Rorate Caeli

Fellay in Flavigny: A Sermon in Search of Meaning?

At this point, it's a foregone conclusion that the SSPX and Rome will not reach an agreement, based, of course, in the already infamous "Flavigny Speech" (sermon, actually). That conclusion is further confirmed by Father Aulagnier, someone whose desire to see an agreement come to fruition cannot be doubted.

The speech, however, is far from clear, and full of ambiguities. If it is true that at certain times Bishop Fellay seems to be saying that there are no negotiations between Ecône and Rome, at other moments he appears to be saying that there is some back and forth between the two sides.

For instance, has the SSPX asked to have the excommunications lifted? The following excerpt shows that the Society has -- at least -- asked the Holy Father to withdraw the excommunications:
"[And then Castrillon Hoyos said:] 'I ask you to write the pope to ask him to lift the excommunications.' ...[Fellay:] We have always refused to recognize the validity of these excommunications, therefore we could not ask for the lifting of something which does not exist ... we asked, of course, for the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication, its annulment, that is to say, nullifying it...would already mean that something is recognized. ... For the first time, Rome seems to follow the way which we had proposed to them at the beginning, in the year 2000."
(*Please see the unedited excerpts below)

It is interesting to notice that the Superior of the Society, who is always very straightforward, seems to be struggling to express his thoughts: first he says "we could not ask for the lifting...", and then goes on to say "we asked, of course, for the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication...". Which one is true? I do not know. But, if it is true that the Society has asked for the withdrawal of the excommunications, Rome seems to be going along ("...Rome seems to follow the way which we had proposed to them at the beginning, in the year 2000." )
*23: 18 [Castrillon Hoyos] Je vous demande d'écrire au pape pour lui demander qu'il enlève les excommunications." Et depuis nous en sommes là. Car évidemment nous n'allons pas demander qu'on enlève quelque chose que nous ne reconnaissons pas. Nous avons toujours refusé de reconnaître la validité de ces excommunications, donc nous ne pouvons pas demander qu'on enlève quelque chose qui n'existe pas. Et avant même de poser cet acte nous avons demandé, bien sûr, le retrait du décret d'excommunication, son annulation et le même, dire annuler cela[?] voulait déjà dire qu'on reconnaîtrait quelque chose... et bien nous avons demandé depuis le début , c'est un des préalables que nous avions posé au départ. Pour la première fois, Rome semble prendre ce chemin que nous les avions proposés au début, à l'an 2000. 24:41
[Transcript of what could be reasonably heard]

"[Castrillon Hoyos] 'I ask you to write the pope to ask him to lift the excommunications.' And there we were. Because, evidently, we would not ask for the lifting of something which we do not recognize. We have always refused to recognize the validity of these excommunications, therefore we could not ask for the lifting of something which does not exist. And even before doing this we asked, of course, for the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication, its annulment, that is to say, nullifying it [unintelligible] would already mean that something is recognized. And, well, we had demanded [it] since the beginning, it is one of the preconditions which we had proposed at the beginning. For the first time, Rome seems to follow that way which we had proposed to them at the beginning, in the year 2000""

So, is there a contradiction in the bishop's words? It is certainly true that the previous reports on the sermon have been hiding this most important part -- which is the most important portion of the sermon. One should emphasize NOT the canonical form chosen (which, according to the Society's own view of itself, must be the withdrawal of the effects of the excommunication), but rather its effects, which are the same as the lifting of excommunications: the end of the censures against the bishops involved in the 1988 consecrations.

This is truly the most important part of the sermon because it is well known that the matter is being discussed this week in Rome by the competent dicasteries and will be the main theme of the meeting on Monday with the Holy Father -- we know, then, that there was a previous, formal, request for the lifting of excommunications (or, rather, if one supports the view of the Fraternity, the withdrawal of the effects of these excommunications).


  1. Fellay's remarks seem to me to fit best with the idea of a man who would like to find a way to restablish a proper relationship with Rome but who has many followers (and perhaps episcopal brethren as well) who do not want any such thing. He is speaking to a public, surely, that is scandalized by the notion that there will be a return to obedience.

    I think this tells us more than anything else about the dim prospects for reunion. Too many of these folks are satisfied with their Little Kingdom. They will wait for the mythical day that "Eternal Rome" renounces the Council and "returns to tradition." Since that will never happen, neither will reunion.

    These people could do us so much good if they would just get a-hold of themselves and help Benedict find a way for them to return. But that would mean risk and miseries and a Cross they don't want to bear. We need people like them to remind us of things many of us have lost touch with or too seldom remember. Their return would legitimize "Traditionalism" within the Church in a dramatic way that nothing else could.

    But they'd rather live content in their own little world. Alas!, God doesn't let people do that. If they persist they will be transformed and riven by strife and end up like all the other splinters that just can't bear unity in the Body of Christ. "Oh, what a SHAME!", as Lee said after the Battle of Gettysburg.

  2. Yes, Jeff, I think you fairly have the measure of the situation, and I fully share your sentiments. However, I think you may underestimate the genuine desire of many senior members of the SSPX to regularize the situation with Rome. Did you know, for example, that when a priest of the SSPX wishes, or is forced, to leave the clerical state (it does happen!), the process goes through Rome? Interesting, that. These people are closer to Rome than one might imagine. As you say, what a leaven they would be if they were fully integrated. And immediately, what a signal it would send out to the Church at large about so many things! Oremus.

  3. Perhaps I'm missing something, but Mgr Fellay's remarks seem clear enough to me: he's saying he won't - can't - request the "lifting" of an excommunication that he doesn't believe to exist. Withdrawing, or annulling the declaration of excommunication is quite another thing - which the Society have persistently requested. Given that the SSPX position rests upon the "state of necessity" defence, according to which the excommunication is invalid and uncanonical, to ask for the "lifting" of an invalid penalty is a contradition in terms.

  4. O'Ratty, nobody is arguing differently. That is pretty obvious. However, most sources had ommitted this most important information.

    The sensational websites are proclaiming: "He did not ask for the lifting of excommunications! Yay!" or "He will not compromise! Schismatic!!"

    But that is not the case, let us not be caught in pharisaical legalism: he asked for the same as the lifting of excommunications, for all practical purposes, within the Fraternity's view of the matter. We know that the matter is being discussed in Rome this week, and next Monday under the presidence of the Holy Father himself.

  5. People miss the subtlety here, but won't if they think of it in terms of marriage: Although the practical result of a divorce and an annulment are the same--two people no longer have the duties of husband and wife, at least practically speaking--the principles behind each are different. In a divorce, there's an acknowledgement that the status of marriage existed, but it ceases, in an annulment, there's an acknowledgement that the status of marriage never existed. The Annulment decree doesn't change the status, it simply gives public recognition to it.

    Intelligent, orthodox Catholics ought to recognize the distinction in principle then, between a present pardon and lifting of the excommunications and a declaration of nullity for them, even though the practical result (at least for the four men still living) is the same. We may disagree with their reasoning and their request, but we ought to appreciate the importance, on principle, of the distinction they're making.

  6. You are absolutely right, Curmudgeon. But subtleties and nuances only go so far, and may cloud the facts.

    What one cannot do, as the reports on the sermon had done, is to simply ignore the very important fact that the end of the censures was in fact asked by the superior-general of the Fraternity. In the end, what matters is what ultimately happens and I am glad both the leadership of the Fraternity and the Holy See are being very pragmatic, without renouncing their principles.

  7. I think Fellay should be told to go fly a kite, however one says that in French and/or Latin. Let him and his sheep make their own way. When they arrive to be judged, the Almighty will render His opinion once and for all. Meanwhile, they need to get over themselves.

  8. The SSPX heirarchy can argue all they want about not being excommunicated but if they recognize jpii and the rat as their pope then they are indeed formally excommunicated.

    Canon 1325.2, 1917 Code of Canon Law: “One who after baptism… rejects the authority of the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church who are subject to him, he is a schismatic.”

    The sspx want their cake and eat it too if the vii church is the Catholic church then one must submit to vatican ii council and the novus ordo service.


  9. This is my first time posting to a blog, but this blogger and those who commonly respond seem to be nice people. There seems to me, concerning the awful situation in which the SSPX finds itself, to be a lack of charity on all sides. On the side of the SSPX, they seem to be placing themselves in a position of judgement over the Roman See in refusing to recognize the validity of the Excommunications (even though the resons for incurring them might be justified). This refusal to give, even a little, is the sin of pride. On the other hand, the SSPX has been stabbed in the back over and over again by some of the evil, spiteful, and dare I say Demonic Curial Officials. Regarding the Papacy of JPII, It can be summed up in my own take on a famous Epitaph:
    Here Lies His Holiness John Paul
    Who never faced the facts
    No Error in his words at all,
    Nor wisdom in his acts.

  10. Nice to see Curmudgeon around more lately!

    I think the people who say that the excommuniations are invalid are CLEARLY wrong and the "argument" is without merit. And it seems to me that this crew IS in some kind of formal schism. And that they are proud and haughty sprites indeed.

    BUT...I think they should be treated generously and charitably and that if they would only bend the neck a little and not insist they have all the truth infallibly, they could contribute an AMAZING amount to the Church and to all of us. But I think that will involve some Compromise and some Risk and that they have become very uncomfortable with both.

    Benedict clearly wants them back and is willing to Compromise and Risk a great deal to achieve that aim. If the SSPX leadership will only stretch a LITTLE, I think a solution can be found. But if they just say, "On our terms and no others," there won't be a solution.

    They are risking A LOT with their "disobedience" as some would kindly put it. I pray that they will risk a little in the other direction for once.

    It's not the stuff about the excommunications that bothers me. That can easily be glossed over. It's the stuff about "ha, ha, maybe ten years from now, no rush" and "it's impossible to be a Catholic today; first the Church has to come back to Tradition and then...we'll see." The lack of urgency and the huge and inchoate demands are what make my heart sink into my boots and stir my anger. I wish I could believe Fellay was just soothing down the nuts, but it sounds like the nuts told him, "Back off or you're a goner!" and he caved.

    But, I hope I'm wrong! At some point, I wish I could get a sense that those who are so critical of Rome had just a word or two of criticism for these guys, too. But the Radtrads too often seem unwilling even to countenance the slightest criticism of Williamson, for example. I get the sense that Fellay wants a solution and misses the filial relationship with the Holy Father. I get the sense that Williamson would be Damned (literally) before he'd lift a finger for any such goal.

  11. A marriage that is annulled is one in which the marriage is delcared to have been void from the beginning -- i.e. it was never valid.
    Similarly, Bp. Fellay has asked that the invalid excommunications be declared null by Rome, not that the excommunications be "lifted" or "removed," which would indicate that the excommunications were valid.

  12. Many people here seem to have Already Forgotten Cardinal Ratzinger's stunning Remark of Good Friday last:" The Church is like a SHIP SINKING!"
    Since then,he has been chosen to be Pope Benedict XVI who has been awfully busy shaking hands with just about all of the Church's perennial Enemies without, so it seems, urgently inviting them to 'Convert and be Baptized' as Saint Peter told the Jews of his day.
    Can we say that this Pope cares about Catholic Tradition in any Meaningful way?... Reading his books, one would be tempted to think that he favors Modernism over the Traditions of the Church...
    We understand that in 2003, he wrote that there should be Only ONE Latin Rite of the Mass... the Novus Ordo 'mass'...
    And then the Unwarrated Appointment of LEVADA to the second Highest Position in the Church!!!...a 'man' that, in days past, would have been burned at the Stake...
    Then there remains that business of Campos where their "Traditionalist Bishop", who, while Concelebrating the New Mass ...was photographed while doing so...later said that 'he was just "Pretending to Concelebrate!"
    We dont think that the present modernist Vatican Authorities have given any sign of returning to ageless Catholic Tradition which leaves the SSPX in Reasonable Doubt as to their "INTENTIONS"...
    Unless they think that getting Aboard a 'Sinking Ship' is really a Great Idea that Archbishop Lefebvre should have thought about some 20 years ago...Kyrie Eleison !

  13. Your quotation is not exact, Jean. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that the the Church SEEMS about to sink.

    See whole remarks here:

    All Traditional Catholics should rejoice with a Pope who so clearly sees the depth of the current crisis of the Church.

  14. Forgive us if we save our rejoicing until we actually see it!
    I might have stated my views on other posts of your blog, I honestly can't remember, but I think that Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger was a liberal eternally wedded to the council, the modern world, etc., with just a small traditional streak in the area of liturgy.
    He will not tolerate all the abominations which John Paul II did, nor will he engage in an Assisi conference himself. Therefore I don't doubt he will find some way to free up the Traditional Mass, maybe sooner than the skeptics think.
    Yet don't forget now that he is Pope it is a new ball game. I haven't dwelled too much on what he said as Cardinal Ratzinger for this reason: when you are Pope you will act differently than when you were not. This goes both for his more liberal writings (Intro to Christianity, Mission of Theology), and his more conservative ones (Spirit of the Liturgy, Feast of Faith). He may move closer or further from anyone of those decisions, only time will tell.

  15. I rejoice in his clear view of reality. Enough said. The time of penance is upon us.


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