Rorate Caeli

SSPX-Rome: Do some want to be more "Lefebvrist" than Lefebvre himself?

On April 30, we published the May editorial of Father Michel Simoulin for the newsletter of the Toulouse (France) priory of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Le Seignadou (We are not 88ers). Simoulin, currently serving as chaplain for the Dominican teaching sisters of Fanjeaux, previously served as rector of the University Institute of St. Pius X, rector of the International Seminary of St. Pius X in Écône from 1988 to 1996, and superior of the Italian District of the SSPX. 

This is the main excerpt of his June editorial for Le Seignadou:

Since the 1970s, we have been engaged in resistance. ... This is a difficult attitude to maintain, requiring great, supernatural wisdom, of which Archbishop Lefebvre left us a fine example, one very difficult to follow. For a long time I have been noticing that without this wisdom we easily fall into challenging all authority, whatever it may be and whatever reason: family, school, chapel, religious or priestly institute, and so forth. This goes further than simple disobedience because it derives more from a gratuitous mistrust of anyone who wants to lead me somewhere I do not feel like going.

Although our area has been spared some of the troubles about which I prefer not to speak, and to follow up our previous Seignadou editorial, it does not seem to me superfluous to return to the question of our relations with Rome.


For example, I remember quite well, during the years 1988-1991, Archbishop Lefebvre stating that if Rome wanted to resume contact with us, he would insist on beginning with doctrinal discussions. This is what we have done. But as far back as my memory serves, I have no recollection that he ever envisaged having to wait for the “conversion” of Rome before going further. He knew too well what the Church is, to pretend to “convert” Rome. He knew that it is illusory to imagine that Rome would be able to disavow Vatican II or condemn its most condemnable theses! He knew better than we, we who so much like to sermonize the Pope and who dream of instantaneous “victory,” that it would take decades, and undoubtedly several generations, for Rome to abandon and forget these disastrous theses. At the very least, he would say, he wanted to continue going to Rome in the hope of “doing them a little good,” to make his objections heard and, if possible, admitted, so that he would be allowed to continue his work.


Today, there are some who want to be more “Lefebvrist” than he! And they reproach Bishop Fellay, of course, for not being “Lefebvrist” enough because he does not repeat exactly what Archbishop Lefebvre said twenty or thirty years ago.


It seems to me that part of their difficulty arises because these individuals, who are very learned and very intelligent, do not always act under the motion of the supreme gift, Wisdom. This is the wisdom of St. Joan of Arc, who reduced to silence the most erudite theologians. The gifts of knowledge and understanding are excellent, but that of Wisdom is better still, as charity is superior to faith. These individuals carefully analyze all the Pope’s statements, they reason, they construct clever syllogisms. A few examples, among others, will make my statement sufficiently clear: Pius XII had said that the Church is this. Now Benedict XVI says that the Church is that. Therefore the Church of Benedict XVI is not the Catholic Church. Or else: Archbishop Lefebvre had said this about the meeting at Assisi in 1986. Now Bishop Fellay said that about the meeting at Assisi in 2011. Therefore Bishop Fellay is not faithful to Archbishop Lefebvre. He is under Benedict XVI’s spell and is betraying the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre.


What do these arguments lack for them to be true and in conformity with the spirit of Jesus Christ? These fine syllogisms leave out of account the variety of concrete situations and thus are lacking in the virtue of prudence and the spirit of wisdom in which charity penetrates everything and puts order and measure in all things, like God, who “has ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:21).

In this connection, I remember the excellent remarks of our District Superior in 2004: “I write rebellion because I do not see any other word to characterize the attitude of a priest who refuses to bow before the authority of his superior, who publicly challenges him and exhorts the faithful to imitate his example….You do not have a correct view of the government of an ecclesiastical society like the Society of St. Pius X. This government is in no wise democratic, and the decisions and acts of Bishop Fellay, its head, neither can nor ought to be called in question by a different way of thinking of one of his subordinates. Nay more, publicly expressed disagreement by a priest about an important matter concerning the government of the Society of St. Pius X constitutes a serious fault on the part of that priest. Should one consider oneself duty-bound to make one’s remarks or objections known, one should also know how to yield to the Superior’s decisions subsequently, even if the Superior does not consider himself obliged to take these remarks into account. This is one of the aspects of Christian humility that leads us to understand that no one normally has the necessary graces to fulfill a charge except the legitimate holder of that charge. Common sense alone would indicate that others do not know all the elements that enter into the Superior’s decision and that one ought to grant a priori that he has experience, knowledge, and other faculties that we do not possess at the same level, at least in his sphere of activity.”

Now, it is perfectly clear that Bishop Fellay, and we with him, have no intention of selling our inheritance for a comfortable canonical situation, and that we will refuse any solution that would not guarantee our safety from the local Ordinaries as well as from that sinister Ecclesia Dei [Commission], so as to be able to continue to serve the Church according to our proper charism, that of our foundation, which was blessed and encouraged at one time by the Church.


The fundamental question always comes down to our love for the Church. Do we love the Church, even sick? What would you say of a child who refused to live with his sick mother for fear of catching something? Have we so little confidence in our founding grace? Do we doubt our capacity for resistance, which has been maintained nevertheless with fidelity and courage through thirty-five years of condemnation? Are we so uncertain of our love of the Church that we should so fear contamination?


You see that this goes beyond the order of reasoning. Without ignoring the malady, it is love of the Church, our Mother, that ought to dictate our attitude. It was love of the Church that impelled Archbishop Lefebvre to create the Society and to consecrate four bishops in 1988. It was love of the Church that led the [allied] congregations [friendly to Tradition] to make the choices they made in union with him. It is still this same love that must guide our attitude in the new situation in which the Church finds itself in 2012. But to love the Church, we mustn’t jumble everything: the Church, Rome, the Pope, Benedict XVI, the Council, etc. What are we speaking of when we speak of the Church or of the Pope?


Father [Roger-Thomas] Calmel [O.P.], in a very beautiful article, left us a few enlightening passages that can help put some order in our reflections:

“There is a leader in the Church who is always infallible, always sinless, always holy, and who without intermittence or cessation in his work of sanctification. That leader is the only one in charge because all the others, including the highest, hold their authority only by him and for him. Now this holy, spotless leader, absolutely separate from sinners, elevated above the heavens, is not the pope; it is he of whom the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks so magnificently, the Sovereign Priest: Jesus Christ….If the pope is the visible vicar of Jesus who has ascended into the invisible heavens, he is not more than a vicar–vice gerens; he holds the place but he is still another. It is not from the pope that flows the grace animating the mystical body….The Church is not the pope’s mystical body; the Church with the pope is the mystical body of Christ.” (De l’Église et du Pape)

That says it all, I think. Confounding the pope, Rome, Benedict XVI, and the Church is condemning oneself to understand nothing of the nature of the wretchedness of the Church, a wretchedness that is part and parcel of its human condition, not its Divine Constitution. To turn down Rome and the Pope on pretext of faithfulness to the Church is seriously be in danger of rejecting the Church in its incarnational state. And to decline to accept the incarnate Church ostensibly for the salvation of souls is to be no longer Catholic. But in order to comprehend this, the mystery of the Church must be read with the spirit of wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives only to the little ones, to the “poor in spirit,” those who are happy to number among the little and not the learned, those who know they have a great deal to receive and to learn from the Church. Such are the simple people whom God can make to understand everything and in whom His will can be freely accomplished as it was in the Immaculate Virgin, the simple people who resemble our great and holy Joan of Arc, the simple in whom grace simplifies everything, who have become wiser and more prudent in their simplicity than the wise and the prudent according to the flesh and the world. “I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight” (Lk. 10:21).