In a new interview – this time with the French Catholic television station TV Libertés – Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, spoke once more about the current situation of the Society with regard to Rome.
Speaking for some 18 minutes with Jean-Pierre Maugendre for his televised program “Terres de Mission,” Bishop Fellay tries to explain on 29 January two seemingly contradictory events raised by Mr. Maugendre: namely, that Pope Francis, in November of 2017 in his Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, granted to the SSPX the extension of the faculty to hear confessions; and secondly, Francis published the post-synodal document Amoris Laetitia which, in certain cases, appears to allow some “remarried” divorcees to receive Holy Communion. In reply, the Swiss prelate says that these two acts “stem from the same movement, namely the concern of the Holy Father for the rejected people […] for those at the peripheries,” adding: “we are rejected […] and marginalized, forgotten or set aside.”
When asked about the dubia of the Four Cardinals – the first high-ranking resistance since the “Bacci-Ottaviani intervention” in the late 1960s concerning the theology of the Novus Ordo Mass – Bishop Fellay says that “something is changing” and that “things are getting worse […] not on the level of principles, but that the [bad] principles are bearing fruit, are having consequences.” He does not think that we have yet reached the “ultimate consequences” of those defective principles, but he sees that the general situation is now “so bad that a certain number of bishops and cardinals in their own consciences saw that they had to say ‘that’s it’.” Fellay added that, “privately, they [these resisting prelates] are even more numerous [than the ones who have spoken up publicly].” However, in Fellay’s eyes, “it is too early to say whether this movement will grow.” The prelate explains that “one has to hope, and I dare to hope, that it will continue in this sense because we are not at all doing well”; and that, “once people begin to speak out, one will be able to reflect more seriously about the [deeper] causes of the situation” concerning the current and long germinating crisis within the Church.
Mr. Maugendre, the interviewer, then also refers to the recent intervention from Bishop Athanasius Schneider who asks the SSPX to accept now the proposal from Rome for a regularization, even though things might “not be 100% satisfactory” in the Church. The French interviewer then asks Bishop Fellay whether he expects “to sign a proposal soon,” and Fellay responds with the important (though somewhat unspecific) statement that “there is one conditio sine qua non, namely, that we can stay as we are.” [my emphasis] Without this assurance, says Fellay, “we will not do anything.” For, the SSPX still has some “grave criticisms” concerning what has happened “in the Church since Vatican II”; as representative topics, for example, the Swiss bishop mentions the practical “integration of Communism”; “Religious Liberty”; the “relationship between Church and State”; and the question of toleration of other religions, one of which is today to be seen, more and more, in the context and presence of “terror.” It now seems to Fellay that “we go in the right direction” and that, by way of alleviation of the pressure, “Rome has lifted a foot for two years now.” This apparently new attitude of Rome implies that some disputed questions concerning the Second Vatican Council are not strictly related to the binding “criteria of Catholicity.” Fellay explains: “That means that one has the right not to be in agreement [with some aspects of the Second Vatican Council] but still be considered to be Catholic.”
He also stresses that the SSPX has fought against any development towards a schism, and is against “the establishment of a parallel church.” He says that he is working with Pope Francis on the practical side, and that there are certain “practical dispositions in place which practically render impossible a schism.”
Moreover, Fellay says that the SSPX has shown in the recent past and in daily acts “our submission to Rome,” that “we are recognizing Rome’s authority,” and not only by praying for the Holy Father in the Canon of the Mass. In a practical way, says the Superior General, “we have normal relationships” with Rome, inasmuch as the SSPX was told last summer that the Superior General “may licitly ordain priests of the Society without first receiving any explicit approval from the local bishop.” Additionally, the SSPX may now licitly hear confessions. Also, in other juridical, canonical fields, the SSPX Superior General has been given authority over his priests, for example, if and when they commit a serious violation. He says that “the juridical, the canonical acts are already in place” which effectively “suppress the possibility of schism, but, obviously, one always has to be watchful.”
When asked what, then, is still missing, Fellay responds, with a smile: “the stamp,” and then he adds: “and the clear and firm affirmation that one will respect that guarantee [of being able to remain who we are now].” “That stamp and guarantee,” concludes the interviewer, “can only be given by the pope himself.” “Yes, it is up to the pope to do so,” replies Bishop Fellay.