Interview with Austrian newspaper
New SSPX Superior: ‘We are Deeply Distraught by this Pope’
The Dec. 15, 2018 edition of the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten contains a brief, half-page interview with the new Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Fr. Davide Pagliarani, who succeeded Bp. Bernard Fellay as head of the Lefebvrists this past summer.
The conversation, which was conducted by Josef Bruckmoser, was published on the paper’s web site (digital subscription required), and an English translation was released on the SSPX’s news portal, where it can be accessed in full for free:
The headline given by the SSPX for its translation is not that which Salzburger Nachrichten gave to the exchange, which is a slightly adapted version (but still fair representation) of what Fr. Pagliarani says at one point in the interview: “We are Deeply Distraught by this Pope” (“Dieser Papst erschüttert uns zutiefst”). Another way to translate it would be: “We are Profoundly Shaken by this Pope.”
Based on this interview, we can say that Fr. Pagliarani is — refreshingly — much clearer, more direct, and more straightforward in his responses than his long-time predecessor. Let’s have a closer look now at some of what he says.
In response to the first question Mr. Bruckmoser poses to him, concerning the 1988 Novus Ordo excommunication of Abp. Marcel Lefebvre and the other five involved in the episcopal consecration “Pope” John Paul II had prohibited them from conferring or receiving, Fr. Pagliarani notes that “we always considered these excommunications as baseless”. This is very true — they did indeed, considering them unjust. But here it is worth nothing that, although it is true that an excommunication could be imposed unjustly, in which case it would be void, the Catholic Church has condemned the idea that such an excommunication by the legitimate authority need not be feared.
On Sep. 8, 1713, Pope Clement XI issued the Apostolic Constitution Unigenitus, in which he condemned the errors of Pascal Quesnel, among which are the following:
CONDEMNED: The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, aslong as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.
CONDEMNED: To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.
(Pope Clement XI, Apostolic Constitution Unigenitus, nn. 91-92; Denz. 1441-1442)
This is something the SSPX never mentions and presumably hopes its people never stumble upon, although at this point, since the Novus Ordo excommunications were rescinded by “Pope” Benedict XVI in 2009, it is of no concern for the time being.
Asked what he is waiting for Francis to do that would allow him to bring his Lefebvrist Society back into union with Rome, the SSPX Superior General responds: “We are waiting for what every Catholic asks of the Church at baptism: Faith. Divine Revelation has now ended and it is the duty of the Pope to transmit faithfully the Deposit of Faith.” This may sound great at first, but step back for a minute and consider what he’s saying, both explicitly and implicitly.
He’s saying that the Pope, precisely as Pope and not as a private person, is not teaching the Catholic Faith, that he is not faithful. Now we know that Francis is not exactly silent in terms of teaching, so the only viable conclusion is that Francis teaches something that contradicts the true Faith. But another word for that is heresy.
Secondly, as Pope a Pope is necessarily faithful, else he cannot be the head of the Church, for he would be a heretic, and heretics are not members of the Church: “Therefore they do not belong to the Church, which is the Congregation of the faithful, because schismatics are not congregated and heretics are not faithful” (Fr. Joachim Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, n. 1059; italics given). A “heretic Pope” is therefore a contradiction in terms and absolutely ruled out by the divine promises for St. Peter and his successors (see Mt 16:18; Lk 22:31-32; 1 Tim 3:15).
Pope Pius IX summarized the Catholic position on the indefectibility of the Papacy thus:
Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7)
Church teaching doesn’t change with the times. If what Pius IX taught was true in 1853, it must still be true in 2018.
A few years prior, the same Pope had made clear that “one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff” (Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17), and his immediate successor, Pope Leo XIII, likewise affirmed that “[u]nion with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13) — something the Lefebvrists have chosen to refuse to assent to, at their own peril.
Of course we are not saying that they should join the Novus Ordo circus of the Roman Modernists. Rather, they ought to finally embrace the only possible and therefore necessary logical conclusion, namely, that Francis is not the Pope and his gang is not the Catholic Church but a group of detestable usurpers. The Vatican II Church is a perfect example of what ecclesiastical defection would look like if it were possible — and for that reason alone it cannot be the Catholic Church.
Next, the interviewer asks Fr. Pagliarani how the Society could show itself conciliatory towards the “Pope”. Father responds:
The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X is deeply attached to the Successor of Peter, even when it opposes the errors of the Second Vatican Council. However, we are deeply distraught by a fundamental characteristic of the current pontificate: a completely new application of the concept of mercy. It is reduced to a panacea for all sins, without pushing for a true conversion, the transformation of the soul by grace, mortification and prayer. In his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris lætitia, the Pope gives all Christians, the possibility to decide case by case, according to their personal conscience, the questions of morality in marriage. This totally contradicts the necessary and clear orientation given by God’s law.
We see here an echo of Luther’s spirituality: a Christianity without the need for moral renewal, a subjectivism that no longer recognises any universally valid truth. This has caused deep confusion among the faithful and the clergy. Every man is in search of truth. But for this he needs the direction of the priest, just as a pupil needs the direction of a teacher.
(Fr. Davide Pagliarani in “It is inconceivable that the Church was mistaken for two millennia”, FSSPX News, Dec. 15, 2018)
Pagliarani’s description and critique of the false Bergoglian mercy is spot-on, but his first sentence is an absurdity. One cannot be “deeply attached” to someone believed to be the Pope when one is refusing to adhere to an ecumenical council over which he presided and whose decrees he promulgated with his supposed “apostolic authority.” Of course it wasn’t Francis who presided over Vatican II, but he is in full agreement with it, accepts it, and develops it, and in any case, the SSPX takes the same position towards Paul VI.
Interestingly enough, this kind of doublethink is not new in the history of the Church. Pope Pius IX severely rebuked certain schismatics in his day who basically made the same argument the SSPX makes in our day:
What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?
…In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema.
(Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X , pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434; underlining added.)
Regarding the errors of the Second Vatican Council, there is no doubt they are real and myriad, but it is impossible that they should have come from a true Pope, from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
When in 1870 after the First Vatican Council the so-called “Old Catholics” accused the council of heresy, Pius IX expressed his outrage and wrote:
Incredibly, they boldly affirm that the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops, the priests and the people conjoined with him in the unity of faith and communion fell into heresy when they approved and professed the definitions of the [First] Ecumenical Vatican Council. Therefore they deny also the indefectibility of the Church and blasphemously declare that it has perished throughout the world and that its visible Head and the bishops have erred.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Etsi Multa, n. 22)
This describes the SSPX position to a T, with the exception that the SSPX does not claim the Church has perished but “only” that “its visible Head and the bishops have erred”, meaning that the Church has become unfaithful and now teaches the “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim 4:1). What blasphemy! As if the Bride of Christ could become a harlot!
The Lefebvrists are right in condeming the Second Vatican Council with its errors, of course, but it is impossible to suppose that this abominable council was promulgated by the genuine Roman Catholic hierarchy because this would mean the Church has defected, which is divinely guaranteed to be impossible.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that the SSPX superior does not see the irony in his last sentence, where he says that every man needs the direction of a teacher, when he is refusing to allow the ultimate human teacher — whom he believes “Pope” Francis to be — to teach and direct him and those who follow him. The SSPX is a walking contradiction, and until it recognizes that the Vatican II Sect is not the Catholic Church and its leaders have not been true Popes, it will never be able to resolve it.
Next, Bruckmoser asks: “There are also many people in other religions who live morally well, in their heart and conscience. Will God recognise their merits?” Here Fr. Pagliarani gives a response that is unclear and insufficient:
The Church is essentially missionary. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. It is only through him that mankind will be saved. He founded only one Church, which is the Roman Catholic Church. This theological truth must be proclaimed, as well as the rectitude of morality and the splendour of the Traditional Mass in the Tridentine Rite.
The sincere search for truth in other religions is not sufficient to yield truth. We must therefore help these souls save themselves. If a soul can be saved outside the Catholic Church, it is despite the error in which it finds itself, and not thanks to it, and in any case, it is saved by Jesus Christ alone.
(Fr. Davide Pagliarani in “It is inconceivable that the Church was mistaken for two millennia”, FSSPX News, Dec. 15, 2018)
The wording “If a soul can be saved outside the Catholic Church…” is subversive of the dogma that outside the Church “no one at all is saved” (Fourth Lateran Council, Ch. 1; Denz. 430). Phraseology about souls being able to be saved outside the Church is sometimes found, unfortunately, even in approved Catholic theological works before Vatican II, and if such is understood to mean that one can be saved without being a member of the Church, then it would be orthodox, but it ought to be avoided because it is in diametrical contradiction to what the dogma states, namely that “no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur, n. 8).
The great American ecclesiologist Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton confirms precisely this:
The teaching that the dogma of the necessity of the Church for salvation admits of exceptions is, in the last analysis, a denial of the dogma as it has been stated in the authoritative declarations of the ecclesiastical magisterium and even as it is expressed in the axiom or formula “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” [outside the Church, no salvation].
(Joseph C. Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1958], p. 124; italics given.)
Fr. Pagliarani missed the opportunity to emphasize that one cannot “live morally well” apart from God’s grace, and that every soul without exception must possess the virtues of Faith, hope, and charity (sanctifying grace) at the moment of death in order to be saved. Unfortunately, in his response he does not explain the role of the Church as the vehicle of salvation at all and seems to fall into another error criticized by Mgr. Fenton, namely, that some try to “restrict the meaning of the Church’s necessity for salvation to the fact that the gifts of grace whereby a man actually achieves salvation really belong to the Church” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 127).
For an in-depth explanation of the Catholic teaching of No Salvation Outside the Church, we recommend John Daly’s treatment of the subject in Chapter XI of his book Michael Davies – An Evaluation, available for free download here.
Further on in the interview in Salzburger Nachrichten, the following exchange takes place:
[Bruckmoser:] You reject the essential documents of the Second Vatican Council, such as those on religious liberty and ecumenism. Is it just a different interpretation, or do you completely reject these texts of the Council?
[Pagliarani:] The Second Vatican Council declared itself as a purely pastoral Council. However, major dogmatic decisions, like those you mentioned, were made. This led to a complete transformation of the faith.
Pope Benedict XVI considered that the differences between Rome and the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X were a problem of interpretation of the texts of the Council. It was enough to reflect upon these texts for an agreement to be possible. However, that is not our position. The Society of Saint Pius X rejects, from the Second Vatican Council, all that is not in agreement with Catholic Tradition.
The Pope should declare the decree on religious liberty erroneous and correct it accordingly. We are convinced that one day a Pope will do just that, and return to the pure doctrine that was the reference before this Council. The questions of religious liberty, ecumenism and the divine constitution of the Church were all dealt with by Popes prior to the Second Vatican Council. It suffices to revive their teachings.
It is inconceivable that the Church was mistaken for two millennia and that she found the truth about these questions only during the years of the Council, between 1962 and 1965.
(“It is inconceivable that the Church was mistaken for two millennia”, FSSPX News, Dec. 15, 2018; bold print removed.)
Fr. Pagliarani’s assertion that the council made “major dogmatic decisions” on ecumenism and religious freedom that “led to a complete transformation of the faith” is stunning and is absolutely irreconcilable with the Catholic teaching on the Magisterium, on the Church, and on the Papacy. In an article published at the beginning of Vatican II — when it was not yet known what a disaster it would turn out to be — Mgr. Fenton, thinking it to have been called by (and assuming it would eventually be promulgated by) a legitimate Pope, applied the Catholic teaching to the council and summed up the facts as follows:
The fact of the matter is that the success of the ecumenical council really depends on the effectiveness and the ardor of the prayers of the faithful. There is one factor which Our Lord has clearly promised to the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The supreme teaching power of the kingdom of God on earth will be protected against the teaching of error as long as it speaks out on a matter of faith or morals to the entire Church of God in this world, and speaks definitively. In other words, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost will teach and lead the ecclesiastical magisterium when it speaks definitively for the universal Church of God on earth, in such a way that this magisterium … will teach and define the doctrine of the Church accurately.
Thus there need be no anxiety about the possibility of any doctrinal error emanating from the ecumenical council. It is absolutely beyond the bounds of possibility that the ecumenical council should proclaim, and that the Roman Pontiff should confirm and promulgate as the teaching of an ecumenical council, any doctrine at variance with the teaching of God which has been given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. There never will be a time when the doctrinal decrees of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican will have to be corrected, either negatively or positively. And, in precisely the same way, there is absolutely no possibility that the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican will set out to correct, or to put into better balance, any of the decrees of any of the previous ecumenical councils, or, for that matter, any of the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff, whether therese pronouncements have been made through the solemn or the ordinary teaching activity of the Bishop of Rome.
We are praying, however, that the forthcoming Council may be successful, and the success of the Ecumenical Council involves a great deal more than the infallible pronouncement of the salutary message of Jesus Christ….
(Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, “The Virtue of Prudence and the Success of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council”, American Ecclesiastical Review 147 [Oct. 1962], pp. 255-256; italics in original; underlining added.)
There are only two possibilities: Either Vatican II was a legitimate council of the Catholic Church promulgated by the authority of a true Pope, or it was not such a legitimate council. If the former, then it cannot possibly have made doctrinal decisions at odds with the Faith, even inchoately. But if such decisions were made — and this is undeniable, especially in view of the fact that a “complete transformation of the faith” has verifiably occurred — then it is only because Vatican II was not a legitimate council approved by a true Pope. There is no other possible conclusion a Catholic can draw. Why is this so difficult for the Lefebvrists to understand?
Fr. Pagliarani emphasizes that his Society “rejects … all that is not in agreement with Catholic Tradition” but he apparently does not notice that this position itself is “not in agreement with Catholic Tradition”, as shown above. It is guaranteed by God Himself that whatever a legitimate ecumenical council teaches is, at the very least, not contrary to the Deposit of Faith, which is ultimately what Catholic Tradition is all about — handing on (in Latin, tradere) what has been received from the Apostles, who received their teaching directly from Christ Himself.
It is always safe to follow the Roman Pontiff and his ecumenical councils, even when teaching is put forward that is not infallible. This is explained well in the article “Must I believe it?” by Canon George Smith, which originally appeared in The Clergy Review in April of 1935. This is what makes the Papacy unlike any other office in the Church or anywhere in the world. It’s why Pope Leo XIII was able to teach that “the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate” (Allocution of Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 653). The “pure doctrine” will always be found there — no exceptions!
The SSPX Superior General ends by saying that, as far as the accusation of schism goes, “Rome does not consider us schismatics, but rather as ‘irregular'”. That may be true, depending on whom in Vatican City you ask. Certainly Francis considers them Catholics, that much is true — however, as the Lefebvrists themselves never cease to point out, he’s not exactly a reliable standard for what or who is to be considered Catholic. As Bp. Fellay said so candidly (paraphrasing): ‘Francis considers us Catholics — doctrine is not that important to him’ (read actual quote with context here). Touché!
The ultimately determining factor with regard to the SSPX being in schism, of course, is not whether someone acknowledges them as schismatic or not but whether they meet the definition of schism, and they do so to a T (if we assume Francis to be a true Pope): “[S]chism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (Canon 751, 1983 Novus Ordo Code of Canon Law). This is definition is correct and is found also in the 1917 Catholic Code of Canon Law, Canon 1325 §2).
Thus, another interview with an SSPX Superior, another theological train wreck. It’s business as usual.
For those who have never seen it before, now may be a great time to check out the epic exchange secular journalist Tim Sebastian had with Bp. Fellay in 2016, an interview which the SSPX, understandably, never publicized.
Image sources: fsspx.news (cropped) / sn.at
Licenses: Fair use / fair use
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