General's Letter # 69
Friends and Benefactors
Dear Faithful and Benefactors,
“By celebrating the old Mass, I discovered what the priest
Several times lately we have received this moving testimony from
priests who are getting to know us. This short
sentence sums up the essence of the profound mystery that has struck
The Church has been in a crisis since Vatican II because the priesthood
has been slighted. This is one of the
fundamental elements of this crisis.
One of the most decisive points for the Church’s restoration
is and will be the priesthood. Of all the churchmen of
the 20th century, Archbishop Lefebvre was probably the one who
understood this most clearly.
founding the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, he sought nothing
but the restoration of the priesthood for the sake
of restoring the entire Church, and
do this by re-establishing the intimate, unsuspectedly profound
link that exists between the priest and the Mass.
The priest was the forgotten man of Vatican II, as Fathers of the
Council have frankly admitted. In the Constitution on
the Church, Lumen Gentium, while entire chapters were dedicated
to the bishops and especially to the laity, one of the great “discoveries”
of Vatican II, only a few paragraphs refer to the priest, and when
they do it is to subordinate him to the bishops or to the universal
priesthood of the baptized.
As early as 1971, the International Theological Commission would
say: “Vatican II modified the image of the priest in
two regards. The Council treated of the common priesthood of all
the faithful before treating of the ministerial priesthood.... Moreover,
it highlighted the place of the bishop, the center of each particular
Church and member of the universal college of bishops. The place
of the priest in the Church became blurred.”1
Loss of identity, an uncertain place in the Church...and yet the
decree Presbyterorum Ordinis gives the same definition
of the priesthood as the Council of Trent! But the context is such
that another idea is put forward, that of the priest
as preacher, as Martin Luther would have it, and not the priest
as the one who offers the Sacrifice. This would lead Fr.
Olivier, a recognized expert on the subject, to say about the crisis
that befell the priesthood after the Council: “The real
problem is so unusual in Catholicism that one can easily understand
the instinctive blindness that has allowed a
perception of the cause to be avoided: the will to be faithful to
two Councils that completely diverge from each other is simply impossible.”
To this new presentation of the priesthood, a new Mass with an intentionally
Protestant savor corresponds perfectly...
The conjunction of these two elements, the definition of the priesthood
and the new Mass, have sufficed to provoke the most
severe crisis touching the priesthood in the Church’s entire
Let us say it quite simply: the priesthood has been cleverly denatured.
The “president” (præesse), the “preacher”
(prædicare) are indeed sacerdotal roles, but they
are not the essential: this belongs to the “sacrificare”
Insofar as the priest has not understood that his reason for being
is sacrifice, that his ordination ordains him for the
offering of sacrifice, the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross, the
priest will not truly know what he is or who he is. The priest
without the Mass, without sacrifice, is an eye that sees not, an
ear that hears not, feet that do not walk.
The Church’s enemy will never better succeed in striking her
heart, for the heart of the Church, that which communicates
supernatural life to the entire Mystical Body, that which diffuses
life throughout the whole organism, is the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass. For a Mass protestantized in the name of
ecumenism, according to Bugnini’s very words, a corresponding
priesthood was required...
The priests we quoted at the beginning of this letter have understood
this in a lightening flash when they came in contact
with the traditional Mass. And then, they tell me, they are both
frustrated and happy. Frustrated, because “they” hid
them this treasure, they deprived them of it. Happy, inundated with
happiness at understanding the extraordinary grandeur
of their vocation, the thrilling reality of their participation
in the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ “in persona
The priest is associated, immersed even, in the sacrificial act
of Our Lord, Sovereign Priest, and he thus participates with his
whole being, which he surrenders to Jesus, priest and victim, for
the salvation of souls, for the redemptive act. All of this was
made away with in the New Mass.
Poor priests who know not what they are!
Very dear faithful, we do not doubt that you rejoice with us when
priests discover what they are. These are beautiful
victories over the crisis in the Church, strongholds and citadels
reconquered for Church Militant, joining ranks with the new
priests Divine Providence gives us every year. This year there will
be seventeen, ten in this month of June, and seven in
December. In such occurrences, we see accomplished in a tangible
way one of the goals of our Society, whose end is the
priesthood and everything related to it.
It should be the constant concern of the superiors to maintain among
the members a lively will to accomplish and to
reach this end. As in every society, from time to time it is necessary
to stop and examine the road traveled, to verify if and
how the end of the society is being pursued, and to consider the
state of its members. This work is done particularly during
the course of the “Chapter,” an assembly which for us,
the SSPX, meets every twelve years. It is also on this occasion
the capitulants, numbering forty, elect the Superior General,
who will lead the Society, assisted by his council, for the next
We have no need to insist upon the importance of such an event for
our Society. During the six months preceding the
Chapter, our Statutes command us to offer prayers to obtain
from Divine Mercy His grace, His light, and the help of the
We invite you to join our prayers and sacrifices by a novena, and
if you can, by a day of fasting. The novena will
commence on July 2. It consists of the prayer of the Veni Creator,
three invocations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and
one to St. Pius X. The day of fasting has been set for Friday, July
Please receive our warmest thanks for your most touching and faithful
generosity, without which the Society would not
have the means to develop and to grow, a growth that is somewhat
miraculous... We count on your prayers, and ask Our
Lady to obtain for you by her intercession all the graces and spiritual
support you need.
May God bless you abundantly.
The Feast of Pentecost
4 June 2006
+ Bernard Fellay
The Priestly Ministry [French] (Paris: Cerf, 1971).
Olivier, The Two Faces of the Priest [French] (Paris: Fayard,
1971), p. 106.