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Sunday, June 21, 2009

New and important interview with Bishop Fellay in Austrian press

SSPX: "We are the black sheep in any case"

Despite conciliatory gestures to the Vatican, the arch-conservative SSPX on Saturday will illicitly ordain priests. Bishop Bernard Fellay, the successor of Archbishop Lefebvre explains why.

The Press: How is the dialogue going between the SSPX and Rome, which created so much dust in January?
Bishop Bernard Fellay: We have set out our ideas out in early June. The decision of the Pope on the design of the talks will be announced in the next few days. It is true that a special Commission will be set up for the discussion - with some Roman theologians and some of our priests.

What is your goal of getting closer: a special way for you in a small niche – or is a fundamental change in the church in your mind?
Fellay: It's a good question: Who or what should be changed? It is not true, of course, if someone claims that the whole church must change. We are not the great enemy. Our situation, I would rather compare with a thermometer that shows that there is a fever in the body. The fact is that there is a problem to be solved. And it is not our problem, but one of church leadership. The church suffers from a serious crisis, and Rome will treat it so gently that the disease developed and no end to the crisis is any more visible. We propose measures which could help.

There are two points of conflict: on one hand your thesis, the deposit of the Faith is generally in danger, and your rejection of specific documents of the Second Vatican Council. Do you want Rome to to take back or modify these documents, or is a "we agree to disagree" possible?
Fellay: The current confusion comes in large part from a cultural crisis of our world and not just the church - a crisis of thought, of philosophy. Some points of the crisis however also took concrete form in the Council. We see some causes of the crisis in the Council. Rome should be prepared to foster clarity, because there are many interpretations of the Vatican Council. What exactly should we recognize? Every theologian interprets the documents so differently. The Holy Father had to condemn already the interpretation of the Council as discontinuity and a break with the past. But 80% of bishops and theologians want this fracture. In this matter, we are not the problem.

You not only reject certain interpretations, but some Council documents themselves - when it comes to religious freedom and respect for other religions.
Fellay: One example: The Declaration on the Collegiality of the bishops (Conciliar document, Lumen Gentium) which was even corrected during Vatican II by Pope Paul VI.. The Conciliar text can only be interpreted in a Catholic sense with a text that the Pope issued, a so-called Nota praevia. (Pope Paul VI stated that the bishops can only lead the Church, as a collegial group, only “under and with the Pope”.) Sadly some read the Council without the Nota praevia.

Would a papal Nota praevia about these two contentious statements satisfy your requirements?
Fellay: We cannot pretend that we dictate how and what we in the Church thinks. That's never been our view. We say: The church has until now taught such and such, and there now arises something that is not clear. We ask for this clarification.

The other major sticking point between you and Rome is the Tridentine Rite. Due to the Pope’s re-authorization of this Rite, this has at least largely been defused. Is this enough for you already, or would you have expected even more?
Fellay: I'm sure there will be even more coming. Not from us, but for Rome itself the liturgical situation must be improved. That will come.

The Pope has easily adapted the old Rite, for example by a revision of the Good Friday prayers for the Jews. Do you pray the old version?
Fellay: We pray the old one.

Would it be possible that you to follow the Pope and introduce the new prayer?
Fellay: Yes, it would be conceivable. What the Pope is saying, does not contradict the faith. It is more of a problem against the backdrop of history, also because of the attitude of the believer - the Good Friday Prayer is one of the oldest prayers that we have.

A reconciliation with Rome, you probably need to give some kind of declaration of loyalty. Can you give this even if the church does not in all points return to dressing herself in the pre-Vatican II garment?
Fellay: I would rather say: If Catholic principles have been clarified, even though not everything has been resolved, then it is possible. There is a very practical question, which is now evident and that is: How are we accepted? There is a very sharp blockade. That is presently stopping us from going on. If we see too much opposition, then we simply say: Well, we still wait a bit.

A current bone of contention is the SSPX announcement of the ordination of three priests on the 27th June in Zaitzkofen in Germany. Many see it as a provocation for Rome and the Pope, whose outstretched hand now will be beaten back.
Fellay: I regret that this is seen as a provocation. These ordinations have been done annually for 30 years in the same form. When we have spoken with Rome about the excommunication, etc. there never has never been any question that these ordinations should no longer take place. For us it is a question of life, just as breathing is, we need these priests.

All cannot be focused on these three ordinations. Would not it be prudent to suspend the ordinations in order to improve the climate?
Fellay: The problem lies only in Germany. In Rome, there is sympathy for these ordinations, even if they say it is illegal and not according to the canon law. We were told that we are in an intermediate state in which we can talk peace, in which Rome can also observe us. We have nothing against it, if Rome would send an observer to us. We have offered, but perhaps not clearly enough.

Were you surprised that Rome had no conditions for the lifting of the excommunications?
Fellay: No, not really. It is about a rapprochement. This can only happen through small steps- for all wounds, and what has happened. In this sense, this gesture of the pope, which we gratefully accept was also meant as a gesture to improve the climate. For our part there is opening, but in no way to displace our work.

With the lifting of excommunication, the Pope was often compared to the father taking back his lost son who returned remorseful. Was there such a step, or do you not see yourself as a repentant lost sons?
Fellay: Yes, yes, but no longer in that direction. But there is an opening on our part. We have asked for these talks, and this request was accepted. We regret that certain parties try to sabotage them, with their present hatred.

Why do you not have the priestly ordinations elsewhere? The sharp reaction of the German bishops was to be expected.
Fellay: At this point, one sees that there will be evil. We can do whatever we will, we are the black sheep in any case. That is my impression. At some point, we say we will not now further retreat. You have to understand.

You therefore do not recognize any repudiation of the Pope in your acts?
Fellay: That would be a wrong interpretation of the deed. This is not a hostile act, I have written to the Pope and asked him, he should consider these ordinations as: not as a rebellion, but as a step of survival in difficult and complex circumstances.

However you want to interpret the ordinations, the Pope is being placed at any rate in an unpleasant situation.
Fellay: I understand that well. This situation is very unpleasant for all. Let me repeat: This problem comes from the different currents in the church, which themselves can hardly endure. This problem can ultimately only be resolved by the Pope. But I'm not even sure whether it ever can be resolved.

What is Bishop Williamson doing now?
Fellay: He is in London. He prays, he is studying, nothing else.

Is there a foreseeable end to the internal exile?
Fellay: I see none. The whole matter depends on him.

You would probably like a greater distancing from his Holocaust-denial.
Fellay: If such statements recur, then it would be unbearable.
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