Bishop Fellay to Cardinal Hoyos

On May 7, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President of the a Ecclesia Dei Commission, wrote to Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, reproaching him for the breakdown in the negotiations. Excerpts containing the essential elements of this letter follow. It was on June 22, feast of the Sacred Heart, that Bishop Fellay responded






“We have carefully considered the two conditions that your request for the return: the permission for all priests to be able to freely celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V and the lifting of the excommunication that hangs over you…

“With respect to the first condition, a certain number of cardinals, bishops and faithful believe that such a permission ought not to he granted… for such a permission could create a confusion in the minds of many people who would understand it as

depreciating the value of the holy Mass as it is celebrated in today’s Church. It is certain that in the statutes of your reinsertion, you would be offered every guaranty that the Society’s members, and all those who have a special attraction to this noble liturgical tradition, could celebrate it freely in your churches and places of worship. You could likewise celebrate it in other churches, with the permission of the Ordinary of the diocese.

“With respect to the second condition; the Holy Father has the clear intention of granting it at the time that your return is, formalized.”



Most Eminent Lord,

It is with my eyes fixed on the Sacred Heart, whose feast we celebrate today, that I implore, according to his own desire, of His mercy, that it might deign to impregnate the lines that follow with his light and his charity.

The Jesuit, Bishop Pierre Henrici, at the time secretary of Communio, said in a conference on the development of the Council that at Vatican II two theological traditions, that are deep down incomprehensible to one another, entered into collision.

Your letter of May 7 caused me similar sentiments of incomprehension and of disappointment.

We have the impression that you are trying to force us to make a choice: either we are to enter into full communion, and then we must be silent concerning the great evils that afflict the Church, that is in the absence of a golden cage, we must accept a muzzle; or we are to stay “outside”.

We refuse to be forced to chose between each of these alternatives. On the one hand, we have never left the Church. On the other hand, our present situation that is, without a doubt, uncomfortable, is not the effect of any culpable action on our part, but the consequence of a disastrous situation in the Church, against which we have striven, as far as we could, to protect ourselves. The various decisions made by Archbishop Lefebvre were dictated by the determination to not lose the Catholic Faith and to survive in the midst of a universal rout that involves even Rome. We call this a “state of necessity”.

If we desire to advance beyond the deadlock to which your letter leads, we must change rather profoundly the perspectives, the questions to be asked.

In effect, for Your Eminence:

We have broken communion.

The reasons that we give to justify our actions, and in particular the episcopal consecrations, are entirely insufficient. For since the Church is holy and the Magisterium is always assisted by the Holy Ghost, the deficiencies that we complain about either do not exist or are simply limited abuses. Our problem comes from the fact that our vision of the Church’s history and crises is much too fixed and limited, preventing us from understanding the homogenous evolution brought about by the Council and the subsequent Magisterium, necessitated by different adaptations to today’s world.

Rome has been exceedingly generous in offering us the structure that was proposed to us. It would be abusive for us to ask for more, and even perhaps injurious towards the Holy See in these circumstances in which Rome took the initiative. No preliminary can be granted, and especially not the Mass, for it would cause trouble in the Church.

It seems to me possible to affirm, from our point of view, that, following Popes Pius XII and Paul VI, the Church is presently in a literally apocalyptic condition. It cannot be denied that the dysfunction of the Catholic hierarchy -Cardinal Seper said “the crisis of the Church is a crisis of bishops” -omissions, silences, deceptions, tolerance of errors, and even of positively destructive acts even in the Curia, and unfortunately even in the Vicar of Christ. These are public facts that can be seen by ordinary men.

The affirmation of the existence of these facts is not in contradiction with the Faith in the holiness of the Church, nor in the assistance of the Holy Ghost. But here we draw near to the mystery of the Church, of the joining together and coordination of the divine and human elements in the Mystical Body. In order to remain with the truth of the reality we must hold just as much to the affirmations of Faith as to the acknowledgement of the facts.

The First Vatican Council, in the affirmation of the infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, explicitly gave the limits to the assistance of the Holy Ghost:

“The Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth.” (Db 1836 in The Sources of Catholic Dogma, p. 456).

Obviously, we adhere with our whole heart to the paragraphs of Pastor Aeternus [Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ; Ed.] that follow, as well as to Dei filius [Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith; Ed.].

But it is precisely here that we draw closest to the heart of the present mystery. For it is in this regard that can be found the novelties of the new theology, that were condemned by the Church under Pius XII, and that were introduced into Vatican II. How can we explain that the Council’s great names, its expert theologians, were all sanctioned under Pius XII? De Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Courtney­ Murray, Dom Beaudoin (who died just before the Council), and to go back a little further Blondel, Teilhard de Chardin…

They would have us believe today that these novelties are but a developmcnt in conformity with the past. They were already condemned, at least in their principles. Cardinal Ratzinger himself called Gaudium et spes a counter-Syllabus. (Theologishee Prinzipienlehre, p. 398, Erich Wewel Verlag, Muchen, 1982). We have therefore necessarily to make a choice.

To make these doctrines acceptable, it is not enough that they were afterwards approved by a Council that chose not to be dogmatic. The seal of a vote does not transform an error into infallible truth. In fact we have only to read Msgr. Felici’s response to the Council on the question of its own infallibility (Notification of November 16, 1964, DH 4350 -4351).

Furthermore, the problem of the Council is not primarily one of individual interpretations. It comes as well from its lack of precision in the use of terms, and its willful ambiguities (as one of the Council’s experts said), that make several differing interpretations possible. It also comes from certain interpretations given by the Holy See itself. If one were to follow the Holy See’s own directions, one would end up with Assisi, in the synagogue or the sacred forests of Togo (Pope John Paul II, Audience of August 22, 1986: “Seeing Assisi in the light of the Council”).

How does one explain in the light of the Catholic Faith this key phrase of John Paul II’s theology, that clarifies many passages that would otherwise have been incomprehensible: “man is the path of the Church” (in the light of which this passage from Gaudium et spes §22 can be understood: “For, by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” Cf. Flannery, Vatican Council II, p. 953; Ed.)


“In the Holy Ghost each person and each people have become, by the cross and the resurrection of Christ, children of God, participating in the divine nature, and heirs of everlasting life” (John Paul II, Message to the peoples of Asia, February 21, 1981, DOC 1894, March 15, 1981, 281).

A Magisterium that contradicts the teaching of the past (for example, between today’s ecumenism and Mortalium animos) is a Magisterium that contradicts itself (See the Joint Declaration on Justification and the preceding note from Cardinal Cassidy, where is to be found the condemnation and the praise of the term “sister churches”) – here lies the painful problem.

This crisis in the Magisterium constitutes a problem that it is practically impossible to resolve practically.

How are we supposed to have the discernment necessary to distinguish between that which truly belongs to the Magisterium and that which only gives the appearance of doing so?

Moreover, the nightmare concerns also the Curia and the residential bishops. Here are two very recent examples, taken from a thousand.

Was Bishop Tauran faithful to the Catholic Faith when he declared in the Philippines on June 4, 2001:

“It would be erroneous to consider the faithful believer of another religion as someone to be converted. He is rather someone to be understood, leaving to God the role of enlightening his conscience. Different religions ought not to enter into competition with one another, but should rather be like brothers and sisters who walk hand in hand to construct the channels of brotherhood, building up a good world in which it is possible to live and to work.”?

Did Cardinal Kasper express the Catholic Faith, and was he faithful to Saint John, to Saint Paul, and to Our Lord Himself, when he declared in New York:

“The old theory of substitution is no longer relevant since the Second Vatican Council. For we, today’s christians, the alliance with the Jewish people is a living heritage …There cannot be a simple coexistence between two testaments. Jews and christians, by their respective specific identities, are intimately bound to one another. The Church believes that Judaism, that is to say the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, has the effect of saving them, for God is faithful to his promises”?

However, the first of these is a close collaborator of the Pope, and the second a prince of the Church, recently honored by receiving the purple Cardinal’s biretta, becoming an elector of the future Vicar of Christ. It is impossible to be in communion with them. They no longer have the Faith.