Letter to Friends & Benefactors
January 6, 2003
Feast of the Epiphany
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Our relations with Rome
Once again our Letter to Friends and
Benefactors is reaching you a little late. Once again we hesitated to write to
you sooner for fear of leaving out an important development in our relations
with Rome, especially after the Campos-Rome agreement. In the eyes of Rome,
obviously, what happened in Campos was merely meant to be the prelude to our own
"regularization" in the Society of St. Pius X, but in our eyes what is
happening to our former friends should rather serve as a lesson to us.
Generally speaking, Rome means, all things
being equal, to come to an agreement with the SSPX. On all sides we hear that
the pope would like to settle this matter before he dies. Alas, our fears roused
by the Campos agreement have proved to be well-founded, and the evolution we
observe of the Campos Apostolic Administration, contrary to Roman expectations,
leaves us distrustful.
Of course we are dealing with a volatile
situation capable of sudden and surprising changes, like in times of political
instability. And in such a situation, nobody can be certain of what turn it will
take. Also we do behold in the Vatican offices a certain questioning of the way
things have gone for the last few decades, and a desire on the part of some
officials to put an end to the downhill slide.
However, it is clear that the principle
governing today's Rome is still to put the Council into practice as has been
done for the last 40 years. Neither official documents nor general policy show
any fundamental re-thinking of this principle, on the contrary, we are always
being told that what the Council set in motion is irreversible, which leads us
to ask why there has been a change of attitude with regard to ourselves. Various
explanations are possible, but it is primarily because of the pluralist and
ecumenical vision of things now prevailing in the Catholic world. According to
this vision, everybody is to mix together without anybody needing any longer to
convert, as Cardinal Kasper said in connection with the Orthodox and even the
Jews. From such a standpoint there will even be a little room for Catholic
Tradition, but for our part we cannot accept this vision of variable truth any
more than a mathematics teacher can accept a variable multiplication table.
The day will come, we are sure and certain,
when Rome will come back to Rome's own Tradition and restore it to its rightful
place, and we long with all our hearts for that blessed day. For the time being,
however, things are not yet at that point, and to foster illusions would be
deadly for the SSPX, as we can see, when we follow the turn of events in Campos.
For this purpose, let us emphasize two points in the evolution of the Campos
situation: firstly, how their attitude to Rome has changed since the agreement
and secondly, how Campos is moving further and further away from ourselves, with
all the upset that that implies.
Changes in Campos
Campos, through its leader, Bishop Rifan, is
crying out for all to hear that nothing has changed, that the priests of the
Apostolic Administration are just as Traditional as before, which is the essence
of what they have been granted, and why they accepted Rome's offer: because Rome
approved of the Traditional position.
For our part, let us begin by noting that we
are well aware that in any disagreement one tends to discredit one's adversary.
For instance in the case of our former friends in Campos, there are certainly
false rumors circulating to the effect that "Bishop Rifan has concelebrated the
New Mass", or, "Campos has completely given up Tradition". However, that being
said, here is what we observe:
The Campos website lays out the Campos position on the burning
question of ecumenism: they claim to follow the Magisterium of the Church,
past and present. There are quotes from Pius XI's encyclical letter
Mortalium Animos, next to quotes from John Paul II's Redemptoris Missio.
We cannot help observing that there has been a careful selection process:
Campos quotes John Paul II's traditional passages while other passages
introducing a quite new way of looking at the question are passed over. We
Being Catholics, we have no particular teaching of our own on the
question. Our teaching is none other than that of the Church's Magisterium.
The extracts which we publish here from certain documents old and new, bear
especially on points of Catholic doctrine which are in greater danger today.
The ambiguity implicit here has become
more or less normal in the new situation in which they find themselves: they
emphasize those points in the present pontificate which seem favorable to
Tradition, and tip-toe past the rest. Say what we will: there took place in
Campos on January 18, 2002, not only a one-sided recognition of Campos by
Rome, as some claim, but also, in exchange, an undertaking by Campos to keep
quiet, And how could it be otherwise? It is clear by now that Campos has
something to lose which they are afraid or losing, and so in order not to lose
it they have chosen the path of compromise: "We Brazilians are men of peace,
you Frenchmen are always fighting". Which means that, in order to keep the
peace with Rome, one must stop fighting. They no longer see the situation of
the Church as a whole, they content themselves with Rome's gesture in favor of
a little group of two dozen priests and say that there is no longer any
emergency in the Church because the granting of a traditional bishop has
created a new juridical situation... They are forgetting the wood for a single
Bishop Rifan, in the course of a brief
visit to Europe, went to see Dom Gerard at Le Barroux Abbey in France to
present his apologies for having so criticized him back in 1988 when Dom
Gerard condemned Archbishop Lefebvre's consecrating or four bishops. In a
lecture he gave to the monks, Bishop Rifan pretended there were two phases in
the life or Bishop de Castro Mayer: up till 1981 he was supposedly a docile
bishop respecting the rest of the hierarchy, from 1981 onwards he was a much
harder churchman... "We choose to follow the pre-1981 de Castro Mayer",
said Bishop Rifan to the monks, some of whom were surprised at such words, and
one of them was scandalized to the point of coming over to the SSPX.
Within this way of thinking even the
Novus Ordo Mass can be accommodated. Campos forgets the 62 reasons for having
nothing to do with it, Campos now finds that if it is properly celebrated, it
is valid (which we have never denied, but that is not the point). Campos no
longer says that Catholics must stay away because the New Mass is bad, and
dangerous. Bishop Rifan says, by way of justifying his position on the Mass:
So we reject all use of the
traditional Mass as a battle-flag to insult and fight the lawfully constituted
hierarchical authority of the Church. We stay with the traditional Mass, not
out of any spirit of contradiction, but as a clear and lawful expression of
our Catholic Faith (…)
We are reminded
of the words of a Cardinal a little while back: "Whereas the SSPX is FOR
the old Mass, the Fraternity of St. Peter Is AGAINST the New Mass. It's not
the same thing". That was Rome's argument to justify taking action against
Fr. Bisig of the Fraternity of St. Peter at about the same time that Rome
was cozying up to the SSPX. The cardinal's curious distinction is now being
put into practice by Campos, as they pretend to be for the old Mass but not
against the new. Likewise for Tradition, but not against today's Rome.
"We maintain that Vatican II cannot contradict Catholic Tradition",
said Bishop Rifan quite recently to a French magazine, Famille Chretienne.
Yet a well-known cardinal said that Vatican II was the French Revolution
inside the Church. Bishop de Castro Mayer said the same thing....
So little by little the will to fight grows
weaker and finally one gets used to the situation. In Campos itself, everything
positively traditional is being maintained, for sure, so the people see nothing
different, except that the more perceptive amongst them notice the priests'
tendency to speak respectfully and more often of recent statements and events
coming out of Rome, while yesterday's warnings and today's deviations are left
out. The great danger here is that in the end one gets used to the situation as
it is, and no longer tries to remedy it. For our part we have no intention of
launching out until we are certain that Rome means to maintain Tradition. We
need signs that they have converted.
Leaving the SSPX behind
Besides this wholly foreseeable evolution of
minds by which the Campos priests have, whatever they say, given up the fight,
we must note another occurrence, the increasing hostility between us. Bishop Rifan still says that he wants to be our friend, but some Campos priests are
already accusing us of being schismatic because we refuse their agreement with
A little like one sees a boat pushing into
mid-river, drifting down-stream and leaving the bank behind, so we see, little
by little, several indications of the distance growing between ourselves and
Campos. We had warned them of the great danger, they chose not to listen. Since
they have no wish to row up-stream, then even while inside the boat things carry
on as before, which gives them the impression that nothing has changed,
nevertheless they are leaving us behind, as they show themselves more and more
attached to the magisterium of today, as opposed to the position they held until
recently and which we still hold, namely a sane criticism of the present in the
light of the past.
To sum up, we are bound to say that the
Campos priests, despite their claims to the contrary, are slowly being
re-molded, following the lead of their new bishop, in the spirit of the Council.
That is all Rome wants -
One may object that our arguments are weak
and too subtle, and of no weight as against Rome's offer to regularize our
situation. We reply that if one considers Rome's offer of an Apostolic
Administration just by itself, it is as splendid as the architect's plan of a
beautiful mansion. But the real problem is the practical problem of what
foundations the mansion will rest on. On the shifting sands of Vatican II, or on
the rock of Tradition going back to the first Apostle?
To guarantee our future, we must obtain from
today's Rome clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday. When the
Roman authorities have re-stated with actions speaking louder than words that "there
must be no innovations outside of Tradition", then "we" shall no longer
be a problem. And we beg God to hasten that day when the whole Church will
flourish again, having re-discovered the secret of her past strength, freed from
the modern unthought of which Paul VI said that "It is anti-Catholic in
nature, Maybe it will prevail. It will never be the Church. There will have to
be a faithful remnant, however tiny".
Life inside the SSPX
Let us also tell you of life inside the
Society, to give you a little share in our apostolic joys and labors. And let us
make use of this letter to tell you a little of our activity in missionary
countries. It is true that today almost all countries, especially in our old
Europe, are again becoming missionary countries. Priests, in their apostolic
travels, visit over 65 countries, some of them still today suffering direct
persecution of the Faith. But as this letter is already long, let us confine
ourselves to two new areas of our apostolate. We had been visiting them off and
on for a number of years, but just recently we think they are opening up in an
astonishing way: Lithuania and Kenya.
In order the better to organize our
apostolate in Russia and White Russia, we have established a bridgehead in
Lithuania, a country which suffered much under Russian Communist persecution and
where it took heroism to keep Catholicism going. Once the Iron Curtain fell, the
Eastern countries put their trust in the novelties from the Vatican, being
persuaded that anything coming from the West had to be good… These countries
swiftly caught up on the state of disaster inflicted by the reforms. Any
reaction is rather passive than visible, so we do not see them taking action.
But once our priests got over the language difficulty, they are discovering
ground that promises to be fertile for Tradition, more so than our first
fruitless attempts had given us to expect. Welcomed with a severe warning from
the local bishops to Catholics to stay away from us, our priests nevertheless
discovered numerous priests wishing to join us. These explained their bishops'
severity: it was out of fear that Catholics would come to us in large numbers.
For instance we have been approached by a little congregation of sisters,
Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, Archbishop Emeritus of Kaunas.
Before he died on May 28, 2000, he left orders with the sisters: "When the
Society of St. Pius X comes, you must join them. They will restore the Church in
Lithuania". May God with His grace enable us to live up to the
Archbishop's expectation! The main cities now have their little Mass center
where interest is slight for the moment, but becomes more pressing each day.
Kenya has been receiving sporadic visits from
Society priests for the last 25 years, but we have only just discovered the
existence of a group of 1,500 faithful organizing their struggle for the Faith
with their refusal of communion in the hand and standing. Our first contacts
with them show very clearly that they are battling not only for the right way to
receive communion but also for a whole traditional attitude. We are discovering
also a number of nuns who have left their different Congregations or been chased
out of them because they refused the Vatican II reforms. Living in the world
they remained faithful to their vows. Now 16 of them are coming over to us in
the hope of being able once more to live in community.
A young priest said to us,
If you set up
a chapel here, it will empty out the cathedral. When I visit the faithful they
say to me: "Why have you changed our Church? Say Mass like it used to be!"
But I don't know the old Mass, I don't know how the Church was before. When I
ask older priests, they send me packing. Can you teach me to say the old Mass?
Can I visit you to learn?
Another priest, also young, said in a tone of voice
that spoke volumes. "I will note down in my diary for this evening: my first Tridentine
How can the Church authorities not heed the
cry of these souls thirsting for grace and the Catholic life? Beneath the ashes
and ruins left by Vatican II, there are still traditional Catholic embers
glowing, needing only to blaze up again. The Church does not die. God watches
over it. May He grant us to be His docile instruments to spread the fire that
His Heart burns to spread throughout the world!
But you in particular, dear faithful, are
well aware that we cannot manage to do all we would like to do; how we need
priests! Pray, pray the master of the harvest to send numerous workers into his
At the beginning of this new year, full of
gratitude and warm thanks for all your unfailing generosity, we entrust you with
praying for priests, for the sacrifice of the Mass. God bless you and all your
families with an abundance of all His graces.