Bishop Fellay’s Exclusive Interview with Radio Courtoisie on Feb. 5, 2004

Source: FSSPX News


This article was published in French in "Nouvelles de Chrétienté" a magazine published by DICI-Presse, and translated by the staff of the Angelus, the magazine of the SSPX in the US.

RC: Your Excellency, you were at Rome last Monday for a press conference held for all the Vatican watchers, the big news agencies like the Italian Ansa and the international English news bureau Reuters, and television news channels. The room was packed and they paid close attention because you were giving them a thirty-minute briefing on the mail that you had addressed to all the cardinals a few weeks before on ecumenism, then they asked you questions for more than an hour. What was in that mail? And what was your intention in writing to all the cardinals?

BF: First, a little chronology: You might say that this whole affair began in the month of May, 2003. A speech Cardinal Kasper gave to the Anglicans was published by the English Catholic newspaper The Tablet. It was Cardinal Kasper’s vision of ecumenism; it was entitled “A Vision of Christian Unity for the Next Generation.”

RC: Who is Cardinal Kasper?

BF: Cardinal Kasper is the right-hand man of the Pope for ecumenical matters since he is the President of the Pontifical Commission for Promoting Christian Unity. They are the ones who direct Catholic ecumenism, an ecumenism that is presented by the current Pope as being the lodestar of his pontificate.

It was a very revealing speech. It covered things that I already knew, but seeing them in black and white, expounded in such a cold, clear way sent a shiver down my spine, because here was a prince of the Church allowing himself to utter heresy upon heresy. At the same time, the speech enabled me to understand ecumenism as it is understood and practiced by the man in charge, after the Pope, for ecumenical affairs in the Church today. It was very enlightening and showed that it was absolutely necessary to do something. The first idea was to send the Pope for his 25th anniversary, not an assessment–it’s not our place to make such an appraisal–but rather to draw his attention to the result of this ecumenism, which he himself had already described as a “silent apostasy.”

But then it was already October, and the Pope’s health was very worrisome, so that sending a letter at that moment was out of the question. I was told: they’ll accuse you of killing the Pope. So it was necessary to postpone the project; some even thought it should be given up. As for me, I couldn’t. One doesn’t have the right to let a man like Kasper do the harm that he does in peace. He has to be denounced before the whole Church.

RC: What did you find especially shocking? You said that you knew what ecumenism is, but there, in black and white, in a cold, cynical way, what did he say that roused you?

BF: First of all, he explained that ecumenism is not what we think, that is to say, what has been taught by the Popes. Ecumenism is not a term that comes from the Catholic Church; it originated with the Protestants. It occurs for the first time in the acts of the magisterium in 1949 in a note of the Holy Office on the dangers of ecumenism. Pius XI had already denounced this method of dialogue, of mingling, this will to act as if everything were fine with the Protestants. Nevertheless, before Vatican II, when ecumenism in the Catholic Church was talked about, it was the idea of dialogue with the Protestants, the Anglicans, in short, with all the Christian confessions, all those who recognize our Lord as God, in order to induce them to return to the Church. It was about conversion. Ecumenism meant a return to the unity of the Church, a unity which the Catholic Church had never lost. That is what we say, moreover, every time that we pray the Creed: I believe in one Catholic Church.

But Kasper–and it isn’t the first time he’s said it; he already said it in the year 2000–says that it is not about conversion, that ecumenism does not mean returning to the Catholic Church; rather, ecumenism is a journey together towards a unity to be created. So the unity of Christians is not the unity of the Church restored, it’s a new unity to seek together in what he calls reconciled diversity, which only means that everyone stays in his own camp and we all get along.

The second idea after this, which is already strange and completely foreign to everything that the Church has done and believed about the return of the stray sheep to the one sheepfold, is the idea that what counts is unity. But the unity of what? He begins by Christian unity, but ends up with the unity of the human race. This idea is to be found at the Council, which declared the Church to be the sacrament of unity of the human race. That is to say, a sign, a sign that will effect the unity of mankind. As far as I know, this is not the goal that our Lord gave to the Church when He founded it; it was to save souls. But if now unity counts more than anything else, then, indeed, looking at the Catholic Church, one will discover certain elements that provoke division and so are counter-productive.

So Kasper is going to explain to us how ecumenism will work. It will no longer involve seeking out others in order to convert them; it will involve what they call nowadays “self-conversion.” In other words: abolish, dissolve, remove from the Catholic Church the things that divide or offend the others. This is what was done in a very practical way in the New Mass. Even in 1964, Msgr. Bugnini was saying that his intention for the new Mass–and this is what was done by inviting the Protestant experts–was to remove from the Mass everything that offended the separated brethren: “…everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.” So, not just the thing itself, but even the very shadow, which is why nothing much remains in the New Mass that is specifically Catholic.

RC: At the beginning, this mainly concerned the Protestants?

BF: For the Mass, yes. But for ecumenism, it goes much further. The Orthodox and the Anglicans are also included, and while they don’t speak much about the Old Catholics, they also are to be included. But what really made a deep impression on me in this speech was what Cardinal Kasper concretely described about what they have already demolished and what they still intend to do. It extends to the faith itself, the sacraments, the priesthood, and the Pope.

RC: What becomes of the Pope in this newfangled ecumenism? Because what you mean to show is that Kasper, the Pope’s right-hand man, is in the process of demolishing the papacy.

BF: Among other things. Concerning the pope, he simply states that today the distinction between what they call the “historical conditionality” of the dogma of the primacy (that is, the elements that can be attributed to historical circumstances) and the content, what remains of the dogma, is clear. It would be nice to know what it is, because for me, it is not at all clear.

But what is very interesting is that he gives one to understand that the historical conditionality is merely an accident since the essential thing should be what remains of the dogma. But in reading Kasper’s analysis, you realize that what determines changing the pontificate or what they call the exercise of the primacy or the Petrine ministry is historical conditionality and not the essence of the dogma. He explains that the historical conditionality changes, and so there must be change.

RC: Your Excellency, ecumenism is a very important theological issue. Putting myself in the listeners’ place, who are not theologians, they readily understand that it takes two to dialogue. What response do the Protestants and the Anglicans in particular have concerning the papal primacy? Is ecumenism working? Does Kasper meet interlocutors who encourage him and who engage in the dialogue, or is this ecumenism a little one-sided? How does it work?

BF: It occurs through declarations, this time not unilateral, but through accords they characterize as “differentiated consensus”—I’d like them to try to tell me just what that means. It’s something that comes to this, to use a quote from Kasper: “What was a contradiction has been transformed into a complementary assertion.” You have a contradiction, you wave the ecumenical wand or do some sleight of hand and you have a complementary assertion, or project (they have all sorts of terms). It’s as if suddenly you succeeded in making a triangle be a circle.

RC: Are Kasper’s declarations understood by the other cardinals? When there are expressions as ambiguous as you have just explained? Are you the only one to sound the alarm?

BF: It seems that we are the only ones. It’s like a current, and you follow the current. I remember something very interesting that Cardinal Ratzinger said. It is well-known that Cardinal Ratzinger does not agree with the Pope. He may be in agreement about ecumenism, but not about interreligious dialogue. He did not agree with Assisi. But Cardinal Ratzinger would explain that this is the charism of the Pope today. Tomorrow there may be a Pope who will have a different charism, and the Church will follow him. The bark of Peter will zigzag spectacularly depending on the charism of the Pope.

RC: Le Figaro, to cite but one, said that Bishop Fellay denounced ecumenism (everyone recognized that you put the finger on a real difficulty), but that you did not see it in relation to the principal documents of the current magisterium; rather, you harped on the statements of a speech by Cardinal Kasper, something which does not engage the Church’s authority. How would you reply to that?

BF: The goal of a press conference like the one held on February 2 is to explain the essence of the contents to the journalists, more than one of whom owned to me that that they were not theologians. So I didn’t try to give a theological conference. I didn’t begin to explain all the theses contained in the document. That’s for the cardinals and the theologians. It was necessary to explain to the journalists what ecumenism is, and Kasper presented a fine example.

What the journalists do is skim the text, look over the citations, and then reproach me for not having quoted Fides et Ratio. I think they reproach me for that since the document discusses relativism, that liberty they take with the truth in order to do whatever they like. It’s true, this is resolved in principle in the encyclical. They also reproach me for not quoting Dominus Jesus, which stated very firmly that there is only one Church, the Catholic Church, that saves. At the time that stirred things up a bit. And it’s true, if the declaration Dominus Jesus was not quoted, nonetheless several of its theses which touch on these questions of the Church and ecumenism were brought up in our document, especially what Cardinal Ratzinger himself considers to be the foundation of ecumenism, which is the famous subsistit in. It is a key expression of the Council with which they imparted a fundamental change to the definition of the Church. Until then it had always been affirmed that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Vatican Council II, for the sake of ecumenism, will no longer say that the Church of Christ is identical to the Catholic Church, but that it subsists in it, as something that is to be found in a subject. In fact, there is an object and there is a subject. It is no longer identity of the two terms.

RC: Paradoxically, you agree with the Pope when he says that there has been a “silent apostasy.” There is no disagreement there; you say that the Pope has seen clearly.

BF: Every time we would go to Rome, we had to fill our pockets with disturbing reports in order to be able to tell the cardinals that there was something going wrong in the Church, because for them, everything was fine. Certainly, there were many little details, some abuses, but over all, all was well. That’s why we were quite happy to hear from an authoritative voice that everything is not fine. Finally, at least that much is granted. The next step, to seek the causes, has not yet been taken; it is difficult for many reasons. The cause is within the Church, but when someone tells them that, they cry out: No, if something isn’t right, it must be the world’s fault.

But allow me a little analogy, that of the chicken coop. It’s well known that an open henhouse allows the fox to enter and ravage the place. They say, It’s the fox’s fault. And I dare say, Who left the door open? The fox does its job. It’s the same with the world, it does it’s job trying to destroy the Church and corrupt Christians. To say that it’s the world’s fault that things are not going well is the same as saying it’s the fox’s fault. I’m sorry, but a mea culpa is owed by the one who was in charge of the door. Because this time it is not a matter of negligence, but of choice. At the Council there was an opening to the world; they not only opened the door, they took it off its hinges. At the time, there was talk of opening windows. To let in a little fresh air, the Pope said. But in fact it was a whirlwind that entered. Now there’s a disaster and it’s the world that is to blame. I’m sorry, but the door needs to be put back, and quickly.

RC: The scary thing about this ecumenism is the loss of the sense of the Church, the loss of the Catholic identity. The result is that people no longer know what the difference is between a Protestant and a Catholic. They say that we all have the same God.

BF: That is the desired result. The opening to the world was the positive approach: stop the condemnations, look at the beautiful side of the world and the other religions. Think positive, as they say nowadays. That’s what they did with the other Christian religions. They said, it is necessary to consider what unites us rather than what divides us. In other words, they’ve brought in everything against which the Church used to defend herself, what she used to call heresy, what she used to excommunicate. All that’s over; now the only excommunicated ones are us!

RC: And the result of the open door? Is the world better?

BF: The result is the silent apostasy. The Protestant religions and the others have been confirmed in their positions since the Church apologizes for herself in front of them; because they are told that they are fine the way they are, and that they’ll go to heaven. They have no more reason to convert. They don’t want any more conversions.

Things have gotten to the point that a schismatic bishop who wanted to convert came to us. We told him that, out of respect for the Roman authorities, he should regulate the matter with Rome. The prefect of bishops told him: “Your Excellency, things have changed; since the Council, you no longer have to convert.” So this simple bishop asked him: “What would you think if I joined the Society of Saint Pius X?” “Don’t do that! They’re fossils!” The next day he spoke with Cardinal Kasper, who invited him to join another schismatic group, the Old Catholics, but especially not the Catholic Church. A second time he went to Rome, saying he wanted to convert. This time Cardinal Kasper told him in the name of ecumenism: “I cannot receive you into the Catholic Church.” That’s ecumenism today.

RC: So, the Society is made up of fossils. For our listeners who may not have any idea, may I ask you a rather direct question: How old of a fossil are you?

BF: Forty-five years old.

RC: And the average age of the Society priests?

BF: Forty.

RC: How many priests are there in the Society?

BF: 453 or 454.

RC: How many countries are served by the Society?

BF: More than 60.

RC: So the fossil is doing rather well.

BF: Yes, tradition is alive and well. There are more than 70 priories and 83 schools throughout the world, and it continues to grow. Every year there are new groups; we cannot keep up, we cannot help everyone. There are new countries all the time: the East, Asia, Africa…

RC: So it’s not just the French sensibility, it’s not just a Gallican nostalgia that is behind Tradition?

BF: Not at all.

RC: Your Excellency, I would like to ask you a very practical question. Are you going to have a follow-up to this conference? Do you expect responses from the cardinals?

BF: Yes, and not just verbal replies, but actions. What we have asked for is action. We do not delude ourselves; it’s very difficult to stop the ecumenical locomotive. I don’t think that anyone can think that all of a sudden they’ll say that they are calling it all off. But that is not what we are asking for; we are asking for a rectification, because there is a true ecumenism. I don’t think that it means calling into question the real desire for unity. The problem is the method and the reasoning used. The goal of our study is to call for a halt to ecumenism as it is practiced today because of the principles it is founded on, which undermine the faith.

In the Council there is this idea that Christ by His incarnation united Himself in a certain way to everyone. And they have never told us exactly what this “way” is or what is the nature of the union. But when they say that the Church is the body of Christ, that is to say a union of Christ with man, if they say that Christ is united with every man, then it is not difficult to jump to the conclusion that the Church is Humanity united with Christ.

RC: By baptism?

BF: More or less, since for them baptism is the sign, or a reinforcement, or a catalyst of this union. The notion remained very vague in Conciliar documents, but the phrase was launched. Catholicism was saved by the “in a certain way,” but it remains necessary to clarify what this expression means. In technical language you would say “in potency.” Our Lord, having become man and desiring the salvation of all, has the intention of saving every man; He paid for all men, but the union has not been accomplished in act. The union occurs at the moment of baptism. All men can be united to our Lord, but this union has not been realized. To pass from the idea of a capacity for union to the reality constitutes the great danger in an ecumenical approach that is far too positive for others. And this is what has happened, because they tell us that those who left the Church only caused a superficial division, but that they did not break the bond to Christ. This is to be found in several statements of the reigning Pope, and I believe also of the Council. In our little study we underscore this, because this is how the nature of the Church was changed. If a Church remains underneath the divisions, it’s an invisible Church linked by the faith in Christ. It is not true, but that’s what they say. But the Catholic Church is necessarily visible, it is a visible body. With this new ecumenism they have introduced ideas that are not Catholic.

RC: Have there been any reactions or echoes of the conference?

BF: There were 40 Vatican specialists who attended the press conference, and the next day there were two little articles in the press. That probably means that an order was given to spike the story. But despite everything, the message has reached the Vatican and Italy. Inside the Vatican, that created some waves. It’s natural for there to be an emotional reaction, and there has been at the Vatican. They are furious.

RC: They said that Cardinal Kasper could have been on an ejection seat after it was over.

BF: That’s an exaggeration, but some say so. Inside the Vatican, according to the gossip I’ve heard, those who have really studied our little book make terrible admissions. They recognize that it is true and wonder how they can respond. One furious cardinal exclaimed: “What can be done against this brochure?”

What we are trying to do is to state the problem so that a way can be found to stop ecumenism. We are going against the current. How many will reply? We have received three letters from cardinals. Others will make a polite reply, and still others will open up a real discussion.