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The FSSP Suffers for the Long Game

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The eyes of the Trad world were on Rome last week when the Holy Father received in audience several clerical heads of the priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, including Fr. Andrzej Komorowski, Superior General of the FSSP, Fr. Benoît Paul-Joseph, Superior of the District of France, and Fr. Vincent Ribeton, Rector of St. Peter’s Seminary in Wigratzbad (press photo above, colourised).

Our contributing editor, Kennedy Hall, with many others, wondered if this was the point where the real axe would come down on the FSSP (especially considering the FSSP’s own social media post ahead of the meeting).

The meeting went down, but the press release was vague and, as our friend and brother Murray Rundus at Catholic Family News observed, “notably insubstantial, with platitudes of ‘deep gratitude’ for a 2022 decree that shielded them from the Motu Proprio’s full fury.”  

If you don’t remember the 2022 decree, that was when Pope Francis, as we said at the time, either “vindicated the FSSP” or “washed his hands like Pilate.” That 2022 decree confirmed the FSSP in their use of the 1962 books.

It was a Peronist miracle, that it was.

So this new meeting that just took place was in that context – the FSSP asked for a meeting, got it, and expressed their gratitude for that decree but also the difficulty in implementing it. No doubt many bishops – who care more about the status quo than the Latin Mass, one way or another – are getting mixed signals from the Vatican: “keep the FSSP,” but “suppress the TLM.”

Welcome to the world of being a “vicar of the [Peronist] Roman Pontiff” (against Vatican II’s explicit words)![1]

But let’s get back to the recent news. Soon after the meeting last week, someone leaked the “unofficial” press release that was sent to the FSSP only, which had more to say about what happened:

Fr. Komorowski informed the Holy Father that the decree had been signed by the Pope on the very day of the FSSP’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at the end of a common novena of prayer. The Pope commented, raising his eyes and pointing his index finger to Heaven: “It is from God!”

The Pope was very understanding regarding the difficulties encountered in various dioceses, particular in France [the FSSP has been booted from French dioceses before and after TC]. He rejoiced at the fruitfulness of the Fraternity of St. Peter in terms of vocations and was deeply impressed by the vitality of our Houses of Formation. He invited the Fraternity of St. Peter to continue to build up ecclesial communion ever more through its own proper charism and the efforts of each of its members, expressing his wish – while respecting the freedom of each individual priest – for the concelebration of the Chrism Mass, or at least for the presence of Eucharistic Communion of priests at this ceremony…

So now we see what the Holy Father may have meant by “build up ecclesial communion.” Since Vatican II, this concept of “full communion” – while traditional in one sense[2] – has been used as a weapon against any dissension from the Post-Revolutionary New Springtime Dictatorship of New Newness. So now that we have more details from the meeting, it seems Rundus (in his aforementioned comments) was right to regard the exhortation for “full communion” as a “nebulous threat.” Rundus, echoing much of what many Trads feel, calls the FSSP to task for the cause of Tradition:

Fraternity priests are now confronted with a dilemma: Will they emerge as valiant defenders of the faithful, whose spiritual centers are being torn asunder, or shall they continue making statements thanking the Holy Father for not beating them too harshly? If the Fraternity truly professes a mission where the Traditional Mass saves souls, which holds the post-conciliar liturgy to be barren, and if they truly abhor Liberalism — the demonic doctrine of our times — then it would behoove them to start showing some fortitude and champion their convictions. 

Who can doubt that these words will prick the conscience of many FSSP priests and indeed, orthodox priests of all stripes in our time? We lay people should not envy the agonizing place that so many orthodox priests have been put in for decades now since the New Iconoclasm has swung the hammer – literally, in many cases – against the liturgical monuments that our forefathers bled and died to pass down to us, unworthy as we are.

Indeed, the lay faithful must ceaselessly pray and make sacrifices for their priests to merit the grace necessary for each of them to make a decision in the tribunal of their conscience before Almighty God on all these painful issues for the sake of souls.

The Tired Old Clerical Debate

However, I would like to say one thing about the FSSP that might upset some Trads who might take a more critical stance toward the Fraternity. Let me preface this by reminding the reader that our Editorial Stance is “Unite the Clans.” OnePeterFive takes no “side” between the tired old debate between the clerics of the FSSP and the SSPX, nor any other Trad organisation.

Speaking for myself, my parish community is neither FSSP nor SSPX, I have communed at both, and my background as a former Eastern Orthodox Christian causes me to land in different places regarding Trad controversies than both.

Moreover, I would like to emphasise that the debate about 1988 and the FSSP is a clerical matter. The whole debate about the “canonical mission” of the SSPX is a clerical question.

So let the clerics figure it out. Leave me, a layman, out of it.

As for me, I’m just a father who demands the Latin Mass and Eucharistic reverence for the Church, and the clerics can debate about the finer points of canon law until the Second Coming for all I care – just give me a liturgy which acts like the Lord Himself is Present, and is not disrespected by scattering His Particles on the floor and then literally trampling Him. It’s not my job as a layman to figure out what “building up full communion” even means. All I care about is if this cleric is in communion with the local bishop and with Rome, the Holy See, and has the Catholic Faith.

And I don’t see how anyone can say that the FSSP or the SSPX lack either of those things, and thus they are Catholic according to my own ordinary “layman” view.

So don’t take what I’m about to say as “taking sides” in that debate – leave me out of this.

Two Trad Approaches to the New Iconoclasm

But having said all that, here’s my two cents: what Rundus says above may righteously convict the conscience of an individual priests in or out of the FSSP – true enough. Let a man of God examine his own conscience. For a former FSSP priest like my friend Fr. James Mawdsley, his Catholic conscience caused him to openly disobey his superiors, causing him to be expelled. (See his channel here:).

But if we keep the true Catholic doctrine of conscience in mind here, I think we can give every Trad priest a lot of slack for the pressure they are trying to juggle. In general, Trad priests and parishes have taken one of two stances since Traditionis Custodes. One is open defiance (imitating Archbishop Lefebvre’s defiance in 1988) and playing the long game (imitating the priests of the FSSP in 1988).

Case study: Catholic Chicago. The Institute parish that chose the former was aggressively “accompanied” by Cupich’s merciful tyranny shutting the whole parish down. The largest parish in Chicago, St. John Cantius (which had already been celebrating both the New Rite and Old for some years before this), chose to play the long game with Cupich’s tyranny of mercy, and is still in operation to this day.

No doubt, the Canons of St. John Cantius know that Cupich will retire before their parish gets shut down. Also no doubt, the Institute has a particular vow to their order to say the old Mass exclusively, and could never agree to Cupich’s tyranny of accompaniment anyway.

So Trad priests associated with both orders chose what their conscience dictated to them. One chose one way, and lives with the consequences, and another chose another way, and lives with the consequences.

Each priest will receive at his judgment from God what he did in this time. But I would hazard to say that some parishes and some priests may choose open defiance for good reason, and God will vindicate them – in this life or the next – and other priests may play the long game – and God will vindicate them – in this life or the next.

It all depends on each priest’s context and the consequences for the salvation of souls.

No doubt, some priests of the SSPX are choosing open defiance for the salvation of souls.

Also no doubt, some priests of the FSSP are choosing the long game for the salvation of souls.

The FSSP Achieves One Long Term Goal

And here’s the rub that will make some Trads angry: the FSSP has already achieved one long term solution. To my Lefebvrist brethren: of course you know that having a “chapel” is not the long term goal. The goal is that each of your chapels will be canonically established “parishes” in communion with the local bishop and the Holy See.

That’s what the FSSP has right now. The goal is to have the Latin Mass available at your local parish. The local parish structure is the traditional structure that we are trying to rebuild.

That’s what the FSSP provides the faithful. If the FSSP must suffer in silence as the price of providing a parish for the salvation of souls, they will suffer in silence.

The SSPX must suffer from the lack of canonical parishes, but again, that’s a price they are willing to pay for the salvation of souls.

But you retort: “But the FSSP priest will be forced to celebrate the New Rite!”

But let’s be honest here: celebrating the New Rite is not the same thing as pinching incense to Caesar. Some Trads act like priests are apostates if they celebrate the New Rite and should rather shed their blood than celebrate it. This attitude fails to apply the aforementioned Catholic doctrine of conscience to our crisis, and causes more division among Trads than is necessary.  

I understand and respect Trads who cannot in conscience attend or celebrate the New Rite.

I also understand and respect Trads whose conscience allows them to attend and celebrate the New Rite.

I understand and respect those who, like the aforementioned Canons of St. John Cantius, attempt to find a modus vivendi between Old and New.

We are all going to have strong opinions in all directions, but the priests are the ones who have to stand before God and answer for what they chose in this time.

And the reality is this: we are at war with Neo-Modernism, and in war time our allies might make different decisions in different battles. We might strongly disagree with an ally’s course of action to fight the enemy and achieve the same goal of victory. But we should not turn our guns on our allies and fire at them. Realise the final goal: the restoration of the Latin Mass. The restoration of Tradition. Our enemies are not fellow Trads who come to different conclusions about particulars in different particular situations. Our enemy is the Neo-Modernist regime of Iconoclasm which currently occupies the Vatican.

As Eric Sammons said at the CIC last year, “Thank God for Pope Francis for bringing us all together.” Because under this pontificate, even non-Trads are coming out to support Trads in their struggle for the ancient Roman rite. So let’s unite the clans. DEUS VULT.

T. S. Flanders
Tuesday in the 3rd Week of the Great Fast

[1] “The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern. Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it, since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church” (Lumen Gentium, 27).

[2] The rebaptism controversy of the 3rd century proves that there is a sense in which “partial communion” exists by means of Baptism which is valid yet “blocked” by heresy. In this sense the ecclesiology present in the documents of Vatican II, while recovering the patristic concept of Eucharistic ecclesiology, also makes explicit what was implicit in the tradition by its conception of a broader sense of communion with the term “partial” and “full communion.” Nevertheless, this does not take away the dubia that are still present in this aspect of communion. On Eucharistic Ecclesiology, see Richard DeClue “Eucharistic Ecclesiologies of Locality and Universality in John Zizioulas and Joseph Ratzinger.” Nova et Vetera, English Edition, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter 2014): 77–103.

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