Rorate Caeli

Fellay speaks to the N.C.Register

A very interesting interview granted by the Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, has been published by the National Catholic Register (affiliated with the Legion of Christ) .

Main excerpts:

[NCRegister:] say in your statement released in response to the motu proprio that there are still doctrinal difficulties. There’s also the issue of excommunication, which, some say, is not something that can be easily resolved.

[Fellay:]My response to that is very simple: The authorities in Rome consider it to be easy. They very clearly don’t consider it to be a very difficult matter.


To go back to Cardinal Castrillon, he said in a recent interview that with Summorum Pontificum, the door is wide open for a return of the Society of St. Pius X into full communion. He said: “If, after this act, the return does not take place, I truly will not be able to comprehend it.” Some would say therefore you are being unnecessarily difficult — that you should reconcile and then these issues can be discussed.

It’s a point of view. The point of view of Cardinal Castrillon has always been to solve the problem practically, without discussions. Let’s sign the document, the agreement, and then later on we’ll discuss. That is his position.

We say we would like to but we can’t because if we do so, tomorrow we’ll be in the same problem we’re in now. We fear if that happens, then tomorrow we get the same censures as we have now. So first we must discuss and clear things.


What direction would you most like the Vatican to take now?

Continue in that direction; it’s a very good start. We are really grateful to the Pope and we understand that he had to face a very, very strong opposition from many bishops’ conferences. So we are really grateful to him.

Do you feel you’ve been vindicated in a way, that it’s been worth the struggle and it will perhaps make you and the society even more convinced of your own position?

I’ve never seen it in that light. Our concern is to go to heaven, to be saved, and, let’s say, the good of the Church. If all goes well for the whole Church, we are pretty sure we will go well, too.

In his explanatory letter on the motu proprio, the Pope said that neither knowledge of the old liturgy nor Latin is common among priests, indicating that it probably won’t be widely used in any case. Is this a problem for you, that there won’t be a renaissance of the old rite, which you hope for?

We have always looked on this as a long process. It’s very obvious that right now, there will be few who will take the opportunity given to them. But that’s normal because, as the Pope says, many don’t think there is an old rite, or don’t know Latin. So it’s normal that it will take time, but we are sure that if the opportunity is given to them, and there’s the appreciation of what this rite consists of, then no doubt it will come.


You don’t think, though, that these things, the meaning of the text, must evolve over time and so become clearer and less ambiguous?

You have a text. The words used were expressly used to be ambiguous. It’s recognized by so many scholars, theologians in the Church. It’s a fact and we can’t help it. It’s true, it’s there.

So it means the Church will have the duty in the future to make it clear. And this text that came out yesterday [“Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church”], we’re not very happy with it, but it is an attempt to make it clearer.

So you do welcome the attempt?


Do you have any other final reflections on Summorum Pontificum?

We are really happy with it, and we do consider this the most supernatural act possible.

It’s a very courageous act of the Pope, very supernatural, and we do hope it brings many blessings on the Church, even if the blessings will not appear immediately.

Recess for a few days


  1. Am I dreaming here?

    The mere fact that the Register would interview Bp. Fellay is a huge sign of the thaw that is happening.

    All good news.

    Maybe next year the Holy Father will be offering Mass in the traditional rite and his assistants will include Bp. Fellay, Msgr. Schmitz and Wach, and Fr. Berg.

    Why not?

  2. Anonymous8:59 PM

    As Tinman said who woulda thunk it? THe things that are happening and happening fast, would never have been believed years or even months or weeks ago.

    I believe there is a groundswell, especially among younger priests, for the Old Mass and within a relatively short period of time, things will change rapidly. There will even be pressure to pray the Novus Ordo more reverently. What true priest after offering the Novus Ordo surrounded by the EEM minions, readers and various other laymen, would not welcome the opportunity to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the Traditional Rite?

    We have been hearing many stories on the ground of priests being interested in the Old Mass, reaching our to others for help and advice, flying under the chancery radar.

    On the other side however, the SSPX has a choice to make. If offered a great juridical situation, they could offer a structure and heirarchy for tradition-minded priests. Their presence in the church would truly galvanize the movement and put it one a steadier, more sure course. I pray the Bishops of the SSPX discern God's will in this all and for my prayer that they lead the traditionalist movement in the heart of the church with all of their brother priests who have been struggling with so much adversity for so long

  3. God bless Bishop Fellay.

  4. Anonymous11:00 PM

    The Pope clearly recognized in his explanatory letter on the MP that the issues between the Holy See and the SSPX were not circumscribed to the Mass, he recognized that the problems are of a deep nature. As for ambiguity on the MP I really do not know where it is because it is pretty straighforward. What else could the Pope have done? I do not know.

    The SSPX got what it had asked the Holy See to do, to free the Tridentine Mass, it never asked the Holy See to abolish the Novus Ordo Rite.

    As for the notification of the CDF, Fellay is wrong and the notification and explanatory commentary by the CDF on the notification is perfectly clear and unequivocal: Church of Christ = Catholic Church.

    But all in all I think that the SSPX should wait at least for three more years, which is the time stated by Benedict XVI to evaluate the whole experiment. It would be a huge mistake for the SSPX to jump in the reconciliation wagon now. I would even say the SSPX should wait until the next pontificate and see if this trend in the Holy See is permanent or if it is just a temporary thing.

    One thing is clear, the blow to the Conciliar Church was an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 in the Richter scale, in the recent settlement between the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and other diocesis, and plainttfs on the clerical children sexual abuse cases.

    I pray that Pope Benedict XVI is able to read the sign of the times and act accordingly, but the problem with him is that he so centered in his ideas that perhaps he will just contine in his literary work, leaving the problem to his succesor. I think these conciliar popes have found the way to distract themselves with papal regalia visiting other countries.

    But the fisticuff to the Catholic Church, in the LA Archdiocese case and the like, was a World Heavyweight Championship (Muhammed Ali) type.

  5. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Bishop Fellay again shows that --among all the world's bishops -- he is the most positive regarding Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum. That should tell the Holy Father something and should shout the truth to the rest of the hierarchy as well.

  6. Anonymous12:42 AM

    As for ambiguity on the MP I really do not know where it is because it is pretty straighforward.

    I think it's pretty clear that His Excellency is talking about the documents of Vatican II.

  7. Anonymous1:20 AM

    Bishop Fellay is good people. Pax tecum, +Craig Kelso

  8. Anonymous3:15 AM

    Bp. Fellay and his flock should try to come home, now. I don't believe they should "wait, three years". Enough waiting. Positions harden over time.

    But here is a huge caveat: I only think that SSPX should accept reunification if they are not made to acquiesce to the policies of VII that they find offensive. Nor should they be forced to say the Novus Ordo.

    The Church could really use SSPX right now, and the Godly priest, with their mission of saving souls, would also be fulfilled in the wasteland that now exists in the Roman Catholic Church. It would be a huge wind-fall for both sides. I think it's time for SSPX to come home now, with the caveat discussed supra.

  9. Anonymous3:25 AM

    "Positions harden over time" Whose positions?, Rome or Econe's?

    As for the obligation of saying the Novus Ordo Mass I think that has been superceded by the experience of the Good Shepperd Institute. However, the problem lays in that the SSPX does not accept the validity of the Novus Ordo, and this is a problem.

    Definitely, reconciliation can only occurr without preconditions. But I think that Fellay is very sensible in that he is asking for a doctrinal dialogue before signing a reconciliation agreement. He is right and in this sense the Pope has a lot of work to do. For example the Pope should issue an encyclical on the topic religious liberty in terms of the catholic faith, so as to clarify the ambiguiety of the Vatican II document.

    I think that the strategy of the SSPX is sensible and they should be careful because the disagreements are deep, and if positions harden then the time is not ripe for a reconciliation and we will have to wait for a real chance for tradition in the Church.

    I think that the ball, mainly is the Pope's camp. We will see what happens with the MP on the Tridentine Mass.

  10. Anonymous4:32 AM


    You are wrong on two points:

    First, SSPX does accept the "validity" of the Novus Ordo, even if they wouldn't touch it with ten-foot pole. That Christ can be validly consecrated in the Novus Ordo, SSPX has never denied. BUT, SSPX should not be force to pray this protestantesque mass created in a liturgical think-tank by Bugnini, who was most likely a mason, and was shipped off to the far reaches of the middle east as the Nobus Ordo was just beginning to precipitate its devestating effect.

    2) You say "But I think that Fellay is very sensible in that he is asking for a doctrinal dialogue before signing a reconciliation agreement." Whoever said that "doctrinal dialogue" is an issue? VII pronounced no new dogma, so if a group disagrees that, say, Ecumenism, is the highest goal in the Church, why is that person less a Catholic then, say, St. Francis of Assisi who traveled to Islamic lands not to "dialogue" but to preach Christ (even if he did it in a very courteous way, so that the Sultan himself couldn't believe this Catholic would be so presumptuous and yet so gentle, that he couldn't but abide him, and give him his time)?

  11. Anonymous4:51 AM

    btw: as an aside, that set-piece of Fellay holding an old-style phone in one hand, and a pen in the other is corny. Maybe replace it with a photo from one of his recent courageous speeches; just a thought. I really admire Fellay, but that photo looks to much like the set-pieces of Paul VI signing one of his encyclicals for the cameras....

  12. Anonymous5:43 AM

    The question is weather Rome can witstand open critiques from inside the Church, because the SSPX will no shut up even if they sign a reconciliation agreement. Will Rome tolerate this? I think not; that is why Fellay points out that the dialogue is necessary otherwise they would be censured again, if not by this pope by the next. Who knows who comes after Benedict XVI?

  13. Anonymous7:08 AM

    SSPX is not stupid. If they sign a "reconciliation document" they will not throw in the kitchen sink. It's not about "pride" as Fellay says. It's really, and truly, about saving souls. See, that's where this whole discussion gets off-key. This isn't about, "who is right, and who is wrong". This is about our eternal destiny. We all die, our bodies corrupt, but our souls live on somewhere, for eternity. That is where this whole discourse becomes obscure. Who wants to think about death? It's very unpleasant, even for the most stalwart among us. Yet, Fellay rightfully put that question out there: he said the primary concern of SSPX is the salvation of souls. Now how many modernist priest, or, even, bishops, can say the same thing?

  14. Anonymous10:33 AM

    "Old-style phone"? It looks rather modern (apart from not being a cell phone).

  15. I hope that there are things going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. I strongly hope that the excommunication's will be lifted. How should SSPX then be organized? Like Opus Dei?

  16. I think Rome is the Magisterium, guys, not just some upstart that wants to "boss everybody around."

    If you are waiting for an agreement that says, "Freedom of conscience! Everyone can say or believe what they want, as long as they are convinced it's "traditional". We're just here as consultants; use or ignore as you please. Oh! and: Happy Holidays! :) " ...if you are waiting for Rome to initial something like that, you will wait forever.

    Of course, the SSPX is going to have to agree to be guided by the Magisterium.

    The only way around that is to simply lift the excommunications. SSPX insists that it is still in the Church. IF that is no, then the excommunications are the only thing standing in the way. If they are lifted and the SSPX remains recalcitrant and a law unto itself, then it's a sign that they don't mean what they say.

    Project Self-Declared Emergency has to come to an end.

  17. Anonymous4:57 PM


    Hmm. I'm not so sure about that one. Iota Unum is one of the most brilliant books I have ever read, and is very critical of Vatican II. Rome seems to be taking a second look at it, as this blog has pointed out:

    I think it is equally significant that it is sold in the Vatican's own bookstore!!

    Vatican II is a series of policies, which can change with the stroke of the Pope's pen. In fact, I think we are beginning to see big changes to the "Spirit of Vatican II" talk!

  18. Anonymous6:49 PM

    I join Tinman in observing what news it is just to have the Register interview Bishop Fellay.

    As a member of Regnum Christi, I hope this is a little straw in the wind indictaing that maybe the Legionaries will offer the TLM from time to time.

    There is a substantial amount of Latin taught and used at Regina Apostolorum, in any case, I understand, so the lack of learning would not be a response one would hear there.

  19. The mere fact that the Register would interview Bp. Fellay is a huge sign of the thaw that is happening.

    Tim has a point here.

    The Legion (and its outlets) are nothing if not very politic in what they do and do not do. Their ears are always to the ground.

    Some comments on Fellay's comments:

    You're right. And the present Pope has written several times that the reform was not organic — that's one of his major reproaches against the reform, that the Mass of Paul VI is not organic.

    There is a rich vein to be tapped here, but Fellay just hints at it. Some of Ratzinger's recent pre-pontifical writings (at Fontgambault, the introduction to Reid's and Gamber's books, etc.) suggest that he thinks there's more fundamental rupture than his Motu Proprio letter suggests.

    But it's also true that Ratzinger does not see quite as much rupture as Fellay does.

    But we know the council has never expressed this will to make an infallible statement [on the reforms of the Council]. So we know that the degree of adherence to this teaching is, by far, lower than the one that is requested by an infallible statement.

    You get a vibe here similar to Robert Bork's assessment of the Privileges and Immunities Clause as an "inkblot" - i.e., this document is largely ambiguous, so let's largely ignore it.

  20. "Bishop Fellay again shows that --among all the world's bishops -- he is the most positive regarding Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum."

    I think Archbishop Burke is about as positive as you can possibly get - and without any Fellay's other qualifications.

    But to be sure, there are not too many others like him.

  21. I didn't think Bp. Fellay's praise of the motu proprio was qualified at all. The "qualifications" he expressed were with regard to other subjects, like the CDF document.

  22. Hello Poeta,

    I agree. But just the same, Fellay did take note of other issues of concern. Burke, of course, did not.

    I am only suggesting that there are at least a few diocesan bishops who have reacted as positively as you could hope for - not many, but they are out there.

    And they need our encouragement and support.

  23. Anonymous5:23 PM

    A Father in the last week Sunday Mass said he has inside information that are "much more to come" until the end of the year.

  24. Anonymous6:36 PM

    July 7th, 2007: Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum is issued, freeing the Mass of Ages.

    July 7th, 2007: 55th anniversary of the consacration of the peoples of Russia to the immaculate heart of Mary by Pope Pius XII (Apostolic Letter Sacro Vergente Anno)

    Thank you, Lady of Fatima! Pray for us to God!

  25. Anonymous7:10 PM

    The best way to proceed is to treat the case of the SSPX in the same spirit of of openness to dialogue as the Orthodox are treated by the Church. That means, namely, that, for the sake of reconciliation:

    a) the Pope should graciously "remove from the memory of the Church" the excommunications declared in 1988 against members of the SSPX, removing also from the said memory any other sanctions incurred, declared, or that may have been incurred by members of the SSPX

    b) at the same time, summon the SSPX Bishops to Rome, for meetings with the Pope and with the Ecclesia Dei Commission (not invite, but summon; the SSPX authorities, being Catholic, will attend the papal summons). At that meeting, the Holy See and the SSPX Bishops could without difficulty agree to establish a permanent working group on doctrinal issues.

    c) This working group should iron out the doctrinal problems, and then produce a joint declaration, that, after being cleared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by the Pope, would be signed on behalf of the Holy See by the Prefect of the CDF and the President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and, on behalf of the SSPX, by its Bishops.

    I'm confident that there can be doctrinal agreement between Rome and the SSPX (the Holy See needs to affirm what we all know to be True: FOR INSTANCE - that "subsists in" does not include the correctness of "is", and that the Church of Christ both is and subsists in the Catholic Church; and that each expression, is and subsists in, can be used to better highlight different aspects of the doctrine on the Church (is - the historical continuity of the same Church; subsists; the presence of means of santification outside the visible structure of the Church, as already recognized in pre-Vatican II times with regard to exceptional means of salvation that are always trough the Church but not always trough visible communion with her, etc.)

    d) then, after the signing of the joint declaration, the SSPX Superior General should petition the Holy Father for a full canonical regularization;

    e) in response, the Holy Father should issue a letter declaring the SSPX fully regularized and embraced into full communion, and promise the erection of a personal prelature, and/or of a society of apostolic life, etc. for the SSPX, with the right to celebrate the Liturgy with the Books of 1962 as its proper Books (as was done with regard to the FSSP and is envisaged in article 2 of Summorum Pontificum). A personal prelature, as in the case of Opus Dei, would be headed by a Bishop. Even if one were not erected, and instead the Holy See opted for a society of apostolic life, it should be granted the privilege of having a proper Bishop, something that was already envisaged by the Ratzinger-Lefebrve protocol, and that could be now given a more secure juridical footing. I would hope, however, for a personal prelature, thus combining the episcopal character with the role of superior. Just as was done in the case of Campos, episcopal succession should be promised.

    f) the Pope's letter should be accompanied or shortly followed by Curial Decrees (as in the case of the Apostolic Administration of Campos), giving execution to the pope's promisses: by erecting the juridical structure of a personal prelature or society of apostolic life, etc., if need be, approving Constitutions, naming the prelate or superior, and the granting of titular sees to the SSPX Bishops, thus regularizing them in the College of Bishops (as was done with regard to H.E. Mons. Licinio Rangel).

    g) the celebration of a cerimony at Econe, with the presence of a pontifical representative, to carry out the decrees of erection and appointment, receive the canonical oaths just as was done in the case of Campos, etc, and to celebrate full communion (Te Deum, etc).

  26. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Despite the progress inherent in these developments, I see evidence that the progressive wing of the Church will not surrender easily. Just this past Sunday, I attended a N.O. Mass in Portand, Oregon, where the Priest waxed poetically about the "advantages" of the vernacular liturgy. The Mass itself was a modernist abomination, with EMs running all over place distributing communion, kids laughing and running about, "choir" members singing Protestant-style songs, etc. I felt like I was in a Baptist revival tent!


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