Let me say first that whoever expected Cardinal Pell to say: “Yes! Francis is a flaming Modernist!” needs an urgent reality check. Not only is the man a Cardinal, but in virtue of his being the quota-member for Australia of the Gang of Eight he is in a particularly exposed position. Therefore, asking him about the heresies of the Bishop of Rome is not going to yield any particularly original result.
Still, Cardinal Pell's argument is notable for his… complete lack of sensible argumentation. Bishop Fellay has explained in detail in a long sermon what is wrong with Francis. He has quoted him verbatim. He has analysed Francis' thinking – and actually only some of his many antics – in detail. Not even the most biased commenter could say Fellay's indictment was an emotional outburst. On the contrary: the fact that it came after months of controversies in which the SSPX had avoided open criticism of Francis' clearly heretical statements lends even more weight to the Bishop's entirely justified criticism and righteous anger.
What has, then, Cardinal Pell to oppose to this? If he has tried in the past to bend over backwards and explain to us why water is not wet I have missed his interventions. Still, his latest words are notable in that they are absolutely devoid of any sensible content or decent argumentation. To say that “Francis is a son of the Church” is, as an argument, rubbish, and by the way Luther was an Agostinian.
No, Cardinal Pell's statement has simply no basis: no basis in fact, and not even the attempt to provide one. The Church of V II demands that every … rubbish her prelates spit be believed merely because they say so. This is, to every well instructed Catholic, rubbish.
Let the Cardinal – now that he has thrown the stone – reply publicly and in detail, point for point, to Bishop Fellay. Let him prove with reasoned arguments why Bishop's Fellay accusations of Modernism levelled at the Bishop of Rome would be rubbish.
If he does it and does it well, we will agree with him and applaud his superior wisdom.
If he doesn't, we will know who is talking rubbish.
Bishop Fellay had something to say about the Bishop of Rome on the 12th; and boy, he did not mince words.
I have already reported that the SSPX made an appeal to Francis imploring him not to allow countless souls to perish. This time, the tones are far harsher.
Fellay is on record with saying that Francis is making an already disastrous situation “10,000 time worse”, and his metaphor with Francis and the parachute is, actually, funny in a very tragic way. He is obviously right in his analysis that Francis is willingly throwing bombs at the Church, possibly thinking the poor will be able to find better shelter among the ruins.
I am frankly surprised at the extreme severity of Fellay's words, as I had rather thought the approach of the first intervention would have been followed in the years to come; what I think has happened is that Fellay & Co. feel the situation is so extreme than nothing less than extreme words will do.
Mind, I do not agree with his calling the Novus Ordo “evil”, either (I follow him up to “bad”, though); but then again I am not a member of the Order, so this is par for the course. We have already discussed this ad abundantiam, though, so I will leave it at that.
Coming back to Bishop Fellay, please note the obvious relief at the failure to reconcile in 2012. Though I do not doubt the SSPX would never have agreed to a reconciliation putting them at the mercy of future Popes, there is no denying a reconciliation followed shortly thereafter by accusations of heresy moved to the Pope would not have been a very lasting one. I cannot avoid seeing in that a sign of Providence, leaving the SSPX free to defend orthodoxy without being encumbered by the desire not to rock the boat of a very fresh agreement. I also remember the one or other suggesting the SSPX leaders come crawling at the presence of the Pope and ask for a reconciliation whatever, before it gets worse. It seems fair to say these good men of God will not only not crawl anywhere, but will stand and be ready for battle at all times.
Someway, I get the impression they don't really read Francis through Benedict.
If you scour this blog for the posts of June of last here, you will find the news about the impending agreement, when it seemed that the reconciliation had been achieved and only the right moment to make a public announcement was being waited for. Then, the initial reaction of surprise at the news that the widely anticipated reconciliation might not take place. When it became clear that the obvious informal agreement had been changed at the last minute (or misrepresented by people very near to the Pope) your humble correspondent, who doesn’t like to switch his brains off whenever a Pope is in play, dared to write that someone at the Vatican had lied, or had been duplicitorus, or had eaten his words.
When it subsequently became clear that the deal wasn’t going to happen, yours truly pointed out once again to the obvious: the Vatican had changed the cards on the table at the last minute, obviously after green informal green light for an agreement that seemed a done deal.
How the situation had probably evolved originally, I examined here.
Still, after the porcelain was broken I wrote this blog post, with the following observation:
it seems clear to me they are well aware the Holy Father himself has either eaten his word because scared of the results of the agreement, or he has wilfully lied to them when he first indicated his agreement with the SSPX’s version of the preambolo. Their answer to this is rather laconic: “We do not make names here, but if you want to talk to us be serious and stop playing clever guys”.
As an aside, I also made some proposal to improve the “dialogue”; proposals which, as I understand, were not followed.
Bishop Fellay, though, gave Mueller a lesson or two in Catholicism anyway, among other things pointing out that in the past Mueller would have ended in the sight of the same Holy Office he now leads. I heartily agree, by the way.
Who the real responsible of the entire mess was (make no mistake: Pope Benedict) I wrote here.
In the same tone, I pointed out how the appointment of Archbishop’s DiNoia to formally lead the “dialogue” would lead no nothing, if there is no intention to ever reconcile with Traditionalism.
The news making the round in the last hours are, therefore, interesting in themselves, but not entirely new to the readers of this forum: an agreement was certainly signaled to Bishop Fellay as done, prompting the formal offer of the SSPX which was then only waiting for the formal acceptance. At that point, someone ate his word, and if memory serves Bishop Fellay received confirmation in the following months that the one who ate his word was the Pontiff himself.
At the cost of being unpopular, I repeat once again that it is inconceivable that the sudden change in the Vatican attitude was not approved by the Pontiff, who therefore is the one bearing the responsibility for it.
Still, Pope Benedict is too intelligent to think that after two or three years of discussions, the SSPX would have suddenly abandoned the fight that is the very reason of its existence. Rather more probable is that the Pontiff Emeritus thought he could divide the SSPX dangling in front of the moderate elements the carrot of a reconciliation, retracting it at the last moment to see what effect it has. As I have already written i the past, this was too clever by half.
Where we are now, is that in the Vatican there is no interest in even pretending to be interested to a reconciliation. They prefer to reconcile with the Lutherans, and waffle about the “success” of the Reform.
Please let us not kid ourselves: Benedict never wanted an agreement. What is wanted, is either lead the SSPX to accept V II (a scenario improbable to the point of absurdity), or try to divide them in the process. Look at whom he appointed as head of the former Holy Office, and this will show you everything there is to know.
If Pope Francis ignores the SSPX I will still consider the attitude more honest than the disingenuous, frankly unethical ping-pong and carrot dangling we have lived in the past years.
If you needed an additional confirmation that the SSPX has realised Pope Benedict’s resignation equates to a big card reshuffle, you can click on this link.
Besides the obvious fact that Pope Benedict will, in all probability, not make any parting gift to the Society – it is not logical that he should do so; he has been planning his departure for some months, and if he had wanted to act he would have done it before lest he gives the impression he acts at the last minute to avoid the criticism to his decision – what is interesting in this interview is Fellay’s suggested roadmap for a reconciliation.
The good bishop is very clear in saying that whilst he does not expect from the next Pope that he proceeds to an open, outright condemnation of Vatican II, the new Pope can accomplish a lot smartly and quietly, proceeding to a series of adjustments apt to eliminate a good part of the problems. To quote (emphasis mine):
As far as Vatican II is concerned, just like for the Mass, we believe that it is necessary to clarify and correct a certain number of points that are either erroneous or lead to error. That being said, we do not expect Rome to condemn Vatican II any time soon. She can recall the Truth and discretely correct the errors, while preserving her authority.
The message is very clear. It would be more than enough if the Vatican were willing to work toward the repair of the edifice without any admission that, so to speak, the architect was on drugs and the building company straight out of Greece. Quiet and discreet action – starting with immediate action on the very worst – can accomplish a lot.
Note that in this interview there is no trace whatsoever of an alleged fear of the Society that some terrible punishment may be inflicted on them by the next Pope. There isn’t, because there is no terrible punishment the Vatican can even try to inflict on them without – besides not reaching their scope – inflicting a much bigger damage on themselves.The Vatican can, simply, not credibly strike at orthodox Catholicism, and spotless obedience.
No, the only way the Vatican can try to neutralise the Society is by trying to blandish, seduce and divide them, dangling the carrot of “reconciliation” in front of their eyes whilst waiting for the division and strife this would cause; a game, this, already tried in a massive and open way both in 1988 and in 2012; on both occasions clearly engineered by the current Pontiff; and parlously failed twice.
The SSPX awaits the outcome of the Conclave from a position of unprecedented strenght and prestige. The progressive – if too slow – rapprochement of the Vatican to the positions held before V II in so many matters is a vindication of Archbishop Lefebvre’s brave fight. As the ideology of Vatican II continues to slowly wither, Traditionalism will grow in prestige and authority; if you say Traditionalism properly intended (that is: not mere liturgical preference, but defence of the entire patrimony of Tradition), you say first and foremost SSPX.
And so the SSPX should be, one is informed, scared of the new Pope crushing them, and should have accepted the poisoned bread offered to them by a, erm, rather scheming Pope.
Should they? Really? I am not persuaded at all. Let us see why.
Broadly speaking, the new Pope can only be one of three:
1) a modernist like Schoenborn.
2) a so-so, V-II nuChurch Pope like, well, all of them since Pope Roncalli.
3) A traditionalist Pope.
If 1) happens, you’ll see an explosion of sedevacantism, and as a result of the prestige and position of the SSPX who, whilst not being sedevacantists, are in clear opposition to the antics of nuChurch. Whatever this new Pope may order to them, the Society will certainly apply the blessed “first rule of the Italian army”: gli ordini sbagliati non si eseguono, “wrong orders are not carried out”.
I can, in fact, not imagine anything more promising for the growth of the Society than an utterly disgraceful Pope. Please reflect the likes of the FSSP would all be silenced in no time, and told they are lucky if they can keep the Tridentine Mass, and the Society would soon remain, to all intents and purposes, the only traditionalist shop in town.
The SSPX would then be seen as the last and only bastion of orthodoxy, and rightly so. They have the people, they have the money, they have the faith and the determination. Depend on that, they won’t take stupid orders by any stupid Schoenborn, Pope or no Pope. Amen.
2) So-so Popes can bark – with great effort – but they can’t bite. Therefore, your typical V II Pope would engage in endless “dialogue” without ever coming to any conclusion, which is why they engage in “dialogue” in the first place (besides trying to split the Society). There would be a gesture here and its contrary there, a Bux here and a Mueller there (well, not really; the man will hopefully be gone for good soon); but in the end, nothing would happen.
“You must accept V II”, the Vatican would say. “You must wake up and repent”, the SSPX would answer. Not the stuff of agreements, and it is probably good so as long as this situation persists.
3) If we are blessed by a traditionalist Pope (an event we as Catholics have by far not deserved), then the problem would solve itself by itself. We’d soon have the SSPX in full communion and – in time – Fellay as Cardinal ( I have joked about that in another post, but in this constellation I can’t see any other outcome). Case 3) is not a problem, but the end of all problems, and is therefore not worth discussing much.
What can, then, an hypothetical new and angry Pope do against the Society? A fat nothing, is the answer. The Society exists because the Papacy is in crisis. They will not do the Pope’s bidding when the papacy is even more in crisis than it has been in the times of Paul VI.
On the contrary, it seems to me that the decision of the Pope to go away is in fact a vindication of the SSPX policy. He will soon be gone, and the SSPX is still there. With Benedict, Mueller will soon go (not immediately, probably; the successor will allow him a face-saving time before he picks his own man). If there had been a (bad) agreement, how long had it lasted? Months? If the new pope is bad, than the SSPX was even more right in not wanting lazy compromises, and insisting on guarantees of freedom of criticism beside operational autonomy.
If you are smart, you talk with the Vatican but you don’t trust your own existence to their mercy. Bishop Fellay is very smart, and every agreement would have to be approved by the majority of the SSPX priests, so expect no surprises from there.
So: Pope Benedict will soon be gone. Archbishop Mueller will follow him soon after. The SSPX is still there, as solid as a rock, growing like a mushroom colony, and not scared of anything but lazy compromises.
I wonder who won?
From the DICI website, an interview with Bishop Fellay about what is happening.
As always, this SSPX interview is a joy to read. One compares them with the inane blabber coming from the Vatican, and is ashamed.
Comments and Emphases mine.
“DICI : How did the General Chapter go? How was the mood of the meeting?
Bishop Fellay : It took place in a rather hot atmosphere, since July is a particularly hot month in the Valais! [ nice joke, this one…] But in a very busy schedule, where the members of the Chapter were able to freely exchange ideas, as it befits such a working meeting.
DICI : Were you able to discuss the relations with Rome? Were there any forbidden questions? The dissensions manifested within the SSPX these last moths, have they calm down?
Bishop Fellay : That makes for quite a few questions! Regarding Rome, we went to the very heart of the issues, and all the capitularies were able to study the complete file. Nothing was left aside and there were no taboos among us. It was my duty to exhibit with detail all the documentation exchanged with the Vatican, something which was rendered difficult by the obnoxious climate of recent months. This made it possible for us to conduct direct discussions which have cleared out the doubts and dissipated any misunderstandings, resulting in peace and unity of hearts, which of course is something to rejoice about.
DICI : How do you foresee the relations with Rome after this Chapter?
Bishop Fellay : All ambiguity has now been resolved among us. Very soon we will convey to Rome the position of the Chapter, which has been the occasion to specify our road map insisting upon the conservation of our identity, the only efficacious means to help the Church to restore Christendom. [= there will be no swallowing of the SSPX]. As I told you recently, “if we want to make fruitful the treasure of Tradition for the benefit of souls, we must both speak and act” (cf. interview of 8 June 2012, DICI #256). We cannot keep silent when facing the rampant loss of faith, the staggering fall of the number of vocations, and the decrease of religious practice. [ what rampant loss of faith? Wasn’t V II the masterpiece of the Holy Spirit? Tsk, tsk…]. We cannot refrain from speaking when confronted with the “silent apostasy” and its causes. Doctrinal mutism is not the answer to this “silent apostasy” which even John Paul II denounced already in 2003. [ this is another fine piece of humour…]
Our approach is inspired not only by the doctrinal firmness of Archbishop Lefebvre but also by his pastoral charity. The Church has always considered that the best testimony to the truth is to be found in the early Christians’ unity built in prayer and charity. They had “but one heart and one soul,” as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 4, 32). Such a common ideal is also our watchword, Cor Unum being the name of the internal bulletin of the SSPX. Hence we distance ourselves resolutely from all those who have tried to take advantage of the situation in order to drive a wedge turning Society members against each other [this is one for Williamson and one for the Vatican, I think…]. Such a spirit does not come from God.
DICI : What are your thoughts on the appointment of Archbishop Mueller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?
Bishop Fellay : It is nobody’s secret that the former bishop of Regensburg, where our seminary of Zaitzkofen is located, does not like us. After the courageous action of Benedict XVI on our behalf, in 2009, he refused to cooperate and treated us like if we were lepers! He is the one who stated that our seminary should be closed and that our students should go to the seminaries of their dioceses of origin, adding bluntly that “the four bishops of the SSPX should resign”! (cf. interview with Zeit Online, 8 May 2009). [yours truly reported…]
For us what is more important and more alarming is his leading role at the head of the Congregation for the Faith, which must defend the Faith with the proper mission of fighting doctrinal errors and heresy. Numerous writings of Bishop Mueller on the real transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, on the dogma of Our Lady’s virginity, on the need of conversion of non-Catholics to the Catholic Church… are questionable, to say the least! There is no doubt that these texts would have been in the past the object of an intervention of the Holy Office, which now is the very Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presided by him. [game, set and match Fellay…].
DICI : How do you see the future of the SSPX? In the midst of its fight for the Church’s Tradition, will the SSPX keep to the same knife’s edge?
Bishop Fellay : More than ever we must maintain the knife’s edge traced by our venerated founder. It is not easy to keep, yet absolutely vital for the Church and the treasure of its Tradition. We are Catholic, we recognise the pope and the bishops, but above all else we must keep intact the Faith, source of God’s grace. Therefore we must avoid all that may endanger the Faith, without trying to become a replacement for the Church, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman. Far from us the idea of establishing a parallel Church, of exercising a parallel magisterium!
This was well explained by Archbishop Lefebvre more than thirty years ago: he did not wish to hand down anything else but what he himself had received from the Church of two millennia. This is what we want also, following his lead, so that we may effectively help “to restore all things in Christ.” It is not us who will break with Rome, the Eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth. Nevertheless, it would be unrealistic to deny that there is a modernist and liberal influence in the Church since the Second Vatican Council and its subsequent reforms. In a word, we maintain the faith in the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and in the Church founded upon Peter, but we refuse all which contributes to the “self-demolition of the Church” acknowledged by Paul VI himself since 1968. May Our Lady, Mother of the Church, hasten the day of its authentic restoration!”
I do not know what you think about this, but in my eyes the SSPX has come out of the machinations of the Vatican more unite and stronger than it used to be. There is now a clear line of reconciliation if such an event is honestly pursued by the Pontiff, and refusal to be swallowed whole with the excuse of the “dying Pope who would oh so much want a reconciliation” (provided it leads to the death of the Society) if it isn’t.
Once again, it is not difficult to imagine the Society will keep the door of honest talk open. They know the Vatican is corrupted by strong strains of neo-modernism (or of modernism tout-court), but they also know Peter is the one they will continue to look to; hoping he will, one day, restore the Church to sobriety.
And so it came to pass – and to be leaked – that the exclusion of bishop Williamson from the General Chapter of the SSPX was approved by an overwhelming majority of the capitularies now gathering in Écône.
Some say this does not mean much, because Williamson is certainly not as dangerous to Fellay’s leadership than the other two I do not say rebel, but at least critical bishops.
Allow me to say why I disagree:
1. Without attributing to certainly very honest men less than honest qualities, it must be evident that if Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta had intended to openly challenge bishop Fellay’s leadership, they would not have started by asking their supporters to go against Williamson. Not for reasons of duplicity, but simply for reasons of ordinary prudence and political common sense. If, on the other hand, the two bishops do want to mount a challenge but cannot have their men rallying in Williamson’s defence, then they are clearly not nearly strong enough to challenge Fellay’s leadership.
2. It seems to me that, with some exceptions, most f the SSPX members have seen – if I may say so; I think I may – through the Vatican’s game of dividing them trying to cause separations within them and the creation of “splinter” groups; a game already played, most notably in 1988 through the FSSP; a move which seems to me to have been certainly approved – if not altogether engineered – by a Cardinal… Ratzinger.
3. By all disagreements, the cold shower from the Vatican has certainly showed bishop Fellay is not willing to be strong-armed by the Vatican (cow)boys, and no vague threats of (what exactly? Declaration of 2000 years of Catholicism as “schismatic”, perhaps?) “retaliation” will move him to do any concession. Bishop Fellay is, in fact, amply outsmarting the Vatican, being able to present himself as a safe custodian of Catholic orthodoxy – as, make no mistake, I am sure he is; though I have been known to be very wrong in the past, most notably concerning Popes… – whilst the Holy Father shoots himself in the foot by appointing a mediocre, irascible, apparently even interview-addicted pal of his to the main chair in this controversy (three interviews already in just a few days, if memory serves; and not coming well at all out of any of them).
Obviously, during the weekend I might prove to be spectacularly wrong, and I will make a suitable act of contrition if it were to be so; but I do not think bishop Fellay is one of those types preferring the womanly option and saying “if there is dissent against me I prefer to go, so that everyone can see how badly hurt I am”. I think we can safely say the Lord carved the man out of different wood than that.
Therefore, this morning’s
announc leak persuaded me all is – considering the circumstances – rather well within the SSPX. There will be no splits, nor ferocious lamentations; there will be some expression of dissent, largely expected but not threatening the SSPX’ stability; and there will be a show of unity having with special addressee the Vatican. Hic sumus, et hic manebimus optime.
In the end, Fellay must well know his position is much more solid than Archbishop Mueller’s. If he only wants, Fellay will be at his place – Deo volente, of course – for the next six years at the very, very least; Archbishop Mueller can’t even know whether (as the Italian saying goes) he will eat his panettone as the head of the CDF. It may be cynical to say so, but it is the reality on the ground, and it doesn’t really make sense to ignore it.
I’d love to be a fly in the meeting room of the SSPX General Chapter, now underway.
From what I understand, the main arguments will be three:
1. A decision concerning the latest Vatican version of the preambolo dottrinale.
2. A discussion about the opportunity of going into this last phase of negotiation with the Vatican, and
3. Perhaps, a more or less open personal criticism of Bishop Fellay and his leadership style.
As to 1., it seems clear to me the SSPX will reject the text proposed by the Vatican. Whilst we do not know the wording, we know that: a) the last version presented by the SSPX, which had the unofficial blessing of the Holy Father, has been changed again, and b) Bishop Fellay has already said the latest version is not acceptable.
Beside the discussion about the wording of the preambolo, the matter of the concrete way of working of the SSPX will certainly play a role. After the latest weeks, not even Laurel and Hardy would believe in the sincere intention of the Pope or the Vatican apparatus to reconcile themselves with the SSPX because they understand the SSPX is as Catholic as any of them (and I am being generous…).
Therefore, any agreement will have to be waterproofed not only concerning the SSPX relationship with the mistakes of V II and the following years, but also against any attempt to assimilate the SSPX and pollute it with a V II ideology. That will be an interesting discussion indeed, and I can easily forecast the utter rejection – though perhaps not officially stated for obvious reasons – of every agreement subjecting the local structures of the SSPX to any influence whatsoever from the local bishop, let alone from a talking ass like the Archbishop Mueller.
As to 2. I can see a charge of the hard-line brigade, accusing Fellay of having leaned too much out of the window, and having been conned into believing an agreement on the text was reached before the Vatican back pedaled again. In my eyes, the Bishop has the excellent defence than one tends to believe that the Pope’s word has some value until the contrary is proved, and that one should not be blamed for honestly trying to see whether a reconciliation is possible, however untrustworthy the people on the other side should prove afterwards. But this should make for a highly entertaining discussion, too.
Thirdly, it appears some – a minority – of the SSPX priests will push their criticism to the point of asking Bishop Fellay to go. I doubt the latter will comply with their wishes, and it would appear he has – besides being elected for further six years – around two thirds of the Society firmly on his side. It will be interesting, though, to see how this pans out, because if a strong minority harshly criticises Fellay this might have as a result a certain “hardening” of his line toward the Vatican.
Lastly, I do not think there will be any meaningful defection in any way, and now many weeks after the leak of the internal “three bishops’ letter” I have not read a single threat, overt or covert, of secession.
The Vatican is clearly playing the old divide et impera game, alternating phases in which the agreement is made to believe to be imminent and others of more rigid attitude, thus maximising the potential for conflict and recrimination within the Society.
Unfortunately for the Pope, the SSPX appears to be a bit more solid – both politically, and morally – than the corrupt and miserably led bunch he has chosen to trigger the tragic meltdown of his pontificate. His trick of trying to divide the SSPX under the disguise of the “dying Pope who would oh so much want to see the SSPX reconciled before he dies” will, I am afraid, not impress many in Econe. The Pope has already abundantly showed how much he wants to see the SSPX reconciled (to heterodoxy perhaps; certainly not to Catholicism, which the Society already is), and what kind of Church he is preparing for his successor.
Let us support the SSPX members with our prayer, that they may avoid the snares of the Vatican and agree to a solution allowing them to continue their wonderful work without restraints, or to no solution at all.
Still, don’t worry: the SSPX will be around, rich and strong, long after the Pope’s departure.
Not entirely encouraging news are transpiring from several sources (as always, see Rorate Caeli). We do not know much at this stage, so the only thing one can do is to reason calmly as to what is happening and avoid both unwarranted enthusiasm and conspiracy theories.
It appears Bishop Fellay came back from Rome not simply, as it has been widely believed, with a straight answer to the preambolo dottrinale – which would have been a yes, clearly – but with ” a heavier Roman dossier”. This dossier now requires a new meeting of the General Chapter. If memory serves, the General Chapter met in Albano in September of last year, and decided to decline to accept the first version of the preambolo. The new meeting is scheduled for the 7-14 July. Methinks, Fellay would have decided to proceed with the meeting anyway, but seven days it’s a lot of talking.
What is now happening might, if you ask me, only be one of the following:
1) Bishop Fellay went with a straight “yes” to the preambolo, and with more or less detailed proposals as to the way the Personal prelature would work. He has been required to accept, or refuse, en bloc. Therefore, he wants the General Council to discuss the organisational matters, make sure they are satisfied with it, and go on with the complete package.
2) The preambolo was changed. I beg you to consider that it can be held as certain Bishop Fellay would not have given to the Pope the latest version of the preambolo without assurances the Pope was in agreement with it, and to think otherwise is in my eyes every bit as naive as to think some evil cardinal drives the hands of the Holy Father over the papers he signs (or modifies). A man is as good as his word, and as this most certainly applies to a Pope I beg you to not even consider this.
If we go back a few days and read from the SSPX communique, the situation was described as follows:
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, joined by the First Assistant General, Father Niklaus Pfluger, was received by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who delivered to him the evaluation of his dicastery of the Doctrinal declaration presented by the Fraternity on April 15, 2012, in response to the Doctrinal Preamble submitted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on September 14, 2011.
In the course of this meeting, Bp. Fellay listened to the explanations and details presented by Cardinal Levada, to whom he presented the situation of the Society of Saint Pius X and exposed the doctrinal difficulties posed by the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae. The desire for supplementary clarifications could lead to a new phase of discussions. [Emphasis added]
At the end of this long audience of over 2 hours, Bp. Fellay received a project of a document proposing a Personal Prelature, in the case of an eventual canonical recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X. In the course of the meeting, the matter of the situation of the three other bishops of the Society was not discussed.
As you can see, there is no way to exclude the one or other of the hypotheses, and what speaks against the second is merely the fact it is not reasonable to think the Holy Father is not a man of his word, or that he surrounds himself with men of such falseness and duplicity as to not be able to escape from responsibility himself. I cannot, and will not think this until crushing evidence is given.
Please also consider this initiative started from the Holy Father, and I cannot imagine he started the entire circus with a view to trying to be smarter than the SSPX, tricking them at the last moment into an agreement they would never have accepted at the beginning of the discussions. This would really be too clever by half, and I am sure the Holy Father is smarter than that.
Of course, the talks could still fail because of the inability to find a practical way to implement the reconciliation in a way which satisfies both parties; but I think this is more a secondary battleground: if there is a will to an agreement and reconciliation, ways will be found to find a solution acceptable to both parties.
Logically, therefore, I will think – then I want to sleep at night myself – consider the matter of the preambolo as resolved, and the discussions now related to what happens in practice after the reconciliation.
As the Germans say, abwarten und Tee trinken.
With a prayer added.
I never understood the argument that if the SSPX is reconciled, it will stop acting as they always did. This thinking seems in my eyes to consider that the SSPX never was in what the Vatican calls “full communion”, or that once it wasn’t anymore this constituted a sort of improvement.
If you ask me, the SSPX just does not work that way: they are now what they were forty years ago, and when this reconciliation comes they will be reconciled exactly as they were forty years ago, and will not be a iota “softer” because of it.
If you want another confirmation, please read the excellent excerpt of Bishop Fellay’s Pentecost speech on the usual Rorate Caeli.
A casual observer, who had just been informed the SSPX and the Vatican are very near reconciliation, would be nothing less than astounded at the tones chosen by Bishop Fellay. Please consider this is a man of some diplomatic talent, not an emotional steamroller flattening everything on his path. The words he uses, he has chosen carefully.
You can read in every word a very clear intention of showing – to his own troops of course, and by reflex to the entire Catholic world – that the SSPX is not going to change anything in the way they operate. This is what they have always made clear, by the way, so that if anyone in the Vatican has nurtured some illusions of making the SSPX “house trained” by the means of the reconciliation, he must blame himself for the mistake.
This man is made, if you ask me, of the stuff great Popes are made of: prudent but firm; patient but clear; never closing any door, but never allowing anyone to let him in from the servants’ entrance.
I can’t imagine a better shepherd for the SSPX.
This is the video released by the CNS following the interview, on which I had already commented.
First of all, please note the video has the same original sin of the interview: cut and put together with a certain intent, adorned with suggestive music and historical footage and, in general, more similar to a bad documentary rather than an interview.
Still, it clearly emerges Bishop Fellay is perfectly orthodox in his theology, albeit not without the solid practical spirit every Southern European Catholic carries with himself.
The part about the Vatican II, whose problems should be “rather” in the application has been cut – clear indication Fellay’s words have been not correctly transmitted – but Fellay stresses an important concept: V II is in itself far more conservative than its adorers would want us to believe (religious freedom: 1:36 to 2:02) albeit rather diplomatic in his criticism of it. As to V II in itself, Fellay has very strong words (try 0:42 to 0:50), conveniently ignored in the interview.
In general, though, one can’t say he is – at least from what we have been shown – very belligerent. Which is fine, as there is a time for everything under the heaven, and it was probably not the right time to say the Church is ill a planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis. Although, thinking of it, it might have said something similar, which was subsequently cut because it did not agree with the general tone the interview was supposed to have.
On a more personal note, from the interview emerges a man with very good, and very piercing eyes; with a marked sense of humour; and a with a fundamental serenity, and love for the Church, appearing from his every word.
In the next weeks and month, Bishop Fellay will be slandered and misinterpreted from both sides – right and left of him – in the most various ways. Please consider what he says before what other people say that he has said.
Interesting blog post from Richard Collins at Linen on The Hedgerow. The more interesting, because this is an episode lived directly by the author.
From this short but telling episode it appears Bishop Fellay is not only an extremely orthodox man, but also a very attentive, inquisitive mind, not prone to superficiality in what might be seen as, in a way, less important things. I liked the character emerging from the story through and through.
By reading the beautiful blog post you will, I am sure, also gain the impression the SSPX is in very good hands, and this is the last person who would sell it out, or wilfully harm it, or be cajoled into some dangerous compromise.
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.
The tireless troops at Rorate Caeli have the translation in English of an article concerning a “reserved” (read: leaked) letter from Bishop Fellay to his three colleagues. You can read the content of the article here, so I will not duplicate it with the copy-and-paste.
It appears to me the most important elements are the followings ones:
1) The SSPX is ready to reconciliation, provided no concessions are asked from them “concerning the faith and that which derives from it (liturgy, sacraments, moral, and discipline)”. “From them” are, I think, the operative words here. I cannot interpret this in the sense the SSPX asks the Vatican to retract V II, then if this is the mentality it would have been wiser if everyone had stayed at home in the first place. I see it rather in the sense that the SSPX will not be ready to make any concession to the modernist element within the Church (I know, modernism is an heresy; but isn’t it refreshing to call things as they are?).
2) “True freedom and autonomy of action” must be granted, which allow the SSPX to “grow and develop”. This means – I have written about it in the past – the SSPX does not want to be muzzled, or to be reduced to the Bonsai in the Vatican gardens. In plain words, if there is a reconciliation the SSPX’s fight against both what is wrong with V II and what went wrong after V II will continue unabated, and will not be less vocal.
If you want en example of this, look no further than at the US Site of the SPPX, with the last critical intervention about “religious freedom” (I’ll write about this on a separate post, because it is very interesting).
It seems, therefore, Bishop Fellay has a very pragmatic approach, one of obedience which only refuses to comply when the obedience becomes suicide, betrayal of Catholic values or, frankly, stupidity.
Note, however, this second condition is in contrast with the interpretation the SSPX will only accept reconciliation if the Vatican “converts”, as in this case this condition would be utterly superfluous. I have, therefore, no fears the SSPX will ask the Vatican to “convert to Lefebvrism” before an agreement is reached.
3) A third surprising – to me, at least – element is in Tornielli’s affirmation as we speak three out of four SSPX bishops oppose the reconciliation to various degrees. I do not know what to make of it, as what transpired in the past indicated only Williamson would have (grave) reservations, and the other two bishops would accept a reconciliation which does not lead to compromises or abiurae. And in fact, it seems to me the letter is written on the basis that if things go as Fellay wishes, there will be at least two of the other three bishops on his side.
We will see how this pans out. Personally, I find it very satisfactory the SSPX lays very reasonable and, in my eyes, not negotiable conditions precedent to the reconciliation, so that if the reconciliation fails because the Vatican fails to deliver on this point, I for myself will have nothing to blame the SSPX for.
The head of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is exhorting members of the traditionalist group to “redouble their fervor in prayer” during Holy Week, as a deadline approaches for the SSPX to respond to a Vatican offer.
The rest (not much) here.
I’ll do my best, and I hope you will, too.
Note Bishop Fellay asks to pray “that the Divine Will may be done”; which is beautiful and realistic at the same time.