The General Chapter is the supreme and extraordinary
authority of the Society of St. Pius X. The ordinary authority
is the Superior General assisted by his council. The General Chapter
is the only entity able to amend the Statutes. The
“ordinary” General Chapter meets every 12 years. Additionally, the
Superior General is allowed to convene an “extraordinary” Chapter
for exceptional reasons. After his re-election at the head of the
Society in 2006, the Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay announced
that he will convene an “half-mandate” Chapter to review the
current affairs in 2012.
The General Chapter is composed of 40 people
designated by their “office,” that is to say, their function in
the Society’s work. By office they are the standing Superior General
and his two assistants, the bishops, the former superior generals, the
Secretary General and the Bursar General, the district superiors, the
rectors of the major seminaries, and the superiors of the autonomous
houses. It also includes in its number the most senior priests who do
not hold the above mentioned charges or offices in number equal to
one-third of the number of members by office. These Chapter attendees
are called “capitularies”.
At this Chapter, the delegation from the SSPX’s
United States District will number four.
The Secretary General sends to all of the
capitularies the Chapter agenda for their personal study and
reflection. During a preparatory novena, special prayers to implore
the inspiration of the Holy Ghost over the future Chapter have been
offered by all the Society members, as well as one day of abstinence
and fasting. Upon their arrival for the Chapter, in order to dispose
themselves to act according to the Holy Ghost, the capitularies made a
spiritual retreat of five days (July 3 to 8). This chapter's retreat
was preached by Fr. Lorans, spokesman for the SSPX, former rector of
Econe as well as the Institute of St. Pius X in Paris, and the current
editor of DICI.
After these spiritual preliminaries, the oath
required by Canon Law is taken, followed by the verification of the
credentials of the members present to take part in the Chapter. Then
follows the deliberations of the Chapter studying the questions
compiled by the General House. During the Chapter itself, each member
can suggest at any time a matter to be discussed. A simple majority of
votes is required for passage of any resolution which will have force
of law for the SSPX.
This 2012 Chapter will examine how the SSPX’s Statutes
are applied, by assessing the situation, analyzing the weaknesses that
ought to be improved, establishing rules in order that the priests
might always live their priesthood better according to the statutes,
and thereby obtaining more effectively grace and Heaven’s gifts.
The present relationships with Rome will occupy also
the deliberations of the Chapter. In the today’ situation, the
resolutions or recommendations of the Chapter will
Ordinary authority in the SSPX: the Superior General and his Assistants: the General Council
According to the Statutes, the Assistants are
meant to assist. Their first duty is to advise. Together with the
Superior General, they form the General Council. They must help in the
direction of the Society. The Church, on the one hand, insists very
much on personal responsibility.
The Church is not only hierarchical, but monarchical.
There is, therefore, a responsibility that falls upon one person. On the
other hand, the Church is also prudent and knows very well that the
person in authority must be surrounded by protections, aids, and helpers
for his government. It is well known that four or six eyes see better
than two. In religious societies like the SSPX, for the important
decisions, the Church demands a decision of the Council. On those
occasions, the Assistants have a voice, their own voice, which counts
for the validity of the acts.
As for the specific function of the Assistants in the Council according
to the law, there is little specification. They must assist, and that
is a very wide charge, leaving a great freedom of action, of
interaction, between the Superior General and his Assistants for the
good running of the Society.
General Chapter schedule
The General Chapter will take place
at the International Seminary of St. Pius X in Econe, Switzerland.
The capitularies reside in the cells of the
seminarians, who have been on vacation as of the June 29th
ordinations – the chapter members also use the common bathrooms
located on each floor.
The meals are taken in the refectory where a long
table is set to enable all the chapter members to sit side-by-side
in family style. The few seminary priests and seminarians who have
remained to assist with the chapter’s practical matters have
their own refectory in a room behind the kitchen.
The chapter members rise daily at 6:00am and
pray in common the office of Prime at 6:30am in the main chapel.
Then the priests celebrate their Masses at the multiple altars
available in the seminary. The first group of priests offers their
Masses at 6:45am, then the second at 7:30am. Breakfast follows at
At 9:00am, divided into various commissions, the
chapter members go to the conference room or a seminary classroom
to discuss their assigned topics in preparation of presenting
their conclusions during a general session.
In the room where the general session is held,
tables are set up in
U-shape formation opposite of which is a desk where the General
Council sits: Bishop Fellay, the Superior General; Fr. Pfluger,
the First Assistant; and Fr. Nely, the Second Assistant.
After lunch and a recreational period, the chapter
continues at 3:00pm.
Each chapter session will end about 7:00pm and then
follow the seminary’s schedule: dinner at 7:30pm, recreation at
8:00pm, followed by Compline chanted at 8:45pm.