On Saturday 28 June 2008, twenty years to the day after his illicit episcopal consecration at Econe, Switzerland which resulted in his excommunication and the split between the SSPX and the Catholic Church, Bp. Bernard Fellay, now Superior General of the SSPX has given an interview to Radio Svizzera, in Italian.
I captured the audio, lest it cycle off of that website and become too hard to dig up.
In the past few days some media outlets have picked up on something that Fellay said in his rambling sermon in Winona, MN on 20 June, as well as hard line comments of two of the other excommunicated bishops, Williamson and Galaretta, and have made the assumption that the SSPX, Fellay in particular, have rejected the Five Conditions offered them by the Holy See as a preamble to continuing fruitful dialogue.
I think the usual media suspects are somewhat misreading the situation. For example, I parsed the report from AFP and from Reuters. The Reuters story is a good example of how some reporters have misread the situation.
When I parsed Bp. Fellay’s sermon in Winona in this PODCAzT I gave my opinion that Bp. Fellay, under tremendous pressure from the hard liners both in the SSPX and from the "benefactors" (read: money), takes a hard line in sermons and public addresses to keep spirits high.
Also, he is prone to ramble a bit in his preaching and, at a certain point, he works himself up and takes a swipe at the Pope and Curia. This is probably well received by some listeners.
Furthermore, Fellay is between a rock and a hard spot. Or rather, several hardcore hard spots and the Rock who is Peter.
Also, what he said at Winona, though it sounds very defiant and resolved, didn’t actually go so far as to violate explicitly any of the Conditions Rome offered and which Fellay and the SSPX haven’t still publicly renounced in an official way.
Then we learned yesterday that the Fellay and the SSPX decided they would write a letter to Rome to respond that they weren’t going to respond to the Conditions.
Effectively, I think what this means is that they won’t accept the premise that they are doing anything wrong (big surprise there!) but that they still want dialogue. In the future we will see if in action they change they style of speech about the Pope and their position on reunion in a more positive way.
That is to say, though they are afraid to cause a split in the SSPX were they to sign off on those conditions openly, perhaps they could skirt the issue by saying they wouldn’t accept the premise of the conditions but then begin to modify their style a bit anyway.
This is my speculation, now that it seems that we are not going to hear much more from them.
Now we have this Radio Svizzera interview.
I do not have a transcript of the interview and won’t make one myself. But here are the essential points.
Bp. Bernard Fellay had an interview on the Radio Svizzera:
The interviewer put the first question in terms of the SSPX having rejecting the offer, that on Friday for an ordination, it was announced that the SSPX rejected the ultimatum. But Fellay corrected him saying that that is not quite accurate. Fellay said that it is perhaps false to say that "reject".
"Maybe it is false to say so directly that I reject, that I have made a complete refusal. That’s not true. Rather, I see in this ultimate something very vague and confused.
But isn’t this the last chance to reunite with Rome, during this favorable time with Pope Benedict XVI?
Fellay repeated that this ultimatum makes no sense (non ha senso) because they do, in fact, have a dialogue with Rome,even if it is slow. Rome wants to speed things up.
Fellay claims that they want to continue dialogue. SSPX wants to continue the dialogue. For Fellay dialogue might be "chilly" right now but it is not over.
The interviewer asked if Rome will lose patience, is the the SSPX at risk, will be it more and more marginalized?
Fellay said that more more people are coming to the SSPX. They don’t want to break with the Church. They desire to be accepted into the Church and do good for the Church. They are defenders of tradition.
This interview is in Italian. Maybe someone will make a transcript.
The bottom line:
The leadership of the SSPX are afraid of an internal rupture more than anything else. They can’t explicitly reject the Conditions offered by the Holy See. Therefore they are trying to steer a middle course by rejecting a seconday premise of the conditions which was explicitly state (Don’t speak disrespectfully about the Pope and put on airs about their own "magisterium") without rejecting the true premise underlying them (Who is the Bishop of Rome and who are you without him?).
The code language to listen for in future comments by the leadership of the SSPX will be things like "the conditions don’t make sense – we do have dialogue even though it is slow – what’s the hurry".
UPDATE 14:54 UTC
I got this from our friends at Rorate:
(Translation by Rorate Caeli)
Fellay: "I have already written a response
and we will see how Rome will react"
[17:45][Fellay:] Perhaps it is false to say, in such a way, directly, that I reject, that I propose a total rejection [of the conditions], that is not true. Rather, I see in this ultimatum a very vague, confused thing. But, in fact, I have already written a response and we will see how Rome will react.
[18:53] [Fellay:] For me, this ultimatum has no sense, because we have relations with Rome which go forward in a certain speed, which is truly slow. And it is true, on the other hand, that both the Cardinal [Castrillón Hoyos] and the Holy Father would wish for a rather accelerated speed. For me, the only meaning of this ultimatum is the expression of this desire of Rome to give it a little bit of hastiness. And for me it is not a reconsideration of all our relations.
[Interviewer:] "Then, you expect to continue in the dialogue, still?"
[Fellay:] Yes, yes, it is possible that there will now be a time of more, of coolness, but, frankly, for me, it is not over, no.