Poland and the Ukraine: Bishop warns against the SSPX and Fr. Vasyl Kovpak is excommunicated

Rèsumè : On Sunday, January 13, Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski of Gdansk, had a pastoral letter concerning the SSPX read in all the parishes of his diocese…

On Sunday, January 13, Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski of Gdansk, had a pastoral letter concerning the SSPX read in all the parishes of his diocese. It reads : “The Society is a schismatic group which does not recognize the pope nor the council. This group has opened a chapel and is inviting the faithful to join them under the pretext of pre-conciliar liturgy. (…) This schismatic group is trying to spread in Poland. (…) Those who join them are excommunicated.”

On this occasion, the Polish prelate recalls that Benedict XVI, with the Motu Proprio of this past Summer, has liberalized the conditions for use of the Tridentine rite to which the traditionalist movement is attached, but that “the reasons for the rupture which originated on this point were to be sought in greater depth.” The rupture does not come primarily from the abandon of the Tridentine Mass, but from certain texts of the Second Vatican II, texts which, according to Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX,  “cannot be reconciled with Tradition.” The three litigious issues are ecumenism, religious liberty and collegiality.

On January 15, an article was published in the most widely diffused paper of the country. It gave the bishop’s text  and added comments by a seminary professor who made a distinction between those who attended our ceremonies in full awareness and were excommunicated, and those who attend without realizing their schismatic character, but should nevertheless accuse themselves in confession!

On January 16, some articles were published in the same newspaper, among them an interview which Fr. Karl Stehlin had given on the occasion of the presentation of the priory to the media in December. All the articles were in our favor.

On January 18, the local TV network invited one of our faithful to a round table on the subject with a modernist priest.

On January 19, Fr. Stehlin gave a press conference to which — to his great surprise — 4 TV networks, two radio channels and two leading newspapers were represented. That same evening, the story was number one in the TV news and was repeated four times in the evening.

During his press conference, Fr. Stehlin responded to the archbishop’s letter point by point. Likewise, he wrote to the editor of daily and ask him to make amends for  the injustice and grave calumnies he had published.

Thus the story spread all over Poland, and even Polsat TV network (which also broadcasts in the US) spoke about it on the TV news.

It is interesting to see that at the very same time when Archbishop Gloclowski is accusing the faithful of being excommunicated, Cardinal Castrillon is stating the opposite. Indeed, in an interview granted to Zenit on January 13, he explains that only the bishops are excommunicated, but that the excommunication does not concern the priests nor the faithful. Here is one more contradiction to resolve…

Simultaneously, at the beginning of January, in a pastoral letter, Archbishop Ihor Vozniak, Greek-Catholic archbishop of the Ukrainians in Lviv, recalled that Fr. Vasyl Kovpak, who is supported by the SSPX, had been condemned by the ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Archieparchy of Lviv, and that, in spite of this condemnation, he had defied the Vatican, and that the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had confirmed his excommunication at the end of last year (on December 16, 2007, Ed.).

Fr. Vasyl Kovpak is at the head of the Society of St. Josaphat. He continues to develop the traditionalist movement in the Ukraine with a seminary and a convent in Lviv, as well as several parishes  throughout the country. This priest’s apostolate is offensive to the Church, thinks Archbishop Vozniak, this is the reason why he forbids his faithful to give him any support whatsoever.

In the latest issue of Christendom, you can read a whole dossier on the expansion of Tradition in Eastern Europe, with an interview with Fr. John Jenkins, prior of the SSPX in Warsaw, and an article by Fr. Arnaud Sélégny, Secretary General of the SSPX about the Society of Saint Josaphat of the Ukraine. In the latter article, Fr. Sélégny wrote the following concerning the sanctions against Fr. Vasyl Kovpak:

“In 2003, Fr. Vasyl was suspected of being the superior of the Society and a canonical inquest was set up against him by Cardinal Husar, Archbishop of Lviv and an openly-declared ecumenist. Fr. Vasyl responded with a vigorous book in which he recounted the persecution against Tradition in the Ukraine and the history of the defense of Tradition in the Latin Church by Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX without omitting the action of Bishop de Castro Mayer and of Bishop Lazo. He justified his foundation by the state of necessity. 3,000 copies were printed and the book was favorably received. On the other hand, Fr. Vasyl circulated a petition of support and gathered over 7,000 signatures in his parishes! At the same time, they undertook to build a church to make possible the apostolate of the priest who had been driven out of his parish. Fr. Vasyl was convoked by Cardinal Husar who demanded explanations and a clear stand: “It is either me, or Bishop Fellay.” Together with the other priests and their faithful – more than 10,000 persons — he was threatened with a major excommunication! In November, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais ordained the first priest of the Society of  Saint-Josaphat at the priory in Warsaw. (…)

“The year 2007 saw new sentences against the priests of the Society. On this past October 16, Bishop Fellay ordained 7 deacons to the priesthood thus bringing to 18 the number of priests in the Society of  Saint-Josaphat. The seminary numbers 19 seminarians, and 25,000 faithful attend their various places of worship. On Friday, November 16, the final decree of excommunication of Fr. Vasyl was released…”