A Word on the July Elections
Praying for the best

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant
Father John Berg, FSSP

(www.RemnantNewspaper.com, POSTED Aug.1, 2006) It was disappointing to learn that one or two traditionalist websites wasted no time at all last month chastising those of us who’d welcomed as good news the recent election results out of the Society of St. Pius X and the Fraternity of St. Peter.   Cyber critics notwithstanding, the July 7th election of  American Fr. John Berg (36 years old) as the third Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is welcome news indeed, especially since his reputation as a good and holy priest is well established. Father Berg, whose family resides here in Minnesota, has on several occasions offered the Traditional Mass at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in So. St. Paul, and always left an exceedingly favorable impression on those in attendance.

He is generally regarded as a solid traditionalist who is not given to unjust compromise and reportedly enjoys a relatively congenial relationship with his brother priests in the SSPX. It is our belief that traditionalists can expect good things from the new Superior General of the FSSP, and we congratulate Fr. Berg on his election and wish him every blessing as he takes the reins of his important and difficult assignment.

As for those dismissals of this news as irrelevant to the state of affairs in the Church today, we earnestly wish such hasty conclusions could be reconsidered.  After all traditional Catholics have had to endure this past half century of revolution in the Church, we must guard against becoming so jaded that the mere expression of hope that God could be intervening on behalf of His beleaguered Church should be met with scorn, and dismissed as naiveté on the one hand or outright compliance with devious compromise on the other. 

Whether considering a papal conclave or just the election of a Superior General of a traditionalist order, traditional Catholics should, it seems to us, recognize that the Church is not beyond Hope and that God may use any means to initiate the restoration of His Church at any time.  If this is forever to be dismissed as the stuff of the hopelessly deceived then in what sense can it be said that God is with His Church always, even unto the consummation of the world? 

Pessimism is not Catholic.  Surely it takes no great intellect to make dire predictions about the future in the midst of the present crisis; any idiot can track the general direction of things and make easy forecasts of what’s likely to come about, humanly speaking.  But if we are filled with Hope and with Faith then must we not look for God’s intervention at every turn?  Must we not expect it as surely as we expect the sun to rise in the morning? Our Faith assures us that this madness in the Church cannot go on forever.  And, during such a  dark night as this who is to say that God cannot work through those traditionalist priestly orders which, according to our personal view of things, do not go far enough or, conversely, go too far,  by giving countless families spiritual nourishment and access to the old Sacraments even in this Godless day and age.

In the case of the July 11, 2006 reelection of Bishop Bernard Fellay as Superior General of the SSPX it was distressing to see venomous detractors on both sides of the divide unwilling to allow for even the possibility that Bishop Fellay’s leadership decisions over the past twelve years could have been motivated by love for the Church and a profound concern for souls, and that his reelection could thus be in accord with God’s will. 

Those on his left lambasted him as a hardened schismatic whose personal arrogance and lack of docility preclude even the capacity for concern for the million souls in his care or the good of the Church in general.  And, on the flipside, those far to his right vigorously employed their HTML to denounce his reelection as an “inside job” and to castigate him as a devious snake in the grass whose “imminent compromise” with Rome couldn’t possibly be motivated by anything nobler than lust for power and personal ambition.  (Question: Does mere attendance at the old Mass provide immunity from the guilt of the mortal sin of gross defamation of character? What ever happened to the sin of detraction?)

Bishop Fellay’s careful navigation of the SSPX lifeboat over the past twelve years is generally considered quite consistent with that of a man who, despite whatever faults he may have, is deeply troubled by the crisis in the Church, profoundly concerned for souls, and cognizant of the fact that a permanent “irregular status” in the Church is not an option for an order of faithful Catholic priests.

As the present state of emergency runs its disastrous course, therefore, Bishop Fellay continues to raise  objections to the new orientation of the Church while maintaining lines of communication with the Vatican and pursuing every opportunity to coherently present the traditionalist case to the Holy Father in the hope of convincing him to reverse engines and move away from the disastrous “reforms” of the last 40 years, a happy change of events that would have the added benefit of ending the “irregular status” instantly.  And for this “crime” cyber commentators would hang the Bishop from the nearest lamppost? 

Isn’t this sort of counterrevolutionary attitude precisely in accord with what traditional Catholicism has always been about—the loyal opposition, loyal to the Church and to the Pope but opposed to the new orientation of the Church? In the spirit of St. Catherine of Siena, tradition-minded Catholics have spent the last forty years publicly begging the Pope (“to his face” rather than ignobly sniping at him behind his back) to return to the Rome of Tradition.  To this end, Bishop Fellay walked right into Castle Gandolfo last year and spoke directly to the Pope…to his face…precisely as a loyal son of the Church should.  Where is the crime in this?

We cannot forget that true traditionalism has never been about homemade popes and costume party bishops; we are not our own magisterium; no one elected us judge and jury of Peter’s successors! We are Catholics who, in the midst of the direst crisis since the Arian Heresy, are simply clinging to the old Faith as it was taught in Catholic homes, parishes and schools by Catholic nuns and priests and parents for two thousand years.  In other words, we’re doing exactly what we were ordered to do by Christ’s duly appointed representatives on this earth just forty years ago. We’ve invented nothing new. We didn’t change.  Our Mass didn’t change. Our catechism didn’t change.  Our Rosary didn’t change.  We are simply trying as best we know how to keep the old Faith as we were taught to do under pain of mortal sin, being prepared (again, as we were taught) to die rather than deny any aspect of that holy Faith.  This is done, not out of arrogance, but out of obedience, simple necessity and urgent concern for our immortal souls, the salvation of which is the first responsibility of all the children of God and would-be heirs of heaven.  Nothing else matters.

All Bishop Fellay has been trying to do, it seems to us, is calmly remind the Vatican that this is how it is with tradition-minded Catholics, and that Vatican II’s novelties have not only crippled the ability to accomplish this fundamental end of human existence, but have also contributed mightily to the emptying of seminaries, the wide scale closing of churches, and the general departure from the Faith of entire countries. His temples are not pulsating when he points this out; his eyes are not popping out of his head; he’s not given to screaming his anathemas via the Caps Lock key on his computer keyboard; he doesn’t even have a web site and I doubt very much he’s ever heard of Alexa.com.  And yet all around the world his persistent, logical and Catholic message is getting through, even to the highest echelons in the Church. 

Again, where is his crime?

With the recent elections in the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Society of St. Pius X it does seem to us that there may be a bit of good news over which to ruminate this summer…something we haven’t been able to say for an awfully long time.  If nothing else, the results of both elections (despite whatever strategic or philosophical differences we may have with either of the two priestly fraternities in question) have placed two militantly traditional Catholic priests—who genuinely care about souls and the Catholic restoration—in positions of some influence in the Church. And for that the vast majority of traditional Catholics around the world can say with one voice: Deo gratias!