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Superior general says the SSPX may split over reconciliation with Rome

By on Friday, 11 May 2012

Bishop Bernard Fellay at the SSPX headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland (CNS)

Bishop Bernard Fellay at the SSPX headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland (CNS)

The leader of a breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics has spoken in unusually hopeful terms about a possible reconciliation with Rome, but acknowledged significant internal resistance to such a move, which he said might lead to the group splitting apart.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), spoke to the Catholic News Service today at the Society’s headquarters in Switzerland about the latest events in more than two years of efforts at reconciliation with the Vatican.

The Society effectively broke with Rome in 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops without the permission of Blessed John Paul II in a protest against modernising changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

In April the Society responded to a “doctrinal preamble” stipulating the group’s assent to certain Church teachings, presumably including elements of the teaching of Vatican II, as a prerequisite for reconciliation. The Vatican has yet to respond, but the director of the Vatican press office initially described the latest position as a “step forward”.

The Society is hardly united behind its leader’s position, however. In April, according to a letter which surfaced on the internet yesterday, the Society’s other three bishops warned Bishop Fellay that the Vatican’s apparent offer to establish the group as a personal prelature – a status currently held only by Opus Dei – constituted a “trap” and urged him to say no.

“There are some discrepancies in the Society,” Bishop Fellay told CNS. “I cannot exclude that there might be a split.”

But the bishop defended his generally favourable stance toward the Vatican’s offer against the objections of his peers.

“I think that the move of the Holy Father – because it really comes from him – is genuine. There doesn’t seem to be any trap,” he said. “So we have to look into it very closely and if possible move ahead.”

He cautioned, however, that the two sides still have not arrived at an agreement, and that unspecified guarantees from the Vatican are still pending. He said the guarantees are related to the Society’s traditional liturgical practices and teachings, among other areas.

“The thing is not yet done,” the bishop said. “We need some reasonable understanding that the proposed structure and conditions are workable. We are not going to do suicide there, that’s very clear.”

Bishop Fellay insisted that the impetus for a resolution came from Pope Benedict XVI.

“Personally, I would have wished to wait for some more time to see things clearer,” he said, “but once again it really appears that the Holy Father wants it to happen now.”

Bishop Fellay spoke appreciatively of what he characterised as the Pope’s efforts to correct “progressive” deviations from Catholic teaching and tradition since Vatican II. “Very, very delicately – he tries not to break things – but tries also to put in some important corrections,” the bishop said.

Although he stopped short of endorsing Pope Benedict’s interpretation of Vatican II as essentially in continuity with the Church’s tradition – a position which many in the SSPX have vocally disputed – Bishop Fellay spoke about the idea in strikingly sympathetic terms.

“I would hope so,” he said, when asked if Vatican II itself belongs to Catholic tradition.

“The Pope says that … the Council must be put within the great tradition of the Church, must be understood in accordance with it. These are statements we fully agree with, totally, absolutely,” the bishop said. “The problem might be in the application, that is: is what happens really in coherence or in harmony with tradition?”

Insisting that “we don’t want to be aggressive, we don’t want to be provocative”, Bishop Fellay said the SSPX has served as a “sign of contradiction” during a period of increasing progressive influence in the Church. He also allowed for the possibility that the group would continue to play such a role even after reconciliation with Rome.

“People welcome us now, people will, and others won’t,” he said. “If we see some discrepancies within the Society, definitely there are also [divisions] in the Catholic Church.”

“But we are not alone” in working to “defend the faith” the bishop said. “It’s the Pope himself who does it. That’s his job. And if we are called to help the Holy Father in that, so be it.”

  • Jorge

    I wouldn’t use the expression “sodomite marriage”. It defiles the word “marriage”.

    “sodomy contract” is a more honest expression for it.

  • JByrne24

    I don’t have or run ANY website.

  • Sweetjae

    Can you give a direct quotation then from B16 affirms there is a gigantic rupture of the new roman misssal? I can quote him saying otherwise, can you do the same mr. Carter?

  • JabbaPapa

    Revelation from the point of view of each of the Faithful always occurs in the here and now.

    This does not mean that the contents of Revelation are subjected to arbitrary change.

  • JabbaPapa

    Salvation is not prevented by excommunications.

  • In Christo

    “Just because a pope is liberal does not mean he is not the pope. (…) We have
    to stay the course and not go astray in the difficult times we are living. We
    might very well be tempted by extreme solutions and start saying: “No, no, the
    pope is not just a liberal – the pope is a heretic! Probably the pope is even
    more than a heretic, and therefore there is no more pope!” That is not correct.
    Just because someone is liberal does not necessarily make him a heretic, and
    therefore it does not necessarily mean he is outside the Church. We have to
    know how to make the necessary distinctions. That is very important if we are
    going to remain on the right track and remain truly in the Church. Otherwise,
    where are we going to end up? There is no more pope, there are no more
    cardinals because if the pope was not the pope when he named the cardinals,
    those cardinals can no longer elect a pope because they are not cardinals… And
    then what? An angel from heaven is going to bring us a new pope? It is absurd!
    Not only absurd, but dangerous! Because it might lead us toward solutions which
    really are schismatic.” (Conference at Angers, 1980.) See also Fideliter 57, p. 17, concerning the
    proper measure.

  • RandomCatholic


    With respect, I too am one of those who has not attended SSPX Masses. BUT, we can no longer pretend that the Novus Ordo Mass is anything but a disaster. The message of Fellay (and the loyal members of the SSPX) together with the ICK, and the FSSP, and traditionalist lay people, is that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (as they were implemented) were a terrible mistake. This extends beyond just the Mass by the way. The Church is arguably under vicious assault by the very forces Vatican II sought to make peace with.

    Perhaps the “Mass of Vatican II” (ad orientum, in Latin, with Chant etc. etc.) is not overly harmful. But the question “why?” must be asked. Why did we do this? Why the reforms?

    I stand with those who are loyal to the Holy Father. I am not a schismatic (as I fear Williamson and others are), but it is clear that Vatican II was at best an ill considered failure. We need to examine what happened, and why, and rediscover our Catholic faith, and quickly.

  • Arthur Scroggins

    If a practical move is acceptable then why did Our Lord not do such a thing – think of the peace the early Church could have enjoyed rather than the martyrdom it endured.
    Ecumenical meetings with the pagans, moloch worshippers, jews and others with whom we could have worked would have prevented a lot of problems.
    Imagine if the early popes allowed gladiator masses or had a statue of Venus placed on the altar, we would have had peace.
    Even if anyone is schismatic, it seems the worse you are the better for you in the long run like the Lutherans. I now laugh at the English martyrs – they should have gone to the CofE rituals and not got killed.
    How can the NO Mass destroy faith? The Pope likes it so it must be okay!

  • Jorge

    Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.
    And this is not merely a “practical move”. Where did you get this idea from?

  • jiejie

  • Arthur Scroggins

     … but the highest form of intelligence. That’s one extension of a quote sometimes attributed to that great moral icon Oscar Wilde. Deal with the content of the remark and not the form.
    Where did I say ‘merely’?B16 approves of the NO Mass and he tolerates all sorts of rubbish like Assisi, then what is the proposed agreement if not actually doctrinal?

  • pagnol

    I agree Benedict. Thank you. Almost all of these discussions recall the decades old neo-catholic commentary trying to approve the NO liturgy and community while disparaging so called traditionalists and the SSPX. That made the difference between The Remnant and The Wanderer publications. I cancelled the latter subscription many years ago, as well as The Latin Mass because of the sickening diatribe that disparaged the Traditional mass, SSPX, and Archbishop Lefebvre in particular. though I must say The Latin Mass was less abrasive in those respects since it was (is) dedicated to its namesake, but nevertheless permitting supposedly constructive  criticism. There is no doubt that this also makes a difference between SSPX positions and New Church (if I may). Michael Davies said it well many times and in many ways, not the least of which was here…. as you well know. God bless Michael and keep him. However I was obliged to disagree with Michael once when he regretted the four bishops…I believe Lefebvre was protecting and defending the faith (his Catholic duty as Defender of the Faith) by those consecrations, NOT an disobedience for which he deserved (and could not receive) excommunication. God bless him and keep him as well.

    So I see here that diatribe still flourishes. Why am I not surprised, though I would have hoped over many decades the “conversation(s)” would have become, shall we say…less neo catholic? If anyone or anything will merit historical recognition for resistance to apostasy and the “Smoke of Satan” it’s SSPX  and that includes Richard Williamson who has been misquoted, mistreated, and misunderstood. I have enjoyed several of his sermons in the US.


  • baoni779

  • Exgavilan

    I don’t quite understand the issues concerning the
    Holy See and the SSPX. However, as a member of the SSPX, I do understand that
    they are trying to fight for the traditional beliefs upheld since the founding
    of Christ. I too am concerned that SSPX is starting to lose its firm standing
    in face of the world. As we can see throughout history there have been
    exceptional individuals within the fath that have stood firmly against the
    world and against Rome when the issue was about doctrine/tradition. If you do
    not know this, search saints that were once excommunicated by Rome and later
    found to be correct in their standing. Rome later recognized its error and
    corrected, which is a true sign of humility. Yes, it is hard to see that one
    individual retains the truth, but the error of today is a lack of charity. It
    is charity that requires those who know better to correct error, whether it is
    a group or an individual. Take Vatican II documents, as I am sure you are all
    familiar with, and you can see the problem is that the Church wants to create a
    world where all religions are accepted and validated. This deprecates the true
    religion while at the same time, it fails to do charity in correcting false
    religions. If we look at church history, the saints would have never stood by
    idly as these errors spread. To death they would have fought regardless of
    popular opinion. Obedience does not require that we follow blindly. We must not
    be dumb sheep, we must read and that is what is also failing today. Consider
    that arguments against the SSPX, what true individual has truly read without
    bias their position? What individual has truly read the documents of Vatican
    II? Yes, we must listen to our leaders, but as history has shown us, leaders
    too sometimes go the wrong way. Thanks to God and to the faithful of the
    religion, they found their way back. We must remember, God does not change. His
    standing remains the same throughout eternity. If one is wrong, he is wrong. If
    one is correct then he is required to correct. There is no doubt that Vatican
    II changed what was and what always will be. They changed the Mass, those of you
    reading who know Latin can see plainly the change in translation, especially at
    the Consecration. Moreover, although these changes to some may be minute,
    remember the old saying, “the devil is in the details.” The minute
    details is what people are ignoring. One word can change an entire meaning. In
    any case, if you are reading this and feel that I am being closed minded, I
    would like you to read. In specific read the following “Warnings from
    Beyond.” You can find this online for free and it is a good read. It is an
    actual exorcism in which the priests are allowed to interview the devil. Read
    just book I. If you don’t believe this, research it. Look up the credibility of
    the author, the priests and so. You find that it is extremely real. Failure to
    recognize that the devil truly is giving the answers, understand that any
    person related to SSPX or the HOLY SEE recognizes the devil and understands
    that he can and will do or answer when commanded by the holy priests. God Bless all who read this and take it seriously…it is a matter of Life and/or Death eternally.

  • Exgavilan

    I disagree with your idea about SSPX coming in will apparently bring back the truth. If you understand the lengths at which Vatican II was done and manipulated then you would understand that one must keep away, at least for the time being. How do you know that once SSPX signs with the Holy See, Rome will not begin to manipulate the society. They could easy say, you signed this, you therefore could sign this and so on. If Rome will not recognize the errors of its way, should one not protect the truth that remains? We do not assume to say that the Pope is not the head of the Church, but again blind obedience will be punished. One should not under any circumstance give way to falsehood and be obedient. My suggestion is read. Do listen, but  read. Chirst said, “If you knock, it will be open to you.” Waiting by the door of truth, is not the same as knockingthrough reading and researching. 

  • Egavilan


    If you say that the TLM is just as good as the N.O
    mass, then you have no background knowledge of the mass itself. There were
    changes made that should not have been accepted. Anyone who seems to rock the
    boat by correcting wrong is always considered prideful and the like. However,
    who can correct in that case? Christ himself corrected errors and people did
    not call him presumptuous, except the Jews/ Pharisees and the like. Otherwise,
    those that were corrected humbled themselves and admitted their error. Which
    are you? Moreover, you are right about the idea of superiority. We should not
    for one instance say that N.O mass is in any one way correct in the first
    place. The TLM is the only correct mass. To say superiority would mean that one
    is in one small way okay, but this is not true. The N.O should be done away
    with. Yes, the Holy See takes care of tradition/ doctrine, but there have been
    instances where the Pope did go the wrong way. You can see examples of this
    with St. Athanasius as he was at one time excommunicated, which I found very
    interesting (especially considering that he is known as the Father of
    Orthodoxy). He was excommunicated because Rome went into error and he refused
    to follow along. There are many saints that are listed in this area and
    therefore illustrates that the Holy See does error and it only takes one
    individual to lead it, Rome, back. Otherwise, read up on your church history and research what changes were made and why. Lack of searching is laziness and God will not approve of it.

  • Dolorosa

    The Pope just had another Assisi 3 and “Assisi” was the reason that the late Archbishop Lefebvre (who founded the SSPX) consecrated the 4 bishops in the first place.  Bishop Fellay should take this as a bad sign and not make any agreement yet and listen to the other 3 bishops.  Our Lady of La Salette warned Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the antichrist.   Watch Faith above Obedience at

  • joan JMJ

    Bishop Fellay needs to have a blood test to see if he had been subjected to any mind controlling conditioning.

  • joan JMJ

    I believe that Bishop Fellay when on one of his frequent trips to Rome has been given a mind altering drug and is not in his right state of mind now.  I have met Bishop Fellay at the ordinations in Wlinona.  He is not the same person now that I met at the ordinations.

  • Joan JMJ

    We stand Firm with the three other bishops, clergy, and the members of the SSPX.   Father Joseph Fiffer gave a sermon and he is telling it like it really is.

  • Joan JMJ

    Did you ever hear of Diabolical Disorienation?  That is what we are dealing with here.  The smoke of satan has entered the Vatican.  Faith over Obedience.  It has been foretold, even the elect will be deceived.

  • Joan JMJ

    What is Right is now wrong  and what is Wrong is now Right the world would now have us to believe.

  • Carol

    I was very impressed by your assessment of the situation in the Church since the introduction of the NOM. May I use your comments on my website at They would be a valuable contribution.

  • Jon Brownridge

     Benedict, I admire your “crie de coeur” on the one hand, but when you talk about rising above the “dialectic of criticism” I imagine you standing there with a blindfold on your eyes and a finger stuck in each ear. Surely it is dialectic argument that will take us forward. I read this morning of a world-renowned ophthalmologist who was asked about his amazing success in curing chronic eye ailments. His answer: “I challenged all the established ideas and assumptions”. That’s brilliant, I thought. If only “immovable” Catholics like yourself could do the same.