About the Society of Saint Pius X

Editors Note: This issue of our Crusader dates from January 1992. The Crusader is no longer published, having been replaced by the Mancipia .

It is a matter of record that on countless occasions we have expressed our admiration and respect for Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his Priestly Society of Saint Pius X for the tremendous contribution he and they have made to the Church and to the world by preserving and perpetuating the sublime Divine Liturgy of the Roman Rite as codified at the Council of Trent. We repeat here and now that our feelings in that regard have not changed.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

Yet, while maintaining our high esteem for the Archbishop and his associates, we did not hesitate to convey to them our conviction that the Church would be better served, and they themselves would be a more effective defense against the Modernist traitors within it, if they took their stand on the solid ground of unchangeable doctrine rather than on the shifting sand of changeable discipline.

We suggested this directly to the Archbishop when we met him personally in Saint Mary’s, Kansas, in 1980. But, as we later discovered, His Excellency did not see eye to eye with us on the doctrinal ground to which we referred. He interpreted extra ecclesiam nulla salus to mean “Without the Church there is no salvation.” There is a vast difference in meanings between without and outside of. For just one example: our interpretation, literally correct, forms an insurmountable barrier against false ecumenism; his interpretation encourages it.

Lest the reader think we misrepresent the Archbishop, here is how he has explained the dogma in his own words:

“We are Catholics; we affirm our faith in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we affirm our faith in the divinity of the Holy Catholic Church, we think that Jesus Christ is the sole way, the sole truth, and that one cannot be saved outside Our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently outside His Mystical Spouse, the Holy Catholic Church. No doubt, the graces of God are distributed outside the Catholic Church; but those who are saved, even outside the Catholic Church, are saved by the Catholic Church, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, even if they do not know it, even if they are not aware of it…” (From a sermon preached in 1976 at the First Mass of one of his newly ordained priests.)

“The Church is necessary; the Church is the one ark of salvation; we must state it. That has always been the adage of theology: ‘Outside the Church there is no Salvation’… This does not mean that none among other religions may be saved. But none is saved by his erroneous and false religion. If men are saved in Protestantism, Buddhism or Islam, they are saved by the Catholic Church, by the grace of Our Lord, by the prayers of those in the Church, by the Blood of Our Lord as individuals, perhaps through the practice of their religion, perhaps because of what they understand in their religion, but not by their religion, since none can be saved by error.” (From an address given at Rennes, France in 1972.)

We know that on other occasions the Archbishop expressed the same interpretation of this fundamental dogma. Every time we read, or heard of, such a statement coming from his lips we were dismayed. How could such an otherwise valiant defender of the Faith not see the difference between the general truism — without the Church, no salvation for anyone — and the specific truth as defined by three popes: outside the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church, and without personal submission to the Roman Pontiff, there is absolutely no salvation for anyone?

If Monsignor Lefebvre had been willing to accept our suggestion, if he had been willing to study the entire Father Feeney controversy, ultimately, — just like Father Feeney — he would have understood clearly that the Modernists were determined to destroy the beautiful Mass of Trent precisely because it proclaimed and protected the fundamental dogma, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.”

If he had opposed the New Mass, the new ecumenism, and other changes in the Church from the high ground of doctrine, his defensive position would have been morally unassailable. His opposition would have been based on defined dogma to which every Catholic, including the pope, must give his assent — dogma which no Catholic, including the pope, may change, or ignore, or deny. He would have been able to attack the Modernists in Rome where they are most vulnerable, where their only defense is silence or outright lies, and the only course of action left to them is an unjust use of the sheer power of rank — obey or else! That is exactly what they did to Leonard Feeney, and it is exactly what they would have tried to do to Marcel Lefebvre. But in the Archbishop’s case, it might have been a different ball game. Father Feeney was one lone priest with a small lay following challenging the yet-untarnished prestige of the Jesuit Order, the Hierarchy and Rome. Monsignor Lefebvre — with his growing number of priests, facilities, and world-wide support, challenging a clearly identifiable Modernist “occupation force” in Rome — could well have been an antagonist they could not swallow.

But none of these things happened. The Archbishop fought the good fight, but on his enemy’s favorite ground — in the arena marked “discipline,” where obedience is supreme. He was provoked into an act which the Modernists convincingly claimed was “disobedient” and “schismatic,” and the cause of Traditionalism the world over suffered a severe setback.

As far as we know, the Archbishop never corrected his mistranslation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus nor his personal understanding of what that defined dogma really means. And to this day we do not know how it is taught in the seminaries of the Society. What we do know is that, while professing to believe the dogma with all their hearts, many priests of the Society here in the United States condemn the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary because we do not agree with their liberal interpretation of a theological speculation which, though related to the dogma, is secondary to it, and is being used today by Modernists to render the dogma itself meaningless.

Their animosity toward us first came to light five years ago when suddenly, out of the blue, they published in their quarterly newsletter, Verbum , a very unkind, unscholarly, and uncalled-for article entitled “Fr. Feeney vs. Catholic Doctrine”. (The Verbum in question (#24) can be downloaded here .) It was a demeaning piece which stated that Father was excommunicated because “his doctrine contradicts the Church’s teaching” on baptism of desire. It was unscholarly because that statement, like many others in the article, is just not true. It was uncalled-for because, previously, we had many times requested a meeting with local officials of the Society to discuss in private our known differences of opinion. Our requests were simply ignored.

We responded with an issue of Res Fidei entitled “A Reply to Verbum “. It was an excellent explanation and defense of our opinion on baptism of desire. We recommend it to anyone who is confused about the “baptism of desire” controversy and wants to know our opinion.

Over the ensuing five years, the Society published two more articles critical of us in their magazine, Angelus . Because we were almost totally preoccupied with re-establishing ourselves, in New Hampshire, we were hard-pressed to compose, much less publish, a response. Also we did not wish to get into a public “dog fight” with them for fear of the harm it might do to already disheartened Traditionalists.

One good development came about during those five years: cordial contact concerning our differences began with the then District Superior of the Society. There was no name-calling, no hurling of anathemas, just an exchange of firm opinions on “baptism of desire.” That is the way it should be. If a man denies a defined dogma, he can be called a heretic; but on an undefined theory — which “baptism of desire” certainly is – each man has as much right to his opinion as the other.

This District Superior, Father Francois Laisney, was transferred to Australia last year. Before he left, he authored a booklet on “Baptism of Desire”, a copy of which we have just recently obtained. We will reply to it in due course, but we find it interesting, indeed, that he should make the following statement in the booklet: “One cannot say that one could be saved by the Church, though outside the Church. To be saved, it is not only necessary to receive grace from Christ, we must be in Christ by Charity.”

Within recent months, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. A few young over-zealous priests of the Society have begun to lash out at not just the “Feeneyites” — as they usually refer to us — but at everyone, it would seem, who does not acknowledge their superior wisdom, intelligence and authority. Their use of extremely harsh, unbecoming language and their immature judgments do nothing but further divide and demoralize the Traditionalist camp.

Since Father Feeney and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been the principal target of misrepresentation and general verbal abuse by priests of the Society for several years, and since many of our close friends have been subjected to humiliating treatment at their hands, we feel quite qualified to make some observations based on this experience, confident that we are fully justified in doing so:

A. Holy Mother Church is going through the greatest crisis in her history to date. In these terrible times, all Catholics should exercise the greatest of charity for each other, particularly traditional Catholics; and within the Traditionalist ranks, priests especially should set an example of nobility befitting their holy priesthood.

It is a scandal to many that not just a few priests of the Society in this country have shown so little of this nobility.

B. Within the Traditionalist movement are to be found many priests, brothers, sisters and laymen exceptional for their learning and sanctity. They ought to be cherished and revered. Their counsel should be sought. Their piety and humility should be emulated. Their self-sacrifice in the service of the Church should be respected.

It is sad to see priests of the Society show disdain for any such holy souls. They act as though the Society has a monopoly on learning and sanctity and devotion to the Church.

C. The present crisis within the Church did not suddenly erupt after the death of Pope Pius XII. It has been in the making for centuries. Its initial stages occurred during the thirteenth century, at the very time when the Church was at the height of her earthly prestige, influence and accomplishment. And that, we believe, is probably the time when the Age of Mary began, when God, in His wisdom and foreknowledge, sent His Holy Mother to Saint Dominic in 1214 and to Saint Simon Stock in 1251 to give to the Church two of the most powerful heavenly weapons men would need in the spiritual battles with the powers of Hell about to begin: the Rosary and the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel.

This Satanic conspiracy against the Church and the world had its visible beginnings on a profound scale in the Protestant Revolt of the sixteenth century, and the break-up of Christendom during the seventeenth. It was renewed with vengeance by Masonic-inspired revolutions during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, after spawning Communism and Modernism, it began its final drive for conquest early in this, the twentieth century. In our opinion, we are now witnessing the final stage in Satan’s long-term plan to destroy the Divine Institution of Our Lord and thus deprive men of the only means of salvation.

Throughout all of these many years, this conspiracy’s modus operandi has been based primarily on secrecy and infiltration — the “destroy from within” technique. Every pontificate since at least Pius IX has felt its sinister presence. Vatican Council II was the culmination of decades of covert, treasonous activity within the Church. It was merely the well-planned victory celebration by the Modernists of their formal takeover of control of the Church.

We do not imply deliberate complicity in the conspiracy by any pope — much less Pius XI or Pius XII. But we do say that long-term infiltration by Modernists, even Communists, into, first, the priesthood, then the schools and seminaries, then the ranks of the bishops, then the Vatican itself, ultimately led to the establishment of a huge Trojan Horse within the Church, a Trojan Horse capable of depriving the pope of the accurate intelligence information, the trustworthy advice, and the loyalty of his subordinates that any Supreme Pontiff would have needed to guide the Bark of Peter safely through the stormy seas that characterized both pontificates.

How else do we explain the callous treatment of Father Feeney by Pope Pius XII? How else do we explain the callous disregard by both of these popes of Our Lady’s request for the solemn Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart?four-bishops.jpg
Msgrs. Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Gallaretta, Tissier de Mallerais, and Richard Williamson

It is unrealistic and wrong-headed for priests of the Society to insist that Pius Xll could do no wrong, that any criticism of him is automatically out of order, that during his reign there were no problems in the Church which he should have corrected. But it is also self-serving for them to do so; it enables them more easily to make insolent statements about Father Feeney such as this: “To be excommunicated by Pius Xll is a disgrace, but to be excommunicated by John Paul ll because you keep the Catholic Faith is an honor.”

I must confess that I almost tremble with anger when I read statements like this by young ill-tempered zealots who have the indelible mark of the priesthood on their souls. We pray that some day some responsible superior in the Society will put an end to such unpriestly behavior.

We do not enjoy writing about the Society of Saint Pius X as we have here. Yet, the disagreement between us is fundamental and we cannot remain silent to their provocations. We continue to respect them for their heroic fight for the Mass Immemorial, but their weakness on the foundational Dogma of Faith, as the Archbishop’s own words clearly show, is severe. Since they choose not to discuss it with us in truly Catholic fashion, we can only conclude that they do not believe extra ecclesiam nulla salus in the sense in which it was defined ex cathedra by three popes and believed by the whole Catholic world since the first Pentecost Sunday in 33 A.D.

To bring this subject to a close here, we repeat what we have said to many people when asked our opinion about the Society of Saint Pius X: “We want to be their friends; they seem to want to be our enemies.”

Sincerely, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Brother Francis, M.I.C.M.