An authorised translation of the letter of Bishop Williamson to Bishop Fellay
OPEN LETTER TO BISHOP FELLAY
ON AN “EXCLUSION”
London, 19 October, 2012
Thank you for your letter of October 4 in which, on behalf of the General Council and General Chapter, you let me know of your “recognisance”, “declaration” and “decision” that I no longer belong to the Society of St Pius X. The reasons given for your decision to exclude your servant are, you tell me, the following: he has continued to publish the “Eleison Comments”; he has attacked the authorities of the Society; he has exercised an independent apostolate; he has given support to rebellious colleagues; he has been formally, obstinately and pertinaciously disobedient; he has separated himself from the Society; he no longer submits to any authority.
May not all these reasons be summed up in disobedience? No doubt in the course of the last 12 years your servant has said and done things which before God were inappropriate and excessive, but I think it would be enough to point them out one by one for him to make the apology called for in all truth and justice. But we are no doubt agreed that the essential problem is not to be found in these details, that it can be summed up in one word: disobedience.
Then let us at once point out how many more or less disagreeable orders of the Superior General have been unfailingly obeyed by your servant. In 2003 he left behind an important and fruitful apostolate in the United States to go to Argentina. In 2009 he left his post as Seminary Rector and left behind Argentina to moulder in a London attic for three and a half years, with no episcopal functions because they were denied him. All that was left to him by way of ministry was virtually the weekly “Eleison Comments”, the refusal to interrupt which constitutes the large part of the “disobedience” of which he stands accused. And ever since 2009 it has been open season for the Society Superiors to discredit and insult him to their hearts’ content, and Society members all over the world have been encouraged by their example to do the same if they wished. Your servant hardly reacted, preferring silence to scandalous confrontations. One might go so far as to say that he obstinately refused to disobey. But let that go, because that is not the real problem.
Then where is the real problem to be found? By way of reply let the accused be allowed to give a rapid overview of the history of the Society from which he is supposedly separating himself. For indeed the central problem goes a long way back.
Starting with the French Revolution towards the end of the 18th century, in many a formerly Christian State a New World Order began to establish itself, thought up by the Church’s enemies to chase God out of his own creation. To begin with, the old order in which throne upheld altar was replaced by the separation of Church and State. As a result, society was structured in a radically different way, creating serious difficulties for the Church, because the State, being henceforth implicitly godless, was bound in the end to fight the religion of God with all its might. Sure enough, the Freemasons set about replacing the true worship of God with the worship of liberty, a worship of which the neutral State in matters of religion is merely an instrument. Thus began in modern times a relentless war between the religion of God, defended by the Catholic Church, and the religion of man, liberated from God, and liberal. The two religions are as irreconcilable as God and the Devil. A choice has to be made between Catholicism and liberalism
But man wants to have his cake and eat it. He does not want to have to choose. He wants it both ways. So in the wake of the French Revolution Félicité de Lamennais invented liberal Catholicism, and from that moment on, the reconciling of things irreconcilable became common currency within the Church. For 120 years God in his mercy gave to his Church a series of Popes, from Gregory XVI to Pius XII, who for the most part saw clear and held firm, but an ever growing number of layfolk were inclining towards independence from God and towards the material pleasures which liberal Catholicism makes much more accessible. The corruption spread until it infected bishops and priests, at which point God finally allowed them to choose the kind of Popes they preferred, namely Popes who would pretend to be Catholic but would in fact be liberals, whose talk might be right-wing but whose action is left-wing, who are characterized by their contradictions, ambiguity, Hegelian dialectic, in brief, by their lies. We are into the Newchurch of Vatican II.
It was bound to be. Only a dreamer can reconcile things in reality irreconcilable. Yet God, as St Augustine says, does not abandon souls that do not first want to abandon him, and so he comes to the aid of the small remnant of souls that is unwilling to join in the soft apostasy of Vatican II. He raises an Archbishop to resist the betrayal of the Conciliar churchmen. Respecting reality, with no desire to reconcile things irreconcilable, refusing to dream, this Archbishop speaks with a clarity, a coherence and truth that enables the sheep to recognize the voice of the divine Master. The priestly Society which he founds to form true Catholic priests begins on a small scale, but by its resolute refusal of the Conciliar errors and of their basis in liberal Catholicism, it draws to itself a remainder of true Catholics all over the world, and it constitutes the backbone of a whole movement within the Church which will go under the name of Traditionalism.
But this movement is intolerable to the churchmen of the Newchurch who mean to replace Catholicism with liberal Catholicism. Backed by the media and State governments, they do everything they can to discredit, disgrace and ostracize the courageous Archbishop. In 1976 Paul VI suspends him “a divinis”, in 1988 John-Paul II “excommunicates” him. He is a supreme nuisance to the Conciliar Popes because his voice of truth has the effect of showing up their pack of lies and of imperilling the betrayal they mean to carry out. And despite being persecuted, despite even being “excommunicated”, he holds firm, as do the large number of the priests of his Society.
Such faithfulness to the truth obtains from God a dozen years of internal peace and external prosperity for the Society. In 1991 the great Archbishop dies, but for another nine years his work carries on, faithful to the anti-liberal principles on which it was built. So what will the Conciliar Romans do to bring the resistance to an end? They will exchange the stick for the carrot.
In 2000 a major Jubilee Year pilgrimage of the Society to Rome shows forth in the basilicas and streets of Rome the power of the Society. The Romans are impressed, despite themselves. A Cardinal invites the four Society bishops to a sumptuous luncheon in his apartment. Three of them accept. Immediately after this most brotherly encounter, contacts between Rome and the Society which had grown rather cold over the last 12 years, pick up again, and with them begins a powerful process of seduction, as one might say, by means of scarlet buttons and marble halls.
Indeed contacts warm up again so swiftly that by the end of the year many priests and laity of Tradition are already afraid of a reconciliation taking place between Catholic Tradition and the liberal Council. The reconciliation does not come about for the moment, but the language of Society headquarters in Menzingen is beginning to change, and over the 12 years to come, it will show itself ever less hostile to Rome and ever more open to the Newchurch, to its media and their world. And while at the top of the Society the way is being paved for the reconciliation of irreconcilables, so amongst the priests and laity the attitude towards the Conciliar Popes and Church, towards everything worldly and liberal, is becoming more and more favourable. After all, is the modern world that surrounds us really as bad as it is made out to be?
This advance of liberalism within the Society, noticed by a minority of priests and laity but apparently not noticed by the great majority, became evident to many more in the spring of this year when, following on the failure in the spring of 2011 of the Doctrinal Discussions to bring the doctrines of Tradition and the Council together, the Society’s Catholic policy up till then of “No practical agreement without a doctrinal agreement” changed overnight into the liberal policy of “No doctrinal agreement, therefore a practical agreement”. And in mid-April the Superior General offered to Rome, as basis for a practical agreement, an ambiguous text, openly favourable to the “hermeneutic of continuity” which is Benedict XVI’s favourite recipe to reconcile, precisely, the Council with Tradition ! “We need a new way of thinking,” the Superior General said in May to a meeting of priests of the Society’s Austrian District. In other words, the leader of the Society founded in 1970 to resist the novelties of the Council, was proposing to reconcile it with the Council. Today the Society is conciliatory. Tomorrow it is to be fully Conciliar!
It is difficult to believe that Archbishop Lefebvre’s foundation can have been led to bracket out the principles on which it was founded, but such is the seductive power of the fantasies of our godless world, modernist and liberal. Notwithstanding, reality does not give way to fantasies, and it forms part of reality that one cannot undo the principles of a founder without undoing his foundation. A founder has special graces that none of his successors have. As Padre Pio cried out when the Superiors of his Congregation were starting to “renew” his Congregation in accordance with the new way of thinking of the Council, just closed: “What are you doing with the Founder?” The Society’s Superior General, General Council and General Chapter may keep Archbishop Lefebvre on hand as a mascot, but that will not help if they all share in a new way of thinking that by-passes the crucial reasons for which he founded the Society. Therefore however good their intentions, they are leading the Society to its ruin by a betrayal parallel in all respects to that of Vatican II.
But let us be just, let us not exaggerate. Since the beginning of this slow collapse of the Society, there have always been priests and laity who saw clear and did their best to resist. In the spring of this year their resistance became more weighty and numerous, so that the General Chapter of last July did place an obstacle in the way of a false Rome-SSPX agreement. But will that obstacle hold up? One may fear not. In front of some 40 Society priests on retreat in Écône in September, the Superior General, referring to his policy with regard to Rome, admitted: “I was wrong,” but whose fault was it ? – “The Romans deceived me.” Likewise from the whole springtime crisis he said that there had arisen “ a great distrust within the Society” which would need to be healed “by acts and not just by words”, but whose fault was it ? Judging by his acts since September, which includes this letter of October 4, he is blaming the priests and laity who failed to put their trust in him as their leader. After the Chapter as before, it seems as though he can brook no opposition to his conciliatory and Conciliar policy.
And that is the real reason why the Superior General has given several times the formal order to close down “Eleison Comments”. Indeed the “Comments” have repeatedly criticized the Society authorities’ conciliatory policy towards Rome, thereby attacking them implicitly. Now if in this criticism and these attacks there has sometimes been a failure to observe the respect normally due to the office or persons of the Society authorities, I readily beg forgiveness of anyone concerned, but I think that anybody actually reading the particular “Comments” implicated will recognize that the criticism and attacks usually abstracted from the persons, because the issues at stake are far more than just personal.
And if we do come to the great problem far surpassing mere persons, let us call to mind the immense confusion presently reigning in the Church, and placing in peril the eternal salvation of souls without number. Is it not the duty of a bishop to uncover the true roots of this confusion and to denounce them in public? How many bishops in the whole wide world see clear as Archbishop Lefebvre saw clear, and how many are teaching accordingly? How many of them are still teaching Catholic doctrine at all? Surely very few. Then is now the moment to be trying to silence a bishop who is doing so, if one is to judge by the number of souls that hang on to the “Comments” as they would to a lifebelt? How in particular can another bishop be wanting to shut them down when he himself has just had to admit to his priests that he let himself be deceived for many a long year on the same great questions ?
Likewise, if the rebellious bishop took upon himself – for the first time in nigh on four years – an independent apostolate, how can he be blamed for having accepted an invitation, coming from outside the Society, to give the sacrament of Confirmation and to preach the word of truth? Is that not the very function of a bishop? And if he is accused of having preached what was a word of “confusion”, there is always the same answer: what he said in Brazil was confusing only for people who follow the line confessed to be an error, as evoked above.
So if he does seem for years to have been separating himself from the Society, the truth is that he has been distancing himself from the conciliatory Society, and not from that of the Archbishop. And if he seems insubordinate to any exercise of authority on the part of Society leaders, the truth is that that applies only to orders running counter to the purposes for which the Society was founded. In fact how many other orders are there at all, besides the order to close down the “Comments”, which he can be blamed for having disobeyed in a “formal, obstinate and pertinacious” manner? Is there even one other such order? Since Archbishop Lefebvre refused to obey only acts of authority of Church leaders which were of a nature to destroy the Church, his disobedience was more apparent than real. Likewise refusing to close down the “Comments” is a disobedience more apparent than real.
For indeed history repeats itself, and the Devil keeps coming back. Just as yesterday Vatican II wished to reconcile the Catholic Church with the modern world, so today one could say that Benedict XVI and the Society’s Superior General both wish to reconcile Catholic Tradition and the Council; so again tomorrow, unless God intervenes between now and then, the leaders of the Catholic Resistance will be trying to reconcile it with Tradition henceforth Conciliar.
In brief, your Excellency, you may now go ahead and exclude me, because the arguments above are not likely to persuade you, but the exclusion will be more apparent than real. I have been a member of the Archbishop’s Society ever since my perpetual engagement. I have been one of its priests for 36 years. I have been one of its bishops, like yourself, for nearly a quarter of a century. That is not all to be wiped out with one stroke of a pen. Member of the Archbishop’s Society I therefore remain, and I wait.
Had you remained faithful to the Archbishop’s heritage, and had I myself been notably unfaithful, gladly I would recognize your right to exclude me. But things being as they are, I hope I shall not be lacking in the respect due to your office if I suggest that for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for the internal peace of the Society and for your own eternal salvation, you would do better yourself to resign as Superior General than to exclude myself. May the good Lord give you the grace, the light and the strength to perform such an outstanding act of humility and of devotion to the common good of everybody.
And so, as I have so often finished the letters I have written to you over the years,
Dominus tecum, may the Lord be with you.