel de la terre 25, p 153).

Also, for him, there is no question of entering the pluralist system: “ For them, all this [Catholic doctrine] evolves and has evolved with Vatican II. The latest term of evolution, that is from Vatican II. That’s why we can not bond with Rome .” ( Fideliter 66, 30). “ We should not be surprised that we cannot arrive to an understanding with Rome. This will not be possible as long as Rome does not return to faith in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as long as she gives the impression that all religions are good .” ( L’Eglise infiltr»e par le modernisme [ The Church Infiltrated by Modernism ], p. 71).

— To the tenth objection: the freedom of conservative prelates is the guarantee of our freedom

As we have seen, none of the conservative prelates questions the Council and its principles. Only if we accept, in one way or another, these principles, will Rome tolerate criticism on our part, which is obviously unacceptable.

Translation by J.F