What’s wrong with Bishop Fellay’s 25th Anniversary Declaration?
What indeed. The answer, alas, is that there is quite a lot wrong with it, though the task of demonstrating exactly what is wrong is not an easy one. I hope therefore that I will be forgiven if I borrow heavily from the excellent analysis done by Fr. Pfeiffer in various talks available on the internet.
On a first reading, the text appears to be disarmingly sound: ‘staunch’ to use a word beloved of one English priest. It has lots of the right vocabulary, with particular words and phrases standing out and lingering in the mind of the reader: “…duty to oppose errors publicly…”; “…errors…in the texts themselves…”; “…cult of man…”; “…false concept of living Tradition…”; etc. However, whether the merit of a text such as this stands or falls on the whole meaning, implied as well as explicit, which is expressed in whole sentences and paragraphs, not in mere phrases. We must therefore carefully re-read the whole thing, look at what it actually chooses to say and at what this means.
On looking closer, it does seem that the text has been prepared with a very thick layer of “Traditional sounding” rhetoric designed to put the readers critical faculties to sleep and obscure the various weaknesses and loopholes also present. Those readers who have done the penance of studying the deception practiced at Vatican II will recognise immediately what is happening here. Texts at Vatican II were prepared in precisely this way: lots of traditional sounding language for most of the document, and then buried within it a deliberate and fatal flaw, a loophole which allows the whole rest of the document to be undone. As one Traditional Catholic gentleman (himself a lawyer, if my memory serves) once observed about the texts of Vatican II: when reading a contract, a lawyer will pay closest attention not to what the contract provides for his client, but in what it permits the other party. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a legal document is only as good as its weakest loophole. For example, the document on the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) has many wonderful, Traditional sounding provisions: that Latin should be retained, Gregorian chant be given pride of place, etc. And yet somewhere, mixed in with the rest, it also contains one little part allowing changes and ‘updating’ to take place. The rest is history.
So let us try not to be too dazzled by the ‘hard-line’ vocabulary. Let us look instead at what the text actually says.
Paragraph No.1 begins by expressing “filial gratitude” towards Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer. This is fine as far as it goes. It is easy to be grateful to people who are dead. The voice of Archbishop lives on in his writings and sermons, which is why we note with interest that nowhere does this 25th anniversary text quote from Archbishop Lefebvre’s sermon at the consecrations. Does the gratitude professed in the first paragraph not extend to allowing Archbishop Lefebvre’s to explain his reasons for performing the consecrations in his own words? Or Bishop de Castro Mayer, for that matter? The signatories are so “eager to express their gratitude” to Archbishop Lefebvre that they forgot to include him and all-but left him out, except for a few harmless references, some soft-sounding quotes which suit the new agenda of diplomacy towards Rome. Archbishop Lefebvre talking in his letter to the Bishops elect about ‘remaining attached to the See of Peter’ is included (in paragraph No.2), but Archbishop Lefebvre talking about how Rome is leading everyone down the road of apostasy? Or Archbishop Lefebvre expressing doubts over the new sacraments and the intentions of the Novus Ordo clergy? Perhaps we’re not so grateful for those little bits. Interestingly enough, the same two historic sermons (and Bp. de Castro Mayer’s was a very short, succinct sermon) appear to be absent from all the official SSPX websites as well.
Paragraph No. 3 talks about the errors of the Council. It mentions that it is not a question of interpretation (hermeneutic of continuity or that of rupture), which appears very good. Here is the relevant part:
“Following Archbishop Lefebvre, we affirm that the cause of the grave errors which are in the process of demolishing the Church does not reside in a bad interpretation of the conciliar texts … but truly in the texts themselves, by virtue of the unheard of choice made by Vatican II. This choice is manifest in its documents and in its spirit; …”
Look carefully at the subject of the sentence: what exactly is it that ‘resides in the texts themselves’? Not errors, but the cause of errors. What is this cause? We are not told. However, as Fr. Pfeiffer says, a cause and the thing it causes are distinct, they are not one and the same, like rain and the black cloud from which it came. The point can perhaps be best illustrated by taking, as a concrete example, one of the most notorious teachings of Vatican II, religious liberty: that man by his nature has an inaliable right to profess and practise error. Can one claim that this teaching is a ‘cause of error’? Is it not rather an error itself? So what is meant by a cause of error; what causes errors? Pride, laxity, worldliness, imprecision, taking God’s grace for granted, lack of studiousness…who knows; how far back need one go? Is this text being deliberately imprecise in employing such unusual terms? What must be considered is that this is a very pointed and precise phrase. The normal thing is to speak of ‘the errors of the Council’ – that is a phrase which we are all used to and which trips off the tongue easily. Why suddenly change and speak of ‘the cause of errors’? We believe that it is a deliberate exercise in deception. It sounds sufficiently Traditional that to us it appears to be a restatement of Archbishop Lefebvre’s position. Future generations, further removed from the Archbishop and the SSPX he founded, and as a consequence less ‘hard-line,’ will be able to interpret this in a Rome-friendly, conciliar-friendly sense. After all, it does not tell us what this “cause” is. It only tells us that it was “by virtue of an unheard of choice,” again another unusual and quite deliberate expression. When did Archbishop Lefebvre ever lament that Vatican II had made “an unheard of choice”? What was this choice? Once again, we are not told. It is so “unheard of” that we’ve never even heard of it! What is happening is that although this text sounds sufficiently Traditional to pass through the scrutiny of its contemporaries, yet it is sufficiently ambiguous and novel that it leaves the door open to future interpretation by more liberal minds, in much the same way as some of the ‘time bombs’ in Vatican II.
The rest of the paragraph then goes on to talk about how the true religion cannot be reconciled with the cult of man, and to criticise some words of Paul VI. In itself there is nothing wrong with this, but following on from the talk of the causes of errors and ‘an unheard of choice,’ it leaves the impression that the two are somehow connected, that the one explains the other. Whereas, on re-reading the paragraph, the reader will notice that there is no connection between the two. Yes, the cult of man is radically opposed to the Catholic Faith – what does that have to do with Vatican II? We are not told, we are left to assume. This way of speaking and thinking is most certainly not, as the opening words of the paragraph claim, “following Archbishop Lefebvre”.
In summary: that the texts of the Council “contain the cause of error” means that that the texts of the Council do not contain error. So when Vatican II tells us that we have a right to choose to be Mormons or Bhuddists, this is not an error. It looks traditional, sound and orthodox, but its meaning is most definitely not.
Paragraph No. 4 seems very much concerned with the magisterium. Magisterium refers to the authority of the Church. On the one hand, it is true that Vatican II has effectively undermined authority in the Church. On the other hand, it is disproportionate to hold this against Vatican II as if that were the main problem with the Council. The problem is doctrinal, it is one of the contradicting of the Church’s teaching, of a loss of faith. Problems with authority necessarily come in the wake of that, since authority is at the service of the Faith, and not vice versa. Archbishop Lefebvre was disobedient and strong in the Faith; Paul VI, although utterly heterodox was a man who ruled the Church with a rod of iron. It was his authority which forced through many of the more unpalatable changes. We will look more closely at this later on, when dealing with paragraph 8.
Despite appearances, the Social Kingship of Christ is not mentioned in paragraph 5, although “The reign of Christ” may well be the same thing. Or it may not be, and that’s the beauty of it: it may be that we are once again being allowed to make our own assumptions, assumptions which will not be made by future generations who read this same text. As Fr. Hewko points out, a modernist can believe in the “reign of Christ” in his heart; that is not necessarily the same as the Social Kingship of Christ. We are told that , from the time of the Council onwards, the “reign of Christ” was “no longer the preoccupation” and sometimes was “even combated.” (Even combated?! Really? Just imagine that!) Any Catholic following the nefarious goings on in the conciliar Church knows that Christ’s Kingship is not just ignored or “even combated”, it is consistently and constantly denied and contradicted! Let us recall that Archbishop Lefebvre wrote a book entitled: “They Have Uncrowned Him.” Not “They Are No Longer Preoccupied With His Crown”! One implies a wilful and positively malevolent act; a positive action consonant with diabolical disorientation, Rome losing the faith, and all the other ominous prophecies. The other implies a sort of neglect or absent mindedness, irresponsible perhaps, but hardly of the same order of magnitude, nor deserving of the same response. A similar distinction comes to mind every time one hears an SSPX worthy talking about “helping the authorities in Rome to rediscover their own Tradition” or something similar, as if the authorities in Rome had just accidentally mislaid Tradition these last fifty or so years and had not been waging an out-and-out total war of extermination against it!
Lest we forget exactly what is at stake, it should suffice to remind of one or two of the actual effects of the nefarious teaching of Vatican II. Reading this text, one might forget that in South America, hundreds of thousands if not millions of souls leave the Church every year to join ‘evangelical’ Protestant sects, as a direct result of Rome having ordered those countries to abandon their Catholic constitutions and fall into line with the teaching of Vatican II by accepting and enshrining religious liberty. And let us not forget the appalling betrayal of General Franco and many heroic Spaniards who, having literally fought, risked their lives and in many cases shed their blood during three long years of civil war in order to establish a Catholic constitution in Spain, were then rewarded for their loyalty to Rome by Rome ordering them to undo what they had established and open their constitution to all religions.
Archbishop Lefebvre did not famously say to Cardinal Ratzinger: “Eminence, if only you were more preoccupied with the Christianisation of society. We are preoccupied with the reign of Christ whereas you are not, and you even sometimes combat it.” He said: “Eminence, you are working for the de-Chrsitianisation of society whereas we are working for the Christianisation of it.” Incidentally, various people are reporting difficulties in obtaining ‘They Have Uncrowned Him’ – of course, that might just be pure coincidence, and not at all because it does not fit the new idea that Vatican II’s religious liberty “is very limited. Very limited.”
Paragraph 6 in a similar manner appears at first glance to deal with Religious Liberty, but ducks out at the last moment. This paragraph tells us the Religious Liberty “leads to” demanding that God renounce His reign. The problem here can be summed up easily: it does not “lead to” it – it is it! This is akin to saying ‘the teaching “Jesus Christ is not God” leads to heresy’. What nonsense. Once again, what can be seen here is a refusal to deal with the problem of the Council. Is the error in the text, is it the Council itself which contains error, or rather is error something which the Council merely leads to? (Perhaps because you make an ‘unheard of choice’!?) As elsewhere, paragraph 6 appears to imply the former whilst actually saying the latter.
Paragraph 6 also tells us that the Church is being guided by human prudence. It may seem at first a relatively minor point, but we should recall St. Thomas’ teaching that in the end we will be guided by the good spirit or the bad spirit, either by Christ or the devil. Especially since we are talking about the Church, with a supernatural mission. When the anti-Christ emerges, will he follow ‘human prudence’? This author thinks it fair to say that it is something far above human intelligence, namely a diabolical ‘prudence’ which is guiding the Church. The crisis in the Church is not due to bumbling, incompetent men following their own flawed human intelligence. The massive loss of faith and loss of souls is the work a diabolical conspiracy, ultimately the work of the devil.
Paragraph 7 tells us that due to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, “the truth about the one true Church is silenced.” Once again, this is misleading. The truth about the one true Church is not merely silenced: it is denied and contradicted. Similarly, ecumenism has not merely “killed the missionary spirit,” it has killed the missions and today is still killing millions and millions of souls! Teaching the truth only to your friends, not preaching the truth to outsiders, being welcoming of newcomers to your Mass centre, these are things which merely kill the missionary spirit. The missionary spirit appears to be dying or dead in large parts of the SSPX, but even we would stop short of accusing those parts of the SSPX of being ecumenical! Just as paragraph 6 pointedly does not say that religious liberty is an error, paragraph 7 likewise pointedly avoids saying anything similar about ecumenism. It tries to sound like it is against it without actually saying anything of real substance against it.
Paragraph 8 deals with authority, an interesting subject given Bishop Fellay’s own preoccupation of late, and on closer examination, it is very revealing. We are told that: “The weakening of faith in Our Lord’s divinity favours a dissolution of the unity of authority in the Church.” Leaving aside yet another example of weak and equivocal language (‘favours’?), let us examine what this means. What exactly is the main problem being lamented in this statement? The dissolution of the unity of authority. The secondary thing which is mentioned as a problem only insofar as it ‘favours’ this dissolution of authority is Faith (‘faith’) in Our Lord’s divinity. Implication: unity of authority is more important than Faith in Our Lord’s divinity.
“The destruction of authority,” we are told, “represents the ruin of Christian institutions: families, seminaries, religious institutes.” So once again, it is not a loss of Faith which has caused the destruction of Christendom which we witness all around us. The withered remnants of the Catholic Church, closed convents, barely-any-longer-Catholic schools, increasingly anti-Christ laws being passed by the governments of once-Catholic nations, the almost complete apostasy of at least two generations: these are all things which we thought were the result of Vatican II spreading its errors throughout the Church like deadly poison. But no, according to this document, it is as a result of a destruction of authority. If only there were enough authority, then everything would be fine. If anyone doubts the fallacy of this way of thinking, let him recall that one of the most authoritative Popes of recent times was Paul VI. He ruled with an iron will and used his authority to force through the conciliar changes and to smash any opposition to them.
We mentioned the preoccupation with authority earlier on when passing over paragraph 4. Perhaps this is the right time to remind the reader of the words of the scandalous General Chapter Declaration of 2012, which begins by stating that, at the conclusion of its meeting, the General Chapter “stands at the tomb of Archbishop Lefebvre, united behind the Superior General Bishop Fellay.” It has been the contention of some that this amounts to official recognition that the new principle of unity for the SSPX, the thing which unifies it, from now on is the Superior General. Previously it was the Faith, but the SSPX is no longer united in doctrine. Unity of doctrine is one of several things which is conspicuously absent in this text.
Paragraph 9 attempts to speak about the new Mass, but once again cannot quite summon the courage to attack it directly. We are told that the New Mass “diminishes”, “curtails”, “obscures” and “undermines”, all of which appear to be sins of omission. Cannot worse be said? Once again, one notices what it avoids saying. It is worth noting that the paragraph makes a point of beginning not merely with “The New Mass…” but with “The New Mass, promulgated in 1969…” as its subject. Perhaps it was thought that this would satisfy the faithful that Bishop Fellay no longer believes that the New Mass was legitimately promulgated. Apart from the problem of a Traditionalist Bishop who can change his mind from one month to the next about a question as important as the legitimacy of the New Mass it is a fact that “promulgated in 1969” does not contradict “legitimately promulgated by Pope Paul VI. The two statements are not mutually exclusive, and there for the one cannot be taken to represent a correction of the other. It looks diplomatic, but its value, as far as that question is concerned, is nil. Besides which, there is no indication that Bishop Fellay has in fact changed his mind since he composed the April 2012 Doctrinal Declaration. He has never yet admitted that he made a mistake in admitting that the Novus Ordo was “legitimately promulgated”, nor even that he had ever admitted it. He usually tries to dodge questions about it and on the rare occasions where he cannot avoid being asked, he retreats into his standard defence of ‘I was misunderstood’, ‘I didn’t mean to say that’ etc.) Suffice it to say that this is as big a problem as ever it was. To compound matters, this now bears the signatures of Bishops Tissier and de Galarreta and not just Bishop Fellay.
Paragraph 10 begins thus: “Fifty years on, the causes persist and still engender the same effects.” Which causes, exactly? The “causes” in question are what the first nine paragraphs of this declaration have so skilfully avoided identifying, all the while equivocating and downplaying “the effects”. It continues: “Hence today the consecrations retain their full justification.” Notice the sleight of hand here: the Archbishop’s justification for the consecrations, in his own words, is nowhere to be found. It is not even alluded to, much less quoted. So how is the reader supposed to know what this retained “justification” is? Presumably we are supposed to take Bishop Fellay’s version, as presented in the preceding nine paragraphs, as being the reason why Archbishop Lefebvre performed the consecrations in 1988.
A very brief quote, clearly been lifted from a longer sentence, from Archbishop Lefebvre’s Spiritual Journey, is offered as a justification for stating that the SSPX, “at the service of the Church … asks with insistence for the Roman authorities to regain the treasure of doctrinal, moral and liturgical tradition.”
Surely this sort of language speaks for itself. Did St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Isaac Jogues or any one of the legions of heroic missionaries ever “ask with insistence” that the pagans discover the treasure of the Catholic Faith? Or rather, the treasure of the “doctrinal, moral and liturgical tradition” of Rome? Did St. John Fisher “ask with insistence” that Henry VIII rediscover the treasure of his moral and doctrinal tradition?! Does the Church no longer preach? Did Our Lord and his Apostles never command? How is Rome likely to view a Society of St. Pius X which used to demand that Rome convert and abandon the errors of the Council but which now employs such timid deferential language?
“Following Providence” is the subject of paragraph 11, although we are never told exactly what this means, nor are we given any kind of example to illustrate it. What it amounts to is a pious platitude: it sounds nice and holy and it means virtually nothing.
Three of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, as signatories of this declaration and on behalf of the SSPX, say that “we mean … to follow providence … and not anticipate it”. What we can gather is that they at least mean well (or at any rate, they say they do)! Isn’t that nice! More than that is unclear. For example, what are they actually going to do in the future? Who knows! Perhaps whatever they feel like doing. Whatever this ‘following of Providence’ actually amounts to, it will be, we are told, “either when Rome returns to Tradition and the Faith of all time” or “when she [Rome] explicitly recognises our right to profess integrally the Faith and to reject the errors which oppose it, with the right and the duty for us to oppose publicly the errors and the proponents of these errors, whoever they may be” – never mind the fact that the correction of errors and the denunciation of the purveyors of error is precisely what the SSPX has now ceased doing, as the rest of the declaration makes abundantly clear. So, the SSPX will “follow Providence” (whatever that means) either when Rome returns to Tradition and the Faith of all time, or before Rome returns to Tradition and the Faith. That ought to be clear!
Paragraph 12 concludes the statement with another hand picked, suitably innocuous quote from Archbishop Lefebvre about remaining faithful to the Mass and the glory of Christ in heaven (it is doubtful whether the worst modernist in Rome would have a problem with that!), and a prayer to the Trinity “by the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. The latter is notable in one sense as being the only time that Our Lady ever gets a mention in the whole of this rather long document. Nothing about Fatima, La Salette, Quito… one might be forgiven for thinking that Our Lady has little to no role to play in bringing Our Lord’s triumph out of this era of apostasy.
What is the standing and significance of this declaration? It is another official, ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ statement of the position of the SSPX. It takes its place along side the General Chapter statement of 2012 with its six useless ‘conditions’ of surrender, and along side the April 2012 Doctrinal Declaration. It is the studied opinion of this author that the June 27th 2013 anniversary declaration is no less alarming and dangerous than its predecessors, in fact in many ways more so, since it ‘looks Traditional’, whereas at least the April 2012 had the virtue of being a straight-forward ‘warts and all’ representation of where Menzingen now stands. It did what it said on the tin. This declaration does not: the tin is labelled “Tradition” but it contains the same sour contents which are the staple fare of Modernists.
What will Rome make of it? Who knows, but as has been said before, in one sense it hardly matters. The danger of a deal was that it would lead to the Society liberalising and dropping its war footing against the new conciliar religion. In fact, even without an official deal the Society has now been liberalising for some time already, a process which continues apace, and the war footing against the new conciliar religion is truly a thing of the past. When a deal finally happens it will be a deal made by a Society which already accepts everything that the Romans would have reasonably wished for. ‘Accept us as we are’ does have the drawback of making the matter dependent on how we are. And ‘how we are’ will continue to worsen with the passage of time.
Keep working and praying! Stay vigilant!