(LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Vitus Huonder, the 80-year-old prelate who lives in retirement in a house of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in Switzerland, has made a video statement in which he calls the 1988 excommunication of the Society’s founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre “unjust,” while also revealing that Pope Francis told him the traditional priests of the SSPX “are not schismatics.”
Huonder, the former bishop of Chur, Switzerland, first recounts in this new video how, on January 9, 2015, he received a letter from then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, asking him to “start a dialogue with representatives of the Society of St. Pius X.” The goal, he added, was to increase a personal relationship with this priestly society, as well as engage in doctrinal discussions.
Since that letter and mandate, Huonder has been in regular contact with the superior general of the SSPX (at the time Bishop Bernard Fellay, and now Don Davide Pagliarani), as well as other representatives. The discussions were meant to lead to a canonical regularization of the SSPX. (Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who is also a strong supporter of the SSPX, was another bishop asked by Pope Francis to visit houses of the SSPX in 2015).
In 2019, Bishop Huonder, upon his retirement, decided, with the expressed encouragement of the Vatican Commission Ecclesia Dei, to move into one of the houses of the SSPX in Switzerland. He did so in order to better know the inner life of the Society, as well as to compare its work with the life of a regular diocese such as the one he had been leading for the past 12 or so years.
The Swiss prelate also explains in the video that since 2015 he has had the time to study and get to know the work of the SSPX better, including the intentions of its French founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Huonder says that this time of study has given him “a new perspective,” a “new view on the past 70, 80 years” of Church history. Calling the experience a “retractatio,” Huonder says he now better understands the causes of the current crisis in the Church, and the reality that this crisis is actually “one of the greatest crises of her history.”
Speaking about the crisis, Huonder says it was caused by a “cryptic moving away from Tradition, from the authentic teaching of the Church, both in the documents of the [Second Vatican] Council and in the ensuing magisterial documents and decisions.” This is why, according to the Swiss prelate, Archbishop Lefebvre “could not follow unreservedly the instructions and doctrinal statements of the Council and of the official church announcements that followed the Council.”
“His attitude was factually justified and entirely in line with the Faith of the Church,” Bishop Huonder concludes. “He should have been listened to more.” Accordingly, “the measure taken against him [by the Church’s hierarchy] was a grave injustice, because it is easy to prove that the Church’s government has moved away from Tradition.”
For Bishop Huonder, the SSPX is a “child of this crisis,” since its founder wanted to respond to this crisis, to defend the faith and help the “faithful who felt lost.” Many were “sheep without a shepherd,” and Archbishop Lefebvre was out to help the “salvation of souls, as well as the preservation of the purity of the Faith.” That Faith, Bishop Huonder explains, is the “path to salvation” and thus “must not be falsified.” For Archbishop Lefebvre, the principle was that one may not follow a pope when that pope follows liberal ideas, but at the same time, one always has to show respect for his office, according to the Swiss bishop.
From this principle, the prelate expounded that the SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre “must be viewed and judged.”
Here, Bishop Huonder reveals what Pope Francis himself once said to him: “In this sense, Pope Francis spoke to me and said: ‘They [the SSPX] are not schismatics.’”
Bishop Huonder also discusses the different popes that have reigned in the Church since his own birth in the year 1942.
When discussing the role of Pope Francis, he stresses that this pontificate is a “pontificate of rupture. It is a break with tradition.” Not only does this pope often criticize Tradition and those adhering to it, he “undertakes acts that are clearly contrary to Tradition.” Here, he mentions explicitly “syncretistic ritual acts, such as in Canada,” which LifeSiteNews also reported.
Pointing to Pope Francis’ documents Traditionis Custodes (2021) and Desiderio Desideravi (2022), Huonder says “the pope wants to eradicate the traditional Roman liturgy.”
Moreover, Bishop Huonder sees this current pope as an “outspoken supporter of the so-called World Religion.” For many faithful, the prelate adds, this is “a stumbling block.”
Under the earlier Pope Paul VI, Bishop Huonder explains that there came a “turning point within the Church.” This pope, he continues, was “very fond of liberal, progressive circles. He promoted them.” Paul VI, by introducing the Novus Ordo Mass in 1969, caused “the beginning of the Church’s great suffering,” according to Huonder. “Nothing has been more disruptive to the unity of the Church than the new liturgical order,” he adds.
With regard to the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the Swiss prelate highlights the 1986 Prayer Meeting in Assisi with representatives of different religions, which was for many faithful “a tremendous shock.” The consequence, according to Huonder, was “a general loss of trust in the leadership and the orthodoxy of the Church.”
Pope Benedict XVI, in Huonder’s view, was the pope who tried to “heal this wound” that had been caused by the rift in the liturgy. Benedict had freed, on July 7, 2007, the traditional Latin Mass, giving a generous permission to priests to celebrate it. He wanted “to give back to the Church the traditional Roman liturgy,” Huonder explains.
It is in this context that Bishop Huonder insists that the excommunications of Archbishop Lefebvre and his four bishops in 1988 were “unjust”: Pope Benedict, he says, “in 2009 also lifted the unjust excommunications of Archbishop Lefebvre and the bishops of the SSPX he had consecrated.”
This way, Huonder continues, Pope Benedict “partially righted an injustice that heavily weighed on the Church.”
Only recently, LifeSite journalist Kennedy Hall published a book in defense of the SSPX, aptly named SSPX: The Defence, which contains a foreword by Father Charles Murr, book author and confidant of Sister Pascalina Lehnert, Pope Pius XII’s personal secretary.
In it, Murr reveals how modernist cardinals inside the Vatican walls were successfully working against Archbishop Lefebvre and his mission, using the means of “disinformation.”
Hall himself has also posted a video in light of Bishop Huonder’s statement, seeing the prelate’s revelation about Francis as a confirmation of his own book’s thesis.