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Envoy Magazine - September 20, 2004

SSPX CIVIL WAR UPDATE [Pete Vere]

More background comes to light

Okay, things have sufficiently calmed down in the SSPX's French District for me to more-or-less patch together what is going on. By calmed down, I don't mean the fighting has stopped -- far from it -- but that the rhetoric and polemic has been lowered a notch to allow for outsiders to follow along more easily. In fact, "gorilla" is probably the worst insult I have heard one priest call another in the last two days. So here we go:

  • Fr. Laguerie, who was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1979, and is a popular folk hero among French SSPX supporters (he was the leader of thousands of SSPX supporters who squatted St. Nicholas-de-Chardonet church back in the eighties) denies being a traitor or insurgent within the SSPX. He claims to have only the good of the SSPX in mind, as he remembers it when the Archbishop was alive. He refuses to engage in further polemic, stating he seeks only the spiritual welfare of those within the SSPX who persecute him. Thus he stands on principle, but will turn the other cheek to insults. Additionally, it is being reported by the locals on both sides that Fr. Laguerie enjoys the support of most of his SSPX parishioners. 

  •  Fr Hery, who was expelled along with Fr. Laguerie, is still quite upset. I wasn't sure how he got caught in the middle of this, since he is a younger priest, and had speculated the reason likely had something to do with him being Fr. Laguerie's pastoral assistant. Turns out I was wrong. Fr. Hery had agreed to act as Fr. Laguerie's canonical advocate when Bishop Fellay first took action against Fr. Laguerie. This reportedly did not sit well with Bishop Fellay, and as a result he expelled Fr. Hery as well. Needless to say -- and having acted as a canonical advocate myself before several tribunals, I can understand why -- Fr Hery is pretty sore about this injustice. First of all, it is a well-established legal principle that every accused enjoys the right to legal defense. Secondly, it is a well-established legal principle that an advocate cannot be punished for defending his client.

  • Fr. de Tanouarn, publisher of a popular French SSPX newsletter and one of the SSPX's young intellectual lights, continues to defend the rights of Fr. Laguerie and Fr. Hery. Thus the speculation continues that Fr. de Tanouarn may also be targetted for expulsion from the SSPX in the near future.

  •  While a number of SSPX clergy have quietly supported these three priests (and Fr. Aulagnier) in their attempt to restore the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre to the SSPX, most of the clergy have been reluctant to do so in public. Nevertheless, several French traditionalist sources seem to suggest that Fr. Celier has now weighed in on the side of these three priests. I have not actually read any statements from Fr. Celier, but everyone is listing his name along with the other three.

  • Bishop Fellay made the comment that he consulted the other three bishops before expelling Fr. Aulagnier, Fr. Laguerie and Fr. Henry, and he insinuates that it was a joint decision of the four bishops to purge the SSPX of these priests. This is not sitting well with many Lefebvre purists in France, who point out that Lefebvre never wanted the bishops in charge of the SSPX, and deliberately chose not to consecrate the SSPX's Tier 1 priests (ie Schmidberger, Aulagnier, Bisig, Laguerie) for this reason. The bishops were consecrated by Lefebvre purely to fulfill a sacramental function, and that when Lefebvre was alive, no bishop was to be elected superior or hold any other position that involved the exercise of jurisdiction within the SSPX.