The Society of St. Pius X, a Work of the Church at the Service of the Truth

We mustn’t be surprised that we are unable to get along with Rome. It will be impossible so long as Rome does not return to the Faith in the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so long as she gives the impression that all religions are good. We disagree on a point of the Catholic Faith, as Cardinal Bea and Cardinal Ottaviani disagreed, and as all the Popes disagreed with liberalism.

Archbishop Lefebvre, Conference in Sierre (Switzerland) on November 27, 1988, quoted in L’Eglise infiltrée par le modernisme, Fideliter, 1993, p. 70-71.

“The problem will remain so long as the Society of St. Pius X does not adhere to the doctrinal declaration approved by Pope Francis and presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”[1] After quoting these words by Archbishop Pozzo[2], we remarked in our article that “the problem, therefore, is indeed, first and foremost, a doctrinal problem,” and that “in Rome’s own eyes, the canonical recognition depends on the resolution of this problem.”

Coming from Rome, this is nothing new. Archbishop Pozzo had already clearly voiced the same opinion in the beginning of the year 2017. “The reconciliation,” he said, “will occur when Monsignor Fellay formally adheres to the doctrinal declaration that the Holy See presented to him. This is also the necessary condition to then proceed to the institutional regularization with the creation of a personal prelature.”[3] These declarations, authorized on the whole, provide an opportunity to show exactly where the fundamental problem between the Holy See and the bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X lies. The explanation is simple: it is the Rome of today’s divergence from the Rome of all times and this divergence has to do with the way of understanding and presenting the doctrine revealed by God. That is why this problem can in no way be explained by the attitude adopted so far by Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X towards the Rome of today. Let us be clear, at the risk of provoking astonishment and incomprehension from more than a few in the Holy Church of God: the problem is not the Society of St. Pius X, it is the Rome of today, the Rome “of neo-Protestant and neo-Modernist tendencies”, as His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre liked to say, in somewhat convoluted terms. The problem today is the Rome of today, because in Rome the current members of the hierarchy, the Pope and the bishops, have adopted this new Protestant and Modernist tendency, and in so doing have broken away from eternal Rome. And this happened with Vatican Council II.

In the eyes of many who, despite their numbers, are not among the most clearsighted, the problem would at first sight seem to be that the Society of St. Pius X does not have a regular situation in the Church. To quote the exact words used by Archbishop Pozzo, the problem is supposedly that the priests and bishops of the Society of St. Pius X exercise their ministry “illicitly and illegitimately”. Consequently, the problem would come from the Society and its members, the Society first and not the Rome of today. But in reality, by the secretary of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission’s own admission, this supposed illegitimacy is but a consequence, and the fundamental problem lies in the doctrinal divergence that opposes the Society to the current representatives of the hierarchy, precisely because the latter claim to adhere to Vatican Council II. This divergence is therefore the cause, and the supposed illegitimacy but one of its possible effects. And as far as this divergence is concerned, the problem comes from the Rome of today. The Society’s situation is but the consequent effect. If the Society can potentially and apparently present a problem canonically or ecclesiastically speaking, this is first of all because the Rome of today presents a problem doctrinally speaking. For the effect proceeds from its cause. The Church being a supernatural society, the unity of Faith is necessarily at the principle and foundation of the unity of government[4] and that is why any divergence on the former level causes a divergence on the latter level. The supposed canonical irregularity is the effect that follows from the doctrinal divergence.

As for all effects, this one is to be judged in the light of its cause. This is an absolutely necessary principle that allows for no exception in any domain, for it is a metaphysical principle. If we wish to understand why, in the eyes of the Rome of today, the Society of St. Pius X remains in what they call an “illegitimate” situation, we have to start by understanding why this Rome of today is herself in rupture with the Rome of all times. This rupture is doctrinal. And the fundamental problem, of which the supposed illegitimacy of the Society is but a consequence on the canonical or ecclesial level, is the Rome of today’s acceptance on the doctrinal level of the reforms undertaken by Vatican Council II. The problem is not that the Society refuses the Council, for to remain Catholic and in the Church, one has no choice but to refuse such a Council. The problem is that the Rome of today accepts it, with no heed for her bimillenary Tradition. If we had to resort (with all the necessary precautions) to the eloquent and picturesque terms of a metaphor, we would say that the Society is in good health, and the Rome of today is sick. And when a sick man is in denial about his own illness, he almost inevitably accuses those in good health of being sick. But let’s move on.

The problem, therefore, is not, on the Society of St. Pius X’s side, what we might today call a problem of “ecclesiality”. The Society is and remains a work of the Church, a society that is fully part of the Church, so fully and so completely that it even represents one of the healthiest parts in the Church. Indeed, the Society is defined by goal and this goal is (Statutes, II, 1) “the priesthood” and therefore (Statutes III, 1) the works of priestly formation, which “will carefully avoid the modern errors, especially liberalism and all its substitutes.” The Society’s attitude towards the Rome of today follows immediately from this principle: to protect the Catholic priesthood from the modern errors and to protect also the Faith of the Church that it is the priesthood’s mission to preach for the sanctification of souls. This attitude – or this role – of the Society is absolutely vital since in the Holy Church the priesthood represents not only an indispensable principle, but a first principle. The priesthood is the very principle of the Church, for without it, the Church would cease to be what she is. The corruption of the first principle is the worst thing possible, and the defense of it is the most necessary and most urgent need. Insofar as the Rome of today is infected with these modern errors that corrupt the priesthood and the Church, it is the Society’s duty to act with regards to this present-day Rome in such a way as to neutralize these errors. This should be the profound explanation of the entire combat of the Faith waged by the Society so far. And the entire attitude of the Rome of today (ever since the Council) that considers the Society’s action illegitimate is but the other side of this combat being fought by the Society, the side of the men of the Church who currently hold the power in Rome. If the light disperses the shadows, the shadows try to smother the light, but never succeed. This defense of the Catholic priesthood that is the first principle and the common good of the entire Church, is a properly ecclesial goal, which makes the Society a work of the Church. The ecclesiality of the Society comes from this: it comes from the finis operis, the proper and specific object of the society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre and duly recognized as such by Bishop Charrière in 1970. No dent has since been made in this ecclesiality by the conciliar authorities, for no dent could be made. It is rather the ecclesiality of the members of the hierarchy that has become increasingly problematic since Vatican II and modernism that are destroying the current authorities.

The Society should therefore not set up as its absolutely first goal, that is, its principle of action, to seek to obtain canonical legitimacy that would supposedly remedy a lack of ecclesiality.[5] The question of the Society’s ecclesiality does not exist in reality. It only exists in the minds of some, who are not members or faithful of the Society in the Church, and who believe in good faith that the Society is “against the Pope” or “schismatic” or “not in full communion” or “not in a legitimate situation”. To express these things in the technical language of scholastic logic, we would say that the question does not arise of itself but accidentally. Some people make the mistake of believing that this question arises in reality and of itself; other make the diametrically opposite mistake of believing that it does not arise at all, not even in the minds of some and accidentally. The solution is to say that the question arises not in reality or of itself but in the minds of some and accidentally. This means that the Society does not need to have a guilt complex, or to suffer or make excuses for not being in the Church, (besides, “he who excuses himself, accuses himself”, as the French saying goes); it should rather maintain and assert that it is right and at the same time denounce the wrongs of the modernists; and it should do so in a pastoral and prudent way, taking into account the weakness of the ignorant, according the precept of the Apostle: “We that are stronger, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1).

The Society is perfectly legitimate and regular, for it is in the Church and of the Church, and that is absolutely certain and beyond doubt. Coming from the Rome of today, a canonical legitimation would add nothing, from this viewpoint, to the intrinsic goodness of the Society. It could only add a certain extrinsic goodness, to the extent that in the minds of many, it would put an end to a false and unjust opinion that is being encouraged to the detriment of the Society. The full importance of this should not be forgotten, but it is a different question, a secondary question in the eyes of the Society of St. Pius X’s founder. “What interests us first of all,” he used to say, “is to keep the Catholic Faith. That is our fight. So the canonical question that is purely exterior and public in the Church is secondary. What is important is that we remain in the Church… in the Church, that is to say, in the Catholic Faith of all times and in the true priesthood, and in the true Mass, and in the true sacraments, in the catechism of all times, with the Bible of all times. That is what interests us. That is what the Church is. Being recognized publicly is secondary. So we must not seek after what is secondary while losing that which is primary, that which is the first object of our fight.”[6] The full importance of this question, we repeat, must not be forgotten, and “secondary” does not mean “insignificant”; but to be answered fittingly, this significant question must remain in its proper place, that is, dependent upon the essential goal. And what we wish to do here is to show what the absolutely first goal of the Society is: the preservation of the Catholic priesthood, with as its necessary consequence the neutralization of all the harmful errors that are today causing its generalized corruption. Generalized corruption, for it is the corruption of the first principle of the Church, her hierarchical priesthood. These errors are serious in themselves, as are all errors, because they are a denial of divine truth; but they are even more harmful for the unprecedented reason that they are being spread to the entire Church by the hierarchy that has been won over to these errors and corrupted by them. Introduced with Vatican Council II into the ordinary preaching of the men of the Church, these errors have given birth to a new way of thinking and living that has progressively spread to all the members of the Church. The expression “conciliar Church” is meant to express this new situation as in a metaphorical ellipsis.[7]

We now speak of a “conciliar Church” as we have hitherto spoken of the “Rome of today”, and we could very well speak of a “conciliar Rome”. For, for the time being, we can no longer speak of the Church and Rome without distinctions.[8] The Church as God willed her is a supernatural society, that is to say, the ordered congregation of the baptized faithful who profess the same Faith and practice the same cult under the direction of the same hierarchy. The particular and complex situation in which we are living is that within this ordered congregation there is now another disordered congregation that is endangering the Catholic Faith and cult and using the bad influence of the members of the hierarchy to do so. If we spoke simply of the Church and Rome, we would be saying too little; if we spoke of two Churches or two Romes, we would be saying too much. The Church is one and there is one Rome, but at present there is a generalized cancer in Rome and in the Church. We speak of the conciliar Church and the Rome of today, distinguishing them from the Catholic Church and the Rome of all times, as a way of expressing this unprecedented situation in which the men of the Church are working from within to destroy the Church, working against her own living forces. Such is the mystery that appears for now as that of an “occupied Church” and consequently also of an “operation survival of Tradition”, the necessity and legitimacy of the latter coming from the reality of the former.

Let us return, then, to Archbishop Pozzo’s initial declaration: “The problem will remain so long as the Society of St. Pius X does not adhere to the doctrinal declaration approved by Pope Francis and presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The secretary of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission gives in this phrase the profound reason for which the problem is ongoing: it will remain precisely as long as the Rome of today seeks to oblige the Society to adhere to Vatican Council II, and therefore it is the Rome of today that is the cause of the problem. For initially, the problem was not the refusal but rather the obligation to adhere: the obligation to adhere to errors that go against the truths revealed by God and already condemned by the Rome of all times.

Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize

[1] “Il problemi rimangono fintanto que la Fraternita San Pio X non adherera a la dichiarazione dottrinale approvata dal papa Francesco et presentata dalla Congregazione per la dottrina de la fede.”

[2] Cf. the article “Neither Schismatic nor Excommunicated”, in the July-August 2018 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[3] Cf. the article “For a Doctrinal Agreement” in the May 2017 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[4] Cf. the article “Unity or Legality?” in the May 2017 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[5] Cf. the article “For a Doctrinal Agreement” in the May 2017 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[6] Archbishop Lefebvre, Spiritual Conference in Econe, December 21, 1984. See the article “40 Years Earlier” in the December 2014 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[7] See the articles “Can We Speak of a Conciliar Church?” in the February 2013 issue of Courrier de Rome and “Unity and Unicity of the Church” in the September 2013 issue of Courrier de Rome.

[8] See the article “An Official Church?” in the May 2017 issue of Courrier de Rome.