September 6, 2000
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Many of you have heard by now of the triumphant Jubilee Year pilgrimage by the Society of St. Plus X to Rome last month, but let none of you think that such a triumph means that Rome is reconciling itself to Tradition. Alas, events before and after the pilgrimage showed how little this is the case . . .
SSPX JUBILEE YEAR PILGRIMAGE
The pilgrimage itself took place from Tuesday to Thursday, August 8, 9 and 10, Some 3,500 Society of St. Plus X pilgrims from literally all over the world gathered together in blazing sunshine outside the great Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Tuesday morning. There the pattern was established of some 250 priests, seminarians and nuns leading the pilgrims, grouped by the main languages present, solemnly through the Jubilee Door into each Basilica. This procession would last a prolonged five mysteries of the Rosary and would fill the Basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore twice. Once inside, there would be a meditation on the Basilica, prayers, chants, a brief sermon, the whole lasting from 20 to 30 minutes. Then the pilgrims would leave, in an equally solemn and impressive procession.
A high point of the pilgrimage was, of course, the Tuesday afternoon visit to St. Peter's, the central and most famous Basilica of all. In sunshine still more blazing, some 4,500 pilgrims lined up in the street leading to St. Peter's, the Via delta Conciliazione, and for a good hour the Society of St. Plus X occupied, in peace, the Basilica! Bishop Fellay preached a five-minute sermon, wisely evoking from Scripture the need to pray for Peter.
As a no doubt villainous but not stupid Italian journalist remarked, it was the first time in 2,000 years of Church history that thousands of "excommunicated" Catholics had come to St. Peter's to pray for the Pope! For, of course, the SSPX pilgrims did again and again pray for the Pope.
On the Wednesday, the pilgrimage was to the two other leading Basilicas of Rome, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. The high point here was no doubt the procession up the Via Merulana joining these Basilicas which are not far apart. Until the day itself, the Italian police had said they could do nothing to assist the movement of the now 5,100 pilgrims through the streets concerned, but at the last moment, within 10 minutes, they had the route perfectly sealed off (ah, these Italians!). Imagine a whole street of Rome filled from top to bottom with our people marching 10 or 12 abreast, and chanting "Laude Sion, Salvatorem"! It was a sight for sore eyes, and a joy for sore hearts! For a few moments, Rome was back in Rome, or, Catholic Rome was back in geographical Rome.
The official pilgrimage concluded on the Wednesday afternoon with a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Fellay on an improvised altar in the open air, on the site of what was once Emperor Nero's palace on the Oppian Hill. The Coliseum clearly visible not far off, was a poignant reminder to the SSPX pilgrims, forbidden to celebrate Mass in any of the Basilicas, that the persecution of Catholics did not begin with Vatican II! Rome might have eased the Society's passage through the Basilicas, but emphasize the word "through"! It was easy to imagine, going up from the Coliseum as from a modern sports stadium, the howl of the crowds baying not for a home team goal but for the Christians' blood . . . The equivalent happened as recently as 1848 . . .
However, as pilgrims left the Oppian Hill Mass in procession, a few from each SSPX group in nine different countries of Asia carried a succession of national banners. Now Asia is the least Catholic of continents. Rarer still are the Catholics there keeping to Tradition. Yet a few representatives of the tiny remnant of this slim minority had wanted to be there, and to show they were there! They were applauded (ah, these French!), as another inspiration to all!
The SSPX's Jubilee visit to Rome continued unofficially on the Thursday with the classic pilgrimage to the seven Basilicas. Over 1,000 of our pilgrims in groups of 50 made the 14-mile walk, still in the blazing sunshine of Rome in August! A light sunstroke from Tuesday kept me out of it personally, but all the Winona seminarians present at this climax of their six-week visit to Europe made the round. They were totally uplifted by the pilgrimage and they thank you all who helped to make their European trip possible. As an English priest quoted a pilgrim saying, "Our pilgrimage must have been a Jubilee Year present of Our Lord to Himself"!
All of which is much sunshine, but every event around the pilgrimage was there to remind us that we are still under the reign of the enemies of Our Lord. The first such event took place at the end of the week preceding the pilgrimage.
"SI SI, NO NO" CONGRESS IN ROME
From August 3 to 5 some 100 priests and laity, mainly of the SSPX, participated in the bi-annual Congress of the twice-monthly anti-liberal Italian periodical "Si Si, No No," known to many of you from its extracts and articles published in the "Angelus." The Congress consisted of some dozen speakers analyzing in depth problems raised by the Second Vatican Council. Such analysis is valuable, as preparing for the day when the Catholic Church will have to clean up the whole present mess.
In effect, one speaker after another made clear that the problem of Vatican II is not only in the aftermath of the Council, but it is in the Council itself. The Council's documents themselves are loaded with a mind-rotting doublethink of a kind to enable (or cause) Catholics to dance with the Devil while still pretending to serve God. Two contradictory religions, once centered on God and the other on man, are blended there with a diabolical skill. Eventually the Catholic Church will be obliged to trash the entire documents and start all over again, because they intertwine truth and lies inextricably.
For instance the Council document on the priesthood ("Presbyterorum ordinis") passes for being one of the more acceptable Council documents, yet Bishop Fellay in the closing lecture of the Congress had no difficulty in showing that in that document the seeds of the destruction of the Eternal Priesthood of Christ are well and truly planted.
MEETING OF SSPX SUPERIORS IN ALBANO
Immediately after the pilgrimage took place the next event to bring pilgrims down to earth. Some 30 SSPX superiors of Seminaries, Districts and independent Priories met in the SSPX house in Albano, 40 minutes out of Rome, to deliberate on current problems. Two questions stood out in the deliberations: vocations and the Internet.
The lack of vocations - which is making itself felt all over the world - seems a real puzzle. For 30 years now the SSPX has been up and running with a number of boys' high schools, and for several years now SSPX priests and laity have been called on to pray for vocations, yet still they are scarce. I said that the whole of modern life takes its toll, because godlessness is built into the very fabric of industrialized suburbia, and I quoted Archbishop Lefebvre telling the 20,000 faithful attending his 50th Priestly Jubilee Mass in Paris in 1987, to "go back to the country."
Of course nobody pretends that such a return to the country is always possible or easy, but unless the virtues of the old-fashioned country way of life are recreated, be it in city, suburbs or country, there will simply not be, except by miracle, the human material out of which to fashion priests. Already in the 1970's, Archbishop Lefebvre used to say that any vocation was a miracle. (Take heart, dear Americans. We have what looks like a dozen miracles entering Winona this month!)
To the Superiors' debate whether priests should have E-mail or the Internet in their houses, I made a similar contribution to the effect that technology and the machine way of life take their toll. Pope Gregory XVI was opposed to the railways being laid in his pontificate. Absurdly behind the times? But who can deny that these marvels of transportation destabilize a way of life? Who can deny that the motor-car is a major facilitator of individualism and rootlessness? Similarly E-mail and the Internet may facilitate communications and access to information, but who can say that either promotes real thought? Both change the very notion of "thinking." Who can claim, for the better?
However, the consensus of my colleagues seemed to be that priests should make use of these tools while establishing safeguards to protect against their dangers. Which I can understand. But I am not sure that either E-mail or Internet has any place in a Seminary where future priests must fill their minds and souls with old truths, not their in-trays with novelties. Dinosaurs too have rights!
At this meeting Society Superiors were reminded of the distress of the Newchurch clergy by the Society's First Assistant, Fr. Franz Schmidberger, describing his recent out-reach to all the Catholic priests in Austria. He told how in the space of one year he had visited personally 170 priests likely to be at least sympathetic to Tradition. Amongst these he found eight saying the old Mass, 20 saying both Masses, perhaps 60 ready to work with the Society, but in general the priests he visited would not discuss the real issues and they lacked direction and authority. A few were leading truly heroic priestly lives, but the overall picture was of a clergy in dissolution, neither lead nor leading, sheep-dogs astray between the struck shepherd and scattered sheep. Kyrie, eleison!
Altogether, the mood amongst the SSPX Superiors present in Albano seemed tranquil and united. In all the circumstances that is surely a remarkable grace of God, even a miracle. If we are thankful for the Society's existence, let us be mindful how much we have to be thankful for.
WOODSTOCK IN ROME
If, leaving Albano, Society Superiors came back through Rome, another event reminded them of the official Church's distress: the World Youth Day organized by the Vatican for the Feast of the Assumption, when 300,000 youngsters gathered in St. Peter's Square to be toured by the Popemobile, while another 200,000 gathered outside St. John Lateran. Any disagreeable taste left in the Vatican's mouth by the Society's pilgrimage must have been more than washed away by this huge demonstration for the media: masses of youngsters walking for days around Rome, often hand-in-hand, singing or clapping together, sweet, innocent, nice boys and girls, dressed often immodestly, but what does that matter? Here was the new religion.
Here was what Rome has worked for: a sweet, innocent - innocent?-dream of everyone living happily ever after - ever after? How many of these youngsters believe in eternity? How many of them believe in the Creed? How many even have any notion of the Creed? How many of them are being taught that Catholic Faith without which they cannot save their souls?
SSPX BISHOPS LUNCH WITH CARDINAL
Alas, the problem comes from high up. The Vatican had done its best to keep the SSPX pilgrimage as quiet as possible. So the recently appointed President of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, set up by the Pope in 1988 to stop Catholics from following Archbishop Lefebvre into "schism," 71-year old Columbian Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, knew nothing (he says) of our passage until he saw news of it on television. Now two months previously, desiring to meet the four SSPX bishops, he had written a letter to us (beginning "My dear Brother"), in which he invited us to come and see him at any time. Seizing the opportunity of our presence in Rome, he invited us to lunch with him there and then!
Three of us accepted the invitation. He was most hospitable and kind, welcoming us in and, after an ample two-hour luncheon, embracing us on our way out. "Come and see me at any time," he said. Yet this was the same Cardinal who only a few weeks previously had taken firm action to cripple Tradition inside the Fraternity of St. Peter by replacing four of their own choice of leaders by four of their number chosen by Rome! He smashes what he invites, he invites what he smashes. "Go figure," say Americans!
Was he insincere? Humanly judging, I did not think so. I think he simply belongs to the new religion. "We have the same Holy Trinity, the same Incarnation, the same Holy Eucharist," he said, and he surely does believe in the Real Presence because he said that when the experts begin disputing about it, he tunes out. "I'm nice, you're nice," he seemed to say, "so where's the problem? Why not join in the happy-ever-after religion?" Concerning St. Peter's Fraternity, he did admit that he had acted unpleasantly now, but it was only in order to avoid having to act more unpleasantly later. In other words, St. Peter's had had to be stopped, from getting away from happily-ever-afterness, while we were to be drawn towards it by the attraction of all niceness possible. Were we not back to the sweet, innocent religion of the zillions of nice youngsters holding hands and singing in the streets? And since this is the religion of the Holy Father (whom the Cardinal venerates and often sees) and of the Holy Eucharist, then what else can there be in "Tradition." for "Traditionalists" to be making such a fuss about? I think the Cardinal really cannot see.
For this reason I would be (humanly) sure that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is not one of the real villains in Rome who for their part can see, and who know exactly what they are doing - getting rid of the Catholic Church to replace it with the Satanic One-World-Religion. There need not be many such real villains, but dear old men who still believe in the Real Presence are mere instruments in their hands. If the Cardinal really is nice, one day he will have to be nasty, either to his handlers or to us. War is war.
SUMMING UP BY BISHOP FELLAY
As accurate view of this war is how the SSPX Superior General concluded the Superiors' Meeting in Albano:
"Firmness pays off. It is Rome which is wrong. We have no reason to back down. We must continue as we have done. Has Rome changed? See what they told St. Peter's: `Traditionalists must recognize that there is only one rite of Mass in the Church, and that rite is the new rite.' So Rome is hardening its position. Under pressure it may make a few exceptions for the old Mass, but its principles are unchanged.
"However, little by little Rome is growing weaker, by its loss of authority over its own bishops." Cardinal Ratzinger said recently in France that authority within the Church is becoming by consent only. So we must stand firmer, not less firm. We must say to Rome, `If Tradition no longer works, why was our pilgrimage such a success? And if Tradition works, why destroy it?' Yet Rome knows where it is going, and it means to go there. It set up St. Peter's Fraternity against us, and now it is destroying that Fraternity with a cynicism that is stunning. We are at war!
"The same can be said for the mainstream bishops and episcopal conferences. Paris is as solidly anti-Tradition as Rome. A bishop here or there may sympathize with us, but that does not mean much. Their conversion is in Providence's hands, not ours. Until then, let us pray for them, and give them a hard time!
"It is with mainstream priests that we have better hopes of fruitful action, long-term. The Vatican II generation of priests is passing. The younger priests are more open. They have had a bad formation, but a number of them still have the Faith. In France, Austria and the Argentine we know of possibilities.....it is slow work for ourselves, but not to be neglected. The SSPX has been blackened in their eyes. That is why it is so important to make ourselves known. It is our actions which speak, and make people think.
"As for the Church, it is still there, even if only just. It is relatively easy to sift in it Catholic words from non-Catholic words. It is not so easy to sift the persons. Have they all left the Church? It is dangerous to say so. For the moment, we are lucky to be `cut off' from Rome which only wants us to compromise, either on the Mass or on the Council or both. However, we should not therefore refuse all personal contact with them, but let us be under no illusion! The Cardinals are hanging lock-tight together!
"What is the degree of guilt of any one of them, taken singly? Much more difficult to say. But word for word they stick together, to the party-line coming from the Secretariat of State. The machinery is well-oiled! The dicasteries form a network. For example, for the last two years we were asking Rome for permission to make this Jubilee pilgrimage in the Basilicas, and we know that our request went the rounds, from one Cardinal to another, from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Secretariat of State, to Ecclesia Dei to the Secretariat of State, etc., etc. It was a trial of strength. They were caught in a double dilemma. Firstly, their open-to-all ecumenism-how could it be closed to us? Secondly, the scandal we risked causing if with 5,000 pilgrims we had run into closed doors. So they let us in and out as smoothly as possible, and their charm was all part of their technique!"
ROME OF THE MARTYRS
Such wise words remind us how far the Church crisis is from being over. Just a few days later Rome went ahead with the supremely confusing joint beatification of a Saint, Pius IX, and no saint at all but the Founder of the Newchurch, Newsaint John XXIII. How can poor Catholics think straight when they are thus told that 2 and 2 make 4, and at the same time they make 5? Repeat, at the same time! Heads can no longer think! Words no longer have meaning!
What will it take to give words back their meaning, to enable heads once more to think, to re-establish the Truth? We pilgrims in Rome were reminded of the answer, by the multiple churches and shrines there of glorious Martyrs. It took a sea of blood to float the Catholic Church. She has run aground. It will take another sea of blood to float the Church off again... the signs of the next bloody persecution are showing.
Meanwhile, dear Friends, do pray for the Seminary as we pray for you, and please continue to support us. We do have vocations for the run-up to martyrdom!
God bless you. In Christ,