The SSPX infighting has been a sore point for me for some time now. I have known families and friendships that have been divided and destroyed due to the internal schism in the organization between Williamson’s two dozen or so priests and everybody else.
Here is a look back at a letter from about 4 years ago that tells much of the rift that developed soon after. It is probably the best summary of everything that is wrong with Williamson’s outlook. It is no wonder, then that Williamson’s Eleison Comments have become incredibly defensive and paranoid (even for him) as he drew back like a wounded and offended animal.
I bolded a few points of interest.
Dear Bishop Williamson,
For months I have been meaning to write to you in order to bring up everything so to speak incomprehensible and also false in the things you have been saying over the last few years. I put it off since you never brought up arguments and obviously feel personally hurt – rather unusual for a free-thinking man. But after I could not help reading in your latest “Eleison Comments” that “World War III may not be far off”, I am now writing before time becomes short, because one never knows when time will run out.
This prophecy of yours took my mind back to the after-dinner speeches at the Episcopal Consecrations of 1988, After the main event all four newly consecrated bishops said a few words. Bishop Tissier as usual was very theological and dogmatic. Bishop de Galarreta was short and discrete. Bishop Fellay was pastoral and balanced. But you were principally concerned with war. Perhaps you were already thinking of World War III when you cried out to the assembly, “It’s war, it’s war !”. At that time it was still the Russians who were due to attack. It would be quite a task to count up all the times in the last 22 years that you have prophesied with precise dates the Third World War and the Chastisement. At least a dozen times for sure. A task also to work out why you have never asked yourself the question whether your forecasting arises from objective analysis and not rather from subjective utopianism.
Alas, I know you do not ask yourself such questions. Nor do you ask why I, and with me Menzingen and almost the entire Society of St Pius X and the world while we are about it, why we merely shake our heads and are simply disappointed. (I attach extracts from two e-mails, the first coming from a former pupil of yours, the second from a German town mayor.) For you it is clear. Always somebody else is to blame. Everybody else is clueless, blind to reality, agents of some organization or other, be it Freemasonry or the Mossad or the CIA, most recently and emphatically “the Jews” – the list is long. In brief, anybody who disagrees with you is either stupid or wicked or both. To any of the people who have rejected your constant warnings of war and your crude political and economic theories, and who have criticized you for them – there are many such people, and some have even been offended — have you ever apologized ? Have you apologized to one single one ? Would you ever be capable of saying, “I was wrong” ?
In fact that is a blatantly semitic way of thinking: to pin one’s own faults on a scapegoat, which bears the guilty for everything. That is what Hitler did. The Germans’ own defeat of November 9, 1918 produced a hatred for international Jewry, which was responsible for all evil in the German nation and therefore had to be “fought openly and without mercy”.
This problem is to be seen at another point in the latest “Eleison Comments”. You wrote there: “Derivatives… act upon the delicate mechanisms of world finance like weapons of mass destruction, because they easily fabricate an unreal world of colossal and unpayable debt.” To which one smart reader replied, “The Bishop is showing off – “delicate mechanisms of world finance” — as though he sees through the mechanisms of world finance and could point out their weaknesses.” You could not do that. No more can you see through the highly complex connections of politics, or the Nazis’ mass-murder of Jews. You have an opinion, then you look around for a few unconnected details which somehow fit this opinion (for instance the “Leuchter Report”), and you hawk it all as the truth.
On September 11, 2001 you were beginning your Confirmations tour in Switzerland. That evening, when Islamic terrorists crashed hi-jacked aeroplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and brought the Towers down, we arrived at about 6pm in Littau and Brother Anthony showed you the new church of the priory still under construction. He also mentioned something of the Twin Towers in New York with 50,000 people killed. You asked me to listen to the news. At 6.30pm the Confirmation ceremony began and you declared it was “the Jews”. How could you know that so fast ? You could not. You had no information leading to any such conclusion. Many of the faithful were disappointed that you had nothing spiritual to say, a few were impressed that you seemed to have the solution so fast. From that day on, if not sooner, my colleagues and I saw clearly that basically you are never looking for the historical truth, but only for what is true for you, what you want to be true. You have, as I formulated it last year, an idealistic view of history, And at table in a priory, I said you are an idealist. You were deeply offended, as someone told me. But actually the truth goes a little further. You are the caricature of an idealist.
There is a famous quotation attributed to you concerning the so-called “Protocols of the Sages of Sion”, namely : “God put it in men’s hands”. You thus raised the “Protocols” to the level of divine Revelation. That is inevitable if people want to believe in them, because the Tsarist government granted long ago that they were the product of its own secret service, and all further investigations led clearly to the same conclusion. Have you read any of these investigations, for instance the official account of the Berne Trial of 1934 ? No, of course you have not. Yet you are certain that the “Protocols” are authentic. Why ? Because you want them to be.
It is the same with the Nazis’ extermination of Jews. Did you read the book of Pressac which we had sent to you ? Of course not. Have you read the standard work on the subject, Hilberg’s “The Extermination of European Jewry”? Not either. Attorney Krah recommended to you at least once to ask David Irving, a recognized expert in archives and until recently your mentor, what the facts are. You would not listen. That is hardly surprising, given that in the meantime Irving is not calling in question the mass-murder of millions of innocent Jews, including by gassing. On a different tack he is upholding abstruse theories on the side, but he is not so blind as to deny the obvious. But why go in for studying history ? You know it all without having to study, because you insist on your idea of reality. Idealism, as I said.
Thus there cannot have been any industrial mass-murder of Jews because you do not want there to have been. Because it does not fit your world-view. Therefore any document proving that there was such mass-murder, is a forgery, and any witness testifying that there was, even if it was SS perpetrators themselves, is suborned, and every scientific researcher coming to the same conclusion is a liar. Similarly anyone not subscribing to your theories on 9/11 is not Catholic. You have put as much in writing, indeed that is your key question : as you once asked the Superior General, “Do you believe in the Twin Towers ?”
I am sorry that I have to speak so harshly to you. I would have preferred to start this letter in a friendly and non-aggressive way, asking after your health and the weather in London. The weather has got to be bad in Paris because we have been waiting over five hours to take off, so I am writing this letter in a Boeing 777. I would prefer to be writing about Christmas customs in Asia and the wonderful people in particular that I had occasion to meet there, or to be writing with my thanks for having visited Japan as a Society priest as far back as 1978. At that time, by the way, only one thing mattered to you and that was to preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified; there was only one question, and that was the Truth which is Christ himself. But since then two other questions have arisen for you. The first, as you recently wrote to one of our priests, is: “Were six million Jews gassed, yes or no ?” With all respect for your episcopal rank as bishop, that is not an “objective question”, it is not even a question, it is pure nonsense. Name me one serious historian, name me one single man who still claims today that six million were gassed. Not murdered, but gassed. You will not find one, is my impression. You are the one and only person who maintains any such thing. In psychology that is called a fixation. As for your second question, “Do or do not the Six Million have a religious importance ?”, your answer is unsatisfactory and false. It goes without saying that every historical question also has a religious dimension. Nobody disputes that, but our Founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, gave us a clear standpoint from which to judge of history, politics, social doctrine and so on, and that is Jesus Christ himself, the Social Kingship of Christ. That is it. And no stupid ideological or idealistic theories. As I said, under normal circumstances, this letter would not be adopting such an approach or treating of such matters. But 2010 was not a year calling for any normal way to approach things. Unfortunately.
In exchanges with various people, colleagues, priests, relatives, friends, outsiders, I have frequently tried to understand you. I am terribly sorry to see how you are running to waste, how you are burying yourself in the most abstruse theories and then passing them off as divine truth. Were a good fairy to grant me three wishes, one would certainly be for you to come up with the strength to recognize reality. But there are no such fairies, and in their stead a quotation comes back to me from my Greek studies : whom the gods wish to destroy, they first strike blind.
Your Excellency, allow me a family reminiscence. You are well aware how highly my family held you in esteem, and how you enjoyed visiting our home. Back in the late 1970’s my parents were there, and you were a young priest spending the night with us, because you were celebrating Mass in the family Chapel nearby on the following morning. You were in a discussion with my father. Mother was also present. You surely remember my mother, a quiet, reserved woman, a still water running deep, at opposite poles to my father. That evening the discussion between my father and you was heated. Mother had kept quiet all evening so it was quite unexpected when she suddenly said in her quiet and almost shy way, “Father, remember your own mother was also a woman.” End of discussion.
Your scorn of women, your hatred of Jews, your lack of measure were always there, only we paid no attention. We were too busy defending the Faith, rescuing the Mass, battling with modernists in the Church, to pick up on these repulsive aspects of your behavior. You were the English gentleman, eccentric for sure, but cultured, unconventional, charming. Of course the doubts grew as time went on. How often you tripped up and let yourself be influenced by strange people and ideas (I think for instance of Fr. Urrutigoity, or your notion of the Tridentine seminary being “out-of-date”). But we pushed these doubts to one side. We rather felt than consciously knew that something was not quite right. Only in 2009 did we begin to think things over and check them out. At which point we realized how deep the problem ran – a veritable abyss ! Not to say that we were in no way responsible. A few months ago, a District Superior said to me who is not much younger than yourself, “The crazy ideas of Bishop Williamson were familiar to us, and we knew all about them.”
Long before 2009 a friend said to me that on reading the things you write, he is always asking himself if your ever gaining influence and power is something to be desired, and his answer is always, no. Moreover, were you to become influential or powerful, he, one of our active faithful, would join a Christian resistance group. Such were the doubts, such the feeling of unease.
In his latest book the Pope has talked about you in some detail. He says that in your case one notices a lack of experience of the mainstream Church. You went straight from Protestantism – or at any rate nominal Protestantism – into the narrow world of the Society of St Pius X. Of course we were upset and indignant. On behalf of the Society, Fr Gaudron criticized the Pope’s remark and pointed out that when you converted you were for a while in the official Church. However, the Pope may have been referring to something else. You converted in the middle of the confusion following on the Council, when the old religion was seen as being worthless and its collapse was visible. Everybody felt homeless. That may be why you lack this deep feeling of what it is to be a Catholic. How else is your love of provoking people to be explained, even in front of the Blessed Sacrament ? Is it just to provoke, or is it something more ? What would the Pope say if he knew how constantly you refuse to speak about the virtue of love ? yet God is love, and we read in St Jerome’s Commentary for the Feast of St John Evangelist how at the end of St John’s long life all he would ever call for was love. And there go you, saying to a Superior who asked you on a priests’ Retreat not to talk only about politics and gas-chambers and the Twin Towers, “Love – I despise the word !” And just what would the Pope say if he heard you answering orders of the Superior General with a vulgar swearword, repeated three times ? Call such a reaction sarcasm if you like, but it is not exactly Catholic. Genuine Catholicism can be recognized by breadth of thinking, by love of the Church, by generosity of outlook, if you like, but not by hurtful slander of people who think differently, such as you are now doing through your friends on the Internet. Whoever does not share your view of history is a “Jew”. And anyone drinking wine with Jewish colleagues is behaving like a Jew and undermining the Society of St Pius X. Even the Nazis did not go that far. Two years ago you told me that as Rector of the Seminary in Ridgefield you invited a Rabbi. Did that make you also into a Jew ?
One of the first and most basic criticisms of the Council comes from the psychoanalyst Alfred Lorenzer, “The Book-keepers’ Council” (for a long time this book could be found in the book-racks of our chapels in Germany). One may or may not care for psychoanalysis, but Lorenzer gives a marvelous description of what religion, Catholicism in particular, means for man. It is something that one picks up even before language or rational consciousness. He calls it a “system of symbols”. It has something to do with liturgy, with song, with certainty. It precedes and follows all awareness. One is, quite simply, Catholic. Whatever the Pope says, whatever happens, one is Catholic. The most unlikely people keep finding it is there inside them, and then suddenly they are proud of it. The two Spiegel reporters that you called “rats” and whose reporting was by the way most helpful to the Society, are a case in point. The older one, Wensierski, is Catholic, a man who has gone along with all the errors and confusion of the last 40 years. He has written nasty articles criticizing the Church, but as a reporter he also got himself thrown out of communist East Germany because he supported resistance groups. A difficult man for sure, and stolid, but fully convinced of his own Catholicism, enthused by the Society church of St Nicolas du Chardonet in Paris, and ever concerned to convert his younger colleague who at that point parts company with his elder. Simply being Catholic, belonging to this inconceivable, fantastic, great, unique Church, way beyond all human imagining, constantly being pronounced dead yet arising joyfully once more to life, ever ready to pick one up again, to forgive, to be generous, where one is always back at home – what is more beautiful on the face of the earth ? So when I read writings of yours, and remember various things you have said, then I am afraid you have no share in its happiness. That is what I think a colleague meant who has been a Superior in the Society for many years and esteems you as much as ever, when he said, “Gentlemen, why has nobody got the gumption to say that in what he says, in the provocative way he says it, in the freelance way he crashes around inside the Society, Bishop Williamson is a liberal ? Why indeed ?
In your commentaries on the talks going on between the Society and the Curia you give the impression that the worst thing you can imagine is a re-union, a Catholic return to normal. When I read that, when cradle Catholics read that, we just do not understand. When it comes to living our religion, there is nothing we wish for more than to be able to live undisturbed like Catholics, and nothing makes us suffer so much as finding ourselves in a situation where our conscience, as enlightened by the centuries-old Magisterium, makes that impossible. Your very logic with regard to Rome is false, a vicious circle – “Because they are modernists, we cannot and may not talk with them.” Yet faith comes from hearing. Then can the Pope and the Curia never become Catholic, because nobody talks to them ? What is the point of our praying and going on mission ? Quite independently of your revolutionary attitude whereby, just because you are a bishop, you know it all, both what is Catholic and what is not, and how the Society should behave towards Rome, and forget the Superior General. Anyone would think the world turns
around you. As I said, maybe the Pope was referring to this unbending narrow-mindedness. For indeed the relation to reality alone makes something true, and not because one wants it to be true. I do not think one can be Catholic if one does not grasp with all one’s senses what that means. This grasp you obviously do not have. I repeat, your sermons against love in Zaitzkofen and St Nicolas de Chardonnet are legendary. The verdict is pronounced in Goethe’s “Faust, Part One”: “Unless you feel it, you will not get it.”
Our venerable Founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, fully embodied this Catholic way of being. How he would let loose, many an evening, against Cardinal Ratzinger ! Only to admit ruefully on the following morning that he had exaggerated, and then he would praise the Cardinal’s piety. But when did you yourself once admit that you were wrong ? The Curia pushed its humiliating of the Archbishop beyond all limits, but he remained Catholic. That is what we hoped for from you.
The Society is cast for the role of an outsider. That tempts us to grant a measure of sympathy to any other outsiders. I consider this is a trap. We are not truly outsiders. There are many others, romping around the Internet, who are truly outsiders. Ever since your interview of November 1, 2008, on Swedish TV, I have had plenty of opportunity whether I wanted to or not, to confront Holocaust-deniers, or “Revisionists” as you call them. Goodness gracious, what miserable minds ! Precisely, not Catholic. When I think of the court case of Horst Mahler, supposedly converting because of you… That is pure Hegelianism, but certainly not Catholic. And then all the crazy ideas of your supposed friends, Butz, Faurisson and so on. Men neither nice nor Catholic. Be it Neo-nazism, “Third Position”, Antisemitism, or any kind of extremism, one has the impression that it is all about finding excuses to avoid having to hold down a regular job. When it comes to slandering, I repeat, they are fast on the uptake, as happens on the Internet too. Unfortunately you were not able to resist the temptation to join in. Morally speaking that has always been sinful. One of the people slandered has, to my way of thinking, neatly summed up what kind of people are behind the slandering : “Uneducated, unbalanced, sexually frustrated, male losers.” The one constant feature in the lives of such men is often their extremism. Yesterday they were tough British Nationalists opposed to North Irish Catholics, today they belong to the “Third Position”, tomorrow they will probably be followers of Islam. The solidarity between Nazis and Islamists became clear at the Holocaust-denying Conference in Teheran, and you too never tire of declaring that Western society, our own civilization, no longer deserves to exist. I find all that repulsive, but hardly surprising. Some time ago Hitler declared that National Socialism could not be understood without Wagner and Nietsche. But when it comes down to presenting such nonsense as though it were a religious duty to do so, then I step into the lists for the greater glory of God. I cannot and will not let the name of God be misused for such weak-mindedness. I have already written to you once that I certainly did not become a priest in order to preach hatred of Jews. Nor did I enter the Society to canonize Hitler. I am horrified to see you spreading around videos which justify the mass-murder by Hitler. And now you set up to be defending your honor ? Just what honor ? The honor of trampling on the historical truth ? Your Excellency, kindly defend the honor of the Society, the honor of Our Lord !
I admit that in the past we have been too negligent in this respect. We kept quiet when we should have spoken out, we looked away, we practised a false tolerance. We should have contradicted you much sooner. We might have brought you to think again at a moment when you could still turn back. The situation with the supposed “excommunications”, each day’s worries, our concern with the problems in the Church and our respect for your rank all distracted us from recognizing and correcting our own weaknesses and shortcomings. In 2009 we were punished for it. Instead of a triumph after the lifting of the excommunications we were humbled and pilloried. I am not complaining: those whom God loves, he chastises. But I hope that we are learning from our mistakes. There can be no more false tolerance. We are no longer looking away. We are speaking up. We are no longer letting political sectarians enter the Society as parasites to heat up their little brew on our stove, on the grounds that they are not allowed to do it anywhere else. You cannot really be claiming that the Society and the General Superior must share and promote your Nazi ideas !
The way to salvation is the truth. The Church was always generous in this respect, demanding the acceptance only of defined dogma. The Church leaves room for freedom. You are not so generous. You turn everything into a question of absolute truth. Well then, you are being measured by your own standard. You will not get around having to accept the truth as it really is, and you will have to take leave of your own fabricated version It is a difficult path to tread, because it leads to hurtful admissions, to turning off the path so far trodden, to a new beginning, involving the closing down of a previous life. As I sit here I pray and hope that you will nevertheless make the effort, and I promise you to help you on your way, but I cannot help sensing that, indignantly refusing to do so, you will distrust me, consider I am stupid or wicked or both, and not be able to see how far you have distanced yourself from what you are always invoking: the truth.
I am not here making myself out to be higher than you. I do not want to judge, I want to save. The way you have developed causes me endless grief. On reading some novels one constantly wants to get involved in the story oneself, to shake up the leading character and cry out to him to wake up before it is too late ! He does not do so, and the tragedy plays itself out. Radetzky March by Joseph Roth is one such novel, centering on the fall of the Austrian monarchy. The hero is a tragic figure so charismatic, intelligent and attractive that despite all his negative qualities one cannot help falling under his spell, so that one is constantly crying out to him to wake up. But he never does, and so the novel ends in catastrophe.
We have flown over Beijing and just passed Ulan Bator, so now we fly the length of Novosibirsk. The sun is setting to the west, it is a beautiful evening. I think back to our faithful in Japan and Korea, how their souls are thirsting for truth. And Ernst Hello comes into my mind : “There is only one tragedy, and that is that we are not saints.” Yet there you go, wanting us to talk about the length of chimneys in concentration camps. Goodness gracious ! And I am reminded of war rhetoric. And of how in the courtyard of Econe, after the Episcopal Consecrations, when journalists asked what should be done with enemies of the Church, you made clear gestures in front of the cameras filming to show that a machine-gun was the answer. Perhaps Cardinal Ratzinger as he then was also saw that. I do not know. But I do remember that on the way home a colleague expressed his concern about the future Bishop Williamson.
He did not turn out well. The damage you have done to the Society and to the entire Church with your false political ideas is immense. However I am personally convinced that graver than all your political theories is your un-catholic pessimism, your defeatism in face of the crisis of the Faith and the collapse of Church life. A colleague in the USA summed up your “theology” as follows: Bishop Williamson says, “Grace builds on nature (that is perfectly Catholic). Now the nature of modern man is completely ruined and corrupted. So forget the supernatural and firstly restore nature.” I am under the impression that your pessimism in religion and your “waiting for Godot” attitude in politics stem from this under-estimation of the supernatural. Your Excellency, allow me to remind you that grace exercises a function of healing nature. It is a dangerous temptation in the face of the present crisis to seek after untried natural solutions, and to think that the world can be overcome by worldly means. Faith alone conquers the world, says the Apostle, and for Pius X lack of faith and ignorance are the problem of modern times, not the Jews ! That is what was so fascinating in Archbishop Lefebvre: he believed in love, and believed that the tried and true means of grace are sufficient to spread the Kingdom of Christ.
All the above and much more as well came into my mind as I read your latest forecast of war. Maybe we should still “let the sparrows chirp”, as Don Bosco said, and concern ourselves with Christ and his Church, rather than busy ourselves with financial markets and chemical gas compounds. Do you not agree ?
That is why I am writing to you. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
God bless ! And Happy New Year !
Yours in Our Lord,
Fr. Niklaus Pfluger.