Excerpt from Letter #63:
The day will come, we are sure and certain, when Rome will come back to Rome’s own Tradition and restore it to its rightful place, and we long with all our hearts for that blessed day. For the time being, however, things are not yet at that point, and to foster illusions would be deadly for the SSPX, as we can see, when we follow the turn of events in Campos. For this purpose, let us emphasize two points in the evolution of the Campos situation: firstly, how their attitude to Rome has changed since the agreement and secondly, how Campos is moving further and further away from ourselves, with all the upset that that implies.
Changes in Campos
Campos, through its leader, Bishop Rifan, is crying out for all to hear that nothing has changed, that the priests of the Apostolic Administration are just as Traditional as before, which is the essence of what they have been granted, and why they accepted Rome’s offer: because Rome approved of the Traditional position.
For our part, let us begin by noting that we are well aware that in any disagreement one tends to discredit one’s adversary. For instance in the case of our former friends in Campos, there are certainly false rumors circulating to the effect that “Bishop Rifan has concelebrated the New Mass”, or, “Campos has completely given up Tradition”. However, that being said, here is what we observe:
2. The ambiguity implicit here has become more or less normal in the new situation in which they find themselves: they emphasize those points in the present pontificate which seem favourable to Tradition, and tip-toe past the rest. Say what we will: there took place in Campos on January 18, 2002, not only a one-sided recognition of Campos by Rome, as some claim, but also, in exchange, an undertaking by Campos to keep quiet. And how could it be otherwise? It is clear by now that Campos has something to lose which they are afraid or losing, and so in order not to lose it they have chosen the path of compromise: “We Brazilians are men of peace, you Frenchmen are always fighting”. Which means that, in order to keep the peace with Rome, one must stop fighting. They no longer see the situation of the Church as a whole, they content themselves with Rome’s gesture in favour of a little group of two dozen priests and say that there is no longer any emergency in the Church because the granting of a Traditional bishop has created a new juridical situation…They are forgetting the wood for a single tree.
4. Within this way of thinking even the Novus Ordo Mass can be accommodated. Campos forgets the 62 reasons for having nothing to do with it, Campos now finds that if it is properly celebrated, it is valid (which we have never denied, but that is not the point). Campos no longer says that Catholics must stay away because the New Mass is bad, and dangerous. Bishop Rifan says, by way of justifying his position on the Mass: “So we reject all use of the Traditional Mass as a battle-flag to insult and fight the lawfully constituted hierarchical authority of the Church. We stay with the Traditional Mass, not out of any spirit of contradiction, but as a clear and lawful expression of our Catholic Faith!”. We are reminded of the words of a Cardinal a little while back: “Whereas the SSPX is FOR the old Mass, the Fraternity of Saint Peter Is AGAINST the New Mass. It’s not the same thing”. That was Rome’s argument to justify taking action against Fr. Bisig of the Fraternity of Saint Peter at about the same time that Rome was cozying up to the SSPX. The Cardinal’s curious distinction is now being put into practice by Campos, as they pretend to be for the old Mass but not against the new. Likewise for Tradition, but not against today’s Rome. “We maintain that Vatican II cannot contradict Catholic Tradition”, said Bishop Rifan quite recently to a French magazine, Famille Chr
étienne. Yet a well-known Cardinal said that Vatican II was the French Revolution inside the Church. Bishop de Castro Mayer said the same thing….
So little by little the will to fight grows weaker and finally one gets used to the situation. In Campos itself, everything positively traditional is being maintained, for sure, so the people see nothing different, except that the more perceptive amongst them notice the priests’ tendency to speak respectfully and more often of recent statements and events coming out of Rome, while yesterday’s warnings and today’s deviations are left out. The great danger here is that in the end one gets used to the situation as it is, and no longer tries to remedy it. For our part we have no intention of launching out until we are certain that Rome means to maintain Tradition. We need signs that they have converted.
Leaving the SSPX behind
Besides this wholly foreseeable evolution of minds by which the Campos priests have, whatever they say, given up the fight, we must note another occurrence, the increasing hostility between us. Bishop Rifan still says that he wants to be our friend, but some Campos priests are already accusing us of being schismatic because we refuse their agreement with Rome.
A little like one sees a boat pushing into mid-river, drifting down-stream and leaving the bank behind, so we see, little by little, several indications of the distance growing between ourselves and Campos. We had warned them of the great danger, they chose not to listen. Since they have no wish to row up-stream, then even while inside the boat things carry on as before, which gives them the impression that nothing has changed, nevertheless they are leaving us behind, as they show themselves more and more attached to the magisterium of today, as opposed to the position they held until recently and which we still hold, namely a sane criticism of the present in the light of the past.
To sum up, we are bound to say that the Campos priests, despite their claims to the contrary, are slowly being re-molded, following the lead of their new bishop, in the spirit of the Council. That is all Rome wants – for the moment.
To guarantee our future, we must obtain from today’s Rome clear proof of its attachment to the Rome of yesterday. When the Roman authorities have restated with actions speaking louder than words that “There must be no innovations outside of Tradition”, then “we” shall no longer be a problem. And we beg God to hasten that day when the whole Church will flourish again, having re-discovered the secret of her past strength, freed from the modern unthought of which Paul VI said that “It is anti-Catholic in nature, Maybe it will prevail. It will never be the Church. There will have to be a faithful remnant, however tiny”.