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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.”

  • Whitedonkey76

    Can God use his salvific graces found in 7 sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox Church outside the confines of the Catholic Church? 

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, the Catholic Church views those sacraments as valid, so I’d have to assume that they result in salvific grace.

    Again as mentioned above, yes, there is SOME truth found in Protestant teachings.  There is also untruth and heresy.  Does sufficient truth exist that God may use to make himself known to them?  Of course.

    You say that the false doctrines of Luther and Calvin were not the point of VII but actually, they were just one of many points.  Protestant theologians were present to act as advisors and guides to the Council groups and were involved in developing the changes to the Mass of All Time.

    The same theologians were instrumental in forming agreements which led to the re-orientation of the priest, removal of altars and replacement with altar tables, orientated towards the congregation, rather than towards God…removal or diminution of the Tabernacle….the substitution of the Sacrifice of the Mass for communal suppers….and so on and on.  

    It took a few hundred years of trying, to come so close to achieving Luther’s goals for the Mass. 

  • Sweetjae

    Why don’t you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and VII documents regarding the “contradiction” you are protesting?

    Example read this “Error has no rights” between  Dr. Sungenis (SSPX) and  Pacheco on why the contradiction was just due to the flawed interpretation of some ‘traditionalists’ of the earlier Magisterium: 

  • Whitedonkey76

    That’s a whole new discussion and it’s getting late, so I’ll make it short.

    This from the Angelus (SSPX website):-

    Actually Pope John Paul II, after the attempt on his life (May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima), did try twice to initiate this consecration. He did this on May 13, 1982 and March 25, 1984. From this it is clear that he did take the message from Fatima in earnest. Unfortunately, he called for the consecration of the entire world without naming Russia specifically. The pope himself knew that this was not sufficient because during the consecration ceremony (March 25, 1984) he admitted, regarding the Russian people, that “Our consecration is still to be expected and hoped for” [see L’Ossevatore Romano, May 14, 1984]. He also knew that his handling of the procedures was not what the Mother of God expected. Moreover, Sister Lucy stated in an interview in September 1985: “The bishops did not take part nor was Russia mentioned.” Thus things stand till the present moment.

    As for Russia and the former Soviet Union, regimes certainly crumbled but here are a couple of quotes from Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, last president of the USSR:

    “In October 1917 we departed the old world and irreversibly rejected it. We are traveling to a new world, the world of communism. We shall never deviate from this path.” 

    “Gentlemen, comrades, do not be concerned about all you hear about glasnost and perestroika and democracy in the coming years. These are primarily for outward consumption. There will be no significant change within the Soviet Union, other than for cosmetic purposes. Our aim is to disarm the Americans and let them fall asleep.”
    – Mikhail Gorbachev, Nov. 2, 1987

    ” I am a convinced Communist. For some this may be a fantasy but for me it is my main goal”

    “The time has come to develop integrated global politics.”
     – Mikhail Gorbachev, In Search for a New Beginning” (1995),

    ” The environmental crisis is the cornerstone for the New World Order” Maurice strong ( U.N. environmental leader ) was quoted as saying, ”   “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse?”
    ” Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” 
    - Mikhail Gorbachev, 2010

  • Jae

    There is no problem for starters that arose with VII and there is rupture with Tradition. Again, not possible as long God is God. I have already enumerated about some misguided interpretation of ‘traditionalists’ on some documents of VII in this box.

  • Whitedonkey76

    Definitely my last post on the subject :-)

    The Testimony of John XXIII Pope John XXIII himself stated in his Opening Address at the beginning of Vatican II that the Council was not intended to be a doctrinal council concerned with defining any articles of Faith; rather it was to be a “pastoral” council that was concerned with representing the Catholic Faith in a manner acceptable to the modern world. “The salient point of this council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a council was not necessary. [...] The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.” (Opening Address, October 11, 1962; Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, p. 715) 

  • Jae

    Brother, the presence of people of other religious affiliation at the Council does not necessarily mean they had influenced the Catholicity of the Council of the VII, they were there as observers only. In fact, at the Council of Trent a lot of eastern patriarchs, churches and Protestant ministers were also present.

    So you agree that the sacraments of Eastern churches are valid and thus therefore can transmit salvific graces outside of the boundaries of the Catholic Church? Then there is no problem with the past and present Magisterium.

    The point of false doctrines of Protestantism were not the point of VII, nowhere can you find any of their false doctrines like Faith alone, double predestination, no sacramental grace, no saints etc etc.
    Now for the Mass of the Ages, it still is, was and will be until the end of time. The Council didnt abrogate it, in fact the opposite. Now for what you think the “changes” are just fall under the Practices and Discipline of the Church which she has the Authority to change from time to time but Dogmas she can’t.

    Just try to imagine this, the 3rd Commandment of the Decalogue written by the fingers of God himself given to Moses to honor Saturday as the Lord’s Day that has been changed to Sunday by the Authority of the Church which God gladdly “obliged”, what more for these practices?

  • Jae

    Erratum, it should read as, NO rupture from Tradition.

  • Jae

    I totally agree with your citations, no problem however, can you find the assertion you just made beforehand that General Councils or any teachings that are pastoral in nature are not binding and can refuse obedience to? Peace.

  • Charles Windsor

    If Pope Paul VI banned the traditional mass, which was the format used since the 4th century, only to have Pope Benedict XVI unban it 37 years later, then what are we to conclude about Paul VI? Did he make a mistake? (As a gen Y’er I’m confused about this situation).

  • JabbaPapa

    So, you want them in the Church but held at arm’s length ?

    This is completely uncatholic just FYI

    I very much look forward to SSPX being back in full communion, including SSPX clergy being available for ordinary participation in ordinary diocesan life everywhere.

  • JabbaPapa

    Return to full communion will naturally require that SSPX priests will belong to the structures of their diocesan clergy.

    Anything other than that would not consitute full communion.

    You’re not thinking it through to the end.

  • JabbaPapa

    The only doctrinal teaching of Vatican II which is in a state of at least partial contradiction of infallible doctrine is the teaching on religious freedom.

    Ecumenism does not in itself contradict infallible doctrine (though some understandings and implementations of it might very well constitute abuses).

  • JabbaPapa

    Jesus Himself teaches that properly understood Judaism is close to the Kingdom of God.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’m just saying that the doctrine of religious freedom is in need of further doctrinal clarification from the Magisterium, because of the existence of a superficial contradiction with infallible doctrine.

    I agree with your analysis — but it’s a very non-obvious one to the typical Catholic.

  • JabbaPapa

    Clarifications and new revelation concerning doctrinal questions do not justify rebellion against the Magisterium on the simple basis of their novelty.

    Just for comparison’ sake — the Council of Trent was just as hard to accept in its time as Vatican II has been in ours.

  • JabbaPapa

    Vatican II does not contradict the Magisterium, except for one instance of a rather abstract and dry technical nature — that I’ve no doubt will be clarified in due time.

  • JabbaPapa

    Williamson and cohorts are of very dubious catholicity.

    If they refuse to sign the confessio fidei they will instantly and of their own volition confirm the excommunications they are still subjected to (making such a confessio fidei is an absolute requirement for the excommunications to be lifted, for the time being they have merely been suspended) — but worse, they will lead thousands of our lay brothers and sisters in the Church into schism and heresy.

  • Henrymakowicz

    Lets hope the modernists dont harm the Holy Father ie Pope Benedict obviously wants them back! The environment from the modernists would be extremely hostile if they are totally recognised. Everyone MUST pray for Our Holy Father, the extreme may go to any lengths as to being exposed and feeling threatened by the staunch SSPX. God bless all on Christs side.

  • Henrymakowitz

    Refer to this and decide for yourself my brothers, then spread it around!

  • Henrymakowitz


    read the latest message

  • Henrymakowitz

    Victor, please read the newest coment first on this site

    Then you will get your answer

  • Henrymakowitz

    Jorge, one and all must read the newest comment first on this site (yours is the oldest comment)

  • Jae

    Be very careful of the interpretation of Extra Nulla… Like the one condemned by the Church from Fr. Feeney. Google the name.

  • daclamat

    We must hold our breath.  SSPX may soon be reconciled with Rome. Little is known of its  historic resistance, for its heroic activities have been clandestine. Prominent members of the SSPX, including Lefebvre himself, expressed approval and support for the restoration of the French Monarchy, incorporating the values of the Vichy government (1940–1944), and the party of Marine  Le Pen. Bishop Richard Williamson will bring much needed correction to the Churches attitudes to the role of the Jews. despite the calumny of the Society of being “mired in anti-Semitism”. A personal Ordinariate will allow the society to live and breathe, and with time allow its values to permeate the Church and provide access to traditional liturgixal practices. For decades it has demonstrated is attachment to tradition Catholic values. Few Englishmen know that an SSPX priory was exemplary in its display of charity to the homeless. A complex network provided the much maligned Paul Touvier with shelter for almost 50 years, as “an act of charity to a homeless man” pursued as a Nazi collaborator and war criminal. but never judged for the alleged persecution of French resistants.Thousands benefitted from this charity through a network encompassing the Vatican and Latin American countries.  Despite the best efforts of the Church Paul Touvier was arrested amd tried.  A priest of SSPX, his spiritual advisor, sat by him throughout his trial in 1995, and a priest of the Society publicly offered Requiem Mass Requiem for him on his death in 1996. This spirit still lives.  Whereas John Paul II encouraged persecution, to the extent of excommunicating Bishop Lefebvre and those he ordained, Benedict XVI reiterates the traditional openness of the Church while vigourously suppressing dissent. All is not lost!

  • daclamat

    Excuse me! I read “I cannot wait to see (the good parts of) SSPX unite with Rome!” as ROMEL, but it inspired me to write in praise.

  • daclamat

    Good onya!

  • daclamat

    Excellent idea! It’ll spread like HIV

  • daclamat

    Quick thinking!

  • daclamat

    I can’t believe my eyes, Jabbers! I thought you were one of the unspeakable’s
    best mates! Doctrinally I’m blowed if I can tell the difference.

  • Benedict Carter

    This was to be expected. 

    Bishop Fellay’s magnificent recently-leaked letter to the three other Bishops, written in the tone of one of the Fathers of the Church, shows him to be definite Pope material: he can rise above the dialectic of criticism and clearly sees that the Church, though dirtied by the neo-protestants, bedraggled by the neo-Modernists and pale from the loss of blood from the dissent of the neo-pagan “progressives”s who laughingly call themselves Catholics, is still alive; in fact cannot be killed, close to death in these terrible times as She has come. The position of some of the others in the SSPX (one hopes s mall minority) seems to be that they now are the true Church – classic schismatic stuff. 

    I attend an SSPX Chapel and try never, ever to go to the Novus Ordo (it destroys one’s Catholic faith). 

    Nonetheless, after a reconciliation – which is coming soon – if some in the SSPX refuse to come in and work to change the Church back to pure doctrine and therefore health in this world, then its ‘anathema sit’ as far as I am concerned. They will be schismatics for real then.

    No Catholic can have anything to do with heretics, schismatics or apostates (and the Lord knows that the visible Church is chock full of all three types at the moment). The SSPX needs to be inside in order to help this and subsequent Popes to re-float the ship, which is stuck on the shoals of an appalling post-Vatican II reef.  

  • Benedict Carter

    One wonders whether your post is an intended satire or not. But the effect is marred by the inaccuracies. John Paul II did not excommunicate Archbishop Lefebvre or the other four bishops: they excommunicated themselves. 

  • Benedict Carter

    The Old Mass was NEVER banned, as Benedict XVI explicitly stated in his motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”: So your question has no relevance. 

  • Benedict Carter

    The two are synonymous.

    Feed my sheep? The Keys to Heaven and hell? Confirm your brothers in the Faith?

  • Benedict Carter

    I reckon that’s what the agreement will provide for. The problem IS in the Curia, but + Fellay has said more than once that the Society has many supporters even there. 

    The real problem is the neo-Modernist, neo-Protestant Bishops. So many of them. The Society needs protecting from the for sure. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Won’t happen Jabba, totally unrealistic. The SSPX clergy will have nothing to do for years to come with the Nu-Church clergy and they will be right. That’s what a Personal Prelature provides for. 

  • Benedict Carter

    You’re plain wrong, Jabba. There will be communication, but the daily operations of a Personal Prelature are wholly separate from the ordinary diocesan structures, which in the West are rotten to the core.

  • Benedict Carter

    The excommunications WERE lifted three years ago!!!

  • Benedict Carter

    I lived in Russia for twelve years. Its current state is in many ways worse than that of late Communist times. Heaven isn’t interested in economics but in morality and holiness. On those counts, modern Russia is in the toilet.

  • Benedict Carter

    She wrote that under orders from Rome.

  • Benedict Carter

    Completely wrong, Jabba! Where do you get these ideas?

    Conciliarism is opposed to the infallibly-promulgated dogma of Vatican I; there are serious problems with Vatican II’s treatment of the divine constitution of the Church, and its ecumenism goes flat against what the Popes have always taught and Scripture to boot. 

  • Benedict Carter

    NOT SUPERFICIAL – it wholly contradicts what was taught until then. 

  • Benedict Carter

    New revelation????

    Tut, tut Jabba. Revelation was completed at the death of the last Apostle. 

  • Benedict Carter

    We already know that you are no Catholic, JByrne24. I’m told you have your own extreme “humanist” website. Unmasked!

  • Benedict Carter

    There are at least FOUR areas of obvious contradiction. You know this, Jabba.

    Religious Liberty
    Teaching on the Jews

  • Benedict Carter

    All Catholics have a duty to resist error.

    The SSPX has been flying the banner of authentic Catholicism for four decades. The Pope knows that to combat “the wolves”, as he himself has said he is surrounded by, he needs the SSPX with him. We should all be praying, for this reason, that the SSPX will soon be fully reconciled. 

    We owe unquestioning submission only to Jesus. We may legitimately resist
    prelates, even the Pope, if they lead us into sin or error. The infallibility
    of the Pope is very circumscribed. It is revealing
    that the change agents are uncomfortable when confronted by proof of
    those perennial teachings, quotes of Jesus, the Apostles, Doctors, Fathers,
    Saints, Popes, and Councils.

    St. Athanasius, 4th Century: “THUS, the more violently they try to occupy
    the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They
    claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are
    expelling themselves from it and going astray. Even if Catholics faithful to
    the Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true
    Church of Jesus Christ.” (St. Athanasius, 4th Century)

    St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chap. 29: “Just as it
    is licit to resist the Pontiff that aggresses the body, it is also licit to
    resist the one who aggresses souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all,
    who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not
    doing what he orders and to prevent his will form being executed; it is not
    licit however, to judge [canonically or temporal court], punish or depose him,
    since these are acts proper to a superior.”

    Francisco Suarez, 16th century theologian, never rebuked in times when rebuke
    was certain and swift, in De Fide, Disp. X, Sec. VI, N. 16: “And in
    this…way the Pope could be schismatic, if he were unwilling to be in normal
    union with the whole body of the Church, as would occur of he attempted to
    excommunicate the whole Church, or, as both Cajetan and Torquemada observe, if
    he wished to overturn the rites of the Church based on Apostolic Tradition… if
    [the Pope]… gives an order contrary to right customs, he should not be obeyed;
    if he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common
    good, it will be lawful to resist him; if he attacks by force, by force he can
    be repelled, with a moderation appropriate to a just defense.”

    Galatians 2:11 “But when Cephas [Peter] was come to Antioch, I withstood him to
    the face, because he was to be blamed.”

    St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 33, A. 4: “There being an
    imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by
    their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him
    publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And,
    as the Glossa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2.14), ‘St. Peter himself
    gave the example to those who govern so that if sometimes they stray from the
    right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from
    their subjects.”

    Acts 5:29 “But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God,
    rather than men.”

    St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 104, A. 5: “It is written:
    ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ Now sometimes the things commanded by a
    superior are against God. Therefore, superiors are not to be obeyed in all

    Blessed Pius XI, Letter to Bishop Brizen: “If a future pope teaches anything
    contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him.”

    St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, Chapter 3, Section 7:“What then should a
    Catholic do if some portion of the Church detaches itself from communion of the
    universal Faith? What choice can he make if some new contagion attempts to
    poison, no longer a small part of the Church, but the whole Church at once?
    Then his great concern will be to attach himself to antiquity which can no
    longer be led astray by any lying novelty.”

    St. Catherine of Siena, Letter to Pope Gregory XI: “Alas, Most Holy Father! At
    times, obedience to you leads to eternal damnation.”

    First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus §4: “For the Holy Ghost was promised to
    the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known
    some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard
    and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the

    “For the teaching authority of the Church, which in the
    divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might
    remain intact for ever, and that they might be brought with ease and security
    to the knowledge of men, and which is daily exercised through the Roman Pontiff
    and the Bishops who are in communion with him, has also the office of defining,
    when it sees fit, any truth with solemn rites and decrees, whenever this is
    necessary either to oppose the errors or the attacks of heretics, or more
    clearly and in greater detail to stamp the minds of the faithful with the
    articles of sacred doctrine which have been explained. But in the use of this
    extraordinary teaching authority no newly invented matter is brought in, nor is
    anything new added to the number of those truths which are at least implicitly
    contained in the deposit of Revelation, divinely handed down to the Church:
    only those which are made clear which perhaps may still seem obscure to some,
    or that which some have previously called into question is declared to be of

    Pope Pius, Mortalium Animos

  • teigitur

    Oh I hope not. Much prayer needed. We need the SSPX back,more than ever.

  • Tim

    The tridentine mass may not have been banned per se, but Pope Paul VI and those that followed up to Benedict XVI allowed Bishops to actively suppress it. For those of my age, who had the old mass ripped out of our lives, questioning whether or not the Mass was officially banned seems a rather futile exercise. Either way it was, in my view, a terrible and shameful error by Paul VI and others. 

    Whoever follows Benedict XVI could again suppress the 1962 Mass. I have little doubt that such possibilities concern the SSPX?

  • Tim

    I am only working from memory here, but I understood that Archbishop Lefebvre carried out the consecration of the three Bishops without authority to do so. Therefore, were they ever excommunicated or simply invalid as bishops as far as Rome is concerned. 

  • daclamat

    Poor JP II! His infallibility must have slipped.  He thought they were excommunicated latae sententiae, and then confirmed it.  Satire? I hardly dare. The truth is stranger than fiction.

  • JabbaPapa