VATICAN CITY — On the 25th anniversary of the illicit ordination of four bishops by traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of St. Pius X indicated a definitive break of talks with the Catholic Church.
In a statement June 27, three of the four bishops originally ordained expressed “their filial gratitude towards their venerable founder, who, after so many years spent serving the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff, so as to safeguard the faith and the Catholic priesthood, did not hesitate to suffer the unjust accusation of disobedience."
The document — titled “Declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the episcopal consecrations (30th June 1988 – 27th June 2013)” — is signed by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta.
Bishop Richard Williamson, also ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre, was expelled last year from the society.
The group was founded in 1970 by the French native Archbishop Lefebvre in response to errors he believed had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council, which took place 1962-1965.
Interpretation and legacy of the Second Vatican Council was a major stumbling block for the society in their ongoing negotiations with the Vatican, aimed at healing their 24-year rift.
The society has also had a strained relationship with the Church since its founder ordained four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
In their statement Thursday, the group contradicted now-retired Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on Vatican II. The letter made explicit reference to the “hermeneutic of continuity,” rejecting the interpretive lens by which Benedict XVI saw the conciliar documents in light of the Church’s Tradition.
The bishops say that the documents themselves have grave errors and that they cannot be interpreted without clashing with Tradition.
The “cause of the grave errors which are in the process of demolishing the Church does not reside in a bad interpretation of the conciliar texts — a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ which would be opposed to a ‘hermeneutic of reform in continuity,’” they wrote, “but truly in the texts themselves, by virtue of the unheard-of choice made by Vatican II.”
The group also claims that the Second Vatican Council “inaugurated a new type of magisterium, hitherto unheard of in the Church, without roots in Tradition; a magisterium resolved to reconcile Catholic doctrine with liberal ideas; a magisterium imbued with the modernist ideas of subjectivism, of immanentism and of perpetual evolution.”
The document argues that “the reign of Christ is no longer the preoccupation of the ecclesiastical authorities” and that the liberal spirit in the Church is manifested “in religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and the new Mass.”
Because of religious liberty, they claim, the Church is being “shamefully guided by human prudence and with such self-doubt that she asks nothing other from the state than that which the Masonic lodges wish to concede to her: the common law in the midst of, and on the same level as, other religions which she no longer dares call false.”
Because of interreligious dialogue, “the truth about the one true Church is silenced,” they also say, while the spirit of collegiality “represents the destruction of authority and in consequence the ruin of Christian institutions: families, seminaries, religious institutes.”
The Lefebvrist bishops save their harshest criticism for the Novus Ordo Mass, promulgated in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. “This Mass is penetrated with an ecumenical and Protestant spirit, democratic and humanist, which empties out the sacrifice of the cross.”
The traditionalist bishops announce that, in practice, the dialogue with the Vatican is over and that, from now on, they will wait “either when Rome returns to Tradition and to the faith of all time — which would re-establish order in the Church” or “when she explicitly acknowledges our right to profess integrally the faith and to reject the errors which oppose it, with the right and the duty for us to oppose publicly the errors and the proponents of these errors, whoever they may be — which would allow the beginning of a re-establishing of order.”
The statement concludes: “We persevere in the defense of Catholic Tradition, and our hope remains entire.”