On June 3rd the Society of St. Pius X published an interview of Bishop Bernard Fellay who, until last July, had served as its Superior General for twenty-four years.
Before we take a look at some of his comments, I wish to say two things. First, Bishop Fellay occupies a special place in my heart and in my prayers. He played a key role in opening my eyes to tradition.
I vividly recall back in my “conservative adolescence” (as I like to call it) watching one of Bishop Fellay’s conferences on the state of Rome and thinking, “This is how a bishop should speak!” I remain grateful to him and the SSPX in general.
Secondly, though the question posed in the title to this post concerns the Society’s relationship with “Francis,” I would encourage readers to examine their own attitude toward him while asking, “Is it traditional?”
With that said… When asked if the SSPX’s place should be “in Rome, because Rome is the head, but also the heart of the Church,” Bishop Fellay replied:
The heart of the Church is the Holy Ghost, it is the love of Jesus, and it is also the priesthood, so intimately tied to Our Lord and to His Sacred Heart. The head of the Church is Christ. Here below, the visible leader of the Church is the pope, to whom we are of course subject, whom we respect and have always respected, as well as all the legitimate authorities of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
I find Bishop Fellay’s description of the Society’s relationship with “the pope” – and by this it is safe to assume that he means Jorge Bergoglio, aka “Francis” – interesting, for lack of a better word.
According to His Excellency’s reply, it would seem that this relationship is characterized primarily by “respect.” But what exactly does this mean? As we venture to find out, we will also consider what it means to be “subject” to the pope, as Bishop Fellay stated as well.
First, for an understanding of “respect” that is derived from the viewpoint of tradition, we will take a brief look at the Catechism of the Council of Trent (the Roman Catechism) where it is encouraged quite often; e.g., the respect due to the Word of God, the Saints, sacred images, one’s superiors, one’s parents, one’s spouse, etc.
Most notably, it states that the faithful must be enabled “to understand the respect due to the Church’s ministers.” As for what this entails, the Roman Catechism tells us that respect means to “hold in the highest esteem all that relates to him.” And remember, this pertains to all of the Church’s ministers.
So, does the SSPX really hold all that relates to “Francis” in the highest esteem?
God forbid! I am rather confident that neither Bishop Fellay, nor anyone else who speaks for the Society with any degree of authority, would say as much.
With this in mind, it would seem that Bishop Fellay is using the term “respect” in a more colloquial sense that, apart from explanation, is wide open to multiple interpretations. One thinks, for instance, of the way in which conciliar churchmen, including Bergoglio, like to declare their “respect” for sodomites, Jews, Muslims, heretics, atheists, and on and on.
What is not up for multiple interpretations, however, is the Church’s traditional understanding of that which must characterize the faithful’s relationship with the pope; including the SSPX. And make no mistake about it, folks; respect is not nearly enough – no matter how one defines it.
The Roman Catechism sheds light on why this is the case as it describes the pope as:
…the Father and guide of all the faithful, of all the Bishops, and of all the prelates, no matter how high their power and office.
Some three centuries later, the First (and only authentic) Vatican Council stated:
In this way, by unity with the Roman Pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith, the Church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd … so that they [the pastors and flocks of the entire church] may be taught and guided by him in the way of salvation (cf Vatican Council I, Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3, Arts. 3,6).
Pope Pius XII further explained the necessity of unity with the pope stating:
It is He [Our Lord] who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain it and confirm it with reverence and devotion (cf Mystici Corporis, Art. 50).
Taken together, tradition teaches us that all of the members of the Church…
…are obligated to profess, as with one voice along with the Roman Pontiff, the same faith such as he defends it, explains it, and confirms it simply because he is uniquely endowed by Christ with supernatural gifts that enable him to serve as our Father, our teacher, and our guide.
This, according to Catholic tradition, is a non-negotiable part what it means to be “subject” to the pope. No one who wishes to credibly claim an attachment to tradition is justified in watering this down, qualifying it, or otherwise parsing its plain meaning in order to make it more comfortably fit the disastrous circumstances of today.
So, let us ask: Is the Society of St. Pius X (or any faithful Catholic for that matter) truly willing to take an oath promising to profess, as with one voice along with “Francis,” the ‘faith’ as taught, defended, explained, and confirmed by him as their Father and guide?
Of course not! No faithful Catholic can possibly do this, and the reason is plain:
To do so would be to depart from unity with the true Church of Christ. It would effectively amount to declaring one’s membership in what must be understood as a new and decidedly false religion; albeit one operating under the Catholic name in the manner of a shameless imposter.
Bishop Fellay apparently understands this latter point well; namely, that the conciliar church is not the Holy Roman Catholic Church. As he stated in the interview:
But you know that we are going through a terrible crisis, a truly diabolical disorientation, which has replaced eternal Rome, mistress of wisdom and truth, with a new Rome, born of the Second Vatican Council, a neo-modernist Rome with liberal tendencies, which we must resist to keep the Faith. [Emphasis added]
Now, certainly, some will argue that a faithful Catholic can and indeed must qualify their obligation to maintain unity with the pope as plainly taught by tradition; pledging to stand with him when he professes the true faith as we ourselves may understand it, while refusing to profess the ‘faith’ as taught, defended, explained, and confirmed by him when he errs; again, as we ourselves may understand it.
Sounds almost feasible, no? For many years I found no fault with this approach, but then the obvious hit me over the head like a ton of bricks:
This is not what it means, according to authentic Catholic tradition, to be a member of the Church that Jesus Christ established for our salvation; a Body endowed with a visible head, His Vicar, upon whom we can and indeed must depend in matters of faith and morals.
The “pick and choose” mentality, by contrast, is exactly what the heretics and schismatics – those outside the Body – have always done and continue to do, and not just in this post-conciliar age of poisonous “Joint Statements.”
For example, in 1863, a movement known as the National Reform Association, comprised of Protestant ministers, theologians, and lawyers lobbied to have the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution amended to include the following bracketed text:
We the People of the United States, [humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government,] and in order to form a more perfect union. (See Christopher Ferrara, Liberty, the God that Failed)
In this, these well-meaning heretics were in union with the reigning Roman Pontiff, Pope Pius IX, and yet they were also very much opposed, no doubt, to his Syllabus of Errors and resisted much else concerning the faith such as he taught, defended, explained, and confirmed it.
Ask yourself, dear reader: How is this any different than so-called “traditionalists” who claim to be “in unity” with “Francis” when he condemns abortion, but openly resist him and the numerous grave errors that are taught, defended, explained, and confirmed in Amoris Laetitia?
What was missing for the above mentioned Protestant defenders of Christ’s Kingship?
Among other things, they evidently did not believe, as all Catholics must, that the Roman Pontiff is above all others, endowed by Christ with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that he may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain it and confirm it.
Does Bishop Fellay and the SSPX have confidence that this is true of Francis?
If they do, it would very difficult to explain how they are justified in refusing to profess the same ‘faith’ as he, while also claiming to remain Catholic themselves.
In any case, His Excellency has no difficulty recognizing that the special graces that are afforded to certain men based upon the dignity of their particular state renders them a dependable guide in matters of grave importance. He states:
However, the “Roman question,” as Archbishop Lefebvre called it, rests in the hands of the Superior General. He is the one who possesses the graces of state to realize concretely the development of the relations of the Society with Rome.
So, Bishop Fellay believes that by virtue of his election as Superior General, and the graces that accompany his state, Fr. Davide Pagliarani can be depended upon to lead the SSPX in the right direction. Fair enough.
As such, however, is it not reasonable for one to expect Bishop Fellay and the Society to openly declare that the uniquely profound graces of state that accompany the Petrine Office render Francis all the more dependable with regard to leading the entire Church?
I, for one, see no evidence whatsoever that they genuinely believe this to be the case. Even so, the SSPX continues to call Jorge Bergoglio “Pope” and “Holy Father.”
Though many will simply refuse to see it, something just doesn’t add up.
We have already mentioned Pope Pius XII’s description of the special graces that accompany the Petrine state, but let us now turn to the words of Our Blessed Lord Himself:
And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (Luke 22:31-32)
As all Catholics necessarily believe, this prayer of Our Lord for Peter also applies to his Successors. For nearly 2,000 years, history confirmed that His prayer (like every word that comes forth from His mouth) has not only been answered, but more properly speaking, it created that of which He spoke because He is Lord!
As the First Vatican Council saw fit to reaffirm:
So the fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith:
The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the Christian religion. (Vatican Council I, Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4, Art. 2) [Emphasis added]
One notes that “the Catholic religion,” which consists in much more than just those doctrines that are properly considered dogmatic or infallible, “has always been preserved unblemished” in Rome – just as expected according to the plainly expressed will of Jesus Christ Himself – as evidenced by what “the Apostolic See preaches;” that is, by what the Roman Pontiff teaches, defends, explains, etc.
Does the SSPX, or anyone in their right Catholic mind, wish to argue that this describes the preaching of the one known as Francis? Do they wish to declare that Christ is building His Church on the preaching of Francis and the likes of Amoris Laetitia?
Indeed, some among us are so desperate to avoid the obvious that they will point to men like Honorius, Liberius, and John XXII as examples of popes whose faith failed; in spite of the fact that these cases are in no way comparable to the present crisis.
If this describes you, think long and hard about what you are saying:
Do you really wish to declare that Jesus’s prayer for Peter and those Roman Pontiffs who would follow went unanswered; even though tradition plainly teaches that the word of Our Lord, in this case as it pertains to His Vicar, “cannot fail of its effect?”
To wrap this up, I will conclude with the following from Bishop Fellay:
This religious ignorance has only grown. Today, we need to find an even more serious word, but one that conveys the same idea. We have entered a desert, an abyssal void of ignorance…even forgetting the Creator, the author of this world, on whom every creature absolutely depends. Just as much, the Redeemer has disappeared and consequently His Law, real love. The work of the Redeemer is unknown, as is His law of love.
A more serious word? I have a suggestion; how about apostasy, and this thanks in no small part to churchmen who, even though they surely must know better, are unwilling to speak uncomfortable truths plainly.
The overwhelming majority of Catholics – and this includes no small number of so-called traditionalists – are ignorant as to what the Holy Roman Catholic Church truly is, how to recognize her and our duties toward her. They are likewise ignorant when it comes to who the Roman Pontiff is, how to recognize him and our duties toward him.
As for the former, to his credit Bishop Fellay made it fairly clear that the institution presently posing as the Holy Roman Catholic Church is not Eternal Rome; it is a new Rome, a neo-modernist Rome, one that does not have the Faith.
As for the latter, it only stands to reason, does it not, that the visible head of this #FAKE CHURCH, Jorge Bergoglio, is also an imposter?
May it please God to give Bishop Fellay and others like him the grace to recognize and declare as much just as openly and plainly.