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Debate: Have the SSPX-Vatican talks been a waste of time?

Or are they a crucial step along the way towards unity?

By on Friday, 25 February 2011

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the SSPX, blesses families in Ecône, Switzerland (CNS photo/Denis Balibouse, Reuters)

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the SSPX, blesses families in Ecône, Switzerland (CNS photo/Denis Balibouse, Reuters)

High-level doctrinal talks between the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and officials at the Vatican started about two and a half years ago, in September 2009. Now, according to Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, the negotiations are almost over, and nothing concrete appears to have been achieved.

Bishop Fellay says that the aim of the talks was to make the faith “understood in Rome” – yet he accepts that the Vatican participants have not changed their minds about any of the disputed issues. Another SSPX bishop, the disgraced Bishop Richard Williamson, described it as a “dialogue of the deaf”, in which neither side went into the discussion with any notion of compromise or of budging on their positions.

On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI is determined to heal the divisions within the Church. In his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, he wrote that every effort must be made to achieve unity. The SSPX and the Vatican talking to each other brings the prospect of that unity closer than if there were no dialogue at all. Bishop Fellay himself says the talks were of “capital importance” – even if he is only interested in persuading Rome that he and his SSPX followers are right.

So, were the negotiations a waste of time? Or were they an important step on the long road towards unity?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear Warren,

    Let’s try to remain civilised and respectful of Bishop Williamson, shall we? I do not hear him badmouthing you or anyone else. Bishop Williamson is a Bishop of the Holy Roman catholic and Apostolic Church. A little respect and due decorum would not be unwelcome, don’t you agree?

    You wrote: ‘The Holy Father cannot make errors in faith and morals by virtue of the charism of infallibility’. False. The dogma on Papal Infallibility requires him to speak ex cathedra. Every word that proceedeth from the mouth of pope whoever is NOT inspired by the Holy Ghost and is thus not graced with inerrancy.

    You wrote: ‘the SSPX clings to older expressions of orthodox doctrine’. True. Please ask yourself why.

    If ‘more modern expressions’, let us say, do not signify the same content as the ‘older expressions’ then those ‘more modern expressions’ do not mean the same, do they? If they mean the same thing then where is the problem? If they mean the same then let them say the same. Is it all about appearances and not about substance, then? Is it not a question of ‘Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’ ? The Church says what it means and means what it says. Agreed?

    God bless

    Russell Berry

    Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be no’

  • Centristian

    The Holy See ought not to have opened talks with this conspiracy-oriented, anti-Semitic cult to begin with. In doing so, Rome has only given the Lefebvrists a prestige that they have not merited and do not deserve and would not otherwise have.

    We speak of this “schism”, this “rift”, between the Roman Catholic Church and the SSPX in the same way we speak of the schism between the East and the West. This situation is not nearly so august, and the SSPX are not a lung of the Body of Christ. They are an ultra right-wing political and social cult, plainly and simply, and to treat them as a separated branch of Christianity is a complete nonsense.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Sic loquitur insipiens qui nullum scit sed nos omnes docet……..

  • Auricularis

    Excersining his authority to do what exactly: to tell the members of the other faiths that they are belong to a false religion and the need to accept Jesus Christ as the true God


    Pious platitudes about how we all work together for some nebulous form of “peace”, shaking hands and patting each other on the back that its all going to be okay, while Christians are being murdered daily by terrorists for simply believing in their faith?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Assisi III will be just another syncretistic worship service. Not Catholic. Not Christian. Nobody who supports this can say he or she is a Christian. Renounce your Baptism if you really believe all that BS.

  • Anonymous

    You create a false paradigm:

    He IS Peter – He has the tenure of being head of the largest Religion in the world – as supreme Pontiff – a position no other holds in their religion… He has not merely spiritual precedence but temporal AND moral primacy. Even amongst those who hold him and his religion in contempt he still affords the respect and dignity of being who he is…

    He will not shirk, compromise, relinquish or abrogate the apostolic duty and responsibility of his office in some syncretist, relativist, pragmatist, collaborationist homogenous denial of reality – rather he will seize upon the opportunity to teach and evangelise and bring his fold closer to their eternal destiny.

    You forget – His Holiness is one of the few conciliar periti to never shirk from teaching the dogma of the Church triumphant – where all in Heaven WILL BE Catholic – You also seem remiss in forgetting that His Holiness is one of the prime theologians in defending the principle of the diachronicity of grace where the future sanctity of all involved will echo and ripple throughout them when drawn forth from them by a call from the temporal leader of the Mystical Body of Christ here on earth.

    Our Lord and Saviour prayed that we would all be one in John 17 – His Earthly Servant of Servants will continue that prayer…

    He is NOT his predecessor – you forget how he alone among his contemporaries was both wary and antagonistic to the compromises and abrogation of duty by John Paul II of blessed memory at previous events at Assisi.

    Pope Benedict has spent his entire priestly and scholarly life as servant and witness to Truth – whom he recognises as the Person of Christ.

    He will not abandon it now. In the same way he will use ARCIC III to guarantee that previous ‘accommodating’ suppressed and obfuscated truths are brought to light and to the fore – however confrontational, awkward, challenging and divisive – He will utilise Assisi to call his neighbours – his children – his flock whom he serves – to draw nearer and he will assist them on their journey which has as its ultimate end their coming home.

    I do not ask you to trust Joseph Ratzinger
    I rather expect you to trust in the Holy Spirit who has led this Pope to us.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    wouldn’t it be nice?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Assisi III, like Assisi I and Assisi II are syncretistic gatherings where Christ is reduced to one deity among others, to being merely one so-called prohet among many others, where Christianity is debased to parity with Mohammedanism and where – wittingly or not – Christ in the tabernacle (assuming they still have such an old fashioned item) is on a par to Bhudda, Jack-in-the Box (as previous but honest protestants reffered to the Sanctissimum) or any idol you care to name. Such is the reality. Does not sound much like Peter to me.

  • Anonymous

    diplomacy – e-mail me sometime.

  • Anonymous

    You’re wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Your presumption and gift for prophecy might seem astounding – were you not wrong in every detail.
    In a world where most western Bishops are lost to us and we get a Pope like Benedict?
    Sir: You’re an ingrate.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    If I were to tell you that you are a pompous old fart with about as much real undersanding of Theology as my Jack Russell Terrier you would, I imagine, be rightly offended. So am I, dear fellow, when you say I am an ingrate but your pomposity blinds you both to the facts and to the need for charity in your dealings.

  • Anonymous

    You have the audacity to come on here with utterly unjustifiable conjectures regarding what a Pope will do [in your estimation] at Assisi.

    We’ve had enough problems over the past year with unfounded anti-papal witch-hunts without your contributions to it thankyou.

    …and yes I do call you an ingrate if you can sanctimoniously pharisaically appear on here to denounce a Pope regarding a forthcoming event without having a bloody clue what will happen or what he will say or do..

    …and you have the audacity to say I am the ignorant one lacking in Charity?

    Look in the mirror sir!

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Then, dear fellow, you are a pompous old fart and although you probably have more understanding than my Jack Russell Terrier you are entirely devoid of his niceness and humility. You can kiss the Pope’s rear for his bounty of a few crumbs from his mensa but don’t expect the rest of us to follow you.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Be precise! Explain yourself…

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    I do dare. why should I not dare? It was the Priests and the rest of them, Paulpriest, who got us where we are today, thank you very much!

    ‘We’ve’? and who would ‘We’, be, paulpriest?

    You and the Blessed Trinity, perhaps? You and the Pope (even more important to you, possibly)?

    Get real, owl feller…..I will contribute to whatever I like and scripture prating dingbats can choose either to like it or lump it.

    Now, dear brother, if you want to know what ‘sanctimonious’ really means then read your own scribblings.

    Kissing the rear end of anything in a dog collar in these days generates more heat than light, you know?

    As for you, paulpriest, I don’t give a twopenny damn for the opinion of one who would stifle opinions he does not like or welcome.

    Your problem, you dear old thing, is that you cannot stand being contradicted, which shows a radical need for self-review. Your ecclesial head is so far up your bottom that the idea of being challenged is anathema to you, poor little scrap that you are.

    See? I am not afraid of you and your half-baked strictures mean little to me… and I will continue to love you, however much you may hate it. Cummon now, old fellow, remember you’re a Christian and they’ll know you’re a Christian by your love…. and only that, nothing else.

    Gob bless you, paulpriest, and pray for me as I will for you…can you manage that?

  • Daniel Hunter

    Why don’t we wait and pray and see before we say Assisi III will be syncretistic or a chance for the Holy Father to tell non-Catholics that they must convert to be saved, a la “Mortalium Animos”.
    Let us wait and pray.

  • Anonymous

    Do people often get imprisoned for being tedious?

  • Daniel Hunter

    “The Council documents can be re-interpreted, that is, in the light of Tradition,”

    And that is all that Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop Fellay and the rest of us are asking for, of the Council.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear Daniel Hunter

    Don’t worry yourself too much. Poor old paulpriest has a bark that is worse than his bite – moreover, he knows he will be bitten in return so he means no harm.

    I agree – watch and pray. Watch and pray, watch and pray – fifteen decades every day, as good Bp Williamson prescribes as our daily vitamins for the soul, taken together with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when we can get it….

    Pax et Bonum

    Russell Berry

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    No…YOU”RE wrong!

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    That is not really helpful because (I suspect) it is not what she wants to hear……now she’ll have to go off at some 45 degree tangent again and we shall have more confusion

  • The Raven

    Not in the UK, although it’s probably a capital offence in some states in the


  • Anonymous

    Obviously you’ve not read me before otherwise you’d be reassured that you’d be preaching to the converted – I fully realise the mess we’re in but you’re deeply mistaken in attempting to make uncle Joe part of the problem…He isn’t – he’s one of our last best hopes.
    You’ve never met my other half – I spend my life being contradicted – and when it comes to opinions I have a million so it invokes all manner of disagreements everywhere ; but Assisi three hasn’t happened yet and you have no right to denounce it.
    You can speculate – we can disagree over that – and when it’s over one of us can do a little ‘told you so’ dance in the other’s face…BUT – presuming it’s all for the worst intentions and is going to be an unmitigated disaster before the event ; presuming the worst of His Holiness? IS NOT ON!!! Being challenged is never anathema – arguing over that which is yet to come is ridiculous!

    I love virtually everyone – have problems with the Evan Harris/Dawkins types and the Ivereigh/Chittister types and the wimpy accommodating fence-sitters – but I’m getting there.

    Prayed already – admittedly the first prayer was that I never get the chance to knock your lights out like I wanted to….but it’s a start eh?..

  • Anonymous

    No: You’re wrong! Even if you were right [which you're not, incidentally] you’d still be wrong! Because you’ve either calumnised or detracted and acted like a woefully indecorous donatist.

  • ptbCatholic

    I am sure the banner to “lead souls to safety” could have just as easily been used by Martin Luther. The argument that the Church has turned from Tradition comes from those looking in from the outside as through stained glass. Is the Catholic Church perfect? No, but it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic until Christ returns. Stop misleading others into believing SSPX is Roman Catholic. Protestant is protestant.

  • ptbCatholic

    I am sure the banner to “lead souls to safety” could have just as easily been used by Martin Luther. The argument that the Church has turned from Tradition comes from those looking in from the outside as through stained glass. Is the Catholic Church perfect? No, but it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic until Christ returns. Stop misleading others into believing SSPX is Roman Catholic. Protestant is protestant.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Protestant is most new church Bishops, who do not teach catholicism… far, the SSPX is orthodox – your lot are neo-prots

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    As I said, you dear old sweetheart, YOU are wrong. You have become a papolator, unquestioningly kissing the errant ring of whatever neo-bishop you meet… including Ratzinger’s. Have you met him, by the way?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    In terms of CATHOLIC as opposed to newchurch Theology the Church is ‘Societas Perfecta’……

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear brother in Christ,

    I must confess to not being entirely sure of ‘preaching to the converted’ but if you say that I am then I will believe you.

    I am heartened that you fully realise the mess Rome is in but I am not sure that ‘Uncle Joe’ was not one of the people who caused (some of) the problem even though he may have seen the light since Vatican II and his academic teaching days. I met Fr Ratzinger when he was Fr Ratzinger and my belief is that he caught fright when he saw what he and many other so-called periti had unleashed. Now, I do not say he is a formal ‘Modernist’ but he tends in that direction. I do not say he is a ‘bad’ man – God forbid – but ‘feeling’ too much is as bad a ‘feeling’ too little and the faith is not a matter of ‘feeling’, is it?

    I do not know your other half, as you write. That is quite possibly a loss to me and it is naughty of you to hide that particular half under a bushel. Both of us should take to heart that ‘hearts AND minds’ are perhaps more attracted than repelled by ‘honeyed truth’ than by ‘acid truth’. I believe in ‘tough love’ and I also believe in gentlesness, as I am sure do you. You and I know that ‘true’ is – independently of our feelings – true and that ‘false’ is often the direct product of desperately wanting to make ‘true’ what we desire to be true. It is not an ‘evil’ false, at least there is no evil intent but is nonetheless false and will not become true however much we want it to be so.

    You, dear fellow, have no idea how much I want what you say to be true. I want to be wrong. Do you grasp that?

    I will suspend all immature judgment of ‘Assisi III’ until it has happened. In that it is right – and you are right – that I should only be fair.

    I must confess that I do not love practically everyone – you could, by prayers – help me with that one. God listens best when we ask for the best for others, doesn’t He?

    In Christo


  • Thomist student

    I don’t see how there can be a reconciling of two opposite views without one side giving in or the two sides compromising. It seems that the view upholding Vatican II is the opposite of the view upholding the consistent teaching of the Church before that. See, How can oil mix with water?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    You can create an emulsion – a sort of theological or doctrinal Caesar Salad dressing, if you wish. Apart from that, 2 + 2 will continue to produce 4. However much we may wish to be able to be nice and ecumenical, we will not in truth really ever be able to call it 5, or even 4.5, true?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear Gerard

    I knew Bishp Williamson before he was Bishop Williamson. Father Richard williamson was no ‘nutter’ and very far from stupid. Had I listened to him I would spared myself much discomfort and pain. He is a man of considerable intellect, erudition, compassion and evangelical love. I am sorry he is so consistently abused and misrepresented, too often by those who have an axe to grind. The ‘affaire holocaust’ or ‘affaire shoah’ was and remains much to be regretted but it is a matter of secular history, not Roman Catholic Doctrine. If I may say so in this politically correct world, however much anyone may feel that + Williamson is/was wrong it remains the case that (i) he, as a Bishop, has the right to be wrong on a matter of secular history and (ii) all true liberals should defend his right not only to be wrong but to speak his error out loud, if he wishes. I do not defend his ‘error’, if it be so and I do in fact believe it so, but it is not for these hypocritical pseudo-liberals to silence him. Dispute and correct, yes. Gag, no. Give me one Williamson and take away ten modernist Bishops. Richard Williamson would work himself to death in the service of the True Church of Christ – too many of those parading around in mitres are utterly unworth of the title of roman catholic, let alone bishop.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear Daniel

    They used to quip – in the old days when conversions from the CofE were in their thousands every year – that you could ‘take the Anglican out of the Anglican Church but can you take the Anglican Church out of the (ex) Anglican? vaguely amusing and very patronising, in its way.

    Now, the case is changed, isn’t it? Today’s ‘roman catholic church’ is so very much more ‘anglican’ than it has ever been that any change from CofE to new Rome is trivial. Most of those ‘coming over’ are more ‘catholic’ than the bishops whose subjects they are becoming. They are likely to believe in a more recognisably ‘catholic’ manner than all too many of ‘us’. That….well, that I find both very interesting and immeasurably sad.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Dear Teresa

    If this ‘gentleman’ you know had the ‘personally confidentially’ type chat you suggest then why did he tell you about it? Confidential means in confidence, Teresa. It is not for general knowledge or dissemination and a ‘gentleman’ would know that, would he not? If I were you I would guard against the ‘entre nous’ snippets of information from people who say they have had ‘confidential’ chats with the great and the good – usually they have never happened and the sort of people who reveal confidential conversations are really not the sort of chap one would welcome to dinner. How is it, Teresa, that you are so well informed as to what ‘they’ are ‘now ready to accept’? Have you a private mole in the SSPX or a whole line of gentlemen who inform you of developments? Do tell us and let us unmask the mole and get him to stand behind his revelations.


  • aha

    im silly

  • :P

    andrew smells

  • ptbCatholic

    Dr. Russell,
    Yes, I am faithful to my Bishop, as a successor to the Apostles. I am a cradle Catholic – pre and post Vatican II. I admit that some things happened that needed to be corrected, not because of the wrong direction of the Council, but because of human error in carrying out its vision. Once again I offer that yours is a criticism coming from outside the Church, and full of venom. It is so much the same as that of the many splintered denominations that perpetuate divisions based on heresay, and partial truths of what the Church actually teaches. It keeps the Body of Christ divided and distracted. I can only imaging how Satan delights when we continue to allow ourselves to be divided by pride and hostility.
    I was speaking to an acquaintance, a former Catholic and member of Pius X. I was amazed by her question to me one day about Pope John Paul II, “Why has this pope been so silent?” I was surprised to learn that SSPX accepts only Church writings from before Vatican II, and that she did not know that JPII’s writings were extensive, and I might add very apostolic.
    Remember what St. Ignatius said, that every sin is a participation in the rebellion of Satan who said, “I will not serve.” Let us serve the Body of Christ, and work for unity.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    Amen, to all that!

  • DBMcGinnity

    The best way to solve this conundrum is call a truce. Firstly acknowledge that God is more likely to be found in the hearts and souls on the poor and sick of the world. Then, let everyone acknowledge that all this ideological supposition is superfluous flummery and meaningless nonsense. Then find God and the pristine teachings of Jesus Christ among the poor and starving, in Rome, London Paris, New York, Barcelona etc., There are millions of people in states of wretchedness all over the world. Five eights of the world are starving and diseased, and you are talking piffle about archaic rituals and practices. It is time to ditch all the Mitres, superstitious apparel, fancy vestments and all other ecclesiastical accoutrements and throw them in The Tiber, The Thames, The Seine etc., Jesus never wore a mitre in his life and would probably have thought the vestments looked ridiculous and hideous, and he would have burst out laughing. Just go out into the cities and find GOD. That is what Jesus Christ preached. Is it not?

  • DBMcGinnity

    Don’t be modest! You have the power and gift of prophesy, and clearly you know things that other people do not. This is a great gift and it probably comes directly from the Holy Ghost, who is God. To be so sure and to be so confident to categorically pronounce that another human being is wrong about something inconsequential and insignificant is fantastic with emphasis on “fantasy”. God must be dancing with amusement in heaven.

  • Anonymous

    See below – it’s a double-fault paradigm – either way he’s wrong.

  • Anonymous

    My bite’s exceedingly worse sir – which is why I don’t bite.

  • DBMcGinnity

    Forgive my ignorance, but who is Editor CT? Is this some sort of joke?

  • DBMcGinnity

    God did not send Down Fire and Brimstone

    I love the SSPX Traditional Latin Mass because I was brought up with it from an early age. I was an altar boy at Low Mass, Misa Cantata, and at Solemn High mass so I feel that I understand the concepts. It was good enough from my parents and for millions of people before me. The Traditional Latin Mass enables me to reflect and meditate in solemnity and peacefulness. It is my way of feeling close to God, which I think is the whole point of going to Mass Are all the people who have attended the Traditional Latin Mass for many hundreds of years in Hell, because it was the wrong mass? The God I think about would never send anyone to Hell.

    I also love Novus Ordo Mass because it is jovial and happy and informal. The people all gathered and chattered ‘happy talk’. They exchanged family photographs and waved greetings at each other. The priest is called Jack, and before mass he came in a exchanged pleasantries and witty repartee with the congregation. It is like a jamboree with lots of noisy anticipation and sounds of appreciation. I think God would have loved this

    The Mass was, as always very pleasant and informal but with variety. Sometimes the choir are school children, and sometimes it is a visiting band. A few weeks ago there were a group of Irish Fiddlers playing: “Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies:. It was wonderful. One week we had a Traditional Jazz Group playing ‘Faith of our Fathers’ in 4/4 time. I did not try to reflect of meditate, I just tapped my feet to the beat. I liked it and so would Jesus, I think. God did not send down fire and brimstone to punish anyone. He was probably tapping His feet as well. When I got home I played ‘Sweet Sacrament Divine’ in 4/4 time, it sounded just great.

    So I will choose where and how I relate with God without any absurd, anachronistic, incredulous dogma.

  • DBMcGinnity

    “Sometimes People need a Good Slap Across the Head to Wake them out of their Stupor”

    Hey everyone, this guy (The Truth) has got the answer. I have been hammered around the head many times, in the name of God to make a man of me. Imagine, a Catholic teacher, teaching “Gentle Jesus meek and Mild” as he hammers the children senseless with a stick around the legs. Dave Allen did a wonderful take on this, and what made it so good, was it was the truth. That did happen.

    You (Mr Truth) are inspiring me to sing; “Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord”. but, with “your truth” marching on! and on! and on! to nowhere. Why do you not have people flogged and crucified like Jesus for being disobedient to “your truth”? How can you advocate causing pain and suffering whilst in search of God”. It would be wrong and uncharitable of me to express my true feelings about what you propose.

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    So will you be saying the Holy Rosary, daily, and attending Mass, when you can? That’s the best thing we can do, would you as a Catholic not agree?

  • Dr Russell J Berry

    No, it was not. Christ did not preach as you have written, however much you would like to believe so. I know it appears somewhat churlish to dispute the content of your mini-sermon but Christ did not preach that, at all. Find it and show it to us, if you can, but you cannot. Yours is wonderful liberation theology but not Christ’s teaching, not by a long mile. The liberation theology that your have preached so passionately is now about 40 years out of date. It was fashionable but nonetheless wrong when it first emerged. It is no more right, now, and has the added disadvantage to the new church of no longer being a ls mode. Sorry, it just doesn’t wash any more. All the liberals who espoused it are dead or dying so you really are vox clamantis in deserto.

  • Anonymous

    I will do what I can do,