Knowing Reality When You See It
Much ink has been spilled on the topic of the Society of Saint Pius X and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and I imagine much more will be written as history continues.
Are they schismatic? Was Lefebvre a renegade? Was he a rebel? Was Pope John Paul II correct to do what he did? And so on.
No matter how many arguments are made, no matter how many documents are promulgated, and no matter how many debates are won and lost, there are those who see the truth about the SSPX and those who don’t.
When the topic of “communion” is brought up, the detractors of Marcel Lefebvre’s army of priests become gnostic mathematicians, opining about varying degrees of communion, as if belonging to Christ’s Bride was a matter of degree or percentage point.
If the Pope is kind to the SSPX, they might say, “well, the sun is shining and I am in a good mood, so by my calculations the Society has about 89 communion percentage points today.”
Alas, when it is cloudy out, and a Bishop writes a nasty letter because he does not want tradition in his diocese, well, on that day, the Society goes from a passing grade to a failing grade in the eyes of the unappointed Inquisitors of Lefebvre and his priests.
There is an expression about the existence of God: “For the believer no proof is necessary, and for the atheist no proof is possible.”
While this maxim is debatable, it is compelling because it appeals to a very simple reality. That is the reality of Faith.
I do not speak here of some amorphous and ethereal sentiment or some vague type of belief in something imaginary. Faith is the concrete belief in something we know to be real but cannot always see.
I know God is real because reason makes it abundantly clear that it must be the case. I know I must trust my faculty of reason because I cannot make an argument against trusting it without using reason itself.
All of this is to say that there are certain truths that are simply evident, and we choose to see them, or we don’t.
So why don’t some people see the evident truth that the SSPX are simply Catholic?
In fairness, we live in a strange time, an abnormal era. A time when trying to live like your Catholic ancestors means being out of step with the mainstream in the Church. It is an unprecedented time, and it is therefore understandable that unprecedented realities would arise.
That being said, there is a reason, a very strong reason, I believe, that explains the hatred towards the SSPX.
The Passion of the Church
Call to mind when Christ went to His Passion.
How many Christians were there at the Cross? We know that along with Christ, there was the Virgin Mary, the Apostle John, and Mary Magdalene.
Mary is an image for the Church, and the Church is the Bride of the Bridegroom, Who is Christ. Of course, their union is not nuptial, but it is an image of the marriage between Christ and the Church, just as Mary and Christ are an image of the first couple, the New Adam and New Eve.
Mary is there because she cannot be separated from her Son, even when He is crucified.
When that spear went through Christ’s side, the prophecy of Simeon was fulfilled: “A sword shall pierce your soul also…”
Christ is Crucified, and in a way, so is Mary, as she shares in those sufferings, her Immaculate Heart is pierced by the Sorrow that killed her Son.
Mary Magdalene represents us, the laity. She is the sinner who was converted from damnation and who then follows Christ, fulfilling what Saint Paul said when he wrote that he fills “up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).
Mary Magdalene is penitential at the foot of the Cross as Mary the Mother of God suffers with her Son.
Then there is John the Beloved.
Christ ordained twelve men to the episcopacy on Holy Thursday, and a day later only one was found at his side when He died.
John was not the Pope, Peter was, but Peter denied the Lord three times before sunrise.
Mary Magdalene did not walk with John to the Cross because she wanted to be separated from Peter. In the same way Catholics who follow Marcel during the Church’s Passion do not do so in order to separate from the successor of Peter. In both cases, they painfully accept the sufferings of Christ and the difficulty of Peter’s betrayal.
Thus, we see that when the Bridegroom is Crucified, and the Bride suffers with Him, the laity looks onward in sorrow, with all but one bishop having fled.
New Testament Typology
Now, Scripture gives us models for what will come to pass in the Church
Fulton Sheen spoke about this years ago in a sermon where he explained that the Church had gone through various deaths and resurrections, of course metaphorical, but deeply true nonetheless.
It makes sense, in order to share in the life of Christ, we must share in the death of Christ in some way, as this was part of His life. It is unavoidable.
Thus, when we see the Church going through a certain death, we ought not be afraid, as the Mystical Body of Christ will of course share in the sufferings of Christ.
Marcel Lefebvre understood this, he knew all too well that the Church was going through her passion.
Not only did he understand this, but he knew that it was not unexpected that the Pope, Peter, was absent from the Crucifixion of the Church. Just like in Scripture.
After the Council, it was clear that “the smoke of Satan” had entered the Church, as Pope Paul VI had said. The popes knew what was happening, as they saw the New Springtime bring on a Winter of Death in vocations and Catholic families.
The Passion of the Church was obvious, but Peter would not follow Christ to the Cross.
Lefebvre was a bishop, which is to say he was an Apostle. And, like John, he was there at the Cross when everyone else had fled, along with the Virgin Mary who animated his every move.
Along with Lefebvre, the Beloved Apostle of the 20th century, was a small remnant of the Church, weeping over the plight of Christ’s Bride as she was mocked and ridiculed by the world, like Mary Magdalene was there when Christ was mocked by the Roman Empire that ruled the world.
If a diabolical disorientation has enwrapped the Church, then should we be surprised when we approach the Cross and find that almost no one there to comfort Our Lord?
Imagine the absurdity of suggesting that John could be excommunicated by Peter because he would not follow him away from the Cross.
In a sense, the fact that it has happened this way should give us comfort. It should comfort us to know that the present Passion is truly a Passion after the image of Scripture.
This means that what follows will be a Resurrection, where we will see Peter with his three-fold declaration of love and devotion to Our Lord after his three-fold denial and abandonment.
The Bad Will, Anti-Trad Critics
Now, the detractors of Lefebvre will scoff at these remarks and brush them aside as foolish, believing it impossible that our time is a time of Passion, and that our John was called Marcel. It will be said that the traditionalists who love Marcel and believe him to be a saint are nothing more than malcontents. They will dismiss my words as a fantasy without enough footnotes.
In the minds of the enemies of the SSPX, it is nonsense to say such things as I have said, as I have gone too far and said things that are not so.
Things may be bad in the Church, but they are certainly not that bad, they say.
They believe that when people like you and me point out the lashes and scourges that the Body of Christ receives in this decades-long Good Friday, we are causing scandal and not seeing things clearly.
But, in reality, it is because we love Christ and his Bride so dearly, that we cannot help but follow on the path to Golgotha.
We don’t point out the wounds of the Church because we hate the Church, any more than one could be said to hate the Christ because they point out his Holy Wounds.
It is not us who is taking the scourge to the Mystical Body, but it is us who will call the scourge a scourge, and not pretend the Winter is a Springtime. We will weep for the scourge, knowing our sins and we will do penance.
The detractors will not see Lefebvre for who he truly was, because this would mean they must accept that there is a present death that is really fatal.
Like Christ, when the Church goes through her passion, she must really die, that is, die in the eyes of the world. She must be mocked, she must be beaten, and her high priests must abandon her to the powers of the empires.
This is exactly what has happened since the Council, and it has been a bloody affair.
Good Faith and Bad Faith
Of course, there are many Catholics of good will who do not understand the SSPX and do not comprehend the sanctity of Marcel Lefebvre, but if they truly are of goodwill, I believe they will see if they study these matters. Or at least, they will not treat their fellow Catholics as if they were outside the Church. They will give these heroic priests the respect they deserve.
If they are not of good will, then they will never see, but not because they are incapable, but instead because they are afraid to descend into the dead with Christ.
Following the path of Tradition with Lefebvre is not for the faint of heart, and it will cost you greatly. You will be mocked, disowned, and the subject of calumny and detraction by men who feign virtue.
You will be called “uncharitable” by those who uncharitably judge your interior will, and because of this, calumniate your good name as a schismatic.
It is all projection.
They call you uncharitable because they lack charity.
They call you a schismatic because they want nothing to do with you. Better yet, they want nothing to do with the Cross, and it is easier to blame Marcel and his followers than their own lack of courage.
They prattle on about not being in “full communion” because they lack an open heart to truly hold communion with their brethren!
Who knows, maybe this monologue will soften the hearts of those who resent Marcel and his priests, I hope it does.
However, there will be those who persist in their hardness and who will find more reasons to drone on and on with tired arguments. This is to be expected.
As Aquinas said: “If any man desires to contradict my words, let him not do so by chattering before boys but let him write and publish his writings, so that intelligent persons may judge what is true, and may be able to confute what is false by the authority of the truth.”
Ultimately, it shouldn’t surprise us that so many hate Marcel and the SSPX, because great saints suffer in times of persecution, and those who are terrified by the Passion will find ways to avoid the Cross.
 This is a typological expression, and it is understood that the Petrine ministry began after the Church was established in an official capacity. However, the Pope is “Peter” thus the image of Peter denying Our Lord gives us the reason to believe that the “Rock” upon which the Church was built, could falter as an individual, even if the office remains.
Kennedy Hall is a contributing editor for OnePeterFive. He is the author Terror of Demons: Reclaiming Traditional Catholic Masculinity and Lockdown with the Devil, a novel published by Our Lady of Victory Press. He is a writer at Catholic Family News, LifeSiteNews and is the host of the Conservative talk-radio show, The Kennedy Report. He is married with four children and lives in Ontario, Canada.