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The Recusant Issue 30 (October 2015)

Concerning: The Avrillé Dominicans

The following appeared in July, 2015. The exact date given on the French version of this statement (on the French website of the Avrillé Dominicans) is 29th July, 2015, although no date is given on the English website… 
The Friary’s Position

The position of the Friary has not changed since the foundation of our community, that is, we continue the combat for the Faith summarized perfectly by the Doctrinal Declaration of Archbishop Lefebvre of November 21, 1974. 

More precisely, we hold the principle which has been the one of the Society from 1988 to 2012, and which was still clearly maintained in the General Chapter of 2006:

Quote:The contacts that the Society continues occasionally with Roman authorities have for their only end to help these authorities to reappropriate the Tradition that the Church cannot repudiate without losing her identity, and not the search for an advantage for ourselves, or to come to an impossible and purely practical agreement. The day when Tradition will once again regain all its rights, “the problem of our reconciliation will have no further reason to exist and the Church will experience a new youth”. [Letter of Archbishop Lefebvre to John-Paul II, 2nd June, 1988]

We support therefore all the priests still in the SSPX who, not without difficulty, continue the good fight in this spirit. By the grace of God, there are a good number of them, especially in the French District of the Society. The Appeal to the faithful of January 2014 was not a declaration of rupture with the SSPX, but a “public testimony of our firm and faithful attachment to the principles that always guided Archbishop Lefebvre in the combat for the Faith”. 

If there are priests outside of the Society who, clearly and without ambiguity, continue the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre, there is no reason not to support them. To support them does not mean “taking sides” for one Society against another. We have no intention to do anything “against” the Society, and do not wish its collapse: nobody wants that. 

A suggestion for those who want to remain faithful to the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre: to the word “resistance”, we prefer the expression “combat for the faith”, not only because one does not define oneself by something negative; but because this expression exists since the beginning of Tradition, and includes all those who faithfully continue the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre, no matter what organization they belong to. 

Sources: (English) (French) 

1. “Our Position has not changed…”
Saying that one has not changed one’s principles since the days of Archbishop Lefebvre is a good thing. But as with all good things said, it must be proved, or disproved, with one’s actions (which, let us say yet again, speak louder than words!) There are, for example, some poor misguided souls who maintain that they hold to the 1974 declaration of Archbishop Lefebvre, and yet are unclear as to whether/when/why/why not one may assist at the Novus Ordo Mass (some of them have tried to defend Bishop Williamson’s words in that regard). The 1974 Declaration says that we reject all the reforms coming from the Council. Clearly all the reforms would embrace the New Mass too, which, says the declaration, “begins in heresy and leads to heresy”. Unfortunately for these people, what this means is that either one disagrees with what Bishop Williamson says about attending the New Mass, or one disagrees with Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1974 declaration. One cannot agree to both (at least, not if one wishes to leave the principle of non contradiction standing intact!)

As far as the Avrillé Dominicans are concerned, some people were worried to see, in the youtube video of Bishop Williamson’s answer in New York, a Dominican priest of Avrillé sat in the background, and showing apparently no distress whatever at what he was hearing (he does speak very good English, since you ask). However, only God knows interiors, and perhaps this priest was just very good at hiding his extreme distress at what he was hearing. Furthermore, Avrillé did put out some sort of a statement (printed in last month’s Recusant, Issue 29) which made it clear that they did not agree with the Bishop on that question. It would have been nice if they could have produced something in their own words, not just a cut-and-paste from Fr.Gaudron’s Catechism of the Crisis in the Church; and it would have been even nicer if they could have published something dealing with the specific problem at hand (i.e. the fact that it was Bishop Williamson saying those things!) - after all, when we witness a robbery we are supposed to shout “Stop! Thief!” and not just stand there condemning the idea of stealing in general… but still, something is better than nothing, so let us not spend too long complaining if it wasn’t perfect! 

2. The General Chapter Statement of 2006
In some ways this statement, although nowhere near as openly modernist as that of 2012, was nonetheless the first proverbial chink in the armour. It already talks about helping the Roman authorities to “re-appropriate” Tradition, an idea subsequently popularized by Bishop Fellay and Fr. Pfluger all over the world. It is as though the “Roman authorities” have accidentally lost or mislaid their Tradition: they left it on the bus under the seat and are now desperately trying to find it! Whereas, of course, in reality they are busy attacking and trying to destroy it. What is therefore required is not a “re-appropriation” but a conversion. The 2006 chapter, therefore, sins by omission, downplaying the seriousness of the situation. That is not something which we think can be held against Avrillé, however, and it may well be that they too can see that for themselves. Doubtless when they quote this section of the 2006 chapter declaration as forming part of their own position, what they are thinking of is the bit about not searching for any advantage for ourselves, “nor to come to an impossible and purely practical agreement.” 

So: the first three paragraphs, including the quote from the 2006 Chapter, are fine as far as they go. It is only when one comes to the second half that the real problems begin… 

3. Priests still in the SSPX
There are two types of “priest still in the SSPX.” The first are those who, although undoubtedly resisting openly, have not yet officially been expelled. This might be due to administrative blundering or perhaps embarrassment on the part of Menzingen at having to admit which and how many priests have been lost. Bishop Faure is one such example: while still a priest he continued to be listed in Cor Unum long after he had begun to openly support the creation of Resistance chapels in South America. Fr. Hewko is another such example, having been sent warning letters (‘monitions’) some three years ago, but still no letter or decree of actual expulsion. Those are just two examples: there are several others, though not a great many. 

The second type “priest still in the SSPX” is a different kettle of fish altogether. We all know him. He is at heart a timorous soul, who privately hates what is happening, and who in 2012 probably confided as much to some trusted friends amongst the laity. He would far rather that the latter-day liberalizing of the SSPX had never taken place: if nothing else, he would feel much better about himself and about things in general. Given a free choice between standing for the truth and standing for the new, novel, liberal-friendly line of Menzingen, he would far rather stand for the truth. But he does not have such a free choice. Choosing to stand for the truth would mean all sorts of hardship, suffering and unforeseen circumstances, so on balance he stays where he is. Like Richard Rich’s reply to Thomas More near the start of the film A Man for All Seasons, (when the latter gives him a mild rebuke and warning about accepting the patronage of the sinister Thomas Cromwell): “If only you knew how much, much rather I’d have yours!” Our “priest still in the SSPX –type 2” would much, much rather not have to be part of Bishop Fellay’s new SSPX. But like Richard Rich, what he would prefer in an ideal world, and what he actually decides on in the real world are two very different things. The pressure to stay in the enemy camp and the material and psychological discomfort of leaving it somehow prove too much for him. He may sometimes give sermons against Vatican II and the New Mass (in some parts of the SSPX this is still, it seems, permitted). He may even, occasionally, give sermons in which strange comments are made ominous yet ambiguous, whose relevance and meaning is not immediately apparent and which might refer to this, or to that (or might not!) and from which some of his friends in the congregation think they can decipher a message relevant to the current situation of the SSPX. Of course, he would never dare say anything openly critical of the current goings-on from the pulpit, and he thinks twice about saying it even in private. After all, just think what might happen to him if the District Superior were to hear of it! 

One final thing needs to be said about this priest. As far back as the start of 2013, the ‘prophets of doom’ predicted that he would slide, that the tension of secretly thinking one thing and outwardly saying another would eventually take its toll. In many such cases this has been proved entirely correct. One such priest in Great Britain now advises souls to assist at the indult Mass when they cannot get to a SSPX mass, to give one such example. The other danger with presenting two faces, the anti-modernist, anti-Menzingen private face, and the loyal-to-Menzingen public face, is that the souls who are privileged to see the private face have no way of knowing which is real and which is for show. In 2012 the private face may have been the real one. What if, by 2015, the public face has become real and the private one has become an act, put on only for their benefit, to keep them inside the SSPX and away from the Resistance? The top-level Russian spy (“Source Merlin”) in Le Carré’s ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy’ comes to mind, as does the ranting madman forced to sit in C.S. Lewis’s ‘Silver Chair’..! How can anyone know which is the real him? Is Dr. Jeckyl really an aberration of Mr. Hyde after all? That is not the only, nor even the main problem, with this kind of priest. Many of the problems of such a priest can be found in Fr. Chazal’s excellent “Letter to an Unknown Soldier of the Internal Resistance” (found at: or in Issue 17, June 2014). The main problem has been pointed out in these pages often enough before. It is that the private thoughts of a priest count for nothing compared to the official position of the organisation which he represents. To give just one example, I remember being told (if I recall correctly) that there is a former SSPX District Superior now living as an Anglican vicar. I am told that he still uses the Traditional Roman Missal for his daily Mass and that he still believes the Catholic Faith. It may be that his joining the so-called ‘Church of England’ had more to do with the fact that they were able to offer him a quiet life, a generous stipend and a nice house to live in, who knows… But the point is this: can one attend his Mass? Absolutely not! Even if he himself believes and teaches no heresy, nevertheless he is still outwardly a member of a heretical sect. To give another, more commonplace example, there have always been priests who said the Traditional Mass with “permission” from the conciliar church, priests of Fraternity of St. Peter and others, who were almost more ‘hard line’ than the average SSPX priest, but that matters not one bit: if you don’t support the Indult/Ecclesia Dei movement then you do not go to their Mass. Doctrine is paramount, the Faith comes first, and the main problem with Vatican II is precisely that it gives us a new doctrine and not “that which we have received” (St. Paul). If the only response which we can give is categorical refusal, as Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1974 declaration tells us, then that means we must also refuse priestly societies who accept Vatican II. That category has always included the Ecclesia Dei priests. Since their capitulation in 2012, it now also, alas, includes the SSPX. 

The Avrillé Dominicans, on the other hand, say that they support (in what way remains unclear, but even moral support is problematic enough): “...all the priests still in the SSPX who, not without difficulty, continue the good fight...” From the context and bearing in mind everything above, it should be clear that they are referring to the second kind of priest and not the first. In what way are these priests “continuing the good fight”? If they were really to continue the good fight, they would no longer be “still in the SSPX.” Preaching against Vatican II is not enough. Their clear duty is warn the faithful against danger, and today that means preaching against the introduction of Vatican II into the SSPX, something which they dare not do. 

Hence we find we must disagree strongly with the Avrillé Dominicans on that point if no other. What we should be doing is encouraging such priests to stand strong, to put the Faith first, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness… in short, to oppose Vatican II and all things conciliar, including the conciliar SSPX. We should encourage them to leave the SSPX, to get their faithful to leave with them, as Fr. Altamira (to name one admirable example) did nearly two years ago. By congratulating them for “continuing the good fight” are we not merely encouraging them to remain in their untenable position? 

This is surely in nobody’s best interests, theirs least of all… That the declaration also talks about there being, “by the Grace of God … a good number of them, especially in the French District of the Society” is unfortunate. Not only does it tend to confirm the regrettable national stereotype according to which French Catholics know little and care less about what goes on outside of France; it surely also remains to be seen whether the situation of these priests is the way it is “by the Grace of God” or for some other reason! Of course, time will tell whether or not we are right. But for many it will by then be too late.

4. No rupture with the SSPX…
The declaration’s next sentence is ambiguous but suggestive of a desire to please all sides. It refers to the “Letter of Appeal to the Faithful” of January 2014, signed by several French priests including all those of Avrillé. This Letter of Appeal, we are told, “was not a declaration of rupture with the SSPX”. Indeed? Nobody need take my word for it: the assiduous reader who looks up the text of the “Letter of Appeal to the Faithful” (it is in Issue 14, Feb. 2014, for those who have kept their back issues of The Recusant...) will find the following illuminating passage: 

Quote:Since the year 2000 and in particular from 2012 the authorities of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X have taken the opposite direction of aligning themselves with modernist Rome. 

The Doctrinal Declaration of the 15th April 2012, followed by the exclusion of a bishop and numerous priests and confirmed by the condemnation of the book, ‘Monseigneur Lefebvre, Our Relations with Rome’, all that shows the pertinacity in this direction which leads to death.”

So in summary: the SSPX has “taken the opposite direction” to the one we hold to and is now heading in a “direction which leads to death”. Now why might anyone have interpreted that as a parting of ways between the SSPX and signatories of the letter…? Of course, there is always a rhetorical point which can be made, something along the lines of: ‘We are the real continuation of the SSPX, we are the real continuation of the work of Archbishop Lefebvre, the current leadership of the SSPX are the ones causing a rupture by departing in a direction of their own choosing!’ That is quite true. But it is far from clear that this is what the Dominicans mean by denying before all the world any rupture between themselves and the SSPX. The signatories of the 1988 Open Letter to Cardinal Gantin (see p.6) were keen to point out the rupture between themselves and the conciliar church to which they did not wish to belong. We should therefore have no qualms about owning up to the rupture between ourselves and the modern, conciliar, branded neo-SSPX. There is a rupture, not one of our making, but it is there nonetheless. That Avrillé should now appear to be seeking to convince the world that there is no rupture between themselves and the present-day SSPX is troubling in the extreme. As mentioned above, the whole reference is in itself ambiguous. Perhaps it can be explained in a satisfactory way. But on the face of it it raises more questions than it answers. 

(While we are on the topic of the January 2014 “Letter of Appeal to the Faithful”, here is an interesting little aside. My own immediate response upon reading this letter was to take the letter at its word. It literally is an appeal, one directed towards the Faithful. Furthermore, it draws towards a conclusion with the following words: 

Quote:We put our priesthood at the disposal of all those who want to remain faithful in the combat for the Faith. This is why from now on, we are committed to respond to the demands which will be made on us, ... everywhere we are required to do so.”

It did occur to me to wonder cynically whether, in accordance with the French national stereotype, the “faithful” appealed to by this letter were in reality only “French faithful.” But I decided to give them a fair chance. I wrote in French to the email address provided (, saying that I was one such faithful and that there were many more in my country, both where I lived and further north, who had decided in good conscience that they could no longer assist at the SSPX. I pointed out that they were relatively starved of Masses, particularly in Scotland, and would very much appreciate a visit from one of the priests whose signatures were appended, which I would be happy to coordinate and which we would pay for ourselves. I never received any reply, not even the common courtesy of an acknowledgement… Make of that what you will. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it myself.) 

5. Priests outside the Society…
If there are priests outside of the Society who, clearly and without ambiguity, continue the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre, there is no reason not to support them.” There is something very, very wrong with this statement, though it is not immediately apparent and is difficult to put into words. With your patience I will attempt it! No Catholic has the right to ask permission to continue to keep the Faith, just as no married layman has the right to ask if he can continue to be married. The reason that it is wrong to ask such a thing is that these are things which are a given. They are not in question, and cannot be called into question. To ask for permission for something not in question means in practice that you have called it into question. How does this apply to the Dominicans’ statement? The SSPX is now conciliar, but the Resistance such as it is has mercifully escaped its clutches. Those priests who “continue the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre outside the Society” are obviously worthy of support!

For the rest of us, laity and priests of the Resistance, it was never in question and hence it should not really be stated as though it were. Paradoxically, had they passed over the question of “priests outside the Society” (i.e. Resistance priests) in silence and without comment, it would have been much better, whereas by affirming that there is no reason not to support them, they make it look as tough they have, or at some stage had, doubts on the question. Even more dismaying, however, is what immediately follows in the same paragraph: 

6. Not taking sides…
Quote:To support them [i.e. Resistance priests] does not mean “taking sides” for one Society against another. We have no intention to do anything “against” the Society, and do not wish its collapse : nobody wants that.” 

So, in January 2014 the SSPX was headed away from Archbishop Lefebvre and on course for certain death. Now on the other hand, the most important thing is that we do not want to take sides. It looked like Avrillé had joined the fight. It now looks like they have left it. They want to sit this one out and watch. Is there any other way of interpreting this, could it be that it means something completely different? I cannot see how… Of course, anyone is welcome to join the Resistance or leave it. Almighty God gave them free will so that they can choose to fight for Him or not. But we ourselves, those of us who are in the fight and who are staying in the fight come what may, we must be clear about who is fighting along side us and who is not. Henceforward, let nobody friend or foe try to claim Avrillé for the Resistance…

7. What’s in a name?
The debate about why the Resistance is called the Resistance is one which seems to have been cropping up lately with a regularity which I am beginning to find a trifle tedious. A name does not matter so long as it signifies: that is its purpose. Everybody seems to know what we mean when we talk about the Resistance. It means those priests and faithful who are resisting the novelties and modernism introduced into the SSPX by Bishop Fellay &Co. and who are trying to continue the legacy of Archbishop Lefebvre. But “Resistance” takes less time to say! I did not coin the term and nor did you, nor for that matter did any priest that I know of, including the Avrillé Dominicans. The name, like the thing, just sort of appeared a few years back, as these things so often do. And as with all such names, the fact that popped-up spontaneous and instantly and is widely understood (in several different languages too!) will surely mean that any attempt to reform it or replace it with a name of anyone’s personal device will prove fruitless. That is why I find such attempts, or the idea of such attempts, so tedious. I know in advance that it won’t work. ‘You are not the first to try and you will not be the last. It won’t work. Don’t bother. It isn’t really necessary anyway.’ These are the sentiments which the following sentence cannot help but to inspire: 

Quote:A suggestion for those who want to remain faithful to the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre: to the word ‘resistance’, we prefer the expression ‘combat for the faith’.”

In passing, it occurs to me that one point worth mentioning here is that what matters is not those “who want to remain faithful” to the legacy of Archbishop Lefebvre, but those who do remain faithful and are remaining faithful. Richard Rich, you will remember, wanted to be on the side of Thomas More. At least that is what he said; but is that what he went and did? If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. More to the point, the road to hell is paved, so they say, with the very best such desires and the very finest of intentions. But let us not dwell on that: perhaps it is no more than an unfortunate slip of the pen. What is of far greater importance is this idea of a name and what that name signifies. 

Of course, I say that a name doesn’t matter as long as we mean the same thing by it. But that rather begs the question: what do the Avrillé Dominicans mean by it? From the preceding paragraphs of their text, as discussed above, it would seem that they have in mind not only those who are actually resisting outside the SSPX, but those priests who are remaining silently inside the SSPX too! That being the case, the name “combat for the Faith” becomes almost meaningless inasmuch as it does not signify. It does not signify because it refuses to define but lumps two very different types of priest together and calls them the same thing. It is, for example, analogous to the reason why we as Catholics cannot go about calling ourselves ‘Christian’. Of course, we are Christian. But there are plenty of other sects also calling themselves ‘Christian’ who teach all manner of error and heresy, not to mention abhorrent moral practices (is there even one protestant ‘church’ or sect or denomination which officially condemns abortion or which does not officially allow divorce? I rather think not, though I could be wrong…) A name must signify, in order to signify it must define. There is a difference between us and the Plymouth Brethren: this difference needs to be signified in the name we choose. 

Therefore, in recent centuries we have been known as Catholics. Similarly, there is a difference between us and the contracepting, pick-and choose, non-believing, modernist ‘Catholics’ who can be found in Novus Ordo parish churches in such alarming numbers. For this reason it is just as well that we are now known as Traditional Catholics and not merely as Catholics. Distinctions are necessary. Papering over distinctions causes confusion. That is why it is futile to say, as the very end of this statement does, that the expression “combat for the faith’: 

Quote:...this expression exists since the beginning of Tradition and includes all those who faithfully continue the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre, no matter what organization they belong to.”

...for if that is so, and if the organisations in question include the SSPX, how does one distinguish a very important reality? The answer, it seems to me, is that the expression is designed specifically to avoid making such a distinction. That is why nobody should adhere to it, “...and not only because one does not define oneself by something negative” - which is not true in any case: Archbishop Lefebvre was a great anti-liberal known throughout the world for being the bishop who opposed the Council and was against the New Mass; St. Pius X is known to history as the anti-Modernist Pope. Whether it be positively or negatively, the most important thing about a name or label is that it does define

In summary then: the Avrillé Dominicans have a different conception of the fight, of how it is being fought and of who is fighting it. And they have a different name for it too. They see themselves as not taking sides, not opposing the neo-SSPX, and they make no distinction between those priests who (largely for reasons of comfort) have stayed silently in the SSPX and those who have sacrificed all in order to leave and carry on the fight. They call this ‘the combat for the Faith’. We are committed to a struggle to preserve Tradition in the footsteps of Archbishop Lefebvre by rescuing Tradition out from within a Society of St. Pius X which secretly despises it, which is slowly watering it down and poisoning it to death and which wishes to pander to its enemies. We call this the Resistance. Two different names for two different things. As long as we all know which one we support, we can be thankful for that: one of the worst evils is confusion in the ranks. At least we have been spared the confusion of considering as comrades-in-arms those who in reality are no such thing and who see things differently to us. We know what the Resistance is, we support it and we are part of it. Let us hope and pray that one day the Avrillé Dominicans will see the futility of their current posture and will one day abandon the “combat” of their own making and join the Resistance.

St. Dominic, Pray for us.