Fr. Dominique Bourmaud, a priest of more than 35 years ordained by Abp. Lefebvre in 1981, is the latest in a recently growing group of SSPX priests poorly attempting to find fault with the legitimate principles of the Resistance.
In an article called “A Treacherous Dilemma,” posted in the Nov-Dec issue of The Angelus, we find Fr. Bourmaud accusing the Resistance of harboring a schismatic mindset or tendency. In this brief post, we shall explain the manifest flaws in his position and that this accusation is nothing more than a regurgitation and neo-propagation of the broken “prudence” of the FSSP.
Fr. Bourmaud starts his article by presenting the question of obedience, and he rightly points out that the stakes are high:
We are dealing with God’s glory and the salvation of souls. It is this dilemma which this article wishes to address. The Church, society of the faithful founded by Christ, is divine and human. Being divine, it is endowed with indefectibility and Papal infallibility and even the mark of sanctity. Yet, being human, the same Church is composed of fallible men who, often enough, have failed in their God given duties….the unity of government, which rests in the Pope, is at the service of the unity of the Faith and the sacraments, and not the other way around.
Nothing to contend with so far. He is exactly right. And it is precisely for the glory of God and the salvation of souls that we, with sadness, have not only had to disobey Pope Francis, but now also have to resist and disobey Bishop Fellay and other superiors of the SSPX. Because “the unity of government…is at the service of the Faith.”
Fr. Bourmaud further lays out sound teaching:
The superiors have authority over Church members in all that pertains to the spiritual good of the faithful and stimulates their faith and the sacramental practice. This their privilege and duty is correlative to the right and duties of their subjects. The latter indeed are duty bound to pay respect and obedience to their legitimate superiors in spiritual matters. They also enjoy also the right to be governed properly by superiors whose office is—we can never stress this enough—to teach them the faith, the morals and the proper sacraments. Along with this, the subjects have the right—nay, the duty!—to resist those superiors who fail them in their office. Indeed, what should we say of a prelate who would be wielding his God given authority to deregulate the sacraments and denigrate the faith? Worse even if, under cover of his supreme infallible authority, the pope were allegedly to teach the opposite of what has always and everywhere been believed and practiced. Not only should he not be followed, but he should be publicly rebuked for publicly misleading the flock.
We could not agree more. We have a duty to resist those superiors who fail us in their offices.
Furthermore, we agree that a Pope teaching the opposite of the faith “should be publicly rebuked.” And so why has the Society, more specifically Bishop Fellay, not issued any such rebuke of Pope Francis? Are we to believe it is because there is no just cause? Certainly not. No, we know the real reason. Bp. Fellay doesn’t believe it is his duty, does not believe it to be necessary. He himself admitted he just tucked that correction of Amoris Laetitia right back into his drawer after the “Grand Dubia” was issued. And yet even now, with two of the four Cardinals dead (RIP) and the other two floundering and seemingly lacking courage or command, the most Bp Fellay can muster up is to sign a papal correction which is of questionable integrity due to multiple references to Vatican II to justify itself. But nothing public and exclusively with his name alone.
Fr. Bourmaud goes on to describe a long line of Popes behaving badly:
Church history has been long enough to reveal to us these human foibles common especially among high ranking men, including Popes, acting more like Machiavellian politicians than saintly pastors.
This is certainly true of Pope Francis today. What grieves us equally is that Bp. Fellay too gives us the strong impression of being more of a “Machiavellian politician” than a “saintly pastor.” The deal with Rome, albeit under the guise of “ensuring our preservation ‘as we are,’” is the key mission.
Fr. Bourmaud continues:
This right for Catholics to request a frank discussion from a superior, suspected of failing in his religious duties, is like walking on an alpine crest. If the superior is failing in his authoritative duty, how can that society maintain proper order? On the other hand, by what authority may a subject scold his failing superior? This was the delicate situation which Archbishop Lefebvre faced in 1976. This is the situation which traditionalists are still facing today.
We have countless times, in private and in public, requested explanation, clarification and justification from Bp. Fellay. The situation which the Abp faced with Rome is one we continue to face today, and we have to add to it a parallel situation with Bp Fellay himself. He is failing in his duties, so “how can [the] Society maintain proper order?” There is no order. Many priests have been expelled. Others have left voluntarily. And still more have continued to protest from within. But this all seems to mean very little to Bp Fellay. He will not listen to the scolds from his subjects.
Fr. Bourmaud clarifies the definition of schism:
The Traditionalist movement has steadily been accused of being a sect, a schismatic group…What, we ask then, constitutes properly a schism? Canon Law defines it as the pertinacious rejection of the authority of the Supreme Pontiff. This supposes the recognition that the man on Peter’s throne is legitimately considered as Pope but, along with it, the schismatics stubbornly refuse to recognize his Papal authority over them…Can we call schismatic someone who accepts the papal power but refuses to obey him on one given instance? No, because schism consists in the rejection of the Papal authority absolutely, and not only partially.
Sound explanation. He goes on…
A bishop said one day to Archbishop Lefebvre: “I would rather be wrong with the Pope than true against him.” He replied that Christ was the truth, and thus, he would rather be right with Christ than wrong with the Pope. Confronted with the formidable dilemma offered him: join Modernist Rome or secede from Rome, the crestline held by Archbishop has always been: “Neither heretic nor schismatic.” This is no comfortable position: to recognize a failing superior is like consulting a contagiously sick doctor who alone can give you the right prescription. You want to honor his authority and good counsels and, yet, preserve yourself from his lethal virus. Hence, Bishop Bernard Fellay, in the footsteps of our founder, has always responded to Rome’s call while making clear demands so as to protect our traditional identity.
Two important notes from this paragraph before we get to the meat of his article.
- Traditional Society Catholics today are faced with a new dilemma. Join Modernist Rome by staying with the Liberalism-laden SSPX, or secede from said SSPX and be left in many cases without the Mass and the Sacraments?
- “This is no comfortable position.” Recognizing and confronting a failing superior is not “comfortable.” Yet we shall see below that Fr. Bourmaud contradicts himself not once, but twice.
There is a real danger for us as traditional Catholics to ignore at least practically the divinely constituted authority of the Pope and bishops because we are comfortable in our current situation and deem it inconvenient to accommodate even the legitimate commands of our ecclesiastical superiors.
So it is not comfortable to lawfully resist a superior, but it is because we are too comfortable that we resist in excess? He really believes it is due to “inconvenience” that we are fighting this fight?
The danger of turning our small communities into religious ghettos lurks on the horizon, and this danger is prevalent within the so-called resistance movement.
This is the same argument already poorly formed by Fr. Schmidberger a few years ago. The threat of developing a “ghetto mindset” by persisting in a strict defense of Tradition and by not desiring to put ourselves in a voluntary occasion of sin through excessive coziness with the Modernists. This idea doesn’t even merit refutation because it is self-defeating.
What we can say is that there is a “ghetto mindset” that is prevalent in Society chapels, but not in the way Fr. Bourmaud suggests. Rather, we see in many chapels a serious lack of Christian hospitality and welcoming, especially toward people newly visiting the parish. How many women have raced to the back not to greet a new woman but rather to promptly notify her of our strict dress code and the need to veil herself should she ever dare to show her face again? How many families have come in and sat in the back, walked into the vestibule afterward only to be ignored by every passing person, leaving sadly and never to return? Yes, Society faithful love the exclusivity and protectiveness of their often hidden, rural chapels. And they further their ghetto mentalities by their widespread lack of any formalized corporal works of mercy. We are proud to come and have processions for Corpus Christi or of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, but go visit the cancer patients in the hospitals? Go work at the food bank? Go to the soup kitchen? Go to the prisons?! Who possibly has time for such things??
Fr. Bourmaud would be better served writing a corrective exhortation on these prevalent “ghetto” issues than to try to conjure up false ones.
Of course, we can never cooperate in the errors running rampant through the modern Church. Yet at the same time, if we hesitate to acknowledge the authority of the Pope as head of the Universal Church, if we refuse to exhibit the proper respect, reverence and obedience to our ecclesiastical superiors, do we not practically deny our ties to the Roman hierarchy in order to seek our own secluded ease and personal convenience? Does this attitude not draw near to a schismatic attitude in its own right?
At some point the excessive “respect” becomes more of a vain formality and a show of phony politesse than true respect or reverence. Obedience is subject to justice and a vehicle of charity, neither of which have an indefinite tolerance for the rampant Modernist doctrine being spewed from Francis, et al. True charity would address them with formality but with firmness, and would do so relentlessly and publicly for the good of the whole world.
As for the question of denying “our ties to the Roman hierarchy,” this is a problematic statement/question for two reasons:
- What accord does Christ have with Belial? Francis is preaching the gospel of the Antichrist. Truly he is. So what ties do we have with him? What ties ought we to desire?
- Again with this idea that we somehow do this for “ease” (aka comfort) or “personal convenience.” Does thousands of SSPX faithful traveling hours every Sunday each way to access the Sacraments give the impression of ease and convenience? Even more we would say that is not true for the Resistance faithful, many of whom have endured not only the persecution of the world and the mainstream Novus Ordo, but also persecution from the SSPX faithful who ridicule and look down upon them without even understanding themselves a shadow of what the Abp taught and fought for. The ones who desire now to have visible “ties” with Francis are the ones who want ease and personal convenience. They want the comfort of a deal with Rome. Once a personal prelature is inked, nobody is allowed to call us nasty “schismatics” anymore.
And finally, to the question of whether or not we are developing a schismatic attitude…No. We are not. We have a right, rooted firmly in the rights of Christ the King and the rights of the Mystical Body of Christ, to unequivocally INSIST that the Pope actually teach Catholic doctrine. Resisting a Modernist Pope at every turn is not schismatic, it is our duty and our right. To suggest otherwise is a damnable suggestion.
And, closer to home, the attitude of turning on all sides every single word coming out of the mouth of a Superior General can only raise suspicion and the spirit of critique among subordinates. Does this foment peace and concord among souls? Is this really harmonizing the simplicity of the dove with the prudence of the serpent? Is this not rather ruining the vital channels of grace for each one of us?
If every word coming out of Bishop Fellay’s mouth is being scrutinized, it is being done because he has brought this upon himself. First with the near-miss suicide of the Society in 2012, and ever since then with his problematic and weak comments which very often contradict not only the Abp but also even himself from previous years. In the face of such contradiction, we are reminded of Sacred Scripture: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.” (1 Thess 5:21-22)
It is not this scrutiny of his words that robs us of our peace or that creates discord. Bp Fellay’s recurring and public desire to link us to Modernist Rome in a formal manner via a Personal Prelature robs us of our peace of soul and has led to the lack of concord which exists with the Resistance. It was he who cast out Bp Williamson, and it is he who departs from the last wishes of the holy Archbishop.
Another weak piece of propaganda from the SSPX. Three Hail Mary’s for Fr. Bourmaud to see more clearly.