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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Part IV: Does the FSSP's Former Superior General, Fr. Josef Bisig, Practice Classic Indoctrination?

St. John the Baptist in Front Royal where the Traditional Mass may no longer be prayed in 
the parish church that those who embrace tradition helped pay for. Talk about injustice!

Fr. Josef Bisig recently was invited to speak in Front Royal at St. John the Baptist in response to the SSPX opening a chapel in nearby Linden. The conflict between the local parish and the chapel has, sadly, been acrimonious at times and unkind. I had friends who refused to sit at my table because I attend the chapel, which frankly I thought was strange. I have no doubt they will break bread with Protestants, but a fellow Catholic is an unwashed and unwanted "schismatic" and former friend. I still grieve the loss of their friendship and miss them at my occasional rosary luncheons with friends when we gather for fellowship and prayer. I console myself by uniting myself to Jesus who also lost friends.

Let me back up here to explain how establishment of the chapel came to be. The SSPX generously responded to pleas by local Catholics to come here during COVID and give us the Mass when the bishop shut all the Masses down to obey Caesar. The SSPX offered multiple Masses at the Warren County fairgrounds to accommodate the people who wanted to come by reservation and attend Mass in their cars only exiting to receive Communion one car at a time. It often took over an hour for Communion alone. On Holy Thursday in a drizzly rain and high wind, those of us in our warm cars could see Fr. Reuter uncontrollably shivering as he said Mass. It was an edifying vision of what it means to be a holy priest of God willing to suffer for the sake of the flock. We all lamented his reassignment to Canada, but happily welcomed the other priests coming to serve us. 

After COVID, the laity begged the SSPX to remain. They were reluctant, but in God's Providence and through many amazing events and coincidences (Is anything with God ever just a coincidence?) the chapel was established and is thriving! Catholic Family News interviewed several laity about the events that led to formation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapel including many amazing and Providential events.

The local pastor and the bishop are understandably not happy about the situation. It's their turf and they are protective of it. In many ways, though, the chapel has been a blessing for local tradition-minded Catholics, even the ones who object to its presence. 

Why do I say that?

In order to "go head to head" with the SSPX, the pastor at St. John's instituted multiple Sunday Masses (outside the parish Church at Chelsea Academy) and offered daily Mass in the parish adoration chapel. It seems unlikely that would have happened if not for the desire to prevent many of the most orthodox members of the St. John's community from leaving to join the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapel. But there it is. 

So Fr. Bisig's invitation to Front Royal was clearly a move to counteract the SSPX chapel which attracts people, not only from the local area, but from more distant parts of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia as well.

I did not attend Fr. Bisig's talk since I was out of town.  People told me he said many positive things about Archbishop Lefebvre. I wish I had been there so I could see if he did the same thing described in a blog post at Tradidi Quod et Accepi (TQA) which examined his talk given at St. Joan of Arc, the FSSP parish in Post Falls, ID. They accused him of using a strategy of indoctrination. From the comments after the article, it appears Fr. Bisig gives that talk other places as well. Here's the title and the link to the article. 

Fr. Bisig: “Archbishop Lefebvre is the Founder of the FSSP!”

St. Joan of Arc FSSP parish in Post Falls, IN

So what is Fr. Bisig saying and why did the TQA blog accuse him of using indoctrination techniques? I'll let them speak for themselves:

During the “soft sell” part of the talk, Fr. Bisig provided us with a selective history of the Fraternity of St. Peter. He discussed the “charisma” and goals of the FSSP, but managed to fit in desultory swipes at Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX.. ..The softer, first part of the talk was clearly intended to show how devoted Fr. Bisig (and those who left with him) was to Archbishop Lefebvre. In a plaintive and sad voice, Father said that “Archbishop Lefebvre had become schismatic and we felt like orphans.” [He went on to heap more praise on AB Lefebvre.]...At this point – before springing the trap – Father Bisig had his audience right where he wanted them. You could see on the faces of his listeners that they were a bit puzzled. Wasn’t this Father Josef Bisig, the man so famous for his vitriolic attacks against Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society he founded? Why was he being so conciliatory?

The article digresses here to talk about:

the tactics of persuasive speech and its darker cousin indoctrination....[where] the speaker withholds information or provides selective facts, half-truths, and lies in order to further his agendum of changing the minds of his listeners. 

The article goes on to speak about crucial information left out of Fr. Bisig's talk. 

I found one item particularly interesting to explain why AB Lefebvre withdrew his signature from the 1988 accord with the Vatican. It shows the dishonesty of the negotiations on the part of the Vatican representatives:

Notwithstanding the fact that Rome continued to delay on a formal and specific promise to the saintly archbishop on the subject of bishops for the Society, he went to Rome on May 5. With misgivings regarding the Vatican’s refusal to commit to consecrations of bishops for the SSPX, Archbishop Lefebvre signed a “Protocol of Accord” with Cardinal Ratzinger. (Fr. Bisig said that when he met with Cardinal Ratzinger in July of 1988, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Faith said, “Marcel Lefebvre is not the only one responsible for this rupture.”)

Archbishop Lefebvre, weary at the end of a long day, departed for the district house after the protocol was signed by both parties, and left...Fr. Emmanuel du Chalard (the long-time SSPX envoy to the Vatican) to tidy up any last minute details and receive copies. It was at this time, Monsieur l’Abbé told us, that Cardinal Ratzinger’s secretary, Fr. Klemens, placed a sheet of paper in his hands. It was, they said, a “sample” letter of what they needed and forgot to bring up during the negotiations and the meeting — an apology for all the offenses Archbishop Lefebvre made against Pope John Paul II. Fr. du Chalard said he would take it to the Archbishop, who was by now in Albano Laziale. Once Fr. du Chalard arrived, he went right to the Archbishop’s quarters and told Monseigneur Lefebvre of the belated demand, handing him the pre-written apology letter. As Archbishop Lefebvre held it in his hand, he read over it and shook his head slowly, finally saying in a low, sad voice, “Ils sont méchants.” (They are wicked.) After a sleepless night, he repudiated the protocol the next day, feeling that if he couldn’t trust the Vatican authorities in such a matter as a demand for something he never did (alleged offenses against the Vicar of Christ), he certainly could not trust them to make good on their “promise” to consecrate a bishop for the Society sometime “in the future.

Wicked the politicians priests of the Sanhedrin! 

The more I study and research the history of these sad events, the more convinced I am that Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX were right. I do not reject the pope and his authority any more than they do. But sitting on the chair of Peter doesn't justify one becoming a "dictator pope" who can play with the faith like tinker toys. The pope has a solemn, sacred duty to pass on the faith in all its integrity. No Catholic has an obligation to obey anything that violates Scripture and Sacred Tradition. In fact, they have an obligation to oppose it! The pope must be obedient to Christ. Where he promotes novel doctrines that violate the unchangeable teachings of past popes, he must be opposed!

TQA ended with this:

...throughout the talk, Fr. Bisig never specifically discussed the issue of true and false obedience. We have observed that when the Fraternity priests speak of “obedience,” it is always an apologia for obeying a hierarchy that has no real use for what it views as the fringe traditionalists Let’s be completely frank: what has really changed in Rome? Like a Sword of Damocles, the next attempt to seal the fate of the Mass of the Ages is coming from Francis, Roche et al. We know this in our hearts. Rome is just as untrustworthy today as she was in July of 1988, when, after arriving back in Naples following the events we witnessed at Ecône [the consecration of the bishops], we read on July 3 of the pope’s motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, in which the very same pablum offered to us in October of 1984 was being served up once again.

TO BE CONTINUED.... Read the previous articles on our Modernism page. 



  1. They were not friends.
    They were acquaintances.
    You didn't lose much of value.

  2. There was a Solemn High Requiem Mass here in Denver a little over two years ago, celebrated by the FSSP in the archdiocesan cathedral. The FSSP parish did not have a complete set of black vestments for priest, deacon, and sub-deacon. The local SSPX chapel loaned them to the FSSP. At least some cooperation and friendly relations are possible. Did Fr. Bisig ever find out?

  3. Amen. Edifying.

    I have concluded that no Catholic can avoid personally making the choice of LeFebvre. It is being forced on every Catholic, everywhere - the contrast between the Faiths is so stark (there should be contrast at all) that one must choose either this (Vatican II Nu)’or that (Sacred Tradition). Pretending there is no choice, only obedience, is itself a choice.

    My choice, with LeFebvre, is obedience, *rightly ordered*. Christ first in the hierarchy, Sacred Tradition (His founding gift) second, living actors who are to lead us into all Truth third - whose authority is solely sourced in Christ and His Word.

    Like you, I have read Arbp LeFebvre’s testimony to how he struggled with his choice, how he came to terms with the existential questions of the Catholic Faith. I agree with his conclusions. I am greatly aided by the logic of how he reached his conclusions.

    One thing I’ve noticed, in this current conflict over heresy within, is serenity and confidence in those most closely attached to Christ, His Mother, Sacred Tradition. Those who have left the path are anxious and greatly troubled to prove they are still on the path.

    This series you are compiling is much appreciated.

  4. Thank you for writing this series. It gives me much to think about.

  5. I first suspected FSSP of indoctrination on behalf of VC2, i.e. moving their flock toward N.O./"good liturgy" when heard this speech by Fr. Berg. Starts portion on "the liturgy" at 13:38 by saying they have "the opportunity" to offer "the old mass" (notice Kwasniewski in your quote maybe in part 3 of your series also call it the "old" mass). Berg refers to it at least 3 times w/1st "old mass" first followed by the trad'l or the latin mass.

    @14:26 "LITURGY CELEBRATED WELL and it has all of these DIFFERENT ELEMENTS TO IT which we find in the old mass, that we find in the trad'l mass"
    @16:06 "am I strong enough to do something that's not going to be the OLD rite and I think that's what's most important to always remember about the extraordinary form is that it is for the weak and not for the strong so there's no reason to be really proud that you attend the latin mass, it's reason to have great humility that you're so weak that you need to be here. That you're so lousy. That your faith is so weak that you need to have this form of the mass which has all these prayers which are there to support your faith (not to describe reality, etc.)
    @19:55 "shows really the fact and power of the liturgy and the importance for a place where we go or a parish where we serve for that liturgy to be done really, really well in all its elements
    @20:30 "now this is not something which is just particular to the FSSP. If you read the last book that the holy father wrote just before he became the holy father, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a book that's called "THE SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY"...and he makes a rather incredible claim: in order to have a good society you have to have a good liturgy"... "Man has to understand his relation to God. @22:54 "greatness of God the adoration" [No mention of sacrifice. Seems to imply that 'reverent' N.O. is same as trad'l mass or "good liturgy" and that the liturgy is for us more than for God so that's why we all need our own different style/form (youth, contemporary, child, traditional, charismatic, english, french, spanish). Doesn't mention any of the differences between pre-VC2 mass and post-VC2 mass which all the trad groups usually do.]

    Here he is again w/the weakness and extra help schtick: "“At first,” he recalls, “I would tell a friend of mine that I would be a diocesan priest, where the battle really was. He would argue that most did not offer very good formation, but I would say that I would survive.… In the end, however, I realized I was too weak; I needed the OLD Mass, now called the extraordinary form. I needed all of the support this form offers. It is rich in prayers and gestures and rules, and is made for those who need the extra help to be well prepared for the graces of the Sacrament.”

  6. Mary Ann, I should have mentioned that our assessment that Fr. Bisig was conducting an indoctrination was based on my in-depth knowledge of Marxist-style exploitation means, having just retired from 18 years as an instructor at the USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, WA. As a Resistance instructor, one of my duties was to demonstrate to our young airmen just how dangerous these indoctrinations can be.
    In fact, in footnote #2, I provide this background for those interested:
    "The U. S. military has long warned those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are considered to be at a “high risk of capture” about the threat of being exploited through indoctrination. Any military member who has had the opportunity to undergo Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training, knows just what indoctrination is and how to deal with it. The origins of SERE training can be found in the writings of Dr. Albert Biderman, a sociologist and government consultant who, in the 1950s, wanted to understand why 21 American Prisoners of War (POWs) elected to stay in North Korea after the end of the Korean conflict in June, 1953. Debriefs of the returning POWs revealed that frequent indoctrinations were held by both the North Koreans and the Chinese. The UN POWs were coerced into attending these through various means. Dr. Biderman originally called indoctrinations “brainwashing,” a term which eventually fell into disuse after a couple of decades. At least in part due to the Communist/Marxist emphasis on trying to change the thinking of American POWs, SERE schools were established in each of the services and the training was centered on learning how to comply with the new “Code of Conduct” developed during the Eisenhower administration. Those military members who went through SERE training were much less vulnerable to the Marxist-style indoctrinations to which they were exposed in Communist North Vietnamese prison camps, while those who did not – generally soldiers held by the Viet Cong – were gradually turned against their nation and their fellow POWs (cf: Survivors, by Zalin Grant)."