Rorate Caeli

Fellay speaks: The talks begin in the autumn of 2009

The Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, has granted an extensive interview to Italian news agency APCom (full interview):

[Apcom:] The Pope is in Valle d'Aosta for a period of vacation. [Note: The Pope left Valle d'Aosta for Castel Gandolfo on July 29, which means that the interview was granted before his departure.] You are located very near him. Have you had any contact, or has there been any kind of contact between his entourage and you?
[Fellay:] No, absolutely not. There has been no contact. During his vacation, we must leave the Pope alone [lasciare in pace]. The matters go on with the Vatican, with the people in charge of the conversations. But we have not disturbed the Pope. This is his vacation.

[Apcom:] Bishop Fellay, is a trip of yours to Rome foreseen for the near future? Has the initial date of the dialogue been set? And, about your commission, have you already considered who will take part in it? How many people will form it?

[Fellay:] There is not date set for the beginning of the dialogue, but we may assume that it will be in the autumn. I will be in Rome for that period, but there is nothing yet detailed. The Commission is already formed, by 3-4 people, but we cannot yet mention the names, even if to avoid any kind of pressure.

[Apcom:] Do you consider that in the Vatican there is an excessive sensibility regarding the expectations of the Jewish world, in the "Williamson affair" as well as concerning the Good Friday prayer?

[Fellay:] Yes, I do think so. I am myself embarrassed - after that which took place in the case of Bishop Williamson - when I see Jews who concern themselves with matters of the Catholic Church. It is not their religion. Leave us alone [lasciare in pace].They are matters which concern the Catholic Church. If we wish to pray for the Jews, we will pray for the Jews, in the manner we see fit. I do not know if they pray for us, but I would say that this is their problem.

[Apcom:] Therefore, the Pope and the Vatican receive pressures from the Jewish world?

[Fellay:] Right. This is an extremely delicate and burning matter, and I think that we should remove ourselves from this climate which is not good. There was an unfortunate coincidence of events which must never happen again. In this context, the anger of the Jews can be understood, I understand it, and I deplore what happened.

[Apcom:] In the motu proprio 'Unitatem ecclesiam' [sic: ECCLESIAE UNITATEM], the Pope maintains that "the doctrinal questions obviously remain, the Fraternity does not a canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot exercise any ministry in a legitimate manner". What do you think of this?

[Fellay:] I think that nothing much has changed. What has changed is that this new disposition will focus our relations on doctrinal matters. But it is not a change, it is a process that moves forward, and that we had already asked for in 2000; the path goes forward. That which the Pope writes is in line with the usual speech of Rome, since 1976, therefore it is not new. We maintain a clear position, which we have carried on for a while, and that we maintain, even if we are in contrast with this law, that there are serious reasons that justify the fact that we exercise this ministry legitimately. The circumstances in which the Church finds herself, which we call a "state of necessity". For example, when a great catastrophe happens in a country, its ordinary structure is put out of use, the system goes into crisis mode, and then all those who are able to help do help. And therefore it is not our personal will, but the need of the faithful that demands the help of all those who are able to help. And this state of necessity is very widespread in the Church - there are certainly some exceptions - in order to secure, in conscience, the legitimate exercise of the apostolate.

[Apcom:] What juridical status do you desire for the Fraternity of Saint Pius X? A prelature, a society of apostolic life, or what?

[Fellay:] It will depend on Rome, obviously, that is the authority that will decide this structure. Their perspective is the wish to respect at the utmost the concrete reality that we represent. My hope is that we be sufficiently protected to exercise the apostolate to be able to do good, without being always stopped from action by juridical reasons. The hope is for a prelature, even if I do not have a preference. On the timetable, I cannot express myself, it all depends on Rome.

[Apcom:] For Williamson, the Second Vatican Council is a "poisoned cake", to be thrown in the "dustbin"; for Tissier de Mallerais, the Council should be "cancelled"; and for Alfonso de Gallareta [sic] there is not "much to salvage" from the Council: is there a division inside the Fraternity of Saint Pius X? How do you intend to solve it? The Vatican maintains that there are divisions inside the Fraternity.

[Fellay:] I might say that I do not see union even in the Vatican. The problem in the Church of our age is not us. We have become a problem only because we say that there is a problem. Besides, even if we may give the impression of opposing or even contradictory declarations, there are no internal fractures. For example, on the Council, we may say that almost all of it is to be rejected. But it may also be said that what is possible should be salvaged. But we all can never say the same thing. The Council is a mixture: there are good things, and bad. Even the Pope, when he maintains that a hermeneutic of continuity is to be desired, that he does not want a rupture, rejects the Council interpreted as rupture.

[Apcom:] Is Bishop Williamson a problem?

[Fellay:] He is a completely marginal problem. What he said has no relation whatsoever with the crisis of the Church, with the core issue with which we have dealt for 30 years following the Council, it is a historical matter. The question of knowing how many and in what way the Jews were killed is not a matter of faith, it is not even a religious matter, is is a historical matter. We are obviously convinced that he did not consider this matter as he should have, and we have distanced ourselves. But on the religious positions of the Fraternity regarding the Council, I do not see any problem with Williamson.

[Apcom:] Williamson says that the Council is a "poisoned cake" to be thrown away in the "dustbin". Does this phrase not seem to you a bit strong? Are you in agreement with it?

[Fellay:] It is a controversial phrase, but I do not condemn him. So many declarations today are made in a controversial tome, it is a provocation made in order to make people think. I would state the concept in another way, but I do not know if I am not in agreement. I would say it in another way, I would say that we must transcend the Council to return to that which the Church has always taught, and from which the Church cannot separate herself, and in a certain moment we must transcend the Council which intended to be pastoral, and not doctrinal. Which wished to concern itself with the mutable situation of the Church. But things change, and so many things of the Council are now worn-out.

[Apcom:] Bishop Williamson had promised to remain in silence, but he continues to speak: will he be punished? If he continues to maintain that a compromise with Rome on the Council is not possible, will he be expelled?

[Fellay:] It is not true that Williamson speaks often. It is very rare... he once said something... and then we did not ask him to keep silent about everything. The field about which we asked for his silence was very limited. His removal has been temporary. I downplay it as much as possible... it is not to be exaggerated... at the moment, I see no grounds for expulsion. It depends on him, on the situation in which he placed himself. For the time being, it is an ongoing process, he has seriously damaged his reputation, I cannot imagine anything beyond the situation in which he already is. It will depend on what he says. He has already been sufficiently punished, pushed to the margin, with no position.

[Apcom:] And, regarding the Council, will you accept a compromise with Rome?

[Fellay:] We will not make any compromise on the Council. I have no intention of making a compromise. The truth does not tolerate compromise. We do not want a compromise, we want clarity regarding the Council.

[Apcom:] The recent ordinations of priests have been seen as a provocation: would it have not been better to avoid them, in this delicate moment?

[Fellay:] It was not a provocation. Some bishops profited of occasion to claim provocation. But it was not a provocation, neither for Rome nor for us. It is like preventing a person from breathing. We are a priestly society whose goal is to form priests. And therefore to prevent the ultimate act of formation, which is the ordination, is like preventing someone from breathing. On the other hand, it had always been foreseen and we had always known that with the removal of the excommunication a new situation has taken place which is better than the preceding one, but not perfect. For us, it is normal to move forward with our activities, and, therefore, with the ordinations.

[Apcom:] L'Osservatore Romano has mentioned Calvin, Michael Jackson, Harry Potter, Oscar Wilde. What do you think of this?

[Fellay:] I ask myself: is the role of "L'Osservatore Romano" truly to busy itself with such matters? This is a first question. And the second question is: what is said about these people is truly the right thing? I have a mostly critical appraisal of such matters.

[Apcom:] Do you believe that this tired matter of the Lefebvrians may finally reach an end with this Pope?

[Fellay:] I do believe that there is certainly good hope. I believe that we must pray intensely, they are very delicate matters. We have been in this situation for 40 years, and not for personal considerations, but truly for serious things which pertain to the faith and to the future of the Church. We certainly see in the Pope an authentic will to reach the core of the matter, and we cherish this with all satisfaction. We pray, and we hope, that with grace of the good God we will reach something that is good for the Church and for ourselves.

[Apcom:] What do you think of Benedict XVI?

[Fellay:] He is an upright man, who regards the situation and the life of the Church most seriously.

Tip: Papa Ratzinger Blog