Rorate Caeli

A decisive man
in the Rome - SSPX negotiations

A guest contribution by Harry Griffin

The Holy See has proposed to the Society of Saint Pius X a preamble that should precede a canonical recognition. Some thoughtful minds wonder what will be the decision of the Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay. On October 7 and 8, 2011, he will assemble the main authorities of the work founded by Archbishop Lefebvre at Albano Laziale, Italy, just a few meters away from the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo. Among these, a decisive character: Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta.

The Spanish-born bishop has been traveling the world since his episcopal consecration by Abp. Lefebvre at the age of only 31. He had previously seen with his own eyes the havoc that the spirit of the Council had caused in his diocesan seminary, in La Plata, Argentina, the institution which he left in order to enter Écône, whose founder detected his qualities very soon - naming him district superior and choosing him early one as one of those who should be consecrated. If he is, on one hand, the most discreet of the four bishops of the Society, he is, at the same time, the one who ascends most in authority within it. The London exile of his British colleague has only increased this aura. Some of the Society's priests go so far as to say that they see Abp. Lefebvre in this prelate, at once composed, measured, cheerful, warm, pragmatic, and firm in the faith.

In each delicate situation, he is called upon by his superior, of which he is near. In 2008, it is to him that is given the charge of announcing, in Écône, the decision of not folding before the ultimatum presented by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. The following year, he replaced Bp. Williamson as the head of the Argentine seminary of La Reja, in a stormy atmosphere. Some months later, he is chosen to direct, in a noteworthy manner, the commission of experts assembled for the discussion with those chosen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At the same time, he is the bishop of reference of all religious communities friendly to the Society but not part of it.

This man of faith, who has never been swayed by the waves of various dissensions with which the Society has been confronted, will have his say in these discussions. He knows the Society well. He also knows Rome well, after having debated with its representatives. He knows, therefore, up to what point the Holy See is willing to go. His opinion will undoubtedly be heard with great attention.


  1. Oliver6:51 PM

    But he lacks the warrior characteristic that Lefebvre had which is found in Bp. Williamson. The Spanish speakers lack influence in the wider Society. This is to be found among the English-speaking faction behind Bp. Williamson and the French-speaking faction behind Bp. Tissier. Bp. Fellay would be unwise to force through an agreement with Rome over the heads of these two principal centres of opinion.

  2. Anonymous7:17 PM

    Could someone please enlighten me as to where the SSPX bishops have developed the curious praxis of bishops wearing a mozzeta with habitus pianus?

  3. Olivier: that's not completely true. I believe I have a good knowledge of the SSPX milieu in France, and I can assure you that Msg. Galarreta is highly esteemed (even considered a saint by some people I've met). He speaks french almost like a frenchman, by the way.

    On the other hand, I have the feeling that the reputation of Bishop Williamson outside english-speaking (and SSPX-hardliners) circles, mainly after his declarations on the events of WW2, is very low.

    It also comes to my mind that, according to Bishop Tissier's "Marcel Lefebvre", then Father Tissier was in favour of the 1988 protocol, so...

  4. Anonymous9:33 PM

    I talk to a lot of traditional catholics and if the SSPX is going to say no to Rome they are going to leave the fraternity.

  5. Anonymous10:26 PM

    Not a warrior?

    I immediately thought of this strong character when I heard the Bp Fellay was to consult the other Bishops. He is the warrior who could convince Fellay to stand strong against the enticements of the Vatican.

    I am proud to say that he confirmed a number of my children.

    May God's will be done!!

  6. Anonymous10:48 PM

    1 step forward, 2 steps back...Pray for the Holy Father.

  7. The SSPX is a religious order ruled by a superior and not superiorS. It is up to THE Superior of the Order to make the decision.

    There is 'collegiality' among the bishops of the SSPX but Abp. Lefebvre did not even want a bishop to head the society... that is why he chose Fr. Schmidberger and NOT one of his new bishops as Superior General.

  8. Tradical11:42 PM

    "...if the SSPX is going to say no to Rome they are going to leave the fraternity."

    Perspective is an important thing to keep in this situation.

    Prayer and Study are two very good ways to maintain / widen your perspective!

    With the SSPX meeting happening Oct 7/8th (coincidence - I think not!) - I know I'll be starting a Rosary Novena Sep 28th.

  9. Anonymous12:42 AM

    "Anonymous said...

    I talk to a lot of traditional catholics and if the SSPX is going to say no to Rome they are going to leave the fraternity.

    25 September, 2011 21:33"

    Ah, yes. The anonymous poster makes such a statement but then hides his name. If there is any truth in what you say then put your name with your statement to help back up the veracity of what you say. For that matter, tell us just how many you talk to. Who are they? Where are they? Honestly, if you wish to have anyone take you seriously, at least support your statement and put your name to it.

  10. Anonymous1:30 AM

    I agree with the comment on the mozetta. It is a sign of jurisdiction. The S.S.P.X recognises the jurisdiction of the local bishops. So why is this not reflected in the dress of its bishops? They can dress as bishops without breaking protocol on this, and they should do so. By the way, this point has been raised by many others in the past.


  11. Anonymous said...
    "I talk to a lot of traditional catholics and if the SSPX is going to say no to Rome they are going to leave the fraternity.

    25 September, 2011 21:33"

    As the mother of 3 Vocations, 2 towards the Priesthood and one to a Convent all under the SSPX there are many who are of the utmost hope that we will be accepted by Rome and under some sort of Ordinariate. God be praised!

  12. Oliver, please don't imply that English speaking supporters of the Society are all behind Bishop Williamson. I'm not. He's a loose cannon and a liablility, and should have no influence on the outcome of these talks.

  13. Anonymous8:17 AM

    Ahh LongSkirts, what a beautiful post!!



  14. Anonymous9:18 AM

    Let us hope and pray for an agreement!

    other "traditional" news :

    Mercoledì 28 settembre 2011, alle ore 18, l’ Card. Domenico Bartolucci, già Maestro Direttore della Cappella Musicale Pontificia, prenderà possesso della Diaconia dei Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata, Via del Corso, 45

  15. Oliver9:54 AM

    Lamentably Sane

    And I am sure those 'against' Bp. Williamson in the Anglo-Saxon world are more inclined to want an agreement. Always remember trads are well-known for voting with their feet and have sharp noses for any kind of betrayal.

  16. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Whatever they decide (and I hope the agree to this Vatican offer), I support the SSPX over the Vatican II Vatican ....especially after the Pope praising Martin Luther in Germany......UGH!

  17. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Looking back to 1988, Mgr Lefebvre rejected the protocol of May 5th. According his own words this happened not because of doctrinal reason but because of the attitudes of a lot of Bishops directly after the news of the agreement. Especially the French Bishops declared to be ready to attack the SSPX as soon as the protocol would come in force.

    Hereafter, all "Ecclesia Dei"- priests (fraternities and individual priests) were asked to recognized the statements as given in that protocol of May 5th, 1988 only.

    What can Rome ask the SSPX more then only recognizing the protocol of May 5th, 1988 of which Mgr. Lefebvre already agreed doctrinally.

  18. Robert12:38 PM

    I agree with the comment on the mozetta. It is a sign of jurisdiction. The S.S.P.X recognises the jurisdiction of the local bishops. So why is this not reflected in the dress of its bishops?...

    Not only that, they use the throne instead of the faldstool and they carry the crosier.

    They seem to make it up as they go along apparently, dispensing with birettas and lace, using the missa solemnis for bishops' masses, using female soloist, inserting the word 'perfidis' into the Good Friday liturgy if it takes their fancy, using Mass VIII all year round etc. etc. To say nothing of holding their own marriage tribunals...

  19. Melchior Cano12:53 PM

    "They seem to make it up as they go along apparently, dispensing with birettas and lace, using the missa solemnis for bishops' masses, using female soloist, inserting the word 'perfidis' into the Good Friday liturgy if it takes their fancy, using Mass VIII all year round etc. etc."

    Yes, Robert, thank you for pointing out the great danger to tradition and the Faith about the Society's use of mozettas and Mas VIII. These men claim to be traditional, but thanks to the brilliant and timely exposes of such tireless defenders of the Faith as your eminent self and of course the multitude of Anonymouses who make up your train, we know the truth.

    Though seriously, get a life. Rubrics are important, yes; but your comments are not in any way pertinent to the discussion at hand, and are certainly less than helpful under the current climate.

  20. I completely agree with Melchior Cano - wonderful pseudonym, by the way.

  21. Anonymous2:40 PM

    The mantelleta is no longer worn by bishops to show that one does have a jurisdiction - Pope Paul VI altered the rules and prescribed the mozzetta for all occasions, even audiences with the pope.

  22. Anonymous2:46 PM

    "They seem to make it up as they go along apparently, dispensing with birettas and lace, using the missa solemnis for bishops' masses, using female soloist, inserting the word 'perfidis' into the Good Friday liturgy if it takes their fancy, using Mass VIII all year round etc. etc."

    Robert to answer:

    The use of the biretta per the 1962 missal is actually optional (cf. J.B. O'Connell, "The Celebration of Mass...".

    Nor is lace required, except for the prelate's rochet; in fact, it is presumed by rubricians (and encouraged) that even a priest's surplice is of plain linen.

    The use of High or Solemn Mass by a bishop was already allowed (and practiced) before 1962, but this was ratified in 1963 via the liturgical instruction, "Inter Oecumenicis."

    Of course, the use of female solists is an abused and should be stopped - many SSPX priests have worked hard to eradicate such abuses that existed prior to the Council.

    The SSPX uses the 1955 OHS (Holy Week) "grosso modo"; this has the "perfidis" clause for Good Friday.

    Obviously the constant use of Mass VIII is not good; but this is not being done everywhere - at my SSPX chapel, the Kyriale mode is practically never Mass VIII.

  23. servo4:20 PM

    'I talk to a lot of traditional catholics and if the SSPX is going to say no to Rome they are going to leave the fraternity.'

    Yeah, and I remember estimating to me that half the SSPX could quit if the Traditional Mass were freed. Whew, that sure happened.

  24. phsterLamentably Sane - No, I won’t say you are not sane, but you are wrong. “Trads” as you call them, can be very contumacious when it comes to their own personal viewpoint. Almost up to violence in extreme cases.
    How do I know ? Well, I have the T shirt (from 35 years or more and can asure you ”Trads” are known for self harm.

    Melchior Cano - spot on !

    Those who know Bp Williamson will know he is not a raving lunatic, but a very good priest. Verb sap.

  25. Regarding the liturgical trivia question as to why SSPX bishops wear the odd combination of a mozzetta with a black or abitum pianum cassock:

    They do it just because that's what Archbishop Lefevbre did. For Compline every night, he would throw on over his black Holy Ghost Fathers habit a rochet and mozetta. He would also put on his skullcap, which he never wore otherwise.

    Even though this outfit was incorrect, the fact that Abp. Lefebvre did it trumped the usual rules.

    Similarly, Abp. Lefebvre would never wear a biretta — indeed, these were forbidden at Econe — because he considered them "worldly." To advocate their use was to invite denunciation to authorities as being "contre Monsigneur."

    Ah, such wonderful seminary memories!

  26. Anonymous9:51 PM

    Mons. Lefebvre sometimes got things wrong.

    The problem with birettas is not that they're "worldly", but that they're stupid - that is in their baroque form.

    If we went back to their 16c form, they would not only look more sensible, but smarter.

    + Wolsey

  27. Anonymous9:53 PM

    I do not ever intend to post an opinion on this website because I do not appreciate being called "a lazy couch potato" just because you don't agree with me about the Pope resigning yesterday. This is America and we all have a right to our own opinions without being uncharitable. You do not know a thing about me and while I love the Tradition I will not use that as an excuse to insult me. And of course the comment box gets shut off so I can't respond to that post. Less Clarity & More Charity!

  28. John McFarland10:21 PM

    Dear Father Cekada,

    I have the feeling that you're leaving something out of the birettas are worldly story.

    Perhaps it's the Archbishop's judgment regarding rigorism, particularly in its American manifestations.

  29. kaufman31610:41 PM

    Fr. Cekada, would you also say this is why the SSPX bishops use the crozier, episcopal crosses with green and gold cord, the Throne wherever they may be (a privilege given to His Grace singularly in his mission days), etc. - that "they do it just because that's what Archbishop Lefebvre did"?

  30. Anonymous11:30 PM

    Can’t resist it and I think it has to be said: Archbishop Lefebvre set up the Society of St. Pius X with a strict prohibition: no bishop he consecrated could be Superior General. The election of Bishop Fellay altered that mandate. If His Excellency, Bishop Glarreta, is “another Lefebvre” he will move to end the appearance of a counter hierarchy, by restoring a priest to the office of Superior General, as the founder of the SSPX intended. Thank you.


  31. Anonymous11:34 PM

    Fr. Cekada: as you should know, the biretta was effectively banned at the SSPX's seminaries (as were lace surplices for seminarians not serving as ministers at liturgical functions) to combat the danger of seminarians becoming more preoccupied with biretta-etiquette (or how long their lace hem was) rather than their formation of their spiritual life.

    This was also an extension of the simplicity that the Archbishop had, particularly in ruling that the official dress of SSPX clerics was a Jesuit-style cassock with a plain sash (without fringe) and regular black shoes (no emphasis on silver buckles, etc.). This was also motivated by his days as a missionary in Africa, where the Holy Ghost Fathers typically did not wear a biretta.

    Also, the use of the biretta in the SSPX's chapels is optional and some priests avail themselves of the "holy hat" while others do not.

  32. Anonymous11:39 PM

    Note to Fr. Cekada

    Did you ever hear of gratitude?

    No wonder you have so much in-fighting in your own group with the example you set.

    Who trained you and ordained you a priest?

    We live in a modern society marked by gross ingratitude toward our fathers, both physical and spiritual fathers.

    Criticize Archbishop Lefebvre if you must, but do so without the sarcasm and with some sense of what you owe him.

    Thank you.


  33. Dang, that came out garbled. Trying to say 'somebody estimated...' Not that anyone cares but me.

    Oh, and hi Fr. Cekada, was just reading your new book a couple days ago.

  34. Anonymous2:33 AM

    Vincent: "Archbishop Lefebvre set up the Society of St. Pius X with a strict prohibition: no bishop he consecrated could be Superior General."

    Never has this been stated in the documents that pertain to the SSPX (i.e., its Statutes), nor would it, as it is often a common practice to have a bishop serve as the Superior General (just as Archbishop Lefebvre did for the Holy Ghost Fathers and the SSPX).

    The Archbishop *did* think that it would not be prudent to have a bishop as a superior general so soon after the 1988 Episcopal Consecrations (to avoid the look that somehow jurisdiction was being given, etc.), but the General Council decided in 1994 that this danger was no over (as they publicly stated after electing Bishop Fellay who they thought was the best choice - and so far, has proven them right).

  35. Oliver9:28 AM

    The election of Bp. Fellay as SG by the narrow Society conclave (against the archbishop's wishes) was the best choice if it was required that there should be a long era of indecision, political posturing and vanity displays to keep the Society just where it wants to be.

  36. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Fr. Cekada,

    Thank you for the explanation.

    Anonymous 25 Sept 19:17

  37. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Oliver: and by what authority are you able to make such absurd statements concerning the SSPX?

    Considering that the SSPX is practically the only traditional religious congregation that can go "toe-to-toe" with Rome, I would say your observations are rather wide of the mark

  38. An SSPX priest stated that the longer The Society was semi-detached from Rome the greater the danger of such becoming permanent. I am also reminded of a time chart published which demonstrated the progress of Mother Church from the time of the Apostles. The same indicated the several and various schisms, etc., which had departed from the trunk and then splintered even further, giving rise to a proliferation of sects. SSPX beware of that danger.

    It is imperative that SSPX churches do not come under the control of the Local Ordinaries, hence the Ordinariate route. But the said Ordinaries should not be able to close churches without offering the same to the Traditional Orders, SSPX included.

    When Fr. Black was Superior in the UK, SSPX clergy had the benefit of cordial relation with their Diocesan conferes. The +Williamson banishment to the UK has created a following of sycophants to the detriment of The Society.


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