The General Chapter

I think that the entire situation with the SSPX has been a great test for those who only get their news from 1-2 sources. For those of us who use a multiplicity of voices to read the mosaic of the story, the narrative is fairly consistent, though it has had some real surprises. For others who don't, they may find themselves on the edge of their seats, lurching from one news story to the next. With about a week to go before the General Chapter, at which this issue will probably be resolved definitively, I think it is helpful to clarify a few things once more. 

1. Bishop Fellay has been pushing for a practical deal since the thought-shift in the leadership that the doctrinal impasse should not prevent a canonical agreement. He has sent out District Superiors to back him both explicitly (Bishop Fellay "alone" can decide these matters, we cannot be "88-ers," and "stay off the internet") and implicitly.  This really can't be denied.

2. Surprisingly (at least to this commentator), several SSPX priests have spoken out. Now, keep in mind that there are over 600 SSPX/SSPX-affiliated priests worldwide so even if we go by a very generous count of 25 "resistors," that's 4%. Four percent. Even if we triple that number and say that represents the number of laypeople attached to those priests, that's 12%. Hardly a threatening number. I'm sure that Bishop Fellay, who is an accountant by trade, had these numbers within his "margin of error" for those who might resist him. And as I've said in all my articles prior to this one - by what theological principles do SSPX priests or faithful resist a "deal" with Rome? Is this man the Pope or not? We hear the word "Modernism" so often that we forget that it is a heresy. Fr. Joseph Pfeiffer, in the sermon he gave in the Phillippines some weeks ago now, referred to Benedict XVI as Modernist numerous times. So has Bishop Tissier, both in print and in sermons. So, if he is a Modernist, he is a heretic. And yet, for these clergy, there is no big deal that the man they consider Pope is a heretic in their eyes. No longer the tedious "formal/material" distinctions. They call him a heretic outright, but for them, no consequences for such a label. In these priests' world, resistance is their guide. There will never be an agreement with Rome because in their world, they are right and Rome is wrong. They will never address the enormous theological problem that they are implying that the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church (not simply a Pope) can err.

3. Those priests who have spoken out have been disciplined. This is not at all surprising. Bishop Fellay's iron-fisted moves have been behind the curtains for many years so now that everything is out in the open a lot of people are understanding the dictatorial way in which he runs the SSPX. Some poor lost souls consider "dictatorship" the same thing as "leadership" and completely think that just because the religious life involves following orders that all those orders make sense and have some purpose. No. Sometimes they are pointless and wrong. Sometimes they are beyond the scope of the constitutions of that order.

4. The intervention of the three bishops prevented the publication of a deal prior to the General Chapter.  While it was an open secret that there was opposition from some of the bishops no one could possibly have anticipated the wiki-leaked letter.

5. Bishop Fellay does need the support, not necessarily the approval, of the District Superiors. The meeting at Albano last year was to have private one-on-one meetings to gauge support. The General Chapter was to run the Superiors through the new structure of the SSPX in the proposed deal, not to take a sham vote to see if they "approved" of his actions. Bishop Fellay doesn't care if the Superiors agree or approve. He has over and over brandished his power, all the while diminishing his authority. He is hurting himself.

6. One devastating way in which he showed his power and diminished his authority was in the denial of ordinations to some deacons (those from the Dominicans/Capuchins) while they were on Ordination retreat! The families were there; it's just like a wedding! It's totally out of order to do something like that. And yet people still nod their heads in approval. Trads, wandering in the wilderness for so many years searching for Papal authority, yearn to give unconditional obedience to somebody, anybody, because they can't give it to their Papa (even if they won't admit that they are practically-speaking, sedevacantists), and so as each move is made by Bishop Fellay they simply say, "obey," while completely missing the irony that this is what they have not done for 40 years.

7. The General Chapter will, in all likelihood, announce a deal one way or the other. Whatever may have been announced in the media or by DICI about a "rejection" by Bishop Fellay, the reality is that prior to the last meeting in Rome, Bishop Fellay was building an oral agreement. Those in business know that often a deal is sealed prior to the final day of signatures. The deal is put together in words, in conversations, in handshakes. Then you take it back to your investors and shareholders and get signatures. So too here, Bishop Fellay has been constantly dealing "in good faith" with Rome, assuring them that he could get his "shareholders" in line with the deal. Given public disclosures of resistance, Rome is a bit shaken, but adjusted by saying that this agreement will only apply to Bishop Fellay, and that the other 3 bishops will be dealt with separately. Just because there seems to be a current stall does not mean the momentum has stopped. Trads have conflated a constant flow of news stories with momentum. The General Chapter was always going to be the time and place for the rubber stamping of this deal any way, so while the announcement of a deal may have been thwarted, the momentum of getting it done has not been.

8. Bishop Williamson has been excluded from the Chapter for "inciting rebellion," but Bishop Tissier has not. Bishop Tissier has been vocal about not doing a deal - in one sermon he said it might be 30 years before one could be done. Will he be banned? Lots of people understand that the SSPX is all Bishop Fellay knows - as he was the little boy who grew up in Econe. But Bishop Tissier was one of the seminarians who went to the Archbishop to tell him to open a seminary. The SSPX is Bishop Tissier's life, and he is fighting desperately to save it and what he thinks it is from all who would change it. I've said before that I think he will go along in the end, but I do not deny that I have been (pleasantly) surprised by his actions, words, sermons, and interviews in the last few weeks.

9. If there is not a deal, there very well may be punitive measures from Rome. This could include fresh excommunications, suspensions, special instructions to laypeople about penalties for attending Mass with the SSPX, etc. Bishop Fellay has hinted at this in previous comments.

10. Bishop de Galarreta's long condemnation of the Doctrinal Preamble should silence all those who, until now have blissfully said, "but we haven't even SEEN it." An SSPX bishop has seen it, and hated it.

For those of us in America who (lamentably) overthrew our rightful king and commemorate this on July 4th every year, it is a holiday of all sorts of reflections as we head into the time of the SSPX General Chapter. Reflections about power and authority, and the difference between them. And hopefully, a chance to meditate on our theological principles (not mere sentiment) on which we base our current approach to our Faith.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen lives in Paris, France. He founded True Restoration in 2006.

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17 Responses

  1. Pioquinto says:

    Hi, Stephen!! I was expecting some like, amongst so much darkness!! I can go anytime to the closest novus ordo parish, and get your regular decaffeinated-protestant mass! Why, in Heaven's sake, would I go now just to make a shady deal??? NO WAY!!! I trust wholeheartedly bishops Williamson, de Galarreta and De Mallereis!!! The Vatican cabal is going bad to worse, with this new appoitment for the CDF, Müller, Ludwig, a complete lutheran, a complete heretic , a fox in charge of the henhouse. No way!! VIVA CRISTO REY!!

  2. Jean Maurel says:

    A well written article, Stephen! I found it very interesting, as I haven't been keeping up with the news recently.

  3. Timothy

    I'm not entirely certain what you mean by "set anew the premises of this blog."

    This blog has been around since 2006, and has its foci the cultural and theological implications of Catholicism. The SSPX is but one part of that picture. However right or wrong I am about a deal (and as I have said in NUMEROUS articles, I have no dog in this fight as I do *not* attend SSPX Masses) has nothing to do with True Restoration. After the General Chapter I will continue my work here, which you can see showcased in things like reviewing the great film "For Greater Glory" or doing a show on The Sacred Heart.

    Also, your comment does not take account of the fact that I, along with Bishop Tissier and Fr. Pfeffer, consider Benedict XVI a heretic. Why should Mueller's appointment be so shocking?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Stephen,

    You're being too defensive.

    By "consider anew the premises of this blog," I meant that I was coming to agree with you.

    Your analysis of the SSPX situation includes predictions. Those predictions should account for how most SSPX clergy will see things, not just how you see things (e.g., Benedict's heresies). I would guess that most SSPX clergy regard the appointment as particularly shocking and as a dealbreaker. So if you're going to predict whether or not a deal will happen, as you have, you should account for this major factor.

    Q.E.D. And chill out, dude!

  6. Again, there will no "deal".
    The recent installation of Bishop Muller, the SSPX hater, has sealed that deal.

    "If there is not a deal, there very well may be punitive measures from Rome. This could include fresh excommunications, suspensions,…"

    Maybe, [but I doubt] excommunications, but how do you suspend and already suspended priest?

  7. Timothy:

    Point taken. I didn't think I framed my response as particularly pointed, as I was trying to match your tone of questioning, but I suppose I wasn't sure what you originally meant, and now I do!

    Now, it's wait and see time.

  8. pclaudel says:

    Dear Mr. Heiner,

    I'm not sure that your "wait and see time" hasn't already lost its "wait and" portion. I don't know whence Father Morrison of Traditio has sourced his information, but if he is correct in writing that on the coming First Sunday of Advent, the 1962 missal will be replaced by the new, improved 2012 missal, the first of at least two Benedictine shoes may be said to have well and truly dropped.

    I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the prospect of giving even implicit assent to the idea that Ms. Faustina and the many dozens of other canonized-while-u-wait neocatholic "saints" must needs be included among those collectively cited in various prayers of the Mass, both within and without the Canon.

    I know that I am not the only person who frequently attends a diocesan-tolerated TLM while, in effect, making a mental reservation that encompasses rejection of Vatican II and the postconciliar pseudomagisterium. Our Hegelian Holy Father is not willing, evidently, to tolerate the unscathed survival of my fragment of antithesis as his liturgical Cuisinart produces the New Extraordinary Form Synthesis Mass of 2012.

  9. pclaudel says:

    Mark: You are proclaiming things already widely known as if they were news. In doing so, I wonder, do you see yourself "remember[ing] the example of Our Lord"? I don't.

  10. Mark says:

    Firstly, the Mass of 1962 has already morphed into the Mass of 2008, you know, the Remnant's "Papal Masterstroke" of loyalty to the Pharisees.

    Secondly, anyone who exercises "mental reservation," desperately needs to remember the example of Our Lord Who told the whole truth or remained silent.

    See: Proto-Rabbinic Tactics of Deceit and their Adoption by Churchmen during the Renaissance in Revisionist History Newsletter No. 62:

  11. Unknown says:

    Mr. Heiner, we are awaiting your commentary on the SSPX statement released today. Thank you!

  12. pclaudel says:

    "Mr. Heiner, we are awaiting your commentary on the SSPX statement released today. Thank you!"

    That makes at least two of us, Mr. Heiner.

  13. Whats Up! says:

    That makes 3 of us, Mr Heiner.

  14. Jean Maurel says:

    I am also waiting for your commentary, Stephen! You have a good blog, so try keep it up to date, that is if you have the time.:)

  15. trent13 says:

    🙂 It's a like a Where's Waldo with Stephen? Come on! Don't you have anything better to do than update your blog? ;D


    For this reason it seems opportune that we reaffirm our faith in the Roman Catholic Church, the unique Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, outside of which there is no salvation nor possibility to find the means leading to salvation…
    Rome-SSPX: Declaration of the General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X sent to the Holy See


    The Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) has accepted Vatican Council II in accord with the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus (1) in harmony with Ad Gentes 7, Vatican Council II. They have endorsed Vatican Council II according to Sacred Tradition. They can also cite reference texts from Vatican Council II to support their doctrinal position.

    They have rejected, as in the past, the liberal version of Vatican Council (2) whose adherents cannot cite any texts to support their interpretation which is a break, a rupture with tradition and magisterial documents.

    The SSPX is finally in a position to point out to their adversaries that there can be only one interpretation of the Council which can be supported by tradition.In this one interpretation AG 7 supports the dogma on exclusive salvation and LG 16 and LG 8 etc are not known exceptions to the dogma.

    The SSPX has stated clearly that they have ‘ faith in the Roman Catholic Church, the only Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, outside of which there is no salvation and no possibility of finding the means that lead to it’.

    There is no salvation outside the Church (Cantate Domino, Council of Florence 1441, Vatican Council II (AG 7) etc) and that outside the Church there is even ‘no possibility of finding the means that lead to it’ i.e those saved in invincible ignorance , a good conscience etc are accepted as possibilities known only to God and not possibilities which contradict the dogma on salvation,since these possibilities are not explicit for us. They are unknown to us humans.

    As for the liberal interpretation of Vatican Council II which is a rupture from the past the SSPX rejects ‘all the novelties of the Second Vatican Council that remain tainted with errors’ e.g theology of religions etc which are opposed by Vatican Council II (AG 7).

    They accept the Council and ‘the Society can only continue to abide by the statements and teachings of the constant Magisterium of the Church;’ which is in agreement with the Council and in accord with Tradition. It carries the hermeneutic of continuity. The SSPX ‘ finds its guide in this uninterrupted Magisterium which, by its act of teaching, transmits the revealed deposit in perfect harmony with all that the whole Church has always believed, in every place’ and which is in agreement with Vatican Council II.–Lionel Andrades