ASK FATHER: Apostolic Visitation of FSSP seminaries

I have had a few questions in my email about an upcoming Apostolic Visitation to be made of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).

You probably know that in the FSSP’s founders could not go along with the SSPX’s late Archbp. Lefebvre’s decision to consecrate bishops without pontifical mandate.  Therefore, they split from the SSPX and the Holy See accepted them as a new group.  They have ever used only the older liturgical books.  They are of pontifical rite (that is, they respond to the Holy See, not a local bishop where they were founded).  They have seminaries in Germany and in these USA.  The FSSP priests I have met are very good men.

In any event, one priestly correspondent wrote:

I was with X in Y yesterday and he told me that the FSSP has been assigned an Apostolic Visitor. It is Bishop Huonder from the Diocese of Chur (I have no idea where that is). He said Huonder is friendly to the Extraordinary Form. Is this a portent of more to come?

I think what he means here is: Is this the second chapter in the book How To Repress Religious Institutes Who Use The Extraordinary Form?  The first chapter was, of course, about the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

By the way… I am convinced that the real problems for the the FFIs are a) themselves, and b) the Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for Religious (both recently reconfirmed in their posts.  The perfect storm for the FFIs, who I think have been shamefully treated no matter how ineptly they handled their internal affairs.  I digress.

Answer: No.  This is not like what happened to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  First,  the FFIs were not founded to use the older books.  The FSSP quite clearly was.  Second, ever group has routine official visitations to determine whassup.  This is normal.  Also, the Diocese of Chur covers a lot of Eastern Switzerland, including Zurich, Glarus, etc.

Another person wrote:

I read in one place that this is an Ordinary Apostolic Visitation, but I want confirmation from someone who is level-headed.

Yes, this is “ordinary” in the sense that it is routine.  These visitations happen regularly.

Furthermore, though I don’t know the Swiss bishop, the other official visitors are now-retired Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz and also the present Abbot of the French abbey of Trior, which is a foundation from the Abbey of Fontgombault.  The three visitors will look into the European and American seminaries of the FSSP.  They will poke around, look at the curricula, talk to students, etc.   If they find something lacking, they will point it out in a report to Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which will then direct the seminaries to make adjustments.   This happens in all seminaries.  It is routine.

Therefore, freakest thou thyself not out.  This is nothing to worry about… so long at the FSSP hasn’t gone to pieces, that is.  Unlikely.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Indeed, the Bishop of Chur is the one who has granted an Imprimatur to all the books published by the FSSP I recently received. They are well connected.

  2. Panterina says:

    “I was with X in Y yesterday and he told me…” April Fool’s?

  3. Sonshine135 says:

    This actually could be a very good thing. An Apostolic visitor could just as easily be impressed with the faith and fidelity of this wonderful organization. Pope Francis seems to be a person who is impressed by actions that bring people to the church. Surely, he must be beginning to recognize that the older form of the Mass helps to bring many more sheep under his large umbrella, even if he sees it as a fad or otherwise.

  4. kpoterack says:

    According to Rorate Caeli, Bishop Huonder is “very close to the FSSP” and they have a picture of him celebrating Mass at the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad. So, no worries there.

  5. tskrobola says:

    Of course it goes without saying that Bp. Bruskewicz is a very good friend of the FSSP. Sounds like this is routine and absolutely no worry.

  6. Hank Igitur says:

    FSSP also have a novitiate in Australia for the Asia Pacific region.

  7. Charles E Flynn says:

    It is as likely that the FSSP will find itself in serious trouble as it is that Vitsoe will commission Dieter Rams to design a garden gnome.

  8. The Cobbler says:

    This is good to know; some of us (such as myself) had only previously heard of apostolic visitations in the context of the Legion of Christ and the LCWR. Although, come to think of it, if the FSSP were against all odds to get in trouble with the visitation, the level of repercussions involved in both of those cases as far as I’m aware suggests relatively little for the FSSP to worry about. I mean, assuming no conspiracy theories, anyway.

  9. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Father, I was generally cheered by your post, as I think the FSSP are a Jolly Good Thing: the grain (or cellar) of salt we need. But then your note that Apostolic Visitations happen in all seminaries made me wonder why, if visitations are made and reforms suggested, things stay the way they are in so many seminaries….

  10. robtbrown says:

    I have known Dom Courau, the abbot of Triors, since 1972, when he was a deacon at Fontgombault, and it’s impossible to say too many good things about him. It was great to see him after many years last fall at Clear Creek.

    One of my best friends is a priest of Chur. Bp Huonder is a good man, but the Church in Switzerland is in a sorry state.

    BTW, it’s usually visitator rather than visitor.

  11. Phil_NL says:

    By the sound of it, it seems like the person who formed the commission for this visitation went out on a limb to find men for it who would be well-disposed towards the FSSP and would understand the playing field well. I’d read that as a positive signal, rather than a negative one.

    Furthermore, every institution of higher education worth its salt occasionally brings in a fresh eye to see what is well and what is not. In many cases it’s mandatory. If that is deemed prudent for lay institutions, it is certainly necessary for seminaries, who can go overboard in many more ways. My one complaint would be that there obviously wasn’t enough of this in the past to prevent the ‘silly season’.
    But once you have such a procedure, it wouldn’t do to exclude the FSSP from it.

  12. tzard says:

    Well, if you’re having an Apostolic visitor coming. why not serve him some Mystic Monk Coffee? Or perhaps some of that Trappist beer?

  13. jflare says:

    If retired Bishop Bruskewicz will be one of the visitors, I’d say they’re probably in pretty decent shape. He’s the one who brought their seminary to the Lincoln Diocese; in fact he’s the bishop that consecrated the chapel there. I suspect he and they know each other fairly well already. Sounds more like a, “Hey, did you get to plan X yet?” sort of thing. Hardly something to be worried about.

  14. Priam1184 says:

    So, just out of curiosity, do the Jesuits at Georgetown (or Gonzaga, or wherever else) ever receive an Apostolic Visitation? Just to see what’s up over there…

  15. kpoterack says:


    I can’t speak to universities and colleges, but there was a big American seminary visitation back in 2006. So, these really do happen – and not just to conservatives/traditionalists. The extent to which liberals/modernists simply obfuscate, lie, resist, etc. is another matter.

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  17. Incaelo says:

    Bishop Huonder has been catching a lot of flack in Switzerland for being properly Catholic, so that makes him a fine bishop in my book.

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