The Society of St. Pius X recently held a conference in Portland, Oregon. It’s primary purpose was to convince the faithful that were he alive today, Archbishop Lefebvre would accept a deal with modernist Rome, and that Bishop Fellay, in dialoguing with Francis’ Vatican, is in no way betraying the Archbishop. The Society’s website describes the gathering as follows:
Mr. James Vogel’s talk centered around the chronology and happenings of the “Hot Summer,” helping the attendees to better understand what actually happened at that time since the events of 1976 are largely overshadowed by the more dramatic episcopal consecrations of 1988. Following Mr. Vogel’s discourse on the history of the “Hot Summer,” Fr. Jürgen Wegner ascended the podium to speak about the letters written between Archbishop Lefebvre and the rector of the newly-founded seminary in Econe, thus bringing to light more clearly some of the Archbishop’s thoughts and rationale in his interactions with the Holy See.
His Excellency’s discourse compared Archbishop Lefebvre’s situation with Rome in 1976 with the Society’s today and also showed how the SSPX can follow the Archbishop’s good example, glean lessons from it, and apply those lessons and experiences to the way the Society conducts its interactions with the Holy See today…
The Society is focusing on the Archbishop of the 1970s because they know full well that if the faithful’s attention is drawn to “the more dramatic” events of 1988, they will understand that the Archbishop was not, as a matter of principle, in favor of “regularizing” with un-converted Rome.
In attempting to sell the faithful on their liberal ideas, the Society’s top thinkers engage in the following behaviors.
- Remind folks about the “context” of the Archbishop’s words.
- Discredit those who use quotes from the Archbishop from 1988 onward.
- Emphasize comments the Archbishop gave during his life that support “regularization” while ignoring remarks he gave that reject “regularization.”
Two articles in particular reveal this three-pronged, long term strategy. One essay is by Fr. Michael Simoulin, published on DICI.org in 2012. Fr. Simoulin, a liberal, writes, “let us be reasonable…simple good sense and honesty should lead us to consider the current situation with different eyes than in 1988!…we should not fall into ‘eighty-eightism.’ We are no longer in 1975 with Paul VI nor in 1988 with John Paul II, but in 2012 with Benedict XVI.”
In another article, “How to Interpret Archbishop Lefebvre” (published on the Society’s website several years ago) the stigmatizing of the Archbishop’s post-1988 remarks was accomplished in a similar way. “In recent times,” the article begins, “it has not been uncommon for people to claim to know for sure what Archbishop Lefebvre would have done under present circumstances.” The author claims that there is a “war of quotes” used by some who “attempt to apply” words of the Archbishop “universally.” This, it is argued, “is a dangerous game.” We must strive to “more deeply understand” the Archbishop so we can see “why the same prudential methodology is followed still today by Bishop Fellay and the Society of St. Pius X.”
While context undoubtedly matters, it should be noted that this approach to the Archbishop mirrors almost exactly the same tactics used by the liberals at Vatican II.
Consider Fr. John Courtney Murray. Fr. Murray, an American priest, claimed Pope Leo XIII’s teachings needed to be understood “in their context.” Leo, Murray argued, was writing against the backdrop of the French Revolution. It therefore is entirely appropriate to disregard certain things he said about Church-State relations. Murray also declared that the Church in his time possessed a “deeper” understanding of “the dignity of the human person” and that by re-applying certain teachings of theologians of the Middle Ages to the 1960s the Church would be more relevant and could help save the world from destruction.
Question: Is this not the same endeavor the Society is embarking on today? Are they not taking the Archbishop of 1976, freezing him in amber, glossing over certain remarks he gave later in life, and, under the banner of having a “deeper” knowledge, re-applying his words to present circumstances in an effort to allegedly save the Church? The answer is obvious.
Notice too the terminology the Society uses to describe the Portland conference itself. Mr. Vogel, Fr. Wegner, and Bishop Fellay all helped attendees “better understand what happened” in the 1970s by “bringing to light more clearly” the Archbishop’s words in an effort to “glean lessons from him.” In essence, they went “deeper” into the thought of Abp. Lefebvre. The progressives in the 1960s spoke the same way.
It seems to us that the SSPX is engaging in a sort of “archaeologism,” a term Pope Pius XII used to counter those who desired an “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism” concerning the mass. The Society’s leaders exaggerate the “antiquarian” views the Archbishop once held and they fail to inform the faithful of the development he underwent later in life regarding his approach to the Roman authorities (see his One Year After and Two Years After the consecrations interviews).
The simple fact is that Archbishop Lefebvre of 1976 is not the Archbishop Lefebvre of 1988, at least in regards to SSPX-Rome relations. His decades of experience with the Conciliar Church and its cunning ways provided him with wisdom that cannot be discounted. The Holy Spirit undeniably increased sanctifying grace in the Archbishop’s soul after the ’88 consecrations. As a result, he could see more clearly the error “regularization” with an un-converted Rome was.
To ignore the remarks the Archbishop gave during the last years of his life regarding SSPX-Rome relations and to exalt what he said 15 years earlier is at best a momentary amnesia and at worse a sin of omission. Pray that in the future the leaders of the Society preach the words of Archbishop Lefebvre in their entirety.