Special Dossier : The Decree of January 21, 2009 - Three interviews with Bishop Bernard Fellay

Source: FSSPX News


Document sans nom

To Apic Swiss News Agency (January 25)

-What changes made the lifting of the excommunication possible, according to you?

Precisely the stability of our position. From the beginning, we never strayed from the Church. We kept the same course of the good fight by persisting in the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Faith. Therefore we always considered the sanction of the decree of 1988 as unjust, null and void. Archbishop Lefebvre was always motivated   by the state of necessity (eventuality for which the Code of Canon Law provides), which justified what he called a “survival operation” in face of the disintegration of Catholicism. We have not changed in any way; we are and remain faithful Catholics.

- It was stated in the press that the Society of Saint Pius X made no concession and that the Holy See alone took steps in your direction (especially with the Motu Proprio); what is the truth about this?

This act made by the pope was certainly a grace from the Blessed Virgin to whom we had prayed much during the Rosary Crusade we had begun in Lourdes last October. We were able to offer to the Holy Father a bouquet of 1,703,000 rosaries prayed to that intention. Besides, the gesture of Benedict XVI is the answer to the request we had formulated in 2001. We were requesting two pre-conditions prior to any discussion so as to change the atmosphere, to overcome some prejudices against us, and also to protect ourselves: namely, the recognition of the right for any priest to celebrate the traditional Mass and the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication. On our part, we had restated our indefectible attachment to the Church, to her teaching and to her supreme Pastor.

- What status do you hope for concerning the Society? A personal prelature under the pope?

We will consider this aspect after the discussions requested by Rome, which are intended to be a source of clarifications. Canonical stability first requires doctrinal clarity. The objective is to serve the Church in the truth and in the unity of the Faith.

- Will we soon see priests from the Society of Saint Pius X in our parish Masses, or on our parish teams?

It seems to me that we may still have to wait a little… but I do not exclude anything, and I even believe in miracles!

(Entire text - Interview conducted by Bernard Bovigny)

To the Italian Daily Libero of January 25:

(…) We are in Menzingen, at the very heart of Switzerland, in the General House. Outside, we can see the snow, and we might feel we are in a Nativity scene. And here on the table we have the decree of the Holy See revoking (your) excommunication. How do you feel about it?

I feel joy and satisfaction, which are not the feelings of someone who considers himself victorious. What the Society of Saint Pius X has been doing since its foundations, and which it will always continue to do, it has done and will do only for the good of the Church. Even the bishops’ consecrations of 1988 were performed for that same purpose: for the good of the Church and for our survival. Archbishop had to, I say it again, he had to, ensure continuity. We are nothing more than a little life-boat on a tempestuous sea. We have always been at the service of the Church and we always will be. The revocation of the excommunication, together with the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI concerning the traditional Mass, is an important signal, a truly important signal for our little life-boat. This is why I speak of joy and of satisfaction. (…)

- In the decree it is said that the Holy Father trusts in your commitment “to spare no effort to go further in the necessary discussions with the Authorities of the Holy See concerning the issues still pending.” What does this mean?

It means that, like all the sons of the Church, we are invited to discuss issues which we consider as crucial for the Faith and for the very life of the Church. I think that by this move they at least acknowledge that our criticisms of these past forty years are to be taken seriously. We ask for nothing but to be able to explain ourselves. The fact that the will of the Holy Father goes in this direction is really a great comfort for us. What matters is to understand that, even when we express severe criticisms, we are never against the Church we are never against the papacy. And how could we ever be so? We were often accused of being “Lefebvrite”, but we are not “Lefebvrite.” Even though it remains for us a glorious title. We are Catholics. The first man who was no “Lefebvrite” was our founder, Archbishop Lefebvre. When this becomes clear, our positions will be better understood. It will still require time, but I think that little by little, it will be clear that all we do is a work of the Church.

- Is the revocation of the excommunication the fruit of negotiations and of an agreement, or is it a unilateral act made by the Holy See?

We  have requested the freedom of celebrating the old Mass and the revocation of the excommunication. But what has taken place now is not the fruit of negotiations or of an agreement. It is a gratuitous and unilateral gesture which shows that Rome really wishes us well. It wishes a real good for us. For a long time, we had the impression that Rome did not want to open any discussion. Later, everything changed and we owe this to the pope.

- Why did Benedict XVI want so strongly  to make this gesture? Do you realize in what a predicament he has placed himself  by the revocation of the excommunication?

I certainly do! And I believe that he is fully aware of the most diverse and most rabid reactions. Besides, on several occasions, before and after his election to the papacy, he spoke of the crisis of the Church in words that were not at all ambiguous. When I spoke of his fatherlike gentleness (during the private audience in August 2005, Ed.) I meant that in him you felt at the same time the awareness of the age in which we live, the firm will to remedy it and an attentiveness to all of his sons. Consequently, the more or less violent reactions to what he does may make him suffer but they will  certainly not force him to change his mind. And you have there also the motive for this decision.

- In this perspective, could we sum up the news by saying that Tradition is no longer excommunicated?

Yes, even if it will take time before this concept becomes a common idea in the Catholic world. Up to now, in many circles we have been considered and treated worse than if we were the devil. All we did and said had  perforce to be something evil. I do not think the situation can change overnight. But today there is an act from the Holy See which authorizes us to say that Tradition is not excommunicated.

- How does it feel when you are excommunicated?

We feel sorrow for the ill-use of this sign of infamy as a pragmatic tool. As far as our situation was concerned, I must say that we never felt schismatic. We always considered ourselves as belonging to the Church, and the news we are now talking about proves that we were right.

- At this juncture, we wonder why such a situation lasted so long. And especially what could be the nature of  the issues that the document of the Holy See, just like yourself, says must still be discussed.

To put it in a nutshell, at a given time, we saw, in the Church, that a new path was being taken, a path which was leading to big problems. We did nothing else than think, teach, and practice what the Church had always done up to that time: neither more nor less. We did not invent anything. We followed Tradition point by point. And today, Tradition is no longer excommunicated.

(Excerpts - Interview conducted by Alessandro Gnocchi and Mario Palmaro)

To the French daily Présent of January 31:

(…) Is the contentment you evidence today mitigated by the stretch of the road that still lies ahead? Does this way seem to you achievable?

It is too soon to make any pronouncement. An act of very great importance has just happened, even if we consider it as simply putting things back in their rightful order. We are certainly satisfied, but this is not the hour for triumphalism. No! We are truly thankful, but it is rather difficult, as of now, to evaluate the situation. We must let some time go by so that we may have a fuller vision of the consequences of this act. For the time being, we still do not have seen enough reactions. Of course, there were reactions on the spur of the moment. But we still cannot see all that is implied. Hence our joy is prudent. Because, considering all that we have been through up to now, we tell ourselves that it is not over yet. There is still a lot of work ahead. But we also tell ourselves that the new situation will allow a much greater union among souls of good will. There is truly a hope -- even if it cannot all be done in a day -- that the movement of souls who truly desire God, who seek the good of the Church, will be begin once more. A restoration of the Church is in the offing. It will probably begin with disciplinary matters, with the life of the Church, rather than with doctrine. But once hearts are purified, it is easier to speak about doctrinal issues.

- In the past you approached Rome rather seldom. When did this change occur in your relationships?

Since 2001, we have always said that the situation was strained and that it was practically impossible to discuss, because we were so demonized. And then Rome made a gesture to us and offered to settle our situation. We must truly say that there is a qualitative change which must be ascribed, on the human side, to the present pope, Benedict XVI.

- Is this due  to his personal knowledge of your situation?

Yes, but that is not essential. He always considered as a personal wound the fact that he did not manage to solve the problem in 1988. Now that he is the pope, he wants to solve it; that is sure.

Next, he now has the viewpoint of a pope; he said so in the Motu Proprio. He wants to do all that he can to try to avoid a quarrel’s hardening and ending  in a schism.

And I do not hesitate to include a third element which is outside of what we can perceive. The Pope knows many things about the Church, maybe even her future, things which probably have some connection with this new situations… But here, we leave the domain of the rational and there is not much we can say.

- Clearly, the situation on both sides is that of an agreement to begin discussions.

It is more than that. It is truly a step forward. I really believe that there is a line of conduct which was already traced  with the Motu Proprio, and which is being confirmed here. It seems to me we can say that the pope has some esteem for the work we do, and that he is ready to pay the price so that these values may be of service to the whole Church.

- Isn’t there a contradiction between the lifting of the excommunication and the fact of not being in full communion?

The problem comes from a faulty language, which came with and continued after Vatican II, and which is fraught with imprecision. What does communion mean? and full communion? In the past, before the Council, we had a very clear idea about this, and. if we go by the pre-Vatican II concept, there is absolutely no doubt that we are in full communion. Because this means belonging to the Church, and we are either inside of it, or outside of it. There is no middle ground. Consequently, there is indeed something contradictory in this story, but under the ambiguous term, what is meant is that we do not agree on every issue with the present Pope. Later, some will make a drama out of it, they will try to play on the words. It is a fuzzy situation, in which we do not know who does what, and who says what… Hence a mess, which everyone tries to get out of as best he can. It ends up in sentimentalism, in the domain of the affections: I like the pope, hence I am in full communion with him, and after that I do what I please at home; it no longer means anything.

(Excerpts - Interview conducted by Olivier Figueras)