Letter to Friends and Benefactors
Fraternity of St. Peter
ROME IS NOW MAKING IT CLEAR –
THE ARCHBISHOP WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!
ROME IS NOW MAKING IT CLEAR –
THE ARCHBISHOP WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!
December 1, 1999
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
A flurry of recent events in Rome involving the Fraternity of St. Peter suggests that the masters of Rome may be wishing to have done with the officially approved Tridentine Mass, perhaps in time for the Conciliar Church's millennial New Advent, so long spoken of by Pope John Paul II. The Fraternity is resisting as best it can, but Rome seems to be becoming impatient.
Some but not all of these events have been evoked in previous Seminary letters. Let us give here as many of them as we can in chronological order, to bring out the pattern underlying the events: there is no reconciliation possible between the Catholic Faith and the leaders of the Conciliar Church now occupying Rome. These Romans have lost the Faith and are doing their best to stamp it out wherever they can still find it.
By way of background we must go back to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), where, under the decisive influence of the two liberal Popes, John XXIII and Paul VI, the mass of the Church's then 2,000 bishops fell prey to the glamorous modern error of liberalism: just let man be free, and everything will be well.
In 1969 Pope Paul VI laid hands on the Mass, and "freed" it from its ancient rite, named Tridentine from the Council of Trent when Pope Pius V codified it, but actually going much further back in time, parts even to the very beginning of the Church. Paul VI was "up-dating" the rite of the Mass, to make it also more acceptable to non-Catholics, in particular to Protestants. And since many Catholics live their religion principally through attendance at Mass, then it was Paul VI's New Order of Mass, or "Novus Ordo", which dramatically advanced the Vatican II process of transformation of millions and millions of Roman Catholics into Roman Protestants.
Now in the same 1969, Archbishop Lefebvre, a retired missionary bishop, fully realizing the danger of the Conciliar Reform to the Catholic Faith as a whole, began his Priestly Society of St. Pius X to defend the Faith by forming true priests who would as a result celebrate only the old rite of Mass. Miraculously, as he considered, he obtained in 1970 official Church approval for his little Society. So a number of the young men drawn to his Society did not follow the Archbishop for his in-depth defense of the Faith, but only for the combination he offered them, unavailable anywhere else, of priestly formation with both the Catholic Mass and Conciliar approval.
This meant through the early 1970's that as the Conciliar authorities realized what the Archbishop was up to and therefore (invalidly) dissolved his Society in 1975 and (invalidly) suspended him in 1976, so the apparent loss of official approval made many of his seminarians leave him, even if he did maintain the Tridentine Mass. However, the famous Mass at Lille in August of 1976 demonstrated that by now the Archbishop had a large popular following. The "Traditional" movement was born, and Conciliar Rome prudently backed away from any further open persecution of the Archbishop or his Society, as such persecution risked being counter-productive.
Rome keeping relatively quiet, again a number of the Archbishop's seminarians and by now priests continued to follow him because of his unique combination of the Tridentine Mass with, sort of, Conciliar approval. Despite the Archbishop's repeated condemnations of Vatican II, they still did not understand, or want to understand, the depth of his disagreement with neo-modernist Rome. That is why, when advancing old age drove the Archbishop in 1988 to consecrate without Rome's approval four of his priests as bishops to guarantee the Society's survival, otherwise in peril, these "Tridentinists", as we shall call them, appealed to Rome to provide them with the combination of Roman approval and Tridentine liturgy which the "excommunicated" Archbishop could no longer give them.
Conciliar Rome welcomed them with open arms. Because it had converted to Tridentinism? Of course not. Rather, it saw in these refugees from the Society of St. Plus X an opportunity to set up under Rome's control an alternative "Traditional" movement to keep souls away from the real Traditional movement henceforth "excommunicated" and so out of Rome's control, except by the silence and marginalisation, or calumny and scorn, which have constituted Rome's treatment of the Society ever since. However, while allowing these Tridentinists to say only the old Mass, Rome required as a condition for its acceptance of them that they recognize the "orthodoxy and validity" of Pope Paul's New Mass. Which these Tridentinists did. So Rome now had a docile decoy to pull priests and people, as it hoped, away from the uncompromising Society of St. Plus X.
Apparently the decoy worked well enough for Rome to give it 10 years of life, so that in October of 1998 St. Peter's Fraternity celebrated in Rome, with kindred organizations, its 10th anniversary. However, the popular success of this meeting of some 2,500 Tridentinists from all over the world, all putting Rome under Tridentinist pressure, seems to have aggravated the Conciliar churchmen. They had only approved Tridentinism as a step down from Catholicism to Conciliarism. Now it seemed to be serving as a step back up from Conciliarism to Catholicism. This would not do.
We come at last to the recent events. We will narrate them as briefly as possible, with brief comments.
Spring or early summer, 1999: Grave accusations against a kindred organization of St. Peter's, the Institute of Christ the King in Gricigliano, Italy, enable Rome to threaten it with an Apostolic Visit.
The Institute was founded soon after St. Peter's by a Monsignor Wach, essentially on the same basis as St. Peter's, i.e. to practice Tridentinism under Rome's control and without attacking Rome's Conciliarism.
June 11, 1999: Cardinal Medina, head of the Roman Congregation for Divine Worship, to questions of the Archbishop of Sienna, replies officially that by Church law Latin Rite priests can say only the New Mass, that the Tridentine Mass can only be said by Rome's exceptional permission, or Indult (both statements are false). Nor, the Cardinal went on, can priests say the Tridentine Mass by force of Pius V's "perpetual" permission in "Quo Primum", because what one Pope (Pies V) did, another Pope (Paul VI) can undo (true, but no Pope can undo Catholic Tradition, as Paul VI tried to do with his new-fangled Mass).
The Cardinal is clearly trying to put the brakes on Tridentinism.
July 3, 1999: The same Cardinal drops a bomb on St. Peter's Fraternity! Allegedly in reply to questions put to his Congregation, he replies in the now notorious Protocol 1411 that, firstly, any Tridentinist priest may always say the New Mass; secondly, no Tridentinist Superior can stop him from doing so; and thirdly, any Tridentinist priest may concelebrate the New Mass.
To the credit of the St. Peter's Superior General, Fr. Bisig, he had been trying to stop St. Peter's priests from sliding towards the New Mass. Here is Rome paralyzing his efforts, for Rome never intended St. Peter's to block the New Mass, quite the contrary.
July 18, 1999: A second bomb is dropped on St. Peter's, this time by Cardinal Felici of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, set up by Rome in 1988 to promote Rome-controlled Tridentinism. In a remarkably swift reply to complaint written only two weeks before by 16 dissident St. Peter's priests against the "Lefebvrist" direction being imposed upon St. Peter's by Fr. Bisig, the Commission writes to him that the permission previously granted for him to hold a special General Chapter in August (to stop St. Peter's from sliding) is revoked; that instead Rome will preside over a general meeting of St. Peter's in Rome in November; and that until then he can take only minor decisions for the Fraternity.
Now Fr. Bisig may accuse these 16 priests of having gone behind his back to Cardinal Felici - yet did not he himself go behind Archbishop Lefebvre's back to Cardinal Ratzinger in the mid-1980's? And he may accuse the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission of crippling his power to govern his Fraternity - yet who but he, to distance himself from the "disobedient" Archbishop, wrote "obedience to Rome" into the founding charter of St. Peter's back in 1988? In the old expression, Fr. Bisig is "hoist with his own petard" (blown up with his own bomb).
July 20 (?), 1999: Fr. Bisig writes to re-assure members and friends of St. Peter's that beneath this double blow from Rome he is doing all he can to defend their Fraternity's Tridentinism within the official Church, for the good of that Church.
But what if that Church itself determines that its good consists in ending all Tridentinism? What then can Fr. Bisig do? He himself designed St. Peter's to "obey" Rome. Truth to tell, like all Tridentinists to the left of the Society of St. Pius X and sedevacantists to its right, Fr. Bisig is basically a Fiftiesist who wants to rebuild the Church of the 1950's. But that surface Catholicism is no match for the neo-modernists in Rome. They blew it out of the water at Vatican II. The 1950's are gone for ever. Clearly, when Fr. Bisig followed the Archbishop, he never understood the depth of the Archbishop's doctrinal combat. What Tridentinists fail to grasp is that the false Mass is merely the spin-off from a much deeper and more important problem, which is doctrinal.
End July, 1999: Fr. Bisig and a companion Tridentinist leader are told in a meeting in Rome with the same high Cardinals that their Tridentinist societies rest not upon Church law but only upon Rome's gracious permission, or Indult. And they are asked how they can, if they admit that the New Mass is "orthodox and valid", so obstinately go on refusing to say it.
Indeed from when Fr. Bisig made that admission in 1988 to gain Rome's approval, what did his Tridentinism rest on? On a sentimental preference for the old liturgy? He then put the noose around his own neck. Now Rome is pulling it tight.
September 8, 1999: A large number of St. Peter's priests write a letter of support for Fr. Bisig to the same Cardinals.
But who are they taking these Cardinals for? Defenders of the Faith?? It is a lack of Faith that fails to discern in these Cardinals wolves in sheeps' clothing. Archbishop Lefebvre, by his Faith, saw from the beginning who they were, but pastorally did all he could to make them return to behaving like shepherds, until 1988, when they gave the final proof that they had no care for the sheep of Our Lord. Then he took the drastic action of the episcopal consecrations to guarantee his Society's survival, and left the rest in God's hands, which is what the Society is continuing to do.
September 26, 1999: Monsignor Wach, referred to above, sees the writing on the wall and concelebrates the New Mass with Cardinal Ratzinger in a nearby Benedictine convent.
The same Cardinal Ratzinger had written a few years previously a handsome Tridentinist preface to a re-edition of the Tridentine Missal. Now he brings Tridentinists to heel. Is there a contradiction? No. For him, explicitly, as for the Tridentinists implicitly, Tridentinism is merely a matter of sentiment. New Mass or Old Mass, depending on how you feel that day!
Early October, 1999: Fr. Bisig speaking at a Synod of Bishops in Rome on the one hand tells them his Fraternity is doing all it can do to draw souls from the Society of St. Plus X "back into the Church", but on the other hand he tells them how Tridentinism is prospering.
Did he think they wanted to hear that Tridentinism is prospering?
October 11, 12, 1999: Rome arranges a meeting between Fr. Bisig together with Fraternity leaders loyal to him, and leaders of the 16 dissident priests who appealed to Rome against his "Lefebvrism" at the end of June. For the first day the dissidents are accompanied (and supported) by Cardinal Mayer, for the second, morning by Cardinal Felici! Only on the second afternoon are the priests left alone, whereupon the meeting turns into something of a head-on clash. All that Fr. Bisig obtains is the postponement until the New Year of Rome's take-over of the General Meeting of St. Peter's previously scheduled for November.
The head-on clash was of course between the contradictory elements enshrined in St. Peter's foundation: "obedience" to neo-modernist Rome against faithfulness to the Catholic rite of Mass. How will the clash be resolved? Either Fr. Bisig comes to heel, or he will be crushed by Rome, and the same is true for St. Peter's as a whole. Rome holds all the aces, by Fr. Bisig's doing.
October 18, 1999: Cardinal Medina, for his Congregation for Divine Worship, issues a ten-point letter in reply to the multiple questions (or complaints) raised by his bomb-shell Protocol 1411 of early July. He repeats that the New Mass is the only lawful Mass for the Latin Rite, that the Tridentine Mass continues only by Indult, that diocesan bishops should be considerate of Tridentinists, but Tridentinists in return must recognize Vatican II and all its pomps and all its works. And Tridentinist priests must celebrate the New Mass for diocesan congregations where it is usual.
Thus Rome means to crush protest.
November 17, 1999: Una Voce International, a world-wide organization of lay Tridentinists, holds a meeting in Rome, no doubt mainly to protest against this crushing of Tridentinism by Rome. At this meeting Monsignor Perl, number two (?) official of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, reads a "Clarification" to the assembled Una Voce delegates.
The "Clarification" begins by attributing recent attacks on the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission to "ignorance of facts" and "questionable information" on the Internet. How can the Commission be blamed for working with the diocesan bishops when that is what was meant to do from the beginning? By what right are lay associations lobbying in this religious matter? The Commission has from the Pope full authority over St. Peter's Fraternity. For any Latin Rite priest there can be no such thing as a right to celebrate the Old Mass exclusively. If St. Peter's priests refuse to concelebrate the New Mass, are they not refusing communion with the mainstream Church?
Having read this "Clarification", Msgr. Perl immediately stepped down, giving the Una Voce delegates no opportunity for questions or comment. Apparently, this left them all more or less discontented.
Dear delegates of Una Voce, let us for charity, or for the sake of argument, assume there is no malice on the part of Msgr. Perl or his fellow Romans. Still, they are all in the grip of such a different understanding of the Catholic Faith from yourselves that it would be foolish for you to expect them ever to accommodate you. Far more is at stake than just Liturgy.
Then remember how, ever since Vatican II, lay protest in defense of the Faith has never availed against the juggernaut of neo-modernism operated by the Vatican II clergy. In real terms you have as laymen only one threat that can make these Roman prelates hesitate - the threat to go over, lock stock and barrel, to the Society of St. Pius X!
The direction being taken by Rome is clear as clear can be. Can anyone still not see it? If one wishes to organize the defense of the Catholic faith, there is, alas, only the Archbishop's way. One cannot put oneself under these neo-modernist Romans.
How clear-sighted the Archbishop was! What faith he had! What a gift from God he was! Rome may crush Fr. Bisig, but it could not crush the Archbishop, nor can it crush any Catholics who like him make no compromises on Truth. The Truth is master of Rome, and not Rome master of the Truth, ultimately. The Archbishop loved Rome, in the depths of his being, but still Our Lord's Truth came first. "The Truth is mighty and will prevail", and that Truth is the strength and cohesion of the Society of St. Pius X. All who seek the Truth find themselves today substantially united in holding, broadly, the Society's positions, but that is not because they are the Society's positions, it is because they happen to be the Truth.
Once again, great Archbishop, thank you, and please pray for us.
Remember also, dear friends, the Spiritual Exercises for men here at the Seminary from the evening of December 26 to the afternoon of December 30. They have been shortened by a day because of Y2K, to let everyone get home in plenty of time. On the night of December 31 at the Seminary there will be a Benediction, with the Te Deum sung on the stroke of midnight. For Christmas, remember it is forbidden to send to the Seminary Rector Christmas cards unless you first cross out the "merry" Christmas and put "scroogy" instead.
To all of you, Happy New Year, happy new decade, happy new century and happy new millennium!
Sincerely yours in Our Divine Lord, still King of Kings and Master of the Universe,
+ Richard Williamson