New Interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay

Some excerpts below, but please read the entire interview for context and more information:

What has changed is the fact that Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite for the canonical solution. Today, in Rome, some people regard a different understanding of the Council as something that is not decisive for the future of the Church, since the Church is more than the Council.

The official authorities do not want to acknowledge the errors of the Council. They will never say so explicitly. Nevertheless, if you read between the lines, you can see that they hope to remedy some of these errors.

Now, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is becoming the day consecrated to the sanctification of priests. For this occasion, a letter was published and an examination of conscience for priests was composed. One might think that they went to Ecône to find this examination of conscience, it is so much along the lines of pre-conciliar spirituality. This examination presents the traditional image of the priest, and also of his role in the Church.

What is happening these days clearly shows some of our weaknesses with regard to the dangers that are created by the situation in which we find ourselves. One of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the Church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the Church. Some claim that in order to work “safely” in the Church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work. But that is not the reality. It is enough to look at the Church’s past: often, and almost always, we see that there are widespread errors in the Church. Now the reforming saints did not leave the Church in order to combat these errors. Our Lord taught us that there would always be weeds until the end of time. Not just the good crop, not only the wheat.


Of course I find it very interesting that he said what has changed is that they no longer have to have total acceptance of Vat II. That’s a nice compromise.

I also find his understanding of the possible prelature interesting also.

Bishop Fellay: There is a lot of confusion about this question, and it is caused mainly by a misunderstanding of the nature of a personal prelature, as well as by a misreading of the normal relation between the local ordinary and the prelature. Add to that the fact that the only example available today of a personal prelature is Opus Dei. However, and let us say this clearly, if a personal prelature were granted to us, our situation would not be the same.

In order to understand better what would happen, we must reflect that our status would be much more similar to that of a military ordinariate, because we would have ordinary jurisdiction over the faithful. Thus we would be like a sort of diocese, the jurisdiction of which extends to all its faithful regardless of their territorial situation.

All the chapels, churches, priories, schools, and works of the Society and of the affiliated religious Congregations would be recognized with a real autonomy for their ministry.
It is still true—since it is Church law—that in order to open a new chapel or to found a work, it would be necessary to have the permission of the local ordinary. We have quite obviously reported to Rome how difficult our present situation was in the dioceses, and Rome is still working on it. Here or there, this difficulty will be real, but since when is life without difficulties? Very probably we will also have the contrary problem, in other words, we will not be able to respond to the requests that will come from the bishops who are friendly to us. I am thinking of one bishop who could ask us to take charge of the formation of future priests in his diocese.

In no way would our relations be like those of a religious congregation with a bishop; rather they would be those of one bishop with another bishop, just like with the Ukrainians and the Armenians in the diaspora. And therefore if a difficulty is not resolved, it would go to Rome, and there would then be a Roman intervention to settle the problem.
Let it be said in passing that what was reported on the Internet concerning my remarks on this subject in Austria last month is entirely false.

Allowing groups to select what they will and won’t accept in the teachings of an Ecumenical Council would seem to be a slippery and dangerous slope indeed.

Please understand: Ecumenical councils are capable of error unless they teach in a binding manner. Whether or not there is error in the documents of Vatican II is something that may be legitimately discussed.

There are known errors in the statements of councils previous to Vatican II, and no one makes a statement like yours with respect to those errors. Vatican II is no better than any other ecumenical council in that regard.

I think this is very encouraging…I especially liked how he spoke of the great Saints in history working for change from within, not from without - there will always be struggles, there have always been struggles.

As I read it I saw some similarities in his thought process to the good Brother’s posting on these topics and talks.

I find the Bishop to seem like an honest person, if he wants this, and more importantly, if our Holy Father wants it - we must pray hard for it and offer rosaries for it as well, but even more importantly as the Bishop says…if God wants it, it will come to pass, in His time, not ours.


From D. Nicola Bux:

‘’ The SSPX has never denied the Second Vatican Council and only journalistic superficiality and simplifications have been attributed to this disclaimer. In any case, has criticized some of his doctrines, even of primary importance. In the church - the theologian concluded there are people and groups that deny important truths.’’

‘’ The Fraternity of St. Pius X has never denied the Second Vatican Council, and only the superficiality and journalistic simplifications have attributed this refusal. If anything has criticized some of its doctrines, and not of primary importance. In the church - said the theologian - there are people and groups who deny more important truths’’

Read also:


About the interview, very interesting!



His Excellency’s claim would be more credible if he could actually provide specific names instead of opaquely referring to the generic “Rome”…

Based on the proven record of ecclesiastical history, the only “errors” are those in authentically implementing the pronouncements of an ecumenical council in orthodox accordance with the Magisterium? :hmmm:

What magisterial pronouncements support your underlined claim?

Could you kindly cite some examples?

He can’t. I’m convinced opinions like this come from otherwise very informed and well meaning catholics who have been unknowingly influenced by SSPX theology.

Actually we would require magisterial pronouncements in order to assert the opposite. A council is no more or less infallible than the Pope. When choosing to speak infallibly by, for example, making a formal definition, or by anathematizing error, then a council is infallible. Otherwise not.

It should be noted, however, that the lack of an infallible character to some teaching of a council does not mean that the council is to be blithely ignored on that point. Without a just reason to do otherwise, we must give religious assert to such teachings. Even if they are not infallible, they are authoritative.

Could you kindly cite some examples?

The most well known example is that of the Council of Florence which taught the matter of the sacrament of holy orders to be the handing over of the instruments:

The sixth is the sacrament of orders. Its matter is the object by whose handing over the order is conferred. So the priesthood is bestowed by the handing over of a chalice with wine and a paten with bread; the diaconate by the giving of the book of the gospels; the subdiaconate by the handing over of an empty chalice with an empty paten on it; and similarly for the other orders by allotting things connected with their ministry.

Pope Pius XII corrected this understanding in his Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis in 1947, by explaining that the matter of Holy Orders is actually the laying-on of hands.

We of Our Apostolic Authority and from certain knowledge declare, and as far as may be necessary decree and provide: that the matter, and the only matter, of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy is the imposition of hands

The rules of argumentation dictate the burden of proof rests upon the disputant making the assertion. Ipso facto, you are still obligated to provide magisterial pronouncements to conclusively substantiate your prior claim: “Ecumenical councils are capable of error unless they teach in a binding manner.”

Granted, but this is an example of a modification (rather than an error) in the lesser category of ecclesiastical discipline. It does not pertain to the higher category of faith and morals.

On the contrary. To claim that every utterance of an ecumenical council is an infallible statement is an extraordinary claim that requires substantiation. The assertion that an ecumenical council speaks infallibly only when it explicitly intends to do so is the default position.

Granted, but this is an example of a modification (rather than an error) in the lesser category of ecclesiastical discipline. It does not pertain to the higher category of faith and morals.

That is how it is now interpreted, but the text specifies the matter of a sacrament, which is indeed a matter of faith and morals. The handing-over of the instruments is presented at the matter of the sacrament, necessary for validity, and not simply some extraneous ceremony adjunct to the sacrament. That is an error.

Reading through the whole interview, I would find some issues uncomfortable:

(1) the claims that the SSPX preserved the whole Tradition. Clearly, Catholic Tradition demanded communion with the Bishop of Rome and Popes have taught that abandoning the See of Peter is akin to being outside of the Church, and until Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications, the leaders of the Society were clearly not in full communion with the Successor of Peter. Thus, either they have neglected one aspect of the Tradition they claim to preserve, or they have implicitly rejected that aspect of Tradition during their exile.

(2) All Catholics are bound to religious submission to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, regardless of whether they are infallibly taught or not. While there are latitudes due to the interpretation of what the Council taught in its many paragraphs in the light of Tradition and the continuing Magisterium of the Church, religious submission to the teachings of the Magisterium, as currently given, is still essential.

(3) The Magisterium is the sole authoritative interpreter of which positions are in accord with the Word of God in Scripture or Tradition. Yet Fellay seems to praise the notion that individuals can interpret which teachings are in accord with Tradition or contradicts Tradition. This seems to be more in common with the Protestant concept of private interpretation, only not of Scripture as the Protestants think, but of Tradition, than with authentic Catholic Tradition.

(4) The SSPX seems to have an unrealistic perception of the problem arising from the Council. Were the Council’s teachings soft on Priestly ministry and identity? In many parts of the world, there was never a demotion of the Priesthood that was witnessed in some parts of the world, and it is interesting to note that the SSPX is growing only in some areas of the world.

Not insuperable difficulties to be sure, we have reconciled others who similarly espoused such rhetoric at the point of their reconciliation; the salvation of souls is the first importance. One extremely positive thing in the interview was how Fellay acknowledged that Tradition can develop.

I hope that these difficulties were the result of the audience Fellay was trying to reach and assure, the SSPX is probably as close to schism within its ranks as it could possibly be. Cause perhaps, just perhaps, Pope Benedict is making the first move to the SSPX because he takes the Lord’s command to unity very seriously, and that he understands that the SSPX cannot be complete without full communion with the See of Peter, and like the prodigal father, wants to enrich with the plenitude of God’s graces what a segment of his children currently lacks.

The exercise of ecclesiastical infallibility does not require an explicit defintion. Although God as the author of the Sacred Scriptures was not explicitly defined during the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius XII later acknowledged it was implicitly a solemn definition:
“In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical ‘not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself.’ When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the ‘entire books with all their parts’ as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as ‘obiter dicta’ and–as they contended–in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules" (Encyclical Letter [of 30 September 1943] on Promoting Biblical Studies Divino Afflante Spiritu, n. 1).

The text specifies the pastoral exercise for validity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the category of ecclesiastical discipline; it makes no declaration on the immutable essence of the Sacrament in the category of faith and morals.

I hate to be the thorn in your foot, but this implication cannot be used to qualify Vatican II, because Vatican II made no dogmatic or doctrinal pronouncements on faith and/or morals. On the other hand, I’m not attempting to prove Vatican II wrong or something, I’m just saying this doesn’t work to support it.

And I’m not sure that that statement is concerned with “ecclesiastical discipline.” The matter used for confecting a sacrament is immediately and inseparably concerned with the faith (as in dogma). But since that particular statement was not itself declared in a dogmatic way, it is fallible. And it was of course declared wrong and superceded. So it’s wrong, yes, but the realm of what is required to confect a sacrament deals intimately with dogma.

So* Lumen Gentium*, the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” one of the chief documents of Vatican II, isn’t really “dogmatic” after all I guess. How silly of the Council Fathers to have mis-named it so. Guess they had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they passed it.

I suppose what I should say is that Vatican II pronounced no new dogmas.

  1. Calling a text a “dogmatic constitution” doesn’t mean that every word in it is part of a dogmatic definition.

  2. Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) stated clearly that Vatican II defined no NEW dogma. That is, while there are dogmatic statements in Vatican II, they are reiteration of previously defined dogmas, not new definitions.

  3. Anyone getting worked up over the authority of Vatican II should just chill. If the Pope regularizes the SSPX without requiring any statement of assent to Vatican II, then you will have your answer.

There seems to be an obsession by lay people about infallibility and fallibility. I say lay people, because when you get a room of religious, priests, bishops, and deacons, be they Traditionalists or mainstream, and we’re discussing Vatican II or any papal writing, these words never come up. They’re not very important to us.

What is important to us is what does the paper in front of us say? Does it mean what it says or is there more to it? Is it written concretely or was it meant to be nuanced? What it written for all time, or is the term “for all time” mean “until the next pope changes it”? What was in the mind of the writer? What issues was he addressing? Are those the same as today’s? If so, how so? Can we take the content of the paper and apply it differently today or must it be applied literally?

We know that popes don’t go around contradicting each other, even if they can. It’s not PC. If there is an apparent conflict one of two things his happening. a) The later pope has overwritten the previous pope, which any pope can do, or b) There is no contradiction. Both popes are right and it is we who are reading them wrong. We have to figure out how we’re misreading them. It may even be something that the later pope knows that we don’t know. What is it the we missed?

We also know that a council need not define anything dogmatic or moral to have authority. Pastoral care is the primary mission of the Church. Therefore, any pastoral directive is authoritative and must be followed. There are always two questions. a) How do we implement the pastoral directive? and b) How do we asses its effectiveness? Every pastoral directive has to be assessed. Some are going to work and some are not. That’s not rocket science. No council that issues a pastoral directive expects every directive to work magic. It’s like everything else in life. “We think this works. We hope it works. Let’s try it.”

When we get into a room, the furthest thing from our minds is infallibility. There are very few things that have been infallibly declared. Usually, those are not the points that are under scrutiny. The statements made by councils and popes are always authoritative and they do not require that we give an assent of faith. But they do require that we comply. I believe that we dance around infallibility and fallibility to avoid the real word, “authority.”

I also believe that we laid aside the words infallible and fallible, in discussing Vatican II and inserted authoritative, then you can get past that issue of whether or not it’s important and get on to those questions that I posted in my first and second paragraph, which will yield much more information and will put everyone on the thread at the same level as the committees and scholars who are looking at the Council and other statements by the Church.

I always tell my theology students that if they want to discuss Church pronouncements like true Churchmen, they must ask the same questions that Churchmen ask and use the same language that they use. Otherwise, one sounds like an amateur. An amateur will get amateur conclusions. That’s not very helpful. We want to arrive at solid conclusions; therefore, we have to ask the questions that the scholars are asking.

There is something else here that I tell my students in theology. If one does not ask the same questions as the scholar, then one cannot debate the scholar. A real debate is based on two people asking the same question and arriving at different conclusions.

If two people ask different questions, they are obviously going to arrive at different conclusions and there is nothing to debate. They’re not on the same page.

This is important to remember for this dialogues on CAF as well as the dialogues of theology students in graduate school.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

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