An informative reality check…
‘Bishop’ Huonder says Francis told him SSPX Not Schismatic! But what is that worth?
A video by the retired Swiss Novus Ordo bishop Vitus Huonder (b. 1942) is making waves.
Huonder, the former ordinary of Chur, Switzerland, has been supportive of the Society of St. Pius X for a few years now. The Society, abbreviated ‘SSPX’ in the United States and Canada and ‘FSSPX’ in the rest of the world, was founded in 1970 by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre to train priests for the Traditional Latin Mass and promote the Roman Catholic Faith as it had been known and taught until the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
The ‘Lefebvrists’ started out with full ecclesiastical approval but later incurred irregular canonical status through disagreements with the Modernist Vatican, all the way up to automatic excommunication for those directly involved in the unauthorized consecration of four bishops in 1988, which ‘Pope’ John Paul II immediately denounced as a “schismatic act”.
For approximately ten years, relations between the SSPX leadership and the Vatican remained frozen, but at the end of the 1990s, initial steps were taken to bring about an eventual reconciliation.
In 2015, ‘Cardinal’ Gerhard Ludwig Müller of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Destruction of the Faith asked ‘Bp.’ Huonder to get to know the Lefebvrists both theologically and personally, with the (unintended) result that the Swiss ordinary became not only very sympathetic to the SSPX but ended up basically agreeing with them. When his diocesan tenure ended in 2019, Huonder decided to retire to one of the Society’s houses, reportedly with the tacit approval of ‘Pope’ Francis (Jorge Bergoglio).
Since then, Huonder (whose 2007 episcopal consecration in the Novus Ordo rite must be considered invalid) has not refrained from performing liturgical functions for the SSPX, such as the recent ‘consecration’ of the holy oils in Germany, which has horrendous repercussions for the administrations of confirmation and extreme unction in which these invalid oils are used.
“The Great Wound”
On Apr. 24, 2023, Huonder published the first of three parts of a video series named “The Great Wound”. Entitled “My Journey to the SSPX”, this initial episode shows Huonder explaining how he ended up with the Pius X Society, a rather unusual step for a Novus Ordo bishop:
(English subtitles are available by clicking the cogwheel icon)
Speaking in German with a slight Swiss accent, Huonder gives a very calm and gentle presentation that will no doubt have an impact on many.
At the 12:08 min mark, Huonder says (German original with our English translation):
“Der Grund zum Handeln war für den Erzbischof in erster Linie das Heil der Seelen, ebenso die Erhaltung der Reinheit des Glaubens. Denn der Glaube ist der Weg zum Heil; er darf daher nicht verfälscht werden. Von diesem Grundsatz aus muss die Bruderschaft und ihr Gründer betrachtet und beurteilt werden. In diesem Sinn hat sich Papst Franziskus mir gegenüber geäußert und gesagt: Sie sind keine Schismatiker.”
“For the Archbishop, the reason for taking action was the salvation of souls first and foremost, as well as the safeguarding of the purity of the Faith. For the Faith is the way to salvation, which is why it must not be changed. It is from this premise that the Society and its founder must be viewed and evaluated. In this sense Pope Francis spoke to me and said: They are not schismatics.”
Thus far Mr. Huonder’s actual words.
Predictable Reactions from different Sides
Francis’ alleged comment that the Lefebvrists are not schismatic quickly garnered attention online, with those supportive of the SSPX using it as a sort of “See, the Pope agrees we’re Catholic!” cudgel, whereas the Society’s opponents question either the veracity of Huonder’s report or the significance of the Bergoglian remark.
Thus, SSPX apologist Kennedy Hall — who had just published a new book, SSPX: The Defence — did not delay in using the news as corroboration for his position. On the flip side, Novus Ordo apologist Michael Lofton immediately challenged that narrative, claiming it to be a misrepresentation of Huonder’s words to say Francis does not believe the SSPX to be objectively in schism.
According to Lofton, Francis meant that the SSPX is not schismatic in terms of subjective intent only. But though this may perhaps be a legitimate conjecture, Lofton cannot prove it. Furthermore, we think it would be giving Bergoglio way too much credit to think he has any use for such distinctions (subjective vs. objective) in the first place — they are simply too rigid, too scholastic, not dynamic enough. Also, as an adherent of Vatican II ecclesiology, one may wonder how much meaning the notion of schism has for the false pope to begin with. He’s definitely not terribly worried about it.
With regard to Hall’s stance, it is only to be expected that he would zero in on an apparent ‘papal’ confirmation of what he himself has been arguing — obviously. There is, however, a different point of criticism that ought to be raised, and that is the curious fact that some people don’t see the problem with using Francis’ reported words as evidence of their status as good Catholics.
Frankly, an endorsement from the most destructive apostate the world has ever known is not something a Catholic should want to put on his theological resumé. Please pardon the analogy, but a Bergoglian stamp of approval is basically the theological equivalent of an abortionist certifying the credentials of a midwife.
Is this too harsh? It is not. Let’s review at least a tiny fraction of the applicable facts.
Jorge Bergoglio, Beacon of Orthodoxy & Principle of Unity?
First of all, it will be good to remember that by being in communion with Francis, one is necessarily also united with other people he acknowledges as being in union with him. That includes such characters as Georg Batzing, Helmut Dieser, Robert McElroy, Timothy Radcliffe, James Martin, Reinhard Marx, Franz-Josef Bode, Richard Rohr, Blase Cupich, and John Stowe, for starters.
With regard to declaring schismatics to be Catholics in full communion, SSPX supporters would do well to remember that in 2018 Francis simply declared the parallel hierarchy of the schismatic Chinese Communist Church regularized, thereby turning them into “legitimate Catholic shepherds” and stabbing the persecuted heroic Underground Church in the back.
As far as Bergoglio’s theological record goes, it would be impossible to do it justice in a single post like this. The laundry list of his theological errors, heresies, blasphemies, and impieties is practically infinite. Nevertheless, we will now provide some of the more memorable examples. Remember these?
He instructs his priests never to deny absolution to a penitent, regardless of the circumstances, and says that lifelong fornication with one and the same person constitutes a “real marriage”, and this is evident from the people’s “fidelity”.
His magisterial acts include open blasphemy, such as the idea that God wills there to be a diversity of religions, and his teaching that God sometimes wants people to commit adultery (see ‘Apostolic Exhortation’ Amoris Laetitia, n. 303). On the other hand, he warns that hitting a woman is ‘blasphemy’.
He teaches that Lutherans are members of the Mystical Body of Christ and gifts a Eucharistic chalice to a Lutheran minister for use in his invalid communion services.
This ‘Pope’ says natural calamities are not the result of God the Father punishing us but rather it is ‘Mother Earth’ throwing a tantrum.
When he gives ten tips for a happy life, none of them have anything to do with religion or the supernatural.
When he doesn’t joke about the Crucifixion of Christ or the Holy Trinity, he explains that God does not demand anything in return for His Love toward us, and advises his sheeple that God’s judgment is nothing to fear.
Oh, and while he’s add it, he also redefines the concept of truth.
Lest anyone still think that, even after ten years, Bergoglio should still be given that famous benefit of the doubt, he has made it clear that he does not care if something he says is heretical, and he shrugs off accusations of heresy, especially when they are made against himself. Oh, and of course he says Martin Luther “did not err” on justification (which implies the Council of Trent erred instead in condemning the Lutheran heresies).
Above and beyond all that, Bergoglio is not exactly known as a dependable truth teller. On the contrary, very often he expresses himself in ways that admit of more than one interpretation, or tells different people different things; and when he meets with people in private, he does not later issue a statement on the contents of the meeting but instead allows his interlocutors to cause scandal by making the wildest claims about ‘what the Pope said’ to them, while himself keeping an irreverent silence.
And now this beacon of Faith and morals, this guarantor of orthodoxy, this rock against which the gates of hell will never prevail, who is committed to the truth and nothing but the truth, has reportedly said that the Society of St. Pius X is not schismatic.
Bergoglio and the Society of St. Pius X
Never is a case as far away from being settled as when ‘Pope’ Francis makes a pronouncement concerning it.
In 2021, when Francis issued the Traditional Mass-crushing edict Traditionis Custodes, he also released an accompanying explanatory letter. In that letter the false pope wrote:
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 Mons. Lefebvre. With the ecclesial intention of restoring the unity of the Church, the Bishops were thus asked to accept with generosity the “just aspirations” of the faithful who requested the use of that Missal.
(Source; underlining added.)
In 2016, Francis had said in an interview with the French La Croix that the adherents of the SSPX “are Catholics [!] on the way to full communion” — whatever that means.
Shortly after, Bp. Bernard Fellay, then the Superior General of the Pius X Society, gave an interview to Ed Pentin, in which he explained that Francis considers the SSPX to be Catholic — adding that doctrine is not that important to him. His Excellency must have been blissfully unaware of the ironic implications of these words.
It is true that Bergoglio has bent over backwards to be nice to the SSPX, even before he usurped the Chair of St. Peter in 2013. But, considering everything else we know about him, it would be naive to think that this demonstrates some kind of affection for “pre-Vatican II Catholics” on his part.
A more levelheaded analysis takes into consideration that in the daily exercise of his putative office, Francis shows an obsessive hatred for the Traditional Latin Mass and for traditional Catholic belief and practice. Where he is in full control, he deals severely with those he suspects of harboring a “crypto-Lefebvrism” and who aren’t progressive enough for his tastes.
A much more reasonable theory, therefore, is that Francis has shown great kindness to the SSPX precisely because he does not yet have full control over them. Therefore, he needs to woo them somehow, and he knows that they too have an interest in being accepted by him, since they will need more bishops before long, and episcopal consecration without ‘papal’ approval results in automatic excommunication.
Francis is an extremely clever politician and strategist. People would do well not to underestimate him.
SSPX Ecclesiology meets Vatican II Ecclesiology
One would think that whether a certain priestly fraternity is Catholic or schismatic should not be that difficult to determine. Do they, or do they not, refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff, and/or do they refuse to be in communion with other members of the Church? That would be the theological approach to the issue.
To prepare you for an attempt at an answer, we advise you to fasten your seatbelts because this will take us into the deepest bowels of ecclesiological Absurdistan.
Trying to determine the status of the Society of St. Pius X vis-a-vis the Novus Ordo ‘Holy See’ is basically an impossible task. The reason for that is that neither the Vatican II Church nor the SSPX adhere to the traditional Catholic ecclesiology, from which the concepts of schism and Catholic unity are taken. Both parties embrace distorted versions, as follows:
The Lefebvrists, following their founder, believe in a Catholic Church that is also, at times, a false church, or which at least possesses elements of a false church; and they declare themselves to be in communion with the true Church (to the extent that it is the true Church) and out of communion with the false church (to the extent that it is such). They also demonstrate time and again that they consider themselves, not Rome, as the final arbiters of their own orthodoxy and union with the Holy See (unless, perhaps, the Holy See agrees with their judgment).
This can be seen, for example, in the letter of the SSPX Superior General and other superiors which was sent to the Vatican’s ‘Cardinal’ Bernard Gantin on July 6, 1988, in response to the declaration of their excommunication:
Ecône, July 6, 1988
Gathered around our Superior General, the Superiors of the Districts, Seminaries and autonomous houses of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X think it good to respectfully express to you the following reflections.
You thought it good, by your letter of July 1st, to inform Their Excellencies Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, and the four Bishops whom they consecrated on June 30, at Ecône, of the excommunication latæ sententiæ. We let you judge for yourself the value of such a declaration, coming from an authority who, in its exercise, breaks with all its predecessors down to Pope Pius XII, in worship, teaching and government of the Church.
As for us, we are in full communion with all the Popes and Bishops before the Second Vatican Council, celebrating precisely the Mass which they codified and celebrated, teaching the Catechism which they drew up, standing up against the errors which they have many times condemned in their encyclicals and pastoral letters. We let you judge on which side the rupture is to be found. We are extremely saddened by the blindness of spirit and the hardening of heart of the Roman authorities.
On the other hand, we have never wished to belong to this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church, and defines itself with the Novus Ordo Missæ, an ecumenism which leads to indifferentism and the laicization of all society. Yes, we have no part, nullam partem habemus, with the pantheon of the religions of Assisi; our own excommunication by a decree of Your Eminence or of another Roman Congregation would only be the irrefutable proof of this. We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. We believe in the One God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and we will always remain faithful to His unique Spouse, the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.
To be publicly associated with this sanction which is inflicted upon the six Catholic Bishops, Defenders of the Faith in its integrity and wholeness, would be for us a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful. They have indeed a strict right to know that the priests who serve them are not in communion with a counterfeit church, promoting evolution, pentecostalism and syncretism. In union with these faithful, we make ours the words of the Prophet: “Præparate corda vestra Domino et servite Illi soli: et liberabit vos de manibus inimicorum vestrorum. Convertimini ad Eum in toto corde vestro, et auferte deos alienos de medio vestri—Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3).
Confident in the protection of Her who has crushed all the heresies in the world, we assure Your Eminence of our dedication to Him Who is the only Way of salvation.
Fr. Franz Schmidberger, Superior General
[List of co-signers follows]
Now, one can, of course, be sympathetic to the SSPX clergy and their people, considering the frustrations and struggles they had to deal with in the face of the apostasy of the New Church. However, that is of no concern to the present discussion. We are not interested in assessing the personal good will, holiness, or culpability of individuals, which is not for us to judge anyway. Rather, we are interested only in assessing, quite objectively, the theology of the Lefebvrists.
In light of traditional Catholic doctrine, the ecclesiology displayed in this letter to ‘Cardinal’ Gantin is a train wreck, and necessarily so, since the authors attempt to fit both the Catholic Church and the counterfeit ‘Conciliar Church’ into one and the same entity and then declare themselves to be in communion with one but not the other.
The Vatican II Modernists, for their part, also have a grotesque ecclesiology. They believe that there are various degrees of communion by which Catholics and other “Christian churches and ecclesial communities” participate in the one Church to some extent — Catholics fully and perfectly, and non-Catholics partially or imperfectly. Thus, “ecclesial elements” are indeed found in the Pius X Society, but such are also present in the Eastern Orthodox, in the Lutherans, and in practically any entity that has a valid baptism. This Vatican II ecclesiology is explained in greater detail in the following links:
- Vatican II’s New Doctrine on the Church
- The New Ecclesiology: Overview
- The New Ecclesiology: Documentation
- The New Ecclesiology: Debate between Bp. Donald Sanborn and Dr. Robert Fastiggi
- The New Ecclesiology: Post-Debate Conference
One can easily see how the traditional Catholic notion of schism as refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff doesn’t neatly fit into either of these bizarre ecclesiologies. Thus, to attempt to determine whether the SSPX is in schism, in the context of either of the above-described positions, cannot but lead to theological absurdity. It is like forcing a square peg into a round hole. If it can be done at all, it can only be done by doing damage to the hole or the peg, or both.
The following succinct presentation illustrates this conundrum a bit better.
From the side of the SSPX:
- they are and want to be in schism (with “Modernist Rome”, lest they be tainted by the Conciliar religion)
- they are not and do not want to be in schism (with “Eternal Rome”, lest they be found outside the Catholic Church)
but the problem is that
- Modernist Rome and Eternal Rome are united in the same entity and the same people
- especially the Vicar of Christ, who is sometimes a kind of Anti-Christ
- the SSPX reserves to itself the right to determine when the Rome that teaches, legislates, and sanctifies is Eternal Rome that must be obeyed, and when it is Modernist Rome that must be resisted
From the side of the Vatican:
- the SSPX is in schism (depending on whom you ask, and when)
- the SSPX is not in schism (depending on whom you ask, and when)
but at the same time
- even schismatics are part of the Body of Christ
- that is, part of the Church
- so much so that their bishops are true shepherds of God’s flock
which is why
- they are allowed to offer Mass even in a Catholic basilica
and, in any case, there is
- partial/imperfect communion
- with “sister church” status and non-Catholic saints
- it is necessary that there be different religions
- God wants it that way
- as an enrichment for humanity
keeping in mind that
- we are all children of God
- indeed all are part of the People of God
- the Lord will save everyone
…so what does any of this matter?
Thus we can see that both parties in this mystifying conflict are operating on the basis of an utterly absurd ecclesiology, and therefore it is no surprise that when you try to weld the two positions together, you get absurdity on stilts. That is precisely what we continually witness with debates over whether the SSPX is in schism or not, and that is why that debate will never get anywhere.
The fact of the matter is that one can find from both sides bits and pieces of evidence in support of either position. That is so because the SSPX tries to maintain a schizophrenic doctrine on the Church and the Vatican is also a hopeless muddle of bizarre, contradictory theology, with Francis’ own statements and actions taking the absurdity to the next level.
What this ultimately means is that the never-ending debate over the precise canonical status of the SSPX with respect to the Vatican II Church is one gigantic waste of time. One would have greater success trying to nail yogurt to a wall.
Image source: composite with elements from catholicnews.org.uk (Mazur; modified), Shutterstock (Warut Chinsai), Amazon, SSPX, YouTube (screenshots)
License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, paid, fair use, fair use, fair use