Interview with Fr. Pfluger, October 2010
In fact, both assistants of the Superior General are on the road very often. In these first years since the General Chapter of 2006, we have had to get to know the priests, the priories, and their communities around the world. In recent years, we have been absent from the General House about two thirds of the time. For example, in 2008, Father Nely was in Menzingen 111 days and myself, 112.
2) How many retreats do you preach per year and to whom?
Every year there are between six and eight retreats; this year it will even be nine. Four retreats have been held for our priests in various districts (England, Canada, America, and Mexico), and another I will preach for a priestly community associated with us in France. The remaining four are for sisters: Carmelites, Benedictines, and Oblates.
3) Do you get the impression that the SSPX is growing?
Certainly in number. The apostolate in the schools and the missions is growing worldwide, in addition to the apostolate of the printed word and of catechesis on the Internet. In some regions, the number of faithful is increasing: the United States, France, Italy, Poland, Asia, and Africa. In the last two years we have had a number of priestly ordinations which is above average. Finally, new houses are opened every year which means that pastoral activity has to be intensified.
A particular growth is coming from families, that is, children and young people. Also, since Summorum Pontificum in 2007, many Catholics have come from the Novus Ordo to Tradition and the traditional Mass. This particularly struck me in America, where I was able to visit several chapels in August. There are also individual priests who have given up the celebration of the New Mass to work with us.
The devastation which is a consequence of the crisis in Church and society is growing every year. There is thus a bigger field for the SSPX to work in. As a result, we need more priestly and religious vocations, particularly in the missions.
4) What about the growth in quality?
A very different kind of growth is the increasing influence of the SSPX on the universal Church. This is not only the case for many young, conservative priests who have begun to celebrate the Tridentine Mass all over the world. For them, the SSPX is a sign of real hope and provides stability in the present-day theological and pastoral chaos.
The theological discussions with Rome especially show that, after all, for whatever reason, the pope takes us seriously. Five years ago it would have been unthinkable to discuss the Council officially or even to question it. Rome is backtracking and trying to provide a new interpretation in order to salvage the Council. What was unchallenged in the past suddenly has to be justified: the Council and its alleged fruits. This is new. Without the SSPX, this would have been unthinkable until recently. The SSPX has always been a stumbling block. But now we have to be taken seriously and it is no longer possible to ignore us.
The events of recent months, and especially of last year in Europe, show that modernist bishops can no longer ignore us. Now and then some of them give the impression that they hate us and Tradition. That is, they must be scared of us. That the media are attacking us viciously from time to time–I think of the TV show Les Infiltrés in France or the press campaign in 2009–is an indication that they can no longer ignore Tradition; they are rather obliged to take us seriously.
And last but not least: although it is normally not mentioned, there are many members of the SSPX around the world, religious and many laymen, who walk with the grace of God in the way of holiness. This is a special gift of God to our time.
5) What are the most difficult tasks for the SSPX?
Perseverance: to maintain the spirit of strength and perseverance. The main threats often come not from outside, but sometimes we block ourselves. The crisis continues and is becoming more violent. There is a wearing out. As a result there is a double risk: you lose courage and hope, resignation and defeatism spread, people lose momentum and motivation, and perhaps even their “first love,” As a result you sometimes hear sentiments like “You can’t do anything.”
Or, what is worse, you try to adjust and align; you want to make peace at any cost and you are satisfied with some compromise. It is thus important that we be aware of our duty –priests and laity alike–and that we discover the enthusiasm and the spirit of faith from the beginning of the SSPX and its founder. We are a work of the Church! We are not just saving the Mass and the Faith for ourselves; we have a task in and for the Church. We are apostolic; the terrible situation of the Church and of souls can not leave us indifferent.
6) Some have accused the SSPX of working towards a compromise. Do you see reasons for such fears?
Those are fears without foundation. They are mostly complaints from people on the outside who believe they can judge internal questions of the Society. Those are fears that do not bear witness to a spirit of faith. The authors of such allegations–mainly people close to sedevacantist ideas–simply do not want to admit that something has changed.
Or they simply have a wrong idea of how this terrible crisis of faith is to be overcome. They think the modern church will turn Catholic again in a single day; it is the illusion that one falls asleep as a modernist and wakes up a Catholic. If it were that easy! A return to orthodoxy, a true reformation, is a long and arduous path. It took decades before the reforming decrees of the Council of Trent were applied to some extent. The regions which had turned to Arianism in both West and East only slowly and gradually became Catholic again.
The SSPX does not compromise; Bishop Fellay has no secret plan, strategy, or policy regarding the Faith in dealing with Rome. We have to respond to a new situation. We have to say to this “conciliar church”: “Stop! You cannot continue this way. There is a big problem in the Church. The Council is the reason for this apostasy, and not the solution to the crisis.” Some want to retreat to a kind of ghetto thinking that they can wait until the crisis is over. This is not a Catholic position; it is rather a weakness of faith. The light has to be placed on a candlestick, and must not be hid under a bushel, says the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount.
It really is only a small minority of priests and faithful who are afraid. The large majority trust the leadership of the SSPX and the Superior General. In early July we had a meeting for several days between all the superiors in the SSPX at Ecône. We have to thank God for the profound unity of the SSPX in all essential matters. This is not easy in such stormy times.
7) Some accuse the SSPX of being “fundamentalist.” What would you say to that?
The problem is not fundamentalism in itself, but rather from what source it draws its principles and in which direction it goes. A fundamentalist Muslim is, of course, a problem because we have to fear terrorist attacks. A fundamentalist Christian is not, in itself, a problem because our religion is the religion of love.
This means that the modern world, i.e., liberalism, has fallen away from God. Therefore, they must justify their principles and values in themselves. That is why the world falls away from Christianity, is fighting it, or–at best–misunderstands it. They call “fundamentalist” what is fundamental and radical. When a Christian leaves his foundation, which is Christ, he will not be like the fundamentalist Muslim, but rather like salt that loses its flavor.
The best example of this “Christendom without principles” are many modern Christians. There is no need to fight them, and they will not be persecuted. They fall away from their faith like dry leaves from the tree. On the other hand, convinced and missionary Christians are the pride of the Church. We call them martyrs, because they gave witness to their faith in Christ.
8 ) What is the best way for the SSPX to act in a world that is hostile to the Catholic Faith?
Christ himself tells us: “You are in the world but not of the world.” There is a tension, but it is the solution as well. The apostles understood this. Because their faith was still weak, they were not able to bear the hate of the world against their Master, His passion, and His cross. So, for fear of the Jews, they locked the doors. After Easter and Pentecost, their faith in Christ was unshaken; they went out into the world, and Peter, the first Pope, converted in a single sermon 3,000 Jews and Gentiles. St. John summarizes this experience of faith which is able to move mountains in the motto: “All that is born of God overcomes the world. And that is what overcomes the world, our faith.”
The SSPX has to do what the Church always did until Vatican II: go into the whole world, preaching, and baptizing. And above all, we should have no fear, neither of the world, nor of the Jews, nor of the media. Sodom and Gomorrah are not an invention of the homosexual lobby of the 20 Century; we find it in the Old Testament. Do you really believe the times were easier 2,000 years ago? God has not saved the world with the resources of the world but with a manger and a cross. St. Benedict did not burn Rome, but renewed the Christian world with his Ora et Labora. It is foolish to try to convert the world with human intelligence, shrewdness, and cunning arguments. We must finally understand–and believe!–that there is no other way to save this evil world of vice and lies than faith in Jesus Christ. That is our strength. And if it is not strong enough, it is also our weakness.
9) Do you see signs which suggest that Rome is seeking some kind of restoration?
Who or what is Rome? The pope, the curia, the cardinals, certain prelates? It is difficult to assess; distinction is urgently needed. We can judge things from the outside. There we see evident signals: the motu proprio on the release of the Tridentine Mass, the withdrawal of the ridiculous excommunication of 1988, the will of the Pope to discuss theological issues with us. All this is imperfect, certainly, but it is there and it is real.
Even if you try—and you should never do so–to suppose certain intentions of the Pope, what he has done is evident. The attack against Benedict XVI on the part of bishops, the media, and even the parliament revealed that the world did not like those steps. Even the inadequate document Dominus Jesus about the uniqueness of the Church brought the ecumenical bishops in Germany and Switzerland to anger.
And more: the Pope has launched a debate which is unstoppable. Even if the theological discussions with us stopped tomorrow, even if a new excommunication against Tradition would be pronounced, even if no tangible result emerges: the return to Tradition is unstoppable inside the church. The damage that this Council has done is too great. It’s like “twilight of the gods”: priests and Catholics of good will who want to remain Catholic are more and more approaching Tradition. Perhaps it is slow and not in big numbers, but it is steady and inexorable. The modernists know it and so does the world. This is why we see such concentrated attacks against Pope and Church.
10) As you can hear and read in the newspapers, there are many Catholic churches and monasteries that are being demolished or sold. Is this a positive development for the SSPX?
No, certainly not. Any weakening and decline of Catholic life is bad news and fills us with pain. But “unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…” In such a time we live. It is the promise of a new and better future. At some time the Antichrist will complete his work. But before that happens, the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary will triumph.
Therefore our pleasure is rather the flourishing of Christianity and the growth of Catholic life in today’s world. Every priest who discovers the Old Mass, every return to the true faith, is a sign of hope. It might hurt a priest to realize that other priests have more success and are more convincing and apostolic than we. That should encourage rather than extinguish the smoldering wick in the official hierarchy of the Church. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the Lord condemned the envy of the workers in the first hour, who did not recognize the time of grace. This is for all of us a serious warning.
11) The “New World” (USA) has much higher numbers in the SSPX than it did 10 or 20 years ago. How is this fact interpreted by the superiors of the SSPX?
It not only has higher numbers, it grows faster. The District Superior of the United States, Fr. Rostand, who is a European, told me some time ago that in America you could see the same zeal and enthusiasm as in traditionalist Europe of the 70’s and early 80’s. And, in fact, I hope very much that we will be able to make use of the enthusiasm, generosity, and loyalty of American Catholics. I think of the awakening of vocations of brothers and sisters, of the formation of true parishes and priories and of the consolidation of schools. There is a huge potential lying dormant quantitatively and qualitatively: overall it is a very encouraging development.
12) Do you think that governments will take an anti-religious attitude in the future?
An anti-religious attitude and persecution by the State are a reality now; it is the Christian’s daily bread. The Cardinal of Cologne said recently that no religious community is as much persecuted as Christians all over the world. It was a naive illusion of the popes of Vatican II that the world might be sweet and nice, if you adapt to it (aggiornamento). As the proverb says: Give the devil an inch, and he’ll take a foot. That is exactly what happened.
Perhaps the increasing hatred and the struggle against God are the last gasps of atheism? In any case, the State is ultimately unable to do anything against “the revenge of God.” Since 9 /11 at the latest, God is back in vogue and religion must be taken seriously again. In the U.S. this has been evident for a certain time; in Europe it is becoming more and more apparent. A few months ago one of the most liberal newspapers in Germany wrote an article on the topic: “O God! Religion is coming back.” I quote the beginning of the text, which reveals the incapability of atheism:
“From Karl Marx to John Lennon, the prophets of Modernism were unanimous: Religion was doomed. Alan Posener asks why it’s been different. When John Lennon said in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the British public reacted with a shrug. This seemed so obvious that it needed no commentary. After all, all prophets of modern times assumed that religion was basically superstition, ‘the spirit of spiritless conditions’, as Karl Marx said. Sigmund Freud thought about the ‘Future of an Illusion’ and thought that she would disappear along with sexual repression which would be produced by it. In short, more modernity means less religion.
“Christianity would not last longer than the cult of the Beatles, Lennon said, it would soon ‘wither away’. And what was true for the relatively enlightened Christianity was, in the eyes of modern men, even more applicable to the mentally rigid, backward-looking Islam. And then two aircraft hit the heart of Manhattan, and from the fireball Osama bin Laden proclaimed the victory of Allah. Religion was back. Suddenly, intellectuals had to deal with concepts that they had banished to the most obscure corners of the smallest faculties: Sunni and Shia, Sharia, Fatwa and Jihad.
“But not only Islam had returned with ‘9/11’. Osama’s mortal enemy in the White House, President George W. Bush, was a reborn Christian, who habitually opened the meetings of his inner circle with a prayer….At the beginning of the millennium, it would have been among German intellectuals almost indecent to confess Catholicism; five years later, everyone agreed upon that atheism ‘is intellectually poor’, as a Catholic writer like Martin Mosebach said in the very church of St. Paul, launching an attack on the Enlightenment, and drawing a line from the French Revolution to Heinrich Himmler and the Holocaust…”
13) Is it a coincidence, or is it a result of the development in the Church, that Catholic bishops in many countries do not take a clear stand in natural law questions, such as abortion or Catholic teaching in sexual matters?
Sometimes this failure may actually be a consequence of a modernist attitude: a new faith engenders a new morality. Actually, they are to be regretted: their enlightened and modern faith is so banal, weak, and ridiculous. They follow a Jesus whom they don’t actually believe rose from the dead, that the grave is actually empty, and that Jesus is not the true God! The old joke comes to mind: A Jesuit calls the Jesuit General, and says: “Listen, we have found Jesus’s grave, but it is not empty.” A long silence ensues. Finally, the general said: “Do you mean to say that he really lived?” The modern type of adapted faith is without conviction and power. But there may be many other bishops who simply do not have the courage to proclaim the truth. The power of the media and fear from public opinion are greater than loyalty to Christ and love for the truth. A well-known critic of the post-conciliar period in Germany, Professor George May said, “The backbone of most of the bishops is like the inner tube of a bicycle.” Much prayer for the pope and the Church is urgently needed!
14) What would be the most effective means to strengthen the credibility of the Catholic Church?
The living faith. The Church will only be credible again if its members live by faith. Faith is not simply a personal hobby or an intellectual game. It is life, commitment, action. “The Lord wants to see works,” says the great St. Teresa of Avila. The tree must bear fruit, or it is cursed. A Christianity without works, without fruit, and without virtue is not worthy of the name. St. Thomas Aquinas explains quite aptly: The Christian must be the light of the world. In order to be this, however, he first has to be salt of the earth, which means he has to acquire virtues and put them into action. This is a deep, living faith; a faith that is not only property, but that is crowned by “missionary love”, as Archbishop Lefebvre wrote.
Sources : The Angelus Press