SSPX in crisis: Has Bishop Fellay overstepped his bounds?

SSPX in crisis: Has Bishop Fellay overstepped his bounds?


There is a deep division brewing within the Society of St. Pius X; an identity crisis that is effectively distancing it from its mission and threatening to drain the oil from its lamp, even in the midst of this dark Bergoglian night.

As detailed below, the crisis of which I write has been made perfectly plain to me via my private correspondence with SSPX leadership over the course of recent months.

Before we move on, let us briefly consider a relevant excerpt taken from the Society’s description of its “key concerns” as provided on its website:

Sadly, many confusing and erroneous ideas have weakened and continue to weaken our modern understanding of the truth. These false teachings draw souls away from God. Stirred by pity and compassion, the SSPX seeks to expose the grave dangers such ideas pose to the ultimate happiness both of every individual and of society as a whole.

As we proceed, readers may determine for themselves just how well the Society is living up to its identity and its mission of exposing the grave dangers that presently threaten so many souls.

On August 10, 2017, I let readers know that, earlier in the day, I had engaged in a fairly lengthy (one hour plus) conference call with two members of the Society’s leadership team at the U.S. District House.

Part of that exchange, which I did not share, concerned journalistic professionalism.

In brief, I was reprimanded (and fairly so) for publicly speculating about the Society’s position on a given matter (in this case, Peter’s Pence) prior to receiving a response to my queries from its leaders, who have nearly always made themselves available to me.

That, I was told, was unprofessional. In humility, I accepted that criticism.

At this, I was encouraged to submit questions as often as they may arise, and I was reassured that such was not a bother, but rather entirely welcome.

Having taken our conversation to heart, I proceeded in the months that followed to carefully submit detailed inquiries to the Society on several topics of great importance, not just to SSPX faithful, to my readers, and to me personally, but more importantly to Catholics the world over.

I am sorry to report that revealed in the process was not the information that I sought, but rather unmistakable signs attesting to the aforementioned crisis within the Society.

Unhappily, I will now provide what I consider to be the most noteworthy example by sharing with you the following self-explanatory email that I sent to Society leadership on December 18, 2017:

On September 26th, I requested confirmation via email [sent to SSPX leadership] concerning the Society’s “official position” on Amoris Laetitia in light of Bishop Fellay (and Fr. Brucciani) having signed the “Filial Correction;” the same stating that AL “serves to propagate seven heretical propositions.”

This charge goes well beyond that of favens haeresim made by Fr. Gleize, which at the time, I was told, represented the Society’s “official position.”

While it would seem reasonable to assume that the “Correction” has superseded Fr. Gleize’s conclusion as the Society’s current “official position,” this matter is far too important to be the subject of speculation, and I would like to inform my readers accurately.

With this in mind, I sent a second request for the same confirmation on October 18th, and a third request (this one detailing the charges made in the “Filial Correction”) on November 3rd.

I’ve since received no response.

On Dec.2nd, the plot thickened as the Holy See made known that the guidelines created by the Bishops of Buenos Aires for interpreting AL, as well as Francis’ letter approving of the same (“there are no other interpretations”), have been published (by his command) in the AAS. Also revealed was the rescript wherein it is made plain that Francis desires that these documents be received as “authentic magisterium.”

Clearly, Fr. Gleize’s theory that the Exhortation offers nothing more than material for reflection, upon which he relied substantially to reach his conclusion, is no longer defensible.

Based on all of the above, I (and certainly many others) am left to wonder precisely what presently stands as the Society’s official position on AL, and by extension, its author.

In no way do I feel entitled to a response to my questions as a writer, as a faithful Catholic who looks to the Society for clarity and conviction, however, I sincerely believe that the faithful at large deserve an answer, and it would be my privilege to convey it to my readers.

Thanks in advance for your response.

The email above was followed by yet another request (forwarding the same) on February 1, 2018, and these were sent not only to my contacts at the U.S. District House, but also, and by the Society’s own advisement, to Menzingen.

Note that these very simple, fair and important requests have now been submitted to the Society no less than five times, through official channels, over the course of more than four months.

Importantly, I can tell you with utter certainty that my queries have not been ignored, properly speaking. In other words, it is not as though they have gone unread; rather, leaders within the Society both in the U.S. and in Menzingen have acknowledged having received them, and what’s more, having considered their content.

Unfortunately, it is now perfectly clear that the decision has been made not to provide a response; not a “no comment,” not a simple “Fr. Gleize’s evaluation stands,” nothing.

Does it matter?

In a recent interview, Bishop Bernard Fellay described the Society of St. Pius X as a living witness to the Tradition of the Church according to the designs of Divine Providence.

If the SSPX wishes to live up to what it claims to be; if indeed it aims to expose the grave dangers that threaten souls, then it most certainly does matter.

It is no exaggeration to say that historians will one day note that, to date, Amoris Laetitia occupies a uniquely profound place in the post-conciliar crisis in the Church; arguably second only to the Council itself and the Novus Ordo Missae.

One of the reasons this is so is that the document speaks in an unprecedented way directly to the legitimacy of the man laying claim to the Office of Peter.

As such, is it not right to expect the Society of St. Pius X to have a ready answer to related questions, such as those under consideration here?

Is it not right to expect said answers to arrive with immediacy and clarity, and for the simple reason that Tradition is not, no more than the message of Fatima, a riddle for the faithful to solve on their own?

As noted in my request for information, the inclusion of the Buenos Aires bishops’ directives in the AAS has severely undermined the opinion expressed by Fr. Gleize in that it plainly reveals Francis’ intent.

More importantly, however, this development may also be of historic importance in light of the legitimate questions being asked by many faithful Catholics about the nature of formal heresy as it pertains to the status of Jorge Bergoglio.

And yet, at least insofar as I have been able to find, the SSPX hasn’t made any public statements of substance concerning this highly relevant development. The only thing my search of has unearthed is a brief and anemic news item citing several neo-conservative sources; ultimately concluding, “Theologians have a lot of work to do.”

Given the utter lack of a response from Society leadership to my repeated queries, we are left to draw our own conclusions based upon what is known.

Rightly or wrongly, my sense is that Bishop Fellay has perhaps overstepped his bounds, if you will, by affixing his name to the Filial Correction. In other words, it seems he has undertaken an action that powerful forces within the Society find, at the very least, unhelpful and perhaps even embarrassing.

It appears rather certain to me now that one of the reasons I have received no response from the Society is that the men behind these powerful forces are pleased for the faithful to view Bishop Fellay’s signature on the Correction as nothing more than the actions of a private citizen of the Church, and in no way a reflection of the Society’s thinking.

If so, why not simply say so?

Could it be that admitting as much will reveal an unsettling level of internal disorganization, or worse, serve as irrefutable evidence that an intense power struggle is underway within the Society, and what’s more, that the “softer” side is winning?

Amid so much speculation, one thing seems rather certain; the “softer” side is winning.

It also appears that Bishop Fellay has gotten the message, and, for whatever reason, is subtly but surely distancing himself from the very document that he signed.

In an interview posted on the SSPX website under the title, Bishop Fellay: Why I Signed the Correctio Filialis, His Excellency said just days after the Correction was made public:

This filial approach on the part of clerics and lay scholars, troubled by the heterodox propositions in Amoris Laetitia, is very important …

Our respect for the pope remains intact, and it is precisely out of respect for his office that we ask him as his sons to “confirm his brethren” by publicly rejecting the openly heterodox propositions that are causing so much division in the Church.

The fact of the matter is the word “heterodox” does not appear in the text of the Filial Correction even once. The words “heresy” and “heretical,” however, are invoked nearly twenty times.

To be very clear, “heterodoxy” and “heresy” are not strictly interchangeable terms; with the latter being far more solemn and precise. The following taken from a Wikipedia article (yes, a secular source) sums up the difference as well as anything I’ve read:

Heterodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church refers to views that differ from strictly orthodox views, but retain sufficient faithfulness to the original doctrine to avoid heresy.

Has Bishop Fellay been urged to invoke “heterodoxy” as opposed to “heresy” with respect to the Correction so as to deliberately avoid calling attention to the chasm that lies between the charges leveled therein and the (perhaps still “official”?) conclusions drawn by Fr. Gleize, or was this done inadvertently and without forethought?

I find it very difficult to imagine that it was the latter.

So, here we are, at this historic moment in time when “Confused Catholics,” whose questions Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in his abiding charity and zeal for the salvation of souls, never failed to answer with clarity and conviction, are looking to the Society of St. Pius X once more for a few simple answers to some very basic questions of supreme importance.

In return, we have received only silence.

Does this sound familiar?

All indications are that a problem is brewing within the SSPX and at a most inopportune time – a festering division that is not only stripping the Society of its vigor, but also causing it – by virtue of its silence in the face of important questions – to resemble Bergoglian Rome; even apart from any formal agreement toward “full communion.”

The SSPX is not alone in this regard; rather, this is part of the regrettable trend noted in this space numerous times in the past, as the voice of many erstwhile defenders of tradition has grown noticeably weaker over the last year or so.

In my view, however, the situation with the SSPX is among the most foreboding of all in that I accept Bishop Fellay’s description of the apostolate; meaning, one is hard pressed to deny that even the living witness to the Tradition of the Church, raised up in response to the conciliar crisis by Divine Providence no less, is wavering.

I will conclude as I did my post of August 10:

Let us resolve to keep the Society, its leadership, and our efforts at akaCatholic in prayer – that all concerned may serve Our Lord and His Church well in these uniquely difficult times, all under the protection and intercession of Our Lady of Fatima

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One comment on “SSPX in crisis: Has Bishop Fellay overstepped his bounds?

  1. Which biretta does the SSPX wear?


    Louie – February 13, 2018
    Apparently, it is necessary to revisit yesterday’s post given the number of people who are clearly confused (limited not only to commenters here, but also on social media).
    Several commenters have suggested that the Society’s silence concerning their position on Amoris Laetitia, for any number of reasons, is an exercise in prudence. Those persons haven’t been paying attention.
    The SSPX has been anything but “silent” on that dreadful and uniquely dangerous text.
    Society leadership obviously understands that Amoris Laetitia represents a grave danger to souls; so much so that the decision was made roughly one year ago to make known to the faithful at large its position on the text.
    This was provided last spring by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize via his six part series of articles, which ultimately concluded that the text is not heretical, but simply favors heresy.
    Incidentally, folks, I was only able to report as much to you last spring because I queried the U.S. District House on the matter, asking (and I quote):
    Do Fr. Gleize’s conclusions reflect the position of the Society of St. Pius X and its leadership, most notably Bishop Fellay?
    The response given, in relatively short order, was unambiguous:
    Yes, Fr. Gleize reflects the SSPX’s position in front of the errors and scandals of the present pontificate.
    NB: The SSPX has communications operations and personnel, both here and in Menzingen, for precisely this reason; to provide clarity on important matters concerning faith and morals.
    Frequently this is done in collaboration with their contacts in Catholic media.
    While I number certain of the Society’s communications personnel among my friends (and that has not changed one iota), there is nothing personal about any of this. It’s about informing the faithful on matters of great importance.
    So, let’s be very clear:
    The SSPX has already gone to great lengths to state and to confirm its official position on Amoris Laetitia, and given the danger that this text represents, it is well that they have.
    Since Fr. Gleize’s articles were published last year, however, two very important things have happened:
    1. The Superior General of the Society has taken a public position on Amoris Laetitia (via his signature on the Filial Correction) that goes much further than what was confirmed as the Society’s official position last spring. In fact, these two positions are irreconcilable.
    Recall my initial request for clarity:
    Do Fr. Gleize’s conclusions reflect the position of the Society of St. Pius X and its leadership, most notably Bishop Fellay?
    Again, let’s be very clear: Two disparate positions on Amoris Laetitia have been published in full view of the faithful; each one appearing to be the position of the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and by extension, the SSPX itself.
    What are we to make of this?
    HINT: Think principle of non-contradiction; i.e., it can’t be both.
    This is a problem, and a simple request sent to the Society’s communications staff asking for clarity as to which should be trusted as its current position didn’t create that problem.
    Look, I get it. Some persons don’t think it matters. Others simply don’t know enough to care either way. Others still just want things to be pleasant; even if that means ignoring the elephants in the room.
    I happen to think that it’s very important for the faithful to know with certainty where the SSPX stands on this matter. (Seriously, where else might one look for clarity these days?)
    What’s more, the simple fact that Fr. Gleize was commissioned to write thousands of words explaining the Society’s position back in the spring is a sure sign that the SSPX also thinks (or at least thought) that it’s important for the faithful to know.
    2. Since Fr. Gleize’s articles were published, the Buenos Aires bishops’ guidelines for Amoris Laetitia, and Francis’ letter to them in response (“there are no other interpretations”) have been published in the AAS at his order, which plainly describes these items as “authentic magisterium.”
    Never mind whether or not one does well to consider them as much, the important thing to note is Francis’ intent.

    This development severely undermines Fr. Gleize’s position, as it was based in large measure on the following (as quoted from Part 5 of his series):
    Chapter Eight of Amoris laetitia is defined, like the others, by the fundamental intention assigned by the Pope to the whole text of the Exhortation, which is “to gather the contributions of the two recent Synods on the family, while adding other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice” (paragraph no. 4). Therefore we find here neither more nor less than matter for reflection, dialogue and practice. That is not material for clear-cut denial or calling into question.
    Allow me to translate: Since Francis intends only to offer material for reflection as opposed to providing teaching (“authentic magisterium”), the erroneous parts of Amoris Laetitia cannot be considered heresy (“clear-cut denial or calling into question” that which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith.)
    We now know, without any doubt whatsoever, that this is not the case. Therefore, Fr. Gleize’s conclusions no longer hold water.
    Even if Bishop Fellay had never signed the Filial Correction, the Society would still owe it to the faithful to clarify its position in light of this rather recent development out of Rome.
    The days of prudent silence have passed, folks. Not because I say so, but because the SSPX has already tossed its biretta in the ring – nay, make that two very different birettas; one of which is full of holes.
    If and when the Society of St. Pius X decides to inform the faithful as to which one they actually wear, rest assured, I will let you know.

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