Newsletter of the District of Asia

 August - September 1998

A Letter to Cardinal Sin

September 8, 1998


Laudetur Jesus Christus!

For the love of the truth, please allow me to bring some clarification on certain points of your Circular No. 98-59 on the Society of St Pius X

Nature of the Society of St Pius X

Eminence, may I remind you that the Society of St Pius X was canonically erected in the Catholic Church, in the diocese of Fribourg, in Switzerland, by Bishop Francois Charriere, on Nov. 1, 1970.

That this Society is still formally part of the Catholic Church can be proven in many ways.  For instance, last Dec. 8, 1987, H.E. Cardinal Gagnon, sent by the Holy Father to the SSPX as an Apostolic Visitor, assisted officially, in view of the whole congregation present, at a Holy Mass celebrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.  During this Mass, more than 20 seminarians were incardinated in the SSPX.  This was an explicit recognition of the legal existence and good standing status of our Society within the bosom of the holy Catholic Church.  The events that followed in 1988 concerned individual members of this Society, not the Society itself.

The 'schism' and the 'excommunication'

Eminence, in 1993, Bishop Ferrario, of Honolulu, wrote a letter to his diocese in the same lines as your Circular, declaring the Society and its followers ‘schismatics’ and ‘excommunicated’.  The matter was brought to Rome, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  On June 28, 1993, Cardinal Ratzinger declared that such condemnation  was ‘lacking foundation and hence validity’, thus denying explicitly the ‘schism’ and the ‘excommunication’ to which you allege.  And he reversed the bishop’s condemnation.

The validity of this ‘excommunication’ has been seriously questioned by some of your fellow Cardinals, in high position in Rome itself, thus in the very entourage of the Holy Father.  To mention another one by name, let me tell you that, in 1994, 6 years then after the consecrations, someone wrote to Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Church Unity, asking him if he dealt with the SSPX as he dealt with other schismatic groups, such as the Protestants, or the Greek Orthodox.  The Cardinal replied in a letter dated May 3, 1994: “The situation of the members of this Society is an internal matter of the Catholic Church.  The Society is not another Church or Ecclesial community” (emphasis mine).  “Internal” obviously means ‘inside’.  Moreover, notice that he speaks of the “members” of the SSPX in general, thus including its bishops.  Therefore, the whole SSPX, with its bishops, priests and faithful is truly part of the Catholic Church.

As Catholics, we recognize and respect the authority of the Holy Catholic Church, especially, all the infallible declarations of the Councils and the Popes.  These “authorities”, not us, have condemned some documents of Vatican II and other post-Counciliar texts.  Let me just mention a few major ones: Pius XI, in his Encyclical Mortalium Animos of 1928, has condemned the false ecumenism promoted by Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II, and may I add, a false ecumenism as seen in Manila Cathedral last May 8.  Another ‘authority’ is no less than St Pius X, who, in his Encyclical Vehementer of 1906 condemned the separation of Church and State, highly pushed by the Conciliar decree Dignitatis Humanae.  A third of our ‘authorities’, is only the venerable Pius IX who, in his Syllabus of errors, has condemned Gaudium et Spes.  This is explicitly said by Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book, ‘The Principles of Catholic Theology’, when the Cardinal declares that Gaudium et Spes “is an anti-Syllabus”.

In relation to the so-called ‘excommunication’, many sound canonists have this to say :  Firstly, no penalty is ever incurred without grave moral imputability (Canon 1323, 7), that is, a subjective mortal sin.  Archbishop Lefebvre acted only after many years of thought and months of negotiations with the Holy See.  He was acting in conscience.  Therefore, even if his decision is judged a mistake, it cannot amount to a subjective mortal sin.

Secondly, Canon 1324,4 states that even where an offence carrying a penalty has been committed, the penalty is not incurred if the act was performed out of necessity.  Again, the Archbishop felt obliged to consecrate these four bishops out of the necessity of providing traditional priests for the tens of thousands of faithful asking for them worldwide.

Schism, defined in Canon 751, means refusal of subjection to the Supreme Pontiff or refusal of communion with other members of the Church.  A mere act of disobedience to a superior does not imply denial that the superior holds office or has authority.  The child who says, “I won’t!” to his mother does not deny that she is his mother.  Similarly, for the charge of ‘schism’ to stick, it must be certain beyond all reasonable doubt.  To prove that there is a legitimate doubt on the accusation is easy.

The validity of our ministry

As regards our jurisdiction, we do admit not having an ordinary jurisdiction.  However, as it is clearly stated in canon 213, the faithful 'have a right … to the sacraments'.   We have come to the Philippines only at the persistent requests of these devout Catholics who were unjustly denied the traditional rites of the Sacraments, and forced by the circumstances to attend liturgical ceremonies (confession, matrimony, Mass, etc.) putting their faith and their soul seriously in danger.  In this case of necessity, of  danger of spiritual death, the Church supplies jurisdiction as  the whole Code of Canon Law is guided by the salvation of souls, ‘Suprema Lex Salus Animarum’.  Cardinal Cassidy himself explicitly said, in the letter quoted above, “obviously, the Mass and the Sacraments administered by the priests of the Society are valid.  He makes no distinction between the sacraments needing special jurisdiction (confession, matrimony) and the others.

The Holy Mass that we celebrate is the Mass of your own ordination, the Mass that made all the Saints.  The new Code itself says that “the obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a Catholic rite” (Canon 1248,1).  Cardinal Stickler has stated recently that, in 1986, 8 Cardinals told Pope John Paul II that “the Mass of St Pius V was never suppressed” (‘Latin Mass Magazine’, May 5, 1995). So, any Catholic may attend this Mass with a clear conscience.

Eminence, at the end of your Circular, you encourage your priests to “preserve the sense of the sacred” and “to preach the perennial truths”.  Very well, but as I have mentioned above, not all of Vatican II is “in continuity with the unbroken and unique Tradition of the Church”.  This is perhaps the heart of the problem:  Vatican II has in fact broken the constant teaching of the Church, especially in relation to the modern errors which have been repeatedly condemned by all the Popes until 1960 especially during the last 200 years, and which are now taught by the “Counciliar Church” (expression of Cardinal Benelli).

Eminence, we are willing to meet with you and to discuss these matters.  We are simple Catholic priests who hold fast to the profession of faith of the Vatican I Council; we want to be faithful to the anti-modernist oath which we – and you too – took solemnly before the altar.  We are ready to obey our Pope John Paul II, when he exhorts us to keep the true Catholic Faith. Following the precise orders of St Pius X, in his encyclical Pascendi and his Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum, as well as the regulations of Pope Pius XII in Humani generis, we want to help others also keep the Catholic Faith in these troubled days.  We believe that obedience is at the service of Faith, not the reverse.

Looking forward to hear from you and to meet you, I remain yours truly in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Immaculate Mother.

(Fr.) Daniel Couture SSPX

District Superior for Asia

Note to our readers:  the complete text of this letter was published in Manila Standard, Sunday, September 13, 1998.  The Cardinal’s condemnation had appeare in the media three days earlier.

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