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It’s time for a reckoning…

Comments on the Latest Bp. Fellay Interview — and on the June 29 Press Release

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On June 22, 2016, we were the first English-speaking web site to break the news about Bp. Bernard Fellay’s new interview, published on June 21, on the relations between the Society of St. Pius X and the Vatican. What is puzzling is that virtually no one has picked up on the news since, even though the SSPX Superior General made not a few statements that should raise the eyebrows of anyone who considers himself a real Catholic. Here is our original post on the interview:

At the time we posted our translation of this interview, we did not have the time to comment at length, which we said we would leave to a separate post.

Well, this is it now.

Below we we will produce the text of the interview again, in blue, and intersperse our comments in black. Make sure you fasten your seatbelts — this will be a wild but highly informative ride:

“The Catholic Church is the only True One”

The Society of St. Pius X has been separated from Rome since its founding [sic] by Archbishop Lefebvre. How does the order’s superior Bernard Fellay view this?

Right off the bat, the interviewer demonstrates he is not sufficiently familiar with the Society of St. Pius X. The local Novus Ordo bishop of the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland, gave full canonical authorization to the SSPX on November 1, 1970, which can be considered the official date of its founding. The Society remained in the good graces of the Modernists until 1974, when the authorities in Rome began to grow concerned with the Lefebvrians. The first censure came in July of 1976, when Abp. Marcel Lefebvre was “suspended a divinis” by the Modernist hierarchy for ordaining priests without their authorization, and it went downhill from there. Things reached a fever pitch in July of 1988, after Lefebvre consecrated four bishops and the Vatican declared that the four new bishops (Bernard Fellay himself as well as Alfono de Galarreta, Richard Williamson, and Bernard Tissier de Mallerais) and the two consecrating bishops, Marcel Lefebvre and Antonio de Castro Mayer, had thereby incurred latae sententiae excommunication.

Bernard Fellay leads the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which rejects substantial reforms of the Second Vatican Council. This year the Superior General was received by Pope Francis for the first time.

SN: Under Pope Benedict XVI already there were talks between the Vatican and your fraternity. What has changed under Pope Francis?

Fellay: The process of rapprochement is always the same. We have always recognized the primacy of the Pope — even on the question of the Society’s episcopal consecrations. These were not a denial of the primacy and did not at all [um nichts in der Welt] mean to be a separation from Rome.

Oh, really? Let’s give this a reality check. We need to answer two separate questions here: (a) Does the SSPX recognize the primacy of the Pope?; and (b) Has the SSPX ever wanted to be separated from Rome?

(a) Does the SSPX recognize the primacy of the Pope?

The Society of St. Pius X does indeed pay lipservice to the primacy of the Pope, that is, they affirm in words that the Pope holds the primacy as defined by the Vatican Council in 1870. They cannot be accused of heresy on this point because they profess the true doctrine in this matter. However, this is not the whole story. For he who professes papal primacy but acts contrary to it, is guilty of the sin of schism. Pope Pius IX rebuked an Eastern schismatic patriarch on this point and emphasized that professing the primacy of the Pope while not acting in accordance with it, makes rebellion inexcusable:

What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?

…In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X [1877], pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434; underlining added.)

In fact, recognizing the Pope as the legitimate authority but then refusing him submission, is precisely what constitutes the essence of schism. Have a look:

To constitute the delict of schism in the strict sense, the following conditions are required:

1) One must withdraw directly (expressly) or indirectly (by means of one’s actions) from obedience to the Roman Pontiff, and separate oneself from ecclesiastical communion with the rest of the faithful, even though one does not join a separate schismatical sect;

2) one’s withdrawal must be made with obstinacy and rebellion;

3) the withdrawal must be made in relation to those things by which the unity of the Church is constituted; and

4) despite this formal disobedience the schismatic must recognize the Roman Pontiff as the true pastor of the Church, and he must profess as an article of faith that obedience is due the Roman Pontiff.

(Rev. Ignatius Szal, The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948], p. 2; underlining added.)

If we suppose for a minute that the “popes” since 1958 have been valid, which the SSPX believes, then the Society meets all four criteria for schism: since their inception in 1970, (1) they have withdrawn from obedience to the Roman Pontiff and in any meaningful way from communion with other members of the Novus Ordo Sect, by operating independently, without authorization, and against all warnings, censures, and penalties. In fact, one can say that the SSPX operates as a de facto parallel church, where everyone must answer to Bp. Fellay, who himself answers to no one. The SSPX will receive no magisterial, canonical, or disciplinary directives or instructions from the “official church”, which they call the “Conciliar Church”, except insofar as they happen to approve of them, a posteriori. They have even gone so far as to establish their own marriage tribunals, in which they presume to decide on the validity or invalidity of marriages and Novus Ordo annulments, thus clearly usurping the prerogative of the Apostolic See. They themselves are the final arbiter of the legitimacy of their own acts and are de facto subject to nobody’s judgment.

For all intents and purposes, then, the SSPX is its own church, regardless of how much they may deny it in words. This may have been softened a bit in the last few years, but here we are evaluating the SSPX as a whole since its founding, since Bp. Fellay is speaking about what the SSPX “has always” supposedly held.

Next, regarding point (2) above, it is clear that the SSPX’s refusal to submit to the “Holy See” is made with obstinacy and rebellion, as they have continually ignored all warnings and censures, even that of “excommunication”, and are fully aware of what they are doing and fully intend to do it. There is no “accident” here, no “misunderstanding”, and no “mistake.” We will elaborate on this in (b) below.

As regards the third (3) condition, we have already seen under (1) above that they are essentially their own, independent organization, with no authorization from nor deference to the entity recognized as the Apostolic See. They run their own apostolate with its own superiors and laws, specifically against the putative Roman authorities, thus clearly rupturing the unity of that church.

Nevertheless, they insist without fail that (4) the Roman Modernists, especially the “Pope”, are the legitimate authorities to whom submission is owed and who have the right to command.

Thus the SSPX meets all four of the criteria for being schismatics, under the supposition that the Vatican II Sect is actually the Catholic Church. But schismatics are not Catholics: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22; underlining added).

(b) Has the SSPX ever wanted to be separated from Rome?

Bp. Fellay’s assertion that the Society did not mean to cut itself off from Rome at the episcopal consecrations of June 30, 1988, is laughable. On July 6, 1988, the then-Superior General of the SSPX, Fr. Franz Schmidberger, sent a scathing response to the July 1 decree of “excommunication” which the Modernist “Cardinal” Bernardin Gantin had sent to Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop de Castro Mayer, and the four new bishops. Schmidberger’s letter was co-signed by 23 lesser SSPX superiors. Here is the full text of the letter:

Ecône, July 6, 1988

Eminence,

Gathered around our Superior General, the Superiors of the Districts, Seminaries and autonomous houses of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X think it good to respectfully express to you the following reflections.

You thought it good, by your letter of July 1st, to inform Their Excellencies Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, and the four Bishops whom they consecrated on June 30, at Ecône, of the excommunication latæ sententiæ. We let you judge for yourself the value of such a declaration, coming from an authority who, in its exercise, breaks with all its predecessors down to Pope Pius XII, in worship, teaching and government of the Church.

As for us, we are in full communion with all the Popes and Bishops before the Second Vatican Council, celebrating precisely the Mass which they codified and celebrated, teaching the Catechism which they drew up, standing up against the errors which they have many times condemned in their encyclicals and pastoral letters. We let you judge on which side the rupture is to be found. We are extremely saddened by the blindness of spirit and the hardening of heart of the Roman authorities.

On the other hand, we have never wished to belong to this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church, and defines itself with the Novus Ordo Missæ, an ecumenism which leads to indifferentism and the laicization of all society. Yes, we have no part, nullam partem habemus, with the pantheon of the religions of Assisi; our own excommunication by a decree of Your Eminence or of another Roman Congregation would only be the irrefutable proof of this. We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. We believe in the One God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and we will always remain faithful to His unique Spouse, the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.

To be publicly associated with this sanction which is inflicted upon the six Catholic Bishops, Defenders of the Faith in its integrity and wholeness, would be for us a mark of honor and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful. They have indeed a strict right to know that the priests who serve them are not in communion with a counterfeit church, promoting evolution, pentecostalism and syncretism. In union with these faithful, we make ours the words of the Prophet: “Præparate corda vestra Domino et servite Illi soli: et liberabit vos de manibus inimicorum vestrorum. Convertimini ad Eum in toto corde vestro, et auferte deos alienos de medio vestri—Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3).

Confident in the protection of Her who has crushed all the heresies in the world, we assure Your Eminence of our dedication to Him Who is the only Way of salvation.

Fr. Franz Schmidberger, Superior General

[List of co-signers follows]

(Source: “Open Letter to Cardinal Gantin”, in Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican, pp. 136-138; underlining added.)

So, Bishop Fellay, the SSPX never meant to be separated from Rome, eh?

Fr. Schmidberger’s letter after the “excommunications” (we’re using quotes here because Modernists have no authority to excommunicate anyone from the Catholic Church, themselves not being a part of her) speaks of a clear “rupture” between the Catholic Church and the Conciliar Church, to which the Roman authorities are being accused of adhering. In fact, Fr. Schmidberger candidly admits that this New Church breaks from the Catholic Church “in worship, teaching, and government” — in other words, it is a different religion not only in certain accidentals but in its very essence. “We have no part” with this new Conciliar Church, Schmidberger insists, and that is why he is delighted to have been declared out of communion with it, this “impious communion of the ungodly” which is nothing short of a “counterfeit church”!

How’s that for “obstinacy and rebellion”?!

“But”, various SSPX apologists will be quick to argue, “Bishop Fellay is saying that they have never meant to be separated from Eternal Rome — they are only separate from Modernist Rome!” Leaving aside for a minute the completely contrived, artificial, and awfully convenient distinction made up (!) by the SSPX and certainly not found in Catholic theology, between an “Eternal Rome” that is authoritative and a “Rome of the moment” that can be as heretical as it wants, we need to recall that Bp. Fellay is not negotiating with some “Eternal Rome” but with the very Modernist Rome that has been running the show since Vatican II. He is seeking to be integrated into the very Rome that represents a total rupture — “in worship, teaching, and government” — with Catholic Rome, that “counterfeit church”! Or is anyone seriously going to argue that the Rome of 2016 is substantially the “Catholic” and “Eternal” Rome of Pius XII, whereas the Rome of 1988 wasn’t? Rather, have things not deteriorated so much more since 1988 into the direction of apostasy?! Alternatively, could someone please publish a lookup table that specifies what days Rome is “Eternal” and thus binding, and what days it can be dismissed as Novus Ordo?

In any case, this should suffice for an accurate assessment of Bp. Fellay’s claim that the episcopal consecrations of 1988 “did not at all mean to be a separation from Rome”. The facts say otherwise.

SN: But these consecrations were not licit according to Church law.

That is correct. However, this does not mean that we reject the primacy of the Pope. When someone disobeys his father, he does not thereby reject his father. Viewed externally, the episcopal consecration was an act of disobedience, but not a rejection of the authority [of the Pope]. 

You know the SSPX has no theological grounds to stand on whenever they substitue an unsuitable analogy for Church teaching. The spiritual relationship of bishop to Pope is not analogous to the biological relationship of son to father. Nothing — nothing — can sever a biological tie because it depends on an event that took place in the past and is therefore per se impossible to change. However, it is quite possible to sever oneself from one’s lawful spiritual head, the Pope, either through heresy, schism, apostasy, or a vitandus excommunication. Church teaching is clear on the matter. We recall once more the words of Pope Pius IX quoted above: “…it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema” (Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu, n. 24).

That’s why even the Vatican never said that the Society of St. Pius X was in schism for it.

Sorry, but this too is simply not true. On July 2, 1988, “Pope” John Paul II, in response to the illicit episcopal consecrations of two days prior, released the “Apostolic Letter” Ecclesia Dei, in which he stated the following:

3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.

4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”….

[5.] …Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law.

(Antipope John Paul II, “Apostolic” Letter Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, nn. 3-5; underlining added.)

In light of this, how can Bp. Fellay claim that the Vatican has never called the SSPX “schismatic” on account of the episcopal consecrations?!

Remember: The point here is not to evaluate whether John Paul II was right or wrong in saying that what Abp. Lefebvre had done was schismatic — the point is only to establish that the Vatican did very much call the SSPX schismatic at one point, for this is what Bp. Fellay disputes. The evidence could not be clearer. Quite simply, Bp. Fellay lied.

This has become clearer and clearer during the [process of] rapprochement: We are not schismatics, we are not separated from the Church.

But not separated from which church, Your Excellency? The “counterfeit church” denounced by Fr. Schmidberger & company in 1988, or the Catholic Church of Pius XII and his predecessors? If the former, how can you not wish to be separated from a false church that is an “impious communion of the ungodly”? And if the latter, why are you talking to authorities of a religion that differs from the Catholic religion in its very essentials (“worship, teaching and government”), of which, as you declared in 1988, you “have no part”?

SN: You will continue to ordain priests without permission, then?

Certainly, but I know that this happens with the tacit, tolerant approval of Rome.

SN: You think Rome tolerates these illicit ordinations?

I don’t [merely] think so, I know it [for sure].

So here the SSPX Superior General is smugly announcing that the ungodly Modernists of the Counterfeit Church no longer really object to his ordinations (and that has since been confirmed by Rome here). And no, that’s not because the Roman Modernists have become Catholics all of a sudden. Really, Your Excellency, this says a lot about how far your Society has come.

SN: In 2009, Benedict XVI lifted your excommunication. Had you yourself felt [sic] excommunicated?

Since being excommunicated — or not — has absolutely nothing to do with how one “feels”, this is a really silly question to ask. While one may forgive the questioner for this faux pas, it is telling that Bp. Fellay did not bother to correct him on this but instead proceeded to answer in like fashion:

No, never. An excommunication is based on a serious sin. That’s why we’ve always explained that we carried out our consecrations as an emergency measure. Yes, we took measures which are forbidden under normal circumstances. But during an emergency there are other standards [to be followed]. That’s why I never felt [as though I was really] excommunicated, even though the Vatican treated me as such.

How convenient! The excommunicate himself evaluates the censure against him and finds himself — shocker! — not guilty! That settles it, doesn’t it? He determines he has not sinned and not incurred excommunication, and all is well! Is this how things work in the Catholic Church?

Archbishop Lefebvre, entirely on his own “authority” and against the very man he believed to be the Vicar of Christ, decided to invoke “emergency standards”. But epikeia — the canonical principle of equity, according to which the mind of the legislator (i.e. the Pope) can be reasonably presumed to dispense from an ecclesiastical law that has become harmful in an unforeseen circumstance — cannot be invoked in his defense, because it can only be used when there is no access to the legislator, such as when there is no Pope or when the Pope is exiled and unable to communicate, for example. But here the situation is entirely different: The “Pope” explicitly communicated to Lefebvre that he is not allowed to consecrate those bishops and that he would incur automatic excommunication if he went ahead with the consecrations anyway.

While it is certainly possible for the lawful Catholic authority to excommunicate someone unjustly and therefore invalidly, even this is not to be taken lightly. On September 8, 1713, Pope Clement XI condemned as Jansenistic 101 errors of Pascal Quesnel, which included the following:

91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.

92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.

Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.

(Pope Clement XI, Apostolic Constitution UnigenitusDenz. 1441-1442)

And, to anticipate the final objection from SSPX apologists: No, Pope Liberius did not excommunicate St. Athanasius — see the evidence here:

So, while Bp. Fellay may say that he has never “felt” excommunicated — surely Martin Luther would have said the same thing — it is really completely and totally irrelevant.

SN: So then did the lifting of the excommunication have any meaning [for you]?

Not much. It was a certain recognition of our status, our situation. 

It does not come as a surprise that someone who believes himself to be the final authority in deciding whether he is actually excommunicated or not — against the authority of the supposed Pope, remember! — would not really care whether his excommunication is lifted or not.

The Pope acknowledged thereby that we are no rebels, that we did not set up a parallel church but are a part of the Roman Catholic Church. In this sense the lifting of the excommunication was meaningful. 

This is nonsense. Bp. Fellay knows very well that on December 7, 1965, “Pope” Paul VI lifted the excommunications against the Eastern Orthodox schismatics. Does this mean for the SSPX Superior that the Eastern Orthodox “did not set up a parallel church but are part of the Roman Catholic Church”? Didn’t think so.

But of much greater importance to us was Pope Benedict XVI’s acknowledgment in 2007 that the Tridentine Mass was never forbidden.

Here Bp. Fellay is referring to Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which made large concessions regarding the use of the 1962 Missal. Contrary to Benedict’s assertion, however, everyone who is familiar with the issues knows that the “Tridentine Mass” was very much forbidden after Vatican II — which is exactly why one needed a special “papal” indult to be permitted to offer it. The first, very restrictive, indult came in 1984 (in Quattuor abhinc annos), and the second in 1988 (in Ecclesia Dei), precisely in response to the SSPX consecrations.

Against popular semi-traditionalist misconceptions, Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum is by no means the great traditional document it is usually made out to be. In fact, it blasphemously and absurdly declares that the wicked Novus Ordo worship service and the traditional Catholic Mass are merely two different forms of “one and the same Roman rite”. We have put an article together showing the dangers and traps contained in what we have called Ratzinger’s Motu Inapproprio:

We continue with the interview:

SN: Pope Francis has permitted Catholics in the Year of Mercy to go to confession even with priests of the Society of St. Pius X. Will this [permission] continue beyond this year?

This permission shows Pope Francis’ concern for the salvation of the faithful. In addition, the Pope confirmed to me personally that this authorization will remain in force beyond the Year of Mercy.

You have got to be kidding: “Francis’ concern for the salvation of the faithful”? There is no need to get into the absurdity of this utterance in depth — we simply refer our readers to our collection of links to Francis’ worst and most outrageous heresies, errors, impieties, and scandals:

SN: Benedict XVI was a theologian, [whereas] Francis is more of a pastoral thinker. Is this an improvement with regard to the Society of St. Pius X?

Benedict XVI was very attentive to doctrine. Francis looks more at the person. Here and there he even sees doctrine as an obstacle perhaps. For us it is important that the way leads forward to what is right, to what is true. We have always considered ourselves as Catholic. If this is ultimately accepted [acknowledged], we are good with that.

This is unbelievable and inexcusable, coming from the man who is widely considered to be the leader of Traditional Catholicism. Leaving aside the outrageous falsehood, asserted implicitly, that Benedict XVI cared about the purity of sound doctrine (click here for a refutation of that silly idea), Bp. Fellay here declares that all the SSPX really wants is that the Modernists in Rome — remember, he called Francis a “genuine Modernist” and even now agrees that he sees “doctrine as an obstacle perhaps” — say that the SSPX is Catholic. Wow! What a contrast to the 1988 declaration that “We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly”!

SN: The sticking point is the Second Vatican Council: religious liberty, ecumenism, episcopal collegiality. Are there any clarifications concerning that? Or are such not needed?

I think that the current position of the Holy See, and especially also that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the result of intense discussions since 2009. A lot was clarified in the process. We do indeed have objections concerning the three points you mention. But today a lot of Catholics move far beyond the texts of the council by appealing to the spirit of the council. Rome acknowledges that our positions are correct on many points.

What’s this now? Rome has most certainly not changed its position on any of these issues, so what was actually “clarified”? More interesting still, here we see Bp. Fellay immediately shifting focus away from the actual errors of Vatican II and onto the much-invoked “spirit” of the council, opposition to which is not nearly as politically incorrect and which even Rome can accept at least verbally, although it has long been the Vatican authorities themselves that have fostered that very spirit through their words, deeds, and omissions.

SN: What does this mean for religious liberty?

Whoever claims today that the state has nothing to do with the Lord God and has no duties towards God, contradicts the teaching of the Church. The term religious liberty means, if one wishes to understand it correctly, that no one is allowed to impose a religion on someone against his conscience. No one is allowed to force another to be baptized.

It is certainly true that no one is allowed to force another to embrace a particular kind of religion, not even the true religion, which is the Catholic religion:

And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, “Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.”

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei, n. 36)

No one unwilling is to be coerced into embracing the Catholic faith.

(Pope Benedict XV, Code of Canon LawCanon 1351)

So far, so good. However, the trouble is that not forcing someone to become a Catholic is not what is meant by “religious liberty”, at least not “if one wishes to understand it correctly,” as Bp. Fellay said. Instead, the correct way to understand religious liberty is as man’s freedom to practice in public and in private the true religion:

To make this more evident, the growth of liberty ascribed to our age must be considered apart in its various details. And, first, let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none.

But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. Add to which, no true virtue can exist without religion, for moral virtue is concerned with those things which lead to God as man’s supreme and ultimate good; and therefore religion, which (as St. Thomas says) “performs those actions which are directly and immediately ordained for the divine honor,” rules and tempers all virtues. And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin.

This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the object of its existence; or the abundance of the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness — namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraven upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide — as they should do — with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man’s capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.

Another liberty is widely advocated, namely, liberty of conscience. If by this is meant that everyone may, as he chooses, worship God or not, it is sufficiently refuted by the arguments already adduced. But it may also be taken to mean that every man in the State may follow the will of God and, from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle, obey His commands. This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God, which nobly maintains the dignity of man and is stronger than all violence or wrong — a liberty which the Church has always desired and held most dear. This is the kind of liberty the Apostles claimed for themselves with intrepid constancy, which the apologists of Christianity confirmed by their writings, and which the martyrs in vast numbers consecrated by their blood. And deservedly so; for this Christian liberty bears witness to the absolute and most just dominion of God over man, and to the chief and supreme duty of man toward God. It has nothing in common with a seditious and rebellious mind; and in no tittle derogates from obedience to public authority; for the right to command and to require obedience exists only so far as it is in accordance with the authority of God, and is within the measure that He has laid down. But when anything is commanded which is plainly at variance with the will of God, there is a wide departure from this divinely constituted order, and at the same time a direct conflict with divine authority; therefore, it is right not to obey.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum, nn. 19-21, 30; underlining added.)

Thus far the true meaning of religious liberty. This liberty is absolute and comes from God Himself.

No one is allowed to coerce another to act contrary to his conscience.

This is false, indeed, one of the errors of Vatican II. In a Catholic country, the state has the right to coerce non-Catholics, for example, not to practice their religion in public and to forbid them from proselytizing. Likewise — to put things into a more current context — the state authority has the right to intervene with force if necessary to keep men from frequenting public women’s restrooms, and vice versa. Even private individuals are sometimes very much allowed, even obliged, to coerce others to “act contrary to their conscience”, namely, whenever people commit acts that violate the rights of another. Thus, if someone declares himself a Communist and claims this entitles him to take another’s property, then it is quite legitimate, perhaps even necessary, to coerce him to act “contrary to his conscience” and keep him from stealing or else compel him to return a stolen item. Conscience does not have unlimited inviolable rights.

But don’t just take it from us — take it from the SSPX itself, even its very founder. In his book Religious Liberty Questioned, which the author sent to the Novus Ordo Holy Office under “Cardinal” Ratzinger in 1985, Abp. Lefebvre, after explicating Catholic moral theology on conscience and liberty, states by way of summary: “But that no one may be restrained from embracing or professing a false religion is certainly a proposition both false and condemned” (Marcel Lefebvre, Religious Liberty Questioned [Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 2002], p. 55; italics removed). Angelus Press is the official SSPX publishing house in the United States, and they still sell the book — the Superior General may want to read it some time.

So, now Bp. Fellay himself utters the same error of Vatican II that Abp. Lefebvre fought against — not mistakenly off the cuff, mind you, but rather in a written interview that surely required his approval before publication. It seems that those “intense discussions” between the SSPX and Rome are starting to show effect after all.

SN: Therefore the council says that it is a matter of each individual deciding in his own conscience to embrace a particular religion.

Vatican II explicitly says that man must seek the truth and adhere to it. At the same time, it [the council] denies this principle in the realm of the state: The state must grant freedom to all religions and is not allowed to interfere with or restrict any of them, even the false ones. And this on account of a natural right. By contrast, the traditional teaching of the Church says that the state can tolerate false religions but these cannot invoke a natural right [to exist or be tolerated].

As regards the Church, however, she has the duty always and everywhere to proclaim the truth to men and to lead them to the truth. The Catholic Church is the only true religion, the only one that can save man. That’s why she is missionary.

SN: When someone embraces a different religion, he is in error?

Absolutely.

SN: What does this mean for the ecumenism of the Christian churches?

If one understands ecumenism to mean that all Christians are to find their way back to the [Catholic] Church, then we too are in favor of ecumenism. We pray for the unity of Christians. But to believe that anyone can attain salvation in whatever way he sees fit — we say No [to that], that is not the teaching of the Church. In this sense we oppose ecumenism.

OK, fine, but Vatican II’s ecumenism is neither the first nor (officially) the second alternative, so Bp. Fellay is really not addressing Vatican II ecumenism at all here. Why not?

Secondly, it is troubling that Fellay refers to heretics and schismatics simply as “Christians”, when that is not the traditional label for them and is not specific enough in any case. As Pope Pius XII taught: “To be Christian one must be Roman; one must recognize the oneness of Christ’s Church, that is governed by one successor of the Prince of the Apostles, who is the Bishop of Rome, Christ’s Vicar on Earth” (Pius XII, Allocution to Irish Pilgrims, Oct. 8, 1957; qtd. in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 1502, p. 768).

SN: Where is the problem with regard to episcopal collegiality?

Pope Paul VI specifically added an additional, explanatory note to the conciliar text: No bishop is allowed to claim to be a part of the leadership of the Church if he is not with the Pope and under the Pope. The Pope alone decides whether [someone] and who has a say in the Church. He is the sole ruler [Alleinherrscher]. To claim that the bishops have some sort of democratic legitimation, is entirely false. For this contradicts the teaching of the Church completely. But this is utterly ignored by most dignitaries today.

Yes, although it’s not very believable coming from a man who has spent the last 22 years as his own “sole ruler”. (Bp. Fellay has been Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X since 1994. His current term expires in 2018.)

SN: What is your position on Judaism? You allegedly said in 2012 that the Jews, the Freemasons, and the Modernists are the enemies of the Church.

Ich have tried several times to correct [richtigstellen] this sentence, which was never authorized by me thus. I never said “the” enemies of the Church, only “enemies”. And this statement was made in connection with the question of who was putting pressure on Rome against an agreement with the Society of St. Pius X. Concerning this I said it is astonishing that it is precisely these groups, which often show themselves as enemies of the Church, that do not want us.

Let’s put this thing to rest once and for all. This will be easy to do as we have the original audio of Bp. Fellay’s conference in 2012 as well as a transcript thereof. See for yourself:

Clearly, the SSPX Superior General says “the enemies of the Church”:

We have many enemies, many enemies. But look and that’s very interesting. Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The ENEMIES of the Church.  The Jews, the Masons, the [Modernists]! The most opposed that the Society would be recognized as a Catholic: the ENEMIES of the Church! Interesting, isn’t it? More than that, what was the point? What did they say to Rome? They said, “You must oblige these people to accept Vatican II. That’s also VERY interesting, isn’t it? People whom [sic] from OUTSIDE the Church, who were clearly during centuries, were enemies of the Church, say to Rome, if you want  to accept these people, you MUST oblige them to accept the Council. Isn’t that interesting? Oh, it is! I think it’s FANTASTIC! Because it shows that Vatican II is THEIR THING! Not the Church’s – THEY see, the ENEMIES of the Church see THEIR benefit in the Council.

(Source: Inofficial Transcript; underlining added.)

Why now deny that you said it the way you did back then, Your Excellency? And what do you mean when you say that “this sentence” was “never authorized” by you? You yourself uttered it! And, for Heaven’s sake, why are you now acting as though the Jews, the Freemasons, and the Modernists are not the enemies of the Church?! The softening qualifier that they “often show themselves” as enemies of the Church is something you did not say in the original conference — it is something you added just now. Not even the official SSPX press release on the matter took this stance.

Alas, this is not the first time that Bp. Fellay has attempted to distort the facts regarding what he said in his December 2012 conference about the enemies of the Church. In his abysmal (and hence never advertised) interview performance with Tim Sebastian on Conflict Zone in February 2016, Bp. Fellay claimed that he had said that the Jews considered the Catholic Church as their enemy, not necessarily the other way around. Have a look at that interview and our extensive commentary on it:

Funny how the story keeps changing.

SN: What does this say about your position on Judaism?

It has nothing to do with the Jews as a people but only with some Jewish organizations. I never meant to target Judaism [as a people] — excepting their religion. A religion that rejects Christ as the Son of God is opposed to Christianity.

At least the Superior General still acknowledges this much. On this topic, by the way, we recommend the following books by the immortal Fr. Denis Fahey:

The Messiah comes from the people of the Jews, and for that reason it is entirely clear that the attitude of each Catholic vis-a-vis the Jews in general is a very special one, and not one that is antagonistic. 

Our Blessed Lord Himself had something to say about that:

They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever. If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. I know that you are the children of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do the things that you have seen with your father. They answered, and said to him: Abraham is our father. Jesus saith to them: If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who have spoken the truth to you, which I have heard of God. This Abraham did not. You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God. Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me: Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do….

(John 8:33-44)

Not antagonistic, huh?

Our Lord made very clear that the Jews even of his time — who were indeed the legitimate bearers of salvation then (cf. Jn 4:22), unlike today’s apostate Talmudists — ought not to glory in their carnal link to Abraham if they do not “do the works of Abraham”. And this He underscored using rather blunt language. No doubt His hearers were “offended”!

Of course we must not be uncharitable to Jews, or to any non-Catholic — this much is clear, for charity is the highest law (cf. Mt 22:36-40; 1 Cor 13:2; 1 Jn 4:8). All that the above quote from John 8 is meant to demonstrate is that the merely fleshly link that today’s Jews may still retain with the Jews of the Old Testament by being their physical descendants, is of no value as long as they reject the true Messiah: “It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing” (Jn 6:64).

Thus Bp. Fellay’s assertion that because Christ is the Son of David and thus of Abraham (cf. Mt 1:1), therefore there now exists some sort of special, awe-inspiring relationship between today’s apostate Jews and Catholics, is gratuitous and false: “There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ’s, then are you the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:28-29). St. John the Baptist, too, made this clear to the Jews right away: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:9).

But it is deplorable that they have not recognized the Messiah so far. They will do so — this was foretold by St. Paul. It says that at some point the people of the Jews will convert, and this will be of extraordinary benefit to the entire world.

SN: What significance does the Holocaust have [for you]?

The Holcoaust has something to do with National Socialism, with Hitler. It has nothing to do with the Catholic Church. The Holocaust is a tragedy like any other genocide. The Church has always spoken out against it. So do we.

And thus we come to the end of the interview, finally.

This post was going to end here, but just as we were editing this post for publication, a new development occurred: This very morning the SSPX headquarters in Menzingen released a statement from Bp. Fellay after a meeting of the Society’s major superiors. The official press release, which is quite brief and somewhat explosive, can be read here:

It is easy to see that now the tone has shifted once again to a less friendly one. (Contrast this, for example, with the Bp. Fellay of May 13.) At the same time, the communique really does not say anything substantially new, and the change in tone and emphasis is perhaps just meant to pacify those SSPX adherents who are taking a hard line against Francis and are getting increasingly uncomfortable with Fellay’s recent conciliatory maneuvers towards the Vatican.

Against some rash reports about an alleged “abandonment” of reconcilation efforts on the part of the SSPX (see hereand here, for example), a cool analysis of the communique’s text shows that Bp. Fellay has actually left all doors open [Update: Precisely this has now been confirmed by “Mgr.” Guido Pozzo at the Vatican]: He does not say that he no longer seeks reconciliation or that he rejects Francis’ concessions — he merely qualifies that recognition by Rome, to which he believes the SSPX “has a right”, is not the first priority for the Lefebvrists: “The Society of Saint Pius X … does not seek primarily a canonical recognition…” (italics added). As is the case so often, all the difference is in the adverb! At the same time, it is not surprising that this less harmonious tone should now raise people’s eyebrows, since Fellay had just announced in his June 21 interview that the SSPX never wanted to be separated from Rome. So… whatever!

Secondly, Fellay’s conviction that the “‘restoration of all things in Christ’ … cannot happen without the support of a Pope who concretely favors the return to Sacred Tradition” does not rule out a reconciliation or canonical recognition under Francis; it merely states that not all things will be restored in Christ under the current supposed “Pope” (no kidding!). Indeed, in this same paragraph Bp. Fellay possibly hints at precisely such a “deal” with Rome by saying that the Society “intends to redouble its efforts to establish and to spread, with the means that Divine Providence gives to it, the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (italics added). What means might this include? Francis’ “god of surprises” might just have an answer in the works!

Thirdly, it is curious to see that now Bp. Fellay has gone back to lamenting that “the Pope himself” encourages “errors” that contribute to “the great and painful confusion that currently reigns in the Church”, for which reason the SSPX “prays and does penance for the Pope”, because just on June 21 Fellay was still lauding “Francis’ concern for the salvation of the faithful”. What happened? Did we quickly switch from Eternal Rome to Modernist Rome again without noticing? It’s hard to keep up!

Fourthly, Fellay says he wants Francis “to proclaim Catholic faith and morals in their entirety”, but this is highly misleading, because, as Fellay knows very well, Francis is not proclaiming the Catholic Faith at all. Since he preaches heresy, he preaches a false faith altogether, so it’s not like Francis is simply keeping certain doctrines hidden. Rather, he is preaching the opposite of true doctrine, and there is no such thing as preaching the true Faith “in part” while preaching heresy. This lies in the nature of Faith, of which there cannot be more or less, as explained by Pope Benedict XV:

Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: “This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved” (Athanas. Creed).

(Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 24)

Thus, although one report speaks of the latest SSPX communique as “clarifying” their position vis-a-vis Rome, the truth is that Fellay’s latest statement is quite confusing because deliberately vague and ambiguous. Why would they issue something that confuses rather than clarifies? In the opinion of this writer, this press release is simply a much-needed “one step back” after two steps forward, taken in order to prevent a massive exodus of those in the SSPX who are not (yet?) ready to accept a deal with the Modernists in Rome.

Time will tell what happens, but in the meantime, the assault on Catholic teaching perpetrated in one way by Francis and in another way by the SSPX will continue at full throttle.

To refute and expose it, that’s what we’re here for. Please spread the word.