Note: See Father MacDonald's Addemdum RE: Father Steiner at the bottom of this page...
No Rome/SSPX Accord?
"At this time, Bishop Fellay says he also made various changes to the Doctrinal Preamble and sent it to Rome saying, 'If you change one word, I will not be able to sign it.' The Vatican promptly removed all of Bishop Fellay’s changes and returned to him the original document."
by John Vennari
Editor's note: This originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Catholic Family News. We post it today with some updated comments at the end.
Father Daniel Couture, Superior of the SSPX’s Asia District, said in recent Letter to the Korean Faithful that an Accord between Rome and the SSPX appears to be dead.
Under the heading, “A deal with modernist Rome?,” Father Couture wrote on September 8, “Bishop Fellay said recently, in many public conferences in Australia, that nothing new would happen for the SSPX under the present pope. And if we consider the appointment last June of the German Archbishop Müller at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - he considers Vatican II as infallible - the present situation is going to continue as it is for many more years.”
In a sermon given on September 2, the eve of St. Pius X’s Feast, Father Couture elaborated further, “Last June 13, Bishop Fellay received a letter from the Vatican telling him and all of us we have to accept Vatican II and the New Mass if we wanted to be approved. When they gave him this letter they also told him that we could not say that there were errors in the Council, but only in the interpretation of the Council. When Bishop Fellay heard this, he said: no, we cannot accept what you are asking because for sure there are errors in the Council texts themselves, the errors of ecumenism, of collegiality, of religious liberty. We cannot accept the errors of the Council and the New Mass.
“That is why on June 29, Bishop Fellay said that we are back to ‘square one’ in our relation with Rome,” Father Couture continued, “That means, that if for a few months – because of some information he had received from the inner circle of the pope – Bishop Fellay had believed that the Holy Father was willing to accept us exactly as we are, without having to accept the errors of the Council and the New Mass, it is now clear that such is not the case, that the Holy Father wants us to accept Vatican II. And with the appointment of Archbishop Müller last June, at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Fellay said recently in Australia that nothing is going to happen, no recognition of the Society of St. Pius X is going to happen under the present pope, and certainly for many years to come.”
Father Couture’s statements were posted on the official webpage Asia District in early September.
Likewise Father Edward Black, District Superior of Australia, wrote in his August 1012 District Letter, “…shortly before the [SSPX] Chapter meeting the Vatican advised Bishop Fellay that, in substance, the conditions expressed in the Doctrinal Preamble were, in fact, non-negotiable and this effectively brought the whole question to an end even before the Chapter was convened.”
The Adelaide Conference
In his letter and sermon, Father Couture mentioned recent conferences given by Bishop Fellay throughout Australia. One of these conferences was uploaded in its entirety by Anthony Malleus to his Catholic Apologetics Information webpage. The conference was advertised by Mr. Malleus in the local press and held on August 7 at St. Michael’s Church, a chapel served by the SSPX.
What follows are some of the main points of Bishop Fellay’s presenation.
The talk was an update on the present situation between Rome and the SSPX. Bishop Fellay reiterated that thoughts and beliefs, which had been condemned prior to 1962, have been introduced into the life of the Church due to the Council. These erroneous thoughts and beliefs are “a poison. We will not swallow this poison. We resist because we want to stay Catholic.”
Bishop Fellay discussed the doctrine and the limitations of Papal Infalliblity, as well as the doctrine of the Indefectibility of the Church. He also elaborated that the crisis of Faith today is of a similar gravity to the trial of the Apostles. Our Lord told them he was the Son of God, the Messiah. Yet they saw Our Lord crucified and killed. How then can He be who He said He was? How can He be God?” The Apostles’ faith was restored at the Resurrection (only Our Blessed Mother kept the Faith throughout this trial from Our Lord’s Passion and Death to Easter Sunday).
Likewise many see the Church in ongoing crisis; its scandalous leaders, its heterodox teachers, and conclude: this is not the Catholic Church. The Pope is not the Pope. Yet Christ is still with His Church, the Pope is still the Pope, despite the fact that “today’s trail in the Church seems to supersede all past crises.”
Good News and Bad News
Bishop Fellay spoke of two trends it the Church in comparison to 20-30 years ago. On the one hand, it is worse, as the loss of Faith is greater. The Catechisms the youngsters learned were a disaster, and these Vatican II youngsters are now parents. Some of these parents complained to a Catholic school that their children had to learn the Creed, because it was too long to memorize. The Sisters of Charity, once the largest order in France, faces extinction. A few years ago, the sisters who were over 100 years old actually outnumbered the sisters who were under 50.
The average age of priests in France is 70. There are fewer than one priest per diocese being ordained.
At the same time, there is within the younger generation a desire to go back to Tradition. At some seminaries the seminarians force their professors to give them a more traditional doctrine.
Though Bishop Fellay does not mention this, even the liberal Father Andrew Greeley in 2008 complained that younger priests and religious on average are more conservative than he and his aging liberal confreres.
If I may interject here a story that took place toward the end of John Paul II’s reign: An extended family member worked as a head librarian in a major US diocesan seminary. Each year the library would hold a book sale, mostly from collections of books willed to them by diocesan priests who had died.
The seminarians would always gobble up the traditional books first: works by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, Garrigou-Lagrange, Prümmer, Tanquerey, were snatched up immediately. Books by dreary modernists such as Rahner, Teilhard, Kasper, Kung, and gems such as Implementing Vatican II into Your Community, and Ideas for Creative Liturgy grew cobwebs. At the end of the sale, the librarian swept the modernist books off the table into a large trashcan.
The revolution is bound to die, as it is based on falsehood, and there are those in the younger generation who want the Truth.
The young have no stake in Vatican II, as do the Wojtylas and the Ratzingers, for whom the Council is the greatest event of their lives. Vatican II is ancient history for the new generation, and the young have no visceral attachment to it. Many just want the true Faith, which Vatican II will not give them. This yeaning for the true Faith is a good sign, yet there is still a long way to go for a genuine restoration.
We return to Bishop Fellay’s comments.
“You are Modernists”
Bishop Fellay went on to speak of the Doctrinal Discussions that took place for more than two years, starting in 2009. “They were tough,” said Bishop Fellay. There was “no agreement”. After the final discussion that dealt with the Magisterium and Tradition, Rome said to the SSPX: “You are Protestants”. The SSPX said to Rome, “You are modernists.”
Despite this doctrinal impasse, there were rumors in August 2011 coming from the Vatican –from those who appeared to be reliable sources – telling Bishop Fellay that Pope Benedict XVI was simply going to recognize the SSPX unilaterally.
Then in September 2011, Bishop Fellay was called to Rome by Cardinal Levada, then-head of the CDF, to evaluate the doctrinal discussions. The SSPX was handed a proposal that contained two parts: doctrinal and canonical.
As for doctrine: the CDF told the SSPX they must accept the Council, then we can have more discussions. “But if we accept the Council,” commented Bishop Fellay, “there is nothing to discuss.” Basically, Rome told the SSPX that they had to agree on all those points on which they already stated they disagree.
The second point of the document was a proposal for a canonical structure. The original September document in this regard was not adequate, and even though the SSPX fine tuned a couple of points, “We never went very far,” discussing the canonical structure “because the other [doctrinal] points were more important.”'
For the following months leading up to March, there was back and forth between the SSPX and the Vatican. Bishop Fellay said at this time, he was receiving word from people close to Pope Benedict that the Pope wanted the matter of the SSPX resolved. One source said a high priority of the pope’s pontificate is to “solve the question of the SSPX.” Another source told Bishop Fellay the Pope commented, “The SSPX has suffered so many injustices in the past.”
Meanwhile no real progress was made regarding doctrinal difficulties. In the doctrinal discussions, four main points were treated: 1) The Mass; 2) Religious Liberty; 3) Ecumenism; 4) The definition of the Church. On each one of these points, says Bishop Fellay, there was disagreement between Rome and the SSPX. The SSPX continued to hold the traditional position of the magisterium throughout the centuries, and Rome insisted on the Council’s new orientation.
Yet despite these disagreements, Rome effectively said, “let’s get together” anyway. Bishop Fellay said he continually asked Rome for guarantees, for safeguards. For example, Bishop Fellay told the Vatican, “You must accept us as we are. What are you going to say when we give you [a statement] like the one given in 1983” by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Meyer that condemns the new orientation. “What will be your reaction to that?” The Vatican was unhappy with this response and did not give an answer.
Impasse and Threats
Then in March 2012, the Vatican sent a harsh letter containing a threat. It told the SSPX they must accept the Doctrinal Preamble. Not to do so would be to refuse the authority of the Pope in a practical way. The Vatican told the SSPX a refusal would result in them being declared schismatic, and they went on to quote the Canons and the penalties.
“If I only had that letter,” said Bishop Fellay, “things would have been terminated that day.”
At this time, however, he received word from a source close to the Pope that contained sentiments different from that which was expressed by the CDF.
Though Bishop Fellay does not elaborate, it was at this time – March/April 2012 – rumors began to spread that the Pope would grant the SSPX the freedom to not accept all of the Council and to not accept the New Mass.
In fact, I mentioned this rumor in the July CFN, noting that if this be true, it could be a real game-changer, since it would mark the end of Vatican II. It is impossible that one group of Catholics in the world could be considered “exempt” from embracing the Council, while other Catholics are still bound to accept it. The whole Council would fall apart. I also said that if I were a betting man, I would place my little stack on Benedict protecting Vatican II to the end.
It was in the Spring that the Vatican’s Cardinal Koch and Cardinal Levada (and later Archbishop Müller) continually insisted that the SSPX would have to accept all of the Council.
To clarify perhaps some misunderstandings, Bishop Fellay sent to Rome the SSPX’s three-point approach to the Council as outlined by Archbishop Lefebvre in his letter to Cardinal Ratinzger in the mid-1980s:
1) He and the SSPX would accept anything in Vatican II that is clearly consistent with Tradition;
2) Any ambiguous texts of Vatican II must be interpreted strictly according to Tradition; according to the consistent teaching of the Church throughout the centuries;
3) Anything in the Council that cannot be interpreted according to Tradition should be revised.
At this time, Bishop Fellay says he also made various changes to the Doctrinal Preamble and sent it to Rome saying, “If you change one word, I will not be able to sign it.” The Vatican promptly removed all of Bishop Fellay’s changes and returned to him the original document.
In June, as Father Black wrote, “the Vatican advised Bishop Fellay that, in substance, the conditions expressed in the Doctrinal Preamble were, in fact, non-negotiable.”
Bishop Fellay confirms, “By the time of the June meeting, we were back to September 14.” The Vatican insists the SSPX must accept all of the Council; they may not say there are errors in Vatican II. Rome also expects the SSPX to agree that the New Mass is both “lawful and good.”
It appears there is no longer an assurance from the Pope that they do not have to accept the Council and the Mass. As Father Couture said in his September 2 homily, “the Holy Father wants us to accept Vatican II.”
“That’s the present state of affairs,” Bishop Fellay said in Adelaide.
Bishop Fellay went on to speak of the massive opposition to Rome recognizing the SSPX. “There is some opposition [to an Agreement] from inside the Society, but it is not to be compared with the opposition from the other side.” Even if the Pope truly wanted to “regularize” the SSPX, he faced colossal opposition if he tried to do so.
Jews: “The Jews publicly requested from the Pope that the Vatican not accept the SSPX.”
Freemasonry: “A few hours before I was given the text of June 13 (and there were very few who knew about this text) the leader of Freemasonry was able to say that there would be no Agreement. That means Freemasonry knew there were enough elements” in the June 13 document that the SSPX could “not accept”.
Bishops: “I know Bishops’ conferences who were preparing a fire[storm] against Rome if we would have been accepted.”
States: “I know of states who threatened to call back their ambassadors – which means to break diplomatic relations with the Vatican – if we would have been recognized.”
This is all credible. I had been watching the Jews reaction to the possible SSPX regularization and have been reporting on it in CFN. When Pope Benedict XVI “lifted” the alleged excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X in 2009, a daily secular newspaper in New York State interviewed me on the topic. The reporter said a local rabbi told him the following: “We rabbis are concerned about a possible ‘regularization’ of the Society of St. Pius X. We fear this may bring about the Vatican’s return to the pre-Vatican II teaching that the Old Covenant is superseded by the New Covenant.”
In the same vein, when the Vatican’s Cardinal Koch announced last spring that the SSPX must accept all of Vatican II, including it’s new approach to Judaism, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League immediately issued a press-release praising Cardinal Koch for his defense of the Council.
As for Freemasonry: it is well known that Freemasonry fully supports Vatican II’s new teaching on Religious Liberty. While the Council was in session, Archbishop Lefebvre warned, “This very year , Yves Marsaudon, the Freemason, has published the book L’oecumenisme vu par un franc-maçon de tradition [Ecumenism as Seen by a Traditional Freemason]. In it the author expresses the hope of Freemasons that our Council will solemnly proclaim religious liberty …What more information do we need?”
The Council’s new approach to religious liberty effectively abolishes the Catholic State and is responsible for the secularization of states and society throughout the world. It is, in human terms, the death-knell of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ, which stands in stark opposition to the godless program of Freemasonry.
Yet the question is asked: what does the Pope want? Why does he want to regularize the SSPX?
This is an area where reasonable people may propose different responses. I will hazard an answer, based on years of reading the works of Cardinal Ratzinger.
I believe Pope Benedict wanted to recognize the SSPX because he did sense an injustice perpetrated against a group of Catholics whose only crime was fidelity to their understanding of Catholic Tradition.
At the same time, I also believe he wanted to “regularize “the SSPX in order eventually bring them into a more Conciliar way of thinking. This is why I had have urged great caution regarding any Agreement of the SSPX with modern Rome.
I’ve quoted in the past Pope Benedict’s 2009 letter to the bishops of the world where he said, “I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of [traditionalist] communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole.”
Likewise Archbishop Di Noia, the new Vice-Prefect of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, said regarding traditional Catholics accepting Vatican II’s new approach to Judaism: “This is a new concept which we know the Traditionalists will not be able to accept immediately. Convincing them will take time, and in this respect we will have to be patient.”
In saying this, do I imply that Pope Benedict is deliberately operating with malicious intent?
I believe Pope Benedict truly holds that traditional Catholics cling to a needless “one-sided position,” a “rigidity” that is not “positive”. If he could disabuse traditional Catholics of these threadbare attitudes, they would be liberated to finally accept the Radiant City of Vatican II.
As reported in last month’s CFN, Pope Benedict is thoroughly a man of the Council. His position about the Council has been consistent from the beginning, which is verified by quotations from 1975, 1985, 2005 and to the present. He holds there are two extremes to be avoided: the ultra-traditionalist extreme that goes back prior to the Council; and the ultra-liberal extreme that wants to charge ahead and go way beyond what the Council intended.
The proper Catholic position, according to him, is Church doctrine in light of Vatican II. He has said on a number of occasions “there can be no return to the Syllabus,” of 1864, that St. Pius X’s condemnations of Modernism were temporary dispositions that have outlived their usefulness, that there can be no return to a pre-Vatican II position.
What a fitting demonstration of the New Evangelization for Pope Benedict to eventually free traditional Catholics from their one-sided, rigid position.
Toward the end of the Adelaide conference, Bishop Fellay said, “They want us to say Vatican II is traditional; that Vatican II has to be interpreted into the tradition of the Church. We will not say this. We have people in Rome who want to kick us out; have us declared schismatic … If we are condemned because we do the right thing, fine. Let us not be condemned for doing the wrong thing.”
This resistance will require a steadfast, amplified counter-revolutionary resolve as bequeathed to the SSPX by the great Father Henri le Floch and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. May the spirit of these fighting men be found everywhere within the Society of St. Pius X.
- Bishop Fellay’s entire 2 hour 12 minute Adelaide conference can be heard on the web by going to www.oltyn.org/fellay-aus.htm
Postscript: November 8, 2012
Since the publication of this report in CFN, there have been a few more developments.
1) On October 24, the SSPX expelled Bishop Richard Williamson. On the same day, Fr. Andreas Steiner, SSPX Media Spokesman in Germany, is reported to have said: “The decision [to expel Bishop Wiliamson] will certainly facilitate the talks.” I confess I find this to be a curious statement. It invites the question: if the present impasse is truly on a doctrinal level with Pope Benedict insisting the SSPX accept all of the Council and the licitness of the New Mass, how does the expulsion of Bishop Williamson change this in any way? With Bishop Williamson gone, will Pope Benedict now suddenly reverse himself and say the SSPX does not have to accept all of Vatican II, does not have to accept the 'goodness and licitness' of the New Mass? [SEE ADDENDUM* BELOW FROM FATHER EDWARD MACDONALD]
2) The Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission announced on October 27 that work will continue with the SSPX in the hope of reaching some sort of Agreement. This appears yet the latest rendition of what Bishop Fellay earlier outlined as Rome's farcical reaction to the SSPX doctrinal discussions: we disagree, let's “let’s get together” anyway. Yet if it is true that Pope Benedict insists on SSPX accepting all of the Council, and if Bishop Fellay remains steadfast in refusing to accept all of the Council, how can any Accord be reached without one side or the other caving in? Especially when Bishop Fellay insists in the Adelaide Conference and in his recent talk in Kansas City that the SSPX will not give way on Vatican II? In fact, the United States' SSPX website noted yesterday that the Ecclesia Dei announcement appears to be an attempt to "put pressure on the Superior General, Bishop Fellay, to accept the CDF's document of June 13, which he has rejected three times over."
3) As I posted last week, we must remember the Vatican power of Romanita: “If you can out wait all, you can rule all.” May the SSPX continue to resist, and may they remain steadfast in their refusal of any compromise with the disastrous Second Vatican Council, which the modernist Cardinal Suenens celebrated as “the French Revolution in the Church.” - JV
*ADDENDUM: CFN received the following note from Father Edward MacDonald, SSPX, in South Africa: "I asked Bishop Fellay about this [Father Steiner's comment] during his visit to Roodepoort, South Africa for Confirmations in mid-November. Bishop Fellay said that Fr. Steiner is not a spokesman for the SSPX and that Fr. Steiner does not know about the negotiations. This report should be disregarded."
• See also: Celebrating a Catastrophe: The 50th Anniversary of Vatican II
Updated December 31, 2012 - Bishop Fellay's Speech in Ontario, Dec. 28
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