SSPX Bishop Fellay snubs pope’s ultimatum on rejoining Rome
It seems there’s no need to wait until Monday* to see how the traditionalist Catholic Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) will respond to the Vatican ultimatum and pledge loyalty to Pope Benedict. Its leader Bishop Bernard Fellay spoke about the conditions last Friday (June 20) — before it was known that Benedict had called his bluff — and made clear the SSPX could not accept it. “They just say ‘shut up’,” he said in a sermon at an SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota. “We are not going … to shut up.”
In another part of the sermon, he says: “We are, shall we say, something like at a crossroads. In a certain way, Rome is telling us, O.K. we are ready to lift the excommunications, but you cannot continue this way. So we have no choice. We are not going this way. We are continuing what we’ve done. We have fought now for 40 years to keep this faith alive, to keep this tradition, not only for ourselves but for the Church. And we are just going to continue. Happens what happens. Everything is in God’s hands.”
Click here for our news report. Here is an audio file of his sermon (in English). Hat tips to Andrea Tornielli for breaking the story and blogging it along (in Italian) and La Croix’s Isabelle de Gaulmyn for the Vatican clarification (in French). The relevant part of Fellay’s sermon is copied out verbatim on the second page of this post (see below) to give the full context of his comments.
This is not that surprising, given that Fellay has always insisted the schism was not only about the old Latin Mass. SSPX leaders are also firmly opposed to the Second Vatican Council, some of them more staunchly and bluntly than Fellay. The interesting part is that many SSPX followers are probably more interested in the traditional Mass than the other theological points Fellay insists on. So they may go back to Rome now that the Latin Mass will be more widely used in Catholic churches. Tornielli wrote: “Now that they have obtained the Mass in the old rite, many faithful don’t understand why the SSPX doesn’t finally make its peace with Rome.” As Fr. Z puts it on WDTPRS, “Most people want a reverent Mass and sound preaching. They care little for the loftier theological arguments. ”
There’s a lively debate on some Catholic blogs (see among others Angelqueen, Rorate Caeli, The Sensible Bond, The Gregorian Rite, The Pledge of Future Glory) over whether the fact that the five conditions set by the Vatican did not mention Vatican II or the new Mass (novus ordo) means the SSPX might not have to accept them. But a pledge to “avoid the pretense of a Magisterium superior to the Holy Father” covers those two points and lots more. That wording is just a sugar coating for what is a bitter pill for the SSPX.
What do you think will happen now? Will the sheep flock back to Rome while the shepherds hold out in protest?
*N.B. The letter with the five conditions say the ultimatum’s deadline is “fixed at the end of the month of June.” Tornielli translated that as Saturday June 28, while Gaulmyn opted for Monday June 30. As the original was written in French, I’m going with Isabelle’s interpretation.
Bishop Bernard Fellay spoke at St. Thomas Aquinas (SSPX) seminary on June 20, 2008 and these verbatim excerpts were taken from the audio file on Voice of Catholic Radio. The Swiss-born bishop spoke in English rather than his native French. The excerpts start about 2/3 of the way through the file.
“Certainly, my dear brethren, you expect from me today also a certain update on how are things going with Rome. All these excommunications, or the lifting or retracting of the decree of excommunication, is it coming or not? Frankly I don’t know. My impression right now is that we still can wait for a while. And maybe a good while. And why so?
“Because the approach we have towards the question is not the same as the one of the Vatican. I may say this problem almost these words, they were the words of the archbishop at the time of the bishops’ consecrations 20 years ago. He said Rome wants a reconciliation but with these words they tend, they want to say that we go back to the new, which is not a ‘go back’ but ‘go in.’ And that’s not what we want. He said the perspective is different. They speak of reconciliation, but it is an integration in the new and we don’t want that. In ’75, ’76 it was already the same problem. Before the suspension of ’76, Rome sent an ambassador to the archbishop who told him, say with me one new Mass, concelebrate with me one Mass and everything is fine. And now, well they don’t say say one Mass, they just say ‘shut up.’
“It is so far that Rome has given me an ultimatum. It seems that the last Letter to the Benefactors has been not been well received in Rome. They consider it as a proof of pride, of arrogance. That’s what they don’t want. And we are not going to shut down our mouths, or to shut up. We are still precisely in this fight we have described, my dear brethren. It’s still the same story. May have different appearances, still the same. We may say, so what about the motu proprio, what about the Mass? That’s a good point, no doubt. This reintroduction or the will to reintroduce the old liturgy, the liturgy of old times, that of the Church is something very good and we are very very happy of it, even if for the time being there are not more or not many, many effectiveness. You can almost count, let’s hope so.
“But let me try to give you a picture. The Mass is the visible part of this big fight. It is like the tip of an iceberg. The old Mass is the tip of the iceberg of tradition. The new Mass is the tip of the iceberg of Vatican II and of these modern ideas, what they call the spirit of the council, which has come in with all these reforms which have almost kicked down the Church. This new spirit, this new way of looking at things as if everything is nice, everything is good. A positive way on the world, on the other religions. So we insist on showing all what is good in them. That’s not false. There are some good in them. That’s the tricky point. In every evil you have some good. And in the worst evil, you have the most good. It’s the most dangerous.
“We know that those who refuse only one truth of our Catholic faith, they may keep all the rest. They may keep hundreds, thousands of truths. The denial of only one makes that they have lost the faith. You can insist on all the other points. They have no faith. What they have is a human belief, it’s no longer the faith. This belief is not going to save. Its like a plane where you have a lot of good parts in the plane but you have no engines. Its not going to fly. Or even you have no pilot. It’s not going to fly…
“You may insist there are very good engines there. It doesn’t help. You want this plane to fly, you have to insist that there may be a pilot. Let’s take the Orthodox. They refuse the pilot, they refuse the pope. Their plan may have all the sacraments, they may have all the engines, it’s not going to fly.
“Let’s go back to our first image, the iceberg. What happens with this motu proprio is as if they would have taken this tip of the iceberg. When we see this, we have the impression, OK, they take the tip, so they take everything which is below. That’s not exactly what they did. They tried to take the tip and to plant it on the other iceberg, the iceberg of the new thing. And so we have two tips and they say it’s only one tip. But if you try to go and see and look under the water, what is below, you will see that they maintain that the only thing you can have below is the new thing. But they call it tradition. So it may create a lot of confusion. Twenty years ago, Archbishop Lefebvre, just before the consecration of bishops, gave the conference to the seminarians in Flavigny. And he explained them — it’s his words, at the time 20 years ago – ‘for Cardinal Ratzinger, the council Vatican II is tradition. And that’s what they say now. It may puzzle people, but when you look at the reality, you see that it is not as if we would pretend that these two tips are only one. No they’re not. The new Mass is not the old Mass. It may be valid. That means that the real consecration of our Lord may happen. But all that makes a Mass, all these gestures, all these words, they lead to something else.
“The maker of the new Mass, Monsignor (inaudible), said it when he made it. He said we’re going to take out of the Mass everything that might appear like the shadow of an obstacle to our separate brethren. So they have taken out of the Mass everything that could have hurt the Protestants. They have made a Protestant thing, up to the point that Protestants said, like Max Thurian — from now on we the Protestants can take the new Mass for our Protestant service. It’s theologically possible. Even in Strasbourg in France, the confession of Augsburg, who are Lutherans, they invited their communities to take the new missal, the new Mass for their Protestant service. That means the Protestants have absolutely no problem in taking the text of the new Mass for their Protestant serve. How can you say then it is the same, the new and the old Mass?
“And now we are, shall we say, something like at a crossroads. In certain way Rome is telling us, OK we are ready to lift up the excommunications, but you cannot continue this way. So we have no choice. We are not going this way. We are continuing what we’ve done. We have fought now for 40 years to keep this faith alive, to keep this tradition, not only for ourselves but for the Church. And we are just going to continue. Happens what happens. Everything is in God’s hands. If God wants this proof, this trial to continue, it may continue. He will give us the grace we need for it. No fear, we’ll wait for better times. As the archbishop said 20 years ago, that’s what we continue to say today. Of course we have to do what we can to have this faith to be continued to be preached everywhere. This faith to be really and all this tradition to be really back in the Church. We have to do whatever we can for this, but nothing else. It is a hard time, my dear brethren. That is not ourselves who are going to change it. We are in these circumstances. We did not cause them. So we depend on God…
“Let’s choose the right side, even if it is a side that promises us here on Earth tears, work, sweat, tears, persecution, whatever…”