LEFEBVRE and the
of the Society of Saint Peter
the hopeful tone of this communique, by the end of October (1988),
three months after its foundation, the new Society of Saint Peter
was facing the difficulties and dangers which continue to haunt
it. The Society of Saint Peter falls entirely at the mercy of
the local modernist bishops.
Archbishop Lefebvre, the essential problem with the May 5 Protocol
was its failure to promise a bishop for the Society of Saint Pius
X with unobstructed power to protect the faithful from modernist
influences. On the contrary, the Protocol offered, for mere psychological
reasons, a single bishop purposely lacking this power. In over
a decade since its foundation the Society of Saint Peter still
does not even have one traditional bishop, powerless or otherwise.
Communiqué of the Founding Members
from la Documentation Catholique, No. 1969.
In the aftermath
of the rupture consummated by Archbishop Lefebvre on June 30 at
the Seminary of Ecône, Switzerland, eight traditional priests from
different movements went to Rome on July 5 and 6. They
met with the Sovereign Pontiff as well as with Cardinal Ratzinger,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, and Cardinal Mayer, new
president of the Roman Commission instituted by the Pope to solve
the questions concerning Catholic Tradition.
strongly encouraged in their project to found a priestly society
allowing them to keep “the traditions of spirituality and apostolate”
(motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, July 2, §5a) to which they, as
well as a great number of faithful, are attached. Such
a society concretely fulfils the hopes raised by the Protocol signed
on May 5 last between Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre.
was founded on July 18 at the Cistercian Abbey of Hauterive (Canton
of Fribourg, Switzerland), under the name of “The Society of St.
Peter.” The founding members, priests and deacons,
have canonically elected as their Superior General Fr. Joseph Bisig
(Swiss), and as his two assistants Fr. Denis Coiffet (French) and
Fr. Gabriel Baumann (Swiss). All three are former
members of the Society of Saint Pius X. Fr. Joseph
Bisig, 36, had been First Assistant of the Superior General of this
Society for six years (1982-1988), and had been Rector of the Seminary
of Zaitzkofen, Germany, for seven years (1979-1986). Fr.
Gabriel Baumann, 35, had been its Vice-Rector for four years.
of St. Peter wishes to welcome into its bosom any priest desirous
of serving the Church in a traditional spirit (motu proprio Ecclesia
Dei, §5a, b; §6a). It takes as its first goal
the urgent creation of an international seminary in Europe to welcome
seminarians desiring a solid theological formation, based on St.
Thomas, a traditional spirituality and liturgy, and wishing not
to cut themselves off from the Church.
Perl came to support the founders of the Society of St. Peter gathered
at Hauterive, with the encouragement of the Roman Commission of
which he is the secretary.
of the agreement of May 5, and the motu proprio of July 2 (§5),
the priests of the Society of St. Peter shall willingly offer their
apostolic services to the dioceses and bishops.
bishops have been very clear regarding their intentions to stifle
the Society of Saint Peter. The now-deceased Cardinal Albert Decourtray,
Archbishop of Lyon, France (in whose diocese one of the priests
of the Society of Saint Peter is located), added his own condition
for the Society of Saint Peter to minister in his diocese. He required
acceptance not only of the validity of the Latin Editio Typica,124] but also of its vernacular
translations, suppressing the mention of “certain points taught
by Vatican Council II, or concerning later reforms of the liturgy
and the law which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with Tradition.”
He and Bishop Raymond Bouchex, Bishop of Avignon (in which diocese
Le Barroux is situated), insist on “a strong attachment to the Second
Vatican Council, to the whole Council.”125
Church authorities have said to Fr. Bisig, “Oh, we have no objection
to the opening of a seminary—provided you have professors with
the proper degrees.” Now, the “proper degrees” can only
be obtained in modernist universities. This is the reason
why the professors in the seminaries of the Society of Saint Pius
X refuse to pursue “proper degrees.” This requirement obliged
Fr. Baumann and Fr. Prösinger to go and study in a modernist university
to obtain a “proper degree,” and obliged Fr. Bisig to accept on
the faculty of his seminary some other teachers who celebrate
the New Mass.
can guarantee to ordain these seminarians? Local modernist
bishops? How much leverage does the Society of Saint Peter
have to insist in which rite they will be ordained? For the first
ordinations, Cardinal Mayer agreed to ordain some of them with
the traditional Mass. But this raises another question.
Some conservative monasteries who accepted the Novus Ordo
out of “obedience” have been begging for the traditional Mass
and ordinations for many years. They are still denied their
requests. The new rites of ordination were imposed on Dom
Augustin when he made his own accord with the Vatican in 1985.
[Dom Augustin was superior of a Benedictine monastery in Flavigny,
France, founded in cooperation with Archbishop Lefebvre. Since
Dom Augustine’s compromise in 1985, his community is obliged to
celebrate the New Mass.] It seems that Rome characteristically
grants requests for the traditional Mass and rites, not to promote
Catholic Tradition, but only to divide traditional Catholics.
first ceremony of ordination by Cardinal Mayer was not without difficulty.
Strong protests from the German bishops prevented him from performing
it in Germany. At the last minute, after invitations were
sent, the place of ordination had to be changed to Rome. Stronger
protests from the French bishops have prevented him from ordaining
some monks of the Society of St. Vincent Ferrer126
in Fontgombault. The ceremony was performed by a visiting bishop.
If Rome gives in to such pressures of diocesan bishops
now, how much more later!
Official Latin text.
Documentation Catholique, No. 1969.
Fr. de Blignières left the Society of Saint Pius X as a seminarian
and was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1977 under the condition
of remaining under obedience to Dom Gèrard (of Le Barroux),
who at the time was both fully traditional and support¬ive of
the Society of Saint Pius X. But he later violated this condition,
and in 1979 started a religious community on his own, modeled after
the Dominican life. This community was openly sedevacantist from
the beginning. For that reason, Archbishop Lefebvre always refused
to ordain the members of that community, even though it cel¬ebrated
the Latin Mass.
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