The marriage affair within the SSPX reveals a much deeper problem: the ever growing divergence between the head and the body of the SSPX. This is caused by a change in attitude by the General House of the SSPX, an attitude which a large part of its base does not intend to assume. In the marriage affair they just found the first real application, hence the massive opposition that it encountered on the part of the deans and all the superiors of the traditional religious communities.
The tension is therefore high within the SSPX. While the Generalate [Menzingen], granting itself a right which it seems not to have 1, imposes the delegation of the Ordinary for each marriage to be celebrated, the majority of the priests oppose this and refuse to ask for such a delegation. Faced with this massive refusal, the Generalate [Menzingen] has imposed that the districts pass over the heads of their priests. In France, it is therefore Fr. André who is now in charge of making the requests for a delegation for each of the weddings to be celebrated.
Back to the Stakes of Marriage Celebration
This “forcing through” intends to obscure the real problematic posed by a request for delegation to the Ordinary, while the crisis of the Church keeps on growing. One of the priests, however, explained it very well in a letter addressed to his faithful, in order to explain why he could not conscientiously obey the demands of his superiors:
Today, hell’s main assault against our poor humanity is by attacking marriages. No one can ignore this attack because the family is the basic cell of society. All have the duty to defend marital union in its nature, its end and its properties. Moreover, the baptized who confess the sacramental character of Christian marriage must protect the profession of faith which is implied by all matrimonial consent. The future spouses who will be the ministers of this sacrament (a priest does not “marry”) have no right to celebrate it in an equivocal manner. The priests have the duty to remind them and help them to protect themselves from the hustle and bustle of the modernist clergy.
On April 4, 2017, Cardinal Müller communicated the authorization granted by the Holy Father to the bishops of the world to delegate a diocesan priest to bless the marriage of the faithful of the Society or, if that is impossible, to grant the priests of the Society the necessary faculties. It was then announced that this decision of the Holy Father would change our current practice. As you know, that current practice consists in urging the faithful to avail themselves of the provisions of Canon 1098. This allows them to marry without recourse to the conciliar clergy because of the serious damage to the faith that this entails. From now on though, he would have to turn to the [modernist] bishops and act according to their answers. Some priests offer minimal co-operation to this new practice by simply informing the bishops (without speaking to the faithful …) of what they think to do in the line or in the context of Cardinal Müller’s letter.
This is where a real problem of conscience arises. Is it permissible to align with or enter into this framework? It is enough to envisage the different possible answers - answers that one will have provoked oneself - to realize the immense difficulty.
The possibility of bringing a modernist priest to a wedding ceremony is obviously unthinkable. I do not think I need to dwell on this.
Now if the bishop wants to send a priest from his diocese (or come himself), how can he reproach him for doing exactly what the pope invites him to do? How can one deeply thank the pope for his decision, write to the bishop as part of this decision, and then refuse the bishop’s positive answer? How can we praise such a decision and then see a “serious inconvenience” when it is applied? It is also impossible to resort to false arguments, for example to say that it is the couple who refuses the presence of a conciliar priest, or that it is the perplexity that this engendered among our faithful who would oblige to refuse the proposal of the bishop. The pastor must precede the sheep. The priests of the Society do not shelter behind the perplexity of the faithful but they illuminate it.
If the bishop refuses any delegation, how can we say then that recourse to canon 1098 would be strengthened when the serious inconvenience would be reduced to a personal question? It is no longer the future spouses who refuse to have recourse to an authority dangerous to the faith, but it is a bishop who refuses to such a priest in such a place at such time a delegation that he believed himself obliged to request. The logic of this approach does not even allow us to see an injustice that was never the fundamental problem.
Finally, if the bishop gives the delegation without any condition but always within the framework of Cardinal Müller’s letter, how can this be presented joyously without provoking “questions of conscience among the faithful who adhere to the Society”, and without casting a black mark on all the other marriages that have been or will be celebrated in our chapels? By entering into such pontifical dispositions, we would have to admit that two kinds of marriage should be celebrated among us, and that an unjust hierarchy should be established between them. Instead of honoring the courageous faithful who have recourse to the ministry of the priests of Tradition, they will be looked upon either with compassion because they have not had the good fortune to find an obliging bishop or with hostility because they would not have wanted to enter into explicitly established provisions to achieve an illusory “full communion”.
Finally, is not this conciliar rubber stamp, which is supposed to “secure” the marriages of our faithful, an invitation to turn to the diocesan officials who at the same time pronounce veritable “Catholic divorces” by the thousands, all in the name of the 1983 code, and made even more lax by Francis? These poor spouses who are ready to put their faith in danger, to violate their matrimonial commitments and to commit adultery will unfortunately still find a priest to bless them, even in the traditional rite. Is it then right and just to weaken the convictions of all the faithful in order to make the betrayal of some less easy?2“
The change of attitude of the General House
As we have said, this strong tension stems from a change of attitude of the highest authorities of the SSPX in the face of the crisis that the Church is going through. We are witnessing a triple repositioning:
- Relativisation of the harmfulness of the Second Vatican Council
- Silence on the errors and scandals of the Conciliar Church
- Relativization of the state of necessity
Relativisation of the Harmfulness of the Second Vatican Council
This relativisation, which has been going on for quite a few years, is not openly stated, but insinuated, dispersed through speeches, interviews or letters.
Many people misunderstand the council. [Religious liberty] is used in so many ways. And looking closer, I really have the impression that not many know what really the Council says about it. The Council is presenting a religious liberty which, in fact, is a very, very limited one: very limited! – Bishop Fellay, in early May 2012, CNS interview with sspx Bp. Fellay, min.1.28 to 1.44
Within the Society, some are making the conciliar errors into super heresies, absolute evil, worse than anything, in the same way that the liberals have dogmatized this pastoral council. The evils are sufficiently dramatic; there is hardly any reason to exaggerate them further – Bishop Fellay’s response to the April 7 letter of the three Bishops of the SSPX - April 14, 2012
More such examples exist. What appears there is that in such moments of irenism, the council is seen only in its material aspect, independently of its omnipresent liberal and most dangerous spirit, since liberalism and it’s successor modernism are the collecting sewers of all heresies. Such interventions by the superiors cannot but create tensions within the SSPX. Since the anti-liberal struggle is inscribed in the very genes of the work of Archishop Lefebvre, the “GM priests” stand in opposition to the “BIO priests”.
Silence on the Errors and Scandals of the Conciliar Church
Already since 2011 quasi-systematic silence can be observed in the face of the scandalous acts (those leading to sin) which ought to be denounced, acts by the Pope himself, whose person hase become apparently untouchable. This was observed in the official communication of the SSPX during the 2011 interfaith meeting in Assisi, during the canonization of John Paul II (2014), and before, during and after the Synod on the Family. This was also true in the case of the introduction of a “Catholic divorce” or the reform of the procedures of nullity of marriage, in the case of Amoris Laetitia or the rehabilitation of Luther. Nor was there a word about the solemn reception of his [Luther’s] statue in the Vatican on October 13, when on that day, still in the Vatican, “they” were bargaining in the next room for a possible prelature for the SSPX; “they” even dared to make a statement on this subject, without ever alluding to the terrible scandal that tainted the anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima.
This silence is important. In April 2011 Pope John Paul II was beatified. The SSPX published shortly before their dubia about this beatification, a publication that would have precipitated the completion of the doctrinal discussions then under way between the Holy See and the SSPX. We can not continue to shoot the one with whom we negotiate, we must choose. The SSPX chose in this year 2011, when it re-launched the negotiation process in September, with a view to a merely practical agreement. This silence is therefore a prerequisite for any agreement. A prerequisite: not a concession to make in the future, from the day when the reconciliation will be registered, but a prerequisite that exists today, and indeed existed since September 2011. This prerequisite is not in theory, but has been in practice for years now. It is all the more dangerous because it is not written, but has formed an entire attitude, which time has constantly made more and more ambiguous.
Here again, we find one of the root causes of the tensions within the SSPX. For as the authorities of the SSPX wanted to present this attitude as a simple modernization of its communications to make it more positive and attractive (the famous “branding”), many priests of the society were not fooled. Some even felt the duty of shouting all the more strongly because their superiors were silent, and it was possible, alas, to witness thus a veritable war of communications, being opposed to each other those who were formerly united in the same combat.
The Relativization of the State of Necessity
As a consequence of these first points of tension, a third appears today openly with the affair of marriages. It consists in relativizing the state of necessity in which we find ourselves today, in other words to relativize the quasi universality of the crisis that the Church is going through. For a few years now, the official communications of the General House like to emphasize the multiplication of priests, bishops and cardinals who are supposed to attach themselves more and more to the authentic Tradition of the Church, which is truly new in their eyes; As if Bishop Lefebvre had not known cardinals Oddi, Stickler, or others …
But with the marriage affair, this relativisation of the state of necessity is for the first time openly assumed as such. Certainly, its existence is proven by the successive “authorised commentaries” and “corrections” published by the General House, but with a limit of which it is important to be aware. First of all, it is no longer presented as a general crisis of faith affecting the near universality of the bishops (how else could we resort to them habitually?), but only as some marriage related deficiencies, of which only we ought to concern ourselves at the moment.
Moreover, at a time when perhaps the attitude of the pope was ever so scandalous, the official communication of the SSPX affirms for its part that the case of necessity diminishes today. This is, in fact, what Fr. Knittel wrote in the official journal of the General House “Nouvelle de Chrétienté”:
This state of necessity began to retreat with the Motu Proprio of July 7, 2007 when Benedict XVI recognizes that the traditional Mass has never been abrogated. The relative decisions of Pope Francis concerning the apostolate of the Society of St Pius X accentuate this movement.
From a practical point of view, such a discourse is tantamount to conditioning the state of necessity to the obtaining or not of concrete personal advantages, in other words to subjectivizing it, independently of the objective situation, always more serious, but forgotten anyway. Hence a new tension between the priests of the SSPX, the deans recalling for their part the true nature of this state of necessity:
There is, unfortunately, no doubt about the extraordinarily dramatic situation that the Church is going through 3. The latter is undergoing more and more today what Archbishop Lefebvre called “the masterpiece of Satan”: “To diffuse revolutionary principles by the authority of the Church herself.” 4 We see the authorities of the Church, from the seat of Peter to the pastor of the parish, directly attacking the Catholic faith by a misguided humanism which, placing the cult of conscience at the pinnacle, dethrone all the more Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the kingship of Christ over human societies is simply ignored and even fought against, and the Church is seized by that liberal spirit which manifests itself especially in religious freedom, ecumenism and collegiality. Through this spirit, it is the very nature of the Redemption realized by Christ that is challenged, it is the Catholic Church, the only ark of salvation, which is denied in the facts. Catholic morality itself, already shaken in its foundations, is overthrown by Pope Francis, for example when it explicitly opens the way to the communion of the divorced “remarried” living as if married.
This dramatic attitude of the ecclesial authorities undoubtedly entails a state of necessity for the faithful. There is not only a grave inconvenience but also a real danger in putting one’s salvation back into the hands of pastors imbued with that “adulterous 5” spirit. […] The state of necessity which legitimizes our way of doing things, is not canonical but dogmatic, the impossibility of resorting to the local authorities is not physical but moral.
The last and highest point of tension between the priests of the SSPX is understood: some, taking note of the ever more serious situation that the almost universality of the Church is going through, intend to protect themselves with ever more prudence. The others, because the danger is diminishing in their eyes, aspire only to a total regularization of their situation and therefore a canonical recognition. This tension has led to a number of departures from priests, some to the “resistance” or “sedevacantists”, some to the conciliarists.
The distance traveled by the authorities of the SSPX in a few years becomes obvious if we listen to the preaching given by Bishop Fellay on 4 August 2009 at St Nicolas du Chardonnet:
Therefore, my dear brothers, do not be surprised if the Society remains practically unmoved when the invitations of Rome come to a new reconciliation after the publication of such a motu proprio. It will take time. It is a whole state of mind in the Church that must be changed and even more than a state of mind, these are principles. It is necessary that authority in the Church recognize those deadly principles which have paralyzed the Church for forty years. Until this is done, it is very difficult to think of a practical agreement. And why ? Because when these principles govern the life of the Church, as soon as there is the slightest difference, it will be settled in the name and by these evil principles. This means that a practical agreement in these circumstances is lost in advance. It is to question all the fight we are celebrating today, it would be a total contradiction with what we have been saying so far. This is not what we want, obviously we want a normal state of things. But it does not depend on us. If we are in this situation it is not because we wanted it. Again, it is out of necessity. And this necessity continues.
It must be noted that the bad principles so denounced by Bishop Fellay in 2009 have not changed in Rome, and that their application is becoming worse and worse under Pope Francis. But it is also true that if Rome has not changed, Menzingen has made its own revolution. But not by all of it’s priests, hence the present tensions.
In this turmoil that the SSPX is going through, the decisive moment will undoubtedly belong to the general chapter of this religious society, prescribed by statute for July 2018. It will first of all decide on this triple repositioning of the authorities of the SSPX to validate it or to nullify it. This will result in the perpetuation or the implosion of the SSPX.