SSPX Superior Bp. Fellay and his defense of Pope Benedict

From DICI, the site of the SSPX, we find SSPX Bp. Bernard Fellay’s defense of Pope Benedict XVI.

My emphases and comments.

Letter to Friends and Benefactors no. 76


Dear Friends and Benefactors,

The Church’s situation increasingly resembles a sea that is agited in all directions. [It has ever been so.]  We see waves and more waves, which seem to be about to capsize the bark of Peter and drag it into the endless abyss.  [That image was used by Card. Ratzinger before his election in his reflection on the Ninth Station for his Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.] Since the Second Vatican Council, it seems that a wave has been trying to carry off everything into the deep, leaving only a heap of ruins, a spiritual desert, that the popes themselves have called an apostasy. ["a wave" is a bit vague.  I hope he spins that out a little more.  What is the "wave"?  Can a wave "try"?]  We do not want to describe this harsh reality again;  we have already so often done, and all of you can see that it is so.  Still, to us it seems useful to comment somewhat on the events of the past months;  I want to speak about the surprisingly violent and particularly well-orchestrated blows that have been dealt to the Church and the Supreme Pontiff[Do I hear an "Amen!"?] Why such violent attacks?

To return to our metaphor, it seems that for some time now, more or less since the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, a new wave has appeared which is much more modest than the first, yet persistent enough that it is noticeable nevertheless.  Contrary to all expectations, this wave seems to be going in the opposite direction compared to the first.  The indications are sufficiently varied and numerous, that we can state that this new movement of reform or renewal is quite real.  We can see this especially with the younger generations, who are plainly frustrated by the spiritual ineffectiveness of the Vatican II reforms[Hmmm… I think they are not content with something, but I doubt very much they connect their discontent consciously to Vatican II.] Considering the very harsh and bitter reproaches leveled by the progressives against Benedict XVI, it is certain that they see in the very person of the present pope one of the most vigorous causes of this incipient renewal. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]  In fact, even if we find the pope’s initiatives rather timid, they run deep [I am not sure how something can be "timid" and yet be acknowledge as "running deep". I admit that I would like to see the Holy Father act more boldly in some spheres… and I can give him a list of action items if he wants one.  But this Pope is Pope, not another.  This man was elected, and he has his perspective and ways.  What he is doing is actually effective, as Fellay acknowledges.] and are contrary to the agenda of the revolutionary, left-leaning world, both inside and outside of the Church, and this is true at several levels.

The resulting irritation of the progressives and of the world is sensed initially in questions concerning morality.  Specifically, the Left and the liberals have been irritated despite the pope’s well-pondered words about the use of condoms in dealing with AIDS in Africa.  As for the life of the Church, the restoration of the Mass of All Ages [UGH!] to its rightful place in 2007, and then two years later the rescinding of the degrading punishment [clearly playing to his base] aimed at disqualifying us, provoked the rage of liberals and progressives of all stripes.  Moreover-the felicitous plan of a Year for Priests, restoring the priest to a place of honor, recalling his important and indispensable role in the salvation of souls, and proposing the holy Curé of Ars as a model, is not only an invitation to the Christian people to pray for their priests, but also a call to make use of the Sacrament of Penance, which had completely sunk into oblivion in broad sectors of the Church, and also to foster Eucharistic devotion, calling to mind in particular the importance of adoring Our Lord in the Sacred Host, a clear sign of the reality of the real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The appointment of bishops who are distinctly more conservative, [He noticed.] some of whom were already celebrating the Tridentine Mass before, is another positive development.  We could cite also, as an undeniable example of the reality of this little wave of opposition, the Letter to the Catholics of Ireland inviting them to repentance, confession, and spiritual exercises and asking also for the adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist.

[Back to the base…] Even though people in our circles rightly think that these [papal] efforts are still insufficient to stop the decay and the crisis of the Church—especially in view of certain acts along the regrettable line of his predecessor, such as the visits to the synagogue and the Protestant church — in Modernist circles however, the hour has come to report to their battle stations!  The big wave is attacking the very little one with unexpected violence.  It is not surprising that the meeting of these two ill-matched waves should cause a lot of backwash and turbulence and give rise to an extremely confused situation in which it is quite difficult to tell and predict which of the two will win the day.  This, however, is something new that deserves to be commented.  It is not a question of giving in to thoughtless enthusiasm or believing that the crisis is over.  On the contrary, [get this…] the aging forces that see their gains, which they thought were definitive, being called into question, will no doubt put up a large-scale battle to try to save this dream of modernity which is starting to fall apart.  It is very important to remain in this regard, as realistic as possible about what is happening.  Although we rejoice over all the good that is being done in the Church and the world, we nevertheless have no illusions about the seriousness of the present situation. [Fellay is a bit more dire than I, but I am in essential agreement on several points.  Most importantly, the liberals – who are aging – are losing control of the "narrative" they have dominated for decades.  A new view of the Council and its fruits is emerging and they don’t like that one little bit.  The emerging and more objective narrative reveals how we have been hoodwinked and robbed.]

What should we expect to see in the coming years?  Peace in the Church, or war?  The victory of good and its long-awaited return, or a new tempest?  Will the little wave manage to grow enough to prevail someday?  The assurance that the promise of Our Lady of Fatima will be fulfilled—“in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph”—does not necessarily or directly resolve our question, because it is still quite possible that we will have to first pass through an even greater tribulation before the long-awaited triumph occurs….

A terrific challenge is also intended by our rosary crusade.  We would not want to diminish in the least, the joy over the announcement of the extraordinary result of our Rosary Crusade.   We boldly asked you one year ago for twelve million rosaries so as to crown our dear Heavenly Mother, the Mother of God, as if with an equal number of stars, and to surround with a magnificent crown of praise that Mother, who to the enemies of God appears “terrible as an army set in battle array” (Canticle of Canticles 6:3).  You responded so generously that we can now bring to Rome a spiritual bouquet of more than nineteen million rosaries, [!] not counting all those not directly affiliated with our priories and chapels who joined in our campaign.  [You don’t see liberals doing that.]

Surely it is no accident that when Pius XII declared the dogma of the Assumption, he decided to change the Introit of the feast on August 15, to the passage from the Apocalypse that salutes the great sign that appeared in heaven.  This excerpt from the Apocalypse ushers in the description of one of the most terrible wars that are set forth in that sacred Book:  the great dragon, who with his tail will sweep away a third of the stars, comes to wage battle with the great Woman (see Apocalypse 12).  Is this whole passage intended for our time?  We can easily believe it, while avoiding a literal or overly specific application of those mysterious and prophetic descriptions.  We have absolutely no doubt that all our prayers are important, and even of very great importance at this moment in history at which we find ourselves.  However we think that we should warn you also and encourage you in these circumstances of the history of the Church.

Your great generosity shows, without the slightest doubt, your very real devotion and your love for our Holy Mother, the Roman Catholic Church, for the Successor of Saint Peter, and for the hierarchy, even though we have much to suffer from it.  God is stronger than evil – good will be victorious, [NB:] but perhaps not with all the pomp that you would like. [!]

Now we must convince the authorities to accomplish the famous consecration of Russia that they say has already been made;  we must recall the present relevance of what Our Lady of Fatima said, [NB:] even though in the year 2000 there was manifestly an attempt to turn a new leaf and not to return to the subject again. [Fellay seems to think that entirety of the "third secret" has not been revealed.] It seems inevitable that the difficulties and obstacles will multiply so as to prevent the realization of what we are asking.  That doesn’t matter;  we count much more on God than on men, just as we expect from acts as simple as the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary surprising results for the Church and the world, results surpassing anything that we can imagine.  It is foolishness in the sight of men, but it is really a reflection of what Saint Paul already preached to his age:  what men regard as wise is foolishness in God’s sight, whereas God’s wisdom is considered absurd foolishness by the wise of this world (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20).

As we bring to the attention of the Holy Father your remarkable efforts, along with the reason for these prayers, thus hoping to contribute, in our way, to the good of the Church, we ask you to please continue those same efforts. According to the example that Our Lord Himself invites us to follow in his very moving exhortation to prayer:  “Ask, and you shall receive,” let us ask, indeed insisting on much (cf. Matthew 7:7-11).  Although we do not doubt that our prayers will be answered, our persistence and perseverance must be proportioned to the magnitude of what we are asking.

Let us remember also that the essential element of the Fatima message is not just the consecration of Russia, but above all devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  May all these prayers and sacrifices lead us to increase and deepen our special devotion to the Heart of the Mother of God.  For, through it God wants to be moved.

As the month of May begins, the month of Mary, may we all find ourselves even more reliant on her maternal protection;  this is our fondest wish.  Thanking you for your truly great generosity, we ask Our Lady to deign to bless you with the Child Jesus.

+ Bernard Fellay

May 1, 2010, Feast of Joseph the Worker


In sum, this was a defense of Pope Benedict and, surprisingly, the hierarchy of the Church, flawed as it it.  Flawed as it always has been.

I think the most interesting line of the piece, for me, was "God is stronger than evil – good will be victorious, but perhaps not with all the pomp that you would like."

Pope Benedict is working, but he has powerful opposition, close to him and far away.  He must work carefully and steadily. 

I am glad to read about the SSPX Superior’s shifting perspective.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. torch621 says:

    Certainly playing to his base in certain places, but the good bishop is clearly in the right in a lot of places.

    Refreshing to see such a spirited defense from the SSPX.

  2. AndyMo says:

    Bold off!

  3. Sedgwick says:

    Not sure how Bishop Fellay’s perspective has “shifted,” Father Z. Please explain. Also, why the “UGH!” after “Mass of all Ages”?

  4. An encouraging message for his base, but also a message that shows his desire to negotiate in good faith and to be loyal to the Holy Father.

    Re: timid —
    More like targeted, timed, and tightly focused.

    It’s like one of those old geezer martial artists in the movies, who don’t tire themselves out anymore with flailing. They can shove you hard with a finger, and without hardly moving a finger, because their strength is focused on a single point.

    Or it’s like dropping a very concentrated dye packet into a giant swimming pool in exactly the right spot. At first, it seems like nothing. But in a little while, all the water is changing color. If you could figure out the currents well enough, and if you could make the ocean dye itself given the right persuasion, that’d be what the Holy Father is up to. :)

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    I’ve often said that the Holy Father isn’t a General that flashes his power but rather makes sure that all of his units are in place (without anyone else knowing)before he makes those small targeted moves.

  6. pewpew says:


  7. mpm says:

    Jack Hughes,

    You almost make it sound as if he were “orchestrating” something! Naaah.

  8. RichR says:

    As a parish council member at my church, I find Ratzinger (and, at times JPII) to be a powerful source to quote from when discussions get heated. It would be wise for those not familiar with the Pope’s writings (as Cardinal, and presently as Pope) to get acquainted with them.

    IOW, bring the HF’s battle to the grass-roots level. You’ll be surprised how many closet-Papists are lurking in the pews.

  9. doanli says:

    Praying for fellow Prodigal Children…

  10. What I appreciate most of all is Bishop Fellay’s supernatural outlook. He has the Faith.

  11. FranzJosf says:

    Point of clarification: At present there are no ‘negotiations’; there are theological discussions between the SSPX and representatives of the Holy Office. There will be negotiations about canonical status once the doctrinal points are settled satisfactorily.

  12. MichaelJ says:

    Perhaps it is because I am part of “his base” – despite that I am in no way (don’t even attend the Masses they offer) affiliated with the SSPX – but I do not see how this is “playing to his base”.

    There were two notable areas in this letter:
    “rescinding of the degrading punishment ”
    “people in our circles rightly think that these [papal] efforts are still insufficient”

    As to the first, the Holy Father did rescind the excommunications and excommunication is a punishment which I think we can agree is degrading.

    For the second, I am not sure how different this is than the desire to see the Holy Father act more decicively or more quickly in some areas.

  13. LouiseA says:


    1st: The letter is addressed to “Friends and Benefactors”, of which I am one. To sarcastically refer to us as “the base” implies that you think of Bishop Fellay as a politician pandering to what his donors want to hear. That is an unjust inference, and degrading. Bishop Fellay says what he believes, and that is that. I think you need to drop “the base” comments – they are beneath you. [Relax. He was playing to his base. That is what this letter is for: to address his base.]

    2nd: Bishop Fellay has not shifted his perspective. The papacy has shifted right since BXVI’s election. [?!? Noooo…] To acknowledge that the Pope is doing some things right does not imply a shift in Bishop Fellay’s perspective anymore than acknowledging the temperature has warmed indicates a shift in the weatherman’s perspective who notices and reports the weather shift.

    God bless, and thank you.

  14. nzcatholic says:

    I liked how he mentioned the year of the Priest. I could be wrong but I havent heard anything from the sppx about this, same with the pauline year. Made me think that they thought they were above such novelties. I so pray that their situation becomes canonical

  15. LouiseA says:

    The Year of the Priests began on ordination day in Winona, MN for the SSPX. It was announced with support by the ordaining Bishop (TdM) in his sermon at that event. It has been mentioned many times by various SSPX leaders and priests throughout this year, and never negatively or suspiciously.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    Isn’t Bishop Fellay French Swiss? If he originally wrote this in French, then it might not be fair to parse the translation too closely.

    Perhaps for “timid” we could read “modest”. I myself would say “apparently modest”, because it seems clear to me that much is going on under the surface and out of sight, and that Benedict XVI is taking the long view as well as making fundamental changes without a great deal of noise or fanfare. Modesty, or perhaps humility, is an excellent way to set a plan in motion.

  17. AnAmericanMother: The original is at the site of DICI. Perhaps you can look at it and give us a better version?

  18. Paul H says:

    Let’s go out on a limb for a moment and suppose that within five years, the SSPX is completely reconciled with the Church. If that happens, how likely is it that Bishop Fellay is made a Cardinal?

  19. JARay says:

    I have heard Bishop Fellay speak. He speaks English well. I would not bother going to look for a different translation of his speech.

  20. asophist says:

    I agree, Fr. Z, it seems Bishop Fellay believes there is more to the Third Secret than has been revealed. I am in the middle of Antonio Socci’s book (The Fourth Secret of Fatima) and am convinced this is the case. [Just about everyone I speak with who reads that book, and others, come to be persuaded of Socci’s claim.]

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ai! Father, I speak German pretty well, Scots Gaelic to hold a conversation, Greek to read my Testament with a crib, and enough Latin to follow along (usually) in the Mass, although as Queen Elizabeth says in one of Kipling’s stories, “for whose false quantities, if I’d made ’em in my girlhood, I should have been whipped.”

    But no French. My best friend in high school kept giving me Asterix comics in a futile attempt to interest me in the language.

    I just was thinking that the sort of subtleties that we were discussing might be lost in translation. It certainly works that way in German.

  22. JayneK says:

    In the French version on the DICI site the word translated as “timid” is “timide” which according to my French dctionary means “timid, timorous, bashful, shy.”

  23. Magpie says:

    RichR: Can you recommend something good from BXVI/JPII to start with? I am also involved with a parish pastoral council!

  24. Though I am sure someone (or many ‘someones’) will vehemently disagree, I think that Bishop Fellay and his ilk are in some ways more dangerous than our obnoxious liberal dissenters and heretics — for the simple reason that they are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Hans Kung, for instance, is a wolf in wolf’s clothing; it is immediately apparent to anyone that hasn’t already departed from the faith that he is a complete crackpot theologically. SSPX, on the other hand, clothed as they are in the vestiges of tradition and traditional language tempt us to be lulled into a false sense of admiration — especially if we are not particularly fond of the evolution of practices in the Church since the council.

    Note well, though, the following sentence from the letter: “We can see this especially with the younger generations, who are plainly frustrated by the spiritual ineffectiveness of the Vatican II reforms.” SSPX does not, as most of us do, simply think that the actions of many members of the Church in the post-conciliar period are completely misguided — they doubt the validity of the validly convoked ecumenical council itself. Clever arguments aside, this is and has been their basic position. This is theological ‘dissent’ at its most dangerous, in fact of the same kind as Kung’s. Denying the authority of the Church’s infallible magisterium (as expressed by a council) is tantamount to the rejection of the orthodox doctrine of the apostolicity of the Church and a direct denial of the Catholic faith.

    Though Bishop Fellay may wear better vestments and have better liturgical music than Hans Kung might be able to appreciate, he is every bit as heterodox in his conclusions. If he is right, then the ‘gates of hell’ did prevail against the Church and the See of Peter and, thus, Jesus’ promises are made void.

    While Bishop Fellay objects to the Holy Father visiting the Protestants, he himself has ironically become one. Jesus asks: “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” — we need to be careful that we don’t lose ours simply because of our sympathies for liturgical tradition.

  25. Andrew_81 says:

    I think it is fair to assume that the letter is originally written in French. The English is rough, and from previous conversations and conferences by Bishop Fellay in English, I have never heard some of these “interesting” phrases used. I may have a chance to talk to Bishop Fellay this weekend, and if I do I will inquire as to whether he initially writes in English or French. I would imagine he does not make the translation either way, but gives that task to another.

    Before however, delving into the French, may I propose, Father, that you are probably over analyzing some of the word choice? Bishop Fellay speaks English fluently, but it is hard to fault him for a translation from a language which has far fewer synonyms and thus less connoted words than English (as I recall English has 3-4 times the number of words that French does).

    Regarding the line degrading punishment the original has la peine infamante. This is a fair translation, but infamante could also be rendered as infamous. Certainly the excommunications were infamous!

    Regarding the Mass of All Ages the French has la messe de toujours which is not the silly PR-styled English version, only a phrase expressing a Mass which has always been permitted. I doubt the bishop would use that phrase in English.

    The adjective, here translated as timid is timides in the French. It could be translated as “timid, shy, or even weak”. The key is that while the translator has taken liberty to use the phrase run deep this is a pretty poor translation. A better literal translation is: “In fact, even if we find the initiatives of the pope timid, they profoundly contradict the revolutionary and left-leaning world …”

    The French is pretty clear in its sentiment that while the SSPX may view the Pope’s actions as “not enough”, they are laudable because they are clearly contrary to the revolutionary spirit which had be in vogue for so long before this.

    Finally, as LouiseA points out above, I might suggest that you drop the “playing to the base” line you have used more than a few times when analyzing Bishop Fellay’s letters. It’s not really a good analysis tool — no one is under any guise that Bishop Fellay is writing for anyone but those who support the SSPX (not that he would therefore have more donors, but that he might ‘speak on their wavelength’). My impression is that the bishop is not just saying what the more radical folk want to hear, but what he believes.

    In my many years of “traditionalism” I have come to know many priests who support the Extraordinary Form from those of the FSSP, to diocesan priests to those of the ICR, SSPX and even some of those crazy Sedevacantists. In that time I have heard more than one FSSP, ICK or diocesan priest condemn the Novus Ordo Missæ with more vitriol than some of the Sedevacantist priests! They never say such in public or around certain company for fear of retribution from the chancery or the pastor of the parishes they share. However, I don’t think you would suggest that such priests are “playing to their base” when they couch their critiques or omit them completely while in public and around those who don’t share their views. If you’re willing to spread that terminology around, fair enough, but you seem to only use it with Bishop Fellay. Some lasting lactic in that vino?

  26. Andrew_81 says:

    Jason wrote:
    … they doubt the validity of the validly convoked ecumenical council itself. Clever arguments aside, this is and has been their basic position. This is theological ‘dissent’ at its most dangerous, in fact of the same kind as Kung’s. Denying the authority of the Church’s infallible magisterium (as expressed by a council) is tantamount to the rejection of the orthodox doctrine of the apostolicity of the Church and a direct denial of the Catholic faith.

    The problem with your analogy is that Bishop Fellay and the SSPX do not reject any doctrine or council of the Church.

    Both Bl. John XXIII and Pope Paul VI were clear that the Council did not propose any new definition of doctrine or dogma. If that’s true, then the “infallible magisterium” was never used in the Second Vatican Council. If so, there’s nothing to “deny”. If the SSPX expresses concerns or difficulty with one document, it is because it seems to contradict what the Magisterium seem to teach before the Council.

    That said, I’d be happy to agree that more than a few supporters of the SSPX probably do have a warped view of the Church’s Magisterium and, given the chance would deny it’s legitimate authority. In more than a few cases, the SSPX has not done a good job of preventing this side effect of their movement.

  27. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I don’t believe Fr. Z meant to be sarcastic when he refers to the Bishop “playing to his base.” The base of any group refers to the most faithful and loyal adherents of that group.

    As I see it, there was a certain demeanor of humility in the letter which the SSPX bishops addressed to the Holy Father, asking him to remit the sentence. In no place in that petition is the penalty referred to as a “degrading” sentence meant to “disqualify” them.

    Now, in writing to his supporters, Bishop Fellay takes a slightly different tone in using terms which imply that Pope John Paul II was offbase to have excommunicated them. This tone might lead some to think of his Excellency as prideful, or ungrateful at the papal gesture (by Benedict XVI) of the remission of the penalty.

    I believe Fr. Z, in referring to the bishop “playing to his base” is not trying to denigrate his character, but is rather giving an apologetic for Fellay. In other words, “if you think his Excellency is proud or ungrateful for the remission, don’t judge him harshly. Just understand that when he writes to his supporters he may use words of stronger emotion since these are the folks who stood by him during those sad days when he was under the pain of excommunication.”

    It is understandable to me that Bishop Fellay would wisely take into account his audience when he writes a letter, and may address the Holy Father in one tone and then address his base in another tone. This does not make him political, but a man of good, common sense.

  28. FranzJosf says:

    To Jason Schalow, aptly named if your closing statement reveals your understanding of the extent of Bishop Fellay’s position on the Council. This particular Council did not infallibly proclaim any new doctrine. It is infallible only insofar as it expresses any previously proclaimed infallible doctrine. The Council declared itself pastoral. Catholics in good standing are free to disagree with the many mis-guided attempts to apply doctrine in what the prevailing minority of the Council Fathers believed efficacious for the modern world.

    Question: Is it true that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man cometh to the Father except through him?

    SSPX: YES!
    Holy Office: Well, er, um, uh…..yes.
    Cardinal Kaspar: No!

    The SSPX embraces the Deposit of Faith in its entirety, eshewing some of the troubling documents, especially parts of Gaudiem et Spes (which inspires neither in me) and with which the Holy Father himself has expressed problems.

  29. Mitchell NY says:

    So much good has come from this Pontificate in 5 years. For as much ill will that is out there, there is more love for the Holy Father. He needs our prayers. Thank you Bishop Fellay for putting this “out there”. We lay people are praying for you and the Holy Father and that soon the SSPX will be fully integrated into the life of the Church. This would be a wonderful accomplishment for both sides and will help the Pope’s “wave” reach a little higher. We all await good news soon. Pope Benedict XVI IS The Pope of Christian Unity !

  30. Oleksander says:

    agree completely with Jason_schalow,

    FranzJosf – you wrote “The SSPX embraces the Deposit of Faith in its entirety” – in regards to who? Rome?

    then you say this
    “Question: Is it true that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man cometh to the Father except through him?

    SSPX: YES!
    Holy Office: Well, er, um, uh…..yes.
    Cardinal Kaspar: No!”

    That is a basic tenant of Christianity, to suggest “the Holy Office” (which I assume to be the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Diocese of Rome itself) or Cardinal Kasper are not Christian, well I am rather speechless, and the latter in regards to Cardinal Kasper is libelous. As a former sympathizer of SSPX, this “us verse them” and religious belief that SSPX explicitly hold completely to true Catholicism as opposed to anyone they dont like, even Rome is very disturbing

  31. Maltese says:

    Re: Fellay’s claim that younger generations are frustrated by Vatican II innovations. I can vouch that that is true.

    What makes the Catholic Church unique, intriguing and true (to younger people) is not its capitulations, self-condescension and apoplectic apologies: angrily blaming herself for all ills.

    What makes the Catholic Church alluring to the young, is her timelessness, not her progressivity.

    The young have hundreds of thousands of strange protestant rites they can turn to outside of the Catholic Church. It was plain foolishness on the part of Paul VI to try (and try he did) to make the Novus Ordo more palatable to Protestants. For, what has that accomplished? More division and confusion. But his heart was in the right place. He tried to reconcile all, where in doing so, he wrought more division. Christ said it would be so. Better to stick to our tried-and-true roots as Catholics, than appease a world, a world full of error.

  32. MichaelJ says:


    In 2001, Cardinal Kasper stated:
    The only thing I wish to say is that the Document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises

    Now, I am sure this can be “nuanced” and “interpreted” to mean something quite opposite from what it clearly states, but you may wish to retract your accusation of libel against FranzJosf

  33. One might wonder, franzjosf, since you are so attentive to names how it has escaped your notice that this council that you claim is only pastoral would name its document on the church, Lumen Gentium, the *Dogmatic* Constitution on the Church.

    If you desire to better understand the formal, dogmatic position of the Holy Catholic Church on the relationship of non-catholics to God’s grace and his salvation through Jesus Christ, you need look no further than para 16 of said document.

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not SSPX, but I’m not any more opposed to them than many other groups in the church. I think this particular article has much merit.

    On the particular point of Fatima, I think Bernard Fellay is spot on when he says: “even though in the year 2000 there was manifestly an attempt to turn a new leaf and not to return to the subject again.”

    PS, I don’t take comfort in claiming that the church is flawed and always has been. And I don’t like the fact that its imperfection is often used as an excuse for the continuation of frank mediocrity. To say that it is imperfect may be a true statement, but it only means that we must work harder, pray harder, be more observant, not less.

  35. catholicmidwest says:

    Jason Schalow,
    Read Pope John XXIII’s own opening statement for the council. If you believe that what actually happened at the council is what was planned going into the council, you are gravely mistaken.

  36. moon1234 says:

    The Theological Commission of the Council made a declaration, a nota previa (preliminary note), concerning the
    theological note of Vatican II on March 6, 1964; Pope Paul VI had it read, by the council’s General Secretary,
    Pericle Cardinal Felici, who was the Prefect of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, to the council
    participants on November 16 of that year, to assure them that it was not an infallible council, before they gave their approval to the first conciliar text, that on the Church, called Lumen Gentium. The declaration was published as an addenda to that text. It says that as the council was intended to be “pastoral”, it should not be understood to be infallibly defining any matter unless it openly says so (which it never did):

    “In view of the conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines
    matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so.” (Walter M.
    Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, p. 98)

    Paul VI also stated that Vatican II was not infallible when he concluded it, as follows:

    “Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council. […] But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the
    teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements, has made thoroughly known its authoritative teaching on a number of questions which today weigh upon man’s conscience and activity, descending, so to speak, into a dialogue with him, but ever preserving its own authority and force; it has spoken with the accommodating friendly voice of pastoral charity; its desire has been to be heard and understood by everyone; it has not merely concentrated on intellectual understanding but has also sought to express itself in simple, up-to-date, conversational style, derived from actual experience and a cordial approach which make it more vital, attractive and persuasive; it has spoken to modern man as he is.”

    (Address during the last general meeting of the Second Vatican Council, December 7, 1965; AAS 58;

    Paul VI also stated a year later:

    “There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church’s infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council , it avoided proclaiming in any extraordinary manner and dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.”

    General Audience , December 1, 1966 published in L’Oservatore Romano 1/21/1966

    Paul VI confirmed again in 1975 that Vatican II was pastoral and not infallible dogmatic council:
    “Differing from other councils , this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.”

    General audience August 6, 1975.
    Our Holy Father has stated:
    “Pope John conceived the council as eminently pastoral event.” ( Angelus 10/27/85 )

    Pope Paul VI later stated:
    “We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”

    And later he stated:

    “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to the summit. Apostasy , the loss of faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels of the Church.”
    ( Address on the sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions. 10/13/1977 )

    Cardinal Ratzinger stated:
    “Certainly there is a mentality of narrow views that isolates Vatican II and which provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it , which give the impression that from Vatican II onward, everything has changed, and what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value in the light of Vatican II….. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as merely a pastoral council.”

    (Address to the Chilean Episcopal Conference , II Sabato 30/7 5/8/1988)

    How many Popes have to declare the council pastoral, defining no dogma, before people are willing to accept that the council was merely pastoral? The liberals want to believe and want you and me to believe that VII was a dogmatic council. They want it, and the documents from it, to be seen as some kind of superdogma.

    So we see that the Church has NEVER declared Vatican II infallible and any teaching coming from this Council must be weighed against the traditional teaching of the Church. We also note that the the Pope who closed the Council realizes the loss of faith and Apostasy from this Council, even to the leaders of the Church. So no Catholic should ever be intimidated to believe he must treat this Council as an infallible one. No Catholic can be made to believe this councils teachings when they contradict 2000 years of teaching from Holy Mother the Church. The fruits of this Council are obvious and were obvious to Pope Paul VI. “The smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”

    We may even go so far as to say that the Holy Spirit may have been protecting the Catholic Church by inspiring the Popes to make these statements. In this way there may be “fruits” of Vatican II that can be gleaned through careful examination of those fruits through the lens of tradition. However THREE POPES went out of there way to point out that nothing in Vatican II defined any new dogma of the Church.

  37. moon1234 says:

    Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.”

    –St. Peter Canisius

    How very true today!

  38. Patrick J. says:


    I also feel as you do, though I get why political references, parlance, does fit the bill for describing situations that come about between groups of a different point of view withing the Church. These are convenient ‘handles.’ But to say something somehow works, as a sort of easily understood labeling system is not to say that it therefore is the best way to express the true situation. In this case, I would say as in most such appropriations of the political jargon and buzz words of today, that it holds the danger of added confusion as the overlap of political points of view, e.g., right versus left, conservative vs. liberal, with their Church counterparts, while they indeed do reflect a fair amount of overlap of positions and sometimes principals as well, there are just enough ideas that don’t line up so neatly and there is enough negative implications hanging around the edges of these terms that they should be avoided for church related discussions. Traditionalist is fine, as is progressive for its polar opposite (and though while progressive has its use in the other sphere, when seen as related to tradition it meaning is made clear and not so easily misapplied or clouded as is liberal or leftist). In other words, let the parlance of the political sphere not be mapped onto Church divides, as this sets up to many opportunities for others, less informed or with agendas, or with too little nuanced understanding, to depict a “rightist” Catholic with a “right wing” conservative, some of whom are wing nuts. Wing nuts exist in the church, too, but let them be depicted for their actual positions about church matters, and not because of some real or imagined overlap of ideals with political groups.

    And right wing has no monopoly, far from it, on “wing nuts,” or “nut jobs,” just for the record.

    Just my “conservative” 2 cents.

  39. Mike says:

    Nice quotes on the “pastoral” nature of VII.

    Last summer, I spent a week “dialoging” with the ADL in a seminar sponsored by the Archdiocese of Wasginton DC.

    There a reformed rabbi told 30 Catholic high school teachers about the Coepernican Revolution of VII, especially in regard to Nostra Aetate.

    A Jewish professor of history from U of MD told us how Church teaching “required” Catholics to hate Jews.

    Everyone in the room–except me–bought this bag of horse droppings, even the Catholic priest there.

    I was told to him my questions to the breaks–on the very first night.

    We have a lot of work to do!

  40. This comes across as a “left-handed” compliment / support to Pope Benedict XVI, while getting his digs in, such as “people in our circles rightly think that these [papal] efforts are still insufficient” and “especially in view of certain acts along the regrettable line of his predecessor [Pope John Paul II]”. Just what I have come to expect from SSPX. How long before their wave comes to Peter’s shore? And remember who walks on the waves – Peter.

    As to Vatican II, it did not declare any *NEW* dogmas, but the _Dogmatic Constitutions_ Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum repeated existing dogmas. That’s why you never see modernists referring to those particular Vatican II documents, while they use the pastoral documents to attack and contradict the ignored dogmatic documents.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    Nice set of notes on the pastoral nature of V2.

  42. Maltese says:

    Monsignor Gherardini in his ground-breaking book, “Vatican Council II, a Much Needed Discussion,” argues, as said above, that nothing new in the documents of Vatican II is dogmatic, or infallible, and, moreover, the individual wills of men, peritii or prelates, can drown-out the working of the Holy Spirit at such a “pastoral” council–the first in the history of the Church. This is the reason there is so much confusion: liberals put Vatican II on the level with Vatican I or Trent, when that is comparing apples to oranges. All other councils were called to fight error, Vatican II alone was called to embrace the world–a world full of error.

  43. Maltese says:

    Btw: Gherardini’s book is prefaced by Archbishop Ranjith, was printed within the walls of the Vatican, and has been read by the Pope. That is what makes it really stand apart from other books critical of Vatican II. Gherardini is also a very well respected theologian.

  44. robtbrown says:

    In 2001, Cardinal Kasper stated:
    “The only thing I wish to say is that the Document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all.

    No problem with this.

    Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises”
    Comment by MichaelJ

    His conclusion (which does not follow) is yet another example of why I question his theological competence. He has moved from the universal salvific will of God to a Double Covenant Theory–i.e. that Jews have their covenant, non Jews have the Christian covenant.

    The good Cardinal should have noticed that the Messianism is intrinsic to God’s irrevocable covenant with the Jews. Thus, it he should have asked himself whether in rejecting of the Messiah, the Jews implicitly rejected the covenant.

  45. mpm says:

    As to Vatican II, it did not declare any NEW dogmas, but the Dogmatic Constitutions Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum repeated existing dogmas. That’s why you never see modernists referring to those particular Vatican II documents, while they use the pastoral documents to attack and contradict the ignored dogmatic documents. — Comment by Fr. Marie-Paul — 8 May 2010 @ 9:06 am

    I agree. What “dissenters”, and in second place, morons, do is to use the less-well-understood terms/concepts to interpret the better-understood doctrines, and in so doing, to change the meaning (or broaden the meaning) into something which the Council did not say in the Dogmatic Constitutions. This violates what every good teacher (and parent) knows, which is to explain the less-well-known by the better-known.

    In fact, from the few snippets of Msgr. Gherardini’s book that I have browsed at the DICI site, that is one of the cogent points he makes. To be truthful, though, I think it is difficult to understand exactly what he is saying from the snippets. I also would refrain from calling the book “ground-breaking”: these points have been made before. Perhaps the better word would be “comprehensive”, in that he seems to be bringing together in one book all (or most?) of the critiques which have been made over the last several decades.

  46. catholicmidwest says:


    Sometimes it’s not how many times a reasonable and correct thing has been said, but who has said it that makes a difference. When someone of a certain stature and connection ends up saying it, then the change happens. This may be one of those things.

  47. catholicmidwest says:

    Which is to say: Not that it isn’t important that we here and the faithful throughout the post-conciliar period, including the SSPX, have spoken frequently and forcefully about what we know to be the case. And especially and crucially–not that it isn’t important that this is the truth of the matter that we all, culminating with Gherardini and the pope, have spoken of–the hermaneutic of rupture etc.

    It’s just that sometimes things that are true and well-understood have to “come to a head” in such a way that they can be formulated clearly, understood, and defined at the topmost tier of management. They have to attain a critical mass, in a manner of speaking. It allows them to be put in a mutually accepted work queue. This may do it. If it doesn’t, it will happen again and again til it does. Because what Gherardini and Benedict XVI (and the traditional faithful) have said is true and that’s how truth works.

    Be aware that segments, and sometimes the entirety, of other councils have been declared non-binding, or restricted in meaning. Most people don’t know that. This could eventually happen to parts of VII.

  48. Henry Edwards says:

    Maltese: Monsignor Gherardini in his ground-breaking book, “Vatican Council II, a Much Needed Discussion”, argues . . . .

    In a sense, it is misleading to say that Gheradini himself argues anything about Vatican II in this book subtitled “As Seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948 to 1970”. Msgr. Antonelli was a very dedicated and faithful Vatican officer who kept careful notes and meetings on the development of the liturgy during this 22-year period. Antonelli, though his name is largely unknown except to insiders, was at the center of all this development, and kept careful notes and minutes of all that he was involved in.

    Following his monumental 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei on the liturgy, Pope Pius XII appointed in 1948 a Pontifical Commission for the Reform of the Liturgy that worked for the next 12 years in preparation (as it turned out) for Vatican II’s consideration of the liturgy, with Antonelli as Secretary and Msgr. Bugnini as a member–with the two of them seemingly often at different poles. (It will come as a surprise to many to find that Pius XII then thought reform of the liturgy was not only desirable but necessary, in response to a world-wide liturgical reform movement that few pew-sitters were aware of.)

    But then, when in 1960 a new Preparatory Commission to draft a schema on the liturgy for the Council, Bugnini was its new secretary, and Antonelli was pretty much out of the picture until the Council itself began in 1962.

    It is sometimes suggested that the Council pretty much rubber-stamped Bugnini’s schema, but this is far from true. When the Conciliar Commission on the Sacred Liturgy was appointed in 1962, Antonelli had reappeared as its Secretary, and Bugnini had disappeared (banished, some say) and nothing was heard from him until after the Council.

    This liturgical Commission held 50+ meetings to work methodically through 662 “interventions” submitted by Council Fathers (totaling 1200 printed pages of suggested amendments). There was much debate, available now for the first time in English (so far as I have seen) in the minutes of these meetings presented in this book. My impression of these meetings, in which the Council’s liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Consilium was shaped, is that the deliberations were detailed and careful, based on the finest scholarship available in a Church having then a much finer historical memory than is generally apparent now.

    The Council Fathers as a whole voted on some 85 different amendments, and finally approved Sacrosanctum Concilium on Dec. 4, 1963 by a vote of 2,147 to 4 (with Ab. Lefebvre counted among the majority). On Dec. 8, Antonelli concluded an Observatore Romano article with the words

    ”When St. Peter’s Basilica resounded with these great words [of Sacrosanctum Concilium], the bones of St. Pius X exulted. The Constitution on the Liturgy is nothing but the precious fruit of a small seed sown by him [in his 1903 instruction with its emphasis on actuosa participation]. It is also the beginning of a new era in the liturgical life of the Church.”

    Amazingly, the book gives the impression that all three of the sentences are reasonable. It is possible to see continuity from Pius X through Pius XII to Sacrosanctum Concilium. But what the remainder of the book reveals is the almost unbelievable (except for those of us who lived through it) discontinuity that followed. An entirely new Consilium was appointed to implement the constitution on the liturgy, and who but Bugnini reappeared from nowhere to serve as its General Secretary.

    For any sense of the difference between what the Council did and what happened in its implementation, you must read the book itself. Only a fully documented account suffices to grasp the scope of it. But I believe almost anyone who reads it will find a different villain than solely the Council itself.

  49. catholicmidwest says:

    Nevertheless, Henry. Vatican II was merely one of 21 ecumenical councils, the 21st in fact.

    And it’s a fact that the very source of legitimacy claimed for V2 is (more than) present for every one of the other 20. Therefore it is not possible for V2 to contradict anything found in any of the other 20, without undermining itself. Moreover, there is a lot of evidence that Vatican II was merely meant to be a pastoral council, not concerning doctrine at all, and therefore not able to change doctrine one iota.

    Therefore, I don’t want to hear about Vatican II in isolation on anything doctrinal. I’m sick of having it thrown in my face like that. Unless I see a) a literal quote from that council, along with b) support from another council, I personally don’t give it much credibility when it comes to things doctrinal in nature. People have tossed Vatican II in my face for so long, with so little reason, that I think at least half of what I’ve heard about it is bogus. At least half, probably more.

    I don’t even, at this point, think that doctrinally Vatican II has anything whatsoever to say about anything. I think it was pastoral in nature, and concerned with a particular period in the 20th century. I think that there was no break in continuity and it’s a mistake to postulate one, or maintain that there was one.

    I think that enough time has passed that finally people are starting to see reasonably what happened. And what must now happen in continuity. The hermeneutic of rupture is being debunked, and it’s about time!

  50. JayneK says:

    @Henry Edwards
    Thank you for the excellent summary of the history of “Sacrosanctum Concilium”. I recently came across the work of Dr. Pristas who also places the discontinuity with tradition in the work of the Consilium. An article that picks up the history where your comment left off is available online:

  51. Maltese says:

    I for one am actually happy that Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) didn’t germinate the way the council fathers intended it to.

    God works in mysterious way, and I think this is one, which I will try to explain:

    SC actually called for a re-working of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), not the invention of a new rite. Read the council document carefully. Nowhere in it will you find a call for a concilium to be culled together for the work of drafting a new mass. Well, the Novus Ordo IS a new rite of the mass (slapped-together and manufactured though it is). So, in essence, Bugnini and his protestant-posse of “observers” actually–inadvertently–did the Church a great favor in not tinkering with the TLM. Their “banal, on-the-spot” (in the words of now Pope Benedict) concoction actually PRESERVED as in amber the TLM.

    If, as the council fathers intended, the TLM was subject of innovation and change, it might have slowly and irrevocably changed and thereby dissolved away. But as it were, it was preserved (fostered though it was by the likes of FSSPX) to be discovered, and cherished as the glorious thing it is.

    So, tonight, at the party where I’m bringing red chile enchiladas to (from the Shed, in Santa Fe, of course–they have the best molido red chile in the world, btw.) I’m going to raise a toast to Bugnini! The unwitting preserver of Tradition and beauty in the Church!

  52. TCistercian says:

    On July 2, 2009, six months after the lifting of the excommunications from the four SSPX bishops, Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Ecclesiae Unitatem. The most pertinent point is where the Holy Father says that the SSPX has “no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

    It is, therefore, not true that the SSPX is in an “irregular canonical status.” They have “NO canonical status.” And just as importantly, “its ministers cannot legitimately exercise ANY ministry.”

    This means that, even though the SSPX has validly ordained priests and bishops, everything they do, from saying Mass to hearing confessions, is done illicitly. And not only is their sacramental ministry illicit, it is intentionally disobedient to the expressed wishes of the Holy Father. Intentionally saying an illicit, disobedient Mass (one which makes present on the altar the most solemn act of obedience in the history of the world) or acting in persona Christi in the absolution of sins in the sacrament of Confession, well … I don’t know how you can’t call that sacrilege.

    Since all statements that can be quoted about the SSPX not being in schism are from the mouth of Cardinal Hoyo (who is no longer the head of Ecclesia Dei), precede in time the motu proprio of July 2, 2009, and were uttered informally (in interviews and not in any official capacity), these statements can no longer (if they ever could) be quoted with any authority. They are rendered moot by a later statement from the Holy Father himself.

    It is true, of course, that any Catholic in an emergency can fulfill their Sunday obligation or receive absolution of their sins from any validly ordained priest. However, SSPX priests, unlike Greek (or other) Orthodox priests, exercise their ministry in explicit, conscious and intentional disobedience of the Roman Pontiff. No SSPX priest is incardinated, and all exercise whatever ministry they do independent of the authority of the local Ordinary of whatever diocese in which they are located.

    The SSPX are not in union with the Catholic Church. The Vatican — the Holy Father — affirms that they are not in union with the Church. The SSPX bishops acknowledge that they are not in union with the Church. They call themselves Catholics, but they are Catholics not in union with Rome. By any other name, that is schismatic.

    I invite all to read the following article by Michael Jones, his opening remarks in a debate with Michael Davies, in which the actual — he would say “ontological” — schism of SSPX is proven, in my opinion, beyond refutation.

    I would also invite all to read another article, written by two former SSPX members, on the subject of schism and obedience:

    A 2003 article in This Rock magazine discusses “How Rejection of Vatican II Led Lefebvre into Schism.”

    The first two articles were published in 1993 and the second in 2003. There has been nothing to demonstrate that SSPX positions have mollified in any way since then. In my opinion, they have hardened into intransigence.

    In June, 2008, SSPX Bishop Fellay said the following:

    “The attitude towards the world had changed. Until then, the world was considered as the enemy, in accordance with the Gospels. The world hates Our Lord because He preaches the hard way to heaven while the world preaches the broad way of pleasure and an easy-going life. After the Council, all of Christian life was made very easy.

    “Whether or not you find this strictly in the texts of the Council, they leave many doors open to this spirit. The Council is very ambiguous; in other words, if you put on Catholic glasses, you can have a Catholic reading of the Council. But if you put on other glasses, you find an entirely different reading. This is the problem with ambiguous words. From a Council, you expect clear and precise texts. Besides some obvious errors, we find much imprecision and an ambivalent terminology.”

    In my opinion, Bishop Fellay utters here the perfect path to reconciliation with honor. He ADMITS that one CAN read the Council documents WITH CATHOLIC GLASSES and “have a Catholic reading of the Council.” If, as he says, THAT IS POSSIBLE, then WHY NOT DO IT??!! Ambiguous statements do not call for REJECTION they call for CLARIFICATION, something which can be done from WITHIN the Church much more easily than from the OUTSIDE. The refusal to reconcile because of ambiguity is absurd and more bespeaks a lack of DESIRE to reconcile than the INABILITY to do so.

    That this attitude continues to harden is demonstrated even more recently: in March, 2010, AFTER the excommunications have been lifted, AFTER the motu proprio, and AFTER the beginning of talks between the SSPX and Rome in hopes of reconciliation. In a magazine interview, Bishop Fellay comments on the status of the talks:

    “Our interlocutors seem to me to hold very closely to the Pope’s positions. They belong to what we may call the conservative line, in that they advocate the most traditional possible reading of the Council. They desire the good of the Church but at the same time wish to save the Council: that is like trying to square the circle.”

    SSPX apologetics materials are littered with self-serving statements that show absolutely no willingness to reconcile with Rome except on their terms, terms which they justify holding because Rome is wrong — Modernist — and the SSPX is right. This reveals every mark of an increasingly separatist sect formed around a charismatic leader and his anointed successors, a sect increasingly loathe to give up independence and power.

    I agree with the earlier comment that in many ways the SSPX is more dangerous than a blatant heretic like Hans Kung. They are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing, committing sacrilege with every Mass they say and every penitent they absolve. They make the devil laugh at his own cleverness.

  53. Maltese says:


    Nah, FSSPX has preserved Tradition, is near and dear to the Pope’s heart, and, thanks to them, we have a beautiful rite in full flowering.

  54. FranzJosf says:

    To the people who didn’t like my post:

    1. I was using hyperbole; I didn’t mean it quite as literally as some thought. Perhaps I was ham-handed and should have put Cardinal Kaspar’s answer something like: “I wouldn’t phrase the question that way.”

    2. Nevertheless, I believe that there are problems with Ecumenism as practiced by Cardinal Kaspar. Does the Church Militant have a responsibility to try to convert non-believers to the Truth for their salvation of their souls? I believe so; therefore, when nice-talking dialogue prevents actions for the salvation of other soul’s there is a problem.

  55. JayneK says:

    Disobedience is not the equivalent of schism. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it: “However, not every disobedience is a schism; in order to possess this character it must include besides the transgression of the commands of superiors, denial of their Divine right to command.”

    The SSPX does not deny the authority of the Magisterium. The are compelled by conscience to disobey, while recognizing its right to command. And this is just what the Catholic Church teaches is our duty when conscience comes in conflict with external authority.

  56. jennywren says:

    TCistercian’s above comments did not imply that disobedience was the equivalent of schism. Rather, he gave examples of the SSPX in regard to their disobedient status with the Church. This cursory layout concerns the schismatic leaning of the SSPX, and that the Pope himself has said that they have “no canonical status in the Church.” In addition, they use the fact that the Council documents are “ambiguous” to justify their adherence to disobedience.

    While it is true that “the obligation to obedience to superiors under God admits of limitations”(also from the Catholic Encyclopedia), the Church itself is different. The Roman Pontiff is the Supreme Pontiff. To him, the magisterium of the Church, and the local ordinaries, a special quality of obedience applies. Just because something is not fair, or not for the good of the Church, disobedience is not justified. The SSPX is under burden to show that the Church is asking them to contravene the ordinances of God, that is, that they are being made to sin by those to whom they are subject. Justifying their disobedience on the ambiguous nature of Council documents(which really is deplorable), can’t provide their rationale.

    When one says that the SSPX believes and holds all the doctrines of the Church, that is not completely true if you consider that the Divine constitution of the Church involves obedience and jurisdiction to the local ordinaries, etc. The practical makeup of the Church is also part of its doctrine. This is ultimately and profoundly being rejected.

    So, how can the SSPX be compelled by conscience to disobey? How else can they justify their disobedience? They quote the part of canon law which concerns acting by necessity in the case of emergency in the Church. They needed bishops and priests to continue the traditional sacraments and they cannot do so under the auspices of the Church. Let’s assume that’s a valid argument.

    Then the FSSP (not FSSPX) became an approved order of the Church, and they have been celebrating the sacraments as such. But, then the objections of the SSPX became: well, the FSSP has to cooperate with the local bishop by concelebrating the Novus Ordo at certain times during the year, or has to compromise in some other doctrinal way, etc. Let’s assume that that line of reasoning is also a valid argument.

    Well, then the Vatican offered the SSPX a personal prelature of sorts. They could now operate within the Church and offer the traditional sacramental forms. This final rejection invalidates their state of emergency option. Just b/c there are modernists and corrupt and sinful men in the hierarchy does not mean one has to separate themselves from the Church.

    The oft-repeated premise, which Maltese makes use of above, is startling. One can never justify error b/c good may come of it. Catholics should recognize this easily. Saying that due to the SSPX “we have a beautiful rite in full flowering,” is like saying we should thank the heretics who sparked councils to be called in order to define doctrine.

  57. catholicmidwest says:


    One can never justify *choosing to engage* in evil so that good may come of it. You must do the right thing if you can.

    However, it is perfectly true and often seen that good can come out of an evil, after the fact. Catholics are very well aware of the saying, “God draws straight with crooked lines.”

  58. catholicmidwest says:

    And in the context of the awful post-Vatican II environment, how much evil and how much good was there? It’s very hard to define in every case.

    Let God do what he wants with this–all the pieces and parts. We’ve bollixed it up enough with all our name-calling and book-throwing. Take what you can get and thank God for the fact that it’s all going to turn out in the end.

  59. Mike says:

    Bishop Fellay–and every priest in SSPX–needs to put on their Catholic glasses, and keep them on.

    This is the only way.

  60. JayneK says:

    jennywren writes:”So, how can the SSPX be compelled by conscience to disobey?”

    CCC 1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would
    condemn himself.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    Which Catholic glasses, Mike? The ones worn by Cardinal Kaspar or the ones worn by Cardinal Mahony? How about the one worn by the Leadership Council of Women Religious as they stall the Holy See which is trying to investigate them for their wacky practices? Do you mean the Catholic glasses worn by Richard Rohr or Andrew Greeley? You tell me.

    I’m not sure you realize it but the SSPX thinks it does have its Catholic glasses on. And the SSPX is talking to the Holy See. The Leadership Council of Women Religious isn’t at this point. And Richard Rohr is too busy doing his own thing to talk to anybody coherently. Want a laugh (albeit a sick laugh)? Check out his website.

  62. God bless the good bishop.

    I was happy with the letter, but not quite with the commentary–at least not all of it. I don’t think that Bishop Fellay should be described as “playing” to “his base.” This isn’t politics. Bishop Fellay is, I think, a very holy man, whatever one may think of the Society. There is great lack of trust in the Society for Rome, and much of this is well founded. We should not be surprised that there is a “shifting perspective” when H.E. sees the very enemies of our Church attacking the Pope. It would take a Catholic man without a heart to ignore it, when we see our saintly Pontiff attacked day in and day out. I would say it’s less of a shift in perspective as the reaction of a good Christian heart. He surely realizes the great pressure the Pope resisted to offer the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and to say some of the things he has said. We have a brave Pope, and while the Pope is far more enthusiastic with Vatican II than Bishop Fellay, this bravery and clearly expressed intention to adhere to Tradition, are enough to mean that the Society is far better off working with Rome than outside of her structure.

    Bishop Fellay here strikes the right balance, emphasizing the great work to be done, the insufficiency of what has been done so far (simply speaking) to end the crisis, the emphasis on devotion to our Blessed Lady, and so on.

    May God quickly end the rift between the Society of Pius X and Rome, and may this be done by Rome ceasing its love affair with the modern world.

    And I may say Father, I do agree that the most striking part for me also was his statement that good will be victorious, but not quite with all of the pomp his readers would like. What an amazing line!

  63. jennywren says:

    Jayne K,

    Just wanted to clarify the “So, how can the SSPX be compelled by conscience to disobey?” This question, and the following one, were introducing the paragraph. It was answered in that paragraph and the following one – it posited an explanation for their line of reasoning. Ultimately, their line of reasoning is that they cannot celebrate the new form of sacraments b/c to do so would be sinful. Their position is predicated on this, otherwise they have no valid explanation for disobedience. This explanation completely falls apart (assuming it was valid in the first place)when the Church offers them the right to celebrate the sacraments as they wish and the right to have their own chapels, and then they reject it.

    Let us also not forget that when it comes to conscience, we can’t just throw this line out there: “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.” Moral theology has and always will explain the rest of this. “Certain judgment” is the result of a properly formed conscience. Only when in invincible ignorance can we be justified in following an erroneous judgment. Once someone has the truth made known to the them, they are no longer invincibly ignorant and will have full moral culpability for making an erroneous judgment. This is the problem with the pro-abortion politicians. They know what the Church’s teaching is, and, they choose to ignore it on grounds of their conscience. Or, once informed, they still choose to ignore it. This is why certain strong bishops refuse them Holy Communion. Despite their protestations, their conscience is now culpable, and they are steadfastly and obstinately remaining in public error.

  64. herrheuschrecker says:

    Your sarcasim throughout this text was not only annoying but also showed that you have very little humility as a priest! “I am glad to read about the SSPX Superior’s shifting perspective” – His Lordship’s ‘shifting perspective’ is a direct result of the Holy Father’s ‘shifting perspective’ and nothing else!

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