Newsletter of the District
- April 2007
with Fr. Daniel Couture,
District Superior of Asia
Asia! Land of explorers, missionaries and martyrs!
The SSPX has been established in Asia since 1986 with a first priory
Then came Manila in the Philippines in 1992; Sri Lanka in 1995;
a second priory in the Philippines in Iloilo, in 1998;
and lastly Singapore (which eventually replaced Sri Lanka), in 1999.
In 2005, Bishop Fellay attached New Zealand to the District of Asia.
Fr. Couture, a Canadian, was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in
1984, and has been
District Superior since 1996, the year of the fusion of the two
Autonomous Houses of
India and the Philippines, from which was born the District of Asia.
Christendom no. 10 (an SSPX magazine, cf. www.dici.org)
the opportunity to interview him.
Father, you have been in Asia for more than 10 years, and you will
soon be reaching the end of a second term of office in this continent
where over half of the world's population is living. You seem to
like the missionary life…
Missionary is the right word. In the SSPX, we, the spiritual sons
of Archbishop Lefebvre, are all, in fact, missionaries: no matter
where we are sent, we always find ourselves in a mission country.
However, some of our Districts are such in the more classical meaning
of the word, if I may say so. Africa and Asia have always more specifically
called to mind the missionary adventure.
To how many countries in Asia does the SSPX minister?
the countries which we visit on a regular basis, let’s say
at least every other month, are the following, going from west to
east: India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, China (which
we reach by going to Hong Kong), the Philippines, Japan, South Korea,
New Zealand and New Caledonia. Those we visit occasionally are:
Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. So, our 17 priests from their four
priories manage to keep up the good fight for the Faith on this
immense territory. They continue to water with divine grace these
few thousands souls whom God is watching and whom He has entrusted
to our cares.
What strikes you most when you travel through countries so different
in their histories, languages, cultures, and religions?
it is the mystery of divine grace which reaches souls in so many
different environments. To see everywhere the same fruits of the
Holy Ghost, the same thirst for God and the sacraments, and especially
for the traditional Mass, and the same love for the Blessed Virgin,
fills us with admiration. It is truly a perfect application of the
divine word:“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,”
God tells us (Rom. 9:15) . I also saw this paradox in these countries
of the East: on the one hand, we come into contact with paganism,
let us say, in its purest state, just as we can find it when we
read the lives of the missionaries of the past centuries. We see
people who adore stones, devils, and idols of all kinds. And on
the other hand, we still find those natural virtues that we have
lost in our own Catholic countries. For instance, family virtues,
respect for the elders (in many Asian languages, there are different
names for your relatives – brothers, sisters, uncles, and
aunts – according as they are older or younger) In India and
in Sri Lanka, which are Hindu and Buddhist countries, a young lady
can hardly get married if she has lost her virginity. There is not
as much promiscuity as in our Western countries.
How is Catholic Tradition received in Conciliar circles in the East?
received with difficulty, for obedience to authority is also a very
natural virtue. However, grace is at work here as elsewhere. Well-disposed
souls, troubled by what they see in their parishes in the field
of inculturation or modernism, understand that obedience is at the
service of Faith and not the other way around.
In Asia, apart from the SSPX, are there other traditional Masses
very few. As far as I know, in all of Asia, there are Indult Masses
only in Bombay (India), in Hong Kong and one or two in the Philippines,
and that is all. Recently, I came across an article favorable to
Tradition and written by a Vicar General in Vietnam. It would be
interesting to follow this up. If the Motu Proprio on the Mass were
published, several bishops would certainly encourage the traditional
Mass in some of our Asian countries. They are not all as fiercely
opposed to Tradition as the bishops in Europe or in the Americas.
convert from Buddhism, Jennifer Mary,
here on the day of her baptism,
September 12, 2006.
This Thai young lady made
several trips from Thailand to Singapore to receive Catechism
lessons and then Baptism.
She was confirmed on February 24, 2007 by Bishop Fellay.
What are the most promising places in the District?
priory with the most complete apostolate is unquestionably in Wanganui,
New Zealand. It has a school with 130 students, 6 teaching Dominican
Sisters (a local foundation), three priests and some 400 to 500
faithful. And people keep moving from various parts of the country
to come closer to this center of intense spiritual life. Next, I
would say, are the Philippines, which are a breeding ground for
vocations. In the other missions, we are really using the ’fishing
rod technique’, we gain souls one by one.
It is true that we meet more and more Asian faces in several communities
Gratias! As a matter of fact, we have some in France, in Morgon
(Capuchins), in Bellaigue (Benedictine monks); in Italy in Velletri
and Vigne (two communities of Sisters) ; and in the SSPX among our
Sisters, Oblates, Brothers and priests. The harvest will always
be plentiful and the harvesters will always be too few. Oremus!
Let us pray!
According to you, what is the precise role of the Society in the
of all, it is to safeguard Catholic Tradition by safeguarding the
Mass. But we must not forget that the first purpose of the SSPX
is “the priesthood and all that pertains to it; all that complements
it” (SSPX Statutes). Consequently, we are particularly interested
in priestly formation, as everybody knows. By safeguarding priestly
formation, we help the universal Church. For, as the Council of
Trent teaches in its Catechism, the priesthood is the sacrament
most necessary for the whole Church. Hence, as soon as an opportunity
arises, we like to get information on the state of the diocesan
seminaries in our mission countries -—which we have been able
to do a few times— to see what we can do. What did we find
out? A real tragedy, like in the West, but at another level. For
instance, some time ago, I met the Rector of the only seminary in
Thailand. There is only one seminary in this country, which numbers
10 dioceses. They have over a hundred seminarians. I went to see
him, among other reasons, to try to find some classic books in Thai,
like the Summa of St. Thomas, the Catechism of the Council of Trent,
the encyclicals of the popes prior to Vatican II, to begin only
with these basic texts. There was nothing, absolutely nothing in
Thai. “These books have never been translated,” the
Rector told me. The reason is that before the Council, the seminarians
would learn Latin, and thanks to Latin they had access to all the
books of formation. But with the loss of Latin, it was not only
the liturgy that suffered: They have thrown out of the window the
key to all (or almost all) of the Catholic library! Besides, these
young seminarians know no other modern language. In this way, they
are truly cut off from the whole of Tradition. I said as much to
the Rector: “Don’t you think that your seminarians,
after seven years of formation will have a, let’s say, schismatic
mentality? Because they will be cut off from all of the past of
the Church…” He did not answer. Schism does exist in
the Church, and it is certainly there. I found out the same thing
in Vietnam when talking to a professor of moral theology. They no
longer have any handbooks, they must rewrite all their courses with
modern authors. And this is precisely what Pope Pius XI feared.
He could see very clearly the consequences of the loss of Latin
for the clergy. On August 1, 1922, he wrote a very strong letter
on this subject in which he warned that when the young clergy does
not have a sufficient knowledge of Latin, “they neglect the
rich volumes of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, in which
the dogmas of the Faith are taught with precision and irrefutably
defended, and they rather seek among modern authors a source of
doctrine all of their own. These authors not only lack precision
in their language and argumentation (note: this recalls an important
intervention of Archbishop Lefebvre at the Council!) but they also
fail to expose the doctrine faithfully.” Personally, I think
that the SSPX in Asia as well as in the rest of the world, is only
in its first stage with the safeguard of the Mass and of the doctrine.
A second stage will be assistance to priests in great numbers; and
then, with God’s grace, the founding of numerous seminaries
in the whole world, as, for instance, the Sulpicians (whom we find
in Vietnam) did.. Or at least the SSPX would collaborate with the
bishops to open seminaries. Archbishop Lefebvre, during the Easter
retreat in Ecône, in 1984, even considered a model seminary
in Rome one day! We will see, if we live long enough!
India: Several orphans after their baptism
How is Thomism received in Asia?
is a good question. At the Asian Synod in 1998, several interventions
were made against Western, namely scholastic of course, philosophy
and theology. The most rabid in this sense were the Japanese bishops.
(I learned afterwards that the texts of those interventions had
been prepared by Italian Jesuits!) So, as a rule, we rather often
meet with an attitude hostile to St. Thomas, under the pretext that
he comes from the West. However, I met an old bishop, who was very
well versed in Latin and Greek culture, and who would have liked
to marry Eastern and Western philosophies. But God, Who counts the
drops of water and the grains of sand, and Who has ordered all things
in measure, and number, and weight, is certainly not born by chance
in Palestine. Neither is it by chance that He willed His Church
to use the Greek philosophy, purified and then baptized by St. Thomas.
And it is not by chance that He established the see of Peter in
the very heart of the Roman Empire. These are data provided by history
and to which we must submit.
We always come
back to St. Pius X who saw in the loss of Thomism the first step
towards modernism, and in Thomism the first remedy against modernism.
What about inculturation? Is it a superficial problem or a root
of Christ doing yoga. This is actually a monstrance.
The sacred Host is on the breast of Christ.
Inculturation is the scourge of Asia, and it can be summed up quite
simply as a deep de-Romanization. The liturgy is its vehicle but
it touches everything. The Federation of the Asian Bishops Conferences,
in a 2005 document on the reception of Vatican II forty years later,
said it quite clearly: “Applying the teachings of Vatican
II, the Churches of Asia resolutely moved away from the predominant
model of the mission considered as the pre-Concile plantatio ecclesiæ.”
(FABC, Document 117). In plain English, it means that they do no
longer go to seek the sheep outside to bring them back to the fold,
the Roman Church, as Our Lord requested, but they build the fold
where the sheep are! They have lost the love for Rome. This is the
whole irony of this inculturation: We, SSPX, are accused of being
schismatic, we who teach the Roman faith, who pray with the Roman
liturgy and language, who always have a reference to a Roman encyclical
ready, whereas the conciliar clergy destroys little by little, or
even at times very quickly, all that has come from the West, in
short all that smacks of Romanitas. We cannot help thinking of Archbishop
Lefebvre who wrote in the last pages of his spiritual testament,
his Spiritual Journey: “Schisms and heresies often began by
a rupture with Romanity, a rupture with Roman liturgy, with the
Latin, with the theology of the Latin and Roman Fathers and theologians.”
I could give you a litany of the most incredible examples of inculturation,
such as Masses for which the celebrant is clothed in leopard skin,
children dressed as Hindu gods dancing liturgical dances around
the altar, representations (even a monstrance) of Our Lord doing
yoga, ancestors worship officially approved by bishops… The
whole missionary work of so many centuries is being spoiled. The
blood of millions of martyrs is trampled upon.
Fideliter (the magazine of the French SSPX district) recently published
an article about an orphanage in India, which came over to Tradition.
Can you tell us more about it?
one of the most beautiful stories of confidence in Divine Providence
I witnessed in all my years as a priest. We saw this young lady,
Swarna, discover Tradition, and leave everything, like Abraham,
however not with 75 persons like the Patriarch, but with half of
that, namely 37 : 20 orphans, 10 elderly persons, and 6 other persons.
She left the property she had just bought to build her orphanage
(the contract for the construction was to be signed 2 days later).
She traveled 22 hours by train to go to another Indian state, where
a different language is spoken. And all that in order to be closer
to the traditional Holy Mass and the sacraments, and to have a spiritual
life strengthened by the catechism classes and conferences given
by the SSPX priests. Thanks to this move, she is now making ready
to leave all her work in the hands of her helpers in order to consecrate
herself to God in the religious life. The Consolers of the Sacred
Heart in Vigne, North of Rome, will adopt this beautiful work. These
Sisters joined Tradition a few years back, thanks to the good work
of Fr. du Chalard. I had the happiness of baptizing most of these
20 orphans and some of the elderly people, among them a Brahmin.
They are very beautiful souls quite capable of attracting missionary
vocations! Swarna has just bought another property of about 5 acres
on which (after her novitiate in Italy) she will build the orphanage,
the convent for the Sisters, and, with God’s help, the house
of the novitiate, for we expect that this work will attract vocations.
As a matter of fact, three young ladies already live at the orphanage,
and another impatiently waits for the end of her studies to go and
join them. They all aspire to the same religious life. St. Ignatius
rightly said: “Few souls know what God could do with them
if they did not raise obstacles.” The story of Swarna looks
like it is going to be the story of one of those beautiful but rare
of the Consolers of the Sacred Heart to Swarn's orphanage.
From left to right: Fr. Devasahayam, Fr. Summers, Fr. Couture, Fr.
the Sisters, the Indian young ladies presently in chare of the orphanage.
Chr: Do you have schools in your big District?
respect we are certainly lagging behind in Asia, though with New
Zealand (and its elementary and secondary school) we are making
progress. Last year we opened a small primary school in India for
our orphans. But one day we must have a secondary school at least
in the Philippines and in India. However, to open a school, we first
need parents who are convinced of its necessity. Now, too many,
alas, still trust the Novus Ordo schools. And we need money…
In some of our poorest chapels, a Sunday collection for 100 people
can reach the amount of … US$13 or US$26… We cannot
rely on them to get a school working, pay salaries, and so on. I
once counted the Sunday collection in one of our villages in India.
For 70-80 people there were 17 rupees (US$0.30) and … one
egg in the little wicker basket!
Primary School in Wanganui, New Zealand
Apart from schools what are the projects already underway, or planned
for the future?
now at the building stage for chapels Presently we build chapels
at the rhythm of one or two each year. The Filipinos are completing
their fourth chapel, in India they are about to begin their 3rd.
In Singapore, a little city-republic of 4 million inhabitants, a
super-rich city, after beginning the Mass center in a private home
in the 90’s, we opened the priory, seat of the District in
a small rented apartment of 5000 ft2 in 1999. We are looking for
a bigger place and even for a abandoned church, but such are not
to be found around here! Besides, prices are sky-high: in 1996,
a 1-acre plot of land destined for a church, and in which we were
interested, sold for over 5 million US dollars… And that was
only for the land. The price of a chapel would fetch about as much.
But we must not lose hope… Quite recently, a benefactor offered
to us a rather unique proposal: he will meet the amount given by
the faithful, dollar for dollar up to US $ 100,000 until July 1,
2007 for our Asian missions in general and for this project more
specially. This would already be a good start, either to find a
better place to rent (and hence for the remodeling to be done),
or for a down-payment in case we find something to buy. May St Joseph
and St Rita help us!
Is there one last thing you would like to tell our readers?
really have to live in these countries which are sometimes up to
99% pagan to realize the special value of three of God’s gifts:
1- the gift of the Catholic Faith! We too often take it for granted.
But it really is a gift from Heaven, which we can lose if we are
unfaithful. 2- The gift of the Traditional Mass, which is really
Catholic, universal, which reaches the souls of all walks of life,
languages and cultures. And lastly… 3- The gift of the Catholic
priesthood, and hence of Archbishop Lefebvre’s work to safeguard
this priesthood. You must see the love that souls have for the priest,
especially when he comes only every 3 or 4 months. So, let us not
be ungrateful but, on the contrary, let us appreciate as much as
possible these treasures of our holy Roman Catholic Faith.
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Missions of the SSPX in Asia, please visit here.