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Interview with Fr. Davide Pagliarani:

of the outcome of the talks with Rome and of some agitation in the traditionalist world

Fr. Davide Pagliarani
during a recent visit to Asia

Part I


This interview of Fr. Davide Pagliarani (SSPX District Superior of Italy) was hosted by Marco Bongi at Albano Laziale (near Rome) on July 26, 2011. The USA District thanks the Italian District for kindly allowing us to publish this important text.

Interview granted to Marco Bongi by the SSPX’s District Superior of Italy concerning the Society’s theological discussions with Rome, the present cultural state of the world of Catholic Tradition, and also a concise commentary on the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.

Marco Bongi: The theological talks between the SSPX and the Roman authorities are coming to a close. Even though no official communiqué has been issued yet, there is no shortage of commentators who, based on leaks, are convinced that they have failed. Can you say something more about the subject?

Fr. Davide Pagliarani: I think that to consider the talks unsuccessful is an error based on prejudice. This conclusion is drawn perhaps by those who expected from the talks some result foreign to the purposes of the talks themselves.

The aim of the talks never was to arrive at a concrete agreement, but rather to compile a clear and complete dossier that would document the respective doctrinal positions of the two sides and to submit it to the Pope and the Superior General of the Society. Since the two commissions worked patiently, touching on essentially all the topics on the agenda, I do not see why anyone would have to regard the talks as unsuccessful.

The talks would have failed—this is a reductio ad absurdum argument, now—if the representatives of the Society had composed reports that did not correspond exactly to what the Society upholds, for example if they had said that collegiality or religious freedom are adaptations to the modern world that are perfectly consistent with Tradition after all. Although a certain discretion was maintained, I think that I can say that there was no risk of arriving at that unsuccessful outcome.

Anyone who does not adequately grasp the importance of such testimony on the part of the Society and of what is at stake, for the good of the Church and of Tradition, will inevitably formulate judgments that fit into other perspectives.

In your opinion, what perspectives could be misleading?

In my humble opinion there is one somewhat heterogeneous Traditionalist sector which, for various reasons, expects something like a canonical regularization of the Society’s situation.

1) Of course there are those who hope for positive repercussions for the Universal Church; I would tell these friends, however, whom I consider sincere, not to have any illusions; the Society has neither the mission nor the charism to change the Church in a day. The Society simply intends to cooperate so that the Church can reclaim her Tradition in its entirety, and it will be able to keep working slowly for the good of the Church only if it continues to be, like any work of the Church, a stumbling block and a sign of contradiction: with or without a canonical regularization, which will come about only when Providence judges that the time is ripe. Besides, I do not think that a hypothetical regularization—at the present moment—would abolish the state of necessity which continues to exist in the Church and which until now has justified the action of the Society itself.

2) On another, diametrically opposite side there are groups that I would describe as conservative, in a somewhat bourgeois sense of the word, who are anxious to say that the talks have failed while lumping them together with an attempt to arrive at an agreement: the ill-concealed intention is to prove as quickly as possible that Tradition, as the Society embodies it, will never be able to have the right of citizenship within the Church. This haste is prompted not so much by a disinterested love for the future of the Church and for the purity of her doctrine, but rather by a real fear of the impact that Tradition properly speaking might have, given the flimsiness of the conservative or neo-conservative positions. In reality this reaction reveals a slowly growing awareness—which is not acknowledged, however—of the inconsistency and the intrinsic weakness of those positions.

3) Above all, however, it seems to me that this shows the existence of groups and positions that expect some benefit from a canonical regularization of the Society, without however being willing to make Society’s battle their own or to assume the burdens and the consequences of it.

There are in fact in the diversified Traditionalist archipelago a number of “commentators” who, while expressing their essential disagreement with the Society’s line of thinking, watch with the greatest interest current developments in our cause, hoping for some positive repercussions on the institutes with which they identify or on the local situations in which they are involved. I am impressed by the palpitations experienced by these commentators every time the slightest rumor about the future of the Society crops up.

I think however that the phenomenon can be explained easily.


We are talking about a category of believers or priests who are basically disappointed and rightly feel a certain sense of instability about their future situation.

They realize that most of the promises in which they believed are scarcely being maintained and implemented.

They hoped that with Summorum Pontificum first, and then with Universae Ecclesiae, full rights of citizenship and freedom had been granted to the Tridentine rite and effectively safeguarded, but they realize that this is not going to happen peacefully, especially in relation to the bishops.

Consequently—and unfortunately—these groups are interested in the outcome of the Society’s story not so much for the sake of the doctrinal principles that support it and for the bearing it could have on the Church herself, but rather from a utilitarian perspective: the Society is seen as a breakthrough battalion of priests who now have nothing to lose but, if they obtain something significant for their congregation, will create a canonical precedent to which others will be able to appeal, too.

This attitude is morally debatable and perhaps a bit selfish, yet it has two advantages:

First of all, it paradoxically demonstrates that the Society’s position is the only credible one from which something interesting could result, and that there are many who end up referring to it in spite of themselves.

The second advantage is that it proves that if priority is not given to the doctrinal path, so as to allow the Church to recover her Tradition, one necessarily slips into a diplomatic perspective made up of uncertain calculations and unstable results, and one runs the risk of tragic disappointments.

Assuming that [if] the Vatican offered to the Society the opportunity to be structured as an Ordinariate directly subject to the Holy See, how might that proposal be received?

It would be taken calmly into consideration on the basis of the principles and priorities and above all the supernatural prudence from which the superiors of the Society have always drawn their inspiration.

Couldn’t you tell us something more?

I can only repeat what was explained clearly by my superiors from the start: the canonical situation in which the Society presently finds itself is the result of its resistance to the errors that infest the Church; consequently the possibility of the Society arriving at a regular canonical situation does not depend on us but on the hierarchy’s acceptance of the contribution that Tradition can make to the restoration of the Church.

If we do not arrive at some canonical regularization, that simply means that the hierarchy is not yet sufficiently convinced of the urgent need for that contribution. In that case we will have to wait a few more years, hoping for an increase in that awareness, which could occur along with and parallel to the acceleration in the process of the Church’s self-destruction.

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