His Excellency explains that before the SSPX accepts a prelature, clarity from Rome is needed regarding errors of Vatican II.
On January 29, Bishop Bernard Fellay gave a 20 minute interview to TVLibertés. The Superior General’s answer on TV about the canonical structure of the Personal Prelature offered to the Society of St. Pius X was short:
We have told Rome, very clearly, that, just as Archbishop Lefebvre used to say in his day, we have a sine qua non condition: if this condition is not met, then we will not move. And this condition is for us to be able to remain as we are, to keep all the principles that have kept us alive, that have kept us Catholic."
To the question of Jean-Pierre Maugendre, “And so today, concretely, what is still missing?”, Bishop Fellay answered:
The seal. And also the clear, straightforward statement that these guarantees will be respected.”
Immediately some concluded that a canonical resolution for the SSPX was imminent. The day after, Archbishop Pozzo was reported by Andrea Tornielli in La Stampa as giving some credence to to the same news…as if everything depended on a simple statement.
Things are not so easy on the side of the Society. On January 26, in an hour-long interview with Fr. Alain Lorans, SSPX, at Radio Courtoisie, Bishop Fellay explained what he understands by guarantees and the condition “to be able to remain as we are”. (See Bishop Fellay’s text below.)
The problem is not a canonical structure which would not be acceptable. On the contrary, even though “there are details that need improving…[and] matters that still need to be discussed”, the Personal Prelature “is adequate and suits our needs” says Bishop Fellay.
“The problem is, once again, this battle of ideas,” he stated. These ideas, for example, are ecumenism, religious liberty, the relations between Church and State, and the reformed liturgy. As Bishop Fellay says,
...[we fight against] this modernist way of thinking, against which, or because of which, we were even declared schismatic and everything else, outside of the Church....
Error remains error. So we remain today, just as before, just as convinced that there are errors that have been spread in the Church and that are killing the Church.”
Bishop Fellay explains that, in the doctrinal discussions with Rome, there is a new attitude regarding these errors, which are doctrinal roots of the moral issues of today. These errors, the key points imposed since the Second Vatican Council as part of the new magisterium of the Church, would not be anymore “required criteria for being Catholic”. In front of this new attitude, Bishop Fellay wonders: “Is it just a door, or is it really a path? Is it a safe path?” Here lay the guarantees to be able to remain as we are. “I mean, are we really going to be able to continue as we are?”
Bishop Fellay, in order to consider accepting a canonical structure, does not expect a complete, immediate change in the Church or a magical return to Tradition.
We understand that it takes time to purify and remove these errors, we understand. Men cannot be changed just like that; all sorts of bad habits have been acquired by now...”
What is it expected then? A clear guarantee that the errors of the Council will not be imposed on the SSPX; on the contrary, we will be given the liberty to continue to fight them. The bishop asks the question for today: “Is there any intention to leave this way of thinking that was imposed at the Council?” For the Superior General, it is clear that we are not yet at this point. “And we see, at least in the authorized voices, shall we say, the leading voices, that they are saying, ‘No, no! No, we shall continue along the same lines.'”
So his attitude today is logical: “Until we have a clear enough answer, we cannot move forward.”
Fr. Alain Lorans: Speaking of letting the Society in, of course we can’t help thinking of the canonical offers that have been made; there was talk of a prelature and recently Bishop Schneider said he had invited you to accept the canonical propositions soon and not to be too demanding, or in any case, not to wait for everything to be perfect. Where does all this stand? Did you really receive this invitation? And in that case, would a doctrinal union become a secondary issue? What exactly is the Society’s position?
Bishop Fellay: As far as Bishop Schneider goes, he did write to me, but a long time ago now; a long time, I mean, perhaps a year ago. So I do not have anything recent from him. In any case, recently, no, I have not received anything from him.
Other than that, the structure is not the problem. The structure, I think, is well established; there are still some points, shall we say, some finer points. The main idea is, really, it is adequate, it suits our needs. So for that, I am satisfied. Again, there are details that need improving and matters that still need to be discussed. The problem is not with this structure that they are offering us. If that was the only issue, we would say “yes” in a heartbeat. But it is not the problem.
The problem is, once again, this battle of ideas. Is a Church that for forty years has imposed a way of thinking, this modernist way of thinking against which we fight, against which, or because of which we were even declared schismatic and everything else, outside of the Church; is this Church ready, yes or no, to let us continue on our path?
Archbishop Lefebvre used to speak of “letting us make the experiment of Tradition”. Are they going to let us, yes or no? Or are they waiting for us at a bend in the road, are they going to tell us tomorrow that we “have to fall into line”? To accept what we have been fighting against for forty years? That, we are not about to give up.
So it is all there, really; that is where the question lies. With these new, more open attitudes, when they tell us some things are not required criteria for being Catholic, there seems to be a path opening up. Now, is it just a door, or is it really a path? Is it a safe path? I mean, are we really going to be able to continue as we are? For us it is obvious that this is not the end.
Error remains error. So we remain today, just as before, just as convinced that there are errors that have been spread in the Church and that are killing the Church.
And of course, we understand that it takes time to purify and remove these errors, we understand. Men cannot be changed just like that; all sorts of bad habits have been acquired now; even just bringing back the holy liturgy. We understand very well that it cannot be done overnight. So if things take time, that is one thing, but is the intention even there? Is there any intention to leave this way of thinking that was imposed at the Council?
And we see, at least in the authorized voices, shall we say, the leading voices, that they are saying, “No, no. No, no, we shall continue along the same lines.” So we remain outlaws. Well, tolerated outlaws, and we might even say, in the most astonishing way, with Pope Francis we are more than tolerated, but we remain on the outskirts.
So are things going to stay as they are? Are things going to move ahead? Or tomorrow are we going to be swallowed up by this movement that, once again, is killing the Church? That is the question. And until we have a clear enough answer, we cannot move forward.
The full text of the conference will be available in the near future.