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50-year assessment
of Vatican II

Bishop Bernard Fellay

1-18-2013  |  DICI

On January 4, 5 and 6, 2013, the 11th Theological Congress sponsored by Le Courrier de Rome, in partnership with DICI, was held in Versailles and Paris.  Bishop Bernard Fellay, SSPX Superior General, gave the concluding conference of these three days of study. Here are two excerpts from that conference; it will be published in its entirety in the acts of the congress, which will be available in a few months from Le Courrier de Rome.

Fr. Alain Lorans: Your Excellency, you have given us the assessment from the Church’s side;  can you tell us how you see the reaction, the response that the Society [of St. Pius X] has been offering for almost 50 years now, since it is almost 50 years old, even though it was not yet born at the time of the Council. Can you give us the assessment from the perspective of the Society?


Bishop Fellay: The response given by the Society! I think that everything is summed up in one word, and that is Archbishop Lefebvre. All that we have, all that we do, we have received from Archbishop Lefebvre, who summed it up by saying a quote from St. Paul: “Tradidi quod et accepi, I handed on to you what I received.” (1 Cor. 15, 3). We perhaps lost a few little bits over the course of the centuries, but we do have the essentials and we received them from His Excellency [Archbishop Lefebvre]. Archbishop Lefebvre makes everything revolve around a point that is like the first principle from which it all proceeds. If you have a course, all the rest will follow;  it is as if you are at the source of a river, and after that you just have to follow it and you will arrive at the end, as far as the sea.

The Mass lived out in the Christian spirit is the solution to the crisis

Things start from there; now this original element is the Mass. This is THE solution and at the same time the great secret, which is not a secret because it belongs to the Church and it is not supposed to be secret, although there are so few people who know it. The good Lord arranged things this way:  everything in the life of a Christian comes from the Mass, from the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross. All the graces, all the merits, all that we need to resist temptations, all that we need to be healed of our wounds, everything flows from the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross, which is perpetuated, renewed and re-presented - once again actually present, in a sacrifice that is identical to that of the cross - in the Mass.

This is THE solution;  not just as an act, but as the assimilation of that act, what we call the Christian spirit.  In other words, it is not enough that Our Lord accomplished all that. The fact that Our Lord suffered and died places these goods at our disposal as though on a table, and if we want to benefit from them, we must assimilate these goods, and in order to do that it is necessary to receive them, we have to take them.

This is the whole mystery of pastoral ministry - of the true pastoral care of souls, in other words, the work of the priest which consists of leading people to the reception of this grace and therefore bringing it to them:  leading souls to Our Lord!  If a priest manages to lead a soul to Our Lord, it is won! Everything is there.

This is put very simply, but what I want to insist on (and this is really the great idea of Archbishop Lefebvre), the solution to this crisis, is the restoration not just of the sacraments, of liturgical and sacramental discipline, not just of the faith, but also of the element that His Excellency calls the Christian spirit. What does this mean?

This means that when God in His goodness gives us all these graces, we must live by them. It is necessary to assimilate them. When Our Lord comes into us he does not come simply to spend a quarter of an hour with us. He comes to dwell among us, forever, with His Father (see Jn 14:23). He comes to plant there His love, a love that must radiate in order to sanctify us and to sanctify others. And this is the point that Archbishop Lefebvre insists on, and this is what he gives us as a remedy, as the response to what is going on in the Church. It is a return to the Mass, but not simply a return to the Mass as a material element, which would be the equivalent of saying to yourself, “Look at me, now I have the old Mass, now I’m a traditionalist.” That does not do a whole lot for our salvation. Yes! It helps us very much, but it is necessary to live by it. We have to live by it. It has to penetrate within us.

An essentially supernatural remedy

In the case of priests, it is necessary for us to become another Christ. It is not enough for someone to have a cassock, it is not enough for someone to say the Mass in Latin, it is necessary that during the Mass one truly be persona Christi, that one not act merely in a sacramental manner, because it is necessary to adopt as our own the imitation of Jesus Christ. There is a famous book that has gone down through the centuries that said all this in a word: the imitation of Jesus Christ is to share in His virtues. And St. Paul tells us: “I live, now not I:  but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).  It is truly necessary to make this hidden life of grace predominant in us, in such a way that this is what informs our whole life.  This seems to be a purely spiritual response, but Monseigneur is the one who tells us:  “If you do not have that, you have missed the mark.”

There are some material elements, the material aspect of tradition, but that is not enough in order to fight against the evil that we find today. We want to restore the Church, and this will only happen thanks to the spiritual aspect.  It really is therefore an essentially supernatural response. The material acts are necessary - don’t get me wrong - and so it is necessary to return to the traditional Mass, to its liturgy, it is necessary to recall the whole faith without omitting any dogma, it is necessary to wage this battle, but if we lack this element of profound, intimate union with Our Lord, which is life lived in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, then all this work is doomed to oblivion. Again St. Paul is the one who says: if I have faith that can move mountains but do not have charity, it is of no use; if I sell all that I have, if I am consumed by fire for my neighbor’s sake but do not have charity, it is worth nothing. (Cf. 1 Cor 13).

This is what our dear Archbishop tells us, and this is what the Society must live, if it wants to be useful at this moment in the history of the Church. When we speak about tradition, some insist on the external and material element, but that implies an essential, internal and spiritual element, without which it is not even worth the trouble to speak about tradition...

Fr. Lorans: During the past year, you have had numerous contacts with the Roman authorities. How do things stand today?

Bishop Fellay:  (…) (Here too) our solution is quite simple. It is the solution that was already given by St. Vincent of Lerins. With an unlikely audacity he posed two questions: if one part of the body of the Church is sick, what must be done? What should a Christian do if he finds himself in a part that is afflicted with gangrene because of heresy? You are in a country, in a diocese where all of a sudden heresy spreads: what should you do? And he replies: it is very simple; you cling to the part that is still healthy. But St. Vincent goes further:  what is to be done if another illness affects the whole body? If everything is gangrenous, what must be done? And the solution that he gives us is that it is necessary to cling to the past, because the past cannot be affected by today’s illness. Therefore what the saints did yesterday, in order to be saints, remains valid today. What they believed, what they did: all this abides, and this is what we call tradition.

Our response to the present situation of the Church

And it can also be said that this is our response to the situation today in the Church: it is this attachment to what the Church has always believed, done and taught. With this we are certain that we cannot at any moment be outside the Church. But, of course, that puts us in an unlikely position because we are obliged to point a finger at the one who is judged by no one. The Holy See is judged by no one, which is also a principle that we adopt as our own. This is an unlikely situation that the good Lord permits. A situation that we wish we could say was impossible, but that the facts oblige us to recognize as reality.

This makes me think of La Salette, of those terribly violent statements: “Rome will lose the faith. There will be an eclipse of the Church. She will become the seat of the anti-Christ.” That is spine-chilling. “So you are saying that Benedict XVI is the anti-Christ?” No! I did not say that, that is wrong. It is much less precise than that. It is a worldwide situation; you see that it is obvious that there are some people even in Rome who have lost the faith, and you even hear this from the mouths of cardinals. And so I heard it quite recently from a retired cardinal, who said this at a family gathering: “You cannot know how happy I am to have left Rome and to be here, because in Rome the devil is in charge.” Rome is ruled by the devil. And it is a cardinal who is saying that today!

And we ask ourselves the question: tomorrow, then, what will become of the Society?

Fr. Lorans: That is the question that I was going to ask you.

Bishop Fellay: Do we just leave, do we just get off the boat? I reply: no, out of the question! The Catholic Church is our Church. We do not have another one. There is no other one. The good Lord permits her to be ill. Well, then! She is ill. And we try not to catch the illness ourselves, but we are not going to start saying that we are making another Church. There is no other one. This is one of the most difficult trials that God in His goodness can permit. You get to a point where you are not very far from the trial of Abraham, in other words, you have to hope against hope, against all the facts that one learns from experience. You end up telling yourself: “But no, that just cannot be; that cannot be the pope,” or else, “that cannot be the Church.” But we have to stand our ground by saying: “The illness is the sickness, but the illness is not the Church.” It is in the Church, but the Church remains the Church. When you have a Mister So-and-so who is sick, who has cancer throughout his body, this gentleman remains Mr. So-and-so, even though he is ill. And you do not agree with the ailment. If this gentleman is your father, he remains your father, even if he is ill. The Church is our mother, she is ill, but she remains our mother. We are not going to turn away our mother. No! Of course, we must fight against the illness. But this Church here is indeed the Church founded by Our Lord. She it is indeed who has the promises of eternal life. She it is indeed who has the promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. The problem is that people thought that it could not go as far as this, but plainly we have reached that point.

The Church is still our mother, even if she is ill

In other word, we preserve it all: we preserve the whole faith, including adherence to the principle of the successor of Peter; there really is a successor of Peter until the end of the world. This is one of the canons of Vatican I.  There will be a successor of Peter to the end. It doesn’t say whether he will be good or bad, whether everything will go well or badly, but there will be a pope, that’s all. And that is enough. The good Lord will work, will make His grace and the faith pass through this instrument, even if it is weakened for a moment.  This is the moment in which we are living today; it is not easy but we must not lose the faith over it. We must ask God for faith. I realize that this is not easy.

There are many easy solutions, but we see from the consequences that they are not viable solutions. For instance, rejecting everything, saying that there is no longer a pope, or even that the Church no longer exists. Well, then, are we the ones who are going to invent our own, in the middle of the 21st century? Not on your life! That is doomed to failure since we are the ones taking the initiative. No, God in His goodness was the one who founded it and who is permitting this terrible trial.

I spoke about La Salette, but I could very well speak about Leo XIII. When this pope composed the exorcism that bears his name, he also said that the devil would establish his headquarters in Rome. They say that the origin of this exorcism - I have never really been able to verify this - was an auditory revelation in which he allegedly heard Our Lord speaking with the Devil. The devil supposedly said: “Give me a hundred years and I will manage to defeat your Church.”  And Our Lord supposedly said:  “Yes.” It would be interesting to verify this. The fact remains that Leo XIII composed this exorcism in which he spoke very plainly and very clearly about this disastrous influence of the devil on Rome.

And it is well known that there is the question of the anti-Christ. One day he will arrive. Is that day today? I will not get into this debate; I am not the one who will tell you whether he is here. I know nothing about it. Will he arrive after or before the triumph of the Blessed Virgin that was announced at Fatima? I know nothing about it. Some say yes, some say no. We will surely see, and what advantage would it be [to have an answer]? Not much.

Performing the duties of our state in life, each at his place

What we must do, and this is my conclusion, is our duty in our state in life. We all hope that things go better in the Church. Just think that we all can do something. Everyone. Why? Because we all belong to this Church that we call Militant. And the Church Militant is like an army. If you consider the victory of an army, in any historical battle whatsoever, what happened? How was the victory won? Very concretely, you have the general who gives his orders, but each soldier did what he had to do; in other words, there would have been no victory unless a certain number of soldiers had done what they were supposed to do. Taken individually, that may be a lot of very small things. The cook cooked the meals, that’s all, but he participated in the victory. The standard-bearer carried the flag and that was part of the victory. The messenger who was supposed to transmit the orders did so. Whoever had a rifle or a cannon shot it. And each one at his post, by doing the duty of his state in life, contributed to the victory.

God is counting on each one of us. Not only on Bishop Fellay or someone else, but on each one of us. We all have our duty in our state in life. To do one’s duty completely without omitting anything is to contribute actively to the rebirth of the Church, to her restoration and her victory. Of course this is done by cooperating with grace.

I’m a little afraid that if we go off into grandiose theories, we attribute all the evil or all the good to someone or other.  No, this is not the sort of question that we will have to answer when we arrive in the presence of our loving God at the end of our life. He will not ask us: “Well, did you believe that the end of the world was scheduled for December 21, 2012?” No, that is not the sort of question that awaits us. Any more than questions about Paul VI and the Council. Paul VI answers to the good Lord for what he did, and we are not the ones who will answer for him. On the contrary, what we did, what we said: that is what we will answer for.

The consecration of the Society of St. Pius X to St. Joseph, Protector of the Church

To conclude, here is our real response to the present crisis: we must pray. We have to count on grace; we have to live well by this life of grace, this life of faith, hope and charity, a life that is as great as possible so as to extend Our Lord’s influence; and all the rest will come in its time, when the good Lord wills, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin.

I take the liberty of introducing another intercessor, because I think that it is important to add him: St. Joseph. An important intercessor, indeed, a very important one. He is always discreet, in the Gospels, with an extraordinary discretion. And yet he is the one who had to be the protector and who was in fact the great protector of the Child Jesus. He is also the protector of the Church. And it is quite beautiful that at Fatima, on that famous day, October 13, 1917, on which the miracle of the sun occurred, the Blessed Virgin had announced that she would come to bless the world with the Child Jesus and St. Joseph. So it was that in Fatima, on October 13, 1917, there was a blessing of the world with the Holy Family. St. Joseph has a role. As soon as you speak about the Church, as soon as you speak about the protection of the Church, he has a very important role. He is the patron, the protector of the Church.

We have a well-established devotion of St. Joseph, and we want to consecrate to him in a very special way the Society of St. Pius X in these difficult hours.  We will do it this year, in 2013, on March 19. An exception will be made in France, since the Shrine of Cotignac is located in your country, and so the consecration of the District of France will be made one week earlier, on March 9, in Cotignac.

I commend you to the company of these saints who have such great influence over the Heart of Jesus. May they protect us all!

In order to preserve the character of this conference, the translation retains the spoken style. 

(Source:  FSSPX/MG – Transcription and subtitles DICI no. 268 dated January 18, 2013) © 2013                    home                    contact