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NEWS: July 28, 2021
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

1. The superior of the Society St. Pius X (SSPX) has taken an official position on the Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes issued by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021. His first statement reads:

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes and the letter that accompanied it have caused a profound upheaval in the so-called traditionalist movement. We can point out, quite logically, that the era of the hermeneutics of continuity, with its equivocations, illusions and impossible efforts, is radically over – swept aside with a wave of a sleeve. These clear-cut measures do not directly affect the Society of Saint Pius X.

It was surprising to read this statement, since Francis affirms that the "schism with the movement of Msgr. Lefebvre" was the cause of the whole controversy over permission to say the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. The text taken from the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio in which Francis addresses the Bishops is here.

Most people understand the motives that prompted St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to allow the use of the Roman Missal, promulgated by St. Pius V and edited by St. John XXIII in 1962, for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The faculty – granted by the indult of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1984 and confirmed by St. John Paul II in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei in 1988 – was above all motivated by the desire to foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Msgr. Lefebvre.

So, in the most recent official papal document Francis calls Msgr. Lefebvre and his movement – the SSPX – schismatic, but Fr. Pagliarani does not believe that the SSPX is at all affected by it.

Fr. David Pagliarani

Francis called Msgr. Lefebvre & the SSPX schismatics, but ‘this does not affect us’

In 1988, after Msgr. Lefebvre and Msgr. Castro Mayer consecrated four Bishops in Écône, the six of them – along with the priests and people present – were excommunicated and declared schismatics. The older Bishops died and the four younger Bishops applied a double standard: on one hand, internally they spread that the excommunications were not valid. On the other hand, they approached the Vatican and made a great effort to have that excommunication lifted.

In 2009 Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the four Bishops, but doubts continued to hover over the condition of the deceased Prelates, priests and  people. For 33 years the SSPX priests have been trying to convince their followers that there was no excommunication and that the movement is not considered schismatic by the Vatican.

Now, Francis uses the term "schism" to refer to both Msgr. Lefebvre and his movement. That is, the entire process of lifting the excommunication seems reversed and in appearance there is a return to ground zero. Nonetheless, the present day Superior of SSPX affirms that the matter does not directly affect the SSPX.

So, my first question to Fr. Pagliarani is: Why did you not defend your movement and your founder from the accusation of schism made by Pope Francis, which SSPX has been trying to escape for the last 33 years?

2. Fr. Pagliarani goes on to criticize the ecclesiology that came from Vatican II. He affirms:

After fifty years, the various elements that confirm the answer have become obvious to all well informed Catholics: the Tridentine Mass expresses and conveys a conception of Christian life – and consequently, a conception of the Catholic Church – that is absolutely incompatible with the ecclesiology that emerged from the Second Vatican Council.

This is the only criticism he made of Council Vatican II in his position paper. This statement has been interpreted by SSPX members and followers as a heroic, total and complete rejection of Vatican II. I really wish it were true. However, when we set aside emotions, we see that this is not what is written.


A skillful sleight-of-hand on the topic of Vatican II

Fr. Pagliarani does not say that he rejects the Council. He says that the Tridentine Mass is incompatible with the post-Council ecclesiology. That is, it is an accusation made against the theological abuses that followed Vatican II. There is nothing said about the actual texts of the documents or the ecclesiology that inspired Vatican II.

I compliment Fr. Pagliarani for finding a way to let his followers believe he is against Vatican II without actually saying that he is. It is a sleight-of-hand of a skillful prestidigitator.

However, since I am not one of his sycophants, I ask him my second question: Why did you not condemn the Council as you should have, by presenting it as Progressivism's official takeover of the Catholic Church? Is this absence of a real criticism of Vatican II a door to return to your "negotiations" with Rome after Francis dies or renounces the papal office? If so, are you not playing a double game with your grassroots, giving them the impression that you reject Vatican II when you do not?

3. In his letter Fr. Pagliarani made a significant defense of the Tridentine Mass, opposing it to the Novus Ordo Missae. He used strong words, referring to the fight between the two Masses as the fight between God and Satan, which violently implies that Paul VI was a representative of the latter.

However, the SSPX has never said the actual Tridentine Mass, which is the one said from 1570 to 1955, when the reforms made by Pius XII started the changes that resulted in the 1969 New Mass. Instead, all of the SSPX Bishops and priests say the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, which was a transitional step to reach the Novus Ordo. Let us not forget that the three steps of this process – the 1955 reform, the 1962 Missal and the 1969 New Mass – were all works of the same Msgr. Annibale Bugnini (here, here, here, here, here and here).

New direction of SSPX

New directors were put in place to please Francis & reach the expected agreement... A frustraded longing?

When a person accustomed to the Novus Ordo Mass sees the '62 Mass, he believes that he is seeing the Tridentine Mass; when a person accustomed to the Tridentine Mass sees the '62 Mass, he believes he is seeing the New Mass. This is what happens with everything that is intermediary. When we have our hand in cold water and put it in tepid water, that tepid water seems hot; likewise, when we have our hand in hot water and put in tepid water, it seems cold. The '62 Missal is a tepid Mass between the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass.

With this as background, I ask Fr. Pagliarani my third question: Why are you trying to present yourself and your movement as defenders of the Tridentine Mass when the SSPX actually is, and always was, a follower of the middle-of-road '62 Missal? Are you renouncing the '62 Missal? In this case, why did you not make an explicit act of public rejection of the errors it contains? If you are not renouncing the '62 Missal, why are you, once again, playing a double game?

  1. I am interrupting my analysis of Andrea Riccardi's book The Church Burns to address this more urgent matter. I shall return to that examination soon.


Blason de Charlemagne
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