Dear Friends and Benefactors,
In February this letter presented the fall, finalized in January, of the Traditional bishop and priests of Campos back into the clutches of neo-modernist Rome. That fall was a disappointment for the Society of St. Pius X, whose lone stand for Truth they had shared for 20 years. To explain that fall, I think it is worth further presenting to you an analysis sent to me recently by a priest stationed in Brazil, who is a friend of the SSPX, and who was for a long time a friend of those Campos priests. Here is what he wrote to me: –
“I had already prepared to put in the post an essay by one of our priests on Campos, or rather on the last statements coming out of Campos as compared with what they used to teach. However, this comparison does not go to the heart of the problem. In my opinion, the heart of the problem is to be found in the lofty vision of Archbishop Lefebvre, a lofty vision lacking in Campos.
“The Archbishop achieved a well-balanced overview of the whole problem in the Church, which was the fruit of his experience and spirit of prayer, his virtues and gifts received from God. Bishop de Castro Mayer drew closer to the Archbishop in his last years, but it seems that the Campos priests did not have their own bishop’s wisdom or, perhaps, his humility. In my opinion the Campos priests have gone backwards because they had a different way of looking at the crisis of the Church.
“Let me explain: up until the consecrations of 1988 Bishop de Castro Mayer’s reaction to the crisis was curious. On the one hand he was legalistic, tending to stick to the letter of the law. For instance after ceasing to be the diocesan bishop of Campos, he ordained no more priests except one that he ordained after the 1988 Consecrations. On the other hand he had a tendency towards sedevacantism, as when he would say of John Paul II, ‘Whoever does not belong to the body of the Church cannot be its head’.
“Archbishop Lefebvre was aware of this twofold tendency in Bishop de Castro Mayer, which is why he would say concerning the bishop’s legalism, ‘Bishop de Castro Mayer must understand that today we have to “go illegal”, if necessary’ (a remark to be understood, obviously, in the present context), and concerning his sedevacantism, Archbishop Lefebvre said, ‘Were it not for me, Bishop de Castro Mayer would be sedevacantist, but in order not to separate from us, he holds back from sedevacantism’.
“I think the Archbishop was right. There were in Bishop de Castro Mayer the two tendencies of legalism and sedevacantism. The bishop’s friendship with Archbishop Lefebvre moderated these two tendencies and enabled Bishop de Castro Mayer to take courageous and well-founded positions. However the Campos Priests seem never to have completely shaken off these two false ways of posing today’s problem, because they seem to me to argue like the sedevacantists: ‘If John Paul II is Pope, we must obey him. If we do not obey him, we must declare that he is not Pope’…
“The Campos priests, in my opinion, are lacking in vision. They are taking too simple a view of this crisis. What is the cause of this turning back of theirs? Either they never judged the crisis in the way that the Archbishop did, or, under the influence of some of their own number, they slipped back, and left the good road on which Bishop de Castro Mayer had set out before he died… For sure and certain they always kept a certain distance between themselves and the Society”.
End of analysis of the fall of Tradition in Campos by the Society’s priest-friend in Brazil. It is an analysis rich in lessons, or in reminders, of how this 40-year old crisis of the Church does its damage.
Firstly, let us relativize the criticism of Bishop de Castro Mayer implicit in this analysis by recalling his enormous achievement which the analysis was not designed to bring out. Catholic Tradition has few enough heroes today, and this bishop is certainly one of them.
He was 56 years old, and the normal Catholic bishop of the little diocese of Campos, three hours by car north of Rio de Janeiro, when the Second Vatican Council opened in 1962. During the Council he was a steady opponent of the neo-modernists’ Revolution overthrowing the Church, and after the Council he would not let his diocese follow the new religion. When Pope Paul VI imposed the New Mass in 1969, Bishop de Castro Mayer most respectfully resisted him to his face, and allowed his own priests to continue celebrating the true Mass. The good bishop was followed in this faithfulness to the old religion by the large majority of his priests and people, so that amidst the thousands of Church dioceses throughout the world which were (at least objectively) letting themselves be led into apostasy, his diocese alone stayed essentially Catholic.
ln 1981 at age 75 he had to retire. For his successor, the Newchurch sent in a chain-and-wrecking-ball bishop to smash the Traditional diocese. That is when Bishop de Castro Mayer and his faithful priests began publicly to associate with the Society of St. Pius X in ifs policy of re-building alongside the mainstream church, but not outside the Catholic Church. Under his leadership, his priests built for the true Mass a series of brand-new churches alongside their former parish churches, now hijacked for the new religion.
And so Bishop de Castro Mayer’s heroic defence of the Faith continued in Campos until he died in April of 1991, with his faithful priests clustered around his death-bed. Had he lived longer, there can be no doubt that he would have stayed on the course he had set between 1981 and 1991, and there can be little to no doubt that his priests would have continued to surround him. As it was, it took ten years for them to fall back into the powerful magnetic field of “obedience to Rome”.
It was necessary to recall this unique fidelity and achievement of Bishop de Castro Mayer lest any- one should think that the priest’s analysis, quoted above, was meant to pull him down. Not at all. But what the analysis does is to remind us of the incredible power of the apostasy of the 1960’s, which had even an excellent bishop wavering between the twin false solutions of legalism and sedevacantism through the 1970’s, until thanks to a still greater archbishop he steadied his Catholic balance through the 1980’s.
That an apostasy should carry away millions of Catholics, thousands of priests and hundreds of bishops, well, that is what apostasies do. But that – as the analysis quoted above suggests, and I think it is right – even a churchman of the quality of Bishop de Castro Mayer tottered in the wake of Vatican II is testimony both to the volcanic force of all that was behind that Council and – here again I think the analysis is correct – to the extraordinary gifts and wisdom of Archbishop Lefebvre.
Far be it from me to indulge in a cuit of personality, or to declare that the Archbishop was infallible or impeccable. However, the fruits are there to tell us how much God gave us in him, or, what a gift of God to us he was: the guidance of his example enabled a wise fellow-bishop to keep the heads above water of the Campos priests around him, but now that both bishops are dead, those priests slip back beneath the waters of apostasy – may they rest in peace!
But they cannot. Already they are taking positions that contradict everything they said and did for the last 20 years. They will soon be bearing little more Catholic fruit than the rest of the Conciliar Church, and meanwhile they have scandalized and alienated all Catholics of Tradition.
Whereas the Society, continuing along the lines of Archbishop Lefebvre, continues to bear Catholic fruit, as I have been able to see from recent journeys to the Philippines and to Germany. In the Philippines, we now have a dozen Mass-centres, all well attended by Catholics joyfully picking up, or picking up again, on the true Faith, while in our German centres families are at last re-appearing with large numbers of children. It has taken Germany time, because the anti-birth “culture” has been so strong, but the Faith wins out in the end. In death-dedicated Europe this flourishing of children is like a miracle, but nobody who knows the power of the Faith can be surprised.
And so death-dedicated Rome continues to harass the Society, and will cripple if, if it can. To the Italian press Cardinal Castrillion Hoyos recently spoke of the Society as being composed of a majority of reasonable bishops, priests, laity, etc., who want to re-join Rome, while a “difficult and fanatical” minority will perhaps continue “in schism, believing that they possess the truth, and forgetting that where there is Peter, there there is the Church”. And then the Cardinal denies that he is trying to split the Society!
One may pray for the Cardinal, as for the priests of Campos, but humanly speaking, one may fear they will only increase in blindness. Lord, have mercy – upon us all!
Priestly ordinations took place here at Winona on Saturday, June 22. It was good to see you come, and fill our meadows with your children, so as to fill your seminary with seminarians!
Sincerely yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus,