Update – Tuesday, 25 April – We have received a call from one of the priests at St. Joan of Arc parish, asking that we clarify one aspect of our article. Father was concerned that the article seemed to read as if Fr. Bisig was coming to Post Falls for the sole purpose of giving a talk. In fact, Father told us that Fr. Bisig’s visit was scheduled for a purpose unrelated to giving any type of presentation to the faithful. It was decided later that since he would be in town on other business, it would be an opportune time to provide the laity with his insights on 35 years of the Fraternity of St. Peter’s existence.
The priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) of St. Joan of Arc in Post Falls, Idaho, announced in their parish bulletin today that Fr. Josef Bisig, the rector of the Fraternity’s seminary in Nebraska, will be arriving in our town to give a talk on Saturday, April 29. For those who are unfamiliar with Fr. Bisig, he is one of the founders of the FSSP, having left the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) a couple of days after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated four bishops on 30 June 1988.
For those of our readers who are unaware of the events that led to the episcopal consecrations 35 years ago, there are ample sources and countless analyses1 and books2 that provide a description of the unfortunate disingenuous attitude of the Vatican with respect to the “regularization” of the SSPX in late 1987 and early 1988. In fact, just yesterday, Lifesite News reported that a new comprehensive study of the lead-up to the rupture between the SSPX and the Vatican has been published in the last few days. The book, SSPX: The Defence, by author Kennedy Hall, is available on Amazon.
Most significantly, the foreword to Mr. Hall’s book was written by Father Charles Murr, the former personal secretary to Cardinal Edouard Gagnon. Fr. Murr was privy to the behind-the-scenes Vatican politics that shelved Cardinal Gagnon’s glowing report to Pope John Paul II after that cardinal’s apostolic visit to various houses of the SSPX in late 1987. Cardinal Gagnon’s report collected dust for several months before the ill-fated May 5 protocol, which was repudiated by Archbishop Lefebvre only after the Vatican issued an “oh, by the way” requirement for an apology “for offenses against the person of the Holy Father”. As Fr. Emmanuel du Chalard (who was there) later told us, this demand was made after the document was signed and the Archbishop had already departed the Vatican for the SSPX’s district house in Albano Laziale, about 20 miles away.
Dear readers, please allow us a digression for full disclosure: we have never made any attempt to conceal the fact that we fulfill our Sunday Mass obligations at both St. Joan of Arc and at the SSPX’s Immaculate Conception Church. Our intent is to show that both Masses are valid; but having known Monseigneur Lefebvre personally (and recognizing the great debt that we all owe to him), we have always kept a great devotion to this saintly prelate in our hearts. We were present at the consecrations in June of 1988 and fully supported the Archbishop’s decision and reasoning — as we still do. It has been from the SSPX that we have sought the Sacraments for most of the last four decades, and to which we are most grateful for making available the Mass and Sacraments to us and our children, especially in the 80s, when it was most difficult to find a traditional chapel. As we have told our FSSP priests when we have hosted them in our home for dinner, we believe that it is patently obvious that if it had not been for the courageous Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, we would not have the traditional Mass and Sacraments today — including those “approved” by Rome.
Sadly, the priests of the FSSP continue to wage war against the SSPX, from which, for years now, we have not heard any negative comments regarding the Fraternity of St. Peter from the pulpit at Immaculate Conception Church. In contrast, the Fraternity priests, on at least a few occasions over the last several years, have continued their criticism of the SSPX from the pulpit, as well as in their bulletin. Most recently, in January of this year, there was a major propaganda push to promote John Salza’s position against the Society — which he used to support. Brandishing the same old accusations of “schism” and “irregular status,” the axe-grinding Mr. Salza has been extensively quoted by the local priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter.
The biggest practical problem with the FSSP’s criticism of Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX is that there are numerous families in the area whose members are split between the two groups of faithful. This has driven unnecessary wedges into families and caused significant stress to intra-familial relations. Which brings us to the question we posed: why bring Fr. Bisig, known for his vitriol against the SSPX, to Post Falls now? Is it, perhaps, the foreknowledge of the release of Kennedy Hall’s book (which we have not yet read) that prompted Fr. Bisig to visit what is one of the largest, if not the largest, of the FSSP chapels in the U.S.?
The announcement of Father’s visit included some of the topics on which he will be speaking, among which are his “first-hand account” of his “dealings” with the previous two popes, as well as the foundation of the FSSP. The announcement goes on to state: “As a longtime council member of the SSPX, and close advisor to Archbishop Lefebvre, Fr. Bisig has a very important perspective of these decades that will surely include details that you have never heard before.” That description was enough to make us cringe, remembering Fr. Bisig’s anecdotal reminiscence in a now-deleted YouTube video in which he accused Archbishop Lefebvre of being a closet sedevacantist.
Then there was Fr. Bisig’s talk in Ottawa, Canada, on November 24, 2018, at which time he discussed the founding of the FSSP. Louis Verrecchio, on his blog AKA Catholic, quoted from the erstwhile Catholic Register newspaper of Canada: “It was clear we had to leave the Society because of this rupture with Rome,” said Bisig, one of 12 priests, one deacon and 20 seminarians who left. “We did not want to leave the SSPX,” [Fr. Bisig] said. “We were forced to do so. Our superior became schismatic. We felt like orphans abandoned by our father.” For more cringeworthy assertions from the rector of the Fraternity’s seminary, read Mr. Verrecchio’s full analysis.
But the most puzzling aspect of the Fraternity’s persistent sniping at the SSPX is that those of us who are described as “traditionalists” are being brutally persecuted by the man who holds the office of the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter. At a time when the traditional Mass of the Ages is under crushing attack from Rome, why does the FSSP insist on keeping up the “circular firing squad” against other like-minded Catholics? This is the real crux of this article. Why bring Fr. Bisig here to Post Falls, just a few miles from the second largest SSPX chapel in the nation, to give a talk in which he will certainly criticize Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society? Why highlight differences between the two priestly orders, when these tradition-minded priests should be working together to fend off the attacks of Francis against the Mass of the Ages? Shouldn’t we be allied against the malevolent forces in Rome that seek to obliterate the Mass and Sacraments of our ancestors? It just doesn’t make sense to us. It is a mystery.
In view of all of the above, we have some questions for Fr. Bisig. Perhaps someone will be good enough to pass these on to him ahead of his talk on Saturday evening, April 29, at 6 pm at St. Joan of Arc in Post Falls, Idaho (just in case we can’t make it to ask these questions ourselves):
— To the best of your knowledge, has Protocol 1411/99, the Vatican edict that allows any FSSP priest to say the Novus Ordo mass (and even encourages concelebration with local ordinaries) ever been rescinded?
— As a trusted advisor to Archbishop Lefebvre, when did you let him know of your intention to leave the SSPX?
— Did you contact the Vatican regarding your crisis of conscience over the consecrations prior to June 30, 1988?
— Weren’t you present at the priestly ordinations of June 29, 1988 and even at the consecrations on June 30, 1988?
— Despite last year’s assurance from Rome that Traditionis Custodes does not apply to the Fraternity, numerous FSSP chapels have been closed by their local ordinaries. Are these being appealed?
— What response do you foresee from the FSSP if Rome moves to make the much anticipated final assault on the Traditional Latin Mass and reneges on its promise to the Fraternity?
We ask these questions in a spirit of true Christian Charity, not just to clarify points that have remained ambiguous over the years, but in order to show that instead of persisting in criticism, we are stronger to defend against the evil forces arrayed against us in Rome if we stand together. The authorities in the Vatican are using the ages-old strategy of “divide and conquer”. Let us not fall into their trap.
1. One of the best articles on the situation in the immediate aftermath of the consecrations is The Glass Confessional by Dr. John Senior.
2. Two excellent books on the entire history of the relations between Archbishop Lefebvre and Rome are: Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican and Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.
Will be very interested to see the summary of his talk. Hope you can attend in order to report it. Nicely written.
Thank you, Stephanie! We thought about it and prayed about it since receiving the advance bulletin by email last evening. We wanted this analysis to remain measured and as impartial as possible. We will try our best to be in attendance on Saturday evening. God Bless.
[…] From Tradidi Quod et Accepti… […]
There have been some questions regarding the “letter of apology” demanded of Archbishop Lefebvre following the protocol agreement. This is what we remember about the events of late 1987 and early 1988, leading up to the consecrations of June 30, 1988. I was stationed in Naples, Italy with my family, and we often hosted the District Superior of Italy, Fr. Anthony Esposito, when he came down to Naples for Mass on an occasional weekend. (Father is Rhodesian, and enjoyed speaking English on those weekends.) In late November or very early December, Fr. Esposito told us that an apostolic visitation was in progress at that time, involving some SSPX houses, but focusing on a stop at the seminary in Econe, Switzerland. The apostolic visitors were Cardinal Edouard Gagnon and Monsignor Perl. The latter was never a man of strong convictions, but he concurred with the report of the cardinal, who made it clear to Pope John Paul II (who sent Cardinal Gagnon on the mission in the first place) that Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX were doing something very right. The cardinal went so far as to include in his report that the Church should follow the lead of Archbishop Lefebvre — that all seminaries should be run like Econe.
Well, the report collected dust on JPII’s desk for a few months, and we were all on pins and needles wondering when the Holy Father would acknowledge it. The very influential Modernist Cardinal Villot tried to distract JPII from the issue of the SSPX, and succeeded for some time, until Archbishop Lefebvre, tired of the shenanigans being played out in the Vatican, publicly stated that if Rome did not act on what he had been told by Cardinal Gagnon was a very positive report, he would have to consecrate bishops without Rome’s involvement. Then, for a couple of months, the Vatican sandbagged the saintly archbishop on the subject of bishops for the Society. Finally, on May 5, Archbishop Lefebvre signed a protocol with Cardinal Ratzinger’s office laying out the path for full reconciliation.
Archbishop Lefebvre, weary at the end of a long day, departed for the district house after the protocol was signed by both parties, and left our friend, Fr. Emmanuel du Chalard (the long-time SSPX envoy to the Vatican) to tidy up any last minute details. It was at this time, Monsieur l’Abbe’ told us, that Cardinal Ratzinger (or one of his minions) placed a sheet of paper in his hands. It was, they said, a “sample” letter of what they needed and forgot to bring up during the negotiations — an apology for all the offenses Archbishop Lefebvre made against Pope John Paul II. Fr. du Chalard said he would take it to the Archbishop, who was by now in Albano Laziale. Once Fr. du Chalard arrived, he went right to the Archbishop’s quarters, on the second floor right across from the choir door of the chapel (we know the layout very well), and told Monseigneur Lefebvre of the belated demand. As Archbishop Lefebvre held it in his hand, he shook his head slowly, and said in a low, sad voice, “Ils sont méchants.” (They are wicked.)
After a sleepless night, he repudiated the protocol the next day, feeling that if he couldn’t trust the Vatican authorities in such a matter as a demand for something he never did (alleged personal offenses against the pope), he certainly could not trust them to make good on their “promise” to consecrate a bishop for the Society sometime “in the future.” Archbishop Lefebvre said he was sure they were playing for time, hoping for his demise sooner than later, and then they’d be assured that his bothersome Society would die with him. A copy of the May 5 protocol is included in a book published by the Angelus Press titled Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican. In it, you will also find a copy of the “apology” pro forma letter that they shoved into poor Fr. du Chalard’s hands that fateful day.
Good afternoon. I covered Fr. Bisig’s recent talk in Arlington, Va., and a story will be appearing this week in Catholic Family News. Please send me a copy of the bulletin or email promoting the talk. I would be interested in having someone report details to me if they can record the talk. The FSSP requested that no one record (audio nor video) while I was there covering it for CFN (which they knew I was).
Please email me at email@example.com when able.
Very good writeup… Contact me if you have a second.
Don’t think we have your email address.
Thank you for alerting me to this excellent – if troubling – article, which I have posted as a new discussion topic on our blog at Catholic Truth in Scotland. I meant to post the link yesterday but got side-tracked as usual. Here’s the link now.
I would also like to send it to Fr Bisig if possible – if you have an email address for him, would you email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or post it here.)
Did you go to the meeting?
were you able to ask your questions?
We were there, but the Q&A process was: “write your questions down and they will be drawn from a hat”. Only 4 were addressed, though Fr. Bisig did refer to “a blog question” during the talk, responding that he “did not assist” at the consecrations. We will have a new posting soon.
Tony & Vickie,
Compliments on an absolutely outstanding article. As we did in fact attend the Saturday evening talk by Fr. Bisig and having observed you take copious notes during its presentation, I recognize this is now, no small task for you each, to prepare a follow up article.