Renewers of the Novus Ordo renewal
December 1, 1997
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
When a storm blew up in the Seminary here last May, and only a few paragraphs were devoted to it in the letter of June, some of you remained curious as to what it was all about. Since then a few more defections have taken place and the bleeding may not yet have stopped, so it is a reasonable guess that some more of you are asking questions like those that follow below.
The purpose of giving answers is to explain once more what the Society of St. Pius X is doing, and how. "There must be also heresies", says St. Paul (I Cor Xl, 19), meaning that so long as men are men, there are bound to be errors and divisions springing up from within the Catholic Church. Wisdom's part is to make them serve to show the true spirit of the Church which they leave behind them:
Q: What happened in the Seminary last Spring?
A: A talented but proud young Argentinian priest who had been a Seminary professor at Winona for three and a half years, decided that the moment had come to break with the Society of St. Pius X and form his own society, starting with one fellow professor and two seminarians who walked out with him.
Q: But did this priest walk out, or was he told to leave?
A: As soon as it became clear that he had for some time, from within the Seminary, been secretly planning his own society, he was told to report in short order to the Superior General in Switzerland. When he refused, he was told within 24 hours to leave the Seminary which he had been subverting from within by his intention — ingenuously disavowed — to take with him as many Society priests and seminarians as possible.
Q: What project did he have in mind for himself and his followers?
A: Let us call them Carlitists, from their Pied Piper's first name. In theory the Carlitists want something more intellectual and medieval than the Society of St. Pius X has to offer. The Society has bravely resisted Vatican II, but they say it shares in such errors of the last few centuries as Jansenistic down-grading of nature, Jesuitical forcing of the will and individualistic devotions. So to renew "Catholic spiritual life", visionary young minds must group together in a vibrant new "Society of St. John" (Apostle of Charity!) to restore on a medieval and patristic model "theology, liturgy, piety, philosophy, political action, history, arts" (quote from their drafted "Proposal SSJ"). No less.
Q: That is quite a program! What does it mean in practice?
A: In practice it means that a group of seven former Society members are now back in the Novus Ordo, i.e. the Newchurch: four priests, two deacons and one seminarian. They are reported to be living with St. Peter's Fraternity in the Diocese of Scranton, PA, with Bishop Timliri’s oral and as yet unofficial approval of their Church reform.
Q: But how can they go back to the Newchurch? Against everything they believed in when they were in the Society?
A: They are not the first to have lost their grip on the Truth. St. Peter's Fraternity began in 1988 when more than a dozen Society priests judged in Europe that Archbishop Lefebvre had gone too far by consecrating four bishops without Rome's permission. They returned to the Newchurch. Also at that time the Traditional Benedictine, Dom Gerard, led most of his monastery and countless followers back into the Newchurch. Like the Carlitists, he loved the Middle Ages and scorned the Counter-Reformation.
Q: What is wrong with loving the Catholic Middle Ages?
A: Nothing, but not to the point of scorning the Catholic Counter-Reformation which was the Church's self-defense when Protestantism broke up those Middle Ages. You do not dismantle defenses when the same enemy (neo-modernist Protestantism) is attacking stronger than ever!
Q: What did Archbishop Lefebvre think of Dom Gerard at that time?
A: Dom Gerard's defection from Tradition made him weep. He said that had Dom Gerard not betrayed, Rome would have been forced to do something right.
Q: What did the Archbishop think of St. Peter's Fraternity?
A: All those who had received the grace to belong to Tradition and then rejoined the Newchurch, he called traitors.
Q: Is that not rather a strong word?
A: The Archbishop was not playing games. He saw that the survival of the Catholic faith was at stake.
Q: Do not the Carlitists say that it is normal for new societies to begin from within old societies?
A: Yes, but not starting in subversion nor finishing in a personal dream. Father Vallet correctly and officially resigned from the Society of Jesus before founding several years later, again officially, his own little Congregation to preach the 5-day Exercises we know. Archbishop Lefebvre officially and correctly resigned from being Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers two years before he founded the Society of St. Pius X to defend the Church's real priesthood.
Q: What are the Carlitists now doing?
A: We are told that they have registered at Scranton University in order to acquire further qualifications. This fits their criticism of the Society that its priests have too many Mass circuits and too few university degrees.
Q: And do Society priests have too many Mass circuits?
A: As souls cry for help, so our priests can be stretched very thin to reach as many of them as possible, but here in the U.S.A. (and elsewhere), they are no longer stretched as thin as they once were. They can and do get vacations, and District Superiors keep an eye open for any dangerous fatigue over and above that not unhappy weariness which is normal for a priest who does his duty. At the Seminary, the Carlitists objected to going on Seminary circuits. Martyrdom is romantic, but not the dry martyrdom of the Mass circuits!
Q: Are the Carlitists looking after souls?
A: By their ideals, they are elitists rather than pastors, which is another reason to call them Carlitists, but we hear that at least two of their (so far) four priests are offering Mass in or near centers where they operated as Society priests.
Q: Then is some cooperation not possible? Is it not the same Mass, the same "good fight"?
A: No way. They have quit the Society and gone over to the enemy, the Newchurch. They may pretend still to honor the Society, but to justify their quitting it, they are bound to attack it. The split must be clean, or there will be on-going confusion. If they really wanted to work with the Society, all they had to do was not leave it! Actions speak louder than words.
Q: What about Society priests being under-educated?
A: It is true that relatively few have university degrees, but then did Our Lord Himself choose to make his Apostles out of Pharisees or out of fishermen? Our Lord needs from His young men faith, docility and common sense more than He needs frisbee-shaped certificates from Mickey Mouse university degree-courses!
Q: Did any of these strange ideas surface at the Seminary before last spring?
A: A little, and they were not encouraged. However, in general the Argentinian priest was trusted to be devoting his considerable talents to the service of the Seminary. In fact he was all the time pursuing what he told one seminarian was, literally, a dream of his going back ten years, and which he is now trying to make real in Scranton. But all this was well concealed from most priests and seminarians for as long as he was teaching at the Seminary.
Q: But did not this priest to a large extent have the Rector's support for his ideas while he was teaching at the Seminary?
A: Only insofar as it seemed that these ideas were serving, or would serve, the Society.
Q: We are told that the Rector in Winona was bitter and furious when he discovered how he had been deceived. Is this true?
A: Untrue. Anyone belonging to the Society of St. Pius X since the early 1970's has known many such defections. They have always happened in the Catholic Church, and they always will, so long as Our Lord does not take away men's free will when He makes them His priests. He had a traitor amongst His own Apostles.
Q: Then was the Rector indifferent to the whole affair?
A: Not either. He was sorry for his comrades who quit, and for any more who may quit, but in war, bullets fly and shells land and comrades go down. There is half a minute for a handkerchief, then the war goes on.
Q: How many seminarians were lost altogether in this affair?
A: In and around this affair, over a dozen, of whom two may find their way back. The name of the game is "survival of the fittest".
Q: And how is the Seminary now?
A: Peaceful. Nine new seminarians entered this last September, two new priests should be ordained on Saturday, June 20, 1998, God willing. There is much to be thankful for, including the fact that this was the first group defection from the Society's North American Seminary since 1983.
Q: How many priests were lost to the Society in this affair?
A: So far (December 1), two from the Seminary and two from the U. S. District. A few more names are being quoted as possible departures.
Q: Does this mean another split within the Society in the U.S.A.?
A: Carlitism looks like a minor split right now, but even if there was a major split tomorrow, what matters is still the purity of the Truth, not the numbers that stay with it. A collapse of numbers would oblige the Society to pull back and regroup, but that is all.
Q: Does the Society need to do that right now?
A: That is a day-to-day question for the District Superior to answer!
Q: But can the Society afford to lose any priests at all?
A: Quite honestly, if they have never understood, or have ceased to understand, what the Society is all about, yes, the Society can afford to lose them. This is because the Society cannot serve the Church by thinking one half, one quarter, or even one eighth like the Novus Ordo. For any and all mixtures of whisky and water to be possible, someone has to be producing neat whisky. For all degrees of Catholic compromise with the world not to collapse, somebody has to be generating pure Catholicism. Right now, as a worldwide organization, that somebody is principally — not exclusively — the Society of St. Pius X.
Q: But how can you be so sure that the Society is right, virtually against all the world?
A: Because its Catholicism is clear, classical, and free of internal contradiction. On the contrary, take the most honorable of Newchurchmen, say, Cardinal Ratzinger - the more honorable he is, the more he contradicts his own liberal principles. How can Our Lord contradict Himself?
Q: But did the Society lose so many priests when Archbishop Lefebvre was Superior General?
A: It certainly did. Of the 400 priests he ordained in and for the Society, some 100 had defected before he died, evenly split between those who thought he was too hard and those who thought he was too soft! But as Scripture says the Lord commanded Joshua (Josh I, 7), the Archbishop deviated neither to right nor to left.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Not to the left: in 1975, in one of a series of shakedowns at the Society's central Seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, a number of professors were quitting because the Society had just been "dissolved" by Rome. A seminarian went to the Archbishop to express his concern. The Archbishop's quiet reply: "Well, if all the professors leave, the seminarians will just have to teach themselves"! In other words, seminarians may come and professors may go, but a Seminary's business is to teach a truth that cannot change.
Not to the right: in 1983, in the United States, when nine out of eleven Society priests in the Seminary (then in CT) and the Northeastern District laid down to the Archbishop the terms on which they would allow that Seminary and District to operate, he again quietly said, "Look, you go your way, we go ours, and if you are more successful than we are at saving souls, then may God be with you, but here we part company". In other words, Seminary and/or District might collapse with only two priests out of eleven (and perhaps no properties!), but the Society's business was to continue a Church whose structure is not to be altered by men.
Q: What you are saying is that the Society of St. Pius X is not a question of numbers.
A: Exactly. Numbers make democratism, but not Catholicism - "But yet the Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?" (Lk XVIII, 8). In the Old Testament, when Gideon gathered an army of 32,000 men to fight the Philistines, the Lord God told him they were too many. "Send home all those who for any reason do not want to fight". Still 10,000 men were ready to fight. "Still too many", said the Lord God. "Take them to a river to drink: separate the men who stoop right down from those who lift the water to their mouths with their hands". Only 300 did not stoop down. The Lord God ordered Gideon to send home the 9,700! And of course, because Gideon obeyed, the 300 were enough, with God's help, to rout the Philistines! Faith, and docility.
Q: What about the New Testament?
A: Same lesson. When Our Lord taught the Jews in the Synagogue at Capharnaum (Jn VI) that they would need to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in them, then "many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him", in other words they walked out on Him. Did Our Lord stop them, call them back and modify His teaching to make it more acceptable? No, He let the numbers go. And by next asking His twelve apostles if they also would leave Him, He almost seemed ready for the truth to be followed by nobody. But Simon Peter responded on their behalf, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life", and with this faith and docility of a handful of men, Jesus Christ proceeded to build His world-saving Church.
Q: But why is it so easy for priests to quit the Society?
A: Because the split at the top of the Church between truth and authority since Vatican II means that untruths and many untruthful priests, formerly condemned by Church authority, are now protected by it. Formerly an unfaithful priest had nowhere to go. Now he can go in a variety of directions without being condemned.
Q: But why are such priests not defrocked?
A: Because the Church authorities have in this crisis so lost their grip on the Catholic Faith that they punish the faithful priests instead of the unfaithful ones.
Q: How many more priests is the Society about to lose?
A: Only God knows, but that is not, for reasons given above, the important question. You should pray for the largest possible number to keep the Catholic Faith.
Q: But can they not keep the Faith by working with St. Peter's Fraternity or with the Institute of Christ the King or with the Indult Mass or with the Traditional Mass under Bishop Timlin of Scranton?
A: No. All these enterprises, and the new society if it is ever publicly approved within the Newchurch, are crippled in their preaching of the Truth by the fact that they cannot criticize the principles of Vatican II, deadly to Catholicism, on which the Newchurch is built: religious liberty, ecumenism, the independent dignity of the human person, etc. In order to tell the truth, such priests must offend the Newchurch. In order to be accepted (or stay) in the Newchurch, they must water down the Truth. Dilution is not Our Lord's way.
Q: When are there going to be no more cliques within the Society?
A: When Our Lord takes away His priests' free-will! In other words, never. Pray not only for new vocations, but also for the faithfulness of old vocations.
Q: Is the Society being infiltrated?
A: It is quite possible. One reason why Our Lord included Judas Iscariot amongst His 12 Apostles was to teach His Church that this could always happen. Of course Our Lord was not deceived by Judas as merely human Superiors can always be deceived, but He wanted to teach His Church that it will work not on an absence of infiltration but on the presence of charity.
Q: Are there spies within the Society?
A: Maybe. Certainly Superiors must keep their eyes open, and, for the common good, expel such enemies as soon as they are recognized. However, too much suspicion kills charity, the engine-oil of Catholic institutions, so an excess of spy-hunting would kill the Society.
Q: Was the Argentinian priest a plant from the Newchurch, Opus Dei, for instance?
A: That is like asking whether Paul VI was a Freemason. Maybe he was, possibly he had been one, in any case he did not need to be one because he certainly in large part thought like one. Whether or not the Argentinian priest always belonged to the Newchurch, in any case he finished up thinking like it, which is what matters.
Q: Why do American priests not yet hold key positions in the American District and Seminary?
A: Emphasize the "not yet". Because Americans have in their bloodstream the Revolution of 1776, whose liberal principles are essentially anti-Catholic, a fact readily recognized, even boasted of, by American non-Catholics, denied only by American "Catholics" who do not understand the Revolution. An example was the Bunker Hill referred to above, staged in the East in 1983 by nine Society priests out of eleven. For a long time afterwards none of the Catholics who stayed with the Society asked the question you just asked. Now it may arise again. But truth must come before patriotism, whatever country we come from.
Q: Is that mini-Revolution of 1983 the reason why the Society seems comparatively light in the Northeastern U.S.A.?
A: No doubt. Mark you, the Society has to quite an extent rebuilt in the East, but it remains true that the revolutionary priests took with them out of the Society many properties and most of the people there at that time, inflicting numerical and material wounds still not entirely healed.
Q: But if priests are short in numbers, why do so many American priests get sent abroad? We need them at home!
A: On that reckoning, why should any non-American Society priests be, or ever have been, here? And where would the Society in the U.S.A. now be without those "foreigners"? The Catholic Church is above nations! Vocations come from wherever God calls them, and they go wherever He sends them. Be proud of your American priests abroad. Wherever they carry the true Faith, they are the true glory of the United States!
Q: Still, why does France, a small country compared with ours, have nearly 100 more priests than we do?
A: Because France has proportionally many more vocations and traditional Catholics than does the United States. It also has sent abroad numerically and proportionally many more Society priests than any other country. These are the glory of France.
Q: So what hope do we have for the Society in the United States?
A: Much, and in every way. Think firstly of the extraordinary rescue operation for souls that the Lord God has with it mounted in these almost impossible conditions for the last 25 years. It is wise to see in every true Mass celebrated (within a framework of the integral Catholic Faith) a triumph over the Devil. Then consider that with the Society you are guaranteed a roller coaster ride for nothing, all you have to do is hang on! Then again consider that in this crisis of neo-modernism Mother Church is carrying a heavy cross. Why should we not have to carry our part of it? Which is preferable, to belong to the Church and help carry her cross, or have no such cross to carry by not belonging to her?
Q: No doubt it is better to belong to the Church.
A: Then stay with the Society which continues to grow despite all setbacks. And remember Our Lord's words: "If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mk VIII, 34).
Dear readers, very many thanks for seeing the Seminary through another calendar year. We live by your generosity for which we as rarely need to ask as we are always grateful. If you get out of Wall Street with profits before it crashes, remember who kept telling you that we are on the brink of the crack of doom!
But remember mainly the divine gifts brought to all of us by one shivering Child in one poverty-stricken manger. With no financing, no lobbying, no advertising, He transformed the world!
Wishing you all a blessed Advent and a happy Christmastide, sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Richard Williamson