Yesterday, a blogger for the Rorate Caeli blog posted under the pseudonym of “New Catholic” the headline “SSPX Superior-General Fellay: “An agreement is possible without further wait”.” The post itself was merely a one sentence “confirmation” from an Italian Catholic website of an interview given by Bp. Bernard Fellay to a conservative French network.
As insufficient and arguably out-of-context as the attached “confirmation” is, the headline itself does not even present it honestly. According to this confirmation, Bp. Fellay states that an agreement is possible “without waiting for the situation in the Church to become completely satisfactory“, while the headline could appear to suggest that Bp. Fellay said that we do not have to wait at all for a possible prelature. This has led to various internet “rumor mills” now pouring forth more of their typical venom, that “Bp. Fellay is now rushing to an agreement at all costs.”
It is unfortunate that some of Rorate Caeli‘s posts covering the Society are often not complete or even honest. One infamous example, as many will remember, was the “exclusive information” spread, claiming that Bp. Fellay’s two assistants had attended a private (new) mass offered by Pope Francis. The SSPX refuted the calumny (http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/about-meeting-pope-francis-and-bishop-fellay-4067), but neither the author of the post nor Rorate Caeli appeared to ever retract it. We do not in any way wish to criticize all of the very many good articles Rorate Caeli features, but to simply defend what is good and true.
Thank God, Maike Hickson of One Peter Five has just posted a largely thorough and fair article summarizing this interview. Hopefully, it may allay the concerns of those who had seen or heard of yesterday’s “buzz”. The more important parts of the interview are posted below, along with an excerpt from one of our previous posts, explaining the current situation with the Society and Rome. Our readers may see for themselves that Bp. Fellay’s recent statements do not contradict those previously made by Bps. Fellay and Tissier de Mallerais, detailing the conditions necessary for a future prelature. It is additionally refreshing to hear his words on other issues related to the Crisis, such as on the dubia and the errors of Vatican II.
“Speaking for some 18 minutes with Jean-Pierre Maugendre for his televised program “Terres de Mission,” Bishop Fellay tries to explain on 29 January two seemingly contradictory events raised by Mr. Maugendre: namely, that Pope Francis, in November of 2017 in his Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, granted to the SSPX the extension of the faculty to hear confessions; and secondly, Francis published the post-synodal document Amoris Laetitia which, in certain cases, appears to allow some “remarried” divorcees to receive Holy Communion. In reply, the Swiss prelate says that these two acts “stem from the same movement, namely the concern of the Holy Father for the rejected people […] for those at the peripheries,” adding: “we are rejected […] and marginalized, forgotten or set aside.”
When asked about the dubia of the Four Cardinals – the first high-ranking resistance since the “Bacci-Ottaviani intervention” in the late 1960s concerning the theology of the Novus Ordo Mass – Bishop Fellay says that “something is changing” and that “things are getting worse […] not on the level of principles, but that the [bad] principles are bearing fruit, are having consequences.” He does not think that we have yet reached the “ultimate consequences” of those defective principles, but he sees that the general situation is now “so bad that a certain number of bishops and cardinals in their own consciences saw that they had to say ‘that’s it’.” Fellay added that, “privately, they [these resisting prelates] are even more numerous [than the ones who have spoken up publicly].” However, in Fellay’s eyes, “it is too early to say whether this movement will grow.” The prelate explains that “one has to hope, and I dare to hope that it will continue in this sense because we are not at all doing well”; and that, “once people begin to speak out, one will be able to reflect more seriously about the [deeper] causes of the situation” concerning the current and long germinating crisis within the Church.
Mr. Maugendre, the interviewer, then also refers to the recent intervention from Bishop Athanasius Schneider who asks the SSPX to accept now the proposal from Rome for a regularization, even though things might “not be 100% satisfactory” in the Church. The French interviewer then asks Bishop Fellay whether he expects “to sign a proposal soon,” and Fellay responds with the important (though somewhat unspecific) statement that “there is one condition sine qua non, namely, that we can stay as we are.” [my emphasis] Without this assurance, says Fellay, “we will not do anything.” For, the SSPX still has some “grave criticisms” concerning what has happened “in the Church since Vatican II”; as representative topics, for example, the Swiss bishop mentions the practical “integration of Communism”; “Religious Liberty”; the “relationship between Church and State”; and the question of toleration of other religions, one of which is today is to be seen, more and more, in the context and presence of “terror.” It now seems to Fellay that “we go in the right direction” and that, by way of alleviation of the pressure, “Rome has lifted a foot for two years now.” This apparently new attitude of Rome implies that some disputed questions concerning the Second Vatican Council are not strictly related to the binding “criteria of Catholicity.” Fellay explains: “That means that one has the right not to be in agreement [with some aspects of the Second Vatican Council] but still be considered to be Catholic.”
From previous Damsel of the Faith post:
Now, to briefly review, where does the situation with the SSPX and Rome currently stand? Bp. Tissier de Mallerais, who was arguably the priest in the Society closest to Abp. Lefebvre, explains: http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/bishop-tissier-interview-la-porte-latine-14983
Now, 25 years after the death of Archbishop Lefebvre, where is the future of the Society?
Things are becoming clearer. During our pilgrimage to Rome in the year 2000, we were charmed by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who urged John Paul II to recognize the Society unilaterally. Then Benedict XVI granted us two “preliminary requirements“: the recognition of the freedom of the traditional Mass and the lifting (more or less fortunate, for us and for him) of the 1988 excommunications. In 2010-2011, we had planned doctrinal discussions: in total disagreement! Our Superior General Bishop Fellay pursued the negotiations and caused some worry, until it became clear, in May and June 2012, that Benedict XVI still required as a condition, as he had said plainly at the start, that we accept the Council and the legitimacy of the reforms. It was a failure. But now there is very clearly a disposition on Pope Francis’ side to recognize us without these conditions. We say “Prudence! ” For things are moving and progress is still needed.
Archbishop Lefebvre never laid down as a condition for us to be recognized by Rome that Rome abandon the errors and the conciliar reforms. Even if he did say something like that to Andre Cagnon in 1990, he would never have done so, because that was never his line of conduct, his strategy with modernist Rome. He was strong in the Faith, he did not yield on his doctrinal position, but he knew how to be flexible, patient, and prudent in practice. To achieve his ends, his prudence told him to push the adversary, to harass him, make him step back, persuade him, but without blocking him with conditions that he still finds unacceptable. He did not refuse dialogue and was disposed to take advantage of every door opened by his interlocutor. It is in this sense that a certain opportunism, a certain “pragmatism” has been seen in him, and it is true: it is a small virtue annexed to the cardinal virtue of prudence. Sagacity, practical wisdom, is the neighbor of solertia, mentioned by Aristotle, St. Thomas (2-2, q. 48) and the Gaffiot, which is a skill in finding means to obtain one’s ends. Archbishop Lefebvre requested with acumen “that we at least be tolerated”: “this would be a major advance,” he said. And “that we be recognized as we are,” that is, with our practice that follows from our doctrinal positions. Well, today we see in Rome a disposition to bear our existence and our theoretical and practical positions. I say “bear” because one tolerates evil!
Already, doctrinally, they no longer force us to admit “the whole Council” or religious liberty; some of the errors we denounce are on the point of being considered by our interlocutors as open for free discussion, or continued debate. This is progress. We discuss, but they have to admit that we are not changing and it is unlikely that we will change. And in practice, we ask these Romans: “Recognize our right to reconfirm the faithful conditionally,” and “Recognize the validity of our marriages!” You see, these are serious bones of contention. They will have to grant us these things. Otherwise, how could our recognition be livable?
It may take some time, but there is a God!
And an all-powerful Mediatrix!”
The last paragraph is especially important and it seems that many Traditional Catholics may not be aware of this part of the Society’s position. Rome must recognize that the Society will continue just as it has always been. Rome must specifically acknowledge the Society’s right to reject not only the errors of Vatican II and the New mass, but everything that they have often found contention with such as accepting the Society’s right to perform marriages, conditionally re-confirm, baptize, and ordain (when necessary), for the faithful to receive their sacraments at SSPX chapels exclusively from SSPX priests and bishops, etc.
Bp. Fellay elaborates on this position in his recent conference in New Zealand here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oKWpVGirL0 (at approximately 6:30). Virtually the entire Society is unified on this position. It is clear that this position might be quite a “pipe dream” at the moment, but we shall see! The Society wishes to have as many protections as possible; it recognizes the gravity of the situation. None of our positions will be compromised! We are Catholic and will remain Catholic!
~ Steven C., “The Knight of Tradition”