Rorate Caeli

"How to win friends and influence people"

It sounds like the set-up to a bad barroom joke: What do Communist China, the State of Israel, and the traditionalist Catholic Society of St. Pius X (popularly known as the “Lefebvrites”) have in common?

Actually, it sounds like the beginning of a bad article. Honestly, other than some Italian journalists and, now, the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter (popularly known as the "Heresists"), we have never heard anyone in a popular setting call those in any way related to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) "Lefebvrites". It is true that, in some Francophone areas and media, it is common to hear them (and all other traditional-minded Catholics) disdainfully called "intégristes" - but "popularly" means literally commonly said by the people; and it is simply not used in common conversation by almost anyone anywhere.

John Allen Jr. has also been recently trying to "popularize" an expression coined by Allen himself that would cover anyone who is Catholic and believes at least in the Nicene Creed - he calls them "Evangelical Catholics", but we would rather not help "popularize" the expression, because its true aim is to insist, by contrast, that this group and the others (perhaps the "Anti-Evangelical Catholics", those who are against the Gospel...) can peacefully live together inside one big tent.

We have never been fooled by Allen - as our first readers may remember from pre-Summorum days (see here and here), when, at first, he dismissed reports of the coming motu proprio as a myth: he is the most problematic kind of media-writer, one that pretends to be a "neutral journalist" and an "insightful analyst", but is in fact desperately trying to influence events. Which, of course, is exactly what he is trying to do now, by recycling old, irrelevant, and unverifiable information, behind the usual "nice" façade. We would just like to give our readers a heads-up: no one writes for the National Catholic Reporter by chance.


  1. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Just we need - another divisive label. Hard to believe there was ever a time when we were all simply Catholics.


  2. Sorry about deleting another comment by accident.

    Back to my recess - good luck, moderators!

  3. I wonder what good does Fr Zuhlsdorf see in Mr Allen? [as a writer I mean]
    He is clearly against the Catholics of the SSPX.

  4. “You think we’re in error, even if personally we’re not sinners because we’re in a state of invincible ignorance. You also say that error has no rights. Yet if you really believe that, what are you doing here talking to us?”

    In order to ameliorate your ignorance, thus rendering it provably vincible, and a matter of will, not ignorance.


    Is this really the kind of question Mr. Allen supposes constitutes a "gotcha" moment?


  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Thank you for this commentary. I have always been wary of John Allen and his superficial facade of neutrality. Your analysis, in my opinion, is spot on.

    John M.

  6. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Allen is a simpering liberal. Who cares what his pamphlet says...

  7. Anonymous5:46 PM

    Thus spake John Allen:

    “I’ve learned from hard experience that prediction is a hazardous business. But here’s one that I feel safe in making: anyone expecting this meeting to end the dispute with Rome and Ecòne (the Swiss headquarters of the Traditionalists) is going to be disappointed.”

    What an opaque, boring and arrogant thing to write. Red flag of someone who has very little faith in the Church that Our Lord founded. What about the supernatural weapons of prayer and sacrifice that undoubtedly many of the faithful have embarked on for this most important cause of unity? Not a mention. Mr. Allen doesn’t want the traditionalists in “full” communion with the Church – this is obvious. His negative bias towards them just jumps out at you.

    From his filed-away-brought-out-again article in 2010 (which he muddled into 2011 article as he refers to Assisi and the beatification of Pope John Paul II – I really found the order of the paragraphs unclear – maybe someone could enlighten me..):

    “In other words , in terms of through-the-looking-glass of Vatican Lefebvrite politics, the Vatican sent their doves while the traditionalists dispatched their hawks.”

    Come on! Give me a break!

    And as for that disparaging “Levfebvrite” label , Just like Dr. Tornielli , Mr. Allen is about as objective as my foot when it comes to the FSSPX. I wonder why. Why is the idea of the Society in full communion with our Holy Church such a problem for these vaticanists?

    Prayers from me everyday for this most important intention.

  8. Anonymous6:01 PM

    GOD only knows what is going on between the sspx and the holy seed.

  9. A huge problem I have with Allen is that there are some issues where "objectivity" is simply a facade--your love for your country, your love for your mother, your love for the Church, your love for Holy Tradition.

    However the journalists wearing black skinny jeans and second-hand clothing want to pretend, there are some things in this life that demand a response.

    Yes, objectivity is good, but it's a means to the truth, not the whole truth itself.

  10. Anonymous7:30 PM

    I'm curious if Lefebvrite might be an older term for the SSPX that has gone out of common usage in recent years? When I first learned of the SSPX in the early 90's from my grandfather, I distinctly remember him using that term. He never used it disparigingly, just matter-of-factly as a description. He was a longtime subscriber to the Wanderer and long desired the SSPX's reconcilliation with Rome. But I agree it is not a term I hear often anymore, except in usually negative terms.

    -- YoungCatholicSTL

  11. Anonymous8:51 PM

    National Catholic Reporter (popularly known as the "Heresists")....

    Now THAT is seriously funny!

  12. John McFarland1:44 AM

    Dear Young Catholic,

    Lefebvrist was, I think, pretty common in France in the Archbishop's day. Whether it still is, I couldn't say. It is to integriste as genus is to species. Here in the States, you see it, but mostly from people who've picked it up from European usage. The usual approach to the SSPX over here, from The Wanderer to the National Catholic Reporter, has been to pretend that it isn't there; and you can't speak unpleasantly of what doesn't exist.

    On the lips of any who knows anything, "Lefebvrist" it is always more or less derogatory. Its point is the same as Arian or Lutheran or Calvinist or Mennonist or Wesleyan or Millerite.

    The Archbishop's and his followers response to the usage was and is always the same: we are Catholics, and that is why we are called names.

  13. I have some acquaintances and friends who move in Traditionalist circles. Since the early 1970's, I have always spoken in English of lefebvrists when meaning those who attend churches and services of the FSSPX, which I see as a distinct religious society analagous to the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). To the best of my recollection, I have never myself used, or heard lefebvriste used as if its inherent meaning was disparaging.

    Of course, if some believe it intrinsically wrong to be an admirer or sympathiser with the views of Archbishop Lefebvre, then their usage of the term will always betray a negative view. But that is their problem, not a problem of either the label or the sympathisers of a famous man who battled so hard at the end of a fruitful life, to protect the Church for which he had worked with distinction in the salvation of souls, as its good and faithful servant.

  14. The National Catholic Distorter has long since ceased to be a credible Catholic publication in any sense of the word.

    In addition to Allen, we also have Fr. Richard "Jesus could have been married" McBrien opining on VCII ecclesiology.

    Here is a nugget from this "gem"...

    "This conciliar teaching was in sharp contrast to the widespread preconciliar assumption that the church is the Kingdom of God on earth. Thus, the parables of the Kingdom were regularly interpreted by preachers, catechists, and even some theologians as parables of the church.

    The tendency to equate the church with the Kingdom of God was denounced as a form of “triumphalism” in a famous intervention at Vatican II by the late Bishop Emile Jozef De Smedt of Bruges, Belgium.

    Article 5 was added to the Dogmatic Constitution on the church (Lumen gentium) precisely to counteract this residual habit of equating the church with the Kingdom of God.

    Just as Jesus came to announce, personify, and bring about the Kingdom of God, so too the church exists to proclaim, witness to, and help establish the Kingdom on earth and to facilitate its fulfillment at the end of history.

    But unlike Jesus, the church cannot claim to be itself the Kingdom of God. It is at most “the seed and the beginning of that Kingdom. While it slowly grows to maturity, the Church longs for the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its king” (n. 5)."

  15. It is fairly common in Italian today to hear us called "Lefebvriani".

  16. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Whether it has been "Lefebvrites" or "Lefebvriani", the context in which I have heard these labels used was most definitely disparaging. It is not the same as the names of other religious orders such as the Francicsans and Dominicans etc. From what I've read, Archbishop Lefebvre never intended to form an ecclesial movement using his name.

    At this moment in time, it seems to me, that it is a deprecating term, especially when it is penned by influential vatican journalists.


  17. James M11:33 PM

    John Allen's goal is not Truth but to please the world. Thus it is ever wearisome to read the otherwise excellent Fr Z praising him.

    May God bless Rorate Caeli for your loyalty to Christ.


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