On 15 December 2018, the Salzburger Nachrichten published an interview1 with Fr. Pagliarani, the superior general of the SSPX.
On 23 December 2018, the author of the Psalm 129 blog, using Petrus Romanus as his nom de plume, lamented that “for some odd reason, [the interview] has some Resistance supporters upset”. He thought that such negativity was rather “unfortunate given that there is next to nothing that is problematic in his [Fr. Pagliarani’s] remarks”.2
On 21 January 2019, this same Petrus Romanus assured his readership that “Fr. Pagliarani is diverging from his liberal predecessor”, that he is making a “complete and utter break with the Trad-ecumenism of Bishop Fellay” and that his “making of doctrine pre-eminent above a practical arrangement” is a sure sign that “liberalism may be on its way out in the highest levels of the SSPX”.3
Oh how wonderful.. or is it?
The 1988 Excommunications
Let’s start with the opening question:
The founder of the Society of Saint Pius X, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated in 1988 because he had ordained four bishops without permission. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted these excommunications. What does that signify for you?
First, let me point out that while in 1988 there were six bishops declared excommunicated, in 2009 only four of these excommunications were “lifted” by Pope Benedict XVI. In other words, to this day, Archbishop Lefebvre and bishop De Castro Meyer are still considered excommunicated. Second, pope Benedict did not admit and declare that the 1988 excommunications were unjust and invalid. Instead, as a sign of “goodwill”, he simply “lifted” some of them. And why is this important? Because it shows that there still is no understanding of the cause of crisis in the Church, no admission of guilt, and there is certainly no sign of conversion in Rome. There is only politics and strategic moves. Beware of the Greeks (and Romans!) bearing gifts!
So, what did the 2009 lifting of the excommunications by Pope Benedict XVI mean to Fr. Pagliarani and the SSPX. This is what Fr. Pagliarani replied:
For us, this did not change anything, because we always considered these excommunications as baseless. However, it encouraged certain people to join us, who until then had not dared. It has also facilitated our relations with some bishops and a section of the clergy, especially with young priests.
Petrus Romanus thought it was “a great response” in which Fr. Pagliarani “minced no words”.
Let’s start by going back a few years to where we got those excommunications from in the first place. Two weeks before the consecrations on 30 June 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre gave the four bishops elect his instructions, and as bishop Williamson related, had this to say about the threat of excommunications:
Excommunication? It will be worthless, for they do not seek the good of the Church. Instead, excommunication will be treated as a treasure.4
The Archbishop called the threatened excommunication “a treasure”. A treasure is defined as “something of great worth or value”5. So what did the Archbishop consider so worthwhile and valuable about being excommunicated? The open letter to cardinal Gantin, issued on 6 July 1988 by the 24 superiors of the SSPX, gives us a clear answer:
We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. 6
And a little further they added that:
To be publicly associated with this sanction which is inflicted upon the six Catholic Bishops, Defenders of the Faith in its integrity and wholeness, would be for us a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful. They have indeed a strict right to know that the priests who serve them are not in communion with a counterfeit church, promoting evolution, pentecostalism and syncretism.7
So, according to Archbishop Lefebvre and the 1988 superiors of the SSPX, the impact, the benefit and the significance of the excommunications was nothing less than an assurance to the faithful that the SSPX was out of communion with the adulterous spirit blowing in the Church, that they were not in communion with a counterfeit church, and that they were outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. They regarded the excommunications as a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy.
In 2009 however, at the explicit request of bishop Fellay, this declaration of being outside of the communion of the ungodly was annulled, the mark of honor was considered obsolete and the SSPX now declared itself willing to enter into the communion of the ungodly. Whereas bishop Fellay had himself requested the lifting of the excommunications as a sign of “goodwill” on the part of the Conciliarists and as a pre-condition for the SSPX’s dialogue with the revolutionaries, when pope Benedict XVI granted that request, the SSPX rejoiced being at long last granted entry into an ungodly communion with the Conciliar church.
This brings us back to Fr. Pagliarani, telling the world that “for us, this did not change anything”. In other words, nullifying our declaration that we are out of communion with the adulterous Conciliar spirit, denying that we are no longer outside of this impious communion of the ungodly, removing our mark of honor and the sign of orthodoxy before the faithful, in short, giving up this treasure as the Archbishop called it, it all means nothing to Fr. Pagliarani? Instead, what he considers more important is that “our relations with some bishops and a section of the [Conciliar!] clergy are facilitated”. Would any Traditional Catholic agree that scrapping the “oath against modernism” means nothing, and that facilitating our relations with the modernists is more important? How about deleting the Syllabus so we can facilitate our relations with all kinds of heretics? How about skipping our baptismal promises to renounce Satan and his pomps, so we can facilitate our relations with the demons? While we’re at it, how about burying the Popes’ condemnations of the pernicious Jews, so we can facilitate our relations with these God murdering people? Isn’t this exactly what Vatican II did in the name of “facilitating” our relations with heretics and pagans, in the name of a false ecumenism?
What a golden opportunity for Fr. Pagliarani to prove to friend and foe that he indeed has the guts to put doctrine first. Since his election nearly five months before the interview, all eyes are on him. He’s got everyone’s attention. So where is the doctrine? Compare this with how the Archbishop put doctrine first in an interview given to Fideliter Magazine one year after the Consecrations :
I will place the discussion at the doctrinal level: “Do you agree with the great encyclicals of all the popes who preceded you? Do you agree with Quanta Cura of Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas of Leo XIII, Pascendi Gregis of Pius X, Quas Primas of Pius XI, Humani Generis of Pius XII? Are you in full communion with these Popes and their teachings? Do you still accept the entire Anti-Modernist Oath? Are you in favor of the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If you do not accept the doctrine of your predecessors, it is useless to talk! As long as you do not accept the correction of the Council, in consideration of the doctrine of these Popes, your predecessors, no dialogue is possible. It is useless.”
As Our Lord said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”.8 Instead of doctrine, all Fr. Pagliarani can think about is “facilitating our relations with the Conciliar Church”. How about at least facilitating relations with the many Traditional Catholics that have been maligned, ignored, shunned, exiled or expelled from the SSPX because they dared to speak up against bishop Fellay’s flirting with the Conciliar Church? No, Fr. Pagliarani does not care about the Traditional Catholics that left the SSPX, but he does care about the Conciliarists that joined the SSPX. He’s not interested in facilitating his relations with the estranged priests and faithful of the SSPX, but rather with facilitating his relations with the Conciliarists.
So what priorities do we see here? Ignore doctrine, ignore the “collateral damage” within the SSPX, instead let’s rejoice that our relations with the Conciliarists are facilitated.
Was this really such a “great response”?
A little further the interviewer asks the following question:
Your predecessor, Bernard Fellay, labeled the Jews, Freemasons and Modernists as enemies of the Church. Do the Jews also have to convert to the Catholic Church, as you say for Protestants?
Let me start by pointing out the deception in this question. When in the infamous Conflict Zone interview9 of 2016 bishop Fellay was asked why he had said in 2012 that “Jews were among those who over centuries had been enemies of the Church”, he flatly denied this simple truth, explaining that what he really meant at the time was that “the Jews would look at the Church as an enemy” and that what he said was “not a presentation of the other side”. In other words, like a true coward would do under a little pressure from a stern interviewer, bishop Fellay scrambled to deny his own previous statements about the Jews.
So, it will be interesting to see what Fr. Pagliarani does when confronted with the Jewish question. Do you think he’s got the guts to tell it like it is, to let his yes be yes and his no be no, to put doctrine first? You would think that the question was simple enough: do the Jews have to convert? To such a simple question, the only straight answer would be either yes or no. In case anyone doesn’t know the correct Catholic doctrine on the Jewish question, listen to Pope Eugene IV at the Council of Florence:
It [the Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock;
So yes, if the Jews want to be saved they will have to convert to the Catholic Church, there is no other way. So let’s see whether Fr. Pagliarani is willing to put doctrine first. Here is his reply:
As for Judaism, it would be an unforgivable sin to exclude the Jewish people from the assets and the treasures of the Catholic Church. The salvific mission of the Church is universal, and she cannot leave out any people.
Was that a yes or a no? Instead of giving us the clear and unambiguous doctrine of the Catholic Church, we see Fr. Pagliarani simply dodging the question. Worse, instead of pointing the finger at the Jews for remaining obstinate in their refusal to accept Christ as their Messiah, Fr. Pagliarani is pointing the finger at others — who else can this be but Catholics — for committing the unforgivable sin of excluding the Jewish people from the assets and treasures of the Catholic Church, whatever these “assets and treasures” may be. What an inversion! Has the Catholic Church ever excluded the Jews, has She ever denied them access to the “assets and treasures” of the Church? Has the Church ever committed an injustice, let alone an unforgivable sin towards the Jews? I can just about hear Fr. Pagliarani now joining in with pope Francis, in asking the Jews forgiveness for the Church’s past “unforgivable sins” of excluding the Jews from the “assets and treasures” of the Church. The Jews as well as the modernists will be well pleased with Fr. Pagliarani’s answer. But should Catholics be pleased with it?
Oh yes, at first sight Fr. Pagliarani’s reply seems more polished and certainly not as clumsy as bishop Fellay’s waffles. But underneath the veneer, if we look at the substance of the answer, we see the same refusal to boldly proclaim the truth, the same denial of Catholic doctrine, the same cowardice, the same modernist language insinuating the same modernist denial and attack on doctrine. Instead of following the example of the apostles, saints, popes and doctors of the Church in declaring that the Jews have rejected Christ and that they do not worship the same God as Catholics, Fr. Pagliarani dodges the question by answering with an ambiguous, politically correct and nonsensical answer.
After this, can one really still believe that Fr. Pagliarani is putting doctrine first?
The Duck Test
In Liberalism & Catholicism, Fr. Roussel teaches us one easy way to recognize a Liberal Catholic. Let’s start with this one:
The “Liberal Catholic” loves ambiguous terms and confusion of ideas.10
Does Fr. Pagliarani love ambiguous terms and confusion of ideas? Let’s see.
In dodging Catholic doctrine on the need for Jews to convert to the Catholic Church, Fr. Pagliarani talks about the “assets and treasures” of the Church. What are these “assets and treasures of the Church” do you think? Are they doctrine, dogmas, indulgences, prayers, saints, the Sacraments, cathedrals, history, the Vatican Bank, sacramentals, clergy, all of the above, ..? Whatever you think is the correct answer, try and insert it into Fr. Pagliarani’s answer about the Jews and see if it makes any sense. How about “it is an unforgivable sin to exclude the Jews from the doctrine of the Church”? Does that sound right? How about “it is an unforgivable sin to exclude the Jews from the Sacraments”? Does that sound like true Catholic doctrine?
And what is this “new conception of the faith”? To a modernist this can mean a deeper understanding, like Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity, while to a Traditional Catholic this rather means an error or a heresy. If Fr. Pagliarani is a Traditional Catholic, then why does he not speak like one?
Instead of saying “we are deeply distraught by a fundamental characteristic of the current pontificate”, why not say “we reject the pope’s errors”? And instead of saying “a completely new application of the concept of mercy”, why not simply state “his false mercy, his erroneous teachings on mercy”? Modernists will have no problem with “a completely new application of the concept of mercy”, as they believe the old concept was too rigid and harsh anyway, and rightly so Pope Francis is giving them a new and better concept. Again, these terms are ambiguous, politically correct, straight out of the dictionary of a liberal.
How is this for a confusion of ideas. Fr. Pagliarani states that:
If a soul can be saved outside the Catholic Church, it is despite the error in which it finds itself, and not thanks to it, and in any case, it is saved by Jesus Christ alone.
Well no, Catholics know very well that “outside of the Church there is no salvation”, so there’s no need for “if’s or but’s”. True, someone who is not a member of the Catholic Church can theoretically still be saved, but he would then be considered inside the Church as a non-member, not outside the Church. Is this subtle but significant confusion here a slip of the tongue, or is it on purpose? Is this the man who’s going to help the Pope “revive the pure doctrine” in Rome?
Here’s another example. Fr. Pagliarani talks about the “major dogmatic decisions” of the second Vatican Council, saying that “this led to a complete transformation of the faith”. To a modernist that’s indeed a good thing, transforming the old rigid, dogmatic faith into a new inclusive and merciful faith. And a Traditional Catholic will understand this transformation to be nothing else but error and heresy. So why does Fr. Pagliarani not call things by their proper name? Why does he use the terms and the language of a modernist?
Fr. Roussel continues:
It is in his “imposture of words” that he mixes the principles and violates the “virginal chastity of truth,” according to the words of St. Hilary of Poitiers. This is the way by which he both tricks himself and his gullible neighbors. 11
I dare say that gullible are those people, either in the SSPX or in the Resistance, who believe that Fr. Pagliarani is putting doctrine first, that he is “diverging from his liberal predecessor” or that he is “breaking with the Trad-ecumenism of Bishop Fellay”12.
I would rather say, "if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."13
A False Charity
Another characteristic of a liberal mind is his false charity. In “Liberalism is a Sin”, Don Felix Sarda y Salvani writes:
Narrow! Intolerant! Uncompromising! These are the epithets of odium, hurled by Liberal votaries of all degrees at Ultramontanes. Are not Liberals our neighbors like other men? Do we not owe to them the same charity we apply to others? Are not your vigorous denunciations, it is urged against us, harsh and uncharitable, in the very teeth of the teaching of Christianity which is essentially a religion of love? Such is the accusation continually flung in our face.14
Is this why Fr. Pagliarani cannot get himself to call a spade a spade, to accuse the pope of working for the de-christianisation of the world, of teaching heresy, of aiding and abetting immorality, of denying his faith, of destroying any traces of Traditional Catholicism, of being an anti-Christ, and of his urgent need to convert and do penance for the harm he has caused to millions of souls? Instead, Fr. Pagliarani uses very mild, ambiguous and politically correct expressions, he’s “deeply distraught”, urging us to simply “reflect profoundly” on the beatification of Paul VI15, rather than denounce, reject and oppose like a St. Paul who withstood Peter to his face. Is this the man in charge of an SSPX that is supposedly doing God’s work, claiming that “only the Society can help the Church”16?
Listen to Don Felix Sarda y Salvani what we ought to think of this wishy-washy charity:
But our rule is too plain and too concrete to admit of misconception. It is this: Sovereign Catholic inflexibility is sovereign Catholic charity. This charity is practiced in relation to our neighbor when, in his own interest, he is crossed, humiliated, and chastised. It is practiced in relation to a third party when he is defended from the unjust aggression of another, as when he is protected from the contagion of error by unmasking its authors and abettors and showing them in their true light as iniquitous and pervert, by holding them up to the contempt, horror, and execration of all. It is practiced in relation to God when, for His glory and in His service, it becomes necessary to silence all human considerations, to trample under foot all human respect, to sacrifice all human interests — and even life itself — to attain this highest of all ends. All this is Catholic inflexibility and inflexible Catholicity in the practice of that pure love which constitutes sovereign charity. The Saints are the types of this unswerving and sovereign fidelity to God, the heroes of charity and religion. Because in our times there are so few true inflexibles in the love of God, so also are there few uncompromisers in the order of charity. Liberal charity is condescending, affectionate, even tender in appearance, but at bottom it is an essential contempt for the true good of men, of the supreme interests of truth and [ultimately] of God. It is human self-love, usurping the throne of the Most High and demanding that worship which belongs to God alone.17
Instead of sovereign Catholic inflexibility, do we not see a Fr. Pagliarani who is condescending, affectionate, even tender in appearance? Has he ever spoken firmly and boldly to or about Francis the destroyer? Has he ever denounced him for what he is, a destroyer and a heretic? Instead of holding on to the Archbishop’s treasure and to refuse communion with the ungodly, we see him rejoicing that his relations with the Conciliar Church are being facilitated. Instead of rejecting and condemning the bogus beatification of Paul VI we see him “profoundly reflecting” upon it. He reminds me more of a miaowing pussycat than of a roaring lion.
How can anyone still hold out any hope that “one day” the SSPX will put doctrine first, let alone pretend this is happening right now under the new Superior General? Doctrine first? First before what? Before a practical agreement? And what then do you call all the “paternal gestures” that pope Francis has already granted to the SSPX and that they in turn joyfully accepted? What do you call the jurisdiction “granted” by the Conciliarists to witness marriages, to hear confessions, jurisdiction for ordinations, powers to judge on the first level of jurisdiction, etc..? And in return for all these concessions by the conciliarists, the SSPX agreed to shake hands with the modernists and to morph into yet another sterile and politically correct Ecclesia Dei community. They no longer condemn errors themselves, at best they simply "report" upon someone else raising any form of criticism of pope Francis and his shenanigans. Look for example at the SSPX's newly branded website. Where are the hard hitting articles the SSPX was known and feared for? All we now see is anemic and sterile "reports", like a Catholic version of a National Geographic, no different from what we have come to expect from all the other groups shaking hands with the modernists.
Even Côme de Prévigny, the de facto spokesman for the SSPX, recently admitted that the deal is done:
The SSPX has become, in the end, as an automobile that has all elements to move forward: a body, wheels, steering wheel, seats — all elements are brand new and nothing is missing. Due to a state of tension, both internal and external, on the subject of regularization, undoubtedly due to the current pontificate, all that is missing is a license plate bearing its status, but the highway patrols around the world know that the car can move as it pleases.18
This is the SSPX itself stating that “all that is missing is a license plate bearing its status”, in other words, the practical deal is done. It is simply too late to put doctrine first. All that remains now for the SSPX to do is to make sure that the pew-sitters don’t wake up. And for that they need to keep up appearances, in other words, pretend they really care about doctrine, pretend that they are working hard to “revive the pure doctrine” in Rome, to use Fr. Pagliarani’s words.
Sorry Petrus Romanus, if you think this was “a strong interview but one that must be backed up with actions”19 you’re still in denial of what has happened to the SSPX over the last couple of years. This anemic interview is one of the actions, backing up not doctrine, but rather a willingness to shake hands with the modernists, to be politically correct, to use ambiguous language, to speak without saying anything, to “trick themselves and their gullible neighbors”, as Fr. Roussel put it.20
Like in the Danish tale21 about the emperor who wanted new clothes, and the weavers who told him his new clothes could only be seen by people who are not stupid, where everyone pretended the invisible clothes looked so beautiful out of fear of being considered stupid by the King, so it is with those who still cling to the “doctrine first” fib, pretending the SSPX is still serious about defending the faith, who deny that the practical deal is already in the bag, out of fear of being seen as sympathizing with those “proud rebels”, aka the Resistance.
In the Danish tale, only a little boy had the courage to tell the King he had no clothes. Alas, we seem to be running out of little boys telling the SSPX they are running around naked.
- 1. https://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/it-inconceivable-church-was-mistaken-two-millennia-43158
- 2. https://psalm129.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/a-new-hope/
- 3. https://psalm129.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/contra-fellay/
- 4. https://tradidi.com/lefebvre-advice-four-bishops-elect
- 5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treasure
- 6. http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/Archbishop_Lefebvre_and_the_Vatican/Part_I/1988-07-06.htm
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Matthew 12:34
- 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0eTadAYK6o
- 10. Liberalism & Catholicism, p 133
- 11. Liberalism & Catholicism, p 133
- 12. diverging from his liberal predecessor
- 13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_test
- 14. Liberalism is a Sin, Chapter XIX
- 15. https://fsspx.news/en/news-events/news/exclusive-interview-father-davide-pagliarani-43460
- 16. https://fsspx.news/en/news-events/news/exclusive-interview-father-davide-pagliarani-43460
- 17. Liberalism is a Sin, Chapter XIX
- 18. https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-vatican-and-society-of-st-pius-x.html#more
- 19. https://psalm129.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/a-new-hope/
- 20. Liberalism & Catholicism, p 133
- 21. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes