SSPX Ordinations and the Reign of “the Vatican”

The international controversy over the ordination of twenty-one priests for the

Society of Saint Pius X prompts consideration of forty years of governance by “the Vatican” as opposed to the Vicar of Christ.

Christopher A. Ferrara

Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, Bishop Bernard Fellay, 13 new priests and 75 visiting priests,

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona, Minnesota (June 19, 2009, Photo by MJM)

(Posted 06/19/09 Today, June 19, 2009, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais ordained thirteen priests at the seminary of the Society of Saint Pius X in Winona, MN.  On June 27, 2009, Bishop Alfonso de Galaretta will ordain three priests at the Society’s seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany, and on the same date five more priests will be ordained at the Society’s headquarters in Ecône, Switzerland.     


The Society has been ordaining priests since the 1970s, but these twenty-one ordinations are perceived differently because the international media have been in a state of high alert over the growing threat of recrudescent Roman Catholicism since the publication of Summorum Pontificum and the remission of the excommunications of the Society’s four bishops in January of this year—actions widely denounced by the media because they were undertaken without a consensus of the Pope’s advisors in “the Vatican.”

“The Vatican” and the Society’s Ordinations 

Hence the media responded to the coming ordinations with a spate of tendentious headlines suggesting what they would like us to believe: that “the Vatican”—not the Pope, mind you—has forbidden the ordinations.  Herewith a sampling:

·                     “Vatican defied over rebel Catholic ordinations” (;


·                     “SSPX to ordain new priests despite Vatican warning” (Reuters);


·                     “Vatican throws down gauntlet to ultra-traditionalist SSPX” (Reuters Blogs);


·                     “Vatican bans breakaway Catholic ordinations” (ABC Online);


·                     “Vatican Rejects Conservative Group’s Ordinations,” (Huffington Post);


·                     “Vatican takes stand against rebel order” (Swissinfo);


·                     “Vatican opposes ordination of breakaway priests” (AFP);


·                     “Vatican: Conservative group’s ordinations invalid” (Associated Press).

All of these stories cite the same source: not the Pope or anyone specifically authorized by him to speak on the matter, but rather a bulletin from the Vatican Press Office issued on 17 June. That is, by “the Vatican” the media mean a writer of bulletins whose office happens to be located in Vatican City. And who exactly is the author of this bulletin from “the Vatican”? Was it perhaps the Vatican equivalent of Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter? Or was it the Vatican’s version of Perry White, the head of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.?

Of course, the ecclesiastical authority of bulletins from the Vatican Press Office is nil, but in any case the headlines are all fiction.  The bulletin says absolutely nothing about “the Vatican” opposing, banning, forbidding or even warning against the ordinations. Rather, it merely adverts to the Pope’s letter of 10 March 2009 concerning the lifting of the excommunications, which states that (strictly speaking) the Society “does not have a canonical status in the Church,” and that “its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries,” to which the author of the bulletin adds the gloss that “the ordinations are, thus, still to be considered illegitimate.”  Not invalid or even illicit (the operative canonical term of art), but “illegitimate”—whatever that means, as if anyone cares.

But wait.  According to a headline appearing in Le Monde online yesterday, “The Vatican regrets, but does not oppose, the ordination of 24 new integrist priests.” Citing another communiqué of uncertain provenance, the story in Le Monde quotes “the Vatican” as advising that “the Pope could not interdict these ordinations. That would provoke a rupture in the process of rapprochement…” Indeed it would, which is precisely why the Pope did not forbid the ordinations, and why Bishop Fellay reports that the Society has been assured privately that it will enjoy a provisional legal status during its dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the problematical texts of Vatican II.

So, once again the hydra of “the Vatican” contradicts itself, which is the inevitable result of the post-conciliar proliferation of utterly fallible bureaucratic agencies in Rome, each with its own talking head. When the Risen Lord issued the divine commission, He empowered the Pope, the bishops and the priests of His hierarchical Church to go forth and “teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” But He said nothing of press agencies or an entity called “the Vatican,” consisting of a collection of office buildings and apartments located at 41° 54' 39" North and 12° 27' 7" East.

“The Vatican” Censors the Pope

Much less did Our Lord give any teaching or disciplinary authority to the head of the Vatican Press Office. In that capacity Father Lombardi is a mere bureaucrat, but a most dangerous one at that.  In recent days this rather cunning fellow has “revised” the Pope’s remarks on the evil of condoms, deleted from an interview transcript the Pope’s simple “Yes” in answer to the question whether he supported the excommunication of pro-abortion Mexican politicians, published a dissenting “minority report” to counter the Pope’s declaration that “brain death” is not a morally sufficient criterion for the harvesting of organs, and undermined the Pope’s condemnation of abortion during his trip to Africa by declaring that  “The pope absolutely was not talking about therapeutic abortion [!], and did not say that this must always be rejected.” The latter statement by “the Vatican” provoked such excited international headlines as: “The Vatican does not condemn abortion for therapeutic purposes” (Il Giornale) and “Vatican: Benedict XVI does not condemn abortion… The clarification comes from Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office” (Corriere della Sera).

Even Deal Hudson has had quite enough of “the Vatican” in the person of Father Lombardi. Commenting on Lombardi’s heretical endorsement of “therapeutic abortion,” Hudson accused him of attempting to prevent the Pope’s condemnation of abortion in Africa from being applied to the excommunications recently imposed by an archbishop in Brazil on those responsible for procuring an abortion for a nine-year-old girl. Lombardi’s motive, writes Hudson, is that “The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, had just published an editorial by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, strongly critical of the Brazilian archbishop.”

The divine commission does not extend to an “Academy for Life,” another of the proliferating human agencies of “the Vatican” which are burying the Church in a mountain of useless documents. Nor did Christ commission a newspaper—and certainly not the increasingly heterodox Osservatore, which has published one scandalous article after another since a “makeover” under its new editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, who seems intent on converting “the Pope’s newspaper” into the Vatican’s lame imitation of The New York Times. But not even The Times would publish a glowing review of The Beatles’ “White Album” on its fortieth anniversary.  There is nothing so ridiculous as “the Vatican” trying to be hip.

The German Bishops Ring Up “the Vatican”

The German-speaking bishops, jealously presiding over their carefully cultivated sector of the “silent apostasy” Pope John Paul II belatedly lamented, are demanding advice from “the Vatican” on “how to proceed” respecting the Society’s coming ordinations in Zaitzkofen.  A spokesman for the Bishop of Regensburg told the press that the ordinations “will almost certainly result in the excommunication of the priests and the bishop who ordains them.” If the Pope does not impose that penalty—and surely he won’t—it seems the German bishops, relying on advice from “the Vatican,” intend to declare it themselves.

Coming from the German bishops, this absurd “re-excommunication” would be about as weighty as the revocation of a membership in Price Club. And that, in fact, that is what “excommunication” has become in the Novus Ordo establishment: termination of membership in a kind of ecclesial club defined by the real estate of the diocesan club house, rather than by fidelity to the Faith and the received and approved liturgy and other rites and observances by which it has been mediated to the faithful down through the ages. For those who wish to belong to the club, there is only one inflexible membership requirement: adherence to everything that has been done in the name of the Second Vatican Counsel. All other requirements (except Baptism) are optional or easily waived.

“The Vatican” and the Austrian Church

When the Diocese of Linz, Austria openly rebelled against the Pope’s appointment of a relatively conservative auxiliary bishop (Msgr. Gerhard Wagner) to restore some semblance of discipline, “the Vatican” announced on March 2 (through the Press Office) that “the pope had dispensed Msgr. Gerhard Wagner from accepting the office” after he had “asked the pope to withdraw his nomination, citing the ‘fierce criticism’ it had provoked…”

Only days ago in Linz there was a “Eucharistic procession” in which a consecrated loaf of pita bread was carried about with pincers whose business end consisted, appropriately enough, of a pair of black hands made of plastic. Confronted with the evidence of the scandal, Bishop Schwarz issued the following tisk-tisk: “It is very unfortunate and makes me suffer as a bishop, if a Celebration which should express intimate communion and the unity with the Lord and the church among themselves should be the occasion to give scandal to believers.”  Unfortunate, he says. Not a word about the sacrilegious offense to God Incarnate by this mockery of His real presence, and no discipline of the offending priest—whose ordination, of course, is quite “legitimate.”  Instead, we hear about the Bishop’s wounded sensibilities in that sissified episcopal diction so commonplace today.

In an effort to stem the disintegration of the Church in Austria, the Pope summoned a delegation of Austrian bishops to Rome for a little chat on June 15. The delegation was headed by the Austrian episcopacy’s “conservative,” Christoph Schönborn, the Cardinal of Vienna, who recently presided over a balloon Mass in which he consecrated a doughy Host resembling a personal pan pizza, accompanied by an electric guitarist playing through a “fuzz box.” After the visit of the Austrian delegation with the Pope, “the Vatican” issued a communiqué announcing that the meeting was “characterised by lively ‘collegial affection’” and a “fraternal exchange of ideas and with a constructive spirit,” aimed at “proposing solutions to current problems” with the Church in Austria. According to “the Vatican” the Pope spoke to the Austrian bishops of “maintaining integral faithfulness to Vatican Council II and to the Church’s post-conciliar Magisterium.” I rather doubt that a lack of adherence to Vatican II is the problem in Austria. The Austrian bishops “thanked the Holy Father for his paternal solicitude… giving assurances of their full communion and their affection.” So much for that.

Schönborn took the occasion of his trip to Rome to deliver to “the Vatican” a petition from Austrian laity demanding the abolition of clerical celibacy and the ordination of women deacons. Wily modernist that he is, Schönborn told Vatican Radio—yet another head of the Vatican hydra—that “I do not agree with some of the initiative’s conclusions,” without specifying what he means by “some.” Schönborn thought he should personally deliver this petition to Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, along with a personal handwritten note “asking him to read it attentively.” Why? Because “it is important for someone in Rome”—that is, “the Vatican”—“to know what some of our lay people are thinking about the problems of the Church.”  Evidently Schönborn does not think it is important for someone in “the Vatican” to know what lay Catholics in Austria (or anywhere else) might be thinking about the auto-demolition of the Church being carried out by ecclesiastical Killer Clowns from Outer Space who are sent on their way without so much as a wrist slap after they give the Pope assurances “of their full communion and their affection.”

“The Vatican” and China’s Illicit Bishops

Only days ago Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong who was elevated to the rank of Cardinal by Pope Benedict in 2006, objected to any further compromise by “the Vatican” with the “Patriotic Catholic Association” (PCA) in China, the faux church created by the Beijing regime in 1958 to replace the Catholic Church in union with the Pope. The PCA has consecrated more than a hundred bishops without a papal mandate in violation of the same provision of canon law invoked against Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops he consecrated in 1988.  Yet, thanks to the diplomatic initiatives of “the Vatican,” in particular the Vatican Secretary of State, these illicitly consecrated bishops—handpicked to be subservient to a communist regime that imposes forced abortion on women—have been treated with kid gloves, while the Society’s bishops are kept in a state of canonical limbo.

As Pope Benedict revealed in his Apostolic Letter of May 2007 on the situation of the Catholic Church in China, “the Pope” (it is not clear whether this means himself or John Paul II) has granted a number PCA bishops who requested recognition by Rome “full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction to favour the reestablishment of full communion,” after considering “the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation…” And yet it seems that the communist-controlled bishops so favored have abused this concession by refusing to give any outward sign of union with the Pope. As the Pope observes, “in most cases” neither priests nor the faithful are told “that their Bishop has been legitimized, [which] has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience,” and “some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized.” While the Pope insists that “the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter,” this has not been forthcoming.

Yet “the Vatican” persists in its diplomatic policy even after Beijing thumbed its nose at the Pope by staging last year a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first illicit consecrations, an event Cardinal Zen calls a “most disturbing episode, which goes against everything indicated by the pope” in his Apostolic Letter.  The Cardinal fears “we are worryingly sliding down the slope of compromise” and that if slide continues “it would mean the end.   I repeat: it would mean the complete waste of all the efforts made in the previous years and it would be an insult to the Holy Father.” That is, the legitimized bishops will exploit their canonical status to serve the ends of the Beijing regime, nothing will have been achieved for the unity of the Church, and the persecution of the “underground” Church will continue unabated.  Yet another triumph for the diplomats of “the Vatican.”

One wonders why the four bishops of the Society, given their “sincerity” and the “complexity” of their situation, have not been granted “full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction to favour the reestablishment of full communion.” Perhaps the Society should consecrate a hundred bishops and declare itself an adjunct of the PCA!  Such is the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves. It seems the Code of Canon Law is no longer applied rigorously to anyone in the world except four traditionalist bishops and the priests they ordained in order to preserve the very Mass “the Vatican” wanted us to think had been abrogated de jure.  In the midst of the “silent apostasy” only these traditionalist clerics are declared “illegitimate” and without any ministry in the Church, regardless of their unequivocal profession of loyalty to the Pope and their adherence to all the doctrines of the Faith. Meanwhile, the bishops and priests of a communist-created “official church” are fully recognized even though they fail and refuse to give any sign of communion with Rome and offer no resistance to China’s regime of forced abortion.  Or so “the Vatican” would have it.

“The Vatican” and the Uncrowned King

In The Great Façade I presented the truth that traditionalists have always known: for more than forty years this thing called “the Vatican” has maintained the false impression that the entire practice of the Faith must be “adjusted” to suit a “new orientation” supposedly dictated by the Council, when in fact the Council did not oblige Catholics to believe or to practice a single thing they did not believe or practice before the Council. When Pope Benedict declared in his letter to the world’s bishops in conjunction with Summorum Pontificum that use of the 1962 Missal “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted,” he revealed the Great Façade for what it is.  And yet, despite the Pope’s stunning admission of this immense fraud upon the faithful, and despite his courageous acts in favor Tradition, it seems “the Vatican” remains firmly in place as de facto ruler of the Church, with the Pope subsisting more or less as the prisoner of an ever more complex bureaucratic machine and its disastrous deviations.

In candor, however, it must be said that if Pope Benedict is a prisoner of “the Vatican” it is because he has declined to exercise to the fullest the power of the Keys that Christ entrusted to Peter and his successors. Perhaps Benedict has been deterred by the great outcry against the “unilateral” decisions he has already made in favor of Tradition, which even the world knows are but a glimmering of what a Pope can accomplish if he is determined to reform the Church.  We cannot forget that he himself asked us to “pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

By the power of the Keys, Benedict could open the door of the labyrinthine bureaucratic dungeon to which the Popes’ own subjects have effectively confined them since the Council, slam the door behind him, regain control of the Apostolic Palace, and put his subjects back in their proper places—where they were before Vatican II, when Popes were feared as well as loved and the Secretary of State had not yet been elevated (by the curial “reform” of Cardinal Villot) to the status of a virtual vice-pope.

Pope Benedict will remain prisoner of the ascendant Vatican bureaucracy to the extent he declines to assert that supreme monarchical authority signified by the triple tiara surmounting the Keys in every papal coat of arms before his own—yes, including those of John Paul II and Paul VI. As “the Vatican” explains on its website, while even those two tragic Popes “left the ‘tiara’ and the crossed keys as the emblem of the Apostolic See,” Pope Benedict “decided not to include the tiara in his official personal coat of arms. He replaced it with a simple mitre…” The Pope has symbolically renounced the papal crown.

Yet it will take nothing less than an exercise of the crown rights of a king to undo all the harm the ministers of “the Vatican” and legions of modernists abroad have inflicted on the commonwealth of the Church over four decades of insurrection. But, to recall Archbishop Lefebvre’s famous words concerning the doctrine on the Social Kingship of Christ in the post-conciliar epoch, “they have uncrowned Him.”

And so have they uncrowned His vicar, reducing him to the dean of a “college of bishops” that governs the Church collectively—especially within “the Vatican”—according to the conciliar pseudo-doctrine of “collegiality.” Surrounded by collegial advisors and confronted by collegial bishops’ conferences that openly reject the very idea of a monarchical papacy, the Pope has consented to his own uncrowning. This is precisely as demanded by the spirit of an age that hates kings as much as it hates the Church whose earthly head nonetheless remains a king by the will of its kingly Founder, even if a Pope should willingly lay down the crown he has been given to wear. For as Dietrich von Hildebrand observed at the very beginning of the post-conciliar crisis, “the spirit of our epoch is slowly seeping into the Church herself, and many have failed to see the apocalyptic decline of our time.”

Pope Benedict XVI gave glory to God and made history with his liberation of the traditional Mass from its criminal captivity by “the Vatican.” In ordering remission of the excommunications of the Society’s bishops, His Holiness rectified a grave injustice likewise perpetrated by “the Vatican” (whose Congregation for Bishops, not the late Pope, imposed the penalty ferendae sententiae). With these brave deeds, for which the world despises him, Pope Benedict has at least begun the inevitable restoration of the Church that will culminate with the consecration of Russia and the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Nevertheless, only a king can restore a ruined kingdom. Like the denizens of the troubled realm of Tolkien’s Middle Earth,  the members of the Catholic Church still await the return of the king.