We are about eight months away from the General Chapter and a large part of those priests who don't favor the [SSPX's] ralliement are waiting for that moment as if for their deliverance of the struggle of the last five years or so. Is it prudent to wait for this date in order to decide to act according to one's conscience?
We will answer as Saint Thomas Aquinas would do by weighing the arguments for and against.
- It seems that waiting is preferable because haste is a bad counselor and we must always trust in God who is able to reverse situations that seem at times inextricable. The SSPX has experienced many other trials and has always managed to overcome these, so there is no reason for us to fear that Providence will fail us in such an important moment as this, when Rome seems to be sinking ever deeper into raging modernism.
- It seems that waiting is preferable because if Bishop Fellay is elected again [as Superior General] for another 12 year term, then we will decide to leave the SSPX for the simple reason that then there will be no more hope of recovery, given that then Bishop Fellay will have plenty of time to pursue his prelature. But if someone else is elected, then we will assess the situation and decide accordingly.
- It seems that waiting is more prudent because we see how many who left too early are having trouble rebuilding anything.
- We must wait because for the moment a majority of priests in France seem unfavorable to the ralliement and besides, they support each other discreetly and speak about possible projects in the event of an agreement [with unconverted Rome].
- We must wait because Bishop Fellay is less and less being followed in his policy towards Rome. The idea of an agreement seems to discourage more and more people, especially with Pope Francis.
- We must not leave the faithful in the hands of Bishop Fellay. So we must wait with our faithful. We will tell them in due course to leave the SSPX if things get worse.
- If or when we leave, it has to be together with many confreres because the priestly life is very dangerous for one who lives on his own. Therefore, we must wait until a certain number of priests decides to leave.
On the contrary:
He cannot be considered prudent who fails in the principle act of prudence, which is to command [to act]. He who does not command himself to act, while he sees what needs to be done, lacks prudence much more than the one who materially commits a reprehensible act, without intending to commit a sin. (See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2a 2ae q47 a8)
St. Thomas teaches that true prudence consist in acting.
I answer that:
The crisis of the SSPX is essentially a crisis of Faith even if many are still in denial of this reality because all appearances still seem fine.
The existence of the SSPX is linked to the crisis of Faith that the official Church is going through. Providence has raised Archbishop Lefebvre and his work [the SSPX] in order to protect the Holy Sacrifice [of the Mass], the Priesthood and especially the whole deposit of the Faith against the conciliar reforms that tend to undermine and gradually subvert the traditional Faith among priests and faithful. In all prudence Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops in 1988 in order to continue Tradition and to protect the Catholic flock from modernist influences and authorities.
But the current superior of the SSPX no longer wants to see in today's Rome a serious danger to the Faith and is in the process of canonically (juridically) attaching the SSPX to this [unconverted] Rome. So the Faith is directly at risk for those who are under the authority of Bishop Fellay, even if appearances will still hold up for some time.
It is therefore reasonable that the prudent man asks himself the question whether he should leave the SSPX so as not to slide together with the superior.
There only remains the question of the point at which one is to leave.
For the bishop as well as for the priest, there is first of all the question of the teaching of the Faith, which is the most important aspect of his ministry: if it is no longer possible for him to warn the faithful that the superior is in the process of betraying the fight for the Faith, and if such a speaking out would spark his own dismissal, the primary mission of the bishop and of the priest can no longer be freely accomplished, and so that would be the sign that God obliges this bishop or priest to no longer remain in such a work.
Answers to objections:
The SSPX has indeed experienced other crises but never that of a Superior General who betrays the essential mission of the SSPX. And if Providence has several times saved the SSPX in it's trials, it was always through the courageous actions of some of its members who were well aware of the reason why the SSPX exists. God does not dispense with generous fighters to save us from a difficult situation. And those who left the SSPX for this reason were not hasty but wise according to the primary purpose of the SSPX.
If the priest is aware that bishop Fellay is betraying us and slowly but cunningly is organizing this betrayal, it is wise for the priest to act as one would in any war: we do not wait for the enemy to organize his entire plan of attack before we start preparing our own. Since it is impossible for the priest to prepare for this fight inside the SSPX, the only option that remains for him is to freely work from the outside.
We agree with the objection: the Resistance has scarcely been organized, but not because they lack the will, but because of their small number. If only a dozen or so priests would decide to join them, matters would be quite different by now. The procrastination of the priests within the SSPX makes the burden of fighting extra heavy for those priests who did leave and who are in great need of help.
This expectation of a global and collective action against Bishop Fellay is in opposition to the personal responsibility of the bishop or priest who should not always wait for the brave action of a colleague in order for him to act himself according to his own conscience. If the priest is weak and dependent on a group, he is far from resembling the good pastor who at times is able to make his own decisions (like Archbishop Lefebvre did with the 1988 consecrations). And it is very unlikely that there will be any more global and collective actions after the letter of the 37 as well as the letter of the deans which all effected so little. God wants souls and not groups.
Bishop Fellay may be not so well followed in his policy but he has all the power and all the means of communication in the SSPX. And even if there is a reaction after another step closer to Rome, after a few months (and the sanctions that will follow) the "calm" will be restored and the false ideas will end up contaminating even the best.
Leaving the SSPX is the best way to avoid spiritually losing the faithful. It is not necessarily the physical proximity that helps the faithful but rather the freedom that the priest keeps to tell them the truth and the persecution that he is suffering in the name of Truth. A priest who remains in the SSPX, by his own example even encourages the faithful not to move either. These faithful think that "if a good priest like that does not join the Resistance, that must mean that there is no risk for our Faith". Such are the examples that direct souls.
The priest must aim to live in a community that is as close to his priestly life as possible and there are now enough small welcoming religious communities to ensure a proper priestly life. These religious happily welcome priests who turn to them or who have left the structure of the SSPX. Their priestly life (common life - apostolate) and their material subsistence (roof, food, allowances, insurance) is therefore assured even if it is still a little makeshift, but that is the price one has to pay in order to remain a free Catholic and to rebuild a Catholic work in peace. The Church essentials are also there since there are 4 bishops who provide a certain moral and spiritual authority.