Interview with Father Davide Pagliarani Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X
Rev. Fr. Superior General, a number of important events will take place before the end of the year, such as the Synod for the Amazon and the reform of the Roman Curia. They will have a historical impact on the life of the Church. In your opinion, what place do they occupy in Pope Francis's pontificate?
The impression that many Catholics are currently experiencing is that of a Church on the brink of a new disaster. If we step back a moment, the Second Vatican Council itself was only possible because it was the result of a decadence that affected the Church in the years before its opening: a dam broke under the pressure of a force that had been at work for some time. This is what makes the great revolutions successful, because legislators are only approving and sanctioning a situation that is already a fact, at least in part.
Thus, the liturgical reform was only the culmination of an experimental development that dated back to the interwar period and had already penetrated a large part of the clergy. Closer to home, under this pontificate, Amoris lætitia was the ratification of a practice that unfortunately already exists in the Church, especially with regard to the possibility of communion for people who live in a state of public sin. Today, the situation seems to be ripe for further excessively serious reforms.
Can you clarify your judgment on the apostolic exhortation Amoris lætitia three years after its publication?
Amoris lætitia represents, in the history of the Church in recent years, what the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in the modern history of Japan: humanly speaking, the damage is irreparable. It is undoubtedly the most revolutionary act of Pope Francis and, at the same time, the most contested - even outside Tradition - because it directly affects marital morality, which has enabled many clerics and faithful to detect the presence of serious errors. This catastrophic document was wrongly presented as the work of an eccentric and provocative personality - what some want to see in the current pope. This is not true, and it is inappropriate to simplify the question in this way.
You seem to be implying that this consequence was inevitable. Why are you reluctant to define the current Pope as an original person?
In fact, Amoris laetitia is one of the results that, sooner or later, was to occur as a result of the principles laid down by the Council. Cardinal Walter Kasper had already admitted and stressed that a new ecclesiology, that of the Council, corresponds to a new conception of the Christian family.1
Indeed, the Council is first and foremost ecclesiological, that is, it proposes in its documents a new conception of the Church. The Church founded by Our Lord would simply no longer correspond to the Catholic Church. It is broader: it includes other Christian denominations. As a result, Orthodox or Protestant communities would have "ecclesiality" by virtue of baptism. In other words, the great ecclesiological novelty of the Council is the possibility of belonging to the Church founded by Our Lord in different ways and to different degrees. Hence the modern notion of “full” or “partial” communion, "with variable geometry," one might say. The Church has become structurally open and flexible. The new modality of belonging to the Church, which is extremely elastic and variable, according to which all Christians are united in the same Church of Christ, is at the origin of the present ecumenical chaos.
Let us not think that these theological innovations are abstract, they have repercussions on the concrete life of the faithful. All the dogmatic errors that affect the Church sooner or later have an effect on the Christian family, because the union of Christian spouses is the image of the union between Christ and His Church. An ecumenical, flexible and pan-Christian church corresponds to a notion of the family in which the commitments of marriage no longer have the same value, in which the bonds between spouses, between a man and a woman, are no longer perceived or defined in the same way: they too become flexible.
A Pope Consistent with Vatican II's Principles
Could you be more specific?
In concrete terms, just as the Church of Christ “pan-Christian” would have good and positive elements outside Catholic unity, so would there be good and positive elements for the faithful also outside sacramental marriage, in a civil marriage, and also in any union. Just as there is no longer any distinction between a "true" Church and "false" Churches - because non-Catholic Churches are good although imperfect - all unions become good, because there is always something good in them, if only love.
This means that in a "good" civil marriage - especially when it is concluded between believers - some elements of sacramental Christian marriage can be found. Not that the two should be put on an equal footing; however, civil union is not bad in itself, but simply less good! Until now we have been talking about good or bad deeds, life in grace or mortal sin. Now there are only good or less good actions left. Some lifestyles totally embrace the Christian ideal and others only partially correspond to it. To sum up, an ecumenical Church is an ecumenical family, that is, a family that is recomposed or "recomposable," according to needs and sensitivities.
Before the Second Vatican Council, the Church taught that non-Catholic Christian confessions were outside the fold of the true Church, and therefore not part of the Church of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium (n. 8), opens a way to recognize them as partial realisations of the Church of Christ. The consequences of these errors are incalculable and still in full development.
Amoris lætitia is the inevitable result of the new ecclesiology taught by Lumen gentium, and also of the mad openness to the world advocated by the Pastoral Constitution on the Church In Today's World, Gaudium et spes.2 And in fact, with Amoris lætitia, Christian marriage is more and more like marriage as modernity conceives it and profanes it.
Thus, Pope Francis' objectively confusing teaching is not a strange aberration, but rather the logical consequence of the principles laid down at the Council. He takes these principles to their ultimate conclusions... for the moment.
Has this new doctrine on the Church manifested itself in a particular theological concept?
After the Council, the notion of the People of God replaced that of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is omnipresent in the new Code of Canon Law published in 1983. But a change occurred in 1985. It appeared that the term "People of God" was becoming cumbersome, because it allowed drifts towards liberation theology and Marxism. It has been replaced by another notion, also drawn from the Council: the ecclesiology of communion, which allows an extremely elastic belonging to the Church so that all Christians are united in the same Church of Christ, but more or less, which means that ecumenical dialogue has become like a conversation in Babel, as in the meeting in Assisi in 1986. Like the polyhedron that Pope Francis loves: "a geometric figure that has many different facets. The polyhedron reflects the confluence of all the diversities that, in it, preserve their originality. Nothing dissolves, nothing is destroyed, nothing dominates anything."3
Do you see this same ecclesiological root at the origin of the reforms announced in the Instrumentum laboris of the next Synod on the Amazon, or in the project of reform of the Roman Curia?
Everything comes down, directly or indirectly, to a false notion of the Church. Once again, Pope Francis is only drawing the final conclusions from the principles laid down at the Council. In concrete terms, its reforms always presuppose a Church that listens, a Synodal Church, a Church that is attentive to the culture of peoples, their expectations and demands, especially human and natural affairs, specific to our time and always changing. The Faith, the liturgy, the government of the Church, must adapt to all this, and be the result of it.
The Synodal Church, which is always attentive, is the latest evolution of the Collegial Church, advocated by Vatican II. To give a concrete example, according to the Instrumentum laboris, the Church must be able to assume to itself elements such as local traditions on spirit-worship and Amazonian traditional medicines, which resemble so-called "exorcisms." As these indigenous traditions are rooted in a soil that has a history, it follows that this "territory is a theological place, it is a particular source of God's revelation." This is why we must recognize the richness of these indigenous cultures, because "the non-sincere openness to the other, as well as a corporatist attitude, which reserves salvation only for one's own faith, destroys this same faith". It seems that instead of fighting paganism, the current hierarchy wants to assume it and incorporate its values. And the craftsmen of the next synod refer to these things as "signs of the times" - an expression dear to John XXIII - which must be examined as signs of the Holy Spirit.
The Church of Christ Is Not a Forum
And more specifically, what about the Curia?
For its part, the Curia's reform project advocates a Church that resembles much more a human enterprise than a divine, hierarchical society, depositary of supernatural Revelation, with the infallible charism of guarding and teaching the eternal Truth to humanity until the end of time. As the text of the draft expressly states, it is a question of "updating (aggiornamento) the Curia," "on the basis of the ecclesiology of Vatican II." It is therefore hardly surprising to read from the pen of the group of cardinals in charge of this reform: "The Curia acts as a kind of platform and forum for communication between particular Churches and Bishops' Conferences. The Curia gathers the experiences of the universal Church and, from these, encourages the particular Churches and the Bishops' Conferences... This life of communion given to the Church is the face of synodality... The people of faith, the Episcopal College, the Bishop of Rome are all listening to each other, and they are all listening to the Holy Spirit... This reform is established in the spirit of 'healthy decentralization'... The Synodal Church is 'the People of God walking together'... The service provided by the Curia to the mission of the bishops and to the communio is not one of vigilance or control, neither one of decision-making as a higher authority[.]"4
Platform, forum, synodality, and decentralization: all this only confirms the ecclesiological root of all modern errors. In this amorphous magma, there is no longer any higher authority. It is the dissolution of the Church as Our Lord has established it. In founding his Church, Christ did not open a forum for communication or a platform for exchange; he entrusted Peter and his Apostles with the task of feeding his flock, of being columns of truth and holiness to lead souls to Heaven.
How can this ecclesiological error be characterized in relation to the divine constitution of the Church founded by Jesus Christ?
The question is vast, but Archbishop Lefebvre provides us with an answer. He said that the structure of the new Mass corresponded to a democratic Church, and no longer hierarchical and monarchical one. The synodal church of the Franciscan dream is truly democratic. He himself gave the image he had of it: that of an inverted pyramid. Could there be a clearer manifestation of what he meant by synodality? It is a Church that has been turned on its head. But let us insist, this is only a development of the seeds already planted at the Council.
Do you not think you are forcing your reading of the current reality, wanting to bring everything back to the principles of the Second Vatican Council, held more than 50 years ago?
It is one of Pope Francis's closest collaborators who gives us the answer: Cardinal Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the “C6” group of cardinals. He says that, "After the Second Vatican Council, the methods and content of evangelization and Christian education change. The liturgy is changing... The missionary perspective changes: the missionary must establish an evangelizing dialogue... Social action changes, it is no longer only charity and the development of services, but also the struggle for justice, human rights and liberation... Everything changes in the Church according to the renewed pastoral model." And he adds the following, to show in what spirit these transformations are being accomplished: "The Pope wants to bring the renewal of the Church to a point where it will become irreversible. The wind that pushes the sails of the Church towards the high seas of her profound and total renewal is mercy."5
However, it cannot be denied that many voices have been raised against these reforms and it is reasonable to assume that this will continue in the coming months. How do you rate these reactions?
One can only rejoice at such reactions and at a progressive awareness on the part of many of the faithful and some prelates that the Church is approaching a new catastrophe. These reactions have the advantage and merit of showing that the voice that advocates these errors cannot be that of Christ, nor that of the Magisterium of the Church. This is extremely important and, despite the tragic context, encouraging. The Society of Saint Pius X has a duty to be very attentive to these reactions, and at the same time to try to avoid misguidedness and failure to achieve anything.
- 1. Walter Kasper, Interview of May 7, 2014, Commonwealmagazine.org: "The first marriage is indissoluble. (...) The second marriage is not a marriage in the Christian sense, and I would be against celebrating it in the church. But there are elements of a marriage. I would compare this to the way the Catholic Church views other churches. The Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, but there are other churches that have elements of the true Church, and we recognize these elements. In the same way, we can say, true marriage is sacramental marriage. And the second is not a marriage in the same sense, but it has elements of marriage: the partners take care of each other, they are exclusively linked to each other, there is an intention of permanence. We must respect such situations, as we do with Protestants.”
- 2. This constitution is imbued with the primacy of conscience, advocates personalism and insinuates the inversion of the ends of marriage.
- 3. Speech to the participants of the World Meeting of People's Movements, 28 October 2014.
- 4. "The content of the Curia's reform project: a revisited ecclesiology", L'Homme nouveau, 23 May 2019.
- 5. The Church of Mercy with Pope Francis, January 20, 2015, www.scu.edu
Conciliar Pluralism Renders Opposition Structurally Ineffective
What do you mean by that?
First of all, it should be noted that these reactions systematically come up against a brick wall and one must have the courage to ask why. To give an example, four cardinals had expressed their dubia about Amoris lætitia. This reaction had been noticed by many and hailed as the beginning of a reaction that would produce lasting results. In fact, the Vatican's silence has left this criticism unanswered. In the meantime, two of these cardinals have died and Pope Francis has moved on to the other reform projects we have just mentioned. This means that attention is shifting to new subjects, leaving, by necessity, the battle over Amoris lætitia in the background, forgotten, and the content of this exhortation seems accepted de facto.
To understand the silence of the Pope, we must not forget that the Church that emerged from the Council is pluralistic. It is a Church that is no longer based on an eternal and revealed Truth, taught from above by Authority. We have before us a Church that is listening and therefore necessarily listening to voices that may differ from each other. To make a comparison, in a democratic system, there is always a place - at least apparent - for opposition. They are part of the system because they show that we can discuss, have a different opinion, that there is room for everyone. This, of course, can promote democratic dialogue, but not the restoration of an absolute and universal Truth and an eternal moral law. Thus, error can be taught freely alongside a real but structurally ineffective opposition which is unable to replace the errors with truth. It is therefore from the pluralist system itself that we must emerge, and this system has as its cause, the Second Vatican Council.
In your opinion, what should these prelates and faithful do who have at heart the future of the Church?
First of all, they should have the lucidity and courage to recognize that there is a continuity between the teachings of the Council, the popes of the post-conciliar era, and the current pontificate. Citing the magisterium of "Saint" John Paul II, for example, to oppose Pope Francis's innovations is a very bad remedy, one that is doomed to failure from the outset. A good doctor cannot simply use a few stitches to close a wound without first evacuating the infection inside the wound. Far from despising these efforts, it is a matter of charity to indicate where the root of the problems lies.
To give a concrete example of this contradiction, it is sufficient to mention one name among others: that of Cardinal Müller. He is presently the most virulent opponent of Amoris lætitia, the Instrumentum laboris, and the Curia's reform project. He uses very strong language, even talking about "breaking with Tradition." And yet, this cardinal who has the fortitude to publicly denounce these errors is the same one who wanted to impose the acceptance of the whole Council and the post-conciliar magisterium on the Society of Saint Pius X (in continuity with his predecessors and successors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). Regardless of the Society and its positions, Cardinal Müller’s criticism, which focuses only on the symptoms without going back to their cause, gives rise to a most damaging and illogical situation.
The Charity of Transmitting What We Have Received
It is often objected that the Society only knows how to criticize. What does it propose positively?
The Society does not criticize systematically or a priori. She is not a professional misanthrope. She has a freedom of speech that allows her to speak openly, without fear of losing benefits she does not have... This freedom is essential in the current circumstances.
The Society has above all a love for the Church and souls. The present crisis is not only doctrinal: seminaries are closing, churches are emptying, frequentation of the sacraments is falling dramatically. We cannot remain spectators, arms folded, and say to ourselves: "All this proves that Tradition is right." Tradition has the duty of coming to the aid of souls with the means given to it by Divine Providence. We are not driven by pride, but by charity to "transmit what we have received" (1 Cor. 15:3). This is what we humbly strive to do through our daily Apostolic work. And, it is in the course of this work that we denounce the evils that afflict the Church as being necessary to protect the flock abandoned and dispersed by bad pastors.
What does the Society expect from the prelates and faithful who are beginning to see clearly, in order to give a positive and effective follow-up to their positions?
It is necessary for them to have the courage to recognize that even a sound doctrinal position will not suffice if it is not accompanied by a pastoral, spiritual and liturgical life consistent with the principles to be defended, because the Council has inaugurated a new way of conceiving the Christian life, consistent with its new doctrine.
If true Catholic doctrine is reaffirmed in all its rights, one must begin to live a real Catholic life in conformity with what one professes. Otherwise, this or that declaration will remain only a media event, limited to a few months, even a few weeks... In concrete terms, one must exclusively embrace the Tridentine Mass and all that it means; one must embrace the Catholic Mass and draw all the consequences from it; one must embrace the non-ecumenical Mass, the Mass of all time and let this Mass regenerate the lives of the faithful, communities, seminaries, and especially let it transform priests. It is not a question of simply restoring the Tridentine Mass because it is the best theoretical option; it is a question of restoring it, living it, and defending it until martyrdom, because only the Cross of Our Lord can rescue the Church from the catastrophic situation in which it finds itself.
Portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam!
The gates of hell will not prevail against her!
Father Davide Pagliarani, Superior General
Menzingen, September 12, 2019, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary