Bishop Fellay, Vatican II, CNS.
Bishop Fellay spoke with a journalist of the Catholcs News Society, and what resulted is the article you read here. I am not overly fond of this kind of interview, because it seems to me that it can be easily adapted to let the interviewed say what the interviewer wanted him to say. If I want to give a certain “cut” to an interview, I will always be able to let my man talk and then pick and choose what best matches the idea I want to convey.
As a result, the idea which emerges from this interview is a Bishop much different from the Fellay we know (and love), rather resembling one of the many anodyne bishops the CNS interviews all the time. Again, I do not think he has been wilfully manipulated, but rather that the interview was made with a certain idea in mind, and the ready product ended up reflecting that idea.
The questionable part is, of course, the one regarding Vatican II. Please read this words:
Although he stopped short of endorsing Pope Benedict’s interpretation of Vatican II as essentially in continuity with the church’s tradition — a position which many in the society have vocally disputed — Bishop Fellay spoke about the idea in strikingly sympathetic terms.
“I would hope so,” he said, when asked if Vatican II itself belongs to Catholic tradition.
Now, the literal meaning of the words is that:
1) Bishop Fellay would hope V II is in continuity with Catholic tradition; but
2) alas, he does not think so, because he does not endorse the Pope’s interpretation of it being in continuity.
The facts of the SSPX position are still there, but they twisted and turned in such a way as to make Fellay much more doveish than he is.
One is tempted to think Bishop Fellay did not really mince words on this, because the author himself (I think it is fair to say so) must admit Bishop Fellay told him the SSPX will continue to say things as they are concerning Vatican II. Only, this becomes that he bishop “allows for the possibility”. Of course he does: if one asks the bishop “do you allow for the possibility that…” what is the poor chap supposed to answer: “I am certain the Pope will continue to deserve my criticism?”. Not even I would be so ungracious; not in my worst day. Therefore, Bishop Fellay clearly indicates the SSPX will continue to do its job, and the message is completely downplayed.
It goes on:
“The pope says that … the council must be put within the great tradition of the church, must be understood in accordance with it. These are statements we fully agree with, totally, absolutely,”
Of course we do. Of course every Catholic does. Who would ever expect an SSPX bishop say that the V II documents must be read in a progressive way? V II is purely wrong, it is not the Antichrist. Archbishop Lefebvre criticised the V II documents, but he did sign them. He never said the V II must be understood in a way not conform to Catholic tradition; the problem is exactly that when you do so, you discover how mediocre they are, willingly unclear, pandering to the fashion of the day, and in odour of heresy. But this does not mean they must not be understood in accordance with Tradition.
The next one is the most insidious paragraph:
“The problem might be in the application, that is: is what happens really in coherence or in harmony with tradition?”
Give me a break: the poor chap has just gone through the pain of making very clear his position is not the Vatican’s one, and he does not think there is continuity, and now it is suggested he would see the problem merely in the application? How does this square with what the Bishop has just said?
The entire interview is construed in this way: of course Bishop Fellay does not want to be “provocative”; when the SSPX speak, it is merely because they are provoked (Assisi III, say). They never were obnoxious for the sake of bickering, it is truly not their style. But you notice the tone, meant to convey an idea of a Bishop Fellay so near to Vatican II, the reader should not bother to really measure the distance.
I hope this interview does not cause (more) disharmony within the SSPX, and if it does I hope Bishop Fellay requests and publishes the entire text. There are enough problems within the SSPX to allow well-intentioned, but poorly executed propaganda work to add additional ones. This is delicate, and I do not think any one who tries to invent a SSPX made of “friend of Vatican II” is making any service to truth, to the cause of the reconciliation, or to the SSPX itself.