July 15 - September 1, 2002
volume 13, no. 104

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An Update on the Response to Rome

Status of Further Negotiations with Rome with the Society of St. Pius X and an interview with the head of SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay.

    His Lordship Bernard Fellay began by expressing his initial surprise at the change of attitude towards the Society on the part of the Vatican. Until a year and a half ago, the SSPX was stigmatised as "schismatic" and "excommunicated" (a view still held by many), but now it is being encouraged to enter into dialogue with Rome. The Bishop explained why he was cautious about this sudden "volte face".

    Firstly, there was Rome's treatment of the various traditionalist societies (notably the Society of St Peter and Una Voce), that operate under the provisions in the decree "Ecclesia Dei Afflicta" (1988). In 1999, some priests of the Society of St Peter were invited by their local bishops to concelebrate with them at the Mass of the Chrism on Maundy Thursday. Sixteen St Peter's priests complied, in defiance of the wishes of their, then, Superior, Father Bisig. Fr Bisig consequently reprimanded the sixteen. The bishops complained about this to the Vatican, eliciting a Protocol that clarified the situation. The Indult to say the Old Mass did not remove any priest's right to say the new, nor can any Superior prevent him from doing so.

    This must be seen against a background of the dismissals of St Peter's seminary professors who were openly critical of the Novus Ordo. The Bishop reported the words of Cardinal Castrillon in the course of the meeting they had on 29 December 2000. The Cardinal made it clear that he had nothing against priests who want to say the old Mass. "What I cannot accept is that someone should write against the new Mass, as Father Bisig did. That is why, when I heard about it, I said that Father Bisig cannot be Superior General." The Cardinal had also dismissed the two Superiors of the seminaries of St Peter.

    His Lordship then outlined Cardinal Castrillon's announcement, in a letter to the President of Una Voce, Mr Michael Davies, that the "Indult" priests would now have to adopt the 1965 rubrics, involving a radical modification of the ceremonies of the Mass, the introduction of bidding prayers, the suppression of the Last Gospel and the introduction of new liturgical calendar. Indirectly, the Cardinal implied that it is henceforth prohibited for a priest to refuse Communion in the hand at an Indult Mass. The Cardinal also added that the condition imposed upon those asking permission for the old Mass was that they should have nothing to do with those who question the legitimacy or orthodoxy of the new.

    In view of these events, the Bishop was surprised to receive an invitation to meet Cardinal Castrillon, but surmised that some difference has been made by the Holy Year Pilgrimage to Rome in 2000, during which certain prelates realised the absurdity of regarding the SSPX as "non-Catholic". Moreover, Msgr Perle has indicated that Rome's attitude towards the Society subverted its ecumenical approach toward the Orthodox and the Protestants.

    His Lordship then summarized the content of his meeting with Cardinal Castrillon on 29 December 2000, during which the Cardinal suggested a personal prelature for the Society (like Opus Dei). Bishop Fellay said that if the Society were to enter into such an arrangement, it would still be obliged to fight against modernism, liberalism and Freemasonry. He also raised the recent treatment of the Society of St Peter as a reason for not trusting the Vatican, and its official policy of not attempting to convert the Old Catholics or the Orthodox.

    The Bishop also gave an account of his five-minute meeting with the Pope, in which the latter expressed his happiness about the negotiations.

    On his return from Rome, Bishop Fellay called a meeting with all the traditional Catholic bishops (including Bishop Rangel). It was decided that the bishops should request the lifting of the (false) excommunication, and permission for all priests, throughout the world to say the old Mass. This would remove the pretence that the old Mass had been abrogated, make it very difficult (if not impossible) to abrogate it in the future and would cause many graces to flow into the Church because of the increased celebration of the old rite. The answer from Rome to this request was that "Basically, the Pope does agree that the old Mass has never been abrogated and that all priests have the right to say it" but the request was refused because some of the older secretaries (of the Curia) "think that it would be an insult to Pope Paul VI and all the work that has been done for the new liturgy."

    In this reply, Rome signalled that it was not prepared to defend the old Mass and so, Bishop Fellay decided to suspend further discussions.

    The Bishop contextualized his refusal to continue the current negotiations with Rome, by giving recent instances of how far the Vatican's policies are removed from Catholic tradition. It has permitted intercommunion between the Catholic and non-Catholic Church who use the Chaldean Rite in Iraq (heedless of the fact that one of the masses used by the non-Catholic part has no words of consecration). He went on to give an account of the extraordinary arrangements that were made for the latest Inter-Faith meeting at Assisi, where the Zoroastrians demanded a room with windows in which they could light a fire. The Moslems needed a room facing Mecca and the Jews required a room that had never been blessed. Even more horrifyingly, all the crucifixes in the convent were either removed or covered up. As Bishop Fellay observed: "Remove the essential, remove the truth and then it's possible for all the errors to meet together."

    His Lordship spoke about the response on the part of the Vatican, and especially Cardinal Ratzinger, to the Society's recent book, criticizing the new Mass. The Bishop identified the opposition to the book as arising from a different understanding of the notion of "sacrifice". For Cardinal Ratzinger, to judge from a conference he gave at Faucombault last year, sacrifice means "to become better", a view based on the modern idea that sin cannot affect God, it only affects us, hence the punishment is the sin itself.

    At the beginning of April, Cardinal Castrillon wrote to Bishop Fellay to say: firstly, the Pope is infallible; secondly, one may not judge the Pope; thirdly, "you are wrong" and fourthly, "I am convinced that many people in the Society have lost faith in the infallibility of the Pope."

    The Bishop here reminded the audience, in terms of Pope Pius IX's "Pastor Aeternus", of the Church's teaching on Papal Infallibility which was there to conserve and faithfully transmit the deposit of faith that has always been taught by the Church.

    Despite the breakdown in the discussions with Cardinal Castrillon, Cardinal Ratzinger has invited Bishop Fellay to doctrinal discussions. Although the Bishop felt that these might be more interesting, there would still be the difficulty of using words like 'truth', 'infallibility' and so on, that have come to mean different things for those in today's Vatican.

    Bishop Fellay concluded his talk on a note of cautious optimism. There are today many younger priests desirous of saying the traditional Mass and questioning many aspects of Vatican II. In France, the Bishop of Poitiers reported that he had twelve young priests who wish to say the old Mass, and in France as a whole a petition from over three hundred and twenty diocesan priests have made a similar request.

       Note: Prior to the above article, the French communications Monde et Vie conducted an interview with Bishop Fellay. Following are extracts from his interview given to Radio-Courtoisie on April 11, 2002 and conducted by Claude Giraud and Fr. Alain Lorans, Rector of the University Institute of St Pius X, and on 13 April by Michele Reboul at St Nicolas de Chardonnet.

Monde et Vie (MV): My Lord, would you give us an update on the negotiations between the Fraternity of St. Pius X. and the Vatican with a view to an eventual agreement.

Mgr Fellay: The Vatican has adopted a dual approach with us since I recently received two letters, one from Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the other from Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy and of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. In a letter dated 16th March 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger replied to a letter I had written in or around Christmas last year. I had made a number of objections concerning remarks he had made on the Mass at Fongombault. And in this letter of 16th March, received on 19th, Feast of St. Joseph, he proposed a joint theological study in which both Vatican and Fraternity theologians would examine the matter. Cardinal Castrillón also wrote to me on 5th April last in response to my letter of 22nd June 2001. He also invited me to renew contacts.

MV: Will you accept this offer of a joint theological study? When will it begin? Who will be the theologians representing both parties and what is its objective?

Mgr Fellay: We will give a positive reply, as with every appeal Rome makes to us, but it is still too early to choose the date and the members of this working party, and the manner in which we will discuss the Mass. We will take advantage of this opportunity during these discussions to remind the Vatican of our preliminary request concerning the Mass, namely: that every priest who wishes to say the old Mass is authorised to do so without conditions attached.

MV: Given the Ecclesia Dei Indult of 1988, every priest, provided he signs an agreement that he is in Communion with the Vatican, has permission to say the old Mass and since in a 14-year period only about 200 have asked for it, and furthermore, since, even with the Pope’s authorisation, the majority of priests will not say it so as not to draw the bishops’ adverse attention to themselves, what change will this complete liberation of the Mass bring about, apart from the fact of not having to sign anything?

Mgr Fellay: It will change everything because we will give the Mass back its rightful position. Once the injustice over the Mass has been removed, grace will return and the eyes of the blind will be opened.

MV: Cardinal Medina, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in answer to a journalist’s question, whether there would soon be an agreement between the Fraternity of St. Pius X. and the Vatican, replied that an agreement with the “schismatic” Fraternity didn’t seem close, since it rejected the New Mass as “invalid”. What do you think of this position?

Mgr Fellay: I found Cardinal Medina’s judgement to be very harsh. He accuses us of being schismatic. Now, if the priests of Campos were not in schism, then we are not since our doctrinal position is the same. Moreover, we have always said that the New Mass is valid, the matter, form and intention required by the Church are present. However, it is dangerous to the Faith, it is a poison, it does not nourish the soul and the faithful, without their realising it, are dying through lack of nourishment.

MV: By desiring that every priest can choose to celebrate the old or new Mass, you are granting equal status to a rite, which you reject, and a rite that you say is the only one in conformity with the Catholic Faith. Why not call for the rejection of the new Mass and the new Sacraments?

Mgr Fellay: We can’t ask for everything at once. If Rome permits the Tridentine Mass, that will be a sign, a first step, that Rome is returning to Tradition.

MV: You say that you are not in a hurry, that you want to take your time, but given the age, 82 in May, and the state of Pope John Paul II’s health, is it not a risk?

Mgr Fellay: What is at stake here is so profound that we are touching upon eternal truths. The more the crisis in the Church continues, the more it does harm, for millions of souls are being lost, even so, I refuse to allow myself to be put into a corner by a Papal personality and say that it is “now or never”. If we think that the Church is a supernatural reality, and it is, since Christ is its Head, the crisis in the Church can only be limited in time. My perspective on the Church is a supernatural one: God will restore order and Rome will be converted.MV: What do you think of the status of the proposed Apostolic Administration?

Mgr Fellay: It is a wonderful Rolls Royce since we would have ordinary jurisdiction, but we are holding back because of the many nails on the road. Assisi, ecumenical pluralism, the demolition of the fundamentals of the Faith.

MV: Even if Pope John Paul II wishes the “reconciliation” of the Fraternity, will he not find himself in opposition to the majority of those bishops who refuse it?

Mgr Fellay: Cardinal Castrillón declared, “an agreement with the Fraternity of St. Pius X. is almost impossible because of the opposition of the European bishops”. The real solution is to be found in supernatural means, in fidelity to doctrine and the unchanging Truth. That’s why if Rome is not ready to defend the Mass, to commit herself to protecting it, to allow it to live, then she is not ready to let us live. If the Mass can shed its light once more in public, there will follow visible effects, benefits for civil society especially for the salvation of souls.


The above text was published in the June - July 2002 Newsletter of the British SSPX. We use this text here from the TradList with the kind permission of Father Jacques Emily, the district superior for Great Britain. - One joins the TradList by sending a blank mail to: Subscribe to the Traditionalism List

For previous articles regarding matters that affect the Ecclesia Dei commission, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002ecc.htm

July 15 - September 1, 2002
volume 13, no. 104
Exspectans exspectavimus Ecclesia Dei
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