SSPX Bp. Fellay: “we are on the eve of important events that we cannot yet define”

SSPX Bp Bernard FellayIn other news, the head of the SSPX, Bp. Bernard Fellay, gave an interview to Present in which he spoke of the status quaestionis these days, both within the Society (a priestly society, remember) and outside. HERE


Present: In an interview with Fideliter in 2001, you mentioned the “movement of profound sympathy from the young clergy for the Society.” Has this movement grown, especially with the motu proprio in 2007?

Bishop Fellay: Without a doubt! The motu proprio gave this movement a new impetus. And it is important to insist upon Benedict XVI’s interest for the liturgy in general. He truly wished to put the entire traditional liturgy, not only the Mass, at the disposition of the priests and the faithful; this did not happen because there was too much opposition. But the young priests identify with this liturgy, precisely because it is timeless. The Church lives in eternity.

The liturgy does also too, which is why it is always young. Close to God, it is outside of time. So it is no surprise that the baptismal character makes this harmony resound even in souls that have never known the liturgy. And the way the young priests react when they discover this liturgy is moving: they have the impression a treasure has been hidden from them.


A few weeks ago, the Society’s seminaries were visited by Cardinal Brandmuller and Bishop Schneider. These visits are a public connection with the “official Church”. Isn’t that vital?

The link with the Church is vital. The manifestations of this connection can vary. The dates and places for these visits were left up to me; the Vatican chose the names. I chose the seminaries because they seemed to me to be the most eloquent and representative for the bishops.

What were the first reactions of these bishops?

They were very satisfied. “You are normal people,” they told us…which goes to show the reputation we have! They congratulated us on the quality of our seminarians. There is no doubt that their conclusion after this first closer contact was that we are a work of the Church.

Have you been in contact with any bishops who support you discreetly?

Of course! When we see that priests are coming closer to us today and entering into contact with us, we can easily conclude that the same is true on the higher level…



Where is the Society today? What are its strong points and its weak points? What future do you foresee for it?

I see a peaceful future. It is a work that has been entrusted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; all we have to do is remain faithful to their will. This Church is the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who remains her head and will not allow her to be destroyed.

The Society’s weaknesses? The risk of separation is serious. Look at the caricature of Tradition that calls itself the “Resistance”, for example: it is a non-Catholic spirit that is almost sectarian. We wish to have nothing to do with it; it is a movement that is withdrawn into itself, with people who think that they are the only good and just men on earth: that is not Catholic. It is an objective, but relative danger. Most of the Society is healthy and will not fall into these illusions. This encourages us to rely upon supernatural means. God will show us what He wants of us; He will speak through circumstances.

The strong points? The living fidelity that bears fruit and shows the world today that the Catholic life, even with all its requirements, is possible. But—another weak point—we are men of our times, and it would be a dream to pretend that we are immunized against the influence of the modern world. To be more precise, we must avoid the caricature of wishing for a Church without wrinkles or stains here below: that is not what the good Lord promised us on this earth. That is not what the “Holy Church” means; it means that she is capable of sanctifying using the means given by Our Lord: the sacraments, the Faith, discipline, religious life, the life of prayer.

What do you think of Cardinal Sarah’s suggestion of introducing the traditional offertory into the New Mass?

It is not a new idea; it has been around in Rome for ten years. I am glad it has been taken up again. Some criticize the idea, saying it is a way of mixing the profane with the sacred. On the contrary, in the perspective of bringing health back to the Church, I think it would be a great step forward, because the Offertory is a summary of the Catholic principles of the Mass, of the expiatory sacrifice offered to the Blessed Trinity, offered by the priest to God in reparation for sins, and accompanied by the faithful. And that would gradually bring the faithful back to the traditional Mass they have lost.

How would you like to conclude, Your Excellency?

In my opinion, we are on the eve of important events that we cannot yet define very well. I would like to call for prayers and end with a gaze towards God, which allows us to always have hope.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. kekeak2008 says:

    This is some of the best news I’ve read in the past week. I needed this!

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    It is the only good news I’ve read in at least two weeks. The level of toxic nonsense has exploded, and September and October are still two months away. Would “apocalyptic” be hyperbolic?

  3. Priam1184 says:

    This was a great statement. Can someone explain to me what the proper attitude for a Catholic trying to be faithful and in communion with the See of Saint Peter in Rome should be toward the SSPX? I simply don’t know anymore. That said, we should all have that last statement of his burned into our minds and the next months and years unfold.

  4. jacobi says:

    This interview is most encouraging. Bishop Fellay declares that, a small group apart, the SSPX is a sound healthy Catholic gathering of priests, attracting many young recruits to the priesthood.

    This looks like a realistic summary.

    I had not realised that bishops Schneider and Brandmuller has visited. That they were satisfied, and I am sure they were, is most uplifting.

    That such a sound, orthodox, Catholic, group of priests, expressing the timeless Catholic belief through timeless Catholic Liturgy should be in any way considered outside of Catholicsm when the Church continues to house a whole range of heterodoxy, from the fearful, the silent, the indifferent, the doubters and those who advocate outright heretical interpretation of Catholic doctrine, is an absolute disgrace, and worse still morally wrong.

  5. Imrahil says:

    I’m also joyfully surprised that Cdl Brandmüller and Bp Schneider were chosen.

  6. JARay says:

    I was delighted to read the above article. I have a very high regard for Bishop Fellay.

  7. msc says:

    I am still wary of the SSPX for all the usual, well known reasons. And I need to know more about Bishop Fellay. When I hear is name, I think of his comments about the Jews being the enemies of the Church (in an address on Dec. 28, 2012, in New Hamburg, Ontario; the SSPX’s web site seems to have erased any trace of this). The Vatican (presuming that spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi was actually speaking for Benedict) properly denounced the comments on Jan. 7, 2013.

  8. donato2 says:

    Although I doubt that I will live to see it, I would love to see the SSPX brought fully and unequivocally back into the fold. I don’t know about the red gloves though. They are kind of frightening.

  9. Jack Orlando says:

    With the Society, the praiseworthy and the blameworthy:

    1. Keeping alive the Traditional Latin Mass
    2. Use of Latin
    3. Rejection or the Bugnini Mass
    4. Reminding that V2 did not revive the Church
    5. Keeping alive private devotions
    6. Pointing out clear heresy (including the sedevacantist heresy)

    1. No interest in the Patristic Revival
    2. No interest in the Scriptural Revival (historical-critical method)
    3. As a result of ##1&2, the rejection of the theology of the Paschal Mystery
    4. As a result of #1, no interest in reforming the Divine Office for use by laity
    5. Antisemitism, as noted rightly by msc (above)

  10. drohan says:

    If the leaders of the church can find way to include a gay mass, a clown mass, and the other Liturgy Science Theater 3000 occurrences, then we can have a place for the SSPX as well, who are faithful with a capital ‘F’.

    In my way out there hope of hopes the SSPX would be selected as the missionaries of mercy in our year of mercy. Pope Francis would send out these men, and not a bunch of namby pampies to do the church’s work of mercy. SSPX could actually evangelize the faith in places like South America and Africa, where the rest of the church hierarchy is either a front for the Communist Party or a lefty NGO.

    I pray for their full connection with Rome. It would show that the Vatican might be getting serious about the New Evangelization.

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    An admirable accent: “the expiatory sacrifice offered to the Blessed Trinity”, delightfully enriching to read on this Feast.

  12. anilwang says:

    Priam1184 says: Can someone explain to me what the proper attitude for a Catholic trying to be faithful and in communion with the See of Saint Peter in Rome should be toward the SSPX?

    Simple. Look at the facts.

    Both the priests and Catholics attending SSPX masses are in communion with the See of Saint Peter in Rome and the priests of the SSPX have valid orders. However, the Priests of the SSPX are not in communion with the Catholic Hierarchy and have not been granted the privileges to celebrate the sacraments, so although you can attend an SSPX mass (just as you can attend an Orthodox mass) you can’t fulfill your Sunday obligations at an SSPX mass or be reconciled by an SSPX priest or be baptised by an SSPX priest. The SSPX and Vatican are working on rectifying this situation, but that’s the state we live in now.

  13. LA says:


    Wrong on several counts.

    1) SSPX priests are valid priests offering a valid Mass, and therefore attendance there fulfils one’s Sunday obligation. [CORRECT: It fulfills the obligation. WRONG: Not just because they are validly ordained.]

    2) Any person can baptise with the right intention and words, so especially a valid priest (as are the SSPX priests) can baptise.

    3) As for reconciliation, that is still hotly debated. Fr. Z. holds the position that they do not have jurisdiction. [And I am CORRECT.] Many others hold the position that the Church supplies jurisdiction to any priest in a time of crisis, and we certainly seems to be in a time of crisis. [WRONG.]

  14. Auggie says:

    A Church with the FSSP and SSPX working together is probably our best chance of having serious renewal, stability and evangelism… as the world darkens and goes berserk.

  15. Ben Kenobi says:

    Surprised to see a list of issues with Fellay et al lacks obedience to lawful authority.

  16. jacobi says:

    I would agree with Auggie. As the rest of the priesthood, in Europe at any rate, melts away to insignificance , the traditional orders will be the future of the recovering Church.

  17. MaryL says:

    So what is SSPX’s problem with FSSP?

  18. S.Armaticus says:

    @ MaryL:
    The FSSP are a breakaway order from the SSPX.

    The FSSP and the SSPX cannot work together since the FSSP was created to dismantle the SSPX, i.e. “steal the sheep”. This is the reason why FSSP chapels are in close proximity to the SSPX ones. Furthermore, 27 years later, and the FSSP still does not have the bishop that it was promised. Coincidence, causality, who knows? But I know how the smart money would bet this.

    Furthermore, it is hard to make a counter factual argument since logic (natural law) does not allow for such constructions to be either definitive or even elegant. However, if we look at a time series, the following can be clearly identified:

    The Summorum Pontificum was promulgated after the Ecclesia Dei Commission was formed.
    The Ecclesia Dei Commission was formed after the FSSP were constituted.
    The foundation of the FSSP and the Ecclesia Dei Commission came after the Indult Mass was allowed. (No Indult Mass, no 1962 MR)
    The Indult Mass (1984) was allowed after the foundation of the SSPX by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (ora pro nobis) (1970).

    On the other hand, if we also observe that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate were also formed in 1970 but were never under the umbrella of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, we can infer what would have happened to any of the EC orders if they were outside the EC itself. And we can then further infer what the probability of the existence of the EC would be if the SSPX did not exist.

    Summa summarum, if the above relationships are causal, it would appear that Bishop Fellay is the most important figure in Christiandom right about now. On his shoulders rest the entire “restoration of all things to Christ” reform movement.

    One final point that needs to be made here and that is what Archbishop Fernandez (Francis ghost writer) recently stated in one interview and that is the following:

    “The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact. The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes. He knows there are those hoping that the next pope will be turn everything back around. If you go slowly it’s more difficult to turn things back. He makes this clear when he says ‘time is greater than space.’”

    Understanding the importance of “initiating processes, while not necessarily occupying spaces” is the key to understanding the dynamic at play between Modernist Rome and the SSPX and why ALL eyes are focused on Bishop Fellay right now.

    PS. Through a stroke of sheer coincidence, I was able to speak with Bishop Fellay the week after Easter. He told me that the SSPX is staying pat and watching developments. The SSPX eyes are focusing on the upcoming Synod.

  19. discens says:

    Schismatics, aren’t they, [NO.] and excommunicated? [No.]And they still reject Vatican II? [What does that mean? Most liberals reject Lumen gentium.] If so, is it not better to avoid them? [Like avoiding the 1 in favor of the comfortable 99, right?] The good things they retain will cover over the bad things they insinuate. [?]

  20. Gabriel Syme says:


    I am afraid that nothing you say in your post is correct.

    The SSPX are not schismatic, as was resoundingly clarified by the Ecclesia Dei commission (specifically Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos) several years ago now. In any case, the Society has never refuted the authority of the Pope, nor set up a competing hierarchy, and so any clear sighted and fair minded person ought to be able to deduce they are not schismatic on their own.

    The SSPX are not excommunicated; only the Bishops were ever claimed to be excommunicated – not the priests and not the lay people – and this situation has been resolved since 2009, thanks to Pope Benedict XVI. (As an aside, it is most likely that a court of canon law would have found the claimed excommunications to be invalid, thanks to a lack of proper form).

    According to Bishop Fellay, the SSPX accept about 95% of Vatican II, which is likely significantly more than the typical catholic in the typical parish (who likely rejects, or is ignorant of, the bulk of the faith). The small amount of stumbling blocks appear where Vatican II departs from Catholic tradition, contradicting what has gone before, and/or is written in so vague as language as to allow multiple (and starkly different) interpretations. Cardinal Kaspar has since openly bragged that the language was intentionally vague, and his ilk are attempting to use similar tactics at the family synod this year.

  21. Gabriel Syme says:


    The SSPX do not have a problem with the FSSP.

    The FSSP was originally a splinter group of the SSPX, which emerged in the late 1980s when Archbishop Lefebvre had his difficulties with the Roman authorities. Some of the priests were concerned by the situation which existed at that time and prefered to remove themselves from it, which is understandable.

    Both Orders are present where I live, within a reasonably short drive. The priests of both Orders speak very highly of the other and have an obvious high regard for one another.

    As it happens, the FSSP priest in our area was formerly an SSPX priest who became an early member of FSSP and he was in fact ordained by ++Lefebvre.

    The SSPX have a high regard for all orthodox clergy who say the traditional mass, regardless of their identity or affiliation. Following Summorum Pontificum, the SSPX provided invaluable support “behind the scenes” to many Diocesan priests who sought to learn the traditional mass.

    I know several Diocesan priests who support the SSPX and often speak out to defend its reputation.

  22. Gabriel Syme says:

    Ben Kenobi,

    Regarding obedience to authority: do not forget that St Paul and very many saints since his day have strongly encouraged us to resist and even publicly rebuke the proper authorities, if they can be shown to be in the wrong.

    Obedience to the religious authorities is extremely important, of course, but its not as important as maintaing the purity of the Catholic faith. “The Faith > Obedience.” We obey if the hierarchy espouse the faith. If they espouse something different, we do not obey.

    An unthinking attitude from many Catholics is a large part of the problems of the Church today. In reality, rather than the Catholic faith, such Catholics adhere to the personality cult of Pope ABC or Bishop XYZ.

    I used to be a member of a Catholic mens organisation and I once expressed concern at a possible appointment to the Episcopate, given the priest in question was known to hold various unorthodox views.

    I was criticised for this and was essentially told that all that mattered was to go along with whatever the clergy say. That is not the proper attitude and its not the Catholic faith. I am no longer a member of that organisation (which, much like the mainstream Church in the West, is an aimless and moribund organisation, of mostly very elderly people).

  23. Gabriel Syme says:

    It is disappointing to see some posters incorrectly and uncharitably link the SSPX with anti-semitism. This shows that they are informed by the faith [The “faith”? Perhaps the “SSPX”.]mainly by the secular media, as opposed to by the Church (SSPX specifically here).

    Regarding Bishops Felays comment about Jews being “enemies of the church” – what he was refering to was the fact that that Judaism denies Jesus Christ.

    Anyone and anything who denies Jesus Christ is an “enemy of the Church”.

    +Fellay didnt mean an “enemy” in a sense that there might be violence. He meant it in the sense that a certain group deny Our Lord and so in effect frustrate the aims of His Church.

    [Punctuation is our friend.]

    I would agree that “enemy” was perhaps too-strong a term to use, but remember that (i) English is not the native language of +Fellay and that (ii) modern Catholics are not used to hearing robust speech, they prefer speech more suited to “My Little Pony” world, where everything is nice and only good things happen and there is only ever “joy” and “renewal”.

  24. Gabriel Syme says:


    Re: the red gloves – thats what a Catholic Bishop looks like.

    Much better the red gloves, than the shapeless white robe and rainbow mitre.

  25. Gabriel Syme says:

    About the article itself – thank you to Fr Z for highlighting this news.

    I think what +Fellay is hinting at is a gradual re-integration of the SSPX into the official, visible structure of the Chruch.

    In the past there has undoutedly been voices on “both sides” who would ‘freak out’ at any suggestion of an agreement between the Vatican and the Society, strange at this may seem.

    Nowadays, the Society has purged itself of this small group (led by Bishop Williamson) who arrogantly see themselves as the Catholic Church and so have no interest in agreement with Rome. On the mainstream Church side, those who hate tradition and the faith are now almost exclusively very elderly (even if they do often still hold prominent and powerful positions) and their time of relevance is coming to an end.

    So I think Pope Francis and Bishop Fellay are proceedingly slowly and calmly, so as not to “frighten the horses” as it were.

    The Society already has a Diocesan level recognition in Buenos Aries, the former see of Pope Francis. We can read above the glowing comments made about SSPX seminarians by a current Cardinal and a Bishop. Recently the CDF bestowed certain authority on +Fellay, to investigate an SSPX priest accused of a crime. You can officially attend mass at an SSPX chapel.

    There is no split, the SSPX is part of the Catholic Church with some outstanding administrative tasks to be resolved. The insidious attempt to subvert and demonise Catholic tradition is over, bar the shouting.

  26. Pingback: T -114: The Lefebvrists | The Deus Ex Machina Blog

  27. MAJ Tony says:

    To Neal & LA:

    RE: 3) As for reconciliation, that is still hotly debated. Fr. Z. holds the position that they do not have jurisdiction. [And I am CORRECT.] Many others hold the position that the Church supplies jurisdiction to any priest in a time of crisis, and we certainly seems to be in a time of crisis. [WRONG.]

    What is wrong is this: Canon law is very specific about a priest’s faculties (formerly “jurisdiction”) to hear confession. Only when a penitent is near death can a priest without faculties hear that person’s confession. In fact, a priest is under a positive obligation to do so.

    Reference: Canon 986.2 In an urgent necessity, every confessor (implies faculties) is bound to hear the confessions of Christ’s faithful, and in danger of death every priest is so obliged.

    All of this can be found in Title IV of the current code. These can be found at the Vatican website. As my network does not always access foreign websites, my reference copy is found by Bing search.

  28. discens says:

    To Gabriel Syme. Actually I did not assert. I asked questions. However Cardinal Castrillon, prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, is quoted as saying (in an interview in 2007 I believe): “The Fraternity of St. Pius X is not a consolidated schism per se, but its history has included some schismatic actions…” The Cardinal…further warns about the danger of schism, and schism leading to heresy and vice versa, according to St. Jerome.

    Enough for me to be wary of them.

    As for accepting 95% of Vatican II, surely accepting 100% is required? Of course you can interpret and explain as much as you like (according to tradition, as Pope Benedict counseled), but can you reject any of it and be true to the Church? Just asking, not asserting.

  29. msc says:

    Gabriel Syme: Fellay’s English in these interviews seems excellent. I understand the point about those that deny Christ being opposed to him, but enemy is a strong word. I think it is significant that Fellay singled out Jews among all the world’s religions, as well as atheists and atheistic creeds like communism. In 2012 there were a lot of real enemies of the Church. The Jews are not one. Add Williamson and Lefebvre himself, and the taint of anti-semitism in the SSPX is, to me, disturbingly strong.

  30. Gerard Plourde says:

    Reconciliation is certainly the desired end. I doubt that the whole compliment of the SSPX will reconcile, though. Given the lack of unanimity in the leadership that was exposed at the time of the rejection of the doctrinal preamble during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, it is possible that a group (led by Bishop Felley, perhaps) will eventually fully accept and submit to Church authority while others will drift farther afield (like Bishop Williamson or the Society of St. Pius V). Which group will contain the bulk of the community is unclear.

  31. Gabriel Syme says:


    My apologies if I misunderstood your original post.

    The Society only represents the Church as it always was, its just a thread within the Church which held fast to tradition and did not change to become what we see today (an often barely recognisable organisation).

    There is no need to be wary of the Society, though I understand why you say that. I was wary of them at first too. But when I started visiting them, very early on I thought “Hey – I like this – this ‘Catholicism’“.

    In my experience, there is far more reason to be wary in the typical parish church where often orthodoxy is not guaranteed, often liturgical abuse is the norm, and often the truth is dependent on what the congregation want to hear.

    I started going to the Society, leaving a Jesuit Parish behind. The Jesuits, (at another location, though same district), run “gay masses” which openly reject Church teaching on sexuality. At the location I attended, they would routinely host unorthodox speakers such as Tina Beattie. And liturgical abuses are the norm – such a lay people going into the tabernacle and young children distributing communion and the like. Unrepentant public sinners are routinely and publicly given the sacraments at this location. One of the priests once rubbished Church teaching on homosexuality in a conversation with me, asking “what harm does it do?”.

    The lay people there think that is Catholicism. Its not and so I decided to stop funding it.

    By way of contrast, the only criticism I could level at the Society is that they currently lack an official standing in the Church, and that is something which is outwith the direct control of the two hardworking and dedicated SSPX priests who serve the Church I now attend.

    Do you think I made the wrong decision to switch places of worship?

    The quote you give is from 2007: but much has changed since then. For example, it was 2007 when Summorum Pontificum appeared and in 2009 the excommunicated status of the SSPX Bishops was rescinded by the Pope. And, although a final agreement has not yet been made, the two parties have moved increasingly close together, such that an official status for the Society is now essentially a formality.

    Try the SSPX – but I warn you, you will like it.

    The Society has been a revelation for me. They have got me saying the Rosary even. Before I started going there, I didnt even know *how* to say the Rosary.

    Ultimately, we ourselves have to become the change we want to see in the Church.

    That realisation for me was the clincher. I could have stayed with the Jesuits, funding heresy, safe in the knowledge they are “canoncially regular” – but where would that have got us?

  32. robtbrown says:

    Discente dicente,

    As for accepting 95% of Vatican II, surely accepting 100% is required? Of course you can interpret and explain as much as you like (according to tradition, as Pope Benedict counseled), but can you reject any of it and be true to the Church? Just asking, not asserting.

    I have never known anyone who accepted 100% of Vat II. Many say they do, but when it gets to specifics, they don’t.

  33. Gabriel Syme says:


    I wholly agree with you that “enemies” was not a good term to use. I put it down to Bishop Fellay not having English as a first language. It was a poor choice of word, too strong a term.

    But I do think you are misundertanding him.

    He didnt single out the jews, he also applied the term to masons and modernists. Likely he could have gone on, but felt 3 examples were sufficient to make the point.

    Afterwards, it was clarified that the “enemies” he was speaking of was:

    “a religious concept and refers to any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.”


    ““this religious context” is based on Jesus telling the Pharisees in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

    “By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organisations, and not the Jewish people,” the statement said, adding that any accusations of the society being anti-Semitic were false and an example of “hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message”.

    I think the Society is right to say that other religious groups are in error. That makes far more sense than the ecumenism espoused elsewhere, which seems to suggest that it doesnt matter what you believe.

    Also, what do you think the Jewish faith says of Catholicism? I would be surprised if they did not claim we were in error.

    As for +Williamson, he was rightly expelled from the SSPX (by +Fellay) in 2009 for his holocaust denial. So the SSPX cannot continue to bear the blame for his erroneous opinions.

    I am surprised you allude ++Lefebvre was anti-semitic. ++Lefebvre was a great man and received glowing praise from various Popes. Since when have the Popes glorified bigots?

    Ultimately, Judaism is a false (outmoded) religion, one (like all others) which impedes the salvation of souls – that which Our Lord desires. It is not anti-seminitc to state that, nor does stating that imply a hostility to Jewish persons.

    If only some mainstream Bishops had the cojones to speak as +Fellay does.

  34. Gabriel Syme says:

    Gerard Plourde,

    I think what you describe has already happened –

    A small group of cranks, calling themselves “the resistance” has split off from the SSPX. This “resistance” has no interest in union with Rome and perhaps could even be compared with Protestants.

    However, the solid bulk of the SSPX remains under the guidance of +Fellay, as part of the Catholic Church and will happily see an agreement signed (regarding the Societys Official Status, not their Catholicity – which is not in doubt) when/if time is right.

  35. LA says:

    Gabriel, I agree with most of what you write, but Bishop Williamson was not expelled for his doubts about the Jewish Holocaust in WW2. He was expelled for publically undermining and disobeying his superior(s) and formenting rebellion inside his order, despite plenty of warnings.

  36. discens says:

    robtbrown. Well I accept all of it — and read all of it too (including many of the additional documents that came later). Of course ‘accept’ here is a bit loose. Since Vatican II was ex professo a pastoral and not a doctrinal council, there’s nothing in it that is doctrinally binding that was not binding before. The point of the council was very perceptively explained by JPII when he was still bishop of Cracow in Sources of Renewal. It’s all a matter of interpreting and explaining, which puzzles me why SSPX and others can’t say they accept it. There’s nothing non-Catholic in it to swallow, and one can quite freely disagree with the policy or discipline changes and still accept the council. Discipline is not doctrine. I can think that it’s bad policy to require priests to be unmarried (I don’t in fact) but I’m not thereby in any way opposed to the Church or what she teaches. It’s the hierarchy’s call, after all, not mine. Why can’t SSPX do the same? The fact that they don’t makes me suspicious they have some further agenda.

    So to Gabriel Syme, I don’t need SSPX to have the Tridentine masses or anything else traditional. I can get it in the Church already. Anyway, for purely personal reasons I prefer the Novus Ordo — it’s just a preference I have and nothing more. So I never felt deprived before when the Tridentine was not available and I don’t feel enhanced now when it is available. Moreover I don’t find Novus Ordo parishes unorthodox or wild or irreverent or anything else of the kind — at least not the ones I’m familiar with. Priests and parishes are as mixed a bunch now as I suppose they ever were, even before Vatican II. Besides theological orthodoxy gets presented, when it gets presented, in predominantly Thomistic terms. Nothing wrong there, I agree; he’s the Angel of the Schools after all. But there’s plenty of other theologies available that are thoroughly Catholic and approved by the Church. I suspect, though, that in any SSPX parish all I’d get was Thomism and anything else would be scowled at. I revel, by contrast, in variety — good Catholic variety. In such matters ‘chacun a son gout’ seems perfectly proper.

  37. LA says:

    Discens wrote: “There’s nothing non-Catholic in it to swallow, and one can quite freely disagree with the policy or discipline changes and still accept the council. Discipline is not doctrine.”

    Discens, The SSPX believes there ARE non-Catholic statements in the V2 documents, especially portions regarding religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality. The disagreement with parts of V2 is indeed about doctrine rather than merely about discipline, as you incorrectly state. I am sure you can find the information about this on the SSPX’s website.

  38. Imrahil says:

    Dear Gabriel Syme,

    I agree that the first (!) decree of excommunication was invalid, and that Abp Lefebvre and the bishops he consecrated certainly could claim to fulfil the (very tiny) requirements under which, in canon law, latae sententiae sentencings are out of the question (see can. 1323 no. 4, 7, can. 1324 § 1 no. 5, 8, § 3). The Congregation for bishops is not a court, and hence cannot declare a ferendae sententiae excommunications.

    However, the thing is that a couple of days afterwards, the Pope himself assented to the judgment in a motu-proprio. As the Pope is not bound to canonical form, the excommunications took effect at that day. (They might argue “sometimes the thing to do is bear the excommunication”, which in itself is at any rate correct, whether or not applicable to the situation; but not “the excommunication did not exist”.)

    – It may be interesting that, though the Pope in that motu-proprio did use a “schismatic act” terminology, when he came down to citing canons he only cited can. 1382 “unlawful consecration of bishops”, not can. 1364 “schism”. The only one who said “can. 1364 schism” was the Congregation for Bishops, which, however, is not a court and hence cannot pronounce judgments. And as the Pope reacted to the decree of the said congregation, the omitting of can. 1364 is to be read as deliberate. –

    As to anti-semitism,

    that is by definition a sort of Jew-baiting that does not stop when the Jew in question has been baptized. Enough said. (From Bp Williamson, some downrightly anti-semitic statements have been reported, and that apart from the justly criminalized history bogus he subscribed to.)

    The SSPX aren’t really on friendly terms with the Jews, though, nor are the Jews on friendly terms with them. But then, you have to take into account that the Church (per se) says the Jews must* convert to Christ; but the SSPX is among the very few who actually say that within the Church, and the general tone of modern theology is that Judaism is a path of salvation quite to themselves, without Christ. Thus it is somewhat understandable, humanly speaking, that the Jews thinks the few who do say so are Jew-baiters, and are (which is no secret) vividly opposed to any agreement between Rome and the SSPX. Also they are demanding to introduce the OF Good-Friday intercession for the Jews into the EF, without any dispensation, and are outraged that Pope Benedict did not do so (that is not a secret).

    [* The obvious point that a specific Jew may well be saved through the same Christ he does not know, not only those who know Christ and worship him, is of no relevance here. In itself everyone has to remain or become a Catholic Christian, and all those that are saved are, knowingly or unknowingly, saved through Christ: that is the point.]

  39. Liam says:

    I believe that a great deal of apprehension towards the SSPX in anglophone countries can be directly attributed to the lunatic culture promoted by Msgr. Richard Williamson. Beginning with his initial appointment to North America in the aftermath of the split in 1983 of those American priest who would become the SSPV, Williamson nurtured a traditionalism that promoted conspiracy theories, antisemitism, and a wholesale rejection of the Council and the hierarchy. A whole generation of American trads were formed in these mentalities. It is finally fading away it seems, and it may take time for critics of the SSPX to experience a different Society.

  40. Imrahil says:

    Ah yes, Bp Williamson.

    The one who wrote a pastoral letter than women should not go to universities, at a time when the society he himself belonged to at the time, the SSPX, had been running a thriving girls’ grammar-school for ten years in Germany.

    (Note that grammar-schools are specifically directed to those heading towards university. In the German system, they could have run a “general school”, directed to those heading towards menial labor, as well, had they been thinking they’d better restrict to housework.)

    Note to the dear Gabriel Syme:

    Bp Williamson was not expelled in 2009, but ordered to “think it over”. Bp Fellay was probably thinking that risking unlawful episcopal consecrations would be unwise unless “containing” him had at least been tried. He was finally expelled in 2012, when his repeated silent and not-so-silent disobediences had become unbearable.

    The interesting thing will be how Bps Galarreta and Tissier de Mallerais will react (the latter a particularly strong opponent of Dignitatis humanae). They are not “Williamsonites”; however, Bp. Williamson only month before his exclusion could get their signatures under a letter expressing concerns w.r.t. the negotiations with Rome.

    The actual leadership of the SSPX, the assistants-general and so on, seem to stand behind the General Superior, as does the General-Superior emeritus.

  41. Imrahil says:

    Dear LA,

    when the thing goes down to technical detail, the SSPX make clear that they do not suppose Vatican II departed from de-fide statements, but it departed from (some) sententia-certa statements (and was wrong in doing so). That assumption may be wrong, but it is not un-Catholic.

    Bp Fellay has said that they accept collegiality “in the sense of the notae explicativae”. But this is the sense in which collegiality actually is Church teaching!

    (But from collegiality in the sense of the notae explicativae, it does not follow by necessity that you have to build episcopal conferences nation-wise – although the Council did say, “given that now collegiality has been taught, let there be episcopal conferences”.)

    As for ecumenism, while disliking the tone of Unitatis redintegratio they have, or at least people that ally themselves to them have, said that taken by themselves the statements would be defensible. They dislike the general approach and the tone, of course, but that is not doctrine.

    The real point of dispute will be around Dignitatis humanae.

  42. discens says:

    Nice comments from all. I don’t have much to add save to LA who says: “The SSPX believes there ARE non-Catholic statements in the V2 documents, especially portions regarding religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality. The disagreement with parts of V2 is indeed about doctrine rather than merely about discipline, as you incorrectly state.” If SSPX so believe they are demonstrably wrong. The ecumenism and collegiality seem anyway to be matters of discipline not doctrine, or if of doctrine then Vatican II got it right, in line with long-standing tradition. The same arguably holds of what Vatican II said of religious liberty too. The objections to all three elements in Vatican II seem to me expressive more of a certain meanness of spirit than of doctrinal orthodoxy. JPII got the message right, and in his usual, insightful way. If SSPX still think otherwise then all the worse for them. I for one am going with Rome not Missouri.

  43. Imrahil says:

    with Rome not Missouri

    I’d find it rather interesting to know where that comes from. SSPX headquaters are in Menzingen, Switzerland, their most famous seminary, for which they’re known for, in Écone, Switzerland, their most numerous presence in France, and even their U.S. seminary in Minnesota. What is in Missouri? their district headquaters?

  44. discens says:

    Imrahil. It comes from here: Sorry, I’m no aficionado on SSPX.

  45. Mike says:

    For the SSPX, the question of exactly what in Vatican II they don’t agree with, and why, bears discussion.

    For the rest of us, the question is more to how much of the specious, damnable, anti-conciliar and often anti-Catholic “Spirit of Vatican II” (e.g., no Latin, bad music, derogation of priestly functions, hostility toward poverty and chastity, acquiescence to Modernism) we have become attached. That we need to correct, each of us, swiftly. Without authentic liturgy and spirituality in the timeless tradition of Holy Mother Church, all the peace-and-justice mantras on earth won’t contribute a whit to our sanctification, to the genuine good of our neighbor, or to the salvation of our immortal souls.

  46. discens says:

    PS. It seems to me that all groups that want to challenge Rome end up being narrowly elitist and hostile to the poor and unlearned and incapable. I mean how can anyone who does not have the training or the intellect or the time to delve into theological disputes know where the truth is if where the truth is can only be determined by delving into, and indeed by determinatively settling, said theological disputes? They can’t. However anyone can easily tell where the Bishop of Rome is. Even a child can do so. Christ, we know, came to save all sorts and conditions of men. So he established his Church in such a way that all sorts and conditions of men could find it and find it easily. So he built his Church on Peter and Peter, guided surely by the Holy Spirit, set his see in Rome, on a hill that cannot be hid. He did not set it in Constantinople or Moscow or Canterbury or Wurms or Menzingen or Econe or Missouri (none of which existed in St. Peter’s day anyway). So if Rome is not where the truth is, all the poor and uneducated and incapable are out of luck. I’m throwing in my lot with the poor, not SSPX.

  47. Imrahil says:

    Dear discens,

    no offense meant. Only I happened to have read the personification “Econe” (or more rarely, “Menzingen”) for “SSPX” sometimes, and “Missouri” for the first time. I did not even know the U.S. district seat was in missouri. Coming to think of it, I’m not quite sure where the German district seat is, either (though I think it was somewhere around Stuttgard…)

    Your last comment would be more substantiated if the SSPX were saying that they intended to supplant Rome. They don’t. They say that that they’re a party in an ecclesial dispute, yes; but they don’t claim think there is a necessity to delve into the dispute for the layman.

  48. Gabriel Syme says:


    Fair enough my friend, I do not resent you preferring the novus ordo.

    I would not seek to deprive you of it either; rather I would give both liturgies equal standing, without caveats, in the Church; then let the Holy Ghost, working through the choices of the lay people, determine which liturgy the Church should ultimately go forward with.

    I do not think we would need to wait long before it was obvious that we should return to the mass of all time.

    But that’s just my opinion. However, I would be willing to put my money where my mouth is, and it should be noted that I never do that unless convinced of an easy, crushing and holistic victory lol

  49. Gabriel Syme says:

    LA & Imrahil,

    My apologies if I have been inaccurate as regards the details of the SSPX expulsion of +Williamson.

    I will review the matter (I admit my memory of the details is not as good here, as it is elsewhere lol For me +Williamson’s ramblings are ultimately a side matter); however what is important to note is that +Williamson is out.

    I have visited the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, the Anne Frank House and the Jewish Ghetto in Budapest, so I have no issues as regards the reality of the holocaust. But is seems strange that its such a hot topic when, for example, the Armenian Holocaust is still largely ignored.

    Yes, let the world confront genocide, but let the world have some consistency too.

  50. Gabriel Syme says:

    Apologies to Fr Z; In my post at 5.48am, I wrote:

    “This shows that they are informed by the faith ”

    I meant to write:

    “This shows that they are informed about / of the faith ”

    My apologies!

  51. Let’s not have domination of this thread by very few commentators.

  52. Sword40 says:

    back in the late 1970’s we became involved with what became the SSPX. At the time we had no idea who they were, only that they had the Mass that we loved. In 1988 we left and became N.O. Mass attenders. Then we found the FSSP and joined the parish. In fact even before the FSSP came into our diocese, we were able to gain the permission of the Abp for a traditional Dominican Rite Mass once a month. After 3 years that priest was transferred out of the area. So a diocesan priest began a TLM once a month for us. Then he was transferred. It was then that Fr. Kenneth Baker retired and moved to our area. He was real close to the FSSP and gained their supervision of a weekly TLM which we still attend. Now our FSSP priest, Fr. Saguto has been elevated to North American District Superior. So we are getting another FSSP priest. a Fr. Joel Kiefer .

    I still attend an ocassional SSPX Mass when I’m in Oregon but for now I’ll stick with the FSSP.

  53. discens says:

    Imrahil. No offense taken! Anyway you say, “Your last comment would be more substantiated if the SSPX were saying that they intended to supplant Rome. They don’t.” I’m glad to hear it. Then you add, “They say that that they’re a party in an ecclesial dispute, yes; but they don’t claim there is a necessity to delve into the dispute for the layman.” So who is going to settle the dispute and how are the laymen going to know? It all returns to Rome. So should SSPX, and pronto. They have no business holding out, and the longer they do so the more scandalous their behavior becomes — scandalous above all to the poor who, by merely hearing of persistent and complexly argued opposition to Rome by clever people, may be tempted to doubt that Rome can really be the solid rock after all. “Woe to him through whom offenses come.”

    Gabriel Syme. No problem for me if the Tridentine wins out. All I want is a mass approved by Rome. The rest is unimportant. As for holocausts of all kinds, their historicality has nothing to do with Church doctrine. Any opinion on secular matters, crackpot or otherwise, can happily live with the faith. Let Bishop Williamson think what he wants about the Nazi concentration camps or Fermat’s last theorem or the Loch Ness monster or whatever. He should be in or out of the Church for other reasons, not for his views on such matters. You also ask if JPII got it right at Assisi. It matters not either way. He wasn’t speaking ex cathedra at the time or laying down rules for the whole Church. However, I don’t see how any sane person could disagree with the pledge made by all the participants, including JPII, at the end of the event, part of which reads:

    “We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion; we commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity; we commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices; we commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples.”

  54. robtbrown says:


    Are you saying that you agree that Prime should be suppressed, even though it has been around for 1500 years? And are you saying that the Weekly Psalter should be dumped in favor of a two week or four week Psalter? Sacrosanctum Concilium allows for no exceptions, even though both Prime and the Weekly Psalter are prescribed in the Rule of Benedict.

    Are you also saying that Jesuits and similar orders should say part of the Office in common, even though there is absolutely no tradition in them of that practice?

    Then there is Presbyterorum Ordinis. Does it offer an adequate description of the Priesthood, even though it is not relevant to those priests in religious orders?

    BTW, the Novus Ordo is not a document of Vat II.

  55. robtbrown says:


    I wrote here some time ago that it had already been agreed in the discussions that when there is dissonance between a text of Vat II and tradition, the latter is to be preferred.

  56. robtbrown says:

    Gabriel Syme,

    The FSSP is/was not a splinter of the SSPX. It is the canonical structure that was intended to absorb the SSPX. When the negotiations fell through and Abp L went forward with the episcopal consecrations, the Vatican decided to proceed anyway to absorb any FSSP priests who wanted to make the move. Later, other non SSPX priests joined the FSSP.

    The FSSP is the only religious community in history that was founded by the pope. Others were founded locally, then later given Papal approbation.

  57. Kathleen10 says:

    Interesting discussion, all.

  58. discens says:

    robtbrown. As I understand it the Pope has universal jurisdiction, as does a Council in communion with the Pope. What they say on matters of Church rule and discipline is the law of the Church, just as what they solemnly define on matters of faith and morals is infallible. But what they do and say does not have to be eloquent or complete or pleasing to everyone etc. Nicht wahr?

  59. Imrahil says:

    And those who manage to acquire a fully lawful dispensation (such as the pretty general one Pope Benedict issued in 2007) can lean back in their chairs and disregard it, because the dispensation, too, is the law of the Church. Non è così?

  60. discens says:

    Imrahil. Whatever the Pope as Supreme Pastor decides.

  61. Imrahil says:

    … in all that is not against Faith and Conscience.

    (Note that I’m not here commenting or deliberting whether specific claims about something being against Faith and Conscience are justified. But yes: as long as the Pope does not speak infallibly, there is still a path of “appeal to conscience” open, with however many cautionary signs.)

    That said, I wonder whether “obeying a disciplinary measure, with a grudge, holding it to be wrong, but obeying as long as dispensation is not granted, because we have to” is fittingly termed “accepting”.

  62. robtbrown says:

    Gabriel Syme says,

    The Society only represents the Church as it always was, its just a thread within the Church which held fast to tradition and did not change to become what we see today (an often barely recognisable organisation).

    I have great sympathy with the SSPX, but my impression is that they represent the Cburch between the Council of Trent and Vat II, not the “Church as it always was”.

    In another matter, if I remember correctly, the SSPX was described by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos as not in schism rather than not schismatic–a group in schism would not recognize the papacy.

  63. discens says:

    Imrahil. D’accord. And ‘accept’ is said in many ways.

  64. robtbrown says:


    It’s not a question of whether it pleases everyone but rather whether the texts are consistent with the lived Faith–and whether there is consistency in the documents.

    I’m not saying that Vat II is heretical. There are certain texts that are very good, e.g., Lumen Gentium expanding the authority of Tradition and the Pope’s power to recognize it.

    There are, however, more than a few head-scratching texts that are relevant only to an agenda to distort life in the Church and make it more palatable to Protestants (cf. my previous post). The Council was called to address real problems in the Church, but like the Liturgical Movement, it was hijacked by ecumaniacs.

  65. discens says:

    robtbrown. Vatican II is, I agree, wordy. ‘Vatican Talk’ as a Peruvian friend complained to me. Hard to be verbally consistent when you say a lot. Which is why I read the Council through JPII’s aka Karol Wojtyla’s Sources of Renewal. A brilliant exposition of how to understand and read the thing — and not a hijack of it either.

  66. robtbrown says:


    Vat II is wordy, but that doesn’t explain everything. There’s nothing wordy about the suppression of Prime or dumping the the weekly Psalter. And the problem with Presbyterorum Ordinis is not verbosity, but rather that its description of the priesthood doesn’t fit one third of all priests in the Church.

    When I first went to Rome in 1986 to study, there was almost no criticism of Vat II documents by the hierarchy and professors. Sources of Renewal, written before JPII was elected in 1978, reflects such an attitude–and the effort to explain flaws in documents. By the time I left, the door was opened for criticism. IMHO, various comments by Cardinal Ratzinger caused the change. Later, Cardinal Koenig, the putative Grand Elector of JPII, said that Sacrosanctum Concilium wasn’t very good.

  67. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    I’d defend the Council on foccussing on diocesan priests: they have received much too little theoretical attention, and they are, in a sense, somewhat “priests as such” (while a religious priest is “a priest and a religious”). I could argue for that, I guess, in more detail, but let’s skip that.

    In the light of that, it’s rather curious that in the post-conciliar period, secular clergy is a bit hanging in the void. If you hear talks by vocational directors and seminarians, the question: “and why would anyone become, precisely a secular cleric*?” is curiously left unanswered. [* “and not ‘go the whole hog’ and become a religious cleric” – that, at any rate is the impression from the, specifically religious, focus on total self-dedication and so on.]

    Spot on on the rest of the points.

    I’d add that Sacrosanctum Concilium is indeed implicitly self-contradictory (in its disciplinary parts).

    Why so? In the disciplinary parts, they do say in so and so many words that the rite is to be kept and changes are to be done in moderation and only if clearly beneficial – that is when the Fathers speak in general. When they come to the specifics, about all the things that have to change, one cannot but get the impression that the rite is to be somewhat completely de- and reconstructed.

    In any case, I think the distinction between doctrine and discipline is nowhere more accurate than here. It’s doctrinal parts and disciplinary parts can be easily distinguished, and the former are first-class traditional theology.

  68. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    RobtBrown’s comments on the Office — a subject dear to my heart — are way off topic, yet I urge Fr. Zuhlsdorf to open a discussion on his blog about the Old Office and the New.

  69. robtbrown says:

    Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    RobtBrown’s comments on the Office — a subject dear to my heart — are way off topic, yet I urge Fr. Zuhlsdorf to open a discussion on his blog about the Old Office and the New.

    They’re hardly off topic in so fas as the question of the necessity of the SSPX “accepting the Council” was raised (not be me).

    A discussion on the Divine Office would be interesting.

  70. catholictrad says:

    “it is a movement that is withdrawn into itself, with people who think that they are the only good and just men on earth: that is not Catholic.”

    What Fellay says of his fears for the SSPX is equally valid for Traditional diocesan parishes and for uber Modernist parishes. All who maintain insularity can fall into this trap.

  71. liquidpaw says:

    I think Bishop Fellay’s statement could have something to do with the horrible situation in the Vatican, not a re- integration. I think it could mean some Cardinals know more bad things are about to happen and maybe stand up and possibly call for Francis to abdicate. I think it is highly doubtful the SSPX would even consider handing the reigns over to the Vatican, given the severe crisis currently in the church. To jump aboard now would be the kiss of death, they are not foolish. They would be even more isolated if they sign all their rights over now. Also, how many bishops would actually allow them in their dioceses? You could count them on your hand, and that would be a stretch.

    And yes MSC, the Jews deny Christ, are therefore enemies of the Faith. Muslims, as well, and Protestants. The Church has always taught that, but unfortunately we have been poisoned with the watered down Freemason theology of VII.

  72. liquidpaw says:

    Enemy doesn’t always mean in the sense of go after and subdue,either, just that they need to be taught the truth of Faith, and that one must not compromise the truth of Faith with those other ideologies.

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