1999 October/Bishop Fellay Interviewed

Bulletin of a Society of St. Pius X chapel in Paris:What are the relations today between the Society of St. Pius X and Rome?

Bp. Fellay: They are non-existent. At present Rome considers us to be at most a movement on the outside, Rome itself being unsure whether we are completely outside or still a little bit inside. We do still have a few personal contacts with prelates in Rome. One of these, a cardinal, said, “Rome is divided on the question of the Society.”

We may judge that a very large majority, the progressives, want to hear no more of us. We upset them, we get in their way. All they want is for us to disappear. On the other hand, for a small minority the Society does certainly have a point: we could act precisely as a counterweight to the progressives, but only on condition that we accept the New Mass as being good, also the Council and the post-conciliar reforms. This we cannot accept.

In other words, there are no official relations at present between the Society and Rome. However, we take care to stay in contact unofficially, if only to make our point of view heard, and also to show that the Catholic Church is our Church, even if it has for the moment been taken over.

Bulletin: Does it seem to you that the situation has evolved at all since the Society’s consecration o bishops in June 1988?

Bp. Fellay: Strictly-speaking, no. However, some of the authorities in Rome may be coming to a realization of the tragic situation of the Church, the increasing disobedience of the bishops, the resulting impossibility for the Vatican to get a hearing. There is a realization that the Society’s position is not as wrong as it is given out to be, without it being admitted I think, that we are right. Amongst the churchmen who think this way an atmosphere more favourable to Tradition is forming, but they remain a small minority.

Bulletin: As we approach the end of John Paul II’s pontificate, what effect would you say his action has had on Catholics? And on the Society of St. Pius X?

Bp. Fellay: John Paul II will be a Pope very difficult for history to define, he is so contradictory. Beyond any doubt the principles laid down by Vatican II will have been taken by him to their astonishing conclusion: the prayer-day of religions at Assisi, his being marked with ashes in India, his taking direct part in the pagan ceremony in Togo, his praising the traditions of Voodoo, all of which actions call to mind the abomination of desolation mentioned m Scripture. How then can we be surprised if the faith of Catholics is being shaken to its foundations?

And the scandalous declarations keep coming, for instance the statement of April 21 on the testimony rendered to God the Father by dialogue with the experts of other religions, inter?religious dialogue being (supposedly) an integral part of the Church’s mission to evangelize, in which there is no question of leaving aside the proclamation of the Faith, rather one is responding to a call of God in such a way that the exchange of ideas and the discussion lead to each party’s giving witness to the other of its own religious mission, so that each party gets to know more deeply the convictions of the other and all get to understand certain basic values.

Does this Pope still have the Catholic Faith, the supernatural virtue of Faith which we ask the Church for at baptism and which gives eternal life? Obviously, as long as Rome goes on talking like this, we will be opposed, and all invitations to enter into any such system we will meet with a blank refusal.

Bulletin: Is there any action of John Paul II with regard to the Society?

Bp. Fellay: Many years ago, the Pope explained to journalists same of the motives for his apostolic journeys, which included his intention to marginalize Tradition. Likewise, he was responsible for the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei adflicta”, which condemned Archbishop Lefebvre and the bishops he consecrated for the survival of Catholic Tradition.

Bulletin: What do you foresee coming after John Paul II? A total, or partial questioning of Vatican II? A gradual return to Tradition?

Bp. Fellay: It is an error to think that to solve this situation all you need do is to change the Pope. The tragedy we are going through involves not only a Pope who has faltered, but the whole Church. How will this crisis end? It is obvious that at a given moment some Pope will have to take matters in hand. How will it happen? It is still the secret of God. How will the Church – if it please God – recover her ancient beauty? Will we see mass conversions, or slow return helped forward by preaching, as in the time of the CounterReformation? We can only guess. We may go in far human prognostications, but that would be to forget that the Church has a divine character, that she is essentially supernatural. Her Head is Jesus Christ, who with one word can calm the storm; but He can also let his disciples go on rowing. Only on very rare occasions does God perform miracles without requiring His disciples to work with Him. As for Vatican II, it will have to be revised to consigned to oblivion. The Church will yet decide. We are not as yet at that point.

Bulletin: What would you answer to those Catholics who, having accepted Vatican II but refusing to slide with the Church into ecumenism, want you to join them.

Bp. Fellay: My answer is that the principle of ecumenism is to be found precisely in Vatican II, and that to reject the effects without stopping the cause, is like trying to stop the explosion without cutting off the gas leak.

Bulletin: What is today the situation of the Society of St. Pies X in Europe and in the world?

Bp. Fellay: The Society is in constant growth. There are no mass conversions, but our 370 priests are unfortunately insufficient to answer all the requests for spiritual assistance coming to us from more than 50 countries. We are established in 30 countries, we visit another 10, from Australia to Moscow, from the depths of Chile to Anchorage. Our chapels are steadily growing younger, our schools are developing. The work of the Church, of Tradition, is the transmission of the Faith and grace. Christendom is being born anew and is developing in little enclaves which, we fervently trust, will serve the new flowering of the Church. We see conversions all over the world, also in Europe, and even priests are coming back to the did Mass, which they discover of rediscover with great emotion. Amidst the storm, God continues His work.

Bulletin: What do you expect for Catholics at the end of this second millennium of Christianity?

Bp. Fellay: Even if the present situation of the Church and of the world is frightening and terrible, God has not surrendered. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Mystical Body, is always present in His church. There, the state of grace is corner of the living God, the Most Holy Trinity, like a tabernacle amidst the surrounding darkness. The more the treasures of Christ, that is to say Christendom, seem to disappear, the more we can hope for help or for any other good from God alone. We must not forget that our Lord asleep in the boat is powerful, wise and provident as when He arises and subdues the storm. Our hope is in Our Lord, and in His holy Mother.

Bulletin: What is your relationship with the French bishops?

Bp. Fellay: They do not seem to be seeking us out, rather they ignore us. Apart from sporadic contacts, we cannot properly speak of “relations”. These will came in time, but we must not get ahead of Providence.