Rorate Caeli

The Fellay Report - II
The Pope himself recognized the
possibility of a state of necessity

An important exchange from the book "Report on Tradition - In conversation with the successor of Monsignor Lefebvre", an interview with the Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay.

[Fellay:] ... We have been told, more than once, to ask the Pope for the sanctions against us to be removed. Therefore, it is Rome itself that does not see the reason for this measure [of excommunication] to subsist and that tells us that the door to suppress it is open.

[Interviewers:] But you, in the meantime, how do you feel regarding the Church?

We feel completely inside the Church, and we work solely for the good of the Church. We certainly wish to discuss openly with the Roman authority, and, to this purpose, we have used a somewhat superficial argument: dialogue – but we have done so to try to progress towards the solution of the problem. After the Council, to facilitate dialogue, Pope Paul VI abolished the excommunication of the Orthodox. In return, the Orthodox abolished their excommunication against the Vatican. I do not think that also we have first to excommunicate the Vatican and, afterwards, attain a reciprocal removal of the excommunications. Regardless of the pleasantries, the fact remains that the argument of dialogue is a truly weak one.

We have given Rome another argument to attain the removal of the sanctions against us, a much more substantial argument, derived from Canon Law itself: the state of necessity. When someone fulfills an act which goes against the ordinary norms of Canon Law, for the necessity of the good of the Church, as monsignor Lefebvre did [when] consecrating four bishops, he does not incur in the penalty of excommunication. This is the well-known case – may it serve as an example – of the episcopal consecrations accomplished in secret, backstage, under the Communist regimes.

[Interviewers:] The Congregation [sic] for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts has opposed an objection, sustaining that the state of necessity is not comparable... [sic]

We, in our turn, can bring with us an opinion of greater weight on this argument. Pope Benedict XVI directly provided it, during the audience which he granted to us on August 29, 2005. At a certain point [during the audience], the Pontiff himself put the matter on the table: pondering on the state of the Church in countries such as France and Germany, Benedict XVI recognized as perfectly well-grounded the question of the subsistence of the state of necessity in such countries... [sic] The Pope said this, not we.
(Rapporto sulla Tradizione
Cantagalli, Siena, 2007
pages 34-35)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. By my best recollection, the CIILT's objection was that subjective necessity could not be used as a basis for invalidating the excommunications, because of the chaos and anarchy that might be encouraged by setting such a precedent.

    There is no reason, however, why Rome could not acknowledge that a state of necessity objectively existed, which allegedly the Holy Father has already privately done.

  3. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Regardless of how negotiations turn out, it is still from the SSPX camp a "he said, we said" argument -- not a conversation in charity where fault must, in some respects, be acknowledged for the SSPX, too -- not demanded only from Rome, not a dubious state of emergency, etc. This kind of disputatious spirit has always informed the SSPX, and, generally it has been a charateristic of the Roman-Latin West since the Coucil of Trent.

  4. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the authors of this blog for its extraordinary excellence during the past year.

    May Our Lady of Pellevoisin rain down graces upon this apostolate from that treasury of graces placed into Her hands by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  5. Anonymous12:15 AM

    ist dïe ynberr!

  6. A bit over the top, I'd say, to compare ordinations of bishops against the express command of the Successor of Peter with ordinations of bishops under governments which persecute the Church and her ministers.

    Of course, the fact that this likely doesn't seem over the top to many readers is PART of the problem we have to deal with.

  7. Anonymous1:20 AM

    A dubious state of emergency?

    Another generation of such a dubious state and there will be no more church in Europe.

    Dialogue is impossible with men to whom truth is less important than pride.

  8. Anonymous1:49 AM

    "A bit over the top, I'd say, to compare ordinations of bishops against the express command of the Successor of Peter with ordinations of bishops under governments which persecute the Church and her ministers."

    If you don't have bishops you don't have priests. So the Archbishop was just supposed to trust on good faith that Rome would have continued to ordain and support the growing number of seminarians in the SSPX after his demise?

    There is no doubt that the consecrations were a necessity. Given the fact that Archbishop Levebre and Bishop De Castro Meyer died so soon after, along with the fact that Rome has yet to consecrate any bishops affiliated with the traditional institutions that it has sanctioned as a result of the excommunications only further supports the case.

  9. Exactly, there are so many fine FSSP priests who would make exemplary bishops, but there has not been even a rumor that such a thing is likely.

  10. "A bit over the top, I'd say, to compare ordinations of bishops against the express command of the Successor of Peter with ordinations of bishops under governments which persecute the Church and her ministers."

    And there is no persecution within the western Church? Are you KIDDING ME? Are you trying to kid ALL OF US? Or are you only deluding yourself? How many holy priests in western nations have been subjected to "psychological evaluation" because of they have seen through the sham of Vat II and refused to abandon aspects of the church they know to be true? How many holy vocations have been squashed by directors of seminaries who prefer pederasty to priestly bearing, and to what cost to the church - financial if nothing else, and there is much else to be sure. The abuse of such people has led to alcoholism, apostasy, loss of faith and crushed spirits. I have seen it first hand.

    The crushing irony is that it has been the Western church which has carried out this persecution on itself, tearing at the fabric of tradition and the hermeneutic of continuity out of a misguided, subversive, superficial vision of ecumenical do-gooding.

    If you can deny all of this and still maintain that there is no persecution in the Western church, they you are truly deluded and delusional, but grow up and stop trying to make the SSPX out to be some kind of red-headed religious step-child. They may be spikey and intransigent, but they are living to see themselves vindicated for their adhesion to the continuity of the Church. Time to get over that, and learn to say "no" to ecumenical egalitarianism.

    The '60's were over before they ever began, and the Church is waking up. Look in the mirror, and learn to know what manner of men we were, are and ever shall be.

  11. "Dubious state of emergency"

    Whenever doctrine is openly denied, we have a state of emergency (as happens in Europe, some places in the US and various other radical places in the Church). And whenever prelates and faithful claim to believe a doctrine but act as if it doesn't exist, we have a state of emergency (practically the rest of the Western Church). Now try to condemn the SSPX appeals to a "state of emergency."

  12. Anonymous11:32 AM

    I live in the Richmond dioscese in the USA. Our bishops for the past 40 years have tolarated the most outrageous behaviors among priest and laymen especially as regards the abuses of the Mass. The spiritual life of traditional Catholics in this dioecese is characterized by a feelings of opression, as of those living in totalitarian societies...I imagine similar to the life of Chines Catholics subjected to the dictates of the Patriotic Church.

    Pray for liberation!

  13. Anonymous;

    "Latin was stifling participation"...

    So what is it that is stifling participation now (and, incidentally, since we started saying Mass in the vernacular)? There is more than a bit of irony in the observation that my assembly will sing "Pange Lingua" from memory on Holy Thursday, and on any given Sunday will sing "O Sanctissima" or "Panis Angelicus" with far more enthusiasm than "To Be Your Bread" or "Gather Us In". If Latin was the problem then, what is the problem NOW? Don't get me wrong; I'm not convinced that a wholesale return to Latin Liturgy is a cure-all for our liturgical ills... but we threw out more than a few "babies" with the latin bathwater, and the proposed solution has not yielded the fruit that it was supposed to.

    Yes, there are those who continue to insist that VII was a mistake... but I'm not one of them. But you don't need to be a liturgical scholar to take even a cursory look and see that what we have now is not what Vatican II called for.

  14. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Fellay: I do not think that also we have first to excommunicate the Vatican and, afterwards, attain a reciprocal removal of the excommunications.

    Huh? What is this?

    Does that tought crosses Fellay's mind?

    Does he believe that he can do that?

    Is it his belief that the Vatican would merit his excommunication?

    I mean, the very fact that someone mentions the possibility, the hipothesis, of excommunicating the Vatican, is already the sign of a great problem.

    Granted, that Fellay says that he does not think that this excommunication of the Vatican would be needed in order to attain reconciliation, but still, the very tought of doing so, or of having power to do so, is already one of great sin, and makes his statement very un-Catholic.

  15. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Aren't we getting tired of hearing the gripes against Latin? Once again, Latin isn't the problem. If it was, we would be participating in the Tridentine mass in the vernacular, an option which has always been rejected by the authorities of the Second Vatican council.

    Clearly, they do not want to give up on the new theology behind the new mass. Not saying the official teachings are that there is a new theology, just that there is one in pastoral practice, and that's the issue, not Latin.

  16. No, Prof. Basto, that was clearly a joke by Bishop Fellay, which is why he dismisses "pleasantries" (jokes) afterwards.

  17. Anonymous7:02 PM

    If Pope Benedict can acknowledge a certain state of crisis in designated areas we need not interpret that as a license to disregard legitimate authority. Even if the legitimate authority happens to be mistaken on practical prudential matters -- the principle of authority and the common good of the Church holds. I think we must admit that any papal prohibition to consecrating bishops it not evil, per se -- regardless of how misguided it may or may not be. As such, could there be any objective criteria that would justify disobedience to the legitimate authority in this case?

  18. Anonymous9:21 PM


    Do you accept mathematics as objective, especially subtraction?

    The saintly Archbishop was right.

  19. The Theology of the New Mass can be understood in light of the Old Mass, if looked at Carefully. Although Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV need to go.

  20. Anonymous9:51 PM

    "The saintly Archbishop was right."

    This is not really a question of being "right" or "mistaken". Rather, this is a simple question of obedience to legitimate authority. Bishops have no "right" to disobey direct orders from the Pope -- even if they are convinced that the Pope is mistaken and they are correct. These are the same tactics employed by progressives that would ignore Summorum Pontificum -- on account the Pope being mistaken, misguided, etc. The principle of legitibate authority cuts both ways and applies equally to both progressives as well as traditionalists.

  21. Anonymous1:55 AM

    Such a difference, and so obvious. Throughout history the church has relied on saints to resist errors promoted from within the church at all levels, even papal. The saints, however, were certain that they were defending orthodox views. They passed on what they received.

    On the other hand, scripture warned us about you progressives. You have itching ears.

  22. Fr Clement has a post worth reading (Jan 3 2008) where he quotes St Bernard on obedience.

  23. Anonymous12:41 PM

    Where I live there is no TLM. Twice a month, thanks God, I'm able to go to a Ukrainian-Catholic mass (liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). I've learnt two things throgh this experience; first, one doesn't need to speak latin to participate in a TLM (I don't speak Ukrainian); second, the great problems of the Church today are based on catechetical and doctrinal problems, not just on liturgical matters. In fact, liturgy is a consequence of faith. We could have a TLM in our diocese, but how many would understood the meaning and enjoy the possibility to go in a tradicional mass? If they don't understand a Novus Ordo mass, they aren't able to understand also a TLM. We know the Church needs the TLM, but what can we say about the great majority of faithful? They need to be re-evangelized in a solid catholic basis in order to understand it...

    Maringá, Paraná, Brazil

  24. Anonymous4:02 PM

    The Second Vatican Council called for just that - an increase in understanding and devotion to the mass. Of course, that happened in traditionalist circles, but the opposite happened in Novus Ordo circles. One works and the other doesn't. So now someone has to clean up the huge mess of the one that doesn't.

    Well then, might as well stop defending failure, accept success, and get on with restoring the old ways. Either that or just keep on with the Novus Ordo motto - why doesn't this dang thing work?

  25. Anonymous5:39 PM

    "Throughout history the church has relied on saints to resist errors promoted from within the church at all levels, even papal."

    This is not a question of "resisting errors", as such. Rather, we are talking about a practical disobedience against legitimate orders from lawful authority. For example, the act of consecrating bishops against the will of the Pope is an act of disobedience. The principle of authority must be respected in everything but sin.


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