Fr. Z agrees with Bishop Fellay’s comments in an interview

Our Johnny-On-The-Spot friends at Rorate have an English version of an interview with SSPX Bishop and Superior Bernard Fellay.  Here is a part. 

The Swiss daily Le Temps published today the first interview granted to journalist Patricia Briel by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), after the remission of excommunications made public last Saturday.

The full text:

– Do you condemn the negationist declarations of Bishop Williamson?

– [Fellay:] It does not belong to me to condemn them. I do not have the competence for his. But I deplore that a Bishop may have given the impression of involving the Fraternity with a view that is not ours.

– In your letter to the faithful of January 24 [PDF], you display your desire to examine, with Rome, the deeper causes of the "unprecedented crisis which afflicts the Church today". What are these causes?

– [Fellay:] In the essence, this crisis is caused by a new approach to the world, a new view of man, that is, an anthropocentrism which consists of an exaltation of man and a forgetfulness of God. The arrival of modern philosophies, with their less precise language, has led to confusion in theology.

Ecumenism and religious liberty are at the center of the criticisms you make of Vatican II

– [Fellay:] The quest for unity of all in the Mystical Body of the Church is our dearest desire. Nonetheless, the method that is used is not appropriate. Today, there is such a focus on the points which unite us to other Christian confessions that those which separate us are forgotten. We believe that those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox and the Protestants, should come back to it. We conceive ecumenism as a return to the unity of Truth.

Regarding religious liberty, it is necessary to distinguish two situations: the religious liberty of the person, and the relations between Church and State. Religious liberty implies liberty of conscience. We agree with the fact that there is not a right to force anyone to accept a religion. As for our reflection on the relations between Church and State, it is based on the principle of tolerance. It seems clear to us that there where there are multiple religions, the State should be watchful of their good coexistence and peace. Nevertheless, there is but one religion that is true, and the others are not. But we tolerate this situation for the good of all.

I agree with what he said. 

Don’t you?


Go read the rest at Rorate and spike their stats a bit!  Tell ‘m Fr. Z sent ya!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Paul Haley says:

    I agree completely and this further reinforces my view that he is a true leader and also one who has the respect and admiration of not only Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos but, I suspect, the Holy Father as well. Let us hope that in his discussions with curia representatives he evokes that same admiration and respect.

  2. Rob says:

    …yes, and here you can see the dualistic methodology of presenting facts and reality, still much a part of the SSPX mind which bears the mark of DUPLICITY. “The Excommunications:Why They Never Existed.”
    — January 24, 2009
    Found here:

  3. Sid says:

    I agree with this statement as Fr. Z has quoted it. It is a statement said very broadly; the proverbial devil is proverbally in the proverbial details. Still, it looks like the atmosphere, the climate, is changing for the better, toward union. Deo gratias.

    I have said on another occasion that it is semi-Pelegian to coerce someone’s faith. +Fellay might say it differently, yet he comes down to the right place.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    It sounds a lot better than the other soundbites I’ve heard from them. However they have plenty of articles on their website which continue to make me feel… queasy. I hope those are addressed. Soon.

  5. Calleva says:

    Yes I do agree with you.

    It still stands that Rome has made every concession so far. They climbed down over making acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite of reunion and they have, as Fellay asked, rescinded the excommunications. At least one SSPX source has been chortling that the SSPX have not had to make any compromises.

    I was one of those who prayed and fasted last June, at your request Fr Z. The return of the SSPX is dear to my heart, but the militant language in some quarters, the open satisfaction at having got one up on Rome does not bode well. I am hopeful that the majority of the SSPX don’t think like this. After all, there were some in the Society who ‘rejoiced’ at the original excommunications. Anyone capable of doing this does not understand the grave consequences, or the authority of the Church.

    Still, I trust Pope Benedict. He is a man of great and transparent holiness and against such goodness the world has no answers.

  6. hopeful says:

    Bravo +Fellay!

  7. Breier says:

    The SSPX english website seems to be somewhat out of date, particularly the FAQ. It’s certainly pre Motu Proprio. I always wondered if it reflected a certain strand of the SSPX rather the organization itself. I don’t think it’s a good gauge of the SSPX’s position; but then again, it’s their responsibility, particularly when they’re now receiving public scrutiny.

  8. Paul Haley says:

    That there is a hard-line faction in the SSPX is, I think, obvious to most observers but Bishop Fellay is not one of them. He speaks for the Society – no one else. Thank God for that!

  9. BillyHW says:

    We believe that those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox and the Protestants, should come back to it.

    Um…I think he left out the SSPX.

  10. Gravitas says:

    Smart man.

  11. chironomo says:


    I think the point of his statement there is that he feels that the Catholic Church has left them, not the other way around. While there are many obstacles in the way, I have to believe that Bp.Fellay very seriously desires the Catholic Church to return to it’s traditions. In that respect, I don’t think he is pushing an agenda, but is following what he sees as the truth…

  12. Geoffrey says:

    “Um… I think he left out the SSPX.”

    How true!

  13. schoolman says:

    I see a real convergence happening. The criticisms here seem measured and constructive. There are many aspects all can agree upon:

    1) Clearly and publicly rebuking the unacceptable behavior of +Williamson
    2) The confusion introduced by modern philosophy
    3) Opposition to Ecumenism as it has been in practice — not in principle or in its objectives for visible unity.
    4) Seeking clarity on Religious Liberty and Church/State relations — the duty of the state to protect the common good and peaceful coexistence and the role of tolerance.

  14. Paul Haley says:

    Almighty God has raised up two extraordinary men in our times to heal the wounds in the Mystical Body – His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Fellay of the FSSPX. Can there be any doubt that they will succeed despite all the obstacles? Methinks not. May the grace of God sustain them in the work ahead.

  15. ezadro says:

    By and large I agree but I wonder why he, as a moral and spiritual leader of so many, should regard himself incompetent to condemn blatant revisionism (tinged of course, with unhealthy doses of anti-semitism) of the holocaust. My reservations on this point are strengthened not least because of the great risks and suffering that many Catholic priests and laity suffered at the hands of Nazi persecuters after speaking out against the destruction of human dignity; certainly, they felt themselves competent enough to condemn.

    Otherwise, I agree substantially with what he said but I have a soft spot for the Orthodox and believe that a strong effort must be made to reconcile them so long as it doesn’t impugn on Catholic doctrine.

  16. Here in beautiful Kansas City, “Johnny on the Spot” is a brand of Porta-Potty.

    FWIW, I don’t think anyone would mistake Rorate for the same operation here.

    Just sayin’.

  17. Felicitas says:

    Praise God that Bp. Fellay is in charge of the SSPX. He seems like a decent man who has everyone’s best interest at heart.

  18. Mario says:

    I have much more optimism after reading Fellay’s interview. Let’s hope and pray the Holy Spirit continues with his work!

    Obama starts his anti-life campaign, and God starts healing the wounds of the Church. Coincidence? Nope!

  19. John 6:54 says:

    With public statments like that on Ecumenism & Religious Liberty couldn’t this all have been resolved a long time ago? Why didn’t he ever say it like that before? Or did I miss something along the way.

  20. James De Silva says:

    Then I’m not sure what all the fighting is about.

  21. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    As I commented on Rorate Caeli, I think this interview is amazing. The tone of Bishop Fellay is very humble and confident unlike the arrogant and negative statements he has made in the past. In fact, reasonable Catholics can agree with everything he said. The book, Vatican II: Renewal within tradition will go a long way in helping this process. God’s grace and Our Lady’s powerful intercession cannot be underestimated in the great work that has been done and in the necessary and difficult work to come. Deo Gratias!

  22. Ottaviani says:

    “Um… I think he left out the SSPX”

    You can still maintain and post these singularly unhelpful (and untrue) remarks but it won’t change the fact that the competent authorities in Rome, judge the SSPX not to be in a state of theoretical schism and now the excommunications have been rescinded.

    The Holy Father has taken the main beating bat out of the so-called “conservatives” hands. And with the help of the Blessed Mother in Heaven, as Bishop Fellay implores often, the irregular state of the Society will be removed.

  23. Todd says:

    “Don’t you?”


    Father Fellay shows little grasp of the nuances of which he speaks. It’s a common fault of ideological extremists to put words in other people’s mouths then comment on them. His opponents are caricatures, not real people. Additionally, he shows no understanding of ecumenism as others practice or theologize about it.

  24. Steve K. says:

    How about a little more charity toward the SSPX right now? If it’s good enough for the Holy Father, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

  25. Tom says:

    I concur with nearly all of His Excellency’s statement, except one question about the line “Nevertheless, there is but one religion that is true, and the others are not.” [Emphasis shifted.] Of course, I absolutely affirm the former, but the latter clause will no doubt be one of the points of discussion between the Holy See and the SSPX. My – admittedly amateurish – understanding of what the Church taught about her own ecclesiology & ecumenism in VCII is that such a purely dichotomous assessment of the Church in relation to “other ecclesial bodies” (there’s that pesky, vague terminology again) is itself a stumbling block to full re-union of the “separated brethren” into the Mystical Body. That is, the Council Fathers, if I understand them correctly, believed that recognizing “elements of truth and sanctity” within these ecclesial bodies does not diminish in any way the fullness of Truth which Holy Mother Church embodies and safeguards. Though they “contain elements” and still should pursue full communion with the Mystical Body (as we all should), clearly the Council taught that it is not accurate to say that these “ecclesial bodies” lack truth entirely.

    There are some critics who dispute this language of Lumen Gentium, as well as the use of subsistere, as contradicting previous Catholic teaching. But some of the more recent analyses on this subject shed a great deal of light on it. I’m thinking of the late Cardinal Dulles’ essay in Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition (Matthew Lamb, ed.), Fr. Heim’s Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology: Fundamentals of Ecclesiology, and especially Fr. Karl Becker’s Examination of Subsistit in (orig. pub’d in L’Osservatore Romano in 1995; available now via EWTN’s on-line doc library at Fr. Becker’s research is very helpful in understanding how the Jesuit peritus Fr. Sebastian Tromp – himself an ecclesiological specialist – demonstrated LG’s “subsistit in” not only does not negate Pius XII’s teaching in Mystici Corporis, it underscores & amplifies it.

    Didn’t want to dwell on the doctrines themselves or start a dogfight; just wanted to point out that this may still be an obstacle for many in the SSPX (hopefully not) unless this very complicated understanding is sorted out. May we be fully re-united soon.

    Also, Wholly Roamin’ Catholic – I am from KC, too, & got the ref to Johnnies. Thanks for making that point!

    Thanks, Fr. Z., for continuing the excellence of the WDTPRS blog!

  26. puella says:

    I know very little, but what’s been quoted here seems…it’s almost like what Vatican II says, but interpreted in line with what being and believing Catholic was like before Vatican II. Is this the/a hermeneutic of continuity?

    I wish I knew more! Where are my Vatican II documents!!

  27. therese b says:


    A lot of the nuances you fail to find, are much easier to see in the French original. Compare
    “In the essence, this crisis is caused by a new approach to the world, a new view of man, that is, an anthropocentrism which consists of an exaltation of man and a forgetfulness of God. The arrival of modern philosophies, with their less precise language, has led to confusion in theology.”
    “– Pour l’essentiel, cette crise est due à une nouvelle approche du monde, une nouvelle vue de l’homme, à savoir un anthropocentrisme qui consiste en une exaltation de l’homme et un oubli de Dieu. L’arrivée des philosophies modernes, avec leur langage moins précis, a amené une confusion dans la théologie.”

    “Du monde” can mean people, rather than the world, and I think he is using it in this sense. It also has a subtext, when used of people, which I can best explain as being slightly dismissive – almost making it synonymous with “plebs” or “commoners”.

    He uses the word “savoir” rather than “connaitre”, which is significant, as both mean “to know” – but connaitre (also used for the sense of knowing someone, rather than something as a fact) has the additional sense of understanding. To use savoir is a subtle insult in this context, insinuating superficiality.

    “Anthropocentrisme” here in this context makes a subtle reference to the dawkinisation encroaching on the sphere of religious debate. It is an interesting word – because what he is really talking about is humanism and sollipsism.

    “Philosophies modernes” – come on guys – this is MODERNISM he is referring to – but oh so subtly. Ring any bells in the context of the SSPX? Of course, given the fact that the “M” word is a touchy subject in relations with the Vatican – he does not spell it out.

    It is impossible not to be nuanced in French. That’s where the word comes from – and there has never been an English equivalent!

  28. Paul says:


    I suppose Cardinal Kasper doesn’t represent the Ecumenical movement with these statements?:

    “Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.”

    ““The Catholic commitment to ecumenism is not based on wanting to draw all Christians into the Catholic fold”

    Or are we lesser folk just too dim to grasp the highly complex theological issues at hand? Perhaps we should just cede the entire faith to more enlightened men. We can’t let reason get in the way of progress, can we?

  29. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    The French original is clear as well on the repudiation of Williamson\’s statements with reference to Nazi atrocities. The English translation (probably just a simple error) drops the word \”absolument\”: Bishop Fellay says, \”But I deplore that a Bishop may have given the impression of involving the Fraternity with a view that is *absolutely* not ours.\”

  30. Mark says:

    1. I agree with Bishop Fellay here. These things need clarification for all.

    2. Todd, I think that is precisely why these discussions need to happen. It might be clear to you. Practice, however, has shown these topics to be fuzzy to a lot of people, including many who are actually engaged in ecumenical endeavors. We need a true hermeneutic of continuity if these measure are to continue.

    3. BillyHW and Geoffery, couldn’t you disagree without coming off so bluntly. Your comments sound a little bitter. This has been a painful and confusing time for everyone trying to be faithful to the Church, both the sspx and those, who for reasons of conscience, have suffered through the mess of the last fourty years in the ordinary parishes.

    4. Tom, there is another great artical on “subsistit in” in the Jan. 2008 issue of “The Thomist.” The article is by Christopher J Malloy, and entitled “Subsistit in: Nonexclusive Identity or Full Identity?” He follows up on Becker in response to another scholar.

  31. His opponents are caricatures, not real people.

    There once was a pot that lived next door to a kettle …

    How about a little more charity toward the SSPX right now? If it’s good enough for the Holy Father, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

    Bingo. Regarding the statements by Bishop Williamson, no one, least of all Pope Benedict, is suggesting that all is well in every corner of the SSPX. I think the Holy Father is taking the approach that light is the best disinfectant and that bringing the society into eventual communion will lead to greater health.

  32. Jason Keener says:

    I agree with Bishop Fellay. He brought up some excellent points.

    One must admit there has been a change in teaching, at least in emphasis, when it comes to Church and State relations.

    Pope Benedict XVI praises the concept of the separation of Church and State. It seems the Pope believes the Church and State, though related and interdependent, are essentially two separate spheres that have their own roles to play amongst a people. The State should not get involved in the business of overtly promoting one particular religion. The best thing for the State is to remain basically neutral so that every person can seek God freely according to their own conscience and without interference or coercion from the State. Moreover, the State really has no business overtly promoting the Catholic Faith because promotion of the Catholic Faith is the task of the Church.

    On the other hand, earlier papal teachings of Pope Pius X, for example, stated that the State should actually take an active role in promoting the Catholic Faith as the true religion. Pope Pius X thought it a pernicious error for the State to remain neutral in matters of religion. According to Pius X, the State should actively assist in promoting the true religion to help man not only attain his earthly goals but his supernatural goals as well.

    I tend to agree with Pope Benedict and the newer approach because the State and its mechanisms are not really an effective way to teach and promote the Gospel and the Catholic Faith. The State has enough trouble just carrying out basic governing functions without the added role of evangelizer. Evangelizing is best left up to churches operating freely in a society without State interference.

  33. Adam DeVille says:

    To speak of “those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox” is fatuous nonsense. It was a gradual, MUTUAL breakdown of communion between the one Church in both East and West. To speak of one side having “left” is irreconcilable with the historical evidence; to speak as though one must simply await the “return” of one side to the other is also a vain hope. As Edward Cardinal Cassidy of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said in 1995 “‘Return’ is not in our vocabulary.” Ecumenism is a process of recovering communion between Catholics and Orthodox, both of whom grew apart from one another, both of whom sinned against each other. To the extent that both “return” to the Lord in penance, imploring unity from Him, we may find the unity we seek. But this obvious triumphalism in Fellay is not simply repulsive and counter-productive: it is, in fact (and not surprisingly) in opposition to the whole modus operandi and Magisterial authority of the Catholic Church since the publication of Orientalum Ecclesiarum and Unitatis Redintegratio, and more recently Ut Unum Sint. For Fellay to “return” (!) to papal obedience will surely require him to take account of these documents at least. To be fully Catholic, as Pope John Paul II made clear, is to be fully committed to the ecumenical project of seeking unity; it is not optional. One can disagree on how to go about that project, but surely by now nobody should have any doubts that an ecumenical methodology consisting of “you must return to me” is a complete waste of time.

  34. Angelo says:


    Feeling queasy? Take some PeptoBismol.
    Works wonders.


  35. Michael says:

    Father Z., I disagree.

    “We believe that those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox and the Protestants, should come back to it.”

    I disagree for two reasons: (1) the present generation of the Orthodox and the Protestants haven’t “left the Catholic Church”, but are born in the communities which are separated from her; so, one cannot expect of them to “come back” to what they haven’t left in the first place; (2) it is historically disputable who is to be blamed for the original division, and who has left whom. The present “Nestorians” are not Nestorians and the present “Monophysites” are not Monophysites. An estrangement between the four Eastern Patriarchates and the Rome was a gradual process that took centuries, and many factors were involved. And it was not Luther who excommunicated the Pope, but the Pope excommunicated Luther.

    “We conceive ecumenism as a return to the unity of Truth.”

    This is too ambiguous to be of any value.

    “As for our reflection on the relations between Church and State, it is based on the principle of tolerance. It seems clear to us that there where there are multiple religions, the State should be watchful of their good coexistence and peace. Nevertheless, there is but one religion that is true, and the others are not. But we tolerate this situation for the good of all.”

    The assertion is too ambiguous for one to agree or disagree. I think, Father, that you have turned “ecumenical” at all costs.

  36. No one of consequence says:

    Yes, there’s a fair amount of ambiguity in what he says – e.g., his comments about religious liberty don’t make at all clear what he thinks of the Church’s developed teaching as expressed in Dignitatis Humanae (which indicates not only that people can’t be forced to accept Catholicism, but also that, within due limits, they can’t be forced not to practice other faiths/religions – and that forcing them not to do so simply because they aren’t Catholic doesn’t fall within due limits) – e.g., also, he paints with far too broad a brush regarding “modern philosophy” (there’s much that’s problematic in modern philosophy, but also more than a little that’s truly insightful and valuable – see Fides et Ratio for a more balanced and helpful treatment).

  37. QC says:

    I agree that this statement sounds like it’s an application of the hermeneutic of continuity.

    In regards to some comments on subsists in, the doctrinal note from the CDF backed up Becker’s analysis as well.

  38. No one of consequence says:

    Two other things:

    (1) Meanwhile, the alleged “ambiguity” in the Council’s teachings is highly overstated. Frankly, people who complain about that “ambiguity” aren’t engaging in serious thought/discussion.

    (2) I think that Williamson is also very, very wrong (see earlier entry on this blog) to assert that in the contemporary Magisterium one has seen a split between authority and truth.

  39. Jason Keener says:

    Bishop Fellay is exactly correct on the matter of ecumenism. There has been way too much of an emphasis in the last 40 years on what Catholics have in common with Protestants, Jews, etc. These commonalities are so over emphasized that people in the Church, even some bishops, now teach that Jews and Protestants need not even bother converting to the Catholic Faith. Catholics who approach ecumenism like this are more guided by political correctness and current models of diversity than by anything in the Gospels.

    We need to recognize what is true in Protestantism and Judaism, etc., but our primary task always has to be bringing non-Catholics to the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church. It would be uncharitable and contrary to the Gospel to let people persist in a watered-down religion that is missing sacraments or elements of Christ’s teachings.

  40. QC says:

    In regards to Church and State, the idea of two separate spheres or orbits (one temporal, one spiritual) was developed by Leo XIII. I think also that the current Pontiff’s analysis has more to do with taking the modern state as it is, and then explaining the Church’s relationship to that entity (the situation is more like the ante-nicene situation rather than that of, say, the 1200s–no state is going to just start acting Catholic because the Pope says so these days). Further, we should remember that Pope Benedict shortly after becoming Pope advocated for crucifixes in public buildings.

  41. Forrest says:


  42. William says:


  43. Paul says:

    The Bolivian people have voted to eliminate Christ the King from their constitution at the behest of their socialist, pantheist President, Evo Morales, who says that he is an “admirer” of Our Lord but who worships the Andean earth-deity (Pachamama). The bishops in Bolivia, while raising objections to ten articles in the newly approved constitution, did not oppose the charter, expressing regrets that the document did not acknowledge Bolivia’s history as a Catholic nation. Defense of the confessionally Catholic civil state that Bolivia was, at least on paper, until yesterday, January 25, 2009, was absent. Then again, how can the bishops of Bolivia defend the confessionally Catholic civil state when they are steep in the murkey water of Dignitatis Humanis?
    In view of the above, Bishop Fellay’s assessment of the current church-state situation is accurate: “As for our reflection on the relations between Church and State, it is based on the principle of tolerance. It seems clear to us that there where there are multiple religions, the State should be watchful of their good coexistence and peace. Nevertheless, there is but one religion that is true, and the others are not. But we tolerate this situation for the good of all.”

  44. Rob says:


  45. John Hudson says:

    I agree with everything except the dodge that he does not have the competence to condemn Williamson’s statements about the Holocaust. This is like Barrack Obama claiming that the question of when human life begins was above his pay grade. Is Fellay the superior or not? If he does not feel he has the competence to condemn Williamson’s claims about the gas chambers, which historians and scientists have long since debunked, then he should go out at get that competence.

  46. JPG says:

    Reading Dominus Iesus left in my mind no equivocation that the Church of Rome is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ. Where Peter is there is the Church. Bp Fellay is just a little more concise.

  47. Brian Mershon says:

    Adam: Return is not in our vocabulary.

    BCM: Whatever. The four marks of the Church are one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic. It is visible. The Orthodox do not have four marks. It is very simple.

    You want to use Cardinal Cassidy as an authority, go right ahead. Nothing doctrinla or dogmatic there requiring an assent to anything by Catholics.

    As if we’re going to give and take and then “converge.”


  48. Michael says:

    Jason Keener

    I think that the “earlier papal teachings of Pope Pius X, for example” assume that a state government is Catholic, and the population too – all practising. To expect of the King of Saudi Arabia, for instance, to “take an active role in promoting the Catholic Faith as the true religion”, and even “to remain neutral in matters of religion” is not only an unrealistic practical nonsense, but it would be contrary to the Catholic moral teaching, according to which everyone is bound to act according to his conscience. As a Moslem, the King is bound to promote Islam, and if he were to promote the Catholic Faith instead, he would commit a formal mortal sin for acting contrary to his conscience.

    In the later comment you say: “We need to recognize what is true in Protestantism and Judaism, etc., but our primary task always has to be bringing non-Catholics to the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church.”

    This is perfectly true, but there are “snags”. We have to put our own house in order first, to be able to recognize what is true and good among the non-Catholics, and, likewise, to make them recognize the value of being Catholics. As the things stand now, the majority of the Western Rite Catholics, the hierarchy included, would find it difficult the accept the Byzantine Liturgy, including other sacraments, as their own. The Byzantine Rite Catholics have been an integral part of the Catholic Church for four hundred years – in theory; in practice, however, they are merely tolerated, or treated as ecclesiastical oddities and exotic creations. Furthermore, the widespread doctrinal and moral scandals in seminaries, teaching and liturgy … What the Orthodox would gain, for instance, from communion with this kind of the ”true Church”?

  49. Jason Keener says:


    I agree with you. It would be silly to expect a Muslim king to promote the Catholic Faith as the true religion. Pope Pius X was speaking to the Catholic country of France in the document I quoted. In a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia, non-Christians should still be able to worship in freedom. One of the good things about “Dignitatis Humane” is that it makes very clear the idea that religion can never be a matter of force or coercion. God reaches out to all of us. Whether or not we accept God’s invitation depends on each person being able to make a totally free choice.

    I also agree with you about ecumenism. We Catholics do need to get our own house in order. Part of doing this definitely involves the Western Latin Church finally recognizing the great value and gifts that the 21 autonomous ritual Eastern Catholic Churches bring to the Universal Church.

    One other note: It seems the Church’s teaching on Church and State relations is still developing and is in a state of flux. In “Dignitatis Humane,” the Second Vatican Council stated that societies (including their governments) still have a moral duty towards the true religion and the One Church of Christ.

    As far as I can tell, Pope Benedict XVI himself does not agree with that part of “Dignitatis Humane” entirely. In “Deus Caritas Est,” for example, Pope Benedict made no mention of societies or their governments acknowledging the One Church of Christ. Rather, “Deus Caritas Est” seems to promote more of a separation of Church and State model, like I mentioned in my earlier post.

    “Deus Caritas Est” reads, “Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. In other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere.” (#28)

    There are many questions still surrounding the Church and State issues. Some are still wondering what Rome makes of the traditional social teaching of Christ’s Social Kingship. Pope Benedict made no mention of the Social Reign of Christ the King in “Deus Caritas Est.” Pope Benedict also seems to be advocating something different even than what Vatican II’s “Dignitatis Humane” taught.

    Because this issue is still in such a state of flux, I don’t think the SSPX should have any trouble being able to have their own views respected on the Church and State relations topic. Reasonable people seem to disagree.

  50. Mark G. says:

    Don’t agree completely.

    H.E. paints with too broad a brush. He starts with a nameless exalting & forgetting, but doesn’t state who – the modern world? Pop culture? No he means the Church in Rome & the council called by Blessed John XXIII. Certainly, no document or doctrine of the Church has ever exalted man above his place or forgotten God. Gross hyperbole. Rather, it seems the Council placed some emphasis on man recalling his own dignity as being made in the image & likeness of God & on the Baptized living out their commission as sons of God.

    A problem of language, indeed. Are all elements of all religions besides Catholic Chrisitanity flat-out, inarguably, & unredeemably “false” in every sense of that word? Paraphrasing Augustine – Christ has many that do not belong to the Church, & the Church has many that do not belong to Christ.

    The Church teaches without apology that Catholic Christianity possesses the fullness of the truth & means of salvation – thus every human on earth “should” be Catholic. But, it then follows that other faiths are “less full” rather than strictly “false”. To say otherwise would be to state that Protestant baptisms, for example, are invalid – or those of other groups separated from the Church.

  51. BCM: Whatever. The four marks of the Church are one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic. It is visible. The Orthodox do not have four marks. It is very simple.

    Whatever indeed. Simply because you decree that the Orthodox do not have the four marks does not make it so. It is, in fact, far less simple than you so simplistically suggest.

    BCM: You want to use Cardinal Cassidy as an authority, go right ahead. Nothing doctrinla or dogmatic there requiring an assent to anything by Catholics.

    I never said there was. I was merely giving credit for the quotation, a standard procedure in learned debate.

    BCM: As if we’re going to give and take and then “converge.”

    Nor did I say that. Perhaps you could respond to points actually made rather than relying on the tiresome convention of inventing straw dogs to attack.

  52. Jason Keener says:

    Mark G.,

    I agree with Bishop Fellay when he says there is an over exaltation of man and a forgetfulness of God in the Church’s current orientation. In no other place is this hyper-focus on man more evident than in the ethos surrounding the celebration of the Novus Ordo in most parishes.

    Instead of facing God to offer the Holy Sacrifice, the priest now faces the people of the congregation. The special sacral language of Latin devoted to God’s worship has been abandoned for the everyday language of man. The everyday music of man has replaced Gregorian Chant. Catholic church buildings are now filled with chit chat when they used to be places of silence and reverence out of respect for the Lord’s Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Church buildings are no longer built with great ornamentation and majesty for the glory of God. Rather, the church building is now usually a white-washed auditorium that puts a roof over the People of God for an hour a week. Priests now sometimes begin Mass with a folksy “Good Morning” and end with a joke to entertain the congregation. In previous times, Mass began with a sprinkling rite to prepare the congregation for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice to God. Mass ended with a blessing from on high for which the people knelt out of respect, and on and on…

    The documents of the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II’s writings have been seen as somewhat overly- optimistic about man and his intrinsic abilities.

    In previous years, Pope Benedict himself has even criticized the Vatican II document “Gaudium Et Spes” for being “downright Pelagian” in some places, especially paragraph 17.

  53. Michael says:

    Jason Keener

    “In Dignitatis Humane, the Second Vatican Council stated that societies (including their governments) still have a moral duty towards the true religion and the One Church of Christ.”

    I think that what you quote refers to an ideal situation in which the whole state would be Catholic. The 18th and 19th cent. Popes address that situation while the DH addresses a real issue, which the Church faces today. The DH refers to the former briefly to ensure us that the ideal should be the aim, but, under the circumstances, there are more pressing matters to be dealt with in the meantime.

    It goes without saying that if all citizens were Catholics the Catholics in government would promote the Catholic Faith, and there would be nobody left to be “tolerated”. But it would inapplicable if some were not Catholics. To insist that they should be merely tolerated, would amount to an unfair social discrimination, and curtailment of their duty to follow conscience, which would be contrary to the moral doctrine.

    Benedict XVI “seems to promote more of a separation” because he deals with the present state of affairs, in which the right of Catholics even in allegedly democratic countries is increasingly restricted; and soon the couples will have to apply for a permission to have a child, and the older people to stay alive.

    “what Rome makes of the traditional social teaching of Christ’s Social Kingship” which the “Pope Benedict made no mention of”. I would say that the Christ’s Kingship is not of this world, and the Church is here to bring it by evangelization, not by imposition.

    I do not think that the SSPX should be entitled to their own views (if they want to be Catholics in a full sense), because the DH is an official teaching: we are not at a discussion stage. Their basic attitude should be that of acceptance of the Vatican II, with a degree of assent to its propositions that is in a proportion to what is demanded by the text, context and Magisterial interpretation. In no case an attitude of rejection, unless the assertions meet their notion of “tradition”, as it seems to be the case.

  54. Adam,

    Thank you for your clear and thought-provoking comments; but then I am not surprised knowing that you are from St. Elias Church. My greetings to Protodeacon David.

  55. Rick says:

    Then I guess Pope Pius XI had it all wrong.

    “for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.” Pope Pius XI Mortalium Animos

  56. dcs says:

    To speak of “those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox” is fatuous nonsense.

    Even the Patriarch of Antioch rebuked Caerularius for his schism.

  57. Wolfram von Duerrenbach says:

    Kommuniqué des Generaloberen der Priesterbruderschaft St. Pius X.
    Bischof Bernard Fellay

    Wir haben von einem Interview Kenntnis erlangt, das Bischof Richard Williamson, der ein Mitglied unserer Bruderschaft ist, dem schwedischen Fernsehen gab. In diesem Interview äußert er sich auch zu historischen Fragen, insbesondere zum Judenmord der Nationalsozialisten. Es ist offensichtlich, daß ein Bischof nur zu Fragen des Glaubens und der Moral mit religiöser Autorität sprechen kann. Unsere Bruderschaft beansprucht keinerlei Autorität über historische oder andere säkulare Fragen. Die Mission der Priesterbruderschaft ist die Verbreitung und Wiederherstellung der authentischen katholischen Lehre, wie sie in den Dogmen niedergelegt ist. Dafür sind wir weltweit bekannt, akzeptiert und geschätzt. Wir sehen mit großer Sorge, wie die Überschreitung dieses Auftrages durch unser Mitglied unserer religiösen Mission schweren Schaden zufügt. Wir bitten den Heiligen Vater und alle Menschen guten Willens um Entschuldigung für den dadurch hervorgerufenen Ärger. Dabei muss klar sein, dass diese Äußerungen in keiner Weise die Haltung unserer Gemeinschaft wiedergeben. Deshalb habe ich Bischof Williamson bis auf weiteres jedwede öffentliche Stellungnahme zu politischen oder historischen Fragen untersagt.

    Die ständig vorgebrachten Anklagen gegen unsere Bruderschaft dienen offenkundig auch dem Zweck, unsere Mission zu diskreditieren. Das werden wir nicht zulassen, sondern fortfahren, die katholische Lehre zu verkünden und die Sakramente in ihrer altehrwürdigen Form zu spenden .

    Menzingen, den 27. Januar 2009

  58. Matt says:

    As a Moslem, the King is bound to promote Islam, and if he were to promote the Catholic Faith instead, he would commit a formal mortal sin for acting contrary to his conscience.

    That’s absurd. The conscience must be well formed in order for it to be followed, and a well formed conscience can not by definition, violate the teachings of the Church. The moslem king is bound to not oppress the Catholic faith, nor is bound to impose it on the unwilling. He is morally obligated to recognize it and convert, even if he is unaware of that obligation. Let’s hope he just stops the stoning of women.

  59. Jason Keener says:


    I agree with just about everything you wrote.

    Regarding the SSPX, it does seem that Bishop Fellay agrees with the basic principles of “Dignitatis Humane.”

    For example, we all agree you cannot force religion on anyone. We all agree that the Catholic Faith is the one true religion. We all agree that an ideal society would have the Catholic Faith as the official religion of the State. We all agree that a full implementation of the Social Reign of Christ the King in every state is not possible in a world where countries are so religiously diverse and pluralistic. We all agree that if a Catholic country, in South America perhaps, wants to proclaim Christ the King as the Lord of the state and government, that would be wonderful. We all agree we should be working towards the goal of converting all countries to Christ and His Church in the meantime.

    We can probably all agree too that the Holy Father’s promotion of the neutral state model is probably fitting for our particular times when there is such a diversity and pluralism in our societies. As you pointed out, the Church has to adapt to the current situation where strong Catholic monarchies and societies are not the norm. While Pope Benedict seems to be an advocate of the neutral state model for our times, I am almost positive he would not be opposed to a country that freely wanted to embrace the Social Kingship of Christ over the public life of the state.

  60. Yes, put the way stated here, there’s nothing I can think of not in line with the related VII declarations. I can see the objections to what has been done in practice by some in the name of VII (as usual), but the council itself.. no.

    Someone mentioned Dominus Iesus–Amen! There is a real need for greater catechesis in this area–in my experience, even faithful Catholics seem confused on the primacy of our faith’s claim to the fullness of truth and our right response to other religions and confessions.

  61. Michael says:

    MATT, it is not absurd: I am following Grisez: The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol. 1, Ch. 3, Q. B and C; Grisez and Shaw: Fulfillment in Christ, Ch. 3, A and B; May: An Introduction to Moral Theology, Ch.2, No 5; they follow St.Thomas: De Veritate, q.17, a.3 and 5, and S. Th. 1-2, q. 19, 74 and 104 (I am not listing the articles, but can do on request). Of the Magisterial documents: GS 16 and DH 3 and 14, John Paul’s Veritatis Splendor, Ch.2/II, and the CCC 1776-1802.

    It is contrary to the Catholic moral doctrine to say that “(t)he conscience must be well formed in order for it to be followed “; it must be followed always, whether well formed or not. While it is true that one is morally bound to form his conscience, and that the “well-formed conscience can not by definition, violate the teachings of the Church” this has no bearing on the moral obligation follow a poorly formed conscience although such conscience is in error. The formation of conscience is life-long process. If the error is invincible one is not guilty for following it, and it is sinful not to follow it. If the error is vincible, one is caught in a trap of his own making, and is guilty whether he follows the conscience or not. If he follows it, it is a sin because the erroneous conscience is his fault; if he doesn’t follow it, it is a sin of not following the conscience.

    “The Moslem king is bound to not oppress the Catholic faith, nor is bound to impose it on the unwilling. He is morally obligated to recognize it and convert, even if he is unaware of that obligation.”

    No. He is morally obliged to convert only if by the Grace of God he realizes that the Catholic Faith is of divine origin. It would be immoral if he were to convert while “unaware of that obligation.” Assuming his good faith – we cannot judge a person: it is for God to judge – i.e. that he is sure that the Islam is true faith, he is in error which is invincible, but, still, he is morally bound to promote Islam, and depending on circumstances, he may judge that he should oppress the Catholic Faith which, he believes, is, at best, a distorted form of Islam; or tolerate it for the sake of peace if he has no other choice. This is what his conscience demands, and he must act accordingly, otherwise he would commit a mortal sin.

    JASON KEENER, I agree, but there seems to be a problem that the SSPX would, I think, insist, that, in a Catholic State, other religions should be only “tolerated”, which is not what the DH says, i.e. that the freedom to profess any religion is a natural right of a person. It doesn’t mean that the man is actually right, but the DH seems to imply a distinction between having a right and being right.

  62. Mary Nic Con Carraige says:

    Letter to Friends and Benefactors #73

    Society of Saint Pius X

    Priorat Mariae Verkundigung

    Schloss Schwandegg Menzingen, ZG,


    Dear Friends and Benefactors,

    In this letter, I would have liked to give you first of all some news about the internal life of the Society. However, current events in the Church at large and especially concerning the developments in favor of Tradition compel us to dwell longer upon these topics of a more external nature, because of their importance. Once again, it seems to us necessary to tackle this subject, so as to express as clearly as possible something which might have caused some concern at the beginning of the summer. As the media related in a rather surprising manner, I must say, we did receive an ultimatum from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos. But the thing is rather complex and needs to be clarified in order to be well understood. A glance back at recent past events will help us to grasp things a little more clearly.

    1. Our Pre-conditions

    From the beginning when Rome approached us and proposed some solutions, that is, at the beginning of 2001, we clearly stated that the manner in which Church authorities were treating the problems raised by those who desired to attempt the experience of Tradition with Rome did not inspire confidence in us. Logically we had to expect to be treated in like manner once the issue of our relationship with Rome would have been settled. Since that time, and in order to protect ourselves, we have been asking for concrete actions which would unequivocally show Rome’s intentions towards us: the traditional Mass for all priests, and the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication. These two measures were not sought directly in view of gaining some advantage for ourselves, but to re-instill into the Mystical Body a breath of traditional life, and thus, indirectly, help to bring about a sound rapprochement between the Society and Rome. The first responses were hardly engaging and were rather a confirmation of our misgivings: it was not possible to grant freedom for the Mass, because, in spite of the realization that the Mass had never been abrogated, some bishops and faithful thought it might be repudiation of Paul VI and of the liturgical reform…As for the excommunication, it would be lifted at the time of the agreement. In spite of this demurrer, we did not cut the slender thread of fairly difficult relations, aware as we were that what is at stake far exceeds our own plight. It is not a matter of persons, but of an attitude which for centuries has been that of all the members of the Church, and which remains ours, unlike the new spirit, called “the spirit of Vatican II.” And it is obvious for us that this new spirit is at the root, and is the main cause of the present misfortunes of Holy Mother Church. Hence, the basic motivation behind our actions and our relations with the Roman authorities has always been to do prudently all we can to bring about the return of the Church to what she cannot deprive herself of without rushing headlong to suicide. Our situation is very delicate: on the one hand, we recognize both the Roman authorities and the local bishops as legitimate. But on the other hand, we contest some of their decisions, because, in various degrees, they are opposed to what the Magisterium always taught and ordered. In this, there is no pretense on our part of setting ourselves as judges or of picking and choosing. It is nothing more than the expression of an extremely painful observation of a contradiction which goes against both our Catholic consciences and faith. Such a situation is extremely grave, and cannot be treated with levity. This is also the reason why we move only very slowly and with the utmost prudence. If we are obviously greatly interested in obtaining a situation which is concretely livable in the Church, the clear awareness of the much more profound key issue which we have just described, forbids us to place the two issues on an equal footing. It is so clear for us that the issue of the Faith and of the spirit of faith has priority over all that we cannot consider a practical solution before the first issue is safely resolved. Holy Mother Church always taught us that we had to be ready to lose everything, even our own life, rather than lose the faith. What is strange is that the blows are now coming from within the Church, and that is the stark reality of the drama through which we are living.

    2. In 2007, One of the Pre-conditions was Fulfilled, the Motu Proprio

    In 2007, the new Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI finally granted the first point we had requested, the traditional Mass for the priests all over the world. We are deeply grateful for this personal gesture from the pope. And it causes us a great joy, because we have a great hope that we can see in this a renewal for the whole Mystical Body. Yet, the motu proprio has become (because of the very nature of what it states and gives back, i.e., the traditional Mass), the object of the fight we mentioned earlier in this letter because the traditional worship is opposed to the cult which meant to be “new” the “Novus Ordo Missae”. It has become an occasion of fight between the progressivists, who give lip service to their full ecclesial communion while they more or less openly oppose the orders and the dispositions coming from the Sovereign Pontiff, and the conservatives, who consequently find themselves in a situation where they resist their bishops. So whom are we to obey? The progressivists know quite well that what is at stake is much more than a liturgical dispute. In spite of the efforts of the motu proprio to minimize opposition by affirming continuity, what is at stake is the very fate of a Council which meant to be pastoral, and which was applied in such a way that Paul VI already could speak of the “self-destruction of the Church.”

    3 – Hope of a Rapid Fulfillment of Second Pre-condition

    This first step of Rome in our direction gave us to hope that a second would soon follow. Some signs seemed to point this way. But, whereas we had long ago proposed the itinerary we had mapped out, it would seem that Rome has decided to follow another route. In spite of our reiterated request for the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication, and as it seemed that there was no longer any major obstacle to prevent the accomplishment of this act, we witnessed a sudden turn of events: Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos wants to impose upon us conditions before going any further, even though we had clearly said that we expected a unilateral act. Our attitude seems to him ungrateful towards the Sovereign Pontiff, and even worse: haughty and proud, since we continue to openly denounce the evils from which the Church is suffering. Our latest Letter to Friends and Benefactors particularly aroused his displeasure. This earned for us an ultimatum, the precise conditions of which we still have not yet been able to figure out. For either we accept the canonical solution, or we will be declared schismatic! When we take a stand this is interpreted as a delay, a voluntary procrastination. Our intentions and our good will to really discuss with Rome are doubted. They do not understand why we do not want an immediate canonical solution. For Rome, the problem of the Society would be resolved by that practical agreement; doctrinal discussions would be avoided or postponed. For us, each day brings additional proofs that we must clarify to the maximum the underlying issues before taking one more step toward a canonical situation, which is not in itself displeasing to us. But this is a matter of following the order of the nature of things, and to start from the wrong end would unavoidably place us in an unbearable situation. We have daily proofs of this. What is at stake is nothing more nor less than our future existence. We cannot, and will not leave any ambiguity subsist on the issue of the acceptation of the Council, of the reforms, of the new attitudes which are either being tolerated or fostered. Confronted with these new difficulties, we take the liberty of appealing once more to your generosity. Given the success of our first Rosary Crusade to obtain the return of the Tridentine Mass, we would now like to offer to Our Lady a new bouquet of a million rosaries (5 decades) to obtain the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication through her intercession. From November 1st until the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, we will take it to heart to pray with renewed fervor that, in these difficult hours of history, the Holy Father may fulfill with fidelity his august functions in accordance with the wish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the good of all the Church. We are utterly convinced that such a gesture coming from the Sovereign Pontiff would have as profound an effect on the Mystical Body as the freedom of the traditional liturgy. Indeed, the excommunication did not cut us off from the Church, but it has driven away a good number of her members from the Church’s past and from her Tradition. And she cannot deprive herself of them without suffering serious harm. It is truly obvious that Holy Mother Church cannot ignore her past, since she has received everything and is still to this day receiving everything from her divine founder, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the excommunication, what has been censured and penalized is the very attitude which specified the combat of Archbishop Lefebvre, i.e., this relationship to the Church’s past and to her Tradition. Since then, because of this reprobation, many fear to come to the sources of living water which alone can bring back the good old days of Holy Mother Church. Yet, Archbishop Lefebvre did nothing more than adopt the attitude of St. Paul, to the extent that he requested that the following words be engraved on his tomb: “Tradidi quod et accepi”- I have handed down what I have received. Did not St. Pius X himself write that the “true friends of the Church are not the revolutionaries, nor the innovators, but the traditionalists”?

    For this reason, dear faithful, we launch again this Rosary Crusade on the occasion of our pilgrimage to Lourdes for the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. We thank the Mother of God for the maternal protection she extended over us during all these years, and especially for the twenty years since the Episcopal Consecrations. We entrust to her all your intentions for yourselves, your families and your work. To her we entrust our future and beg for this fidelity to the faith and to the Church without which no one can work out his salvation. I thank you wholeheartedly for your untiring generosity which enables us to continue the magnificent work founded by Archbishop Lefebvre. We ask our good Mother in Heaven to protect you and to keep you all in her Immaculate Heart.

    Menzingen, October 23, 2008, on the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret

    + Bernard Fellay Superior General

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