On this episode of the Flagship Show, our host Stephen Heiner is joined by His Lordship Bishop Donald Sanborn, Rector of the Most Holy Trinity Seminary in Brooksville, Florida and Father Nicolás Despósito in discussing some of the most relevant issues going on in the Society of St. Pius X around the year 2016.
As we’re living in this news-obsessed world, in which yesterday’s events are as relevant as last year’s snow that’s already been melted, some listeners might justly ask, what’s the point of vivisecting these (presumably) outdated news in 2022? We hope the following summary will convince you that whenever the true Faith is at stake, there can never be too much repetition.
Six years ago there emerged two letters, dated 1986 and 1988 respectively, handwritten by Archbishop Lefebvre, and addressed to a Mr. Wilson, whom Bishop Sanborn identifies as a very affluent businessman living at that time in Miami. These two pieces of private mail are much more than sheer memorabilia – they provide a unique insight into the mind of the late founder of the Society, as argued by Bishop Sanborn, a man who knew the Archbishop in his Ecône days.
A transcript of the two letters is provided below for your convenience (minor spelling and grammatical mistakes have been corrected and unintelligible bits omitted):
Ecône, 19 Aug. 1986
Dear Mr E. A. Wilson,
Thank you very much for your information which confirms the apostasy of the men who occupy the Vatican and the dioceses.
We have nothing to do with these non-Catholics. The La Salette’s prophecy is realised now. “Rome shall lose the faith.”
It is the time for us to keep strongly the faith and remain faithful to the tradition.
Many greetings to Mrs. Wilson and all dear children.
God Bless You
Devoutly in J. Christ and B. V. Mary
✝ Marcel Lefebvre
Ecône, 28 Oct. 1988
Very Dear Mr. E. A. Wilson,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I agree with your desire to re-ordain conditionally these priests and I have done this re-ordination many times.
All sacraments from the modernist bishops or priests are doubtful now. The changes are increasing and their intentions are no longer Catholic.
We are in the time of the great apostasy.
We need more and more Catholic bishops and priests. It is necessary everywhere in the world.
We must pray and work hard to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
I pray for you and your lovely family.
Devoutly in Jesus and Mary
Curiously enough, the contents of these two short pieces of correspondence seem to be more like a skeleton in the closet to the current SSPX leadership. One could expect at least some kind of acknowledgment of such a keepsake having come to light, yet you will search for it in vain if you decide to visit the official SSPX website. You will find there, though, a ready-made guide on how to interpret Archbishop Lefebvre’s words, depending on the mode of his communication. Here is what the Society’s Father Gregoire Celier has to tell you about what you should bear in mind when reading Archbishop’s private mail:
A private letter in which a lack of restraint and freedom of expression prevail must not be judged with the same criteria as an official communication to someone in authority.
Not quite satisfied with such hermeneutics of continuity? Why not give a listen to Bishop Sanborn’s in-depth analysis of these bombshell pieces of correspondence, a man who spent his years with the Archbishop as one of his first seminarians, was ordained a priest by the Archbishop himself in 1975, and two years later was appointed Rector of the first SSPX seminary in the United States.
Next, Bishop Sanborn and Father Despósito analyse an article by Father Robert Brucciani, the United Kingdom SSPX District Superior, entitled “Old vs New Mass: It’s in the Signs,” which was published in the September/October 2016 issue of the SSPX Newsletter Ite Missa Est. As the theme of that autumn issue was “signs of faith,” Father Brucciani attempts to convince his readers that the so-called New Mass is valid because it differs from the true Latin Mass in non-essential signs only. But what does exactly fall into the category of non-essential signs as proposed by Father Brucciani? As the author himself argues, “these fixed signs are embellished by the solemn ceremonies, the vestments, the sublime melody of Gregorian chant, the angelic harmony of polyphony and the extraordinary edifices which were built for the old Mass – cathedrals, basilicas, churches and chapels” and “the use of Latin.” What happens to these signs in the so-called new Mass? Father Brucciani claims that “the non-essential signs of the new Mass hide the reality of the Sacrifice of Calvary for our sins,” “hide the reality of transubstantiation,” that “a sense of the sacred and mystery is missing” in them, and that they “present the Mass as a celebratory meal by the people who are told that they are already saved.” Moreover, the Novus Ordo vestments and the music are presented with “infantile banality,” “the churches built for this Mass can rarely be described as anything else but ugly,” and “the multiplicity of languages” is what “cuts off both from Catholics around the world and from the saints through the centuries.” Finally, Father Brucciani asserts that “the signs of the new Mass weaken the faith of the priest and faithful” and “encourage a sacrilegious disrespect of the Real Presence.” As Father Despósito notices, all of these arguments presented by Father Brucciani are perfectly correct. However, since the SSPX District Superior fails to draw the only logical conclusion, namely that the so-called New Mass cannot proceed from legitimate Catholic hierarchy, claiming instead that “both the old and the new Mass (…) are both the same Sacrifice of Calvary made present in a sacramental manner” and thus “perfect in this regard,” he necessarily incurs the anathema of the Council of Trent, which teaches infallibly that:
If any one saith, that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, which the Catholic Church makes use of in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather than offices of piety; let him be anathema. (Sess. XXII, Can. VII)
This is the price one has to pay for disregarding Catholic principles and Catholic theology for the sake of maintaining the SSPX party line, whatever that might be at any given time. You just can’t have your cake, and eat it too, no matter what mental gymnastics you’re willing to employ.
Apart from the make-believe theology exercised by Father Brucciani in his article on the liturgy, the current Superior General of the Society of St.Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay also likes to provide his followers with plenty of information on the current state of affairs in the Church which has very little to do with stark reality, the best occasion for this being his ubiquitous conference talks, given all over the world, in which the SSPX Superior General basically recycles a list of familiar claims, reassuring his listeners that, as long as they’re willing to rally around the SSPX, they’re moving in the right direction with regards to the crisis in the Church. However, Bishop Sanborn argues that the answers to the following questions should serve as an indicator of whether the Bishop Fellay-led SSPX is indeed “turning things around”:
Are things getting better in the Catholic Church? Are more people turning away from Vatican II and turning back toward Tradition? Is the Novus Ordo hierarchy deciding to turn away from Vatican II and back toward Tradition? Is that happening? No, it isn’t! It gets worse and worse every day.
Would you like to find out how the Primate of the Benedictines was able to shock Bishop Sanborn (who thought he had already been quite shock-proof with regards to the Novus Ordo antics), get to know quasi-traditionalist ecumenism, and understand what a validly-ordained traditionalist bishop has no power to do in the current situation in the Church? Subscribe today and join Stephen, His Lordship and Father for the entertaining and informative analysis of the ever-growing problems within the Society of St. Pius X, and see for yourself just how deeply their current controversies are rooted in the past.