SSPX: Is the Church herself immaculate?

On Wednesday, May 3rd in St. Marys, Kansas, Bishop Bernard Fellay, SSPX, consecrated Immaculata Church, which by all appearances is a truly magnificent structure that redounds to the greater glory of God. The rite of consecration, which can be viewed via the video below, was equally as magnificent.  

In his sermon, Bishop Fellay said that he considers the rite of consecration of a church to be “a ceremony that belongs to the richest of our liturgy,” a richness that even “hours of explanation” could not exhaust. In the relatively small amount of time that he spoke, Bishop Fellay eloquently and with great passion touched on a number of the ways in which the rite gives concrete expression to the faith of the Church. 

For those interested in listening to the sermon in its entirety, which I recommend, it begins at the 1:42:50 mark in the video above. Here, I will comment only on certain portions.

Calling to mind just how great a storehouse of treasure Our Lord has bequeathed to His Church, much of what Bishop Fellay had to say was very beautiful and quite moving. At the outset, the bishop asked rhetorically, “What are we doing right now?”

His answer: 

This is nothing else than the gate of Heaven and the House of God. Literally. By the power which the Lord Jesus Christ gave to His Church, in this power, what we are doing now, is opening a new window or a new gate into Heaven. Or if you prefer, it comes to the same, we make that Heaven touches the earth, here! 

Bishop Fellay spoke of how the rite of consecration, of which there are many parts, began with the eviction of the Evil One, the Master Deceiver, “kicking the Devil out.”  

Sprinkling Gregorian Holy Water around the outside of the church as had been previously done, he explained, “separated this place from any other in the world; it has been separated from any profane usage … dedicated to God.”

“Our Lord,” Bishop Fellay said, “has taken ownership of this place.”

Listening to Bishop Fellay’s preaching, one can hardly avoid being touched by his sincerity, his love for Our Lord, and his genuine care for souls. In fact, I count listening to his 2010 address at the Angelus Press Conference as one of the pivotal events in my journey of faith. Something in his words helped move me to look more critically at the Council and the new Mass than I ever had up to that point.

Ironically, that effort (still on-going) to view the post-conciliar crisis ever more closely through the lens of tradition has led to the present moment when I find myself staring into the chasm that exists between certain of the views held by the SSPX – as reflected in parts of Bishop Fellay’s sermon – and the consistent teaching of the Holy Roman Catholic Church concerning herself and her nature.

The rite of consecration of a church, according to Bishop Fellay, offers “an enormous catechism about Holy Mother the Church.” 

Indeed, it does.

The new SSPX church, dedicated to Our Blessed Mother – after having been “exorcised” and consecrated by the power of Christ – is, in a sense, “immaculate” like its namesake. Holy Mother the Church, with Christ as her Head and the Holy Ghost as her soul, is all the more like the Immaculata in her purity, evidenced as it is in her doctrines, in her disciplines, and in her liturgies.

Unfortunately, and I take no satisfaction whatsoever saying so, that point seems to have gotten lost in the Society’s ecclesiology, the traditional teaching having been twisted and contorted, one might even say mangled, in a fruitless effort to make it fit their view of the present crisis.

“What is the Church?” Bishop Fellay asked rhetorically.

Citing the Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, he said:

The most perfect definition of the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. What does that mean? The first thing, the most essential element in the Church, is Our Lord Jesus Christ. When you say Church, you say Jesus. If you forget that, you are completely out. 

It is also the case that when one says Church, one also says humanity, or as Pope Pius XII referred to her in this same Encyclical, “the union in this Body of the faithful with the divine Redeemer.” (ibid. 11)

Bishop Fellay does not overlook this truth entirely, in fact, he speaks to it in reference to the Martyrs whose relics are entombed in the altar.  

The first thing of the Church is Our Lord Jesus Christ, but this time [referring to the relics] not alone. Jesus Christ, with all these souls which have been embodied, incorporated make one Body with Him. That’s the Mystical Body of Christ … Saints, it shows us what we have to become, what God wants us to become.

So far so good, but when he turns his attention toward the Church Militant in the present, his words, at best, invite confusion.    

If you look at the Church, you may be scandalized. You may be happy with good things, scandalized by the bad things. If you only see that, if you only see the human element, you are completely out of the reality.

To what “bad things,” one wonders, is Bishop Fellay referring? 

When you see the situation of the world, when you see even the situation of the Church today, a nightmare, when you see how much the world has penetrated, infiltrated Holy Mother the Church…

Let us ask: Has the world – the domain of the devil who had just been kicked out of the church building by the power of Christ – truly penetrated and infiltrated the Catholic Church in our day? In other words, could she really be profanated?

One needs to be very careful not to take that idea too far, as if to imagine that the Master Deceiver could find quarter within the Mystical Body of Christ. He cannot. There is no place for him here.

If the Society’s beautiful new Immaculata Church is ever profanated – God forbid! – a reconsecration would become necessary, separating it from any other in the world anew. And yet, are we to imagine that the world has penetrated and infiltrated Holy Mother the Church?

One might once more respond God forbid! The glorious truth of the matter is, however, He does forbid and always will.

That said, the Church has always acknowledged what Pope Pius XII called, “that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits even at times in the most exalted members of His Mystical Body.” (ibid. 66)

“Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church,” the Holy Father tells us. (ibid.) 

At the same time, the Holy Father, as we shall see, plainly insists upon her purity despite the presence of sin even in her “divinely enlightened pastors.”

In this regard, the Church on earth today – the one true Church – is no different than the Church in any age. There is, however, something unique about our day, but we’ll get to that momentarily.

So, what exactly are the “bad things” and the “nightmare” to which Bishop Fellay is referring?

Everyone present at Immaculata Church as Bishop Fellay spoke, as well as every reader of this space, knows full well that he is referring to such things as the Second Vatican Council, the Novus Ordo Missae, and the assortment of poisonous doctrines that have been flowing out of Rome like so much bilge for the past six decades, and at a staggering pace since the Bergoglian regime took over on 13 March 2013. 

Unless I’ve misunderstood, what Bishop Fellay was suggesting to his audience is stunning: 

When you look toward the Church in Rome today, dear faithful, and you see all of these horrible things, each of which leads souls to Hell, let not your heats be troubled as this is only the “human element.” Focus, therefore, on Christ!

At this, let me cut right to the chase. Unless the traditional ecclesiology of the Church as consistently taught for many centuries by the ordinary universal magisterium – a doctrine repeated by numerous holy popes, Doctors of the Church, Saints, venerable catechisms, eminent theologians, etc. – has been dead wrong (and it cannot be), the truth is very different:  

When we look toward Rome today and we see all of these horrible things that are endangering souls, we must know that we are not seeing the Church at all, not even in her so-called “human element.” What we are seeing is a counterfeit church merely claiming to be Catholic. 

This, my friends, is the only thing unique about our day, namely, the existence of an imposter church that has managed to convince even the SSPX that it is the one true Church of Christ.

As for blaming the nightmare on the so-called “human element” in the Church, this is nothing more than an unoriginal close cousin to the Institutional Church Hoax. In reality, the Church is an institution, both human and Divine, unified as such in a manner analogous to the hypostatic union. 

“The Church,” Bishop Fellay reminds us, “is essentially supernatural,” as if to suggest that all of the various “bad things” coming from Rome are merely the product of humans behaving badly, presumably independently of Our Lord’s enduring supernatural presence and protection.

In this, Bishop Fellay is getting very close to an important truth about the Church, namely, the utter impossibility that she could ever endanger her children, a teaching summed up very succinctly in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (aka the Roman Catechism) as follows:

This Spirit, first imparted to the Apostles, has by the infinite goodness of God always continued in the Church. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.

When looking to Rome today, the only conclusion that one can draw while remaining true to traditional Catholic ecclesiology is that the conciliar society that has occupied the Vatican for more than sixty years is most certainly guided by the spirit of the devil. It is drowning in pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral! Anyone can see that! Clearly, it has boldly arrogated to itself the name of “Church,” but it is nothing of the kind. It is a counterfeit, a construct of the devil.

The SSPX in general, and Bishop Fellay in particular, as evidenced by his sermon, cannot bring themselves to acknowledge this unavoidable conclusion. 

Rather, they want us to imagine that when we look at all of the poison that has been heaped upon souls in the post-conciliar era, despite having been dispensed in the name of the Church by men claiming to be popeclaims that the SSPX readily affirm as true, all of it must be attributed to individual sinful humans. 

This position is so completely out of the reality, to borrow Bishop Fellay’s phrase, that it isn’t even logical.

If the SSPX is correct in its belief that the conciliar society in Rome today is indeed the Church – having been such under the pontificates of such men as John XXIII and Paul VI, right through to the present day and the reign of His Holiness Pope Francis – then there is no denying that the “nightmare” is comprised of things authoritative – that is, doctrines, disciplines, and liturgies – coming from and belonging to the Catholic Church.

For example, if the conciliar church in Rome is the Church, then clearly the Second Vatican Council, grave errors and all, is far more than just a matter of the “human element” in the Church behaving badly. Rather, it is exactly what the Theological Commission declared even as the Councill met, a teaching act of “the Church’s supreme magisterium.” (See Appendix, Lumen Gentium)

Think about it: For nearly sixty years now, a moral unanimity of the conciliar bishops throughout the world have been teaching, in union with the men that the SSPX insists are popes, the Council’s false and dangerous doctrine on religious liberty, a doctrine plainly and repeatedly condemned by the Catholic Church. 

Ask yourself: If the conciliar church is the Church, and her popes are true popes, have we not reached the point where the previously condemned doctrine is now part of the universal ordinary magisterium? If not, how much longer? Can the universal ordinary magisterium contradict itself, ever?  

We can say much the same for the Novus Ordo Missae, the principle liturgy of the conciliar church. If the conciliar church is the Catholic Church, and if Paul VI was truly her pope, the bastard rite can hardly be dismissed as liturgical shenanigans attributable to the “human element” in the Church alone.

The “human element” excuse rings hollow for another, even more basic, reason:

It must be understood that every single time that Christ, through His Church, teaches, sanctifies, and governs the faithful unto salvation – in her doctrines, her disciplines, her liturgies – He does so through human beings, the Church’s sacred pastors, chiefly, the pope and the bishops united with him. Every time. 

There is no such thing as an authoritative teaching act performed, a disciplinary law legislated, or a liturgical rite dispensed by the Church to her children that does not come to us by way of the so-called “human element,” and this by the will of Our Lord. 

Toward the end of his sermon, Bishop Fellay spoke a simple but profound truth, saying, “When God gives a mission, He provides the means to fulfill it.”

In the present case, Our Lord gave to His Church all of the means necessary to lead souls safely to salvation in every age, even as the prince of this world seeks to devour them. This includes by necessity, of course, the protection of the Holy Ghost from grave error such that the Church can ever be trusted, always and everywhere, never to endanger her own. It is for this reason that Our Lord could, and indeed did, urge us to be as little children.

Pope Pius XII said it thusly:

Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine and enable her to rule them for the salvation of their souls through divinely enlightened pastors and to bestow on them an abundance of heavenly graces. (ibid., 31)

Get that? Preventing her from ever teaching false doctrine… that is, from ever endangering souls.

Does the SSPX believe this, or do they believe that one must carefully ferret through authoritatively taught doctrines, even those proposed by an ecumenical council of the Church, in order to weed out grave errors? 

It’s one or the other. Either the Church can be trusted, or not. It simply cannot be both.