The Letter from the 3 bishops to Bishop Fellay and Bishop Fellay's response:
Reverend Superior General, Reverend First Assistant, Reverend Second Assistant,
For several months, as many people know, the General Council of the FSSPX is seriously considering Roman proposals for a practical agreement, after the doctrinal discussions of 2009 to 2011 proved that a doctrinal agreement is impossible with current Rome. By this letter the three bishops of the FSSPX who do not form part of the General Council wish to let him know, with all due respect, of the unanimity of their formal opposition to any such agreement.
Of course, on the two sides of current division between the Counciliar Church and the FSSPX much wish that the Catholic unity be restored. Honor to those on both sides. But since reality governs everything, and to the reality all these sincere desires must yield, namely that since Vatican II the official authorities of the Church have deviated from the Catholic truth, and today they are shown to be quite given to always remaining faithful to the Counciliar doctrines and practices. The Roman discussions, the “doctrinal preamble” and Assisi III are bright examples of this.
The problems arising to the Catholics by the Second Vatican Council are profound. In a conference, which seems like the last doctrinal will of Mgr Lefebvre, which was given to priests of the Society at Ecône a half year before his death, after having briefly summarized the history of the liberal Catholicism resulting from the French Revolution, he recalled how the Popes have always fought this attempt at a reconciliation between the Church and the modern world, and he declared that the combat of Society of St. Pius X against the Vatican II was exactly the same combat. He concluded:
“The more one analyzes the documents of the Vatican II and their interpretation by the authorities of the Church, and the more one realizes that they are neither superficial errors nor a few particular errors such as ecumenism, religious freedom, collegial structure, but rather a total perversion of the spirit, a whole new philosophy founded upon Subjectivism… It is very serious! A total perversion! … That is really alarming.”
But, is the thinking of Benedict XVI is better in this respect than that of John Paul II? It is enough to read the study made by one of us three, The Faith in Peril from Reason, to realize that the thought of the current Pope is also impregnated of subjectivism. It is all the subjective imagination of the man in the place of the objective reality of God. It is all the Catholic religion subjected to the modern world. How can one believe that a practical agreement can arrange such a problem?
But, some will say to us, Benedict XVI is really well disposed towards the Society and its teaching. As a subjectivist this can easily be the case, because liberals subjectivists can tolerate even the truth, but not if one refuses to tolerate error. He would accept us within the framework of relativistic and dialectical pluralism, with the proviso that we would remain in “full communion,” in relation to the authority and to other “ecclesiastical entities .” For this reason the Roman authorities can tolerate that the Society continue to teach Catholic doctrine, but they will absolutely not permit that it condemn Counciliar teachings.
That is why an even purely practical agreement would necessarily silence little by little the Society, a full critique of the Council or the New Mass. By ceasing to attack the most important of all the victories of the Revolution, the poor Society would necessarily cease being opposed to the universal apostasy of our sad times and would get bogged down. Ultimately, what will guarantee that we will remain protected from the Roman curia and the bishops? Pope Benoit XVI?
One denies it in vain, this slip is inevitable. Doesn't one see already in the Fraternity symptoms of a lessening in its confession of the Faith? Today, alas, the contrary has become “abnormal”. Just before the consecration of the bishops in 1988 when many good people insisted to Mgr Lefebvre so that he reach a practical agreement with Rome that would open a large field of apostolate, he said his thoughts to the four new bishops: “A large field of apostolate perhaps, but in ambiguity, and while following two directions opposed at the same time, and this would finish by us rotting.” How to obey and continue to preach all the truth? How to reach an agreement without Society “having rotted” on the contrary?
And when one year later, Rome seemed to make true gestures of benevolence towards Tradition, Archbishop Lefebvre was always wary. He feared that they are only “maneuvers to separate us from the largest number of faithful possible. This is the perspective in which they seem to be always giving a little more and even going very far. We must absolutely convince our faithful that it is no more than a maneuvers, that it is dangerous to put oneself into the hands of Conciliar bishops and Modernist Rome. It is the greatest danger threatening our people. If we have struggled for twenty years to avoid the Conciliar errors, it was not in order, now, to put ourselves in the hands of those professing these errors.” According to Archbishop Lefebvre the characteristic of the Society is, more than to just denounce the errors by their name, but rather to effectively and publicly oppose the Roman authorities which has spread them. How will one be able to make an agreement and make this public resistance to the authorities, including the Pope? And after having fought during more than forty years, will the Society now have to be put into the hands of the modernists and liberals whose pertinacity we have just come to observe?
Your Excellency, Fathers, take care! You want to lead the Society to a point where it will no longer be able to turn back, to a profound division of no return and, if you end up to such an agreement, it will be with powerful destroying influences who will not keep it. If up until now the bishops of the Society have protected it, it is precisely because Mgr Lefebvre refused a practical agreement. Since the situation has not changed substantially, since the condition prescribed by the Chapter of 2006 was by no means carried out (a doctrinal change in Rome which would permit a practical agreement), at least listen to your Founder. It was right 25 years ago. It is right still today. On his behalf, we entreat you: do not engage the Society in a purely practical agreement.
With our most cordial and fraternal greetings,
In Christo and Maria,
Mgr. Alfonso de Galarreta
Mgr. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais
Mgr. Richard Williamson
Menzingen 14 April 2012
To their Excellencies Tissier de Mallerais, Williamson and de Galarreta.
To your collective letter addressed to the members of the General Council we have given our full attention. We thank you for your concern and for your charity.
Allow us in turn with the same concern for charity and justice to make the following observations.
Firstly, the letter gives a good account of the gravity of the crisis shaking the Church and analyses with precision the nature of the errors flying all around. However, the description suffers from two faults with regard to the reality of the Church: it is lacking both in supernatural spirit and in realism.
It lacks supernatural spirit. Reading your letter one seriously wonders if you still believe that the visible Church with its seat in Rome is truly the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Church horribly disfigured for sure from head to foot, but a Church which nevertheless still has for its head Our Lord Jesus Christ. One has the impression that you are so scandalised that you no longer accept that that could still be true. It Benedict XVI still the legitimate pope for you? If he is, can Jesus Christ still speak through his mouth? If the pope expresses a legitimate desire concerning ourselves which is a good desire and gives no command contrary to the commandments of God, has one the right to pay no attention and to simply dismiss his desire? If not, on what principle do you base your acting in this way? Do you not think that, if Our Lord gives a command, He will also give us the means to continue our work? Well, the Pope has let us know that his concern to settle our affair for the good of the Church was at the very heart of his pontificate, and that he also knew that it would be easier both for him and for ourselves to leave things as they presently stand. Hence it is a firm and just desire to which he is giving expression. Given the attitude that you put forward there is no further place for Gideons or for Davids or for anyone counting on the help of the Lord. You blame us for being naïve or fearful, but it is your vision of the Church that is too human and even fatalistic; you see dangers, plots, difficulties, you now longer see the help of grace and the Holy Ghost. If one is ready to grant that divine providence conducts the affairs of men, while leaving them their liberty, then one must also accept that the gestures in our favour of the last few years come from Providence. Now, these gestures indicate a line - not always a straight line - but a line clearly in favour of Tradition. Why should this line suddenly come to an end when we are doing all we can to remain faithful and when our efforts are being accompanied by no few prayers on our part? Would the Good Lord drop us at the most decisive moment? That makes no sense. Especially if we are not trying to impose on Him any will of our own but we are trying to discern amidst events what God wants and we are ready to act as He wishes.
At the same time your attitude lacks realism both as to the depth and the breadth of the errors.
Depth: within the Society, we are in the process of making the Council's errors into super-heresies, as though it is becoming absolute evil, worse than anything, in the same way that Liberals have dogmatised this pastoral council. The evils are already dramatic enough so that one not need to exaggerate them any further. (Cf. Roberto de Mattei, A History never written, p. 22; Msgr. Gherardini, A Debate to be begun, p. 53, etc.) No more distinctions are being made. Whereas Archbishop Lefebvre more than once made the necessary distinctions concerning Liberals.* This failure to distinguish leads one or the other of you three to an "absolute hardening". This is serious because such a caricature no longer corresponds to reality and logically it will in the future finish up in a true schism. And it may well be that this fact is one of the arguments pushing me to delay no longer in responding to the pressure from Rome.
Breadth: on the one hand the present authorities are blamed for all the errors and evils to be found in the Church leaving out the fact that they are trying at least partly to free themselves from the worst of them (the pope's condemning of the "hermeneutic of rupture" denounces very real errors). On the other hand it is claimed that everybody is firmly rooted in this pertinacity ("all modernists", "all rotten"). Now that is obviously false. A great majority may still be carried away by the movement, but not everybody.
So that as for the most crucial question of all, that of whether we can survive in the case of the Society being recognised by Rome, we do not arrive at the same conclusion as you do.
Let it be noted in passing that we did not look for a practical agreement. That is false. All we have done is not refuse a priori, as you ask us to do, to consider the Popes offer. For the common good of the Society, we would far prefer the present solution of the intermediary status quo but it is clear that Rome will put up with it no longer.
In itself, the proposed solution of a personal Prelature is not a trap. That is clear firstly from the fact that the present situation in April of 2012 is very different from that of 1988. To claim that nothing has changed is a historic error. The same evils are making the Church suffer, the consequences are even more serious and obvious than ever; but at the same time one may observe a change of attitude in the Church, helped by the gestures and acts of Benedict XVI towards Tradition. This new movement which started about ten years ago is growing stronger. It includes a good number (still a minority) of young priests, seminarians and even a small number now of young bishops who are clearly to be distinguished from their predecessors, who tell us of their sympathy and support, but who are still somewhat stifled by the dominant line in the hierarchy in favour of Vatican II. This hierarchy is losing speed. That is an objective fact and shows that it is no longer an illusion to think of a fight arising within the Church, even if we are well aware of how long and difficult it will be. I have been able to observe in Rome that even if the glories of Vatican II are still in the mouths of many, and are pushed down our throats, is nevertheless not in all the heads. Fewer and fewer Romans believe in Vatican II.
This concrete situation, together with the canonical solution being proposed, is very different from that of 1988 and when we compare the arguments given by Archbishop Lefebvre at that time we draw the conclusion that he would not have hesitated to accept what is being proposed to us. Let us not lose that sense of the Church, which was so strong in our venerated founder.
Church history shows that the curing of evils afflicting it normally happens gradually and slowly. And when one problem is over, there is another that begins... oportet haereses esse. It is not realistic to require that everything be settled to arrive at what you call a practical agreement. When one watches how events are unfolding it is highly likely that the end of this crisis will take tens of years yet. But to refuse to work in the vineyard because there are still many weeds that risk stifling and obstructing the vine runs up against a notable lesson from the Bible: it Our Lord himself who gives us to understand with His parable of the chaff that there will always be in one form or another weeds to be pulled up and fought against in His Church.
You cannot know how much your attitude over the last few months - quite different for each of you - has been hard for us. It has prevented the Superior General from sharing with you these great concerns, which he would gladly have brought you in to, had he not found himself faced with such a strong and passionate lack of understanding. How much he would have loved to be able to count on you, on your advice to undergo this so delicate moment in our history. It is a great trial, perhaps the greatest of all 18 years of his being superior. Our venerable founder gave to the Society bishops a task and precise duties. He made clear that the principle of unity in our Society is the Superior General. But for a certain time now, you have been trying - each one of you in his own way - to impose on him your point of view, even in the form of threats, and even in public. This dialectic between the truth and the faith on the one side and authority on the other is contrary to the spirit of the priesthood. He might at least have hoped that you were trying to understand the arguments driving him to act as he has acted these last few years in accordance with the will of divine Providence.
We are praying hard for each of you that we may find ourselves all together once again in this fight which is far from over, for the greater glory of God and for love of dear Society.
May Our risen Lord and Our Lady deign to protect and bless you,
* "It is not because a Pope is liberal that he is not the Pope [literally: that he does not exist]. (...) We must remain in a firm line and not lose our way, over the difficulties in which we live. We would be tempted precisely by the extreme solutions, and to say, "No, no, the Pope is not only liberal, the Pope is a heretic! The Pope is perhaps possibly more than a heretic, therefore there is no pope!" This, this is not true. It is not because someone is liberal that he is necessarily a heretic and as a consequence that he is necessarily outside the Church. One must know how to make the necessary distinctions. This is very important to stay in a safe way, to stay well in the Church. Otherwise, where would we go? There is no more a Pope, there are no more cardinals, because if the Pope was not Pope when he appointed the cardinals, the cardinals can not elect a Pope anymore because they are not cardinals. What then? Is it an angel from Heaven who will give us a pope? It is absurd! And not only absurd, dangerous! Because then we shall be led, perhaps, by solutions that are truly schismatic."
(Conference in Angers, 1980) See also Fideliter No. 57, p. 17