The following is in response to the requests of our readers. Several readers have expressed their distress over the lack of a leader to confront the errors in the church. And so, let us begin with the five principles explicated by Father Stehlin. That will be the basis for subsequent discussions. The emphasis is ours and there is no commentary for now.
From SSPX: News and Events,
Fr. Karl Stehlin’s letter to Rev. Fr. Antoine, Rev. Fr. Jean, and the whole community of Reverend Capuchin Fathers:
Warsaw, February 6, 2014
Rev. Fr. Jean,
I just received your sermon from the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, and I must tell you that it deeply moved me. It reminded me of those days when I had the honor of receiving you into the Militia Immaculatae [M.I.], and of your visit to Poland to participate in our great pilgrimage to Czestochowa. What is more, you know how attached I am to you Capuchin Fathers, especially since it is through you that the M.I. spread in France, forming knights of the Immaculate willing to work for the conversion of souls. Finally, what a joy it has been for me to see Polish postulants enter your monastery and the convent of the Poor Clares.
All this to say that I read your sermon with the utmost attention, all the more so since you Fathers rarely speak “ad extra”.
How right you are to insist that we must be men of principle, and that our principles must be inflexible, with no possible compromise. I admit that I have been thinking about this very point for a long time, and wishing to be a man of principle after the example of a Cardinal Pie and an Archbishop Lefebvre, I have tried to gather together the main principles (I found five) and place them before my conscience in order to examine whether I strive to put them into practice. Allow me to expose them to you, not in hierarchical order, but as they come to mind.
First principle: the good of obedience
Reading your words as a son of St. Francis and of our beloved St. Maximilian Kolbe, I thought first of all of how much the latter insisted on supernatural obedience. You know his famous texts and you know better than I that for St. Maximilian, the only sure mark of the voice of the Immaculate is the voice of one’s superiors. This saint practiced this obedience to the point of heroism and that is the profound reason for his influence and the success of the Immaculate. I have always admired the Capuchin Fathers for being champions of the practice of this great principle. And St. Maximilian (and St. Thomas before him) tells again that only if superiors ask of us something immoral or against the Faith must we respect the greater obedience towards God and therefore refuse to obey His human instruments. Thanks to this principle, which is the essence of obedience, we have chosen the superior obedience towards God over obedience to His instruments who ask us to do or accept things against Faith and morals.
But if I am in front of a legitimate superior (see the second principle), I owe him total obedience, through which I accomplish the will of the Immaculate in perfect safety. And St. Maximilian insists that this obedience is thus supernatural because of our love for God and our submission to Him.
I admit that it is sometimes hard. And I can still hear Fr. Antoine saying during a retreat: “you have to hold on tight” to persevere on the path of obedience. And I am so happy and grateful to my superiors who not only have never asked of me (nor of anyone I know) anything bad, but on the contrary: how many times have their orders saved me, although at the time I didn’t understand, and I thought that humanly speaking such order seemed to make little sense. But the principle is formal: as long as there is no act, order, or demand against Faith and morals, complete and total obedience! How I wish the sons of St. Francis and of St. Maximilian Kolbe would remind us of this principle that is the source of all sanctity and apostolic fecundity. All of us priests ordained in Tradition made a solemn promise at the moment of our priestly ordination, and in the light of this, how painful it is to read the declaration of the priests that call themselves “the Resistance”.
Second principle: authority
Another principle linked to the first is the principle of authority in se, which alone can save us from the Protestant free inquiry. All of Tradition holds together through this principle, without which everything would fall apart, for the duty to refuse the ordinary authority in order to safeguard the Faith implies the duty to submit to the authority of extraordinary supplied jurisdiction. Tradition has survived because Providence provided this supplied jurisdiction through the founding of the SSPX to which were attached friendly communities.
The minute we reject this authority, we endorse terrible consequences:
Without it there is no unity. Look at the 20 sedevacantist sects, look at “the Resistance” after less than two years: no principle of unity except that of fighting against the SSPX. Among them there are already a good number of formal sedevacantists, one preaches that today a priest has to be a bit of an anarchist, etc. Look at your sermon and your tract: it is your interpretation, it is your point of view, and you have no way of giving any other credit to your text besides the arguments you offer. You quote the bishops of the Society, criticizing them for each having a different point of view on the situation. Look at your own beautiful monastery: perhaps one priest has another vision of things, and yet another comes to a sedevacantist conclusion. And then what will become of the Father Guardian? For in the name of safeguarding the Faith, all the Fathers will “put their priesthood at the faithful’s disposition” and do what they want. Please, Father, by refusing legitimate authority one destroys one’s own authority. At this point I would like to draw your attention to Bishop Williamson. You know well that we have been trying for years to prepare the conversion of a good number of Protestant pastors. Well, their testimony is interesting. They say that in reading Bishop Williamson’s Kyrie Eleison, they are strangely reminded of the “prophets of the 19th century” in the Lutheran church, who shared their apocalyptic interpretations, always with the conclusion that the world is going to end and it is all over. All there is left to do is wait for the last day. Each one believed he held the true Gospel according to the principle: objectivity is me!