Monday, January 7, 2013

Bishop Fellay Said What?!

A correspondent sent me a link to a talk given by Bishop Fellay of the SSPX on December 28, 2012. The talk is over an hour-and-a-half long, so it requires setting aside a good chunk of time to actually listen to the whole thing, but I found it worthwhile. 

I admit I was putting off making time to listen to it until I noticed a link to an article on Face Book. The title of the article was “SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay: Jewish People Are Enemies of the Church” [see the SSPX statement on this here]. The article quotes the Catholic Herald as saying:

The head of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X has called Jewish people “enemies of the Church”, saying Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s”.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society’s superior general, said those most opposed to Rome granting canonical recognition to the SSPX have been “the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists”.

He said these people, “who are outside of the Church, who over centuries have been enemies of the Church”, urged the Vatican to compel the SSPX to accept Vatican II.

The author then goes on to quote the “core text” of Nostra Aetate, which he states “revolutionised the Catholic Church’s relationship with those of other faiths; most notably the Jews.”

In point of fact, though, nothing that Bishop Fellay said regarding the Jewish people actually goes against the text cited. Bishop Fellay’s comment was made in passing, basically; did he describe the Jews as “enemies of the Church”? Yes, he did. He did not clarify in what sense he meant that, other than to point out that Jews have lobbied against Rome’s recognition of the SSPX, and have lobbied in favor of some part of Vatican II documents that support a very liberal ecumenism.

I don’t know whether I would characterize Jews as “enemies of the Church”, but I do know that I was quite appalled that Jews would think they had the right to determine the content of our Catholic Good Friday prayers a few years ago…and furthermore, that they seemed to have some success at pressuring the Pope to alter them.

Anyway, a Google search showed that Bishop Fellay’s comment was picked up by other news outlets as well. And of course, there were the requisite, negative, put-down comments about that statement.

For me, though, this became a challenge to actually listen to the talk. I wonder how many of the reporters actually did that, because there were a lot more interesting things in Bishop Fellay’s presentation that a brief comment about Jews, Masons, and modernists. (By the way, no one seems to be objecting to the characterizations of Masons and modernists as enemies of the Church...)

In particular, I recall that Bishop Fellay commented that he’s heard time and time again that the Novus Ordo is “valid and licit”. He joked, “Well, we don’t usually talk about ‘licit’. We just say it’s evil.” No one reported that! It made me laugh!

Bishop Fellay also commented about some diocesan bishops in Rome asking to have an SSPX priest preach retreats for their own priests in their dioceses.  Isn’t that interesting? As my correspondent noted, “They must be confident that the SSPX priests are qualified and more than capable of transmitting the faith.”

Bishop Fellay also mentioned that several more bishops in Rome wanted to learn to say the EF Mass, and did so as a result of SSPX priests being available to teach them. 

Actually, the main point of Bishop Fellay’s talk was to give a “summary of recent events” with regard to the negotiations between the SSPX and Rome. The first hour of the talk focuses on the events that unfolded over the last year or so, mostly, and the bishop’s frank discussion raises lots of questions about the “process”.  I’ve not seen a news story that reports much about that.

And that’s probably because Bishop Fellay discusses what he describes as “contradictions and inconsistencies” in the communications he’s had with Rome. Things like receiving a letter that says something along the lines of “The SSPX will agree to x, y, and z, or excommunication will follow”, only to be told verbally by sources close to the Pope to “ignore it”, because official recognition is coming. Bishop Fellay claims that he has been told by people who should know that “the Pope is on your side”; yet at the same time, he is warned not to say such things in public.

As I listened to the talk, I thought to myself, “Someone is not telling the truth here.” Well, duh. Sin abounds in the world, even in the Vatican, even in the SSPX, even in our own individual lives! I don’t know who’s being dishonest, but I do know this: Bishop Fellay gives every appearance of being open and honest; he’s straightforward; he doesn’t pull punches; he doesn’t sugar-coat things; he doesn’t dance around with politically correct verbiage.
In short, he doesn’t talk like some of the bishops with whom I’ve had experience.

I think also that the SSPX is held to a higher standard than diocesan bishops the world over. The SSPX is criticized for the slightest mention of some disagreement with any of the points of Vatican II which they dispute. 


What is so different, then, about those Canadian bishops who in 1968 issued their own formal statement of disobedience to Humanae Vitae, known as the Winnipeg Statement?
What about the bishops who condone homosexual behavior?

What about the ones who won’t follow Rome’s instructions regarding liturgical music? See this book? -------------------------------------->
It contains 600 pages of legislation on music that’s been largely ignored by bishops everywhere.

And what about the bishops who are not following the Holy Father’s clear instructions with regard to providing the extraordinary form of the Mass for those who desire it?

Why do all these bishops get a free pass?! 

I admit to having mixed feelings and confused thoughts about the whole SSPX issue. Nevertheless, I think that they have much to offer our poor, ailing Church. I don’t really think the SSPX is part of the problem; I think their presence serves to remind the powers-that-be that Tradition is important! And I believe that the SSPX may prove to be a very important part of the solution to the Church’s ills if reconciliation and official recognition are ever achieved.

And no matter what the truth is about how the Pope “really feels” about the SSPX, it is quite clear that he, too, desires reconciliation.

So, I pray daily – and fervently – for that reconciliation to occur.


  1. Great blog post. It's nice to see a little common sense applied to the situation.

  2. Thanks for this post, Jay. Agreed that we must pray for reconciliation.

  3. This was a nicely balanced review of the Bishop's talk!

    I found it natural for Bishop Fellay to suggest that the Jews are "enemies of the Church"; otherwise, why pray for their conversion? If we are not for Christ, we are against Him.

    Every time we read The Last Gospel of St. John, we are reminded that "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." The Jews did not acknowledge Him to be the Messiah and even though they were favored, they rejected Him. Besides the humiliation and abasement, I think this message is meant to serve as a continued warning.

    Likewise, we Catholics will have some serious accountability (I shudder to think of my own failings).

    Of course, it is understood that anyone who rejects Christ (in some form or another) is an enemy of the Church, Christian or not. Unfortunately, the rejection of Our Lord Jesus has now become much more universal.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. Well said, HSE! Yes, that is a good explanation of the enemies of the Church. It's just that the Church of Nice doesn't like to use those harsh words like "enemy", ya know! ;-)

  5. Hi Jay:

    From the SSPX website, January 5, 2013:

    SSPX USA District press release
    Bishop Fellay's comment "enemies of the Church"

    During a 2-hour conference given in Ontario, Canada on December 28th, 2012, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society St. Pius X, commented on the relations between the Holy See and the SSPX during the last two years.

    During the conference Bishop Fellay stated “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 word "enemies" used here by Bishop Fellay is of course a religious concept and refers to any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.

    This religious context is based upon the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the Holy Gospels: “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” (Matthew 12:30)

    By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay's comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people, as is being implied by journalists.

    Accordingly the Society of St. Pius X denounces the repeated false accusations of anti-Semitism or hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message.


    That pretty well explained it for me. I have respect and great trust in Bishop Fellay and figured it would have some reasonable explanation contrary to the news media's splash headlines.

  6. Thanks, Elizabeth! I just received that text from another reader via email, and made it into another short post.

  7. Yes I suppose we have all been enemies of the church at one time or another....I know I have !
    Once upon a time I was doing it my way and living life just the way I please....I shudder also to think of those days and being an enemy of the church .
    Thanks be to God, TODAY is a new day and I have surrender to Jesus Christ ,His Church and His Teachings .
    I pray daily for the conversion of sinners and for the world for without Christ we are all lost!
    Thanks be to God for the Society of St. Pius the X and for Bishop Fellay . Let us embrace Tradition becuase it is very important for the future of the Holy Catholic Church ! The Church of Nice just doesn't have anything to offer : these are sad times! But stay stron and rejoice Jesus has overcome the World ...that is HIS Promise !


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