"The four Lefebvrist bishops split," Le Figaro says in its headline. And, it must be said, the division has never seemed so apparent since they were consecrated by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988. Only apparently, because, at times, the internal differences have been pronounced, but they have not always been known to all. Likewise, whoever made the decision to bring to the public square the correspondence, took a decision that was extremely grave in its consequences, insofar as the act risked to disturb what a Cardinal had once called "a thorn for the entire Church": the Society of Saint Pius X. But risking or disturbing is not sinking. The founder is keeping watch.
1. The trap of a fratricidal war.
There is a great danger of trying to split the Society in two different parts, by gathering behind two different camps antagonized forces that were, however, raised in the same mold through forty years of energy, of efforts, and of prayers, of shared resistance to the prevailing Neo-modernism, and this despite the desertions of some and the excesses of others. Those who are now rubbing their hands thinking of a hypothetical division are already showing their true faces.
On the one hand, they are the predators coming from Sedevacantist mini-chapels that have, as their main sign of charity, the fact that they hate one another, and that double their efforts to collect the bodies of a fratricidal war. Abp. Lefebvre was categorical concerning these sowers of despair and destruction. Those who are today their American leaders are those same ungrateful sons who, in 1983, brought the aged archbishop before the courts in order to collect, in vain, the real estate "spoils" of the Society. They answer particularly to the names of Clarence Kelly, Donald Sanborn, Daniel Dolan...
On the other hand, there are all the adversaries of the Tradition of the Church who agitate to despoil the main force of opposition to the Liberalism that destroys our societies. All their contacts in the media have unanimously presented the object of the correspondence disconnected from its private setting, wishing to transform the divergences between the bishops into public opposition. And in Paris, anticlerical forces already eye with envy the church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, this bastion of Catholic restoration, that appears as an object of prey due to what are essentially human disagreements.
2. Who will foot the bill?
To tell the truth, the SSPX bishops themselves are not following a pattern of division. It is one thing to counsel, even firmly, one's superior to consider the consequences of his actions. It is quite another to state publicly what one thinks. And it is still something else to cause a division when one's superior has not compromised on the faith, which does not then justify disobedience. Let us take the example of Bp. Tissier de Mallerais. In 1988, after he had, on May 30, counseled Abp. Lefebvre against the consecrations, he nonetheless followed the founder and received the episcopacy from his hands. These last few days, even after the reception of his superior, he has called the faithful to unity in several different places.
But this, however, does not prevent the promoters of division from doing their work. Because, in the end, let us imagine a regularized Society: its priests will keep publishing the same weekly announcements, or pronouncing the same sermons. And its leaders will continue to criticize Assisi and the new mass. But a division for passionate motives will have as a consequence a decrease in the number of priests; the separatists will go to the large metropolitan areas, there where the greater number of faithful are found. On the other hand, in remote areas, the faithful will no longer benefit from the sacraments. And schools will close. Such will be the fruit of the division inspired by the enemy of God and by the historical enemies of the Society.
3. A thorn for the Church.
The Society of Saint Pius X has a prophetic role in today's Church. If it were nothing more than the work of 550 priests along with their tens or hundreds of thousands of faithful, no one - and the Pope above all - would care for it. The Society is a thorn for the Church as the Society of Jesus was in its time, always condemned and regularized for its steadfast witness to the faith. The strongest souls are those that do not abandon everything under the impact of emotions, at the very gate of regularization or condemnation, that is, of the fact of a change of situation. They are those who manage to cross the ages and to withstand the circumstances with the same witness of faith. "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee," says Psalm 90.
This providential work lives essentially off two forces. First, the graces that God grants to it; then, the charism of its founder that remains the main opposing force to the new doctrines of the Council, whatever those who dispute the Society's legacy, on one side or the other, may say. It is not the sermon of a Father X or of a Father Y that will change that. It is not the admonition of a Prelate Z that will modify it. The Society is the bearer of a patrimony, that of the Church, that it transmits and will transmit, not only to some faithful, but to the largest number, in particular to the priests, whom Abp. Lefebvre had chosen as his preferred targets in a work that viewed itself primarily as priestly, apostolic, directed towards priests.
True, this work of the Fraternity does not possess the gift of everlastingness. But its founder recalled correctly that God did not have the cynicism of bringing souls to combat to finally abandon them, agonizing, on the battlefields: "I do not believe," he said, "that the good God could have said up to now, 'Go on, go on,' and that suddenly He says, 'Stop!' When the works are good, He wants them to go on." Abp. Lefebvre accepted huge sacrifices for the unity of his work. He will keep watch, one more time, that it may be liberated from the spirit of compromise as well as from that of despair, so that it may keep on advancing on this fine line that separates the Neo-modernist heresy on one side from the Sedevacantist schism on the other.