Fr. Pfluger, since the General Chapter in July of 2006 you have been
the First Assistant of the Society of St. Pius X. In this capacity how
often have you spoken with Rome now, and with which prelates?
Contact with the
Roman authorities and bringing up the concerns of the Society in Rome
is particularly and exclusively the duty of the Superior
myself have met rather informally and on various occasions with
different persons at the Vatican. I was at the first meeting in June
2009 with Cardinal Levada that dealt with the format of the
theological discussions, and also at the recent meeting on September
Can you say that the last meeting on September 14 was different as
compared with earlier meetings?
inasmuch as the whole General Council had been invited to the meeting
ten days ago at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the
Superior General, Bishop Fellay, and both his Assistants. I should
also say that because of reporting on the event in recent months, the
meeting to which the Prefect of the CDF had invited us became the
focus of publicity and aroused great expectations.
The doctrinal preamble is of great interest to all concerned. Both
sides agreed on confidentiality, and so we cannot expect you to speak
about its contents. Allow me nevertheless to ask: What do you think of
The document allows
for corrections from our side. That is necessary also, if only to
exclude clearly and definitively even the appearance of ambiguities
and misunderstandings. So now it is our duty to send Rome an answer
that reflects our position and unambiguously represents the concerns
of Tradition. We owe it to our mission of fidelity to Catholic
Tradition not to make any compromises. The faithful, and the priests
even more, understand very well that in the past Rome’s offers to the
various conservative communities were unacceptable. If Rome now makes
an offer to the Society, then it must be made unambiguously and
unmistakably clear that it is for the welfare of the Church and
hastens a return to Tradition. We think and feel with the Catholic
Church. She has a worldwide missionary task, and it was always the
most ardent desire of our founder that Tradition should flourish again
throughout the world. A canonical recognition of the Society of St.
Pius X could accomplish just that.
Critics say that Rome is trying to set a trap for the Society with this
preamble and to take advantage of it. Once it was canonically
integrated, the Society might perhaps introduce its “charism of
Tradition” into the modern Church, but it would also have to accept
conciliar thinking and other ways of doing things for the sake of
This criticism is
altogether justified and should be taken seriously. For how can we
avoid giving the impression that this amounts after all to a tacit
acceptance, so to speak, that would in fact lead to this parallel
diversity and relativize the one truth; that is indeed precisely the
basis of Modernism.
Assisi III and even
more the unfortunate beatification of John Paul II but also many other
examples make it clear that the leadership of the Church now as before
is not ready to give up the false principles of Vatican II and their
consequences. Therefore any “offer” made to Tradition must guarantee
us the freedom to be able to continue our work and our critique of
“modernist Rome”. And to be honest, this seems to be very, very
difficult. Again, any false or dangerous compromise must be ruled out.
It is pointless to
compare the present situation with the talks in 1988. At that time
Rome wanted to prevent any sort of autonomy for the Society; the
bishop that they maybe were and maybe were not going to grant would in
any case have to be subject to Rome. That was simply too uncertain for
Archbishop Lefebvre. If Marcel Lefebvre had given in, Rome could in
fact have hoped that a Society without its “own” bishops would someday
come round to the conciliar way. Today the situation is completely
different. We have four bishops and meanwhile 550 priests worldwide.
And the structures of the official Church are breaking down faster and
faster. Rome can no longer confront the Society as it did more than
twenty years ago.
What do you think are the chances for a positive answer? Will the
Society of St. Pius X agree to the preamble?
plays an important role. Rome wants to save face in public. The pope
has already been accused too often of lifting the “excommunication” of
our bishops without preconditions. If it had been up to the majority
of the German bishops, then the Society would have to sign a blank
check recognizing the whole Council first. Incidentally, they are
demanding that now as before. Pope Benedict has not done that.
Moreover free access to the Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass [i.e.,
Tridentine Mass] was the second condition required by the Society.
Therefore Rome complied twice with the Society’s wishes. It is clear
that now they are demanding a document that can be presented to the
public. The question is, whether one can sign the document. In one
week the superiors of the Society of St. Pius X will meet in [Albano
Laziale, a suburb of] Rome to discuss this together. Of course it has
to be clear to Cardinal Levada and the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith too that they cannot insist on a document that the
Society cannot justify in turn to its members and faithful.
One last question: Who gained the greater advantage from the
theological talks: Rome or the Society of St. Pius X?
That is a very
important point, and so I will say it again: We are not that concerned
about any advantage of our own. We want to make the treasure that
Archbishop Lefebvre entrusted to our safekeeping available again for
the whole Church. To that extent, canonical recognition would be a
gain for the Church. In that way a conservative bishop, for example,
could ask Society priests to work in his diocesan seminary. Of course
the regularization of relations would also mean that Catholics who
were perhaps kept away from the Society by the label “suspended” will
now venture to take that step. But that is not what this is about. For
forty-one years the Society has grown steadily, even in spite of being
beaten with the “excommunication” stick. We are concerned instead
about the Catholic Church. Together with the Archbishop we too would
like to say [the words of St. Paul; cf. I Corinthians 11:23],
“Tradidi quod et accepi”―We hand on what we ourselves have
Thank you for the interview.