Let us recall what Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre said about those who want to shake hands with the Modernists whilst giving the impression of maintaining the fight for Catholic Tradition:
“And we must not waver for one moment either in not being with those who are in the process of betraying us. Some people are always admiring the grass in the neighbor’s field. Instead of looking to their friends, to the Church’s defenders, to those fighting on the battlefield, they look to our enemies on the other side. “After all, we must be charitable, we must be kind, we must not be divisive, after all, they are celebrating the Tridentine Mass, they are not as bad as everyone says” but THEY ARE BETRAYING US – Betraying us! They are shaking hands with the Church’s destroyers. They are shaking hands with people holding modernist and liberal ideas condemned by the Church. So they are doing the devil’s work.
“Thus those who were with us and were working with us for the rights of Our Lord, for the salvation of souls, are now saying, ‘So long as they grant us the old Mass, we can shake hands with Rome, no problem.’ But we are seeing how it works out. They are in an impossible situation. Impossible. One cannot both shake hands with modernists and keep following Tradition. Not possible. Not possible. Now, stay in touch with them to bring them back, to convert them to Tradition, yes, if you like, that’s the right kind of ecumenism! But give the impression that after all one almost regrets any break, that one likes talking to them? No way!”
(Two Years after the Consecrations, Address to Priests in Econe, Switzerland, September 6, 1990).
One can safely say that many in the current SSPX leadership fit into the category of people that Archbishop Lefebvre condemned in his statement above. However, what can one say about those SSPX priests who do not agree with the current SSPX leadership’s position, but refuse to publicly speak out against the new direction? Would Archbishop Lefebvre condemn them too? In order to make a fair assessment, I think that one really needs to answer this question: Is the public silence of the SSPX priests regarding the public liberalism of their leadership a betrayal of the Faith? I answer in the affirmative. Without getting into subjective judgements of the souls of any SSPX priests (or laymen), the following is my argument.
One does not have to positively accept or actively promote a liberal idea in order to be a traitor. A soldier that allows the enemy in because of fear for his life is still a traitor, albeit to a lesser degree than a soldier who accepts money to let the enemy in. The essence of the two acts are, nevertheless, the same. Furthermore, by the priests’ public silence, they allow their leadership to publicly represent their stance (e.g., the April 15, 2012 Doctrinal Declaration, the 2012 General Chapter Six Conditions, etc.). To illustrate the importance of this point more clearly, here is an example. If I were a member of a political party that was pro-life in its policy and then the leadership of the party convened and changed the policy to pro-abortion without requiring me to sign anything in agreement with the new policy but requiring me to not publicly oppose the new policy under the threat of being kicked out of the party, would it be morally licit for me to keep quiet? No. I would be morally obligated to publicly speak out. What if, however, the policy was not changed but the leadership began and continued to publicly show leniency towards abortion despite private protests to retract the leniency; would it now be morally licit for me to keep quiet? No. I would still be morally obligated to publicly speak out. In either case, my public silence would be a betrayal of the pro-life stance regardless if I am personally, perfectly pro-life and never positively speak or display otherwise. The same line of reasoning, then, is applied to SSPX priests who remain publicly silent on the liberalism of their leadership.
What about the layman who assists at Masses of these SSPX priests? Well, given the betrayal on the part of the SSPX priest, even if he were otherwise doctrinally orthodox and even if one’s own Faith is not placed in harm by attending his chapel, to actively unite in the greatest act of worship with a priest who remains publicly silent in the face of the public liberalism of his leadership is a co-operation, on the part of the layman, in that act of betrayal. Why? We are not speaking here about the layman simply enjoying a cup of coffee with such a priest; rather, we are speaking about the layman uniting with a priest, who is representing himself as an alter Christus in the most eminent degree, in that greatest act of worship (i.e., the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) which itself is the most magnificent and ultimate expression of that Catholic Faith that the priest, nevertheless, fails to publicly defend in the face of the public liberalism evident in his own backyard. The layman, by actively uniting with the priest in this greatest act of worship (which again is the magnificent and ultimate expression of the Catholic Faith), implicitly admits the moral uprightness of the priest in regards to the Catholic Faith in both the priest’s public profession and public defence of the same Catholic Faith. Furthermore, by the fact that the priest’s leadership publicly betrays the Catholic Faith and that the priest remains publicly silent on this betrayal, the priest allows his leadership to publicly represent his stance in regards to the Catholic Faith. Therefore, the layman also implicitly admits the moral uprightness of the priest’s leadership in regards to the Catholic Faith in both the leadership’s public profession and public defence of the same Catholic Faith. This co-operation in the betrayal, on the part of the layman, is the case even if the layman publicly speaks out against the public liberalism of the priest’s leadership because the act of the layman’s actively uniting in the greatest act of worship with the priest undermines the layman’s own stance. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” Therefore, it is an act of hypocrisy and of compromise on the part of the layman.