September 1 to 30, 2005
Summer Hiatus Issue
vol 16, no. 244

What are the prospects for the Church with the advent of a new pope?

There is much work to do before there can be a reconciliation between Tradition and the conciliarists and it is the latter who must budge, not the former. Yet just as Christ submitted Himself for the glorification of God and the redemption of man, so also this is the time of passion for Holy Mother Church.

by Bishop Bernard Fellay
      "In a cancer, if you have a tumor which is well confined, you can try to have it removed. But if you have a general cancer, if the illness is everywhere, they you do not even try to remove anything. Because they no longer know what they should leave and what they should remove. Doctors are powerless. That is the state of the Church. It is a cancer so widespread that we can no longer take up the surgeon’s knife to remove the tumors. In the past, you had a heretical priest here, a heretical bishop there, they were removed and that was the end of it. Now the evil is so widespread that even Rome no longer dares to take up the knife. Do not ask me how this is possible. This is part of the mystery of the Church. We can see here an association between the Mystical Body and the sufferings of Our Lord on the Cross. We can see plainly that the Church is going through the same state as Our Lord, an unheard-of Passion. Can this go on until death, as for Our Lord? Will there be an apparent death, like the disappearance of the Church? I wonder if the released part of the 3rd secret of Fatima does not deal with this Passion. At the end it speaks of a massacre: a procession which follows the pope, with bishops, religious and faithful from all walks of life, and they are all killed. This vision ends with angels offering this blood to God, and this blood will return as graces on those who are left. It looks as if like there is an apparent disappearance of the Church. This interpretation is not exactly that given by Rome, but I am doing nothing more than describing purely and simply, the vision. Our duty to bear witness We are living in a truly unprecedented situation. Nevertheless, you can see for yourselves that with courage, efforts, tears and toil, we can still manage to live as Christians today. We manage to do this because the grace of God is still working."

    Editor's Note: The following is a conference given by the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X Bishop Bernard Fellay on the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua in Brusells, Belgium and posted by DICI and Christendom. It is interesting what His Excellency says and in retrospect to his mere 35 minute meeting with Benedict XVI on August 29, one would have to ask what was discussed because the following contains fascinating insight as to Ratzinger himself, not to mention an insider's confidential on the exact strategy and numbers of the most recent conclave.

Dear faithful,

    It is, of course, perfectly normal that with the advent of a new pope you will be asking yourselves: “What is going to happen now?” And this question, filled with hope, is based first and foremost on the promise of Our Lord: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church”. This we all know and believe. But it remains to be seen how we apply this in reality.

    I’m sure you do not need me to tell you that things are not going well in the Church, that it is indeed a tragedy, a monumental catastrophe. I would even go further than that: I am sure that theologians from the beginning of the 20th century would have considered us heretics if they had heard what we are saying, which is not a personal opinion, but merely a description of the current situation. I mean that in the past, theologians would have considered what is actually happening today to be impossible, inconceivable. Remember the words of St. Pius X in his first encyclical, describing the situation in his own time, he said that “we may reasonably wonder whether the Son of perdition may not have already arrived.” What would he say today?

    On the one hand, we perceive this terrible crisis in the Church, and on the other, we believe in the promise of Our Lord. We know that the Good Lord is stronger.

    So let us try to think things over: how could this happen? How could Our Lord put things right?

    There is a very simple answer: a new pope. A good pope; and then everything will be alright again! Hence our intimate and even unconscious hope: here he is, this is the man! There is a new pope, so he is the one to do it! He is the one who must set things right, since things are going wrong, because Our Lord promised that things could not go too far and that someone had to get everything under control again. So, he is the man! Besides, there are many signs which support this point of view. For instance, on Good Friday, just before the death of John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, during the Stations of the Cross, gave a very realistic description of the Church. He said that the ship was sinking. Something which is of course dramatic, in view of the promise of Our Lord that the ship will not sink – and we hear the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith telling us that the ship is sinking! He has said other things too, along the same lines. He has also criticized the new Mass several times in recent years. He has even written a book on the subject. All this seems to be pointing in the right direction.

The conservatives’ candidate at the conclave

    We can also confirm, and this is not a mere supposition, that Benedict XVI was elected in opposition to progressivism. We have information on the way the conclave went . As you know, all the cardinals take an oath of secrecy on all that happens during the conclave. So do not ask me how we know, but we do know that there were some fifty cardinals who gave their vote to Cardinal Ratzinger, that Cardinal Martini had about twenty, that Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires also had around twenty. Cardinal Sodano got four all through the conclave. Of course, Cardinal Martini is not a conservative. Obviously, during the first ballot he was the leader of the progressives.

    With him there was a group of at least three cardinals who spearheaded progressivism during the conclave: there was the Cardinal of Scotland, Cardinal McCormack and Cardinal Danneels. On the other side, there was a group of four or five cardinals. It seems that Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, a Colombian, worked the hardest for the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, together with Cardinal Castrillon, also a Colombian, and the Spanish Cardinal Herranz. It is also said that Cardinal Medina worked in favor of this election.

    Very soon, seeing how few votes he had, Cardinal Martini realized that he could not manage alone, and he asked his voters to cast their ballots in favor of the cardinal of Buenos Aires, and thus at the second ballot, Cardinal Ratzinger had just over fifty votes, and a certain number of votes went to Cardinal Bergoglio. These two names came first.At that point, Cardinal Bergoglio got scared – perhaps that is too strong a word. He realized that he might be elected and that he was not ready for such a responsibility. So he withdrew. Consequently, for the third ballot, since there was only one candidate, by a very narrow margin, they say three votes, Cardinal Ratzinger was almost elected. That very evening, there was a fourth ballot, and this time he was elected with more than one hundred votes. It was a disaster for the progressivists, who were truly broken. All this gives us hope. Things are going in the right direction, as the progressivists were defeated. And if we look at the cardinals, certainly Cardinal Ratzinger is one of the best among them.

    So then, all is well? It is not easy to speculate about the future! God alone knows the future. For us, a look into the future is always something very delicate. We may try to envisage what is probable, while at the same time knowing that when we speak about men, we are dealing with free will, and contingencies. And if I tell you: “It’s going to happen this way”, at the same time, I am obliged to admit the possibility that it will not happen like that at all. There is a certain probability, we cannot say any more than that.

    What is this probability founded on, this look into the future of this pontificate? It is based on our knowledge of the past! We know Cardinal Ratzinger quite well and we think that between Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI there is not much difference in personality or character. So, our opinion of Benedict XVI is much the same as our opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger. It is true that he has graces of state, it is true that he has the benefit of special assistance from the Holy Ghost, as the Vicar of Christ, the head of the Church, nevertheless his manner of reacting to problems, his way of tackling them, at least on the human level, will be much the same as when he was cardinal. A non-Thomistic formation So, what do we see in the man who is now Benedict XVI? What do we know of his formation? Let us begin with the theologian. He is a university professor, and in his biography, he himself tells us that he is not a Thomist. That he does not even like Saint Thomas, at least in the way he was taught at the seminary. We must then conclude that he is not a philosopher, nor a theologian endowed with this intellectual frame of mind which Thomism provides.

    If we recall that Leo XIII used to say that each article of the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas was a miracle, and that he declared that one single year in contact with St. Thomas bore more fruit than several years studying the Fathers of the Church… If we recall that Saint Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi took away the title of Doctor, in the Church, from all those who did not have a scholastic philosophical formation… can you imagine?: all the doctors of theology, of canon law who did not study scholastic philosophy had their title of doctor taken away, in the encyclical Pascendi! Imagine this today, there would not be very many doctors left in the Church! So professor Ratzinger is not a Thomist. We will see later, in his writings and even in his way of acting, that there is something Hegelian, very definitely Hegelian: an evolutionist element, a new way of looking at the truth.

    Classical perennial theology and philosophy see in the truth something which is absolutely above time. Indeed, truth is related to being, and being is beyond time. What is is, period. God described Himself thus: “I am Who am”, in immediate reference to being; and we know that God is immutable. So there is something immutable, unchanged in all that pertains to the essence of things. The first man, Adam, was as much a man as we are. And, what was good or bad at the time of Adam remains good or bad today. What in his day was virtue, is today a virtue. What in his day was a sin, a failing, remains today a sin, a failing. The snow was white as it is today, on a fine day the sky was blue just as it is today. As soon as we look at the essence of things, we are outside of time. The outlook of the professor, the theologian, of Cardinal Ratzinger, is a new outlook. It is a new way of looking which admits a movement, an evolution of the truth. I will give a few example to illustrate this point. During the meeting in 1987 between Archbishop Lefebvre and Cardinal Ratzinger, our founder insisted on the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He was insistent and showed this struggle over what has been known since the council, as religious liberty.

Archbishop Lefebvre: This is contrary to Quanta Cura of Pius IX.

Cardinal Ratzinger: But, Your Grace, we are no longer at the time of Quanta Cura.

Archbishop Lefebvre: Then, I will wait till tomorrow, because tomorrow we will no longer be at the time of Vatican II! As an aside, a cardinal told me one day that Gaudium et Spes was outdated…

    Let me give you another example illustrating this idea of an evolving truth. It is to be found in the explanation given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time when they were trying to justify Rosmini. You may know that Pope John Paul II wanted to beatify Rosmini, or at least to pave the way for his beatification. Paul VI had already established a commission to study his beatification process. The problem with Rosmini was that he had been condemned by the Church. So, you had a first commission, under Paul VI, which said: No, it is not possible, he has been condemned! But John Paul II, who wanted to see this process of beatification begin, set up another commission… which came to the same conclusion as the first. So, it was prevented from making a final judgment; it remained buried in a file. So they went about it in a roundabout way. They got a decree from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which attempted to explain something rather difficult to accept. Thus they tell us that the condemnation of Rosmini, considered from the Thomistic viewpoint in force at that time, was absolutely valid. But today, things stand otherwise, that if we look at Rosmini’s thesis with the eyes of Rosmini, his doctrine is acceptable. This is a totally subjective approach to the truth. Rosmini spoke, his work was understood. The Church understood it and said that what was understandable was worthy of condemnation. But a little later, they come and tell us that it should not have been understood that way, that you had to enter into Rosmini’s mind to understand his vision of things. So, that was the end as far as the truth was concerned! Please note, it is the end of objective truth; and this is something very, very serious. This shows you who Cardinal Ratzinger is, at least as far as his theological formation is concerned. I say it is Hegelian because of yet another aspect. Together with the evolutionist element, you have the famous trilogy thesis-antithesis-synthesis. This is very striking when we consider, now, no longer speculative truths – these truths which you may reflect on, but which do not have a direct practical application – but a practical application according to Cardinal Ratzinger. This dynamic perspective thesis-antithesis-synthesis seeks to explain historical events by a conflictual meeting which ends up in a new state, presumably better than the preceding one, but which is the fruit of this meeting, of this conflict between the thesis and the antithesis. Here is a very concrete application made by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    The first time Cardinal Ratzinger visited the seminary of the Society of St. Peter in Wigratzbad, he said to them: “You must keep the old Mass as a counterweight to the new Mass”. You see the antithesis. We must keep some kind of balance. At the moment, we are going towards the left, so we must put some more weight on the right. We need a counterweight. “And later,” he said, “we will make a new New Mass.” So when this counterweight has neutralized the progressive tendency, as one more or less neutralizes the other, then we will make a new New Mass. Several times Cardinal Ratzinger abandoned himself to this practical application in a dialectic, Hegelian perspective. “Peritus” at Vatican II on the side of the progressivist Our first impression of professor Ratzinger is strengthened by observing his attitude and his relationships during the council and in the post-conciliar period. He comes to the council as “peritus”, i.e. as theologian of the Cardinal of Munich. He is the youngest “peritus”. His young colleague, Father Medina, is today a cardinal. They were both born in 1927. They were the youngest participants at the council, not bishops, but “periti”, each helping one of the Council Fathers.

    His friends at the council were Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar. These are the big names of the Council. I do not mean that they achieved great things, but they caused great upheaval. They had a very great influence on the Council. During the Council, they used to say of Rahner: “Rahner locutus est, causa finita est”, he has spoken, the matter is settled. However, shortly after the council, Ratzinger, who was not yet a cardinal, would distance himself from Rahner and draw closer to Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. With them, he founded the Communio movement, which was an association of theologians, with a publication also called Communio. It was still progressive, but it did not go as far as Rahner. Besides, as years went by the progressivism of the Council has come to be regarded as conservatism today, while these theologians have not changed one iota. Urs von Balthasar, a year before his death, in 1987, received the Paul VI prize. On this occasion, he declared: “If hell exists, nobody is in it, for the only thing there is in hell is sin, not sinners”. He just missed getting the cardinal’s hat – he died before he could receive it… But, his friend Henri de Lubac was made a cardinal. De Lubac is famous for having been condemned in 1950 for his book The Supernatural, in which he explicitly denies the supernatural. He established a relationship between nature and grace in such a way that nature has a right to grace. So it is no longer something gratuitous. He has supposedly corrected his thesis somewhat, but this is really open to discussion.

    This theological line of thinking was followed by the man who would soon become Cardinal Ratzinger. Moreover, in 1985, when he lamented the state of things in the Church, he did not ascribe it to the Council. According to him, an erroneous interpretation of the Council brought forth these bad fruits, not the spirit of the Council itself.

From Munich to Rome

    There is a very interesting event which, I believe, did determine some change of attitude on the part of Cardinal Ratzinger, I refer to his appointment to the bishopric of Munich. Up to that day, he had been a professor, and at that moment he entered, if we may say so, the field of concrete realities. Now he had to govern a diocese. And in the face of this reality, abstract ideas take on another dimension. Suddenly you realize that some theories which you could hold in the abstract, do not work when you try to apply them in reality. In particular, on matters of obedience and the exercise of authority in the Church, it is clear that if those intellectuals attempted to apply their theories, they would not be obeyed. It is worth noting that even the progressives, when they have to govern, like to be obeyed. Then they do not like to be contradicted. This makes them come back to rather traditional methods, at least as far as their governing is concerned. In Munich, Ratzinger was even obliged to forbid one of his friends to hold a Chair in the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University. This would earn him the harsh opposition of some of his former friends. I think this was a good lesson for him. It was a first step back, a change of attitude up to a certain point… which would gain him a certain reputation of being a conservative, a reputation which is correct in some aspects.

    When he arrived in Rome, in 1982, he had this different attitude, which in fact was a mixture, difficult to describe and even more difficult to imagine. On the one hand, you could see a man who had the faith. As a believer, he described the faith of his parents when he was a child: how beautiful that faith was! You could see that he still had it, that he loved the Catholic faith. That was for the believer, but when you looked at the theologian, that was something else. He very much liked certain modern ideas. Thus he explained in his biography that when he presented his second thesis for his doctorate, it was refused because of its modernism. He realized that his thesis had two parts, one was crossed out in red ink all the way through, whereas the other part which was more historical, more or less held together. He presented this second part once again. It was thus that he obtained his second doctorate in theology.

    The next year, in 1983, he was to adopt several positions in opposition to the general trend. While he was head of the Doctrine of the Faith, he gave two conferences in France, in which he reminded the French bishops and faithful that the basis of the catechism, of any catechism, must be the Roman Catechism, i.e. the Catechism of the Council of Trent. And this reminder given twice would earn him the anger of the French bishops, and not only their anger but also a counter-attack. In the Documentation Catholique a retraction by the cardinal was published… which he is said never to have written. It was also said that at that point he gave his resignation to the pope. This was his first setback. What he Karl Rahner said was very true, but it was not accepted.

    Another fact: Assisi. We know that Cardinal Ratzinger did not agree with it. He did not go to the first interreligious meeting in 1986. He was still against it the second time in 2002, but he was forced to go. It is said that at the time of the first Assisi meeting he wrote a letter of resignation again. Personally, I have heard it said four times that Cardinal Ratzinger had given his resignation. When Cardinal Medina visited Le Barroux recently, he said that he had given it twice. There must be some truth in this. He gave his resignation as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith several times because of a disagreement with the pope, in particular over Assisi. He also reprimanded and condemned some theologians, not very many of them, but at least a few. Something which never happened under Paul VI. This is all to his credit.

    So, I have given you, in piecemeal form, some aspects of his personality, trying to follow a chronological order, so as to better define his personality and try to see how he will react in the office he holds today.

    A correct diagnosis, but no efficient remedies In 1989, there was the famous Carter of Cologne by five hundred theologians, mainly Germanspeaking. They signed a statement of protest against the Roman Magisterium, because, according to them, this Magisterium was impeding the liberty of theologians. It was a first wave, followed by others. The French also manifested their opposition. It is important to realize the impact of this Charter of Cologne which set in motion all this controversy: five hundreds theologians, that is to say five hundred professors of universities, theological faculties, seminaries, in other words the great majority of the Catholic intelligentsia of the time, who protested against Rome and against the Magisterium. In reply, Cardinal Ratzinger published a short study on this modernist theology.

    Here, we must be honest and acknowledge that Cardinal Ratzinger has remarkable finesse when it comes to analysis. He pays attention to every nuance to describe as objectively as possible the situation he is analyzing, and, generally speaking, we can only agree with what he states.

    He noted three aspects of this modern theology. The first characteristic was the disappearance of the idea of creation, replaced by evolution. The problem with this, is that if this world was not created, there is no longer a Creator. Consequently, we will soon no longer have God.

    Secondly, when they speak about Our Lord Jesus Christ, they no longer speak about the Son of God, since in the first point it was concluded that he did not exist. Then what is left for Our Lord? He is a superman, a revolutionary who came to a bad end since he died on a cross.

    Lastly, the disappearance of eschatology, i.e. the four last things, what happens after death: Heaven, Purgatory, and hell. Very interestingly, the cardinal shows that for this theology, hell no longer exists, purgatory does not get a mention, but there is no Heaven either. If there is no God, no personal God, why should they invent heaven? Heaven will be tomorrow here below. It will be a future. So after such a description you expect some conclusions. If I were to ask you: “Then what do we do with this new theology?” I think you would soon come up with radical solutions like: the trashcan, the vacuum-cleaner, the stake, excommunication… Let us not talk about it any more, we throw it all out and that’s the end of it. Well, the cardinal head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asks himself the question as to what ought to be done and he gives us the following answer: We should try to understand these theologians! Such a conclusion is something of a damp squib. You were expecting an explosion, and then … nothing! We will find the key to this enigma in something he said this year, before he became pope, to a friend who is a priest: “You are a fighter, I am a thinker.” This says a lot, I even think it is an outstanding feature of his personality.

    In his recent book on the liturgy, he again gives very convincing arguments against the altar facing the people. When you read that, you can only be satisfied. His arguments are so good. This poor altar facing the people, well there is not much left of it at the end of his reasoning. Then comes the question: what should we do about it. Cardinal Ratzinger asks himself the question. And once again he dodges it: no, we will not go back to the ancient altar. Why? Because it would be too expensive, it would be too much of an upheaval, and cause too much confusion. The solution: we will place a cross in the middle of the altar, and this will be the mystical East.

    It is frustrating, yet that is truly the answer he gives. And why? Of course, we could say that he was not pope when he wrote this book. But, fundamentally there is a problem, a real discrepancy between the analysis and going back to the root causes. You can see that the conclusion is out of all proportion, that it does not correspond with the description he gives of the situation. Is it because he has been hit too often, because he thinks he is not free, and cannot do as he would like? This is a very benign explanation. We will see if it is justified, now that he is at the head of the Church.

    Concerning the Mass, Cardinal Ratzinger has pleaded the cause for the old Mass. It is absolutely clear. He is indeed one of the few who has talked about it. Cardinal Stickler did it but more punctually. But there are not many others who have devoted a book to the subject. I think that, in the official Church, among the cardinals, if there is anyone who spoke out against the new Mass, giving arguments in favor of the old, it is Cardinal Ratzinger. But let us go a little further and see how far he will go to defend the traditional liturgy.

    Last year, in reply to one of our faithful who had written to him asking the freedom of the Mass for all, he wrote: We cannot give the freedom of the Mass, because the faithful are vaccinated against it. It would not be accepted. – That is why his solution would be to make a new Mass: a new new Mass based on the old. This is what he proposed last year as a cardinal. The new Mass as it is now, is no good, the old one is not acceptable either. So, we are going to “cobble together” a sort of mishmash of new-old, old-new.

Cardinal Ratzinger and the Society of Saint Pius X

    And now, in concrete terms, what can we say concerning Tradition, concerning us, the Society of Saint Pius X? I think Cardinal Ratzinger knows us best, he has followed us since the beginning. In 1982, he took up the dossier after Cardinal Seper and would have dealings – official as well as unofficial – with Archbishop Lefebvre, with the Society. He presided over the drafting of the 1988 agreement before the consecrations. But before that, there were two or three strange endeavors. Some seminarians had left us as a result of the undermining operations made by Rome. Thus, we were obliged to send away nine seminarians from Ecône. These nine seminarians went to Rome, and a seminary was founded for them, Mater Ecclesiæ, if I remember well, and it was supposedly traditional. They were promised the moon, but all this came to an abrupt end. One of those who had taken part in this sad saga, wrote to Archbishop Lefebvre, just before the consecrations, telling him how right he was.

    It was Cardinal Ratzinger who was practically the founder of the Society of Saint Peter. For those who do not know, it was founded by Rome in opposition to the Society of Saint Pius X. In the report by Cardinal Gagnon, or at least in his estimation, it was said at the time of the consecrations, that between 60 and 80% of the priests and faithful would leave Archbishop Lefebvre. Hence the hammer blow tactics against Archbishop Lefebvre, by that I mean the excommunication. And then, they opened wide the doors to all those who had not been smashed down, so that they would go over to the Society of Saint Peter. This Society was founded expressly against us, and it is still like that today. In the dioceses, the bishops see red when our Society arrives, and they try to neutralize us by inviting the Society of Saint Peter. Sometimes they say openly: “No, we won’t give you anything unless the Society of Saint Pius X becomes established here. Then, yes, we will open a Saint Peter chapel.”

    Two years ago, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos wanted to get rid of the secretary of Ecclesia Dei, Msgr. Perl. But Mgr. Perl found a defender and a protector who opposed his eviction from Ecclesia Dei. It was Cardinal Ratzinger. In these circumstances, what is Cardinal Ratzinger’s viewpoint on the Society? I think he feels frustrated that the agreements of 1988 did not succeed. And then, it is true that we did not hesitate to attack him on all sides. That is not something pleasant, and I can understand that he did not like it too much.

    Looking back at recent events, we can notice some strange bedfellows. Here are some facts. Last year, a group of conservative cardinals got together with the idea of doing something for Tradition. That is something new, but it is true that they know perfectly well that the Church is not doing well. Confronted with this disastrous situation, Rome turned her eyes towards the traditionalists in general, i.e., all those attached to the old Mass, and not only the Society of Saint Pius X. And so these cardinals gathered to see what could be done in favor of Tradition. Two trends appeared. According to one, the Society of Saint Pius X which is the backbone of Tradition should be supported – and we know which cardinal supported this argument. According to the other, on the contrary, Saint Peter’s/Ecclesia Dei should be strengthened, while eroding our Society, and here again we know which cardinals were supporting this argument.

    This year, two cardinals, one of them Cardinal Ratzinger, went to see Pope John Paul II. They went to the Holy Father to ask him to appoint as secretary of the Congregation for the Liturgy a bishop who is convinced that the Church will not come out of this crisis without a return to the old Mass, a bishop who says that the priest cannot find his identity in the new Mass. His position is known in Rome. It was this bishop who was proposed as secretary for the Congregation for the Liturgy. This was a point in Cardinal Ratzinger’s favor. But the bishop in question was not appointed, because the secretary of the pope had already promised the office to someone else. This is how things are done in the Church!

    Another example of these strange bedfellows. Cardinal Medina explained that he made efforts at the time of the publication of the 3rd typical edition of the New Mass to include as an appendix nothing less than the old Mass. – It is remarkable to see where Cardinal Medina stands at this moment in time, when we know that there was a time when he wanted to put a condemnation and interdiction of the old Mass in the typical edition. Then it was the Secretariat of State who forbade him to do so. Now he wanted to introduce the old Mass. And this time it would not be the Secretariat of State which would prevent him from doing so. It would be neither a secretariat nor a congregation. It would be a man, the pope’s Master of Ceremonies, who kicked up such a fuss with John Paul II, that they had to give it up. So you see how the history of the Church is made!

Benedict XVI and Vatican II

    And now, what about Benedict XVI? Clearly he was elected in reaction. During the few days before the conclave, he invited the cardinals to talk freely. For the first time, they talked among themselves of the serious problems of the Church. Between themselves they admitted firmly that things were not going well. And we may well believe that the vision of this tragedy of the Church impelled some cardinals to elect Benedict XVI. There is an expectation in the Church, even on the part of the hierarchy, in view of the disastrous state of the Church.

    Look at the number of vocations, it is not exactly brilliant! A diocese like Dublin can see a whole year without a single priestly vocation. We have sunk very low. Some years ago, in all the novitiates of Ireland there were 150 novices to replace 32,000 sisters. It is even more striking for the brothers. To replace 10,000 brothers, in all the novitiates of all the congregations of Ireland there were 5 novices. Last year, or the year before, for the whole order of the Jesuits there were only seven perpetual professions. This for an order which numbered 32,000 members 20 years ago. There must be about 25,000 today. No one can be in any doubt what these figures mean. Cardinal Castrillon was once talking about the state of the Roman universities. In reply to his interviewer he said: “The pontifical universities of Rome are filled with heretics”, and he added: “Yes, it is terrible. I hope the new head of the Congregation will be strong enough to restore order there.” And two years later, the head of the Congregation for the Clergy declared: “We just can’t do anything about it”. This is how they speak in the Roman curia about the pontifical universities: we just can’t do anything about it!

    It is certain that Cardinal Ratzinger, now pope Benedict XVI, realizes the pitiable state of the Church. He knows that the Church is in a terrible situation. And also, he knows the third secret of Fatima. Then what can we expect? It has to be said, there is a problem which casts a shadow over our hope. The problem is that Benedict XVI remains attached to the Council. It is his work, his brainchild. He acknowledges, of course, that there are some developments which are not acceptable – which means that there is, nevertheless, at least one which is acceptable. As for us, our position regarding the Council is very simple: it contains errors and ambiguities which pave the way for even worse errors. What inspired the text and what makes it unacceptable, was a non-Catholic spirit. Such is our position concerning the Council. Obviously, you can find in it certain elements which are true. But the whole is unassimilable. And that is why, considering the whole, we refuse to sign a declaration concerning the Council, which, in one way or another, might give the impression that we adhere to this Council.

    Let us take an image from domestic life. We are quarreling with Rome, they say: “it’s soup”, we say: “no it’s not”, “It is”, “It isn’t”. Finally Rome says to us: “You won’t have to drink that soup, but at least you must say it is soup.” And we answer: “We know quite well it is soup, but it has been poisoned.” So it must no longer be called soup, it must be called poison. And if we call it soup we deceive people because they are going to believe they can drink it. The question is not to know whether it is a soup or not, it is to know whether or not it is poison, whether it will do us good or kill us. That’s the real problem. Confronted with that problem it is useless to argue about whether it is soup or not. It is causing harm, so we do not want to drink it.

    Then Rome tries to find a “palatable” formula: “The Council in the light of Tradition”. But given the context in which this formula is used, it is not agreeable to us. For what does it mean: “I accept the council in the light of Tradition”? What does it mean when they accuse us of having a wrong idea of Tradition. In the very text of excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre, we read that he committed a fault in consecrating bishops, because he had an incomplete notion of Tradition. And they would propose that we sign a declaration saying that we accept the Council in the light of Tradition!

    Likewise, concerning the Mass, the formulæ that Rome proposes to us are correct, but only out of context. So, they now ask us to acknowledge that the New Mass is valid, if it is celebrated with the intention of performing the sacrifice of Our Lord. This is even more precise than what theology demands, which is to celebrate with the intention of doing what the Church wants. This phrase in itself is acceptable, but it is the same as with my image of the soup. The New Mass, even when valid, is poisoned. That is why we do not drink it. That is why we tell you: “Don’t attend it!”

    Why is there this lack of understanding between the Roman authorities and us? Because they do not manage to extricate themselves from the Council, from the Council and its reforms. We feel clearly that they are uncomfortable with us. They acknowledge that what we do is Catholic. Cardinal Castrillon told us so positively: “You are neither heretics nor schismatic”. So the problem is not on our side. Rome’s attitude towards us can be summed up like this: We let you continue, for what you do is good; but we would like you to say that what we do is also good. And we are well aware of a desire on their part, to make us feel guilty: You did wrong. You performed consecrations against the will of the pope. This should not have been done. You say that the Council is bad, that the New Mass is bad. This is not possible. It was recognized by the pope. It is infallible. As the same Cardinal Castrillon said during a conference in Munster: “The New Mass was recognized by the pope. It is infallible. It is good.” During a discussion, the head of the Congregation for the Clergy told me: “The pope and I like the New Mass. We think it is more apostolic. It is true that it lacks something, and it must be compensated for by an adequate catechesis.” Then I recalled the definition of evil given by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Evil is the privation of a due good. It is something which must be there which is lacking. Now, you yourself, Eminence, acknowledge that there is something missing from this New Mass. So you acknowledge that it is evil.” I received no answer from the cardinal.

    It should be said that men of the Church, and not the Church, have erred. Now the Roman authorities do not want to enter this kind of logic. And as they do not want to tackle the problem where it really is, they cannot take the measures needed to get out of this crisis. That’s the trouble! Reunification with the Orthodox If you look again at our new pope, you see that the beginnings of his pontificate do not leave much room for hope. In his sermon at the taking of possession of the Chair of St. Peter at the Lateran, he spoke of the bishop of Rome. The Lateran is the church of the bishop of Rome. He did speak of the potestas docendi. It was a long time since the power to teach had been mentioned . But when it came to the primacy, i.e. not only the power to teach, but also to rule, to govern, this primacy, for him, is reduced to a “primacy of love”. The interpretations which can be made of this expression are legion.

    Benedict XVI has an idea. He even announced that it would be one of the key-ideas of his pontificate. He will concentrate all his energy and all the energy of the Church on this idea. This idea is the reunification with the Orthodox. That is good. They are the closest to us. Thus the scope of ecumenism will be reduced appreciably. They will no longer talk too much about interreligious dialogue as in Assisi. Yes, but… the idea, which was already Cardinal Ratzinger’s, is that to bring about this reunification – since the Orthodox do not accept the primacy of Peter – we have to go back to the conception we had of the pope at the time when we were all in agreement. In other words, we should come back to the notion of the pope such as it was in the first millennium. It is an idea deeply rooted in Cardinal Ratzinger, which is now expressed by Benedict XVI.

    At Bari, on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress, he made it very clear that one of the goals of his pontificate was reunification with the Orthodox. If it were according to the Catholic idea, there would be nothing to say against it. But the problem is that the Roman authorities have a concept of unity that I wish I could understand. John Paul II said it would be “neither an absorption, nor a fusion”. What can be the unity without the absorption or fusion of two beings which are at present, separated? Cardinal Kasper is more explicit: “It will not be an agglomeration of Churches”, because that is a concept which is too political, too administrative. But we are still wondering what it might be. As with this expression “unity in diversity”; unity means one, diversity means several, is it then “the one in the many”? This formula is very fashionable in the New Age movement, and perhaps also in today’s Europe, but when all is said and done, it must be one or the other, not both. It cannot be both at the same time, or we must say that circles are square. In fact that is an image I often use to explain ecumenism today: Supposing that each religion or Christian denomination is a geometrical figure, how can we bring back to unity all these geometrical figures, while, of course, each one remains what it is, for that is diversity! Well! It’s not that difficult. Each geometrical figure only has to admit that it is a circle. Of course, this is tantamount to the suspension of the principle of non-contradiction. That is the problem. But if you manage to solve it, all well and good!. This is just what happens with ecumenism. They want to make us believe that squares are triangles or rhombuses, and that all these figures are circles. So, they tell us: “We all have the same faith.” This was affirmed by John Paul II: “All the Christians have the same faith.” We know very well that this is not true! Cardinal Kasper explains that, in order to have the same faith, it is not necessary to have the same creed. In plain English, you only need to know how to round off the corners!

The fundamental issue: the truth

    This false ecumenism enables us to put our finger on the gravity of the situation. It is not merely a question of liturgical rubrics – three swings more or less of the censer – here we are dealing with the question of truth. “What is truth?”. Today they do not even ask this famous question of Pilate. People live their lives without even asking it. They don’t care about it. Unity will be “everybody is nice, everybody is good”. And so much the worse for truth! We have reached that point. Neither the truth, nor the question of good are any concern for modern man.

    How many bishops, how many priests, no longer believe, do not believe that Our Lord is God. As a proof of this I will only take the case of Cardinal Kasper, who wrote a book entitled Jesus, the Christ, in which he tells us that when we love someone we tend to exaggerate. And that is why there are so many miracles in the Gospels. The Evangelists who loved Jesus, exaggerated the number of his miracles! And Kasper takes up his scissors to cut out almost everything. He leaves in a few cures, because even today we witness them, so they could have happened at the time of Our Lord. He even dares to say that it was never said that Our Lord is the Son of God. But if we put forth the argument of the cross-examination of Caiphas: “I beseech thee, in the name of God, tell us if you are the Son of God”, and Jesus’ answer: “I am”, Kasper answers back: you understand, at that time Jesus was under duress! Today he is a cardinal, and he does not have the faith! How many cardinals do not have the faith? Benedict XVI is in the midst of them. What is he going to do? What can he do? What does he want to do?

What may we hope for?

    In the present state of the Church, how can we foresee the future pontificate of Benedict XVI? To sum up in an image, I would say that if we consider the pontificate of John Paul II as being in free fall, we could probably see that of Benedict XVI as a fall with a parachute. The problem is to know the size of the parachute. It will follow the same direction but more slowly. He will brake, I think. But what will be the result? You know, when you go fast, you slam on the brakes, but you do not quite know what is going to happen to the car. Normally it slows down. But sometimes it goes into a ditch… And then, it all depends on the size of the parachute. If it is small, we will see practically no difference. If it is big, it may slow things down noticeably. I believe that Benedict XVI will try to put the brakes on. Could we hope for more? Yes, of course we must hope for more, but not from men. Once again, our hope is in God. The promises of Our Lord hold good forever; they were good under John Paul II, they are good under Benedict XVI. And the Good Lord uses all things to make his Church go where He wants. If you want a personal opinion, I think that if – and this cannot be totally excluded – if Benedict XVI finds himself in a crisis situation, if he is driven into a corner, for instance by a violent and threatening reaction on the part of the progressives, or because of a political crisis, or persecutions, I think that if he is placed in such circumstances, the pope will make the right choice. I believe this on the evidence of his reactions so far.

    This means that the Church is ailing, of course, but Her sufferings have a salutary value. Of course, we would never wish for persecution any more than we would wish to break a leg. But if that fracture enabled us to save our life, we would not hesitate, would we? I am not saying that this is what is certainly going to happen. But I think we must be under no illusion as to the situation in the world and in the Church. The laws passed all over the world today are slowly but surely making Catholic life impossible. This means that sooner or later, the Christian will be obliged to say: No, I cannot! And what does any State do when you tell it no? It puts you in prison. Today they are putting people in prison who say no to abortion, or who do nothing more that pray the Rosary some 50 or 100 yards from a place where abortions are performed. And this in a country as liberal as the United States. So you see, it is not difficult to go to prison for a good cause nowadays.

    We must be ready. We must get ready. You will ask me how we should do this. It is very simple. Our Lord gave us a rule to prepare ourselves for great trials. It is a golden rule, yet extremely simple: fidelity in little things. In other words: we must do our duty of state. Fidelity in little things assures us of fidelity in great things. Our Lord Himself told us so.

Retaining relations with Rome

    What are we asking from Rome? Very simply, we want to be and remain Catholic. We cannot ask for less: That the Church be Catholic, that our Mother Church be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We ask for nothing more, but for nothing less. We ask for the whole faith, all the sacraments, all the discipline. That is our goal. What are our means? Of course, it is not up to us to convert Rome. Yet, we can collaborate, cooperate. We must do all we can. And in this all we can, there is first of all the duty to keep our relations with Rome. We must not break away. It is a mistake to draw away from the pope, the curia and the bishops and to end up saying: “We are the only ones left”.

    If you need proof, you know that all those who begin like that always end up giving themselves a pope, their pope. Today there are some fifteen of them! One of them wrote to me. He calls himself Peter II. And he asked me permission to keep the Blessed Sacrament in his garage! That’s how they end up! There is another, a Pius XIII, a capuchin who said to himself: “Now that I’m pope, I need cardinals”. So he appointed an Australian cardinal. A few days later he consecrated him bishop, while he was himself a simple Capuchin priest! And three days later, he had himself consecrated bishop by the man he had just consecrated bishop! It’s ridiculous! It’s sad. These are false solutions which lead nowhere. You’ve got bishops everywhere! a bishop in each garage! and popes! That is not the way.

    We can see clearly, that in the official Church today, there are still souls, priests, bishops who do not show themselves too much, but are, without a doubt, still Catholic, without the least shadow of doubt. But we can say that only we, who are faithful to Tradition, keep the doctrine in its entirety alive, and that alas, there are many Catholics who are no longer truly so. That is what makes it so difficult. In a cancer, if you have a tumor which is well confined, you can try to have it removed. But if you have a general cancer, if the illness is everywhere, they you do not even try to remove anything. Because they no longer know what they should leave and what they should remove. Doctors are powerless. That is the state of the Church. It is a cancer so widespread that we can no longer take up the surgeon’s knife to remove the tumors. In the past, you had a heretical priest here, a heretical bishop there, they were removed and that was the end of it. Now the evil is so widespread that even Rome no longer dares to take up the knife.

    Do not ask me how this is possible. This is part of the mystery of the Church. We can see here an association between the Mystical Body and the sufferings of Our Lord on the Cross. We can see plainly that the Church is going through the same state as Our Lord, an unheard-of Passion. Can this go on until death, as for Our Lord? Will there be an apparent death, like the disappearance of the Church? I wonder if the released part of the 3rd secret of Fatima does not deal with this Passion. At the end it speaks of a massacre: a procession which follows the pope, with bishops, religious and faithful from all walks of life, and they are all killed. This vision ends with angels offering this blood to God, and this blood will return as graces on those who are left. It looks as if like there is an apparent disappearance of the Church.

    This interpretation is not exactly that given by Rome, but I am doing nothing more than describing purely and simply, the vision.

Our duty to bear witness

    We are living in a truly unprecedented situation. Nevertheless, you can see for yourselves that with courage, efforts, tears and toil, we can still manage to live as Christians today. We manage to do this because the grace of God is still working. The proof: our little Society which keeps growing in the midst of all this. To bear witness, this is our very simple task. We are in this world and those around us see it very well. You do not realize the impact produced by these Catholic families with children who still behave almost as they should. You do not realize how much this impresses people around us. Just a little fact on this subject: an Italian teaching sister came to the ordinations at Ecône. At the end of the Mass, she was in tears, deeply moved. Why? She had seen lots of little children, a whole swarm of them in all this crowd, under a hot sun, and they were as good as gold for five hours. She told us: “I can’t keep my children quiet for ten minutes. And here is a crowd of children who are so good.” She was deeply impressed. She left her congregation to join us.

    This also happened during our pilgrimage to Rome. We simply gave the example of Catholic living. We did nothing extraordinary. We were just there. We knelt to pray the Rosary for almost an hour. But you do not see that any more. In the past this was perfectly normal. This is what strikes people, things as simple as these. You do not have to look for anything extraordinary. This makes people think, and I include theologians and bishops. The head of a dicastery in Rome, when he saw those processions, said: “But they are Catholic, we must do something for them.” He was stunned – Because, you know we are represented as devils by all the newspapers. We can still do much. Of course, it is with our Crosses that we go forward, but we must show that the Catholic religion still exists, that it is possible in this world, and that this is the way to gain ground.

Enlightening the bishops and priests

    Our task is to maintain this minimal relationship in order to get the message across by example. That is why we mustn’t cut ourselves off completely. We must convert. Once again, it is not we who convert, it is God. But we can bring our little stone. Thus we take advantage of these relations to provide Rome with theological studies which show that there are really serious problems with the texts of the Council, and those which followed. It is a long-term process… until the Roman authorities consent to think about it, and talk about it. But we lose nothing in telling the truth, even when it hurts.

    There is also much work to be done with bishops and priests. This annoys them, as you can imagine. And then suddenly, there is a French bishop who tells you: “I am very pleased that you visit my priests. They need that. Carry on!” Another, also in France, said: “The Church need you. But, I beg you, stay as you are. Do not change!” At the same time, we keep receiving blows from other bishops, but we receive them willingly if this will help them to see clearly one day. Those who are beginning to understand are not very brave. They know only too well that if they opened their mouth they would get their head chopped off . Some even say to us: “Pray for me because I must speak out.” I believe that Rome is wrong about the state of the Church. The progressives make a lot of noise. There are a certain number, but there are still faithful who are quite ready to go back to the old Mass. They must certainly be prepared, but they are many more than we think.

    With priests, it is more difficult. Our experience shows us that there is a certain category which does not want to hear anything. The category of the 67-75 year olds, those who are as old as the council, who had to give up all that existed before. They threw themselves into all those new things and today they cannot manage to come back. It is disturbing. It is painful. That is the age group which is most affected. The oldest, over 75 years old have no problem, at least most of them. And very surprisingly the youngest are very open. They know nothing, that is true. But nevertheless they are open.

    A curate came to me and said: “Look, when I visit my faithful, they ask me why did you change the Church? Why did you change the Mass? We want the other Mass, the old one.” And this priest admitted: “I would like to say it, but I do not know it. I have never seen it. I am 28. When I try to ask the older priests, I get scolded. Would you teach me the old Mass? What was the Church like in the past? I know how it is since Vatican II, but before, I do not know.”

    Another edifying example. A boy used to go to the new Mass. One day, he learned that there were martyrs who died for the Mass. And he said to himself: “No, that is not possible”. He was troubled by this historical fact, because, for him, you could not die for the Mass, that just was not possible. Until one day, he learnt that there was another Mass. That interested him. He searched, and he found us. He is now a seminarian. Did you know that in modern seminaries, groups of candidates to the priesthood gather during the night to study St. Thomas, so as to receive an antidote to what they have been taught during the day? It even happens that we receive phone calls from seminarians who ask us: “Our professor of Holy Scripture told us that there were three Isaiahs. This seems to me a bit strange. What does the Church say?” That happened in Austria. We were asked the same question by a seminarian in Australia.

    In this new generation of priests there is something very surprising which leaves the men in charge of vocations in modern seminaries completely dumbfounded. Suddenly, they realize that there are underground associations of seminarians in their seminaries who want to be conservative. Of course, when they are discovered, they are sent away. Nowadays it is a sin to be conservative. So you understand why we are obliged to say that things are not going well. We have the duty to tell Rome: We do not want any compromise, any slipshod agreement. We want to be Catholics, period. And we expect nothing less from Rome.

    In 2004, Cardinal Castrillon was talking to me about the Society; he said: “I am discouraged”. But, I am not discouraged at all. We can see that the Good Lord is at work. Of course, we cannot say that the renewal of the Church is achieved, but it is like all those little green shoots in the middle of the desert. You see one here, another there, and you know, when you see them in the midst of the desert, that the Good Lord is going to make green grass grow everywhere one day.

What about Ecclesia Dei?

    In the present situation, what is going to happen to us? According to the information we have, Cardinal Ratzinger – and he is not the only one – was already working last year on a reinforcement of Ecclesia Dei. We may think that now that he is pope, he will carry on this work of reinforcement of Ecclesia Dei. He will give more weight to this commission, increase its staff. Thus, he will support even more those who want the old Mass. But this will remain limited to the societies recognized by Ecclesia Dei: Saint Peter, Christ the King, and so on… Paradoxically, all this helps us, because the Good Lord uses the Society of Saint Peter as a springboard towards the Society of Saint Pius X.

    In the final analysis, the result of the indult is that Rome miscalculated. By opening the doors, the authorities thought they would bring the faithful to the New Mass. In fact, the opposite is happening, so that we can only rejoice over any overture in favor of the Old Mass.

    Why does this liberty favor a move in this direction and not in the other? Because the Old Mass, in itself has an extraordinary power. It demands faith, it gives the faith. And when you have had a taste of the traditional faith, you want all that it implies. There are priests who said the New Mass, and then said the Old Mass again, once, twice, three times. And then they said: “Never will we say the New Mass again.” On the contrary, I know a priest who does not dare to say the Old Mass again, because he acknowledges that afterwards he will no longer be able to say the new one. You feel like telling him: “Go on, have a little courage!” This Mass nourishes. It is truly the heart of the Church. The heart pumps the blood around the whole body. And the blood brings life, oxygen. The heart is the pump of our body, and the supernatural pump of the Church, which brings life to the whole Mystical Body, is the Mass. By feeding the pump, you regenerate the whole body. This is why we are asking for the liberty of the Mass. We know very well that it is not all, that there are heresies to be fought. But we have to begin somewhere, and first of all with something very concrete.

    At present, we need a change of atmosphere, we must make the authorities acknowledge in the facts, that Tradition is not some archaeological, or prehistoric oddity. It is the normal state of things. It is even the only normal state of the Church. – Of course, this will not be achieved in a day. So Rome will work on reinforcing the Ecclesia Dei commission. We may suppose that they will ignore us. So, for a while, our situation might be more difficult than it was under John Paul II, because many people will be deceived and say to themselves: “that’s it , it’s great, we’ve won”, whereas, actually, nothing has yet been gained .The strengthening of Ecclesia Dei will probably mean, at one point, the creation of entities more or less exempt from the jurisdiction of local bishops. The Roman authorities will be obliged to grant some kind of exemption in spite of the violent opposition of the bishops. At present, they try to avoid going against this opposition, but they realize that this situation is unjust. They know that the faithful who want the Old Mass have every right to it. Yes, Rome knows perfectly well that this Mass cannot be forbidden. Cardinals have started to say so. Among them, the former Head of the Congregation for the Liturgy, Cardinal Medina, who has declared: “I did some research. There is no text forbidding the Old Mass.” Now, saying that it is not forbidden, is tantamount to acknowledging that it is allowed.

    Rome knows it – by Rome, I mean the curia, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI – they know that the Tridentine Mass was never forbidden and that it cannot be forbidden, that there is no juridical nor theological argument allowing them to forbid this Mass. They know it, and so one day, this injustice done to the Church and to the Old Mass will disappear. Let us pray that this happen as soon as possible. Let us pray that it may happen during this pontificate, for it is quite possible that it could happen under this pontificate. All that can be done in favor of Tradition is beneficial. What has been the result since the consecrations up to now?

    In the United States – these are the official figures for the indult Mass – 150,000 faithful have access to the Tridentine Mass. Were it not for the consecrations, these faithful would not have the Tridentine Mass today. Victory after the battle In conclusion, what are our present dispositions? There is hope, assured hope. Why assured? Because it is based not on man, but on the Good Lord, who is faithful to His promises, and who nevertheless wants to make use of His creatures.

    Let us pray specifically that the grace of God be so strong that it overcome all the shortcomings of those who hold office in the Church. God can do it, and he may even have decided to grant this grace in answer to our prayers and sacrifices. For there is an amazing solidarity in the Mystical Body. Let us make sure we don’t forget it. Instead of reproaching these poor bishops and priests who live scandalous lives, let us pray for them. Thus we do them much more good, we do much more good to the Church than when we insult them. We ask God to make His grace come down upon them.

    I believe the Blessed Virgin. Fatima is not over! We are living in the time of the Blessed Virgin. I am convinced, when I see all that has been happening since the 19th century, that we are living in the time of the Blessed Virgin. In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. But the battle precedes triumph. Victory comes after the battle, not before; just like resurrection comes after death. Today they only want to preach the risen Christ, but before He rose, He had to die. So let us bear in mind that victory comes after the battle. And let us not forget that we are now in the thick of the battle. Let us ask Our Lady to put her mantle over us, under her protection, in her army, to play our part in this victory by using all our energy in the current struggle.

    Courage! Keep on fighting. It’s not over yet. The Immaculate Heart will triumph.

+ Bernard Fellay

    For previous articles in this same vein, see ARCHIVES

    Exspectans exspectavimus Ecclesia Dei
    September 1 to 30, 2005
    Summer Hiatus Issue Volume 16, no. 244