During Tradition Days, Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, gave a conference, the second part of which is transcribed here, on the present state of relations with Rome. The complete text of this conference will be published in the original French in the next issue of Nouvelles de Chrétienté (no. 161, October 2016).
Can a Pastoral Council be Debatable?
All of a sudden, more than a year ago, Rome made us a new proposition. They were really stuck because we were saying: No. We cannot say that the Council is traditional. We cannot. And then this new Mass, we cannot say that it is good. Well, then, all of a sudden, they made us a new proposition, and you can understand what happened through certain interviews given by Abp. Pozzo. He explains to us that, at the start, they wanted to make us accept everything and that that did not work.
They asked themselves therefore how to get out of the predicament, since everything was blocked, and it seems that they found the method. It was to distinguish within the Council some more important parts and others that are less important. The first time Abp. Pozzo spoke about this was in February of 2016, but you see, that was already almost nine months after they had made us their proposition. In effect they dropped some rather important things.
They no longer ask us to recite the “profession of Cardinal Ratzinger”. Precisely where Abp. Lefebvre had stumbled on a remark by Cardinal Ratzinger that had added something to the usual profession of faith. And this addition concerns what we call the authentic Magisterium. Cardinal Ratzinger, at that time, had explained that with this addition they were asking for religious submission to the documents of the authentic Magisterium, obliging Catholics to accept the Council.
This can be debated: it is true per se that we owe respectful submission to magisterial documents, an Encyclical for example. It is normal to receive this document respectfully, since it is issued by the supreme authority. In itself the phrase is not shocking, it is even Catholic. But of course, when you make the connection with this Council, it starts to become more awkward. And therefore we truly balked at this profession of faith. Well, as it turns out, they no longer demand it of us! They ask us to recite the old one that is called the Tridentine profession of faith of Pius IV. In the document they call it the “profession of the Council Fathers”. Yes, the Council Fathers—in other words, all the bishops gathered at Vatican Council II—made, at the beginning of the first session, a profession of faith that is the traditional profession of faith. Just as the Mass that was celebrated during the Council was the old Mass....
Different degrees of authority and of obligation in the Conciliar documents
The second point is that they had crossed out everything concerning religious liberty and ecumenism. They no longer demanded anything of us. That is interesting! Why are they doing this? In this first interview granted to Zenit in February (February 28, 2016, Editor’s note) we see that it is necessary nevertheless to accept the whole Council. But in fact there are degrees.
And this idea will be clarified in April (La Croix, April 7, 2016). And here this becomes particularly interesting, because all of a sudden they go and tell us that what was produced by the Council but is not dogmatic, in other words, all the Declarations—the Declaration to the World [?! Sic], etc.—are not criteria for being Catholic, according to Abp. Pozzo. What does this mean? “You are not obliged to agree in order to be Catholic.” That is what he started to say when speaking about the Society.
And to us, explicitly, he said: “On religious liberty, on ecumenism, on Nostra Aetate, on the liturgical reform, you can maintain your position.” When I heard that, I found it so amazing that I told him, “There is a possibility that I may have to ask you to come and tell us that, because our confreres are not going to believe me.” And still today, I think that it is legitimate to ask the question: is this serious? Is it true or not? Abp. Pozzo actually gave several interviews. I quoted for you the one in April, then there were the ones in July (Zenit, July 4, 2016, and Christ und Welt, July 28, 2016). Between these two dates, in June, his superior, Cardinal Müller, said the contrary (Herder Korrespondenz, June 2016). Therefore you have on the one side Abp. Pozzo who is the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, who said in public (in La Croix, April 7, 2016):
“‘The statements of articles of faith and of sure Catholic doctrine contained in the documents of Vatican Council II must be accepted according to the degree of adherence required,’ the Italian bishop continued, restating the distinction between dogma and certain Decrees or Declarations containing ‘directives for pastoral activity, guidelines and suggestions or exhortations of a practical and pastoral character’, as is the case especially with Nostra Aetate that inaugurated dialogue with non-Christian religions.
The latter ‘will constitute, after a canonical recognition as well, a subject for discussion and more in-depth study with a view to greater precision, so as to avoid misunderstandings or ambiguities which, we know, are widespread in the contemporary ecclesial world.’” That is very interesting. But these are words that are not always very clear. Depending on whether you are on one side or the other, Abp. Pozzo finds himself in a bit of a pinch. To us he says, “You have the right not to agree and still to be Catholic.” However, if that is said too loud in the world of the modernists, there will be revolution. Why? Because—and we have always said this—these infamous germs that are lethal to the Church were introduced by the Council in these documents on ecumenism, religious liberty, and in Nostra Aetate on relations with non-Christian religions.
It is indeed there, and in Gaudium et Spes too, that we find expressed most forcefully this positive approach to the world. This is why we have always said that we are against these documents. In the Council, surely, we find repeated a great number of dogmas; it says that there is the Holy Trinity, that Our Lord Jesus is God, it says all that! They even say, in the Council, that in order to be saved, one must go through Our Lord. That is said in the Council. There was even someone who had fun demonstrating that we were more faithful to the Council than the Jesuits. But the problem is not the good things that you can find in it, which actually exist.
The problem is the bad things! If you put a drop of cyanide in the soup, what difference does it make if you add good vegetables, good stock, the best water that you can find; the soup is inedible because of the poison. That is what happens at the Council. That is why we say that the Council is inedible. Not because of the good things that you can find in it, but because of the poison. And to be precise, this poison is not concentrated everywhere but in a certain number of these documents about which Abp. Pozzo says to us today: “You are not obliged to accept them in order to be recognized as Catholic.” Once again, the great majority of the people who are in the Church today think exactly the opposite. In other words, they see in these documents the foundation of their Church, what is called the conciliar Church.
The modernists live precisely on that. One part of our campaign is to say what I am saying to you in a way that is plain enough to see how the modernists are going to react, because—being what they are—they have to react. They cannot let that slide. They must react to Rome and they must say to the authorities: “It is not possible.” Somewhere there is going to be an ultimatum: “It’s either them or us.” It is irreconcilable. We will see what happens.
A Council that is theoretically pastoral but in practice dogmatic
Cardinal Müller insisted, saying: “No, the Society must accept the whole Council!” And he even spoke about unrestricted commitment with regard to ecumenism. But not only that.... He speaks about the liturgy, about religious liberty. And afterwards his subordinate repeats the contrary, in July. What disorder! Whom are we to believe? It is unthinkable that Abp. Pozzo would say these things if he had no support. And in fact the one supporting him is the Pope. Obviously these are improbable situations.
As for me, I am waiting to see, because there have already been contrary actions. There were, for example, some German laymen that joined a Jewish association (domradio.de, May 19, 2016) in making a public statement that said: “Readmitting the Society without Nostra Aetate is unacceptable.” Pure and simple. A German theology professor (Jan-Heiner Tück, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, May 23, 2016, and Salzburger Nachrichten, July 5, 2016) made a statement in Vienna, saying: “If they let the Society back into the Church without the Council, it will be the Trojan horse in the Church.” And that was even reported by Vatican Radio.
There were other documents, notably the one by the representative of the American Jewish Committee in Rome (Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Vatican Insider, July 28, 2016, Editor’s note). She commented on Abp. Pozzo’s article from July, in which he rightly and very clearly maintains that, no, Nostra Aetate and ecumenism are not criteria of Catholicity, that one has the right to disagree with them and to be Catholic anyway. And the article, which is written very intelligently, cites a rabbi, a professor of theology, and a Muslim who says: “We are following very closely this story about the Society and Rome, about its relations, because we too are involved.”
An article written very intelligently that is a very clear warning to Rome. There were still other publications.... Notably one by a Swiss Jesuit (Christian Rutishauser, S.J., Tages-Anzeiger, September 30, 2016) who is one of the members of the committee that advises the Pope in his relations with the Jews. He just declared in a newspaper in his country that he is going to speak to the Pope, because it is absolutely unacceptable to receive the Society without obliging it to adhere to Nostra Aetate.
And so therefore it is reasonable to think that there will be enormous pressure to revise these judgments that are now public, such as the statement that certain conciliar documents are not obligatory in order to be Catholic. Well, we will see; it will be very interesting. We will see what the authority will do. Whether the authority upholds the principle, even without saying who is right or who is wrong.... For the simple fact of saying that you have the right not to disagree is a screw coming loose on the Council or a bolt that is removed.
Therefore this is becoming extremely interesting. This may be the beginning of the end of the Council, since the Church is saying that it is not obligatory. Which in itself is true: it is not obligatory. For the authority to say so could well be a very interesting start. It is not the end of the battle, but it restores an extremely important principle by saying: “No, those documents are not obligatory.”
A vague Magisterium
This idea of non-obligation is a new way of thinking; I am not saying that it is good, but we have seen signs of it for several years now, and it is extremely important for the future. In 2014, when we were having discussions with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we tried to show that there was a major problem at the level of teaching in the Church, at the level of the Magisterium. And I had mentioned several examples.
For instance the statement by the Holy See about the Mass of the Chaldeans called the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, which is a Mass during which the non-Catholic Chaldeans do not use the words of consecration. Now you have a Roman declaration that states that this Mass is valid. Then I told Rome that this completely destroys sacramental theology. Do you know what they told me? “This document does not come under the Magisterium.” And yet it teaches everyone that a “Mass”—which in fact is not a Mass—would be a valid Mass, without the words of consecration.
And afterwards, when someone makes a complaint, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replies that it does not come under the Magisterium. Well what is it then, if it is not part of the Magisterium? They said that it had not been produced by one of the magisterial authorities, but by a “Council”. Another example: The Balamand Declaration (June 23, 1993). This is a declaration composed by delegates from the Holy See, some cardinals and some Orthodox.
The Church promises not to convert the Orthodox. And it even condemns trying to convert them, which it calls “Uniatism”. Once again, the Holy See’s response was to say: “That is not from the Magisterium.” And quite recently you have a document published by Cardinal Koch on relations with the Jews (Document of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, December 10, 2015). It is a terrible document, completely heretical, which claims that the Jews can be saved without coming through Our Lord (par. 36). Exactly the opposite of what Sacred Scripture teaches us, along with the first pope himself, Saint Peter, who says this to the Jews:
“There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In other words, there is no other means of being saved except through Our Lord. And here Cardinal Koch thinks that you can make a statement saying the contrary. But, he tells us in black and white (in the Preface): “This is not doctrinal teaching.” But then what game are they playing? They teach without teaching. This causes confusion everywhere. It is a new attitude.... Until now it was clear to every Catholic that when Rome speaks: Roma locuta est, causa finita est. Rome speaks, Rome teaches, and that’s the end of the discussion.
And here they are telling us that, no, “it is intended to be a starting point for further theological thought.” In many of his Encyclicals, John Paul II even spoke about “meditations”. It is no longer a teaching, it is a “meditation”. I mention these examples to you to show you the point that we have reached. The doctrinal discussions continue, they are becoming more and more interesting because the authorities are starting to open up the discussion. Until now it was exclusively: “Obey.” They teach and then: be quiet, submit.
All of a sudden their attitude has changed. I think that they are forced—this is a kind of conclusion from what Abp. Pozzo told me—they are forced by the catastrophic situation, the absolutely universal confusion, even in Rome. They are forced to make concessions. They can no longer hold their positions; there is no purpose to it any more. It makes me think about the words of Cardinal Müller in 2014. He told us: “You are obliging the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to devote precious time to you, when there are enormous problems in the Church.” That is interesting, but that is precisely what we are showing them! All of a sudden they are admitting that there are enormous problems.
And they tell each other: This Society is not such a huge problem. But they are annoyed because we tell them: “You are the problem.” They no longer know how to take us, and they make concessions. Where will it all lead? We will soon see. But I think that presently the situation is so catastrophic that it is causing an extremely interesting reaction. On several levels. On the level of the dialogue, all the bishops sent by Rome with whom we have had doctrinal discussions for the past two years told us that the points under discussion—always the same ones—are “open questions”. They all said this, the cardinals included. “Open questions”, meaning that you can debate them.
Therefore they are no longer obligatory. And these discussions are bearing fruit. We do not see them yet, because it is at the level of theological reflection. And that takes a lot of time, certainly. There is some stammering that goes in the direction that I have pointed out. Some passages written by Abp. Pozzo can be interpreted as though he wanted to use these discussions to try to correct the aim in the Church. But he does not dare to say it too loud, precisely because there is a majority that is walking in the other direction.
Moreover, with what the pope is doing, there have been protests by cardinals on moral questions, on the question of marriage, on the question of communion for divorced-and-remarried persons. A certain number of them have clearly and openly said that they refuse, declaring: “No, that will not be done.” Then there are the African bishops, who have clearly said that there is no question of giving communion to divorced-and-remarried persons. This is a reaction that is saying no to the supreme authority. Which we have been doing for fifty years.
This is becoming extremely interesting. We are no longer the only ones. Then some people say: “Careful! Careful! If you make an agreement, afterwards they will silence you.” But that is passé! That’s over! There are others who are talking. We are no longer the only ones. We no longer have a monopoly on protests. They are not very numerous, but this number is increasing. And then, from time to time, I receive letters. Like this one: I will read it to you in English because it is an image:
“Stick to your guns. Always stick to your guns.” This means: Keep your hands on your revolvers. Hold them firmly. In other words: “Defend yourselves. Always. And refuse to compromise in these matters that do not really pertain to the substance of the faith: religious liberty, ecumenism, dialogue with non-Christian religions. There are many of us in the hierarchy who think and believe in what you are doing about these questions.” It is a bishop who wrote that to me. He does not write “I”, he writes that there are many of “us”. He wrote other things too that I dare not read to you, they are so laudatory, but here is the gist: “We need voices that tell us the limits of our freedom in those areas.” He says that the Church, which teaches the truth, is now lost in the gray areas, in vagueness. “Come to our aid.” And also: “Do not let go of anything, continue like this, we need it!” This is new! There was nothing like this before! The bishops used to tell us: obviously there are problems, but at the end of the day.... And here they are telling us: “Resist, we need it!” Actually they do not speak too loud because they know very well that if they do, they will be cutting off their own heads.
But they are working silently, they are working to reestablish the old Mass, like one archbishop who told me: “I have a generation of priests that is lost. You can’t do anything with them. What do I do, then? I take care of the young ones.” And he gave me two criteria: priestly formation in theology it is the Summa of Saint Thomas, and in spirituality, in liturgy, it is the old Mass. I am not telling you their names because we do not want to burn out these prelates, but there are several of them.
I discover some, just like that, by surprise, and there are a certain number of them! And these are young bishops! And some of them were appointed by Pope Francis! He is not just appointing bad ones! He is all mixed up, like his whole attitude, which has also increased the general confusion. But it is extremely interesting to see that there is this movement, and I am certain that it will no longer stop. Why? Because these bishops see where the truth is, and they will not give in. They are annoyed, they are cornered, because they are in the system, but they will no longer give in. Just like these priests who have discovered the old Mass, they will do all that they can, they are annoyed, cornered, but they will keep it. These are skirmishes that have been won.
Continue the fight with supernatural means
There are still major battles ahead of us. But in the midst of a disaster that is truly desperate, enough to make you lose your faith, we must not despair! This Church is God’s Church; she has been transformed into an incredible, unprecedented battlefield, but we see—and this is exactly our story, the story of the forty years of our Society—we see how much the good Lord is with us. How much He supports us, how much He blesses us, through all the miseries and misfortunes that we may experience, that others may subject us to. Despite everything the good Lord is there: above these human miseries there is this faith and this work of faith that is growing.
Despite everything we are making our way discreetly, gently, in our everyday work. And I invite you to continue. Obviously these are extremely serious situations. And you too have the obligation to hold fast to the documents that are sound and holy [sains et saints]. All these Encyclicals of the popes until the Council. This is nourishment that protects you against the insane things that are poured out everywhere today. It is incredible, the stupid things that people can say. And on all sides. Humanly speaking, one may wonder how to escape this situation. But it is not a question of a human battle! And our means are supernatural means!
And really, if the Society continues, it is because it is founded on these supernatural means and, above all, as you well know, on the Mass and also on the Blessed Virgin. These two elements are, so to speak, the treasures that Abp. Lefebvre gave us. The Mass, the priesthood, with all the influence of Our Lord, what we call His social Kingship, and then the Blessed Virgin. And quite simply, if we continue that way, we are right. We must not worry, the good Lord is here. And He shows it every day.
Therefore it is necessary to continue. Do not become preoccupied all the time with these questions: “Will there be an agreement or not?” I myself know nothing about it. We will see! We will not give in, that I know, with the grace of God. May He come to our aid! But little by little we see that work that is being accomplished over time, this crisis is awakening the little remnant. Let us pray for this intention. And to conclude, a big thank-you to Abp. Lefebvre! We have to be very grateful to him and not forget him. And thanks also to all who support this work, to you, too, dear faithful.
In order to preserve the distinctive character of this conference, the spoken style has been kept.