Update and history of the SSPX contact with Rome

March 1, 2001

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

For the month of the tenth anniversary of the great Archbishop Lefebvre's death, we have the pleasure of offering you not only the enclosed portrait of him (from Virginia), but also good news of the Society of St. Pius X which he founded; it is standing firm in the face of Rome's recent efforts to buy it back into the Conciliar Church. One may never put one's trust in man, as last month's letter sternly recalled, following Jeremiah (XVII, 5-8). But one may, and must, put one's trust in God, with whom the Archbishop will certainly have been interceding for us.

Here is the sequence of events. In early December of last year, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, with a mandate from the Pope to bring to an end the 13-year old "schism" (as Rome sees it) of the Society of St. Pius X, invited Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Society's Superior General, to Rome to see the Pope. On December 29 and 30 the Cardinal had two long talks with Bishop Fellay, including a brief encounter with the Pope where New Year greetings were exchanged, and little else. On January 13, SSPX leaders meeting in Switzerland to consider the Cardinal's generous-looking proposals, decided that Rome must first liberate the Tridentine Mass and declare null the 1988 "excommunication" of the four SSPX bishops, before the SSPX will even sit down to negotiate with Rome an end to the "schism".

A few days later Bishop Fellay conveyed this decision to the Cardinal. A few weeks later the Cardinal replied verbally (not in writing! ) to an SSPX priest in Rome, firstly that the Tridentine Mass is not banned but that Rome cannot be expected to say so in public (!); secondly that the "lifting" of the "excommunication" would form part of a package deal re-integrating the SSPX into the mainstream Church.

On February 19 two SSPX priests, mandated by Bishop Fellay, gently but firmly brought the Cardinal to understand that the SSPX had meant what it said when it said one month previously that either Rome must liberate the Tridentine Mass for all priests, or the SSPX will not even sit down to begin negotiating. The Cardinal has the reputation of a powerful negotiator who gets what he wants, and in a variety of ways since last summer he has made it clear that he and the Pope want to get the SSPX "back into the Church" (as Rome sees it). That is why he did not want to accept that the Society was taking such a principled stand on the Mass of the old religion, hated by all Conciliarists, but after three and a half hours of talking, he had to accept that that was the Society's precondition for any further negotiations.

One need wish the Cardinal no ill. Bishop Fellay's spokesman at this February 19 meeting commented that in any normal circumstances the Cardinal's loyalty to the Pope and his desire to serve him would be touching. Cardinal Castrillón surely desires to bring the SSPX "back into the Church" and he may even sincerely wish the Society well. But so little does he (or the Pope, then) grasp the issue at stake that our spokesman was at a loss " in what language to speak to him". And it was horrifying, he said ("effroyable" in French), to realize how the highest of churchmen in Rome today could be so ignorant of the essentials of the true Faith!

We are reminded of the carefully weighed words of Archbishop Lefebvre shortly before the "excommunication" of June, 1988: "I do not think we can say that Rome has not lost the Faith". Also of what he said more than once after that "excommunication", namely that Rome having thereby given final proof of its unwillingness or inability to look after the Faith, then from that time onwards any discussions with Rome could no longer be juridical or canonical, they would have to be dogmatic. In other words the problem between the SSPX and Rome was no longer a question of legal nuts and bolts, it was a question of basic doctrine, and could only be handled as such. The February 19 meeting in which the Cardinal insisted on nuts and bolts, shows how right the Archbishop was. Coming out of the three and a half hours with the Cardinal our spokesman said he was more convinced than ever that the Society's firm stand was the right one. But how few Catholics can yet see that! The basic theology of Conciliarism, that infernally subtle falsification of Catholicism emerging from the Second Vatican Council, is the real problem between this Rome and the Society.

However, Cardinal Castrillón is not a man easily stopped. On February 19 he told our priests that four new members would be added to the Ecclesia Dei Commission (set up to handle the 1988 refugees from "Lefebvrism") in order to prepare for the new Commission due to replace Ecclesia Dei as soon as (!) there is an agreement with the SSPX. On February 24 these four names were publicly announced by Rome, and they are heads of the four departments that will be most concerned by a Rome-SSPX deal: Cardinal Ratzinger (Doctrine), Cardinal Medina (Liturgy), Archbishop Herranz (Canon Law) and Cardinal Billé (primate of the French bishops).

Now these are four heavyweight churchmen being added to a lightweight Commission, given the fact that important Congregations or dicasteries of the Roman Curia rarely include more than one Cardinal. But when we add Cardinal Castrillón, here there will be four! There are two opposite interpretations of this unusual move.

Either, as I was told by an English journalist who claims to have contacts high up in the Roman Curia, these four celebrities are being added to Ecclesia Dei in order to put brakes on Cardinal Castrillón, who is moving towards a Rome-SSPX deal altogether too fast for the liking of Conciliar Romans who fear the SSPX acting like a Trojan horse if it is given re-entry within the walls of their official Church. Or, on the contrary, as Cardinal Castrillón told our two priests on February 19, these powerful men are being brought on board in order to make the supposedly imminent Rome-SSPX deal work. In this case the unusual move corresponds to the Cardinal's expressed desire to have the agreement concluded by Easter!

Such a hurry may also correspond to Rome's public announcement on February 26 of an extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals to be held from May 21 to 24 of this year in order "to analyze, among other things, the Petrine ministry and episcopal collegiality." A Roman newspaper interprets this announcement as meaning that the Cardinals will study "the role and functions of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as well as… the ministry of bishops united among themselves and in communion with the Pontiff".

In plain English, the Conciliarists in Rome are planning, in accordance with Vatican II, to do away with the Pope, and replace him by some committee of cardinals and/or bishops. But the Conciliarists are well aware that for many Catholics still within their Novus Ordo, this might prove the last straw. If in addition to everything else Catholic which "the spirit of Vatican II" has taken away from them, Catholics lost also their Holy Father, then they might really look for some Catholic refuge in which to ride out the storm. At which point, if there simply was no longer any such refuge, many could lose heart and feel obliged to go along even with the destruction of the Papacy. But if there was still in existence a refuge like the SSPX, proclaiming itself the staunch defender of the old-fashioned Catholic Papacy, then such distressed Catholics would have somewhere to go, and the numbers and strength of the SSPX might grow alarmingly.

So, is the unprecedented extension of the temporary Ecclesia Dei Commission proof that Rome wants to bring in the SSPX, or proof that Rome wants to push it away? Either way, the story is by no means over.

If the Cardinal has his foot on the accelerator, then he must come up with new enticements to draw the SSPX out of its Traditional fortress, and we must continue to trust God and to pray to the Archbishop that the Society neither flinch nor waver. On the other hand, if the Cardinal's colleagues have their foot on his brakes, then Rome must fall back on its 13-year old policy of smothering the SSPX in silence, a silence so remarkably broken by the recent initiatives of Cardinal Castrillón. And in that case we clergy and laity of the Society must possess our souls in patience, and continue to practise humbly and steadily the Catholic Faith of all time. But if quiet does return, for sure and certain it is simply a matter of time before another Cardinal Castrillón will be coming back to busy himself with the Society! Roman error cannot leave the Truth alone.

Inevitably our thoughts come back to the great Archbishop Lefebvre. Ten years since he died! But as we always knew, he is the master of Rome. What a man of God! What a man! He is by no means yet generally vindicated, but by his magnificent fidelity to the Truth when everyone else was, in a collective madness infecting even Cardinals and Popes, abandoning it, he sits astride the Catholic Truth for all future generations, so that tomorrow or the day after, all Catholics without exception will be profoundly grateful to him.

And we have known him sooner than most. Dear readers, you and I are lucky creatures! Let us only be faithful! Let us do Lenten penances for fidelity!

Most sincerely yours in Christ,