SSPX Bp. Fellay on the danger of inventing an idea of the Church that appears ideal.

Cindy Wooden of CNS did an article on comments made by SSPX Bp. Fellay on their site DICI.  I found this on the site of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald.

After some introductory remarks about the present situation already pretty well know to readers here, we find with my emphases and comments:


In the interview on the SSPX website, Bishop Fellay said: “We are still not in agreement doctrinally, and yet the Pope wants to recognise us. Why? The answer is right in front of us: [as plain as the noses on our faces] there are terribly important problems in the Church today.”

The reconciliation talks, he said, are a sign that the Catholic Church has begun to recognise it needs to recover traditions and traditional teaching eclipsed by the Second Vatican Council. [“eclipses” is a good image… “overshadowed”… “obscured” … and not just by the Council, but especially by a false interpretation of many aspects of the Council’s documents.] If the SSPX were to reconcile fully with the Church, Bishop Fellay said, its members would continue to denounce “doctrinal difficulties” in the Church, [NB:] but would do so while also providing “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition” in its growing membership and vocation rate. [Within!]

[I like this…] Speaking to members of the SSPX who are wary of reconciliation, Bishop Fellay said “one of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the Church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the Church”.

“Some claim that in order to work ‘safely’ in the Church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work,” he said.

But the reality of the Church’s history shows that “often, and almost always, we see that there are widespread errors” and that God calls holy men and women to work within the Church to correct the errors, Bishop Fellay said. [Within.]

We are being asked to come and work just as all the reforming saints of all times did,” he said.  [I don’t think it would be fair to call that bombastic.  It is bold, but we don’t need mediocre visions today.]

Bishop Fellay said he did not have a timetable for the conclusion of the talks. “There are even some who say that the Pope will deal with this matter at [the papal summer villa in] Castel Gandolfo in July.” [Or a bit later, even.  Surely the Holy Father has a few things to reflect on and write these days, which will absorb a good deal of time.  Still, I have to believe that this agenda item is high on the list.]

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Brick by Brick, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Pope of Christian Unity, Priests and Priesthood, SSPX, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. NoraLee9 says:

    I have always said that HE Fellat was a bright, bright man. This just bears me out.

  2. acardnal says:

    I am pleased to see that Bp. Fellay continues to speak in a conciliatory manner while at the same time recognizing the difficulties and differences that remain. Let’s continue to pray for regularization. I for one will be first in line to join a SSPX parish/chapel.

    There is also an interview with Bp. Fellay posted today on the Rorate-Caeli website.

  3. Sixupman says:

    Third Para: “[I Like this]” ……………. .

    Such is already the position with certain elements with SSPX. They have created a construct based upon their interpretation of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, without possession of any experience of the same, which in turn gives rise to the impression of the creation of a self-elevated elect.

    My experience of pre-Vatican II Catholicism was of full churches with congregations drawn from all classes including reprobates. Both the Diocesan Church and SSPX have not attracted that broad spectrum of Catholics included the ‘great unwashed’, which parish priests of old would cajole thm into not denying their Faith however inadequately practised.

  4. Dismas says:

    Lefebvres 6 , Benedicts 1 — count the references sports fans.

  5. ContraMundum says:

    while also providing “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition” in its growing membership and vocation rate.

    First, a caution: what is said outside the quotation marks are the words of a journalist, not of Fellay.

    However, the journalist seems to be equating “growing membership and vocation rate” with “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition”, and the context for “tradition” here is SSPX. The key word is “in”; it would have been unobjectionable if what had been said was, “while also providing ‘tangible signs of the vitality of tradition’ and growing its membership and vocation rate.”

    When a small group grows, that does nothing to show they are right. Otherwise, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are certainly right, as is Wicca.

    The article seems to be about how Rome will not have to “convert” to Lefebvrism as a precondition for reunion; SSPX will try to convert Rome to Lefebvrism afterwards. Well, good luck with that. It’s still an attitude that will attract few friends.

  6. acardnal says:

    @ContraMundum: Read the entire interview at the link I posted above. Or go directly to the DICI site.

  7. leonugent2005 says:

    “We are being asked to come and work just as all the reforming saints of all times did,” he said

    If only this had been understood on June 30th, 1988. I’ve said it many times; no one ever calls me!

  8. As an fairly ordinary pew-sitting Catholic who for 50 years since my conversion has never been outside the Church in any sense–physically, spiritually, or otherwise–what struck me about reading the whole interview with someone allegedly outside it in some sense, is how thoroughly Catholic and, well, just plain healthy and refreshing, Bishop Fellay’s attitude appears to be. It occurred to me that in attempting to lead his flock, gently but firmly, in the right direction–considering some of the nuts and bolts he evidently has to contend with–he presents a very positive model of episcopal leadership.

  9. ContraMundum says:


    Actually, since the original was a journalistic summary, I was careful to describe it as such. However, on second look it is not, as I thought, a summary from their web page, but from The Catholic Herald, so my objections appear to have been misdirected.

  10. Gus Barbarigo says:

    The Bishop’s observation reminds me of “Utopia”by St. Thomas More, and Mark Levin’s “Ameritopia.” Even when lead by a pope, who in certain circumstances is infallible, any group of men will suffer some form of imperfection, so even with the Church, there can be no ‘ecclesitopia.’

    The trick is to not lower standards, to not continue to strive for perfection. With a gentle discipline, we must strive for perfection, and encourage each other to do so. Unfortunately, Vatican II has resulted in the lowering of so many standards throughout our culture.

  11. Centristian says:

    “one of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the Church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the Church”.

    Ah…at last. There was a time when you could not say such a thing in the Society of St. Pius X without being denounced as a “modernist”, a “liberal” or worse. Now it comes out of the mouth of the Superior General. A recognition that this time in the history of the Church…this very time…this period of “Crisis in the Church”…is like SO MANY OTHER times that our two millenia+ old Church has faced in the past. This time is not so unique in that the Church endures a “crisis” of great magnitude. On the contrary, the Church typically endures a crisis of great magnitude. The important thing is that she does endure…because the Divinity of her Founder, her Lover, will not permit her to do otherwise.

    And now is the time for those who love the Church and for those who still care that Jesus Christ can save and heal and transform our world (and ourselves) to be united, and no longer divided…no matter what language, no matter what rubrics, no matter what praxis, be they of Rome or of Constantinople…for Heaven’s sake, wake up and smell the rot of the carnage of souls lain waste while catholic Christians have argued, stubbornly, and divided, needlessly over what side of the altar a priest of the Latin Rite should stand at and whether or not he should dangle a piece of cloth from his arm while he’s doing it.

    Yes, Bishop Fellay, you’ve seen the larger picture. Pardon me for saying it, but you’ve come along way, baby. I hope the Holy Father understands the importance of the bishop’s words because they mark a huge leap for a Lefebvrist. Truly. Now is time for the Pope to “open wide the doors to Christ”. Now is the time for him to recognize in those words an outstretched hand and just grab him, and pull those that are holding onto Fellay out of goodwill back inside. Open the door and let them in. It’s so unseasonably cold outside, and any Christian looking inside the window at this point with a longing eye and heart should just come in. Forget about frisking them at the security checkpoint. Sort ot all out after they’ve come in and warmed themselves by the fire. I can’t believe I’m saying this.

    “We are being asked to come and work just as all the reforming saints of all times did,”

    Look. Look there. Contrast this spirit with the spirit, for example, of the LCWR. This is a Christian who speaks in terms of DOING something, whereas Sister Whats-her-name and her sisters are only concerned about BEING something. Who talks about doing instead of being anymore? A Christian does. Yes, a Christian. We could use a few more of those in this Church of ours.

    Maybe once Fellay and his followers come home, we can, together, join our prayers that the Christian East and the Christian West will come closer to reunion. I know the Reverend Blogger enjoys making fine dining analogies. Well, if the Lefebvrists reunite, that’s just the salad course. The high church Anglicans were an appetizer. The Orthodox…that’s the entree. East and West (I actually just teared, mid sentence)…the East and West, back together. Can you imagine? I can.

    The Orthodox have already recognized the Bishop of Rome as “protos” of the Christian Church. To think of some point in the never too distant future where I could stand and approach the chalice before the icon screen in an Orthodox Church, and some Orthodox brother of mine could approach the rail in a Catholic Church…because we would be one again…both calling each other simply “Christian” again…well who could think of such a thing with a dry eye.

    Perhaps…perhaps Pope Benedict XVI truly is the Pope of Christian Unity after all. Maybe it’s not just a blogger’s tag line.

  12. JMody says:

    Fr. Z says:
    “not just by the Council, but especially by a false interpretation of many aspects of the Council’s documents”

    Father, I will respectfully suggest that that is PART of the problem, but that a larger part of the problem is that the documents are so vague, and so LONG, that anyone can take an ACTIVIST interpretation of “the Council” and find whatever he wants is allowed. Sacrosanctum Concilium, just to name one, contradicts itself so many times that it is hard to say that the interpretation of the DOCUMENT is false. Certainly, the interpretation/implementation did not match the expectation of the council fathers, so in that sense, “false” may be the right word. But the ugly truth is that the documents are either written very poorly or very perniciously, and ANY interpretation can claim cover.

    Example: Recently our bishop praised his penultimate predecessor who had gone to the Council, and paraised him for TURNING AROUND THE ALTAR in the cathedral here upon his return from Rome in 1965, four years before the new Missale (the bishop in between removed it and replaced it with a chintzy wooden thing that resembles a card table or doghouse). He (1960’s bishop, Rev. Francis G.) clearly was part of the “new” liturgical movement, because turning around the altar is nowhere in the documents — it might not even be in the Missale, but it’s a big part of all the chamges, so clearly part of a plan of some sort. But SC DOES grant the local bishop to authorize revisions, “pending approval” … so was he wrong, or not? Is that praiseworthy or condemnable?

  13. Fr Jackson says:

    Father, if you have time, the original full interview might be worth a blog posting and your ineffable –wink– commentary. I found it really good, but, of course, I am biased…

  14. AnnAsher says:

    Isn’t it amazing how God chooses the right man at the right time in the right place?

  15. Clinton R. says:

    May Our Lord bless His Holy Church, Pope Benedict XVI, the SSPX, and all faithful Catholics who love Him and His Immaculate Bride. And may all men of goodwill be converted to the True Faith. +JMJ+

  16. robtbrown says:

    JMody says:

    Father, I will respectfully suggest that that is PART of the problem, but that a larger part of the problem is that the documents are so vague, and so LONG,

    I would not say that the documents are vague, but rather that there are certain texts in certain documents that are vague. Further, sometimes there are consecutive texts that in some way are opposed to one another.

    I do, however, agree that they are long.

  17. irishgirl says:

    @ Centristian: Hear hear! Well said!
    I keep hoping and praying for the SSPX’s reconciliation with the Holy See.
    That’s one of the intentions in my daily Rosary, as well as in a novena to the Sacred Heart which I began yesterday.

  18. everett says:

    The comments on working for change from within the church are great. This is the difference between the great saints who vowed obedience while working for change, and people like Martin Luther, who left to do their own thing. Sa

  19. catholicmidwest says:


    Fr Z,

    Commenting on the summary you posted:

    Wow! What a concept. A Church that thinks it’s a Church, and in a Religion. Revolutionary. Not a social service agency, not a mens’ club, not a PTA, not a society for financing prep schools, not the Democratic party at prayer. And we all know how that “Democratic party at prayer” thing is working out don’t we?

    The obviousness of some of this is just stunning, compared to the obliviousness that usually reigns.

  20. jflare says:

    J Mody said:
    “…Sacrosanctum Concilium, just to name one, contradicts itself so many times that it is hard to say that the interpretation of the DOCUMENT is false….”

    I can’t agree with that assessment.
    Having read all four Constitutions, I don’t remember reading anything that contradicted something else either within the same document or another document. Nor even, to be frank, within the whole of sacred Tradition. Nor do I remember any particularly vague sections. What I DO remember are many concepts and directives that require a fair degree of consideration to understand them properly. But honestly, I expect THAT. Vatican II was a Council of the vast majority of the bishops from all over the world. They dealt with a wide variety of topics in a manner that wouldn’t be simple, no matter how hard you attempted to simplify it.
    Insisting that it ought to be quick and easy is like, well it’d be much alike to reading Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and expecting to understand it perfectly the first time, even though one has no background in physics.
    Or, to be honest, it’d be about like handing someone a Bible and expecting them to understand it precisely the way the Church does the first time.

    We must surely both know that neither of the above will happen. If Einstein’s theories require one to have a healthy comprehension of physics, so too does the Bible require a good deal of mental chewing to comprehend how the texts translate into the Church’s teaching.
    I should think we’d expect no less from a major Council of the Church.

Comments are closed.