Bishop Fellay Responds to The Latin Mass Interview with Ecclesia Dei Head Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos:|
"We are firm, but not unreachable."
Last May, the "Latin Mass" Magazine published an interview of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The integral text of this interview is available at Interview with Cardinal Hoyos. His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, was kind enough to answer the questions of DICI regarding the proposals made by the Cardinal in favor of Tradition in his interview.
This interview was given on On July 19 to DICI News of the Society of St. Pius X.
DICI: In this interview for the Latin Mass magazine, Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos does more than just stretch out a hand to the faithful attached to Tradition, he affirms that the Holy Father holds his arms open. Aren’t you touched by such a generous offer?
Bishop Fellay: I am very much touched by this gesture and do not doubt the generosity behind it. But I have to remark, at the same time, that the cardinal minimizes as much as he can the real difficulties which exist on both sides. On the side of the local bishops, he only wants to see "confusion" and "hesitations" to acknowledge the "right of citizenship" of the Tridentine Mass, whereas there is a real opposition to the traditional doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice. To be convinced of this, you merely have to look at the very reserved reactions of the bishops to the recent disciplinary document Redemptionis sacramentum. Apparently, nobody is interested in this call to order! There are neither abuses, nor liturgical scandals! And as for the faithful of Tradition, Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos only acknowledges that they have a specific "sensibility" and a "perception" all their own, whereas it is really a question of fidelity to the doctrine of the Church of all times. All these euphemisms indicate the diplomacy of the cardinal, but they do not succeed in hiding his embarrassment: how can he solve the painful situation of the Society of Saint Pius X without raising the doctrinal issues? Honestly, if it were only a matter of dissipating the "confusion" of the bishops and of acknowledging the legitimacy of the traditionalist "sensibility", I believe that the crisis would have been solved long ago. But what is at stake goes far beyond the realm of confusion and sensibility.
DICI: Aren’t you afraid of appearing mired in an attitude which is constantly critical and negative?
Bishop Fellay: On the contrary, ever since the beginning of our conversations with Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, we have been making positive proposals. But we must be sure, first of all, that the pillars holding up the bridge between Rome and us are sturdy. These pillars are doctrinal. We cannot be silent on this reality without the risk that – sooner or later – all our efforts for a solution will fail. The solution of the cardinal is to propose a practical agreement, minimizing fundamental differences as much as possible. Is it possible? Can cordial words stave off the hard blows of the crisis which shakes the Church? I do not think so.
DICI: So for you, it is doctrine, integral doctrine, or nothing? Doesn’t this position of "all or nothing" lack realism?
Bishop Fellay: We are firm but not unreachable. Doubtless doctrine is fundamental, but we do think there are some preliminary stages to go through. That is the reason why, from the very beginning, we proposed two preliminary conditions to the Roman authorities. These conditions would make it possible to create an atmosphere of confidence which would be favorable to solving the problem of Ecône. These conditions are: the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication against the bishops of the Society and the acknowledgment of the right for every priest to celebrate the traditional Mass.
DICI: How do you see this withdrawal of the excommunication?
Bishop Fellay: What has been done for the Orthodox could be done a fortiori for us. Rome lifted the excommunication against them without their changing anything in their attitude towards the Holy See. Could they not adopt the same measure toward us who have never been separated from Rome and have always acknowledge the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, as defined by Vatican Council I? Indeed, the four bishops consecrated in 1988 took the oath of fidelity to the Holy See, and ever since they have always professed their attachment to the Holy See and the Sovereign Pontiff. They took all kinds of dispositions in order to show that they had no intention of creating a parallel hierarchy. I recalled this again in my press conference in Rome on February 2nd. This withdrawal of the decree of excommunication would create a new atmosphere, indispensable for going any further. Among other things, it would enable the persecuted priests and faithful to see that their attachment to Tradition is no fault, but that it was motivated by all these grievous liturgical scandals which Redemptionis sacramentum very rightly points out without, however, considering their cause, which is undoubtedly the liturgical reform itself.
DICI: And you ask for this withdrawal unilaterally, without obliging yourself to grant anything in return?
Bishop Fellay: If the decree of excommunication were withdrawn, the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X could go to Rome, just like the diocesan bishops for their ad limina visit. They would give an account of their apostolic work, and the Holy See could observe the development of the "experience of Tradition" which Archbishop Lefebvre always desired to make for the good of the Church and of souls. There would be no need of any further commitment. It would simply be a matter of giving an account, on the part of the Society, and of taking stock, on the part of Rome, of the development of the experience of Tradition.
DICI: Do you not feel that you have been heard at least as far as your second preliminary request is concerned, i.e. the acknowledgment of "the right of citizenship" of the Tridentine Mass?
Bishop Fellay: I cannot help but approve the praiseworthy effort of Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos to rehabilitate the Mass, but there also, I can only see a certain embarrassment: a right of citizenship conceded by the Holy Father, is it a right or a concession? The difference is not slight. We do not want to be granted a specific status which would be the hallmark of some liturgical "specificity". We are asking for a right which has never been lost: the freedom of the Mass for everybody. Because what we are attached to is the common patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church.
DICI: Even if you are not opposed to a dialogue with Rome, you nevertheless give the impression of practicing a "wait and see" policy. Do you not think it is time to get out of this marginalized position and commit yourself now, as they invite you to, in order to be more fruitful in the very serious situation in which the Church finds itself?
Bishop Fellay: The position of the Society is not wait and see, but rather ora et labora, pray and work! Our priests are working for the restoration of the reign of Our Lord daily, with the families, the schools, etc. These 450 priests are more than committed, they are overworked. Everywhere in the world, people are asking for them. We would need three times as many! What would really marginalize us would be a concession closing off Tradition in a kind of Indian reservation or enclave within the Church. In truth, it is our concern for fruitfulness at the service of the Church and of souls which obliges us to request a true liberty for Tradition. The present state of the Church and the world is too serious for us to convince Rome that with a mere traditional "sensibility" (one that is strictly monitored) we could truly fight against the "silent apostasy" denounced by John-Paul II in Ecclesia in Europa. It would be altogether dishonest. But the Roman authorities, if they want to, can give back to Tradition its "right of citizenship" everywhere and for everyone.
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Editor's Note: To keep readers up on the Society's activities, we also bring you the most recent letter to Benefactors by His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay.
How happy we are to tell you from time to time about the joys of our apostolate! Each day that passes we are privileged to witness miracles of grace. Let us remember to thank Almighty God, and let us be full of gratitude for the graces afforded us by the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We dare say that the life of the SSPX is indeed a permanent miracle. It expresses the intervention of God in our small history, the intervention of Our Lady, of the holy angels, of this whole world that surrounds us, that wishes us well. Our heavenly friends, whom we see not and on whom, unhappily, we think so little, are so close, so ready to help us, so effective! They are indeed real, they are part of our lives and their sometimes tangible assistance compels us to accept the marvelous reality of the communion of saints. When we compare our own powers with the results of our efforts, we are indeed obliged to recognize that these results do not come from us.
A great many new buildings and chapels throughout the world, in the Philippines, in India, North and South America, Western and Eastern Europe are also signs of an impressive vitality of grace. Experience has taught us that even the opposition of the clergy, generally strongest in areas where we have become established fairly recently, serves the good cause. “Everything comes together for the good of those who serve God.”
We would also like to share some pains and concerns with you.
First of all, in the Ukraine. These last months the priests whom we support in the Fraternity of St. Josaphat have been subjected to the furious attacks of their bishop, Cardinal Husar. The cardinal took to the airwaves to make a grand declaration of excommunication against Father Wasil and his companions, on the grounds that he has associated himself with a schismatic movement…
This is the gravest censure in the canon law of the Eastern Church. It was issued without due process. Once Father Wasil appealed to Rome the cardinal undertook to observe the legal formalities. The whole process was designed to fill the juridical void in order to justify a ready-made sentence. Nihil novi sub sole [there is nothing new under the sun].
The ecclesiastical authorities are also trying to take back the churches, including those built by Father Wasil. This is undoubtedly a harsh blow for them, and your prayers are asked to support them in this new struggle. Up to now they have had to defend their faith against a terrible enemy, atheistic communism, but now it is their own pastors who are attacking them. Up to now, the priests have resisted bravely with the support of the faithful. But each attack unsettles souls; some turn away in disgust and give up. A familiar pattern.
And from the side of Rome?
Let us begin with Fatima. Last year the construction of a new building for the use of different religions was announced.
Even if the official publication of the shrine keeps silent about the nature of the project, public actions go even further. On May 5, a group of Hindus invaded the place of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, naturally with all the official authorizations. They made this sacred place, so dear to Catholics, the forum for their idolatry. “It is a unique event, without precedent in the history of the shrine. The Hindu priest, or Sha Tri, recited at the altar the Shaniti Pa, the prayer for peace. The Hindus can be seen removing their sandals before approaching the balustrade of the sanctuary, while the priest pronounces the prayers at the altar in the sanctuary. The bishop and the rector of the shrine were themselves decked out in Hindu prayer shawls... a fine affair.” What a provocation against Christianity!
Now, are we to speak of reaching an accord?
So long as the Roman authorities tolerate such abominations or, worse still, support them, they are distancing themselves from any accord with Tradition. We shall never give way to such affronts perpetrated against Our Lady of Heaven, the Mother of God. One sometimes wonders whether not only the faith has been lost, but common sense as well. Deus non irridetur (God is not mocked).
Such actions demand reparation. We are seriously thinking of inviting you to an act of solemn protest at Fatima next year.
As concerns Rome more directly, Rome demands that we accept their proposition of a “personal jurisdiction.” The problem lies not in the juridical formulation, which seems acceptable to us in principle, although we do not know the concrete elements and implications of such a “juridical formula.” The problem remains as always on the level of doctrine, of the Christian spirit that does or does not inform (and that is the whole question) ambiguous texts and reforms that have been disastrous for the supernatural welfare of the faithful. We do indeed perceive more and more sympathy from certain bishops, also in Rome. It seems to us that we are moving forward, that Tradition is making progress in the Catholic world. But that is not yet sufficient. We recently made an official request that the decree of excommunication be withdrawn as a first concrete step on the part of Rome. That would change the climate and we could better see how things develop. One thing is certain: we do not want the situation in which the Fraternity of St. Peter and the majority of the Ecclesia Dei groups have been placed. They are constrained, and it is barely permitted them to say the Tridentine Mass. Most of the time they find themselves in truly odious situations. Cardinal Castrillon is perfectly right to claim for traditionalists a status better than that of second-class citizen.1 But is it not up to Rome first of all to change this state of affairs?
These are all so many intentions for prayer, dear benefactors. Be assured of our profound gratitude for all your sacrifices, so precious, so pleasing to God, and which help us greatly in our apostolate. May God reward you, may the Sacred Heart bless you, and may his most Holy Mother protect you and your families.
18 June 2004,
Feast of the Sacred Heart
+ Bernard Fellay
For past feature articles , see Exspectans exspectavimus Ecclesia Dei ARCHIVES