Bishop Fellay: A troubling interview

On June 30th – ten days prior to being replaced as SSPX Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay was interviewed by the German media outlet Die Tagespost. An English translation of the complete text of the interview is available on the Society’s website.

Here, we will look at a number of relevant excerpts; some of them very troubling.

First observation – Die Tagespost is not a “traditionalist” publication; rather, it is neo-conservative in orientation. As such, this interview provided a golden opportunity for His Excellency to speak plainly to those who are convinced that the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae are not in and of themselves poisonous.

In fact, I would say that this is the only good reason to sit down with an interviewer that one can reasonably expect to be antagonistic – in this case, a writer by the name of Regina Einig – and indeed, she was.

Einig was not bashful about showing her bias by suggesting, and stubbornly so even after being corrected, that there was a “definitive separation of the Society” from the Church.

Bishop Fellay did well to state firmly, “I insist: We never separated from the Church,” and this after already having said of the 1988 consecrations:

Therefore it was not about separating from the Church, but about distinguishing our position from the modern spirit, from the fruits of the Council.

This may cause one to wonder: Spirit, fruits, or contents of the Council? Bishop Fellay went on to clarify, as he stated:

We never said that the Council made heretical statements outright. But it did remove the protective barrier against error and in this way caused error to crop up.

Wow. Count me as stunned. If it is not an outright heresy to say that Christ uses the Protestant sects as “means of salvation” (Unitatis Redintegration – 3) then nothing is.

Of course, there are those who will split hairs (as Fr. Gleize did on behalf of the SSPX in his treatment of Amoris Laetitia) by framing the definition of “heresy” in such theologically technical terms that the word is rendered all-but-meaningless.

Even so, the more troubling aspect of Bishop Fellay’s response concerns the suggestion that the Council simply “removed barriers against error;” as opposed to positively proposing error.

What happened to Bishop Fellay?!

I recall very well having had the privilege of sharing a semi-private breakfast with His Excellency and just four or five others (all priests but one) back in 2012. At the time, I was still in the earlier stages of having my eyes opened to tradition, and I remember vividly just how jolting it was to hear Bishop Fellay speak plainly about “the errors of the Council.”

In fact, the Decree on Ecumenism and the preposterous idea that the Protestant sects are “means of salvation” is one of the specific examples he cited in so accusing the Council.

Today, not only does he suggest otherwise, he actually went on in the interview to explicitly absolve the Council of error:

…what happened during and after the Council was perceived much more sensitively and more attentively than in Germany. It was not a matter of blatant errors, but rather of trends, of opening doors and windows.

As much as I would like to report otherwise, it only went from bad to worse.

After clarifying the Society’s position on the Novus Ordo (generally valid, but harmful), he went on to say:

The new Mass has defects and dangers lurking in it. Of course not every new Mass is a scandal immediately, but the repeated celebration of the new Mass leads to a weak faith or even to the loss of faith.

If I may take the liberty of clarifying Bishop Fellay’s point, at least in terms of what I believe it is fair to imagine, in suggesting that every new Mass is not “a scandal immediately,” he seems to mean that the faithful there present are not immediately scandalized. This, as most of us know from experience, is true; i.e., it is often only over time that one’s eyes are opened that the reality of the Novus Ordo.

That said, we must be clear (and, unfortunately, Bishop Fellay was not): The Novus Ordo, given the undeniable fact that it is defective and leads one away from the Faith, is always and everywhere scandalous – no matter how it is celebrated.

Bishop Fellay went on to list a number of examples of how the new Mass leads to a loss of faith. He then said:

With the new Mass you have to bring your own faith; you receive hardly anything immediately from the rite. The rite is flat.

Not to nitpick, but after having participated in the Novus Ordo for more than a decade, I know that this isn’t true. The anthropocentric orientation of the new Mass always presses itself upon those present – even when celebrated ad orientem. It is inescapable.

When asked by Einig, “Do you consider conversions that are encouraged even today by the new Mass—think of Nightfever [a spin-off from World Youth Day that organizes nights of prayer to bring people back to the faith]—to be self-deceptions?

A good answer to that question would have made it clear that any conversions that appear to grow out of the Novus Ordo are evidence of God’s goodness and generosity; they are not indications that the rite is an instrument of conversion; much less good. And then there is the question: To exactly what are those persons converting?

In any case, Bishop Fellay answered:

No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying: If you welcome a head of state and have the choice between a silver trumpet and a tin trumpet, do you use the tin trumpet? That would be an insult; you don’t do that. And even the best new Masses are like tin trumpets in comparison to the old liturgy. We have to use the best for the dear Lord.

Perhaps this was an attempt to engage Die Tagespost’s neo-conservative audience by framing the conversation in terms of what Our Lord deserves. Indeed, it is true that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the summit of Divine worship; it is the best that we have to offer Him.

The problem, however, lies in the suggestion that the difference between the Traditional Roman Rite and the Novus Oro lies not so much in what they are as in the quality of each; like in the case of a Toyota Prius and a Cadillac – each one a car that will get you where you want go, but one a whole lot nicer than the other.

According to this way of thinking, both rites are truly Catholic; one is just more impressive in the eyes of God.

I don’t think that Bishop Fellay believes this to be so, but then again, based on the contents of this interview, I must admit that I no longer have any confidence in my own perception concerning what he actually believes or not.

There is, however, an even bigger problem.

As I have stated in the past, a sincere seeker of truth who happens to come upon this interview, or certain other pieces of information posted on the SSPX website, will likely come away not knowing what the Society itself actually believes – and worse, what is, and what is not, consonant with tradition.

In conclusion, please pray for Bishop Fellay. Clearly, all is not well with him. Let us pray also for the Society, that under the leadership of Fr. Pagliarani it will once again speak with clarity and conviction in defense of Catholic tradition.

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3 comments on “Bishop Fellay: A troubling interview

  1. The author wrote:”Wow. Count me as stunned. If it is not an outright heresy to say that Christ uses the Protestant sects as “means of salvation” (Unitatis Redintegration – 3) then nothing is.”

    God uses even Satan to fulfill His Will. This is nothing new.
    There are some that became Protestant before going all the way to Catholicism. It can be a bridge for some. It does not mean that the Protestant Churches in and of themselves are the ultimate means of Salvation. But it could be a “stepping stone” to some. Some Protestants are united to the Catholic Church in full by their Desire to Learn and Grow in that Direction. I think the author is scandalized too easily.
    In my subjective view, H.E. Fellay could be more combative, but again, we must consider from his point of view, his prudential judgement; and how it informs him about the audience he is addressing.

  2. I agree with the author, and respectfully disagree with you, Ghebreyesus.
    That some became Protestants before becoming Catholic, even if we can truly say that Protestantism can be a stepping stone to Catholicism (which I don’t think we can), does NOT mean that Protestantism, as such, is a means of salvation. At best it would be, precisely, a stepping stone to a means of salvation.
    Only, it’s not even that.
    Look at it this way. Let’s say there were no Protestantism at all, but Catholicism was the only kind of Christianity available (which it actually is in strict terms, because Protestants do not follow Christ, but rather their own opinions or those of their heretical leaders).
    Wouldn’t you think the choice as to which religion to follow would be a lot easier? There’d be FAR less confusion.
    Hence, Protestantism cannot even be called a stepping stone to salvation. It is *always* an *obstacle*.

  3. One of our SSPX priests here recently said that protestants aren’t Christians.

    Shall we add the Sr. Lucy debacle to this as well? The initial part of the final report says “Houston we have a problem!”

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