Interesting Parallels Between the TAC and SSPX

There is a sense there could be a resolution soon between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).  I hope so.  But the acceptance of Rome's offer, perhaps of some sort of personal prelature arrangement that would regularize the traditionalist group, could risk breaking up the society because for some the offer will never be good enough or the Church of Rome will never be good enough.  Though I have not followed this closely, I hope and pray that this break can be healed.

Over at Rorate Caeli there is a translation of a letter from the SSPX General Superior Bishop Bernard Fellay and two members of the General Council to three other SSPX bishops who apparently are not keen on re-union with the Holy See at this time.

Here is a salient excerpt (with my emphases):

* * *

First of all, the letter indeed mentions the gravity of the crisis gripping the Church and precisely analyzes the nature of the ambient errors that pullulate in the Church. Nonetheless, the description is marred by two defects in relation to the reality in the Church: it is lacking in a supernatural spirit and at the same time it lacks realism.

The description lacks a supernatural spirit. To read your letter, one seriously wonders if you still believe that the visible Church whose seat is at Rome is indeed the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Church horribly disfigured, to be sure, a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis, but a Church that in spite of all still has as its head Our Lord Jesus Christ. One gets the impression that you have been so scandalized that you no longer accept that it can still be the true Church. For you, it would seem to be a question whether Benedict XVI is still the legitimate pope. And if he is, there is a question as to whether Jesus Christ can still speak through him. If the pope expresses a legitimate will concerning us which is good and which does not order anything contrary to the commandments of God, have we the right to neglect or to dismiss this will? Otherwise, on what principle do you base your actions? Do you not believe that if Our Lord commands us, He will also give us the means to carry on our work? Now, the pope has let us know that an abiding concern for the regularization of our situation for the good of the Church lies at the very heart of his pontificate, and also that he knew very well that it would be easier both for him and for us to leave things as they stand now. And so it is indeed a decided and legitimate will that he is expressing.
    With the attitude you recommend, no room is left for the Gideons or the Davids or for those who count on the Lord’s help. You reproach us with being naïve or fearful, but rather it is your vision of the Church that is too human, and even fatalistic. You see the dangers, the plots, the difficulties, but you no longer see the assistance of grace and of the Holy Ghost. If one grants that Divine Providence leads the affairs of men while safeguarding their liberty, it is also needful to admit that the gestures in our favor over the last several years are also under its guidance. Now, they trace a line  — not straight — but clearly in favor of Tradition. Why should this suddenly stop when we are doing our utmost to be faithful and to intensify our prayer? Will the good God let us fall at the most critical moment? That does not make a lot of sense, especially as we are not trying to impose on Him the least self-will, but are trying to examine events closely so as to discern what God wants, and being disposed to all that shall please Him. At the same time, your description is lacking in realism as regards both the degree of the errors and their extent.
    Degree: Within the Society, some are making the conciliar errors into super heresies, absolute evil, worse than anything, in the same way that the liberals have dogmatized this pastoral council. The evils are sufficiently dramatic; there is hardly any reason to exaggerate them further (cf. Roberto de Mattei, Une histoire jamais écrite, p. 22; Mgr. Gherardini, Un débat à ouvrir, p. 53, etc.). Needful distinctions are not being made, whereas Mgr. Lefebvre did make the necessary distinctions on the subject of liberals several times. This failure to distinguish is leading one or the other of you to a hardening of your position. This is a grave matter because this caricature no longer corresponds with reality and in future it will logically end in a real schism. And it may well be that this fact is one of the arguments that urges me to delay no longer in responding to the Roman authorities.
* * *
The letter reminds me of some of the objections and hardened positions and insistence that Rome repent or change or recognize "we're already Catholic" etc. that I encountered among those in the Traditional Anglican Communion who have decided to refuse the offer of Anglicanorum coetibus.
Bishop Fellay sounds like a voice of sanity.  I hope the rest of the SSPX follows him.
Of course the TAC is nothing compared to the SSPX in size or any other Catholic standard.   I'm just saying the parallels struck me.

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

23 thoughts on “Interesting Parallels Between the TAC and SSPX”

  1. The SSPX will split just as the TAC did. The status quo together with human pride is a very difficult thing to overcome. The only question is the percentages. It sounds like the other three bishops are against the accord, with makes the TAC comparison even more apt in the practical working out of the details. The point in their favor is that no confirmations or ordinations are required. The main negative point is a generation living in animosity seperatly from their catholic neighbors.

    1. Andrew:

      I agree with you that there will be a split. Wiliamson will not accept any deal and Fellay is now committed to a deal. But the destination of the other two bishops, despite the leaked letter of mid-April, is not certain, and the silence from them over this last fortnight has been deafening (to use that overused expression). I am sure that, this very week-end, they are being approached by both sides. Tissier has a large following. If he goes with Williamson, the split will be very great and very painful for the Holy Father. Pray that, whatever may come, the Society will not be split in two.

      If Williamson and only a small faction of hardliners goes, the Pope will not be heart-broken. Frankly, he does not know what to do with Williamson and nor does Fellay.

      Another commenter here said that the S.S.P.X, like the Anglican continuers, is fissiparous. I cannot disagree, really, but it might be a bit of an overstatement. One group left the Society in the early 1980s for a more sedevacantist-friendly union. The F.S.S.P. came out of the Society and to Rome in 1988. The I.B.P. came to Rome in 2009 (to my recollection: I may be off a year) and the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer came to Rome in 2008, although a faction of them returned to the Society thereafter. So, yes, it is arguable. However, despite these small divisions, the Society has mostly remained united from 1970 to the present, whereas Anglican continuer bodies have more often, in my opinion, experienced divisions and mergings.


      1. The "schisms" from the SSPX have only involved a handful of men each time. Compared with the overall strength, distribution, and diversity of the Society, these fractures have been mostly insignificant in the greater scheme of its mission.

  2. Another parallel that will likely come up is that it is one thing to think you have worked out an agreement with the Vatican, another thing altogether to be recognized locally. A Personal Prelature is required by Canon Law to gain permission of the local bishop prior to carrying out their mission within a diocese. The Personal Ordinariate structure is likely a better option for them, and I'm sure that the National Bishops Conferences would be delighted to help organize things for them.

    1. Well said, Daniel. Thank you! I feel like sending you the contents of my bank account for this comment. Well done! I think that an international ordinariate could work, whereas a personal prelature would have to be surgically amended in major ways to make it fit the case. Another option would be a pesonal diocese or archdiocese covering the world and subject directly to the Pope. A third way, possibly needed to get around concordats in Austria, Argentina, France and Poland might be an Apostolic Delegature, although Anglicans will not much like that structure (for example). It might remind them of Cardinal Wolsey! He may have been Apostolic Delegate in England but he just could not get that divorce for Henry VIII.


  3. The parallel is striking. My only experience of SSPX is of living next door to a member, who several times reduced my six year old to tears with threats of hell fire and damnation since we went to the local Catholic church – and once because she had a stuffed dog with peace signs on it. Such a feeling of moral superiority can become too much of a crutch for many to give up and therein lie many of the problems of all traditionalist movements, as well as other sects and cults.

    1. Horrible! I am so sorry for your child.

      This is the ugly truth about so many people in the SSPX. They are Catholic Calvinists on steroids who just love to think about people going to Hell. They love to ruin the innocence of children by making them thinks about such things and turning the Catholic faith into a chronic mental torment, rather than the vehicle for salvation in Jesus Christ and His church.

      This is something I feel must be addressed!

      Gaudete in Domino Semper!

      1. All commenters should remember my prior admonition with respect to the denigration of the SSPX on this blog. Attacks on the catholicism, integrity, or essential goodness of the Society in the life of the Church will end with the abrupt banning of those making such comments. This blog is not a democracy, and commenters can either play by the rules — which I need not explain — or go elsewhere.

        1. I beg forgiveness…

          It was not my intention to commit any of the enumerated infractions, and I was certainly not referring to the Society itself, whose great value to the Church Universal I unhesitatingly acknowledge, and whose reconciliation with same I pray for regularly.

          I was merely acknowledging the previous poster's comment regarding his personal experience in dealing with some individual lay members, and validating them with my own first hand experience.

          Shan't happen again!

          Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  4. The comparison between the SSPX, TAC and Anglo-Catholicism is that all are subject to a mentality that is embodied in a self-authenticating 'tradition'.
    For many this will be impossible to break and will encourage further splits. All of these bodies are essentially fissiperous.

  5. There is really no parallel between the SSPX and the TAC: the SSPX is a religious congregation of the Roman Catholic Church and has never been in schism or excommunicated as proven by Canon Law. Also the SSPX has always defended the Catholic Faith as taught by the Magisterium — it has never espoused heresy.

  6. I do wish that people would stop mentioning the personal prelature structure. While it is true that Rome offered this, Bishop Fellay has affirmed at least twice now that the structure is "negotiable". The p.p. structure, owing to provsions of Canons 294 and 297, is not appropriate, and it will likely not be a p.p. As people know here all too well, Rome is inclined to choose the right existing structure and even to invent a new one if the right one is not currently available. The military ordinariate, created in 1986 is very different from the personal ordinariate for Anglicans, contrary to the claims of various on-line commentators. The former is quasi-personal and quasi-territorial, whereas the latter is entirely personal. Armenian ordinariates are legally territorial but de facto personal (special case–and closer to the Anglican structure than is the m.o., at least de facto). In 2002, the Pope used Section 2 of Canon 372 to create a 'personal' apostolic administration for the Campos traditionalists in Brazil. This will likely be the model for the S.S.P.X. I imagine a Campos writ large, a personal (arch)diocese existing universally (or at least where a few concordats do not forbid it) and into which the S.S.P.X, as a society of apostolic life of pontifical right, will be incorporated together with its affiliated religious orders.

    The bit on the structure will be negotiated only after the Holy Father decides whether or not he will accept Bishop Fellay's amended Preamble on "principles and criteria" of interpreting doctrine.

    Assuming that the Pope accepts this version (or accepts a further-amended version signed by Bishop Fellay), Bishops Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta will then have to decide whether they wish to join +Williamson, thereby splitting the Society into two large factons, each of which will be more vulnerable to the depredations of liberal opponents, or if they wish to side with Bishop Fellay and the Pope, resulting in only a small divide led by Williamson.


    1. I think that the coming division is really being hyped-up in the blogosphere. My firsthand observation is that, in the USA and Canada, at least, for the last several months, various superiors and agents of the Society, from here and abroad, have been making the rounds to ensure everyone is onside. There have been several priests' conferences, &c. suggesting that opinion is coalescing in favour of Bishop Fellay's position. Williamson is already sidelined and I do not see his having a significant "following" though many inside and outside of the Society are treated to his weekly rantings via email.

      With respect to the P.P. question, I know for a fact that at least one USA District prior has been told that in order to operate the SSPX "must have a meeting with the local Ordinary, but then be able to act without his approval." This suggests an Ordinariate/Apostolic Administration-like juridical structure.

      1. Dear Mr. Campbell:

        I agree with your assessment of the situation in Canada and that republic to its south. I have many contacts in the movement (as you must know) and they all tell me the same things. The problem, though, is not the U.S.A. but France. France is by far the most important country for the S.S.P.X in terms of numbers of Masses, numbers of priests and density of Masses. Really, this is all about France (no insult intended to Americans, Germans, Canadians, Italians). France is the home both to the worst of the revolutionaries and to the most adamant of the traditionalists, and things are more polarised there. Those of us who read French will see that this is where the heat is. Much now depends on what Bishop Tissier de Mallerais will do. He cannot convince the Pope and/or Bishop Fellay to reverse course. That is clear. If he goes with Williamson, he will be remembered only as a man who made a strong and united S.S.P.X into two weak and divided societies, less able to defend the traditional Catholic Faith.

        I ask everyone on this blog to pray that the Society will remain as united as possible no matter what else may happen.

        Many of us are saying a Novena to that effect.


        1. France will be very interesting to watch and I won't be surprised if that is where the major split occurs (in terms of both % and absolute numbers). The SSPX there, clergywise at any rate, seems to be divided between those who won't have anything to do with the mainstream Church and those who have quite cordial relations with the local bishops. Notably relations seem to get better the further south one goes. One current French bishop (can't remember which one to be honest) goes so far as to include SSPX clergy in his diocesan visits to local clergy and invites them to dinners he hosts for diocesan clergy.

          1. France is the big deal. Some of our Bishops are particularly generoux toward the SSPX (Bishop Jordy and Sankalé included them in their pastoral visitations scheme, and Bishop Bonfils recently confirmed children in a SSPX chapel). But a fringe of laymen are vocally opposed to any agreement. Recently, the Catholic Forum, a forum for traditionnalists, experienced a schism with those opposed to a reconcilation founding a new forum, FECIT. Some say that this "internet schism" prefigurates the real schism.
            Bishop Tissier is said to be keen on "sedeimpeditism", or the idea that the Pope is really the Pope, but that because of his heresies, he is deprived of any spritual power on the Church.

            + PAX et BONUM

  7. Personal Ordinariate of Pope Saint Pius X – sounds good to me. They already have 3 Bishops if they are persuaded (Williamson has cooked his own goose and will probably set himself up as the 'True' Pope and second English one!).
    I support Bishop Fellay and pray for his success. Ego and pride – add 'power' and you have a recipe for disaster.
    The Anglican Ordinariates and SSPX united in common cause against the liberal assaults to restore the mainline Church.

    1. The title floated a few years ago was 'Personal Archdiocese of St. Saviour' for the overall structure and the same name (S.S.P.X) for a new society of apostolic life (to replace the pious union structure). This is the one I've heard Fellay support at some point. I'm not sure why. I'd call it the Personal Archdiocese of St. Gregory the Great. But I'm often surprised by outcomes. I could never have guessed the title for the American Anglican Ordinariate. Did anyone here guess that one?


  8. Ben Vallejo,

    yes, schism is never good – but remember, the SSPX is NOT in schism (that is a difference to the TAC or other [forme] Anglicans. They are/were in schism, not united with Rome.)

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