Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

July 28, 1988

Creation of the Society of Saint Peter

Despite 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.

For 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.

They were 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.

This Society 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.

The Society 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.

Msgr. Camille 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.

In virtue 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.

Some modernist 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

Moreover, 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.

Who 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.

Moreover, this 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!

124. Official Latin text.
125. Documentation Catholique, No. 1969.
126. 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.

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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