Friday, April 1, 2016


Sandro Magister gives us from his blog Chiesa an interview with Bishop Fellay head of the SSPX. The interview stands without my comments, only by highlights in red:

Pope Francis and the Society of Saint Pius X: a paradoxical benevolence?
by Bernard Fellay

It is necessary here to use the word “paradoxical,” the paradox of wanting to advance toward we might almost say “Vatican III,” in the worst sense that could be given to that expression, and on the other hand wanting to tell the Society: “You are welcome here.” This is really a paradox, almost an attempt to combine opposites.

I do not think that it is because of ecumenism. Some might think so. Why don’t I think that it is because of ecumenism? Just look at the general attitude of the bishops on this subject of ecumenism: they have their arms wide open to everybody except us!
Very often people have explained to us why we were ostracized, saying: “They don’t treat you like the others because you claim to be Catholics. Now, with that, you create confusion among us, and therefore they don’t want you.” Several times we have heard this explanation which rules out ecumenism. Well then! If this approach, which consists of saying, “We accept everybody in the household,” does not apply to us, what then is left? I think that the pope is left.

If at first Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, did not see the Society in a particular way that is different from this ecumenical perspective that I just mentioned, I think that there would be nothing at all. I even think that instead we would already be laboring once again under penalties, censures, excommunication, the declaration of schism, and that whole attempt to eliminate a bothersome group.

Then why was Benedict XVI and why is Pope Francis now so benevolent toward the Society? I think that the two do not necessarily have the same perspective.
In the case of Benedict XVI, I think that it was his conservative side, his love for the old liturgy, his respect for the previous discipline in the Church. I can say that many, and I mean many priests, and even groups that had problems with the modernists in the Church and had recourse to him when he was still a cardinal found in him—at first as a cardinal, then as pope—a benevolent respect, a desire to protect and to help them at least, as much as he could.

In Pope Francis we do not see that attachment either to the liturgy or to the old discipline. We could even say, quite the opposite, given his many contrary statements, and this is what makes it more difficult and more complicated to understand his benevolence.

And nevertheless, I think that there are nevertheless several possible explanations, but I admit that I do not have the final word on the subject.

One of the explanations is Pope Francis’ perspective on anything that is marginalized, what he calls the “peripheries of life.” I would not be surprised if he considered us as one of these peripheries which he manifestly prefers. And from that perspective, he uses the expression “walk forward” with people on the periphery, hoping to manage to improve things. Therefore it is not a fixed decision to succeed immediately: a development, a walk, goes wherever it goes… but at least you are being rather peaceful, polite, without really knowing what the result might be. Probably this is one of the deeper reasons.

Another reason: we see also Pope Francis rather constantly critiquing the established Church, what is called in English the establishment—we say that from time to time in French, too—reproaching the Church for being self-satisfied, a Church that no longer looks for the lost sheep, the one that is in trouble, at all levels, whether poverty on the one hand or even physical danger... But we see in Pope Francis that this concern, despite the blatant appearances, is not just a concern about material things... We see very well that when he says “poverty” he includes also spiritual poverty, the poverty of souls that are in sin, that should be brought out of it and led back to the Dear Lord.
Even though it is not always expressed that clearly, we find a number of expressions that indicate this. And from this perspective, he sees in the Society a community that is very active—especially when compared to the situation in the establishment—very active, in other words it seeks and goes out seeking souls, it has this concern about the spiritual welfare of souls, and is ready to roll up its sleeves and work for it. He is acquainted with Abp. Lefebvre; he read twice the biography written by Bp. Tissier de Mallerais, which shows, without a doubt, an interest; and I think that he liked it.

And also the contacts that he was able to have in Argentina with our confreres, in whom he saw a sort of spontaneity and also candor, for they hid absolutely nothing. Of course, they were trying to get something for Argentina, where we were having difficulties with the state concerning residency permits, but they hid nothing, they did not try to dodge issues, and I think that he likes that. This may be the rather human side of the Society, but we see that the pope is very human, he assigns a lot of importance to such considerations, and this could explain a certain benevolence on his part.

Once again, I am not saying the final word on this subject, and certainly behind all this there is Divine Providence. Divine Providence which manages to put good thoughts into the head of a pope who, on many points, alarms us tremendously, and not just us: you can say that everyone who is more or less conservative in the Church is scared by what is happening, by what is being said, and nevertheless Divine Providence manages to bring us through these reefs in a very surprising way.

Very surprising, because it is clear that Pope Francis wants to let us live and survive. He even said to anyone who cares to listen that he would never do the Society any harm. He also said that we are Catholics. He refused to condemn us for causing a schism, saying: “They are not schismatics, they are Catholics,” even though after that he used a somewhat enigmatic expression, namely that we are on the way toward full communion.

We wish that we could have a clear definition sometime of this term “full communion,” because you can see that it does not correspond to anything precise. It is an opinion… you don’t really know what it is. Even quite recently, in an interview given by Msgr. Pozzo about us, he repeats a quotation that he attributes to the pope himself—we can therefore take it as an official position—the pope, speaking to Ecclesia Dei confirmed that we were Catholics on the way toward full communion. And Msgr. Pozzo explained how this full communion can come about: by the acceptance of the canonical form, which is rather surprising: the idea that a canonical form would resolve all the problems with communion!

A little further on, in the same interview, he says that this full communion consists of accepting the major Catholic principles, in other words the three levels of unity in the Church, which are the faith, the sacraments and the government. In speaking about faith, he speaks here instead of the magisterium. But we have never called into question any one of these three elements. And therefore we never called in question our full communion, but we skip the adjective “full,” and say quite simply: “We are in communion according to the classic term used in the Church; we are Catholics; we are Catholics and we are in communion, because the rupture of communion is precisely schism.”

The visits of the prelates sent from Rome: open doctrinal questions?
These visits have been very interesting. Obviously, some individuals in the Society have looked at them with quite a bit of mistrust: “What are those bishops doing in our home?” Well! That was not my perspective. [...] Therefore I was very insistent, I said several times: “So come see us.” They never wanted to. Then, all of a sudden [...]  a cardinal, an archbishop and two bishops came to see us, to visit us in different circumstances, some in the seminaries, and also in one priory.

The first thing that they all told us—was it a party line or their personal opinion? I don’t know, but the fact is—they all told us: “These discussions are taking place between Catholics; this has nothing to do with ecumenical discussions; we are among Catholics.” Therefore from the start they swept aside all those ideas such as “You are not completely in the Church, you are halfway there, you are outside—God knows where!—schismatics...” No! We are discussing things among Catholics. This is the first point, which is very interesting, very important. Despite what is still said in Rome today in some instances.

The second point—which I think is even more important—is that the questions addressed in these discussions are the classic questions that have always been stumbling blocks. Whether it is a question of religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism, the new Mass, or even the new rites of the sacraments... Well, they all told us that these discussions were about open questions.

I think that this reflection is of capital importance. Until now they always insisted on saying: You have to accept the Council. It is difficult to state exactly the real significance of this expression: “accept the Council.” What does that mean? Because the fact is that the documents of the Council are utterly unequal: they are to be accepted according to a gradated criterion, obligatory to different degrees. If the document is a document about faith, there is an obligation pure and simple. But those who, in a totally erroneous way, claim that this Council is infallible, demand total submission to the whole Council. Well, then, if that is what “accepting the Council” means, we say that we do not accept the Council. Precisely because we deny its infallibility.

If there are some passages of the conciliar documents that repeat what the Church said before, in an infallible way, obviously these passages are and remain infallible. And we accept that, there is no problem with that. This is why, when someone says “accept the Council,” it is necessary to distinguish clearly what is meant by that. Nevertheless, even with this distinction, until now we have sensed an insistence on Rome’s part: “You must accept these points; they are part of the teaching of the Church and therefore you must accept them.” And even today—not just in Rome, but with the great majority of the bishops– we see this attitude toward us, this serious reproach: “You do not accept the Council.”

And now all of a sudden, on these points that have been stumbling blocks, the emissaries from Rome tell us that they are open questions. An open question is a question that you can discuss. And this obligation to adhere to a position is substantially and even perhaps totally mitigated or even removed. I think that this is a crucial point. We will have to see later whether this is confirmed, whether we can really discuss it freely or better, honestly, with all the respect due to the authorities, so as not to aggravate even more the current situation in the Church which is so confused, precisely about the faith, about what must be believed, and here we demand this clarity, this clarification from the authorities. We have demanded it for a long time. We say: “There are ambiguous points in this Council, and it is not up to us to clarify them. We can point out the problem, but the one who has the authority to clarify them is actually Rome.” Nevertheless, once again, the fact that these bishops tell us that these are open questions is, in my opinion, crucial.

The discussions themselves have played out according to the personality of our interlocutors, more or less happily, because there were also good exchanges [in which we were] not necessarily in agreement... Nevertheless, I think that all of these interlocutors are unanimous in their appreciation: they were satisfied with the discussions. Satisfied also with their visits. They congratulated us on the quality of our seminaries, saying: “They are normal (fortunately! You have to start with that…), these are not narrow-minded, obtuse people, but lively, open, joyous, normal individuals, quite simply. And this remark was made by all the visitors. This is the human side, undeniably, but we must not forget that either.

For me, these discussions, or more precisely this easier aspect of the discussions is important. For one of the problems is mistrust. Certainly we have this mistrust. And I think that we can also say that Rome certainly has it in relation to us. And as long as this mistrust prevails, the natural tendency is to take whatever is said the wrong way or to assume the worst possible scenario when solutions are suggested. And as long as we are in this mindset of mistrust, we will not make very much progress. It is necessary to arrive at some minimal trust, a climate of serenity, in order to eliminate these a priori accusations. I think that this is still the mindset in which we find ourselves, in which Rome finds herself. And it takes time. Both sides need to come around to appreciating persons and their intentions correctly, so as to get beyond all that. I think that this will take time.

This also requires acts that display good will and not the intention to destroy us. Now we still have this idea in the back of our minds, it is a rather widespread attitude: “If they want us, it is because they want to stifle us, and eventually to destroy us, to absorb us totally, to disintegrate us.” That is not an integration, that is disintegration! Obviously, as long as this idea prevails, we can’t expect anything.


The original video recording of the interview with Fellay on March 4, 2016:

> Entretien avec Mgr Bernard Fellay


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


Pope Francis said...


Michael said...

In some curious way, I do foresee the reconciliation of the SSPX under this particular pope. The Holy Father's distaste for "dogmatism" presents problems, but in this respect, it may be a strength compared to Benedict: he might not be so concerned about finer details which, under Benedict, would have been notable obstacles. And that could be Providence's way of getting things done in this case. We'll see. Dei voluntas fiat.

Anonymous said...

The way things are going the time may come when Rome might need to petition the SSPX. The Society has one of the few orthodox bishops left anywhere.