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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.”

  • JabbaPapa

    No – you’re probably right as far as the English or American or Australian etc structures are concerned, but in desertified continental Europe, a fully reconciled SSPX will very likely be required to provide priests to be curates of parishes belonging to dioceses.

    Which is BTW something to be GLAD of !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    Sorry dear Benedict — you’re talking rubbish, quite uncharacteristically I hasten to add.

    Full communion means, precisely, full communion — our Church NEEDS this influx of fully trained priests.

    The desire for remaining somehow apart and “special” is not a Catholic desire.

    SSPX-trained parish priests — how can any truly orthodox Catholic be against the idea ???

  • JabbaPapa

    I rather like Gorbachev, notwithstanding his ideological delusions.

  • JabbaPapa

    Vatican II does not teach Conciliarism.

    That there are serious doctrinal questions concerning the constitution of the Church as defined in Vatican II texts is undeniable, but these teachings do not deny any infallible doctrines.

    Ecumenism as such does not deny any permanent Magisterial doctrine — although various abuses of it certainly do.

  • Benedict Carter

    Tim, I agree with every word of your first paragraph. I am exactly of the generation whose childhood saw the Revolution in full swing, and I resent what was done very, very, very bitterly.

    Whatever good this Pope has done, he will have to answer Our Lord who may well say to him, “And what of your adherence to the Revolution which destroyed what was left of Christian Civilisation?”

  • Benedict Carter


    “Pasmotrem”, as the Russians say. “We’ll see”!

  • JabbaPapa

    Sorry, you’re wrong — the Church has taught since Saint Augustine’s City of God at the earliest that salvation is possible outside the Earthly Church (but NOT outside the Celestial Church).

    Christ Himself taught that the Faithful among the Hebrews are close to the Kingdom of God.

    Salvation resides in the Catholic Church — and, imperfectly, outside the Catholic Church according to the Omnipotent Grace of God.

    Imperfections in the teaching of these transcendental cosmological facts are fairly inevitable — and therefore superficial by their very nature.

  • JabbaPapa

    That is completely false, dear Benedict — in fact, it’s contrary to the Credo.

    Je crois en l’Eglise, une, Sainte, Catholique, et Apostolique.

    Revelation is the central activity and purpose of the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church.

    Revelation is the work of the Saints, the living and the dead.

    Revelation is Catechism, just for starters…

  • JabbaPapa

    Yes — but the only area where infallible doctrine is possibly contradicted is the religious freedom one.

    The other areas concern questions that have not been infallibly defined.

  • JabbaPapa

    John Paul II did not excommunicate Archbishop Lefebvre or the other four bishops: they excommunicated themselves.

    This is not true — they were excommunicated ferendae sententiae which required a judicial decision by the Pope.

    The ordinations were unauthorised, but they were not mortal sins.

  • JabbaPapa

    A French Catholic canon lawyer explained in La Croix website that the lifting of a formal excommunication is permanently effective once a confessio fidei has been made — the “doctrinal preamble” in question IS the confessio fidei they need to agree with.

    Which means that failure to sign the document by any of the SSPX clergy in question will enforce the excommunications.

    I was myself quite surprised to see these canon law explanations — but they are quite sensible in hindsight.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’m actually “orthodox” rather than “traditionalist” Catholic, if labels are important.

    But I have chosen to stand alongside and fight in favour of our traditional brethren and sistren in the current religious warfare, because they are deserving of every prayer and material assistance that we can possibly provide.

  • Pro Photographer

    I have known the good Bishop for over a decade and the photo shown tells me the stress of this process has weighed heavily on him.  He is a man of strong intellect, principled Catholic faith and Tradition who will never betray the memory of Archbishop Lefebvre.  Please pray for the continued good health of both the Holy Father and the Bishop so that they may successfully conclude their negotiations before months end.

  • daclamat

    Have a look at the CH masthead, click it, read all about it, the personal ordinariate

  • daclamat

    Sorry to have to bore you with facts, Jabbers. On 30th June 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre  consecrated four SSPX priests as bishops. The next day, 1st July, the Congregation for Bishops, unusually quick on the draw, issued a decree stating that this was a schismatic  act and that all six people (the co-consecrators and the consecrated) directly involved had thereby incurred automatic excommunication – latae sententiae. On 2nd July,JP II condemned the consecration in his apostolic letter  Ecclesia Dei,  stating that the consecration constituted a schismatic act and that by virtue of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, the bishops and priests involved were automatically excommunicated. Not the slightest whiff of ferendae sententiae.

  • JabbaPapa

    The Pope’s direct, public condemnation of the illicit ordinations in reference to the canon quite obviously constitutes excommunicatio ferendae sententiae.

  • Benedict Carter

    CH’s confusion too.

  • Benedict Carter

    Didn’t happen like that Jabba.

  • Mikethelionheart

    Well said Benedict. I am glad you see the value of being inside the visible church where the SSPX can have influence instead of outside where they will, at the end of the day, be nothing but protestants, whether they like it or not.  

  • Sweetjae

    Woooohooo, dude that was a brilliant letter from the Superior General Fellay, indeed God answers humble prayers!!! Welcome home to humble and obedient ones and start rebuilding the Most Holy body of Christ disfigured mostly by the sins of ultra-liberal elements within.

    I’m a N.O. parishioner  and fortunate to have an orthodox one, faithful to the Pope and Magisterium however,  I’m saddened by the wholesale charge of some ‘traditionalists’ that TLM is “superior” than N.O. mass, this novel idea of “superiority” is foreign in the Mind of the Church which I also simply do not believe the Church can promulgate an inferior or defective
    liturgy – it is never happened in history before, and didn’t happen in 1970. The
    Holy Father himself says there is NO contradiction at any point between the two
    Missals, so any concept of superiority can only be an opinion and debatable at
    that – not something anyone can say with 100% conviction because they would then
    be inferring something which the Church is silent on.
    The Church treads very
    carefully with doctrine and Her teachings – so I find some SSPX’s responses in trying to
    draw definitive conclusions as cavalier and imprudent. With that said I’m also disgusted by the frequent abuse of the Novus Ordo and
    am saddened by those priests who make it their own pet project of

  • buckle

    Thanks for restating Godwin’s law – we can never get enough of it.

  • Benedict Carter

    Of course. Bishop Fellay understands this. I hope the others find themselves thinking the same thing. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, main author of the New Mass,
    L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

    “We must strip from our Catholic
    prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a
    stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” 

    and in 1974:

    “the reform of the
    liturgy has been a “major conquest of the Catholic Church”. Now
    would follow “ The adaptation or
    ‘incarnation’ of the Roman form of the liturgy into the usages and mentality of
    each individual Church.”

    Father Kenneth Baker, SJ, editorial February 1979 “Homiletic
    and Pastoral Review”

    “We have been
    overwhelmed with changes in the Church at all levels, but it is the liturgical
    revolution which touches all of us intimately and immediately.”

    Professor Peter L. Berger, a Lutheran sociologist:

    “If a thoroughly
    malicious sociologist, bent on injuring the Catholic community as much as
    possible had been an adviser to the Church, he could hardly have done a better

    Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand:

    “Truly, if one of
    the devils in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters had been entrusted with the
    ruin of the liturgy he could not have done it better.”

    Heenan of Westminster, autobiography “A Crown of Thorns”:

    changes were more radical than those intended by Pope John and the bishops who
    passed the decree on the Liturgy. His sermon at the end of the first session
    shows that Pope John did not suspect what was being planned by the liturgical

    English Cardinal warned the Council Fathers of the manner in which the periti
    could draft texts capable “of both an
    orthodox and modernistic interpretation.” He
    told them that he feared the periti, and dreaded the possibility of
    their obtaining the power to interpret the Council to the world.

    26 June 1966 The Tablet reported the creation of five commissions to interpret
    and implement the Council’s decrees. The members of these commissions were, the
    report stated, chosen “for the most part from the ranks the Council

    Father Joseph Gelineau SJ, Council peritus,
    enthusiastic proponent of the post-conciliar revolution, wrote in “Demain la

    “To tell the truth
    it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity:
    the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.” 

  • Benedict Carter

    Read your Catholic Encyclopedia, your Catechism and any other source you care to peruse. 

    Revelation finished with the death of the last Apostle. That’s Catholicism 101 Jabba.

  • Sweetjae

    Benedict, firstly did you read my post above? At the end of the day, we don’t care what this or that guy said, what Card. Bugnini said was his opinion-subject to criticism and debate and more importantly, he is NOT the Pope and Magisterium of the Church. We don’t paint with a broad brush to which Msgr Fellay warned us about, ”
    On the other hand, you act as if ALL of them are implicated in this pertinacity (“they’re all modernists,” “all are rotten”). Now that is manifestly false.”

    Anyways, I would rather give my assent and credence to the Pope and Magisterium than any other bishops, when he said “”There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of
    the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier
    generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too”.

  • Sweetjae

    Amen to that!

  • Benedict Carter

    Bugnini was a Mason, but he was not a Cardinal.

    As to the attempt to sell the two Rites as two forms of the same rite, the very people who created the Novus Ordo have told you they aren’t.

    I’m not buying the Pope’s pitch, because the pitch is self-evidently false. The Holy Father knows all this very well.

  • AveMaria

    You are as condescending as most SSPX that I have met and I have indeed enjoyed participating in mass at their chapels. Terrible attitudes at times there though. The Pope is the Pope…this is the CHURCH…you want to be part of it… it…….if not…..float your own lifeboat and hope it reaches the ship by the time we reach the END…..So tired of stale arguments when you CAN SEE this Pope bringing everyone in line with tradition… can see the difference slowly at MANY area churches now…..the church moves slow and can afford to…….she is more in tune with God’s time than the world and people are…….she is not reactionary, it is far more charitable to not lose anyone……refer to the Pope’s first encyclical…….God is Love.

  • Vincent

    Could someone please explain why Pope Paul VI banned the Tridentine mass? What was his reasoning; he must of written his reasoning.

  • John

     Although it was technically never banned, 95% of bishops world wide suppressed it in favor of the Novus Ordo that Paul VI promulgated in 1970. So in effect, the bishops banned it collectively and Paul VI stood idly by letting it happen. The real question is why did he do nothing and why did so many bishops suppress it?

  • Benedict Carter

    What are you on about? What is your point?

  • Angle

    Fellay and his 4 bishops should go to Rome and meet the Pope directly in a private audience. The dissenters should brief the Pope what are their objections. The Pope will assuage them that its not a trap. This is the best offer for reconciliation and this Pope has not got long to live. This is the last chance for the Society of Saint Pius XII. Lets be quite clear about that. The Pope is the shepherd of the all the christian flock – those in unity and those not.

  • daclamat

    I see that Opus Dei  is one of them prelature whatsits. With luck the Church will have two right wings and a right wing centre. That should do the trick, and see off the heretical mainstream.

  • Jae

    You are not buying the Pope’s pitch because it contradicts your interpretation of Tradition but when the same Pope said something about Tradition that sounds good to you, you are all praise….tell me Benedict since you are the only one here that strongly and stubbornly accused the present Church of rupture from Tradition, as neo protestants, neo pagans and every name under the sun, WHY are you still insisting to be with us and Pope Benedict? Why don’t you just go with the other 3 bishops of the SSPX? I just don’t get it, isn’t it called hypocrisy? Really, why put the stress on yourself when you can just establish your own church and put yourself as the supreme pontiff? At least the Sedevacantists have guts to stand by their words, why don’t you do the same?

  • Jae

    The citations you made from our Saints can also be used against you! actually they fit you more because you are a danger to the Faith, by your disobedience and recalcitrant attitude that you are right therefore the Church is wrong, have caused great scandal and wounded the Body of Christ. You claim that you were only handled down what you have received but you can’t even agree with other ultra traditionalists of your kind on the same Catholic tradition (PRE-VII) primarily because all of you are claiming papal authority.

  • Tim

    The Novus Ordo and Tridentine masses are not two forms of the same
    rite and it is not just a matter of words or language. One doesn’t have to
    spend too long in an SSPX chapel to realise (and I have lived through the
    changes) that the differences between the church pre and post Vatican II are enormous.
    The church moved from leading each of us individually and personally through
    the Sacraments of the Church to Heaven and away from hell to a Christian club for
    very well intentioned people who believe at least some of the Church’s teaching.
    This is of course very much akin to the CofE, which as Benedict Carter rightly
    says, was of course Bugnini’s intention.


    I cannot see any meaningful communication taking place between
    Prelature Churches and existing parishes should this ‘union’ come about unless
    one or both move very significantly away from their current positions. No doubt
    there will be some priests who will want to join the Prelature and I greatly
    fear that this will encourage English Bishops (if they needed any
    encouragement) to stop 1962 masses in their own churches. This has all the
    makings of a major division from within the Church in 50 years time.

  • Jae

    And you will answer also to the Lord who may say to you, “Benedict you always say, “we rather follow God than men”, but how can you show obedience to Me when you couldn’t even show obedience to My Authority that I gave to My Church? Didn’t I say to all of you if there is a dispute between two brothers, go to My Church to settle it and if still one doesn’t listen to My Church, let him be cursed.”

    The Lord will further ask you, “Do you know Benedict that only the Holy Spirit can convened a valid Ecumenical Council of My Church?”, I remember that I gave the Authority to a man named Peter to guide My Church but your name is Benedict Carter, so who are you again and act as My ambassador?”

  • Jae

    So what’s wrong when Rome give orders to Catholics? You are either maliciously suggesting that the See of Rome tampered and forced Lucia to write something untrue or you claim authority to no one but yourself. Geesh even our Lady asked Lucia to follow the orders of her Superiors and you Benedict Carter is the opposite!

  • Tim

    Sweetjae, if you have not already done so I recommend that you read the works of the late Michael Davies who wrote extensively about Vatican II and its terrible impact on the Church. Before you reject Mr Davies as being an SSPX mouthpiece I would like to quote the words in 2004 of Cardinal Ratzinger as he was then.

    “I have been profoundly touched by the news of the death of Michael Davies. I had the good fortune to meet him several times and I found him to be a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering. Ever since the Council he has put all his energy into the Service of the Faith and left us important publications especially on the sacred liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always remained a man of the Church.”

    I am a Roman Catholic but attend SSPX masses as Michael Davies did. I disagree almost entirely with what resulted from Vatican II and believe that it has led many people into serious error and sin. Benedict XVI appears to be fighting hard to return the Church to its proper path but at the same time is trying to keep the Church together. I think this juggling act does not properly recognise the power within the Church driving (hell bent?) for modernism. I pray I am wrong.

  • Benedict Carter

    Sweetjae, Tim, has about four different logins here and regualarly uses them. He/she is ignorant about the entire subject.

  • Benedict Carter

    You don’t think before you write. Silly.

  • Benedict Carter

    i.   +Fellay and three other Bishops, not four.

    ii.   It’s the Society of St. Pius X.

  • Benedict Carter

    Gorbachev remains a Marxist.

  • JByrne24

    I doubt that Benedict Carter is a true Catholic within the modern meaning of the word.
    His interpretations of aspects Catholicism are maybe thought by him to be profound and infallible, but they are little more than the thoughts of a man who is both bemused and puzzled by the modern world.

    This website (LINK below), and related ones, can generate the essential content of some of his postings – although it would need “tweaking” a little with theological terms.
    New “postings” can be found by clicking on “Follow this link”, below the bibliography. 

  • Benedict Carter

    You comment on my Catholicity?


    You, who support “marriage” for sodomites, describing its opponents as the ” … lunatic religious Right and the plethora of mad preachers”?

    Get real, matey. Your extreme humanist website shows you for what you are. An anti-Catholic.  

    Of course you oppose me, a Catholic unafraid to call a spade a spade.

  • JByrne24

    Yes, it’s ME again.
    Hello Benedict!

    But it’s not MY website – and it’s not a Humanist one either.It’s an anti “pseudo-intellectual tripe” website.

    It can provide, quite literally, an infinite number of syntactically perfect and grammatically polished (not that your’s are particularly) streams of secular or pious drivel, to order and 24/7, as they say.

    I thought you probably knew about it already.

  • Fr.Thomas Poovathinkal


  • GDes

    My family and I have attended both TLM and NO for the past 25 years. Are first choice is the TLM because it is more Christ centered. The Priest during the Mass is leading the whole Church towards Christ on the Cross. It is beatifull Mass with all traditional songs coming from the loft in back of the people. This sends chills up and down my spine. The Mass is all about Christ. The goal should be Christ centered For TLM and NO working together towards holliness.

  • Nat_ons

    The New Order of the Ancient Liturgy need not ‘go’ as you wish; it is not the Ancient Liturgy, true, nor was it intended to be so .. that form was last updated in 1967 (basically that of 1965′s revision of 1962 but of much a much more parred down expression). 

    The New Rites of Mass and Hours (and Benediction etc) are just that ‘new’ .. the Ancient Liturgy of the Mass, c 1962, (as confirmed for Benedict XVI) had never been formally rescinded. So, by the Holy Father’s express intention, either may now be used without any need for indult or qualm. Yet also requiring, as he does, that the Ancient Rites specifically be encouraged and the whole church once more made aware of their beauty (even against any unstated but still prevailing spirit of episcopal resistance to such generosity). 

    The current ordinary form of the Mass and Hours and Devotions are the New Rite; the horrors of the de-catholicising of Catholic worship and replacing of firm if stilted orthodoxy with free-wheeling heterodoxy in teaching at prayer are not the New Rite, let alone what the Council Father’s mandated. It is, therefore, the errors of those ‘new’ ways that must be gone even in the New Rite, following the spirit of the Age of Aquarius (and its grossly misapplied liberation theology) as they did; leaving a Low Mass not the faux Methodist Calvinised Lutheran Communion (of the periti). So it can never be a matter of rehabilitating the spirit of a new age theology, the New Rite must be restored to its actual Conciliar purpose – in the fullest communion with Sacred Tradition (which even Luther’s followers are called to share in Christ, even if they dispute over it .. in error).

    A Low Mass in the vernacular, with modifications for change in circumstances, is what any New Order was intended to carry over from the Second Vatican Council .. a rite that many a Lutheran/ Anglican would feel at ease with (if the Lutheran High Mass was anything to go on c 1968); a correction is better late than never, and spilled milk is .. well .. just spilled, mopping up the mess and getting on with getting on is the answer.

    PS: A orthodox Catholic Sung Low Mass was intended to be much the same as this (slightly higher) Lutheran Service .. even before the 1969 New Order. Here the Mass parts were to be chanted; the readings offered devoutly in the vernacular (not always by a priest e.g. a deacon etc – not in the first instance by an extraordinary minister); the orientation was toward Christ’s altar (the Cross). Few if any Catholic liturgies (even today) would retain this lower yet beautiful (if schismatic) form of Christ-oriented worship; totally contrary to the express intention in declarations of the Council (and, if I read right, the most novel and liberal desire of Paul VI toward our separated brethren).

  • Benedict Carter

    You’re outed, chum.